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Anti-scratch spray for device screens apparently works

Red Ferret reviewed Liquid Armor, a "nanotech" spray that you apply to your mobile device screen in order to prevent it from scratching. They found it very effective and easy to use:

All in all we were very surprised (really!) to find that the coating does seem to actually work. It’s hard to believe that a spray on coating can have that much effect, but unless we’re missing something, it does appear to protect the screen very well indeed under stress. It works with glass of course, so don’t expect the same results if you have a cheaper plastic screen, and it pays to remember that the spray needs to be re-applied every 3 to 6 months to maintain protection.

Overall, we’re going to give it a 5 out of 5. Easy to apply, effective, low impact on screen functionality and not too expensive. We’d like to hear from more real world experiences, but for now it’s a thumbs up recommendation from us.

Liquid Armor – hardcore phone screen protection from a simple nano spray [Review]

Russian beard tax token from the reign of Peter the Great


This is a Russian beard tax token from the reign of Peter the Great, who set out to modernize Russia by getting everyone to shave. Anyone who wanted to keep a beard had to buy one of these tokens (which bore the legend "the beard is a superfluous burden"). Costs varied by profession -- nobles and officers paid 60 rubles, top merchants paid 100, and so on. Additionally, everyone passing into a city while wearing a beard had to pay a kopek's worth of face-fur-toll.

Update: You can buy replica beard tokens, too.

Beard Tax Token, 1705 (via Neatorama)

MPAA tells court that Megaupload users shouldn't be allowed access to their own files without "safeguards"

U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady in Virginia has scheduled a hearing to adjudicate a claim from Kyle Goodwin, a sports videographer in Ohio whose videos have been lost since the illegal raids in May on Megaupload, a file-locker service. The MPAA has asked to participate in the hearing in order to object, in principle, to the idea that the millions of Megaupload users who've had their files seized in the raid should be able to access them without "safeguards." More from CNet's Declan McCullagh:

The MPAA said today that while it takes no position on Goodwin's request to have his own copyrighted videos returned, it wants to participate in the hearing to describe "the overwhelming amount of infringement of the MPAA members' copyrighted work on MegaUpload." (The MPAA's six members are Paramount Pictures Corporation, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal City Studios LLC, Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., and Warner Bros. Entertainment.)

To those Hollywood studios, MegaUpload and its flamboyant founder Kim Dotcom represent the darkest elements of Internet file-sharing. MPAA chairman Chris Dodd has dubbed it "the largest and most active criminally operated website" in the world, and MPAA vice president Michael P. O'Leary claims it's one of the most popular Internet sites "for streaming and downloading illicit copies."

"It makes little sense for the MPAA, or MegaUpload, or Carpathia, or even the government -- despite its actions otherwise -- to prevent third parties access to their legal property," Julie Samuels, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told CNET this afternoon. "Not only does it harm those individual third parties, but it negatively impacts all cloud storage providers and customers, who, in order for the technology to work, need to be able to rely on access."

MPAA: Don't let MegaUpload users access their data

BB Readers' DIY Costumes: Zombie Baby breaking out of womb

In our Epic Halloween DIY Costume thread, Boing Boing reader Laz Burke shares this awesome photo of a zombie baby breaking out of the womb.

The physics of the weird geometries of the corpse city of R'lyeh


Theoretical physicist and mathematician Benjamin K. Tippett has posted a paper called "Possible Bubbles of Spacetime Curvature in the South Pacific," which analyzes the account of Gustaf Johansen, the author of the manuscript embedded in HP Lovecraft's famous story The Call of Cthulhu, and tries to account for the weird geometries that hide "the corpse city of R'lyeh." It's got rendered diagrams and everything. Science!

We contend that all of the credible phenomena which Johansen described may be explained as being the observable consequences of a localized bubble of spacetime curvature. Many of his most incomprehensible statements (involving the geometry of the architecture, and variability of the location of the horizon) can therefore be said to have a unified underlying cause.

We propose a simplified example of such a geometry, and show using numerical computation that Johansen`s descriptions were, for the most part, not simply the ravings of a lunatic. Rather, they are the nontechnical observations of an intelligent man who did not understand how to describe what he was seeing. Conversely, it seems to us improbable that Johansen should have unwittingly given such a precise description of the consequences of spacetime curvature, if the details of this story were merely the dregs of some half remembered fever dream.

We calculate the type of matter which would be required to generate such exotic spacetime curvature. Unfortunately, we determine that the required matter is quite unphysical, and possess a nature which is entirely alien to all of the experiences of human science. Indeed, any civilization with mastery over such matter would be able to construct warp drives, cloaking devices, and other exotic geometries required to conveniently travel through the cosmos.

