Report: Boston marathon bombed -- two explosions, many injured, at least three dead

Two explosions at the finishing line of the Boston Marathon killed at least three people and left at least a dozen more injured, according to news reports. Law enforcement officials said they were caused by small, home-made bombs.

Photos and videos posted within minutes by witnesses showed scenes of chaos and bloodshed, with emergency services swarming the scene on Boylston street and smoke billowing into the sky.

The organizers of the Boston Marathon reported that two bombs detonated seconds apart, about three hours after the front-runners crossed the finishing line. A third device was destroyed later in a controlled detonation. Flight restrictions were in force late Monday afternoon.

The death toll looks set to rise, with some sources already reporting many more dead, and police still working to evacuate streets near where the explosions took place.

Updates below, timestamps in Eastern.

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Exclusive excerpt - Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas


Here's a sneak preview of Primates, Jim Ottaviani's upcoming nonfiction graphic novel about the three most famous primatologists. It looks terrific!

Jim Ottaviani returns with an action-packed account of the three greatest primatologists of the last century: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. These three ground-breaking researchers were all students of the great Louis Leakey, and each made profound contributions to primatology — and to our own understanding of ourselves.

Tackling Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas in turn, and covering the highlights of their respective careers, Primates is an accessible, entertaining, and informative look at the field of primatology and at the lives of three of the most remarkable women scientists of the twentieth century. Thanks to the charming and inviting illustrations by Maris Wicks, this is a nonfiction graphic novel with broad appeal.

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Barbie without makeup

Barbie without makeup, Eddi Aguirre. (Via Sociological Images)

The Grifters, by Jim Thompson

I've read a number of Jim Thompson's excellent crime noir novels, but for some reason I'd never gotten around to reading The Grifters. I saw the movie when it came out (screenplay by Donald Westlake!) and enjoyed it, so when I found the book at a free book exchange in Rio Verde, Arizona a couple of weeks ago, I grabbed it. It's an extremely bleak story, but it's also enthralling.

The story focuses on Roy Dillon, a short con artist in Los Angeles. He's in his early 20s and maintains an impeccable appearance. People like him. He keeps a pair of loaded dice in his pocket to rip off drunk sailors, and he knows how to trick bartenders and shopkeepers into giving him $20 in change instead of the dime he's owed. He's amassed a small fortune this way, and he keeps a straight job as a door-to-door salesman so no one can get suspicious.

Roy's mother, Lilly, is only about 15 years older than her son, and she works for a creepy mobster who keeps her on a short leash. Roy hasn't seen his mother for years, because she was a rotten mother and Roy doesn't want anything to do with her. But when a dimestore clerk punches Roy in the gut with a sawed off baseball bat and sends him to the hospital, mother and son are reunited and the relationship takes a new turn.

That's just the beginning of this hardboiled, noir story. I was fascinated by Roy's life -- Thompson does a great job of following Roy around as he goes about his daily business, struggling with urges to drop the grifter life and become an honest man, but always falling back into his role as a short con artist. Roy's sort-of girlfriend, Moira Langrty, is just as interesting. She's a former long con artist who relies on her stunning good looks and rapidly-shrinking treasure to pay the bills. She's becoming increasingly aware that her beauty is fading, and that she needs to come up with a plan to set herself up for the rest of her life. Lilly takes an immediate dislike to Moira, and cooks up a scheme to drive her and Roy apart.

If you've seen the movie, you know how it ends, but don't let it stop you from reading the novel, because Thompson's writing is terrific.

The Grifters

12 million Americans believe lizard people run the USA

From Public Policy Polling: "Do you believe that shape-shifting reptilian people control our world by taking on human form and gaining political power to manipulate our societies, or not?"
Do 4%
Do not 88%
Not sure 7%

(Via The Atlantic Wire)

Music with Children: Playing the Recorder (1967)

NewImage

NewImageHere is some delightful music for a Monday morning: "Music with Children: Playing the Recorder" by music educator Grace Nash (1909-1990) and friends. (via Toys and Techniques)


Inside Dan Brown's Inferno

Brownnnnnnnn

Dan Brown's Inferno will be released on May 14, 2013. Teasers point to Florence, Italy and Dante Alighieri but until this great work of American literature is upon us, it is all speculation. Fueled by the possibility of what secrets lie inside those pages, The Daily Grail's Greg Taylor published an ebook where he explores the strange subjects Brown likely raises in the new novel. Over at TDG, Greg posted some bits from his book, Inside Dan Brown's Inferno:

The Lost Leonardo A number of art scholars believe that the Palazzo Vecchio (mentioned above) has hidden somewhere within it a lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci, The Battle of Anghiari. Da Vinci is, of course, intimately connected to Dan Brown's works, and so given the likely use of Palazzo Vecchio as a location, this is certainly a topic that could easily be used in Inferno.

