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Music Appreciation: Hauntology

In the future, the past is the present. Don't miss our Boing Boing Music feature on hauntology, in which Mark Pilkington connects the dots between Arthur Machen, Demdike Stare, 70s British television, Ghost Box Music, TC Lethbridge, and Coil. It's a heady trip down memory lane with a stunning soundtrack of spectral sounds crackling from the car speakers. "Hauntologists mine the past for music's future"

Pirate Cinema presentation at Brooklyn's WORD

Joly MacFie from The Punkcast was good enough to bring his cameras down to my Pirate Cinema tour stop at Brooklyn's WORD books, and has uploaded the presentation (including the airing of the runners-up and winner of the remix video contest we held) to YouTube. Thanks, Joly!

Shocking, vicious attack-ads from the dirty presidential race


Redditor Aspirin742 and his six-year-old daughter Elissa are both contenders in a hard-fought election for President of their house. The campaigning has gotten really ugly.

My 6 year old daughter and I are having an election for President of the House (imgur.com) (via Super Punch)

MIT's Futures of Entertainment conference, Nov 9/10


Sam from MIT sez, "This 2-day conference at MIT brings together 50 leading thinkers about innovation in the media and marketing industries. Issues tackled include the importance of listening to their audiences and putting yourself in their shoes; the politics and ethics of curation in a spreadable media world; the move from "participatory culture" to "political participation," curing "the shiny new object syndrome" of putting the hype of new platforms over storytelling strategy, and rethinking copyright for today's world. The conference also includes particular looks into the futures of video gaming, the futures of public media, and the futures of storytelling in sports. Speakers include T Bone Burnett, Henry Jenkins, Maria Popova, Grant McCracken, Jason Falls, Valve Software's Yanis Varoufakis, PBS FRONTLINE's Andrew Golis, Google Creative Lab Director Ben Malbon, Xbox co-founder Ed Fries, AT&T AdWorks Lab Director David Polinchock, the creators of 30 Mosques in 30 Days, and USC Annenberg Inno vation Lab Director Jon Taplin. Also, there's a pre-conference event Thursday evening, Nov. 8, on 'New Media in West Africa,' moderated by mobile entertainment founder Ralph Simon and featuring the Harvard Berkman Center's Colin Maclay, artist Derrick Ashong, and iROKOtv's Fadzi Makanda."

Futures of Entertainment 6 | November 9-10, 2012 MIT, Cambridge MA (Thanks, Sam!)

Einstein with puppet-Einstein


If you think Einstein-with-his-tongue-out is the last word in whimsical physicist photography, have a look at this 1931 shot of the Mighty Hip Einie with an Einstein marionette.

Here's the runner up: Einstein in fuzzy slippers.


Update: Dan Bessie writes, "As it happens, I own the original negative (and photo) of Einstein with the marionette, created by my uncle Harry Burnett. And contrary to comments you've received, the puppet is neither Mark Twain, nor was it Photoshopped."

Attributed to Harry Burnett while Yale Puppeteers were working in their theater, Teatro Torito, on Olvera Street in Los Angeles, California, circa 1931. The photo was taken by Harry Burnett at Cal Tech in Pasadena where Albert Einstein was teaching. Einstein saw the puppet perform at the Teato Torito and was quite amused. He reached into his jacket’s breast pocket, pulled out a letter and crumpled it up. Speaking in German, he said, “The puppet wasn’t fat enough!” He laughed and stuffed the crumpled letter up under the smock to give the puppet a fatter belly. This is a wonderful photograph that Harry treasured. Harry Burnett also kept the letter in a frame and loved to retell the story and at the end give his pixish laugh.

Einstein with Einstein Puppet

Read the rest

Chinook: the story of the computer that beat checkers

Last month, I blogged about Relatively Prime, a beautifully produced, crowdfunded free series of math podcasts. I just listened to the episode on Chinook (MP3), the program that became the world champion of checkers.