Possible Bubbles of Spacetime Curvature in the South Pacific (via JWZ)

BB Readers' DIY Costumes: Spider and Plague Doc masks

In our Epic Halloween DIY Costume thread, Boing Boing reader Celeste says,

We've made masks again this year. My husband Jacob is a plague doctor. I'm a spider (ironically, my least favourite animal but I loved working on the mask!). More pics and a bit of info on how they were made here.

Free/open source programmer and Creative Commons activist Bassel Khartabil faces torture in notorious Syrian prison


Bassel Khartabil, a Palestinian free/open source developer and Creative Commons activist, has been in prison in Syria since June, and his colleagues around the world have been agitating for his release. Now, the news gets worse: a recently released fellow inmate reports that Khartabil has been subject to harsh treatment and torture in Syrian custody. From the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Eva Galperin:

According to a new Amnesty International report, a released detainee has informed Bassel Khartabil’s family that he is being held at the Military Intelligence Branch in Kafr Sousseh and had been tortured and otherwise ill-treated.

In response to this alarming news, Bassel's friends and supporters around the world have launched a letter-writing campaign, hoping to flood Syrian officials and diplomats with physical mail demanding that Khartabil be formally charged and given access to a lawyer or released immediately. Participants are encouraged to send photographs of their letters to info@freebassel.org.

Torture Fears for Open Source Software Activist Detained in Syria

(Image: Bassel, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from joi's photostream)

Downtown After Sandy: Walking 3 miles in blacked-out NYC, the night after the storm

Boing Boing pal Joe Sabia, who collaborates with us on the Boing Boing Virgin America in-flight TV channel and is a talented director—and a resident of New York's Little Italy neighborhood!—shot and edited this amazing video.

"Walking 3 miles from Mulberry Street to Grand Central on the night after Hurricane Sandy," Joe explains. "Everything south of 38th street was dark."

Observations:

1) People used pay phones.

2) Lone cops would stand on corners keeping an eye out on things.

3) A few bars would have candle-lit drinking hours. Which reminded me of NYC in the 1700s, if I was alive then

I just watched Amadeus yesterday. That's why Mozart is scoring this video.

BB Readers' DIY Costumes: Mars and the Curiosity Rover

In our Epic Halloween DIY Costume thread, Boing Boing reader Shannon Stewart says, "My husband and I went as Mars and the Curiosity Rover. Had a ton of fun making these babies and the costumes were a huge hit everywhere we went!"

Infinite Gangnam Style: realtime, beat-matched remix that goes on forever


With "Infinite Gangnam Style," Paul Lamere provides an infinite, intelligent remix of Psy's viral classic, using a beat-analyzer to continually add new choruses to the song.

What is this? - Infinite Gangnam Style is a web app that dynamically generates an ever changing and never ending version of the song 'Gangnam Style' by Psy.

It never stops? - That's right. It will play forever.

How does it work? - We use the Echo Nest analyzer to break the song into beats. We play the song beat by beat, but at every beat there's a chance that we will jump to a different part of song that happens to sound very similar to the current beat. For beat similarity we look at pitch, timbre, loudness, duration and the position of the beat within a bar.

You'll need a recent Chrome or Safari to watch it.

Infinite Gangnam Style

Infinite Gangnam Style - Frequently Asked Questions

(via Waxy)

EFF's Open Wireless campaign: help your neighbors, improve anonymity, support innovation

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is stepping up its open wireless campaign, which encourages people and businesses to leave their Internet connections open to the public, and offers advice on doing this safely and sustainably. As EFF points out, most WiFi networks are latent for most of the time, and there are a million ways that leaving your network accessible to passersby or neighbors can really help out, from emergency access during disasters to the urgent need to send an email, look up a phone number, or check directions. EFF's Adi Kamdar writes,

We believe there are many benefits to having a world of open wireless. Two of the big ones for us have to do with privacy and innovation.

Open wireless protects privacy. By using multiple IP addresses as one shifts from wireless network to wireless network, you can make it more difficult for advertisers and marketing companies to track you without cookies. Activists can better protect their anonymous communication by using open wireless (though Tor is still recommended).

Innovations would also thrive: Smarter tablets, watches, clothing, cars—the possibilities are endless. In a future with ubiquitous open Internet, smartphones can take advantage of persistent, higher quality connections to run apps more efficiently without reporting your whereabouts or communications. Inventors and creators would not have to ask permission of cell phone companies to utilize their networks, both freeing up radio spectrum and reducing unnecessary barriers to entry.

