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Serbian researchers troll academia

The journal Metalurgia International recently published a paper entitled "Evaluation of Transformative Hermeneutic Heuristics for Processing Random Data". Though submitted by real researchers from the University of Belgrade, the paper was a hoax, an attempt to expose lax publishing standards. How lax, you ask? Take a look at the paper. The obvious trolling starts with the authors donning wigs and fake moustaches, continues into an abstract full of blithely meaningless jargon, and includes references to the work of revered academics such as Ron Jeremy, A.S. Hole, Borat Sagdiyev and, yes, Alan Sokal. Retraction Watch has compiled some of the highlights. Maggie 13

Secrets of the world's most successful tumbleweed farm

Tumbleweeds aren't a type of plant. It's more of a description — the thing that happens when the bushy above-ground parts of lots of different types of plants dry, die, and disconnect from the healthy root system below. It is then free to blow wherever the wind takes it. That's your basic free-range tumbleweed. At Prairie Tumbleweed Farms, the weeds are a bit more constrained and they're shipped, rather than blown, to customers all around the world. This podcast by Rose Eveleth is a cute, quirky piece, but you MUST listen to the whole thing. Because the backstory of Prairie Tumbleweed Farms is what makes this truly worthy of BoingBoing. Maggie

Boxer announces he's coming over to his Twitter-troll's house "for a beer"

A Twitter troll called @jimmyob88 sent a series of vile, taunting messages to professional boxer @woodhousecurtis, calling him lots of rotten names. Woodhouse tweeted back that he'd found out the Internet Tough Guy's home address and was headed over to his house "for a brew." After a series of "I'm getting closer" tweets, the troll had a change of heart and tweeted, "Didnt think you would be bothered thought you would take them as a joke" and "i am in the wrong i accept that." Apparently, it ended there. (via Techdirt) Cory

Anonymous declares religious war on Westboro Baptist Church

Some people using the Anonymous banner have declared religious war on the Westboro Baptist Church, the real-life "God hates fags" trolls who have announced their intention to picket the funerals of the children shot in Sandy Hook. In addition to publishing a list of purported home addresses and phone numbers of alleged Westboro members, the Anons have released a videos that sets out chapter-and-verse citations of Biblical injunctions that Westboro is said to have violated, and promises to punish all of them.

In response to the WBC's plans early today, Anonymous tweeted, "It's so nice of #WBC to provide the internet with a list of their twitter handles..." Roughly one hour later, they revealed their plans for the WBC: "#WBC GodHatesFags Site Admin gets #DOX'd via: Anonymous." DOX, of course, refers to the work Anonymous did to find and publish a list of WBC members complete with e-mails, phone numbers, and even home addresses—all for the adoring public to access.

In addition to the DOXing, Anonymous has repeatedly promoted a whitehouse.org petition to have the WBC recognized legally as a hate-group. The petition was created on Friday and it has already doubled the required 25,000 signatures.

Anonymous sets sights on an old enemy—the Westboro Baptist Church [Nathan Mattise/Ars Technica]

Patent on a method for exercising a cat

When you pull out a laser pointer and get your cat to chase the dot of light around your house*, you are using a patented method of cat exercise. The rights are owned by Kevin Amiss and Martin Abbott (both of Virginia), who patented it in the early 1990s. In the abstract, they describe this method of cat exercise as:

A method for inducing cats to exercise consists of directing a beam of invisible light produced by a hand-held laser apparatus onto the floor or wall or other opaque surface in the vicinity of the cat, then moving the laser so as to cause the bright pattern of light to move in an irregular way fascinating to cats, and to any other animal with a chase instinct.

In other words, they own the rights on doing this with ferrets, as well.

This might also be a good time to note an NPR story from this week, which documents IBM and Halliburton attempting to patent the process of patent trolling.

Method of exercising a cat: United States Patent 5443036

*Fact: This game becomes more fun if you have a rug. Just run the light up to the edge of the rug and then turn it off. The cat will become convinced that the little red light has gone under said rug and you will get to amuse yourself watching your cat try to lift the corner of something heavy without the use of opposable thumbs.

Thanks, Sam Ley!

Image: Gotcha!, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from drregor's photostream

On Tweetbombing and the Ethics of Attention

Something weird happened on Twitter yesterday. It was annoying and upsetting at the time, but now it's meaty fodder for behavioral analysis discussions. Ethan Zuckerman wrote a blog post about it that extracts some of the more interesting questions raised about social media and activism.

* Postscript: I've since traded tweets with the two guys behind the stunt, and we're cool.