Boing Boing 

8-bit Zardoz

As I somehow missed this fantastic intro to a nonexistent 8-bit Zardoz game last year, perhaps you did, too! Animator Nick Criscuolo writes: "I realize the audio isn't entirely 8bit, more like 8/16 bit. Maybe more like Amiga game music than Atari or Nintendo. I just couldn't imagine it without the Zardoz voice." [VIDEO LINK. Submitted by jeans]

How a kid paralyzed by a flawed firearm tried to take it off the market for good

Brandon Maxfield was a young teenager left paraplegic in a shooting accident. The gun manufacturer knew of a safety issue in their cheapo pistols, but chose not to alter the design. After a jury found it partially responsible for Maxfield's injuries, it declared bankruptcy to avoid paying him. But he had an idea: to buy the company's assets at auction, thereby preventing it from reforming under a new name.

Amazon.com has a great price on 50-packs of whippets right now.

Today I learned that if you really, really, really like whipped cream (and I am not implying that this product can be used for any other purpose), you can buy 50-packs of Whippets for $99,999 on Amazon (Regular price: $28.99). Put me down for three, thanks.

A gallery of indecipherable Captchas

Arne tried to comment on the Breaking Bad post and was presented with a bunch of ridiculously indecipherable Captchas. Here are just a few of the ones he was challenged with:

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Sorry, Arne!

By the way: Arne's comment: "Here's a song they used in that same episode."

A Chinese version of Batman's origins

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Craig Yoe pointed me to this delightful Chinese version of Batman's origins, found on a dollar store toy.

Chinese dollar store offers wonderfully insane backstory for Batman

Desktop jellyfish tank


One of my favorite projects in MAKE magazine is Alex Andon's pet jellyfish tank from Vol 27. It's not hard to make, but people who don't want to build a tank on their own should look into Alex's Desktop Jellyfish Tank. It's a Kickstarter project with a $3,000 goal, but so far almost $80,000 has been pledged. If you place $350 or more you get a desktop jellyfish tank and starter kit.

Desktop Jellyfish Tank

Gale Boetticher's karaoke video and notebook from Breaking Bad


[Video Link] A few people think that chemist Gale Boetticher from Breaking Bad is a Boing Boing reader. I agree! Above, the complete "Major Tom" karaoke video from Season 3, episode 4.

Screen Shot 2011-08-22 At 4.10.42 Pm

I think they should publish a facsimile of Gale's notebook.

Dirty Girls Ministries is on a crusade against the evils of female masturbation

Thank goodness someone is taking on the female masturbation epidemic that's plaguing our great nation.
201108221534 The No Stones recovery group is part of an organization called Dirty Girls Ministries that [Crystal] Renaud launched in 2009 after suffering from her own self-described pornography addiction. She says she wanted to help other women recover from their X-rated fixations by connecting with them online and holding meetings at her local church. But her use of the terms porn and addiction may be misleading. The growing group of 100-plus members who participate in the forums say that they masturbate or view porn—which they define as including erotica and romance novels—twice a week or less. For most of us, that would hardly be considered excessive. But to Renaud, it indicates an epidemic of addiction, one that can be treated by helping women stay “clean” of masturbation.

Dirty Girls Ministries is on a crusade against the evils of female masturbation (Image: Linda Zacks)

Realistic "toy" gun found in sandbox

Gunnnnn
My 5-year-old son found this buried in a sandbox at the public playground near our house. It's plastic. I described it to Mark who instantly determined that it was an Airsoft gun. In fact, it's available for $4 via Amazon. According to the Airsoft entry on Wikipedia:
Federal law in the United States requires that a 6 mm (0.24 in) orange tip to be present on all "toy guns" (including airsoft replicas) while being imported into the United States. These brightly coloured tips show the difference between real and replica firearms, which helps to ensure safety. However, when playing on a field, no orange tip is needed. The federal regulations do not require the owner to keep the muzzle painted after acquiring their airsoft gun. Few players choose to keep the tip, whether for safety or another reason, and some switch their orange-painted flash hiders with more realistic ones shortly before playing while at the field's staging area.
Either somebody popped the orange tip off this one or, like many models in the Airsoft product shots, it never had one. I guess I'm just surprised these things are still so readily available. And that one turned up in a playground sandbox. I'm glad no police officers happened upon the kid who was brandishing this "toy" before it was buried. And if they did, I hope the young person followed these words of advice from AirSplat.com, the "Nation's Largest AirSoft Retailer":