This movement is just beginning, but in a sense it has always been around. People, businesses, and communities have already been opening up their wireless networks, sharing with their neighbors, and providing an important public good. We want this movement to grow without unnecessary legal fears or technical restraints.

Why We Have An Open Wireless Movement

BB Readers' DIY Costumes: Tardis Dress

In our Epic Halloween DIY Costume thread, Boing Boing reader Chris Spurgeon says, "My daughter rolled her own Tardis dress!"

Band that shut down LA freeway will serve no time

Remember the talented young gentleman from Garden Grove, Calif. who shut down the 101 Freeway on Los Angeles a couple of years ago to treat immobilized drivers to a performance of their delightful song "Traffic Jam 101?" They were promptly arrested on felony conspiracy charges and misdemeanor charges of public nuisance and interfering with law enforcement. They had their day in court this week, pleading no contest. The judge went easy on them, and they will serve no time in jail.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Norm Shapiro sentenced each one to three years' formal probation and ordered them to perform 35 days of community service. Despite an objection from prosecutors, he also ruled the felony could be reduced to a misdemeanor in 18 months.
Since they are free to roam, can we look forward to a repeat performance from these crowd-pleasing entertainers?

No jail time for band whose 101 Freeway concert jammed traffic

Housekeeping: images in comments

There is currently a problem with our Disqus commenting system preventing images from being seen in the threads. We have alerted Disqus of this issue. Until this is fixed, please link to any images you'd like to share in your comments! Thank you.

Dutch government scraps "weed cards" - foreigners will still be able to smoke weed in Amsterdam's "coffee shops"

The new Dutch government has scrapped plans to issue "weed passes" to permanent Dutch residents, and require these passes in order to purchase cannabis products in Amsterdam's famed marijuana "coffee shops." Other cities will be free to ban foreigners from their own cannabis coffee shops, should they choose, but the national government will not impose this upon them.

Incoming Dutch government ditches 'weed pass' plan (via Reddit)

BB Readers' DIY Costumes: We are all Pussy Riot

In our Epic Halloween DIY Costume thread, Boing Boing reader Becca Tarvin shares this photo of a gang of revelers dressed as Russian art-provocateur-heroes Pussy Riot.

Village Voice sues Yelp over "Best of $CITY" trademark

The Village Voice received an improbable trademark over the use of "BEST OF" in connection with lists of the best things on offer in various cities, and now they're suing Yelp for creating their own "Best of" lists. This ridiculous suit is only possible because of the US Patent and Trademark Office's bungling, terrible methods, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Corynne McSherry writes, and will only be resolved when the USPTO cleans up its act:

What is going on at the Patent and Trademark Office? For decades, folks have been complaining (with good reason) that the patent examiners need to do a better job of screening out bogus patent applications. It’s clear that the problem extends to the trademark side as well. The PTO has allowed companies and individuals to register marks in any number of obviously generic and/or descriptive terms, such as “urban homestead” (to refer to urban farms), “gaymer” (to refer to gay gamers), and “B-24” (to refer to model B-24 bombers).

Once a mark is registered, it is all too easy for the owner to become a trademark bully. And while companies like Yelp have the resources to fight back (as we expect it will), small companies and individuals may not. Just as dangerous, the trademark owner may go upstream, to intermediaries like Facebook who have little incentive to do anything other than take down an account or site that’s accused of infringement.

"Good enough for government work" isn't good enough for free speech. It’s time the PTO did its part to stop trademark bullies and tightened up the trademark application process. Fewer bogus registrations means fewer bogus threats, and more online creativity and competition. That's a win for everyone.

Stupid Lawyer Tricks (And How the PTO Could Help Stop Them)

New York City in post-storm darkness: photos by Randy Scott Slavin

NYC UNPLUGGED, a series by photographer Randy Scott Slavin documenting the darkness in New York City after Hurricane Sandy caused widespread power outages:

New York City is always bright. Street lights, business marquees, light from apartments and car headlights merge to light every corner of the city streets, even on the darkest nights. It is the night after NYC was decimated by Hurricane Sandy, downtown NYC is in the midst of a power outage that has plunged it into complete darkness. I felt the call to hit the eerily dark streets and show New York as it is rarely seen. Trekking around with my tripod I was able to get the long exposures necessary to see in the dark.

Read the rest

What Nate Silver is actually telling you about the election

The election is next week. And, with that in mind, Salon's Paul Campos has posted a helpful reminder explaining what the statistics at the fivethirtyeight blog actually mean (and what they don't).

