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Optical illusion of the day


Cover the middle seam with your finger, marvel as the contrast effect changes EVERYTHING. Jason Kottke thinks the creator is a witch. When I showed it to my daughter, she said, "Well, your finger is covering up the light that's making it brighter," which is true in a weird sorta way.

Freaky optical illusion

Creepy kids in vintage ads


The current contest at the Vintage Ads LiveJournal Group is "Creepy Kids" and there's some pretty amazing entries. Shown here, the always-reliable noluck-boston's 1953 Van Camp's Pork and Beans ad.

How the platypus lost its stomach

Ember the platypus has no stomach. But there's nothing wrong with her. No platypuses have stomachs. They're just one of a surprising number of vertebrate species that have evolutionarily jettisoned their stomachs, in favor of a straight-shot digestive tract that directly connects the throat to the intestines.

Rooster-faced warriors of 16th century Germany


16th century German soldiery sure understood how to strike terror into their enemies' hearts: the rooster-headed armored visor (ca 1530) must have been a sight to behold. Now on display at the Met in NYC (Bashford Dean Memorial Collection, Bequest of Bashford Dean, 1928)

Close Helmet with Mask Visor (via Neatorama)

Bimbo's Initiation: Max Fleischer's darkest cartoon

The 1931 Max Fleischer cartoon Bimbo's Initiation is a miracle of awesome, fleischerian weirdness. It's the last Betty Boop cartoon that was personally animated by her creator, Grim Natwick. It's so delightfully bizarre (Leonard Maltin called it "the 'darkest of all" of Fleischer's work), and the perfect way to end the weekend.

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Man convicted of urinating on hotel carpet while shouting racist abuse, while masturbating with a fire-extinguisher hose up his ass

Sometimes the headlines just write themselves: "Premier Inn guest hurled racist abuse with fire extinguisher hose up his bottom" being a case in point. The sordid tale involves Joseph Small of Sheffield, who checked into a Premier Inn in London while in town to buy a used car. A clerk saw him naked in a hotel corridor on the CCTV camera; when he went to investigate, he found Small holding a fire-extinguisher, whose hose Small then stuck up his bum, while fondling himself and shouting "This country has been taken over by al-Qaeda – go back to Pakistan" at the clerk. The clerk is of Bangladeshi origin. Mr Small later urinated on the lobby carpet while shouting "I'm from Sheffield!"

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Nasal Ranger Field Olfactometer


The Nasal Ranger Field Olfactometer is a gadget for empirically measuring the presence of stink-particles in a given environment. It is being deployed in Denver to measure compliance with a by-law prompted by Colorado's rules for legal marijuana: you're allowed to smoke weed, but you are not permitted to spread the smell of marijuana into your neighbors' spaces.

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Epigenetics continues to be just freaking nuts

We know that stressful experiences can have negative biological repercussions — not just for the people who experience the stress, but also for their children. Now, there's some evidence that this transfer of stress effects might not just be due to a simple case of PTSD changing the way you raise/treat your kids. In a study that's inspired both deep skepticism and jaw-dropping awe (both with good reason) scientists were able to train male mice to fear a specific smell — and then observe that same fear/stress response to the smell in the mice's children and grandchildren. This, despite the fact that the younger generations never had contact with their trained fathers. These results are crazy enough that you shouldn't take them as gospel. But they are hella interesting and will definitely lead to a lot more research as other scientists attempt to replicate them.

Disneyvision: strobing zoetrope holotank filled with glitchy rubber characters


I scored the damndest crapgadget yesterday: Disney's Disneyvision is a little box styled like a vintage TV. Where the tube would go is a flexible plastic wand attached to a variable motor, lit by a strobing white LED. You put a wiggly rubber 2" characters on the wand (effectively sticking the wand up its butt), turn on the motor and the light, and the strobe creates a zoetrope effect that makes it seem like the characters are energetically dancing.

But the damned thing is the variability -- the resonant frequencies of the characters' appendages kick in at different motor-intensities and the strobe-frequency produces even more surprising choices. There's a sweet spot where the characters appear to be in a kind of holo-tank, dancing or fluttering, but there's also a whole range of totally glitched-out possibilities in which the character flicker through what appears to be a kind of hilariously horrible video malfunctions.

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Crowdfunding an in vitro meat cookbook


Eindhoven's Next Nature Lab is running an IndiegOgO fundraiser for a "Meat the Future Cookbook" -- a piece of design fiction setting out recipes we might be able to prepare when in vitro meat-growth is the norm. There's meat grown from your own flesh, cultured in a medallion you wear around your neck while it matures; rainbow meatballs, meat that you knit, meat-paint that kids use to paint edible pictures, meat cultured from samples of extinct dodos and dinos, and transparent meat "sushi."

