"More stringent security measures. Universal electronic surveillance. No-knock laws. Stop and frisk laws. Government inspection of first-class mail. Automatic fingerprinting, photographing, blood tests, and urinalysis of any person arrested before he is charged with a crime. A law making it unlawful to resist even unlawful arrest. Laws establishing detention camps for potential subversives. Gun control laws. Restrictions on travel. The assassinations, you see, establish the need for such laws in the public mind. Instead of realizing that there is a conspiracy, conducted by a handful of men, the people reason -- or are manipulated into reasoning -- that the entire population must have its freedom restricted in order to protect the leaders. The people agree that they themselves can't be trusted.”
― Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea, The Eye in the Pyramid, 1975
Jesse Thorn says:
Lawrence Weschler is on this week's Bullseye to talk about his great new book The Uncanny Valley, which is a collection of his narrative non-fiction for the New Yorker and other outlets over the last twenty years or so.
I talked to him about a bunch of that stuff in the main interview, but I am such a fan of his book Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Curiosities that I did a whole separate interview with him about the Museum of Jurassic Technology. It's sort of a guide to the greatest museum in the world.
Sound it Out #13: Sharon Van Etten "Serpents"
There are quite a few talented musicians playing on Sharon Van Etten’s new record Tramp (out 2/7), including dudes from The National, Wye Oak and The Walkmen. It’s a big-sounding album with lush production. The funny thing is that despite an all-star cast of many, you still feel alone in a room with Van Etten and some super raw emotions.
Sharon Van Etten sounds backed into a wall in this song. It crackles with tension and fury, yet both are surmounted by the soaring power of her distinctive voice.
Above is the world's smallest known vertebrate, Paedophryne amanuensis. Researchers found the frog in 2010 in southern Papua New Guinea and just announced the discovery yesterday. From National Geographic:
"World's Smallest Frog Found—Fly-Size Beast Is Tiniest Vertebrate"
Scientists locate the teensy animals by listening for their calls and trying to zero in on the sources of the sounds—no mean feat, since the high pitch of the calls make their sources especially hard for human hearing to locate.
(Louisiana State University biologist Christopher) Austin and graduate student Eric Rittmeyer tried four times to find the frogs before exasperatedly grabbing a big handful of leaf litter and putting it in a plastic bag.
The scientists then combed through the contents until "eventually we saw this tiny thing hop off one of the leaves," Austin said.
From The Mouth of The Sun lie somewhere on the ambient spectrum near Eno's Music for Airports and Tim Hecker's (stunning) Ravedeath, 1972. Their debut, "Woven Tide," is available later this month from Experimedia. The music can also be heard in the soundtrack for Remember Me, My Ghost, a new film by Ross McDonnell and Carter Gunn, directors of the hive death documentary Colony. That film was scored by Kansas-based composer Aaron Martin who, with Swedish musician Dag Rosenqvist, make up From The Mouth Of The Sun. From The Mouth Of The Sun: Woven Tide
UPDATE: Thanks to Experimedia's Jeremy Bible for giving us an embed code to hear the full album, below! Read the rest
Read the rest
For years, it was thought that a piece of paper could not be folded in half more than seven times. Back in 2002 though, then-high school student Britney Gallivan folded a piece 12 times. And later, Mythbusters tackled the same issue. Now, students the St. Marks School, a Massachusetts prep school, completed 13 folds. From New Scientist:
Based on the thickness of a sheet of paper, a formula can be used to calculate the minimum length needed to fold it a given number of times. Paper roughly doubles in size with each fold and the sides become more rounded, making it harder and harder to bend. Wrinkles also have a significant impact, making the formula difficult to follow in practice. In addition, no single roll is long enough to fold thirteen times, requiring the group to tape together numerous rolls of industrial toilet paper 1.2 kilometers long.
National Geographic has a really interesting story on what we can learn about human biology and human culture from studying the lives of twins. (Last week, Mark blogged about some of the photos in the story.) The story explains the chance beginnings of the now-massive Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart; introduces you to twin girls from China who were adopted by two different Canadian families that now work to keep the girls in each other's lives; and delves into what we know and don't know about why some identical twins are different from each other in very conspicuous ways.
