Thomas Jefferson, the great importer of mac 'n cheese

Thank you to the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, for recognizing the greatness of French food and imported macaroni and cheese where it has (d)evolved into its own food group.

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Watch Batman documentary "Holy Batmania"

A 1989 documentary covering the birth of Batman through to the best on-screen Batman ever, Mr. Adam West.

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Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition: only available through October 20 on Kickstarter


I’ve launched a very special Kickstarter with two friends, Timothy Daly and Lawrence Azerrad. A year in the making (and many more years on our minds), the Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition is the first vinyl release of the stunning golden phonograph record launched by NASA in 1977 aboard the Voyager spacecraft, one of which is now traveling through interstellar space. The deluxe 40th Anniversary Edition box set will only be available through October 20 on Kickstarter.

The original Golden Record was a gift from humanity, an introduction to our civilization for any extraterrestrials who might encounter the spacecraft, perhaps billions of years in the future. But it was also a gift to humanity.

The Voyager Golden Record contains the story of Earth expressed in sounds, images, and science: Earth's greatest music from myriad cultures and eras, from Bach and Beethoven to Blind Willie Johnson and Chuck Berry, Senegalese percussion to Solomon Island panpipes. Dozens of natural sounds of our planet -- birds, a train, a baby's cry, a kiss -- are collaged into a lovely sound poem. There are spoken greetings in 55 human languages, and one whale language, and more than one hundred images encoded in analog that depict who, and what, we are. Etched on the record’s gold-plated aluminum jacket is a diagram explaining where it came from, and how to play it.

Astronomer and science educator Carl Sagan chaired the visionary committee that created the original Voyager Golden Record forty years ago. Astronomer and SETI pioneer Frank Drake was the technical director, writer Ann Druyan was creative director, science writer Timothy Ferris produced the record, artist Jon Lomberg designed it, and artist Linda Salzman Sagan organized the greetings. Read the rest

Designing the future of work


Over at Democracy Journal, my Institute for the Future colleagues Marina Gorbis and Devin Fidler explore the "digital coordination economy" (aka the on-demand economy) and how "it may take deliberate design choices in platform architecture, business models, new civic services, and public policy to prevent this increasingly seamless “coordination economy” from becoming highly inequitable as well." From Democracy Journal:

As software takes an increasing role on both sides of transactions—ordering and producing—it promises to bring vastly more efficient coordination to these kinds of basic economic functions. This emerging digital coordination economy, with its efficient matching and fulfillment of both human and nonhuman needs, has the potential to generate tremendous economic growth.

However, as software engineers essentially author a growing segment of our economic operating system, it may take deliberate design choices in platform architecture, business models, new civic services, and public policy to prevent this increasingly seamless “coordination economy” from becoming highly inequitable as well. Already the growth of on-demand work has allowed investors and owners in some industrialized regions to reap substantial financial returns while many of the people using platforms to generate income streams are struggling to maintain their standard of living. Uber drivers, for example, have seen a drop in earnings in the United States over the last couple of years, even as the company continues to grow at a dramatic pace.

It is clear that the fundamental technologies driving the coordination economy are neither “good” nor “bad,” but rather offer a heady combination of opportunities and challenges.

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Great works of 16th-20th century art painted with ground-up mummies


The lovely brown hues in Eugene Delacroix's 1830 painting above, titled "Liberty Leading the People," were actually pigments made from ground-up mummies from Egypt. From National Geographic:

The use of mummy as a pigment most likely stemmed from an even more unusual use—as medicine. From the early medieval period, Europeans were ingesting and applying preparations of mummy to cure everything from epilepsy to stomach ailments. It's unclear whether Egyptian mummies were prized for the mistaken belief that they contained bitumen (the Arabic word for the sticky organic substance, which was also believed to have medicinal value, is mumiya), or whether Europeans believed that the preserved remains contained otherworldly powers.

What is clear to researchers is that early artist pigments were derived from medicines at the time, and were commonly sold alongside them in European apothecaries. And just as mummy was waning in popularity as a medical treatment, Napoleon's invasion of Egypt at the end of the 18th century unleashed a new wave of Egyptomania across the Continent.

Tourists brought entire mummies home to display in their living rooms, and mummy unwrapping parties became popular. Despite prohibitions against their removal, boatloads of mummies—both human and animal—were brought over from Egypt to serve as fuel for steam engines and fertilizer for crops, and as art supplies.

By the beginning of the 20th century, however, the supply of quality mummies for pigment appears to have dried up. A 1904 ad in the Daily Mail requests one "at a suitable price," adding: "Surely a 2,000-year-old mummy of an Egyptian monarch may be used for adorning a noble fresco in Westminster Hall…without giving offence to the ghost of the departed gentlemen or his descendants."

"Was This Masterpiece Painted With Ground Mummy? Read the rest

Wonderful video of New Wave dance club in the 1980s

Much of this wonderful video could have been shot at Cincinnati's Metro/Clubhaus where I spent the late 1980s, but it's actually from Stratus in San Diego, California. This is the first in a series of vintage Stratus videos that you can watch here.

