Boing Boing 

Graph compares price of inkjet ink to other liquids


ReflectionOf.Me posted a graph that shows how much HP printer ink costs compared to human blood, vodka, crude oil and other precious liquids.

I am not Frodo: A Facebook conversation


I read Lamebook sometimes, but I've never seen anything there that made me snort tea out my nose. Until now. It begins in the magical kingdom of Facebook, with a "What Lord of the Rings Character are You?" quiz ...

Fair warning: There is some NSFW language and liberal doses of the stupid, preteen usage of the word "gay".

Lamebook: FroDOH!

Obama moves to limit secrecy of government documents

President Obama is taking steps to modify rules around the secrecy of government documents, and the length of time for which documents may remain secret. Secrecy experts like Steven Aftergood are cautiously optimistic, but not yet convinced this is good news.

Schneier on this week's air-terror-scare, and TSA response

Bruce Schneier: a voice of reason, as usual.
Terrorism is rare, far rarer than many people think. It's rare because very few people want to commit acts of terrorism, and executing a terrorist plot is much harder than television makes it appear.

The best defenses against terrorism are largely invisible: investigation, intelligence, and emergency response. But even these are less effective at keeping us safe than our social and political policies, both at home and abroad. However, our elected leaders don't think this way: They are far more likely to implement security theater against movie-plot threats.

Is aviation security mostly for show? (CNN guest editorial)

Chris Hardwick's thoughts on airline security

Comedian and television host Chris Hardwick has a few choice words for the TSA.

Word cloud of underwear-bomber's posts at Islamic forum


"Just / want / allah / help / good / people." Link, requires Java and no adblockers.

Via Wired Danger Room on Twitter, from @i2pi and via @drewconway

Census of the dead, in infographic form


Appfrica has a great infographic that looks at the number of Earth's dead humans and the causes of their deaths, and creates comparisons between the population of the dead and that of the living.

"How many people have ever lived?" The numbers in this piece are highly speculative but are as accurate as modern science allows. It's widely accepted that prior to 2002 there had been somewhere between 106 and 140 billion homo sapiens born to the world.

One interesting fact he digs up: There are more people currently alive in Asia, Africa and Latin America than the total number of people who died—anywhere, and for any reason—during the entire 20th century.

Appfrica: Population of the Dead

(Thanks, Maria Popova!)

Science Question from a Toddler: Why is poop brown?

Two Science Questions from a Toddler in the same month? It's a Festivus miracle! Or, you know, the unexpected byproduct of trying to write weekly blog posts during a month where damn-near all the sources you need to talk to are on vacation.

Read the rest

Pantsbomber psyche laid bare in messageboard archives (corrected)

Now that we've gazed inside what is purported to be Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's explosives-laden underwear, let's look inside his mind, by way of an archive of postings he made to the Islamic discussion website

Would the prophet Muhammad have played soccer, were he alive today? Is it okay to eat meals with my parents, even though they're unclean? All this and more he asked, and we know this because Wired Danger Room dug up a slew of links.

The following post is credited to "Farouk1986", whose email was listed as

First of all, i have no friend. Not because i do not socialise, etc but because either people do not want to get too close to me as they go partying and stuff while i dont, or they are bad people who befriend me and influence me to do bad things. Hence i am in a situation where i do not have a friend, i have no one to speak too, no one to consult, no one to support me and i feel depressed and lonely. i do not know what to do. And then i think this loneliness leads me to other problems. As i get lonely, the natural sexual drive awakens and i struggle to control it, sometimes leading to minor sinful activities like not lowering the gaze.
And in the next line, "i want to talk about is my dilemma between liberalism and extremism." Here's one from a few months later in 2005, in which Farouk1986 discusses having found happiness in Yemen:
After a hard battle deciding where to go and what to do, i finally ended up in Yemen. I'm doing a 3 month arabic course and so far it is just great. There are a lot of Brits and Americans also studying in the Institute i'm studying in, Sana'a institute of Arabic Languages-
Wired Danger Room post

(Correction: an earlier version of this post quoted items now understood to have been posted by a different user of the forums).