If you are confronted by a police officer while transporting or playing with your airsoft gun, stay calm and follow their orders to the letter. Tell them that the gun isn’t real, and ask them what you should do. Don’t make any sudden movements and DO NOT argue with the officers. Your attitude can mean the difference between being arrested and being released.

Or being shot?

Greatest Hugo acceptance speech of all time?

Behold! The greatest moment in modern Hugo Award history, as Chris Garcia has a complete (and utterly charming) meltdown when he realizes that he's won a Hugo for Best Fanzine for Drink Tank. I was so close as to be in the splash-zone, and it was a wonder and a delight to behold (yes, I know there's an ad -- it's worth it).

Best Fanzine - The Garcia Moment (via Scalzi)

Gorgeous machined Stirling engine kits

Hermann Böhm's metal Stirling engine kits are some of the most beautiful machines I've ever seen, real triumphs. They run about as much as one of them fancy toothpaste squeezers, but they're about ten thousand times cooler, and somehow don't have the same oligarch factor.

(Thanks, Chris!)

Reality is the ultimate God game

[Video Link] Scott Beale says: "South Korean artist June Bum Park creates wonderful forced perspective videos in which his hands seem to guide the actions of people, cars, and machines."

Sweatshirt Monster episode of Leave it to Beaver

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Screenshots from the "Sweatshirt Monster" episode of Leave it to Beaver (1962).

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Gregory Euclide's Bon Iver cover art available as a print

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I've posted before about painter/sculptor Gregory Euclide who casts nature for his magnificent landscape dioramas and blends moss, Blackberry Lily seeds, hair, and snow into his pigments for paintings that seem to grow off the canvas. I was thrilled to see that indie folk band Bon Iver commissioned Euclide to create the cover art for their lovely and majestic new eponymous album and single. Now, Euclide and David B. Smith Gallery have released a print of the album cover in a limited edition of 500. It's 24" x 24" inches, signed, numbered, and printed on archival photo rag paper. The prints are $225 each with half the profits going to Agapé Riding Center and the Greater Mankato Area United Way Connecting Kids Program.

Gregory Euclide Prints

After the jump, "Making the Bon Iver Album Art" videos Part 1 and Part 2.

Japan: Areas around Fukushima, contaminated with nuclear fallout, may be off-limits "for several decades"

Japan's Daily Yomiuri reports that land within a 3km (about 1.8 miles) of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant "likely will be kept off-limits for an extended period--possibly for several decades" because contamination levels of radioactive substances in this zone are so high. A related report in the New York Times, drawing from several Japanese news sources, says a government statement to this effect is expected soon—and that affected communities are within 12 miles (19km) of the plant.

The formal announcement, expected from the government in coming days, would be the first official recognition that the March accident could force the long-term depopulation of communities near the plant, an eventuality that scientists and some officials have been warning about for months. Lawmakers said over the weekend — and major newspapers reported Monday — that Prime Minister Naoto Kan was planning to visit Fukushima Prefecture, where the plant is, as early as Saturday to break the news directly to residents. The affected communities are all within 12 miles of the plant, an area that was evacuated immediately after the accident.

The government is expected to tell many of these residents that they will not be permitted to return to their homes for an indefinite period. It will also begin drawing up plans for compensating them by, among other things, renting their now uninhabitable land. While it is unclear if the government would specify how long these living restrictions would remain in place, news reports indicated it could be decades. That has been the case for areas around the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine after its 1986 accident.

