Bombardier beetle: Up close, in action

This is a great, clear video showing the defense mechanism of a wonderful, little creature. The bombardier beetle is a catch-all name for 500-odd related species of beetle that have a nifty, chemical-warfare defense mechanism built into their rear ends. Basically, the beetles can make their own hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide, store it in their abdomens and, when threatened, mix the two chemicals to create a potent, heat-generating reaction that forces a boiling, vile-smelling liquid out of the beetle —and into the face of whatever was bothering it.

I was first introduced to the bombardier beetle in high school biology class. See, I went to fundamentalist Baptist high school, and the bombardier beetle is often trotted out as an example of something so complex, that it couldn't have possibly evolved. (I was also given the impression that this was just one, single type of beetle, rather than an array of varying, related beetles that produce and expel chemicals in slightly different ways. But that's not really the worst of the misleading and inaccurate things I learned in that biology class. Textbooks from Bob Jones University Press. I wish now that I still had the thing to scan pages.)

Anyway, I was told that "evolutionists" had no answer for how the bombardier beetle could have evolved. Naturally, that turns out to be bunk. As does much of what I was taught about how the beetle works. TalkOrigins explains the reality of both pretty well. With references! More fascinating, to me anyway, is the way the bombardier beetle actually fits with the predictions made by evolutionary theory: Read the rest

A perfect marvel of vacuous malice

More scenes from a book-tour. Today I had the extreme pleasure and honor of being one of three authors who presented at the Book Expo America Children's Book and Author Breakfast, along with Mitali Perkins and Richard Peck. The session was chaired by Sarah Ferguson, the British Royal who, in addition to writing kids' books, was also recently the center of a pay-for-influence scandal broken by a British tabloid.

Afterwards, we all went over to the trade-show floor to sign books, and, as you might expect, Ferguson was mobbed by aggressive paparazzi. From my vantage point, it looked like they were being incredibly obnoxious, and the enterprising gentleman pictured here actually came over, barged into the queue for my signing, and stuck his telephoto lens between me and the person whose book I was signing so he could get pics of Fergie. When I told him that this was obnoxious, he was affronted and argumentative.

I know that being jerky and shameless go with the territory when we're talking about paps, but just look at the shit-eating grin on display here. It is truly a marvel of perfect vacuous malice. Or, as they say in the New Yorker: "Christ, what an asshole."

Luckily, that was the only sour note in an otherwise brilliant day, during which I met vast numbers of Boing Boing readers. Many thanks to all of you who came up and introduced yourselves! I hope to see more of you at my remaining NYC stops: powerhouse Books, (May 27, 7:30PM) and McNally Jackson (May 28, 7PM). Read the rest

1938 Graham: the sharknose automobile

I'm at a loss to explain why every car made doesn't look exactly like this. Read the rest

Medical advice for head-bangers

The British Medical Journal investigates the health risks from head-banging and recommends protective gear and "adult-oriented rock":

Main outcome measures: Head Injury Criterion and Neck Injury Criterion were derived for head banging styles and both popular heavy metal songs and easy listening music controls.

Results: An average head banging song has a tempo of about 146 beats per minute, which is predicted to cause mild head injury when the range of motion is greater than 75°. At higher tempos and greater ranges of motion there is a risk of neck injury.

Conclusion: To minimise the risk of head and neck injury, head bangers should decrease their range of head and neck motion, head bang to slower tempo songs by replacing heavy metal with adult oriented rock, only head bang to every second beat, or use personal protective equipment.

Head and neck injury risks in heavy metal: head bangers stuck between rock and a hard bass

(via JWZ)

(Image: Headbanging without the face, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from jessebikman's photostream)

Heavy Metal Parking Lot Heavy Metal band name taxonomy Heavy metal monk Iraqi heavy metal band Brazilian heavy metal video game theme cover band Evolution of heavy metal design Cookie Monster Tribute Heavy Metal Band Heavy metal singer wanted: must be able to do death-metal screams ... Read the rest

RIT's Future of Reading Conference, June 9-12, Rochester, NY

Liz Lawley writes to tell us about the Future of Reading Conference at RIT: "This three-day symposium at RIT June 9-12, 2010 will be organized around a central question: How will reading change in the next decade? With a target audience of 300-500 participants, the conference will feature provocative and challenging presentations by experts in writing systems, content creation, vision and cognition, typography, visual media, and display technology. Speakers at this conference include Margaret Atwood, Chris Anderson, and Massimo Vignelli. Should be a very cool event, with lots of discussion surrounding the technologies of books and reading."

RIT Future of Reading Conference

(Thanks, Liz! Read the rest

Canada's own PATRIOT Act

Michael Geist sez, "The Canadian government quietly introduced its own Patriot Act yesterday, with privacy law reforms that are marketed as improving the current law but represent a major step backward. The bill would block organizations for disclosing disclosures to law enforcement to the affected individuals and it would give businesses broad new rights over workplace privacy.

"In return, there is a new security breach disclosure provision, but the requirements are very weak when compared with similar laws found elsewhere. In fact, with no penalties for failure to notify security breaches, the provisions may do more harm than good since Canadians will expect to receive notifications in the event of a breach, but companies may err on the side of not notifying (given the very high threshold discussed below) safe in the knowledge that there are no financial penalties for failing to do so."

