Boing Boing 

Space Shuttle Endeavour STS-134 launch: BB liveblog on-site, SpaceFlightNow webcast with Miles O'Brien

Shuttle Endeavour launch webcast hosted by Miles O'Brien at SpaceFlightNow.com

[ 1:53pm ET: ] President Obama is en route despite launch scrub, scheduled to arrive Kennedy Space Center at 2:10pm ET.

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The vitamin rebound effect

I've seen a lot of discussion over the past few years about whether or not taking vitamin pills actually produces any health benefits. Several studies have shown that vitamin-takers are no more healthy than non-vitamin takers. Now, a new study might hold a clue to why that's the case. Turns out, people who take vitamins make less-healthy choices in their daily lives.

HOWTO quilt a 3D Mad Tea Party set


This Mad Tea Party tea-set was painstakingly quilted in 3D by Instructables user Technoplastique who documented the whole process in a great (if somewhat daunting) HOWTO:
This tea set is made with quilting done in a dimensional way. It's a set of 4 teacups, 4 saucers and a teapot. This version is made with a striped fabric so that each teacup has a different design, perfect for a mad tea party. The set is entirely hand sewn, so it's a super project for keeping your hands busy in front of the tv.
Quilted Mad Tea Party Set (Thanks, Christy!)

Low-energy astrophysics: How scientists are trying to save the Earth

Listen to the scientists. That's what we say. When lots of different scientists, working separately, are turning up evidence that the Earth is getting warmer and human activities are to blame, then we should heed their warnings.

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Kid has right idea about royal wedding

royalwedding.jpg Grace van Cutsem, 3, has clearly had enough. Photo: Reuters/Darren Staples.

Online activism works: Canada delayed US-style copyright bill in fear of activist campaign

Michael Geist sez, "A new Wikileaks cable confirms that the Canadian Conservative government delayed introducing copyright legislation in early 2008 due to public opposition. The delay - which followed the decision in December 2007 to hold off introducing a bill after it was placed on the order paper (and the Fair Copyright for Canada Facebook group took off) - lasted until June 2008. The U.S. cable notes confirmation came directly from then-Industry Minister Jim Prentice, who told U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins that cabinet colleagues and Conservative MPs were worried about the electoral implications of copyright reform."
From December 2007 to mid-February, senior GOC officials and well-informed private sector contacts assured the Embassy that legislative calendar concerns were delaying the copyright bill's introduction into Parliament. Our contacts downplayed the small - but increasingly vocal - public opposition to copyright reform led by University of Ottawa law professor Dr. Michael Geist. On February 25, however, Industry Minister Prentice (please protect) admitted to the Ambassador that some Cabinet members and Conservative Members of Parliament - including MPs who won their ridings by slim margins - opposed tabling the copyright bill now because it might be used against them in the next federal election. Prentice said the copyright bill had become a "political" issue. He also indicated that elevating Canada to the Special 301 Priority Watch List would make the issue more difficult and would not be received well.
The bill died, and all its successors have died too.

Wikileaks Cable Confirms Public Pressure Forced Delay of Canadian Copyright Bill in 2008

Most hackable Android phones

Mike Isaac rounds up the most easily-hacked Android smartphones. Spoiler: just get the Galaxy S if you need to root an Android right now. Otherwise, wait for the next one from Sony, whose cellphone department is notably hacker-friendly, in contrast to its hacker-suing department, or, indeed, its department of getting hacked. [Wired]

That's Incredible! and the yogi in the box


Yesterday, my post about John Moschitta, Jr.'s 1981 appearance on That's Incredible! kindled memories among commenters of Yogi "Kudu" who famously contorted himself into a small plexiglass box on the show. For many years I too wondered what became of that fellow. Turns out, most of us have been spelling his name wrong, making it difficult to find any useful information on Google. The magical man is actually Yogi Coudoux and he is alive, well, and living in France where he runs the Centre Yogi Coudoux and still performs amazing feats of the body and mind like "‬La Tarentule," above. ‪ In 2006, he even published a book in the USA, titled Breathing Life: Yogi Coudoux's Pranayama Techniques. Nearly thirty years after That's Incredible!, I wonder if Yogi Coudoux can still squeeze himself into that tiny box.

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Your Secret Entry Into the Spy World


In a marketing move that gives an atomic wedgie to those other lame car advertising campaigns, Acura has become the official vehicle of S.H.I.E.L.D. For those of you not well versed in comic book lore (we won't hold it against you), S.H.I.E.L.D. is the elite secret government crime fighting worldwide peacekeeping agency featured in the upcoming Marvel Studios movie "Thor," in theaters May 6th.

