Boing Boing 

What is the SPF of your beard?

Have I told you guys lately that you should be reading the Scicurious blog, especially for Weird Science Fridays? Because, seriously, you guys. You guys, seriously.

Today, Scicurious tackles "DOSIMETRIC INVESTIGATION OF THE SOLAR ERYTHEMAL UV RADIATION PROTECTION PROVIDED BY BEARDS AND MOUSTACHES", a paper published in the journal Radiation Protection Dosimetry. Basically, it's about whether beards protect their owners' skin from sun damage. You need to go to Scicurious' site just to see the photo of the apparatus the researchers built to study this question. Suffice to say, it involves a lot of disembodied heads, in various stages of beardedness, hanging out on what looks like an old-fashioned merry-go-round.

Bearded gentlemen will be pleased to note that the beard is, actually, an effective means of sun protection. At least for the skin it covers.

Read more at Scicurious

Image: beard: the end, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from soundfromwayout's photostream

America's best public bathrooms


Every year, the company Cintas sponsors a contest to find "America's Best Restroom," specifically public bathrooms. This year's finalists like Washington DC's Mie N Yu Restaurant and Minneapolis's Walker Art Center boast posh bathrooms to be sure, but my favorite is the 2007 winner: Jungle Jim's International Market in Fairfield, Ohio. You enter the expansive restrooms by walking through faux porta potties. "America's Best Bathroom" (Thanks, Charles Pescovitz!)

Story of the family business whose gears are inside the Mars rovers

Forest City Gear is a family business that was founded in 1955 in Roscoe, Illinois. The gears they make are now on Mars, inside the Curiosity, Spirit, and Opportunity rovers. Our City, Our Story tells the Forest City Gear story.

How to build a better speed limit

Sometime in November, Texas will open a stretch of toll road south of Austin where the speed limit will be 85 miles per hour.It will be the highest speed limit in America.Read the rest

Video: graffiti artists create wine labels

French winery Cave Fin Bec brought in eight graffiti artists from around the globe to paint on large wooden canvases made from wine crates. The art was then used for a series of wine labels. The winery commissioned my old friend Chris Courtney of to document the project. myFINBEC

Where airplanes go to die

Unknown Fields (UF) is a design studio, originating in London’s Architectural Association, that "ventures out on annual expeditions to the ends of the earth exploring unreal and forgotten landscapes, alien terrains and obsolete ecologies." Mark Pilkington, author of Mirage Men and publisher of Strange Attractor, has just led this busload of architects, writers, filmmakers and artists in an exploration of the mythic landscape of the American Southwest, and the stories that it has inspired. Their trajectory took them from Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque New Mexico to Black Rock City, Nevada, via sites of military, architectural and folkloric significance. Mark sent us occasional postcards from the edge. - David Pescovitz

The Boneyard, Tucson, Arizona

Adjacent to the PIMA Aerospace Museum, outside Tucson Arizona, is the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Here at any time, around 4000 planes, valued at an estimated $33 billion, wait to be sliced, shredded and recycled for parts, earning it the name The Boneyard. Visitors tour the site by bus and are greeted by the magnificent sight of a sea of tail fins, eviscerated engines and bisected fuselages stretching from horizon to horizon.

The planes here date from the Vietnam era or newer and many of them represent models still in active service, like the venerable C-130 Hercules transporter, which has seen around 60 years of duty. Most of the planes have seen surgery of some sort, either at the sharp end of the giant guillotine that slices them cleanly into sections, or have had specific components removed, their wounds covered in what look like white plastic bandages.

The lineup of aircraft at the Boneyard is always changing and depends on what’s being broken up on the site. As a fierce lightning storm crackled overhead, the Unknown Fields personnel carrier sailed past numerous aviation legends and curiosities. Highlights included the infamous Lockheed D-21 drone, launched from the top of a modified A-12 / SR-71 Blackbird and capable of flying at Mach 3 at 95,000 feet. The drone proved too powerful for its own good and was shelved after only a handful of missions, one of which proved fatal to the pilots launching it. Also on parade was the DC-10 seen above, modified by Raytheon to be a target for aircraft-mounted laser weapons; the colossal B-52 Stratofortress; several F-14s, being entirely destroyed, apparently so that parts can’t get into the hands of a certain unloved Islamic state; and an F-117 Stealth Fighter in full optical stealth mode and so invisible to the naked eye (yes, USAF humour at play there).

