Years ago during the reign of Milosevic in Serbia I wrote an essay called "Decent people". It was about that 80 percent of Serbian people, the classic silent majority, who lived in denial of the genocide in Srebrenica, the snipers in Sarajevo, the shelling in Dubrovnik.
These so called decent people who could not grasp cruel political and military reality. Eventually the damage to daily life became impossible; the decent people could not go through with their charade of normality as postmen, engineers and dentists. On October 5th 2000 a million people took to the streets in Belgrade and physically deposed the tyrant.
However, time stopped then in Serbia. An October 6th never dawned for a bewildered Serbia, not even 12 years later, on the anniversary. Milosevic died behind the bars in the Hague, my Yugoslav-era parents are deceased, my postman is on pension but the inhabitants of the Serbian parliament today are the next generation of those decent people. No painful truths were admitted and confronted; there was a rebellion of the decent, but not a thorough change in the society.
Typically, a few days ago the new elected premiere of Serbia forbade the Gay Pride annual parade. He claimed that 80 percent of the Serbian population is against gay manifestations, and warned against the risky and inevitable gay-bashing that would follow in the streets. This new premiere is an old member from the deposed Milosevic' s party. Crushing the aspirations of Serbian gays has become routine, and he has already handled the trouble successfully before.
PhilAreGo happened upon this brochure for the Santa Fe Railway, and offered the following interpretation os the scenario depicted on the cover.
Wow! Get a load of them eyebrows! The two guys look like they're hoping to get her alone for some wicked doings, but she looks downright carnivorous herself. The standing man looks like he's dropping something into the drink of the seated man. All the while, the lady is staring at the chest of the pill-dropping man, where she knows that mere inches away, beats his juicy, delicious heart. I find it hard to have any sympathy for whatever happens to these three in the next few hours.
Phil then shows what the illustration would look like by retouching the eyebrows, making them lighter and then even heavier.
Backyard Blockbusters (Thanks, John!)
Did you ever see that movie where Batman fought a Predator? Or where kids remade "Raiders of the Lost Ark"? What about the fourth season of classic "Star Trek"? If none of these are familiar to you, that's because they're not studio projects, but fan films - and I've just finished and started touring film festivals with a documentary about these kinds of projects called "Backyard Blockbusters" - it looks at the history, influence, and copyright problems these types of projects face, and includes nearly everyone from the most famous, popular, and/or notable fan films, as well as notables from the original properties and production companies.
There's a very cool screening opportunity coming up, but I need public help to get the film into it - the Arclight Cinema in Hollywood is holding a documentary film festival in November, and the selection process is being done online through public voting - and "Backyard Blockbusters" is one of the contenders.
They will be counting both the amount of views the competing trailers for the various films get on YouTube pages, as well as the amount of votes the films receive on a special Facebook page.
As a big fan of horror, as well as the found-footage subgenre, I was really excited to see V/H/S, a found-footage horror anthology. After it screened at Sundance, it got a lot of buzz -- people were passing out, leaving the theater, men and women gnashing their teeth, etc. So you can imagine my disappointment when I realized I was glad I'd stayed home and paid about half the price of a theater ticket to get it on demand. Despite a few genuinely scary moments, it was hard to get past the fact that I wanted every single character in V/H/S to die a horrible death so I wouldn't have to watch them anymore.
If you have your heart absolutely set on seeing V/H/S, then by all means, see it. But if you're on the fence or having any doubts, let me share what I didn't like, and maybe you'll share my opinion. (If not, that's also cool.)
Read the rest
Dutch primatologist and ethologist Frans de Waal shows a video of two Capuchin monkeys in side-by-side cages. Each monkey is given the same task to complete: handing the experimenter a rock. Their "pay" is a slice of cucumber. But when the experimenter starts paying one of the monkeys in grapes (which the monkeys like better than cucumbers), the monkey who was being paid in cucumbers protests.
(Via 22 Words)
At Grist, Jess Zimmerman has an interesting piece about a lake near a notoriously leaky former Soviet nuclear research site, where the radiation level is so high that an hour on the beach can be enough to kill you.
You can’t really blame Lake Karachay for acting up — it comes from a really rough area. The lake is located within the Mayak Production Association, one of the largest — and leakiest — nuclear facilities in Russia. The Russian government kept Mayak entirely secret until 1990, and it spent that period of invisibility mainly having nuclear meltdowns and dumping waste into the river. By the time Mayak’s existence was officially acknowledged, there had been a 21 percent increase in cancer incidence, a 25 percent increase in birth defects, and a 41 percent increase in leukemia in the surrounding region of Chelyabinsk. The Techa river, which provided water to nearby villages, was so contaminated that up to 65 percent of locals fell ill with radiation sickness — which the doctors termed “special disease,” because as long as the facility was secret, they weren’t allowed to mention radiation in their diagnoses.