Ricky Schroeder and emotional films in science

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The still above is from the tearjerker ending of the 1979 film The Champ, starring Ricky (RICK, damnit!) Schroeder. It's apparently a "go to" clip in psychology experiments to study emotional triggers and depression. It became the industry standard after 1988 when UC Berkeley psych professor Robert Levenson and then-grad student James Gross launched what became a multi-year effort to identify film clips that were exceptionally useful at eliciting single emotions from viewers. From Smithsonian:
 Images 27 C8 B53690Fb4B089204Df4F4675D2Bf “In the old days, we used to be able to induce fear by giving people electric shocks,” Levenson says.

Ethical concerns now put more constraints on how scientists can elicit negative emotions. Sadness is especially difficult. How do you induce a feeling of loss or failure in the laboratory without resorting to deception or making a test subject feel miserable?

“You can’t tell them something horrible has happened to their family, or tell them they have some terrible disease,” says William Frey II, a University of Minnesota neuroscientist who has studied the composition of tears.

But as Gross says, “films have this really unusual status.” People willingly pay money to see tearjerkers—and walk out of the theater with no apparent ill effect. As a result, “there’s an ethical exemption” to making someone emotional with a film, Gross says.

In 1995, Gross and Levenson published the results of their test screenings. They came up with a list of 16 short film clips able to elicit a single emotion, such as anger, fear or surprise. Their recommendation for inducing disgust was a short film showing an amputation. Their top-rated film clip for amusement was the fake orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally. And then there’s the two-minute, 51-second clip of Schroder weeping over his father’s dead body in The Champ, which Levenson and Gross found produced more sadness in laboratory subjects than the death of Bambi’s mom.

"The Saddest Movie in the World"

India: mass graves discovered, holding bodies of thousands of civilians "disappeared" in 1990s insurgency war

New York Times: "Thousands of bullet-riddled bodies are buried in dozens of unmarked graves across Kashmir, a state human rights commission inquiry has concluded, many of them likely to be those of civilians who disappeared more than a decade ago in the brutal insurgency in the troubled region."

Google launches Amazon River Street View project

Google has adapted its Street View service to map one of the world's most remote places: the Amazon and Rio Negro Rivers of northwest Brazil. The project is in partnership with Foundation for a Sustainable Amazon (FAS).
Google will train local people to collect images, and will leave behind equipment so work continues long-term. Pictures will be stitched together so users can explore 360-degree panoramics of the area.
BBC News via Fark.

"Digital natives" need help understanding search

A report from Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries documents research done on "digital native" college students to evaluate their skill with refining searches, evaluating search results, and navigating thorny questions of authority and trust in online sources. The researchers concluded that despite their subjects' fluency with the technology, the mental models and critical thinking they brought to bear on search results had real problems:
The prevalence of Google in student research is well-documented, but the Illinois researchers found something they did not expect: students were not very good at using Google. They were basically clueless about the logic underlying how the search engine organizes and displays its results. Consequently, the students did not know how to build a search that would return good sources. (For instance, limiting a search to news articles, or querying specific databases such as Google Book Search or Google Scholar.)

Duke and Asher said they were surprised by “the extent to which students appeared to lack even some of the most basic information literacy skills that we assumed they would have mastered in high school.” Even students who were high achievers in high school suffered from these deficiencies, Asher told Inside Higher Ed in an interview.

In other words: Today’s college students might have grown up with the language of the information age, but they do not necessarily know the grammar.

Lisa Gold concludes: "How are students supposed to acquire these important digital and information literacy skills if they aren’t being taught in schools, many parents and teachers lack these skills themselves, and the librarians who have the skills are basically ignored or fired as libraries close in record numbers?"

