Boing Boing 

The 2013 Edge Question: What *Should* We Be Worried About? Xeni's essay: "Cancer."

Photo: "Clematis 2013" Copyright © 2013 by Katinka Matson. View larger size.

Each year, literary über-agent and big idea wrangler John Brockman of poses a new question to an assortment of scientists, writers, and creative minds, and publishes a selection of the responding essays.

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Mars: NASA gives up on attempts to contact Spirit rover

Above, one of the last images taken by the Mars rover Spirit (NASA/JPL/Cornell).

NASA this week announced it will cease attempts to re-establish contact with the Mars Exploration Rover "Spirit," which last communicated on March 22, 2010. From an item on the Space Coalition website:

The stuck in the sand Mars rover reached a point where there was inadequate energy to run its survival heaters. That being the case, the rover likely experienced colder internal temperatures last year than in any of its prior six years on Mars. Many critical components and connections would have been susceptible to damage from the cold. Today, a transmission from Earth will be the last in a series of attempts to reawaken the robot.

From the NASA announcement:

Spirit drove 4.8 miles (7.73 kilometers), more than 12 times the goal set for the mission. The drives crossed a plain to reach a distant range of hills that appeared as mere bumps on the horizon from the landing site; climbed slopes up to 30 degrees as Spirit became the first robot to summit a hill on another planet; and covered more than half a mile (nearly a kilometer) after Spirit's right-front wheel became immobile in 2006. The rover returned more than 124,000 images. It ground the surfaces off 15 rock targets and scoured 92 targets with a brush to prepare the targets for inspection with spectrometers and a microscopic imager.

(Via Miles O'Brien)

Space Shuttle Endeavour readies for Monday launch


In the photograph above by Robert Pearlman, space shuttle Endeavour emerges from behind the launch pad's rotating service structure. SpaceFlightNow has ongoing coverage (and live webcast of the launch), and SomaFM has a terrific ambient audio feed going. Godspeed!

Dalai Lama receives human rights award from Amnesty International

[iPhone snapshot above: Xeni Jardin; illustration inset, Shepard Fairey.]

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was in Long Beach, California this morning to accept the inaugural edition of a "Shine a Light on Human Rights" award from Amnesty International.

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EDGE World Question 2011: "What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?"


Each year, über-big-think-literary-agent and EDGE founder John Brockman poses a question, and collects and publishes the answers. This year:

The term 'scientific"is to be understood in a broad sense as the most reliable way of gaining knowledge about anything, whether it be the human spirit, the role of great people in history, or the structure of DNA. A "scientific concept" may come from philosophy, logic, economics, jurisprudence, or other analytic enterprises, as long as it is a rigorous conceptual tool that may be summed up succinctly (or "in a phrase") but has broad application to understanding the world.
My response to the EDGE 2011 Question is here ("Ambient Memory And The Myth Of Neutral Observation").

Here is the index of all participants, more than 150 of them, including Brian Eno, J. Craig Venter, George Dyson, Kevin Kelly, Clay Shirky, Evgeny Morozov, Linda Stone, and Richard Dawkins (who will be returning soon as a Boing Boing guestblogger, I'm happy to report!).

News coverage so far includes: The Atlantic, Wired UK, New York Times, Sueddeutsche Zeitung , Newsweek, Die Welt, The Guardian , Publico.

(Image: RUDBECKIA, Katinka Matson)

Discussing Wikipedia's first decade on The Takeaway, 7:20am Eastern

For you early risers, I'll be discussing the tenth anniversary of Wikipedia with John Hockenberry on The Takeaway at 7:20 am Eastern time. Check your local listings or the live stream. Here's the show archive. The producers made a fun listener quiz for the occasion. Happy anniversary, Wikipedia!

State of the World 2011: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky

Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky have once again produced a beginning-of-the-year "State of the World" conversation, their eleventh annual edition on The Well.