Chinook's story is a bittersweet and moving tale, a modern account of John Henry and the steam-drill, though this version is told from the point of view of the machine and its maker, Jonathan Schaeffer, a University of Alberta scientist who led the Chinook team. Schaeffer's quest begins with an obsessive drive to beat reigning checkers champ Marion Tinsley, but as the tale unfolds, Tinsley becomes more and more sympathetic, so that by the end, I was rooting for the human.

This is one of the best technical documentaries I've heard, and I heartily recommend it to you.

DC pulls in a record-setting $85M from traffic cams

A little followup to yesterday's post about NoPhoto, an Indiegogo fundraiser for a flash that confounds red-light cameras: the city of Washington, DC has smashed its previous record-setting rake on its traffic cameras, pulling in $85 million in its fiscal 2012. Alan Blinder writes more in the Washington Examiner, discussing whether the city has come to think of its traffic cams as cash-cows:

"This year, we'll have more revenue than ever and more citations than ever before," said John Townsend, of AAA Mid-Atlantic. "They're closing holes in the budget."

Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells, a sponsor of the proposal to lower fines, leveled a similar accusation.

"The administration and some of my colleagues view this as a way to make money for the government," Wells said. "The funding is there to reduce the fines. The question is will my colleagues see this as a windfall to fund their pet projects?"

But the District government is far from the only local government to boost its bank account with camera tickets.

D.C. rakes in $85m from traffic cameras (Thanks, Marilyn!)

Groucho meets Bradbury

Here's a clip of a young Ray Bradbury appearing on Groucho Marx's "You Bet Your Life," being awesome.

Ray Bradbury on Groucho's "You Bet Your Life" (via IO9)

Humble Ebook Bundle breaks the $1,000,000 barrier

Just now, a few minutes before 10AM Pacific, the Humble Ebook Bundle crossed the $1 MILLION mark. Yes, it's an arbitrary round number, but it's a BIGGUN! For those of you who haven't clocked it, the Humble Ebook Bundle is a collection of 13 ebooks -- science fiction, fantasy, and graphic novels -- for which you can name your price, and designate some or all of your money to charity in the process. I'm over the danged MOON. You've got just about three days to get in on the deal before it vanishes!

Full-size museum replicas from a MakerBot


These pieces were printed on a Makerbot Replicator 2 3D printer, by artist Cosmo Wenman, who printed them in several pieces and then assembled them. MakerBot is justifiably proud of these extraordinary achievements, which have really pushed the limits on 3D printing using low-cost, home-model printers. Here's some of Wenman's description of his thoughts behind Head of a Horse of Selene (a replica of a piece in the British Museum), on Thingiverse:

I find David Hockney's theories on the precocious use of lenses in Renaissance art very compelling. But living with this damned horse on my screen, and then in my house, for the last two months, it's hard to imagine how the original could have been designed two millenia ago without photography, let alone lenses. Its expression is so exacting, just an instant in time, I can't see how it could be modeled by eye from a live horse, or even a dead one. Maybe a contour gauge on a carcass with rigor mortis, but I don't see that either, not with this expressiveness and movement.

I imagine a Greek guy walking around 2,000 years ago with a camera obscura with some kind of light sensitive papyrus inside, trying to raise funds to get his light enscribing machine into mass production. Alas, there was no Kickstarter back then.

Or, maybe the artist and horse in bright sunlight, the artist covering his eyes. The horse's handler startles it into motion, and the artist opens his eyes for an instant, closes them again, then draws quickly with his eyes shut while the image fades in his retinas - the lens, film, and darkroom being his eyes... I dunno - either that or weeks of careful study, scores of sketches of impressions of a horse in motion, composited into this exacting model. But that doesn't sound like as much fun.

Cosmo Wenman’s Mind-Blowing Sculpture Made On A MakerBot

Thomas Jefferson: not an enthusiastic, brutal slaver

Wagner James Au writes, "Annette Gordon-Reed, a Pulitzer and National Book Award-winning, African-American academic at Harvard, has a brutal takedown of the new Jefferson biography by Henry Wiencek mentioned last month in Boing Boing which purports to prove Jefferson was a brutal slave owner. According to Gordon-Reed, Wiencek's citations are highly misleading. Sample:"

He then quotes Jefferson: "I allow nothing for losses by death, but, on the contrary, shall presently take credit four per cent. per annum, for their increase over and above keeping up their own numbers."