What Students Don't Know (Inside Higher Education)

Yet another study shows that “digital natives” suck at searching (Lisa Gold)

(Image: Digital Native, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from wakingtiger's photostream)

Pennsylvania Cigar Box Guitar Festival is this Saturday, August 27


Shane Speal says:

The second annual Pennsylvania Cigar Box Guitar Festival is this Saturday, August 27 from 10am-5pm in downtown York, PA.   The fest will host 14 acts on two stages plus demonstrations, instrument vendors and more.  Headlining acts include Purgatory Hill, Shane Speal (from Cigar Box Nation) and psych-folk legends, Stone Breath.  YouTube favorite and NY street musician, Keni Lee Burgess will give a free playing seminar as well.

The event takes place on the grounds of The York Emporium used store  and coincides with YorkFest, a huge fine arts/crafts event.  This is a free festival and perfect for the whole family.  Attendees will be able to listen to the music, shop for unique instruments and still have time to explore YorkFest just two blocks away.

The festival is a great place for makers in the Mid Atlantic States (less than a 4 hour drive from NYC, Pittsburgh, Wash DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia).

There is a special Friday night jam session on the 26th for instrument makers and players starting at 6pm.  The jam is $20 and includes pizza and beer.  In addition, there will be cigar box guitar concerts in local pubs throughout the weekend.

Above, a video of One String Willie performing on his diddley bow. He'll be on the indoor stage at 1:30 pm.

Pennsylvania Cigar Box Guitar Festival is this Saturday, August 27

Public school teacher who called creationism 'superstitious nonsense' protected from lawsuit

Noodly
“Aristotle … argued, you know, there sort of has to be a God. Of course that’s nonsense. I mean, that’s what you call deductive reasoning, you know. And you hear it all the time with people who say, ‘Well, if all this stuff that makes up the universe is here, something must have created it.’ Faulty logic. Very faulty logic. The other possibility is, it’s always been there.… Your call as to which one of those notions is scientific and which one is magic.... All I’m saying is that, you know, the people who want to make the argument that God did it, there is as much evidence that God did it as there is that there is a giant spaghetti monster living behind the moon who did it."

Those were the words of Dr. James Corbett, a history teacher at an Orange County, California public high school, in a 2007 lecture. His comments led to one of the student filing lawsuit claiming that Corbett violated the First Amendment's establishment clause pronouncing that the government must be neutral with regard to religion. Last week though, the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the case. From The Christian Science Monitor:

As part of its ruling, the appeals court vacated a district judge’s earlier decision that the teacher, Dr. James Corbett, violated the establishment clause in a comment he made in class that creationism was “superstitious nonsense.”

The appeals court side-stepped the question of whether Dr. Corbett’s comment on creationism and other derogatory remarks about religious faith were unconstitutional. Instead, the panel concluded that since Corbett was entitled to qualified immunity it was not necessary for the appeals court to determine whether his comments actually violated the Constitution.

“In broaching controversial issues like religion, teachers must be sensitive to students’ personal beliefs and take care not to abuse their positions of authority,” Judge (Raymond) Fisher wrote.

“But teachers must also be given leeway to challenge students to foster critical thinking skills and develop their analytical abilities,” he said. “This balance is hard to achieve, and we must be careful not to curb intellectual freedom by imposing dogmatic restrictions.”

"US judges rule for teacher who called creationism 'superstitious nonsense'" (Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!)

Credit scores are bullshit

Matt Haughey explains why credit-scores are bullshit: "I had the highest credit score at a time in my life when I was leveraged to the hilt and I lived paycheck to paycheck. Now that I have my own business, a healthy retirement, and can pay for everything I need/want, I have a low score and I'm dubbed a higher risk even though my ability to pay is very high."

