Boing Boing 

Why is Claude Shannon's Master's thesis behind a paywall

Hanan sez, "'A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits' by Claude Shannon can be viewed but cannot be printed. It's behind an MIT paywall. This thesis from 1937 predicted moderns digital circuitry. Why can't we print and read it at our convenience?"

Update: Lew Pitcher found a different copy, also on MIT's servers, that is an unencumbered PDF.

Gendered toy-ad remixer


Zarkonnen sez, "The Gender Remixer lets you set the video of one toy ad to the audio of another aimed at the opposite gender, with hilarious/disturbing results." It's true. The heavily gendered world of toy ads are as formalized as a legal proceeding. Hearing the audio for one and seeing the video for another is incredibly and wonderfully discordant.

The HTML5 Gendered Advertising Remixer (Thanks, Zarkonnen!)

Invisible Robota: the robots who ate our jobs

Joe Posner sez, "A month ago Marketplace told me they're doing a weeklong special called "Robots Ate My Job" this week and asked if I could make videos to go with it. Where to start? "Even though we don't see them with anthropomorphic features and two arms and legs walking down the streets, there are robots all around you," say Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAffee, authors of "Race Against the Machine." Here is one of the two short films we made for them, about the hard work, now robotic, that invisibly surrounds us. It's called "Robota" rather than "Robots" for a particular reason ... (hint) -- Enjoy!"

Here's the other video.

Joe and Ian McAlpin had a harrowing time shooting the footage of the toll-booths here, with authorities first demanding a $15,000 fee and then saying they wouldn't permit filming at all ("security," natch, as if protracted toll-booth waits don't give attackers ample opportunity to study the high-stakes target that is a tollbooth; and as if a bad guy would have a hard time sneaking a video camera onto a car). He eventually just shot it on the d/l.

Invisible Robota

EyeWire: a videogame to help scientists trace the neurons in a retina

Robert sez, "The gamified EyeWire project, now in open beta, is about using human computation to help trace the neurons in a retina. Tracing the neurons will help nail down the computation that goes on inside the retina leading up to the optic nerve, and lead to better methods of brain mapping. Come and help explore the eye's jungle!"

Game 1: Reconstructing Neurons
The first step of the challenge is to reconstruct the tree-like shapes of retinal neurons by tracing their branches through the images. You will accomplish this by playing a simple game: helping the computer color a neuron as if the images were a three-dimensional coloring book. The collective efforts of you and other players will result in three-dimensional reconstructions of neurons like this. Playing the game does not require any specialized knowledge of neuroscience — just sharp eyes and practice. If you like, you can stop reading this page, and proceed to detailed instructions for the game here or simply start playing. On the other hand, if you’d like to know more about the scientific plan, read on.

Game 2: Identifying Synapses
Reconstructing neurons involves tracing their branches, which are like the “wires” of the retina. This by itself is not enough for finding connectomes; we also need to identify synapses. This kind of image analysis will be accomplished through another game that will be introduced on this website in the near future. The identification of synapses will involve subtleties, due to limitations of the dataset, as will be discussed in detail later on.

Rules of Connection
Playing either of the above games will produce information that will be valuable for understanding how the retina functions. How exactly will the information be used? To answer this question, we should confront the issue of variability. We expect that every retina will be wired somewhat differently. In that case, would mapping the connections in one retina tell us anything that is applicable to other retinas? We expect that retinal connectomes will obey invariant rules of connection, and it is these rules that really interest researchers. Many of the rules are expected to depend on neuronal cell types, i.e., of the form “Cell type A receives synapses from cell type B.” Some such rules are already known, but the vast majority remain undiscovered.

EyeWire – Help Map the Retinal Connectome (Thanks, Robert!)

45-foot paper airplane flies

Marilyn writes, "A part of its Giant Paper Airplane Project to get kids psyched about aviation and engineering, the Pima Air & Space Museum launched what may be the largest paper airplane (45-ft-long, 800 lbs, with a 24-ft wingspan) from a helicopter at 2,700 feet over the Arizona desert. It flew (glided actually) about 7 to 10 seconds before crashing. >From the LA Times: ...The plane was constructed of layers of falcon board, which Vimmerstedt described as a type of corrugated cardboard, similar to a pizza box. The plane was designed and built in Lancaster by Art Thompson, who helped design the B-2 stealth bomber, but the design was based on a paper airplane folded by 12-year-old Tucson resident Arturo Valdenegro—winner of a paper airplane fly-off sponsored by the Pima Air & Space Museum in January. In a video interview with the museum on the day of the launch, Valdenegro said before the Great Paper Airplane Project he thought that he might pursue a career in engineering, but after meeting Thompson and seeing his plane realized in giant size, he now knows he’s going to be an engineer when he grows up..."

