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Get ready for Orphan Black's return tomorrow night with this season one recap

What constitutes a family? Are they the people who give you life, the people who raise you, or the people you choose as your support network? Or are they your identical clones created by a mysterious organization seeking to advance human evolution to the next level? That last one might not be a question most family dramas are interested in asking, but Orphan Black isn’t most family dramas.

Like the best sci-fi shows, BBC America’s addictive Orphan Black uses its fantastical lens to explore realities of the human condition. Where Battlestar Galactica examined politics and terrorism using a fleet of spaceships and Buffy the Vampire Slayer depicted the struggles of adolescence through demons and witches, Orphan Black uses human cloning to explore the nature of family. That unifying central theme, a slew of fantastic characters, and an absolutely stellar central performance (well, performances) from star Tatiana Maslany combine to make Orphan Black one of the best shows of 2013 and one you should absolutely check out before it returns for a second season on April 19.

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Army comes clean about its recruitment AI, accidentally discloses info about pedophile- and terrorist-catching chatbots that roam the net

Dave from the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes, "Not too long ago, Boing Boing covered EFF's (at the time) unsuccessful attempt to retreive records about Sgt. Star (the Army's recruiter-bot) using the Freedom of Information Act. We've now received the files and compiled our research: It turns out Sgt. Star isn't the only government chatbot -- the FBI and CIA had them first.

The information about the terrorist/child-abuser bots only came to light because the spy agencies failed to fully redact their responses (the type was legible through the black strikeouts).

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Sword and Laser Podcast 171: The Martian Influx

The Sword and Laser (S&L) is a science fiction and fantasy-themed book club podcast hosted by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt. The main goal of the club is to build a strong online community of science fiction / fantasy buffs, and to discuss and enjoy books of both genres. Check out previous episodes here.

We're very excited that James S. A. Corey's The Expanse is being made into a TV series! Plus, we sat down to chat with Andy Weir and Daniel Suarez. We learn you shouldn't go for a publisher, but go for an audience, and why you should NOT tell your friends your stories but make them read what you write instead.

Read show notes here.

Sword and Laser is not just a podcast; we’ve also been a book club since 2007! Each month we select a science fiction or fantasy book, discuss it during kick-off and wrap-up episodes of the podcast, and continue that discussion with our listeners over on our Goodreads forums. So come read along with us, and even get a chance to ask your questions to the authors themselves!

Sword and Laser: Subscribe RSS | iTunes | Download this episode

Ed Piskor's Hip Hop Family Tree nominated for two Eisners

Congratulations, Ed!

"Hip Hop Family Tree," the roots-of-the genre series by Munhall-based comic-book artist/writer Ed Piskor (right), has been nominated for two Will Eisner Awards: best reality-based work and best lettering. Winners of the annual awards, considered the Oscars of the comics world and named for the pioneering comics creator and graphic novelist Will Eisner, will be revealed at a July 25 ceremony during Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Read Hop Hop Family Tree here at BB weekly; buy the collections from Fantagraphics.

Wink's remarkable book picks of the week

Wink is a website that reviews one remarkable paper book every weekday. My wife, Carla Sinclair, is the editor. We take photos of the covers and the interior pages of the books to show you why we love them.

This week we reviewed books about Rocketeer creator Dave Stevens' beautiful comic book art, unusual maps of an ordinary neighborhood, the history of economics told through comics, visual representations of history, a visual guide to psychology, and hundreds of excellent optical illusions.

Take a look at these books and many others at Wink. And sign up for our Wink newsletter to get all the reviews and photos delivered once a week.

With human ancestors, the devil is in the details

See the notches at the top of these two casts of ancient hominid mandibles? If you were a paleoanthropologist, you would spend your days arguing about the shape of those notches and their deeper possible meanings.

In 2010, the scientists who found these jaw bones decided that the bones represented a previously unknown hominid species — Australopithecus sediba — whose characteristics blend those of our genus, Homo, with those of a much older genus, Australopithecus.

BUT, now, other scientists think they're wrong, arguing that the two bones don't even come from the same species. Instead, the top mandible in this picture could be straight up Homo, and the bottom classic Australopithecus, and the whole debate — which has implications for how we draw our human family tree — hinges on the shape of that, well, hinge.

