First photo of tarantula eating a snake in the wild

Researchers in a southern Brazil grassland spotted a tarantula munching on a foot-long snake. It's the first time a tarantula having this particularly hearty meal has been documented in the wild. The non-venomous snake is a Erythrolamprus almadensis and the tarantula is a Grammostola quirogai that boasts .8-inch long fangs. Federal University of Santa Maria graduate student Leandro Malta Borges found the dining tarantula under a rock. From National Geographic:

As Borges looked on, the tarantula huddled over the decomposing snake, chowing down on the exposed, liquefied guts.

In their description of the scene, published in Herpetology Notes in December 2016, the researchers chalk up the snake’s demise to an accidental break-in. In Serra do Caverá, many tarantula species, in particular sedentary females, hide in the rocks.

“Most likely, the snake was surprised upon entering the spider’s environment and hence [was] subdued by it,” the researchers write.

(photo by Gabriela Franzoi Dri) Read the rest

Revealing the cover and first excerpt of Autonomous, Annalee Newitz's long-awaited debut novel

We've followed Annalee Newitz's career here for more than a decade, from her science writing fellowship to her work as an EFF staffer to her founding of IO9 and her move to Ars Technica and the 2013 publication of her first book, nonfiction guidance on surviving the end of the world and rebooting civilization: now, I'm pleased to present an exclusive excerpt from Autonomous, her debut novel, which Tor will publish in September 2017, along with the first look at her cover, designed by the incomparable Will Staehle. As her editor, Liz Gorinsky, notes, "Autonomous takes an action-packed chase narrative and adds Annalee's well-honed insight into issues of AI autonomy, pharmaceutical piracy, and maker culture to make a book that's accessible, entertaining, and ridiculously smart." I'm three quarters of the way through an early copy, and I heartily agree.

Watch an octopus disappear into "quicksand" on the sea bottom

The southern sand octopus (Octopus kaurna) whips up some seafloor "quicksand" lined with mucus and burrows into it to rest during the daytime. From New Scientist:

(University of Melbourne researcher Jasper) Montana and his team first caught the octopus in the act of burrowing in 2008 when they were scuba diving at night in Port Philip Bay, south of Melbourne, Australia. When they shone a light on the octopus, the startled animal spread out its arms and repeatedly injected high-powered jets of water into the sediment using its funnel. This caused grains of sand to be temporarily suspended in water, making it like sandy water.

“The sediment became fluid like quicksand,” Montana says. The octopus put its arms into the sand while still pumping out water and eventually dived down into the sediment. The liquefied sand is likely to reduce drag and so allow the animal to burrow more quickly, using less energy, Montana’s team speculates....

They (later) found that the animal used its arms and mantle to push the sand away and form a burrow. It also extended two arms to the surface to create a narrow chimney to breathe through. Finally, it secured the walls of its new home with a layer of mucus that kept the grains of sand together so the entire thing maintained its shape.

"Zoologger: Octopus makes own quicksand to build burrow on seabed" (New Scientist via Laughing Squid)

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Review: NutriBullet 12-Piece High-Speed Blender/Mixer System

I love this $80 device and use it daily. The problem it solved for me: get produce in my mouth.

Proof-of-concept firmware worm targets Apple computers

It's like Bad USB, with extra Thunderbolt badness: Web-based attacks can insert undetectable malicious software into a Mac's UEFI/BIOS, which spreads to other machines by infecting Thunderbolt and USB devices. Read the rest

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin just launched its New Shepard spaceship almost as high as outer space

Amazon.com billionaire Jeff Bezos' space venture, Blue Origin, launched its New Shepard spaceship on a test flight today.

Windows 10 announcement: certified hardware can lock out competing OSes

Microsoft has announced a relaxation of its "Secure Boot" guidelines for OEMs, allowing companies to sell computers pre-loaded with Windows 10 that will refuse to boot any non-Microsoft OS. Read the rest

Charitable Giving Guide

Here's a guide to the charities the Boingers support in our own annual giving. As always, please add the causes and charities you give to in the forums!

