On Mental Floss, Jill Harness's collection of librarian tattoos. Above, Elizabeth Skene's card-catalog sleeve, by Frank William of the Chicago Tattoo Company. Right, Michelle's super-librarian tattoo, chosen to represent her career as a high-school librarian, based on Mary Marvel, and done by Chris Cockrill of Avalon II Tattoo.
Ed Felten presents and argues for the idea of "accountable algorithms" for use in public life -- that is, "output produced by a particular execution of the algorithm can be verified as correct after the fact by a skeptical member of the public."
He gives a great example of how to run a securely random TSA checkpoint where, at the end of each day, the public can open a sealed envelope and verify that the TSA was using a truly fair random selection method, and not just picking people they didn't like the look of:
Now we can create our accountable selection method. First thing in the morning, before the security checkpoint opens, the TSA picks a random value R and commits it. Now the TSA knows R but the public doesn’t. Immediately thereafter, TSA officials roll dice, in public view, to generate another random value S. Now the TSA adds R+S and makes that sum the key K for the day.
Now, when you arrive at the checkpoint, you announce your name N, and the TSA uses the selection function to compute S(K, N). The TSA announces the result, and if it’s “yes,” then you get searched. You can’t anticipate whether you’ll be searched, because that depends on the key K, which depends on the TSA’s secret value R, which you don’t know.
At the end of the day, the TSA opens its commitment to R. Now you can verify that the TSA followed the algorithm correctly in deciding whether to search you. You can add the now-public R to the already-public S, to get the day’s (previously) secret key K. You can then evaluate the selection function S(K,N) with your name N–replicating the computation that the TSA did in deciding whether to search you. If the result you get matches the result the TSA announced earlier, then you know that the TSA did their job correctly. If it doesn’t match, you know the TSA cheated–and when you announce that they cheated, anybody can verify that your accusation is correct.
This method prevents the TSA from creating a non-random result. The reason the TSA cannot do this is that the key K is based on result of die-rolling, which is definitely random. And the TSA cannot have chosen its secret value R in a way that neutralized the effect of the random die-rolls, because the TSA had to commit to its choice of R because the dice were rolled. So citizens know that if they were chosen, it was because of randomness and not any TSA bias.
France's Hadopi finally punishes someone for infringement -- a guy whom everyone agrees isn't an infringer
The Glenn Gould Variations is a new conference/event in Toronto mounted by the
Glenn Gould Foundation Glenn Gould Estate, dedicated to the kind of odd, creative, quirky and thoughtful ideas that Gould was known for. The inaugural event, called "DREAMERS RENEGADES VISIONARIES," will be held in Toronto on Sept 22/23 at the University of Toronto's Convocation Hall. There are over 50 presenters, performers and speakers (including me!), and it promises to be quite an event.
Update: Ron Davis from the Foundation sez, "Dreamers, Renegades, Visionaries: The Glenn Gould Variations is presented by U of T in association with the Glenn Gould Estate. The Foundation is one of several supporters of our event. But the Foundation is independent of it."
Filmmakers, dancers, choreographers, voices, music makers, DJs, visual artists and music producers, mix it up with philosophers, futurists, journalists, media mavens, historians, and provocateurs who defy description!
The "immersive experience" of DREAMERS RENEGADES VISIONARIES: The Glenn Gould Variations is accessible and affordable (a first for Toronto!) for everybody, inspiring and provoking creativity in thought, word and deed with no boundaries…just like Gould himself.
This provocative mix of performance and talk is inspired by Canadian icon and multi-media innovator Glenn Gould, and part of the celebrations marking the 80th year of Gould's birth.
(Disclosure: I am a volunteer member of the Glenn Gould Foundation's advisory board)
After some four month of silence on Twitter, Kathy Bates returned to share news that she was diagnosed with breast cancer two months ago, and has undergone a double mastectomy. I felt an extra-strong twinge of sadness when I read Twitter replies from her fans wishing her a "speedy recovery." I get that line a lot, too. There's no such thing.
A TSA screener who worked in Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood airport in Florida is in jail, "facing 25 counts of possessing child pornography showing young children engaged in sexual acts." He first admitted to investigators that he had downloaded the material and deleted it, but later said he "didn’t know how the child pornography got on his computer." Here's the arrest info. (photo: Broward County Sherrif's office).
