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The Periodic Table Table: all the elements, in carved wooden glory

Wolfram co-founder Theodore Gray, whose books, puzzles, posters, vaults (!), card decks, and apps about the Periodic Table of Elements we've featured on Boing Boing many times, has a happy obsession: a Periodic Table Table. Beautiful, hand-carved, wood. More about it in this fun video right here. The table isn't new (there's a well-worn page on Gray's website all about it), but the fun video is. (thanks, @zamieroskik!)

Did Syria's army use sat-phone surveillance to hunt down and kill journalists?

Jillian York and Trevor Timm, writing for the EFF, explore the possibility that the Syrian government used satellite phone surveillance to pinpoint the locations of journalist Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times of London and French photographer Rémi Ochlik, who were murdered in Homs, Syria this week.

On Monday night, Colvin appeared on CNN, telling Anderson Cooper that “the Syrian army is shelling a city of cold, starving civilians.” Responding to Syrian president Bashar Al Assad’s statement that he was not targeting civilians in the barrage of rocketfire raining on Homs, Colvin accused the regime of “murder” and said: “There are no military targets here…It's a complete and utter lie that they are only going after terrorists.”  A few hours later, she was dead.

The Telegraph quoted Jean-Pierre Perrin, a journalist for the Paris-based Liberation newspaper who was with Colvin in Homs last week as saying: “The Syrian army issued orders to 'kill any journalist that set foot on Syrian soil'” and that the Syrian authorities were likely watching the CNN broadcast. The Telegraph then described how “[r]eporters working in Homs, which has been under siege since February 4, had become concerned in recent days that Syrian forces had ‘locked on’ to their satellite phone signals and attacked the buildings from which they were coming.”

How could this happen?

Read more: Satphones, Syria, and Surveillance | Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Boing Boing's Beschizza talks Megaupload, ACTA, and torrent justice on RT TV

[Video Link]

Boing Boing's managing editor Rob, not Bob, but Rob, Beschizza speaks on the Russian television news network RT about Megaupload, ACTA, the global copyfight wars, and the high-flying hijinks of Kim Dotcom.

Nyan Cat orchestra: composer creates classical music variations on a meme theme

[Video Link].

Craig Davis Pinson, a composer who is a Boston Conservatory student, writes in the liner notes for the video embedded above:

This is a set of variations written on the melody heard in the Youtube video Nyan Cat. It is an experiment, in which I tried to find the limits of how far I could transform the melody before it begins losing its identity. The theme is known as Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya!, originally posted by username daniwellP on the Japanese video sharing website, Nico Nico Douga. The Nyan Cat phenomenom has become ingrained in popular culture, and amazes me both in its sheer absurdity and its freakishly colossal popularity. However, fascinating as they are to me, the origins of the theme are not played upon in this composition. Instead, I treated Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya! as pure musical material from which to generate music. The motivation to use this theme came from my repeated viewings of the video, and slowly realizing that it is a strangely alluring melody. Therefore, this is my tribute to Nyan Cat. Credit goes to daniwell-p for creating this theme, prguitarman for creating the gif animation, and saraj00n for joining them. Theme used for non-commercial purposes as per daniwell-P's request.

On a large scale, the work is structured along a simple alternation pattern. The theme and its variations alternate, similarly to rondo form. However, the theme is progressively dissolved, meaning that each time it returns it contains less percentage of the source material. This chipping-away continues until there's nothing recognizable left. In the variation episodes, more tools are employed to change the essence of the theme, especially, pronounced changes of duration, texture, harmonic character, and of the intervallic makeup of the melody. Each of the variations has its own defined character, and they contrast sharply with one another in mood and technique. Despite of the contrast of its sections, the piece exploits a long-scale narrative arc, playing on the contrast between the theme's duration - which remains essentially consistent at each iteration - and the durations of the variation episodes, which seem to grow out of control as their proportions become subverted.

Read the rest

Cautionary science fiction on the future of reproductive rights

Annalee Newitz at io9: "What will happen if the state takes control of human reproduction? The answers could be weirder than you think — and might terrify pro-life politicians as much as pro-choice advocates.

