Three Space Shuttle flight decks (photos)

Ben Cooper of Launch Photography has photos of the flight deck from all three Space Shuttles, Endeavour (fully-powered), Atlantis and Discovery.

"Endeavour [shown here] looks particularly spectacular, in all its glory, just as it had been in space during a mission," he writes.

You can buy prints! I want huge prints of all three, one for each wall of my office. Read the rest

Remakes of Carrie and Evil Dead will debut footage at New York Comic Con

You can either hate that they're happening, or you can give them the benefit of the doubt, but the Carrie remake and the new Evil Dead movie are both very much going to happen to us in 2013. And they are going to provide proof of their impending existence in the form of new footage that will make its debut at New York Comic Con next month! Sony will present the footage on a panel Saturday, October 13 at 3:45 PM (which will conveniently end half an hour before the panel on which I'll be appearing, please pardon the self-promotion), whether you like it or not! (via The Daily Blam) Read the rest

New Orleans cancels plans for Super Bowl drone, after indie paper investigates

Above, "The Bravo 300," a tactical drone man­u­fac­tured in New Or­leans by Cres­cent Un­manned Sys­tems. Weeks after New Orleans local investigative paper The Lens began digging into city of­fi­cials’ plans to use a U.S. Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment aer­ial drone to mon­i­tor crowds at the upcoming Super Bowl, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Lan­drieu announced that the city is no longer pursuing those plans.

Spokesman Ryan Berni of­fered no rea­son for drop­ping the eye-in-the-sky tech­nol­ogy, telling a re­porter to sub­mit a pub­lic-records re­quest. In a brief phone in­ter­view, he would say only that the de­ci­sion to ditch the drone was made “over the past sev­eral days.” In a fol­low-up email, Berni said Home­land Se­cu­rity would be pro­vid­ing a manned he­li­copter, equipped with a cam­era, and that “the City learned by phone in the last few weeks” about the switch.

Read more: City cancels plans for Super Bowl drone despite enthusiasm and interest from NOPD, others ( Read the rest

A brain scan on ecstasy

Under the supervision of a medical team, New Scientist's Graham Lawton took a dose of MDMA and then lay in an fMRI machine. You know. For science.

Lawton was a participant in a double blind, controlled, clinical study — meaning that he didn't actually know whether he was going to be taking ecstasy or Vitamin C when he went in ... and neither did the scientists who gave him the pill. That's because the researchers want to know whether and what differences show up between the functioning of brain under the influence of MDMA and one that's sober. Not knowing which type of brain they're looking at helps them avoid their own biases, or tendencies to "spot" a difference that doesn't actually exist simply because of what they expect a high brain (or a sober one) to be doing. Only after they've made their observations do the scientists find out which brains were which.

The goal is to document was ecstasy does to the brain. Astoundingly, writes Lawton, nobody has ever done that before. And it matters, because some people think that drugs like ecstasy could be useful in helping people deal with psychological stress disorders. Not that the drugs would cure the disorder, per se, but that ecstasy could help people talk about their bad experiences more easily. Right now, there's not a lot of evidence supporting that idea, beyond some anecdotes. Studies like this help scientists figure out whether the anecdotes are pointing at a useful treatment tool, or just relating some personal experiences. Read the rest

XOXO: Maker Love, Not Thwart

I have fallen in love with a building, hundreds of people, a MakerBot, a portable toilet trailer, food trucks, and two men each named Andy. Is it possible to fall in love with a conference? If so, I have. The organizers named the conference XOXO for hugs and kisses. This was presented without hipster irony or marketing-speak. They meant it. They delivered.

Death on Mount Everest

Back in May, we linked you to the reporting of Outside's Grayson Schaffer, who was stationed in the base camps of Mount Everest, watching as the mountain's third deadliest spring in recorded history unfolded. Ten climbers died during April and May. But the question is, why?

From a technological standpoint, as Schaffer points out in a follow up piece, Everest ought to be safer these days. Since 1996 — the mountain's deadliest year, documented in John Krakauer's Into Thin Air — weather forecasts have improved (allowing climbers to avoid storms like the one responsible for many of the 1996 deaths), and new helicopters can reach stranded climbers at higher altitudes. But those things, Schaffer argues, are about reducing deaths related to disasters. This year, he writes, the deaths that happened on Everest weren't about freak occurrences of bad luck. It wasn't storms or avalanches that took those people down. It wasn't, in other words, about the random risks of nature.

This matters because it points to a new status quo on Everest: the routinization of high-altitude death. By and large, the people running the show these days on the south side of Everest—the professional guides, climbing Sherpas, and Nepali officials who control permits—do an excellent job of getting climbers to the top and down again. Indeed, a week after this year’s blowup, another hundred people summited on a single bluebird day, without a single death or serious injury.

But that doesn’t mean Everest is being run rationally. There are no prerequisites for how much experience would-be climbers must have and no rules to say who can be an outfitter.

Read the rest

Peter Jackson puts the idea of directing an episode of Doctor Who into everyone's head, everyone dies

Okay, now, before we all (present company included) get too excited, let me state that this is not an official announcement, but merely words said by people out loud to the press. Matt Smith, who plays the eponymous character in Doctor Who, said that he'd love to sail over to New Zealand and film an episode of the show with director Peter Jackson. And then Jackson said, "Yeah, okay!" You might think that the new trailer for The Hobbit was the best Jackson-related news to happen today, but I'm telling you right now -- it's not. This "not-officially-happening-yet" Doctor Who news is. If we all clap our hands at the same time, maybe it'll actually happen. And an angel will get its wings.

