Pre-Nixie digital: the amazing world of edge-lit displays

Before there were Nixie tubes, there were edge-lit displays: "Each digit panel has a tiny incandescent lamp associated with it that lights when that the numeral on the panel is to be displayed. When the tiny lamp corresponding to a given digit panel lights, the light is injected into the edge of the plastic panel. The engraved area in the plastic causes interference with the light as it travels through the plastic, and some light is refracted out through the plane of the panel, causing the engraved dots making up the digit to light up with a white glow. The resulting digits look much like the fully formed numerals in a Nixie tube, except rather than an orange glow, the Canon display digits give off a cool white glow like that of an incandescent light bulb." Read the rest

Soviet Vocal-Instrumental Ensembles: the lost, terrible pop of the USSR

In order to fight the incursion of decadent western pop, the Kremlin encouraged the creation of Vocal-Instrumental Ensembles (VIAs) that performed some genuinely, delightfully awful music, stuff that puts the trololo guy to shame. Read the rest

Washington Post and Jigsaw launch a collaborative pop-up dictionary of security jargon

Information security's biggest obstacle isn't the mere insecurity of so many of our tools and services: it's the widespread lack of general knowledge about fundamental security concepts, which allows scammers to trick people into turning off or ignoring security red flags. Read the rest

An anti-eavesdropping hands-free headset/muzzle that looks like Bane's mask and changes your voice to Vader's

Hushme is an electronic muzzle that you strap around your face, talking into its built-in mic in order to prevent people from eavesdropping on your calls; you can also use it to change your voice so you sound like a howler monkey or Darth Vader. If this isn't a hoax, its so deep into Poe's Law territory that it might as well be one. Read the rest

A kid-friendly electronics board that you can program from the web

Peegar is an Arduinio-style electronics kit that you design programs for by dragging and dropping Scratch-style objects around in a browser; when you're done, the program is converted to a brief snatch of sound that you transmit through the board by plugging a standard audio cable into your device's headphone jack. Read the rest

Uber-driving lawyer explains to cop why he doesn't have to stop video recording him

Jesse Bright is a lawyer who also drives Uber; when Wilmington, North Carolina police Sgt. Kenneth Becker stopped him and insisted that he stop recording the stop because of a "new law," Bright kept on recording and kept on insisting that he was allowed to do so. Read the rest

A compassionate way to entertain claims of paranormal activity

Carrie Poppy is one half of the Oh No Ross and Carrie podcast (previously), a skeptical look at fringe science and paranormal claims whose hosts distinguish themselves by their compassionate, open-minded approach to their subjects, fuelled in part by their upbringing in evangelical Christianity, a faith they've both since renounced. Read the rest

Futuracha, a beautiful, ornamental typeface that magically adjusts as you type

Futuracha is a successfully crowdfunded typeface that makes use of Open Type's wizardry to switch its ligatures as you type, producing beautiful effects -- before the crowdfunding campaign, Futuracha users had to hand-set those ligatures, but now it's just type and go. $50 for a commercial license, $15 for a personal license. Ships in May. (via Red Ferret) Read the rest

Ethics and AI: all models are wrong, some are useful, and some of those are good

The old stats adage goes: "All models are wrong, but some models are useful." In this 35 minute presentation from the O"Reilly Open Data Science Conference, data ethicist Abe Gong from Aspire Health provides a nuanced, meaningful, accessible and eminently actionable overview of the ways that ethical considerations can be incorporated into the design of powerful algorithms. Read the rest

Explaining physics with wonderful, 1930s-style animation

Hugh writes, "These amazing animated shorts on physics feature an adorable, 1930's style version of Maxwell's Demon. There are 3 so far -- can't wait to see more!" Read the rest

The Resistance, 1941 style: the poster for Mister V

Robbo Mills writes, "Here's the poster for the 1941 film 'Mister V,' directed by and starring Leslie Howard. I love the look of it with his defiant pose and the big red iconic V. Mister V was the title used for the US release of the film. It's best known by the original British title: 'Pimpernel Smith' - being a riff on a previous Leslie Howard film 'The Scarlett Pimpernel.' Read the rest

Political theater: swapping gender roles in recreations of the Trump/Clinton debates

NYU poli sci/econ professor Maria Guadalupe and educational theater prof Joe Salvatore collaborated to stage a recreation of the Trump/Clinton debates with the gender roles reversed, starring actors who played Brenda King, "a female version of Trump" and Jonathan Gordon, "a male version of Hillary Clinton." Read the rest

UK government threatens jail for journalists who work with whistleblowers

Under a new proposal from the UK Law Commission, journalists who handle or report on leaked documents demonstrating corruption or government malfeasance would face prison sentences. Read the rest

And now, a 5-minute ad for a service that lets you start your own ransomware "business"

Philadelphia is a crimeware-as-a-service business that sells a highly customizable ransomware package for budding entrepreneurs who want to dabble in crime. Read the rest

Wonderful 30-second Rube Goldberg videos from Japanese children's TV

NHK's children's show Pythagora Switch features fiendishly clever, astoundingly amusing interstitial segments with beautiful little Rube Goldberg machines, possessed of a Miyazakiesque whimsy and a Mujiesque minimalism. These are wonderful -- and at 30 seconds each, you can watch a whole ton of 'em. Read the rest

The Body Orifice Security Scanner is why the rectally smuggled phone is called "Beat the BOSS"

When I saw that the cell phone designed for rectal smuggling was called "Beat the Boss," I assumed "The Boss" was a synonym for "The Man," but it turns out it's a reference to a specific product: Xeku's Body Orifice Security Scanner (BOSS), a "hygienic cavity search" chair that scans prisoners for rectal contraband. Read the rest

Kickstarting a car-hacking tool that lets you take control of your own vehicle

The fully-funded Macchina project on Kickstarter is an Arduino-based, "open, versatile" gadget that bypasses the DRM in your car's network, allowing you to configure it to work the way you want it to, so you can customize your car in all kinds of cool ways. Read the rest

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