Free science fiction story ebooks from David Marusek

The wonderful science fiction writer David Marusek sez,

To promote my launch I am giving away two free Kindle ebooks containing several of my previously published short stories. Locked behind pay walls, these stories have been somewhat difficult to obtain (outside of pirate sites). My Morning Glory and other flashes of absurd science fiction is a mini-collection of flash stories first published by the British science journal, Nature, and She Was Good—She Was Funny is a short story about love and murder in the depths of an Alaskan winter. It first appeared in Playboy magazine. Both are kick-in-the-pants fun and will be free for the downloading from the Kindle store from February 23 through 27.

Marusek's The Wedding Party is one of the best sf stories I've ever read. It's tremendous to see his work online.

See also my review of Marusek's 2009 novel Mind Over Ship.

24 Magazine: every ish is done in a day, ad-free and kickstartered

Rose Fox sez,

Right this minute, eleven accomplished creative professionals have wedged themselves into a studio in Brooklyn, New York, and are in the process of putting together the first issue of twenty-four magazine. twenty-four is a quarterly publication for which each issue is conceived, written, illustrated, designed, and produced in 24 hours. The creation of the first issue began at 10 a.m. Eastern Time on February 23, 2012 and will finish at 10 a.m. on February 24, at which time PDFs of the planned 64-page magazine will be sent to the 100+ people who backed the project on Kickstarter. Print copies will follow within a week. The first issue is 100% donation-funded and ad-free.

The first issue has the theme of "trust," which will be illustrated and explored in fiction, poetry, articles, interviews, photo essays, and drawings. In addition, the contributors are documenting their creative process and soliciting ideas from the public by posting photos, videos, and text to Twitter (using the hashtag #24mag), Flickr, Storify, YouTube, and Tumblr.

twenty-four magazine

Canada doesn't belong on the US piracy watchlist, along with 70% of the rest of the world

Michael Geist sez,

In what has become an annual rite of spring, each April the U.S. government releases its Special 301 report - often referred to as the Piracy Watch List - which claims to identify countries with sub-standard intellectual property laws. Canada has appeared on this list for many years alongside dozens of countries. In fact, over 70% of the world's population is placed on the list and most African countries are not even considered for inclusion.

While the Canadian government has consistently rejected the U.S. list because it "basically lacks reliable and objective analysis", this year I teamed up with Public Knowledge to try to provide the U.S. Trade Representative Office with something a bit more reliable and objective. Public Knowledge will appear at a USTR hearing on Special 301 today. In addition, last week we participated in meetings at the U.S. Department of Commerce and USTR to defend current Canadian copyright law and the proposed reforms.

The full submission focuses on four main issues: how Canadian law provides adequate and effective protection, how enforcement is stronger than often claimed, why Canada is not a piracy haven, and why Bill C-11 does not harm the interests of rights holders (critics of Bill C-11 digital lock rules will likely think this is self-evident).

Why Canada Does Not Belong on the U.S. Piracy Watchlist

Belt-driven Devon Tread watches

New in the Watchismo Vault collection, the $17,500 Devon Tread watches, which use a cunning system of belts and optical sensors to keep and display the time. No, I don't have $17.5K to drop on something like this, but if you asked me to imagine what a $17.5K watch should look like, it would be something much like this: "The exposed movement is a mesmerizing display of the patented interwoven system of conveyor belts. This series of belts includes critical elements that allow the optical recognition system to know every belt position at all times."

Devon Tread

Goats webcomic book IV: the Kickstarter edition

Jon Rosenberg, creator of the entirely demented Goats webcomic sez, "Just wanted to let you know that it looks like I'm going to be able to do a fourth Goats book, and I'm doing it without a publisher -- this one is going to be wholly funded by the readers themselves. The Goats Book IV Kickstarter met its fundraising goal only eighteen hours after it launched, which has made me a bit giddy. The money is nice, but the ability to do projects without big companies backing them is superb." (Thanks, Jon!)'s many bots feud over book-prices

Carlos Bueno, author of a kids' book about understanding computers called Lauren Ipsum, describes what happens when the cadre of competing bots that infest Amazon's sales-database began to viciously fight with one another over pricing for his book. It's a damned weird story.