Tim Berners-Lee: Web's Not Dead

LONG LIVE THE WEB: Tim Berners-Lee's inspiring, call-to-arms essay on why the web matters now more than ever, and what we must do to defend the principles of openness and interoperability at its heart.

John Brockman's "Edge: Serpentine Map Marathon" (UPDATE: Now with more Boing!)

Image (click for large): The map of the genome of the first synthetic cell
J. Craig Venter: Genome Scientist, J. Craig Venter Institute; Author, A Life Decoded

From the Serpentine Map Marathon. John Brockman writes:

Three years ago, Edge collaborated with The Serpentine Gallery in London in a program of "table-top experiments" as part of the Serpentine's Experiment Marathon . This live event was featured along with the Edge/Serpentine collaboration: "What Is Your Formula? Your Equation? Your Algorithm? Formulae For the 21st Century."

Hans Ulrich Obrist, curator of the Serpentine, has invited Edge to collaborate in his latest project, The Serpentine Map Marathon, Saturday and Sunday, 16 - 17 October, at Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AR (Map).

The multi-dimensional Map Marathon features non-stop live presentations by over 50 artists, poets, writers, philosophers, scholars, musicians, architects, designers and scientists. The two-day event takes place in London during Frieze Art Fair week. The event features maps by Edge contributors, and an Edge panel of Lewis Wopert, Armand Leroi, and John Brockman, on Sunday (17 October) 1:15pm-2:15pm. The gallery is a work-in-progress. We are posting Edge Maps as they are received.Information Technology, Genetics, Neurobiology, Psychology, Engineering, Chemistry of Materials (yes, even the chemistry of materials. We are made of matter, and therefore any effect on what we are or we will also become the chemistry of the elements that we are made or not?). All these matters, pertaining to domains that are essential for understanding what "means" to be "human."

The whole collection is here, and more about the project here. Contributors whose works are included so far include Eduardo Salcedo-Albaran; Lewis Wolpert; Armand Leroi; Kai Krause; Tim Berners-Lee; Sean Carroll; Douglas Rushkoff; Marina Abramovic; Joan Chiao; Nicholas A. Christakis and James Fowler; Emanuel Derman; Jennifer Jacquet; Joel Gold; J. Craig Venter; Gino Segre; Bruce Sterling; Laurence C. Smith; Cesar Hildago; Bryan Hunt; George Dyson; Brian Knutson; Matthew Ritchie; Neri Oxman; George F. Smoot; James Croak; John Baldessari; Dimitar Sasselov; Dave McKean; Carlo Ratti; and Nicholas Humphrey.

Update: A Boing Boing map is now in the mix.

CycLAvia attracts over 100,000 cyclists to car-free Los Angeles streets

Beginning of CicLAvia

If you'd told me a year ago that the City of Los Angeles would close off almost 8 miles of primary city streets to let cyclists have free rein for a day I never would have believed it. If I hadn't seen it actually happen with my own eyes yesterday, I'd still be suspicious. But it's true: thanks to the amazing efforts of the die-hard volunteers behind the project, yesterday the first ever CycLAvia (a riff on the South American Ciclovía idea) took place and some 100,000 residents took to their bikes and got a glimpse of what the city might be like if at least some parts of it were car-free.

As an avid cyclist living in LA, I've long said this is an amazing city to bike in and that it takes on a whole new life when you see it from a bicycle. But most often the reaction I get from non-cyclists is that I must be crazy to ride a bike in LA. I'm not, and judging by the photos on flickr and reactions on twitter a ton of people now see the city a little differently. With any luck this is just the first of many upcoming bike-friendly events in the city. I know I can't wait to see where this leads! (Follow @Cyclavia for future details)

Photos by Tara Brown and Jory Felice

Will the Duggars Inherit the Earth?

In which I am inspired by a snarky comment on another blog.

My normal routine involves a fair amount of procrastination, but I tell myself that's OK (really), because sometimes it leads to work ideas.

