Boing Boing 

Watch Shuttle Endeavour's final return to earth tonight, at Kennedy Space Center

Above, a video embed for SpaceFlightNow's coverage of Shuttle Endeavour's landing tonight. You can track the trajectory live, using Google Earth—so cool.

Image below, via NASA TV: "This map shows the path space shuttle Endeavour will take to the shuttle landing facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for its landing Wednesday at 2:35 a.m. EDT. " Here's the NASA main shuttle mission web page, with updates; SpaceFlightNow also has good coverage in a liveblog with frequent updates.

Here's wishing our astronauts a great landing; welcome home.

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Pentagon has list of "cyber-weapons" for use in computer warfare

At the Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima has a story this evening about a list of cyber-weapons and tools (for instance, malware with which to attack an enemy state's infrastructure networks) for computer warfare. The list of capabilities is classified, and has been in use for several months. Other US agencies, including the CIA, have approved it, and the list is now of the Pentagon's set of weapons or "fires" approved for use against an adversary. Snip:

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"So whether it's a tank, an M-16 or a computer virus, it's going to follow the same rules so that we can understand how to employ it, when you can use it, when you can't, what you can and can't use," a senior military official said.

The integration of cyber-technologies into a formal structure of approved capabilities is perhaps the most significant operational development in military cyber-doctrine in years, the senior military official said.

The framework clarifies, for instance, that the military needs presidential authorization to penetrate a foreign computer network and leave a cyber-virus that can be activated later. The military does not need such approval, however, to penetrate foreign networks for a variety of other activities. These include studying the cyber-capabilities of adversaries or examining how power plants or other networks operate. Military cyber-warriors can also, without presidential authorization, leave beacons to mark spots for later targeting by viruses, the official said.

List of cyber-weapons developed by Pentagon to streamline computer warfare (WaPo)

YouTube unblocks video of 13yo Syrian boy allegedly tortured, killed by government thugs

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YouTube has reinstated access to a graphic, horrifying video of Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, a 13-year-old child who is reported to have been tortured, castrated, and killed by Syrian government thugs after being separated from his mother and father at an April protest against the Assad regime. A link to the video is here; it is extremely disturbing and not appropriate for viewing by children. The video was apparently blocked by YouTube due to its shocking content, then unblocked after reporters and human rights advocates petitioned YouTube administrators.

The boy's corpse was returned to his family a month after his arrest. As The Nation reports, they "risked their lives to produce the video."

The New York Times reports that his father was detained after the video went public, and he has since been missing.

The New York Times describes the video:

But the remains themselves testify all too clearly to ghastly torture. Video posted online shows his battered, purple face. His skin is scrawled with cuts, gashes, deep burns and bullet wounds that would probably have injured but not killed. His jaw and kneecaps are shattered, according to an unidentified narrator, and his penis chopped off.
More from The Nation:

By Tuesday, however, the video that shot from the web to Al Jazeera to the streets of Syria -- where people marched carrying signs emblazoned with the deceased child's portrait -- had been blocked on YouTube, the very site where it first launched. The temporary blockage of the brutal video, which YouTube has since restored, is another reminder that the same social media platforms which help spread protests can also seriously hinder activists.

Read the rest

Yelp review for $8 billion Kansas Abortionplex (after the viral Onion article on same)

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Remember the (fictitious, funny) Onion article "Planned Parenthood Opens $8 Billion Abortionplex"? Now the famed Abortionplex is on Yelp. Free nachos and mojitos after your partial birth abortion, with a Yelp discount code! As noted in a previous Boing Boing post, many people believe the Abortionplex (and other Onion coverage) is real. I can't wait for the credulous Fox News coverage to kick in.

Here's one recent review:

Everyone loves Abortionplex, but true fans know that the real magic is found in the secret menu. A 2x3 lets you sandwich in movie screenings at the theater before, between and after ridding yourself of potential twins. An 8x8? Spend your day easily breezing from Octomom to Oscars noms. Hold the butter on that popcorn though - you're not eating for 9 anymore!