Before I talk about my own troubles, let me tell you about another book, “Computer Game Bot Turing Test”. It's one of over 100,000 “books” “written” by a Markov chain running over random Wikipedia articles, bundled up and sold online for a ridiculous price. The publisher, Betascript, is notorious for this kind of thing.

It gets better. There are whole species of other bots that infest the Amazon Marketplace, pretending to have used copies of books, fighting epic price wars no one ever sees. So with “Turing Test” we have a delightful futuristic absurdity: a computer program, pretending to be human, hawking a book about computers pretending to be human, while other computer programs pretend to have used copies of it. A book that was never actually written, much less printed and read.

The internet has everything.

This would just be an interesting anecdote, except that bot activity also seems to affect books that, you know, actually exist. Last year I published my children's book about computer science, Lauren Ipsum. I set a price of $14.95 for the paperback edition and sales have been pretty good. Then last week I noticed a marketplace bot offering to sell it for $55.63. “Silly bots”, I thought to myself, “must be a bug”. After all, it's print-on-demand, so where would you get a new copy to sell?

Then it occured to me that all they have to do is buy a copy from Amazon, if anyone is ever foolish enough to buy from them, and reap a profit. Lazy evaluation, made flesh. Clever bots!

Then another bot piled on, and then one based in the UK. They started competing with each other on price. Pretty soon they were offering my book below the retail price, and trying to make up the difference on "shipping and handling". I was getting a bit worried.

Sidebar: Lauren Ipsum sounds so interesting, I've just ordered a copy to read to my daughter!

How Bots Seized Control of My Pricing Strategy (via JWZ)

My smiley face business card party game

By George Webber

Last year I had 250 business cards printed up with :) printed on them and nothing else. Since then I've been finding handy uses for them: writing notes, flirting with girls on the bus, propping up the occasional table, whatever. A nearly-blank business card is a surprisingly useful thing to have around.

The best thing I've been using them for is to make meeting lots of people more interesting. I'm normally very nervous about meeting new people, I'm regularly thrust into intimidating situations, and I meet so many different kinds of people that it's often hard to come up with something to talk about immediately.

Now I ask them to play my game: I hand them a pen and one of these cards and ask them to complete the drawing. No time limit, no wrong answers, do whatever you want. You just have to give it back to me so I can take it home and scan it. Your reward when you're finished is that you get to see the whole collection of what other people have done. And once a couple of people have done one, that stack grows quickly.

I've been collecting these for a while (you can see the full collection on my blog), but last night I stumbled upon Sketch Tuesday (on Wednesday) at the 111 Minna Gallery where dozens of artists from local museums and elsewhere came to draw. This was a particularly fruitful evening for the game, and I've put all of the cards I collected after the jump.

Thanks to Christian, Willa, Tim, Paul, George, Rick, Mae, Kimberly, Jim, Andrew, Lonnie, Adam, Drew, Brandon, and whoever else did one of these for me!

Read the rest

The 1990s in forty-eight pictures

Buzzfeed's vision of the 1990s seems close to that of many Americans. From the other side of the pond, I offer a single addendum.

Astrologers who claimed copyright on timezones apologize, drop lawsuit -- EFF declares victory!

A heartening development in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's ongoing effort to secure the Internet's timezone database, which was threatened when an astrology software company called Astrolabe claimed a copyright in the arrangement of the world's timezones. After EFF sought sanctions against the company's lawyers, the company dropped the suit, apologized, and signed a "covenant not to sue."

In a statement, Astrolabe said, "Astrolabe's lawsuit against Mr. Olson and Mr. Eggert was based on a flawed understanding of the law. We now recognize that historical facts are no one's property and, accordingly, are withdrawing our Complaint. We deeply regret the disruption that our lawsuit caused for the volunteers who maintain the TZ database, and for Internet users."

EFF Wins Protection for Time Zone Database

Spot the difference: jewelry edition

On the left, a jewelry design by TattyDevine. On the right, one sold by Claire's. I suspect that it's a fairly generic motif, but that really is very close to an exact rip, isn't it? Except that it's pink, of course.