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Collecting Solar Power, the Black Hole Way

Not pictured: A convenient terrestrial solar panel. Image from thebadastronomer Flickr stream, via CC.

Light can't escape a black hole. Some people look at this fact and get the shudders. Others think, "Hey, that would make a really effective solar panel!"

Or, rather, it might if not for that whole "massive, crushing force of gravity" problem. MIT's Technology Review has a neat piece about scientists trying get around that minor hiccup. They're working with light-distorting metamaterials, the stuff you frequently see written up in stories about the coming of futuristic cloaking devices, alongside references to Harry Potter's invisibility cloak. But instead of bending light around the metamaterial, these researchers are focusing on a weirder--and, in my opinion, much cooler--goal.

...a metamaterial that distorts space so severely that light entering it (in this case microwaves) cannot escape.Their black hole consists of 60 layers of printed circuit board arranged in concentric circles (see picture below). The printed circuit boards are coated in a thin layer of copper from which Qiang and Tie have etched two types of pattern that either resonate at microwave frequency or do not. They've measured microwaves at 18 GHz going in and none coming out. And the circular symmetry of their metamaterial means that the microwaves are absorbed in all directions at once.

There you have it: The light-capturing power of a black hole, without the teeny inconvenience of being smooshed. Incorporate the material in solar collectors, and you could end up with a much more efficient way of harnessing the sun for energy.

What You Still Don't Know About You

After however many years of living, do you still have things about yourself, who you are and how your brain works that you don't entirely understand? To celebrate their 150th issue, the email version of The British Psychological Society's Research Digest asked 23 top psychologists to write 150 words on their nagging questions about themselves. From human consciousness, to death and forgiveness, to the dark Dalek-y corners of the mind, the answers are a great read--and an excellent place to jump into asking similar questions about ourselves.

I know. I know. That's awfully heavy for a Monday. So, for the excerpt here, we'll go with Richard Wiseman's answer, about the nature of humor:

I have no idea why I occasionally think funny things. For example, the other day I was watching the film "District 9", which is about an alien race known as "prawns", and thought "I wonder if the alien in charge is called a king prawn?". I would be the first to admit that it was not the world's greatest joke, but still, where did that moderately amusing idea come from? And why are some people so skilled at creating funny stuff, whilst others wouldn't recognise a proverbial custard pie, even if it hit them in the face? My guess is that the creation of comedy will remain a mystery for centuries, although at some point in the not too distant future, I suspect someone will carry out functional MRI scans of comedians creating jokes, and claim to have identified the part of the brain responsible for producing humour. Now, that will be funny.

Radio Free Africa

"Freedom of expression and of thought was not invented by the West. It has existed in traditional societies -- even primitive ones -- for centuries. Human progress would not have been possible without it. I'm saying this as a black African from Ghana because today around the world, we have 'educated' barbarians who want to suppress this freedom by arresting and jailing dissidents, writers, journalists and those they disagree with."
-- George Ayittey on the BBC, September 20, 2009.

Ayittey, whose famed "cheetahs vs. hippos" TED speech I've blogged before, is co-founder of an inspired new project called Radio Free Africa. (thanks, Emeka Okafor)

Two Muslim guys photo-blog 30 NYC mosques in 30 days


The "30 mosques in 30 days" blog documents Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq's "Ramadan journey through NYC's Muslim Community." It's a really neat project, and ends on September 19th (the last day in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan). Snip from one post, each one is about a different mosque, all are delightful.

After the dhikr session, we broke our fast with dixie cups of water and prayed. The imam's recitation was incredible. This may sound hokey, but his voice sounded a lot like a perfect pitch violin, the way his voice glided seamlessly from letter to letter in his recitation. You couldn't help but close your eyes and take it all in. (...)

After a few minutes of breaking the ice, I mentioned the word "Call of Duty 4" and immediately a group of kids swarmed me. We had a blast during dinner cracking jokes. One thing I really love is seeing younger kids come to mosques because they genuinely enjoy being there, not because they are dragged by their parents. Its kids like these that make me feel good about where the Muslim community as a whole is headed in this country.