Tell your doc you want The Flying Dutchman if you want to squeeze your abortion appointment in between two pieces of meat, if you know what I mean, and let's face it, you always know what I mean.

But real pros know that nothing satisfies your hunger for an empty uterus quite as much as well as Animal Style. In this iteration of the classic abortion, after the doctor perfectly vacuums the contents of your uterus, she then fills it with a secret sauce filled with tiny unicorns which will trot around poking holes in your uterine lining and preventing zygotes from taking hold for at least 6 months. But let's face it, even if you're already filled to the brim with tiny unicorns and think you won't be abortion-hungry again for a while, you know you'll be poking around Abortionplex tomorrow on your lunch break. It's too good to stay away!

(thanks, Susannah!)

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PBS Hack and LulzSec: Xeni on The Madeleine Brand Radio Show

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Audio: MP3 Download.

I joined "The Madeleine Brand Show" today for a discussion about the marathon hack of PBS.org by a group calling itself LulzSec, or The Lulz Boat. They've published what they claim was the method used: in short, vulnerabilities in Movable Type, and related weaknesses.

As noted here on Boing Boing in previous posts, the hack was said to be in retaliation for the PBS Frontline "Wikisecrets" documentary, which was perceived by Wikileaks advocates (and whoever LulzSec is) to be unfair to the secrets-leaking organization and to accused leaker Bradley Manning.

Taking a news organization effectively offline to protest the content of its coverage is not exactly supporting free speech—but this was about lulz, not logic. And as I said on Twitter when news of the attack first broke: PBS doesn't operate like CNN or Fox News, with a centralized news production process. Attacking PBS like this because one episode of one show wasn't A+ is like firebombing an entire grocery store because one apple you bit was bad.

Of course, unlike a firebombing, PBS will recover just fine. While the hack was ongoing last night, the organization coped by publishing to Tumblr and interacting more directly on Twitter with viewers. But a bunch of poor IT admins at PBS HQ, and affiliate stations around the country whose logins and passwords were exposed, probably had a really crappy Memorial Day (and will have a lot of cleanup and stress in weeks ahead). None of this helps Wikileaks, Manning, or journalism.

From the show overview:

After hacking PBS.org, Lulzsec posted fake news stories, including one claiming Tupac was alive and living in New Zealand. They also exposed the site's inner workings and posted the login information for PBS member stations across the country.

Boing Boing followed the story closely. First, the hackers posted a story about how Tupac Shakur is still alive. Then the hackers hacked the PBS statement in response to the hack. And recently, the hackers released a statement, documenting how they carried out the operation.

Hackers attack PBS website over Wikileaks documentary (The Madeleine Brand Show, SCPR)

This Guy Has My Macbook: to catch a laptop thief, in photos (update: CAUGHT!)

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Joshua Kaufman says his laptop was stolen, and that it looks like this guy in the photo above has it. Now, the tumblr equivalent of a slow-speed freeway police chase: thisguyhasmymacbook.tumblr.com. The software helping to surveil and document the apparent thief is called Hidden.

On March 21, 2011, my MacBook was stolen from my apartment in Oakland, CA. I reported the crime to the police and even told them where it was, but they can't help me due to lack of resources. I'm currently in the process of contacting the mayor's office. Meanwhile, I'm using the awesome app, Hidden, to capture these photos of this guy who has my MacBook.

UPDATE: They caught him, and the stolen Macbook is going back home! May 31, 8:37 PM PST.

ARRESTED! An Oakland police officer just called me to let me know that they arrested the guy in my photos! BOOYA! The police used my evidence (email which pointed to a cab service) that he was a driver and tricked him into picking them up. Nice work OPD!

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Below, a final photo snapped of the apparent thief, sleeping next to the MacBook before he goes to the pokey.