Science fiction writers aren’t fortune tellers. Fortune tellers are fakes. Fortune tellers are either deluded or charlatans. You can find science fiction writers who are deluded or science fiction writers who are charlatans — I can think of several of each in the history of the field. Every once in a while, somebody extends their imagination down the line, far enough with a sufficient lack of prejudice, to imagine something that then actually happens. When it happens, it’s great, but it’s not magic. All the language we have for describing what science fiction writers and futurists of other stripes do is nakedly a language of magic.
I’m having a week where some well-intentioned person on the internet describes me as “oracular.” As soon as one of the words with a magic connotation is attached — I know this from ongoing experience — as soon as someone says “oracular,” it’s like, boom! It’s all over the place; it’s endlessly repeated. It’s probably not bad for business. But then I wind up spending a lot of time disabusing people of the idea that I have some sort of magic insight…. You can also find, if you wanted to Google through all the William Gibson pieces on the net, you can find tons of pieces, where people go on and on about how often I’ve gotten it wrong. Where are the cellphones? And neural nets? Why is the bandwidth of everything microscopic in Neuromancer? I could write technological critique of Neuromancer myself that I think could probably convince people that I haven’t gotten it right.
Because the thing that Neuromancer predicts as being actually like the internet isn’t actually like the internet at all! It’s something; I didn’t get it right but I said there was going to be something. I somehow managed to convey a feeling of something. Curiously, that put me out ahead of the field in that regard. It wasn’t that other people were getting it wrong; it was just that relatively few people in the early 1980s, relatively few people who were writing science fiction were paying attention to that stuff. That wasn’t what they were writing about.
I published an essay with my take on this in Locus: A Vocabulary for Speaking about the Future.
(Photo: Jason Redmond/Wired)
"Innocence of Muslims," the spectacularly crappy anti-Muslim movie trailer linked to recent violence in Libya, and the death of a US ambassador and others? The guy credited as its filmmaker, "Sam Bacile," has been outed as one Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
Noah Shachtman at Wired News reports that "Bacile" was one of many pseudonyms used by Nakoula. Others include Matthew Nekola; Ahmed Hamdy; Amal Nada; Daniel K. Caresman; Kritbag Difrat; Sobhi Bushra; Robert Bacily; Nicola Bacily; Thomas J. Tanas; Erwin Salameh; Mark Basseley Youssef; Yousseff M. Basseley; Malid Ahlawi; and my favorite, P.J. Tobacco.
He first told news outlets he was an Israeli Jew; law enforcement authorities have since identified him as a Coptic Christian immigrant with a shady past. He reportedly has a criminal record including at least one narcotics conviction: an LA County District Attorney’s office source says he was arrested by the L.A. Country Sheriff's Department in 1997 and charged with intent to manufacture methamphetamine.
There are two major active volcanoes in the Sacatepéquez department of Guatemala, and one of them is very active today: Volcán de Fuego, or "the fire volcano" (as contrasted with its adjacent twin, Volcán de Agua, or "the water volcano"). The last time this volcano erupted was in 2011. Mashable gathered some "citizen"-published photos and videos, here's a roundup of pics at Prensa Libre, and here's an AP item. Many evacuations, which is routine whenever the volcano wakes up; no casualties at this time.
James Cameron wants to help the Mythbusters prove that Jack and Rose could not have both occupied that door-raft
Apologies for another Titanic-related post this week, but this one has Mythbusters in it. James Cameron did an interview with IGN in which he talked about the conversion to 3D, yada yada yada... And then a minute before the end of the video, the interviewer asks Cameron if he's aware of the Reddit thread trying to debunk the whole "door couldn't hold both Jack and Rose" thing. Cameron argues that while sheer surface area may have allowed two people to lay on top, physics would not. It flipped when Jack tried to get on, you see. And the filmmaker says that Discovery Channel's Mythbusters will be tackling this mystery of buoyancy on an upcoming episode, and he would like to help them prove that he was right.