In particular, you have to remember that, while Nate Silver gives President Obama a 77.4 percent chance of winning the presidential election, that's not the same thing as saying that Obama is going to win.

Suppose a weather forecasting model predicts that the chance of rain in Chicago tomorrow is 75 percent. How do we determine if the model produces accurate assessments of probabilities? After all, the weather in Chicago tomorrow, just like next week’s presidential election, is a “one-off event,” and after the event the probability that it rained will be either 100 percent or 0 percent. (Indeed, all events that feature any degree of uncertainty are one-off events – or to put it another way, if an event has no unique characteristics it also features no uncertainties).

The answer is, the model’s accuracy can be assessed retrospectively over a statistically significant range of cases, by noting how accurate its probabilistic estimates are. If, for example, this particular weather forecasting model predicted a 75 percent chance of rain on 100 separate days over the previous decade, and it rained on 75 of those days, then we can estimate the model’s accuracy in this regard as 100 percent. This does not mean the model was “wrong” on those days when it didn’t rain, any more than it will mean Silver’s model is “wrong” if Romney were to win next week.

What Silver is predicting, in effect, is that as of today an election between a candidate with Obama’s level of support in the polls and one with Mitt Romney’s level of support in those polls would result in a victory for the former candidate in slightly more than three out of every four such elections.

Read the full story at Salon.com

BB Readers' DIY Costumes: 9 month old baby as a mermaid

In our Epic Halloween DIY Costume thread, Boing Boing reader Jean Dunk shares this wonderful photo and says, "Here is my 9 month old as a mermaid." Here's a larger size.

Read the rest

Meet the National Unwatering Swat Team

As I post this, the National Unwatering Swat Team should be reaching New York City, where it will do what the National Unwatering Swat Team does best — remove water from places it shouldn't ever be. This is a different mandate than dewatering, in which water is removed from places where it's sometimes okay to have water. (Via Philip Bump)

Star Wars montage tights


Australian geeky women's clothing maker Black Milk (previously featured many times on Boing Boing) has rolled out a new line of Star Wars clothes, including a lovely pair of Star Wars Montage leggings.

The Death Star Dress And More New Star Wars Items From Black Milk Clothing (via Geekologie)

What makes wind?

It can be a nice breeze, or a destructive storm, but either way wind is just moving air. And moving air is just moving molecules.

In an explainer for kids that's actually pretty helpful for grown-ups, too, Matt Shipman reminds us that the air around us isn't totally weightless. It weighs something, because molecules all weigh something:

They don't weigh very much (you couldn't put one on your bathroom scale), but their weight adds up, because there are a LOT of molecules in the air that makes up our atmosphere. All of that air is actually pretty heavy, so the air at the bottom of the atmosphere (like the air just above the ground) is getting pressed on by all of the air above it. That pressure pushes the air molecules at the bottom of the atmosphere a lot closer together than the air molecules at the top of the atmosphere.

And, because the air at the top of the atmosphere is pushing down on the air at the bottom of the atmosphere, the air molecules at the bottom REALLY want to spread out. So if there is an area where the air molecules are under high pressure (with a lot of weight pushing down), the air will spread out into areas that are under lower pressure (with less weight pushing down).

Read the full story at Carolina Parent

Image: wind, katarinahissen, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from mararie's photostream

Prince Ea: "For: Obama, From: The People"

Prince Ea, who made the excellent "Backwards Rapper" video last year and “Smoking Weed with the President” this year has just released his latest music video, called "For: Obama, From: The People." Ea is the founder of Make Smart Cool, whose mission is to "compellingly promote the ideals of education, intelligence, unity and creativity throughout the world at large."

A case report on lycanthropy

Just in time for Halloween, Sci Curious blogs about a case report, published in a peer-reviewed research journal, covering the strange story of a patient with lycanthropy — which is, to say, a bad case of werewolfitis. Lycanthropy as a Culture-Bound Syndrome: A Case Report and Review of the Literature was published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice. And it was published this year.

Yes, in 2012. That's because the technical, medical definition of lycanthropy had nothing to do with physically transforming into a creature of the night. It's a mental thing, where patients believe they have transformed into some kind of animal, even though they are still demonstrably human. According to Sci Curious, the animals involved in lycanthropy include everything from the obvious (wolf) to the unintentionally hilarious (bee, gerbil).

In their survey of the literature, the authors of this study found many more incidences of people who believed they had been transformed into animals, and which resolved after psychiatric treatment. But what interested the authors of this study were WHAT people generally believed they had turned into. While some people believed they had been turned into gerbils or cows, a surprising number believed they had been turned into wolves, and, as with the case with this woman, snakes.

