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Revealed for the first time: the seer stone that translated the Book of Mormon

In 1827, an angel directed the Prophet Joseph Smith to a spot in New York, where he found ancient golden plates inscribed with "reformed Egyptian" characters." Being unfamiliar with reformed Egyptian, Smith placed a "seer stone" (that he'd found when he was digging a well for his neighbor) into the bottom of hat and covered his face with the hat, which enabled him to view the words.

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Mobile game of the week: Specimen, A Game About Color


We generally take for granted that color is absolute, and that everybody who can see and who isn't colorblind sees the exact same thing. The sky is blue; it is a known fact. But is my blue sky the same as yours?

That whole dress color episode, while annoying, launched some fascinating social media conversation on how human eyes see color. iPhone game Specimen: A Game About Color is a new, awesome example of how tech tools can create both fun and science around the various spectra of our perception.

The vivid, candy-hued app offers you a tray of shiny, vibrant color blobs and gives you a supposedly-simple task: Pick the one that's the same color as the background. The game tests and scores your ability to perceive spectra across Alpha, Beta, Gamma and so on—via social media you can easily compare scores with your friends. And it is definitely not as easy as you expect it to be at first. I made it to the Gamma stages when I first felt righteously deceived, confidently mistaking some hue of yellow for one slightly greener. The more you look at it, the harder it seems to get.

There's a full story in the Creator's Project talking to creator Erica Gorochow about the development of Specimen (I used to have a column in Creator's Project)—the app combines visual design, science and game design principles to turn average players into furiously-willing, delighted research participants:

The fact that Specimen is free only helps its cause, and the data collected from its users will hopefully shed light on various color perception patterns in society at large. For example, “Is there any indication that the US sees color differently than China or Germany or Brazil? Is there any specific color dominance or weakness when you compare men and women?” Gorochow asks. “I’m doubtful that the app can reveal a dataset that’s pristine enough to be conclusive, but I think with a certain volume of players, we might be able to find unexpected correlations.”

The stage structure and the ability to earn power-ups that can eliminate false choices or buy you more time to pick makes Specimen really solid as a game. Hand it off to a friend and within minutes they'll be cursing in awe and disbelief, and then you can brag that you see more of the Delta spectrum than they do, or something.

Get Specimen: A Game About Color for free on the App Store here. It'll work on an iPhone but not a tablet.

Watch Bill Nye read mean Tweets about himself

My favorite: "You pretend the global warming fairy is real even as you live in a mansion. Maybe do cartwheels for voodoo." (Wut?)

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Earthquake early warning system gets a $4 million boost from USGS

A demo of the ShakeAlert warning system prototype, in action.

A demo of the ShakeAlert warning system prototype, in action.

What if there were a way to warn people right before a big earthquake hits? Earthquake early warning system technology is already serious stuff in Japan, and a system in development for the U.S. just got some serious funding.

The U.S. Geological Survey today announced that it has awarded about $4 million this week to four universities--California Institute of Technology, University of California, Berkeley, University of Washington and University of Oregon--to try and make the “ShakeAlert” earthquake early warning system real.

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X-Files was inspired by Chris Carter's observation of alien abductees' hypnosis


In the early 1990s, Harvard psychiatrist John Mack studied hundreds of people who claimed to have been abducted by aliens and wrote multiple books about his research. He invited Chris Carter to sit in on one of Mack's regression hypnosis session with a self-proclaimed abductee, an experience that Carter says informed his vision for the X-Files.

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Cooking rice in a coffee pot flushes out arsenic

Rice contains more of the carcinogen arsenic than other grains, but researchers at Queen’s University Belfast, UK found that cooking rice in a simple coffee pot removed about half the arsenic.

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Man born with "virtually no brain" has advanced math degree

The subject of this paper grew up with a normal cognitive and social life, and didn't discover his hydrocephalus -- which had all but obliterated his brain -- until he went to the doctor for an unrelated complaint.

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Watching a sphere of water bubble in space in 4K resolution: Yup, pretty cool

A water bubble with the remnants of an antacid tablet reaction floats in front of astronaut Terry Virts’ eye. The reaction of putting the effervescent tablet into the water was filmed with the Red Epic Dragon Camera.

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How to name an exoplanet, by XKCD

Randall Munroe has a hot take on the recent space news around Kepler 452-B and Pluto.

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NASA unveils gorgeous new false-color image of Pluto



It may be 'shopped, and we can tell by the pixels, but it's just the most beautiful image of Pluto mankind has ever seen. It's also 2.2 km/pixel, and the most detailed ever.

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WATCH: Strobe-lit cymatics experiments reveal more complex patterns

Don't watch if you're sensitive to strobes, but otherwise check out these interesting periodic patterns which appear in strobe-lit materials excited by sound waves.

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First near-Earth-size planet in “habitable zone” around sun-like star confirmed by NASA

Space truth, more awesome than fiction.Read the rest

When scientists hoard data, no one can tell what works

Peer review and replication are critical to the scientific method, but in medical trials, a combination of pharma company intransigence and scientists' fear of being pilloried for human error means that the raw data that we base life-or-death decisions upon is routinely withheld, meaning that the errors lurk undetected in the data for years -- and sometimes forever.

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More fun with Plugable's USB microscope


Over the weekend, my 12-year-old daughter and I used our Plugable USB Handheld Digital Microscope to get a close-up look some of the stuff around the house. It's an excellent microscope, especially considering the low price ($35). Another other great thing about a USB microscope is that you don't have to take turns looking at the specimen - everyone in the room can see it on the computer display at the same time. That makes it so much more fun. And you can easily take photos and movie to share with other people. The image above is a rubber clown nose.

I like this microscope so much that I talked to the folks at Plugable and asked them to become a sponsor of our Weekend of Wonder extravaganza (WoW) on September 18-20 in Southern California. The kindly agreed, and now everyone who attends is going to get one of these super cool scopes, courtesy of Plugable! We will have a gross-out contest at WoW with these scopes, so start thinking about the yuckiest thing we can look at.

Here are a few of the things we looked at:

Ball point pen (250X)

Ball point pen (50X)


Sharpie marker

Sharpie dot on paper

Gluten-free bread

Comic book cover

iPhone display

Chewable vitamin

Jane's hair

White stuff on a tree leaf

Tiny scab on Jane's leg

Levi's denim jean fabric

Jane's heel

Register here to join us at Boing Boing's Weekend of Wonder.

WATCH: Neil deGrasse Tyson give us a a brief history of everything

Neil deGrasse Tyson tell us how it is.

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As we marveled at Pluto, this spectacular comet image came out


While we were busy enjoying the spectacular images of Pluto, ESA's Rosetta camera released this image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

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