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Video: Indonesian coelacanth

Coela A month ago, I posted that an Indonesian coelacanth had been caught on video by Japanese researchers. Thought to have been extinct for 65 million years, the coelacanth was "rediscovered" in 1938. It was thought that they only lived off the coast of Africa, but in 1998, an entirely different species of coelacanth was discovered swimming around near Indonesia. (More background from cryptozoologist Loren Coleman in this Cryptomundo post.) A team from Aquamarine Fukushima videotaped one just four weeks ago using an underwater robot. The video is now available on YouTube. What a beautiful beastie! Link (via Planet Timbotron)

Bengali science fiction of the 1880s

Amardeep Singh has posted a brief and fascinating essay on early Bengali science fiction literature of the 1880s:
The first [rocket] that he had built was unsuccessful and had come down on his neighbour Abinashbabu's radish patch. Abinashbabu had no sympathy for Shanku; science and scientists made him yawn. He would come up to Shanku and urge him to set off the rocket for Diwali so that the neighbourhood children could be suitably entertained. Shanku wants to punish this levity and drops his latest invention in his guest's tea. This is a small pill, made after the fashion of the Jimbhranastra described in the Mahabharata. This pill does not only make one yawn, it makes one see nightmares. Before giving a dose to his neighbour, Shanku had tried a quarter bit on himself. In the morning, half of his beard had turned grey from the effect of his dreams. Shanku's world is a real world, a human world. In his preparations for the space journey he has decided to take his cat Newton with him. For that he has invented a fish-pill. "Today I tested the fish-pill by leaving it next to a piece of fish. Newton ate the pill. No more problems! Now all I have to do is make his suit and helmet."
Link (via Making Light)

Deadline for World Fantasy Award nominations

Brandon sez, "Friday, June 30th is the deadline for making World Fantasy Award Nominations. You have to have been an attendee of the WFC either in 2004 or 2005 to nominate. There's still plenty of time to send in your nominations. They're accepting votes via email; nominations can be sent to Roger Turner at rturner@cyberus.ca." Link (Thanks, Brandon!)

Google launches "predatory" Paypal rival Checkout, much is prohibited

With what some have described as a "predatory pricing model" and rates lower than credit card processing fees, Google's new online payment service Checkout officially launched today. The competitive rates sound like good news for consumers. Update: Like Paypal, you can't use the service to pay for adult products or services. But as a number of BB readers wrote in to point out (comments after the jump), some of the categories of prohibited content are described in ways that seem remarkably broad:
Pornography and other sexually suggestive materials (including literature, imagery and other media); escort or prostitution services
"And other sexually suggestive materials"? Meaning Nabokov's Lolita, or other classic literary works that include erotic content? With language that loose, perhaps a copy of Harpers with naked Britney Spears on the cover would be verboten -- not to mention fine art nude prints, or any number of popular music CDs or movie DVDs not regarded as pr0n. A ban on "occult goods" ("Materials, goods or paraphernalia for use in satanic, sacrificial, or related practices") seems similarly troublesome. Would that apply to Coop's dark-lord-lovin' "devil babe" stickers? Or a hardcore black metal CD ("Music to eat babies by")? How about incense? Snip from NYT story by Saul Hansell:
Google is charging merchants 20 cents plus 2 percent of the purchase price to process card transactions, less than most businesses pay for credit card processing. Banking industry executives say that credit card processors typically pay MasterCard and Visa a fee of 30 cents and 1.95 percent for every purchase, so Google will be subsidizing many transactions.
Link to NYT article, and link to an analysis by Donna Bogatin at Zdnet.

Reader comments: Chris Smith says,

Don't know that 'predatory' is appropriate here. Google can maintain this pricing as long as the adwords return the value. Usually, predatory pricing is there to change the market conditions so that you can raise prices later. Your quote hints at this - it talks about 'cost the predator' more during the low price phase. But if Google makes its money back on adwords, it can maintain this pricing forever. This is not predatory pricing - it's tied selling.
Phillip K. says,
The shocker is not really Google Checkout predatory pricing, but the "content policy," or what you can't buy (or more specifically sell). There is the standard exclusion of nasty stuff that you will see anywhere, but in numerous places it is deliberately ambiguous and broad, and would seem to promote an agenda.

Read the rest

PDF of Oudemans' The Great Sea-Serpent

Tinselman says:
200606291859 As of yet, only 2% of the ocean has been explored. And last year alone, over 13,000 previously undiscoverd new species were discovered. So what does one call an undiscovered species?

In 1892 Dr. Anthonid Cornelis Oudemans, director of the Dutch Royal Zoological Gardens at the Hague, published his definitive work on cryptozoology – long before cryptozoology was even a popular idea. Titled The Great Sea-Serpent, this comprehensive work not only describes some 150 sightings (dating back to the 16th century) but also presents various hoaxes and alternative theories.

