Science News on food science

Science News has a good cover story this week about how chefs are learning more about the science of food to make more interesting and tasty dishes. According to the article, "food science" has traditionally been an industrial pursuit leading to Spam, processed cheese, and other "foodstuffs." The molecular gastronomy trend is changing that though. From Science News:
 Homepages Stevecarper Onfood "Twenty years ago there was no science of the soufflé, béarnaise, chocolate mousse, or custard," says chemist and chef Hervé This (pronounced Tiss), of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research in Paris...

The relationship between scientists and chefs, or lack thereof, troubled the late physicist Nicholas Kurti. At a presentation for the Royal Society of London in 1969 he lamented, "I think it is a sad reflection on our civilization that while we can and do measure the temperature in the atmosphere of Venus, we do not know what goes on inside our soufflés."

Kurti's now famous lecture, titled "The Physicist in the Kitchen," was a turning point, says Vega, author, with Job Ubbink, of a forthcoming review on molecular gastronomy in Trends in Food Science & Technology. "It was very impactful on the scientific community." The lecture was peppered with demonstrations by Kurti and his daughter Camilla. They used a vacuum to remove water vapor from meringue and presented a pork loin tenderized with pineapple juice, which contains the protein-splitting enzyme bromelin.

Another milestone, says Vega, was the publication in 1984 of Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, which explained physics and chemistry for the home cook.
Link to Science News, Link to buy "On Food And Cooking"

Russian doomsday cult in cave

Seven members of a Christian cult in Russia have left the cave they had holed up in since Novemeber. Apparently more than two dozen cult members are still inside the cave, located 400 miles southeast of Moscow, waiting for the world to end next month. Part of the cave's roof has already collapsed. According to the BBC News, a priest "specialising in apocalyptic literature" is on the scene talking with them through a ventilation shaft. From the BBC News:
The seven women (who emerged Saturday) were allowed to leave with cult leader Pyotr Kuznetsov after he was brought to the scene to negotiate...

Kuznetsov, who calls himself Fr Pyotr, declared himself a prophet a number of years ago and has attracted followers in Russia and Belarus.

He is thought to have ordered his followers into the cave but did not join them.

Libraries for clothes

Treehugger takes a look at clothes libraries.
 Clothing-Library We love libraries here at TreeHugger. They’re a perfect example of a Product Service System (PSS) where you get the service of an item without having to own it and all the cost and upkeep time that requires. In the past we’ve discussed Toy Libraries and Tool Libraries. But it seems we’ve forgotten to mention Clothing Libraries.

The ones I’m familiar with are like the Belmont Clothes Library in Western Australia. A volunteer run organisation with over 1,500 fashion garments on its books it loans out, for free, male and female apparel to unemployed people, so they can look smart for crucial job interviews.


Ji Lee's parallel universes on ceilings

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Longtime BB readers may remember Ji Lee's fantastic 2005 "Bubble Project" where he stuck blank speech bubbles all over signs and billboards in NYC. Ji just emailed me about his fun new project:
People decorate their walls and floors, but most of them overlook their ceilings. It's such a waste of vast space. So I started to install miniature parallel worlds on the ceilings upon commission. It's fun to watch the reactions of people who after a while discover the parallel universe. They always smile. I think it makes their mind tickle.

I have installed skiing slopes, disaster scenes and art galleries. The theme of the scene is determined by the combination of the commissioner's interest, architectural elements of the ceiling and Ji Lee's suggestions.

Previously on BB:
• Speech bubble sticker gallery Link

Defaced presidents on Flickr

Spockpoool  2326 2099329302 E197C6F48C-1 The Defaced President pool on Flickr is a hoot. From left, tonx's "A Lincoln Sane" and marabou2005's "Lincoln Mirror Mirror Spock."
Link (Thanks, Mike Love!)

Rudy Rucker's science fiction webzine Flurb #5 is out

Issue 5 of Flurb, Rudy Rucker's wonderful, bizarre science fiction ezine, is out. Here's Rudy's description: "This issue features a Beat SF story of Rudy Rucker's in the form of letters from William Burroughs in Tangiers, excerpts of John Shirley's lost cyberpunk novel Black Glass, Terry Bisson's hilarious anti-mundane story 'Captain Ordinary,' a Lovecraftian novella by Lavie Tidhar, and some amazing pieces by new SF writers."

One of the other big payoffs in publishing a zine is that every now and then I get a submission that really flips my lid. "Cathedrals," is Alex Hardison's first publication, but I think he's to the purple born. Postcyberpunk!

I was vaguely annoyed by the Mundane SF movement last year --- to the point where I wrote a blog entry attacking it. But my fellow-Kentuckian Terry Bisson, always one for the main chance, went ahead and wrote a story "Captain Ordinary" that he thought might appear in Interzone's Mundane SF issue. But Terry's sense of humor is such that, from a sober-sided editor's point of view, it's as if he were to walk into the office, guffaw, pull down his zipper and piss on the desk. A wonderfully refreshing piece.


