Watch a new World Yo-Yo Champion in action

Shu Takada, 20, is the 2017 2A (Two Handed Looping style) World Yo-Yo Champion. He took the title last week at the global tournament in Reykjavic, Iceland.

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Chewbacca beat up a ski resort worker with his snowboard

A staffer as the Thredbo ski resort in New South Wales, Australia reported that Chewbacca beat him with a snowboard after insisting the Wookie remove his "costume."

“He lost consciousness and some teeth,” Chewbacca wrote on social media, according to the Daily Telegraph. "Been ordered not to have any contact with Thredbo staff (even if i know them) about what happened and must stay 15km away from Thredbo.”

Chewie was charged with "using an offensive weapon to commit an indictable act."

As Greg commented at the Daily Grail, "Dude was lucky he didn't get his arms torn off their sockets."

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How to hand letter like an architect

I'm the son of a physician and inherited his poor penmanship. I wish I had the invaluable but dying life skill demonstrated in this video. (via Uncrate)

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Company's dystopian promotional video for drone armed with machine gun

What a time to be alive.

Duke Robotics brings a fully robotic weaponry system to an airborne platform. TIKAD, which is a proprietary development of Duke, uses the delivery of a unique suppression firing and stabilization solution. TIKAD allows governments to utilize completely new capabilities against terrorist groups and reduce the number of deployed ground troops, and therefore, the number of casualties.

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Pantone announces new color honoring Prince

The Pantone Color Institute announced "Love Symbol #2," a shade of purple honoring Prince. A collaboration with Prince's estate, the hue, actually labeled with Prince's logo, is now the official color of his brand. From CNN:

Pantone has long been the authority on color trends and design. Since 2000, the corporation has released a "Color of the Year" that influences design and marketing. Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, said in a statement that it was an honor to help develop Prince's hue.

"A musical icon known for his artistic brilliance, Love Symbol #2 is emblematic of Prince's distinctive style," she said. "Long associated with the purple family, Love Symbol #2 enables Prince's unique purple shade to be consistently replicated and maintain the same iconic status as the man himself."

I only wanted to see you bathing in the Love Symbol #2 rain.

(Pantone) Read the rest

Dogs in Navi Mumbai are turning blue

A number of very unusual-looking blue dogs have been spotted in Navi Mumbai, India. Sadly, the cause is industrial waste in the Kasadi river where stray dogs often wade. From the Hindustan Times:

A water quality test at Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation found the waste treatment was inadequate. The levels of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) — the concentration of oxygen required to sustain aquatic life — was 80 milligram a litre (mg/L). Levels of chloride, which is toxic, harms vegetation, aquatic life and wildlife, were also high....

“It was shocking to see how the dog’s white fur had turned completely blue,” said Arati Chauhan, resident of Navi Mumbai, who runs the (Navi Mumbai Animal Protection Cell). “We have spotted almost five such dogs here and have asked the pollution control board to act against such industries.”

MPCB officials said they had taken cognisance of the complaint. “Allowing the discharge of dye into any water body is illegal. We will take action against the polluters as they are destroying the environment,” said Anil Mohekar, regional officer, MPCB, Navi Mumbai. “We have directed our sub-regional officer to investigate,” he added.

Animal rights activists have, however, wondered whether the move comes too late. “We have only spotted blue dogs so far. We do not know if birds, reptiles and other creatures are affected or if they have even died owing to the dye discharged into the air,” said Chauhan.

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This is, er, golf cart body-surfing beer-drinking

I bet their parents are very proud.

Occurred on August 9, 2017 / Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, Canada

A few buddies and I were golfing at one of the local courses, the group ahead of us were moving very slow so while we were waiting on them I came up with the idea. We took a few practice laps down the fairway then got out the beers and camera and made this masterpiece.

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Tiny robots in a mouse's stomach help heal an ulcer

Tiny micromotors about the width of a human hair traveled through a mouse's stomach delivering antibiotics to treat a stomach ulcer. The motors are powered by bubbles. According to the researchers from the University of California San Diego, the microrobot-based treatment proved more effective than regular doses of the medicine. From New Scientist:

The tiny vehicles consist of a spherical magnesium core coated with several different layers that offer protection, treatment, and the ability to stick to stomach walls. After they are swallowed, the magnesium cores react with gastric acid to produce a stream of hydrogen bubbles that propel the motors around. This process briefly reduces acidity in the stomach. The antibiotic layer of the micromotor is sensitive to the surrounding acidity, and when this is lowered, the antibiotics are released...