Meet the 17th century's answer to Tesla

Cornelis Drebbel was a Dutch inventor who may have inspired Shakespeare's Prospero, was occasionally accused of witchcraft, and built submarines, telescopes, and feedback-control devices while simultaneously dabbling in alchemy. Bring on the "I <3 Drebble" T-shirts. Maggie 4

How schools got desegregated ... and then resegregated

The rise and fall of desegregation efforts in the three generations since Brown v. Board. Incredible work by Nikole Hannah-Jones at ProPublica, following the school careers of James Dent, his daughter, and granddaughter in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Maggie 3

RiYL podcast 049: Cartoonist Bob Fingerman

Recommended if You Like is Boing Boing's weekly podcast of Brian Heater's cafe conversations with musicians, cartoonists, writers, and other creative types.

In April of last year, Image Comics published Maximum Minimum Wage, a hardcover compilation of Bob Fingereman’s long-running Fantagraphics series. To this day, Minimum Wage and the subsequent collection Beg The Question remain the cartoonist’s best known work, telling the close-to-home tale of an artist struggling with work, love and life in New York in the 90s. After a 15-year hiatus spent on various comics projects and a trio of prose novels, Fingerman picked up the story again in January with a new series bearing the same name, set three years after the end of its predecessor. I met up with Fingerman in the Manhattan apartment he shares with his wife to discuss returning to a project after nearly a decade and a half and how to get back into the mindset of younger, poorer time.

RiYL: RSS | iTunes | Download episode | Listen on Stitcher

Could the Game of Thrones poisoning happen in real life?

Cyanide, deadly nightshade and pesticides have disturbingly similar symptoms to the toxin that took a powerful character’s life, writes Rachel Nuwer. Warning: this post is laced with potent spoilers.

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Technophobia goes off the Depp end in Transcendence [Movie Review]

In the official poster, a sinister AI remnant of genius Dr. Will Caster evinces inhuman mastery of Filter > Pixelate > Mosaic

In the near future posited by the film Transcendence, which opens today, residents of Berkeley, California are living in a kind of police state. The power grid is down. No computers, no Internet. Which means no Facebook, either (thank God). A shopkeeper uses a beat-up laptop as a doorstop. We know the end days are especially dire because a dirt-caked, cracked cell phone lies lifelessly on the sidewalk. Its technological purpose has been reduced to mere object. A potential tool for an enterprising human. Recall the opening scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey: Instead of apes smashing skulls with bones, the aftermath survivors of Transcendence may as well be wielding their iPhones as weapons.

“They say there’s power in Boston, some phone service in Denver,” intones a melancholic Paul Bettany, playing a neurobiologist named Dr. Max Waters. We quickly discover Max had a hand in creating all this mess. After what he calls an “inevitable collision” between humankind and technology, “things are far from what they were." Existence itself, he says, “feels smaller” without the Internet.

That’s all, folks. Welcome to the not-so-brave world of the new Johnny Depp anti-technology thriller Transcendence.

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This Day in Blogging History: How is a $12 phone possible? UK wine-sellers declare that wine has horoscopes; Burger King Subservient Chicken

One year ago today
How is a $12 phone possible? 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."

Five years ago today
UK wine-sellers declare that wine has horoscopes, advise wine-drinkers to avoid certain moon-days: The idea that the taste of wine changes with the lunar calendar is gaining credibility among the UK's major retailers, who believe the day, and even hour, on which wine is drunk alters its taste.

Ten years ago today
Food Porn -- Burger King Subservient Chicken: ...For when "your way" calls for an enslaved chicken, Burger King invites you to "have chicken your way" by offering you the newest in ads even veteran AdBusters won't want to bust: The Subservient Chicken.

British Pathe puts 85,000 newsreels on Youtube

Jason sez, "British Pathe just dumped 85,000 newsreels from 1896 to 1976 on Youtube under a Creative Commons license."

Update: No Creative Commons, alas. False alarm.

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Wolfgang Pauli opera in Austin: For Fear the Glass May Shatter


Jon Lebkowsky sez, "My amazing friend, neurocomputing specialist, musician & composer David Demaris has created the most geek-tastic opera ever, For Fear the Glass May Shatter. It's been produced as part of Austin's Fusebox Festival, and is running through this weekend at the Vortex Theatre here."

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Edward Snowden: "Vladimir Putin must be called to account on surveillance just like Obama"


Vladimir Putin during the nationwide phone-in in Moscow. Photograph: RIA Novosti/Reuters

Today's question-and-answer session on Russian TV between NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and Russian President Vladimir Putin did not go as Snowden had hoped. "I questioned the Russian president live on TV to get his answer on the record, not to whitewash him," Snowden says in an op-blog in the Guardian:

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