Boing Boing 

Watch "Do Try This At Home," science series using common items

At-Bristol's Live Science Team has a wonderful video series of experiments that can be done with inexpensive materials available at typical hardware, kitchenware, and grocery stores, like turning water into instant ice.

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Mermaid convention photographs by Arthur Drooker

arthur-drooker-02

Cool Hunting continues its wonderful Conventional Wisdom series by following photographer Arthur Drooker to Merfest, a mermaid convention in North Carolina.

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Just look at these spooky banana ghosts

banana-ghosts-orange-pumpkins

Just look at 'em with their evil chocolate chip eyes. Part of Let's Go Chipper's series on healthy Halloween snacks in the run-up to Saint Beetus Day. Also:

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Rubber band ball

badballI know this rubber band ball is durable because my wife ran over the box with her car without damaging the rubber bands. The manufacturer claims it has at least 270 rubber bands in it.

Rubber band ball ($5)

Illustrated timeline of anti-fun moral panics


(Click to embiggen)

Tor.com has republished a great chart from Bad for You: Exposing the War on Fun!, forthcoming in on January 7. The chart details the central thesis of the book: that "the long-standing campaign against fun" is a recurring story in which anxious, killjoy grownups make up stupid explanations for why the stuff their kids like is terrible and should be banned, and the golden era of their own childhoods (and the amusements that reigned then) should be restored.

The chart starts with Trithemius's 1494 rant against printing presses ("The word written on parchment will last a thousand years. The printed word is on paper. How long will it last?") and moves smartly through books, steam engines, newspapers, photos, telegraphs, movies, phones, phonographs, radio, TV, computers, and (of course), the Internet.

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Optical illusion of the day


Cover the middle seam with your finger, marvel as the contrast effect changes EVERYTHING. Jason Kottke thinks the creator is a witch. When I showed it to my daughter, she said, "Well, your finger is covering up the light that's making it brighter," which is true in a weird sorta way.

Freaky optical illusion

The climate of Middle Earth

Mordor has an inhospitable climate, according to Radagast the Brown (aka climate scientist Dan Lunt) who created a climate model for Middle Earth based on geography as outlined by Tolkien and climate modeling software from our world.

What we saw when we sent a cell phone through a pneumatic tube system

Pneumatic tube systems — little canisters shot through a series of tubes via the power of compressed air — have been around since the 19th century when they were briefly popular as a way to quickly deliver mail in big cities. Today, they're probably most familiar from their use in drive-through banking, but the tubes also turn up at libraries (the one at the main branch of the New York Public Library is particularly steampunky), in scientific laboratories, and in hospitals.

Last month, I spent an inordinate amount of time in one Minneapolis area hospital, waiting for an induced labor to kick in. How do you entertain yourself between the insertion of the IV line and the beginning of serious contractions? Turns out, you go on a lot of short walks, you watch some TV, and (if you're lucky) you convince the nurses to let your husband "mail" his cell phone from the labor/delivery department to the post-natal department, using the hospital's pneumatic tube system.

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If history were a movie, what would be the most egregious plot holes?

Hate that smarmy, too-good-to-be-real Christmas episode of World War I? Annoyed by the lazy montage scene that took us from the first airplane to the Moon in just 66 years? Think "rocks fall, all the dinosaurs die" was just a total cop-out? Here's a fun Reddit thread you will appreciate, pointed out to me by Karen James.

Glowing algae make a nice nightlight

This is a picture of a wave crashing on the New Jersey shore. It glows because of dinoflagellates — little, single-celled plants, animals, and bacteria that float around on the water, moving about with the help of long, moveable protein strands called flagella. Some dinoflagellates are bioluminescent; that is, chemical reactions inside their bodies produce light. The result is glowing oceans. Or, as maker Caleb Kraft recently discovered, the dinoflagellates also make for a soft blue nightlight with really nifty special effects.

You can watch Kraft's nightlight project at YouTube. It's pretty simple to do at home. At it's most basic, all you need to do is purchase some bioluminescent dinoflagellates online, keep them alive in your home, and give them a good shaking occasionally to trigger the chemical reaction.

A couple more helpful links:
Where Kraft bought his dinoflagellates
• A guide to other dinoflagellate dealers, and to the care and feeding of unicellular organisms
• Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography who are studying dinoflagellate bioluminescence to better understand how it works and what role it plays in the ecosystem
A detailed explanation of what dinoflagellates are and why they glow

Via Treehugger

Image: Red Tide Luminescense, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from piratelife's photostream

Download a dinosaur (or 17)

Now you can download 17 digital versions of dinosaur bodies created by scientists at the UK's The Royal Veterinary College, Hatfield, and other institutions. The bodies were made for a study of the biomechanics of dinosaurs — essentially, an attempt to reverse engineer some knowledge of how dinosaurs moved and how body shape and movement changed as dinosaurs got closer to becoming birds. I don't really know exactly what you might do with these files, but they're free and available to anyone. And, I figure, if somebody is going to come up with a fantastic use for digitized dinosaurs, it's you guys.

