Boing Boing 

Scale model of a war-torn WWII town built and photographed by brain-damaged beating victim

Mark Hogancamp was beaten into a "brain-damaging coma" by five men outside a bar. After he awoke, he devoted himself to building "Marwencol," a 1/6th scale WWII town, in his back yard: "Mark populated the town he dubbed 'Marwencol' with dolls representing his friends and family and created life-like photographs detailing the town's many relationships and dramas. Playing in the town and photographing the action helped Mark to recover his hand-eye coordination and deal with the psychic wounds from the attack. Through his homemade therapy, Mark was able to begin the long journey back into the 'real world', both physically and emotionally - something he continues to struggle with today."

The level of detail is amazing, and heart-wrenching, and sometimes just plain weird and disturbing. But it's also wonderful -- both as a display of sheer craft and dedication, and as a monument to a difficult and painful recovery.

Marwencol (Thanks, Lookforthewoman)

NZ MPs reject software patents

Colin sez, "In New Zealand, Select Committees (cross-party groups of MPs) are part of the law-making process. The committee considering revisions to patent law has come out against software patents, saying that software patents can stifle innovation and competition, and can be granted for trivial or existing techniques."

See you in Seattle this weekend at Norwescon!

I'm headed to Seattle this weekend to be one of the guests of honor at Norwescon, along with (among others), Vernor Vinge. If you're in Seattle and you can make it, I'd love to say hi! Here's my programming schedule for the event:

Read the rest

EFF, AT&T and Google all on the same side of this privacy fight

Here's a turn-up for the books: AT&T, Google, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and many others have formed a pro-privacy coalition that's asked Congress for updates to wiretapping laws to close loopholes that make it easy to listen in on "Web 2.0" without a warrant: "the current electronic privacy laws are woefully outdated and must be updated to provide clear privacy protections that reflect the always-on, location-enabled, Web 2.0 world of the 21st century." (EFF is suing AT&T over its complicity in the Bush-era illegal NSA wiretapping, and has filed an objection to Google's Book Search settlement on privacy grounds -- it says something that all three organizations agree on the need for this update to privacy law)

LibDems won't support Digital Economy Bill at all

W00t! After pressure from party members, MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates, the UK Liberal Democrats have unequivocally withdrawn support for the Digital Rights Bill, a sweeping, 24,000+ word bill that the Labour government are trying to push through Parliament with only a few hours' debate. Previously, the LibDems had supported the idea of the bill going into "wash up" (a streamlined procedure for passing laws without detailed scrutiny or public debate), provided that controversial proposals (such as kicking families off the net if they were accused of infringement) would be referred to another process later on. After public outcry from within the party, the front-bench changed its mind, and the party whip has said, "I have told the Govt we won't support the Digital Economy Bill as drafted. There is not enough time for MPs to examine it in detail." Well done, LibDems!

Lib Dems to fight Digital Economy Bill over 'wash-up'

Profile of a 19-year-old chess champion: chess and madness

"Chess should not become an obsession. Otherwise there's a danger that you will slide off into a parallel world, that you lose your sense of reality, get lost in the infinite cosmos of the game. You become crazy."—19-year-old chess champion Magnus Carlsen. (thanks, Susannah)

Horse-drawn Hummer


Artist Jeremy Dean converted a Hummer H2 into a horse-drawn carriage "to show just how screwed and unsustainable the auto industry has become." Glen E. Friedman has more, including video.

Leonard Baskin: Lepidoptera Fantastica


Ian J. Kahn of antiquarian booksellers Lux Mentis got a hold of some extremely rare books by Leonard Baskin, who is best known as a sculptor. Link to a large-size scan of the image in this post, and here's a larger gallery. The collection will be on display at an upcoming antiquarian book fair in NYC, April 9-11.

A Day in Paris: short film by Benoit Millot

Filmmaker Benoît Millot brought this lovely, dreamy live-action + 3D animated short film to my attention, and I'm so glad he did. Sort of a trippy, shoegazey Up in the Air meets Transformers. Been out a couple months, but new to me. Shot on a Canon 7D Mark I, and it shows. Music: Electric President "I'm Not The Lonely Son." (Amazon).