The Nobel Prizes in science will be announced — one prize per day — between now and Wednesday. Today, the winners of the prize for physiology or medicine were announced. John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka will share the award for work related to cloning and our ability to manipulate the functioning of stem cells.
What's interesting here is that the research these two men are winning the Nobel for happened nearly a generation apart. Gurdon's work was crucial to the development of cloning. You'll recall that some embryonic stem cells can grow up to be anything, any part of animal's living tissue. Differentiated stem cells, in contrast, are destined for a specific job — for instance, they could grow into skin cells, or nerve cells, but not both. In 1952, other scientists had concluded that you could take genetic material from a very early frog embryo, inject it into the egg cell of another frog, and get that to grow into a living animal — a clone. But those researchers thought this process would only work up to a point. They didn't think you could clone an adult, or even an older fetus. Gurdon proved them wrong. In a series of experiments published between 1958, 1962, 1966, he worked with older and older donor cells, and produced more developed clones — eventually growing fully adult, fertile frogs from cells taken from the intestines of tadpoles.
Yamanaka, meanwhile, did his research in the early part of the 21st century, developing the methods that allow us to trick grown-up, set-in-their-ways cells into behaving more like embryonic stem cells. Yamanaka's work is linked to Gurdon's because it explains why Gurdon (and researchers after him) were able to successfully clone adult animals from cells that had fully differentiated.
The research history here is a little hard to follow, especially with Gurdon's work. The description of his findings I have here is what I've been able to piece together from several different sources, citing several different dates and specific achievements. To help cut through some of the confusion, here's a couple of links where you can get a good, reasonably detailed idea of what this research is, and why it matters:
• This article on the history of cloning from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is easily readable and interesting, especially if your awareness of this topic begins with Dolly the Sheep.
• In 2009, Gurdon and Yamanaka won the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award. That organization has a good explanation of how both men did their experiments and how their work ties together.
On Make, Gareth Branwyn reposts an unsourced set of wordless directions for making a lovely sandwich caddy out of a milk jug: "This pantomimed project obviously shows how to make a neat little sandwich caddy by simply cutting, scoring, and folding a gallon plastic milk jug. A Velcro dot is used as the fastener."
I invented the Monkey Couch Guardian, and wrote a how-to so you can build one, too.
Combine an Arduino with a proximity sensor, and make an obnoxious device to discourage cats and other fur-shedding pets from jumping on beds and couches. This project will also introduce you to the SPDT relay, a fundamental component of hobbyist electronics projects.Monkey Couch Guardian: complete instructions
This is a spider, which was encased in tree sap while in the act of attacking a wasp. The sap turned to amber, leaving an incredible preserved scene, with even individual strands of silk from the spider's web remaining unbroken for 100 million years.
— The paper this is taken from (sits behind a paywall, unfortunately)
— Learn more about the preservation of bugs in amber at the website for NOVA's "Jewell of the Earth" documentary
This is a detail from one of the regularly updated maps that researchers in Antarctica use when they want to leave McMurdo Station and travel across the continent's sea ice. It shows the well-traveled routes across McMurdo Sound, ice thickness measurements taken at various points along the road, and hazards like large cracks in the ice.
Towards the north end of the Sound, you can see an island labeled, "Inaccessible Island". I asked Henry Kaiser — a musician and filmmaker who has spent the last decade working with scientists on the frozen continent — about why that island was inaccessible. After all, I didn't see any major cracks or hazards around it. Seems like you could traverse the ice to the island just fine.
Turns out, I was misunderstanding. Inaccessible isn't a designation. Inaccessible is the island's official name. Even though it's not. Inaccessible, I mean. Named by Robert Scott, it's part of a chain of islands that all represent the remains of an ancient volcanic crater. The name apparently comes from the fact that Inaccessible Island is incredibly steep, so while you can reach it, getting onto the damn thing seems to be a lot harder.
Inaccessible Island in McMurdo Sound is not to be confused with the Inaccessible Island that is located in the south Atlantic about halfway between South America and Africa; nor with the Inaccessible Islands, an entire group of islands located between the tip of South America and tip of the Antarctic peninsula; nor with Inexpressible Island, an Antarctic island where part of Scott's crew on his second expedition was forced to spend the winter of 1912 living in a cave and eating penguins.
• Read about Inaccessible Island (the one in McMurdo Sound) in the report of Robert Scott's first expedition to Antarctica, published in 1907.
This week's New Yorker cover is clever! (Via Cover Junkie)