Boing Boing 

New species found: cave dwellers isolated for millions of years

Scientists in Israel have discovered eight new species of sightless critters living in a cave that has been closed from the rest of the world. Unfortunately, they look more like scorpions than Sanrio characters.
Pale Blind Bug He said the cave's ecosystem probably dates back around five million years when the Mediterranean Sea covered parts of Israel.

The cave was completely sealed off from the world, including from water and nutrients seeping through rock crevices above. Scientists who discovered the cave believe it has been intact for millions of years.


Reader comment: Robert Pugsley says: Those sightless critters found in a cave look really like some sightless critters living in a cave in Lanzarote called Munidopsis polymorpha.

There's a picture of them here. They've even built a sculpture of one.

Red Hat ships open source MySpace++ clone

Red Hat has developed a new MySpace like site called Mugshot -- but it's open source. I saw a short demo of Mugshot this morning at the Red Hat Summit in Nashville and it was pretty hot; they nicked the best stuff out of all the social networking sites and put them together in an open codebase.
The Mugshot client application is built with a special cross-platform code library developed in C with GLib and GObject. For network communication, Mugshot uses the open XMPP protocol also used by Jabber and Google Talk. The current version of Mugshot is built with Loudmouth, a GLib-based XMPP implementation developed by Imendio. The Linux version of the Mugshot client user interface is built with GTK and uses GConf for storing configuration data, which means it is closely aligned with the GNOME desktop environment. The Linux version uses D-Bus for interprocess communication, and will provide Firefox integration.
Link (Thanks, Segphault!)

Unusual flavors of ice cream in Japan

Soycream At my local ice creamery, I was somewhat shocked that they had avocado ice cream as a special flavor on the menu. (I was more shocked when my niece ordered a scoop and loved it!) That's nothing compared to the flavors available in Japan. Today's Mainichi Daily News features a delightful photo gallery called "The Wackiest World of Japanese Ice Cream." Seen here is soy sauce ice cream. The photos were taken at the Cup Ice Museum in Ice Cream City at Namjatown theme park.
Link (Thanks, Paul Saffo!)

Anti-publishing-scam site shut down by "agent" - needs help!

A site that tracked scam artists running predatory self-publishing outfits has been shut down following a complaint to its ISP.

Absolute Write is one of the leading sites for information on publishing, including scam-debunking, and it did a very good job, too. Then Barbara Bauer, an "agent" whom the site had criticized, called up the site's ISP, Nashville's JC-Hosting, and invented a bogus Digital Millennium Copyright Claim. She told the ISP that Absolute Write had exposed her to spam by publishing her email address and that this was illegal and that the ISP had to shut down the site or be liable. This is not illegal, and it's not a DMCA claim. The ISP shut down Absolute Write anyway.

A week later, the ISP has not reinstated the site, and they are refusing to hand over Absolute Write's database so they can put the site back up somewhere else. Absolute Write has a legal fund (I just kicked in $100) to help them drag their foolish ISP into compliance, and to defend themselves against the predator who shut them down. Link

Update: The owner of the ISP says that he's in the middle of a longer dispute with Absolute Write about their bandwidth usage and other matters, and that terminating the site on the strength of the bogus excuse was just a "justification." (Thanks, PJ!)

PopSci on possible microbes from outer space

Here's an interesting article in the June 2006 issue of PopSci about the 50 tons of red gunk that rained on India in 2001. It's possible that the stuff contains critters from outer space.
200605311436 [Godfrey] Louis, a solid-state physicist at Mahatma Gandhi University, published a paper in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Astrophysics and Space Science in which he hypothesizes that the samples—water taken from the mysterious blood-colored showers that fell sporadically across Louis’s home state of Kerala in the summer of 2001—contain microbes from outer space.

Specifically, Louis has isolated strange, thick-walled, red-tinted cell-like structures about 10 microns in size. Stranger still, dozens of his experiments suggest that the particles may lack DNA yet still reproduce plentifully, even in water superheated to nearly 600˚F. (The known upper limit for life in water is about 250˚F.) So how to explain them? Louis speculates that the particles could be extraterrestrial bacteria adapted to the harsh conditions of space and that the microbes hitched a ride on a comet or meteorite that later broke apart in the upper atmosphere and mixed with rain clouds above India. If his theory proves correct, the cells would be the first confirmed evidence of alien life and, as such, could yield tantalizing new clues to the origins of life on Earth.


