Nanohazard symbol design competition

Have a peruse at the 54 pages (and counting) worth of entries in this "Design a Nanohazard Logo" competition. Then, add your own! Link (via Beyond the Beyond) Read the rest

Free muni WiFi forces local monopoly to improve

Competition from a free municipal WiFi network in Lawrence, KS (a one-ISP town) has forced the local monopoly into providing a competing free service:
Lawrence has been touted nationally as the "land that anti-trust forgot". It is one of the few cities in America where one company owns the cable provider, cable news channel, daily newspaper, online news journal, weekly independent and most popular website. What keeps this media machine running smoothly? Broadband Internet revenue. According to Ralph Gage, former Chief Operating Officer of The World Company, 53 percent of the World Company’s annual revenue was generated by broadband Internet access.

"What better place to start a municipal WiFi project," jokes Joshua Montgomery, founder of the Lawrence Freenet Project and CEO of the organization’s for-profit service provider, "I mean what could possibly go wrong?" The Lawrence Freenet municipal WiFi project was launched in April of 2005 by a small group of local geeks. "Mostly we just wanted to see what we could do with Wi-Fi," says Montgomery, "we started off with a $50 WiFi access point and a DSL connection. Now the organization has one of the largest mesh networks in the nation and serves over 1,100 members with broadband Internet access – all without a single dime of tax payer money."

Link (Thanks, Offlogic!) Read the rest

Meraki free mesh WiFi network spreading across San Francisco

Evan sez, "Meraki makes it brain dead simple to share wi-fi and pushes it out to massive scale at super low costs. The result is free wi-fi across areas much bigger than previously feasible by individuals, and at much lower cost and subject to much lower red tape than previous municipal wi-fi projects."
Free the Net is a community-built network. Meraki provides the technology, but we rely on people to help build and grow. There are a number of ways you can help:

* If you can see the Free the Net signal, sign up for a free repeater to boost your signal. * Volunteer to host an outdoor repeater on your roof or balcony. The outdoor units help spread the signal throughout your neighborhood and are critical to the growth of the network. * Spread the word! Tell your friends and neighbors to sign up at * Check out the network map and keep yourself up-to-date on our progress.

Link to project, Link to map Read the rest

EDGE Question 2008: What have you changed your mind about?

I've been traveling in Central America for the past few weeks, so I'm late on blogging a number of things -- including this. Each year,'s John Brockman asks a new question, and a bunch of tech/sci/internet folks reply. This year's question: What have you changed your mind about?
Science is based on evidence. What happens when the data change? How have scientific findings or arguments changed your mind?

I was one of the 165 participants, and wrote about what I learned from Boing Boing's community experiments, under the guidance of our community manager Teresa Nielsen Hayden: Link to "Online Communities Rot Without Daily Tending By Human Hands."

Here's a partial link-list of my favorite contributions from others:

Tor Nørretranders, W. Daniel Hillis, Ray Kurzweil, David Gelernter, Kai Krause, Clay Shirky, J. Craig Venter, Simon Baron-Cohen, Jaron Lanier, Martin Rees, Esther Dyson, Brian Eno, Yossi Vardi, Tim O'Reilly, Chris Anderson, Rupert Sheldrake, Daniel C. Dennett, Aubrey de Grey, Nicholas Carr, Linda Stone, George Dyson,Steven Pinker, Alan Alda, Stewart Brand, Sherry Turkle, Rudy Rucker, Freeman Dyson, Douglas Rushkoff .
Read the rest

Sky belt-trains of tomorrow, 1932

The Endless Belt Trains for Futuristic Cities described in the November, 1932 ish of Modern Mechanix is one of my all-time favorite tomorrows of yesterday -- a world run on rails, rising high above the city, slicing through it with arrow-straight, improbable lines:
Passengers board the first local train at any point, and it stops every 50 seconds for a period of 10 seconds. When the doors close, a gong sounds and the local platform starts moving. Now there is another signal and gates open for a second platform, or express, on which the passenger takes the major part of his trip. After ten seconds the gates close and the local slows down for another stop, while the express picks up to a 22 m.p.h. speed.