Elsewhere were rigs and jigs for the giant B-2 Stealth Bomber, once the pinnacle of aviation technology. These are left out in case new planes or parts need to be built, but we were told that they’ve been sitting there a long time now, so it may not be long before that mighty beast, or at least part of it, is laid to rest at the Boneyard– and that will be a sight worth traveling a very long way to see.

Roger Ebert's memoir is going to become a movie that might be awkward for him to review

Legendary movie critic Roger Ebert just spilled the Twitter beans that his 2011 memoir, Life Itself, was just optioned to be turned into a documentary by Hoop Dreams director Steve James and Oscar-winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian (Moneyball, Gangs of New York, Schindler's List). Martin Scorcese will serve as executive producer. No word yet on whether Mr. Ebert will recuse his thumbs when this movie is released. (via Flavorwire)

Kickstarting a hackerspace in Iraq

Quinn Norton sez, "The Global Entrepreneurship and Maker Space Initiative runs around the Middle East creating hackerspaces and fostering maker communities in places like Cairo and Beirut -- but its hyperactive lead instigator Bilal Ghalib is taking on his biggest challenge in his native Iraq. They're currently raising money to have a two day hackerspace, and create media (comic book and live stream video of hacker/maker stories) to support and inform people in and out of Baghdad about what hackerspaces are and what they can achieve. GEMSI doesn't just drop in and then leave. In Cairo they helped create relationships, looked for space, and eventually were able to jumpstart a maker community that is taking on its very own Egyptian flavor. Baghdad is an even bigger challenge, but as Bilal points out in the GEMSI Kickstarter video, Baghdad has a long history of being a place of tremendous creativity and invention."

Imagine you are a young Iraqi student, just graduating college. Opportunities to work in the country are few, and working outside Iraq is difficult due to strict visa requirements. Your country still experiences violence weekly, while also facing many technical challenges characteristic of a developing country. You want to build the country, you want to share – but you feel isolated. You hear about a group of people who have an open space near the center of town where you can build almost anything. One day you decide to see what it’s about. There, you find others like you: looking at the world around them and thinking about how they can start creating solutions. They are creating open source medical devices, filling potholes in city roads, creating clean street initiatives, or making alternative energy products to fix the intermittent power issues of Baghdad. These are people taking initiative. They are looking to take ownership of their cities and build the change they want to see – serving their communities on the most direct level. At this open space, you have finally found a home to put your talents and energy to work. You’ve found a group you can trust, they are courageous, curious, and want to help you create a better future. You feel happy, you feel capable, you've found your people.

Quinn adds, "It's a remarkable project, ambitious, but done by people who know what they're getting into." These two points are critical for me, suggesting that the money will go to something that actually happens.

Baghdad Community Hackerspace Workshops

Let's help a new roller derby documentary about lesbian, bisexual, and transgender skaters body slam its goal!

In a related followup to my interview with the filmmakers of the men's roller derby documentary, This Is How I Roll, another derby film is currently trying to raise money for production costs. The Vagine Regime: A Documentary Where Vaginas Collide puts the focus on lesbian, bisexual, and transgender skaters (a subject Kat Vecchio touched on in our interview) and how they've experienced both acceptance and opposition in the very inclusive world of women's roller derby. As of this writing, they are seven days and just under $10,000 away from their $35,000 goal at Kickstarter. They're so close to kicking ass on the big screen -- let's help them out! [Kickstarter]

Los Angeles treat: Tchaikovsky Spectacular with Fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl

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Los Angeles friends: if you haven't been to the annual Tchaikovsky Spectacular with Fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl, you're missing one of LA's greatest treats. Tickets are still available for tonight and tomorrow night's show. We are going Saturday. I'll wear a Boing Boing T-shirt -- if you see me, say hi!

Tchaikovsky and fireworks –- a glorious Hollywood Bowl tradition! This year, in addition to the 1812 Overture with cannons and pyrotechnics, we feature stars from American Ballet Theatre in famous pas de deux from Swan Lake and from their new production of The Nutcracker.

