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Despite Hantavirus, Yosemite expects to be full

Park rangers at California's Yosemite National Park are warning visitors about an outbreak of the rodent-borne hantavirus. Two tourists have died and two more were infected. Rangers have distributed fliers but do not feel this should alter plans to visit. "We don't want people to think they can't come to Yosemite. Even with the hantavirus we expect to be full. Labor Day is traditionally very busy." (via USA TODAY)

Documentary on the Dude on whom 'the Dude' was based

Jeff Feuerzeig offers us a glimpse into what its like to be the dude that the Coen Brothers based "The Dude" in the Big Lebowski on. Far out, man!

Can you guess which newspaper shared a column with the CIA before it was published?

The New York Times! And it goes from tragedy to perversity: it was caught by a Freedom of Information Act request. [Politico]

Michael Fassbender to co-star with Natalie Portman in Jane's Got a Gun

Natalie Portman is starring in a new western called Jane's Got a Gun, which is being directed by Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin). Portman will play a woman forced to defend her farm from a bunch of toughs with the help of her ex after her husband comes home inconveniently riddled with bullets. While we don't know who will be playing Portman's husband, we now know that this other guy will be played by Michael Fassbender. So, I guess in addition to the rip-roaring western action, we'll also spend the entire movie wondering why these two beautiful people ended their presumptively beautiful relationship and the Mrs. ended up marrying this dead weight, bullet-attracting schmuck. (via Geeks of Doom)

The Avengers was originally going to start on a very different note

A Yahoo! video is popping up on the blogosphere because it's the original opening for The Avengers, and it's setting a really, really, really different tone than what we saw in theaters. I will offer this slightly spoilery statement on the scene, which is a little bit more than a minute long: it's a bummer, you guys. Included on the upcoming DVD and Blu-ray, it also offers a little more insight into the relationship between Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). (via io9)

New social media horror movie XOXO will be directed by George Nolfi

Every once in a while, a new project comes along that makes you go "Hmmmmmm." Like a horror movie in which the method of terror is social media. Good news! Such a movie is now in the works! George Nolfi, who wrote and directed The Adjustment Bureau, is on board to direct XOXO, and he'll be supervising the screenplay by Mark Heyman, who co-wrote Black Swan.

Billed as "Fatal Attraction for the digital age," XOXO will follow "an engaged executive who begins a virtual relationship with a mysterious woman on Facebook," whose interactions in real life turn deadly. It obviously won't be the first movie to turn social media into a monster (see: Catfish and Hard Candy), but when you think about how effectively Scream made us jump every time the phone rang late at night, I feel like we're ready for a straight-up horror movie that will elicit the same reactions when we get a Facebook notification. (Maybe we'll spend that much less time on Facebook when we could be doing something productive.)

I think on some level, we all think social media is a little scary. Suddenly, we live in a time when people, strangers, can see and read nearly everything we're doing, because we're (oddly) trusting enough to put it all out there voluntarily. And sometimes, horrible things happen as a result of being a little too trusting. To say nothing of the paranoia, mind games, and mixed messages involved with such a passive-agressive and often anonymous form of communication. So actually, social media is a perfect part of current pop culture to turn into a psychological thriller! And that's what XOXO is going to be.

‘Adjustment Bureau’ director George Nolfi takes social media thriller ‘XOXO’ [Screen Rant]

Image from ViralBlog

Gorgeous 1939 map of physics

I love this Map of Physics that turns an entire academic discipline into a fictional country, showing the way different sub-disciplines interact and the concepts that connect seemingly disparate discoveries.

Posted by Frank Jacobs at The Big Think, it dates to 1939. I'm not sure who or what originally made it (maybe one of you know) but it's great.

The map is more than a random representation of the different fields of physics: by displaying them as topographical elements of the same map, it hints at the unified nature of the subject. “Just like two rivers flow together, some of the largest advances in physics came when people realised that two subjects were [like] two sides of the same coin”, writes Jelmer Renema, who sent in this map.

Some examples: “[T]he joining of astronomy and mechanics […] by Kepler, Galileo and Newton (who showed that the movement of the Moon is described by the same laws as [that of] a fallling apple.” At the centre of the map, mechanics and electromagnetism merge. “Electromagnetism [itself is] a fusion between electricity and magnetism, which were joined when it was noted by Oersted that an electric current produces a magnetic field, and when it was noted by Faraday that when a magned is moved around in a wire loop, it creates a current in that loop.”

