Boing Boing 

The Strange Realm of Infra-Red: 3

Kennedy assassination site in infra-red

(Charles Platt is a guest blogger)

While driving through Dallas, I stopped to visit the museum in the old Texas Book Depository building from which Lee Harvey Oswald took a shot (or two, or three) at John F. Kennedy. Two X marks have been etched into the asphalt, marking the locations where the president was hit. I was fascinated to see tourists running out into the road to have their pictures taken while standing on an X.

The Book Depository looks especially good to me in infra-red

The ruthlessly modern, official Kennedy memorial, by architect Philip Johnson, is located just a couple of blocks away, but relatively few people seem to go there, perhaps because they are more excited by the guilty thrill of an assassination site which shamelessly admits what it is.

Another possibility is that Johnson’s memorial is shunned because it looks like a giant urinal. (Just my opinion of course. YMMV.)

Comments system knackered

The comments are down, but we're working to get 'em fixed as soon as possible! In the meantime, go and watch Dr. Who on BBC America! Exciting stuff.

Global Game Jam continues! Here's live video (without kittens)

Boing Boing Video, Offworld, and Boing Boing Gadgets have been on the scene at the Global Game Jam in various cities around the world, and we'll be bringing you some fun post-Jam documentary LOLs next week. For now, check out this meta Flickr photoset, which contains lots of sleepy developers, half-consumed energy drinks, and funny things people think up when they're hyperconnected and under-slept -- international dance-offs, for example.

Above, Boing Boing Video colleague Jolon Bankey is also organizing the Global Game Jam Costa Rica, and this is the live stream for CR. Pura Vida, guys!

Update: Here's the link for their liveblogging -- fun stuff afoot.

Below, Jolon writes:

Hey Xeni! We're at the site of the Global Game Jam in Costa Rica, and all the teams are going strong! We have a few casualties curled up in a corner behind me, but for the most part people haven't slept, or did so for 15 minutes sitting in front of their chairs before jerking awake and getting back to rocking their virtual world in the short time left.

With only 27 short sleepless hours ahead of them, everyone is surprisingly energized. We have had continuous communication with the other locations around the world via webcams and projectors everywhere, which has been a lot of fun. There have been Macarena dance-offs between Costa Rica and the rest of the world, we lost a contest with Brazil, but Scotland gave us a 10 for our efforts.

We polished off some giant tubs of Gallo Pinto and huevos revueltos earlier, and now people are just trying to push through with an unending stream of Sobe Adrenalin Rush (*cough* sponsors Thank you Sobe!)

-jgb 12.04.29 pm Saturday January 31st, 2009
Offices of Schematic, Costa Rica
PLaza Roble, Escazu, Costa Rica

Previously on Boing Boing:
* Global Game Jam has begun! (live video stream)
* Global Game Jam (48 hour videogame dev marathon) this weekend!

Global Game Jam 2009 CostaRica

Costa Rica Global Game Jam 2009


Interactive Photo-Hunt Game on YouTube

Boing Boing reader Joe Sabia says he's created the first ever interactive photo hunt on YouTube. "There are 30 levels to the game, recapping all the big nominees for the oscars. 64 videos in all. i made use of youtube's annotations... thought you would enjoy." The subject matter may or may not be something that interests you, but I loved this clever and effective use of a mass-market web service feature (annotations) for a purpose other than the one for which that feature was originally developed.

Start here.

The Strange Realm of Infra-Red: 2

Infra-red photo - 2

(Charles Platt is a guest blogger)

Even this very humble shack in Louisiana looks mysteriously beautiful when the visible spectrum is blocked. If we had infra-red sunglasses, the world might appear a lot more pleasant than in its more usual shades of dull-brown, muddy-green, and dirt-gray.

The Strange Realm of Infra-Red: 1

Infra-red photo - 1

(Charles Platt is a guest blogger)

My friend Richard Kadrey introduced me to infra-red photography. Sensors on digital cameras can detect infra-red, but normally are shielded from it by a protective filter that resides as a thin layer over the chip. You can hack a camera by removing the layer, but it is easier to buy a Fuji IS-1, which is infra-red-ready. If you use a lens filter that blocks the visible frequencies, the camera displays an image that consists of infra-red transposed into the visible spectrum.

