Boing Boing 

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.

Read the rest

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.

Read the rest

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)


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


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


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.

Greg Pak and Jonathan Coulton Kickstart Everything

Jonathan Coulton and Greg Pak launch a crowdfunding campaign to create a series of comic books based on characters from Coulton's songsRead the rest

Orphan Fever: The Evangelical Movement's Adoption Obsession

In Mother Jones magazine, a story about the dark side of the evangelical adoption movement that has swept the United States over the past decade: "When devout Christian families made it their mission to save children from war-torn countries, the match was often far from heavenly."

There's a related infographic on the rise in US adoptions from war-torn countries, and corresponding corruption.

The story focuses on an evangelical Christian Tennessee family who adopted, and according to their adoptees, abused, a series of children from war-torn Liberia. They first adopted four children, then another two.

Read the rest

Can you influence the sex of your baby by eating cereal?

This article by Monique Robinson is interesting — not because it tells you anything particularly useful about what you can do before conception to influence the sex of your child, but because it provides a rundown of the many random correlations studies have linked to fetal sex determination over the years. From eating cereal to being a billionaire's kid, it's an intriguing look at how easy it is to find patterns, even when those patterns may (or may not) be totally meaningless.

Watch the latest video posts in our Boing Boing video archives

We've gathered fresh video for you to surf and enjoy on the Boing Boing video page. The latest finds for your viewing pleasure include:

• "Gentleman," the follow-up to Psy's "Gangnam Style."
• HOWTO spin a toothbrush on your finger.
• Picturephone: Microsoft finally reveals its plans for Skype.
• Hugging robot.
• Laser on ship shoots down drone.
• Huge anamorphic sculpture of actor's face.
• Documentary about magician Ricky Jay.
• Cancer, the internet, and identity: my talk with Kevin Sites' Hong Kong Univ. Journalism and Media class

Boing Boing: Video!

Non-symptomatic cases make newly identified diseases less scary

If you've been following news about the H7N9 bird flu outbreak in China, it may be relieving to know that doctors are now looking for (and finding) people who are infected with the virus, but who appear perfectly healthy or who are just suffering from a mild case of the yucks. It's an important reminder that we identify new diseases when sick people show up, very sick, in hospitals. Just because those are the only people we know to have the disease, doesn't mean the disease makes EVERYONE that sick. Hidden in the background are often many, many people who shrug off a new flu the same way you or I have shrugged off an old, boring flu. This is context you should take into reading about every new disease.

Giant snails invade Florida

"One female can produce 1,200 eggs a year and they eat stucco" [Gizmodo]

Oculus Rift VR headset convincing enough for one 90-year-old

"Oh, man! It's so real!"

NYT op-ed by Gitmo detainee on hunger strike

"One man here weighs just 77 pounds. Another, 98. Last thing I knew, I weighed 132, but that was a month ago. I’ve been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity."—Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay since 2002, tells his story through an Arabic interpreter to his lawyers at the legal charity Reprieve in an unclassified telephone call. It was published Sunday in the New York Times as an op-ed.

In related news, the commander of the joint US task force at Guantanamo this weekend ordered all detainees to be put in solitary confinement. "The ongoing detainee hunger strike necessitated these medical assessments," and actions were taken by the command "in response to efforts by detainees to limit the guard force's ability to observe the detainees by covering surveillance cameras, windows, and glass partitions."

And lawyers for Guantanamo detainees say someone has been accessing their email: the Pentagon.

(Illustration: Matt Rota, for Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel's account in the New York Times)

Monochrome 1920s costumes

Redditor Royally_eft's friends dressed up as monochrome people for a 1920s theme party. The effect's very good, especially shot against a colorful snack-aisle. Here's the inspiration for their costumes.

grayscale costumes for a '20s party (

Microsoft "working on a smartwatch"

Microsoft is also in the smartwatch arena, reports the Wall Street Journal. Jeff Blagdon summarizes at The Verge:

Citing unnamed supply chain sources, The Journal claims that Microsoft asked Asian suppliers to ship components for the device. If the reports are true, it would be joining the likes of Apple, Samsung, Google, and others looking to capitalize on a forecasted boom in wearable electronics. Microsoft has so far refused to comment on the rumors.

After the iPhone and iPad, it makes sense that everyone's scrambling to join Apple on the starting blocks for the new big thing. But has anyone committed to anything? If ever there was an obvious gadget whose success will depend not on hardware but on what it connects to, it's the fabled smartwatch. Remember, Sony's is already out and it's not much cop.


Gentleman, Psy's follow-up to Gangnam Style, has scored 58 million views on YouTube since its release Saturday.

Falcon occupies cell tower

Mobile reception is spotty in parts of Southampton, England, due to a peregrine falcon nesting in a cellular tower. Vodafone, the operator, is forbidden by law from interfering with the nest until the falcon's chicks have fledged. [BBC]