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Read the rest

Lodsys files lawsuits against app developers

Lodsys has followed through on its threat to file lawsuits against iOS app developers who used certain features of Apple's development platform. Apple claims its own license covers devs; Lodsys disagrees in a new statement of its own. In any case, it had already described a strategy of attacking small businesses that cannot afford legal representation, forcing them into the relatively inexpensive option of paying licensing fees.

The World Health Organization, cell phones, and cancer—what's actually going on

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Today, I was surprised to see posts popping up on Twitter implying that the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research into Cancer had declared radiation from cell phones to be a cancer risk. As you've read here before, and as sources like the National Cancer Institute have reported, the evidence linking cell phone use and cancer risk is actually pretty slim. So I was waiting to hear about some new study or analysis. Instead, it looks like this is really a story about context.

If you don't have the context, it's easy to look at the headlines and assume that the WHO just told you to stop using your cell phone. But, add context, and the news looks very different. In fact, with context in place, it appears the WHO isn't saying cell phones are dangerous, and isn't saying anything you haven't heard before.

Science blogger Ed Yong works for Cancer Research UK. He wrote up a very nice explanation of what the WHO announcement really means.

It means that there is some evidence linking mobile phones to cancer, but it is too weak to make any strong conclusions. Specifically, IARC's panel said that the evidence that mobile phones pose a health risk was "limited" for two types of brain tumours - glioma and acoustic neuroma - and "inadequate" when it comes to other types of cancer.

The Chairman of the group, Dr Jonathan Samet, said, "The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk."

IARC classifies different things according to whether they are likely to cause cancer, from tobacco to viruses to certain jobs. They are the gold standard for this sort of thing. They have five possible categories of risk:

Group 1 is the highest, reserved for things like smoking, asbestos, alcohol and so on. It means that there's extremely strong evidence that the thing in question causes cancer.

Group 2A includes things that are "probably carcinogenic to humans". Here, the evidence is "limited" in humans, but "sufficient" from animal studies.

Group 2B - this is the one that mobile phones now fall under - means something is "possibly carcinogenic to humans". It means there is "limited evidence" that something causes cancer in people, and even the evidence from animal studies is "less than sufficient". Group 2B means that there is some evidence for a risk but it's not that convincing. This group ends up being a bit of a catch-all category, and includes everything from carpentry to chloroform.

Basically, this is where we start talking about semantics, and the difference between official, bureaucratic categories and how people actually talk about risk in everyday life. When you hear someone say, "Using your cell phone probably won't give you cancer. The evidence supporting that idea is very weak," they are, more or less, saying the same thing that the World Health Organization is saying. Only the WHO has also added the (very reasonable) assertion that more research is needed if we want to say anything definitive about cell phones and cancer.

Image: Hello Operator, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from derekolson's photostream

Early 20th century solar panel

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This GE demonstration project powered a small motor and was built before 1939.

Via GE's Tumblr

What is a jellyfish?

Steven Haddock of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (let's all pause a moment to reflect on kismet of that surname/job combination) made this video about the wide world of creatures that we call "jellyfish." It's a great summary of the extreme diversity encompassed under one, catch-all name, and does a really nice job of explaining relationships between different species and families of jelly-like creatures.

And let's not discount the stop-and-gawk value. Check out 1:27 for a Hydromedusae that looks strikingly like Darth Vader's helmet. You'll also meet shell-less snails, jelly worms of the sort you don't find at the candy store, and even colony-dwelling creatures thousands of individuals strong.

Video Link

Video of waterspouts off Australia

Seen here is amazing video recorded yesterday of waterspouts off Australia's New South Wales coast. Waterspouts are a columnar vortex, often in the form of a tornado, occurring over a body of water. They're sometimes thought to be responsible for Fortean "falls," such as fish or frogs dropping from the sky onto dry ground. "Dramatic water tornado appears off Australia coast" (The Telegraph)

Politics + science = fun

Just because science sounds silly doesn't mean it's worthless. MSNBC's Alan Boyle breaks down recent political attempts to attack the National Science Foundation. TL;DR: Yes, the jello wrestling at an Antarctic research station was a mistake, but funding a towel-folding robot is actually important and not really a major drain on the federal budget.