Vegetation reflects almost all light below red, and thus appears “white.” Conversely, the upper atmosphere does not refract infra-red, and thus a blue sky appears “black.” An unexpected effect is that most fabric dyes reflect infra-red, so that a crowded sidewalk appears to be populated entirely by angelic people dressed in white.

During 2007 I drove across the country and took a bunch of infra-red photographs. The Southern states looked especially good, because they contain so much vegetation.

Yesterday at Boing Boing Gadgets

Yesterday on Boing Boing Gadgets: • Samsung shoved 32GBs into a single stick of RAM. • We examined some multi-chromatic electromagnetic chart porn. • Pixel art makes good (if illegible) book jackets. • Brownlee was nostalgic for the days of Prodigy and the <s> emoticon. • Swaying in the wind, sixteen fabric inflatable robots. • Steve Jobs and Bill Gates made out in the Macintosh Dating Game. • We tried to formulate a question to ask sci-fi writers that would, fifty years from now, juxtapose the actual path of future technology with our own subconscious expectations of which way that path will wind. That won't make a lot of sense, so just read the post. • Beschizza broke rocks with a hammer made of engine parts. • The BBC got punked into believing in a magical cell phone created by Oompa Loompas. • We looked at some cool wallets made from cassette tapes. • We argued bitterly about the merits of a Space Invaders watch that doesn't actually play Space Invaders. • Kittens rode a Roomba around the room. • A clockwork trilobyte crawled out of the wreckage of the post-apocalypse. • We jumped to our feet and applauded the world's first vertical backflip on a Big Wheel. And more besides. Come read us! Link

Playing my Widower Card

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Gareth Branwyn writes on technology, pop and fringe culture. He is currently a Contributing Editor at Maker Media. Recent projects have included co-creating The Maker's Notebook and editing The Best of MAKE and The Best of Instructables collections.

A dear friend of mine, who blogs under the name Supa Dupa Fresh, and I share a grim truth -- we've both lost our spouses. One of the other things we have in common is an off-beat sense of humor. These two forces collide on her Fresh Widow blog, and especially, with her Fresh Widow (and Widower) Cards. She explains:
One night in my support group, S. said casually that he’d “left work early… I just pulled a widower card.” I thought about how often I’d done this in the months since LH died, but more about how I could make good use of some little advantage. All the handicaps I was living with… single (really, double) parenting, how impossible it was to go grocery shopping with a toddler, and how no one could see that anything was wrong. The side of me that is tempted to shoplift (but only cashmere or chocolate) was aroused. I was always comfortable as an underachiever, but could I have some legitimate “cover” after surviving catastrophe? Something versatile? Something I could use every day? And so the concept was born: Not as useful as a “get out of jail free” card, more powerful than a hall pass… it’s… it’s… The Widow Card!

Charts: 4

Incidence of fear in zombie populations

(Charles Platt is a guest blogger)

Still on the topic of population and mortality (more or less), here is some light relief. I redraw the chart from a source that I found at

Charts: 3

Square feet per person in various nations

(Charles Platt is a guest blogger)

To what extent do we feel overcrowded, as a species? I’m not talking about resources; just psychological factors.

To create this chart I turned to the CIA Factbook, where I looked up the populations of various nations and then divided this number into their land area (excluding lakes and rivers) to get the number of square feet available per person. I represented the results in squares that are all drawn to the same scale.

Of course if you are in Australia, where each resident has almost 4 million square feet to play with, you won’t make full use of your land ration, if only because most of it is desert. On the other hand, when I was in Australia I did feel intuitively aware that the country was, so to speak, empty. As soon as I drove out of an urban area, the emptiness was right there. Conversely, in Hong Kong, where citizens have barely more than 1,600 square feet each, everyone is intensely aware of being crammed into a very crowded place.

Personally I enjoy wilderness areas, but I wouldn’t claim that open spaces are essential for my mental health. I do, after all, still have an apartment in New York City containing just 350 square feet. The apartment next to mine, identical in size, used to be a home not only to a married couple, but also their young child.

