Boing Boing 

Intergalactic jewel thief Makiedoll mod

Kaitan modded his 3D printed Makie doll into a spectacular intergalactic jewel-thief, complete with accessories.

She was dyed using a mixture of green and yellow iDye poly. Her face up/ body up (?) was done with Perfect pearls iridescent powders, pastels, fine glitter and acrylic paint. The scaly pattern covers her arms,legs and torso as well as her head. She was going to have bright red hair, but I decided I like her bald! smile

Sorry she's a bit “fur coat and no knickers” at the moment - I haven't gotten around to making her other clothes yet smile

Her shoes are painted Makielab black wedges with additional jewels. And of course she gets her own fabulous personalised gun

Lock up your valuables, Higi is about! (via Wonderland)

(Disclosure: My wife is the founder of MakieLab, who manufacture Makie dolls)

Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum - exclusive video tour

Comic book artists and Tell Me Something I Don't Know podcast producers - Ed Piskor, Jasen Lex, and Jim Rugg - visit a singular archive containing the world's largest collection of cartoon and comic book art: The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum (Columbus, OH). It's curated by Caitlin McGurk.

Film directed, edited, and scored by Julie Sokolow.

Featuring the artists: Ed Piskor (Wizzywig, Hip Hop Family Tree), Jasen Lex (Gypsy Lounge, Washington Unbound), Jim Rugg (Afrodisiac, Supermag).

DragonBox: an educational game that teaches you algebra

Matthew Good is the creator of DragonBox+, "an educational puzzle game that also secretly teaches you how to do algebra."

The basic premise is that you must isolate the dragon on one side of the board in order for him to emerge. After each level the dragon will grow a little until he is finally full grown. The game gradually introduces new abilities that mimic algebraic concepts such as elimination, fractions, isolating variables and others without it being obvious.

We were recently at GDC to accept the award for Best Serious Game at the International Mobile Gaming Awards.

We have also seen parents post videos of their children playing the game. For example, a four year old boy solves the equation "e/e + x + (-1) = d" in this video.


How is a $12 phone possible?

Bunnie Huang paid a visit to Shenzhen's Mingtong Digital Mall and found a $12 mobile phone, with Bluetooth, an MP3 player, an OLED display and quad-band GSM. For $12.

Bunnie's teardown shows a little bit about how this $12 piece of electronics can possibly be profitable, but far more tantalizing are his notes about Gongkai, "a network of ideas, spread peer-to-peer, with certain rules to enforce sharing and to prevent leeching." It's the Pearl River Delta's answer to the open source hardware movement, and Bunnie promises to write more about it soon.

How is this possible? I don’t have the answers, but it’s something I’m trying to learn. A teardown yields a few hints.

First, there are no screws. The whole case snaps together.

Also, there are (almost) no connectors on the inside. Everything from the display to the battery is soldered directly to the board; for shipping and storage, you get to flip a switch to hard-disconnect the battery. And, as best as I can tell, the battery also has no secondary protection circuit.

The Bluetooth antenna is nothing more than a small length of wire, seen on the lower left below.

Still, the phone features accoutrements such as a back-lit keypad and decorative lights around the edge.

The electronics consists of just two major ICs: the Mediatek MT6250DA, and a Vanchip VC5276. Of course, with price competition like this, Western firms are suing to protect ground: Vanchip is in a bit of a legal tussle with RF Micro, and Mediatek has also been subject to a few lawsuits of its own.

The MT6250 is rumored to sell in volume for under $2. I was able to anecdotally confirm the price by buying a couple of pieces on cut-tape from a retail broker for about $2.10 each. [No, I will not broker these chips or this phone for you...]

