Sleepy English town to be entirely surveilled in case criminals forget and drive through it on their way to crimes

Royston, a small market town of 15,000 people in Herts, England, is being completely encircled with license-plate cameras that will record the comings and goings of everyone who passes in or out of the town, and store them for up to five years. There's not really much crime in Royston. But the automatic number plate recognition manager for the region says that he will catch lots of criminals and terrorists because they might forget that this one town is totally surveilled and drive through it on their way to and from crimes and atrocities in other towns.
Daniel Hamilton, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “It is such an arbitrary and intrusive method. To do this in what is essentially a sleepy market town is ridiculous.

“Logging the movements of tens of thousands of innocent people living in the area is grossly disproportionate to the crime fighting abilities of the system and an abhorrent invasion of people’s privacy.”

Inspector Andy Piper, Hertfordshire Police’s ANPR manager, said: “On first sight, the ANPR coverage of such a low crime town as Royston may seem an unusual choice, but ANPR works both as a deterrent and a detection tool.

“When we look at the bigger picture in terms of Hertfordshire, as well as nationally, the position of the cameras makes a lot of sense strategically to target those criminals travelling into the county on the main roads in that area – not to mention counter-terrorism."

'Sleepy market town' surrounded by ring of car cameras (Thanks, Richard! Read the rest

Reddit explains the debt ceiling to you like you're five

Yesterday and today on Reddit, the subreddit section explain like I'm five, where users explain current news and tough topics as though they're talking to a five-year-old, saw a huge surge in posts and interaction. One of the gems from this influx of interest is a post on what's going on with the US government's debates over the debt ceiling. Redditor The_Cleric lays it out for my five-year-old self:
This is how I understand it. Pretend you have a credit card. And this credit card has a limit, we'll say $1000. This credit card is pretty near maxed out and you don't really have any cash. You need to buy some stuff soon, and you know that between now and August 2nd you need to buy some things, and you have no choice but to buy them on the credit card. At that point the credit card will be completely maxed out. This credit card is our debt ceiling. We will hit the limit of our borrowing limit on August 2nd. Now let's continue further. We know we have some bills next month, and we also know that we have some cash coming in, but when we look at what we have coming in vs what we have to pay, we don't have enough to cover it. Let's just say we know we'll be short by $100. So now we know ahead of time that we'll be short, and we only have one real option: call the credit card company and ask them to raise our limit.
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Apple has more cash right now than the US Treasury

Matt Hartley at the Financial Post was the first to point this one out:

As Republicans and Democrats continue to work towards a compromise to the country’s debt ceiling crisis, the U.S. Treasury Department said on Thursday that Washington now has a total operating balance of only US$73.768-billion. Meanwhile, Apple currently boasts a cash reserve of US$75.876-billion, as of its most recent quarterly earnings report at the end of June.
More nuance and analysis around the web: NPR, Apple Insider, Fortune.

Photo: Apple CEO Steve Jobs takes the stage to discuss the iCloud service at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, June 6, 2011. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach Read the rest

The "Moon Buggy Mission," Apollo 15

This week marks the 40th anniversary for Apollo 15, the less famous of manned lunar missions including Apollo 11, Apollo 13 ("NASA's finest hour"), and Apollo 14 (the one where Alan Shepard played golf on the moon). Ben Cosgrove of LIFE points us to a related gallery of classic images, and explains:

While Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the lunar surface was mind-blowing, the idea of Irwin and Scott cruising around on a 450-pound moon buggy that they'd carted a quarter-million miles from Earth -- during a basically flawless mission when Scott and Irwin spent three full days on the moon's surface -- makes XV the coolest of all the Apollo missions.
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National Archive food and government exhibit: "What's Cooking, Uncle Sam?"