Read the rest and see some close ups of various corners of the Land of Physics at The Big Think blog

Via Ananyo Bhattacharya

How bad neuroscience can mislead us

If you watch or read much science fiction, you know that all it takes to suspend disbelief about fictional science is an explanation that sounds good on the surface and makes use of terms and ideas that your audience doesn't fully understand but does find emotionally compelling. It's why "radioactive spider" made sense in 1960s.

Apparently (and unfortunately) this effect is true for actual science as well.

This slide comes from a lecture given by Oxford University neuroscientist Dorothy Bishop. Basically, it's showing that an explanation of a psychological phenomenon became more believable if you added in some hand-wavey neuroscience and pictures of brain scans. Suddenly, an explanation of human behavior that's based on circular reasoning and poor logic changes from something lay people won't accept to something we're happy to buy into.

Bishop's entire, hour-long presentation on the science of bad neuroscience is available to watch online for free. If you don't have time, check out this summary of the key points at the Neurobonkers blog.

Via Mind Hacks

Missing woman searches for self

 Wikipedia Commons D D3 Eldgja

A search and rescue operation was underway near Iceland's Eldgjá canyon last Saturday when a woman did not return to her tour bus. Turns out, the woman had in fact returned to the tour bus and had actually helped try to find, um, herself. According to Iceland Review Online, "Before reentering the bus after the stop at Eldgjá, the woman had changed her clothes and freshened up, resulting in the other passengers not recognizing her… She didn’t recognize the description of herself and 'had no idea that she was missing,'" said the area's police chief.

What's climate change ruining today?

In Virginia, rising sea levels are threatening Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge's ability to provide free parking near the beach for the summer tourists who provide a major source of income in the region. Here's a hell of a quote: "Zones that used to be parking areas in the 1990s are now underwater." Also threatened: The beach itself. Read more Daily Climate. (Via Brendon Slotterback)

Vintage ammunition boxes

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Accidental Mysteries posted a striking selection of vintage ammo packages.

Jody Schoger: Livestrong, Armstrong, and why "finding the cure" isn't all that matters for people with cancer

The recent news about Lance Armstrong and the USADA sparked much discussion online about Livestrong, the cancer organization founded by the cancer survivor and cycling champion. As regular Boing Boing readers know, I have cancer. A confession: I wasn't particularly interested in Armstrong or Livestrong before my diagnosis, but have since connected (primarily through Twitter) with a number of people with cancer who are part of the organization, or who have benefitted from its support services.

So, when I read opinion pieces last week criticizing both the man and the organization, I was annoyed to see pundits who do not have cancer slamming Livestrong for not spending money on "finding a cure," and alleging that the organization falsely claimed it was doing just that. Research for "the cure" matters, but it's not all that matters to those of us who may or may not live to see "the cure." I didn't get this before. Now I do. And I'm not just talking about "awareness," a term I loathe. It's this: Navigating the nightmare of treatment, medical bills, and the wreckage cancer makes of relationships and our professional lives—this is the stuff that actually matters more to us, in day-to-day terms. Fighting the disease on behalf of future victims is important. But so is helping the people who have the disease, right now.

Jody Schoger (blog) is a writer, cancer survivor, and advocate for people with cancer. I met her through Twitter, and she has become an important part of my personal cancer support circle.

Jody and I were trading emails about a recent Bob Lefsetz rant. That piece referenced an Outside Magazine article by Bill Gifford. Jody is a longtime supporter of Livestrong (her Twitter avatar reflects this!), so I invited her to share her views on the matter here on Boing Boing.

Jody writes:

Read the rest

Thief infected with Ebola from stolen phone

A thief nicked a cell phone from a patient at Kagadi Hospital in Kibaale District, Uganda. Turns out, the owner had Ebola and the thief became infected. From The Monitor:
Police detectives began tracking him after he apparently began communicating to his friends using the phone. But as police zeroed in on him, he developed symptoms similar to those of Ebola and sought medication at the hospital.

While at hospital he reportedly confessed stealing the phone and has handed it to Kagadi police.

