Boing Boing 

Art installation celebrates decades of surf culture

quiksilverfandango.jpg Surf brand Quiksilver got together with skater Tony Hawk and Paris design collective Fandango to create a neat, very well-designed installation called I was a teenager in the.... It's basically a series of bedrooms that reflect each decade of surf culture. via Dezeen Image by Chi Chi Mendez

An evening meal in total darkness at Opaque

The room is pitch black. There is absolutely no light in here, not even an emergency exit or the glow of a cell phone.

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Climate Change: Countering the Contrarians

Scientific American talks evidence, digging into seven arguments against the reality of climate change that, if not the most frequently-cited in general, are certainly the most frequently cited in BoingBoing comment threads. Personally, I've started trying to avoid the snarky, dismissive tone this piece veers a bit into...I just don't think it helps anything to make the honest skeptics feel mocked. (The oil lobbyists, the anti-semetic conspiracy nuts, etc. can be easily and freely mocked on an individual basis.) But that aside, the article is worth reading. Good answers given for:

  • Anthropogenic CO2 can't be changing climate, because CO2 is only a trace gas in the atmosphere and the amount produced by humans is dwarfed by the amount from volcanoes and other natural sources.
  • The alleged "hockey stick" graph of temperatures over the past 1,600 years has been disproved. It doesn't even acknowledge the existence of a "medieval warm period" around 1000 A.D. that was hotter than today is.
  • Global warming stopped a decade ago; the earth has been cooling since then.
  • The sun or cosmic rays are much more likely to be the real causes of global warming.
  • Climatologists conspire to hide the truth about global warming by locking away their data. Their so-called "consensus" on global warming is scientifically irrelevant because science isn't settled by popularity.
  • Climatologists have a vested interest in raising the alarm because it brings them money and prestige.
  • Technological fixes, such as inventing energy sources that don't produce CO2 or geoengineering the climate, would be more affordable, prudent ways to address climate change than reducing our carbon footprint.

Scientific American: Seven Answers to Climate Contrarian Nonsense

Surprised kitten is surprised

As Sean Bonner tweeted over the weekend, this may well be the best 17 seconds of your life.

Cactus flowers: an intro to the indie game mind warps of Jonatan Söderström

With just a handful of years under his game development belt, 24 year old Jonatan Söderström — better known by his handle Cactus — has already become something of a cult legend in indie circles, particularly for his relentless, near-manic prolificness, as illustrated above by Crayon Physics creator Petri Purho‘s inspirational desktop background.

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Supreme Court upholds Obama ban on release of detainee torture photos

The US Supreme Court today rejected an appeals court ruling that ordered the release of photos that document war-on-terror prisoners being tortured by U.S. military personnel. At first, President Obama said he would not ban the release of the images, then changed his mind. The ACLU say they'll keep fighting.

Hamster rides teeny-tiny subway (photos)

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"Edie's Big Adventure," spotted on Dangerous Minds. Says Edie the hamster's "person," Victoria Belanger, who shot these photos:

I'm a photographer for the [New York City] DA's office and there is a women there who makes these models (trains, apts, buildings, etc) for court cases, as a visual aid for the jury. The train is perfectly hamster sized so I brought my super tame hamster into work yesterday for a little photo shoot. They came out better than expected. I'm really excited about them.
(newyorkshitty.com, alternate link for partial gallery is here)

Food choices, obesity, and health care: one provocative stat to chew on

On eating, obesity, and health care in the United States: "If the incidence of obesity fell to its 1987 level, it would free enough money to cover the nation's uninsured population."

Website documents iPhone apps rejected by Apple

The website apprejections.com tracks mentions of applications that have been rejected by Apple for sale in the App Store. More at readwriteweb.

Why paywalls won't help most big newspapers

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Photo:Rayphua

A few years ago, I moved a small local newspaper's online edition behind a paywall. Most free content was removed from the web. Instead, we sold a PDF of the newspaper. Web traffic plummeted from about 15,000 views a month to about 8,000. The PDF edition attracted only a few hundred subscribers on top of the daily print run of about 9,000. In other words, it was a big success.