The $12 Gongkai Phone

FBI releases surveillance video of bombing suspects

Most assuredly not the men that The New York Post insinuated were suspects today—those guys are almost certainly innocent. Boston Police: "Do you know these individuals? Contact or 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324)" [Video Link]

UPDATE: One Boston bombing suspect dead after shootout; younger brother on the run

Drug Czar pretends the 1.5 million people arrested every year for nonviolent drug offenses don't exist

Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance says: "Yesterday during a nationally televised event at the National Press Club, Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske repeated the federal government’s claim that they ended the war on drugs in 2009 and are now prioritizing drug treatment and prevention over incarceration. They cite an increase for drug treatment in President Obama’s proposal for the new drug control budget as evidence of their new approach. But their rhetoric does not match the reality – more than 1.5 million people are arrested for nonviolent drug offenses every year."

Girl who lost her hearing after West fertilizer plant exploded is now okay

The Today Show tracked down the Texas father who shot that now iconic video of the West fertilizer plant explosion — the one where you can hear his daughter screaming and pleading with him to leave after the explosion happens. Derrick Hurtt and his family were within 300 yards of the factory when it went up. They were there specifically to shoot some video of the burning plant. Hurtt's 12-year-old daughter, who says after the explosion that she can't hear anything, has regained her hearing.

Pat Robertson warns people to flee from the evil of Dungeons and Dragons

America's favorite make-up model, Pat Robertson, weighs in on Satan's newest psychic weapon: Dungeons and Dragons. (Via CN)

Controlling a robot arm with an Android phone

Paul sez, "This past semester, three engineering grad students at the University of Toronto (myself and two others) created an Android app for a course project that allows for wireless and intuitive control of a robotic arm from an Android-powered smartphone. We're pretty proud of the results (the link is to a demo we put together) and have released the code open source."

Android Robotic Manipulator Demo (Thanks, Paul!)

Photos of bugs with drops of water on their heads

This is the best gallery of bugs with drops of water on their heads I've ever seen. Dmitriy Yoav Reinshtein, I lift my drop of water to you.

Ammonium nitrate fertilizer isn't really a dangerous explosive (most of the time)

Fertilizer can explode*. We all know that. It was a key ingredient in the bomb that destroyed Oklahoma City's Alfred P.

Read the rest

Truth about Beyonce's inauguration performance can't be published until 2122

Muckrock Michael sez, "Today MuckRock's Mara Berg chronicles the saga of a particular public records request I put in for the following: A copy of the backing track used during Beyonce's Inauguration performance, as well as copies of other backing tracks created in preparation for Inauguration events, whether or not they were actually used. Unfortunately, while we received (some) of the requested documents, two outside legal experts and the U.S. Marines Corps have warned us strongly against publishing what we have. The reason? Copyright."

Video of Mat Ricardo's London Varieties show

Mat Ricardo sez,

Mat Ricardo's London Varieties Episode Two is now up online for anyone to watch, enjoy and share - for free to course! In the show I host The Boy With Tape On His Face, the hilarious Elliot Mason, and the amazing magician Peter Wardell, plus I interviewed Al Murray, away from his Pub Landlord persona, about his life and career. It was very fun. We somehow ended up talking about pixies..

The next show happens at the Leicester Square Theatre, in the heart of London's West End, at 9.30pm, on Thursday the 25th of April, and features cabaret stars Eastend Cabaret, the astonishing Lisa Lottie, the very silly Johann Lippowitz, and to top it all off I'll be interviewing the legendary Paul Daniels, and he'll be treating us to a couple of his classic routines.

Oh, and I'll be attempting the single most dangerous trick I have ever tried, because I'm a bloody idiot. Come see the show live! You can book tickets by calling 08448 733433, or by clicking here. For more info about the shows, go here.

Mat Ricardo's London Varieties: Show Two (Thanks, Mat!)

NZ parliament erupts in song after passing marriage equality bill

On Wednesday's, New Zealand's parliament passed its Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill in a 77-44 vote, expanding the country's 2005 civil union regime into full-blown marriage equality. Observers in the gallery and MPs on the floor burst into song, a stirring rendition of "Pokarekare Ana," an NZ lovesong that dates back to WWI. What a lovely, lovely moment.