Legal implications of the word "fuck"

The Ohio State University's Christopher M Fairman has published a scholarly paper called "Fuck":
This Article is as simple and provocative as its title suggests: it explores the legal implications of the word fuck. The intersection of the word fuck and the law is examined in four major areas: First Amendment, broadcast regulation, sexual harassment, and education. The legal implications from the use of fuck vary greatly with the context. To fully understand the legal power of fuck, the nonlegal sources of its power are tapped. Drawing upon the research of etymologists, linguists, lexicographers, psychoanalysts, and other social scientists, the visceral reaction to fuck can be explained by cultural taboo. Fuck is a taboo word. The taboo is so strong that it compels many to engage in self-censorship. This process of silence then enables small segments of the population to manipulate our rights under the guise of reflecting a greater community. Taboo is then institutionalized through law, yet at the same time is in tension with other identifiable legal rights. Understanding this relationship between law and taboo ultimately yields fuck jurisprudence.
Link (via MeFi)

Coelacanth caught on video

At Cryptomundo, Loren Coleman reports that an Indonesian coelacanth has been caught on film west Sulawesi Island, Indonesia. A darling of cryptozoologists everywhere, the coelacanth was thought to have been extinct for the last 65 million years but was "rediscovered" in 1938. This one was filmed at a depth of 170m using a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), essentially an underwater robot, operated by a team from Aquamarine Fukushima. The video isn't public yet, but I look forward to it! Link

UPDATE: Loren updated his post with more context about why this news is so significant, something I missed when making my original post:
The African species (the beautiful blue ones) was re-discovered in 1938, and for decades people thought that’s all there was. In the 1990s, they were finally filmed live.

But then in 1998, to the surprise of zoologists and ichthyologists worldwide, 6000 miles away, a whole new and different species (they are the beautiful brownish variety) of coelacanth were discovered off Indonesia. They have never been filmed alive in the wild. Until now. That’s why this is such a remarkable piece of news.

UPDATE: At Cryptomundo, the story continues to unfold:
 Wp-Content Coelacanthvid * Apparently, a German team previously videotaped a coelacanth in its Indonesian habitat in 1999. This new video is the first since then.

* Two more coelacanths were seen yesterday.

* And, last but not least, here's a still from the May 30, 2006 video of this dark blue beauty!

HOWTO build a magic wand to control your Mac

Mike Kuniavsky hacked a cheap 3D mouse to turn it into a "magic wand" that controlled his Mac by means of gestures, and wrote a great article about it, describing the build and covering what it feels like to drive a computer with a magic wand:
Quicksilver's gesture recognition software isn't the best (it's not like the IBM SHARK stuff I described earlier), but it's better than other alternatives that I've seen. And, because it works with Quicksilver, that means that there's a large library of knowledge about actions that can be triggered with the gestures. To me, the most interesting possibility, and one that I'll be playing with, is that Quicksilver can issue arbitrary commands, including command-line input to software that can control things back in the "real" world. Command-line input to Processing or NADA, for example, will allow easy magic wand control of things like, oh, Roombas, lights, giant mechanical beasts or teleporters. Hide the computer, disguise the mouse, and action at a distance is yours. Kinda
Link (via Futurismic)

How do "info-addict" couples surf together?

Wired News columnist Momus is collecting stories about "information addicted" couples who spend their together time with a couple of computers, typing alongside of one another. That characterizes all my relationships since the late nineties -- the questions are cool and resonant:
What about surfing as a form of sociability: do you e-mail each other interesting website addresses? Do you tend to visit the same kinds of sites? I know that when Hisae and I are surfing, language divides us: I'm visiting English-language sites, she's on Japanese ones. But quite a lot of our interaction is me asking her for explanations of things, Japanese stuff I don't understand. When that's going on, we'll either bring up the same page on two machines, or huddle around one. It's actually more sociable than TV. (Of course, maybe the TV is on at the same time.)