Don't worry, I put your Hobbit trailer inside, too. Read the rest

TOM THE DANCING BUG: The God-Man YouTube Video!

Today's exciting episode of GOD-MAN!

Beware of neuro-speculation

Between the downfall of Jonah Lehrer, and Naomi Wolfe's new book that claims chemicals in women's brains force us to demand our lovers shower us with roses and candy and refer to us as "goddess"*, there's been some growing backlash against the long-popular idea of better living through neuroscience. You know what I'm talking about here: You (yes, you!) can succeed at work, be more creative, improve your relationships, and have a better sex life — all you have to do is read this one interpretation of the latest in neuroscience research!

Perhaps unsurprisingly, that pitch oversells the reality. What we know about how the brain works isn't really that clear cut. But more than that, the idea of scientific self-help quite often has to severely distort science in order to make any sense. The public comes away with a massive misunderstanding of what MRI does and doesn't tell us, what hormones like dopamine actually do, and what the lab tells us about real life.

There are two big essays that you need to read before you pick up another story or book that tries to make connections between cutting-edge brain science and real life. The first, in New Statesman, is by Steven Poole and the broad overview of why it's such a problem when neuroscience becomes neuro-speculation. The second, by Maia Szalavitz at Time Magazine's Healthland blog, focuses on Naomi Wolfe's new book and uses that as a springboard to talk about the bigger issue of brain chemicals, what they are, and what they aren't. Read the rest

Maggie on Virtually Speaking Science

Today at 5:00 pm Eastern, I'll be talking to MIT professor of science writing Tom Levenson on the Virtually Speaking Science podcast. The show is recorded live, so you can call in and join the conversation. It also happens live in Second Life. Which means that I now have a Second Life avatar. Seems like an interesting concept. I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out. Read the rest

Court to hear argument on the privacy implications of "junk" DNA databases

The Ninth Circuit is hearing arguments today about the privacy implications of gathering and retaining "junk" DNA, which has been treated as merely identifying, like a fingerprint, and not unduly invasive. Modern genetics shows that it's possible to extract information about health, ancestry, and other potentially compromising traits. From the Electronic Frontier Foundation's blog:

In this case, Haskell v. Harris, the ACLU of Northern California is challenging the California law, arguing that it violates constitutional guarantees of privacy and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.  This is the first court hearing to address DNA privacy since the research on “junk” DNA has become widely known, and in its role as amicus, EFF asked the court to consider the ground-breaking new research.  The oral argument is open to the public at the federal courthouse at 95 7th Street in San Francisco.  The hearing starts at 10am, in courtroom 1 on the third floor.

Wednesday Hearing in 9th Circuit Tackles DNA Privacy Read the rest

Apparently there is some drama involving Amanda Palmer and the payment of backup musicians

Update: Palmer's paying all the musicians, forward and retroactively, so everyone can chill out now.

Whenever a female musician reaches some high point of success, particularly an indie artist—it seems inevitable that her moment of recognition will be followed by a backlash of one sort or another. With this in mind, I was not surprised to see a wave of drama spread accross my Twitter timeline yesterday, focused on Amanda Palmer. Her wildly successful Kickstarter campaign raised more than a million bucks for a music project.

On her blog, the hyper-interactive Palmer put out a call to fans that she was "looking for professional-ish horns and strings for EVERY CITY to hop up on stage with us for a couple of tunes." In exchange, the blog post continued, Palmer promised to "feed you beer, hug/high-five you up and down (pick your poison), give you merch, and thank you mightily for adding to the big noise we are planning to make."

Critics said this amounted to asking for free spec work. Lots of hostile comments piled up on that blog post, some from working musicians, upset that the million-dollar crowdsourcer was asking for free labor from creative professionals who are struggling to make a living.

Read the rest

Ubuntu Made Easy

The latest edition of Ubuntu Made Easy preserves all the best characteristics of the earlier edition I liked so much, but updates it substantially to cover the next-generation graphic interface Unity, and the cutting edge features that have been added since those days. Written by a member of the GNOME documentation project (Phil Bull) and a veteran computer writer (Rickford Grant), it is a clear, well-organized reference to the free operating system I use exclusively. Read the rest

HOWTO be a good commenter

On John Scalzi's Whatever, a list of ten excellent rules for being a better commenter -- it's certainly stuff that I'll keep in mind the next time I leave a comment somewhere:

1. Do I actually have anything to say? Meaning, does what you post in the comments boil down to anything other than “yes, this,” or “WRONG AGAIN,” or even worse, “who cares”? A comment is not meant to be an upvote, downvote or a “like.” It’s meant to be an addition to, and complementary to (but not necessarily complimentary of) the original post. If your comment is not adding value, you need to ask whether you need to write it, and, alternately, why anyone should be bothered to read it. On a personal note, I find these sort of contentless comments especially irritating when the poster is expressing indifference; the sort of twit who goes out of his way to say “::yawn::” in a comment is the sort I want first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

2. Is what I have to say actually on topic? What is the subject of the original post? That’s also the subject of the comment thread, as is, to some extent, the manner in which the writer approached the subject. If you’re dropping in a comment that’s not about these things, then you’re likely working to make the comment thread suck. Likewise, if as a commenter you’re responding to a comment from someone else that’s not on topic to the original post, you’re also helping to make the comment thread suck.

Read the rest

Why not to hire a woman, Australia edition, 1963

An Australian Department of Trade document listing the reasons women should not be hired to be trade commissioners. "A spinster lady can, and often does, turn into something of a battleaxe with the passing years. A man usually mellows." (HT: @christinelhenry) Read the rest