Strange metal sphere that fell from the sky

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.

"Mysterious metal ball from space falls in Namibia" Read the rest

DRM-free experiment makes Louis CK a millionaire

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." Read the rest

GoDaddy supports SOPA, customers take business elsewhere

Maxwell sez, "Following GoDaddy's announcement backing the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act, many customers have started to move their domains to other hosts. I guess that throwing your customers to the wolves isn't a good business tactic." For the record, I use Hover for all my domains and swear by 'em. Read the rest

Merry Grotemas!: A celebration in honor of the greatest radiofan who ever lived

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.

Grote Reber died in 2002. He would have been 100 years old today, and reader Bill Higgins has written him a lovely and awe-inspiring tribute. Here's a short excerpt:

[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.

Read the rest

National Cancer Institute help line provides unbiased, useful information

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. Read the rest

MRI technicians tune machine to play "Smoke on the Water"

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) Read the rest

Did Neanderthals speak with a high-pitched voice?

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.

Read the rest

Knife engraved with Dore's illustrations for Dante's Inferno

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.

Default Dante's Inferno theme engraving

(via Making Light) Read the rest

An open letter to Minnesota state senator Amy Koch

It doesn't appear to count toward the tally at (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.  

Read the rest

TSA confiscates cupcake, calls frosting a "gel"

Rebecca writes,

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.

Read the rest

Army: Manning asked Assange to help crack password

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.” Read the rest

Sponsor Shout-Out: Watchismo

Our thanks to Watchismo for sponsoring Boing Boing Blast, our once-daily delivery of headlines by email.

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.

This is an extension of the very popular Botta Uno watches with single one-handed displays. Check out more cool one-handed watches at the Watchismo Single Hand Watch Collection. Read the rest

Guide for bloggers who worry that they'll be imprisoned by their governments

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)

For Bloggers at Risk: Creating a Contingency Plan Read the rest

DOJ to America: we won't reveal the circumstances under which you can be assassinated by us

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"; * currently run by a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

For Christmas, Your Government Will Explain Why It's Legal to Kill You Read the rest

Oh dreydl dreydl dreydl, I printed you with a wire-extruding Makerbot! And when the patents expire, I'll print you again with powder deposition technology!

In the event that you found a 3D printer under the Hannukah bush this year, here's a shapefile for a 3D printable dreydl to run off to your heart's content, courtesy of Zydac.

As it gets to the candle-lighting hour here on the East Coast, it really feels like (C)Hanu(k)kah 2k11 is going to be a good one. And what’s the number one accessory for the festival of lights?

OK, well, yes, candles. But the number two accessory is definitely the dreidel! And thanks to the prolific Zydac, Thingiverse has a lovely example to help share out the gelt.

Well done, Thingiverse! Now what about some printable latkes?

Happy Hanukkah: Dreidel by Zydac « MakerBot Industries Read the rest

House Speaker John Boehner orders CSPAN's cameras switched off during contentious House debate

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.

Boehner’s office cuts off C-SPAN cameras as GOP takes verbal beating (via Reddit) Read the rest

SOPA bans Tor, the US Navy's censorship-busting technology

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.

How SOPA's 'circumvention' ban could put a target on Tor (Thanks, James!) Read the rest

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