Boing Boing 

Broadband internet by horse


Fred, a Belgian draft horse, working with line crews to attach a fiber optic cable to a utility pole in East Burke, Vermont, on June 24, 2011. Fairpoint Communication hires Claude Desmarais and his horse Fred to pull fiber optic cable through difficult terrain in a effort to bring high speed internet to all of Vermont by 2013. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

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Jay Maisel's building tagged with "Kind of Bloop" cover art


According to this Hyperallergic blog post citing an anonymous source, someone in New York City paid someone else to plaster the building where photographer Jay Maisel lives with posters featuring an adaptation of Maisel's iconic Miles Davis photograph.

Over a pixelated reworking of the photo, the text, "All Art is Theft."

Short version of the backstory: Maisel recently threatened Andy Baio with legal action over Baio's similarly adaptive use of this same photo for Baio's "Kind of Bloop" 8-bit homage, and Baio ended up having to pay Maisel $32,500 to settle the matter.

(via Anil Dash)

The three finger salute cup set

CtrlAltDelete Cup Set 3 Sophisticated Ctrl Alt Delete Cup Set from ThinkGeek.jpeg Rationalizing this $10 purchase at ThinkGeek meets an early hurdle in the fact that I have a square mug already (an early unrounded version of the legendary Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate mug) and am well aware that it is the worst shape for a mug, even worse than triangles (whereby the sharp angles form useful spouts) and perhaps good only for holding nuts. Ctrl-Alt-Delete Cup Set [ThinkGeek]

One-letter Chrome extension corrects Twitter's grammar

The Twitter Whom to follow Chrome extension does one thing: adds an "m" to Twitter's "Who to follow" list. (via Making Light)

Art carved out of books

Kylie Stillman carves beautiful art out of thick books and tall piles of same. I love this effect -- it would be insanely awesome to typeset a series of books to accommodate this kind of cutting, and then sell them one at a time, requiring the whole set to realize the effect.

Kylie Stillman (via Neatorama)

Wiki Seat: here's a structural support, make a stool

 Images B B5 Wikiseat-3-1 Seattttttoilet-2
 Images D D6 Catalyst 1.2 Nicolas Weidinger, one of our summer interns at Institute for the Future, created Wiki Seat last year as an industrial design project at Ohio State University. He designed a simple welded steel central structural support for a three-legged-stool (image left). Then he built and sold or gave away several hundred of them to a variety of folks and encouraged them to make their own legs and seat. Some of the results are terrifically creative and strange! Wiki Seat

Duck explains shaving

This undated/unsourced 1930s ad features a jaunty duck explaining shaving to a happy sailor (who leaves his hat on for his toilette). Ducks in sailor hats -- something out of the collective unconscious?

De-Waterproof Your Whiskers

Fight Shrub

Video Link.

The United States is getting hotter

The new normal: Since I've been alive, the average temperature in the United States has increased by half a degree. Average lows got the biggest bump. In Minnesota, our low temperatures are a full degree warmer, on average, than they used to be.

Designing and 3D printing 30 coffee cups in 30 days

Cunicode, a design firm specializing in forms for 3D printers, challenged themselves to create and offer for sale 30 different coffee cups in 30 days. The cups are output from a printer capable of producing glazed ceramics on demand. Shown here, a Klein cup based on the Klein Bottle -- a Moebius strip with one more dimension*.
3D Printed Glazed Ceramics material properties are exactly the same as standard ceramics as it is produced with fine ceramic powder which is bound together with binder, fired, glazed with lead-free, non-toxic gloss finish. For some designs with clear bottoms, the bottom side may remain unglazed.

Glazing reduces definition of design details, for example grooves will fill with glaze. up to 1 mm of glaze can be added in certain areas.This means that some cups might look much smoother once printed than how they look on the drawings, keep that in mind if you purchase any of them.

One Coffee Cup a Day | 30 Days 30 Cups (via Neatorama)

*To forestall the topology pedants, here's the more formal Wikipedia definition, with additional formatting weirdness for lack-of-clarity: "a solid Klein bottle is topologically equivalent with the Cartesian product: \scriptstyle M\ddot{o}\times I, the Mobius band times an interval. The solid Klein bottle is the non-orientable version of the solid torus, equivalent to \scriptstyle D^2\times S^1."

