Russell Brand's obituary for Margaret Thatcher is a beautiful and incisive piece of writing, and a good example of why he's not just another actor:
When I was a kid, Thatcher was the headmistress of our country. Her voice, a bellicose yawn, somehow both boring and boring – I could ignore the content but the intent drilled its way in. She became leader of the Conservatives the year I was born and prime minister when I was four. She remained in power till I was 15. I am, it's safe to say, one of Thatcher's children. How then do I feel on the day of this matriarchal mourning?
I grew up in Essex with a single mum and a go-getter Dagenham dad. I don't know if they ever voted for her, I don't know if they liked her. My dad, I suspect, did. He had enough Del Boy about him to admire her coiffured virility – but in a way Thatcher was so omnipotent; so omnipresent, so omni-everything that all opinion was redundant.
As I scan the statements of my memory bank for early deposits (it'd be a kid's memory bank account at a neurological NatWest where you're encouraged to become a greedy little capitalist with an escalating family of porcelain pigs), I see her in her hairy helmet, condescending on Nationwide, eviscerating eunuch MPs and baffled BBC fuddy duddies with her General Zodd stare and coldly condemning the IRA. And the miners. And the single mums. The dockers. The poll-tax rioters. The Brixton rioters, the Argentinians, teachers; everyone actually.
Thinking about it now, when I was a child she was just a strict woman telling everyone off and selling everything off. I didn't know what to think of this fearsome woman.
Russell Brand on Margaret Thatcher: 'I always felt sorry for her children'
(Image: Anti-Margaret Thatcher badge, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from dannybirchall's photostream)
Christopher Knight, aka the "North Pond Hermit," has been living in the woods of Rome, Maine for nearly three decades. Last week though, a Maine Warden Service sergeant reportedly caught Knight burglarizing a campsite. According to police this was only the latest in more than 1,000 burglaries Knight is suspected of committing over the years. The Maine State Police told CNN
"that the arresting warden was the second person Knight had been in contact with in 27 years."
Here's Telma Costa's beautiful, knit skullkerchief -- perfect for staying warm, attending Misfits concerts, or everyday use.
The Manager Swiss Army Knife has been in my pocket for nearly 2 years. This compact tool has all the useful stuff you expect from the line of Swiss Army knives: blade, scissors, tweezers, file, bottle opener, and separate flat-head & Phillips-head screwdrivers.
What makes it a must-have is the retractable ballpoint pen. It’s smooth writing and hasn’t dried out on me in the past 2 years. I’ve taken meeting notes, written checks, and signed receipts. Just extend the combination Philips-head / bottle opener tool for a more comfortable grip during extended composition sessions.
The Manager comes to the rescue time after time for occasional writing needs and tiny DIY tasks because it’s always in your pocket. (I just changed the batteries in a Nerf gun with the Phillips-head screwdriver.) It’s more comfortable to carry in the pocket than a normal pen and more useful, too. -- Sean Singh
Victorinox Swiss Army Manager Pocket Knife $25
David and I had a terrific conversation with Nick Harmer, bass player for Death Cab for Cutie. We talked about the state of home recording, great crime novels, the best places to use the toilet while on tour, and much more.
Nick provided a list of enjoyable books he's read while on tour:
Nick says: "Pretty much anything by these authors is great reading. Other notable go-to authors for me include: James Ellroy, Elmore Leonard, James Sallis, and Walter Mosley to name a few."
Thanks to Soundcloud for hosting Gweek!
When I read this as a 16-year-old I thought it was a brilliant idea. Decades later, I like it even more. (Giant size)
(Via Meine Kleine Fabrik)
In the old days, Mars was peopled by one vast thinking vegetable, and the Moon was peopled by stick-wielding bat-men and moth-winged moon maidens.
From the Smithsonian Institute Image Collections:
This portfolio of hand-tinted lithographs purports to illustrate the "discovery of life on the moon." In 1836, Richard E. Locke, writing for the New York Sun, claimed that the noted British astronomer Sir John Herschel had discovered life on the moon. Flora and fauna included bat-men, moon maidens (with luna-moth wings), moon bison, and other extravagant life forms. Locke proposed an expedition to the moon using a ship supported by hydrogen balloons.