New Zealand House of Reps bursts into song after legalizing same-sex marriage (via Making Light)

Gweek 090: Melissa McEwen, food blogger

I spoke with food blogger and Meatshare founder Melissa McEwen. Her blog, Hunt Gather Love is about "the intersection between evolutionary biology and food."

Melissa is profiled in today's Chicago Reader article about a supper club run by amateur chefs.


Thanks to Soundcloud for hosting Gweek!

Blog full of fantastic (and often NSFW) medieval illustrations

Here's a 15th century illustration of an English surgical procedure. Fun!

See the full blog — Discarded Image | Discarding Images.

Which makes more money: mining Bitcoins or writing about mining Bitcoins?

Joey deVilla joined a Bitcoin mining pool (where people collectively contribute their spare computer CPUs and share the Bitcoins they mine).

Since Saturday he's made about 4 cents mining Bitcoins and about $40 dollars from ads running on his article about mining Bitcoins.

"To summarize: I made 1000 times more money by writing about mining Bitcoins as I did by mining Bitcoins."

Which makes more money: mining Bitcoins or writing about mining Bitcoins?

A resurgence in LSD research

It's drug week at Popular Science and Shaunacy Ferro would like you to know why doctors can't give you LSD — and why they maybe ought to be.

One photographer's obsession with a collapsing grain silo

The Fox is Black: "In a video from the Oxford American, [photographer Timothy Hursley] describes how his fascination with the silo began. He compares the form of he silo to the work of Frank Gehry, and even explains how he eventually purchased the silo for himself. If you live in a rural area, it may change the way you look at your surroundings, or it may make you wonder how many other silos are on the brink of collapse and will spend the rest of their days rusting in a scrap yard."

Austerity economics only works if you make an Excel formula error

A new paper called Does High Public Debt Consistently Stifle Economic Growth? A Critique of Reinhart and Rogoff by Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin from UMass Amherst tries and fails to replicate the classic work on austerity, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff's 2010 Growth in a Time of Debt.

Reinhart-Rogoff is the main research cited in favor of cutting public services and spending in bad economic times. It's a big part of why the local library is shutting down, why they're kicking people out of public housing, shutting down arts programs, slashing education and public transit, and laying off public employees. It purports to show that countries with high debt-to-GDP ratios of 90 percent or more are a "threat to sustainable economic growth."

In the new Amherst paper, the authors reexamine Reinhart-Rogoff's original data and conclude that the numbers don't add up. They show that Reinhart-Rogoff cherry-picked which years of high-debt GDP they measure, that they put their thumbs on the scales with "unconventional weighting" and made a "coding error" that "entirely excludes five countries, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, and Denmark." This last error -- literally the wrong formula in a spreadsheet cell -- badly skews the outcome.

Here's the tl;dr: "the average real GDP growth rate for countries carrying a public debt-to-GDP ratio of over 90 percent is actually 2.2 percent, not -0.1 percent as [Reinhart-Rogoff claim]."

Selective Exclusions. Reinhart-Rogoff use 1946-2009 as their period, with the main difference among countries being their starting year. In their data set, there are 110 years of data available for countries that have a debt/GDP over 90 percent, but they only use 96 of those years. The paper didn't disclose which years they excluded or why.

Herndon-Ash-Pollin find that they exclude Australia (1946-1950), New Zealand (1946-1949), and Canada (1946-1950). This has consequences, as these countries have high-debt and solid growth. Canada had debt-to-GDP over 90 percent during this period and 3 percent growth. New Zealand had a debt/GDP over 90 percent from 1946-1951. If you use the average growth rate across all those years it is 2.58 percent. If you only use the last year, as Reinhart-Rogoff does, it has a growth rate of -7.6 percent. That's a big difference, especially considering how they weigh the countries.