HOWTO make an Instructables restaurant


Stone soup for online crowdsourcing DIYers! This month, the folks at launched a pilot for creating a working restaurant (or a fun dinner party) using crowdsourcing. The whole thing is a collection of other Instructables on the site. Arne Hendriks says:

This means not only the food but also the lights, the furniture, the decoration etc. Of course everything in the place comes with full credits and instructions so people leave the restaurant knowing how to re-create all the things they used and ate.

Make an Instructables Restaurant (Thanks, Arne!)

Hamburger, or $115 seafood platter? How restaurants use marketing psychology to make the sale

New York magazine breaks down the menu at Balthazar, with help from author William Poundstone, to show you how tricks of typography make a difference in what you choose to eat (and pay for).

Columns Are Killers According to Brandon O'Dell, one of the consultants Poundstone quotes in Priceless, it's a big mistake to list prices in a straight column. "Customers will go down and choose from the cheapest items," he says. At least the Balthazar menu doesn't use leader dots to connect the dish to the price; that draws the diner's gaze right to the numbers. Consultant Gregg Rapp tells clients to "omit dollar signs, decimal points, and cents ... It's not that customers can't check prices, but most will follow whatever subtle cues are provided."

New York Magazine: Menu Mind Games

"The Internet may kill newspapers; And that might not matter"

Can a world without newspapers survive? Sure, says The Economist. What matters is the availability and quality of the news, not the medium that delivers it.

Fruit of the Boom

undiebomber2.jpg ABC News has published an "exclusive" series of photographs identified as the customized undergarments of a fellow who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound plane over the holidays with the explosive PETN. Above, an image identified on as "UNDERWEAR WITH EXPLOSIVE PACKET." I wonder how they obtained these images, and from whom?

The photo series also includes separate detail shots of explosive powder packet, and the syringe which, according to reports, contained some sort of acid that was to aid in the detonation process—thankfully, it failed. A quick YouTube search yields several videos of questionable origin with titles like "PETN 40" and "PETN 50 UNDERWATER," presumably X grams of the explosive being detonated. If the videos and quantities are legit, it really is frightening to imagine what 80 grams in the dude's drawers could have done if he'd succeeded.

This is the creepiest wide-distribution media image I can remember seeing for many years. What distasteful internet parodies and fetish riffs may yet come?

What better way to round out this scorched and shitty decade than to gaze thoughtfully into the charred, soiled underpants of a stranger. A troubled young man who seems to have hated America only as much as he hated his own junk.

EXCLUSIVE: Photos of the Northwest Airlines Flight 253 Bomb (ABC NEWS)

Meet Oscar the Naked Cockatoo

Oscar is a lady cockatoo who's had a hard life, but survived it to find happiness and love. Her life story is like a Hallmark movie for the Internet.

Star Wars/A-Team intro mashup

It's giving me insane visions of a Star Wars starring Dirk Benedict and Mr. T. [via @mistercharlie] More: The creator's Star Wars-Airwolf mashups are even better: rebel and imperial.

What storytelling risks could Avatar have taken?

Illustration: =Em-j-akahana Avatar doesn't have a bad story, but its unswerving direction does make it a predictable one. Since the internet's already hashed out the cultural angles of James Cameron's splendid epic, let's take a look at the storytelling mechanics--something he approached with a caution only $400M buys.Read the rest

Inside the kinda secret world of Facebook Community Council


I have newfound respect for online moderators who slog through potentially problematic user content all day. They get a real glimpse into the downside of humanity.

Facebook developers recently initiated me into Facebook Community Council, a secret shadow organization of vigilantes who destroy the content of ne'er-do-wells and miscreants. Our Council's blood oath: "To harness the power and intelligence of Facebook users to support us in keeping Facebook a trusted and vibrant community."

There's a whiff of McCarthyism or worse to the whole notion of people in a community reporting others for un-Facebookian activities. I signed up immediately. Immediately after I passed a tutorial and got certified, I got a long hard look at the seamy underbelly of Facebook and the nebulous concept of "community standards."

