Boing Boing 

Soil on the nanoscale

Seen here is dirt. Well, more specifically, it's the first nanoscale image of soil. Cornell University researcher used X-ray spectromicroscopy to study the structure and composition of soil carbon at a scale of 50 nanometers. (One nanometer is about 100,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.) They determined that even the tiniest samples of soil taken just micrometers apart can have vastly different compositions. From the Cornell Chronicle:
 Stories April08 Soil-1 According to a study published in the April issue of Nature Geoscience, knowing the structure and detailed composition of soil carbon could provide a better understanding of the chemical processes that cycle organic matter in soil. For example, the research may help scientists understand what happens when materials in the soil get wet, warm or cool and how soils sequester carbon, which has implications for climate change.

"There is this incredible nanoscale heterogeneity of organic matter in terms of soil," said Johannes Lehmann, a Cornell associate professor of crop and soil sciences and lead author of the study. "None of these compounds that you can see on a nanoscale level looks anything close to the sum of the entire organic matter."

John Cleese visits Laughing Club in India

Actor John Cleese went to India to visit a doctor who has started a laughing club. The people meet each morning and do silly things to make each other laugh. Laughter has many health benefits, says the doctor. I believe it.

Previously on Boing Boing:
Laughter yoga
Laughing yogi video

Gasoline to cost $10 a gallon in US soon?

The New York Sun reports that the price of gasoline in the US will soon be in line with what Europeans pay.
Translating this price into dollars and cents at the gas pump, one of our forecasters, the chairman of Houston-based Dune Energy, Alan Gaines, sees gas rising to $7-$8 a gallon. The other, a commodities tracker at Weiss Research in Jupiter, Fla., Sean Brodrick, projects a range of $8 to $10 a gallon.

While $7-$10 a gallon would be ground-breaking in America, these prices would not be trendsetting internationally. For example, European drivers are already shelling out $9 a gallon (which includes a $2-a-gallon tax).

Early last year, with a barrel of oil trading in the low $50s and gasoline nationally selling in a range of $2.30 to $2.50 a gallon, Mr. Gaines – in an impressive display of crystal ball gazing – accurately predicted oil was $100-bound and that gasoline would follow suit by reaching $4 a gallon.

His latest prediction of $200 oil is open to question, since it would undoubtedly create considerable global economic distress. Further, just about every energy expert I talk to cautions me to expect a sizable pullback in oil prices, maybe to between $50 and $70 a barrel, especially if there's a global economic slowdown.

While Mr. Gaines thinks there could be a temporary decline in the oil price, he's convinced an overall uptrend is unstoppable. In fact, he thinks his $200 forecast could be conservative, and that perhaps $250 could be reached. His reasoning: a combination of shrinking supply and increasing demand, especially from China, India, and America.


Hubert's Freaks: the lost photos of Diane Arbus

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Hubert's Museum was a Times Square dime museum open from the mid-1920s until 1965. This cabinet of curiosities was an icon of sideshow culture, featuring a flea circus, sword swallowers, contortionists, and other fabulous freaks. During its later years, the museum was frequented by my favorite photographer, Diane Arbus. Indeed, that's where she met the awesome giant Eddie Carmel who stooped for a famed family portrait with his normal-sized parents. Recently, a rare book dealer named Bob Langmuir came to possess the personal papers of Charlie Lucas, a sideshow performer himself who served as a manager at Hubert's Museum. Among the papers were two dozen of Arbus's original photographs, worth around $100 when she was alive and now valued in the high six figures at least. A new book by Gregory Gibson, titled "Hubert's Freaks," tells the story of the Museum, Lucas, and Lagmuir's efforts to make big bucks of his find. I ordered a copy before even finishing the review of the book in yesterday's Los Angeles Times. From the LA Times:
During the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, Charlie Lucas presided over the "Darkest Africa" exhibit as "African Chief of the Duckbill Women," a.k.a. "WooFoo, the Immune Man." He wore a bone through his nose and swallowed fire. (The fair that year celebrated, without irony, a "Century of Progress.") He and his wife, the beautiful Woogie, eventually settled in New York, and Lucas found work managing Hubert's Museum, where Woogie performed her snake-charming act alongside the aforementioned Sealo, Professor Heckler's Flea Circus, Mildred the Alligator Skin Girl, a Russian midget named Andy Potato Chips and Eddie Carmel, the Jewish Giant.