(Remember, to sound like a salty sea dog, you say "sarpent," not "serpent.") Link

Pentagon funding research on data harvesting from Myspace, social networks

Snip from New Scientist article:
New Scientist has discovered that Pentagon's National Security Agency, which specialises in eavesdropping and code-breaking, is funding research into the mass harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks. And it could harness advances in internet technology - specifically the forthcoming "semantic web" championed by the web standards organisation W3C - to combine data from social networking websites with details such as banking, retail and property records, allowing the NSA to build extensive, all-embracing personal profiles of individuals.
Link to story.

UPDATE: Janet Daly of W3C says:

The New Scientist article is correct in describing what Semantic Web technologies are and how they work. However, the accuracies are outweighed the failures of the article.
[Her rebuttal continues after the jump.]

Read the rest

Net censorship: HOWTO bypass China's Great Firewall

Richard Clayton, a computer security researcher at the University of Cambridge, has been poking around at the technical structure of China's "great firewall." On the lightbluetouchpaper collective blog, he says he's come up with a way to penetrate that "wall" by ignoring the reset TCP packet returned by Chinese routers to maintain connection. As he explains it, if those packets are discarded instead of being dutifully returned as expected, then -- poof, the firewall becomes utterly ineffective. Clayton acknowledges that Internet filtering in China involves other methods, too, but this still seems significant:
The Great Firewall of China is an important tool for the Chinese Government in their efforts to censor the Internet. It works, in part, by inspecting web traffic to determine whether or not particular words are present. If the Chinese Government does not approve of one of the words in a web page (or a web request), perhaps it says “f” “a” “l” “u” “n”, then the connection is closed and the web page will be unavailable — it has been censored.

This user-level effect has been known for some time… but up until now, no-one seems to have looked more closely into what is actually happening (or when they have, they have misunderstood the packet level events).

It turns out [caveat: in the specific cases we’ve closely examined, YMMV] that the keyword detection is not actually being done in large routers on the borders of the Chinese networks, but in nearby subsidiary machines. When these machines detect the keyword, they do not actually prevent the packet containing the keyword from passing through the main router (this would be horribly complicated to achieve and still allow the router to run at the necessary speed). Instead, these subsiduary machines generate a series of TCP reset packets, which are sent to each end of the connection. When the resets arrive, the end-points assume they are genuine requests from the other end to close the connection — and obey. Hence the censorship occurs.

However, because the original packets are passed through the firewall unscathed, if both of the endpoints were to completely ignore the firewall’s reset packets, then the connection will proceed unhindered! We’ve done some real experiments on this — and it works just fine!! Think of it as the Harry Potter approach to the Great Firewall — just shut your eyes and walk onto Platform 9¾.

Link. Clayton is presenting a paper on this topic (PDF link to paper) at the 6th Workshop on Privacy Enhancing Technologies being held in Cambridge this week. (Thanks, Mike Liebhold)

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Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex

An article in today's San Francisco Chronicle about the physics of Superman, reminded my pal Vann Hall of the classically hokey 1971 essay "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" by SF author Larry Niven. It's all about the physiological difficulties that must make it difficult for Kal-El to father a child here on Earth. From the essay:
Assume a mating between Superman and a human woman designated LL for convenience.

Either Superman has gone completely schizo and believes himself to be Clark Kent; or he knows what he's doing, but no longer gives a damn. Thirty-one years is a long time. For Superman it has been even longer. He has X-ray vision; he knows just what he's missing. (*One should not think of Superman as a Peeping Tom. A biological ability must be used. As a child Superman may never have known that things had surfaces, until he learned to suppress his X-ray vision. If millions of people tend shamelessly to wear clothing with no lead in the weave, that is hardly Superman's fault.*)

The problem is this. Electroencephalograms taken of men and women during sexual intercourse show that orgasm resembles "a kind of pleasurable epileptic attack." One loses control over one's muscles.

Superman has been known to leave his fingerprints in steel and in hardened concrete, accidentally. What would he do to the woman in his arms during what amounts to an epileptic fit?
Link

Video: Crazy '60s German TV robots und dance moves

Video clip from the sixties German TV show Raumpatrouille. Episode 3: The Keepers of the Law. "The computer can malfunction... the tracks are a bit mixed up. I call it a cybernetic neurosis." Link. Another vintage clip from the same TV program, mit futuristic frugging auf Deutsch: Link. (Danke schoen, Coop!)