Read the rest

Weekly World News on Google Books

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Over at Orange Crate Art, Michael Leddy spotted old print issues of that bastion of great journalism, The Weekly World News, archived on Google Books! I want to believe! Weekly World News on Google Books

Kim Peek, inspiration for Rain Man, RIP

Kim Peek, the savant who inspired the film Rain Man, died from a heart attack on December 19. He was 58. From the New York Times (image from Wikimedia Commons):
 Wikipedia Commons 3 34 Peek1 "He was the Mount Everest of memory," Dr. Darold A. Treffert, an expert on savants who knew Mr. Peek for 20 years, said in an interview.

Mr. Peek had memorized so many Shakespearean plays and musical compositions and was such a stickler for accuracy, his father said, that they had to stop attending performances because he would stand up and correct the actors or the musicians.

"He'd stand up and say: 'Wait a minute! The trombone is two notes off,' " (his father) Fran Peek said.

Mr. Peek had an uncanny facility with the calendar.

"When an interviewer offered that he had been born on March 31, 1956, Peek noted, in less than a second, that it was a Saturday on Easter weekend," Dr. Treffert and Dr. Daniel D. Christensen wrote about Mr. Peek in Scientific American in 2006.

They added: "He knows all the area codes and ZIP codes in the U.S., together with the television stations serving those locales. He learns the maps in the front of phone books and can provide MapQuest-like travel directions within any major U.S. city or between any pair of them. He can identify hundreds of classical compositions, tell when and where each was composed and first performed, give the name of the composer and many biographical details, and even discuss the formal and tonal components of the music. Most intriguing of all, he appears to be developing a new skill in middle life. Whereas before he could merely talk about music, for the past two years he has been learning to play it."

"Kim Peek, Inspiration for 'Rain Man,' Dies at 58" (Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!)

Photos of standpipes with anti-sitting devices

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My nephew Ari Pescovitz, a metal sculptor and architecture grad student, spent the fall living in New York City for an internship. He became intrigued by the structures used to prevent people from sitting on standpipes. (Maybe that's why they're called standpipes, and not sitpipes! *rimshot*) "It amused me how hostile and creative New Yorkers were in not wanting people to slow down and rest," Ari says. So he began to photograph the standpipes as bits of urban engineering. Ari did find an exception to the anti-sitting technology though: a stand-pipe outfitted with a tiny seat. Above it was a sign: "Please be seated -- rest, dream, this is New York." The seat was sponsored by a realty firm.

Japanese space food


In Tokyo yesterday, I bought three packs of Japanese space food at a science museum. Pictured here are a pack of daigaku imo (candied sweet potatoes) and takoyaki (balls of batter with octopus in them). I tried takoyaki, chocolate cake, and pudding. They were all pretty decent, but the pudding — advertised as not too sweet, with a smooth, melting texture — was the only one that I could actually see myself wanting to eat again. For six bucks, though, I think I'll stick to real food as long as I'm on earth.

Listen up, little ladies!

GirlTalk Radio is a podcast made by girls who love math and science. Hosted by 11-to-16 year olds, the program features interviews with diverse cadre of science-minded women—from stem cell researchers and computer scientists, to marine biologists and computational linguists. Even a CIA intelligence officer. Worth a listen for geek girls of all ages. (Thanks, Deborah Berebichez!)

President Obama, It's Time To Fire the TSA

Our former colleague Joel Johnson, over at Gizmodo: President Obama, It's Time To Fire the TSA. Joel, I sing this kumbaya right along with you.

Fun with Wikipedia: Click to Jesus


Working between Christmas and New Year's? Still with relatives for the holidays and looking for a Christmas-themed way to pass the time till your flight home? You can play a game with coworkers or family called Click to Jesus.†

1. Go over to Wikipedia.
2. Click "Random Article" just below the Wikipedia unfinished Death Star logo.
3. Choose the link in the article you think will get you closest to the Jesus article.
4. Keep track of the articles. Continue step 3 until you arrive at Jesus.

1 point for Random page
1 point for each click
1 point for Jesus page

Tally and compare with friends!
† Fun variants include Click to Buddha, Click to Muhammad, Click to Hitler, or Click to Cher. Sadly, Click to Raptor Jesus can no longer be played, since that article was merged to "internet meme" after heated debate.

