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What is dopamine?

Dopamine — the most talked-about human neurotransmitter — isn't a "love drug", or a "lust drug", or an "addiction drug", writes Bethany Brookshire in a smarter-than-average neuroscience story at Slate. It's actually a lot more complicated than that, and if you keep trying to pigeonhole and oversimplify what it does, you're going to completely misunderstand how your brain works. Maggie 6

Robotic Lego ball contraption to beat them all

Akiyuky on YouTube has uploaded a 7 minuted video overview of her or his astounding Lego Ball Contraption, a robotic rube goldberg device in 17 modules, each more fiendishly clever than the last. The accompanying blog (in Japanese) has lots more detail. But honestly, you can just sit agog for seven glorious minutes and soak it all up without having to try and parse out Google Translate's rendition of Akiyuky's explanation.

LEGO TECHNICからくり部屋 (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

XKCD's 14-foot-wide CLICK AND DRAG map


Today's XKCD, "Click and Drag," is a triumph. It's a tribute to House of Leaves, and it treats the punchline as a window to a ginormous, explorable world that you can see by clicking and dragging. Dan Catt puts the artwork at 46 feet wide, assuming it is printed at 300dpi. It's full of Munrovian sly humor and sight gags, and has its own underground civilization. It's not like any other thing I've seen.

If you want to mouse around in a zoomable version of the map, see this mashup. If (when) Randall offers this for sale as a poster, I may have to throw away some furniture to make room for it.

Click and Drag (via Kottke)

Internet Defense League will spring into action when dumb laws are proposed, guided by the CAT SIGNAL!


Holmes from Fight for the Future sez, "The Internet Defense League is a post-SOPA network of sites that use their reach to defend and improve the web. Because it can sound the alarm quickly to millions of people, people are calling it a 'bat-signal for the Internet'. The league is launching on July 19th, the same night that the new Batman movie. And the plan is to have actual spotlights beaming actual 'cat-signals' across buildings and clouds in cities around the world. We just launched a crowd-funding campaign. Help plan a party or pitch-in to make them happen."

So on Thursday night, as Hollywood’s latest superhero movie opens in theaters for a midnight showing, IDL members in select cities can celebrate the launch around powerful spotlights rented for the occasion. The spotlights will beam the IDL’s “cat-signal” into the stratosphere, across obliging clouds, or onto neighboring buildings.

Plus we've got a bunch of other cool items for league members who donate.

The Internet Defense League - Protecting the Free Internet since 2012

Jackhammer Jill, the animated GIF automata

Ernie made us a Jackhammer Jill automata from pinewood and paint: "She bounces up and down like the animated GIF." Ernie wins the whole goddamned Internet.

Jackhammer Jill.wmv (Thanks, Ernie!)

Greatest wedding proposal ever: the lip-dub

Isaac wanted to propose to his girlfriend, so he enlisted over 60 friends to stage a Busby Berkeley street-show lip-dub extravaganza ambush. What follows is five minutes of heart-stoppingly sweet and romantic wedding proposal. I mean: Z. O. M. F.G.

On Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012, I told my girlfriend to meet me at my parent's house for dinner. When she arrived I had stationed my brother to sit her in the back of an open Honda CRV and give her some headphones. He "wanted to play her a song"...

What she got instead was the world's first Live Lip-Dub Proposal.

Isaac's Live Lip-Dub Proposal (via Waxy)

Wil Wheaton Particle Emitter, an Augmented Reality

Michael Zoellner took the iconic Recursive Wil Wheaton t-shirt photo and turned it into an Augmented Reality Wil Wheaton Particle Emitter. When the photo is viewed through an AR app, it begins to fire an animated stream of correctly positioned recursive Wil Wheatons, each one more particulate than the last.

You probably have heard of the Recursive Wil Wheaton t-shirt. Paul (of Paul and Storm) sent it to Wil and this photo became quite popular. It was remixed by an unknown genius into an animated gif and “won at the internet”.

Over the weekend i experimented with the new PointCloud Augmented Reality SDK (which is by the way brilliant and simple: 3D tracking and HTML5). I took Recursive Wil and turned the concept around: A Wil Wheaton Particle Emitter.

Scott Meyer from basicinstructions.net sent me the original SVG file of the shirt’s image. My first try was using Processing.js for animation (Yes! Processing.js now works in AR). But SVG and CSS 3D were the better choice to get a perspective effect. And it’s hardware accelerated on iOS.

Michael is the same dude who encoded the opening of my novel Makers to be displayed as a persistence-of-vision lightshow which was mounted to the collar of a small, high-energy dog, who proceeded to tear-ass around a park one night, spelling out the book in glowing letters.

A Wil Particle Emitter in Augmented Reality

Commemorative Canadian quarters with glow-in-the-dark dino skeletons


Tim Hornyak writes about the new oversized Canadian commemorative quarters, which will feature glowing dinosaur skeletons, which is exactly what I've always wanted on all my money.

Made of cupronickel, the coin has a face value of 25 cents but is much larger than a regular Canuck quarter.

It shows an artist's rendering of Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai, a 4-ton, 26-foot dinosaur discovered in Alberta in 1972. It's the first in a four-coin series of photo-luminescent prehistoric creatures.

The mint says the skeleton can best be seen after the coin is exposed to sunlight, or to fluorescent or incandescent light for 30-60 seconds, adding that the luminescence won't fade with time.

