Boing Boing 

Department of Defense remakes Gilgamesh online

BoingBoing reader Sarah says,

In the vein of inappropriate/unexpected graphic adaptations of literature... my father, a psychiatrist with the Veterans Administration, alerted me to a new training video on the VA website that describes post-deployment health evaluation procedure... as an adaptation of GILGAMESH. What genius government employee came up with that one, eh?

There are some odd (though not necessarily helpful) synchronicities: Gilgamesh was the King of Uruk (now in Iraq). In the vid, his friend comes home from battle with Gulf War Syndrome (I'm guessing), and he with PTSD.

Link to the DoD/VA website.

reader comment: someone whose name I accidentally deleted says,

Using Gilgamesh in a cartoon to explain "Post-Deployment Health Evaluations" sounds like a bizarre combination, but they're following a meme started by VA psychiatrist Jonathan Shay. His books include "Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character" and "Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming". Link

Worst vlogs of 2006

Lou Cabron at 10ZenMonkeys has posted a funny roundup of videoblogs he believes are worthy of ridicule: Link. This poor little guy here took top prize. (Thanks, Moe Zilla)

Cloneburger with cheese, please: Cloned critters get FDA ok

Fans of cloned meat and dairy products -- c'mon, we know you're out there -- rejoice! The US government declared today that food products made from cloned animals is "safe to eat," and probably won't require labeling to disclose the fact:

After more than five years of study, the Food and Drug Administration concluded that cloned livestock is "virtually indistinguishable" from conventional livestock. FDA believes "that meat and milk from cattle, swine and goat clones is as safe to eat as the food we eat every day," said Stephen F. Sundlof, director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine.

Silent but deadly: DREAD centrifuge-powered weapon

Update: this story's a year old, but it's making the rounds again this week after a Gizmodo post. A number of BoingBoing readers submitted it today, but it appears there's been much criticism of the concept since the original 2005 article. Read on, with skepticism or drool, depending on whether you believe the outlandish claims.


The gun looks like an angry flying saucer, and the ammo looks like golf balls. A flying saucer that shoots golf balls should be funny. But 120,000 rounds per minute at .50 caliber makes that not one bit funny. Snip from

Imaging a gun with no recoil, no sound, no heat, no gunpowder, no visible firing signature (muzzle flash), and no stoppages or jams of any kind. Now imagine that this gun could fire .308 caliber and .50 caliber metal projectiles accurately at up to 8,000 fps (feet-per-second), featured an infinitely variable/programmable cyclic rate-of-fire (as high as 120,000 rounds-per-minute), and were capable of laying down a 360-degree field of fire.
Link David Crane's review of "DREAD centrifuge-powered weapon system," on, here's the defensereview Link. Tech-e-blog has video: Link. (also seen on Gizmodo, thanks Gunther.)

Reader comment: Tom says,

It's worth looking at the discussion forum thread on the DREAD weapon to read analyses on why this won't work. Also, a thread from another forum (Link) does a good job of summing up the flaws in the concept. My guess is that someone with posting rights to Gizmodo got a little overheated when they saw the video (which has been out for over a year and a half) and thought that it was something new.
Anonymous says,
Regarding the mythical 'Dread' centrifuge weapon - you should probably post this link, which does an excellent job of talking about how unlikely some of that company's claims are...
Chris Johnson says,
There are some serious issues with the physics of the 'DREAD' gun (linked to by BoingBoing recently. The comments on the suggested site (notably that of J-Star on February 20 @ 12:09:54) are absolutely correct in terms of the physics (though some of the numbers aren't quite accurate). In short, for the gun to have anything like the claimed firepower, it would be enormous and have huge recoil. Similar ideas _have_ been considered for non-lethal (low muzzle-velocity) guns to quell riots. Link.
Peter says
A patent has been pointed out for this exact device. US Pat. #6520169 no-reg. link to patent: Link. It's an easy read. Strange but it seems not a hoax - although patents can lie too.

Previously on BB:
- Centrifuge as a weapon (2005)

What's ahead in 2007? Predictions from 7 thinkers.

The Los Angeles Times gathered predictions for technology's future from seven people -- John Brockman, Steve Ballmer, Ned Sherman, Rafat Ali, Kevin Werbach, Chris Anderson, Hank Barry -- and their responses are online today.

Here's a snip from what Chris Anderson (Wired, The Long Tail) had to say:

I'M WILLING TO bet that 2007 is the year that somebody figures out how to make video advertising work in a YouTube world. And if I'm right, the TV industry is going to get very rocky, very fast.

I doubt that the same disruptive force will hit movies, however. The big-screen home-theater boom created a market for high-def films, and that factor-of-10 increase in downloading time bought Hollywood another five years or so to figure things out.