What about more dubious areas: are you secretly looking at porn with your partner right there in the room? Are you flirting with someone else, messaging someone? Because the weird thing about this technology is that it makes what's distant seem closer than what's close. Absent people can have more presence than present people. Or do you look at porn together? What about YouTube videos? Is surfing turning back into TV-watching?

What's the sound of a couple surfing? Dead silence, broken only by the sound of two tapping keyboards (quite a pleasant sound, actually)? Is music playing, and if so, who chooses it? Is choosing which iTunes accesses the sound sticks via Airport Express the new fight for the TV remote?

Link (via Oblomovka)

Alderman, Borruso, and Adigard on TV's transformation

John Alderman and Sarah Borruso, veteran thinkers/reporters on technology and culture, teamed up with virtuoso designer Erik Adigard (M-A-D) in a visual/textual exercise pondering how TV is transforming as a media. The result is "Exploding TV: From One to Many to Many to Many," a smart and graphically stunning poster that they presented at the 2006 Information Architecture Summit. The poster was also reprinted in 10x10, a fun PDF magazine published by Eat Creative in Japan.
John says:
The poster came about because Erik, Sarah, and I were all doing work with IPTV and mobile TV, and we proposed a poster for the IA Summit in Vancouver, while simultaneously Eat asked for a submission to 10x10. Mainly we just wanted to do some thinking about the properties of TV as it changed from broadcast to Internet distribution, like how that changed the whole underlying dynamics. On top of that, there were all kinds of new devices popping up demanding new kinds of content. So we wanted to start connecting some dots.
Link to 10x10 (PDF)

Willard Wigan's microsculptures

Willard Wigan makes very tiny sculptures.
200605311224When working on this scale he slows his heartbeat and his breathing dramatically through meditation and attempts to harmonise his mind, body and soul with the Creator. He then sculpts or paints at the centrepoint between heartbeats for total stillness of hand.
Link (via The Cartoonist)

Coop's Japan photos

Dude With Squirrel Coop is in Japan to celebrate the release of two Hot Wheels cars he designed. He's been taking tons of great pictures, and posting them to his blog. Link

3-D photos of circular saw blunders in old PopSci

 Static Images Articles Blunders Steve Lodefink has published some 3D photos from a 1953 issue of Popular Science. (I know I have a pair of 3D glasses around somewhere, probably tucked between the pages of a 1980s Ray Zone comic book moldering away in a cardboard box.) Link

Old tech never goes extinct

Oldtech Newoldtech Last week at the Institute for the Future's Technology Horizons conference, I listened to a terrific talk Kevin Kelly gave about technology as a kingdom of life and the future of the scientific method. He had a lot of great slides to illustrate his points, including this set show here. (Click on thumbnails for enlargement)

Kevin was curious to learn whether or not any technology ever truly goes extinct. So he took a page from a 19th century Montgomery Ward catalog, and then tried to find the same products today. It turned out that every single thing, from hand plows to corn shellers to lard presses, is still being made and sold today. This, Kevin pointed out, is different from living things, which become extinct over time.

Timothy Leary: ten years gone

 Students Orgs Forum Leary
"The real war is between those who are turned on, and those who are uptight." -Timothy Leary (October 22, 1920 - May 31, 1996)

Left Behind Christian sf novels turned into bigoted video-game

The people behind the kooky Christian "Left-Behind" science fiction novels (about the futuristic battles on earth after the Rapture takes all the good Bible-bashers to heaven) have produced a violent, bigoted video-game version of their stories. Ironicially, the game is drawing fire from Jack Thompson, himself a nutcase Christian Conservative who hates video-games more than he hates sinning liberals.

Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission - both a religious mission and a military mission -- to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state - especially moderate, mainstream Christians. Your mission is "to conduct physical and spiritual warfare"; all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice.
Link (Thanks, Rod!)

Update: Here's part two of the article -- thanks, Jonathan!

Apple G4 converted to roadside mailbox

A Flickr user caught a pic of this Apple G4 tower that's been converted to a roadside mailbox in Auckland, NZ -- great use for an old, iconic tower! Link (Thanks, Dustin!)