Jellyfish swarm forces nuclear plant shutdown

Remember that global increase in jellyfish populations? Apparently, the impacts of that are not limited to the field of ecology. In Scotland, an excess of jellyfish forced a nuclear power plant to temporarily shut down. There were so many jellyfish that operators were afraid the creatures would obstruct the flow of seawater used for cooling the reactors. (For clarification: The plant isn't in trouble. It just went into a safe, controlled shutdown as a precautionary measure.) (Via TweetScience)

Trailer mashup: 'Friends with Benefits' & 'No Strings Attached' are the same movie

Ben sends us this: "Funny, side-by-side comparison of the movies 'Friends with Benefits' and 'No Strings Attached.' Same formula, same characters, and even the same camera angles."

Trailer Mashup - 'Friends With Benefits' vs. 'No Strings Attached" - Blind Film Critic (Thanks, Ben!)

PBS NewsHour does Maker Faire: "Can DIY Movement Fix a Crisis in U.S. Science Education?"

[Video Link]

PBS NewsHour aired a wonderful piece from Miles O'Brien on Maker Faire, the DIY culture event series with which many Boing Boing readers are familiar.

Some disclosures: I consider the Make magazine and Maker Faire folks friends (heck, Boing Boing founder Mark is the mag's editor-in-chief); I consider many of the exhibitors and attendees friends; I've covered Maker Faire myself for Boing Boing Video and for the blog—and finally, Miles is a friend, and I hung out with the NewsHour crew as they were shooting and producing this piece.

With all that out of the way, I encourage you to watch this story, which presents the case for Maker Faire as a potent antidote to the lack of truly engaging science and technology education in American schools. They've also managed to cram in more of the magic and wonder of Maker Faire than any TV coverage I've ever seen.

Video and transcript are here at the NewsHour website, and don't miss this out-take with Miles and "Mythbuster" Adam Savage. More on the conversation with Adam here.

Miles talks to Savage about the importance of encouraging kids to get their hands dirty and embracing a little danger. Can this movement replace shop class, and play a role in the so-called STEM crisis, we ask him?

Static electricity: How does that work?


Much like magnets, the inner workings of static electricity appear simple. This is, it turns out, misleading. So misleading, in fact, that scientists were fooled.

Back in grade school, you probably learned that static electricity happened when you rub two different objects together (like a balloon and your hair). In the process, one object loses its electrons, becoming positively charged, and the other object gains electrons, making it negatively charged. Once that happens, the positive object and the negative object will be attracted to one another—your hair will reach out for the balloon, the balloon will stick to your head.

But a recent paper is showing that this explanation doesn't quite explain everything about static electricity. There's a short, very visual, take on what's really going on at the Starts With a Bang blog. I'm going to quote the longer, more detailed perspective of Ars Technica's John Timmer:

... it wasn't until last year that some of the authors of the new paper published a surprising result: contact electrification (as this phenomenon is known among its technically oriented fans) can occur between two sheets of the same substance, even when they're simply allowed to lie flat against each other. "According to the conventional view of contact electrification," they note, "this should not happen since the chemical potentials of the two surfaces/materials are identical and there is apparently no thermodynamic force to drive charge transfer."

One possible explanation for this is that a material's surface, instead of being uniform from the static perspective, is a mosaic of charge-donating and charge-receiving areas. To find out, they performed contact electrification using insulators (polycarbonate and other polymers), a semiconductor (silicon), and a conductor (aluminum). The charged surfaces were then scanned at very high resolution using Kelvin force microscopy, a variant of atomic force microscopy that is able to read the amount of charge in a surface.

Surface before static charging (top) and after (below). Science The Kelvin force microscopy scans showed that the resulting surfaces were mosaics, with areas of positive and negative charges on the order of a micrometer or less across. All materials they tested, no matter what overall charge they had picked up, showed this mosaic pattern. The charges will dissipate over time, and the authors found that this process doesn't seem to occur by transferring electrons between neighboring areas of different charge--instead of blurring into the surroundings, peaks and valleys of charge remain distinct, but slowly decrease in size.

... So, what causes these charges to build up? It's not, apparently, the transfer of electrons between the surfaces. Detailed spectroscopy of one of the polymers (PDMS) suggests that chemical reactions may be involved, as many oxidized derivatives of the polymer were detected. In addition, there is evidence that some material is transferred from one surface to another.