ADAPT: An interview with Tim Harford and an excerpt from his new book

Tim Harford is a Financial Times columnist and the presenter of Radio 4’s More or Less, which won the Royal Statistical Society’s 2010 award for statistical excellence in broadcast journalism. He is also the author of several books, including The Undercover Economist.

Cory Doctorow: First of all, some context — what’s the thesis of Adapt, and how does it refine, extend or improve upon The Undercover Economist?

Tim Harford: The Undercover Economist was a book about the economic principles behind everyday life, from the way Starbucks prices drinks to the rise of China. Adapt isn’t primarily an economics book at all — it’s a book about how complex problems are solved. (If ideas from economics help, great. But sometimes they don’t.)

That said, the two books start from a very similar place: describing the amazing complexity of the economy that produces the everyday objects which surround us. In Undercover it was a cappuccino, and in Adapt I describe a memorable project in which a student called Thomas Thwaites attempts to build a simple toaster from scratch. But in Adapt this complexity isn’t just a cause for a “wow, cool” moment — it’s a headache, because it’s a measure of the obstacles facing anyone who wants to solve problems in this very intricate, interconnected world.

Ultimately Adapt argues that the only way forward is experimentation, which can either be formal or ad hoc. Whether we’re talking about poverty in Nigeria or innovation in Boston, solutions tend to evolve rather than be designed in some burst of awesome genius. And then the question is — what do we need to encourage those experiments?

Read the rest

Meanwhile, scientists are still debating arsenic-based life

Scientists don't get bored with a question just because the press does. Last December, research claiming to have found evidence of "arsenic-based life" on Earth touched off a firestorm of controversy, as many scientists weighed in, via blogs and magazines, on why they thought the research, and its conclusions, were flawed.

Last week, the debate moved into traditional science media, as the journal Science, which published the arsenic life paper, published eight critiques of it, as well as a response to the critiques by the authors of the original paper. One of the critiques was written by Rosie Redfield, a microbiologist who was also one of the first scientists to post a critique of arsenic life in blog form.

These critiques don't completely end the debate. The original researchers recently released their ostensibly arsenic-based bacteria to other scientists, who will now try to replicate the results. But the critiques have changed the discussion in some subtle, and important, ways. For instance, New Scientist and The Washington Post pointed out that, in responding to the critiques, the original researchers have changed their conclusions from having found "proof" to having produced a "viable interpretation." In other words, they haven't backed down, but they have copped to being less certain.

Viktor Wynd's cabinet of curiosities shop

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On a recent trip to London, Strange Attractor's Mark Pilkington introduced me to Viktor Wynd, a curator and proprietor of The Last Tuesday Society/Little Shop of Horrors, a fantastic gallery cum wunderkammer in London's East End. Upstairs is the art gallery, while the dark basement is packed -- and I mean stuffed, to the point of total claustrophobia -- with countless curiosities, from odd stuffed beasts to bizarre books, a box of the Rolling Stones' rubbers to a sealed box allegedly containing some of the darkness that Moses brought upon the Egyptions in Exodus. It's not always clear whether Wynd's place is a museum or a shop. And in many ways, that's the point. Fortean Times' Richard Freeman paid him a visit (photo by Etienne Gilfillan):
“I wanted to see how a contemporary wunderkammer might look,” he says. Was it meant to be a sort of successor to the late, lamented Potter’s Museum of Curiosities?

“I think we’re more of an homage to childhood memories of the Pitt Rivers, the Horniman Museum and the John Soane Museum,” he says, “Although in my mind it’s really a miniature version of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, or Peter the Great’s cabinet of curiosities.”

So we find a collection of skulls from the victims of Dayak head hunters in Borneo, some dating back to the 12th century. The oldest human skull in the shop is a partially fossilised 10,000-year-old specimen from Papua New Guinea, with a section missing where the fatal axe met the bone.