Although some of the details are "classified," you can gain minimal security clearance by becoming an agent through joinSHIELD.com. Start by holding down your "s" key to scan your fingerprint, and begin your climb through the ranks of the agency. With each mission, various Acura models will become your vehicle of choice (just like the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in the movie!), as you vie for a chance to win prizes. Four agents winners will be randomly chosen to win the grand prize: an invitation to Acura's S.H.I.E.L.D. Evasive Driving Center where they'll be trained in the art of evasive and stunt driving maneuvers.

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The monkey tail, a beard

monkeytail-1.jpeg The awesome and epic Monkey Tail is the first major new beard of the twenty-first century and represents a profound innovation in the bearding industry.

Companies should release the source code for discontinued products

Inspired by the death of the Flip camera, Make magazine's Phil Torrone has a call-to-arms for companies that discontinue their projects: "If You're Going To Kill It, Open Source It!" He catalogs a long list of dead products whose firmware remain locked up even though the companies that made them are through with them, from the Aibo to to the Palm Pilot.
Another week, another company killing off a giant product after spending millions of dollars and years developing. Back in 2009 Cisco bought Pure Digital Technology's Flip. Gadget fans and makers were puzzled by this; phones were just about good enough to start beating the Flip. Now, it's heading for the landfill.

Some companies fail, some kill off product lines that are not profitable, but in the end, where does all the knowledge go? Nowhere, usually. In a world of disposable everything, is it time that we demand companies do what's good for humankind in addition to the bottom line?

If companies are going to just kill something off, why not open source it? Some companies do just that, and others, like Nokia, will promise open source (Symbian, dead product) and then quickly reverse itself, locking it up. Pictured above, a Nokia coffin.

If You're Going To Kill It, Open Source It!

Omelet recipe printed on an egg


Dnewman's come up with a clever use for the Egg-Bot ("an open-source art robot that can draw on spherical or egg-shaped objects from the size of a ping pong ball to that of a small grapefruit"): printing an omelet recipe right onto the shell.

Omelet Recipe

Cursive fans attempt, fail to prove cursive is necessary

The ubiquity of computers is supplanting the need for formal, cursive handwriting. So kids today aren't getting as much instruction in cursive. So mumble mumble mumble ... the slow heat death of the Universe. Or something.

Green moon

GreenMoon.jpg

We've talked about the green flash of the Sun, a phenomenon where, just for a moment, the light from a setting or rising Sun appears green, rather than the customary red, pink, or gold. It happens when Earth's atmosphere separates the wavelengths of light coming from the Sun in just the right way.

The image above is the one of the best known photographs of the green flash of the Moon. Yes, the Moon can flash green, too. But it's a lot harder to spot. Engineers at the European Southern Observatory in Chile took this series of photos.

New Scientist: A rare green flash from the Moon

The complicated science of tornadoes and climate

4-27-11 Tornado Tuscaloosa, Al from Crimson Tide Productions on Vimeo.

Is the number of tornadoes that happens every year going up? And, if so, is it a climate change thing? A natural variation? A little of both? Over at Time, Ecocentric writer Bryan Walsh digs into the complicated reality behind the inevitable questions.

What we really want to know is: did climate change play a role in the monster tornadoes of April, and will a warming world see more destructive cyclones like these? (I know this because my editor, as he's wont to do after major weather events, walked down to my office and asked me, "Bryan, does climate change play a role in this?")

Scientists really don't know. It's true that the average number of April tornadoes has steadily increased from 74 a year in the 1950s to 163 a year in the 2000s. But most of that increase, as A.G. Sulzberger reports in the New York Times, comes from the least powerful tornadoes, the ones that touch down briefly without causing much damage. Those are exactly the kind of tornadoes that would have been missed by meteorologists in the days before the Weather Channel and Doppler radar--scientists today would almost never miss an actual tornado touchdown, no matter how brief or weak. That makes it very difficult for researchers to even be sure that the actual number of tornadoes is on the rise, let alone, if they are, what might be causing it. The number of severe tornadoes per year has actually been dropping over time.

It is true, however, that as the climate warms, more moisture will evaporate into the atmosphere. Warmer temperatures and more moisture will give storm systems that much more energy to play with, like adding nitroglycerin to the atmosphere. This month's possibly record-breaking tornadoes are due in part to an unusually warm Gulf of Mexico, where as Freedman reports, water surface temperatures are 1 to 2.5 C above the norm. The Gulf feeds moisture northward to storm systems as they move across the country, and that warm moist air from the south meeting cool, dry air from the Plains often results in some powerful weather. But at the same time, other studies have forecast that warmer temperatures will reduce the wind shear necessary to turn a routine thunderstorm into a powerful system that can give birth to tornadoes. So in a hotter world we could see more frequent destructive thunderstorms, but fewer tornadoes--although some researchers think we could still end up with both.