How paid FBI anti-terror informants lead "terrorist attacks" that the FBI foils

Michael from Mother Jones sez, "This yearlong investigation by Mother Jones and the Investigative Reporting Program at UC-Berkeley explores the network of thousands of informants the FBI employs in its domestic counter-terrorism program, operating in gray area where the snitches don't merely observe and report, but actively push their targets (in many cases hapless losers who never would have acted otherwise) to pursue their darkest fantasies. In the process, MoJo created a searchable database of 508 terror prosecutions."
Here's how it works: Informants report to their handlers on people who have, say, made statements sympathizing with terrorists. Those names are then cross-referenced with existing intelligence data, such as immigration and criminal records. FBI agents may then assign an undercover operative to approach the target by posing as a radical. Sometimes the operative will propose a plot, provide explosives, even lead the target in a fake oath to Al Qaeda. Once enough incriminating information has been gathered, there's an arrest—and a press conference announcing another foiled plot.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, it's because such sting operations are a fixture in the headlines. Remember the Washington Metro bombing plot? The New York subway plot? The guys who planned to blow up the Sears Tower? The teenager seeking to bomb a Portland Christmas tree lighting? Each of those plots, and dozens more across the nation, was led by an FBI asset.

Over the past year, Mother Jones and the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkeley have examined prosecutions of 508 defendants in terrorism-related cases, as defined by the Department of Justice.

Terrorists for the FBI Exclusive | Mother Jones (Image: Jeffrey Smith)

Loggerhead turtles have internal GPS

New Scientist has a great set of stories about the extraordinary senses of animals, including the fact that creatures like sea turtles can sense the Earth's magnetic field and use it for navigation.

Young loggerhead turtles, for example, read the Earth's magnetic field to adjust the direction in which they swim. They seem to hatch with a set of directions, which, with the help of their magnetic sense, ensures that they always stay in warm waters during their first migration around the rim of the North Atlantic. Over time they build a more detailed magnetic map by learning to recognise variations in the strength and direction of the field lines, which are angled more steeply towards the poles and flatter at the magnetic equator.

What isn't known, however, is how they sense magnetism. Part of the problem is that magnetic fields can pass through biological tissues without being altered, so the sensors could, in theory, be located in any part of the body. What's more, the detection might not need specialised structures at all, but may instead be based on a series of chemical reactions.

Even so, many researchers think that magnetic receptors probably exist in the head of turtles and perhaps other animals. These might be based on crystals of magnetite, which align with the Earth's magnetic field and could pull on some kind of stretch receptor or hair-like cell as it changes polarity. The mineral has already been found in some bacteria, and in the noses of fish like salmon and rainbow trout, which also seem to track the Earth's magnetic field as they migrate.

Via Nicola Twilley

Image: Loggerhead Turtle, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from coda's photostream

Real scientists of the Planet of the Apes

Great Moments in Pedantry or Helpful Insight? Can't it be both? Carin Bondar explains how Rise of the Planet of the Apes gets scientists, and the scientific process, all wrong.

Great vintage science fiction art up for auction - Frazetta, Wally Wood, Virgil Finlay

Heritage Auctions is auctioning off the Jerry Weist Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy Art and Books on September 11 in Beverly Hills. Some amazing pieces of art and artifacts are being offered.


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This 1966 Frank Frazetta painting from a Ray Bradbury paperback book cover is estimated at $40,000-$60,000. I have a feeling it will go for much more than that, even though it doesn't feature one of Frazetta's trademark curvaceous woman brandishing a spear or zap gun.


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Only 200 copies of Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451 were printed with an asbestos cover. What lucky future mesothelioma victim is going to get this copy, signed by the author? Opening bid is $3000.

Read the rest

The agony and the ecstasy

Scientists have developed a modified form of ecstasy that can kill blood cancer cells in a test tube. It's really fascinating chemistry, but please note the italics and do not try this at home, kids.

The science of speech and gender

Over at PLOS blogs, Emily Anthes has a fascinating interview with Eliza Gray, a reporter at The New Republic, who just published a long article about the push for transgender rights in the United States. In that article, Gray wrote about 56-year-old Caroline Temmermand, who attends speech therapy to learn how to talk in a way that we would culturally understand as female. Part of what makes this interesting is that a "feminine voice" isn't something that just comes with the right hormones. And it's not just about pitch, either. Instead, it's built up over years of subtle socio-cultural training. I learned it from the time I was an infant. Women like Caroline Temmermand have to explicitly practice.

