Long Forgotten, the world-beatingly insightful blog on the history and design of the Haunted Mansion rides at Disneyland, Walt Disney World and other parks, has a new lavishly illustrated post up, this one on the contribution of background artist Claude Coats. HBG2, the site's author, makes a compelling case for Coats' draftsmanship and sense of depth and detail being the clinching element of the Mansion's design, the thing that makes it seem so much bigger and realer than it has any right to be. I once read FoxxFur, the blogger at the equally awesome Passport2Dreams Old and New describe the Mansion as a series of scenes in a giant, empty box (contrasting with the Pirates of the Caribbean, which is really a series of towns and scenes that fill the whole ride-space -- but the Mansion feels like it goes on and on, like you could jump out of your vehicle and get lost in its depths.
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Coats was one of the artists Walt pulled out of the studio to work on Disneyland as it neared completion. He had studied architecture as well as painting, and he seemed a natural pick for designing the interiors of dark rides, starting with Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Among other things, Coats had a knack for squeezing an amazing amount of ride into a ridiculously small space. He and Ken Anderson must be given the lion's share of credit for Toad. The precise extent of Coats's contributions to the other two 1955 originals, Snow White and Peter Pan, is less clear, but there seems to be little doubt that he participated.
Apple's design chief, Jonathan Ive, is named a Knight Commander
in Britain's new year's honours list. [BBC] Read the rest
Behold the inexplicable Shira Miss Muffin, who appears to be Pittsburgh's answer to Rebeccah Black. [Thanks, Heather! Thanks a lot.] Read the rest
[Video Link] This $50 controller looks cool, and the man in the video seems much nicer than Paul Christoforo.
60beat GamePad controller
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In 1997, Apple gifted the Stanford University Libraries its historical collections of paperwork, hardware, software, artifacts, and other materials documenting the organization since Woz and Jobs founded it in 1976. The Associated Press toured the collection. No, it's not available for public viewing. Read the rest
A classic fanboy-type argument has real-world tax implications. If the IRS decrees that Marvel's comic book mutants are human, then Marvel will have to pay more taxes.
In the non-fictional world, our world, Marvel is taking the position that mutants are not humans at all. But this isn’t an ideological or a moral stance. Instead, it is a financial one. Toys manufactured in other countries and imported into the US are subject to taxes, but those taxes are lower if the toys represent non-human characters. That has led to Marvel lawyers arguing that an action figure representing, say, Wolverine, is actually “representing animals or other non-human creatures (for example, robots and monsters).” This argument leads to a good conversation on the questions of humanity and acceptance that have long been part of the X-Men storyline.
Perhaps Marvel can tape a small styrofoam cube to its characters to skirt the rules.
Real-Life Weirdness: Marvel Lawyers Insist Mutants Aren’t Human (Via Neatorama)
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Now in the Boing Boing Shop, the Robot Tea Infuser, because tea is always better with robots.
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Photo: Aly Song, with Reuters Read the rest
MIT has long offered thousands of undergrad and graduate level course materials for free online
. This month, they announced plans to significantly update and expand that effort
, creating an open-source education system called MITx that will basically allow anyone to virtually take an MIT class, participate in laboratories, and get individual assessment on whether or not they've learned the material. The school even has plans—not fully worked out yet—to offer some kind of certificate of completion to people who take classes this way and can show that they've mastered the subject. MITx will open in spring of 2012
. I'm looking forward to checking out this great resource! (Thanks to Chris Hayden!) Read the rest
A new study suggests that in the summertime, tornadoes and hailstorms in the eastern US occur significantly more often during the middle of the week. Why? There's more pollution during the workweek due to commuting and other factors. From National Geographic:
…Moisture gathers around specks of pollutants, which leads to more cloud droplets. Computer models suggest these droplets get lofted up to higher, colder air, leading to more plentiful and larger hail.
Understanding how pollution can generate more tornadoes is a bit trickier. First, the large icy particles of hail that pollutants help seed possess less surface area than an equal mass of smaller "hydrometeors"—that is, particles of condensed water or ice.