And here's a snip from publisher John Brockman's thoughts:
WE WILL SEE migration of social applications as user-generated content moves to the WiFi environment. YouTube, MySpace and multi-user games will be available on hand-held devices, wherever you go. People will carry their digital assets much like their bacteria. Israeli tech guru Yossi Vardi calls it "continuous computing."

The nanotechnology world foreseen by K. Eric Drexler arrives in the form of MEMS, or microelectronic mechanical systems. Very inexpensive moving parts will be mass-produced like a semiconductor. But unlike semiconductors, they move. Useful for anything that employs moving parts.

Synthetic Biology pioneer George Church of Harvard University expects $3,000 personal genomics kits in stores.

"Pop Atheism" might include popular atheist TV and movie characters, professional athletes, political figures, etc. Look for the first billion-dollar IPO for the Web service that gets atheists together for "rituals," dating and political and business networking.

Link to LA Times piece.

Previously on BB:

Brockman: 40 years of "intermedia kinetic environments"
More BB posts on Brockman (about 60 total)
More BB posts on EDGE (about 50 total)

Reader comments: David C. Frier says,

Ballmer had this and this only to say about 2007, "You'll be back in control."

How viciously will this man have to insult his customers before they just go away? The Vista licensing agreement is being described as the "world's longest suicide note." Has Steve read it? Did you know that it goes WAY beyond DRM on content... to the extent of reserving the right remotely to disable YOUR hardware should MS decide at some time in the future that it's not up to snuff? "Back" in control? Does he imply that I am already out of control? Suppose I am, how much of that is due to his handiwork?

Never mind Steve. I have converted one of my old machines to Linux and so have begun the process of stepping away from my 23 years of MS experience to make his arrogantly worded prediction come true -- at least for me. By the end of '07 I hope to be running none of his products anywhere in my life.

(Note that this email comes to you from MS-Outlook, which may be the toughest drug of all to kick -- PDA synch is a Holy Grail.)

Knitting mathematics

The latest issue of Science News profiles the work of several mathematicians who crochet and knit incredibly strange surfaces to illustrate certain complicated mathematical principles. For example, two researchers from the University Bristol used their computer algorithm as crochet instructions to create a Lorenz manifold, a shape that emerges from chaotic systems such as weather. Other crafty scientists crocheted Möbius strips, Klein bottles, and hyperbolic planes (seen here). From the article:
 Articles 20061223 A7996 5548 Mathematics has long been an essential tool for the fiber arts. Knitters and crocheters use mathematical principles–often without recognizing them as such–to map the pattern of a cable sweater, for instance, or figure out how to space the stitches when adding a sleeve onto a jacket.

Now, the two crafts are returning the favor. In recent years, mathematicians such as Osinga have started knitting and crocheting concrete physical models of hard-to-visualize mathematical objects. One mathematician's crocheted models of a counterintuitive shape called a hyperbolic plane are enabling her students and fellow mathematicians to gain new insight into startling properties. Other mathematicians have knitted or crocheted fractal objects, surfaces that have no inside or outside, and shapes whose patterns display mathematical theorems.

"Knitting and crocheting are helping us think about math we already know in a different light," says Carolyn Yackel, a mathematician at Mercer University in Macon, Ga.

Previously on BB:
• HOWTO crochet a Lorenz manifold Link
• Chaotic crochet Link
• Fabric brain art Link
• Gigantic Klein bottle Link
• Moebius strip playground equipment Link

Chocolate-obsessed blogger's exposé on costly candy, Noka

BB reader Egg Syntax says,

Noka makes obscenely expensive chocolate ($2080/lb in small doses). This superb exposé from a very, very serious chocolate geek reveals that they buy widely-available chocolate and remold it at up to a 6,956% markup. Excellent reading and a good reminder that price is often not proportional to quality.
Link to "What's Noka Worth?" on

I can't speak to the veracity of the claims in this exhaustive (10! part!) investigative series, but I couldn't stop reading it. I don't even care much about the subject in general -- I hardly eat sweets at all, myself -- but the scientific references and geeky specificity made this a riveting read. It's more about economics and the psychology of luxury goods than chocolate alone.

Reader comment: Steve says,

I just recently purchased chocolates as a gift. It was a six pack for $10. That's about $1.70 a chocolate. This is to say, chocolate is expensive. The price per pound listed in the article is deceiving because that's the type of mark-up you get when you sell products in such small amounts. Plus, you don't buy those types of chocolates by the pound. Anyone who really enjoys chocolate would be more than willing to spend up to $2 or $3 for a piece. I thought that blogger came to some ridiculous conclusions.
Ethan Anderson says,
I read the Dallas Food article in question a few days ago, and while the author does occasionally fail to take into account the fairly standard practice of marking up an item if sold in small quantities, the end conclusion is far from invalid, as reader Steve commented. Noka is re-selling chocolate to which they have added no value at a considerable markup, even when similar or same quantities are involved. The chocolate in question was purchased by the author from, who offers the exact chocolate mentioned in the article for $7.50 per bar. Indeed, the author notes, "So, if you buy Noka's 48-piece Vintages Encore box for $100, you're getting about the same amount of chocolate you would have gotten by buying one 100-gram Bonnat bar at a retail price of $7.50. That's a markup of more than 1,300% over the retail price."