One example of this last bit is the story of Sam and John, identical twin brothers. Both are on the autism spectrum, but they appear to be on entirely different parts of that spectrum, with John experiencing much more severe symptoms that led the boy's parents to enroll him in a special school. Why would identical twins, raised in the same family, have such an obvious difference in the expression of characteristics that are probably mostly inherited? That's where epigenetics comes in.
A study of twins in California last year suggested that experiences in the womb and first year of life can have a major impact. John's parents wonder if that was the case with him. Born with a congenital heart defect, he underwent surgery at three and a half months, then was given powerful drugs to battle an infection. "For the first six months, John's environment was radically different than Sam's," his father says.
Shortly after Sam and John were diagnosed, their parents enrolled them in a study at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore. Blood samples from the boys were shared with a team at nearby Johns Hopkins University looking into the connection between autism and epigenetic processes—chemical reactions tied to neither nature nor nurture but representing what researchers have called a "third component." These reactions influence how our genetic code is expressed: how each gene is strengthened or weakened, even turned on or off, to build our bones, brains, and all the other parts of our bodies.
If you think of our DNA as an immense piano keyboard and our genes as keys—each key symbolizing a segment of DNA responsible for a particular note, or trait, and all the keys combining to make us who we are—then epigenetic processes determine when and how each key can be struck, changing the tune being played.
We all probably had at least one friend who attempted to reinvent themselves after high-school in a way that was so not them that it just made you feel pity. You know what I'm talking about. Like the goody-goody who tried so hard to change their squeaky clean reputation, but would clearly never be a badass cool kid, no matter how many times they told you that they got "sooooo drunk" last weekend.
That's what this ad reminds me of.
Somehow, North Dakota has managed to create a tourism ad that is simultaneously offensively sleazy and desperately uncool. It's trying to make a wink-wink, "women are objects" lad mag joke. But it looks like your really dorky, incredibly square uncle's idea of a wink-wink, "women are objects" lad mag joke.
It's sleaze as designed by people who have no idea what sleaze is supposed to look like. They've just heard about it third-hand from someone who went to Vegas once.
MSNBC reports: "When you call a company or government agency for help, there's a good chance the person on the other end of the line is a prison inmate. The federal government calls it "the best-kept secret in outsourcing" — providing inmates to staff call centers and other services in both the private and public sectors."
Better still, the US gov makes about $750M a year off of this sort of thing.
The Missionary Church of Kopimism picks up where Piratbyrån left off: it has taken the values of Swedish Pirate movement and codified them into a religion. They call their central sacrament “kopyacting,” wherein believers copy information in communion with each other, most always online, and especially via file-sharing. Ibi Botani’s kopimi mark—a stylized “k” inside a pyramid—is their religious symbol, as are CTRL+C and CTRL+V. Where Christian clergy might sign a letter “yours in Christ,” Kopimists write, “Copy and seed.” They have no god.
“We see the world as built on copies,” Gerson told me. “We often talk about originality; we don’t believe there’s any such thing. It’s certainly that way with life—most parts of the world, from DNA to manufacturing, are built by copying.” The highest form of worship, he said, is the remix: “You use other people’s works to make something better.”
THE FIRST CHURCH OF PIRATE BAY (New Yorker)
An employee demonstrates a "Police Pad" at the Algorithm factory in Tbilisi, Georgia, on January 11, 2012. Five thousand police officers will receive portable field computers, equipped with features that will assist them with their work, assembled at this factory, according to local media.
Update: An official response to this blog post from the government of Georgia is here. And a response from a Boing Boing reader who is a Georgian native is here.
From the Tbilisi-based Georgian language news organization Rustavi 2:
Five thousand police officers will be handed over portable computers. New police pads were produced in Georgia by the Algorithm Company. Minister of Interior Vano Merabishvili observe the process of police pad production in the factory personally. `I have an honor to inform Georgian society and the officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, that in a few days five thousand police officers will be equipped with such field computers, which will allow the citizens and the police officers to provide services offered by the ministry to our citizens more comfortably,` Minister said adding Georgian police would soon become the most developed and modernized police in the world.