Update: Dave Prager has made this planter out of his G3 tower.

User creates virtual ecosystem in Second Life

Wagner James Au sez, "While taking a break from the UK game industry to raise her child, a programmer created a self-contained ecology on a Second Life island, with numerous species and natural phenomenon that must work together to keep the system function: clouds rain on the land, nourishing the plants (which also respond to sunlight), bees spread pollen to help the plants reproduce, birds eat seeds to keep the plants from growing out of control, and so on."
If I was to turn off the clouds the whole system would die in about six hours," Laukosargas Svarog tells me. "Turn off the bees and [the plants stop] growing, because nothing gets pollinated. And it's the transfer of pollen that signals the plants to drop seeds. The seeds blow in the wind, and if they land on good ground according to different rules for each species, they grow when they receive rain water from the clouds. It's all interdependent.
Link (Thanks, James!)

Reader feedback on bizarre no-link spam

Last week I wrote about the bizarre link free spam comments I've been getting on Mad Professor.

Quite a few readers offered theories as to what these messages mean and who is behind them. My own (half-serious but fun to entertain) theory is that they are messages sent back and forth by spies, and that the five- and seven-digit numbers are instructions to carry out parts of a covert operation. Since I screen every comment before it gets posted to Mad Professor, I thought it would be fun to change the numbers before posting them, but what if the random number I inserted happened to be instructions to drop ricin in a subway system or something else bad? I've decided the best thing to do is just delete these comments as they come in.

Anyway, here are the thoughtful and entertaining theories you've emailed in so far. Thanks!

Read the rest

Weird but effective dazzle camouflage schemes

I think I remember something in a Tom Robbins book about the time some French military officials asked Picasso to suggest a camouflage scheme for their soldiers. His answer: "Dress them as harlequins." I guess he was onto something. (After a search, I found this page with another version of the story).

Here's a wonderful article about the history of "dazzle camouflage" written by Roy R. Behrens. (I also really like the design of Behren's site. It's simple and beautiful.)

200605301733The most familiar kinds of camouflage make one thing appear to be two, two things one, and so on. Camouflage artists (called camoufleurs) make it an arduous challenge to see a figure on a ground (called blending), or to distinguish one category of object from another (mimicry). Less familiar but potentially far more effective is disruptive or dazzle camouflage in which a single thing appears to be a hodgepodge of unrelated components.


The purpose of dazzle painting a ship was not to make it invisible (indeed, at times the dazzle pattern made it more visible), but simply to divert the aim of the submarine gunner, who was required to "aim ahead" of a distant, moving target, under less than ideal viewing conditions, and who thus depended on critically accurate estimates of the ship's speed, direction and location.

Link (thanks, Kevin!)

Fanatgraphics oral history

This fall, the world's greatest comix publisher, Fantagraphics, will release "Comics As Art: We Told You So," an oral history of the pioneering company that issued the work of such BB faves as R. Crumb, Dan Clowes, Peter Bagge, Johnny Ryan, Jim Woodring, Roberta Gregory, Charles Schulz, and, of course, Los Bros Hernandez. As a teaser, Fantagraphics is uploading two-page PDF spreads from the first chapter every weekend weekday until August. From the post on the Fantagraphics Flog!:
 Wtys Wetoldyouso Comics As Art: We Told You So tells of Fantagraphics Books' role in helping build and shape an art movement around a discredited, ignored and fading expression of Americana. (Comic historian Tom) Spurgeon and designer Jacob Covey have assembled an all-star cast of industry figures, critics, cartoonists, art objects, curios and groundbreaking publications to bring you a detailed account of Fantagraphics' first thirty years. The book is also quite funny, and in this first chapter you'll be privvy to some hilarious photos of Gary Groth and Kim Thompson as well as some great fanzine art from Fanta's earliest and most amateurish period.

One thousand paintings of 1000 numbers for sale

Sala, an artist from Zürich, Switzerland, is selling 1000 paintings of the first 1000 numbers. The selling price of each painting is calculated like so:

Value = 1000 - number.
Initial discount: 90%.
Current discount: 80%.
The discount will decrease by an absolute 10% for every 100 paintings sold.
Min. price: $40.