Just because reader Steve bought an unidentified $10 box of chocolates doesn't make his argument valid (if anything it makes it worse), and he doesn't appear to have read the article in question, as his criticism is addressed directly in the original piece.

Egg says,
Steve said, "The price per pound listed in the article is deceiving because that's the type of mark-up you get when you sell products in such small amounts. Plus, you don't buy those types of chocolates by the pound. Anyone who really enjoys chocolate would be more than willing to spend up to $2 or $3 for a piece. I thought that blogger came to some ridiculous conclusions."

I think that Steve is missing the point. When we compare Noka's prices for a four-piece box to, say, Recchiuti's, we see that Noka's price is 60% higher, and you only get 1/7 the amount of chocolate. This would perhaps be justified if there were something extraordinary about Noka's chocolate (or if they were adding a great deal of value to it) but, as the article exhaustively demonstrates, there's not.

Knit your own Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo

South Park's fecal ambassador of holiday cheer now lives on in a fan-made Etsy knitting pattern. Link to photos of the Christmas poo in repose, and here's the pattern ($6): Link.

Previously on BB:
South Park creators: download our shows!
South Park: Make Love Not Warcraft
South Park: Flying Spaghetti Monster, Richard Dawkins
More South Park-related posts on BB (about 80 of 'em)

Wanted: your Michael Crook blog harassment testimony

Here's the latest on Michael Crook (shown at left), the nutty griefer who tried to bully a bunch of blogs including BoingBoing into removing this photo (despite the fact that Fox News, not Crook, produced it). Scott Beale, founder of the ISP Laughing Squid, says,
10 Zen Monkeys, the blog hosted by Laughing Squid which is currently at the center of the EFF lawsuit against Michael Crook, has just put a call out for Michael Crook DMCA war stories in order to help in the case against him. Link to post soliciting your documentation.

Crook is a deranged, serial troll, and his behavior is consistent with that of someone who craves attention, no matter how negative. But what does matter is the fact that the DMCA is so poorly conceived and written that even the nuttiest, most deranged of trolls can abuse it into silencing constitutionally-protected online speech.

For instance, others might use the same tactic to chill political speech: what better way to see to it that your opponent's campaign ads are yanked from YouTube a week before the elections? Laws this broken need to be fixed.

Related BB posts:
Michael Crook sends bogus DMCA takedown notice to BB
EFF Sues Michael Crook for Bogus DMCA Claims
RU Sirius show about EFF suit against Michael Crook
Ethan Ackerman schools us on DMCA and ISPs' obligations
Troublemakers enjoy harassing sites with bogus DMCA
EFF fights another DMCA abuser
HOWTO protect yourself from "The Craigslist Experiment"

Reader comments: Anonymous says,

YTMND does Crook: Link.
And someone else points us to online video of the Fox News interview with Mr. Crook that led to the whole mess: Video Link New Video Link to Hannity and Colmes interview.

Scanning license plates to identify delinquent parking violators

San Francisco's Department of Parking and Traffic are testing a mounted camera that scans the license plates of parked cars and searches a database to identify vehicles with lots of unpaid tickets. When a match is made, the parking ticket crew locks on the boot. Apparently the system can scan at least 250 plats an hour. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
San Francisco isn't the first city to use the license-plate scanning technology. Oakland uses it to find stolen vehicles. San Francisco just added the stolen car data to its system last week.

The system isn't perfect. The cameras don't capture all license plates because some are tilted at the wrong angle or too dirty to read.

The cost of software and equipment for one of the specially outfitted Department of Parking and Traffic vehicles is about $92,000, (said James Lee, assistant director of enforcement for the Department of Parking and Traffic.)
Link (Thanks, Jason Tester!)

Previously on BB:
• License plate scanner will bust people with overdue library books Link
• License plate tracking for fun and profit Link
• School becomes surveillance state Link

Sara Lanzillotta's fabric freaks

 Main Dkbrdeerpin Lingming
My wife and I have fallen in love with crafter Sara Lanzillotta's Devout Dolls collection of stuffed oddities and fabric freaks. I bought my wife two Devout pieces as gifts--a Forest Friend deer doll and matching pin (image left)--and they're as beautifully constructed as they appear. I sense our Devout collection has just begun.