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A historian of "Positive Thinking" surrenders (almost)


Over at Medium, BB pal Mitch Horowitz, author of the excellent Occult America and One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life, writes about how "if America loses its smiley-faced coffee mugs and ethic of better tomorrows — themes extolled by presidents ranging from Ronald Reagan ('nothing is impossible') to Barack Obama ('yes, we can') — we also risk losing a basic part of what makes our nation work." From Medium:

Consider online banter. The level of invective is bottomless on Twitter, comments sections, and virtually everywhere in the perpetual open-mic night of digital culture. Americans once turned to books like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936) to learn how to behave appropriately in professional environments and get things done inside large organizations. (Key insight: agreeable people win.) Yet our generation is almost hostile to the lessons of civility held by the previous one.

The original positive thinkers were actually a cohort of mystics, freethinkers, proto-psychologists, and religious seekers in New England in the mid-to-late 19th century. Their movement was often called New Thought, and they believed that thoughts, in some greater or lesser measure, affected health, happiness, fortunes, and relationships.

Remember the oft-mocked mantra “Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better”? It was a confidence-boosting formula popularized in the early 1920s by French hypnotherapist Emile Coué. Although Coué won thousands of followers, critics mocked his method for its singsong simplicity. Today he is forgotten. But placebo researchers at Harvard Medical School recently validated one of the mind theorist’s most important insights.

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This woman is allergic to water


Rachel Warwick suffers from aquagenic urticaria, an immune reaction to contact with water. According to the BBC, it "is like being stung by a bush of particularly pernicious nettles, combined with the malaise of hay fever, every single day." From the BBC:

It’s a world where relaxing baths are the stuff of nightmares and snorkelling in tropical seas is as appealing as rubbing yourself with bleach. “Those things are my idea of hell,” she says.

Any contact with water whatsoever – even her own sweat – leaves Rachel with a painful, swollen and intensely itchy rash which can last for several hours. “The reaction makes me feel as if I’ve run a marathon. I feel really tired afterwards so I have to go and sit down for quite a while,” she says. “It’s horrible, but if I cry my face swells up”...

Right from the beginning, aquagenic urticaria was as baffling to scientists as it is to the rest of us. Technically, the condition isn’t actually an allergy at all, since it’s likely caused by an immune reaction to something within the body, rather than an over-reaction to something foreign, such as pollen or peanuts. The earliest theory to explain how it works is that water is interacting with the outermost layer of skin, which consists mostly of dead skin cells, or the oily substance which keeps skin moist. Contact with water may cause these components to release toxic compounds, which in turn leads to an immune reaction.

Others have suggested that water may simply dissolve chemicals in the layer of dead skin, allowing them to penetrate deeper where they can cause an immune reaction.

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Kenneth Anger and Brian Butler occult theatrical extravaganza in L.A. on Sunday

Brian IMG_2380

On Sunday, pioneering underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger and occultist/artist/musician Brian Butler are staging their performance piece Technicolor Skull at The Regent in Los Angeles. From the event announcement:

Unleashing a 60,000 watt sound system and several tons of equipment for this special hometown performance, the duo are at the pinnacle of their powers and look forward to reestablishing dominion over these and other united states.

Artistic contemporaries and longtime friends, Kenneth Anger and Brian Butler work in a wide variety of mediums, though none perhaps more visibly than light and sound. The Regent is proud to host these two visionary artists in person to perform the newest installment of their radical project Kenneth Anger & Brian Butler’s Technicolor Skull. Both artists are continually pushing the limits of their aesthetic and creative capacities towards exceeding characteristically human capabilities. To witness this in a live setting is to experience one of the most important discoveries of the twentieth century.

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What's going on in the brains of people who don't need much sleep?


Many people claim that they don't need much sleep, insisting that even five hours a night is enough shuteye for them to feel rested. According to new scientific research, "habitual short sleepers" may actually be handling the brain tasks that most of us deal with during the night, like memory consolidation. From Medical Xpress:

Both groups of short sleepers exhibited connectivity patterns more typical of sleep than wakefulness while in the MRI scanner. (University of Utah radiologist Jeff) Anderson says that although people are instructed to stay awake while in the scanner, some short sleepers may have briefly drifted off, even those who denied dysfunction. "People are notoriously poor at knowing whether they've fallen asleep for a minute or two," he says. For the short sleepers who deny dysfunction, one hypothesis is that their wake-up brain systems are perpetually in over-drive. "This leaves open the possibility that, in a boring fMRI scanner they have nothing to do to keep them awake and thus fall asleep," says (Utah neurologist Chirstopher) Jones. This hypothesis has public safety implications, according to Curtis. "Other boring situations, like driving an automobile at night without adequate visual or auditory stimulation, may also put short sleepers at risk of drowsiness or even falling asleep behind the wheel," he says.

Looking specifically at differences in connectivity between brain regions, the researchers found that short sleepers who denied dysfunction showed enhanced connectivity between sensory cortices, which process external sensory information, and the hippocampus, a region associated with memory. "That's tantalizing because it suggests that maybe one of the things the short sleepers are doing in the scanner is performing memory consolidation more efficiently than non-short sleepers," Anderson says.

