Shyama Golden's enormous oil painting "Home Sweet Brachiosaurus" offers a cozy vision of domestic life in the bowels of a prehistoric enormous herbivore. It previously hung in Austin's Progress Coffee, which is just another reason that Austin's such a fab place.
A Reddit user noticed an odd pattern of upvotes for stories related to G4 TechTV and various other game-related companies. After a little investigation, the firms in question came clean (or at least, accounts seeming to belong to them came clean), and admitted that they had a relationship with a pro linkspammer ("social networking specialist") who was running up to 20 Reddit identities at once and using them to game the outcomes. The linkspammer (or at least, an account seeming to belong to the linkspammer) has admitted it:
I would go into why I do social media but it's personal and I don't like to give out personal information. Btw. As masterofhyrule. I would like to say I didn't spam digg back then, I just added a bunch of friends to share to to get my videos on the front page but when I saw it hit top 10 I was surprised. I didn't do the videos for money, I did it to be popular and the reason I was banned from digg back then wasn't because of spam, it was from the greasemonkey script that 100+ users used. Just wanted to clear that up even thoughts been 3 years about. Feel free to attack me, just please don't hate the sites, they aren't the problem.
The comment threads in question are a fascinating glimpse into the corrosive effect of astroturfing on social relationships -- a kind of social media reenactment of The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street -- as Redditors rage against the house of mirrors and wonder who among them are simply sock-puppets for the wrongdoers.
Of course, this is the sort of thing that HB Gary was developing for use in the middle east, to destroy the burgeoning public discourse and turn neighbors against each other "own the narrative."
Meanwhile, the spammer's account of his own actions is so far in denial, so wounded and broken, you get a picture of some kind of savant psychopath festering in his begrimed underwear in a basement somewhere, plaintively mourning the loss of his make-believe "friends" who always showed up to agree with everything he said.
Ed Vaizey, the UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries has admitted that he is in talks with ISPs to create a voluntary national firewall. Big copyright companies would petition to have sites they don't like added to the secret national blacklist, and the ISPs would decide -- without transparency or judicial review -- whether to silently block Britons from seeing the censored sites.
Peter from the Open Rights Group adds, "Website blocking is a bad idea, especially on a self-regulatory basis where vital judicial oversight is bypassed.
The good news is that he has promised to invite civil society groups to participate in future discussions on the matter.
You can help explain the problems by writing to your MP at ORG's website."
Minister confirms site blocking discussions
(Thanks, PeterBradwell, via Submitterator!)
Oil giant BP reports that an employee lost a laptop containing personal data for 13,000 people seeking compensation for the 2010 Gulf oil spill. The data included SSNs, phone numbers, and other identifying info; it wasn't encrypted, and the circumstances in which the device was lost aren't clear. BBC, CNN, AP.
I know this story on Planet Green—all about the edible "meat glue" that holds together everything from imitation crab sticks and chicken nuggets to modernist chef cuisine—is supposed to make me freak out and only want to eat organic, whole foods from the farmer's market.
Trouble is: I kind of think meat glue sounds pretty cool. I like the fact that we've found new ways to use scraps and parts of meat that aren't sell-able on their own. That alone is nothing new. Humans have been doing that for centuries (See: sausage, soup stock). Transglutaminase—meat glue's real name—is just a newer tool. And it doesn't even sound particularly scary or gross. At least, not to this honest-with-herself omnivore.
Technically called thrombian, or transglutaminase (TG), it is an enzyme that food processors use to hold different kinds of meat together. TG is an enzyme that catalyzes covalent bonds between free amine groups in a protein, like lysine, and gamma-caroxminid groups, like glutamine. These bonds are pretty durable and resist degradation once the food has been formed.
Thrombian is made from pig or cow blood, though you'll see it on labels, if at all, as "composite meat product."
It's a naturally occurring enzyme, derived from animal blood. When you put it that way, it's easy to understand why the EU—which tends to be more stringent on rules about food additives than the United States—voted nearly unanimously in favor of allowing transglutaminase to be used in products sold in EU countries.
Personally, I'm with wrecksdart, who Submitterated this, in wondering where I can get transglutaminase, and what ridiculous foods I can make at home with it. Animal-shaped meatloaf pops, here I come.
According to the suit, a nuclear power watchdog group received in February 2010 calls and emails from workers in the plant regarding shortcuts on testing new generators, safety violations, and a "culture of cover-up." The Nuclear Regulatory Commission then sent a letter to Southern California Edison regarding the "chilling effect" of the work environment at the plant, the suit claims. The letter was to make sure the company encouraged workers to speak up about safety concerns.
