Boing Boing 

Billboard Liberation Front: video of last night's hit

Earlier today, Xeni posted about the Billboard Liberation Front's improvement of an AT&T billboard last night in San Francisco. The BLF has just provided me with this link to video evidence of the shenanigans that occurred on a busy, well-lit thoroughfare in the heart of the Mission District. Footage by renegade videographer Iov de Beholther. Link

NBC opposing LA bike-path to prevent script-lobbing?

Dwiff sez, "Universal Studio blocks proposed bike path for fear that aspiring screenwriters will use it to throw their scripts onto the lot. No, seriously."
As Los Angeles struggles to restore its namesake river, a considerable obstacle has arisen -- NBC Universal, which is trying to block a public bike path from traversing its property along the waterway...

One bike advocate said Universal executives told him they feared that people would use the path to lob unsolicited screenplays onto the studio's nearby production lot -- something that apparently happens at other spots when a Universal film scores big at the box office.

Link (Thanks, Dwiff!)

TED 2008 -- Garrett Lisi's E8 Theory of Everything

(I'm liveblogging from TED 2008, in Monterey, CA) Presenter:
200802281310 Garrett Lisi is introduced as a surfing physicist working on a grand unified theory - E8. He wants to find all the particles and forces that make a complete picture of our universe. He starts by making fun of himself, coming onto the stage and saying "Woah dude, check out those killer equations!"

But he wants to talk about particle physics without using equations. He starts showing images of corals. Coral polyps branch into copies. So do universes. He shows a funny slide of the Shroedinger's Cat problem (for comic effect, he puts Erwin in the box, and the cat gets to run the experiment). We see Shroedinger branching like a coral polyp in the unopened box. Quantum physics says "Everything that can happen does."

The four different known forces have different kinds of charges. The hypothetical Higgs particle gives mass to things, and the Large Hadron Collider that's about to go into operation will hopefully prove the existence of Higgs particles.

Electric charges are combinations of two different charges, hyper charges and weak charge.

Strong interactions between quarks are happening millions of times a second, holding atomic nuclei together. These particles are at the very limit of our knowledge. The known pattern of charges could come from a more perfect pattern that gets broken. to do these we need to introduce new charges with new directions. He shows a colorful animated pattern of elementary particle interactions. The interactions are taking place in the 8th dimension. Some of the places where there should be particles are blank. They need to be filled in with currently unknown particles.

What's one reason E8 is so appealing to him? "At the heart of this mathematics is pure, beautiful geometry."

He finishes by showing photos of his three obessions: physics, love, and surfing. He has been living in a van in Maui.

The consensus around here is that even though Lisi avoided equations, it was pretty incomprehensible. That's why I'm attracted to Renny Gleeson's explanation of the talk: it was about Spirograph art.

Awesome rant against Diet Pepsi

Wolfrum hates Diet Pepsi more than you hate anything.
200802281232 If you haven't tasted Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi, but would like an idea of what it tastes like, do this - keep a straw in your pocket and wander around outside until you find a pigeon or squirrel that's been dead for, oh, say three months. Stick the straw into the dead animal and suck. Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi tastes like that, except worse. Plus, the taste lingers in your mouth for months. And gradually gets worse until it's like your mouth was invaded by the notoriously rare and deadly Asian Shit Ant.

What gets me is that they had high-paid executives sitting around a table, drinking this dreck and all nodding approvingly, "Oh yes, this is what America wants, a 'light, crisp, refreshing' beverage that tastes like Cheney sputum."

You want to defeat terrorists? Force them to drink Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi. I'm sure it would violate the Geneva Conventions, but they'd immediately tell you anything they knew, then hang themselves. Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi is torture in a 12-oz can.

Link (Thanks, Coop!)

TED 2008 -- Thomas Krens

(I'm liveblogging from TED 2008, in Monterey, CA) Presenter: Thomas Krens, director of the Guggenheim Foundation on rethinking museums. Img 0228

After showing slides of works by Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rubens, Manet, Picasso, Mondrian, Warhol, Gehry, 1948 Indian Chief motorcycles, Krens asks: How do these objects of beauty tie together? How do we experience art, truth and beauty? Do art museums work as a territory for encountering these ideas?

