Data mining the intellectual history of the human race with Google Book Search

Harvard's Jean-Baptiste Michel, Erez Lieberman Aiden and colleagues have been analyzing the huge corpus of literature that Google digitized in its Book Search program, and they're uncovering absolutely fascinating information about our cultural lives, the evolution of language, the secret history of the world, censorship and even public health. It's all written up in a (regwalled) paper in Science, "Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books":

When the team looked at the frequency of individual years, they found a consistent pattern. In their own words: "'1951' was rarely discussed until the years immediately preceding 1951. Its frequency soared in 1951, remained high for three years, and then underwent a rapid decay, dropping by half over the next fifteen years." But the shape of these graphs is changing. The peak gets higher with every year and we are forgetting our past with greater speed. The half-life of '1880' was 32 years, but that of '1973' was a mere 10 years.

The future, however, is becoming ever more easily ingrained. The team found that new technology permeates through our culture with growing speed. By scanning the corpus for 154 inventions created between 1800-1960, from microwave ovens to electroencephalographs, they found that more recent ones took far less time to become widely discussed.

The cultural genome: Google Books reveals traces of fame, censorship and changing languages (via Beyond the Beyond)

British oral histories document rural life in late 19th/early 20th cen

The British Library has posted a collection of 250 sound recordings made by oral historian George Ewart Evans, "between 1956 and 1977, many in Suffolk, with a smaller number in Wales, Ireland and Scotland. The recordings document rural life and agricultural work in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, folk beliefs about animals, medicine and witchcraft, folk and popular songs."

I'm pretty taken by interview with unidentified borstal inmate used in preparing the book 'Horse power and magic' (London, 1979).

George Ewart Evans collection (via Warren Ellis)

Star Wars text crawl dress

Chenoa, a hairdresser at The Beehive in Vancouver, BC, made this amazing Star Wars text-crawl dress with matching headband.

My friend dressed up as the scroll from Star Wars (via Neatorama)

Weird D&D advice-column questions

Here's a roundup of some of the weirdest questions posed to Dungeon Magazine's "Sage Advice" column for dungeon masters and players of TSR's Dungeons and Dragons.

Help, My Half-Elf Is Pregnant! The 11 Strangest Questions From The D&D 'Sage Advice' Column (via Neatorama)

Art Nouveau insurance ad

This early 1900s Art Nouveau Equitable Insurance ad originally ran in Harper's Monthly -- more than a century later, I still find it compelling.

Decorated Insurance Ad

John K's new online store

If you're a fan of John Kricfalusi -- and who isn't -- you will love the T-shirts he is selling in his online store called Cartoon Thrills. You are sure to enjoy the jaunty music that begins playing as soon as the site loads as well. Who needs coffee when you have peppy sites like this available to provide you with the get up and go you need to make it through the day?

John K. Store

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund's Kickstarter project to make a Transmetropolitan art book

As the tenth anniversary of Transmetropolitan's final issue draws near, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has embarked on a Kickstarter project to create a limited edition hardcover featuring new illustrations from a superstar list of comics artists. The book will be used as a fundraising premium for CBLDF, which defends the free speech rights of comics creators, publishers and retailers. Artists who've been tapped for the project include:
Aaron Alexovich, Martin Ansin, Brandon Badeaux, Edmund Bagwell, Joe Benitez, Rick Berry, Nicholas Bradshaw, Dan Brereton, Evan Bryce, Stephanie Buscema, Jim Calafiore, Cliff Chiang, Katie Cook, Molly Crabapple, Camilla d'Errico, Michael Dialynas, Aaron Diaz, Kristian Donaldson, Ryan Dunlavey, Gary Erskine, Simon Fraser, Richard Friend, Dan Goldman, Cully Hamner, Matt Howarth, K Thor Jensen, Lukas Ketner, Sam Kieth, Clint Langley, Jeff Lemire, Corey Lewis, Milo Manara, John McCrea, Kevin Mellon, Moritat, Dean Motter, J O'Barr, Len O'Grady, Alberto Ponticelli, Rodney Ramos, Paul Renaud, Afua Richardson, Darick Robertson, Jimmie Robinson, James Romberger, Nei Ruffino, Tim Seeley, Liam Sharp, Alex Sheikman, Paul Sizer, Fiona Staples, Dave Taylor, Spike Trotman, Pete Venters, Matthew Weldon, Pete Woods, JK Woodward, Annie Wu, ...and many others.
Transmet is the comic that got me seriously interested in the form again in my late 20s. It's truly a seminal work, and the CBLDF is one of my favorite activist groups.

