$100,000 effort to identify foul stench in Las Vegas

For the last ten years, a mysterious nasty smell has been coming out of storm drains on Fremont Street in Las Vegas. Officials there want to spend $100k to track down the source of the vile odor.
The stink emanating from the storm sewers has plagued the area around the Fremont Street pedestrian mall for a decade, and every time the city has thrown time, effort and deodorizer at the problem, the "sewer-type" aroma has just returned.

On Wednesday, City Council is to consider a $100,000 US consulting contract aimed at finding the source of the olfactory offence.

A tiny closed-circuit television system would be used to examine the downtown storm drains, smoke would be pumped into the system to identify outlets and dye would be used to follow water flows.

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Linux/sf convention call for papers

Mark sez, "Linucon, a combination science fiction convention and Linux expo is looking for panelists and papers for their upcoming event."
We're looking for several different types of programming. On the Geek side we have "Heavy technical", which includes topics like programming, system administration, and security, and "Light technical", which is about using computers rather than programming them (Digital art, electronic publishing, online communities, Linux on the Desktop, Open source in business, video games, etc). On the Fandom side, our main themes this year include literary topics (for authors, editors, publishers, and readers), Anime (and Manga), gaming, costuming... There are also "crossover" topics (like online comics and computer animation) that appeal to both sides.
Link (Thanks, Mark!) Read the rest

Horror Channel coming to cable

The Horror Channel is an all-horror cable network launching next October. Link (Thanks, Prof. Griffin!) Read the rest

Steampunk aquatic stiltwalker from Brighton's glory years

The Daddy Long Legs was a steampunk invention that graced the Victorian seaside at Brighton. It walked on 20' long legs that reached down to rails on the seabottom, ferrying passengers along the shore in clanking comfort. Link to poster, Link to article (Thanks, Anita!) Read the rest

Women scientists' unsung stories in comic-book form

Rosalind Franklin's story is one of many great and unsung women scientists' stories recounted in the brilliant, Eisner-nominated comic book Dignifying Science, which features the work of Jen Sorensen, Anne Timmons, Ramona Fradon, Marie Severin and others, and the stories of scientists like Marie Curie, Emmy Noether, Lise Meitner, Barbara McClintock, Birute Galdikas, and Hedy Lamarr. Link Read the rest

Rosalind Franklin: Crick and Watson's uncredited collaborator

Many of you wrote in response to the Crick obit from earlier today to remind us of the unsung and uncredited hero of DNA, Rosalind Franklin. Here's what Allison says about her:
It is past due that Dr. Rosalind Franklin received credit for actually being the scientist who demonstrated the helical nature of DNA. Her crystallography was crucial to the subsequent elucidation of DNA structure and replication. Her research was used without her knowledge or permission.

Update: Alex sez: "According to the NY Times there were no hard feelings between her and her colleagues."

One of the problems caused by the book was Dr. Watson's implication that the pair of them had obtained Dr. Franklin's data on DNA surreptitiously and hence had deprived her of due credit for the DNA discovery. Dr. Crick believed he obtained the data fairly since she had presented it at a public lecture, to which he had been invited. Though Dr. Watson had misreported a vital figure from the lecture, a correct version reached Dr. Crick through the Medical Research Council report. If Dr. Franklin felt Dr. Crick had treated her unfairly, she never gave any sign of it. She became friends with both Dr. Crick and Dr. Watson, and spent her last remission from cancer in Dr. Crick's house.

Dr. Franklin likely would have shared the Nobel Prize had she not died from cancer in 1958, the prize was not awarded till 1962. Nobel Prizes are not awarded posthumously.

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Toronto Star 1945 online

The Toronto Star has put its searchable 1945 archive online for free. Link (via Waxy) Read the rest

Disturbed diarist using perl blog site mistaken for bot

"Bondage-chICK" is a young, disturbed girl (she's a "cutter" who cuts herself to feel better), who stumbled across a free developers' journal service offered by perl.org and started using it for her personal diary. No problem, except that the developers who stumbled across her journal assumed that she was a perl bot ("If this is autogenerated, you need to tweak it so that the doubled+transposed letter mistake doesn't happen so often, and introduce some more naturalistic errors. If it's not autogenerated, you're really sad and about 18 months behind the curve.") or a gag. Of course, the whole thing might be a hoax. Or not. Link (via Waxy) Read the rest

PowerPoint is why you got dumped by email

Joey "AccordionGuy" DeVilla has posted a rumination on how we got to the point where it is socially acceptable to break up with someone by email. He concludes that it's a natural outgrowth of "PowerPoint culture": "I think that the 'Dear Jane' emails that those people received were inspired by elements of office culture: PowerPoint, project post-mortems and annual performance reviews. Of the people who told me that they were dumped via email, all of their boyfriends worked white-collar jobs in which they either sat through or made PowerPoint presentations." Link Read the rest

Golfing in Dubai

Look at these pictures of a Syd Mead-like golfing station in Dubai. That little green circle is the spot you stand on to hit the ball. Link (via Ritilan.com)

