This 13-pound, 3.6 foot metal ball fell from the sky in the Republic of Namibia in southern Africa last month. Nobody has claimed ownership. From CNN:
Paul Ludik, director of the country's National Forensic Science Institute, told The Namibian the sphere… is made of a "sophisticated" metal alloy that is known to man, but he said it has no markings that would identify it…
Ludik told The Namibian that the object poses no cause for alarm, and that such reports of metallic spheres falling from space are common in the Southern Hemisphere.
An update on Louis CK's no-DRM experiment in direct-selling a $5 comedy concert video: he's crossed the $1M mark and he's giving half the money to staff bonuses and charity: "One million dollars. That's a lot of money. Really too much money. I've never had a million dollars all of a sudden."
Between 1937 and roughly 1946 there was only one radio astronomer in the entire world: Grote Reber, an amateur from the Chicago suburbs. Reber was a HAM operator who worked in radio manufacturing. At night, he'd come home and tune into the stars, using a home-built telescope he erected in his backyard in Wheaton. It was the second antenna to be used for astronomy ever, after Karl-freaking-Jansky's. Truly, Reber was one badass Happy Mutant.
[Reber] later wrote: "The astronomers were afraid of it because they didn't know anything about radio. The radio people weren't interested because it was so faint it didn't even constitute an interference. Nobody was going to do anything. So, all right, if nobody was going to do anything, maybe I should do something."
He designed and built a 31-foot dish in his yard-- the largest parabolic antenna in the world, pivoting on a Model-T rear axle. Wheaton had never seen anything like it. Neighbors were mystified by the bizarre device. Astronomer and historian Woodruff Sullivan wrote: "One can imagine the reaction of the townsfolk as the machine rose some 50 feet into the air behind the house at 212 West Seminary Avenue-- perhaps akin to those of Noah's neighbors when he started on the Ark."
But they got used to it. Children climbed on it, rhubarb grew beneath it, and Reber’s mom hung wet laundry on it.
Reber built and tested receivers sensitive enough to pick up the "noise" Jansky had detected at 20 megahertz. Over months, he swept the sky listening for emissions at 3300 MHz, expecting stronger signals at higher frequency. He detected nothing. He built a 900 MHz receiver, and spent more months listening. Nothing. He built a 160 MHz receiver. At last, he began to detect "cosmic static."
In 1940, he published his first results. He continued to sweep the sky, and by 1944 could publish a map of the radio sky.
If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with cancer, consider calling the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-422-6237. You'll find The operators can tell you about their personal cancer stories, answer your questions, help you find financial help for medical bills, put you in touch with medical specialists and local support groups, direct you toward clinical trials, and more. It's a valuable, but underutilized service that everyone should be aware of. (Side note: Yes, this is actually useful medical information that appeared on the Huffington Post. Written by an actual medical scientist. It's a Festivus miracle!)Via Mark Kleiman on Submitterator.
I experienced an MRI for the first time this week. It did not sound like this, unfortunately. I'm told this is a classic viral video among magnetic resonance imagine specialists: one group of MRI techs programmed sequences to play the guitar riff from Deep Purple's rock classic 'Smoke on the Water.' (thanks, Tobias Gilk)
Neanderthals had different bodies than we do. In general, they were stockier and shorter, for instance. And there were other physical differences, as well. It's hard to say what these differences meant in practice but it's fun to speculate. You could build up a pretty good about how those short, study bodies might have helped Neanderthals be better adapted to cold. Or, you could look at the shape of a male Neanderthal's voice box, and think about how that shape might affect the sounds that came out.
So that's what this video is about. I have no idea how widely accepted "high pitched voice theory" is. I couldn't find a lot of references to it outside of the BBC special this clip comes from. Here's what the BBC says:
Professor Bob Franciscus, from Iowa University, is part of a multi-national group attempting to do just that. By making scans of modern humans, he saw how the soft tissue of the vocal tracts depends on the position of the hyoid bone and the anchoring sites on the skull. Computer predictions were then be made to determine the shape of the modern human vocal tract from bone data alone. The same equations were then used with data from a Neanderthal skull to predict the shape of a Neanderthal vocal tract.