The first order of business for Earthlings? Enslave the Moon men and slaughter the Moon animals!
Other discoveries made in the moon from Sigr. Herschel (Via Meine Kleine Fabrik)
Adam P sez, "I first found out about the Aeropress on Boing Boing and it has dramatically improved my quality of life as an expat here in China. When purchasing another one online for a colleague, I was well titillated by the shop's 28 point photo guide to the differences between a real and fake Aeropress."
官方金牌授权 美国原装爱乐压Aeropress 便携咖啡压滤器 包顺丰-淘宝网
The deluxe edition of dark IDM/R&B duo Beacon's new LP consists of rose-colored vinyl housed in an cast sugar box. The Ghostly International label worked with sculptor Fernando Mastrangelo to create the object, available in an edition of 20. You can't eat it though as it's coated in epoxy. Oh, it includes the digital download too. "TWWS DELUXE ART EDITION by Fernando Mastrangelo x Beacon" (via The Fox Is Black, thanks Patrick Kelly!)
The New People was a 1969 TV series about a group of college students whose plane crashed on a small island. The accompanying adults perished, leaving only the young people. Fortuitously, the deserted island had been the planned location for a nuclear test, so the government had left buildings and supplies behind. For the stranded students, this is the start of "Year One" and an opportunity to create a new kind of society. Rod Serling wrote the pilot for the show that was a cross between Lord of the Flies, Lost, and a JG Ballard story dosed with 150ug of 1960s counterculture.
Tanya Khovanova has a fascinating and illuminating story about the blind-spots that can leave security systems vulnerable. She describes a clever one-way function using real-world tools:
Silvio Micali taught me cryptography. To explain one-way functions, he gave the following example of encryption. Alice and Bob procure the same edition of the white pages book for a particular town, say Cambridge. For each letter Alice wants to encrypt, she finds a person in the book whose last name starts with this letter and uses his/her phone number as the encryption of that letter.
To decrypt the message Bob has to read through the whole book to find all the numbers. The decryption will take a lot more time than the encryption. If the book increases in size the time it takes Alice to do the encryption almost doesn’t increase, but the decryption process becomes more and more draining.
This example is very good for teaching one-way functions to non-mathematicians. Unfortunately, the technology changes and the example that Micali taught me fifteen years ago isn’t so cute anymore. Indeed you can do a reverse look-up online of every phone number in the white pages.
Then she explains how a student pointed out her own blind-spot that made the system trivial to defeat:
I still use this example, with an assumption that there is no reverse look-up. I recently taught it to my AMSA students. And one of my 8th graders said, “If I were Bob, I would just call all the phone numbers and ask their last names.”
In the fifteen years since I’ve been using this example, this idea never occurred to me. I am very shy so it would never enter my mind to call a stranger and ask for their last name. My student made me realize that my own personality affected my mathematical inventiveness.
As Bruce Schneier points out, the young student is demonstrating "security mindset," imagining an attack on a security system that works on the weakest flank.
University of Oxford chemists custom-built a 3D printer that fabricates "synthetic tissue," or rather structures with tissue-like functions. Eventually, the technology could be used to crank out replacement tissue that could replace damaged human tissue or be used in new drug delivery systems. The material consist of a network of water droplets encapsulated in lipids, or fat molecules.
"The droplets… form pathways through the network that mimic nerves and are able to transmit electrical signals from one side of a network to the other," says Oxford University chemistry professor Hagan Bayley.
Amazingly, the material can be chemically "programmed" to fold into various shapes as water is transferred around in the network. (Video above.)
"3D printer can build synthetic tissues" (Univ of Oxford, via Science News)
"A Tissue-like Printed Material" (Science)
Tom the Dancing Bug, IN WHICH one small step leads straight down the slippery slope to tyranny. “First they came to register…”
Read the rest
Hidden inside a nondescript freight elevator in a NYC TriBeCa alley lies Museum, a delightful cabinet-of-curiosities drawing from weird collections around the globe. Museum is now open for its second season and includes such items as: "Personal Ephemera from Al Goldstein, The Rocks and Tools from Tom Sach's Mars expedition, Objects Made For Prisoners or by Prisoners in US Prisons, Fake Vomit from Around the World, Tip Jars collected by Jim Walrod, Surf and Turf Potato Chips, and more."