Scott Teplin's floorplan art

Coop says:
 Heavy Water Images Red Theater My buddy Scott Teplin has a show coming up in Paris on Jan. 13th to feb 20. I really dig his work. For a while now, he's been doing drawings of three dimensional letters, filled with different substances. This has evolved into letters and abstract shapes drawn as axiometric floorplans for strange clubhouses filled with mysterious and enigmatic devices. It's like detention-room doodling, done by a pre-adolescent supervillain.
Link to Scott Teplin's site, Link to g-module gallery in Paris

Internet access in Asia disrupted by Taiwan earthquake

Via Joi Ito's blog, news of a major disruption to internet access throughout Asia after a series of earthquakes. Snip from an announcement sent out by China Telecom, which appeared on

China Telecom has confirmed that, according to China institute of earthquake monitoring, at Dec 26, 20:26-20:34 Beijing Time, 7.2 and 6.7 magnitude earth quake have occurred in the South China Sea. Affected by the earthquake, Sina-US cable, Asia-Pacific Cable 1, Asia-Pacific Cable 2, FLAG Cable, Asia-Euro Cable and FNAL cable was broken and cut up. The break-off point is located 15 km south to Taiwan, which severely affected the International and national tele-communication in neighboring regions.


It was also reported that communication directed to China mainland, Taiwan, US and Europe were all massively interrupted. Internet connection to countries and region outside of China mainland became very difficult. Voice communication and telephone services were also affected.


China Telecom has claimed that due to the aftershock of the earthquake, the repairing works would be very tough. In addition undersea operation is also not easy to handle with. So this phenomenon is going to exist for certain period.

Link to Joi's blog post. The folks at Wikinews have an evolving page on the story: Link. IMAGE: USGS, via this page with detailed data about the seismological event(s).

Santarctica: Santas going bananas in Antarctica

This is how people at McMurdo Station in Antarctica keep from going crazy celebrate their craziness during the holidays. Above: a dude in a reindeer costume pauses for a moment of reflection. With a bunch of colored balls. At the South Pole. Photos, blog post. (Thanks, T.bias, via Wayne's list)

Related BB posts:
Santarchy in Antarctica (2003)
Will the real Antarctic Anti-santa please stand up? (2003)
More Santarchy in Antarctica (2003)
Astronaut in Antarctica to conduct fun experiments (2006)
More archive posts about Antarctica

Reader comments:

Jonathan Moore points us to a description of the "blue balls," which are actually an art project called Stellar Axis. Wow, Art in Antarctica! snip from the description:

Stellar axis is a giant art piece depicting the 99 brightest stars in the southern hemisphere. blue fiberglass spheres of various yet relative sizes represent the stars - with sirius being the largest. they are arranged as they are in the sky, in forms of constellations as they are when the solstice occurs. only we don't see the night sky here, therefore we don't get stars, but either way, it is beautiful, the contrast of cobalt and ice shelf. locally, the spheres had become known as 'blueballs.' ("hey sandwich, you really have to go out there and check out the blueballs... they're amazing!") the installation is about a 45 minute ride from mcmurdo, out on the ross ice shelf, near pegasus runway.
Paddy Johnson of Art Fag City says,
Related: Artist McKendree Key's earth art with balls at Lake Camplain. Her website here. Her work at Caren Golden Fine Art here. It would be a stretch to say there is a preexisting tradition of ball art similar to what the Santa's came to on their own, though certainly there are other examples of earth artists who use that shape in their work ( Andy Goldsworthy being the best example) but you can certainly see that artists also have an affinity for the form and are making things like the Santa's are doing.
Joseph Miller says,
McMurdo Station is not actually at the South Pole but on Ross Island, which is some distance from the pole and at a more reasonable altitude. Also it's Summer, so the place isn't as crazy-inducing as you might think. At least, that's what I gather from my brother, who's been there a couple of times (and is on his way there now). As for the picture, some people just have more Christmas spirit than others. And more blue balls.
Chop says,
Here's a more "blue collar" look at how people unwind / maintain sanity at McMurdo. The Science outposts down there are, in fact, more construction site than laboratory. Link to BigDeadPlace [ Ed. note: Yeah, we've blogged these guys before! Link 1, Link 2 ]

The Little Book of Hindu Deities

Picture 1-39 Sanjay Patel, (check out his doodles!) an animator at Pixar, sent me his delightful illustrated book, The Little Book of Hindu Deities. His style is a little Mary Blair, a little UPA, and thoroughly modern. This is my first introduction to the pantheon of Hindu deities, and Patel's descriptions of the cast of characters, which usually include illuminating anecdotes, are wonderful. It's a shame most schools in the United States skip over the Hindu gods when they teach mythology. What a terrific textbook this would be. Link