The art museum is an 18th century idea (the encyclopedia) in a 19th century box (the extended and recycled palace) that more or less fulfills structural destiny sometime toward to end of the 29t century.

Art museums conjures up a Greece that never existed. It belies the fact that these sculptures were colorfully painted. Museums should be agents of agitation, social information and cultural change. Museums as platforms and networks of exchange.

Trying to establish bridge to Middle East. Wants to work with Abu Dhabi. The ruler of Abu Dhabi has a master plan to divide main island (1/2 size of Manhattan) into six centers. Wants Guggenheim to design cultural center of island with museums, parks, artist installations, a Yale cultural campus, a wold cultural forum, performing art centers, and grand canal through the island dividing it into 19 pavilions. Guggeneim Abu Dhabi is much bigger than Bilbao and will extend into desert.

TED 2008 -- Isaac Mizrahi

(I'm liveblogging from TED 2008, in Monterey, CA) Presenter: fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, on inspiration.
Img 0221Where does inspiration come from? Not from research. It comes from lying awake at night. I don't know where it comes from. [He's going to try anyway.]

Color is something that motivates me. It's rarely a color that I find in nature. I'm inspired by the color of movies. I watch women in movies a lot. I think about their roles. I look at the way woman are portrayed and glorified (sometimes ironically), and denigrated or ironically denigrated. How can I make anything as beautiful as Natalie Wood or Greta Garbo? That's what keeps me up at night.

Balance of irony and earnestness. Skinny and fat. Balance is what its really about, that is part of my process.

I go to astrologers and tarot card readers a lot. I do what they tell me to do. Once a fortune teller told me I would meet a someone named Eric. I would go to bars and anyone named Eric I would be humping a lot.

I don't say that I do everything well, I try to do a lot of things. I try not to look back, but sometimes I do and think "what a fool!"

I don't think of myself as a fashion designer. I think of myself -- uh I don't know what I think of myself, so that's that.

In fashion, you always have to be slightly bored with everything. If you aren't, you have to pretend you are. But I am always slightly bored. I don't like to be bored. I play computer bridge.

I had a TV show, and that was a very big part of my process. [Shows a clip from his show, with some guy cutting Rosie O'Donnel's hair.]

I like to cook. I look at things like they are food. I always relate things to kitchenry. Everything boils down to that.

TED 2008 -- Nancy Etcoff (channeled by June Cohen)

200802281130 (I'm liveblogging from TED 2008, in Monterey, CA) Presenter: (My old Wired pal and now TED producer) June Cohen presenting on behalf of Nancy Etcoff, who fell ill and could not present.

Nancy Etcof is author of Survival of the Prettiest. Beauty matters to us. We respond to beauty physically, we describe things "jaw dropping," "breathtaking," "stunning." We feel happy when surrounded by beautiful things. But why?

The dominant idea in 20th century was that beauty was a social construction. But many studies point to an innate sense of beauty that's consistent across cultures. Infants at 2 weeks respond better to beautiful faces (even babies are shallow!).

Why do we think that certain things are beautiful? Because our ancestors did; it connotes an advantage to survival and reproduction.

When people are asked to describe a beautiful landscape they say the same thing: lake, river, mountain trees. We evolved to think it is beautiful becuase it is safe with escape routes.

When asked to describe beautiful people: clear skin, bright eyes, shiny hair -- all of these things connote health fertility, protection.

Beauty is not everything, only one factor in choosing mate - intelligence, how they move, sense of humor, are important.

If we can understand and accept our attraction for beauty we can manage it and temper our desire for it.

World Wide Telescope presentation from TED online

Picture 4-73 Here's the video of Roy Gould's TED 2008 presentation on the World Wide Telescope project. My kids are going to love it when it goes live this spring. Link

Video of bat flying in a wind tunnel

Researchers from Sweden's Lund University made an extraordinary video of a bat flying in a wind tunnel, in order to better understand the animal's aerodynamics. Someday, their research could inform the design of small autonomous air vehicles. In this still image from the video, the bat is seen feeding from a tube of nectar. From Nature News:
...The sharp edge at the front of their wings cuts through the air in such a way as to create a vortex on top of the wing, producing up to 40% of the lift needed to stay aloft.