Noise of the system is at a minimum, and passengers are delivered at no more than 300 feet from their streets. All stations are controlled from one central point, all elements being so timed that there can be no hitches.

Link Read the rest

Physics of Information: great panel discussion

Last week on CBC Radio's national science program, Quirks and Quarks, they broadcast a recording of a fascinating panel discussion on "The Physics of Information: What the Universe Doesn't Want You to Know," held at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario. In this wide-ranging discussion a panel of distinguished and likable physicists run down such subjects as the universe as a computer, quantum teleportation, the fundamentals of information science, The panelists were in a state of near-hilarity through much of the the event, and that only made the subject better. Included on the panel were: Dr. Leonard Susskind (Stanford), Dr. Seth Lloyd (MIT), Dr. Christopher Fuchs (UNM), Sir Anthony Leggett (Urbana-Champaign), and the moderator, Bob McDonald, host of Quirks and Quarks.
The Physics of Information was the topic of a recent public forum, sponsored by Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, and moderated by Bob McDonald. And Quirks was there to record the event. Do ideas about information and reality inspire fruitful new approaches to the hardest problems of modern physics? What can we learn about the paradoxes of quantum mechanics, the beginning of the universe and our understanding of black holes, by thinking about the very essence of information? Those are some of the questions our panel tackled.
Link, Link to MP3, Link to podcast feed Read the rest

Skyscraper airport of tomorrow, 1939

This November, 1939 Popular Science article fantasizes about a futuristic "skyscraper airport" for the "city of tomorrow." Pretty good predictions, except they missed the whole no-shoes, no-liquid, no-dignity policy. Link Read the rest

Mitsubishi's elevator-testing tower

Mitsubishi has erected a tall, skinny, hollow tower filled with elevator shafts for testing high-speed lifts:
The 173m-high (567ft) structure is called Solae and dominates the skyline of Inazawa City...

The 5bn-yen ($50m;£25m) project will allow Mitsubishi to test new drives, gears, cables and other lift systems.

Link (Thanks, Geoff!) Read the rest

Video of rotating boat wheel

Scotland's Falkirk wheel is a $34.8 million engineering marvel. It's a rotating elevator for boats, and is fun to watch in action. Link Read the rest

Frank and immoral advice for nonprofits

Destiny sez, "At a Craigslist Foundation conference in San Francisco, Oakland lawyer-turned fundraiser Van Jones stole the show with an inspiring speech of surprisingly frank tips that are 'counter-intuitive and probably immoral' for non-profits. #3 is simply 'Don't Lie.'"
There is something about the relationship between the not-for-profit sector, the government, the foundations, and the donors that creates a massive incentive to lie -- flagrantly, and often.

And it's not just a one-sided thing. The relationship between not-for-profits and foundations is like the relationship between teenagers and parents. You don't really want to tell them everything that's going on, and they don't really want to know. So there's this dance of deceit, shall we say.

"What'd you do this weekend?" "Oh... Studied! With my friends."

And the parents say 'Good! So glad to hear that!' Because they don't want to know. And so what do you say?

"How did the year go?" "We had success after success! All goals were met, and a good time was had by all."

And what was there left to say? 'Good! Good!' They don't want to know....

I met Van last summer and was absolutely blown away -- he's a smart, committed, incredibly effective activist who's funny, personable and convincing as hell. Link (Thanks, Destiny!) Read the rest

Trade court allows Antigua to violate US copyright

Antigua has won the right to pirate $21 million worth of US copyrights in the World Trade Court, because the US violated the World Trade Organization agreement when it banned Antiguan Internet casinos. The US was an extremely aggressive promoter of the WTO around the world, leaning on countries to drop trade protections that gave their own industries advantages over US competitors -- and now the US is being held to the same standard, hoist on its own petard.
By pressing its claim, trade lawyers said, Antigua could set a precedent for other countries to sue the United States for unfair trade practices, potentially opening the door to electronic piracy and other dubious practices around the world.

Still, carrying out the ruling will prove difficult, the lawyers say.

"Even if Antigua goes ahead with an act of piracy or the refusal to allow the registration of a trademark, the question still remains of how much that act is worth," said Brendan McGivern, a trade lawyer with White & Case in Geneva.