Time-lapse video of the Northern Lights


I've seen the northern lights once, at a cabin weekend in Wisconsin a couple of years ago. It's a strange thing to experience, especially at that latitude, where the lights aren't as in-your-face as this photo. For the first minute or so, you kind of wonder whether you're hallucinating. Then you realize that everybody else is standing perfectly still and silent, staring at the exact same point in the sky.

This time-lapse video (you'll have to follow the link to watch) shows a far more spectacular display over the Ringebu Fjell in southern Norway, captured by photographer Bernd Proschold. The moment when the clouds clear away, and the lights burst into view is absolutely breathtaking.

The World At Night: A Glimpse of the Far North

(Thanks, Chris Combs!)

Still image taken in Greenland by Flickr user nickrussill. Used via CC.

Demi Moore's lawyers threaten Boing Boing over photo analysis blog post

(Click for large. Two versions of W Magazine cover featuring Demi Moore, one for the US edition, one for Korea.

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Odd Victoria's Secret image analyzed with Photoshop forensics

Here's a forensic "hacker analysis" of a Victoria's Secret image which was featured on Photoshop Disasters. The analysis begins with what appear to be tell-tale signs of clumsy digital manipulation, but goes on to explain how to peel back data in such images to understand how they've been processed. I've pinged Victoria's Secret for comment, and will update if a reply arrives.

GSM security defeated by German hacker: NYT on CCC

News from the Chaos Computer Congress hits the New York Times. 28-year old computer engineer Karsten Nohl today announced "that he had deciphered and published the secret code used to encrypt most of the world's digital mobile phone calls, in what he called an attempt to expose weaknesses in the security of the world's wireless systems."

Welcome to the Boing Boing guestblog, Andrea James!

I am very happy to introduce Boing Boing's latest guest blogger, Andrea James. She explains....
andrea-james.jpg I'm a writer, activist and filmmaker. I wrote ads in Chicago for ten years, which led me into consumer activism that focuses on quackery and fraud, especially in medicine and academia.

I also work on behalf of the transgender community. I maintain Transsexual Road Map, a site on the practical aspects of gender transition, and HairFacts, a spinoff general-market site on hair removal. In 2003, I moved to LA and co-founded Deep Stealth Productions, to counter the dismal depiction of trans people in the media and to expand my earlier web-based educational efforts. I founded GenderMedia Foundation and serve on the board of Outfest, which showcases and preserves LGBTQ media, as well as TransYouth Family Allies, which helps families with gender-variant children.

I am also very interested in online phenomena like hoaxes, trolling, the free culture movement, social networking, and crowdsourcing projects like Wikipedia. Please email me with any tips or thoughts you'd like to share, or just to say hi!

Welcome, Andrea!

Do new post-pantsbomber TSA security directives kill inflight WiFi? (UPDATED)


Buried in the TSA security directive issued to airlines on Saturday, after a Nigerian man reportedly attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound flight, is this:

1. During flight, the aircraft operator must ensure that the following procedures are followed (...)

# Disable aircraft-integrated passenger communications systems and services (phone, internet access services, live television programming, global positioning systems) prior to boarding and during all phases of flight.

So, does this effectively kill off in-flight wireless internet services such as GoGo? What about in-flight video, like the Boing Boing Video channel on-board Virgin America, or Direct TV presentation of 24 hour news channels like CNN or MSNBC?

For what it's worth, when I flew back into the US on Saturday on an international Delta flight, the WiFi service which had been promised on the flight was disabled for the entire flight. When I asked attendants whether internet access was simply not working, or had been disabled, two attendants replied that WiFi is typically only offered during the last hour of the flight, and would not be available at all because of restrictions on "last hour" acvitity.

Saturday's TSA directive was initially aimed at international flights, but portions have also been implemented haphazardly on an assortment of domestic US flights, too ("keep 'em on their toes!" seems to be the prevailing explanation for the lack of consistency in implementation). This TSA Q&A for travelers doesn't answer the question. (Leaked text of directive from Boarding Area blog, via Jason Calacanis)

UPDATE, 10am PT: I reached out to sources at US-based airlines today by email, and one replied to say that as presently understood, the TSA directive has not yet been implemented on domestic flights. Some international flights connect within the US, however, and if in-flight internet is disabled on that aircraft, they typically cannot turn the service back on until the plane "overnights" somewhere.