“It explains how these animals are able to fly at very slow speed,” says Anders Hedenström from Lund University in Sweden, who led the research – published in Science – that showed the effect with a live bat.

The phenomenon of a 'leading-edge vortex' is known to help insects to fly; this discovery helped to work out how the bumble bee manages to stay airborne. But it hasn’t been definitively seen before in a non-insect with live animals.

Other bloggers covering TED 2008

I'm sitting here at TED's "Blogger's Alley"with a few other bloggers who are also liveblogging the event. Unlike me, they all appear to know how to touch type, so they spend more time reporting on the presentations than they do hitting the DEL key.

Ethan Zuckerman's blog | Renny Gleeson's blog | Michael Parekh's blog

Dumb robbers stumble on biker meeting

On Wednesday night, two machete-wielding robbers, aged 20 and 16, attempted a heist at the Regents Park Sporting and Community Club in Sydney, Australia. Unfortunately for them, they picked the night that the tough Souther Cross Cruiser motorcycle club was having its monthly meeting. Apparently, the 50 bikers beat the hell out of them with tables, chairs, and fists. From CNN:
 Cnn 2008 World Asiapcf 02 28 Biker.Meeting Art.Cruiser.Club "These guys were absolutely dumb as bricks," Jerry Vancornewal, leader of the bikers, told CNN Thursday. "I can't believe they saw all the bikes parked up front and they were so stupid that they walked past in...."

One of the would-be robbers crashed through a plate-glass door and jumped off a balcony.

New South Wales police said they arrested the 20-year-old man a short distance away.

The second man made a break for it through the club's service entrance, but the bikers tackled him near a neighbor's fence.

"We just grabbed him, crash-tackled him to the ground, hogtied him with electrical wire and left him for the cops," Vancornewal said.

Felix The Cat meets a Yeti

Felixyeti Following up on last week's post of the famed Bugs Bunny Abominable Snow Rabbit cartoon, Cryptomundo's Loren Coleman looks at a 1958 Felix the Cat 'toon where Felix encounters the Abominable Snowman at, er, the North Pole.

TED 2008 -- Doris Kearns Goodwin

(I'm liveblogging from TED 2008, in Monterey, CA) Presenter: Doris Kearns Goodwin is a historian who looks into the lives of US presidents.
Img 0217 The richest and fullest lives balance work, play and love. All three must be pursued with equal dedication.

She is talking about Abe Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson.

Lincoln: Fierce ambition is a good thing, not just power celebrity and fame, but to make the world a better place. He became depressed, people thought he was suicidal. He was, but wouldn't do it because he wanted to change the world for the better.

When he was elected president, he selected three of his rivals for the cabinet. Learned from his errors, acknowledged his mistakes, didn't harbor grudges.

What made Lincoln so great: integrity of character and moral fiber of being. Driven through tough times by his ambition.

Lyndon Johnson: Goodwin was selected as a White House fellow when she was 24. When she danced with Johnson at a party, he told her he wanted her to work directly in the White House. She eventually helped him with his memoirs in his later years. He was a good story teller, but a lot of them were tall tales. He was known as a minor league womanizer, she was worried until he told her "you remind me of your mother."

He had servants, family who loved him, lots of money, but in later years could find no solace in hobbies or family. Goodwin says it was because he did not pursue love or play with as much determination as he did with work. Needed a love of humor to keep from letting seriousness of life drag you down.

TED 2008 -- Susan Blackmore

(I'm liveblogging from TED 2008, in Monterey, CA)

Presenter: Susan Blackmore, author of The Meme Machine.

Img 0214-1 History of life is a history of replicators.

Language is a parasite we've adapted to. It may have started out being harmful, but we've developed a symbiotic relationship with it.

First replicators were genes. Then memes. We now have temes (tech memes) are a third repliciator on our planet.

Don't think of intelligence, thinnk of replicators.

New Drake equation. Start with number of planets -- what fraction of those get a first replicator, a 2nd replicator, a 3rd?

Getting a new replicator is dangerous. We need to pull through each time. The 2nd replicator (memes) was dangerous -= big brains are painful: kills a lot of mothers and babies. Brains uses 20% of body energy for 2% of body weight; it may have nearly killed us off.

temes are just information -- they use humans to suck up planet's resources. Don't think we created the internet to benefit us; we are being being used by temes. It convenient for temes to piggyback on us because we replicate. But when temes can replicate without us, they will carry on without us.