Says a friend who travels to the region often: "100% guaranteed those crooked, fat, lazy cops will be using these devices primarily for porn and russian gambling services."
Update: A counselor from the Georgian embassy to the United States has contacted Boing Boing to express disappointment that the quote above was included in this article. The remark is unfair, the official says, and it's something of a sore point for a country that has done so much to address the issue in recent years. They direct our attention to the Georgian government's efforts to reform police and fight corruption—with results, they say, that are a global example of success for an emerging democratic state. We've invited the government of Georgia to share those comments in longer form, and we'll gladly post them here as a guest opinion piece in entirety. It should also be noted that the source of the critical quote in this article loves Georgia, its people, and its culture, and travels there frequently to this day. Some who applaud the success of reforms still argue there's more work left to do.
(photo: REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili)
Summer interns at the Open University's computer science department created this interactive punching bag, then figured out how to play Ode to Joy on it:
The ‘interactive punching bag’ is a conventional punching bag that has been enhanced to provide various forms of stimulus and feedback (such as sound, lights, and displayed images or information). The physical characteristics of each punch are captured using impact sensors and accelerometers, and fed to Arduino processors. The device is programmable, and LEDs, speakers and an (optional) associated display can be used to provide different configurations of stimuli and feedback, and to log interactions over time. The bag was devised as a means of investigating interaction design in the context of a fun, physical, familiar object. It will be used to study the impact of different forms of stimulus and feedback on users, and the impact of interaction design on user experience over time. We are especially interested in the impact of different interactions on motivation and stress management.
[Video Link] Make Vol 29 is hitting newsstands any day now. Here's a video glimpse of what in this issue.
We have the technology (to quote The Six Million Dollar Man), but commercial tools for exploring, assisting, and augmenting our bodies really can approach a price tag of $6 million. Medical and assistive tech manufacturers must pay not just for R&D, but for expensive clinical trials, regulatory compliance, and liability -- and doesn't help with low pricing that these devices are typically paid for through insurance, rather than purchased directly. But many gadgets that restore people's abilities or enable new "superpowers" are surprisingly easy to make, and for tiny fractions of the costs of off-the-shelf equivalents. MAKE 29, the "DIY Superhuman" issue, explains how.
"Walter Robot" -- aka BB pal Bill Barminski and writer Christoper Louie -- directed the new Death Cab For Cutie music video "Underneath the Sycamore." It's a terrific piece of neo-noir animation! And what really delights me is the backstory: According to DCfC bassist (and delightful happy mutant) Nick Harmer, he was first turned on to Barminski's brilliance back in 2009 on Boing Boing! Nick saw Bill's work on BB and then commissioned him to direct their "Grapevine Fires" video. And now this new one! Yet another great example of what bOING bOING patron saint Timothy Leary meant when he said, "Find the others."
- Home Is A Fire - Boing Boing
- Death Cab for Cutie remixes - Boing Boing
- Death Cab for Cutie Loves Boing Boing Video (and BB!) -- and we ...
- Bill Barminski's cardboard skateboards - Boing Boing
- BBtv: Bill Barminski video for "Surfer's Point," by SubAtomic Nixons ...
- BBtv - Bill Barminski animation: "Drive-In" - Boing Boing
- “Hazy Day,” Subatomic Nixons: animation from Bill Barminski (music ...
See the background photo on the archived, pre-SOPA version of US Congressman Lamar Smith's website?
Jamie Lee Curtis Taete of Vice says:
The Author of SOPA Is a Copyright Violator
I managed to track that picture back to DJ Schulte, the photographer who took it.
And whaddya know? Looks like someone forgot to credit him.
I contacted DJ, to find out if Lamar had asked permission to use the image and he told me that he had no record of Lamar, or anyone from his organization, requesting permission to use it: "I switched my images from traditional copyright protection to be protected under the Creative Commons license a few years ago, which simply states that they can use my images as long as they attribute the image to me and do not use it for commercial purposes.
"I do not see anywhere on the screen capture that you have provided that the image was attributed to the source (me). So my conclusion would be that Lamar Smith's organization did improperly use my image. So according to the SOPA bill, should it pass, maybe I could petition the court to take action against www.texansforlamarsmith.com."