(via @ethanz via Global Voices)

Boing Boing's September 11, 2001 archives.

Very early that morning, as the smoke was rising, Boing Boing re-blogged this eyewitness account by Teresa Nielsen Hayden:
I just climbed back down from my Brooklyn rooftop. An airplane has flown into the World Trade Towers. There's thick black smoke billowing out of several floors of both towers. Let me pause for a moment to say with all the lucidity I can muster that it is the strangest sight I have ever seen in my life.

I can hear the sirens of multiple emergency vehicles, 360 degrees around. There were people on other rooftops in my neighborhood, some of them talking on their cellphones. Down in the street below me a workman was shouting in some language other than English for the rest of his work crew to come out of the house they're renovating and see what's happening. I couldn't make out a word of it, but there was no mistaking the sense.

Patrick called from the office. He says from where I'm standing I can't see the big hole in the side of one tower.

And Cory wrote:
The Internet's major news sites have been shut down by a massive flood of traffic as everyone in the world calls and emails everyone else in the world to tell them the news. God, this feels so apocalyptic. Five people have just called me to tell me about this, and more -- all flights in the US have been grounded, the Pentagon's been hit, the flights were hijacked commercial airliners... Holy crap.
And Mark linked to this prescient piece by Dan Gillmor:
What happened on Tuesday was an act of war. The American government and military should and will respond in kind. If law enforcement and national security agencies declare war on the American people in the process, they will give the terrorists a gift. The despicable people who planned this will triumph if we add to the damage.
On 9/11, Boing Boing linked to this, from John Perry Barlow:
Control freaks will dine on this day for the rest of our lives. Within a few hours, we will see beginning the most vigorous efforts to end what remains of freedom in America. Those of who are willing to sacrifice a little - largely illusory - safety in order to maintain our faith in the original ideals of America will have to fight for those ideals just as vigorously.
Boing Boing: September 11, 2001.

Space Shuttle scheduled to land near LA this evening, big sonic boom expected

Update, 5:55pm PDT: Heard just now on Mission Control audio: "Home! (...) Welcome home Discovery, after a successful mission, stepping up science to a new level on the International Space Station." A beautiful touchdown at 5:53pm PDT, and damn tootin' we heard (and felt) the twin booms here in LA.

Southern California BB readers, here's your evening forecast: breezy with a chance of BEWMMMM! Expect a large sonic boom between 530-555pm PDT this evening if you're in one of the colored areas in the map embedded at left (click to see large size).

That's when the Space Shuttle Discovery is scheduled to land at Edwards Air Force Base out in Mojave, instead of KSC in Florida (due to sketchy weather back east). Snip from LA Times item:

The so-called "deorbit burn" is scheduled to begin at 4:47 p.m. PDT for a 5:53 p.m. landing at Edwards in the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles, according to details published on NASA's website. The second opportunity for leaving orbit will come at 6:23 p.m., ending with a landing at 7:28 p.m.
The mission to deliver supplies and equipment to the International Space Station lasted 2 weeks and spanned 5.7 million miles. More: LA Times, NASA "Landing Blog."

Wooo! The deorbit burn is beginning as I type this blog post. Snip:

Discovery's orbital maneuvering system engines are firing now. This two-minute, 35-second deorbit burn will slow the orbiter's forward speed by about 267 feet per second, enough to begin its descent through the atmosphere.

Update: Sonic boom + unsuspecting dog = the video below (via @caseymckinnon via @georgeruiz).


From a 2001 story in New York magazine written a couple of weeks after the attacks, by David Carr:

# Everyone who comes after will never understand.
Not a new brand of New York provincialism but a cold fact. This is the place where the world seemed to end in a single morning. That day, as it was experienced here, was not televised.