Just as impressive is one of only two shrunken heads of a Caucasian in Europe. No one knows who the moustachioed white man was, a missionary or an explorer, but he met his end in Ecuador over 100 years ago. Now his scalp and face, shrunken with hot sand, sit in a jar, eyes and mouth sewn shut. Many of the exhibits remind us of our own mortality – perhaps none more so than the preserved erect penis of a man hanged 300 years ago.

"Viktor Wynd and his Little Shop of Horrors"

US Supreme Court rules Ashcroft can't be held responsible in case of detention and abuse of innocent Muslim-American

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The Supreme Court ruled today that former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft cannot be personally sued over his role in the arrest of an innocent American citizen, a Muslim man who was never charged with a crime. From the Associated Press:

By a 5-3 vote, the court said Ashcroft did not violate the constitutional rights of Abdullah al-Kidd, who was arrested in 2003 under a federal law intended to make sure witnesses testify in criminal proceedings. Al-Kidd claimed in a federal lawsuit that the arrest and detention violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

He was held for 16 days, during which he was strip-searched repeatedly, left naked in a jail cell and shower for more than 90 minutes in view of other men and women, routinely transported in handcuffs and leg irons, and kept with people who had been convicted of violent crimes.

The ACLU's response to the ruling is here.

Photo: REUTERS. Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft speaks to the National Rifle Association's 'Celebration of American Values Conference' in Washington, September 21, 2007.

Pentagon: Hacking can count as an act of war

The Wall Street Journal broke the news yesterday that the Pentagon has concluded that hacking and other forms of digital sabotage that originate from other countries can be considered an act of war. This means that for the first time, the U.S. is in the position of possibly responding to an online attack with offline "traditional military force." Guns, troops, drones, bombs.
The Pentagon's first formal cyber strategy, unclassified portions of which are expected to become public next month, represents an early attempt to grapple with a changing world in which a hacker could pose as significant a threat to U.S. nuclear reactors, subways or pipelines as a hostile country's military. In part, the Pentagon intends its plan as a warning to potential adversaries of the consequences of attacking the U.S. in this way. "If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks," said a military official.

Read the whole article here. If the paywall locks you out, MSNBC has a related piece.

Twitter Gun

Angry Birds, indeed! Video of a cool weapon automata from the 19th century, in which a little birdie spins on the top of a gun when you fire it. Video is from Christies, the auction house where this oddity is offered. The intricate mechanics are what make this precious device a win; the narrator is what makes the video win.

(via Submitterator, thanks amok69, via from Tree Climber, the blog of goldsmith David Neale)

An overpass is not a tornado shelter

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Sometimes, it's a little scary to find out just how wrong the folk wisdom you've picked up over the years really is. Growing up in Kansas, I remember adults telling me that, if a tornado happened and I was in a car on the highway, I should hide under an overpass. Turns out, that advice is not just incorrect, it's potentially deadly. And it's also a great example of why anecdotes aren't the same thing as data. Why? Because the myth actually stems from one incident in the early 1990s, when people did survive a tornado by seeking shelter under an overpass. But, as the National Atmospheric and Oceanographic Administration explains, those folks were lucky. Very lucky.

The idea that overpasses offer safety probably began in 1991, when a television news crew and some citizens rode out a very weak tornado under an overpass along the Kansas Turnpike. The resulting video continues to be seen by millions, and appears to have fostered the idea that overpasses are preferred sources of shelter, and should be sought out by those in the path of a tornado. In addition, news magazine photographs of people huddled under an overpass with an approaching tornado imply that this is the correct safety procedure. Nothing can be further from the truth!

In the Oklahoma City area in May, 1999, three people were killed and many had serious injuries by a violent tornado while seeking shelter under an overpass. Eyewitness accounts from others in the area indicated that roads were blocked at times as people stopped cars to run up into small crevices under an overpass. Not only is the overpass unsafe as a shelter, blocking roads denies others the chance to get out of the storm's path, and impedes emergency vehicles from their critical duties!

