Colorful children's respirators make breathing poisoned air fun

The WOOBI is a sad sign of the times. It's a toylike respirator system designed for the 300 million children living in severe air pollution. Read the rest

Wishbone breaks: massive leak of popular survey site reveals millions of teens' information

Wishbone is an online survey creation tool that's popular with teens, who use it to post quizzes, one of the top ten social Iphone apps in the USA. All of its records have leaked: millions of records, including millions of email addresses and full names, as well as hundreds of thousands of cellphone numbers. Read the rest

Fancy flashlight finds first fluorescent frog

South American polka dot tree frogs are pretty cool, but Julián Faivovich and Carlos Taboada found out they are even cooler when an ultraviolet flashlight is trained on them. They fluoresce.

Many animals can see beyond the spectrum visible to humans, and these frogs adapted with this trait. From the abstract:

Fluorescence, the absorption of short-wavelength electromagnetic radiation reemitted at longer wavelengths, has been suggested to play several biological roles in metazoans. This phenomenon is uncommon in tetrapods, being restricted mostly to parrots and marine turtles. We report fluorescence in amphibians, in the tree frog Hypsiboas punctatus, showing that fluorescence in living frogs is produced by a combination of lymph and glandular emission, with pigmentary cell filtering in the skin. The chemical origin of fluorescence was traced to a class of fluorescent compounds derived from, here named hyloins. We show that fluorescence contributes 18−29% of the total emerging light under twilight and nocturnal scenarios, largely enhancing brightness of the individuals and matching the sensitivity of night vision in amphibians. These results introduce an unprecedented source of pigmentation in amphibians and highlight the potential relevance of fluorescence in visual perception in terrestrial environments.

I'd make a Wikipedia article about dihydroisoquinolinone, but it would probably be an annoying and demoralizing fight.

Naturally occurring fluorescence in frogs (via Nature) Read the rest

Triangle — a new book about some very sneaky shapes

Triangle is a rascally shape with a trick up his sleeve. Well, it would be, if he had any arms. Mac Barnett’s wily story and Jon Klassen’s eyes-tell-all illustrations make Triangle a really fun read-aloud for preschoolers, early elementary kids, and their adults.

Both the grown-ups and the kid in my house were eagerly awaiting this book — the latest collaboration between Barnett and Klassen. Both are crazy talented picture book makers who have consistently put out silly, thoughtful, beautiful books over the past few years, together and apart. This is the third book they’ve done as a duo (the previous two are Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, 2014, and Extra Yarn, 2012) and it feels a little different.

Aesthetically, in the tone of the text and the images, Triangle is much more reminiscent of Klassen’s Hat books than of Extra Yarn and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole. The main characters are shapes (keeping with Klassen’s typical non-human subjects) and the setting ranges from sparse snapshots to a simple yet stunning landscape of “shapes with no names.” (The brief traipse and chase through this land that lies between the neat, pointed places made of triangles and squares adds something magical to the book. That feeling is made even nicer when realizing that the magical place is the one most like our own.)

Amidst Klassen’s illustrations, Barnett’s voice is still quite present, especially in the dialogue. The reader can’t help but deliver Triangle's lines with a mischievous sneer and Square’s with a tight-throated hand wringing, and that despite the characters’ lack of mouths or hands. Read the rest

The joy of troubleshooting the Raspberry Pi

In his Lifehacker essay looking back on his five years of tinkering with the Raspberry Pi, Thorin Klosowski says one of the desirable features of the Pi is the fact that it's not easy to use right out of the box.

Snip:

The joy I get from finding a solution to some dumb problem is one of the main things that drew me to the Raspberry Pi to begin with. Thankfully, Raspberry Pi projects have gotten easier over the years. Where it was once a complicated process to build an SD card, it’s now pretty much automatic. Still, the Raspberry Pi is far, far away from being as user friendly as a PC or Mac. That’s a feature, not a bug. The Raspberry Pi is built to force you to learn troubleshooting, and that’s still one of my favorite things about it.

Before hobbyists latched onto the Raspberry Pi, it was a computer for learning how to code targeted mainly at kids. Since then, the appeal has broadened, but it’s still impossible for a project to “just work” out of the box. You will have to tweak something, dig into the command line, or spend a few hours buried in an obscure internet forum to find solutions to problems that only you seem to be having. You will slam your head against the wall, yell a little, and throw your Raspberry Pi at least once for every project you attempt to make.

For every project you complete, for every bug you squash, and for every typo you correct, comes a small, glowing feeling inside your stomach that is well worth the trouble of it all.

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A kid-friendly electronics board that you can program from the web

Peegar is an Arduinio-style electronics kit that you design programs for by dragging and dropping Scratch-style objects around in a browser; when you're done, the program is converted to a brief snatch of sound that you transmit through the board by plugging a standard audio cable into your device's headphone jack. Read the rest

Explaining physics with wonderful, 1930s-style animation

Hugh writes, "These amazing animated shorts on physics feature an adorable, 1930's style version of Maxwell's Demon. There are 3 so far -- can't wait to see more!" Read the rest

5-year-old wins Tulsa spelling bee, heads to nationals

Five-year-old Edith Fuller correctly spelled jnana to advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. She's the youngest competitor in the bee's history. Read the rest

Duh! Snuggie is a blanket, not priestly robes

Snuggie, a specialist warming item designed to allow docile and nearly immobile United States citizens to consume chips while bundled in a blanket and watching Oprah, sued the US government and won. Seems the feds wanted to designate the Snuggie as "apparel" because it reminds them of priest's robes, and shockingly tax it more than a mere "blanket."