Right now, the National Archives in Washington DC are hosting an exhibition about government and food. Titled "What's Cooking, Uncle Sam?," it covers everything from government regulations on food processing and labeling to nutritional campaigns for such things as, er, "Vitamin Donuts." Smithsonian magazine was particularly intrigued by the exhibition's information about US presidential diets. Above, Richard Nixon's last meal in the White House, "slices of pineapple arranged around a plop of cottage cheese, paired with a glass of milk and served on a silver tray." "What's Cooking, Uncle Sam?: The Government's Effect on the American Diet" (National Archive) Read the rest

Fabric made from spider silk

This 13-foot-long textile was woven from silk produced by more than a million Golden Orb spiders from Madagaskar. It's currently on display at the Art Institute of Chicago and moves to London's Victoria and Albert Museum in January 2012. From The Telegraph:
According to experts at the Victoria and Albert Museum, spider's silk has not been woven since 1900, when a textile was created for the Paris Exposition Universelle - but that no longer survives. This will be the first time spider silk has been exhibited in Europe since.

The earliest recorded weave using the silk of spiders dates from 1709, made by a Frenchman, Francois-Xavier Bon de Saint Hilaire, who successfully produced gloves and stockings and supposedly a full suit of clothes for King Louis XIV. Later, in the early nineteenth century, Raimondo de Termeyer, a Spaniard working in Italy, produced stockings for the Emperor Napoleon and a shawl for his first wife, Empress Josephine.

To create the textiles, spiders are collected each morning and harnessed in specially conceived ‘silking’ contraptions. Trained handlers extract the silk from 24 spiders at a time.

Unlike mulberry silk from silkworms, in which the pupa is killed in its cocoon, the spiders are returned to the wild at the end of each day.

"Rare spider silk textile to come to V&A" Read the rest

Bush explains reaction to 9/11 attack news during historic "My Pet Goat" reading

"I wanted to project a sense of calm." George W. Bush explains, for the first time, why he reacted as he did after having been advised that the US was under attack on September 11, 2001. Read the rest

"Narcosubmarine" carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine nabbed in Honduras

With help from the U.S. Navy, authorities in Honduras have snorted recovered 2.7 tons of cocaine from a submarine off the Central American nation's Caribbean coast. There is more, they say: the boat's carrying 5 and a half tons, total. AP item:
The submarine-like craft is floating about 15 meters (50 feet) under the surface because the crew tried to sink it. Osorio said Thursday divers will need another two days to recover all the cocaine.
The sub was intercepted two weeks ago, en route to the US from Colombia. More from Reuters. Read the rest

Friday Freak-Out: The Hi-5's "Did you have to rub it in?" (1965)

[youtube link] Friday Freak-Out: The Hi-5 perform "Did you have to rub it in?" (1966), now available again on Follow Me Down: Vanguard's Lost Psychedelic Era.

Vintage psych on Vanguard Records? Indeed! While Vanguard, formed in 1950, is best known for its essential folk/blues offerings in the 1960s by the likes of Joan Baez, Country Joe and Fish, Buddy Guy, and Otis Rush, the label also released some very fine nuggets of psychedelia -- many of which were 45s by bands that vanished almost as quickly as they made the scene. Recently though, my dear pal and DIY musicologist David Katznelson of Birdman Records and Vanguard staffer Stephen Brower dug deep in the label's archive to compile the best of these "lost" recordings. The vinyl release of Follow Me Down: Vanguard's Lost Psychedelic Era is a beautiful double-gatefold, 18-track compilation. It's also available as MP3s, but, well, I encourage you to dust off the old record player for this groovy set. Now then, what's the story with the Hi-5's "Did you have to rub it in?"

A classic rock and roll tale of a band that was so very close to superstardom, but fell short. The band were regulars at the famous Café Wah, when Beatles manager Brian Epstein walked into the club and signed the Hi-Five to management. Soon after, labels like RCA and Columbia were cutting demos on the band. But when Epstein died at 32 of a drug overdose, the doors that had been opened were slammed shut.
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Baby crocodiles, hatching

Caretakers display newly hatched Philippine crocodiles at a crocodile farm in Manila July 28, 2011. The Philippine crocodile, also known as the Mindoro crocodile, is a freshwater reptile considered to be among the endangered species. (REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco) Read the rest

Cosplay of excellence: Gender Bent Justice League

Liz Ohanesian covers counterculture, cosplay, and cool music for the Los Angeles Weekly. She hit Comic-Con with photographer Shannon Cottrell, and came back with some great photo-essays. "I thought you might be interested in seeing our favorite cosplay of the con," she writes, "they're The Gender Bent Justice League." Above, Kit Quinn as Superma'am and Tallest Silver as Batma'am.