I love potato chips, don't you?
If you need to wrap a pigeon for aircraft-drop, this will help. From the surprisingly useful Pigeon Service Manual, Air Ministry, 1919 (featuring "Some meritorious performaces," "Writing the message," and more).
Could prove useful
Over the last couple of days, Japanese electrical company TEPCO has announced that they found leaks in three of the seven underground tanks used to store contaminated water at the site of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant
. They've also admitted that the tanks aren't reliable
. And here's where we get to the fun part: Despite that fact, there aren't many other options. The water is stuff that's been used to cool down fuel rods that melted during the April 2011 disaster. You have to put water on the fuel rods, or they could overheat again. But once you're done with that water, it's not particularly safe, either, so you have to contain it somehow. And until other options can be built these tanks are the only place to put it.
The third, most recent, leak was found when TEPCO tried to move water from the known-to-be-leaky tanks to another they thought was in good shape. This is just a mess.
First: When shown images like the one above and asked to choose which men they found more attractive, women cared significantly more about body shape than penis size. (Also, it's worth noting that the image above is meant to show you an average, actual human guy in the middle and the extremes of body shape and penis size that were shown to the women on either side of him. In reality, the women were shown a full spectrum of images mixing different body types and penis sizes).
Second: The hypothesis (that human women sexually selected human males to have the larger-than-other-primates junk they are blessed with today) comes with some big questions, including the obvious — flaccid penis size does not correlate well to erect penis size.
Third: As Faye Flam points out at The Knight Science Journalism Tracker, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences might need a new acronym (or, at least, different subject matter).
Here's a link to the actual study
At Download the Universe, i09 editor Annalee Newitz critiques a new e-book about epigenetics — the science of how environmental factors can influence genetic expression — and violence
. The book makes some pretty terrible (and non-scientific) insinuations about the idea of an inherent propensity towards violence and Newitz does a good job of both taking down the specific book and explaining the nuance behind a complicated topic.
Surprise, surprise. The CEO of a biometrics firm argues
that the DHS "will need to rely upon biometrics" to effectively screen "the undocumented" for criminal or terrorist leanings. (HT: _nomap)
BB pal Bryan Jones, a scientist based in Utah, visited the Udvar-Hazy center in DC on a recent trip (which also included a cup of coffee with yours truly); he took some really great photos. If anyone asks you why Udvar-Hazy is worth visiting, point them to his blog post.
My brother Carl, who is the world's most discriminating eBay craphound, found this spectacular 1950s tin toy made in Japan. According to the description, "THE PYLON LIGHTS UP WHEN THE MORSE CODE BUTTON IS PRESSED WITH A SOUND."
Top contenders this year
: Louisville and Fremont, Nebraska. Time to start filling out those brackets, water fans!
Tumbleweeds aren't a type of plant. It's more of a description — the thing that happens when the bushy above-ground parts of lots of different types of plants dry, die, and disconnect from the healthy root system below. It is then free to blow wherever the wind takes it. That's your basic free-range tumbleweed. At Prairie Tumbleweed Farms, the weeds are a bit more constrained and they're shipped, rather than blown, to customers all around the world. This podcast by Rose Eveleth is a cute, quirky piece, but you MUST listen to the whole thing
. Because the backstory of Prairie Tumbleweed Farms is what makes this truly worthy of BoingBoing.
The other night, Joshua Foer posed this question was posed to a table full of science journalists. Most of us started talking about friction, and/or possibly something to do with the little flanges on either side of a train wheel.
We were all wrong.
This is a Richard Feynman video, yes, but it's more about mechanics than physics. Turns out, you can learn a lot about how trains stay on the track by looking under your own car.
"Francois Hollande had left the creature with a family in Timbuktu for safekeeping, after it was presented to him by local residents in February. But it was promptly slaughtered and used in a tagine.
Jonathan Landay, writing for McClatchy Newspapers:
Contrary to assurances it has deployed U.S. drones only against known senior leaders of al Qaida and allied groups, the Obama administration has targeted and killed hundreds of suspected lower-level Afghan, Pakistani and unidentified “other” militants in scores of strikes in Pakistan’s rugged tribal area, classified U.S. intelligence reports show.
Read the full report
. (HT: Trevor Timm)