# The jumpers will always be with us.
Faced with the most horrible of all human choices, the kind of riddle that grade-school children use to torture each other, many leaped rather than burn. And as the debris falling from the top anthropomorphized into human beings, people watching understood that for the time being, we were all beyond help. "I don't remember faces, just bodies jumping out," says Alexandra Rethore, a second-year analyst at Lehman Brothers. "And the girl next to me was hysterical. She kept saying, 'They're catching them, right?' I said, 'Yeah, they're catching them. Let's go.' " It was a noble act, a message to loved ones: "I'm gone but not lost. I'm still here. Find me."

18 Truths About the New New York (New York, 10-2001)

Worth reading today:
A Fortress City That Didn't Come to Be (NYT, 09-2009)
What Would 9-11 Be Like in the Age of Social Media? (LA Weekly, 09-2009)

Picture 13.jpg

Picture 14.jpg

Infographic: Hierarchy of Digital Distractions


The Hierarchy Of Digital Distractions: levels of digital activity, visualized. (by David McCandless, via Scott Beale)

City of San Francisco promises to "open its data" with

San Franscisco Mayor Gavin Newsom today announced the beta launch of, a website designed as a clearinghouse for the City of San Francisco's public data. TechCrunch has this launch statement from the mayor. Here's a snip:
The new web site will provide a clearinghouse of structured, raw and machine-readable government data to the public in an easily downloadable format. For example, there will be updated crime incident data from the police department and restaurant inspection data from the Department of Public Health. The initial phase of the web site includes more than 100 datasets, from a range of city departments, including Police, Public Works, and the Municipal Transportation Agency.

We imagine creative developers taking apartment listings and city crime data and mashing it up to help renters find their next home or an iPhone application that shows restaurant ratings based on health code violations.

And here's a related item on a Gov 2.0, an O'Reilly/Techweb event/website devoted to topics of government IT.

It's a great idea, but I'm not clear on how much of this is a PR stunt, and how much is actually more open access than citizens had before the site launched. Perhaps those who've examined the actual data being offered can weigh in, in the BB comments.

I live in Los Angeles, and I hope the powers-that-be down here are watching. I'd love to see our city open data to more public access, and scrutiny. For instance, the LAPD crime maps website is great in concept, but poorly executed (not to mention the horrible data omissions). I can think of many services I'd like to see built with city data here in my home town. (via @laughingsquid)

Twitpocalypse: "Open Source Twitter" proposed as antidote to Twitter's DDOS vulnerability


Twitter and Facebook were paralyzed this past week by DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks. As I understand it, those attacks are still ongoing. In this Wired Epicenter blog post by Eliot Van Buskirk, open source advocates propose that the only real solution to this vulnerability is to engage in another DDOS: "distributed delivery of service." As Bittorent is to filesharing, the thinking goes, so would an open microblogging network be to 140-character thought-blips.

“The total failure of Twitter during the DDoS attacks highlights the fact that, with Twitter, we're relying on a single service for mass communication of this type,” said open microblogging supporter and Ektron CTO Bill Cava. “Most everyone understands it's ridiculous to expect one service to provide email support to the world. The same is true for micro messaging. The reality is, it can’t and won’t continue this way for too much longer.”

The OpenMicroBlogging standard already exists -- it’s just that Twitter’s not playing along, possibly because it could lose market share if the open standard succeeds before it manages to monetize its service. One platform that adheres to the Open MicroBlogging (OMB) standard is, an open-source Twitter-style network launched by on July 2 of last year (others include OpenMicroBlogger and Google’s Jaiku)., which seems to have gained more traction than the other two OMB platforms, forms the backbone of — an open-source Twitter clone with features Twitter lacks (image uploading, trackbacks, native video playback, OpenID) that lets you post updates to its own network as well as Twitter and Facebook. will soon add the ability to follow Twitter and Facebook feeds using the corresponding APIs, so users will soon be able to make their default short messaging communications hub -- even if those services won’t use the open standard.

Open Source 'Twitter' Could Fend Off the Next Twitpocalypse ( Epicenter blog, thanks, Matt Katz)

Warren Ellis: "The future is small."