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Interactive map of growing food stamps usage in US

"The number of food stamp recipients has climbed by about 10 million over the past two years, resulting in a program that now feeds 1 in 8 Americans and nearly 1 in 4 children."

Rusting space-marine robot toys


Man, I am all over these $45 space-marine "Bertie" robots from Tenacious Toys -- rusted and beat up and full of character, designed by Ashley Wood.

Bertie (via Superpunch)

Game-guilds can be modelled using the math of street gangs

The structure of guilds in video games mirrors the structures of criminal gangs in the real world, and both can be modelled using the same mathematics, say a group of Chinese and American scholars. Unfortunately, their paper isn't published in a proper open access journal, so we can't review their findings -- only the abstract.
Quantifying human group dynamics represents a unique challenge. Unlike animals and other biological systems, humans form groups in both real (offline) and virtual (online) spaces--from potentially dangerous street gangs populated mostly by disaffected male youths to the massive global guilds in online role-playing games for which membership currently exceeds tens of millions of people from all possible backgrounds, age groups, and genders. We have compiled and analyzed data for these two seemingly unrelated offline and online human activities and have uncovered an unexpected quantitative link between them. Although their overall dynamics differ visibly, we find that a common team-based model can accurately reproduce the quantitative features of each simply by adjusting the average tolerance level and attribute range for each population. By contrast, we find no evidence to support a version of the model based on like-seeking-like (i.e., kinship or "homophily").
Human group formation in online guilds and offline gangs driven by a common team dynamic (via /.)

(Image: Guild Wars, a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike photo from dalvenjah's Flickr stream)

EU memo on secret copyright treaty confirms US desire for global DMCA

Michael Geist sez, "The European Commission analysis of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement's [ed: a secret, restrictive copyright treaty that the Obama administration will not release on "national security" grounds] Internet chapter has leaked, indicating that the U.S. is seeking to push laws that extend beyond the WIPO Internet treaties and beyond current European Union law (the EC posted the existence of the document last week but refused to make it publicly available). The document contains detailed comments on the U.S. proposal, confirming the U.S. desire to promote a three-strikes and you're out policy, a Global DMCA, harmonized contributory copyright infringement rules, and the establishment of an international notice-and-takedown policy."

EU ACTA Analysis Leaks: Confirms Plans For Global DMCA, Encourage 3 Strikes Model (Thanks, Michael!)

David Carr on the changing news biz: "all reigns are temporary"

NYT's David Carr on the changing news biz, as witnessed from Manhattan: "[A] life of occasional excess and prerogative has been replaced by a drum beat of goodbye speeches with sheet cakes and cheap sparkling wine. It's a wan reminder that all reigns are temporary, that the court of self-appointed media royalty was serving at the pleasure of an advertising economy that itself was built on inefficiency and excess. Google fixed that."

Turkey wants universal email surveillance from birth


Evgeny sez, "The Turkish government has a very disturbing Internet plan, which includes 1) creating a new search engine that would reflect 'Turkish sensibilities' (i.e. filter out certain results) 2) supply each of 70 million Turkish citizens with a 10 GB email account that would be linked to their national ID numbers (in fact, they will be provided with an email account from birth). This is all done under the pretense of strengthening national security, as the government doesn't want communications data to 'leave Turkey and then come back'."

Turkey tests new means of Internet control (Thanks, Evgeny!)

(Image: CAMERA ISTANBUL, a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike photo from Material Boy's Flickr stream)

Deadly cyanobacteria bloom takes over Lake Atitlán, Guatemala (NASA photo)

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Guatemala's Lake Atitlán, surrounded by volcanoes and Maya settlements, has been taken over by a massive bloom of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae). I'll be traveling to a K'iche' Maya village not far from this place in a couple of weeks. The image comes from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA's Terra satellite.