EA: So, how does speech therapy work for someone who’s transitioning? What does it involve?

EG: They go once a week, sometimes twice a week if they’re really eager to speed things up, and they do different vocal exercises. Pitch is one of the most important markers. Men on average speak at 110-120 [Hertz], gender neutral is 145-165, and women are 210-220. In most cases the goal is to try to get to gender neutral, which basically means that if you called somebody on the phone, and they speak in what’s known as the gender neutral pitch, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell if they were a man or a woman.

So that’s the first piece, but along with that, they have to learn other things, like posture and speech intonation. Speech intonation is how much your voice goes up and down in a sentence. Men tend to speak in a very monotone, even tone. Women speak in many, many different pitches; as they speak they go up and down, they go high, they go low. So that’s really important–a person who’s transitioning needs to learn how to use that range in their voice.

They also practice moving the resonance of their voice up higher. Men speak in their chests. If you’re a man and you say a word, if you put your hand on your chest you’ll feel a vibration. If you’re a woman, you speak in your face. So that’s another thing they try to work on—they move that resonance from deep in their bodies higher up.

Another thing is women speak more precisely. They enunciate their words. Men don’t do that as well, so men actually have to learn to articulate their words more precisely to sound like a believable woman.

They’ll go to a loud place as well to practice voice. Because in a loud Starbucks, a man will just speak with greater volume—so he’ll speak louder—and a woman will tend to speak higher, tend to raise her pitch higher to be heard over the din.

So they practice things like that. The problem with just going with pitch, even though it’s a very important marker, is that if a man speaks like a man in every aspect except for pitch, he’s going to sound like a man talking in a falsetto. So all of these other aspects are about trying to come up with a voice that is real and like the way people actually speak, rather than just trying to talk as high as you can.

Image: Speak up, make your voice heard, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from howardlake's photostream

Mondo Cane director Gualtiero Jacopetti, RIP

Film director Gualtiero Jacopetti, director of the pioneering 1962 shockumentary Mondo Cane, has died. He was 91. The trailer above may be NSFW. From the film's opening:
All the scenes you will see in this film are true and are taken only from life. If often they are shocking, it is because there are many shocking things in this world. Besides, the duty of the chronicler is not to sweeten the truth but to report it objectively.
"Gualtiero Jacopetti, Maker of ‘Mondo Cane,’ Dies at 91" (New York Times)

"Provocateur Gualtiero Jacopetti Dead at 91: Honoring the Man Behind the Mondo Movies" (TIME)

Coil/Cyclobe's Stephen Thrower on horror movie soundtracks

 Sys-Images Admin Bkfill Default Image Group 2011 8 17 1313596534514 Suspiria-007 At The Guardian, author/musician Stephen Thrower -- a member of Coil and Cyclobe -- presents a fascinating primer on horror movie soundtracks. Links galore too. From The Guardian:
If I had to choose just one great horror soundtrack from the 1970s, I'd go for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Relentless, disturbing and totally "out-there", this groundbreaking work arose out of free improvisations by the film's director Tobe Hooper and his musical associate Wayne Bell. Rather than composing melodic themes for the characters, or dutifully applying motifs to particular events, Hooper and Bell approached the soundtrack like vengeful deities, raining down storms of pure nightmare. The sound design rumbles with elemental violence; it's difficult to discern precisely which musical instruments, if any, are responsible. When I spoke to Bell a few years ago he told me that a signature ingredient was "an upright bass, which we did all sorts of torturous things to during the Chain Saw sessions". There's also lots of tape manipulation (slowed-down and speeded-up gongs), and what sounds like a heavily asthmatic pedal-steel guitar (it is set in Texas, after all). Hooper and Bell smear these cues (with ad hoc titles such as Seethe and Madness) throughout the film, creating a dense, expressionist impasto into which screams, chainsaw engine noise and murderous gibbering are embedded; the effect is to completely mire you in the film's claustrophobic horror.
"From Goblin to Morricone: the art of horror movie music"