The authors believe that this is because of what different cultures associate with...evil. Many of the people with lycanthropy believed firmly that the devil had done this to them, and of course the devil would turn them into a beast that is usually considered EVIL. Like wolves, which have been associated with Satan since the middle ages, or snakes, which go all the way back to Genesis (and, as the authors note, the Ms. A was a very devout religious woman). So the authors suggest that the idea of werewolves might arise from people suffering from lycanthropy, and believing that they had been transformed into the evil thing which they most feared.

...But it doesn't really explain the gerbil.

Read the full story at the Neurotic Physiology blog

Check out the original journal article (Behind a paywall.)

Via Jennifer Ouellette, who has more on the science of werewolves

BB Readers' DIY Costumes: Fish-Man from Ugly Americans

In our Epic Halloween DIY Costume thread, Boing Boing reader Sarah Pérez shares these images and says,

This year I have become Fish-Man! The idea was inspired by the fish-man character, Toby, in the show Ugly Americans. I think the idea of a fish wearing pants is pretty hilarious, and luckily the costume turned out to be as funny as I hoped it would. I've already worn it out on the bus and train home from work and it made quite a few smiles all around :)

The head is chicken wire, screen door mesh, paper mache, foam and fabric. I also had to special order some very large pants which I velcroed to the fish head. Oh, and the eyes light up too-- they're those battery-operated closet push-lights ;)

I'll be walking in the 16th Annual Halloween on Halsted Parade this Wednesday in Chicago at 7pm CST. Hope to see you Chicago readers there-- Happy Halloween!

Her video of fish-man in action below.

Read the rest

Won't somebody think of the rats?

I'm sure you've all been very concerned, worrying about the impact Hurricane Sandy had on New York City's rat population. The good news: Rats can swim and, while many rats likely died during the storm, there are probably still plenty of them alive. The really interesting news: Nobody actually knows how many rats live in New York City. There could be as many as 32 million.

Companion Cube ice-trays


Wow 'em at your next Portal-themed cocktail party with ThinkGeek's Companion Cube ice-cube molds, at $12.99 per.

Portal 2 Companion Cube Ice Tray (via Geekologie)

Illiterate kids given sealed boxes with tablets figure out how to use, master, and hack them

Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child presentation at the MIT Tech Review EmTech conference recounted an inspiring experiment in which illiterate Ethiopian village-kids were given solar-charging laptops in sealed boxes, and quickly taught themselves how to operate, then master, then hack, these devices, acquiring basic literacy and technological literacy at the same time.

MIT Technology Review's David Talbot reports in a piece reprinted on Mashable.com:

The experiment is being done in two isolated rural villages with about 20 first-grade-aged children each, about 50 miles from Addis Ababa. One village is called Wonchi, on the rim of a volcanic crater at 11,000 feet; the other is called Wolonchete, in the Rift Valley. Children there had never previously seen printed materials, road signs, or even packaging that had words on them, Negroponte said.

Earlier this year, OLPC workers dropped off closed boxes containing the tablets, taped shut, with no instruction. “I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android,” Negroponte said. “Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.”

Elaborating later on Negroponte’s hacking comment, Ed McNierney, OLPC’s chief technology officer, said that the kids had gotten around OLPC’s effort to freeze desktop settings. “The kids had completely customized the desktop—so every kids’ tablet looked different. We had installed software to prevent them from doing that,” McNierney said. “And the fact they worked around it was clearly the kind of creativity, the kind of inquiry, the kind of discovery that we think is essential to learning.”

“If they can learn to read, then they can read to learn.”

In an interview after his talk, Negroponte said that while the early results are promising, reaching conclusions about whether children could learn to read this way would require more time. “If it gets funded, it would need to continue for another a year and a half to two years to come to a conclusion that the scientific community would accept,” Negroponte said. “We’d have to start with a new village and make a clean start.”

Given Tablets But No Teachers, Ethiopian Kids Teach Themselves (via Reddit)

Vintage Tomorrows -- What Can Playing With the Past Teach Us About the Future?

Here's the trailer for an upcoming O'Reilly book, called Vintage Tomorrows: A Historian And A Futurist Journey Through Steampunk Into The Future of Technology, by James H. Carrott & Brian David Johnson. (Hi Cory!)

This book walks through the Steampunk movement and what their alternative history says about our own world and its technological future. It includes interviews with experts such as Cory Doctorow, James Gleick, and Margaret Atwood, who talk about how Steampunk has become a cultural movement.The authors have also just completed a documentary by the same name. You can see the trailer here