What does it all mean? For one thing, we should remember that tornadoes--and other severe weather systems--have always been with us, and almost certainly will be, whatever happens to greenhouse gas emissions and temperatures in the years to come.

If you read the full story, there's also some great information about the role prediction and warning systems have played in lowering the death toll of tornadoes. Just as with earthquakes and tsunamis, using science and public systems to make sure people know what's coming is an important part of keeping people safe, no matter the circumstances.

P.S.: The video above was filmed by Christopher England, a University of Alabama employee. In an interview with a local CBS news affiliate he tells the heart-stopping story of how the video was shot. England, it seems, was with several coworkers in a storm shelter, but the power was out and nobody was sure what was going on. He went upstairs, to his third floor office to look out a window. This video is what he saw.

All the things left behind

On my walk around the neighborhood tonight, I found the following tornado debris: insulation, wood shrapnel, roof shingles, KFC receipt from Skyland Blvd in Tuscaloosa, a lease from 1996 for an apt at 800 20th street in Tusc., a tax return from a Schmon Ruffin, a receipt from Tuscaloosa Realty, pg 9 of 15 of "Exhibit B" with tank prices on it, and the Jesus bracelet. According to the KFC receipt they bought a pot pie, mac and cheese, and a 12 piece mix box. — My friend Eileen Kiernan, who lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

Obama Administration punishes reporter for using multimedia in Wikileaks/Manning-related coverage

"White House officials have banished one of the best political reporters in the country from the approved pool of journalists covering presidential visits to the Bay Area for using now-standard multimedia tools to gather the news." (SF Gate)

Space Shuttle Endeavour on launchpad, illuminated by lightning storm

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Hello from Florida, where we observed dramatic electrical storms tonight near Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. Above, Space Shuttle Endeavour on the launch pad, illuminated by lightning. Despite the weather, Endeavour is still on track to blast off on mission STS-134 tomorrow afternoon, at 3:47pm Eastern time. The planned retraction from the Rotating Service Structure (or RSS for short, the thing that surrounds the shuttle, and allows crew to access various levels for last-minute checks or repairs) is now planned to start in just a few minutes, at 1145pm ET. That step was delayed from an earlier-scheduled start time, due to weather. Image by Bill Ingalls, courtesy NASA, more sizes here.

Photos found after the Alabama tornadoes

foundphotoalabama.jpg

More than 100 individual tornadoes struck the Southeastern United States yesterday. More than 200 people were killed in Alabama alone.

I lived in Birmingham for two years, working for mental_floss magazine. I'm happy to report that all of my friends—including the mental_floss staff—are present and accounted for. But even for those who got by relatively unscathed, there's a lot of work to be done. The clean-up from this disaster is turning out to be remarkably disturbing. Many of my friends have reported finding strangers' belongings and pieces of demolished homes in their yards. In several cases, debris found in the Birmingham metro area appeared to have come from Tuscaloosa—some 60 miles away.

In the wake of that, someone's set up a new Facebook group where people are posting scans of photos and documents they've found post-tornado. Partly, it's meant to help reconnect keepsakes and belongings with their owners. And partly, it's a deeply moving memorial. There's little doubt that at least some of the people in these photos won't be able to come collect them.

My thoughts are with everyone down South tonight. I hope you, and the people you love, are safe.

(Thanks to Eileen Kiernan)

Minecraft tsunami

An add-on called Finite Liquid replaces Minecraft's gamily-modeled water with fill-the-container realism; cut a channel from sea to cavern, and it will slowly fill to the brim. In this video, YouTuber MrLiquidmatter demonstrates the effect; then accidentally falls victim to a glitch that generates a massive, world-drowning tidal wave. [NSFW language]

"Don't let daddy lick me again"

lick.jpg
Every panel of this pictocomic ad is chock full o' disturbing content. It's just another bizarro gem from the trash culture ephemera archives of artist Mitch O'Connell.
"Don't let daddy lick me again"

Seriously, how did Obama get into those Ivy League schools?

Donald Chump may have a point: how exactly *did* a chronic underachiever like Obama get into Harvard? Stay with it 'til the last few grafs. (via Drew Coombs)

Infographic: how to make a lie go mainstream, in 26 easy steps

A flowchart at Mother Jones illustrates how to cook up a bullshit conspiracy theory and push it mainstream, in just 26 steps. (via Mat Honan)

Brand-new conspiracy theories around Obama's newly released "long form" birth certificate

Buzzfeed has a very funny post up today explaining 20 freshly-hatched conspiracy theories surrounding President Obama's "long form birth certificate," released by the White House yesterday.

The Chronotune: Detroit hackerspace builds "time travel radio project"

[Video Link]

Members of the i3Detroit hackerspace in Detroit, MI have created "the Chronotune," which allows you to "dial into a year in the past, present or future to hear the sounds of the year." Radio shows, music and other media. "The entire build is custom and run off an arduino," says BB reader Nick Britsky.