A Day in PARIS (Vimeo)

Psychiatrist famed for electroshock as "cure" for homosexuality busted on sex abuse charges

The Canadian psychiatrist nicknamed "Dr. Shock" for his penchant for electroshock treatment as a "cure" for homosexuality among military recruits has been charged with sexually assaulting a male patient. Not a shock. (via Newser)

A serious look at physics in "Hot Tub Time Machine"

Over at io9, an physicist takes a serious look at the physics behind Hot Tub Time Machine. "Let the harrumphing begin!" Includes spoilers. Science aside, I saw the movie over the opening weekend, and laughed a lot. Recommended. Cusack will soon join us here as guestblogger, BTW. (thanks, Wilson Rothman)

Child victim of human trafficking in India consoles distraught Lindsay Lohan

Celebrity advocacy fail: an Indian girl, head shaved, rescued from child trafficking and from the street, is explaining to Lindsay Lohan while BBC documentary cameras roll that her mom and dad used to beat her unless she went out each day to earn money...
lindsay-lohan-001.jpg [B]ut it's hard to concentrate on what she's saying because what's happening behind her is so distracting. Lohan is rubbing her already-red eyes, spreading mascara around the place, twitching her eyebrows.

"Um. Um. Oh my God," the film star says, her lips wobbling uncontrollably. A disembodied hand pops into the screen to pass her a tissue. "Um. How did she feel? Um. How did they treat her?" she asks, beginning to sob.

The small girl turns to look at her in bemusement. The translator gives an embarrassed laugh and says to the girl: "She's crying for you. Why don't you comfort her?" So we watch as the puzzled child dutifully strokes Lohan's long mane of golden hair. "Oh my God! Oh my God!" Lohan says, with a husky gasp. "Sorry, I'm having a moment." Mercifully, the camera is then switched off.

Lindsay Lohan's misplaced tears (Guardian, via Aid Watch; thumbnail from photo by BBC/Blakeway Productions. )

Cops' repeated tasering of pregnant woman is okay, says court

A federal appeals court in Seattle ruled this week that three policemen in Seattle did not use excessive force when they tasered Malaika Brooks, a "visibly pregnant woman," multiple times after she refused to sign a speeding ticket. Refusing to sign a ticket is something south of a non-arrestable misdemeanor in the state.

Serving sizes in Last Supper paintings have supersized over the ages

The size of food portions depicted in "Last Supper" paintings over the years has steadily grown, like our waistlines. (via William Gibson)

Bulgarian political scandal over Facebook game Farmville

"A scandal has erupted in the City Council of Bulgaria's Plovdiv as several councilors have been caught milking virtual cows on the Facebook application Farmville. The councilors were first detected playing Farmville two weeks ago during the debates for Plovdiv's 2010 budget." Busted! (via Julian Dibbell)

Trololo cat

Alex Brown, via Jim Graham).

Duct tape for everything

Look at all the ways you can use duct tape!

Erykah Badu's new album is out today (release party in LA tonight)

Release Party_InviteLoth.jpg New Amerykah Part II: Return of the Ankh, Erykah Badu's new album, is out today. It's fantastic. Her record release party is in LA tonight (tickets: El Rey or Ticketmaster), and I'll be there. Excited about catching DJ Nobody's set, too. Look at that lovely poster, after the jump. Who says flyer art is dead? (thanks, Richard Metzger + Tara McGinley)

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Snow ads

They say advertising's an ephemeral medium, but I'm not so sure. I collect old library-bound volumes of Life magazine, and given proper care (and kept away from the razor-clutching hands of people who want to carve them up and sell them piecemeal on eBay) those magazines have some serious shelf life, and so do the bright colorful ads they contain. And there are any number of websites archiving film, TV and radio ads, from the Internet Archive on down. But an agency called Element Six Media is creating ads that really are ephemeral -- as much so as melting snow and drifting sand. It may not be art, exactly, but it sure is arresting. And if the point of advertising is to get you to look, mission accomplished. (Via Inhabitat.)

