Boing Boing 

"I'm proud of you," deaf man signs to Obama in ASL. "Thank you," president signs back.

[Video Link] From H. Hoover at Distriction blog, a little anecdote about a cool interaction that Stephon, a young man who was "born deaf and justifiably proud," had with the president at a recent event:

Stephon stood just a few feet away from Barack Obama. The president, busy shaking hands, looked right at him. “It was like he was waiting for me to say something,” he said later.

So the 26-year-old Prince George’s Community College student took his cue and spoke to President Obama in his first language: American Sign Language. “I am proud of you,” Stephon signed. The president, almost involuntary, instinctively, immediately signed back.

“Thank you,” Obama replied.

The whole story is a nice little read.

This has nothing to do with the neat story behind this video, but I've always wondered: is being bald and steely-eyed a requirement for Secret Service agents? I mean, is it in the job description? And if they're not already bald, do they make them shave their heads? Because it seems like every one I've seen in real life, and in this video, is a steely-eyed bald guy. Someone please get back to me on that. Thanks.

(via Steve Silberman)

Girl Walk: 77-minute dance-film accompanies Girl Talk's All Day

Girl Walk is a 77-minute dance film that accompanies Girl Talk's astounding album All Day, produced through an extremely successful Kickstarter project that raised $24,817 out of the $4,800 the producers were seeking. I just watched the first half (it's in a series of segments on Vimeo) and was blown away.

What's the story? A young dancer finds herself disgruntled with her low-paying, mundane waitressing job. One day, she impulsively quits, then takes a ferry to the city. Feeling incredibly inspired by what she sees, Anne dances her way across New York, using the city as her stage. Throughout her journey, she meets characters of all types, including a series of like-minded dancers, who'll inspire new movements, engage her in small battles, and teach her to fear, love, laugh and live anew. From the ferry to museums, subways, ball games, bridges, bodegas, graveyards, flower shops, and more, Anne's journey will bring her far and wide. See the trailer, in full, at

Watch the Film | Girl Walk // All Day (via Waxy)

Fooling facial recognition surveillance cameras with cunning and crocheting

[Video Link]

Canadian yarn-lover and privacy-lover Howie Woo has developed an ingenious system for thwarting surveillance cameras that use face recognition technology. His solution involves crochet and LOLs. Here are more photos (via the Boing Boing Flickr Pool). More about Howie's playful creations here.

Will the FAA stop prohibiting electronic devices on commercial flights?

As I noted in a Boing Boing post yesterday, there's news of a possible change ahead for in-flight gadget rules in the US.

The Federal Aviation Administration currently prohibits passengers from using electronic devices on commercial flights when the plane is below 10,000 feet in altitude. But the FAA announced this week that after widespread demands to modify restrictions, there may be new efforts to review whether devices like the iPad or phones in "airplane mode" can be permitted safely during takeoff and landing.

Aviation journalist and pilot Miles O'Brien, who uses his iPad for navigation while flying his own plane, joined KPCC's Patt Morrison show today to discuss the news. Here's a direct MP3 link to the radio segment. It's a good listen.

1977 CB radio ad

This 1977 CB radio ad has it all, from the heavy metal concept album lettering to the lens-flares on every surface -- even a halo for the holy gizmo itself.

1977 CW McCall Midland CB Radio

Dutch Catholic Church accused of castrating 10 young men

In the New York Times, Stephen Castle reports on a case in the Netherlands dating back to the 1950s: Roman Catholic Church officials are accused of surgically castrating as many as ten young men. In at least one case, the act may have been punishment against a child who went to police to report that he had been sexually abused by priests. The castrations may have also been "treatment for homosexuality." The article contains descriptions that may be upsetting.

(via Mia Farrow)

The murder of Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin, 17 (above), was shot to death on February 26 while walking to his dad's girlfriend's house from a convenience store just north of Orlando, Florida. He was unarmed, wearing a hoodie, and carrying some Skittles and iced tea he purchased at the mini-mart.

George Zimmerman, 28 (inset), is the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Trayvon. Zimmerman told police he shot the young man in self-defense. As more information about the incident emerges, this explanation sounds increasingly less plausible.

The case has sparked widespread interest and outrage online, in part because Zimmerman remains free, and Trayvon was an innocent kid doing nothing wrong, who cried out for help as he was attacked. His only threat, it seems, was being a black male.