Canada's newest coin glows in the dark (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day team up for Tabletop, a show about tabletop games

Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day have teamed up to produce a new webshow called Tabletop, "like Celebrity Poker meets Dinner for Five, where we got interesting people we know together for tabletop games." It's a fantastic idea, and the trailer makes it look very promising indeed. Day and Wheaton are two of my favorite indie geek media people, and this is quite an exciting moment!

In season one of the show, we play games like Settlers of Catan, The Last Night on Earth, Munchkin, Small World, and Alhambra. Some of the players include Grant Imahara, Sean Plott (better known as Day[9]), Dodger Leigh, Ryan Higa, Beth Riesgraf, Phil Lamarr, Morgan Webb, Garfunkle and Oats, Veronica Belmont, and Colin Ferguson.

My ulterior motive with Tabletop is to show by example how much fun it is to play boardgames. I want to show that Gamers aren't all a bunch of weirdoes who can't make eye contact when they talk to you, and that getting together for a game night is just as social and awesome as getting together to watch Sportsball, or to play poker, or for a LAN party, or whatever non-gamers do with their friends. I want to inspire people to try hobby games, and I want to remove the stigma associated with gaming and gamers.

I'm pretty sure we succeeded. By the second day of production, our crew was grabbing games out of our games library to play at lunch. All of our interns and production assistants have become complete game fanatics, and whenever I edit a show, all I want to do is go home and play that game until my face falls off.

This is my new show, Tabletop

"More Awesome Than A Monkey In A Bacon Tuxedo Riding A Cyborg Unicorn With A Lightsaber For The Horn On The Tip Of A Space Shuttle Closing In On Mars, While Engulfed In Flames."


Robbo sez, "The title for the article is just a portion of an amazing thank you letter from a primary school student in Austin, Texas - sent to a local weatherman who visited the class. Includes a drawing of a unicorn delivering donuts."

'I will not make you a slave, you will live in my 200 story [sic] castle where unicorn servants will feed you doughnuts off their horns,' Flint wrote.

'I will personally make you a throne that is half platnum and half solid gold and jewel encrested [sic].'

The student, whose age is uncertain, proved he may have a career in creative writing ahead of him if either the meteorology or world domination do not work out as planned.

In fulsome praise, Flint said Ramon was 'more awesome than a monkey wearing a tuxedo made out of bacon riding a cyborg unicorn with a lightsaber for the horn on the tip of a space shuttle closing in on Mars, while ingulfed in flames'.

Flint added: 'And in case you didn't know that's pretty dang sweet.'

'More awesome than a monkey in a bacon tuxedo' - child's letter goes viral (Thanks, Robbo!)

(Image: Flint)

Planesrunner: Ian McDonald's YA debut is full of action-packed multidimensional cool, airships, electropunk and quantum physics

Ian McDonald has spent the past two decades blowing the lid off of science fiction with his poetic, dense, lavish novels that span the universe from Mars to Africa, from the future to the past, from Brazil to India to Turkey. Now McDonald has begun a second career as a young adult novelist with his Everness series, the first volume of which is Planesrunner, which goes on sale today.

Planesrunner is the story of Everett Singh, a moderately unhappy schoolboy in London whose divorced, quantum physicist dad is kidnapped before his eyes one night. Everett embarks on an epic quest to find out what happened to his dad, a quest that is complicated by his mother's hostility to her ex-husband, a police cover-up, sinister visits from the head of the Imperial College physics department, and mysterious, threatening strangers who tail him through the streets of London.

But Everett is convinced that he saw what he saw, and that his father is in peril -- not least because his Dad's server has emailed him a firmware update for his tablet that turns it into an n-dimensional directory of the multiverse, an insurance file on a dead man's switch that was sent to Everett when his dad was offline for a critical amount of time. Everett can't outwit the forces of evil forever -- but he can choose the way he is captured, and he does, and that's how he manages to escape through an interdimensional portal and penetrate a parallel electricpunk universe where there is no oil, but where coal-fired manufactories turn out the carbon nanofiber necessary to support a global industry of freewheeling electrified airships.

On the run in another London, Everett gets embroiled in the politics of international airship traffic, living in the autonomous zone around Hackney where the airships dock, spying on the interdimensional ministry where he believes his father is being held, joining a ragtag airship crew and making their fights his own -- even as he tries to solve the seemingly impossible problem of liberating his father.

Planesrunner is smashing adventure fiction that spans the multiverse without ever losing its cool or its sense of style. Ian McDonald is one of the greats of science fiction and his young adult debut is everything you could hope for: romantic, action-packed, wildly imaginative and full of heart.

Planesrunner

Engineers to rappel Washington Monument

Some extremely awesome engineers will be rappelling down the side of the Washington Monument today, to inspect it for any structural damage that may have happened during last month's earthquake. Maggie

Engagement proposal as an elaborate Portal 2 level

Gary Hudston wanted to propose to his girlfriend, so (naturally) he contracted with a skilled level-developer to make a custom Portal 2 level that led to a wedding chapel in which GLaDOS (the AI villain of the series) popped the question. And naturally, once Valve (the company that makes Portal) got wind of the project, they authorized the production of custom audio from Ellen McLain, the voice actor who does GLaDOS in the game. And naturally, the developer made the level available so that you could play it too (but that doesn't mean you're getting married to Gary). Ah, romance!

Proposal by Portals! (youtube.com) (via Waxy)