Maker Mayhem: Low Moments in How-To History, Part 7

Automobile-Sized Refrigerator: When a cooler just isn’t cool enough. By Matt Maranian

Boing Boing Charitable Giving Guide 2013

Here's a guide to the charities the Boingers support in our own annual giving. As always, please add the causes and charities you give to in the comments below!

Electronic Frontier Foundation Could there be a year that's more relevant to the EFF? As Edward Snowden has made abundantly clear, there is a titantic, historic battle underway to determine whether the Internet is there to liberate us or to enslave us. EFF's on the right side of history, and I figure giving them all I can afford is a cheap hedge against the NSA's version of the future. —CD

Creative Commons CC continues to make a difference -- this year, they released the 4.0 version of their flexible licenses, a major milestone. More than anyone else, CC has reframed the way we talk about creativity and copyright in the Internet era, providing practical, easy-to-use tools to make it possible for creators and audiences to work together in a shared mission of creating and enjoying culture.—CD

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What you can learn from the million-dollar tuna

On Saturday, a bluefin tuna was sold at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market tuna auction for $1.76 million. Which is a little crazy. (Also crazy, the size of the fish in question.) But the amount paid for this specimen of a chronically overfished species doesn't really represent simple supply and demand, explains marine biologist Andrew David Thaler. It shouldn't be read as a measurement of tuna scarcity, he says, but rather as an artifact of culture (and marketing). Read the rest

Boing Boing Charitable Giving Guide, 2012 edition

Here's a guide to the charities the Boingers support in our own annual giving. As always, please add the causes and charities you give to in the comments below!

Electronic Frontier Foundation There's never been a time when EFF's mission was more important: everything we do today involves the Internet; everything we do tomorrow will require it. No one stretches a dollar further and gets more done than EFF. They've been at it since 1990, and have been at the forefront of practically every significant online rights battle through the whole era of the Internet's rise to prominence. The world I want my kid to grow up in needs EFF in it. —CD

Creative Commons CC celebrated its tenth birthday (!) this year, a remarkable milestone from a remarkable organization. More than anyone else, CC has reframed the way we talk about creativity and copyright in the Internet era, providing practical, easy-to-use tools to make it possible for creators and audiences to work together in a shared mission of creating and enjoying culture.—CD

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ZaReason: a computer company with freedom built in

For the past couple of months, I've been playing with a laptop from ZaReason, a small, GNU/Linux-based system builder founded in Oakland, CA (though it has expanded to New Zealand). ZaReason's deal is that they build computers themselves, using components that are guaranteed to have free and open drivers, and pre-install your favorite free/open operating system at the factory. They offer full support for the hardware and the software, and promise that they'll never say, "Sorry, that component just doesn't work right under Linux." So unlike buying a ThinkPad or other commercial laptop and installing a free operating system on it (which can be a bit of a gamble, and will shortly become more of one, see below), ZaReason's machines arrive ready to run. And unlike buying a commercial laptop from a freedom-friendly vendor like Emperor Linux (who'll sometimes warn you that certain features of your hardware aren't supported), ZaReason can promise you that every single capability of every single component in your system will just work.

ZaReason sent me their Alto 3880, "Long battery life, HD graphics, light and lean = everything a laptop should be." I found it to be a very snappy, responsive machine that, as promised, "just worked" out of the box. The machine's styling is pretty generic -- it looks like your basic, silvery OEM laptop, albeit one where they've opted for the top-spec option for the pointing surface, keyboard, etc. It's rather heavier than the machine I carry for daily use, a Lenovo ThinkPad X220, which shaves its ounces by omitting the optical drive and shrinking the screen to 12" (the Alto has a 14" screen). Read the rest

Lockdown: free/open OS maker pays Microsoft ransom for the right to boot on users' computers

A quiet announcement from the Fedora Linux community signals a titanic shift in the way that the computer market will work from now on, and a major threat to free/open operating systems. Microsoft and several PC vendors have teamed up to ensure that only operating systems bearing Microsoft's cryptographic signature will be able to boot on their hardware, meaning that unless Microsoft has blessed your favorite flavor of GNU/Linux or BSD, you won't be able to just install it on your machine, or boot to it from a USB stick or CD to try it out. There is a work-around for some systems involving a finicky and highly technical override process, but all that means is that installing proprietary software is easy and installing free/open software is hard.