Not incidentally, Lucas was befriended there by photographer Diane Arbus, who talked her way into the homes of his colleagues and shot what would later become iconic photos of, among others, Andy Potato Chips with two other midgets in his Uptown living room and Eddie Carmel bent beneath the ceiling of his Bronx apartment, his parents looking like frightened Lilliputians beside him.

So when Bob Langmuir -- the protagonist of Gibson's tale, a rare-book dealer and collector of African Americana -- happened across a trove of Lucas' papers, he had reason to be excited.
Link to buy Hubert's Freaks, Link to (Thanks, Mark F.!)

Women of Hammer Horror

Hammer Film Productions is a UK-based horror film company that made a slew of cheap but great horror films in the 60s and 70s. Their Dracula, Frankenstein, and Mummy series are classic. Flickr user Poletti has posted screengrabs of more than 100 female stars featured in the Hammer Films. The Flickr set is titled "Hammer House of Hotness." Link (Thanks, COOP!)

Previously on BB:
• Star Trek's "Galactically Hot" women Link

Meri Brin's fine art prints and notebooks

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My old friend Meri Brin is a terrific fine art printmaker and crafter. She creates and sells limited art prints and also handmade notebooks and other lovely goods. You may have come across her work at last year's Maker Faire Bay Area. Seen here, "A Knife In Quiet Hours" (variable edition of 30). Link to Meri's site, Link to Meri's Flickr stream, Link to her notebook company Fixed Orifice Press

Posters for "Evil Dead: The Musical"


Gord says: Back again, for its (I believe) third run in Toronto, is the hilarious Evil Dead: The Musical. I recently saw these awesome street posters and wanted to share. Link

Boing Boing tv - "best of" BBtv animation

Today on Boing Boing tv, a look at some of the talented animators from around the world whose work has been featured on our show. Link to BBtv episode with discussion and downloadable video.

Coffin sofas -- Boing Boing Gadgets

Over on Boing Boing Gadgets, our John has discovered a delightful line of settees and sofas made from (unused) steel coffins -- elegant and practical!

I'm intrigued by these designer coffin couches... the perfect love seat for post-mortem seductions. According to the guys at, they have managed to secure a number of unused 18 gauge steel coffins from South Californian funeral homes and convert them for use in your living room. Due to pesky South Californian anti-graverobbing laws (and I can attest to the fact that California's just maggoty with them), these coffins are entirely unused, so you don't need to worry that yours wasn't hosed off properly. The price of each couch is $4,500.
Link, Discuss on Boing Boing Gadgets

Mudpuppy Magnet Monsters in a tin

Mudpuppy's Magnetic Monster figures tin is a great gift for the monster-loving kid in your life -- it's a set of lovely illustrated magnetic monster body-parts to mix and match into your own gruesome creations. Comes with four reversible backgrounds for enacting monstrous dramas of your choosing -- and the tin is just the right size to stick the backgrounds on and build monsters upon -- great for car trips and the like. I found mine at the wonderful, friendly kid store Hello Sunshine in Toronto, but they don't seem to have it in their webstore, so here's a US retailer that'll sell you one over the web, for those of you not local to the shop. Link

WELL party video, 1989: proto-online social network meetup

Howard Rheingold's vlog today features a rare gem of cyberculture history...

Nearly twenty years ago, people who had met online began to meet in person at the WELL office in Sausalito. These interviews from a WELL party, circa 1989, include me, Stewart Brand, Flash Gordon, M.D., Hank Roberts, Janey Fritsche, the late Tina Loney (the woman with the bird) and the late Bob Bickford. Party material courtesy of and copyright by InCA productions.
Link. The video is lacking only one thing: IDs for the people on the screen, as they talk. Anyone want to take a stab at that in the comments here?