In this month's Wired UK, Warren Ellis waxes apocalyptopoetic about tiny transportation systems as a thing of future beauty:
Designing a transport hub for the loading and traffic flow of pharma capsules built to deliver drugs directly into the heart of cancer tumours, using carbon fullerenes and working on the nanoscale, where communication between building and vehicle will have to be conducted via coded protein transfer because you’re below the limit at which radio waves can be transmitted or received.

I’d call it an intron depot, after the book by Masamune Shirow. But an intron, science assures me, is a chunk of DNA within a gene that doesn’t code into protein, so maybe that wouldn’t fit so well. But that could well be a real problem to solve – design me an intron depot so I can manage the traffic flow of nanoscopic drug delivery cars. I’m trying to imagine the nature of the computing required to oversee artificial traffic within the human body, when we can’t yet control traffic in Birmingham.

I almost wish the scene would be like the Combined Miniature Deterrent Forces in the 60s film Fantastic Voyage. America’s finest scientists and soldiers being driven around a weird, vast Brutalist underground base in electric golf carts, working to reduce submarines to microscopic size in great disco-floored scientific halls. But that’s a problem of the future: the future isn’t big any more. The future’s small.

"The future isn't big anymore. The future is small" (, via @warrenellis)

Rushkoff: "Google's War On The PC"

Doug Rushkoff is bullish on Google's plans to launch a Chrome OS (I blogged the news here on Boing Boing last night).

Snip from his essay today in The Daily Beast:

In a sense, Google is just bringing computing back to the way it was supposed to be. When Steve Jobs toured Xerox PARC and saw computers running the first operating system that used windows and a mouse, he assumed he was looking at a new way to work a personal computer. He brought the concept back to Cupertino and created the Mac, then Bill Gates followed suit, and the rest is history.

What Jobs didn't happen to notice was that the computer operating system he witnessed and copied wasn't meant as a way to organize the software and data on a single machine--it was actually a way for computers on a network to share resources. Not only files, but the software to work with them. The computers themselves were to be just dummies--terminals from which to run software and access files that were stored on someone else's expensive computer.

Instead, our operating systems have moved away from sharing and towards ownership. We buy a big powerful machine and do everything on it ourselves. This suits software and hardware companies just fine: they create new, bloated programs that require more disk space and processing power. We buy bigger, faster computers, which then require more complex operating systems, and so on. (It's as if the car companies and asphalt industry worked together, building roads that required new kinds of cars, and then cars that required new kinds of roads.)

Google's War On The PC (Daily Beast)

Rushkoff is also the author of the recently-released book Life, Inc..

Google announces Chrome Operating System, open-source Windows competitor

Nine months after having launched the Chrome web browser, Google just now announced the Google Chrome Operating System, "an attempt to re-think what operating systems should be." Google plans to offer the OS for use on a wide array of devices in about a year. Snip from the official Google Blog:
Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we're already talking to partners about the project, and we'll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.

Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We're designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.

Introducing the Google Chrome OS

Social media in times of political crisis: six "lessons learned"

In the New York Times, this thoughtful piece by Noam Cohen on the links between online communication tools and political crises -- namely, the ongoing turmoil in Iran:
# Tweets Are Generally Banal, but Watch Out

"The qualities that make Twitter seem inane and half-baked are what makes it so powerful," says Jonathan Zittrain, a Harvard law professor who is an expert on the Internet. That is, tweets by their nature seem trivial, with little that is original or menacing. Even Twitter accounts seen as promoting the protest movement in Iran are largely a series of links to photographs hosted on other sites or brief updates on strategy. Each update may not be important. Collectively, however, the tweets can create a personality or environment that reflects the emotions of the moment and helps drive opinion.