The suit claims that when Diaz told his boss, Pamela Panek, about concerns brought to his attention by other employees, he was told not to address the complaints. According to the suit, management also told the employees they should not have talked to him about the problems.
A group of MIT students have used a Microsoft Kinect sensor-package to enable a UAV to map and fly circuits around a room:
Students have developed a real-time visual odometry system that can use a Kinect to provide fast and accurate estimates of a vehicle's 3D trajectory. This system is based on recent advances in visual odometry research, and combines a number of ideas from the state-of-the-art algorithms. It aligns successive camera frames by matching features across images, and uses the Kinect-derived depth estimates to determine the camera's motion.
Politico today reports an update related to a BB item earlier in the week: A NYT story (sparked by this story in a German newspaper) "revealed the extent to which Deutsche Telekom tracked and stored location data for one German politician." Congresscritters Ed Markey and Joe Barton read the Times piece, and were so upset, they "fired off letters Tuesday afternoon to top carriers AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, asking them to detail the kind of cellphone location data they collect, how they collect it, how the data is stored and for how long. More here. (via EFF)
Bhob Stewart says: "There were variations on the Mad logo by several artists. This is Wood's concept plus quick sketches and a few random free associations." See it bigger over at Bhob's excellent site about (mainly) EC publications, Potrzebie.
UPDATE: CSMcDonald commented: "Unfortunately it looks like Cumming (town in Georgia north of Atlanta) has changed their domain name - cummingfirst.com now goes to a site that is definitely not the church. The church is now at http://www.cfumcga.com/"
Consequences of the nuclear crisis in Japan continue to expand. The March 11 quake and tsunami left 28,000 people dead or missing, and triggered a series of increasingly grave problems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The highest values were found in a relatively small area in the Northwest from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. First assessment indicates that one of the IAEA operational criteria for evacuation is exceeded in Iitate village. We advised the counterpart to carefully access the situation. They indicated that they are already assessing.
PHOTO—CLICK FOR LARGE: A medical staff screens a boy for signs of radioactivity contamination at an evacuation center in Fukushima, northern Japan, on March 30, 2011. (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)
UPDATE: a clarification for BB, from Dave Walsh at Greenpeace:
Our measurements were comparable to that of the Japanese authorities - where we differed was on the action that should be taken. Our criticism is that the 20km evacuation zone is too arbitrary, and doesn't take into account pockets of high radioactivity elsewhere. The high levels of radioactivity in places like Iitate are high enough that anyone spending time there would get the maximum allowable annual dose in just few days. So, although our measurements are in line with the authorities, we're advocating evacuation of places that they are not.
Photo of bhut jolokia fruit by Matt Rudge. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
David sent me an ad for bhut jolokia pepper plants, which have a Scoville rating of slightly more than one million. They cost $16 including shipping.
Also known as the ghost pepper, or dorset naga, it is listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the world's hottest pepper.
To give you an idea of how hot this pepper is, here's an excerpt from an article I wrote a long time ago called "The Cult of Capsaicin."
Chileheads are hooked on high doses of capsaicin, gobbling up ultra-hot peppers and food smothered in blistering sauces like Cyanide DOA, Satan's Blood, and Toxic Waste. This stuff is almost unimaginably hot. You have to taste some to understand. Try this: put a couple of drops of Tabasco Sauce on your tongue. Hot, right? Tabasco Sauce rates between 2,500 and 5,000 on the Scoville scale, the standard measurement system for chile pepper heat. Now try a drop of Mad Dog Inferno, a ridiculously hot sauce that clocks in at 90,000 Scoville units. As I chewed ice cubes and blinked away tears after touching a miniscule droplet of Mad Dog Inferno to my tongue from the tip of a toothpick, I knew I'd never make it as a chilehead.
That's because I'm not a nontaster, explains Dave DeWitt, author of 30 books about chile peppers and spicy foods, including The Whole Chile Pepper Book and The Hot Sauce Bible. DeWitt is referring to a Yale surgeon's study in the 1970s that identified three types of people: nontasters, medium tasters, and supertasters. Nontasters are born with as few as 11 taste buds per square centimeter of tongue, while supertasters can have as many as 1,100 taste buds crammed into the same area. Capsaicin has no taste, but taste buds not only sense flavor, they also transmit pain and temperature signals to the brain. That's why nontasters can tolerate high doses of spice, says DeWitt, who considers chileheads to be on the far right side of the pepper bell curve. "In any movement you have your fringe element," he says.