It's no shock to realize that decades of environmental damage have led to this, but it is still very weird to see an image that shows this huge, seemingly pristine body of water transformed into a big pool of slime, with growing "dead zones" where fish and other critters can no longer survive. Guatemala is facing a widespread hunger crisis already -- so, for the at-risk human populations around the lake who live off a subsistence farmer/fisher lifestyle, this means more hunger, more death.

Cyanobacteria are a serious problem both because they are toxic to humans and other animals and because they create dead zones. As the bacteria multiply, they form a thick mat that blocks sunlight. Dense blooms can also consume all of the oxygen in the water, leaving a dead zone where other plants and animals cannot survive. The density of the bloom also affects the cyanobacteria. Since only the top layer of the bloom receives life-sustaining light, the bacteria in the rest of the bloom die and decay, releasing toxins into the water. These highly toxic harmful algal blooms cause illness in people and other animals.
The Guatemalan government says it will cost 32 million dollars Cost estimates to "clean up the lake, install water treatment plants, and implement other measures to limit the flow of pollution into the lake to prevent future outbreaks" are around 350 million dollars, according to a source quoted in TIME. Knowing how things work in the country, all I can say is -- don't hold your breath on that one. This is terrible, tragic news.

Harmful Bloom in Lake Atitlán, Guatemala (NASA)

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BBC photographer prevented from shooting St Paul's because he might be "al Qaeda operative"

A BBC photographer was stopped from taking a picture of the sun setting by St Paul’s Cathedral in London. A real police officer and a fake “community support officer” stopped the photog and said he couldn’t take any pictures because with his professional-style camera, he might be an “al Qaeda operative” on a “scouting mission.” Now, St Paul’s is one of the most photographed buildings in the world (luckily, there is zero evidence that terrorists need photographs to plan their attacks), and presumably a smart al Qaeda operative with a yen to get some snaps would use a tiny tourist camera — or a hidden camera in his buttonhole.

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Starfish Eating a Baby Seal

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From the "Cute Animals Devouring Other Cute Animals" file, I bring you this BBC video showing a mob of starfish ravaging the carcass of a seal pup. (That starfish covered mound in the picture? Seal pup.) Granted, they do this very, very slowly. The video speeds things up with time-lapse photography, which only adds to the alien creepiness as you watch thousands of starfish (plus sea urchins and giant meat-eating worms) damn-near gallop across the ocean floor.

How do starfish eat a seal? Glad you asked. Turns out, they latch onto the seal's side, pop their stomachs out through their mouths, dump digestive juices onto the seal flesh and then slurp up the dissolved "soup". Happy Monday.

Oh, and beware the scene at about 1:50 into the clip. It's a little, erm, not cute. Nature, red in tooth and claw, and all that. Fair warning.

BBC Life: Timelapse Of Swarming Monster Worms and Seastars

HOWTO use con-games to improve information security

"Understanding scam victims: seven principles for systems security" by Cambridge University's Frank Stajano and Paul Wilson is an excellent look at the principles involved in "short cons" (confidence games that only take a few minutes to "play") and how they can be applied to information security. The authors examine the mechanics of scams demonstrated in the BBC show "The Real Hustle" and then extract the principles that drive them and show how they are also used in online ripoffs:

This illustrates something important. Many people feel that they are wise to certain scams or take steps to protect their property; but, often, these steps don't go far enough. A con artist can easily answer people's concerns or provide all sorts of proof to put minds at ease. In order to protect oneself, it's essential to remove all possibility of compromise. There's no point parking your own car if you then give the valet your keys. Despite this, the mark felt more secure when, in actual fact, he had made the hustler's job easier....