So far, Zala has sold 128 paintings. What a fun idea! Link

Reader comment: fbz says:

I really enjoyed the post about the 1000 paintings of the first one thousand numbers. I noticed a strange thing: a disproportionate number of prime numbers have been purchased. Perhaps there are prime number collectors out there like me?

Here are the prime numbers less than 1000:

2 3 5 7 11 13 17 19 23 29
31 37 41 43 47 53 59 61 67 71
73 79 83 89 97 101 103 107 109 113
127 131 137 139 149 151 157 163 167 173
179 181 191 193 197 199 211 223 227 229
233 239 241 251 257 263 269 271 277 281
283 293 307 311 313 317 331 337 347 349
353 359 367 373 379 383 389 397 401 409
419 421 431 433 439 443 449 457 461 463
467 479 487 491 499 503 509 521 523 541
547 557 563 569 571 577 587 593 599 601
607 613 617 619 631 641 643 647 653 659
661 673 677 683 691 701 709 719 727 733
739 743 751 757 761 769 773 787 797 809
811 821 823 827 829 839 853 857 859 863
877 881 883 887 907 911 919 929 937 941
947 953 967 971 977 983 991 997

Reader comment: Georgie says:

It's a cool idea.

But not 100% original.

Ed Keinholz is an American artist.

Here's a quote from the Guardian:

"Kienholz made installations before there really was such a thing, and conceptual works before the term became a movement. In the 1960s, he swapped watercolour "Barter" works, whose washy grounds bore only the rubberstamped name of the thing he wanted, for the goods themselves: a set of screwdrivers, a fur coat, a portable saw, a car. He also made watercoloured currency, for cash amounts from $1 to $10,000, which he sold at face value to collectors. These watercolours have something of the lightness of Ed Ruscha."

I got the quote from this blog post.

It's a nice summary of some of his stuff.

(I don't think Sala's and Keinholz's ideas are very similar at all, but I like what Keinholz did, so that's why I posted Georgie's commment -- Mark)

Anatomical curiosity illustrations

BibliOdyssey has a wonderful post about anatomical curiosities in antique texts, including a fine selection of links to various image and info sources. (This illustration from a Wilhlem ten Rhyne text.) From the post:
 Blogger 1717 1584 1600 Ten-Rhyne1682 Fig2 Wilhelm ten Rhyne was a physician for the Dutch East India company and spent a couple of years in Japan in the 17th century. During his stay he exchanged medical information with Japanese and Chinese health workers. In 1683 he published Dissertatio de Arthritide: Mantissa Schematica: de Acupunctura. This was the original first-hand published account of eastern medicine and introduced the western world to the concept of acupuncture.

Fire display

The Infernoptix Digital Pyrotechnic Matrix is a 96-inch display "screen" with 6" bursts of fire as pixels. Designed by tech/art firm NAO, the computer-controlled system can act as a firey scrolling sign, sketch pad, audio level meter, and also a percussive instrument that plays out the bursts in rhythm. From the project description:
 Images Feat3Each fire pixel has a corresponding valve nestled in the frame of the screen and turned on or off by commands from the software. The Infernoptix is typically fueled by propane, but can be run on natural gas as well. Fuel tanks are stored externally and connected by hose to the sign and valves. Fuel consumption varies widely but with propane averages 15 gallons per hour. The screen itself measures 4'2" high by 7' wide by 1' deep, and is constructed of steel and copper. Total weight is 450 pounds, not including the stand, which is removeable for transport or alternate installations.
Link (Thanks, Jason Tester!)

SF story about AI-human love

My friend Lauren McLaughlin, an excellent new sf writer, has a story up on today's Salon -- "The perfect man" -- the story of a woman who found true love by designing an AI, and then turning him loose.
Martin was a mouth breather. Jim lacked ambition. Rennie's head was too big. Craig licked my face like a dog.