Via Jennifer Ouellette

Image: Fun With Static #3, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from jemsweb's photostream

DHS documents show agency isn't sure pornoscanners are safe

The Electronic Privacy Information Center is going great guns with its Freedom of Information requests to the DHS on the full-body radiation scanners ("pornoscanners") used in airports. EPIC's liberated documents suggest that the DHS itself has failed to adequately test scanners for radiation risk, that they're worried about this, and that they're taking steps to cover this up. Based on this stuff, I think you'd be nuts to go through a scanner -- and that the DHS's employees should refuse to operate them.
EPIC v. DHS Lawsuit -- FOIA'd Documents Raise New Questions About Body Scanner Radiation Risks : In a FOIA lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, EPIC has just obtained documents concerning the radiation risks of TSA's airport body scanner program. The documents include agency emails, radiation studies, memoranda of agreement concerning radiation testing programs, and results of some radiation tests. One document set reveals that even after TSA employees identified cancer clusters possibly linked to radiation exposure, the agency failed to issue employees dosimeters - safety devices that could assess the level of radiation exposure. Another document indicates that the DHS mischaracterized the findings of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, stating that NIST "affirmed the safety" of full body scanners. The documents obtained by EPIC reveal that NIST disputed that characterization and stated that the Institute did not, in fact, test the devices. Also, a Johns Hopkins University study revealed that radiation zones around body scanners could exceed the "General Public Dose Limit." For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. Department of Homeland Security - Full Body Scanner Radiation Risks and EPIC: EPIC v. DHS (Suspension of Body Scanner Program). (Jun. 24, 2011)
EPIC v. Department of Homeland Security - Full Body Scanner Radiation Risks (Thanks, HotPepperMan!)

London's GOSH! comics moves to Soho, celebrates with a party with Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill

Hayley sez, "London's iconic comic shop Gosh! has outgrown their current home and are uprooting for the first time in 25 years for new, bigger premises on Berwick Street, Soho. Before they go, they're hosting a signing with the great bearded wizard Alan Moore (Watchmen) and Kevin O'Neill (Marshal Law) as a celebration of the launch of their League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1969 and as a final goodbye wave to the precarious spiral staircase that so many people whinged about during Gosh!'s quarter century reign on Great Russell Street. More signings and events at the new place are soon to be announced."

Outfest 2011: Preview of "Boingier" fare at the world's greatest LGBT film festival


In July, Outfest has a slew of remarkable screenings and live events in LA. that Boing Boing readers should know about (disclosure: I'm proud to serve on the festival's board of directors).

The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye / Thee Majesty concert (July 9, 7pm. REDCAT)

Boing Boing fave and pioneering cult artists Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV) and beloved Other Half Lady Jaye (who passed away at 39 years old in 2007) are the subject of The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye. Director Marie Losier documents the loving relationship of the two soul mates and collaborators, focusing on their Pandrogyne project. As an expression of their love, the pair received simultaneous surgical procedures to merge into a third pandrogynous being. Update from Genesis Breyer P-Orridge: "It's really a love, LOVE letter to Jaye and all the casualties of the pain of bigotry and bias too many of us experience." [apologies for the inaccurate earlier description! -AJ]

Following the film, Thee Majesty will play a full set of their ambient soundscapes and spoken word, led by Genesis. This rare performance will blend poetry, performance with music improvisation, hypnotic loops and blistering noise. Sounds like a Boing Boing lullaby!

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Ants that raise insects for meat

It might be time to cross another thing off the list of "Stuff That Only Humans Do." Some researchers think that a species of ants raise other animals (in this case, insects) for the sole purpose of eating those animals. If they're right, it's the first time that this behavior will have been documented in a species other than humans. (There are ants that "milk" other insects, but that's different.) (Via Rowan Hooper)

Video: Dr. Sketchy's Star Wars Anti-Art School Class

[Video Link]

Mark Day of YouTube fame says,

The San Francisco branch of Molly Crabapple's Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School recently offered a nerd-tastic Star Wars-themed life class, of which this video covers just a few of the poses shown. There's also a probably-NSFW 'Special Edition' which features less CGI and more pasties.