Unconventional Weighting. Reinhart-Rogoff divides country years into debt-to-GDP buckets. They then take the average real growth for each country within the buckets. So the growth rate of the 19 years that the U.K. is above 90 percent debt-to-GDP are averaged into one number. These country numbers are then averaged, equally by country, to calculate the average real GDP growth weight.

In case that didn't make sense, let's look at an example. The U.K. has 19 years (1946-1964) above 90 percent debt-to-GDP with an average 2.4 percent growth rate. New Zealand has one year in their sample above 90 percent debt-to-GDP with a growth rate of -7.6. These two numbers, 2.4 and -7.6 percent, are given equal weight in the final calculation, as they average the countries equally. Even though there are 19 times as many data points for the U.K.

Now maybe you don't want to give equal weighting to years (technical aside: Herndon-Ash-Pollin bring up serial correlation as a possibility). Perhaps you want to take episodes. But this weighting significantly reduces the average; if you weight by the number of years you find a higher growth rate above 90 percent. Reinhart-Rogoff don't discuss this methodology, either the fact that they are weighing this way or the justification for it, in their paper.

Researchers Finally Replicated Reinhart-Rogoff, and There Are Serious Problems. [Mike Konczal/Next New Deal]

Does High Public Debt Consistently Stifle Economic Growth? A Critique of Reinhart and Rogoff

(via Techdirt)

Tidbits for hypochondriacs

If you would like to avoid catching somebody's cold, you should attempt to remain at least six feet away from them. That is the distance respiratory droplets can travel through air.

What happens when you wring out a washcloth in space?

For hand towels, astronauts get those little vacuum-packed pucks that you kind of have to unravel into a towel. But what happens when you actually put the towels to use?

Two Nova Scotia high school students, Kendra Lemke and Meredith Faulkner, submitted this experiment to Canadian Space Agency and got to see astronaut Chris Hadfield actually test it out on the ISS. The results are seriously extraordinary and you need to see them.

Thanks, Dean!

Scientists sequence the coelacanth genome

The coelacanth is one of a small handful of living fishes that are probably closely related much more ancient, extinct creatures — including, the first fish to haul itself up onto land. Now scientists have sequenced its genes and are digging through the data in search of genetic clues to how fish and land-dwelling animals are connected to one another. Among the finds so far, a gene that seems to be connected to how animals grow placentas. Coelacanths don't have placentas, but they do have eggs that hatch inside their own bodies.

Internet penetration is never correlated with increasing power to dictators, and is often correlated with increased freedom

Philip N Howard wonders if there are any countries that have, on balanced, suffered as a result of the coming of the Internet -- say, because improved networks created so many opportunities for dictators to spy on dissidents that it swamped any free speech/free association benefits that the Internet delivered. So he scatter-plotted PolityIV’s democratization scores from 2002/2011, and cross-referenced them with World Bank/ITU data on internet users. The conclusion: by this method, no country experienced a decline in its overall levels of a democracy as it attained widespread Internet penetration, and almost all many countries experienced a rise in democracy levels that correlated to a rise in Internet penetration.

Are there any countries with high internet diffusion rates, where the regime got more authoritarian? The countries that would satisfy this condition should appear in the top left of the graph. Alas, the only candidates that might satisfy these two conditions are Iran, Fiji, and Venezuela. Over the last decade, the regimes governing these countries have become dramatically more authoritarian. Unfortunately for this claim, their technology diffusion rates are not particularly high.

This was a quick sketch, and much more could be done with this data. Some researchers don’t like the PolityIV scores, and there are plenty of reasons to dislike the internet user numbers. Missing data could be imputed, and there may be more meaningful ways to compare over time. Some countries may have moved in one direction and then changed course, all within the last decade. Some only moved one or two points, and really just became slightly more or less democratic. But I’ve done that work too, without finding the cases Morozov wishes he had.