See also:
FLURB: Rudy Rucker's new literary zine Cory's "I, Row-Boat" live on Flurb
Rudy Rucker's science fiction webzine Flurb #2 is out Rudy Rucker's science fiction webzine Flurb #3 is out

BBtv -- Terrorist training video from Soviet Unterzögersdorf

Boing Boing tv received a classified video message from the People’s Republic of Soviet Unterzoegersdorf -- a message encoded in an almost-obsolete communist LOLcat cypher.

BBtv's terror analysts have decoded this video for you, dear viewer, and we present it in entirety today. Our encryption advisors from monochrom believe the two men in the movie might be His Excellency the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of Soviet Unterzoegersdorf – Nikita Chrusov – and secretary Nicolai Jossif Malkin.

WARNING: the last few seconds of this terrorist missive contain not-yet-decrypted data that some viewers may find disturbing. Tighten your tinfoil beanies, and lock down your wigs.

Link to Boing Boing tv blog post, with discussion and downloadable video.

Previously on BBtv:
Nikita Chrusov of Soviet Unterzoegersdorf crashes Disney party at ETech

UPDATE: The Soviets respond. Agent moloshnikov from People’s Republic of Soviet Unterzoegersdorf says:

Comrades all over the world!

I still shiver! My heart is filled with universal anger! Something unspeakable happened!

Again, the mainstream online media outlet “Boing Boing TV” reports about the diplomatic visit of His Excellency Ambassador Nikita Chrusov to the “United States”! Just a friendly vacation trip! And they label it as “Terrorist Training!” What an unforgivable insult!

Arse Elektronika 2008 call for papers: "Do Androids Sleep With Electric Sheep?"

Vienna net-art-pranksters Monochrom have just posted their annual call-for-submissions for Arse Elektronika, "Do Androids Sleep with Electric Sheep? Critical Perspectives on Sexuality and Pornography in Science and Social Fiction."

Arse Elektronika 2008 -- "Do Androids Sleep with Electric Sheep?" -- will take place at San Francisco's Ft. Mason Center. September 25 thru 28, 2008.

Taking up where the successful conference in autumn 2007 left off, this year's Arse Elektronika stands under the motto "future" -- and the ways in which the present sees itself reflected in it. Maintaining a broadened perspective on technical development and technology while also putting special emphasis on its social implementation, this year's conference focuses on Science and Social Fiction.

The genre of the "fantastic" is especially well suited to the investigation of the touchy area of sexuality and pornography: actual and assumed developments are frequently depicted positively and approvingly, but just as often with dystopian admonishment. Here the classic, and continuingly valid, themes of modernism represent a clear link between the two aspects: questions of science, research and technologization are of interest, as is the complex surrounding urbanism, artificiality and control (or the loss of control). Depictions of the future, irregardless of the form they take, always address the present as well. Imaginations of the fantastic and the nightmarish give rise to a thematic overlapping of the exotic, the alienating and, of course, the pornographic/sexual as well.

In order to intelligently contextualize the abundance of queries that are involved here, this year's conference will be structured around three day-long discussion panels, each devoted to a specific theme. The impossibility of fitting many of these issues and relationships into such neat categorizations is not only accepted, but also encouraged.


Griefers deface epilepsy message-board with seizure-inducing animations

Scumbag griefers defaced an epilepsy message-board with strobing graphics and redirects to animations that were intended to trigger seizures in people with epilepsy:
RyAnne Fultz, a 33-year-old woman who suffers from pattern-sensitive epilepsy, says she clicked on a forum post with a legitimate-sounding title on Sunday. Her browser window resized to fill her screen, which was then taken over by a pattern of squares rapidly flashing in different colors.

Fultz says she "locked up."

"I don't fall over and convulse, but it hurts," says Fultz, an IT worker in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. "I was on the phone when it happened, and I couldn't move and couldn't speak."

After about 10 seconds, Fultz's 11-year-old son came over and drew her gaze away from the computer, then killed the browser process, she says.

"Everyone who logged on, it affected to some extent, whether by causing headaches or seizures," says Browen Mead, a 24-year-old epilepsy patient in Maine who says she suffered a daylong migraine after examining several of the offending posts. She'd lingered too long on the pages trying to determine who was responsible.


Plastic bag animal sculptures for subway gratings

An unknown artist fashions animals out of plastic bags and fastens them to subway gratings, and the hot air inflates them and makes them puff up and wiggle.

The story we heard at dinner tonight is that there's an artist who's been making these animals out of discarded plastic bags. He (or she) ties the bags to the ventilation grates above the subway lines so that when the subway rushes through underneath, the animal jumps up and springs to life.
Link (Thanks, Marilyn!)

Building Stonehenge by hand, with gravity and sticks

Retired construction worker Wally Wallington of Flint, Michigan is moving one-ton concrete blocks over a ton each by himself without using pulleys or any mechanical equipment. He's reconstructing Stonehenge singlehandedly. Link (Thanks, Marilyn!)