Denial of service, sit-ins and the politics of the cloud

Make Magazine's just reprinted my column, "Moral Suasion," in its online edition. It's a discussion of the politics of cloud computing, including denial-of-service attacks against cloud providers who cave to government pressure:
I grew up in the antiwar movement and participated in my first sit-in when I was 12. Sit-ins are a sort of denial of service, but that's not why they work. What they do is convey the message: "I am willing to put myself in harm's way for my beliefs. I am willing to risk arrest and jail. This matters." This may not be convincing for people who strongly disagree with you, but it makes an impression on people who haven't been paying attention. Discovering that your neighbors are willing to be harmed, arrested, imprisoned, or even killed for their beliefs is a striking thing.

And that's a crucial difference between a DDoS and a sit-in: participants in a sit-in expect to get arrested. Participants in a DDoS do everything they can to avoid getting caught. If you want to draw a metaphor, DDoSers are like the animal rights activists who fill a lab's locks with super glue. This is effective at shutting down your opponent for a good while, but it's a lot less likely to draw sympathy from the public, who can dismiss it as vandalism.

Moral Suasion

(Image: Sit-in "Giornata degli studenti", a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from retestudentimassa's photostream)

Humans aren't the only animals that get stoned


It seems like no matter where you try to draw the line between animals and people, the animals keep sneaking a paw (or hoof) over. They make tools. They have sex for fun. They commit murder. And, says neuroscientist David Linden, they also like to get high.

Animals in the wild will also voluntarily and repeatedly consume psychoactive plants and fungi. Birds, elephants, and monkeys have all been reported to enthusiastically seek out fruits and berries that have fallen to the ground and undergone natural fermentation to produce alcohol. In Gabon, which lies in the western equatorial region of Africa, boars, elephants, porcupines, and gorillas have all been reported to consume the intoxicating, hallucinogenic iboga plant (Tabernanthe iboga). There is even some evidence that young elephants learn to eat iboga from observing the actions of their elders in the social group. In the highlands of Ethiopia, goats cut the middleman out of the Starbucks business model by munching wild coffee berries and catching a caffeine buzz.

But do we really know whether these animals like the psychoactive effects of the drug, or are they just willing to put up with them as a side effect of consuming a valuable food source? After all, fermented fruit is a tasty and nutritious meal. While it's hard to dissociate these motivations in animals, many cases suggest that the psychoactive effect is the primary motivator for consumption. Often, only a tiny amount of plant or fungus is consumed, so while its nutritional effect is minuscule its psychoactive effect is large

Perhaps the most dramatic example of nonnutritive animal intoxication is found among domesticated reindeer. The Chuckchee people of Siberia, who are reindeer herders, consume the bright red hallucinogenic mushroom Amanita muscaria as a ritual sacrament. Their reindeer also indulge. Having discovered the mushrooms growing wild under the birch trees, they gobble them up and then stagger around in a disoriented state, twitching their heads repeatedly as they wander off from the rest of the herd for hours at a time.

The Compass of Pleasure: Bob Dylan and Siberian Reindeer Agree: Everybody Must Get Stoned

Image: Reindeer Buddies Plush Dolls, a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from sassypackratstudios's photostream

Wedway PeopleMover: Disney's retrofuturistic transit system

The Disney Parks blog is featuring some fine opening-year 1975 photos of the Wedway PeopleMover, a "mass transit system"-cum-ride in Tomorrowland that is affectionately called the "PeopleCrusher" after its propensity for squishing ill-advised riders who try to hop into oncoming cars. I've always loved the PeopleCrusher, and these photos do a great job of capturing its curvy, groovy, 1970s futuristic glory.

Vintage Walt Disney World: Head Back to 1975 Aboard the PeopleMover

Nuclear waste at Los Alamos protected by firebreak

Eli Kintisch covers climate and energy issues for Science, the magazine sibling of the peer-reviewed journal of the same name. He's got an update on the situation at Los Alamos National Laboratory that explains a little more about why officials aren't terribly concerned that the nearby forest fire will affect barrels of nuclear waste stored at the site. Shorter version: There's already a firebreak between the fire and Los Alamos "Area G".

While the edge of the fire is only a few dozen meters from the edge of the lab's property, it is roughly 13 km from the most sensitive location, the so-called "Area G." That site is a 63-acre storage facility where thousands of drums of nuclear waste sit, many of which are outdoors.