Tomorrow is the first Friday the 13th of 2012. To celebrate, LIFE.com posted a terrific gallery of photos from a "Friday the 13th Party" that took place December 13, 1940, in Room 13 at the Merchants & Manufacturers Club of Chicago.
"Chicago's Anti-Superstition Society, 1940"
[Video Link] On Monday night, Jermaine Green, a recently returned US Army veteran (who served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan), videoed an LA County Sheriff Deputy strike a mentally handicapped woman in the head. The incident took place on a city bus. The deputy then approached Green and ordered Green to hand over his cell phone. Green refused. He told TV news:
"He comes to me and says, 'Look, you can be under arrest if you don't give me that video.' And then he said, 'Do you have any warrants?'
"I said, 'No, I don't have any warrants. I'm a veteran. I just came back, I did six years, I have no record.'
"And he said, 'Well, we'll see about that.'"
The reporter asks Green why he didn't want to hand his phone over to the deputy. He said,
"I think they would try to cover it up. A lot of stuff gets covered up, and I think some people need to come forward when they see something and report it because it can't be fixed unless it's brought to the public's attention."
YouTube removed the above TV news segment, not on copyright claims, but because it says the video contains "hate speech." I watched the video twice and didn't see any evidence of hate speech. I only saw a deputy hit a mentally challenged woman in the head with his elbow, and a US Army vet calmly explaining why he thought this was wrong.
Tor.com has a sneak peek at Ashes of Candesce, the fifth volume in Karl Schroeder's astounding, heroic Virga series, about a post-Singularity civilization mining a pocket solar-system where the last pocket of human-comprehensible engineering knowledge has been preserved. This is hard-sf-meets-space-opera, full of big ideas and exciting low-gee, kerosene-fuelled pirate ships made of stunted lumber grown under an artificial sun. It's just the perfect mix of philosophy and action.
The rope that their ship had been following through the weightless air of Virga ended at a beacon about a mile ahead. This was a heavy cement cylinder with flashing lamps on its ends. Right now their flickering light was highlighting the rounded shapes of clouds that would otherwise have been invisible in the permanent darkness. Without the rope and the beacon, it would have been impossible for any ship to find this particular spot in the thousands of cubic kilometers of darkness that made up Virga’s sunless reaches.
“We thank you all for coming with us today,” the young thing was saying breathily. “We know the rumors have been intense and widespread. There’ve been stories of monsters, of ancient powers awakened in the dark old corners of Virga. We’re here today to help put any anxieties you might have to rest.”
“There.” The man beside her raised one hand and pressed his index finger against the glass. For a second she was distracted by the halo of condensation that instantly fogged into existence around his fingertip. Then she looked past and into the blackness.
Colbert on Obama's signing of bill allowing indefinite imprisonment of US citizens without charges or trial
[Video Link] Colbert's funny/scary take of Obama's weaselly handling of the NDAA.
Watchismo is announcing the newest and coolest "Diesel Super Bad Ass" watches today, now in solid gunmetal & bronzed stainless steel. Each has four watches in one substantial 65mm timepiece: timezones faces with full chronographs, two separate analog clocks and a digital display surrounded by a textured dial and etched, bolted casing. The Diesel DZ7247 & Diesel DZ7246 also feature gunmetal link & brown leather straps.
The New York Times' Public Editor, Arthur Brisbane, wants you to tell them whether they should disclose in stories when subjects are clearly lying about something.
The New York Times is unsure at present whether it should do this. (This was an unfair knee to the balls: see update below)
I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about. ... Is that the prevailing view? And if so, how can The Times do this in a way that is objective and fair? Is it possible to be objective and fair when the reporter is choosing to correct one fact over another?
Dear New York Times. You may tell the truth about it when people lie. You may even be a "truth vigilante," as
you Brisbane rather strangely put it. You will be rewarded with subjects that hate you, and readers that love you. Pick a side!
UDPATE: New York Times' National Legal Correspondent John Schwartz tweets: "Nota Bene: Public Editor doesn't speak for NYT, works "outside of the reporting and editing structure"