This is a major reversal. For many years now, free/open OSes have been by far the easiest to install on most hardware. For example, I have installed Ubuntu on a variety of machines by just sticking in a USB stick and turning them on. Because the OS and its apps are free, and because there are no finicky vendor relationships to manage, it Just Works. On some of those machines, installing a Windows OS fresh from a shrinkwrapped box was literally impossible -- you had to order a special manufacturer's version with all the right drivers to handle external CD drives or docking stations or what-have-you. And the free/open drivers also handled things like 3G USB adapters better than the official drivers (not least because they didn't insist on drawing a huge "WELCOME TO $SOME_STUPID_PHONE_COMPANY" box on the screen every time you connected to the Internet.)

At issue is a new facility called UEFI, which allows a computer's bootloader to distinguish between different operating systems by examining their cryptographic signatures. Read the rest

How food spherification works

On IO9, Esther Inglis-Arkell does a great job of describing the molecular gastronomy practice of "spherification," whereby food is liquefied and then coaxed into forming gelatinous spheres. It has its origin in a 1950s drug-delivery project from Unilever, but was revived by chef Ferran Adrià around 2003.

What spherification does is put back in what the manufacturers of sodium alginate take out. First, the food, whatever it is, is pureed until it's liquid. Then the calcium content of the food is determined. If the calcium content is high, adding sodium alginate will solidify the whole thing immediately. To high-calcium foods extra calcium chloride is added. To all other foods, sodium alginate is added. Then, as with all delectable meals, it's off to the centrifuge. The mixture gets centrifuged to remove any bubbles or impurities there might be in it. Once that's done, drops of the stuff are tossed into a bowl of liquid. If the food contains calcium chloride, the liquid will contain sodium alginate. If the food contains alginate, it will be tossed into liquid containing calcium.

Immediately, the process begins. The outer edge of the spherical drops is the front line. When the sodium alginates hit calcium ions, the ions bind the long strings together, until they form a kind of haphazard net of polymers. The outer layer of the gel solidifies before any of the inner liquid can leak out. Depending on the concentration of both chemicals, and the time spent in the 'bath,' the gel will either be a tiny skin, or an extremely firm layer.

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Boing Boing Charitable Giving Guide, 2011 edition

It's time again for Boing Boing's guide the charities we support in our annual giving. As always, please add the causes and charities you give to in the comments below!

Electronic Frontier Foundation The EFF's mission has never been more important: as laws like SOPA are rammed through Congress, as bloggers around the world are arrested and tortured with the collusion of American network-surveillance companies, and as the FBI's unconstitutional, warrantless use of surveillance technology like GPS bugs comes to light, EFF is poised to be center-stage in the fight for a free and open world with a free and open Internet. —CD

Creative Commons Creative Commons has permeated my life in a thousand ways -- on Boing Boing and in my writing, Creative Commons is responsible for how I get the job done and how I get paid for it. CC's advocacy of a nuanced, intelligent position on creativity and sharing changes the lives of creators, educators, scientists, scholars, and kids, all over the world. —CD

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Linux Foundation memo: how to make a computer that doesn't lock out GNU/Linux

UEFI is a new hardware standard nominally aimed at stopping malicious software, but it could also make it illegal to replace Windows or MacOS with GNU/Linux on your computer. The Linux Foundation has written a technical memo for hardware vendors explaining how they can ship PCs that still protect users from malware, without putting them in legal jeopardy for running free operating systems:

The recommendations can be summarized as follows: All platforms that enable UEFI secure boot should ship in setup mode where the owner has control over which platform key (PK) is installed. It should also be possible for the owner to return a system to setup mode in the future if needed. • The initial bootstrap of an operating system should detect a platform in the setup mode, install its own key-exchange key (KEK), and install a platform key to enable secure boot. • A firmware-based mechanism should be established to allow a platform owner to add new key-exchange keys to a system running in secure mode so that dual-boot systems can be set up. • A firmware-based mechanism for easy booting of removable media. • At some future time, an operating-system- and vendor-neutral certificate authority should be established to issue KEKs for third-party hardware and software vendors.

Making UEFI Secure Boot Work With Open Platforms (via /.) Read the rest

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