The Neanderthal vocal tract seems to have been shorter and wider than a modern male human's, closer to that found today in modern human females. It's possible, then, that Neanderthal males had higher pitched voices than we might have expected. Together with a big chest, mouth, and huge nasal cavity, a big, harsh, high, sound might have resulted. But, crucially, the anatomy of the vocal tract is close enough to that of modern humans to indicate that anatomically there was no reason why Neanderthal could not have produced the complex range of sounds needed for speech.
As long as you understand that context, that this isn't necessarily a given that Neanderthals spoke in high-pitched voices, I think you should see this video. Because the results of this theory are damned hilarious.
This gorgeous knife is elaborately engraved with scenes replicating Dore's illustrations to Dante's Inferno; I'm not clear on whether this is a knife or a razor (which is technically a knife, I know) -- the forum is called "Straight Razor Forum," the poster calls it a "knife," and the piece does not resemble straight razors or pocket knives of my experience. I'm sure that when I check this post tomorrow morning (it's queued up to go live after I go to bed in London) the comments will have settled the question in excruciating detail.
The theme was Dante's Inferno and the images are based on Dore's illustrations for the book. The toughest part was that I had to alter the images to make them fit the format of the windows. I had to make the altered images still recognizable as the classic Dore illustrations.
The "frames" are sculpted and the images are bulino engraved. The scenes on the hidden panels were also bulino engraved. The knife was made by Joe Kious of Kerrville, TX.
It doesn't appear to count toward the tally at GayHomophobe.com (where it's now been 6 days since the last time a homophobic public figure turned out to be queer), but Minnesota state senator Amy Koch has joined the vaunted ranks of politicians who are deeply concerned about the sanctity of all marriages except their own. The married Koch recently resigned as Senate majority leader after word got out that she'd had an "inappropriate relationship" with a male staffer.
Koch is a major force behind the attempt to enshrine special rights for straight people into Minnesota's constitution, so you might have thought she'd treat her own magical straight marriage with the respect it deserves. John Medeiros, co-curator of Minneapolis' Intermedia Arts' Queer Voices reading series, can only conclude that lapse into blatant hypocrisy must, somehow, be the fault of queer people. So, he's written an open letter, apologizing to Senator Koch, on behalf of queer Minnesotans, for forcing her to betray the sanctity of straight marriage.
Dear Ms. Koch,
On behalf of all gays and lesbians living in Minnesota, I would like to wholeheartedly apologize for our community's successful efforts to threaten your traditional marriage. We are ashamed of ourselves for causing you to have what the media refers to as an "illicit affair" with your staffer, and we also extend our deepest apologies to him and to his wife. These recent events have made it quite clear that our gay and lesbian tactics have gone too far, affecting even the most respectful of our society.
We apologize that our selfish requests to marry those we love has cheapened and degraded traditional marriage so much that we caused you to stray from your own holy union for something more cheap and tawdry. And we are doubly remorseful in knowing that many will see this as a form of sexual harassment of a subordinate.
It is now clear to us that if we were not so self-focused and myopic, we would have been able to see that the time you wasted diligently writing legislation that would forever seal the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman, could have been more usefully spent reshaping the legal definition of "adultery."
At Las Vegas International Airport, TSA supervisor [REDACTED] is keeping travelers safe from the terror of delicious cupcakes-in-a-jar. I learned this firsthand earlier today, when I put myself and my fellow travelers at risk by attempting to travel with one.