I suspect that our romantic yearnings for “freedom to roam” may be just that: Romantic yearnings.

More delightful silliness from "Look Around You"

Scott Beale of Laughing Squid pointed to two fantastic episodes of "Look Around You," a BBC Comedy from 2002 that parodies public science education videos.

Time-lapse of a 9-month-old at play

All hail Discordia! (Via Forgetomori, and BB Gadgets!)

A comment from Modusoperandi

Modusoperandi, responding to markmarkmark in the Attenborough's response to creationists' hate mail thread, said:
markmarkmark "Jesus is my rabbi and all that is best in me is him and every mistake is my own."
One Night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonged to him and the other to the Lord.

When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.

This really bothered him, and he questioned the Lord about it: "Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you you'd walk with me all the way, but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me."

The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child, I love you and would never leave you. Also, you're being intermittently stalked by the Invisible Man."

Good one. Front page.

Global Game Jam has begun! (live video stream)

Global Game Jam is under way. Live stream from the Costa Rica team is above, and more about the event here and in this previous Boing Boing blog post. Boing Boing Video, Boing Boing Gadgets, and Offworld will be popping up in various cities, give us a shout in the comments if you'd like to give us a shout-out from your location, and send us a video! We'll reach out with upload info.

(Thanks, Ustream, Jolon Bankey, and Global Game Jam Costa Rica crew!)

Charts: 2

Chances of living to ages 5 through 100

(Charles Platt is a guest blogger)

Here's another histogram which may seem a little grim but, I think, is worth contemplating. Suppose someone was born in the year 2004. If the factors which determined mortality in that year remain the same throughout the rest of that person's life, what percentage of his or her contemporaries will still be alive at various points in the future?

You can see that about half the people born in 2004 are expected to disappear by age 80, and from that point on, the number diminishes very rapidly. If you hope to live beyond 80, and you would like to depend on contemporaries for companionship, this may be a problem.

The good news is that the situation has improved. When a similar projection was made in the 1950s for people born in 1949, only 1 person in 5 was expected to live to be 80. We can feel happy that people today are surviving more tenaciously than anyone expected half a century ago.

How will our current prediction turn out fifty years from now? Presumably the answer depends on our priorities. If lives are worth saving, perhaps it will make sense to fund more research into the aging process.

1981 video about online newspapers

Here's a report from KRON in San Francisco about The San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle's forays into online news in 1981. (Thanks, Mark!)

Charts: 1

Life expectancy by age group

(Charles Platt is a guest blogger)

I have always enjoyed drawing charts and graphs as a means to enhance my understanding the world.

The histogram above addresses the most fundamental fact of human life: Sooner or later, it ends. To me, all other issues are trivial by comparison.

I made this chart using data from the National Institutes of Health. You can find your age group on the bottom scale, then check your average remaining life expectancy on the left scale. Naturally this number declines relentlessly as you get older.

The good news is that the longer you live, the longer you are likely to live. Thus, at birth in the United States, under conditions that prevail today, you can expect to live for a little more than 75 years. But at age 75, on average you still have another 10 years left. How can this be? Because some of the people who were born around the same time as yourself have already died by the time you’re 75, leaving only a subset who were less susceptible to disease (or accidents).

The bad news is that despite all our advances in medicine, sanitation, and other relevant factors, the chart still tapers off around age 100. Average lifespan has increased, but maximum lifespan has not changed significantly.

One reason may be that research to prolong maximum lifespan receives minuscule funding, especially compared with popular endeavors such as cancer research. Many people seem to feel that extending maximum lifespan would be “wrong” (even at a time of rapidly declining birth rates in many nations) or “unnatural” (even though our average life expectancy used to be around 40, and has improved through totally unnatural means such as antibiotics).

As you may infer from the quotation marks, I disagree. Of course, I realize that these are controversial issues.

One of the most effective special-interest groups seeking funding for longevity research is .