Hussein Chalayan's latest tech couture is lovely.

Susannah Breslin points us to new work from fashion designer Hussein Chalayan, whose most innovative work frequently incorporates unusual uses of wearable technology:

At the end, two girls came out in mechanical dresses that, in the darkness, sent out moving spots of light configured to symbolize the big-bang beginning of the universe. They were, as always in a good Chalayan show, astonishing and moving.
There's video here, and those cybergirls come out at 11:30 mark. Here are backstage stills of cybergirls: one, two, at (thumbnailed above).

Mathematical art

 Articles 20080216 F9303 2202  Articles 20080216 F9303 1543
The recent Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego featured an exhibition of work by forty mathematician/artists. Science News looks at several of the artworks that draw from dynamical systems, topology, and fractals. At left, a piece by Oberline College professor Robert Bosch:
The white line above forms a single loop, dividing the page into two regions. Looked at from afar, the image forms a Celtic knot.
At right, work by University of Houston professor Michael Field:
"Coral Star" shows the motion brought about by one particular dynamical system.

Giant pirate ship wall-decal for kids' rooms

Check out this massive (180cm X 190cm) pirate ship wall-decal for your kiddies' room. A perfect way to get the li'l downloaders off on the right foot. Or peg. Link (via Babygadget)

Pi as music

pi10k converts the first 10,000 numbers in pi to musical notes. You determine which notes correspond to each integer. Just for kicks, I used the familiar five-note musical motif from Close Encounters of the Third Kind as the basis of my pi melody. Link (via easternblot)

Previously on BB:
• Pi gang hand symbol Link
• Pi memory record broken Link

Larry Lessig decides against Congress run

Free culture pioneer and Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig, who was considering a bid for Congress, has decided not to run. From Larry's Change Congress site:
After lots of thinking and advice, I have decided it does not make sense for the Change Congress movement for me to a run for Congress in CA12. We would have just over 30 days to introduce a district to me and to an idea. That would not be enough time to convince them to turn away from an extremely popular politician with 30 years of public service. And while anyone within the district would understand that, outside the district, the lesson would be that a "Change Congress" message has no salience or support. That would, in my view, harm the movement more than it would help.

So thank you to everyone who helped here. All the remaining funds in the campaign will be given to Change Congress (as soon as the paper work for that organization gets settled). And I would urge everyone who signed up here to signup there.

Previously on BB:
• Draft Larry Lessig for Congress! Link

BBtv: History of war through food, Dog impersonates boozy Orson Welles.

Today on Boing Boing tv, surreal shorts about food and drink, in a two-part showcase of works from filmmaker Stefan Nadelman.

First, "Food Fight," a stop-animation piece that provides an abridged history of war, told through the foods of the countries in conflict. (Ed.: the original work has been edited for time, and captions have been added to assist the history-impaired).

Next, "My Dog Impersonating Orson Welles," in which a pooch clutches a bottle of champagne, and attempts to form sentences.

Link to BBtv post with discussion and downloadable video.

Clay Shirky's masterpiece: Here Comes Everybody

Back in September, I had the extreme good fortune to read an early galley of Clay Shirky's long-awaited masterpiece, "Here Comes Everybody: How Digital Networks Transform Our Ability to Gather and Cooperate," and now that it's on shelves, I am doubly fortunate to tell you about it. Clay has long been one of my favorite thinkers on all things Internet -- not only is he smart and articulate (and it doesn't hurt that he introduced me to my fiancee), but he's one of those people who is able to crystallize the half-formed ideas that I've been trying to piece together into glittering, brilliant insights that make me think, yes, of course, that's how it all works.

Clay's book makes sense of the way that groups are using the Internet. Really good sense. In a treatise that spans all manner of social activity from vigilantism to terrorism, from Flickr to Howard Dean, from blogs to newspapers, Clay unpicks what has made some "social" Internet media into something utterly transformative, while other attempts have fizzled or fallen to griefers and vandals. Clay picks perfect anecdotes to vividly illustrate his points, then shows the larger truth behind them.