...Much of systems security boils down to "allowing certain principals to perform certain actions on the system while disallowing anyone else from doing them"; as such, it relies implicitly on some form of authentication--recognizing which principals should be authorized and which ones shouldn't. The lesson for the security engineer is that the security of the whole system often relies on the users also performing some authentication, and that they may be deceived too, in ways that are qualitatively differ- ent from those in which computer systems can be deceived. In online banking, for example, the role of verifier is not just for the web site (which clearly must authenticate its customers): to some extent, the customers themselves should also authenticate the web site before entering their credentials, otherwise they might be phished. However it is not enough just to make it "technically possible"18 : it must also be humanly doable by non-techies. How many banking customers check (or even understand the meaning of) the https padlock?19

Understanding scam victims: seven principles for systems security (via Schneier)

Boing Boing Gift Guide 2009: comics/art books! (part 6/6)

Mark and I have rounded up some of our favorite items from our 2009 Boing Boing reviews for the second-annual Boing Boing gift guide. We'll do one a day for the next six days, covering media (music/games/DVDs), gadgets and stuff, kids' books, novels, nonfiction, and comics/graphic novels/art books. Today, it's comics and art books!

The Wolverton Bible (Basil Wolverton): Wolverton wasn't just a funnybooks illustrator: he was also a member of a millenarian evangelical church called the Worldwide Church of God, a sect that believed in obeying Old Testament lifestyle laws and the literal truth of Revelations. So it was natural that Wolverton ended up with a regular, paid gig illustrating a series of Bible stories for kids and adults published in the Church's magazines like Plain Truth and in booklets with titles like Prophecy and The Book of Revelations, overseen by Church leader Herbert Armstrong, who had converted Wolverton to his faith. Full review | Purchase

Norman Saunders was a prominent illustrator for Captain Billy's Whiz Bang, Modern Mechanics, pulp detective, western, war, and science fiction magazines, men's adventure magazines, and bubblegum cards and stickers, including Wacky Packages and Mars Attacks. Anyone interested in 20th century magazine illustration pretty much has to have this book in his or her library. I devoured the 368 technicolor pages filled with examples of his work from the 1920s to the 1980s. Full review | Purchase

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Please release me: Electroplankton, Bit.Trips and littler LittleBigPlanet

Electroplankton [Toshio Iwai, DSiWare]

This week’s best and most important release is actually over four years old, but has bubbled back to the surface in a new way, as multimedia artist Toshio Iwai’s interactive-music package Electroplankton re-emerges from the depths as a series of individual DSi downloads.

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Dead Fish and Gluttony: Why Too Much of a Good Thing is Threatening the Gulf Ecosystem

Last week, I had far, far too much of several good things. Turkey, stuffing, green beans, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, corn, biscuits, gravy, cranberry sauce, green Jell-o salad and pie.

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Notes from a news-site paywall attempt


New Zealand's National Business Review stuck a paywall in front of its website back in mid-July, betting that enough readers would stick around and pay for "quality" that it would make up for the stupendous drop in readership. Looks like they bet wrong. Their traffic plummeted, and traffic to their free competitors skyrocketed. On every metric, NBR is failing: pageviews, session duration, unique readers, and total time on site. NBR has a high paywall price, so maybe they've got enough money from corporate subscribers to make up for the advertising losses -- but how long will they keep them for, with all the links, visits, and attention going to their competitors?

NBR's performance since the subscription wall was built (via O'Reilly Radar)

Iain Banks and other prominent Scots call for reform of Royal Bank of Scotland: "Royal Bank of Sustainability"

Iain Banks, the acclaimed Scottish sf and thriller writer, has joined with an illustrious list of prominent Scots in calling on the British government to reform the Royal Bank of Scotland. RBS received a titanic tax-funded bailout (much of which was diverted into a stupendous pension for Fred Goodwin, the bank's erstwhile CEO, who led it to ruin), which means that the taxpayer is now a major shareholder in the bank. But the bank is still refusing to lend to Britons who need mortgages, preferring instead to make dirty investments in climate-wrecking tar-sands in Alberta, as well as taking the astonishing step of loaning money to Kraft, an American firm, which is trying to buy Cadbury's a British firm -- if Kraft succeeds, then RBS will have funnelled British workers' pay into a loan that resulted in the shut-down of British factories and sent British jobs to America.
More than 30 signatories, including Gordon Roddick, who founded the Body Shop with his late wife Anita, leading green campaigner Tony Juniper and Rev Ian Galloway, convenor of the Church of Scotland, take the government to task for failing to push RBS and the other bailed-out banks into supporting socially useful investments.