A roundup of links for further reading and following, as the case evolves:

Mother Jones has an excellent explainer piece here, and ongoing coverage.
A New York Times item today: US Grand Jury opens an investigation into the killing. Related news about FBI involvement at the Miami Herald.
• A phone call from Trayvon to a 16-year-old female friend sparks new demands for Zimmerman's arrest.
• "How we can leverage the anger over individual incidents into a larger restructuring of perceptions and justice," asks journalist Farai Chideya. "It’s easy to work up ire about individual cases, but harder to work on systemic change." She's on Twitter here.
Charles Blow at the New York Times has been on the story. One item is here, but his Twitter feed is well worth a follow for ongoing (and paywall-free) updates.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, senior editor for The Atlantic, has been reporting on the case as well. He's updating on Twitter, too.
• The blog for MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry show is a good source of updates, and the show itself has been covering the case as well.
Think Progress has a "what everyone should know" post here.
• Zimmerman has been variously identified as "White," and "White Hispanic." An NPR opinion piece asks, What if he were black?
• At the Huffington Post, Trymaine Lee has been on the story for weeks, with strong reporting. Worth a Twitter follow. • Farai Chideya points to this Trendsmap of where in the US the #trayvon hashtag is currently trending.

(Thanks to all of my Twitter followers who shared suggestions for good sources of coverage.)

In economically devastated Greece, internet-enabled barter economy rises

An interesting piece in the Guardian this week about cashless commerce in Greece, where the currency crisis has prompted citizens to take unusual measures to obtain essential goods. One exchange website in particular is cited, and a unit of barter known as "tems." The network has been online for about a year and a half. Snip from a portion of Jon Henley's report about the open-air markets where tems are exchanged for daily neccessities:

“They’re quite joyous occasions,” she said. “It’s very liberating, not using money.” At one market, she said, she approached a woman who had come along with three large trays of homemade cakes and was selling them for a unit a cake. “I asked her: ‘Do you think that’s enough? After all, you had the cost of the ingredients, the electricity to cook …’

“She replied: ‘Wait until the market is over’, and at the end she had three different kinds of fruit, two one-litre bottles of olive oil, soaps, beans, a dozen eggs and a whole lot of yoghurt. ‘If I had bought all this at the supermarket,’ she said, ‘it would have cost me a great deal more than what it cost to make these cakes.’”

What rules the system has are designed to ensure the tems continue “to circulate, and work hard as a currency”, said Christos Pappionannou, a mechanical engineer who runs the network’s website using open-source software. No one may hold more than 1,200 tems in the account “so people don’t start hoarding; once you reach the top limit you have to start using them.” And no one may owe more than 300, so people “can’t get into debt, and have to start offering something.

Read the rest here. (via Clayton Cubitt, photo: Lambros Kazan/Shutterstock)

Wooden skyscrapers: efficient, fire-safe, environmentally friendly(ier)

An architect named Michael Green believes he can make wooden skyscrapers that stand 100 storeys tall, and he's prototyping the idea with a 30-storey wooden building in Vancouver. More wooden high-rises are planned in Austria and Norway. Green uses laminated strand lumber, a glue/wood composite, and has char buffers to give it good safety in fires. He claims that his buildings can be cheaper than comparable structures made from traditional steel and concrete, and will have a smaller carbon footprint.

Wood buildings lock in carbon dioxide for the life cycle of a structure, while the manufacture of steel and concrete produces large amounts of CO2 -- the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimate that for every 10 kilos of cement created, six to nine kilos of CO2 are produced.

Green's "Tallwood" structure is designed with large panels of laminated strand lumber -- a composite made of strands of wood glued together. Other mass timber products use layers of wood fused together at right angels that making they immensely strong and able to be used as lode bearing infrastructure, walls and floors.

Despite being made of wood any worries about towering infernos should be banished, says Green, as large timber performs well in fires with a layer of char insulating the structural wood beneath.

"It may sound counter-intuitive, but performing well in a fire is something inherent in large piece of wood, that's why in forest fires the trees that survive are the largest ones," he says.

Can wooden skyscrapers transform concrete jungles?(via Dvice)

NYPD and Bloomberg vs. Occupy Wall Street: "Just hit them"

"[W]hat's been pretty seriously under-covered is this past weekend's amazing outburst of out-of-control NYPD tactics on Occupy Wall Street," writes Choire Sicha at the Awl, along with a roundup of links and videos illustrating just how out-of-control those NYPD tactics are.

13 days until “The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist”! (and your chance to win free copy)

Alvin Buenaventura, editor of The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist, says

These images (above and after the jump below) are previously unpublished sketchbook pages from The Daniel Clowes Archive. They are some of our favorite drawings that didn't make it into the 230-page book. It was a real treat to spend days looking through Clowes’s many sketchbooks, which are full of amazing stuff.
The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist will be available April 1st. Order a copy today from your local bookseller, the publisher, or Amazon. OR: Enter our contest for a chance to win a copy of the book autographed by Clowes. Throughout the countdown, one winner will be picked at random every day, so check for the daily code. To enter, send an email to with your mailing address (no PO boxes please) and put in the subject line today’s contest code: davidboring.