Project: Recycle old scientific equipment into new tools for public engagement

When ocean scientist Andrew Thaler found an old, outdated water level gauge, he found a way to give it new life — turning it into a tool to measure public interest in sea level rise. Instead of tracking water, the Sea Leveler tracks how much people are talking about water on Twitter.

Japanese teen trend: "Dragon Ball attack" selfies

"Numerous Japanese teens, it seems, are uploading photos of themselves doing the Kamehameha attack from popular manga and anime series Dragon Ball," writes Kotaku's Japan-based correspondent Brian Ashcraft. There's a photo gallery and it's awesome. Brian had an earlier post at Kotaku about the broader trend in Japan of young women staging photos with manga-style martial arts. Below, one such image found on 2ch, Japan's largest bulletin board, with the heading, "Schoolgirls Nowadays lol".

(Thanks, Brian Lam!)

Celebrate "Pi Day" by throwing hot dogs down a hallway

No, that's not a euphemism for anything. Buffon's Needle is an 18th-century experiment in probability mathematics and geometry that can be used as a way to calculate pi through random sampling. This WikiHow posting explains how you can recreate Buffon's Needle at home, by playing with your food.

What would happen if an unstoppable force met an immoveable object?

Minute Physics tackles the greatest mystery in all the Internet and solves it with the power of science (and pedantry).

Unloading supplies onto the International Space Station

As Matt Lynley put it, "Meanwhile, in space ..."

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Great Moments in Pedantry: James and the Giant Peach needs moar seagulls

Children’s literature is about the wonder of discovering new worlds, the power of imagination, and the all the little triumphs and defeats that make up a life.

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In praise of stupidity

Matthew Bostick praises honest stupidity in the age of Google, Wikipedia and relentless knowitall-dom.

My life path has led me to some exciting revelations and extraordinary experiences. It’s been carved out by indulging in – and being comfortable with – my own stupidity. Because stupidity is not a bad quality in a person, no matter how many people say it is. Peeking at a dictionary, we can define stupid as someone “marked by a lack of intelligence.” To me, that’s a perfectly reasonable attribute. We don’t just become intelligent one day.We’re in pursuit of cleverness. Many of us never get there. But we try.

Bravo! There is no better way to have fun than to be the dumbest guy in the room, when the room is, say, a TED talk.

Iron Egghead: Explain biology using eight everyday items

Scientific American has an awesome contest going on right now. They're challenging you to make a video explaining some part, process, or system in the human body using eight objects: Yourself, a writing surface, a writing implement, rubber bands, paper clips, string, cups , and balls. You have to use all eight items. You can't use anything else.

You can read the full instructions and rules online. And check out the sample video, made by Scientific American interns Isha Soni and Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato.

Bonus: The first 100 qualified entries all get a free digital subscription to Sci Am.

Via Bora Zivkovik

You, too, can be a guinea pig for pot

Sometimes, it's hard to find people interested in playing the role of guinea pig for the sake of science. And, sometimes, that job is not so hard. Like when what you want the guinea pigs to do is get real high. That's a good example.

Pot-based research isn't all fun and games. Given the interest in medical marijuana for cancer patients and people with AIDS, some of the studies require volunteers to, you know, have cancer or AIDS. Others are interested in the sociology — these scientists want to talk to you about your pot use and collect data about how it may or may not have affected your life.

But the mythical opportunity to "get high for science" really does exist, writes Brian Palmer at Slate.

The National Institutes of Health maintains an online database of clinical trials that are in the recruitment process. As of this writing, there are approximately 100 marijuana studies currently enrolling patients. Each listing contains inclusion criteria (the types of people the researchers are looking for) and exclusion criteria (characteristics that will remove otherwise qualified people from contention).

... there are a few trials that might interest someone looking for a free high. Consider the University of Iowa’s “Effects of Inhaled Cannabis on Driving Performance.” Participants will be dosed with varying amounts of alcohol or vaporized cannabis, then placed into a driving simulator to measure their performance. There are some restrictions. You must be a social drinker and marijuana user already, but you can’t have an addiction. People who are susceptible to motion sickness are out, and you must live near the driving simulator in Iowa. Keep in mind that getting into the study doesn’t guarantee free marijuana—two control groups will get no THC whatsoever. (Previous studies have shown that low doses of marijuana have little to no impact on driving performance.)

Read more at Slate.com

Image: Getting your head above the parapet..., a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from kevenlaw's photostream

Protein art

Proteins are made up of chains of amino acids, folded and twisted in on themselves to make incredibly complex shapes.