45-foot paper airplane glides over Arizona desert (Thanks, Marilyn Terrell!)

Kickstarter to fund development of Arduino-based, browser-controlled open source hardware automated gardening dome

Wisevehicle sends us the Horto Domi Kickstarter project, "A wonderful project to create a raised bed growing system with open source electronics. The project pulls all the pieces of a great garden together and helps the user monitor and control them via a smart phone application." The Horto Domi founders are seeking the funds to perfect their project and publish it as an Open Source Hardware spec.

Horto domi is an open hardware raised-bed garden unit with environmental control and monitoring via web-interface thanks to Arduino Ethernet. DIY sensors, such as those collecting moisture and temperature data help monitor the environment within the dome and will eventually be used to automate conditions. The goal is to grow whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you are. Horto domi is Latin for ‘Garden at home.’ It's a statement to healthful food independence, a “neo-renaissance” tip of the hat to Arduino, and it sounds like horticultural dome. Particular consideration was taken in this prototype’s design to maximize the mineral and nutrient value of the beyond-organic produce and minimize environmental contamination risks.

Horto domi: the Open Garden (Thanks, Wisevehicle!)

X-rays of flowers


Avi sez, "Brendan Fitzpatrick has made a beautiful series of x-ray photographs of flowers." And he's selling prints!

Floral X-rays (Thanks, Avi!)

Trompe l'oeil graffiti vanishes Egyptian military barrier


Noordijk sez, "Egyptian graffiti artists make this military street barrier 'disappear.'"

Sheikh Rihan mural

Papercraft, steampunk Iron Horse


This steampunk, papercraft wonderment comes from Phillip Valdez, who notes, "I do paper sculpture and have a soft spot for steampunk. All creations are made from Archival paper with book binding glue and acrylic paints."

Be the first in your city to own a mechanical wonder “The Iron Horse”. (Thanks, Phillip!)

Midnight Climax: CIA's MK-ULTRA LSD experiments in San Francisco

Newly released documents shed light on the San Francisco edition of the CIA's notorious MK-ULTRA program (through which people were unwittingly given massive doses of LSD to see if the drug would be useful for brainwashing), which ran from 1953-1964. There's lots of detail about MK-ULTRA's work in NYC and Montreal, but the San Francisco operation has been shrouded in mystery. The newly declassified documents form the springboard for a good investigative piece in SF Weekly, in which Troy Hooper speaks to Wayne Ritchie, one of the survivors of MK-ULTRA's San Francisco operation.

There were at least three CIA safe houses in the Bay Area where experiments went on. Chief among them was 225 Chestnut on Telegraph Hill, which operated from 1955 to 1965. The L-shaped apartment boasted sweeping waterfront views, and was just a short trip up the hill from North Beach's rowdy saloons. Inside, prostitutes paid by the government to lure clients to the apartment served up acid-laced cocktails to unsuspecting johns, while martini-swilling secret agents observed their every move from behind a two-way mirror. Recording devices were installed, some disguised as electrical outlets.

To get the guys in the mood, the walls were adorned with photographs of tortured women in bondage and provocative posters from French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The agents grew fascinated with the kinky sex games that played out between the johns and the hookers. The two-way mirror in the bedroom gave the agents a close-up view of all the action.

The main man behind the mirror was burly, balding crime-buster George H. White, a Bureau of Narcotics maverick who made headlines breaking up opium and heroin rings in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and the U.S. Few knew he doubled as a CIA spook for Uncle Sam. He oversaw the San Francisco program, gleefully dubbing it Operation Midnight Climax.

"[White] was a real hard head," said Ritchie, who regularly ran into him in courtrooms and law enforcement offices in downtown San Francisco. "All of his agents were pretty much afraid to do anything without his full approval. White would turn on them, physically. He was a big tough guy."