I feel like Cameron has actually run this experiment in his own personal laboratory numerous times, and that's why he's so sure of this. (Plus, science totally backs him up.) Though I still think that if Jeremy Sisto played Jack, he not only would have found a way for both him and Kate Winslet to get on that thing, he would have saved both of their lives with sex warmth.
I loved the cover painting for Daniel Clowes' Eightball no. 18, and now it's available as a limited-edition print.
This is a limited edition, archival, facsimile print of the cover painting used for issue no.18 of the comic Eightball by Daniel Clowes. It has been reproduced at a 1:1 scale to match the size of the original painting that is currently on display as a key part of the “Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes” touring museum exhibition. This giclée print was created to the highest standards of production under supervision of the artist. The finest quality materials were used including an eleven-color, high dynamic range, process inkset on conservation grade 100% cotton acid and lignin-free paper and tested by the Fine Arts Trade Guild and guaranteed to resist fading and discoloration in excess of seventy five-years. Each print is signed and numbered by the artist and includes a registered certificate of authenticity. Don’t miss out on this chance to have a museum quality piece of art for your very own.
An optional logo was made for this print in the style of a “paste-up” that the artist would use in his formative years in a pre- digital era. Each logo is hand-cut by the artist and can be mounted (with archival PVA adhesive) by us at your request, or included ‘loose’ for you to choose to mount yourself (or not) when framing. The colorway for this logo differs from the one used on the printed cover of Eightball no.18. These are the exact colors the artist originally intended and are seen in this print for the first time.
Yesterday, I reviewed the new David Byrne book, How Music Works and mentioned that I'd be interviewing Byrne about it live on stage in Toronto on Sept 19, as part of the Harbourfront International Festival of Authors.
The IFA folks have made a pair of tickets for the event available to Boing Boing readers. To win, answer the following question:
What is David Byrne's favourite mode of transportation?
And send us your answer by midnight eastern on September 16 to email@example.com with the subject line "BYRNE TIX." One winner will be notified September 17.
The event is called "David Byrne and Cory Doctorow: Wassup Internet?!—Music in the Digital Landscape," and it'll be held at 7:30pm on Sept 19 at the Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay West.
Want an awesome painting like this? It's a two step process:
Step 1: Find generic '80s oil painting at thrift store
Step 2: Paint a badass Kraken in it
Dana's Painting and Portraits (Thanks, Gromitorium!)
Lorne Michaels broke the news yesterday that when the new season of Saturday Night Live starts this weekend, it will be Jay Pharoah playing President Obama rather than Fred Armisen, who has played POTUS since 2008. Pharoah, currently a featured player (though that may change), has been honing his Obama impression for a while now, and it's good. Very good. But Michaels had reservations about throwing a brand new cast member into such a prominent role. Those reservations are gone, and now, we will get to watch Jay Pharoah's amazing Obama impression on actual television and not just YouTube.
(Actually, he'd done it on television, when he appeared on Letterman in December 2010. But you know what I mean.)
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When somebody says that a new species has been discovered, it's easy to get the impression that this is an animal nobody has ever seen before. But that's usually not exactly what scientists mean.
Take the lesula (or Cercopithecus lomamiensis), an African monkey whose "discovery" is making headlines this week. While it does seem to be true that this particular species hasn't been previously named and documented in the scientific literature, the scientists who wrote about the lesula were not the first people to encounter one. What's more, lesula do not represent a species totally removed from animals we already knew about. Here's Mongabay's Jeremy Hance:
"There are monkeys out there between the three rivers that no one recognizes. They are not in our field guides," Terese Hart wrote tantalizingly in a blog post in 2008. "We've sent photos to the most renown of African Primatologists. Result: a lot of raised eyebrows. And the more we find out the higher our eyebrows go."
One of these monkeys was the lesula (Cercopithecus lomamiensis). John Hart first came across the new species in June 2007 when he and a field team were shown a captive baby lesula, kept as a pet by the local school director's daughter in the remote village of Opala. The next step was locating the species in the wild.
...the lesula is apart of the Cercopithecini family, which are commonly referred to as guenons. It's most similar to the owl-faced monkey (Cercopithecus hamlyni), which is also found in the region. But the lesula sports a lighter coat and has unique calls. Genetic testing, furthermore, proves the species are distinct from each other and have likely been separated for a few million years, probably by impassable rivers.