But between the fire and that site is the remnants of a forest that was largely burned during a horrific 2000 fire on lab property. That fire burned "90%" of the flammable material [Note from Maggie: This is referring to wood, grass, etc. NOT nuclear waste.] from the west side of the lab, says Los Alamos retiree Charles Mansfield, who worked as a physicist at the lab for 17 years and also as a forest firefighter, a so-called smokejumper, for 11 years. Mansfield says he's "not very concerned" about the fire reaching spreading east to Area G.

"It would be very difficult for the fire to get that far," he says. Sometimes embers in a hotly burning fire can be lofted as much as 4 miles to start so-called "spot fires." But this requires a forest burning completely, from the ground to the high branches, he says. The area of forest close enough to have a chance to create the heat and updrafts required to bring the blaze to Area G has already burned, Mansfield contends.

HP TouchPad reviewed

Joshua Topolsky of This is my next reviews the $500 HP Touchpad. WebOS is very promising, he writes, but it's not competitive yet: "the stability and smoothness of the user experience is not up to par with the iPad or something like the Galaxy Tab 10.1, even if many of the underlying ideas are actually a lot better and more intuitive than what the competition offers. That, coupled with the minuscule number of quality apps available at launch make this a bit of a hard sell right now."

Olympus Pen EP-3

1572_1.jpegOlympus's latest Micro 4/3 cameras come in three flavors with new 12.3MP sensors, reengineered autofocus systems, 1080i video and up to ISO 12,800. The flashship EP-3 is predictable fare, but the E-PM1 is very small indeed. They're also releasing two new M. Zuiko Digital ED lenses for the mount: a 24mm-equivalent f2.0 model and a 90mm-equivalent f1.8 one. [Olympus]

Go the Fuck to Shul

LOLvis writes in with a link to Tablet Magazine's Go the Fuck to Shul: "Not only a witty response to criticism of Go the F*ck to Sleep ('Imagine if this were written about Jews'), it's funny enough to stand on its own."
It's Yom Kippur, and you're far away,
The last thing I want's to be cruel.
I'm your mother, son, you know I adore you,
But please go the fuck to shul.

You'd only go for a few hours,
Shorter than a full day of school.
You'll probably run into people you know
If you go the fuck to shul.
Go the F**k to Shul (Thanks, LOLvis!)

Richard Dawkins on vivisection: "But can they suffer?"


The great moral philosopher Jeremy Bentham, founder of utilitarianism, famously said,'The question is not, "Can they reason?" nor, "Can they talk?" but rather, "Can they suffer?" Most people get the point, but they treat human pain as especially worrying because they vaguely think it sort of obvious that a species' ability to suffer must be positively correlated with its intellectual capacity. Plants cannot think, and you'd have to be pretty eccentric to believe they can suffer. Plausibly the same might be true of earthworms. But what about cows?

What about dogs? I find it almost impossible to believe that René Descartes, not known as a monster, carried his philosophical belief that only humans have minds to such a confident extreme that he would blithely spreadeagle a live mammal on a board and dissect it. You'd think that, in spite of his philosophical reasoning, he might have given the animal the benefit of the doubt. But he stood in a long tradition of vivisectionists including Galen and Vesalius, and he was followed by William Harvey and many others (See from which this picture is taken).

How could they bear to do it: tie a struggling, screaming mammal down with ropes and dissect its living heart, for example? Presumably they believed what came to be articulated by Descartes: that non-human animals have no soul and feel no pain.

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Pirate bath-towel

The Neatorama store has got a particularly deluxe version of the kid's pirate bath-towel, complete with hook, parrot and belt (it's cooler than the one Poesy runs around the house shouting "arrr!" in after bathtimes!).

Pirate - Hooded Towel

Jet-powered wasp: public domain clip-art

The fine Phil Are Go site has done the Internet the favor of close-cropping the jet-powered wasp from a 1952 Saturday Evening Post public domain Shell ad. It's a heck of a nice bit of clip-art!

Pratt & Whitney - A bit waspy.

Free download of Little Brother audiobook

The Random House audiobook edition of my novel Little Brother is a free MP3 download this week through Sync, a program that develops the audience of teen/YA audiobook listeners (it's paired with Kafka's The Trial, which is pretty cool). The file itself can only be downloaded with a proprietary downloader from Overdrive, which I couldn't run under WINE on my GNU/Linux system, so I'm not sure how the process goes, but once you've actually gotten the file, it's yours to keep for personal use as a plain-vanilla MP3 with no DRM.