The agent who first found my dangerously delectable snack consulted [REDACTED] about it just barely within my earshot. He responded hesitantly at first, saying that he was "not sure"--and "with the holidays coming, it's getting harder and harder." When he finally decided my treat was a no-go, I asked to speak with him directly, and he asserted that the frosting on this red velvet cupcake is "gel-like" enough to constitute a liquid, in part because it "conforms to its container." Also: it "should have been in a zip-lock." At this, I offered to scoop my dangerously conformist cupcake out of its jar and place it in a zip-lock bag, where it could mush about to its heart's content; but Agent [REDACTED] wisely refused. After all, the jar in all its tasty glory "clearly contains more than 3 ounces of total contents," he said.
I then explained to [REDACTED] that I'd been allowed to bring cupcakes-in-jars through Boston's Logan airport on my outbound flight with no problem (the TSA agent there had exclaimed, "These look delicious!"). To this logic, [REDACTED] responded, "If Boston had done their job right in the first place, we wouldn't be having this conversation right now." (Take that, Boston!)
CLEARLY [REDACTED] is in the right, because unbeknownst to him, when I had previously opened one of these marvelous cupcakes on the flight from Boston, everyone's safety was jeopardized. There was pandemonium among my hunger-crazed fellow travelers: Everybody wanted one. (Just like [REDACTED], who probably ate my cupcake on his next break.)
Wired’s Kim Zetter, reporting from Army Pvt. Bradley Manning’s first hearing on charges of leaking classified documents to Wikileaks: “Manning asked “Nathaniel Frank,” believed to be Assange, about help in cracking the main password on his classified SIPRnet computer so that he could log on to it anonymously. He asked “Frank” if he had experience cracking IM NT hashes (presumably it’s a mistype and he meant NTLM for the Microsoft NT LAN Manager). 'Frank' replied yes, that they had 'rainbow tables' for doing that. Manning then sent him what looked like a hash.”
Minimum information, maximum accuracy! Watchismo introduces the world's first Two Handed One Hand Watch. The Botta Duo 24 watches are a traveling minimalist's dream watch. A single hand rotates two separate time zones, a prominent hand for the 12 hour ring and a subtle hand for the 24 hour ring.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Global Voices Advocacy have produced a guide for bloggers who believe that their work is liable to get them arrested or kidnapped by the authorities:
All bloggers should:
* Consider providing someone outside the country with the following information:
- Login credentials to your social media, email, and blog accounts
- Contact information of family members
- Information about any health conditions
* Regularly back up their blog, Facebook, email, and other accounts
* Consider mirroring your website if you want to ensure it remains up without your attention to it
* Encrypt sensitive files and consider hiding them on a separate drive
* Consider using tools like Identity Sweeper (for Android users) to secure/erase your mobile data
* Consider preparing a statement for release in case of arrest-- This can be helpful for international news outlets and human rights organizations
* Consider recording a short video identifying yourself (biographical info, scope of work) and the risks that you face and share with trusted contacts
* Develop contacts with human rights and free expression organizations*
* Think about a strategy/contingency plan for what to do if you're detained (see below)
The DOJ has rejected a Freedom of Information Act request from the New York Times that asked the agency to reveal the legal basis for the newly unveiled American program of strategic drone-attack assassinations of American citizens off the field of battle.
* The government dropped a bomb on a U.S. citizen,
* who, though a total dick and probably a criminal, may have been engaged only in propaganda,
* which, though despicable, is generally protected by the First Amendment;
* it did so without a trial or even an indictment (that we know of),
* based at least in part on evidence it says it has but won't show anyone,
* and on a legal argument it has apparently made but won't show anyone,
* and the very existence of which it will not confirm or deny;
* although don't worry, because the C.I.A. would never kill an American without having somebody do a memo first;
* and this is the "most transparent administration ever";
House Speaker John Boehner's office ordered CSPAN to switch off its camers during a fellow Congressman's scathing dressing-down over the Speaker's refusal to entertain further debate on unemployment benefits. The Speaker asserts control over CSPAN's cameras and has made it clear that Americans can only expect to see their government in session when he believes it is in their interest to do so.
“We regret, Mr. Speaker, that you have walked off the platform without addressing the issue of critical importance to this country, and that is the continuation of the middle class tax cut, the continuation of unemployment benefits for those at risk of losing them, and a continuation of the access to doctors for all those 48 million seniors who rely on them daily for help.”