In their letter, written to mark the first anniversary of the British taxpayer becoming its largest shareholder, they call on Darling to transform RBS into the "Royal Bank of Sustainability".

The strongly-worded communication criticises the Treasury for standing on the sidelines while RBS took a controversial decision to support US foods group Kraft in its bid for chocolate maker Cadbury, despite the fact the bid will put jobs at risk and therefore work against the interests of the UK taxpayer. The bank's conduct has also raised eyebrows in the City because it breached protocol by neglecting to inform Cadbury of its planned defection to the Kraft camp, despite having a decades-long relationship with the confectioner.

Celebrities, MPs and clergy urge government to rein in RBS

Infographic: the compleat and astounding history of storage

Geekologie's superb "Evolution of Storage" infographic traces the history of data, music and photo storage from the wax cylinder to the 2TB hard drive. I think I'll print this out and hang it on the wall of my office, for the same reason poets kept skulls on their writing desks*: "this too shall pass, all is hubris and folly, the future rushes up upon you."

Evolution of Storage

Incidentally, why is a raven like a writing-desk? Because Poe wrote on both of them.


Steampunk fiction for your mobile

John sez, "Steampunk Tales, the electronic magazine of original steampunk pulp fiction, just released its 4th issue. Selling for only $1.99 on most platforms, Steampunk Tales: Issue 4 delivers 10 tales of adventure and daring for less than the cost of a good cup of coffee."

Steampunk Tales


Paul Pope illustrates Japan's grooviest concept cars


John sez, "Batman: Year 100 creator Paul Pope illustrated three Japanese concept cars for GQ, as well as a flying car of his own design. You can see all the illustrations at the GQ link."

It Will Come From Japan!

Superpunch's gallery of photos of the actual cars

(Thanks, John!)

Keychain screwdrivers of stern utilitarian beauty


R. "Diesel Sweeties" Stevens sez, "These steel keychain-mounted screwdrivers are the ultimate in unbranded, unbreakable gadget gifts. I've had mine since the summer and they work like a charm and make great boxcutters. Planning to pick up a few more sets for stocking stuffers! Unlike a Swiss Army Knife or the like, I've never had trouble flying with these."

Purdy, too.

Screw Key (Thanks, Rich!)

High-mag pollen photos highlight the invisible beauty of plants' reproductive spritz


Marilyn sez, "Until 375,000 years ago, plants had be by physically close to each other in order to reproduce. Pollen changed all that. From the article by Rob Dunn in the Dec. issue of National Geographic:"

Update: not sure about Marylin's source for the 375k year stat above, but it looks like pollen is at least as old as the late Devonian

In the 300,000 pollen-bearing plant species on Earth, there are 300,000 different forms of pollen. The great variety in colors, shapes, and textures of the grains has evolved in accordance with each plant's biological particulars. Beetle-pollinated plants tend to have smooth, sticky pollen, the better to adhere to the lumbering beetles' backs. Plants pollinated by fast-moving bees or flies may have spiny pollen that lodges easily between the insects' hairs. Plants pollinated by bigger animals, such as bats, sometimes have bigger pollen, though not always -- perhaps not even most of the time. In the details of pollen's variety, more remains to be explained than is understood.
A friend with allergies once compared living through high-pollen-count days as "being the involuntary star in a vegetage-kingdom bukkake movie." I haven't been able to think of pollen the same way since.

Love Is in the Air (Thanks, Marilyn!)