The problem with what Wiencek calls the "4 percent theorem" or "formula" is that Jefferson was not speaking about his slaves at Monticello--he was speaking about farms in Virginia generally. The quoted "four per cent" line is from his "Notes on Arthur Young's Letter to George Washington," written, while Jefferson was serving in Washington's Cabinet, in response to a request for a comparison of free labor to enslaved labor. Jefferson, who could never resist an opportunity to count and compute, joined in to "calculate, in the Virginia way, the employment" of slave labor. When he speaks of allowing "nothing for losses by death," he is explaining what variables are going into his calculations about how to determine the value of enslaved labor--not opining on any policy he had at Monticello.

Thomas Jefferson Was Not a Monster (Thanks, James!)

Big Carrot tips its hand

In this rare ad from history, Big Carrot tips its hand and arrogantly advertises the moment where it climbed into bed with Big Fat.

WHUT

OMG, baby octopodes!

National Geographic's Enric Sala took this photo during an expedition in Gabon. He and another researcher were using a remote operated vehicle to explore the ocean off the coast of that country's Loango National Park.

When we picked up the shell from the ROV’s arm, to our surprise, a small octopus came out of the shell. It was a female that laid her eggs inside the shell. We put shell and octopus in a tank with seawater, and after one minute thousands of octopus larvae started to stream out of the shell. The octopus eggs were hatching! That was the first time we had observed such a magnificent show. The larvae were changing coloration from transparent with dark spots to brown, and swimming like squid – although on a millimeter scale.

Read the rest of Sala's posts from Gabon

Via Miriam Goldstein

Donate to help schools purchase science supplies

From a rural Louisiana middle school that has never had a microscope, to a school in California that lacks basic laboratory safety equipment (think, nitrile gloves) — many schools in the United States aren't getting kids the resources they need to learn science. You can help by donating to these causes through Donors Choose. (Via Jaquelyn Gill at the Contemplative Mammoth blog) Maggie

Temple Grandin's brain doesn't just think differently, it is physically different

This is kind of neat. Scientists conducted several psychological and neuro-imaging tests on Temple Grandin — the woman who has used her own autism as a model for designing better livestock control systems. What they found is that Grandin's brain looks different, structurally, from that of a neuro-typical person.

Grandin’s brain volume is significantly larger than that of three neurotypical controls matched on age, sex and handedness. Grandin’s lateral ventricles, the chambers that hold cerebrospinal fluid, are skewed in size so that the left one is much larger than the right. “It’s quite striking,” Cooperrider says. On both sides of her brain, Grandin has an abnormally large amygdala, a deep brain region that processes emotion. Her brain also shows differences in white matter, the bundles of nerve fibers that connect one region to another. The volume of white matter on the left side of her brain is higher than that in controls, the study found.

Grandin isn't the only person with autism to have had their brain scanned. But the differences that have been found aren't always consistent from one study to another. That, of course, makes some sense, given the fact that the word "autism" encompasses a whole spectrum of differences and disabilities which may or may not represent one single thing. But there have been several studies that did find differences similar to the ones found in Temple Grandin.

And here's the really interesting thing. Some scientists think that the common differences we do keep seeing — especially the bit about the larger brain volume — might be a clue that what eventually becomes autism actually begins in the womb. Here's a quick excerpt from a story that Carl Zimmer wrote about this stuff last spring:

When autistic children are born, Courchesne’s research suggests, they have an abundance of neurons jammed into an average-size brain. Over the first few years, the neurons get bigger and sprout thousands of branches to join other neurons. The extra neurons in the autistic brain probably send out a vast number of extra connections to other neurons. This overwiring may interfere with normal development of language and social behavior in young children. It would also explain the excess brain size seen in the MRI scans.

Read the story about Temple Grandin's brain

Read Carl Zimmer's story on structural differences in brains of people with autism

Special thanks to GrrlScientist!

Image: Photograph by Jonathunder for Wikipedia, used under CC license.