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Ben Mendelsohn sez, "Dredging - the mechanized transport of underwater sediments - is one of the most elemental of the infrastructural support systems that underlie modern societies. Through dredging, we act as geologic agents - moving earth in what amounts to a new geologic cycle. This video introduces dredging, its landscapes, and some of the fascinating technologies that we use to manage it. It was produced in support of DredgeFest NYC, a symposium on the human acceleration of sediments, to be held in New York City on September 28-29." (Thanks, Ben!)
When it comes to powers, he's no Superman. And he lacks Batman's popularity. But at the Southern Fried Science blog, perennial also-ran superhero Aquaman is at least able to inspire some fascinating discussion of science.
Marine biologist Andrew Thaler is on his second post about the science of Aquaman. Besides being just fascination information about the ocean and the creatures that live there, the posts also build a pretty good case for why we—the comic-book reading public—should care about Aquaman in the first place.
If Superman existed to show us how high the human spirit could fly, and Batman to show us the darkness within even our most noble, Aquaman is here to show us the world that triumphs in our absence. The ocean is not ours, and no matter how great our technology, we will never master it as we have mastered land, but Aquaman has. Through this lonely ocean wanderer, we can experience a world that we can never truly command.
...Aquaman is, for all intents and purposes, a marine mammal. And, with the exception of a healthy mane in later incarnations, he is effectively hairless. As a human, we would expect his internal body temperature to hover around 99°F, or about 37°C. Even at its warmest points, the surface temperature of the ocean around the equator is only about 80°F/27°C. At the poles ocean temperature can actually drop a few degrees below freezing. In the deep sea, ambient temperature levels out around 2 – 4°C. The ocean is cold, and water is a much better thermal conductor than air. Warm blooded species have evolved many different systems to manage these gradients, including countercurrent heat exchangers, insulating fur, and heavy layers of blubber.
Aquaman is not just a human, he is an incredibly buff human. Look at his picture. If the man has more than 2% body fat, I’d be shocked. In contrast, warm-water bottlenose dolphins have at least 18 to 20% body fat. Anyone who SCUBA dives knows that, even with a 12 millimeter neoprene wet suit, after a few hours in 80°F water, you get cold. Aquaman, lacking any visible insulation, should have slipped into hypothermia sometime early in More Fun Comics #73. He is better built for the beach than the frigid deep.
Edit: This is actually the third time Andrew Thaler has written about the science of Aquaman. Here's the post I missed.
Via David Manly
Last month I asked my friends to write about books they loved (you can read all the essays here). This month, I invited them to write about their favorite graphic novels, and they selected some excellent titles. I hope you enjoy them! (Read all the Great Graphic Novel essays here.) -- Mark
Sazae-San, by Machiko Hasegawa
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This image, made using a laser mapping technology called LIDAR, was taken on September 17, 2001. It shows a 3-D model of the rubble left behind in lower Manhattan following the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Minnesota Public Radio's Paul Tosto has a really interesting peek into the way mapping techniques like LIDAR were used to help rescuers and clean-up crew understand the extent of the damage, look for survivors, and rehabilitate the area around the disaster zone.
The Library of Congress work also includes data from a a thermal sensor flown at 5,000 feet over Ground Zero that provided images to track underground fires that burned for weeks at the site.
It's worth remembering that Google Earth didn't exist back then. The ancient science of cartography has been reborn with the technology of the last decade. Let's hope it's not called on again to map destruction.
Via Peter Aldhous
Pictured: Your great-grandchildren?
As a redheaded science journalist, I hear this "fact" a lot. Reality is, though, we aren't going anywhere. Yes, as Cara Santa Maria points out at Huffington Post, redheads represent only about 1% of the world's population. And this hair color is related to a recessive gene. Both your parents have to have a copy in order for you to be a redhead, so a redheaded person can have non-redheaded babies. But that's not the same thing as going extinct. Because here's our little secret: We redheads are stealthily infiltrating the rest of humanity. Only 1% of humans are redheads, but 4% of humans carry a copy of the gene that makes redheads. You could be a carrier and not even know it. So could your spouse. Two redheads are unlikely to make a brunette, but two brunettes can make a redhead. Good luck wiping us out. *Insert evil laughter here*
You can learn more about this at Cara Santa Maria's Talk Nerdy To Me vidcast, but I'll add a little piece of anecdata, too. My parents are both brunettes. So were their parents. I am largely an anomaly on both sides of my family. In fact, besides my brother and I, the only other redhead in my Mom's entire family (that anyone remembers) was her grandfather. And yet still, we rise.
