How search engines make us feel smarter than we really are


You’ve likely wondered if the internet is having a negative effect on your brain. Perhaps you’ve thought this after realizing the world wide web now serves as a trusty resource when gaps in your knowledge appear, and over time it, you’ve thought, maybe it might be making you less knowledgeable overall because you habitually head to Google if you don’t know the answers to something, search, click, read a few lines, and then promptly forget the factoid until the next time you need it.


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Fearing that new technology will lead to lazy thinking is an old concern, one that goes back at least as far as Socrates who was certain that scrolls would make people dumb because they would grow to depend on “external written characters” instead of memorization. Just about every new technology and medium has been vilified at some point by that era’s luddites as finally being the end of deep thinking and the beginning of idiocracy. It never happens, of course, and I doubt it ever will.

The latest research suggest that though technology probably doesn’t make us stupid, it can, however, cause us to believe that we are smarter than we really are. Read the rest

Boing Boing Gift Guide 2015

It's that time of year again! Welcome to Boing Boing's 2015 Gift Guide, where you'll find toys, books, gadgets and many other splendid ideas to humor and harry your friends and family! Scroll down and buy things, mutants!

Holiday Makies: careers & outfits for the dolls you design!

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Boing Boing readers already know about MakieLab, the startup where my friends and I make 3D printed, customizable dolls called Makies.

The Paradox: a secret history of magical London worthy of Tim Powers

In The Oversight, Charlie Fletcher introduced us to a secret history of London and the ancient order that defended it from the creatures of the dark. Now, with The Paradox, a sequel, Fletcher plunges the bedraggled heroes of the Oversight into danger that they may not be able to best.

READ: issue one of Mike "Hellboy" Mignola's Frankenstein Underground

The creator of Hellboy, Mike Mignola, has long been fascinated and inspired by Frankenstein’s monster. In 1991, Mignola illustrated scenes from Bride of Frankenstein for a Topps trading cards of Universal Studios horror films and last year he drew a limited edition Bride of Frankenstein Mondo print.

Meeting Cow Dog

In this telling short story, Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin meets a homeless neighbor and his big, rambunctious dog. When time is short, sometimes more can be found in companionship and reflection of a simple truth: that the now, in all its peace, beauty and suffering, will pass.

Why we enjoy stroking animals and popping bubblewrap


In Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, one of the central characters is Lennie, a man with some form of mental development disability who enjoys petting mice and puppies. Only he enjoys it so much he can’t stop and often ends up squashing them literally to death.

The thing is, evidence suggests that the mice and puppies were probably enjoying the petting before Lennie’s fat fingers squashed them. In 2013 researchers from the California Institute of Technology published the results of a study done on mice that showed there is a specific type of sensory cell in skin that responds to careful stroking. The lead researcher on the study suggested we could one day have a skin lotion that makes us feel better.

It’s all very well that mice enjoy being stroked, but why did Lennie -- and why do many other people -- derive pleasure from stroking soft animals? Numerous research studies suggest that during stroking, receptors in the skin send signals to various parts of the brain. This can be measured using MRI scans of the brain during stroking that show increased neuronal activity associated with increased blood flow. The affected areas of the brain light up even when the person involved is unconscious.

I think Lennie should have been given a stress ball or something to occupy him, although I’ve no idea if it would have been a sufficient alternative to petting mice. Sometimes such toys are not always what they seem:

As we know, there are plenty of materials that are lovely to touch. Read the rest

Never before published photos from Psychedelic Conference II in Santa Barbara, 1983

Albert Hofmann in the Cafe.

Photos by Cynthia Palmer. Read the rest

Randall "XCKD" Munroe's Thing Explainer: delightful exploded diagrams labelled with simple words

Randall "XKCD" Munroe's Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words arrives in stores today: it combines technical diagrams and wordplay in pure display of everything that makes XKCD brilliant and wonderful in every way.

A chess set that could teach aliens how to play


What if you could learn how to play chess simply by looking at the pieces? Read the rest

Blankets: New edition of Craig Thompson's graphic masterpiece

Craig Thompson's second graphic novel, the 582-page mammoth Blankets, swept the field's awards, taking three Harveys, two Eisners, and two Ignatzes. More than a decade later, and buoyed by his later successes (such as 2011's seminal Habibi), Drawn and Quarterly has produced a beautiful new edition.

The wallet that does nothing


Hammacher Schlemmer is a mostly mail-order company from which I’ve bought some lovely cashmere sweaters for my wife at Christmas. The company is renowned for its entertaining mail-order catalogue (and a great return policy) which has provided me with hours of fun reading over the years.

Often the cover features some incredibly outlandish extravagance designed solely for really wealthy folks, and which often costs a stratospheric amount of money. Top of the line at the moment is a “Five Person Exploration Submarine” which can descend to 656 feet, weighs over 7.7 tons and costs—take your seats, please—$2,700,000. As Dr. Evil used to say, “Almost three MILLION dollars.”

This year’s new and more reasonably priced money pit is a racing simulator for $185,000. It looks like a lot of fun, and my daughter says she rode something like it at Epcot at Walt Disney World, but something tells me that whoever receives it will lose interest ’ere long.

The exact prices are unimportant because they’re silly. As far as most of us are concerned, we’re far more likely to get hit by a bus than be given one of these gifts.

I genuinely enjoy Hammacher Schlemmer’s catalogue simply because it’s filled with incredibly weird things, like the remote-controlled flying shark mini-blimp for $40, and “The NASA Sleep Promoting Light Bulb” for $40.

There are also lots of handy things, like well-made flannel pjs, nice lined gloves, and so on. It’s a real 90-page potpourri and you should definitely call 1-800-543-3366 and request a free catalogue. Read the rest

The Harmony Cartridge

Every Atari 2600 game in the palm of your hand!

The final Pratchett: The Shepherd's Crown

I really tried to make this book last. It's the last Discworld novel, written by Terry Pratchett in the last days of his life, as his death from a tragic, unfair, ghastly early onset Alzheimer's stole up on him. But I couldn't help myself. I read it, read it all. I wept. Then I read it again.

Eerie lifelike sculpture of Harry Houdini


He's been dead since Halloween, 1926, but Harry Houdini just won’t die. The old bastard really won’t go away.

Read the rest

Our Generation Ships Will Sink

As noted in Cory's review, Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora makes an undeniable case for ecological stewardship through a rigorous, gripping technological speculation about climate science, biology, space propulsion and sociodynamic factors. In this exclusive feature essay, Robinson explains the technology behind the best science fiction novel of 2015.

At least Turkey's tragic politics gives material to comics artists

Today, Firstsecond publishes Ozge Samanci's Dare to Disappoint, a graphic novel memoir of growing up in Turkey. Ms Samanci has favored us with an essay describing the tumultuous relationship between Turkey's authoritarian, thin-skinned president and her fellow cartoonists.

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