500 worst passwords


[Link via Laughing Squid]

Gay plus Jesus plus Texas equals clusterfrack

"It's reimagining of the story of Jesus Christ (referred to as Joshua because his mother's husband, Joseph, thinks the name Jesus 'sounds like a Mexican') and his disciples from childhood to crucifixion. The twist: They are all gay men, two of whom are married in a ceremony performed by Joshua -- heralded as the 'King of Queers' before he is crucified." Shocker: A student play about a gay Christ is not going over well with school administrators in Texas. (thanks, Antinous)

Life imitating "The Life of Brian"

San Francisco-based food activist Raj Patel appears on the Colbert Report to promote his new book and accidentally fulfills the messianic prophecies of an obscure religious group. Now, hundreds of followers of Share International refuse to believe he's not the chosen one who will save the world. Patel's parents respond by purchasing "He's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy" T-shirts. (Via Lauren Beukes)

Six random dog questions for It's Me or the Dog host Victoria Stilwell

When I picked up my dog Ruby on Long Island nearly seven years ago, I was surprised to discover that she talks like a human.Read the rest

Heat maps reveal Pac-Man in the moon


The Cassini spacecraft captured this Pac-Man-shaped heat map of Saturn's moon Mimas during a flyby on Februrary 13. Besides the nostalgia value, the map presents some odd questions. Scientists were expecting gradual heat variations on Mimas—where "hot" means "moderately less ungodly frigid", think -294 compared to -320—but these abrupt cut offs are thoroughly curiosity inducing.

This is, by the way, not the first time Mimas has intersected with Earthling geek culture. Previously, it was best known for sporting a giant, centered crater on one side, earning comparisons to the Death Star. Insert your own "that's no moon" joke here.

Boulder Daily Camera: Pac-Man Shaped Hot Spot Graces Saturn's Moon

Where's your Higgs-Boson now? LHC starts colliding particles

OK, to be fair, two rounds of electrical failures did get things off to a rough start. But, in the end, time-traveling particles weren't enough to stop the LHC from finally doing what it was built to do. A little after 1 p.m. Geneva time, the Large Hadron Collider pushed protons to 99 percent of the speed of light and then, well, collided them. It's a big step, but it's not the ultimate goal.

The success in colliding protons marks a remarkable comeback for CERN, but the lab is still only halfway back to where it wanted to be: Only a year and a half ago, the first attempt to start the collider ended with an explosion that left part of its tunnel enveloped in frigid helium gas and soot when an electrical connection between two of the powerful magnets that steer the protons vaporized. A subsequent investigation revealed that the collider is riddled with thousands of such joints, the result of what Lucio Rossi, head of magnets at CERN, said stemmed from a "lack of adequate risk analysis" in a recent report in the online journal Superconductor Science and Technology.

As a result, the collider, which was designed to accelerate protons to 7 trillion electron volts and then smash them together to reveal particles and forces that reigned during the first trillionth of a second of time as we know it, can only be safely run for now at half power. CERN physicists say that operating the collider for a year and a half at this energy level should allow them to gather enough data to start catching up with its American rival, the trillion-volt Tevatron at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, which is smaller but has been running for years and thus has a head start in data. After that, the CERN machine will shut down for a year so that the connections can be rebuilt.

In other words, don't expect the secrets of the universe to be revealed this week.

New York Times, Large Hadron Collider Finally Smashing Properly

Watch physicists get happy in footage recorded during the first collisions last night (from the North American perspective)

Zeus: the excitement of Greek mythology in comic form

George O'Connor's new Olympians series of kids' graphic novels retells the Greek mythos in comic form. The first volume, Zeus: King of the Gods, is just great -- full of dramatic upshots of titans and gods standing astride the globe, wiseacre dialog from the young Zeus, and horrific, crawly and monstrous denizens of Tartaros. There's a great set of lighthearted educational materials at the end, along with RPG-style character sheets for prominent gods and their offspring. The second volume, Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess, comes out in a couple weeks, and on the strength of Zeus, I'll definitely be reading it. If you were lucky enough to discover the Greeks as a kid and remember the excitement of the heroic tales and grotesque comeuppances (not to mention all the creepy incest!), be prepared to renew your exhilaration.

Zeus: King of the Gods

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Raising money to advertise against the Digital Economy Bill on vote-day

38 Degrees is running a fast fundraiser to raise £10,000 to run ads against the Digital Economy Bill in the UK. Parliament has refused to schedule a full debate on this controversial, 24,000+ word bill, and are planning to rush it through via the secretive, undemocratic "wash-up" procedure. 38 Degrees wants to show Parliament that Britons want this bill subjected to the full scrutiny and debate it deserves. I've put my hand in my own pocket for this. I hope you will too: "On the day of the key vote they'll see our opposition over their cornflakes, on their way in to work and over tea in Parliament. If we have enough money we could even make sure their staff see our opposition by placing ads on keys websites."