Death of the sitcom frees up 2,000 Wikipedias worth of cognitive capacity

Clay Shirky's posted a transcript of a recent talk he gave on "cognitive surplus" -- the idea that automation gave us an enormous amount of free time to think and cogitate, and that sitcoms and other light entertainment from the past century were a way of absorbing that surplus, something we're just shaking off now:
[S]he shook her head and said, "Where do people find the time?" That was her question. And I just kind of snapped. And I said, "No one who works in TV gets to ask that question. You know where the time comes from. It comes from the cognitive surplus you've been masking for 50 years."

So how big is that surplus? So if you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project--every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in--that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it's a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it's the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.

And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that's 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus. People asking, "Where do they find the time?" when they're looking at things like Wikipedia don't understand how tiny that entire project is, as a carve-out of this asset that's finally being dragged into what Tim calls an architecture of participation.

Now, the interesting thing about a surplus like that is that society doesn't know what to do with it at first--hence the gin, hence the sitcoms. Because if people knew what to do with a surplus with reference to the existing social institutions, then it wouldn't be a surplus, would it? It's precisely when no one has any idea how to deploy something that people have to start experimenting with it, in order for the surplus to get integrated, and the course of that integration can transform society.

The early phase for taking advantage of this cognitive surplus, the phase I think we're still in, is all special cases. The physics of participation is much more like the physics of weather than it is like the physics of gravity. We know all the forces that combine to make these kinds of things work: there's an interesting community over here, there's an interesting sharing model over there, those people are collaborating on open source software. But despite knowing the inputs, we can't predict the outputs yet because there's so much complexity.


Wayback Machine cache [Internet Archive]

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

See also:
Clay Shirky's Harvard talk: Here Comes Everybody
Clay Shirky's masterpiece: Here Comes Everybody

Copyright crazies gaining steam in Canada

The lobby for US-style copyrights in Canada has gone into overdrive, recruiting a powerful Member of Parliament and turning public forums on copyright into one-sided love-fests for restrictive copyright regimes that criminalize everyday Canadians.

Dan McTeague is the Liberal MP from Pickering-Scarborough East, and he's set to become the successor to Sam Bulte, the MP who lost her job for funding her campaign to get elected and appointed Heritage Minister by lining her pockets with massive donations from the very industries she would have ended up regulating. Reliable sources tell me that he's the guy who pushed for Canada signing onto the WIPO copyright treaty in the committee's anti-counterfeiting report last year, and that any time anyone in committee mentions fair dealing and user rights, he has a complete melt-down and shouts them down.

At a recent copyright panel in Toronto, McTeague essentially read out a list of record industry talking points about Canada's supposed status as a pirate nation, characterizing infringement as theft and refusing to acknowledge user rights; saying that Canada's international reputation had been tarnished by its soft copyright laws (the World Economic Forum says that Canada's copyright system is more advanced than Japan's and the US's). and, incredibly, proposed that we should pass a law making it illegal to use the Internet to "threaten" Members of Parliament with negative publicity if we don't like their political positions.

The supposedly non-partisan Public Policy Forum is holding a major, one-sided IP symposium on Monday. Invited are the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, former head of the Canadian Motion Picture Industry Association, and other big-stick-swingers for American-style copyright disasters. But when copyright lobbyists discovered that noted copyright scholar Howard Knopf would appear on just one of the panels, they went berserk and pushed successfully to have Knopf removed, ensuring that dissenting voices would be minimized on the day.

Watercolors of irradiated mutant bugs

Science painter Cornelia Hesse-Honegger collects and paints mutant bugs in the vicinity of irradiated wastelands like Chernorbyl, around nuclear plants, and nuclear refining sites. This handsome, lopsided li'l fella came from nearby the reactor at Gysinge, Sweden. Link (via Neatorama)

Super Mario as Unreal Tournament level

The fun-loving gamers at the Unreal Tournament forum have recreated Super Mario Bros as a rockin' UT2D level. Link

UK photographer chased down and detained for taking pix at fun fair

Bill sez "Curly, a blogger and photographer from South Shields (in NE England) was pursued by police after they received an emergency 999 call from someone who saw him taking photos in a funfair where children were present. He ended up showing his pics to a policeman in order to be allowed to leave."
“Is there something wrong with my car or my driving?”