Clay's gift here is in explaining why the trivial minutae of Internet communications -- Twittery nothings and LiveJournalish angst -- matter, and why the weighty gravitas of the Internet -- dissidents risking arrest, victims finding succour -- aren't the only thing online that's worthy. In so doing, he manages to illuminate the way that every institution is prone to being recast by the net, and how to manage that change for the best possible outcome.

Unlike a regular business book -- something with a one-sentence punchline that could be explained in a longish New Yorker article -- Here Comes Everybody is dense and rich, with new insight on every page. It's the kind of a book that you can open to any page and be delighted by -- especially if you love the Internet -- and the kind of a book that you'll want to read aloud from to your friends.

I've been waiting for this book for years -- something I can hand to people who dismiss the Internet and amateurism and social activity as distractions or trivia. Now I have it. Link

See also:
Clay Shirky defends the Internet
Shirky explains why Keen is a Luddite
Shirky: stupid (c) laws block me from publishing own work online
Clay Shirky: An "expert Wikipedia" won't work
Shirky: Pro metadata will lose to folksonomy
Shirky: Wikipedia is better than Brittanica on net-centric axes
Clay Shirky's ETECH presentation on the politics of social software
Shirky: Wikipedia's "anti-elitism" is a feature, not a bug
Shirky explains: destroying limitations is good for culture
Shirky: Net is a kayak, driven by its environment

Billboard Liberation Front vs. ATT + NSA

Snip from a BLF missive:

The Billboard Liberation Front today announced a major new advertising improvement campaign executed on behalf of clients AT&T and the National Security Agency. Focusing on billboards in the San Francisco area, this improvement action is designed to promote and celebrate the innovative collaboration of these two global communications giants.
More, and larger, uncropped version of the pic above by Jacob Appelbaum is here. (thanks, Jacob Appelbaum)

TED 2008 update and TED Prize live broadcast tomorrow

I missed the morning speakers at TED this year, but I caught the afternoon group, who presented talks around the theme "What is our place in the universe?"

200802272156 Dr. Roy Gould, an astrophysicist from the Harvard Center for Astrophysics, and Curtis Wong, principal researcher of Microsoft’s Next Media Research group, kicked it off with a demonstration of the visually delightful World Wide Telescope. It's a virtual telescope that uses real images taken by the Hubble and other telescopes, knitted together seamlessly. You can create tours of the universe and share them with your pals. It'll launch online this spring at Visit it now to watch a couple of short videos about it.

Next up was Stanford particle physicist Patricia Burchat who explained that the known universe appears to contain 70% dark energy, 26% dark matter, and only 4% ordinary matter. It's hard to detect particles of dark energy -- its signature in lab tests is "missing energy" -- but it has a power effect: it's making the universe expand faster all the time.

Our hobo and mole-man-expert friend John Hodgman was next, recounting four utterly unconvincing accounts of his encounters with aliens. The audience was roaring.

University of Washington paleontologist Peter Ward, author of Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future proceeded to scare the bejesus out of everyone with tales of climate-changed mass extinctions through history and how little time we have left until humanity gets wiped out by a supervolcano, an asteroid, or rising CO2 levels. He also reported that a highly toxic gas, hydrogen sulfide, which is in undersea sediments, and which occasionally leaks into the atmosphere and causes massive species wipeouts, might have a future as an emergency medical treatment because it can be used to nearly stop mammalian metabolism without killing. He said it's a "blessing and a curse."

Thankfully, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar followed to tell us that we can all feel better if we remember to breathe, and then Kaki King played guitar.

Tomorrow, the TED Prize session will be broadcast live at 5pm PST. The winners of the TED Prize get $100,000 and are granted a wish to change the world. You can watch the prize session here: Link

Blogging from TED 2008

I'll be blogging from TED 2008 this year, held in beautiful Monterey CA. I drove up from Los Angeles and snapped a few photos along the way.


BLT and homemade minestrone soup was the $7.45 Wednesday lunch special at Ellen's Pancake house, a sparking clean and good cafe in Buellton, CA (a little town 140 miles north of Los Angeles). The workers are friendly and the place is filled with locals. Ellen's is much better than Anderson's Pea Soup across the street where I usually robotically-yet-regretfully eat when I'm passing through.