Gender Bent Justice League is a group of cosplayers who have taken characters associated with DC's Justice League and transformed them into something that is more Rule 63 than it is crossplay.

"A couple of us like to do female versions of preexisting male characters. One of our friends, Psykitten Pow, she had a female Flash," says Tallest Silver, who organized the group and who dresses as Batma'am. "One night, we were all hanging out and I said how funny it would be if we had a whole Justice League with swapped sexes."

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How To: Make your science/Lady Gaga mashup better

Lady Gaga parody videos filmed in laboratory settings have become a hot meme among scientists. Want to make your own? Carin Bondar has some tips for quality video production. Read the rest

Fuck and the law

"Fuck" is a 2006 scholarly paper by Ohio State U law prof Christopher M. Fairman, published in Center for Interdisciplinary Law and Policy Studies Working Paper Series No. 39. It starts with anecdotes about three legally trained people -- a Master's student in law, a sheriff, and a federal judge -- reacting irrationally to the word "fuck," and goes on to explore the way that psycholinguistic factors makes English speakers go crazy in the presence of the word, and the effect that has had on law. Fun reading!
This Article is as simple and provocative as its title suggests: it explores the legal implications of the word fuck. The intersection of the word fuck and the law is examined in four major areas: First Amendment, broadcast regulation, sexual harassment, and education. The legal implications from the use of fuck vary greatly with the context. To fully understand the legal power of fuck, the nonlegal sources of its power are tapped. Drawing upon the research of etymologists, linguists, lexicographers, psychoanalysts, and other social scientists, the visceral reaction to fuck can be explained by cultural taboo. Fuck is a taboo word. The taboo is so strong that it compels many to engage in self-censorship. This process of silence then enables small segments of the population to manipulate our rights under the guise of reflecting a greater community. Taboo is then institutionalized through law, yet at the same time is in tension with other identifiable legal rights. Understanding this relationship between law and taboo ultimately yields fuck jurisprudence.
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The pros and cons of irradiated food

Irradiating food doesn't make it radioactive, and it does kill dangerous bacteria, like the E.coli that killed many Europeans this summer. But it's also not a panacea against food poisoning and it's definitely not the most popular idea ever thought up. In a column in the New York Times, Mark Bittman examines the evidence behind irradiation, and how that evidence does and doesn't get considered in the choices we make about food.

When it comes to irradiation, you might need a primer. (I did.) Simply put, irradiation — first approved by the FDA in 1963 to control insects in wheat and flour — kills pathogens in food by passing radiation through it. It doesn’t make the food radioactive any more than passing X-rays through your body makes you radioactive; it just causes changes in the food. Proponents say those changes are beneficial: like killing E. coli or salmonella bacteria. Opponents say they’re harmful: like destroying nutrients or creating damaging free radicals.

Many people are virulently for or against. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, says that irradiation “could do for food what pasteurization has done for milk.” (The main difference between irradiation and pasteurization is the source of the energy used to kill microbes.) Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food & Water Watch — which calls irradiation “a gross failure” — told me it was “expensive and impractical, a band-aid on the real problems with our food system.”

There are a few people in the middle.

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How To: Launch a cork rocket using an LED

OK, this should make up for the intestinal worm.

In this video, you'll learn how to use an ultraviolet LED to kickstart a chemical reaction capable of sending a cork flying halfway across a lecture hall. It's a hazardous science demonstration! Hooray!

Quick note: The sound quality gets a little sketchy at times. If you click on the CC option in the lower-right corner of the player window you'll be able to read the English subtitles.

Video Link Read the rest

Colonoscopy video (with worm)

Hey look, everybody! It's Ascaris lumbricoides! How you doin'?

Sorry. I'm so sorry. It's fascinating. But I'll find something quick to take the edge off.

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Clothes given to Winehouse fans

"This is what she would have wanted – for her fans to have her clothes," Mitch [Winehouse] told the crowd. Read the rest

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