Old Jews Telling Jokes (video)

A series from Jetpack Media. I cracked the hell up over the "golf" one, too. There's a new episode every Tuesday and Thursday. (Thanks, Eric Spiegelman)

Web Zen: Geek Media Zen

meme breaks
first 50 digits of pi
create digital music
progress bars
pretty loaded
minesweeper: the movie
mac vs. pc
sniper twins

Permalink for this edition. Web Zen is created and curated by Frank Davis, and re-posted here on Boing Boing with his kind permission. Web Zen Home and Archives, Store (Thanks Frank!)

Stimulus Details

Charles Platt is a guest blogger

Earlier today I wondered what the actual text is of H.R.1, the bill to authorize an $819 billion "stimulus package." Newspapers don't generally go into this kind of detail, perhaps fearing that it would bore their readers, so I visited the very usefulOpen Congress site to find out. As I read the bill, two things caught my eye.

The first should have been obvious: The money will be mostly distributed among existing federal agencies. To spend huge sums of money, the government simply has to channel it through the system that already exists to allocate and track it. Unfortunately, some of these agencies are not widely known for timely and efficient behavior.

The second lesson is a corollary of the first and could be described as "no agency left behind." Naturally when you suddenly have more than $800 billion floating around, everyone wants a piece of it. Thus we find that very substantial sums are being allocated for purposes such as assisting local law enforcement (the war on drugs, no doubt), housing soldiers, and (of course) increasing homeland security.

Here are some random items that I copied and pasted. For more details, check the link above.

Law Enforcement
$3 billion for state and local law enforcement assistance.
$1 billion for community policing services.

Department of Defense
$4.5 billion to modernize and repair Army barracks and other defense facilities.

General Services Administration
$6 billion for construction and repair of federal buildings.
$1 billion for immigration facilities at ports of entry.

Homeland Security
$250 million for salaries and construction at ports of entry.
$500 million for purchase and installation of explosive detection systems.
$150 million for alteration or removal of obstructive bridges.

The last item is amusing in a grim way. I thought this bill was largely intended to restore "crumbling infrastructure" but apparently $150 million will be spent partly on tearing it down.

Black Swan author's rules for living

Avi sez, "Nassim Nicholas Taleb, gadfly author of The Black Swan, gives his 10 rules for surviving an unpredictable world with dignity."
1 Scepticism is effortful and costly. It is better to be sceptical about matters of large consequences, and be imperfect, foolish and human in the small and the aesthetic.

2 Go to parties. You can’t even start to know what you may find on the envelope of serendipity. If you suffer from agoraphobia, send colleagues.

3 It’s not a good idea to take a forecast from someone wearing a tie. If possible, tease people who take themselves and their knowledge too seriously.

4 Wear your best for your execution and stand dignified. Your last recourse against randomness is how you act – if you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behaviour. You will always have the last word.

5 Don’t disturb complicated systems that have been around for a very long time. We don’t understand their logic. Don’t pollute the planet. Leave it the way we found it, regardless of scientific ‘evidence’.

6 Learn to fail with pride – and do so fast and cleanly. Maximise trial and error – by mastering the error part.

7 Avoid losers. If you hear someone use the words ‘impossible’, ‘never’, ‘too difficult’ too often, drop him or her from your social network. Never take ‘no’ for an answer (conversely, take most ‘yeses’ as ‘most probably’).

8 Don’t read newspapers for the news (just for the gossip and, of course, profiles of authors). The best filter to know if the news matters is if you hear it in cafes, restaurants... or (again) parties.

9 Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel or a private jet.

10 Answer e-mails from junior people before more senior ones. Junior people have further to go and tend to remember who slighted them.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: the prophet of boom and doom (Thanks, Avi!)

Instant corner shop, just add shipping container

British science fiction writer Paul McAuley spotted this instant corner shop created by plunking a storage container down on a tiny bit of front garden and flinging wide the doors. Instant architecture indeed -- a sign of the times, and more to come no doubt.

Instant Architecture (via Futurismic)

Bruce Sterling on our global psychosis, ca. 2009

Bruce Sterling's lead editorial in SEED Magazine's feature on the 21st century enumerates the disastrous contradictions and changes in the shifting global mindset, and scathingly demands that we fix them. This is inflaming, heady stuff:

7. Science. To be a creationist president is not a problem. A suicide cult is the most effective political actor in the world today. Clearly the millions of people embracing fundamentalism like to make up their own facts.