Claire’s Accessories rip-off Tatty Devine designs [ via]

Make: Talk 006 - William Gurstelle, Backyard Ballistics


Here's the 6th episode of MAKE's podcast, Make: Talk! In each episode, I'll interview one of the makers featured in the magazine.

Our maker this week is William Gurstelle. He's a contributing editor to MAKE and his books include Backyard Ballistics, Adventures from the Technology Underground, and Absinthe and Flamethrowers. In addition, Bill writes frequently on culture and technology for national magazines and blogs including The Atlantic, Wired, and Popular Science.

Here's are some projects William has written for MAKE:

Two-Can Stirling Engine


Double Pendulum

Super Tritone Shop Whistle

Superminimalist movie posters

You may be fond of creating minimalist movie posters, which cleverly boil down a whole production to a single distinctive, cinematic motif. I'm afraid Slacktory's Jed Stoneham has you all conclusively beaten.

Retro City Rampage

Brian Provinciano's Retro City Rampage is a 2D sandbox kill-em-up similar to the pre-3D GTA outings—but with more 1980s. Available for pre-order, it'll be released on PC in both DRM-free form and on Steam, and on PlayStation 3, PS Vita, Xbox LIVE Arcade, and WiiWare. The distinctive soundtrack may already be bought separately for anyone liking the cut of its chippish jib.

Update: Good lord, in development for 8 years. Cory blogged it in 2004!

Sponsor Shout-Out: Watchismo

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

Watchismo has just added three of the coolest independent watch brands to 'The VAULT', a curated collection of extraordinary time machines.

Devon Watches' Tread 1 exposes a mesmerizing, interwoven system of patented conveyor belts, which include critical elements to allow the optical recognition system to know every belt position at all times.

Azimuth Watches echo a mathematical term used by astrologers, navigators and military men to survey their bearings. The measurement now represents cerebral pursuits: a reflection of time and space drawn from the word's Arabic origins, where it evokes the route taken by a traveler.

RSW Watches' neo-brutalist design pays homage to futurism, oblique architecture and the earliest electronic musical instruments. Check out 'Outland', a contemporary masculine wristwatch modeled on the compass.

Futuristic Toronto ARG raising money on IndieGoGo

Trevor sez,

ZED.TO is a transmedia adventure that invites audiences to join the ranks of a biotech corporation called ByoLogyc. They're innovative and design-minded, they're the Apple of an emerging technological market, and they're working on a product that will change the lives of all involved... The project pulls from the domains of tangible futures, immersive theatre, and science fiction... but the experience is something brand new to Toronto.

The creators of ZED.TO are running an IndieGoGo campaign right now to help secure the funds for site-specific apocalyptic installations across Toronto over eight months (from Fringe Fest to Nuit Blanche, and a culminating event that we'll evacuate audiences out to this October).


Polica- "Lay Your Cards Out" (MP3 download)


Sound it Out # 18: Polica- "Lay Your Cards Out"" (ft Mike Noyce)

I haven’t done any market research on this song, but I’m pretty sure that the playing of it will make someone want to have sex with you. OK -- that person needs to already be attracted to you and be considering it... but this might put them over the edge. Try it and report back, please.

Polica (which is pronounced "police-uh" and officially spelled as the WordPress-unfriendly Poliça) makes slinky, seductive music. The band is a collaboration between Channy Casselle and Ryan Olson, two members of the 25-piece band/collective known as Gayngs. Mike Noyce from Bon Iver kicks in some vocals as well.

Polica has a new record called Give You the Ghost and it maintains a tone of erotic yearning all the way through. Hot!

Ballad of the Virginia mandatory transvaginal ultrasound

Jonathan Mann has devoted today's song-a-day entry to the notorious Virginia transvaginal ultrasound. He notes, "As I was writing this song, the Virginia house passed a bill which still mandates ultrasounds within 24 hours of an abortion, but thankfully, they left out the transvaginal part. I still think the songs stands, though."

More Jonathan Mann songs on Boing Boing.

Mandatory Transvaginal Ultrasounds (Song A Day #1148)

Return of Mat Ricardo's east London variety night

Indie juggler, conjurer and impresario Mat Ricardo sez,

Earlier this month we launched the first in this season of Mat Ricardo's London Varieties - the combined comedy variety and interview show that comes live from the Bethnal Green Working Mens Club in London. We had a ball. You should have been there!