Tchaikovsky Spectacular with Fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl

The closest we will ever come to Morgan Freeman narrating a Fifty Shades of Grey novel

As majestic and worldly as it might be, Morgan Freeman is never going to recite the text of E.L. James' fanfic-turned-housewife titillator Fifty Shades of Grey in front of people. However, some people can pretend to be Morgan Freeman to show us just how dramatically spanktastic this might be. Actor, comedian, and voice artist Josh Robert Thompson does a wicked Freeman impression (on par with Tom Kane, who does a similarly spot-on impersonation for Robot Chicken -- and Morgan Freeman himself), and has done the world a great service by reading an excerpt, as the Great Narrator, from the second book in the series, Fifty Shades Darker. So now Morgan Freeman doesn't have to!

But hey, where do I start the social media campaign to hold a Fake Morgan Freeman Narrate-Off between Thompson and Kane, refereed by Freeman? Can we make this happen?


The chemical playwright

Carl Djerassi, the chemist who first synthesized an effective oral contraceptive, is now an author and playwright. Wired has a really interesting interview with him about his writing work, his scientific legacy, and why he doesn't like to be called The Father of the Pill.

Why technology might not make children stupid, after all

All this newfangled technology is going to make young people stupid.

This is a very old argument, dating back (at least) to 370-ish BC, when Plato wrote the The Phaedrus. Like the better-known Republic, Phaedrus is written as a conversation between the character of Socrates and other people. At one point, Socrates tells a legend of an Egyptian god who invents writing and tries to give the gift of the written word to a wise king. The king is ... less than enthused.

For this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise.

Basically, all these damn books are going to make the kids dumb. This is usually my go-to story that I bring up whenever somebody is fretting too much about how the Internet will totally make kids stupid. But journalist Annie Murphy Paul has found an even better argument against techno-fear. At her blog, she quotes an interview with Jay Giedd, a researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health:

Read the rest

Charlie Stross and Cory in Brookline, MA tonight

Charlie Stross and I will be at the Brookline Booksmith tonight at 7PM! It's the second-to-last stop on our quick tour for Rapture of the Nerds -- the last stop is this weekend in Rochester, NY. Be there or be pre-posthuman!

Copyfraud: making the case for actual copyright enforcement

Jason Mazzone's Copyfraud and Other Abuses of Intellectual Property Law isn't just another book about how the expansion of copyright and trademark law has harmed innovation, free speech and creativity. Instead, Mazzone -- the youngest faculty member in Brooklyn law school's history to hold an endowed chair -- argues that the real problem is that copyright law isn't enforced enough. Mazzone persuasively argues that the room that copyright makes for public expression and innovation -- through fair use and other defenses -- offer exactly the kind of safety valve that copyright's monopoly on expression demands.

However, as Mazzone points out, there is virtually no penalty for unjustly claiming that these public freedoms don't exist. The entertainment industry can slather its products in dire warnings that ignore fair use and make misleading threats for users who lend, re-use or sample the media they buy. They can demand licenses for minimal uses, for works in the public domain, and for fair uses. They can assert absurd trademark claims. They can threaten baseless lawsuits by the bushel-load -- and all without any risk to them.

Mazzone's point is that without a robust set of regulations and punishments for companies that claim to own what rightfully belongs to the public, this will only expand. After all, falsely claiming that your public domain sheet music can't be copied by a choir means that you get to sell a lot of copies of your sheet music -- absent a penalty for such a fraudulent claim, who would abstain from it?

Mazzone writes with the clarity of Lessig, Samuelson and Boyle -- the gold standards for public, lay-friendly copyright writing -- and uses infamous cases to make his point, from the scam that cost George Clinton his copyrights to the fraudulent claims made by Mattel against artists who make fun of Barbie. He unpicks the intricate tangle of state and federal law, precedent and norms, and sets out a series of problems and then proposes a set of sane, implementable solutions that could be turned into law today.

By offering simple solutions to these problems, Mazzone shows that the theft of the public domain isn't due to the impossibility of getting the law right. Rather, it is a combination of depraved indifference by lawmakers and unchecked greed by corporations. Reading Mazzone gives you the idea that the technical question of solving copyright is actually rather simple -- though finding the political will may prove much harder.

Copyfraud and Other Abuses of Intellectual Property Law