Standards of scientific proof and evidence no longer compel political and social allegiance. This is not a return to the bedrock of faith — it's an algorithm for ontological anarchy. By attacking empiricism, the world is discarding all of the good reasons to believe that anything is real.

If science is discredited, why should mere politics have any intellectual rigor? Just cobble together a crazy-quilt mix-and-match ideology, like Venezuelan Bolivarism or Russia's peculiar mix of spies, oil, and Orthodoxy. Go from the gut — all tactics, no strategy — making up the state of the world as you go along! Stampede wildly from one panic crisis to the next. Believe whatever is whispered. Hide and conceal whatever you can. Spy on the phone calls, emails, and web browsing of those who might actually know something.

If that leads you to a miserable end-state, huddling with the children in a fall-out shelter clutching silver bullion, then you can congratulate yourself as the vanguard of civilization.

2009 Will Be a Year of Panic

Digital Britain report proposes to save Britain's future by destroying the Internet

Glyn sez, "The UK Government today published it Digital Britain interim report and not surprisingly, are proving controversial. The Open Rights Group have already stated:
We are looking at the report in detail, but we are extremely concerned that the voice of consumers and citizens is being marginalised.

We are concerned that there is no suggestion that consumers and citizens should be represented on the proposed copyright 'Rights Agency'. Without our voices, such an agency could easily be dominated by industry's concerns at the expense of civil rights. Consumer would be very likely to get a bad deal.

"We are concerned at the government's proposals for technical 'solutions' for rights enforcement - technical 'solutions' to social issues tend to be expensive and fail."

"One by one digital music providers like iTunes and Amazon are moving away from DRM, and trusting their customers. This is a much better example for industry and government to follow."

"We also intend to look closely at proposals for recording and reporting alleged rights infringers. While we welcome the proposal to ask the courts before taking action, we are concerned at the potential for further erosion of privacy online."

"Part of the Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham speech showed a clear lack of understanding that alleged behaviour does not equals unlawful:
"We will only maintain our creative strength if we find new ways of paying for and sustaining creative content in the online age. We therefore explore the potential for a new rights agency to be established and following a consultation on how to tackle unlawful file sharing we propose to legislate to require internet service providers to notify alleged significant infringers that their conduct is unlawful."
"The main recommendations that Boing Boing readers will be interested in are:
ACTION 11 By the time the final Digital Britain report is published the Government will have explored with interested parties the potential for a Rights Agency to bring industry together to agree how to provide incentives for legal use of copyright material; work together to prevent unlawful use by consumers which infringes civil copyright law; and enable technical copyright-support solutions that work for both consumers and content creators. The Government also welcomes other suggestions on how these objectives should be achieved.

ACTION 12 Before the full Digital Britain Report is published we will explore with both distributors and rights-holders their willingness to fund, through a modest and proportionate contribution, such a new approach to civil enforcement of copyright within the legal frameworks applying to electronic commerce, copyright, data protection and privacy to facilitate and co-ordinate an industry response to this challenge. It will be important to ensure that this approach covers the need for innovative legitimate services to meet consumer demand, and education and information activity to educate consumers in fair and appropriate uses of copyrighted material as well as enforcement and prevention work.

ACTION 13 Our response to the consultation on peer-to-peer file sharing sets out our intention to legislate, requiring ISPs to notify alleged infringers of rights (subject to reasonable levels of proof from rights- holders) that their conduct is unlawful. We also intend to require ISPs to collect anonymised information on serious repeat infringers (derived from their notification activities), to be made available to rights-holders together with personal details on receipt of a court order. We intend to consult on this approach shortly, setting out our proposals in detail.

digital britain - interim report (Thanks, Glyn!)

