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!)