But Pritchard. Pritchard is everything I want. And I'm not going to apologize about the way I met him. Especially not to my friends still slugging it out on I did LovePlanet. Seventy-four dates with sixty-two men. You know what I learned? People lie. Sylvester was fifty-five, not thirty-five. Jacob was an unemployed bartender with halitosis, not a financial planner with a beach house. I admit I lied about my weight. All women lie about their weight.

But I can laugh at all of this now because I am off the roster. I am no longer "out there," as they say. And I didn't have to lower my standards or search outside my geographic region either. What I had to do was stop searching and start designing. That's right. I designed my boyfriend. I'm a busy woman. I don't have time for the Toms, Dicks, and Harrys the world keeps throwing at me.


Update: Here's a great interview that Lauren McLaughlin conducted with Kelly Link, the award-winning author of Stranger Things Happen and Magic for Beginners -- thanks, Matthew!

Lobsters avoid their sick neighbors

Scientists have discovered that Caribbean spiny lobsters, a social animal, do their best to stay the hell away from others that are sick. Biologist Mark Butler of Old Dominion University and his colleagues noticed that while healthy spiny lobsters spend their days in large groups, sick animals are left alone. It makes evolutionary sense, Butler told the New York Times, but "it's not common." The scientists ran experiments in the lab and published their findings in the journal Nature. From the NYT:
When healthy lobsters were given a choice in a lab setting between an empty den and one with a sick lobster, they chose the empty den. Further studies showed that healthy lobsters avoided sick ones weeks before there were visible symptoms and before the sick lobsters became infectious. That's a good thing, Dr. Butler said, because if lobsters catch the virus "they're pretty much goners." He said the healthy lobsters probably detected chemical cues released by the sick ones.

The finding has implications for conservation, as the lobster habitat is being diminished by humans. "If you're wiping out the housing market, so to speak, now you have animals constrained and forced together," Dr. Butler said. Healthy lobsters may have no choice but to mingle with sick ones, raising the risk that the disease will be transmitted.
Link (Thanks, Kate Wing!)

JPEG patent invalidated

The US Patent and Trademark Office has taken away parts of the patent that controls the use of the JPEG standard, moving it closer to being completely free:
In the reexamination proceeding initiated late last year by the Public Patent Foundation ("PUBPAT"), the United States Patent and Trademark Office has rejected the broadest claims of the patent Forgent Networks (Nasdaq: FORG) is asserting against the Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) international standard for the electronic sharing of photo-quality images. In its Office Action released yesterday, the Patent Office found that the prior art submitted by PUBPAT completely anticipated the broadest claims of the patent, U.S. Patent No. 4,698,672 (the '672 Patent).

Forgent Networks acquired the '672 Patent through the purchase of Compression Labs, Inc. in 1997 and began aggressively asserting it against the JPEG standard through lawsuits and the media in 2004. The company has the opportunity to respond to the Patent Office's rejection, but third party requests for reexamination, like the one filed by PUBPAT, result in having the subject patent either modified or completely revoked roughly 70% of the time.

Link (via Interesting People)

Baby with three arms

This incredible image is a real photo of an infant, named Jie-jie, in Shanghai who was born with a well-developed third arm. According to an Associated Press article, surgeons at Shanghai Children's Medical Center are assessing surgery options. Sadly, Jie-jie is also short a kidney and may have other medical problems. From the AP article:
Thirdarm-5 Neither of the boy's two left arms is fully functional and tests have so far been unable to determine which was more developed, said Dr. Chen Bochang, head of the orthopedics department at Shanghai Children's Medical Center.

"His case is quite peculiar. We have no record of any child with such a complete third arm," Chen said in a telephone interview. "It's quite difficult to decide how to do the operation on him."
Link (Thanks, Jason Tester!)

How to Beat Video Games monotone LP from 1982

Kim sez, "In 1982 this very strange LP was issued by some bargain-basement label: it features overviews and tips of popular arcade games like Defender and Donkey Kong, haltingly read in a bizarre monotone. This post has MP3s of the entire album--great for samples!" Link (Thanks, Kim!)

Anti-DRM graphic

Dutch artist Metin Seven has created this Creative Commons by-nc-sa graphic about DRM -- I think it's a great visual communication of the problems caused by DRMs like HDCP/HDMI. Link