There's four days left, and &eur;25 gets you a copy of the cookbook (&eur;15 for a digital version). Next Nature produces some gorgeous books on these lines, so it's a good bet that Meat the Future will be a lovely little piece.

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Volcano blows smoke rings


Image: Tom Pfeiffer/Volcano Discovery

Sicily's Mount Etna volcano is currently erupting. The series of explosions began on October 26, but on November 11, the mountain did something rare and nifty. Over the course of several hours it blew out dozens of perfect smoke rings, each hundreds of feet in diameter, including the one pictured here.

It's not the first time Etna has done this. Nobody knows exactly how the rings form, but people have been photographing smoke rings coming from Etna since at least 1970. Volcanologist and tour guide Tom Pfeiffer took this picture, as well as several others that you can see at his Volcano Discovery website. He suspects that the smoke rings are formed when eruptions alter the shape of volcanic vents.

A mysterious form of water with unique chemical properties

In the 1960s, Russian scientists discovered a new form of water that congealed at room temperature, froze at -40, and wouldn't boil no matter the temperature. For a few brief years, "polywater" was a scientific rage — the subject of pop culture craziness, Cold War research races, and CIA interrogations. At Slate, Joseph Stromberg tells the story of polywater and explains why, despite all that hype, most of us have never heard of it today.

Fruitfly evolved pictures of ants on its wings


A recently discovered G tridens fruitfly that has evolved a to have images of detailed, ant-like insects on each wing, complete with six legs, a thorax, antennae and a tapered abdomen. The fly uses the images defensively, waving them back and forth when threatened to create the illusion of massing ants. Many G Tridens varieties bear elaborate wing markings, but this one, discovered in Oman, is very striking. I think more beasties should have van-art bestowed on them by the strange world of evolution.

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"The Box of Crazy": amazing codex "found by the trash"

The trash is a mundane place to find the magical work presented anonymously as "The Box of Crazy". This could be the next Codex Seraphinus! Or, perhaps, it's marketing for something or other. In any case, the William Blake-esque paintings are a particularly fine touch. Business Insider, collating the work of Redditors, runs through components of its rather too-neat origin story. Sometimes, I wish people could just enjoy a good yarn rather than focusing entirely on finding details that permit the shouting of "Hoax! Hoax!"—but such are our times.

Scriptura Vitae: surreal, caligraphic, Butoh dance video

Souris writes, "Scriptura Vitae is the directorial debut of New York-based artist, designer and filmmaker Aerosyn-lex Mestrovic. Having collaborated with the likes of Kanye West and KENZO, Mestrovic's latest venture is an ambitious three-part journey into the unknown that showcases Lex's haunting ritualistic calligraphy, alongside stunningly choreographed Japanese Butoh performances set to a score which features original music by the Grammy Nominated DIPLO. The film stars famed Japanese actress Miho Nikaido, best known for her role in the cult-classic and previously banned film Tokyo Decadence which was written and directed by lauded novelist Ryu Murakami. The effects in the film are visually striking, combining modern compositing with in-camera painting to devise something wholly unique."

◢ SCRIPTURA VITAE † A FILM BY AEROSYN-LEX MESTROVIC ◣ (Thanks, Souris!)

Self-balancing unicycle

The SBUV3 is a self-balancing, motorized electric unicyle that you steer by shifting your center of gravity. They cost about $1800, feature regenerative braking, and have a top speed of 12.5mph. The steering software adapts to you (and vice-versa), fine-tuning its responsiveness based on your riding-style.

One Wheel. ∞ Fun (Thanks, Rob!)

Secret behind strange hum heard on England's south coast

Midshipman fish

The likely source of a strange hum that has been disturbing residents of Hythe, near Southampton, England, has been identified: horny fish. The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) investigated the low-frequency noise and think it may be the sound of male midshipman fish eager to mate in a nearby estuary. "It's not beyond the realms of possibility," SAMS scientist Ben Wilson told The Telegraph. "There are certainly 'sonic fish' in the north Atlantic and the approaches to the English Channel."

EMMA: juxtaposes dream reports and Street View imagery

Dream

Pierre Chevalier's "EMMA" is a curious online art/code project that grabs random images from Google Street View and juxtaposes them with random text snippets from the DreamBank database of dream reports. (via Waxy)

Houston's Beer Can House, photographed by a Boing Boing reader

Boing Boing reader Molly Block shot a wonderful set of photos documenting The Beer Can House in Houston, Texas. She shared them in our Boing Boing Flickr Pool.

She writes:

Native Houstonian John Milkovisch started the project in 1968. Following Mr. Milkovisch's death in 1988, and the death of his wife Mary, the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, a Houston-based non-profit arts organization, purchased the house and later restored it.