See the other images

Neil deGrasse Tyson on faster-than-light particles (live streamed event starts at 7:30 pm Eastern)

Video streaming by Ustream

Tonight, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts a roundtable debate on Einstein's Theory of Relativity, its discontents, and how likely the theory is to stand the test of time.

You're all familiar with the recent drama in this department—data from the OPERA experiment in Italy that purported to find neutrinos moving faster than the speed of light. That has since turned out to be the result of a faulty GPS system, but it's not the only challenge to Einstein, and some of those questions can't be discounted nearly as easily.

The debate—which features scientists from UCLA, CERN, Boston University, the MITRE Center, the University of Bologna, and Louisiana State University—starts at 7:30 pm Eastern. You can watch the whole thing in the live stream embedded above.

You can also participate in the debate by tweeting questions to deGrasse Tyson and the panel. You can do that by tagging your question with the hashtag #AsimovDebate.

Famous painter of prehistoric murals for museums, Charles R. Knight - exclusive excerpt

When you think of dinosaurs, you are imagining them as envisioned by the artist Charles R. Knight 100 years ago.

American wildlife artist Charles R. Knight (1874–1953) spent a lifetime creating scientifically accurate and spectacularly beautiful images of Earth’s ancient past, from dinosaurs and mammoths to saber-toothed cats and early humans. For generations, his groundbreaking work has inspired scientists, artists, and filmmakers all over the world and shaped the way prehistoric times are imagined today.

This stunning volume gathers together both iconic and never-before-seen works from Knight’s days of sketching animals in the newly opened Bronx Zoo, to the decades spent creating murals of prehistoric species for the American Museum of Natural History and the Field Museum.
This month, Abrams published the beautiful art book, Charles R. Knight: The Artist Who Saw Through Time, by Richard Milner. Abrams has kindly given permission for me to run a selection of images from the book. Enjoy!

Knight’s 1897 painting of fighting dryptosaurs, called Leaping Laelops. Credit: © AMNH

See all the images in the gallery

Reason TV: Mark Frauenfelder on DIY Super-Humanism, Unschooling and the Future of Print Journalism

[Video Link] Tim Cavanaugh, managing editor of, recently came by my house for a video chat. It was a lot of fun!

"You know, I studied mechanical engineering in school and I ended up becoming a journalist. I can name a dozen people right now that I think are amazing people who didn't go to college," says editor of Boing Boing Mark Frauenfelder.

He sat down with managing editor of Tim Cavanaugh to talk about alternatives to public school and education in the real world.

Frauenfelder is also the editor of Make magazine, whose newest issue takes a look at do-it-yourself superhumanism, a way of modifying human capabilities through gadgets. Some of the gadgets include a device to play Guitar Hero only using the muscles in your arm and an ankle strap that directs you to where you want to go using cell phone vibraters and GPS.

Cavanaugh and Frauenfelder finally discuss the future of print journalism and why putting a magazine out in 2012 is still a good idea.
Mark Frauenfelder on DIY Super-Humanism, Unschooling and the Future of Print Journalism

Ben Marks on protest manifestos and flyers of the 1960s

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Over at Collectors Weekly, BB pal Ben Marks looks at flyers, pamphlets, and manifestos of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Yippies of the 1960s as a graphical blueprint of the Occupy movement. "Blueprint for the Occupy Movement? Read the Protest Manifestos of the 1960s"

MIT Open Courseware programs for self-learners

Molly sez, "MIT OpenCourseWare is developing a set of courses called Scholar, which are designed for self-learners. We recently published 6.00 (or Introduction to Computer Science and Programming in normal speak). There are lecture videos, recitation videos, handouts, slides, code files, homework assignments (with sample solutions), and even an explanation on how to set up Python on your computer.

Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day team up for Tabletop, a show about tabletop games

Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day have teamed up to produce a new webshow called Tabletop, "like Celebrity Poker meets Dinner for Five, where we got interesting people we know together for tabletop games." It's a fantastic idea, and the trailer makes it look very promising indeed. Day and Wheaton are two of my favorite indie geek media people, and this is quite an exciting moment!

In season one of the show, we play games like Settlers of Catan, The Last Night on Earth, Munchkin, Small World, and Alhambra. Some of the players include Grant Imahara, Sean Plott (better known as Day[9]), Dodger Leigh, Ryan Higa, Beth Riesgraf, Phil Lamarr, Morgan Webb, Garfunkle and Oats, Veronica Belmont, and Colin Ferguson.