The TRANSMETROPOLITAN art book (via Super Punch)

Indy cartoonist elated to find torrents of his work

Dubber sez, "NZ cartoonist Dylan Horrocks stumbled across a torrent of all 10 issues of his independent comic 'Pickle' on Demonoid. Rather than issue a takedown notice or complain, he left a complimentary note on the site and linked to it on his blog. Share and enjoy." (Thanks, Dubber, via Submitterator)

Cuba launches Wikipedia clone "EcuRed," but needs a little help


As you may have heard, this week the government of Cuba launched a state-approved online encyclopedia, called EcuRed.

"Its philosophy is the accumulation and development of knowledge, with a democratizing, not profitable, objective, from a decolonizer point of view," reads a statement on the site.

There are already nearly 20,000 articles in the index—an impressive start. Perhaps next they'll mirror those 250,000 WikiLeaks cables (minus the ones about Cuba, of course).

But, look. There. I fixed it for you. You're welcome.

National Security Archive director on "Wikimania," and the dangers of demonizing WikiLeaks

Thomas Blanton, executive director of the National Security Archive, was among those who testified today before the House Judiciary Committee on the aftermath of "Cablegate" and Wikileaks. Blanton believes efforts to tighten secrecy and crack down on leakers and press will be "fundamentally self-defeating."
"There is more heat than light," Blanton stated, citing calls for broadening the Espionage Act and assassinating Wikileaks leader, Julian Assange. Hasty punitive reactions, he predicted, "will actually produce more leaks, more crackdowns, less accountable government, and diminished security."

"History shows we end up doing more damage from the overreaction than from the original leak."

More on his statements here. (via Submitterator, thanks jennybean42)

Wikileaks: Cables show India accused of widespread, systematic torture in Kashmir


A new set of diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks tonight is parsed by The Guardian, and includes revelations that:

US diplomats in Delhi were briefed in 2005 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) about the use of electrocution, beatings and sexual humiliation against hundreds of detainees. Other cables show that as recently as 2007 American diplomats were concerned about widespread human rights abuses by Indian security forces, who they said relied on torture for confessions.

Other cables released tonight reveal that:

• The Dalai Lama has told US officials that combating climate change is more urgent than finding a political solution in Tibet, which "can wait five to 10 years".

• Rahul Gandhi, the crown prince of Indian politics, believes Hindu extremists pose a greater threat to his country than Muslim militants, according to the American ambassador to India.

• Five doctors were coerced by the Sri Lankan government to recant on casualty figures they gave to journalists in the last months of island's brutal civil war.

WikiLeaks cables: India accused of systematic use of torture in Kashmir

Report: Designer arrested over pro-Wikileaks Anonymous press release

According to this item, Alex Tapanaris, whose name appears in the document properties for a PDF press release attributed to Anonymous during last week's pro-Wikileaks DDOS-a-thon, has been arrested. His web site is now offline, too.

House Judiciary Committee hearing on WikiLeaks: Video

Video Link. C-Span's archive of the House Judiciary Committee hearing today on WikiLeaks, the Espionage Act, and the US Constitution. (via @EFF)

Security (BB Flickr Pool)

A photograph contributed by Joshua Koonce to the Boing Boing Flickr Pool.

Pro-Tibet protests in New Delhi (photo)

A Tibetan exile shouts while being detained in a police vehicle during a protest outside the hotel where Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is staying, in New Delhi on December 15, 2010. Wen, accompanied by more than 400 business leaders, seeks to boost trade with India and soothe tensions between the world's fastest-growing major economies when he visits on Wednesday. (REUTERS/Adnan Abidi)