Graveyard game: walk around until you die

Here's a video-game that sounds like hours of bittersweet fun:

The Graveyard is a very short computer game designed by Auriea Harvey and Michael Samyn. You play an old lady who visits a graveyard. You walk around, sit on a bench and listen to a song. It's more like an explorable painting than an actual game...

Buying the full version of The Graveyard adds only one feature, the possibility of death. The full version of the game is exactly the same as the trial, except, every time you play she may die.

Link (Thanks, Kris!)

London's Spitalfields market: shoot the architecture, we take away your camera

Yesterday, I met my friend (and editor) Patrick Nielsen Hayden for breakfast at Spitalfields Market, our local Sunday market here in London. Spitalfields has been around for centuries, and it's just undergone a massive, years-long renovation. If you ask me, this has not been entirely successful, removing a lot of the market's charm, but there are some lovely grace notes, like the cartoony architectural flourishes in the joists that support the glass roof.

Just as we were arriving at Spitalfields, I got a call from Patrick: "You won't believe what just happened: I was taking a photo of the market and a security guard came up and tried to take my camera away and delete the picture!" Apparently, this guy had invented a new Spitalfields policy prohibiting photography (some of the stalls have had this policy for a long time, including -- hilariously -- a stall that sells photos of Banksy graffiti) and was planning on enforcing it by taking away people's property -- without a warrant or badge, without any kind of posted signage.

Here in London, you get photographed upwards of 300 times a day, by every junior sneak, pecksniff, and petty CCTV operator who can afford a cheap little camera. The cameras often fail to help catch criminals, and they certainly don't deter desperate muggers and junkies and stupid drunken kids. All the law seems to require by way of consumer protection is a sign saying, "You're being filmed."

You can be photographed again and again, but heaven help you if you take a picture back. Your person isn't deserving of any serious privacy protection, but buildings, t-shirts, shop-windows, and market stalls are all entitled to unlimited protection from having their precious photons stolen.

I've bought plenty of stuff at Spitalfields over the years -- like I say, we go every weekend -- but if this turns out to be the new official policy, consider me out. People have been taking pictures at the market since cameras were invented (the town hall archives are stuffed filled with old box-camera shots of Spitalfields during the Jubilee) and any market that doesn't welcome my camera doesn't deserve my money, either.

Generally speaking, I love being a Londoner, but when my fellow residents decide that the best response to terror isn't keep calm and carry on, but rather "When in trouble or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout." it's downright embarrassing -- like being a Bostonian or something.

Taken at Spitalfields Market, 9:20 AM, Sunday, March 30, 2008. I liked the cartoony cloud-trail decorations seemingly supporting the left side of the ceiling, and the fact that the spire of Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Christ Church Spitalfields was so dramatically framed in the transparent roof.

Right after I took the shot, though, a large security guard walked directly up to me. “We don’t take pictures in here.” “Oh?” I said. “Yes,” he replied, reaching for my camera. “We’ll have to delete that.”

“No you don’t, and I’m leaving the market right now,” I said, walking away briskly. And as I did so, I swear to God, I heard him get out his walkie-talkie and radio for backup. You can’t be too careful with these terrorist photographers.

Out on Brushfield Street, wondering if I was about to be wrestled to the ground by Spitalfield commandos, I phoned the people I’d come to the market to meet for breakfast in the first place. “Hey, Cory,” I said. “You’re not going to believe this, but…”


Circuit City does $12K worth of damage to a car while installing a GPS, won't pay up

If you're thinking of getting Circuit City to install your new GPS in your car, think again -- this poor guy had $12,119 worth of damage done to his Civic by the Circuit City contractor (Honda's declared it an undrivable fire-hazard), and now Circuit City is telling him it's not their problem, he needs to take up his beef with their bureaucratic third-party insurance company.

Circuit City caused $12,119 worth of damage to VTECnical's 2007 Honda Civic while trying to install a Pioneer AVIC Z2 navigation system. Honda later declared VTECnical's car a fire hazard and told him it was unsafe to drive. Despite destroying the car's heater ducts, stock wiring harness, and dashboard, Circuit City has refunded only $3,190, and insists that VTECnical speak exclusively to their third-party insurer.

Remixed generic thrift-store clothes

Here's the latest installment in my ongoing series of photos from my travels: this amazing dress made from thrift-store suit-coats, seen yesterday at Junky Styling in the Truman Brewery off Brick Lane in London. Junky has a knack for taking the most generic, bulk-available charity shop clothes and layering and mixing them to make the most extraordinary things. I have an overcoat from there that's so cool that people stop me on the street and ask me where I got it. We always stop in on a Sunday to see what's new there, and we're never disappointed: one week it's a ballgown made from Kiehl's Pharmacy aprons, the next it's a scarf made from the sleeves of an otherwise unlovely suit-coat. Link