There is further support for this possibility in the fact that, on the cover of the Italian cover for Inferno, instead of the coded letters CATROACCR, we find the letters CATROVACER. This seems to be a direct anagram of 'Cerca trova' ('Seek and you will find').* This phrase is directly related to the search for the 'lost Leonardo': an Italian expert in the analysis of art through technological analysis, Maurizio Seracini, has claimed that a mural by Giorgio Vasari within the Palazzo Vecchio, the Battle of Marciano in Val di Chiana hides a clue to Leonardo da Vinci's lost work. In the upper part of Vasari's fresco, a Florentine soldier waves a green flag with the words "Cerca trova" scrawled upon it. So far, however, no-one has managed to find the lost painting.

"Secrets of the Inferno" (TDG)

"Inferno" by Dan Brown (Amazon)

"Inside Dan Brown's Inferno" by Greg Taylor (Amazon)

Hey Jude reworked in a minor scale

Ukrainian engineer Oleg Berg has done the major-minor switch on several pop songs, but he says his favorite is this rendition of The Beatles' "Hey Jude." Take a sad song, and make it sadder.

(Last month, NPR ran a piece about this recent spate of major-minor reworkings.)

Yet another reason why jargon sucks

Yes, it's useful for communicating within your group, but as soon as you step outside that circle jargon becomes a problem. That's true even for scientists trying to communicate between disciplines and sub-disciplines of a field. At Ars Technica, John Timmer talks about jargon acronyms that look the same, but mean totally different things depending on what science you do. One of his examples: CTL. If you study flies, this can refer to a specific gene. For people who work with mice, it's a reference to curly tails. For immunologists, it's a type of white blood cell — cytotoxic T lymphocyte.

Amateur astronomers find lost Russian Mars probe

Combining NASA data with the eyes of citizen scientists might have turned up evidence of Mars 3 — a Soviet probe that was the first to make a soft landing (as opposed to a hard crash) on the planet's surface. Mars 3 has been lost since it stopped working, approximately 15 seconds after its successful landing.

Excellent shadow theater performance

Yes, it's from "Britain's Got Talent," but Attraction's shadow theater performance is fantastic (and yes, a bit cheesy too).

Sun Hives: pollination and health before honey

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Old-school bOING bOING pal Jim Leftwich says:

The Sun Hive is a hanging honeybee hive designed by Günther Mancke and which is growing in popularity in the UK and elsewhere. It was designed around the needs of pollinating bees and colony health and preferences, and not around prioritizing honey production. As such, it's thought to be much better for sustaining bee populations. It's also quite beautiful.

There's also a Sun Hive book, that you can read or download (4.5Mb), and which gives the background on natural beekeeping and instructions on how to construct one.

What does ambergris look like?

Ambergris is often referred to as "whale vomit", but that's not really correct. A more accurate analogy would be to say that ambergris is like the whale equivalent of a hairball. It's produced in the whale digestive tract, possibly to protect intestines from the sharp, pointy beaks of squid — you'll often find squid beaks embedded in the stuff. Most of it gets pooped out. But the big chunks of ambergris have to exit the other direction. In the human world, these lumps — which have the consistency of soft rock or thickly packed potting soil — are famous because we use them to make things like perfume. The ambergris washes up on beaches, people collect it, and sell it to make cosmetics.

Anyway, that's what usually happens. Recently, a dead sperm whale washed up on a beach in Holland and the conservationists who dissected it found a huge quantity of ambergris in the animal's intestines.

That news made me realize that I'd never actually seen a picture of ambergris before, so I went hunting around to see what the stuff looked like. That's a photo of a lump of ambergris, above. But it's not really indicative of what ambergris looks like all the time. In fact, as far as I can tell, the stuff comes in a wide variety of shapes and colors — ranging from stuff that looks like small brown pebbles to yellow-green globs covered in bubbly nodules. The diversity is worth perusing. This website, for a company that buys and sells ambergris, has several nice photos. And Google image search turned up a plethora of pics that really capture how different one lump of ambergris can be from another.

Rendered stack of rubbery penile noodloids, falling

Logitech4873 spent 62 hours rendering an interlocking, Jenga-like stack of tumbling, penile, rubbery thinngums falling in slow motion: "The reason for the excessively long rendertime was the use of high quality indirect lighting, SSS materials (Sub-Surface Scattering) and the high quality of the motion blur."

I'm so sorry (via JWZ)

Yeah for yeast

The Oregon state House has voted unanimously to make Saccharomyces cerevisiae — brewer's yeast — the official State microbe. The bill now heads to the state Senate.