More photos at my Flickr account: Link

Nashville copyright craziness -- success! Rematch on Mar 5

Yesterday's rally in Nashville to stop a new copyright bill that would put the expense of policing the movie industry's business model onto universities was a success -- the bill has been stalled and won't be reconsidered for ten days. Now it's time to get mobilized:
Just in the past few days we found out about this Bill they are trying to pass in the TN State Senate. SB3974, sponsored by Sen. Tim Burchett, forces any institution of “higher learning” to monitor all public university students and expel any who access copyrighted content. Since nearly everyone will access some kind of “copyrighted” content online - they will be forced to expel thousands of students from any public university!

Here’s the plan:

[1] Meet up with us next Wednesday (March 5th) to go to Nashville and protest! (5:00 AM - March 5th) we will have a bus - we will leave at 5AM in Knoxville (meet at COPYSHOP).

Gather at 8AM (if you can get there by yourself) on the corner of 6th and Union St in Nashville!

[2] NOW Email the Senators:

Link, Link to video of Sen. Tim Burchett joking that the MPAA promised him that Matthew Mcconaughey would play him in a biopic

Chip and PIN terminals pwned

Jacob sez, "I'd like to pass on a nice practical attack against the Chip and Pin system used in most of the world Saar Drimer, Steven J. Murdoch and Ross Anderson, researchers at the University of Cambridge, have shown how to compromise supposedly tamper-proof Chip and PIN terminals. With a paperclip, off the shelf electronics, and basic technical skills, fraudsters can capture card details and PINs, then create counterfeit cards. The full results of the team are published their academic paper and were featured on BBC Newsnight." Link (Thanks, Jake!)

GOP Senate hopeful got rich diverting corpsemeat from burn victims to enlarge penises

Republican former South Dakota lieutenant governor and potential Senate candidate Steve Kirby made his fortune running a scandal-wracked business that harvested collagen from corpses donated for medical research and using it for cosmetic products and penis-enlargements:
Collagenesis specialized in processing donated skin off cadavers into cosmetic surgery products, and was subject to a blistering five-part investigative series by the Orange County Register beginning on April 17, 2000. “Burn victims lie waiting in hospitals as nurses scour the country for skin to cover their wounds, even though skin is in plentiful supply for plastic surgeons,” read the lede of the Register report. “The skin they need to save their lives is being used instead for procedures that could wait: supporting bladders, erasing laugh lines and enlarging penises.”..

Kirby’s niche industry had proven financially lucrative. Collagenesis could take the skin off one cadaver and convert it into $36,000 of a gel injected to smooth wrinkles and inflate lips. Its lone competitor, a firm called LifeCell, estimated its potential revenues from such skin at $200 million a year – 10 times what it would earn if it focused on life-saving burn applications instead of cosmetic surgery.

Link (via Making Light)

Man creates online shrine for favorite cookie fortune

Picture 1-155

Bob Bjarke likes the fortune he got in his cookie (from a recent dinner at Papajin in Chicago) so much he created a website called to show it off.

Previously on Boing Boing:
Dumpster filled with fortune cookies
Fortune-cookie writer has been blocked for a decade

More Abu Ghraib torture photos

Wired has gotten hold of an incredibly disturbing set of photos from the US torture crimes at Abu Ghraib. Does anyone really believe that this was just a couple of rogue operators? If I wanted to reduce the number of jihadis in the world, I'd start by making sure that stuff like this didn't happen -- I can think of no better recruiting boost for Al Quaeda than prisons like Abu Ghraib.

As an expert witness in the defense of an Abu Ghraib guard who was court-martialed, psychologist Philip Zimbardo had access to many of the images of abuse that were taken by the guards themselves. For a presentation at the TED conference in Monterey, California, Zimbardo assembled some of these pictures into a short video. obtained the video from Zimbardo's talk, and is publishing some of the stills from that video here. Many of the images are explicit and gruesome, depicting nudity, degradation, simulated sex acts and guards posing with decaying corpses. Viewer discretion is advised.

Surveillance Light -- lamp made from CCTV housings

The Surveillance Light is a floor-lamp whose three poseable heads are built into the chassis of CCTV cameras. You could be incredibly sneaky and put actual webcams into the housings as well. Link (via Gizmodo)