Via WaPo:

That was enough to convince the Hawthorne, N.Y.-based Allstar Marketing Group, which makes the Snuggie, to take the U.S. government to the United States Court of International Trade for categorizing the Snuggie as apparel, similar to a “priestly garment.” The judge sided with Snuggie last month, saying that the product was a blanket, not clothing, in part due to its lack of closures in the back. Allstar Marketing declined to comment on the case.

The Snuggie case and others like it show how companies may go to great lengths to avoid the barriers governments impose on imported products. President Trump has argued for even stiffer tariffs on products from countries that refuse to negotiate better terms of trade with the United States, like Mexico and China. He has also backed away from free trade deals that would slash tariffs among many countries, and expressed a desire for negotiating deals with countries one-on-one.

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Steve McQueen's long missing 'Bullitt' Mustang found

One of the two Ford Mustang automobiles used in the filming of the Steve McQueen classic 'Bullitt' has been found. Long missing, the green pony car was found wasting away in a Baja, Mexico junkyard.

The car is now being restored.

Via the LA Times:

Paramount-based body shop owner Ralph Garcia Jr., who has made a career building replicas of the “Eleanor” Mustang featured in the Nicolas Cage movie “Gone in 60 Seconds,” said he was contacted by an associate in Mexico. He had found a clean ‘68 Mustang fastback that he thought would be a good candidate for “Eleanor”-ization.

Ralph Garcia Jr., Kevin Marti and Hugo Sanchez pose in front of the reputed "Bullitt" car.

The associate, Hugo Sanchez, delivered the car to a shop Garcia owns in Mexicali, Mexico. It was scheduled for restoration when Sanchez called Garcia and told him that he had run the vehicle identification numbers on the car and discovered it was no ordinary Mustang.

“I was going to turn it into another ‘Eleanor’ car, but my partner Googled the VIN,” Garcia said. “That’s how he found out it was the ‘Bullitt’ car. He said, ‘You can’t touch it!’ ”

The pair later enlisted the expert opinion of Ford evaluator Kevin Marti, who gave the car his official seal of approval.

Though initially skeptical — “I see car fraud on a daily basis” — Marti asked Garcia for detailed photos of the car, then traveled to Mexicali to inspect it in person.

“Then I was sure,” he said, after checking VIN stamps and specific aspects of the car that would likely be unknown to anyone attempting to pass off a regular Mustang as the “Bullitt” car.

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The BioLite CampStove 2 - how it burns wood like gas, and converts heat into electricity

Last week I tried out BioLite's CookStove, which uses sticks for fuel and has a battery-powered fan to create a hot flame that rivals gas camping stoves.

BioLite just introduced a new version of its CampStove, which is similar to the CookStove, but it has the extra feature of generating electricity from heat and storing it in its battery pack. The battery can charge the fan and charge any USB powered device as well. The video above shows how it works. I love the way it looks, and how it folds neatly into the included cloth bag. BioLite puts a lot of care into their products.

It's designed to work with the BioLite KettlePot (though you can use any old pot, really), and the Campstove Grill Attachment (to grill food).

Ben Z, the lead engineer behind the CampStove 2, is the host of the video above and will be hosting a FB Live session at 1pm ET today.

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The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge

Gary Wolf of Quantified Self writes:

Princeton University Press has just reissued this classic essay ["The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge" by Abraham Flexner, 1939] by the founder of the Institute for Advanced Study, with a new companion essay by the physicist Robbert Dijkgraaf. I’m going to buy the book, but you don’t have to do that to read the original essay, with its terribly relevant opening paragraph: “Is it not a curious fact that in a world steeped in irrational hatreds which threaten civilization itself, men and women – old and young – detach themselves wholly or partly from the angry current of daily life to devote themselves to the cultivation of beauty, to the extension of knowledge, to the cure of disease, to the amelioration of suffering, just as though fanatics were not simultaneously engaged in spreading pain, ugliness, and suffering?”

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The weirdest bumbling cat burglar movie of all time

In 1991 I was super eager to see Bruce Willis' slapstick comedy Hudson Hawk.

Everything about this film was frantically over the top, ridiculous, and so much fun. Sandra Bernhard's crazy megalomaniac? David Caruso's master of disguises? James Coburn's James Coburn! Every performance was unhinged. This film barely makes sense.

While Andie MacDowell squealing like a dolphin is pretty special, the best moments of this film are when Bruce Willis' Ernie "The Hudson Hawk" Hawkins and Danny Aiello's Tommy "Five-Tone" Messina engage in crime. Rather than synchronizing their watches, the two burglars sing popular hits to time their capers. Bing Crosby's Swinging on A Star became a lifelong favorite tune.

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The Everything You Need to Ace series is like borrowing notes from the smartest kid in class

Looking through these books, I find myself wanting to shout out phrases I haven’t thought of in decades: the Triangular Trade! Crispus Attucks! Isthmus of Panama!

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You can hear the difference between hot and cold water

Water is viscous. With heat, the viscosity drops. And you can hear the difference in its splash.

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Bake brown soda bread in a cast iron skillet

If you have breakfast while traveling in Ireland you are bound to come across brown soda bread. Soda bread is super easy to make and a fantastic comfort food.

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Illustrator 1000DAY's lovely work inspired by MΛX

Korean illustrator Jang Suk-Woo (aka 1000DAY) was inspired by the music of Max Schneider to create some lovely layered illustrations. Read the rest

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