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Watch the new Radiohead video by Paul Thomas Anderson


Radiohead debuted their latest music video, for the track "Present Tense" from Moon Shaped Pool. Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood, Radiohead's "Daydreaming") directed the clip that features Thom Yorke, Johnny Greenwood, and the classic Roland CR-78 drum machine from 1978.

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Giant moon rolls through Chinese city streets


A giant model moon, part of the Mid-Autumn Festival decorations in Fuzhou, China was blown from its display by Super Typhoon Meranti winds and rolled through traffic today.

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World's most accurate dinosaur model


This cartoony character is considered the most accurate model of a real dinosaur ever created. Paleoartist Bob Nicholls based his reconstruction of Psittacosaurus on an incredibly well-preserved fossil from China (image below) studied by University of Bristol paleontologist Jakob Vinther and colleagues. From The Guardian:

Psittacosaurus fossils are commonly found across most of Asia. The bipedal adults used their distinctive beaks to nibble through the vegetation of the Cretaceous, more than 100m years ago. The relatively large brain of Psittacosaurus leads scientists to suspect it may have been a relatively smart dinosaur, with complex behaviours. The large eyes hint that it had good vision....

The reconstruction is the culmination of around three months’ work, from detailed drawings to finished fibreglass model. Nicholls created a steel frame and bulked it out using polystyrene and wire mesh, before sculpting the surface in clay:.“This is where the subject finally comes to life,” he explains, “by adding all the skin details such as scales and wrinkles, and beaks and horns.” A master mould was made from this sculpture, allowing Nicholls to make fibreglass models ready to be painted.

I asked Nicholls what makes this Psittacosaurus so special? “The most surprising features include an unusually large and wide head, highly pigmented clusters of scales on the shoulders, robust limbs, patagiums (skin flaps) behind the hind limbs, and a highly pigmented cloaca.” These features make him confident this is the most accurate reconstruction ever produced: “When the anatomy surprises me – it confirms that I’ve followed the fossil evidence rather than any preconceived ideas of my own.”

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Andy Samberg asks Neil Degrasse Tyson three questions about ETs, time travel, and robot sex

Are we alone in the universe? Is time travel possible? If you have sex with a robot, does it count as cheating?

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Pesco speaking at big free conference about space in San Francisco next week


BB pal Ariel "Spacehack" Waldman has curated a stellar program for the big DENT: SPACE conference next week (9/21-9/22) in San Francisco! I'm honored to be on the schedule with such amazing people as SETI Institute's Seth Shostak, science writer Mary Roach, The Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla, Ars Technica's Annalee Newitz, UC Berkeley planet hunter Alex Filippenko, and so many more fascinating folks! I'll be joining Ariel on stage Thursday at 2:50pm to talk about space history and the intersection of science and art to instill a sense of wonder about the universe, and a far out new project that I'll announce soon. See below on how to get a free ticket! Ariel writes:

On September 21-22, 2016, Dent:Space takes place at the Innovation Hangar at the Palace of Fine Arts (formerly the Exploratorium museum) with two stages of fascinating speakers spanning the technological, artistic, commercial, scientific, educational, and DIY aspects of space exploration. We’re also putting together an exhibit hall for the conference — kind of a World’s Fair-like set of interactive demos that illustrate the future of space exploration and its many possibilities. We were able to give away 3,000 free tickets to the talks and exhibits, but we’ve run out of room for that. In the interest of keeping it all accessible for as many as possible, tickets are still only $49. But, as a (Boing Boing reader), you can still grab a free ticket here

Dent:Space is a celebration of humans breaking the status quo of who can be involved and what can be achieved in space exploration.

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Man ticketed for driving 88mph in his DeLorean


Essex, England police ticketed Nigel Mills, 55, for speeding in his DeLorean. He was apparently going 88mph (although his top speed was 89mph). Mills insists that he "wasn't trying to time travel."

"Me and the rest of my family enjoyed the Back to the Future films," he said about his purchase of the DeLorean. "When I’m out in it a few people recognise it, they slow down and take pictures – drivers take pictures out of their windows or try to film you and I get approached at petrol stations.”

Mills's ticket was tossed out of court when the two officers who cited him didn't show up. Probably because Mills erased them from existence.

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Surprisingly beautiful chandelier made from toilets

Upcycler extraordinaire Rodney Allen Trice turned salvage toilet bowls into designer lighting! From Refitting the Planet:

To contribute my ideas and vision and energies in the arena of creative repurposing or applied deconstruction was an honor.

here are some off the initial sketches and the build of THE TOILET CHANDELIER. My latest, largest and first piece built in my studios new home base of PITTSBURGH, yinz!!!

Very Exciting! Now I am making tweaks and changes to this design. There are still things to work out as it was a race to complete it at this event on Saturday, but the piece will be on permanent display at Construction Junction forevermore once completed! WOO HOO!!

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