"The Antiguans could say that's worth $50,000, and then the U.S. might say that's worth $5 million." He predicted that "the U.S. is going to dog them on every step of the way."

Link (Thanks, Lee and Robbo!) Read the rest

Blog future vs NYT future: none of the above!

Five years ago, Dave Winer made a "long bet" with New York Times executive Martin Nisenholtz: "In a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 2007, weblogs will rank higher than the New York Times' Web site."

Five years later, Rogers Cadenhead has done the math and concludes that blogs are edging out the Times (but that other mainstream media outlets are beating both of them -- thanks to the NYT having squandered the golden years of cheap googlejuice acquisition by erecting a registration and paywall on their content, causing them to fall behind less well-known, but more readily linked news-sources).

Most interesting of all is that Wikipedia (only a year old in 2002) is clobbering both of them -- more proof that the future is weirder than we can know. In 2002, it seemed like the two choices were "amateurs you trust" or "unbiased, accurate, and coherent" information from an "authoritative source." In reality, the third, unforeseen choice was "a horde of nameless, faceless amateurs who are not required to prove expertise in the subjects they cover."

Whenever someone asks you which of two futures you think is more likely, your best bet is always "none of the above." Link (via Kottke) Read the rest

Lakota Natives Withdraw Treaties with U.S.

Johnny says:
The Lakota Indians, who gave the world legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with the United States, leaders said Wednesday. Lakota country includes parts of the states of Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.

The new country would issue its own passports and driving licenses, and living there would be tax-free -- provided residents renounce their US citizenship.

"We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us," long-time Indian rights activist Russell Means told a handful of reporters and a delegation from the Bolivian embassy, gathered in a church in a run-down neighborhood of Washington for a news conference.

A delegation of Lakota leaders delivered a message to the State Department on Monday, announcing they were unilaterally withdrawing from treaties they signed with the federal government of the United States, some of them more than 150 years old.

They also visited the Bolivian, Chilean, South African and Venezuelan embassies, and will continue on their diplomatic mission and take it overseas in the coming weeks and months, they told the news conference.

Link Read the rest

Psychic gramophone of 1932

From the November, 1932 issue of Modern Mechanix, this skeptical account of a telepath-powered gramaphone!
Major Raymond Phillips, O.M.E., late member of the Inter-Allied Commission of Control, claims to have evolved apparatus which will cause a gramaphone or kettle to function entirely by will power.

Major Phillips explains that the human body acts as an earth and the constant capacity is maintained within three yards of the apparatus. A momentary pause in the flow to earth through the body–produced entirely by mind concentration–is followed by an upward surge of sufficient intensity to cause a series of relays to operate.

That’s the story. You can take it or leave it. We have a sneaking suspicion that somebody is being kidded.

Link Read the rest

Broken Powerbooks read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas'

Carl sez, "The people who make up Public.Resource.Org have traditionally tried to do something fun and new at Christmas. This year, we're pleased to present a bunch of broken Powerbooks reading 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.; The Crippled Macintosh Rehabilitation Choir is reading from our original 1994 production of Clement Clark Moore's classic tale. Link (Thanks, Carl!) Read the rest

Defense technology holiday gift guide

Noah Shachtman points us to the Wired DANGER ROOM holiday gift guide.

The Pentagon is burning billions, to equip the soldier of the future. With DANGER ROOM's holiday gift guide, you can spend thousands, to get pretty much the same gear, today. Besides, who doesn't love a lil' pink Taser for Christmas?
Link. Read the rest

Shawshank Redemption style prison break

The two enterprising gents shown here decided prison didn't suit them, so they removed some cement blocks that stood between them and the verdant paradise known as New Jersey. They figured the warden might object to their plans, so they covered their egress with "photos of bikini-clad women." It worked.
Espinosa, 20, an alleged gang member, was awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to manslaughter in a 2005 drive-by shooting in Elizabeth. Blunt, 32, was awaiting trial on charges of robbery and weapons offenses.

The men helped cover up the break by placing dummies under their bed blankets, and hiding the wall holes with magazine photos of women in bikinis, authorities said.

Authorities launched a review of security measures, and barred inmates from pinning up pictures from magazines on their cell walls.

Link Read the rest

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