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Museum of Four in the Morning

"Four in the morning" appears with strange frequency in movies, TV, art, and culture. The Museum of Four In The Morning collects such references. Submit yours!

Painter snorts watercolor and sprays it out his tear-ducts

Leandro Granato is an Argentine painter whose talented sinuses allow him to snort liquid into his nose and squirt it out of his tear-ducts. He works by inhaling watercolor paint and spraying it on canvas.

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@tofu_product tries to write like you do

"Sometime during September, the Twitter account @tofu_product came online," writes Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic. "Its cryptic bio reads: “Tofu absorbs flavor. Follow me, then tweet at me. I'll try my best to write like you do.”"

During the shutdown, some scientists can't talk about science

I'm a guest of honor this weekend at the Dallas's Fencon this weekend, and I've just learned that some of the other speakers won't be able to talk, thanks to the government shutdown. They're government space scientists, and the 143-year-old Antideficiency Act makes it a crime (punishable by fines and imprisonment) for government employees to volunteer to do their own jobs (which, in their cases, includes talking about science to the public). The law dates back to the Lincoln administration, and was aimed at stopping fraudsters who did "government" business, then presented a bill for services that hadn't been contracted but had nevertheless been performed -- a kind of Civil War era version of red-light windscreen squeegeeing.

Some animals really can predict the weather

Science finally came up with solid evidence that animal behavior can be a predictor of weather events. But it's not exactly the behavior (or the animals) you might expect. Instead of dogs barking, think beetles f#*$ing. Or, rather, beetles not copulating, as the drop in atmospheric pressure that precedes a storm seems to result in less sexual behavior among several species of insects. Particularly interesting were the curcurbit beetles, who might still mate in the face of an oncoming storm, but seem to dispense with all foreplay.

Sniffing a beaver's butt: a surprisingly pleasant experience

From a National Geographic story by Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato, the quote of the week:

“I lift up the animal’s tail,” said Joanne Crawford, a wildlife ecologist at Southern Illinois University, “and I’m like, ‘Get down there, and stick your nose near its bum. People think I’m nuts,” she added. “I tell them, ‘Oh, but it’s beavers; it smells really good.’”

Crawford is talking about castoreum, a naturally occurring anal secretion found in beavers. The furry animals use it to mark their territory. We humans, however, have also found uses for castoreum. Most notably, as an ingredient in vanilla-flavored and vanilla-scented products.

Pictured: Hardened lumps of beaver anal secretions, as stored in the Deutsches Apothekenmuseum, Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg, Germany. Photo by H. Zell via CC

Arse Elektronika: sex and tech in San Francisco


Johannes from Monochrom writes, "Hard to believe, but Arse Elektronika is in its 7th year! The annual festival about sex and technology will start Thursday in San Francisco - with talks, machines, games, workshops and performances!"

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HOWTO make $200,000 off of the above-inflation USPS postage hike


The USPS is planning a rare, above-inflation postage stamp price-hike on Jan 26, 2014; and they're also selling "forever-stamps" that can be used at any time. Allison Schrager and Ritchie King show how these two facts in combination offer a significant arbitrage opportunity, and set out a plan to buy 10 million stamps at $0.46 and sell them at $0.48, netting $200,000 in profit, at 4.3 percent.

It's pretty thoroughly thought-through, with a detailed finance and distribution plan. I'd love to see them try it.

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Soviet plane-spotting head-gear


Drakegoodman scanned this 1917-ish photo of Soviet planespotters in exotic headgear; according to a commenter, the binox are focused at infinity "so that when you found the source of the sound by turning your head, you could see the aircraft creating that sound."

WTF (via Bruce Sterling)

No one harmed in Whac-a-Mole/Rock-a-Fire band warehouse explosion

Thankfully, no humans were harmed by last week's explosion in Aaron Fechter's warehouse in Orlando, FL, but it did leave "robots scattered around burning rubble."

Fechter invented both the Whac-a-Mole machine and the animatronic, coin-operated Rock-A-Fire robot musicians who delighted audiences in Chuck-E-Cheeses around the world. Lately, he had been experimenting with carbohydrillium, a cleaner-burning alternative to propane, which was apparently the culprit in yesterday's explosion. His warehouse was described by one witness as a "Joker's lair," and a video tour posted to YouTube shows it full of computer models, animatronic creatures, and carbohydrillium gear.

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The Michigan Dogman

NewImage26

The Grand Haven Tribune's Kevin Collier reports on the Dogman, a cryptid that apparently rears its ugly head from time to time in West Michigan. "Legendary Dogman seen in Ottawa County?"