There are concerning stories of censorship and surveillance coming from many countries. Have the stories added up to dramatic authoritarian tendencies, or do they cancel out the benefits of having more and more civic engagement over digital media? Fancier graphic design might help bring home the punchline. There are still no good examples of countries with rapidly growing internet populations and increasingly authoritarian governments.

Are There Countries Whose Situations Worsened with the Arrival of the Internet?

Elvis impersonator arrested in Obama ricin letter case

Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, an Elvis impersonator, was arrested wednesday and charged with mailing ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama and other politicians. Update: Fox reports that investigators think he may have been framed.

Guatemala—Rios Montt genocide trial, Day 20. Will case be thrown out by Constitutional Court?

Rios Montt, moments after his attorneys walked out in protest today, seated alone w/co-defendant Sanchez. Photo: @xeni.

I am blogging from inside the Guatemalan Supreme Court in Guatemala City this morning, on day 20 of the trial of former Guatemalan General and genocide and de factor dictator Rios Montt, and his then-head of intelligence Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez. Ríos Montt's 1982-1983 regime was supported by the United States; during this era many thousands of non-combatant civilians were killed.

UPDATE, 9:48am Guatemala time: Attorneys for Rios Montt just walked out of the courtroom in protest; they'd demanded the trial to be canceled. Ríos Montt's supporters stand and cheer. Judge Jazmin Barrios yells "Stop! Stop!" after them; demands that security follow defense lawyers and bring them back to the courtroom; her order met with massive screams and cheers and applause throughout courtroom. Ríos Montt speaks for the first time: I'm trying to call my attorneys, but they aren't answering. I have another lawyer, but he's busy with another case. Co-defendant Sanchez tells judge he lacks funds to hire a new lawyer. Barrios offers to provide them with public defenders. Follow this Twitter list for live tweets from the courtroom.

Today, the defense renewed their demands that the trial be shut down and annulled. Supreme Court Judge Jazmin Barrios has denied their request. Judge Carol Patricia Flores will convene the Constitutional Court of Guatemala at 2pm to consider suspending the trial, as the defense have demanded.

It's not clear what will happen today, but it seems the trial will likely come to some form of closure today or tomorrow.

Rios Montt's fate now essentially rests in the hands of 2 female judges. As one reporter said, “One gets the sense the shit is about to hit the fan.”

My report from Tuesday's proceedings is here; my post from Wednesday is here.

From a recap by Kate Doyle at

Wednesday, April 17, was a chaotic and tense day in the courtroom. Judge Yassmin Barrios began by observing that once again only two defense witnesses were present to testify before the tribunal, while some ten witnesses remained to be heard. The judge ordered Ríos Montt’s counsel, Marco Antonio Cornejo, to leave the room and personally call each of them on the phone to advise them that they were legally required to attend. Before permitting Cornejo to exit, she called the first witness present, Gustavo Porras, into the chamber and asked him to take his place in the witness chair facing the tribunal. Porras and the entire courtroom of several hundred spectators then waited in silence until the lawyer returned some 15 minutes later.
Things became more dramatic as the day went on.

Read the rest

Wolf Motorcycle Helmet

This DOT-certified bucket is marketed as the "Wolf Helmet", but I think it looks like an angry womble. [via Uncrate]

Siri, keeper of secrets

Robert McMillan writes: "Not everyone realizes this, but whenever you use Siri, Apple’s voice-controlled digital assistant, she remembers what you tell her. How long does she remember? Apple isn’t saying. And the American Civil Liberties Union is concerned." [Wired]

Dog camera harness

Sony announced a camera harness for dogs. Alas, it's only available at their Japanese store for now. [New Launches]

Previously: Pets Eye View Camera; Pictures taken by Malcolm and Ruby using the Pets Eye View camera

How to relax a bull for semen extraction

A breeding bull stands under infrared lights, used to relax his muscles, at an artificial insemination centre in the village of Hohenzell, Upper Austria April 9, 2013. The centre exports cattle semen to more than 52 countries worldwide. Photo: Leonhard Foeger / Reuters