Today on Offworld

Today on Offworld, we didn't see much better than this: 2D Boy co-founder and World of Goo maker Kyle Gabler (right) channeling... Tyra Banks? and giving his top 7 tips for indie devs about to make their first rapidly developed game, in his keynote for the inaugural Global Game Jam. Elsewhere, we heard about a new version of EA and Steven Spielberg's Wii title Boom Blox and prepared for the release of an updated version of iPhone tower defense hit Fieldrunners, and dug through the huge number of winners of JayIsGames' best of 2008 games list. We also danced to all of the things that Left 4 Dead's Francis hates (most of all, Ayn Rand), saw BAFTA announced an award for Pong/Atari head Nolan Bushnell, and saw Ico creator Fumito Ueda look back at the development of PS2 cult classic Shadow of the Colossus. Finally, we saw a brilliant looking new PSP game that will give players 30 seconds at a time to fulfill their RPG quests, and, because I could, watched a fantastic new retro-pixel music video for Offworld favorite band Deerhoof.

Surfrider's "Catch of the Day"

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Gareth Branwyn writes on technology, pop and fringe culture. He is currently a Contributing Editor at Maker Media. Recent projects have included co-creating The Maker's Notebook and editing The Best of MAKE and The Best of Instructables collections.

Annie from Provisions Learning Project writes:
In their continuing efforts to battle the ever growing mounds of garbage polluting our oceans and coastlines, Surfrider Foundation joined forces with Saatchi & Saatchi LA to sponsor the aptly titled Catch of the Day guerrilla ad campaign. Trash was collected from beaches across the US, then sorted, packaged like seafood, and strategically placed around local farmers’ markets. Directly targeting seafood consumers, this creative campaign draws attention to the gross debris littering our oceans and highlights how this pollution affects the consumer directly through the food they eat. Even if you’re not partial to seafood, its hard to miss the message!
It's eco-guilt meets the Barbie Liberation Organization! [Full Disclosure: I am on the Board of Directors of Provisions Learning Project]

Today at Boing Boing Gadgets


Today at Boing Boing Gadgets, our friend Renzo created this wonderful Reutersvärd-inspired heart. Love is an illusion!


Rob presented The Gadget Tribes of Technology.


John found 3D Star Wars Kites; roasted Gadget Lab's Charlie Sorrel, who has four gadgets to help you quit smoking; beheld The Triceratopter; and found a Wallet made of Tyvek. There were Russian keyboard stones and server log hints of new iPhone firmware.


Joel introduced Outlander, this year's best movie about Vikings led by a space messiah to kill an alien dragon; drank before Chalkboard beer taps; and had sex with a Tenga Egg.

Photoshop competition winners: "What will this liquidated Circuit City become?"

Homage to Arizona: 5

Arizona knolls-1

(Charles Platt is a guest blogger)

Undeveloped land is still cheaply available in Northern Arizona, for anyone willing to live off the grid. This piece which I own, consisting of nearly 20 acres on top of a knoll, is just 15 minutes from the nearest town yet has unobstructed views extending at least 30 miles in every direction. The picture above was taken looking east; the picture below, slightly later on the same evening, looks west. Northern Arizona often enjoys dramatic sunsets during the monsoon season in late July through early September, when thunderstorms roll in.

Arizona knolls-2

Despite the seemingly remote location, I get 4 bars on my cell phone when I'm standing at the top of the knoll, since a cell tower is located within line-of-sight, 10 miles away. I love to visit the undeveloped land but after I finish enjoying the view and the solitude, I find myself faced with a question that is difficult to answer:

“Now what shall I do?”

Maybe I’ll advertise it on eBay.

Homage to Arizona: 4

Arizona cactus-2

(Charles Platt is a guest blogger)

This brain cactus is another of the plant species found in the botanical gardens in Phoenix, one of the most peaceful environments that I know.

Clock for geeks


Here's a clock for geeks. It's $20 on Etsy.

Explanation of clock numerals:

1 Legendre's constant

2 "An infinite number of mathematicians..."

3 A Unicode character as a HTML entity

4 Modular arithmetic

5 The Golden Mean reworked a little

6 Three Factorial (3*2*1)

7 6.99999.. Though a different number than 7, still equals 7

8 Graphical representation of Binary code

9 An example of a base-4 number

10 A Binomial Coefficient

11 An example of Hexadecimal encoding

12 The cube root is the inverse of 12^3