Boing Boing

Artificial sweeteners screw with your gut biome

Dr. Kiki started the show with a story about stem cells. European scientists published work showing that they are now able to reprogram adult pluripotent stem cells so that they return to an embryonic-like state. What does that mean? The cells have no memory of their former lives, and have the potential to truly become any cell-type found in the body.

Then it was all about artificial sweeteners: a recent study looked at the effects of various sweeteners on glucose sensitivity. The take-home finding is that artificial sweeteners alter gut bacteria, leading to glucose intolerance in mice, and a poorer glycemic response in a few individuals. It warrants more study, but demonstrates that what we eat can dramatically affect the bacteria within us.

Justin reported on a human origins story that has taken the anthropological world by storm. DNA reveals that Europeans descended from three groups of ancient humans rather than the two that have been accepted for years. Turns out Eurasians are in the mix!

Blair's Animal Corner was full of birds and bugs! Peacocks, the stars of sexual selection, are under scrutiny, and it seems the fabulous tail feathers of the male aren't all that big a drag. Male ash borers, a glittering green insect that is causing trouble in trees across the continental US, are the target of pest management efforts, which now include decoy females that electrocute their male suitors. Oh, and watch out for eggs from backyard chickens: you never know what is in them.

The show's second half began with a discussion of the re-evolution of sweet sensing by hummingbirds - Did you know carnivorous theropod dinosaurs lost the ability to taste sweet things, and to this day, the bird species descended from them can't either?

We talked about apes and man, and proclivities to violence. We didn't make chimps aggressive or murderous. They're just that way naturally. Thank goodness we are more closely related to the Bonobo.

Dr. Kiki always loves to bring up World Robot Domination. Need an indestructible soft robot? Check out Harvard's new bot: it can walk thru fire or snow, and survive being run over.

Other big stories included nanobots tasting wine, and smoking cessation therapy that includes psilocibin.

Show notes here

About that famous cover for the 1977 medical thriller, Coma

Designer Paul Bacon is known for developing the “Big Book Look” – commercial, bold and iconic – designing many well known covers from the 1960s through the early 2000s. Mulholland Books designer Lauren Harms tells how his Coma cover was revised for the new edition.

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Ten untranslatable words

Ella Frances Sanders illustrates words held to be untranslatable, to English equivalents, from their native languages.

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Accidentally on Purpose – The beauty of jazz-like improvisational quilting

There are a handful of other books about African-American quilts, particularly quilts from Gee’s Bend; each have beautiful quilts to show, but this obscure exhibition catalogue remains my favorite. Whereas other books tend to position the quilts in the context of modern art and abstract painting, scholar and collector Eli Leon focuses on the connection with West and Central African textile traditions.

Leon’s thesis is that African-American quiltmakers, much like jazz musicians, were drawing on the aesthetic traditions of Africa when they began to make quilts to keep their families warm. “[Afro-traditional quiltmakers] favor ‘flexible patterning,’ in which the design is conceived as an invitation to variation; rather than repeat, the pattern may materialize in a sequence of visual elaborations.”

This contrasts sharply with the standard American quilt-making tradition and its attention to precise measurement and exact pattern repetition. Instead, afro-traditional quilters “maintain a generous attitude towards the accidental.”

What makes the essays so great is that Leon is a passionate observer of process, using diagrams to describe variations on a single block pattern and exploring at length the design choices used in specific quilts.

With the help of extensive interviews with African-American quilt makers, Leon creates a language to describe these design techniques. Subtitles like “accumulative creation,” “bimodality,” and “integration of accidentals” hint at what this book has to offer to designers and improvisers of all stripes.

Also worth checking out is Talking Quilts, a series of conversations between Eli Leon and quilter Sherri Lynn Wood about his collection. – Reanna Alder

Accidentally on Purpose: The Aesthetic Management of Irregularities in African Textiles and African-American Quilts
by Eli Leon
2007, 176 pages, 9.4 x 9.5 x 0.5 inches (paperback)

Take a look at other beautiful paper books at Wink. And sign up for the Wink newsletter to get all the reviews and photos delivered once a week.

Short story by Plan 9 from Outer Space auteur Ed Wood, Jr.

“The Day The Mummy Returned” is a 1971 short story written by Ed Wood, Jr. the American original who gave us Bride of the Monster, Plan 9 from Outer Space, and so much more. It’s presented here for the first time in over forty years since its initial publication.

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Apple Watch announced alongside new, larger iPhone

Xeni Jardin reports in from the much-anticipated presentation today in Cupertino, California.

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Cool canes, hot probes, RFID blocking wallets, and double-stuff smartphone chargers

This week in Gadgets, Drew Curtis of Fark joins Xeni, Jason, and Mark to discuss a laser temperature probe, an app for wine enthusiasts, an RFID blocking wallet, a Wifi scale, the best online walking cane store, and a two-piece smartphone charger.

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The story behind Ghost Variant, secretly-produced alternative editions of popular comics

Jim Rugg interviews Andrew Neal, who devised a plan to create a dozen variant-edition comic covers for popular series.

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Join Boing Boing and Noise Pop at the Oakland Museum of California on July 18

Explore the art and allure of vinyl records with Death Cab for Cutie bassist Nick Harmer, Wilco and Miles Davis album designer Lawrence Azerrad, and Dead Kennedys/Alternative Tentacles artist Winston Smith. Panel moderated by Boing Boing’s David Pescovitz.

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How to recreate the sounds of "Forbidden Planet"

In each episode of the Gadgets podcast we recommend technology we love and use. Xeni, Jason, and Mark check out a pro-quality food dehydrator, a camera lens and eyeglass cleaning brush, a cool synthesizer kit, and more!

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Our favorite smart phone gadgets [Gadgets 007]

The editors of Boing Boing recommend technology they love and use. Xeni, Jason, and Mark check out a Bluetooth speaker, an earphone cord manager, a compact phone recharger, snap-on earpod clips, an app for insomniacs, and more.

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Modern-day US civil war depicted in "A Better World"

Here's an exclusive excerpt from Marcus Sakey's A Better World, the second book in the Brilliance saga.

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Cat Paint, Bike GPS, and an Audeze headphones giveaway [Gadgets 006]

In each episode of Gadgets the editors and friends of Boing Boing recommend technology they love and use. This time Xeni, Jason, and Mark talk about Cat Paint for iOS, a GPS device for bikes, ambient sound maker for human babies, a great $14 pocket knife, a wireless home security camera, plus an exclusive giveaway for a pair of Audeze LCD 2 Bamboo ($1,000 value)!

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Koko Takes a Holiday

Five hundred years from now, ex-corporate mercenary Koko Martstellar is swaggering through an easy early retirement as a brothel owner on The Sixty Islands, a manufactured tropical resort archipelago known for its sex and simulated violence. Surrounded by slang-drooling boywhores and synthetic komodo dragons, Koko finds the most challenging part of her day might be deciding on her next drink. That is, until her old comrade Portia Delacompte sends a squad of security personnel to murder her. An exclusive excerpt from Kieran Shea’s new novel, Koko Takes a Holiday.

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