My ulterior motive with Tabletop is to show by example how much fun it is to play boardgames. I want to show that Gamers aren't all a bunch of weirdoes who can't make eye contact when they talk to you, and that getting together for a game night is just as social and awesome as getting together to watch Sportsball, or to play poker, or for a LAN party, or whatever non-gamers do with their friends. I want to inspire people to try hobby games, and I want to remove the stigma associated with gaming and gamers.

I'm pretty sure we succeeded. By the second day of production, our crew was grabbing games out of our games library to play at lunch. All of our interns and production assistants have become complete game fanatics, and whenever I edit a show, all I want to do is go home and play that game until my face falls off.

This is my new show, Tabletop

How to spiral cut peel an orange

[Video Link] Thanks ClintonD!

Check out all the wonderful things people send us over at Submitterator.

Mexico hit by magnitude 7.6 quake (updated)

Reports are just now coming in of a Magnitude 7.9 7.6 earthquake striking Mexico, centered in the Mexican state of Guerrero Oaxaca.

The first AP item was Twitter-sized, and straight to the point: "Strong, long quake shakes Mexico City."

The center was about a hundred miles away from Acapulco, halfway between this popular resort-and-beaheadings town and the colonial city of Oaxaca. CBS News reports nine-foot waves at Acapulco beaches.

An informal scan of folks in Mexico whom I follow on Twitter suggests it was felt strongly in a wide area from the Guatemalan border to Mexico's capital city; structural damage seems limited so far; electricity mostly uninterrupted but cell and data service spotty. Aftershocks are causing jitters.

A statement from Mexican president Felipe Calderon: no serious damage reported.

* post updated to reflect new USGS data.

Alice in Wonderland Giant Poster and Coloring Book

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My wife, kids, and I have been having a lot of fun coloring the pages of Alice in Wonderland Giant Poster and Coloring Book. The black-and-white illustrations are reproductions of John Tenniel's classic engravings, which are my favorite Alice illustrations, as they are creepy/fun. The book also includes a full color version of each black and white page, along with Lewis Carroll's text. We've been using a cheap watercolor set and it's much better than coloring with crayons, if you ask me.

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Alice in Wonderland Giant Poster and Coloring Book for $9.32 on Amazon

Vintage photobooth photos

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Over at House of Mirth, esteemed vernacular photo collector Robert Jackson posts a delightful series of favorite photobooth photos chosen by other snapshot collectors. "A Favorite Photobooth Photo" (Thanks, Randall de Rijk!)

LEGO robots in the laboratory

We've talked here before about the extremely important (and often-overlooked) DIY aspect of science. Scientists are makers. They have to be. The tools they need often aren't available any other way. Other times, the tools are available, but they're far more expensive than what you could construct out of your own ingenuity.

In this video, researchers at Cambridge build LEGO robots that automate time-consuming laboratory processes at a fraction of the cost of a "real" robot.

Video Link

Via Karyn Traphagen

Einstein's papers digitized

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is scanning and posting more than 80,000 documents from the University's Einstein Archives and the Einstein Papers Project at Caltech. Seen above is a snip from a manuscript titled "E=mc2: The Most Urgent Problem of our Time," published in a 1946 issue of Science Illustrated. The paper is only one of three handwritten documents containing the formula. Einstein Archives Online

Talking about the future of energy in Pennsylvania, Boston, Colorado, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and New York City

Before the Lights Go Out, my book on the future of energy in the United States, comes out on April 10th. I'm going to be traveling a bunch over the next couple months, doing presentations and panel discussions in several different cities. I wanted to take a minute to post the list of events here. Events are grouped by month. I've put stuff that's planned for May, June, and July under the cut. Hope you can make it to one of these events!


• March 27 at Penn State Institutes on Energy and the Environment: "6 Things Scientists Can Learn From Science Journalists", 4:00 pm in 112 Walker Building.

• March 29 at York College of Pennsylvania: "Putting the Fun Back in Infrastructure"—7:30 pm in WOLF 204 DeMeester Recital Hall.


• April 2 at Skeptics in the Pub, Boston, Mass.— 7:00 pm at Tommy Doyle's in Harvard Square. Please RSVP.

• April 4 at MIT: "Shedding Light, Online", a discussion about how blogging and a dynamic audience helped shape my book, Before the Lights Go Out—4:00 pm in Maseeh Hall. Please RSVP.

• April 6 at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Details TBA.