American chemist Sidney Gottlieb was the brains behind White's brawn. It was the height of McCarthyism in the early '50s, and government intelligence leaders, claiming fear of communist regimes, were using hallucinogens to induce confessions from prisoners of war held in Korea, and brainwash spies into changing allegiances. What better way to examine the effects of LSD than to dose unsuspecting citizens in New York City and San Francisco?

Operation Midnight Climax: How the CIA Dosed S.F. Citizens with LSD (Thanks, tyrsalvia!)

UK petrol station CCTVs will check insurance/tax status before you are allowed to fill up

Under a pending proposal, the license-plate cameras at UK filling stations will soon begin to trigger automatic lookups of every motorist's insurance and tax records. Drivers whose insurance and tax records can't be located or verified will not be allowed to fill their tanks. This requires that the existing cameras, which are there to document drivers who don't pay for their gas, be connected to sensitive government databases filled with identifying personal information. Forensic cameras -- whose records are used after the fact to catch crooks -- don't need to be 100 percent accurate, since almost every plate they capture will not be involved in a crime, and ambiguous results can be resolved by a human backstop. But cameras that prevent you from getting something you need, like petrol, need to be 100 percent accurate, since it wouldn't do to let the person operating the cash-register override the judgment of the automated system.

CCTV at petrol stations will automatically stop uninsured cars being filled with fuel (Thanks, VoxAudi!)

M16 lamp

HowToBeAHeroine's M16 Lamp is a great, quick bodge: take one Ikea lamp, stick it onto one toy electronic M16 (sprayed gold), add one Target lampshade. Be sure to watch to the end for a spectacular finale. Sure beats Philippe Starck's $1700 version.

M16 Lamp (Thanks, Dean!)

NYC considers a pneumatic subway for trash

TomAqMar sez, "'If you were garbage, you'd be home by now,' says Forbes contributor Michael Kanellos in this report about a Swedish co. that's already installed on part of Roosevelt Island a pneumatic system to whisk trash to the incinerator."

Envac installed one of its vacuum systems in an area on Roosevelt Island, a thin strip of land in the shadow of Manhattan, in the 1970s. (Envac installed one at Disney World at the same time. Now, plans are under consideration to extend the network to technology campuses being erected on the island by Cornell University and the Technion.

Envac is also studying the possibility of putting networks of trash tubes under the Coney Island boardwalk, in a new development being created by a major property company, and near the Chelsea district in Manhattan. The vacuum tubes would leverage some of the infrastructure of the High Line, an urban development created from an old elevated train platform. Yes, if it goes through, pedestrians will walk underneath trash-filled tubes.

“We can retrofit in dense urban areas so we don’t have to rip up the street,” said Rosina Abramson, who runs Envac’s U.S. operations.

I sent a character crawling through the Walt Disney World ENVAC at the end of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.

Will New York City Get A Subway For Garbage? (Thanks, TomAqMar!)

Over-elaborated rubegoldbergian steampunk corkscrew

Gramturismo sez, "A maker in Scotland has created an elaborate, steampunk style hand cranked corkscrew." It's quite an amazing gadget -- talk about thoroughly solving a problem!

Rob Higgs (Thanks, gramturismo!)

What's Opera, Doc? the mashup

djBC, the archduke of mashup, has created a video to accompany his 2005 "wemix" of the classic Chuck Jones 1957 Bugs Bunny cartoon "What's Opera, Doc?"

Whats Opera, Doc? (dj BC Wemix) (Thanks, djBC!)

RFID your stuff, find it with your mobile phone

Mitch Wagner sez, "uGrokIt lets people attach RFID tags to their stuff, locate it with a device that attaches to a smartphone, just like in Cory's Makers." The Geiger counter-style audio cues are a nice touch, and I like the salaryman who uses the gizmo to remind him that he's left his phone-charger under one of those pointless stand-up cards next to the nearly pointless land-line phone in his hotel room.

UGrokIt (Thanks, Mitch!)

Looking for Lenny: Lenny Bruce, comedy and free speech

Looking for Lenny is a new documentary about Lenny Bruce and the way that free speech issues still resonate today. It's packed with comedy/spoken word legends talking about Bruce, from Robin Williams to Phyllis Diller, Mort Sahl, and Henry Rollins.

Looking for Lenny (Thanks, Dustin!)