The next steps are to look at a larger animal study, followed by eventual trials in humans. “There is still a long way to go, but we are on a fantastic voyage,” says (researcher Joseph) Wang.

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A map for extraterrestrials to find Earth

In 1971, astronomer Frank Drake, the father of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, drew a map pinpointing Earth in our galaxy. That diagram, a "pulsar map," was etched on a plaque designed by Frank and Carl Sagan and first carried into space in 1972 by the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft. In 1977, the pulsar map would appear again etched on the covers of the golden records affixed to the the Voyager probes. These days, Frank's original pencil drawing of the map is stored in an old tomato box at his house. (In fact, Frank kindly allowed us to scan it for our book included in our new Voyager Golden Record vinyl box set!) Over at National Geographic, Nadia Drake, one of my favorite science journalists who also happens to be Frank's daughter, tells the fascinating story of this iconic piece of cosmic cartography. From National Geographic:

The question was, how do you create such a map in units that an extraterrestrial might understand?

...To my dad, the answer was obvious: pulsars. Discovered in 1967 by Jocelyn Bell Burnell, these dense husks of expired stars were perfect blazes in both space and time.

For starters, pulsars are incredibly long-lived, staying active for tens of millions to multiple billions of years.

Also, each pulsar is unique. They spin almost unbelievably fast, and they emit pulses of electromagnetic radiation like lighthouses. By timing those pulses, astronomers can determine a pulsar’s spin rate to a ridiculous degree of accuracy, and no two are alike.

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REM: watch very early live footage from 1982 concert

REM performed on October 10, 1982 at North Carolina's Raleigh Underground less than two months after releasing their debut EP, Chronic Town. This is thought to be the first pro footage of R.E.M. playing live. Posted by zararity on YouTube:

The setlist:

1. Wolves, Lower 0:52 2. Laughing 5:41 3. 1,000,000 9:46 (NOTE: Mitch Easter, who produced "Chronic Town" as well as "Murmur" and "Reckoning" (with Don Dixon), joins the band on guitar) 4. Moral Kiosk 13:07 5. Catapult 16:25 6. West of the Fields 20:14 7. Radio Free Europe 23:15 8. Ages of You 27:59 (NOTE: Originally intended for "Chronic Town", replaced by "Wolves, Lower" at the request of Miles Copeland, later turned up on "Dead Letter Office") 9. We Walk 31:45 10. Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars) 35:38 (NOTE: As identified by peechpanda in the comments section, Peter Holsapple appears to join the band on guitar for this song)

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Funny video of fellow trying to speak without his southern accent

"My husband learning to speak without a southern accent," wrote Stephanie Shadrick on YouTube a couple years ago. "Absolutely hilarious!"

The fun they're having is infectious.

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The Voyager Golden Record on NBC Nightly News

Last night, NBC Nightly News aired the wonderful video below about the Voyager Golden Record vinyl box set I produced with my friends Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad! Forty years ago this month, NASA launched two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, on a grand tour of the solar system and beyond, into the mysteries of interstellar space. Mounted to each spacecraft is a golden phonograph record, a message to introduce our civilization to extraterrestrials, perhaps billions of years from now. The Voyager Golden Record tells a story of our planet expressed in sounds, images, and science. As Lawrence said in the video, "it's a lovely reminder of what it means to be a human." Thank you to NBC Nightly News!

(GIF via Electric Space Kool-Aid)

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Self-described "shaman" dressed as bigfoot mistaken for bigfoot, or not

Self-described "shaman" Gawain MacGregor says that he was the creature that bigfoot investigators claim to have encountered last week in North Carolina's Pisgah National Park. MacGregor, 36, who believes in "the divine nature of sasquatch" was dressed in animal skins as part of a ritual involving his wandering around the woods reciting a "sasquatch prayer."

"It feels like it brings me closer to nature," MacGregor told the BBC News.

But Bigfoot 911's John Bruner insists that it wasn't MacGregor, or any human, that his team spotted:

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Chimpanzees learn to play rock-paper-scissors

Chimpanzees at Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute have learned to play the game rock-paper-scissors. From Phys.org:

(Seven chimpanzees) sat in a booth housing a computer-based touchscreen and were trained to choose the stronger of two options (based on the rules of the game) they saw on screen. They first learnt the paper-rock sequence, then the rock-scissors one and finally the scissors-paper combination. Once they knew how the pairs fitted together, all the different pairs were randomly presented to them on screen. Five of the seven chimpanzees completed the training after an average of 307 sessions.