UPDATE Jeremy sez: The "Syd Mead-like golfing station" is actually a helicopter pad attached to the Burj al Arab, a luxury hotel. Tiger Woods was invited to hit balls into the Gulf as a publicity stunt. It's not the opening shot of the world's most difficult hole. See this Sports Illustrated article for more details. Read the rest

Albinism photos of the 19th century

Gallery of olde tyme photos of 19th century albinism. Link (Via Sensible Erection) Read the rest

Francis Crick (1916-2004)

Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the double helix of DNA, has died. In 1962, Crick shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for uncovering the secret of life.
"Evolution is cleverer than you are." -Francis Crick
Link Update: Crick's groundbreaking 1953 paper on the molecular structure of DNA, co-authored with James Watson, is available here. (Thanks, Christina!) Read the rest

LA Times online unclenches from paid-subscriber-only silliness

In recent months, the Los Angeles Times has taken a hell of a lot of heat from bloggers, media critics, and even some of its own writers over a constipated web content management policy that locked up all "Calendar" section listings to paid subscribers only. They've finally reversed that policy. This is groovy, because links just want to be free, man. Link

Update: A number of BB readers who are non-LAT-subscribers have written in to say that the "unclenched" content is "re-clenched," and that they can't access without paid subscription. Others have written in to say that registration, but not paid subscription, is still required. This could be a temporary tech glitch, but I'm still confused, and so are the rest of the LAT's online readers, so AFAIK it's still broken. Why do some publications insist on getting in the way of readers who just want to read basic content like this? I'll be looking for that new Koreatown barbecue/karaoke hotspot on their mercifully reg- and sub-free competitor LA.com. Read the rest

Squirrels scream ultrasonically

Ground squirrels emit an ultrasonic shriek to warn others that a predator is nearby. In the current issue of the journal Nature, University of Manitoba researchers report that while bats and whales use ultrasound for echolocation and to track prey, to their knowledge "ultrasonic alarm calls have not previously been detected in any animal group, despite their twin advantages of being highly directional and inaudible to key predators." From a New Scientist article about the study:
"Ultrasonic alarm calls might be beneficial because many of the birds-of-prey that catch and eat squirrels cannot hear them. Conveniently, ultrasound also has a shorter range than audible sound. 'It may be used to secretly warn others without alerting a more distant predator,' says (researcher David) Wilson.
Link (Thanks, Gabe!) Read the rest

MSFT buys spam company, sues the competition, silences political activists

My cow-orker Annalee Newitz has posted a great editorial on the latest court battles over spam, pointing out the weird, anticompetitive and anti-speech aspects of the spam fight.
Microsoft is developing what it calls Bonded Sender, a program that would supposedly separate "legitimate" Internet marketers and bulk mailers from spammers. Working with a California company called IronPort, Microsoft will create a white list of Internet marketers who have paid a fee and demonstrated that they have no record of spamming. Companies participating in the Bonded Sender program will be allowed to send their email ads to HotMail and MSN users.

Given Microsoft's investment in the Bonded Sender program, it seems they may soon be in the business of serving as middlemen between emailer marketers and their webmail users. In other words, it sounds like the software megacorp is about to start competing with Richter. Of course, Microsoft could always call off its suit if Richter claims to have been rehabilitated -- and he pays his Bonded Sender fees!

In the spam wars, sometimes it's hard to tell the spammers from the antispammers.

The situation gets even more complicated when you consider the fact that Microsoft will do more than pick and choose winners in the junk email business. Bonded Sender will punish most the people who aren't even sending advertisements -- groups like Internet activists MoveOn.org, who send out millions of emails to alert their members to upcoming political events and issues. If these groups don't pay their Bonded Sender fees, HotMail simply won't deliver their email -- regardless of whether users have specifically opted in to receive it.

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Observing the SETI observatory

The SETI Institute predicts that we'll detect an extraterrestrial transmission within twenty years. If that turns out to be true, it'll probably be the folks at UC Berkeley's Hat Creek radio observatory who will have heard the call. Hat Creek is home to the SETI Institute's Allen Telescope Array (ATA), funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. I just returned from a trip with two friends to Hat Creek, about five hours northeast of San Francisco. Leading Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) researcher Jack Welch and his former student, astronomer Jim Gibson, were kind enough to give us a tour of the facility. More about our visit to Hat Creek in my journal at TheFeature. Link Read the rest

Genome of human zit sequenced

Scientists have sequenced the genome of the bug that causes zits. It had previously been mistaken for a part of the human genome.
“Sequencing the whole genome has revealed that the bacterium can actively degrade human skin tissue because of the massive presence of these enzymes, and also that there are specific immunogenic proteins which are present in this bacterium which trigger the immune response,” Brüggemann told New Scientist....

Severe acne is usually treated with common antibiotics, but many strains are becoming resistant to these. “With the genome sequence it’s now quite easy to generate specific drugs against this bacterium,” says Brüggemann. “That’s the next task.”

Link Read the rest

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