“No, no sir, nothing like that at all, we are responding to an emergency call from someone in The Sundial who has reported you as taking pictures of children in the play park”

“Play park? I haven’t been near any play park! I’ve been on the beach and in the fairground, and I’ve never been anywhere near The Sundial either, surely you must have the wrong person?”

“Sorry sir, but we tracked you on the CCTV cameras, got your registration number and that’s why I need to talk to you, you are exactly as described”

Link (Thanks, Bill!)

Turtle synchronicity

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I was delighted when I got home today and saw Mark's post about the injured turtle outfitted with a set of wheels (top right). I had just visited the amazing headquarters of designer toy firm STRANGEco where I scored a wonderful Turtlecamper figure (top left) by Jeremy Fish. Coincidence? Some might think so. Link (Thanks, Gregory Blum!)

Numbered drawers

Pietro Arosio's many-drawered chests come with small numbers on each drawer. The effect is curiously pleasing, and, one supposes, very handy. Link (via Cribcandy)

Canrockers Feisty put their first EP online as free CC download

The Canadian indy band The Western Investor (formerly Feisty) have released their rare, out of print first EP as a remixable Creative Commons download (it's the band's tenth anniversary and they're celebrating). I've been listening to it for the past 20 minutes and there's plenty there to like -- some of these tracks appeared in the movie "Better Than Chocolate." Link (Thanks, Chris!)

What Vint Cerf has learned

Vint Cerf, an heroic pioneer of the Internet, tells Esquire what he's learned:
It may seem like sort of a waste of time to play World of Warcraft with your son. But you're actually interacting with each other. You're solving problems. They may seem like simple problems, but you're solving them. You're posed with challenges that you have to overcome. You're on a quest to gain certain capabilities. I haven't spent a lot of time playing World of Warcraft, because my impression is that it takes a serious amount of time to play it well...

In Silicon Valley, failure is experience. Now, if you fail at everything, that's different. But a failure is a mark of experience more than anything else...

The closer you look at something, the more complex it seems to be.

Link (Thanks, Tim!)

Voluminous: app for organizing, fetching and sharing public domain books

Voluminous is a subscription-based public domain book delivery program. Once you buy the app, it'll let you know whenever likely books are scanned and put online; they also keep a bookmarkable library for you.

There are literally tens of thousands of books. Voluminous makes it faster and easier to find the ones you want. Would you rather waste your time hunting around for them, or have Voluminous do it for you?

Voluminous also:

* Will tell you when new books are available
* Keeps automatic bookmarks for each book in your personal library. If you read a book on a webpage, your web browser will only bookmark that web page (typically, the start of the book), not where you've read to.
* Tracks which books you're currently reading, for quick access
* Takes "plain text" and turns it into a beautifully laid-out book in the style you choose
* Offers full-screen mode for distraction-free reading
* Has tools to share interesting books with friends

These are just some of the advantages of using Voluminous.

Link (via Wonderland)

Audio from Vernor Vinge secure computing platforms panel

This week's installment of The Command Line podcast is a recording from a panel on Secure Computing Environments with Vernor Vinge, held last weekend at Penguicon, the free software/science fiction convention in Novi Troy, MI. The panel's really fascinating and far-ranging, covering the nitty-gritty of how trusted computing is -- and might be -- implemented, to the policy, surveillance, and activist possibilities opened up by a universally available secure computing platform. Link

Make a mousetrap powered toy car

In this episode of Make's Weekend Project, Kipkap shows how to build a mousetrap-powered car.