# Buyer Beware

Nothing on Twitter has been verified. While users can learn from experience to trust a certain Twitter account, it is still a matter of trust. And just as Twitter has helped get out first-hand reports from Tehran, it has also spread inaccurate information, perhaps even disinformation. An article published by the Web site True/Slant highlighted some of the biggest errors on Twitter that were quickly repeated and amplified by bloggers: that three million protested in Tehran last weekend (more like a few hundred thousand); that the opposition candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi was under house arrest (he was being watched); that the president of the election monitoring committee declared the election invalid last Saturday (not so).

Twitter on the Barricades (New York Times)

Rushkoff on Apple fanboy rage at Steve Jobs for having the audacity to have had a liver transplant

"Life, Inc." author and former BB guestblogger Doug Rushkoff has a piece up on Daily Beast about the fanboy fallout over recent news of Steve Jobs' liver transplant:
Feel better Steve, but what about me? I mean, I know cancer surgery is no picnic, but what does the possibility that you'll reject your new liver mean for my Apple share price? Or my iTunes collection? Should I be converting it all to MP3? I just got a friggin' iPhone - what if you leave us before my five-year contract with AT&T ends? I made a commitment...How about you?

Sorry, but that's the emotional current underlying nearly all of the coverage I'm seeing about the Apple founder's just-revealed liver transplant operation in Tennessee for his metastasized neuroendocrine tumor. It's not what I expected from the Apple community, but perhaps it does serve as the most accurate expression of where the once-renegade personal-computer company has ended up.

To buy an Apple product is to bet on the longevity of the closed system to which we've committed ourselves. And that system is embodied--through marketing as much as talent--by Steve Jobs.

"He said all he needed was a little rest!" one commenter on the Fortune magazine Web site complained. "This is bullshit." On Bloomberg, all the talk is about share price, Apple's chronically cryptic and delayed press releases on Jobs' health, and whether this deputy Tim Cook is capable of taking the helm. Such "me-first" sensibilities don't fit with the highly humanized, creative individuals celebrated in Apple's early commercials--but rather the cultish consumers and shareholders that those commercials, and the products, actually succeeded in generating.

Apple's Army of Whiners

Rushkoff on "The Great Facebook Land Grab of Aught-Nine"

At one minute past midnight Eastern Time this Saturday, Facebook users will be permitted to claim a unique user name, which may well spark a virtual vanity landgrab the likes of which we've never seen. Author and former BB guestblogger Douglas Rushkoff says this is the moment when Facebook becomes obsolete.

This is more than 200 million users, already engaged, simultaneously scrambling in the greatest territory dash since the Oklahoma Territory's land run of 1889, albeit with fewer shotgun injuries.

But Facebook's new page-naming scheme actually brings up other memories for me, ones that hold bigger stakes for the company itself. It reminds me of the moment that AOL, formerly a completely closed network with its own content, allowed its users onto the greater Internet for the first time. Internet USENET boards were filled with what we called "newbies" wandering around and asking anyone they could find how to download pornography. Formerly high-level conversations were quickly brought down to the lowest common denominator as a huge population of people uninitiated in basic Internet etiquette flooded the networks faster than we could educate them.

The impact was far worse for AOL. By opening itself to the greater Internet, AOL revealed itself as something of a wading pool. A mini-Internet. Once people could use AOL as a portal to the true, unadulterated, global net, the company was reduced to an ISP. AOL became series of phone numbers you dial to get online, and little more. Steve Case knew his moment was over, and used his inflated stock price to purchase some real assets like Time Warner. We all know how that turned out.

The Facebook Land Grab (Daily Beast)

Astronaut Reaches Mt. Everest Summit (BB Video Update)

(Download MP4 / Watch on YouTube)

UPDATE: Astronaut Scott Parazynski, the astronaut whose climb we followed in yesterday's episode of Boing Boing Video with Miles O'Brien, has reached the summit of Mt. Everest! Read more about their trumphant ascent here, including the GPS devices they're using to track and publish the effort. He tried this last year, but was injured when he was very, very close to reaching the summit -- so this success, a year later, is all the more sweet. Congrats, Scott!