• April 9-13 at University of Colorado, Boulder: 64th Annual Conference on World Affairs

• April 10 at Colorado State University, Fort Collins: "Putting the Fun Back in Infrastructure"—3:30 pm in the Rocky Mountain Innosphere.

• April 21 at Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul: Earth Day Tweetup event with Will Steger and Sean Otto—events run 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.

Read the rest

Happy Spring!

It's the first day of Spring! To celebrate, here is a photo that science journalist Maryn McKenna took of her car windshield in Atlanta, Georgia, coated with a single day's worth of pollen. Please file "tree bukkake" under "Things I Do Not Miss About the South".

Interesting science side note on this: It's pretty well-documented that climate changes are affecting pollen production, pollen exposure, and allergies.

USDA scientist Lewis Ziska, among other researchers, has found that ragweed is one of the plants whose growth is most enhanced by exposure to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide. Not only does the ragweed grow faster when exposed to more CO2, it also produces more pollen. This is especially an issue in cities, which have higher concentrations of CO2 than rural areas, thanks to having a higher concentration of cars and other CO2 emitting sources. Extra bonus: There's also some evidence that allergy seasons are getting longer, as Spring starts earlier and Winter takes longer to truly set in.

You can read more about this in the report from the IPCC's Working Group II and in a paper on the effects of climate change on health written by Ziska and his collaborator, the late Paul Epstein.

Interview with a Disney World Goofy

On Reddit, a Walt Disney World (and sometime Disneyland) Goofy head-character (a person who roams the streets in a full-body character suit that includes a headpiece) has submitted to an "Ask Me Anything" interview. Goofy discusses getting kicked in the balls, setting kids at ease, and more.

[–]n0xi3 556 points 12 hours ago
How long did it take to stop smiling while guests were taking pictures...?

[–]ChantingMonk[S] 520 points 12 hours ago
the first time we had to interact with guests during training, I smiled like idiot with every picture. After day 2 on the job, I stopped. Smiling actually helps with animation though!

[–]schmohawk01 212 points 14 hours ago
I used to be terrified of the actors in the character costumes when I was a kid, so I'd run away and hide under tables. Do you often see children who are scared of you? How do you win them around?

[–]ChantingMonk[S] 395 points 14 hours ago
I will say I want to think I am the best when it comes to winning back the kid's trust when they are terrified of me. Some kids see me and don't understand who I am. They think I am some tall scary ass monster with a big head. What I do is back off from them, offer my hand to pet it or something like that. If you have a parent that catches on, they will say "It's ok sweetie, Goofy is a nice guy! He won't hurt you!" This helps a ton and the kid eventually has the time of their life!

I work as Goofy at Walt Disney AMAA (self.IAmA)

(Image: Goofy in the Boo to You Halloween Parade, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from jeffchristiansen's photostream)

Historical photos from Antarctica

The United States Antarctic station at McMurdo Sound was opened in 1956. Originally it was operated by the Navy, rather than the National Science Foundation. This photo was taken during the Navy years, in November of 1958.

The flat white snow at the bottom of the photo is the frozen McMurdo Sound. The 'road' is the landing strip for the U.S. Navy planes which supported the U.S. Antarctic Program when this photo was taken. You can see the airplanes parked near McMurdo Station, along the coastline. This U.S. Navy photo was donated by Charlotte Koch, whose husband Richard Koch was a P2V Navy pilot in Antarctica.

The photo (and that quote) comes from a collection of historical photos in the United States Antarctic Program's photo library.

The history of the McMurdo site turns out to be pretty interesting. The first human presence there dates to 1902. It's where Robert Scott made landfall and, up until the Navy arrived in 1955, the only buildings at the site were Scott's hut, and a couple of other shelters built to house Scott's equipment. By 1960, there were 90 permanent structures.

But this isn't a story of runaway growth. Scientists in Antarctica recognized the need to preserve the ecology of the continent pretty early on. Today, there are about 100 buildings at McMurdo and the facility hasn't been allowed to expand much beyond the landscape impacted by humans during the first 10-15 years of the station's existence.

Read a 2008 paper from the journal Polar Geography about McMurdo's history and efforts to document and limit the station's growth.

See more pictures from the Antarctic Photo Library.

Photos via Peter Rejcek, a great person to follow if you want to know more about Antarctic science.

If you are traveling 80 miles an hour, how long does it take to go 80 miles?

"If you are traveling 80 miles an hour, how long does it take to go 80 miles?"

(Thanks, Lew!)

Brain Rot: Hip Hop Family Tree, Mr. Magic on WHBI

Read the rest of the Hip Hop Family Tree comics!

Read the rest