Some more info on how redheads are in yer genome, gingerin' yer descendants from the Stanford University Tech Museum
Eric sez, "The Singularity Summit 2012, exploring 'Minds and Machines' and 'Emerging Technologies and Science' will be taking place October 13 - 14 at the Nob Hill Masonic Center in San Francisco. The Singularity Summit is the premier event on cutting-edge technologies including robotics, regenerative medicine, artificial intelligence, brain-computer interfacing and more.
Join some of the most brilliant minds in the world for discussions on the most revolutionary technological advancements on the horizon. Speakers include inventor, entrepreneur and author Ray Kurzweil, Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman, professor and author Steven Pinker, professor and author Temple Grandin, science fiction author Vernor Vinge, and many more."
The Singularity Summit | October 13-14, San Francisco (Thanks, Eric!)
By this point in your lives, most of you are by no doubt aware of the massive slaughter of buffalo that happened in the United States in the late 19th century. Across the plains, thousands of buffalo were killed every week during a brief period where the hides of these animals could fetch upwards of $10 a pop. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator only goes back to 1913, so it's hard for me to say what that's worth today. But we know from the context that even when the value of buffalo hides dropped to $1 each, the business of killing and skinning buffalo was still considered a damned fine living.)
You might think that the business ended there, with dead, skinned buffalo left to rot on the prairie. And you're sort of right. But, in a story at Bloomberg News, Tim Heffernan explains that, a few years later, those dead buffalo created another boom and bust industry—the bone collection business.
Animal bones were useful things in the 19th century. Dried and charred, they produced a substance called bone black. When coarsely crushed, it could filter impurities out of sugar-cane juice, leaving a clear liquid that evaporated to produce pure white sugar -- a lucrative industry. Bone black also made a useful pigment for paints, dyes and cosmetics, and acted as a dry lubricant for iron and steel forgings.
... And so the homesteaders gathered the buffalo bones. It was easy work: Children could do it. Carted to town, a ton of bones fetched a few dollars. Sent to rendering plants and furnaces in the big industrial cities, that same ton was worth between $18 and $27. Boiled, charred, crushed or powdered, it was worth as much as $60.
... By the 1880s, however, a few reporters were expressing nervous awe at the scale of the cleansing, and even despair for what had been lost. In 1891, not 25 years after the slaughter began, the Chicago Daily Tribune ran a dispatch titled “Relics of the Buffalo.” The relics were the animals’ empty pathways and dust wallows, worn into the surface of the Manitoba plains over countless years. The bones, let alone the living creatures, were long gone.
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America said goodbye today to Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on another world beyond Earth. "The powerful of Washington, the pioneers of space, and the everyday public crowded into the Washington National Cathedral for a public interfaith memorial for the very private astronaut," reports the AP. Armstrong died last month in Ohio at age 82. He walked on the moon in July 1969. "He's now slipped the bounds of Earth once again, but what a legacy he left," former Treasury Secretary John Snow said at the services this morning at the National Cathedral. Here, his fellow Apollo 11 crew member Michael Collins remembers him.
Thumbnail: L-R, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Annie Glenn, astronaut and former Ohio Sen. John Glenn, and singer Diana Krall, during the opening processional. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
Bassam Tariq of 30 Days Ramadan points us to a series of images making the rounds on Facebook, Twitter, and the like today. The snapshots are ostensibly reactions to the recent violence related to a weird, anti-Islam YouTube trailer for a film produced by a mysterious character with a shady past.
The whole story behind that video and the attacks linked to it is perplexing, and the more that comes to light, the more it feels like a strange disinfo job. But I have no idea by whom, and to what end.
More images here. I don't know who shot them, and am unable to verify that they are what they appear to be as I post.