Today on Boing Boing Gadgets

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Today on BoingBoing gadgets, we poured ourself one from the firehose, studied from the codex of lilliputian laptops and, still thirsty, drank some vitamin water, which, in defiance of physics, mixes just fine with snake oil. Rob set about building a MAME machine inside the joystick, while John asked if anyone cared about MP3s killing off the LP. As for me, I relaxed under a fake skylight.. We wondered at yet another tiny computer; burned effigies of a disgraced tech CEO; looked at the future of prosthetic fingers; sniffed at some tasteless telephones; learned to play Beer Pong; and checked out the modern take on cheap, obnoxious electronic doorbells. Tonight, we'll be relaxing in the world's first LED spa before destroying worlds with new DARPA superweapons–all from the safety of electric unicycle-back. And, finally, a strange cigarette helps us off to the land of nod.

WWW domain country codes of the world

Here's a neat poster to help you visualize all of the top-level domains in the world...

At the end of every URL and email address is a top-level domain (TLD). Although .com is the world’s most popular TLD, it is far from alone. There are more than 260 TLDs in use around the world, most of which are country code top-level domains (ccTLDs).

The Country Codes of the World map includes 245 country codes, which encompasses all United Nations countries as well as numerous islands and territories. Each two-digit code is aligned over the country it represents and is color coded with the legend below for quick and easy reference.

Link, they're $30 each plus shipping. (via Kevin Kelly)

Sign advertising rabbit meat

I don't know about you, but this sign makes me awful hungry for rabbit meat. Link (via

Wheels for paralyzed turtle

Jim Lee is a contributor to MAKE magazine, and is interested in turtles and bamboo. He built a set of wheels for an injured box turtle, shown here.
Little Bit, a young Eastern Box Turtle was hit by a car in September of 2000. Her shell was crushed and she was left partially paralyzed. There was no way she would ever be released to the wild as happens with most successful rehabs. I repaired her shell using velcro strips epoxied to anchor points on her carapace. After some weeks Little Bit seemed to have made a full recovery except for the use of her hind legs. So some wheels seemed to be the way to go. Some lightweight model airplane wheels on a wire frame did the trick. The removable wheels were secured by a velcro strip epoxied to her plastron. The velcro strips on the carapace were removed after four months. She was eating, drinking, and exploring all the rooms of my house. Eventually she was able to move around outside as well. She lived until early in 2002 when she died unexpectedly (and suddenly). After all she had been through I did not have the heart to order any kind of post mortem from the local vet school. I simply said goodbye and thanked her for what she had shared with me and others who met her.

How HAARP works

Nature has a good article about the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP), an ionospheric heater that became fully operational last July.
The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) has been entwined with controversy since its birth. Originally envisioned as a way to facilitate communications with nuclear-armed submarines, HAARP took almost two decades to build and has incurred around US$250 million in construction and operating costs. It consists of 360 radio transmitters and 180 antennas, and covers some 14 hectares near the town of Gakona about 250 kilometres northeast of Anchorage.

With 3.6 megawatts of power at its command, HAARP is the most powerful ionospheric heater in the world. At its heart is a phased-array radar that emits radio waves that are partially absorbed between 100 kilometres and 350 kilometres in altitude, accelerating electrons there and 'heating' the ionosphere (see graphic, right). In effect, HAARP allows scientists to turn the ionosphere, the uppermost and one of the least understood regions of the atmosphere, into a natural laboratory.

Link (via the day they tried to kill me)

Ukulele Blitzkrieg Bop

Gus and Fin perform Blitzkrieg Bop on ukulele. (And here are the Ramones doing it, live.) (via Otomano)

Getting baked before shooting AKs at the Taliban: a bad idea.

Wired defense technology blogger Noah Shachtman says,

Smoking weed can improve your performance in all sorts of activities -- from playing reggae music to watching Battlestar Galactica to writing blog posts.

If you're an already ill-trained, semi-motivated soldier in the Afghan Army, however, spliffs are a particularly poor way to prepare for battle, as this little clip illustrates..

Link to post, which includes more happy fun stoner warfare video goodness. Hey, how do you say, "Duuuuuude... what?" in Pashto? Your answers welcomed in the comments.