As such, these large hydrometeors evaporate more slowly, and thus are not as likely to suck heat from the air. This makes it easier for warm air to help form a "supercell," the cloud type that usually produces tornadoes and large hail...
The pollution-storm pattern is not seen in the western U.S. because the air is too dry and the cloud masses too high and cold for air pollution to influence weather the same way, said study co-author Daniel Rosenfeld, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.
Overall, the research "provides yet another good reason for reducing air pollution," Rosenfeld said.
"Why Tornadoes Take the Weekends Off in Summer
" Read the rest
The English seaside resort of Blackpool is currently coated in a mysterious white gunge, blowing in from the Atlantic ocean on storm-force winds. "We know it happens occasionally and can disappear again quite quickly so we will be looking further into what triggers it," said a spokesman for Britain's Environment Agency. Read the rest
Sam Blackburn is the technician who for five years kept Stephen Hawking's communication systems running. Now Hawking is looking for a new Technical Assistant. To get a sense of the job, New Scientist interviewed Blackburn.
Stephen's voice is very distinctive, but you say there might be a problem retaining it?
I guess the most interesting thing in my office is a little grey box, which contains the only copy we have of Stephen's hardware voice synthesizer. The card inside dates back to the 1980s and this particular one contains Stephen's voice. There's a processor on it which has a unique program that turns text into speech that sounds like Stephen's, and we have only two of these cards. The company that made them went bankrupt and nobody knows how it works any more. I am trying to reverse engineer it, which is quite tricky.
Can't you update it with a new synthesizer?
No. It has to sound exactly the same. The voice is one of the unique things that defines Stephen in my opinion. He could easily change to a voice that was clearer, perhaps more soothing to listen to – less robotic sounding – but it wouldn't be Stephen's voice any more.
"The man who saves Stephen Hawking's voice" (New Scientist)
"Think you could be the next Technical Assistant?" (hawking.org.uk) Read the rest
One of the most mind-blowing presentations at this year's Chaos Communications Congress (28C3) was Ang Cui's Print Me If You Dare, in which he explained how he reverse-engineered the firmware-update process for HPs hundreds of millions of printers. Cui discovered that he could load arbitrary software into any printer by embedding it in a malicious document or by connecting to the printer online. As part of his presentation, he performed two demonstrations: in the first, he sent a document to a printer that contained a malicious version of the OS that caused it to copy the documents it printed and post them to an IP address on the Internet; in the second, he took over a remote printer with a malicious document, caused that printer to scan the LAN for vulnerable PCs, compromise a PC, and turn it into a proxy that gave him access through the firewall (I got shivers).
Cui gave HP a month to issue patches for the vulnerabilities he discovered, and HP now has new firmware available that fixes this (his initial disclosure was misreported in the press as making printers vulnerable to being overheated and turning into "flaming death bombs" -- he showed a lightly singed sheet of paper that represented the closest he could come to this claim). He urges anyone with an HP printer to apply the latest patch, because malware could be crafted to take over your printer and then falsely report that it has accepted the patch while discarding it.
Cui's tale of reverse-engineering is a fantastic look at the craft and practice of exploring security vulnerabilities. Read the rest
A couple of weeks ago, Mark told you about Lego's new line of products aimed at girls. It includes new minifigs that look more like dolls and cutesy playsets with names like Heartlake City. This week, Cory introduced you a little girl who is very frustrated with excessively gendered toys.
I played with a lot of Legos when I was a little girl. And, while I certainly liked dolls, that wasn't really what I used Legos for. (And, frankly, going shopping, playing house, and being "just like me" wasn't what I used dolls for. In my experience, games of playing house tend to involve a lot more violent interaction with pirates, Darth Vader, and Nazis than advertising to girls would lead you to suspect. First you put the baby to bed, then you defend her with your mad karate skills, right?) Ads like this old one from 1981 appeal to me a whole lot more than modern girlvertising. I've seen this ad passed around the Internet before. But the contrast with those recent reminders of who advertisers and toymakers think girls are strikes me as particularly timely.
Thanks, L0! Read the rest