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.

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) Read the rest

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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. Read the rest

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.

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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.

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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

Torture Fears for Open Source Software Activist Detained in Syria

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

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

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

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.

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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!" Read the rest

Band that shut down LA freeway will serve no time

"Members of a band that staged an impromptu concert in the middle of the 101 fwy. in Hollywood will not get jail time for the publicity stunt that caused massive gridlock."

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. Read the rest

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) Read the rest

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. Read the rest

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.

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