Reader comment: Anselm Lingnau says,

The "Raumpatrouille" (Space Patrol) series is really something of a classic. The robots and dance scenes are only scratching the surface; watch for the clothes irons and shower heads as well as the special effect when the spaceship launches from its submarine base (which was produced by filming the bubbles produced by an Aspirin tablet and turning the footage upside down). The sets and special effects make the original Star Trek look downright sophisticated, but then again "Raumpatrouille" does predate ST by a couple of years.

The series has been available on DVD for some time, and a couple of years back bits from the various shows were strung together to form a feature film. Some of the original actors are also still around and occasionally seen on TV.


Read the rest

Bizarre toy from Taiwan: Benign Girl

Benign Girl is a Barbie knockoff from Taiwan. The name must be due to a weird translation hiccup, like maybe they were looking for a synonym for "sweet" or "kind."
200606291529I was standing near the register looking at the assorted things when all of a sudden I spotted "Benign Girl" and suddenly I heard the mermaids singing. Two Latina women were looking at Benign Girl and reaching forward as if to grab it and in a flash I knew this was something extremely precious and rare and that I needed to act fast!

So I reached around the women and snatched BG. And before they knew what happened I had paid and fled the scene, adrenalining all the way.

On the side of the package were the bullet points:

*BATTERY
*OPERATED
*CREATIVE
*VARIOUS MUSIC

The instructions on the package:
"Beautiful girl, press any button!"

Link

Reader comment: Moon Custafer says:

My local drugstore/post office has a number of odd imported toys whose packaging bears the results of too thorough a search through the translation dictionary. My favourite is the mechanical tortoise labelled "Magical Chelonian."

Wang Guangyi's propaganda posters hawk capitalist wares

Chinese artist Wang Guangyi creates satirical works of art touting iconic Western brands like Coke and Disney -- but in the visual tradition of Chinese propaganda posters. Link

HOWTO send feedback to the BB editors

If you'd like to comment on a post, suggest a related site, or just give us feedback on BoingBoing.net, we've created a form to make that much easier for you. And, as always, the only way to suggest an item for BoingBoing is by following the directions here. We really appreciate your feedback and suggestions, but please use those forms and not our personal email addresses. Using the forms will automatically send your comment or suggestion to all of the editors at once. The links are at the top of the page. Also, please don't add us to any email lists without our permission. Thanks so much! Link (Thanks, Chris Smith!)

Supreme court blocks Guantanamo tribunals

In a 5-to-3 ruling, the US Supreme Court ruled today that the military tribunals at Guantanamo violated both US military law and the Geneva Conventions. Link to NYT story, and here is the decision via Findlaw.

In related news, Salon.com ran a report on a document found in the ACLU's FOIA archives that says instructors from the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape school at Fort Bragg, NC (where elite troops learn how to survive extreme enemy interrogation measures) were shipped to Guantanamo to teach interrogators there. Link.

An anonymous BB reader says,

So basically, instructors who taught American military troops to deal with torture (by, effectively, torturing them) were sent to Guantanamo to teach interrogators there how torture -- excuse me, *interrogate* -- detainees.

Movie opening: Who Killed the Electric Car?


Chris Paine's new documentary feature "Who Killed the Electric Car" opens at theaters throughout the US this week, and I'm looking forward to seeing it. Snip from the NYT review by Manohla Dargis:

Like Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" and the better nonfiction inquiries into the war in Iraq, this information-packed history about the effort to introduce ˜ and keep ˜ electric vehicles on the road wasn't made to soothe your brow. For the film's director, Chris Paine, the evidence is too appalling and our air too dirty for palliatives.

Fast and furious, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" is, in brief, the sad tale of yet one more attempt by a heroic group of civic-minded souls to save the browning, warming planet. The story mostly unfolds during the 1990's, when a few automobile manufacturers, including General Motors, were prodded to pursue ˜ only to sabotage covertly ˜ a cleaner future. In 1990 the state's smog-busting California Air Resources Board adopted the Zero-Emission Vehicle mandate in a bid to force auto companies to produce exhaust-free vehicles. The idea was simple: we were choking to death on our own waste. The goals were seemingly modest: by 1998, 2 percent of all new cars sold in the biggest vehicle market in the country would be exhaust-free, making California's bumper-to-bumper lifestyle a touch less hellish.

Link to review, and Link to movie website. (Thanks, David Newsom)

Audrey Kawasaki at Roq La Rue

Roqla-Octo-Sml-1 Roqla-Horns-Sml-1
Kirsten Anderson, curatrix of Seattle's Roq La Rue Gallery, says, "These are from the next show, by artist Audrey Kawasaki. My jaw hit the floor when I opened these up." Mine too. The show also features the gorgeous work of Myna Sonou and Scott Altmann. The opening party is Friday, July 7. Link