Update: Having blown through the £10K target in a few hours, they've upped the goal to £20K. Nicely done!

Stop The Digital Economy Bill (Thanks, Jim!)

Philip Pullman on censorship and free speech -- pithy and wonderful

Philip Pullman, addressing an audience at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, was asked about whether his latest book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, was offensive. Here's his reply:

"It was a shocking thing to say and I knew it was a shocking thing to say. But no one has the right to live without being shocked. No one has the right to spend their life without being offended. Nobody has to read this book. Nobody has to pick it up. Nobody has to open it. And if you open it and read it, you don't have to like it. And if you read it and you dislike it, you don't have to remain silent about it. You can write to me, you can complain about it, you can write to the publisher, you can write to the papers, you can write your own book. You can do all those things, but there your rights stop. No one has the right to stop me writing this book. No one has the right to stop it being published, or bought, or sold or read. That's all I have to say on that subject."

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Thanks, Brian!)

ACLU prevails: US Fed Judge invalidates gene patent

United States District Court Judge Robert W. Sweet has invalidated Myriad Genetics's infamous "breast cancer patent" -- a patent on genetic mutations that cause breast cancer, which Myriad has exercised in the form of a high lab-fee for analysis on samples (Myriad threatens to sue any independent lab that performs the analysis).

The suit was brought by the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation, who argued that US Patent and Trademark Office was wrong to grant patents on genes, as these are not patentable subject matter. The judge agreed, saying that gene patents are patents on a "law of nature" and called the isolation of genes and filing patents on them "a lawyer's trick that circumvents the prohibition on the direct patenting of the DNA in our bodies but which, in practice, reaches the same result."

Which sounds to me like a precedent against all patents that rely on isolated genes. Of course, this isn't over: the pharma/biotech stalwarts interviewed in the linked NYT piece are talking appeal, and I'm sure they'll try to go all the way to the Supreme Court.

I think that the problem here is in the untested idea that imparting exclusive rights to the genome will incentivize more research than allowing anyone to build on discoveries in the genome. It's clear that some exclusive rights provide an incentive so some people to do work. But these exclusive rights also scare off people who have good ideas but are worried about being bankrupted by someone who beat them to the patent.

Combined with that is the natural abhorrence many of us feel at the thought that genes might be patented. Genes aren't a good subject for propertization. Your genes aren't even yours -- you didn't create them. Your parents didn't really create them, either. You're your genes' steward, as are we all, and so many of us have a strong intuition that when someone else claims to own something from our genome, they're being ridiculous, or evil, or both.

Myriad Genetics, the company that holds the patents with the University of Utah Research Foundation, asked the court to dismiss the case, claiming that the work of isolating the DNA from the body transforms it and makes it patentable. Such patents, it said, have been granted for decades; the Supreme Court upheld patents on living organisms in 1980. In fact, many in the patent field had predicted the courts would throw out the suit.

Judge Sweet, however, ruled that the patents were "improperly granted" because they involved a "law of nature." He said that many critics of gene patents considered the idea that isolating a gene made it patentable "a 'lawyer's trick' that circumvents the prohibition on the direct patenting of the DNA in our bodies but which, in practice, reaches the same result."

The case could have far-reaching implications. About 20 percent of human genes have been patented, and multibillion-dollar industries have been built atop the intellectual property rights that the patents grant.

ACLU Challenges Patents On Breast Cancer Genes: BRCA

Judge Invalidates Human Gene Patent

(Thanks, Gimpy!)

(Image: Dna rendering, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from ynse's photostream)

Robot seder

In celebration of first night of Passover this evening, I present to you this now-classic video of a robot seder. (Thanks Lissa Soep and Zahavah Levine!)

UPDATE: Apparently the people who own the song used in this video have a thing against robots, resulting in a copyright infringement claim and takedown of the previously embedded clip on YouTube.

UPDATE #2: Glenn Lambert kindly points us to other copies of the video here and here!