But it's ok, because next month's show is even better - cabaret superstars Frisky & Mannish, amazing dance troupe The Twilight Players, and the astonishing juggler and yo-yo-ist Arron Sparks will make up the variety part of the show, and then I'll be sitting down and chatting live on stage to legendary UK comedy writer and twitter guru Graham Linehan. Also, I'll be attempting the new trick that I promised to try to learn last month (newsflash - it's not going well...), we'll be showing some rare archive variety footage, I'll be telling you what happened when I was a guest on the Jonathan Ross Show last week, plus lots more actual fun surprises!

It's going to happen at the Bethnal Green Working Mens Club, East London, on March 8th. Doors 7pm, show 8pm sharp. It's a small venue, and tickets are limited.

Mat Ricardo's London Varieties March 8th!


Expert showmanship in the streetside preparation of a banana pastry

This Asian street-food vendor is a great showman, juggler, and all round bad-ass banana pastry maker.

Expert Cooking - AMAZING !!! (Thanks, wetdog2!)

Microsoft, Google and Netflix want to add DRM-hooks to W3C HTML5 standard

A proposed anti-copying extension for the W3C's standard for HTML5 has been submitted by representatives of Google, Microsoft and Netflix. The authors take pains to note that this isn't "DRM" -- because it doesn't attempt to hide keys and other secrets from the user -- but in a mailing list post, they later admitted that this could be "addressed" by running the browser inside a proprietary hardware system that hid everything from the user.

Other WC3 members -- including another prominent Googler, Ian Hickson -- have called for the withdrawal of the proposal. Hickson called it "unethical." I agree, and would add "disingenuous," too, since the proposal disclaims DRM while clearly being intended to form a critical part of a DRM system.

In an era where browsers are increasingly the system of choice for compromising users' security and privacy, it is nothing short of madness to contemplate adding extensions to HTML standards that contemplate designing devices and software to deliberately hide their workings from users, and to prevent users from seeing what they're doing and changing that behavior if it isn't in their interests.

Writing on Ars Technica, Ryan Paul gives a good blow-by-blow look at the way that this extension is being treated in the W3C:

Mozilla's Robert O'Callahan warned that the pressure to provide DRM in browsers might lead to a situation where major browser vendors and content providers attempt to push forward a suboptimal solution without considering the implications for other major stakeholders.

Some of the discussion surrounding the Encrypted Media proposal seem to validate his concerns. Mozilla's Chris Pearce commented on the issue in a message on the W3C HTML mailing list and asked for additional details to shed light on whether the intended content protection scheme could be supported in an open source application.

"Can you highlight how robust content protection can be implemented in an open source webrowser?" he asked. "How do you guard against an open source web browser simply being patched to write the frames/samples to disk to enable (presumably illegal) redistribution of the protected content?"

Netflix's Mark Watson responded to the message and acknowledged that strong copy protection can't be implemented in an open source Web browser. He deflected the issue by saying that copy protection mechanisms can be implemented in hardware, and that such hardware can be used by open source browsers.

"Unethical" HTML video copy protection proposal draws criticism from W3C reps (Thanks, Rob!)

Matter: kickstartered project to sustain serious, long-form online journalism

Matter is a new startup hoping to raise $50,000 on Kickstarter to support thoughtful, long-form journalism on the Internet. Founded by Bobbie Johnson (my former editor at The Guardian) and respected journalist Jim Giles, it seeks to produce a stable business model for serious, reflective online writing.

MATTER will focus on doing one thing, and doing it exceptionally well. Every week, we will publish a single piece of top-tier long-form journalism about big issues in technology and science. That means no cheap reviews, no snarky opinion pieces, no top ten lists. Just one unmissable story.

MATTER is about brilliant ideas from all around the world, whether they come from professors at MIT or the minds of mad people. But most of all, it’s about getting amazing investigative reporters to tell compelling stories.

We’re building MATTER for readers, not advertisers. So however you access our stories — whether it’s on our website, via the Kindle store, or on your Apple and Android devices — you will get a beautifully designed experience that puts you first.