For a chilehead, 90,000 Scovilles is pabulum. Andy Barnhart, a recently retired chief scientist for a telecommunications company in Maryland, likes to dump habanero powder (400,000 Scovilles) on his ice cream "until it turns almost black." But even that doesn't turn Barnhart's crank like it used to. "I've now gotten into Pure Cap; that is really hot stuff," says Barnhart, 61. "I blend it with a little alcohol to preserve it and I put it in a bottle with an eyedropper and I carry it around with me." (Pure Cap, a 570,000 Scoville unit extract, isn't the same as pure capsaicin, which, at 16 million Scovilles, is as hot as it gets.) If Barnhart comes across a bowl of soup or a drink that doesn't provide a sufficient jolt, he pulls out the eyedropper and gives it a squirt.
PHOTO, CLICK FOR LARGE: An aerial view from a height of some 1,500 meters (4,920 feet) and distance of more than 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, March 29, 2011. From right are the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 reactors. (REUTERS/Kyodo)
Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said the exact cause of the high iodine concentration remains unknown but that data collected by the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. indicate radiation that has leaked at the site during the ongoing crisis "somehow" flowed into the sea. He reiterated that the polluted seawater does not pose an immediate risk to health because fishing is not being conducted in the evacuation zone within 20 kilometers of the plant and radiation-emitting substances would be "significantly diluted" by the time they are consumed by marine species and then by people.
From the Google Blog today, news that the company will build an "ultra high-speed network" in Kansas City, Kansas. "We've signed a development agreement with the city, and we'll be working closely with local organizations, businesses and universities to bring a next-generation web experience to the community."
The native wildlife of the Florida Everglades is under attack by thousands of Burmese Pythons, thought to be the spawn of pet snakes that have escaped or were abandoned by their owners. To understand the impact of these predators on endangered birds, wildlife biologists at Everglades National Park have sought the help of Carla Dove, head of the National Museum of Natural History’s Feather Identification Lab. Dove's specialty is identifying dead birds that have been hit by planes, for examples, or, in this case, are inside the bellies of captured (and killed?) pythons. From Smithsonian:
The first way to prove the danger they’re causing to the environment is to figure out what they’re eating and how much of it they’re eating,” Dove says. So (Everglades biologist Skip) Snow began sending Dove stomach samples from captured pythons.
Identifying any birds in such samples is messy, time-consuming work–a task Dove embraces with gusto. “My job is not so glamorous,” she says, picking up a brown glob in a plastic sandwich bag. She washes it in warm water, then dries it with compressed air: “Feathers are made of keratin, like your hair, so they are very durable and easy to clean and dry.” She examines them under a microscope, looking for fine variations in color, size or microstructure that tell her which taxonomic group a given bird belongs to.
Dove then takes the sample into the museum’s collection of 620,000 specimens from more than 8,000 species of birds and looks for a match; it can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. “This is the way we’ve been doing it for 50 years,” she says. “We have DNA now, but DNA is not going to help us in this case”–the python’s digestive system has destroyed or contaminated the genetic material–“so you really have to rely on those basic skills of identifying things based on your experience and your knowledge..."
“This is pretty close to the most memorable work I’ve done,” Dove says, “because it’s been really smelly.”
My wife and I just returned from NYC where we saw "Infinite Variety," an exhibition of 650 red and white quilts. As the husband of a quilter I'm used to going to craft-related events, but this was absolutely breathtaking in scope and presentation. It was nothing short of magical, and I say that with the seriousness of an Amish heart attack. So if you're in NYC today, (the last day of the exhibit) do yourself a favor and check it out--oh, the event is also totally and completely free.
Harry Coover, creator of Super Glue, died on Saturday at age 94. Coover stumbled upon the chemical, called cyanoacrylate, in 1942 while developing gun sights for Eastman Kodak. From the Washington Post:
“The damn problem was everything was sticking to everything else,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “We had a hard time using it in molds.”
In 1951, Dr. Coover was testing a heat-resistant polymer for use in aircraft windshields when he remembered his encounter with cyanoacrylate.
When a colleague permanently bonded the lenses of an expensive optical instrument with a droplet of the liquid, Dr. Coover had an epiphany.
He found that the compound solidified after coming into contact with trace amounts of moisture, creating an extremely strong polymer layer between two surfaces.
“It suddenly struck me that what we had was not a casting material but a super glue,” he said in 2005.
German police are concerned about an increasing number of teens who are reportedly getting drunk using vodka-soaked tampons as the alcohol delivery system. The practice is known as "slimming," a term that hit the Urban Dictionary way back in 2008. From The Local:
Police in the Baden-Württemburg city of Tuttlingen responded Tuesday to growing online chatter among teenagers that they could become intoxicated using the vodka tampons without having alcohol on their breath.
This is not true, police said, denying that it was an effective way to get drunk. They also warned girls that the alcohol could damage vaginal walls and increase the risk of infection. Boys have reportedly also been using tampons anally.