Wind speeds in tornados can be over 200 mph. These destructive winds produce airborne debris that are blown into and channeled under the overpass where people might try to seek shelter. Debris of varying size and types, including dirt, sand and rocks, moving at incredible speeds can easily penetrate clothing and skin causing serious injuries and possibly death. Very fine debris can also be forced into eyes causing injury or loss of sight. A person could even be blown out or carried away from the overpass by the fierce tornado winds. People positioned at the top of the overpass encounter even high wind speeds and more missile-like debris. Wind direction will also shift abruptly as the tornado passes tossing debris from all sides.

Image: Train Overpass, a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from rfduck's photostream

Android's YouTube Store lockout is textbook copyright extremism

My latest Guardian column, "Google's YouTube policy for Android users is copyright extremism," examines the theory of copyright behind Google's announcement that it would bar people who unlocked their phones from using the new YouTube video store. This is the latest example of a new kind of copyright emerging in the 21st century, "configuration-right," in which someone who makes a creative work gets a veto over how all the devices that can play or display that work must be configured. It's a novel -- and dangerous -- proposition, akin to record companies telling which furniture you were allowed to move into the same room as your stereo, and to require that you close your window when the record was playing, lest your neighbors get some tunes for free.
Which brings us back to where we started: unless you're running a very specific version of Google's software on your phone or tablet, you can't "rent" movies on YouTube. Google - the vendor - and the studios - the rights holders - are using copyright to control something much more profound than mere copying. In this version of copyright, making a movie gives you the right to specify what kind of device can play the movie back, and how that device must be configured.

This is as extreme as copyright gets, really. Book publishers have never told you which rooms you could read in, or what light bulbs you were allowed to use, or whether you could rebind the book or take it abroad with you. Broadcasters have never vetoed the design of radios.

The extension of copyright to "configuration right" is a profound shift in the history of technology and culture. There are lots of reasons to want to run a non-stock OS on your Android phone; some versions allow you to assert fine-grained privacy controls, others add features useful to people with disabilities; others make it simpler to use cheap/free voice-over-IP for long-distance calls. There are at least as many reasons to want to redecorate and reconfigure your phone, your computer or your tablet as there are reasons to rearrange your kitchen or redecorate your bedroom.

Google's YouTube policy for Android users is copyright extremism

The Red Market: book on the criminal trade in orphans, organs, bones, skin, eggs, hair, and other human flesh

Scott Carney’s The Red Market is a book-length investigative journalism piece on the complicated and sometimes stomach-churning underground economy in human flesh, ranging from practice of kidnapping children to sell to orphanages who get healthy kids to pass off to wealthy foreigners to the bizarre criminal rings who imprison kidnapped indigents in “blood farms” or lure impoverished women into selling their kidneys.

Read the rest

Padfone

Epic Asus CEO Johnny Shih (previously) introduces its latest product, the Padfone. [Network World via Daring Fireball]

Electric bear, riding an electric shark, riding a lighting bolt


A redditor named Sparkychacha088 posted this request: "Dear Reddit, my 8yo son drew this on a napkin. It's an electric bear, riding an electric shark, riding a lighting bolt. He says it's our family crest. Can someone with graphic design skills make this a legit crest?" and Misternarwhale obliged with the fab illustration above. Huzzah!

Dear Reddit, my 8yo son drew this on a napkin. It's an electric bear, riding an electric shark, riding a lighting bolt. He says it's our family crest. Can someone with graphic design skills make this a legit crest? Thanks! (imgur.com)

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Make American Express Membership Rewards Your Social Currency

Everything we do these days seems to revolve around a social network. American Express Membership Rewards is getting in on the act with an updated points program that will really give your friends on Facebook something to "Like." You'd think a rewards program that's been around 20 years would be set it in its ways, but not American Express. Membership Rewards points are your currency for real-life social connections with friends and family. Don't just tweet about life--get out there and enjoy it with products and experiences for which you can use your points!