The findings show that chimpanzees can learn the circular pattern at the heart of the game. However, it took them significantly longer to learn the third scissors-paper pair than it did to grasp the others, which indicates that they had difficulty finalizing the circular nature of the pattern.

"This suggests that children acquire the ability to learn a circular relationship and to solve a transverse patterning problem around the age of four years," says lead researcher Jie Gao. "The chimpanzees' performance during the mixed-pair sessions was similar to that of four-year-old children."

"Learning the rules of the rock–paper–scissors game: chimpanzees versus children" (Primates) Read the rest

Artificial intelligence identifies plant species by looking at them

Machine learning algorithms have successfully identified plant species in massive herbaria just by looking at the dried specimens. According to researchers, similar AI approaches could also be used identify the likes of fly larvae and plant fossils. From Nature:

There are roughly 3,000 herbaria in the world, hosting an estimated 350 million specimens — only a fraction of which has been digitized. But the swelling data sets, along with advances in computing techniques, enticed computer scientist Erick Mata-Montero of the Costa Rica Institute of Technology in Cartago and botanist Pierre Bonnet of the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development in Montpellier, to see what they could make of the data.

Researchers trained... algorithms on more than 260,000 scans of herbarium sheets, encompassing more than 1,000 species. The computer program eventually identified species with nearly 80% accuracy: the correct answer was within the algorithms’ top 5 picks 90% of the time. That, says (Penn State paleobotanist Peter) Wilf, probably out-performs a human taxonomist by quite a bit.

Such results often worry botanists, Bonnet says, many of whom already feel that their field is undervalued. “People feel this kind of technology could be something that will decrease the value of botanical expertise,” he says. “But this approach is only possible because it is based on the human expertise. It will never remove the human expertise.” People would also still need to verify the results, he adds.

"Going deeper in the automated identification of Herbarium specimens" (BMC Evolutionary Biology) Read the rest

Man sues Heineken after finding two dead geckos in his beer can

George Toubbeh of Fountain Valley, California is suing Heineken and grocer The Kroger Co. after allegedly finding two dead geckos in his 24-ounce beer can back in 2015. Apparently they weren't supposed to be in there. From the Los Angeles Times:

According to the suit, Toubbeh noticed that the beer had a foul taste and he immediately began having abdominal pain and started vomiting. His daughter examined the can of beer and found two juvenile leopard geckos inside, the suit states. Geckos are a type of lizard.

“When discovered, the geckos had not been decomposed at all and were likely alive when the beer was poured and sealed into the cans in the bottling and/or canning facility,” the lawsuit states.

Heineken USA, a subsidiary of the Dutch brewing company, said in a statement that it “holds the safety and integrity of the products we import to the highest standards. We have investigated this isolated claim, and based on a number of factors, we confidently believe there is no merit to this claim.”

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Richard Dawkins on artificial intelligence, agnosticism, and utopia

Evolutionary biologist and "passionate rationalist" Richard Dawkins has a new anthology of essays out today, titled Science in the Soul. Over at Scientific American, John Horgan posted an interview with Dawkins in which the two discuss a range of topics, from A.I. to agnosticism. From SciAm:

At the Templeton (Foundation) meeting, you described yourself as an agnostic, because you cannot be certain that God does not exist, correct?

This is a semantic matter. Some people define atheism as a positive conviction that there are no gods and agnosticism as allowing for the possibility, however slight. In this sense I am agnostic, as any scientist would be. But only in the same way I am agnostic about leprechauns and fairies. Other people define agnosticism as the belief that the existence of gods is as probable as their nonexistence. In this sense I am certainly not agnostic. Not only are gods unnecessary for explaining anything, they are overwhelmingly improbable. I rather like the phrase of a friend who calls himself a “tooth fairy agnostic”—his belief in gods is as strong as his belief in the tooth fairy. So is mine. We live our lives on the assumption that there are no gods, fairies, hobgoblins, ghosts, zombies, poltergeists or any supernatural entities. Actually, it is not at all clear what supernatural could even mean, other than something which science does not (yet) understand....

...Do you share the concerns of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, who has said that artificial intelligence might pose an “existential risk” to humanity?

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