Alabama nuke plant loses power after tornadoes

The bad news: a nuclear plant in Alabama lost power last night after violent thunderstorms and tornadoes; it will be offline for days or weeks. The good news: backup power systems worked as planned, and no partial meltdown as happened at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in Japan. (Reuters)

Future, sharing-friendly WiFi design

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's staff technologist Peter Eckersley writes in "Why We Need An Open Wireless Movement" about the positive aspects of sharing your WiFi with your neighbors and passers-by and about the tragedy of the commons that is puts those of us who generously share our networks with the world at risk. He proposes future direction for protocol and hardware design that allow us to share while keeping our traffic private and while maintaining a minimum amount of bandwidth for our own use.
The problem that's really killing open WiFi is the idea that an unlocked network is a security and privacy risk.

This idea is only partially true. Computer security experts will argue at great length about whether WEP, WPA and WPA2 actually provide security, or just a false sense of security. Both sides are partially correct: none of these protocols will make anyone safe from hacking or malware (WEP is of course trivial to break, and WPA2 is often easy to break in practice), but it's also true that even a broken cryptosystem increases the effort that someone nearby has to go to in order to eavesdrop, and may therefore sometimes prevent eavesdropping.

It doesn't really matter that WiFi encryption is a poor defense against eavesdropping: most computer users only understand the simple message that having encryption is good, so they encrypt their network. The real problem isn't that people are encrypting their WiFi: it's that the encryption prevents them from sharing their WiFi with their friends, neighbours, and strangers wandering past their houses who happen to be lost and in need of a digital map.

Why We Need An Open Wireless Movement

(Image: WiFi signal, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from nnova's photostream)

Controversy over publication of Gitmo teen rape victim ID'd in Wikileaks dump

The Daily Telegraph this week published 759 of the leaked Guantánamo files from WikiLeaks, which had not been redacted. One document they published today "includes the full name of a boy detained at Guantánamo who, according to the file, was raped at the age of 15, just prior to being transferred to the camp."

The boy was never charged with any crime. US forces captured him in Afghanistan just days after he'd reportedly been sexually assaulted and kidnapped by a group of 11 Afghan men, in a village near his family's home. The US military brought the boy to Guantánamo Bay as a prisoner "because of his possible knowledge of Taliban resistance efforts and local leaders." They held him as a prisoner there for more than a year, despite knowing he was innocent.

The Telegraph seems to take the same position as Wikileaks: the public has a right to know the fullest array of facts exposing the horror and human rights abuses at Gitmo. Other publications, like the Guardian (which was not a direct recipient from Wikileaks, after finding itself more or less at odds with Julian Assange) published the boy's Guantánamo file, but blacked out details of his sexual assault. More at journalism.co.uk.

(Via Greg Mitchell at The Nation)

FBI issues Grand Jury subpoena presumed to relate to Wikileaks, Espionage Act charges

On April 26, accused Wikileaks source Bradley Manning's friend and supporter David House tweeted "Subpoenas are being issued in the WikiLeaks grand jury. Violations of Espionage Act. No further comment at this time." House is one of the few people who has visited Manning in detention in Quantico; where the former Army intelligence officer has been held for months before a recent transfer to Leavenworth, Kansas.

House later added that he did not receive a subpoena himself. The identity of the recipient is not yet publicly known.

From the Wikileaks Twitter account that same day: "Fresh subpoenas are being issued in the WikiLeaks Alexandra, VA secret grand jury in relation to the espionage act."

Glenn Greenwald at Salon writes that the FBI served at least one subpoena in Boston, and that this was presumably related to the Wikileaks case.

Notably, the Subpoena explicitly indicates that the Grand Jury is investigating possible violations of the Espionage Act (18 U.S.C. 793), a draconian 1917 law under which no non-government-employee has ever been convicted for disclosing classified information.

And Wikileaks, being Wikileaks, tweeted out the D.A.'s phone number.

John Moschitta, Jr. on That's Incredible! (1981)


[video link]

I remember John Moschitta, Jr.'s 1981 appearance on That's Incredible! like it was yesterday. (That's Incredible! had a profound influence on me, that I think is reflected in my blogging.) The next day at school, my friends and I all tried to talk really fast. I bet that just delighted our teachers. After this episode, Moschitta, Jr. was hired by ad agency Ally & Gargano to star in the "Fast Paced World" Federal Express TV commercial that's repeatedly ranked in the industry as one of the top ad campaigns ever.


[video link]

UPDATE: In the comments, Christopher575 reminds me that Moschitta, Jr. also did a terrific Micro Machines commercial in the 1980s.