Read the rest

Kinetic sculpture recreates grass in the wind

David Bynoe sez, "This is a kinetic sculpture I built to look like a field of wheat blowing in the wind. It consists of 40 wooden poles, each about 6' high that are hooked up via a series of ropes to a pair of large motorized cams. Each cam turns at a slightly different speed, and the movement of each is mixed so that it will take about 14 minutes for the machine to repeat its pattern. The show is happening at Truck Gallery in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, it opens on June 3rd, and runs till the 30th."

Machine for preserving the wind.

Chat with Graham Linehan

Earlier this year, I interviewed IT Crowd creator Graham Linehan at The Story conference. Matt Locke, who put on the event, has just posted an MP3 of the chat.

Egypt: general confirms "virginity checks" forced on female protesters by military

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Via CNN and other sources today, the revolting news that a senior Egyptian general admits so-called "virginity checks" (presumably, forcible examination of the hymen) were performed on women arrested in at least one demonstration this spring. Previously, military authorities denied it. Now, an Egyptian general who asked not to be identified defends the practice—wait for it—as a protective measure for the women's own good.

As noted previously on Boing Boing, Amnesty International reported and condemned news of this systematic sexual abuse by military agents back in March. At the time, women were at the forefront of the historic Tahrir Square protests that overthrew the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. And Amnesty International was told then by a group of women protesters "that they were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to 'virginity checks' and threatened with prostitution charges."

With that in mind, here's a snip from Shahira Amin's report today for CNN:

The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine," the general said. "These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and (drugs)."

The general said the virginity checks were done so that the women wouldn't later claim they had been raped by Egyptian authorities.

"We didn't want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren't virgins in the first place," the general said. "None of them were (virgins)."

...and if you're not a virgin, it's not rape, anyway. But more to the point: these so-called "virginity checks" are nothing less than a form of rape.

As a human biology note, not that it would make this horrific form of militarized sexual abuse any more justified, and not that it was the point of those perpetrating the abuse: examining the hymen is not an accurate way to determine virginity. This is a myth.

And a personal observation? My god, but these women out at the protests in Egypt, knowing that these are the sort of barbaric risks they face, are strong, strong human beings.

(PHOTO: Egyptian soldiers stand behind veiled women opposition supporters at Tahrir Square in Cairo in February, 2011; roughly the same period during which reports of this form of sexual abuse by military began to emerge. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic.)

Mexico: kindergarten teacher keeps class calm with song as narco gun massacre rages outside

Boing Boing reader GIFtheory says, "This video of a kindergarten teacher [near Monterrey, Mexico] beseeching her students to keep their heads on the floor while leading them in song is simultaneously the most horrifying and inspirational thing I've seen in a while."

Video Link.

(via BB Submitterator)

Memorial Day Manhattanhenge, 2011

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Boing Boing reader Vivienne Gucwa took this shot today, May 30, 2011, as the sun set directly in line with the New York City grid next to the Chrysler Building. Wikipedia:

Manhattanhenge (sometimes referred to as the Manhattan Solstice) is a semiannual occurrence in which the setting sun aligns with the east-west streets of the main street grid in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. The term is derived from Stonehenge, at which the sun aligns with the stones on the solstices. It was coined in 2002 by Neil deGrasse Tyson.
And, lo and behold, Neil took his own snapshot today, too!

PBS hack: the HOWTO?

@LulzSec just posted what it claims were the methods used to hack PBS.org.

"PBS.org was not owned by SQL," they write, "PBS.org was owned via a 0day we discovered in mt4 aka MoveableType 4."

Kevin Mitnick, who knows a little about this stuff, responds: "Yeah, they claim it's a bug in mt4... but I doubt they would reveal the vector until much later."

I'd imagine this will become clear soon, after the holiday passes. Background on the incident in this BB post; the mess continued throughout the day today and appears to be ongoing at the time of this blog post.