The human brain, it has been said, is kind of a pattern-finding machine — prone to spotting faces on the moon, fat bunnies in the clouds, and Jesus on slices of toast.

When the two meet, you get Protein Art. May K., a Russian-born artist who lives in Germany, takes actual protein structures, sees the other things those structures seem to look an awful lot like, and then draws cartoons based on the resulting apophenia.

For instance, take a look at the protein structure above. After the jump, you can see the picture that May K. saw in its folds.

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Another rainy day fun project: Hurricane Hackers

Hurricane Hackers is a hashtag on Twitter (i.e., #hurricanehackers) and a crowdsource hub to create tech and social projects related to Hurricane Sandy. Proposed projects include an ad-hoc food and water delivery system for after the storm and live maps that show which businesses in a given area are actually open. You can propose projects or start working on projects other people have proposed. Check out the official Google Doc, or the IRC channel. (Via Shasha Costanza-Chock)

Amazing anatomically correct baked goods

I absolutely love cheeky science cooking projects. So the Eat Your Heart Out bakery website makes me sincerely wish that I lived in London.

From white chocolate vertebre stuffed with dark chocolate cream, to cupcakes topped with beautiful red blood cells, to what I think is a cupcake but KNOW is an amazing cutaway of breast anatomy intricately rendered in fondant ... this stuff is seriously amazing.

Consider it a unicorn chaser against grotesque misogyny.

Homebrew Nintendo laser zapper is powerful, awesome

"The plan was simple. Take a nostalgic NES "duck hunt" Zapper, and retrofit it with a ridiculously powerful laser."

A project from North Street Labs. In case it's not obvious, this is dangerous, and could lead to death or blindness without safety precautions.

Components: "2.1A input buck driver, 2x 750mAh 35-70c Lipo batteries, M140 445nm diode, G2 lens. homemade custom heat-sink, turn key safety switch."

Learn how to build your own, here. But remember, kids, always wear protective safety goggles. And, wear the right kind for the laser you're working with. [Video Link].

Instructions for legitimate knot enthusiasts

Please observe this chart of knots and then direct all claims of new knots to the New-Knot Claims Assessment Committee, which will assess your knot and let you know whether or not the knot is new.

Burning Man on Instagram: photos by sfslim

I cannot get to Burning Man this year because I'm in cancer treatment. It's funny, too, because the experience of going through that has given me a new kind of fondness for the annual playa festivities. The freedom, the wide open spaces, the happiness of mutants.

Following long-time Burner Aaron Muszalski (@sfslim) on Instagram is the next best thing, and I recommend it strongly, whether or not you're going to be in Black Rock City in person. He's a talented photographer, and he captures the whimsy, the art, the beauty of those vast desert expanses with the comfort of one who knows them all intimately. Bonus: you don't have to get any dust up your gullet.

To all out there as I type this, have lots of sex and fire and drugs and candyraving and shirtcocking for me.

"SFSLIM," on Webstagram, or receive his photos via Twitter. Wish Instagram had a searchable web interface.

And if you'd like to watch the live video webcast from Burning Man, you'll find that here on Ustream.

What's climate change ruining today?

In Virginia, rising sea levels are threatening Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge's ability to provide free parking near the beach for the summer tourists who provide a major source of income in the region. Here's a hell of a quote: "Zones that used to be parking areas in the 1990s are now underwater." Also threatened: The beach itself. Read more Daily Climate. (Via Brendon Slotterback)

What is climate change ruining today?

Chocolate and high school football are being affected by climate change, according to two stories published on the Scientific American website yesterday. In the case of chocolate, the cocoa its made from is grown in several countries in West Africa, a region heavily affected by higher temperatures and extreme weather patterns. By 2020, there will likely be a 1.5 million ton shortage in cocoa production. As for football, the problem is the fact that, across the United States, cool weather season is kicking in later in the year than it used to. That affects football practice. Specifically, schools are increasingly concerned about the health risks of forcing high school students to get really physical, while fully suited and padded, in today's warmer Augusts and Septembers. So I think it's safe to say that climate change hates fun. It's a fun-hater.

The Human Jukebox: Donations to street musicians, as votes

[Video Link] The latest musical video experiment from Joe Sabia and friends at CDZA: "Donations as votes. A fun and democratic way for street musicians to receive money."

Charles Yang on Violin. Michael Thurber on Bass. Eddie Barbash on Alto Saxophone.

Money was sent to Wingspan Arts, a non-profit that aims to expose diverse and young groups of people to the arts.

The Library of Congress welcomes our new galactic overlords

The Library of Congress has an official standard for abbreviations of different languages. It's a long list, because, well, there are lots and lots of languages that might be mentioned in the Library of Congress. In fact, the standard is so thorough that it includes Klingon. (Via Hilary Mason)