C-29: The Anti-Privacy Privacy Bill

USA PATRIOT Act renewed, no new civil liberties protections ... Lawrence Lessig on the coming "i-Patriot Act" Al Franken reads the Fourth Amendment to DoJ official at PATRIOT ... Patriot Act gag-order on the Internet Archive clobbered by EFF and ... Patriot act makes it harder to get real Sudafed Yet another reason McCain's "Internet Freedom Act" is dumb, Net ... Read the rest

Image: Katamari's Prince, bronz'd

Nine pounds and eight inches of an amazing, everlasting version of Katamari Damacy's Prince carrying the weight of his world, created as Mark 'everfalling' Ellis's Academy of Art University Sculpture 1 class project. See more pictures of the process here.

Get This Game: Katamari creator's Noby Noby Boy stretches onto ... Katamari Damacy 2 player collections 10^6 roses with oscillating ... Listen: Noby Noby Boy soundtrack hits iTunes Read the rest

Travel, before it was awful

The biggest airlines are imposing "peak travel surcharges" this summer. In other words, they're going to raise fees without admitting they're raising fees: Hey, it's not a $30 price hike. It's a surcharge! This comes on the heels of checked-baggage fees, blanket fees, extra fees for window and aisle seats, and "snack packs" priced at exorbitant markups. Hotels in Las Vegas and elsewhere, meanwhile, are imposing "resort fees" for the use of facilities (in other words, raising room rates without admitting they're raising room rates). The chiseling dishonesty of these tactics rankles, and every one feels like another nail in the coffin of travel as something liberating and pleasurable. And in that light, Taschen's new clip book 20th-Century Travel: 100 Years of Globe-Trotting Ads just feels sad. Who really wants to be reminded that, as Flavorwire puts it, there was a time in recent memory "when Amtrak and even Greyhound were classy, airplanes had lounges, and Conrad Hilton wanted to build a hotel on the moon"? Who wants to dive into the lavish design and vivid four-color art of a time when travel was an adventure, something average people looked forward to all year long, something memories were made of? Not me. I'll just be here in my middle seat, thanks, clutching my $12 pillow and crying. (Illustration via TravelHistory.org) Read the rest

Video of pretty jellyfish

QUEST on KQED Public Media has a nice video about jellyfish (and jelly kin) research. Visit the site for a high-res video.

They are otherworldly creatures that glow in the dark, without brains or bones, some more than 100 feet long. And they live just off California's coast. Join two top marine biologists who have devoted their careers to unlocking the mysteries of jellyfish and alien-like siphonophores.

Amazing Jellies Read the rest

Facebook of the Dead

Read Facebook of the Dead, a Boing Boing special feature by Mark Dery. Read the rest

Automotive journalist's son crashes $180,000 test car

Peter Cheney of the Globe and Mail wrote a piece about how his teenage son drove a $180,000 test Porsche through the garage door, causing $11,000 damage to the vehicle. Cheney's article includes other humorous stories of kids wreaking havoc:

As the dust settled, my wife and I confronted the parenting issues that attended the disaster. What was the appropriate punishment for a boy who trashes a car worth $180,000? Friends were flooding us with stories of costly child screw-ups – like the son who flushed an action figure down a toilet, creating a deluge that caused more than $100,000 damage to their house. A colleague told me how she damaged her parent’s brand-new van – she got distracted and rear-ended a truck filled with huge stones (driven by two women who were starting a rock garden project.)

I recalled a childhood friend who rolled a bowling ball off a garage roof (it seemed like a good idea at the time) only to have it land on his father’s newly restored Porsche 356. Another had totalled the family Mercedes by taking it out of gear and pulling off the handbrake – he jumped out as the car began to roll, and watched helplessly as it headed down their steeply sloped driveway, across the street, and into a ravine.

Globe journalist’s son crashes $180,000 Porsche (Thanks, Alan!) Read the rest

Organized crime museum to open in Vegas in 2011

A 41,000 square foot space in downtown Las Vegas will be transformed into a museum of organized crime and law enforcement.

The museum presents a bold and authentic view of organized crime's impact on Las Vegas history and its unique imprint on America and the world. The museum presents the real stories and actual events of mob history via interactive and engaging exhibits that reveal all sides of the story about the role of organized crime in the U.S. The Mob Museum offers multiple perspectives and provides a contemporary, engaging, challenging and educational experience.

It opens in 2011.

The Mob Museum main page Read the rest

Crayons made from delicious foods

These beautiful crayons are made with an array of colorful edible ingredients including marshmallows, dried bananas, bee pollen, and wild sesame. Want. Read the rest

Science fiction lunch boxes

12 awesome science fiction lunch boxes [io9] Read the rest

Boy falls off escalator in Turkey

In this terrifying video, a four year old boy playfully climbs up the outside of a mall escalator and falls from a height of about 15 feet. A shopkeeper was passing by and caught him. The kid was apparently visiting the mall with his dad — where the heck was he when this happened?

Hero catches escalator fall boy in Turkey [BBC] Read the rest

Chramer, gip die varwe mir! Germans and Colors

Chramer, gip die varwe mir (Shopkeeper, give me color!) is a line from a drinking song in the Carmina Burana, a medieval collection of songs and poems in Old Latin and Middle High German. The 'color' requested is rouge to redden the face of a young working woman in order to make her more appealing to the boys. This 'red' means life, vitality, strength, and in the Middle Ages being able to make it through the next winter was particularly attractive. Part of my research into Computer Assisted Language learning deals with the effects that colors have on people and how these difference among cultures can be used to assist in language learning. My own passion lies in the German speaking world and in reflection on my own language learning experiences, I started thinking about color difference in German. Read the rest

Man infected with computer virus

In the future, we could all become walking computer viruses, according to Reading scientist Mark Gasson. Gasson is supposedly the first human being to be infected with a computer virus. Read the rest

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