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New horror podcast for Friday the 13th

Tony from Starship Sofa sez, "Launching today Friday 13th sees a new horror podcast from StarShipSofa called Tales To Terrify. This will be a sister show to the Sofa but dealing with scary character driven horror stories. The host of this weekly podcast is award-winning writer and narrator, Lawrence Santoro." Cory

RAW quote: restriction of freedom (1975)

"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

Fnord

Lawrence Weschler on Bullseye

Jesse Thorn says:

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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.

Sharon Van Etten "Serpents" (MP3 download)

201201121743Sound 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.

World's smallest known vertebrate

 Wpf Media-Live Photos 000 468 Overrides Tinest-Frog-New-Species-Paedophryne-Amauensis 46802 600X450 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:

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.

"World's Smallest Frog Found—Fly-Size Beast Is Tiniest Vertebrate"

From The Mouth Of The Sun: lovely droning ambience

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From The Mouth Of The Sun - Like Shadows In An Empty Cathedral* by experimedia

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

New record: toilet paper folded 13 times!

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.

"Students break record by folding toilet paper 13 times"

Twins: Nature, nurture, and epigenetics

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.

Image: Twins, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from missbossy's photostream

North Dakota tries to be cool, fails

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.

Woman calls police to report that she was sold sugar, not crack, by her crack dealer

47-year-old Suzanne Basham of Springfield, Missouri called police to report that she had paid $40 for crack cocaine that turned out to be sugar, and wanted her dealer arrested. She is now in jail. Xeni

Google bulking up in China; could censor/surveillance-compliant Android Market be next?

"Google, which has taken a principled stand by refusing to censor its search results in China, may be slipping to the dark side as it considers launching the Android Market there. The Chinese government censors apps, and so an Android Market launch could mean the company will bow to the censorship demands of China's ruling party."—Preston Gralla at Computerworld (via @jilliancyork). Xeni

That call center you reached? If they're in the US, the person speaking may be a prison inmate

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.

Big news in small things: new nanotechnology findings found by IBM researchers

Markoff in the New York Times: "Researchers at I.B.M. have stored and retrieved digital 1s and 0s from an array of just 12 atoms, pushing the boundaries of the magnetic storage of information to the edge of what is possible." And, what is possible has big implications on the future of computing. Xeni

New Yorker on new Pirate Bay religion, the Missionary Church of Kopimism

Cory blogged earlier about the Missionary Church of Kopimism, Sweden’s newest registered religion. Now there's a feature about it in the New Yorker, by Rollo Romig:

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)

Burglars abandon CDs and DVDs

British burglars have stopped stealing CDs and DVDs because, yeah, who needs 'em? "...thefts of entertainment products like CDs and DVDs have collapsed in England and Wales, to the point that they are now taken in just 7% of all burglaries in which something is stolen..." (Thanks, Bruce!) Cory