And that’s when the audio cut out. Seconds later, footage faded to a shot of the capitol from outside.
Moments later, someone at C-SPAN took to Twitter and explained: “C-SPAN has no control over the U.S. House TV cameras – the Speaker of the House does.”
It’s for reasons just like this, one might infer, that Boehner told C-SPAN back in February it would not be allowed control its own cameras.
Tor, the censorship-busting technology developed by the US Navy and promoted by the State Department as part of the solution to allowing for free communications in repressive regimes, is likely illegal technology under the Stop Online Piracy Act. SOPA makes provision for punishing Americans who contribute expertise to projects that can be used to defeat its censorship regime, and Tor fits the bill.
"I worry that it is vague enough, and the intention to prevent tunneling around court-ordered restrictions clear enough, that courts will bend over backwards to find a violation," says Mark Lemley, a professor at Stanford Law School who specializes in intellectual property law.
Smith's anti-circumvention language appears designed to target software such as MAFIAAFire, the Firefox add-on that bypassed domain seizures, and ThePirateBay Dancing and Tamer Rizk's DeSOPA add-ons, which take a similar approach. (As CNET reported in May, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has tried, unsuccessfully so far, to remove MAFIAAFire from the Web.)
But Smith worded SOPA broadly enough that the anti-circumvention language isn't limited to Firefox add-ons. In an echo of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act's anti-circumvention section, SOPA targets anyone who "knowingly and willfully provides or offers to provide a product or service designed or marketed by such entity...for the circumvention or bypassing" of a Justice Department-erected blockade.
Mark your calendars, Twin Citians. The Powderhorn Park Art Sled Rally is January 28. If you've never been, you're missing out. It's a Happy Mutant-filled fun fest of creatively themed homemade sleds careening down a steep hill, ridden by costumed characters. It's also the perfect way to cure some depth-of-winter blues. Check out the video to see, among other things, a sled shaped like a 20-sided die.
I'll be joining BoingBoing readers for a meetup before this year's rally. Hopefully, you can come! We'll meet at 1:00. Reader Emily Lloyd has graciously volunteered her home, across the street from Powderhorn Park, for the meetup location. Bring what you'd like to drink. Bring a snack to share. At 2:00 or so, we'll walk to the park to watch the sledding. More details are on the BoingBoing Meetup page. See you there!
Gremlin sez, "Sonos recently pushed an update to their once stellar music system which disabled windows DRM. They decided that it was unnecessary to continue to support this feature moving forward. Unfortunately they also pushed this update without warning to many customers, and they are offering no way for those customers to roll back to the previous version. Their answer to those customers effected is that they've made the decision for us. Many customers have been complaining, but it sets a dangerous precedent for them to be able to remove features at will. Today it's a lightly used DRM system (mostly it effects people using Zune Pass at this point) tomorrow maybe it'll be Sirius Satellite, spotify, or something else more people use. We've suggested that we'd be fine with them allowing us to roll back and making the decision ourselves to not take future update but they will not allow this to occur."
It's entirely possible that the decision wasn't Sonos's to make. After all, DRM license agreements routinely provide for "revocation" in which a DRM vendor or licensing body reserves the right to order its partners to discontinue the playback of its DRM for some reason or another. Which is one of the great dangers of DRM: you buy a device with six features today, and tomorrow it has five, or four, or three, or none. The negotiations resulting in these confiscations are confidential, conducted between giant corporations without any input from the people who've bought the equipment and the media to play on it.
I wrote a long, open letter to Wired editor Chris Anderson about this in 1994, when he told me that rejecting DRM was "idealistic" and defended taking a "pragmatic stance" when reviewing technology that had DRM in it. But worrying about what happens when your devices are designed to be remotely deactivated without your consent or knowledge is eminently pragmatic and has nothing to do with idealism, as we keep on learning.