“Kagadi Police Station received that complaint and investigations are underway,” Mr John Ojokuna Elatu, the district police commander confirmed to Sunday Monitor.

"Man steals phone from Ebola patient, gets infected" (via Fortean Times)

Apple's "secret" Genius training manual


Gizmodo acquired a copy of the Apple Genius Training Student Workbook. At the Apple Store, computers don't "crash," they "stop responding;" software never has a "bug," it just has an "issue;" and products don't run "hot," just "warm." From Gizmodo:

The point of this bootcamp is to fill you up with Genius Actions and Characteristics, listed conveniently on a "What" and "How" list on page seven of the manual. What does a Genius do? Educates. How? "Gracefully." He also "Takes Ownership" "Empathetically," "Recommends" "Persuasively," and "Gets to 'Yes'" "Respectfully." The basic idea here, despite all the verbiage, is simple: Become strong while appearing compassionate; persuade while seeming passive, and empathize your way to a sale.

No need to mince words: This is psychological training. There's no doubt the typical trip to the Apple store is on another echelon compared to big box retail torture; Apple's staff is bar none the most helpful and knowledgable of any large retail operation. A fundamental part of their job—sans sales quotas of any kind—is simply to make you happy. But you're not at a spa. You're at a store, where things are bought and sold. Your happiness is just a means to the cash register, and the manual reminds trainees of that: "Everyone in the Apple Store is in the business of selling." Period.

"How To Be a Genius: This Is Apple’s Secret Employee Training Manual"

The profound beauty of the night sky

“At the dead hour of the night, when the world is hushed in sleep and all is still; when there is not a sound to be heard save the dead beat escapement of the clock, counting with hollow voice the footsteps of time in ceaseless round, I turn to the Ephemeris and find there, by calculations made years ago, that when that clock tells a certain hour, a star which I never saw will be in the field of the telescope for a moment, flit through and then disappear. The instrument is set; the moment approaches and is intently awaited—I look—the star mute with eloquence that gathers sublimity from the silence of the night, comes smiling and dancing into the field, and at the instant predicted even to the fraction of a second, it makes its transit and is gone. With emotions too deep for the organs of speech, the heart swells out with unutterable anthems; we then see that there is harmony in the heavens above; and though we cannot hear, we feel the ‘music of the spheres.’” — Matthew Fontaine Maury, in an 1849 presentation to the Virginia Historical Society. Maury was superintendent of the U.S. Naval Observatory.

Read more about Maury and other retro scientists in Caren Cooper's guest posts at the Scientific American blogs.

Video: Yosemite Nature Notes on night skies and light pollution.

Brain Rot: Hip Hop Family Tree, Super Rhymes, 8th Wonder, Rick Rubin Heads Downtown

Read the rest of the Hip Hop Family Tree comics!

Read the rest

Student sleep problems aren't just about individual behavior

Coinciding with the beginning of the US school year, researchers at UCLA published a study last week showing a correlation between lack of sleep and poor academic performance. Some 500 high schoolers kept two-week diaries of their sleep habits, how well they understood and participated in classroom work, and their scores on assignments and tests. The ones who slept less did less well in school.

The headlines on this study—like the one at, where I first saw it—tout the results as evidence that you shouldn't stay up late cramming. But cramming usually is a special-occasion thing—something you do the night before a test—not a daily occurrence. This study is really about chronic sleep deprivation, habits and behaviors that happen over weeks and months. Along with several other studies that have come out in recent years, it helps build a persuasive case not against occasional cram sessions, but against academic routines that all-but require students to operate constantly on an abnormal sleep cycle.

Read the rest

Steven Moffat says the 12th Doctor on Doctor Who really could totally be a woman (maybe)

Quick and thought-provoking item concerning a quote by Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat. Our current 11th Doctor, Matt Smith, is signed on through about 2014. But what about after that? During the Edinburgh Television Festival, Moffat fanned the flames on the rumor that our beloved Gallifreyan Time Lord could regenerate into a lady. "It is a part of Time Lord lore that it can happen. Who knows, the more often it is talked about the more likely it is to happen some day." And to that, I say sweet TARDIS in the sky, everyone keep talking about this. (via Blastr)

8 milestones in the technology of recorded sound (video)

Video Link. Another brilliant musical experiment from Joe Sabia and the CDZA project.