BB Video: "Ninja Assassin" - John Gaeta on Hybrid Entertainment Merging Film and Games.

(Download this video: MP4, or watch on YouTube)

In today's episode of Boing Boing Video (sponsored by, in partnership with Intel and Asus), Academy Award winning visual effects guru John Gaeta (Matrix, Speed Racer) offers a sneak peek inside his newest project, Ninja Assassin.

Along the way, we explore a broader realm of questions about the future of games, movies, and interactive entertainment. Will movies become more like games, offering new ways for us to insert ourselves inside the stories? Who will create them, using what tools, and how will the experience be different? Will computer-generated actors replace human actors, or stunt persons -- or will the two realms overlap in ways we can't yet predict? All of this we ask of the guy who invented "bullet time."

Due in theaters this fall, director James McTeigue's Ninja Assassin follows the story of Raizo (played by Asian mega-popstar Rain), one of the world's most deadly assassins. As Gaeta explains in this video, the movie merges blindingly badass Bruce-Lee-esque martial arts stunt work with tastefully integrated post processing work.

Below, and after the jump, a partial transcription of the longer conversation we had about the future of interactivity and "hybrid entertainment" -- and why Hollywood is, in Gaeta's words, "like a mule."

This interview took place during our live coverage of the 2009 Game Developers Conference, and many of the questions I pose were taken directly from our live chat audience.

Xeni Jardin: John, your involvement in "Ninja Assassin" was a little different than in "Speed Racer" and the "Matrix" films, where you were the lead visual effects designer.

John Gaeta: Ninja Assassin was directed by James McTeigue, who directed "V for Vendetta." It's sort of a family tradition of the Wachowskis to help James in parallel with other odd films. After "Speed Racer" was completed, we went back to Berlin and decided to make this super psycho horror ninja movie. Supremo stunts and martial arts. We're friends with the action design firm 87eleven, they've worked alongside Wu Ping for many years, after the "Matrix" Trilogy they did "Kill Bill," "300," they're fantastic. It was really their show. They were told they could be very creative and so they were. Lots of inventions!

Xeni: What was your role?

Gaeta: I didn't want to miss it because it seemed like it would be very fun. I was only helping out with some special unit directing, but no visual effects for me personally.

"Ninja" is surprisingly invisible on effects work, and intentionally so. No virtual humans in this one. The only real post processing comes from heavily stylistic color grading, think graphic tones like "Se7en," compositing and some CG weapons and blood augmentation. But this film shines brightest for the martial arts team. To put it another way -- it's old school.

There is far more going on in this movie with respect to "stunts technology" and innovation with respect to specialized and "next gen" rigs and flying machines.

Xeni: You are known for visual effects in motion pictures, but every time you and I have spoken, there's this idea of hybrid entertainment that comes up. Can you tell me more about what you're doing there?

Gaeta: I'm curious about possible destinations where there's crossover with regard to simulation cinema, "sim cinema," ways of creating elaborate trapdoors and portals between different mediums. Also, over the years, there are strange subgroups from the visual world like Douglas Trumbull -- I used to work for him many years ago -- their passion went beyond cinema to immersive content. Virtual reality, perhaps games, are a step toward that -- so are other methods of surrounding people with an experience. There are a lot of interesting progressions going on with immersive cinema, immersive entertainment, hybridizing the two.

(Interview continues after the jump)

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Nathan Wolfe, "Hunting for the Next Killer Virus" - TED video

From the TED archive, a new video:
Virus hunter Nathan Wolfe is outwitting the next pandemic by staying two steps ahead: discovering new, deadly viruses where they first emerge -- passing from animals to humans among poor subsistence hunters in Africa -- before they claim millions of lives.

Armed with blood samples, high-tech tools and a small army of fieldworkers, Nathan Wolfe hopes to re-invent pandemic control -- and reveal hidden secrets of the planet's dominant lifeform: the virus.

TED Talks: Nathan Wolfe (thanks, Jason Wishnow)