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!) Cory

Amazon.com'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 [Handbag.com via]