Two more Tibetan teens die in self-immolations, protesting Chinese rule

Lobsang Kalsang, an 18-year-old monk, and Damchoek, a 17-year-old former monk, set themselves on fire on Monday morning near Kirti Monastery in Aba county, in the Tibetan region. This brings the number of Tibetans who have set themselves on fire since 2009 to 51. (BBC News)

In China, some people are seriously into collecting pairs of big, round, nuts, and playing with them

[Video Link]. Collecting pairs of walnuts is a thing in China. The bigger and the older, the better! "Playing with these kind of nuts isn't for ordinary people," says one collector in this exquisite Reuters News video. (via Shanghaiist)

Destroying Precious Land to Drill for Gas: Sean Lennon, anti-fracking activist

In the New York Times, an eloquent op-ed by Sean Lennon that serves as a manifesto of sorts for Artists Against Fracking, an organization started with his mother, Yoko Ono. Snip:

Natural gas has been sold as clean energy. But when the gas comes from fracturing bedrock with about five million gallons of toxic water per well, the word “clean” takes on a disturbingly Orwellian tone. Don’t be fooled. Fracking for shale gas is in truth dirty energy. It inevitably leaks toxic chemicals into the air and water. Industry studies show that 5 percent of wells can leak immediately, and 60 percent over 30 years. There is no such thing as pipes and concrete that won’t eventually break down. It releases a cocktail of chemicals from a menu of more than 600 toxic substances, climate-changing methane, radium and, of course, uranium.

Video: THE SKY IS PINK by Josh Fox and the GASLAND Team.

Accor will drop fees for WiFi at 500 hotel properties

Let's hope the rest of the hotel industry will follow Accor's lead: they're making wireless internet free at 500 hotels. (via @johnnyjet)

Watch the watchers with this homebrew map of surveillance cams in Tampa at RNC convention

Tampa, Florida web developer Jon Gales mapped the city's new network of downtown surveillence cameras installed for the Republican convention, to empower fellow citizens to become aware of the encroaching surveillance society. City authorities have not responded to his queries about what will happen to the cameras once the convention ends.

Read the rest

Hangman position open

Sri Lanka is accepting applications for the post of hangman. A de facto moratorium on executions may be about to end, and there's a lot of work to do. [Reuters]

The first recorded human voice transmission from Mars

Snip from statement of Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator, speaking via broadcast from the Curiosity Rover on the surface of Mars: "The knowledge we hope to gain from our observation and analysis of Gale Crater, will tell us much about the possibility of life on Mars as well as the past and future possibilities for our own planet. Curiosity will bring benefits to Earth and inspire a new generation of scientists and explorers, as it prepares the way for a human mission in the not too distant future."

How police can obtain your records without a subpoena

Over at Wired News, David Kravets writes about the administrative subpoena, a nifty legal tool that allows government agents to access sensitive personal data without court warrants if agents believe the data is “relevant” to an investigation.

"With a federal official’s signature, banks, hospitals, bookstores, telecommunications companies and even utilities and internet service providers — virtually all businesses — are required to hand over sensitive data on individuals or corporations, as long as a government agent declares the information is relevant to an investigation. Via a wide range of laws, Congress has authorized the government to bypass the Fourth Amendment — the constitutional guard against unreasonable searches and seizures that requires a probable-cause warrant signed by a judge.

Israeli court rules US activist Rachel Corrie's death an accident

The death of 23-year-old Rachel Corrie, an American pro-Palestinian activist crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer, has been ruled an accident that occurred during “a military activity meant to prevent terrorist activity.”

6. The starters of crazes

Ezra Pound's 6 types of writer. [Brain Pickings]

Great Giana Sisters back again

A new version of seminal Mario clone The Great Giana Sisters is on its way. Project Giana is a modern take on the genre, however, bearing only a passing resemblance to the originals. John Walker at RPS:

It’s not quite the original team, as sadly the man behind the original – Armin Gessert – died in 2009. Appositely, his last game was a version of the original Giana released on the Nintendo DS! This new game seems to genuinely share little but the name and elements of the concept, but the results look absolutely beautiful. It’s a puzzle platformer in which you can control not only the main character, but also the mood of the world you’re in. Giana can switch between “cutie” and “punky”, which changes how a level is approached.