Evolution can happen faster than you think

I'm contributing to Voice, a new group column on environmental science at Ensia. My first piece is about those swallows in Nebraska that seem to have adapted to highway traffic and what they can teach us about the speed of evolution and the way invasive species adapt to new homelands. Read the rest

Marijuanamerica: One mans' quest to understand America's dysfunctional love affair with weed

Alfred Ryan Nerz is a journalist and public broadcasting producer. He smokes weed, sometimes several times a day, for weeks at a stretch. He praises it for allowing him to unwind and feel good, but he also wonders if his dependence on cannabis is bad for him, both mentally and physically. Nerz knows he isn't the only person asking the same questions (according to NORML, 14 million Americans smoke pot regularly) so he embarked on a trip around the country to find out as much as he could about the current state of cannabis culture.

The result of his explorations is Marijuanamerica: One Man’s Quest to Understand America’s Dysfunctional Love Affair with Weed, a fascinating and entertaining snapshot that looks at how weed has infiltrated every corner of society (despite the fact that it's prohibited by the federal government). It reads like something Hunter S. Thompson might have written in his Hell's Angels days, had he laid off the hard stuff and graduated from Yale. Read the rest

Investigating the Gulf Coast dolphin murders

Along the Gulf Coast, people are killing (and sometime gruesomely mutilating) dolphins in record numbers. At National Geographic, Rena Silverman goes in-depth on the killings, which investigators now believe are the work of multiple people who are not connected to one another. Xeni wrote about it last year, when that was apparently less clear. Is it less or more disturbing that this isn't likely to be an isolated dolphin serial killer? Read the rest

World's largest tunnel boring machine lands in Seattle

Known affectionately as Bertha, this tunnel boring machine has the widest diameter of any boring machine ever built; 57.5 feet. It's being used to dig a highway tunnel under downtown Seattle and it just arrived there today after being shipped from Japan.

I feel this warrants your attention for two reasons: 1) If you live near Seattle, you can actually go get a look at this massive beast before it starts chewing its way through the city. If you like looking at giant machines (or know someone who does) now's your chance. She's coming into the Port of Seattle, Terminal 46, as you read this and there will be ample opportunities to get a look as the pieces are assembled and moved into the nearby launch pit. The Washington State Department of Transportation has suggestions on places to go to get a good view. 2) If, for some reason, you were looking for a new way to lose massive amounts of time on YouTube, Bertha (and boring machines, in general) can help with that. Here's a cutaway animation explaining how boring machines work. Here's a video of Big Becky, another boring machine, breaking through to the other side of a tunnel at Niagara Falls, Canada. (In fact, boring machine breakthrough videos are, in and of themselves, a mesmerizing genre.) And in this video, you can watch the massively long line of support equipment go by in the wake of a boring machine. Read the rest

Douglas Rushkoff: Present Shock, the Boing Boing interview

A real-time, always-on existence without past or a future, origins or goals.

Cross My Heart Hope to Die: eclectic, cinematic multimedia beats

A self-titled EP from Cross My Heart Hope To Die is out today on Alpha Pup Records. The music project is also an interactive art collective, with street art installations around the world.

HOWTO produce a 3D printed skeleton from a CT scan of a living animal

Evan Doney, a grad student in Matthew Leevy's biological imaging facility at the University of Notre Dame, has published a method for creating a 3D printed, life-size, accurate skeleton of a living animal by converting a CT scan of the animal to a printable file. They produced a detailed HOWTO as well, which, unfortunately, is paywalled.

The idea to print skeletons from CT scans came from Evan Doney, an engineering student working in the lab of Matthew Leevy, who runs the biological imaging facility at the University of Notre Dame. ”At first I didn’t really know what the killer app would be, I just knew it would be really cool,” Leevy said. But he began to see new possibilities after striking up a conversation with an ear, nose, and throat specialist during an office visit for a sinus problem. “I actually got out my computer and showed him some slides, and by the end of it we were collaborating.”

Doney used several freeware programs to convert data from CT scans into a format that could be read by a 3-D printer. As a proof of principle, he and colleagues printed a rat skeleton in white plastic and printed a removable set of lungs in green or purple. They also printed out a rabbit skull.

I have a 3D print of my femur in bronze and stainless steel, courtesy of my wife and her raid on my MRIs. Sounds like you get an even better shapefile from a CT scan, if you don't mind receiving the radiation equivalent of 800 X-rays. Read the rest

Thailand: 13% of endangered tortoise species discovered in smuggler's bag at airport

Indian Star Tortoises. Photo: P.Tansom/TRAFFIC

Authorities in Thailand made two big seizures of attempted tortoise smuggling at an airport this week. Hundreds of threatened tortoises were discovered, and they are among the rarest in the world. Two smugglers were apprehended.

From TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network: Read the rest

How "workarounds" cause people with dyslexia to be more creative

"Mounting evidence shows that many people with dyslexia are highly creative, out-of-the-box thinkers, and neuroimaging studies demonstrate that their brains really do think differently." An interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal on adaptive responses to a "neurodifference" that affects as many as one in five Americans. Read the rest

Caldera: dream-like animated short about mental illness

Evan Viera's short explores the ambiguous reality inhabited by people experiencing psychosis, through the tale of a young girl suffering from mental illness.

Dutch reality TV show offers one-way trip to Mars

A television company in Holland is seeking volunteers for a one-way trip to Mars.

Gweek 087: The Art of Doing

I had an enlightening conversation with Josh Gosfield and Camille Sweeney, authors of a great new book called The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well. Josh and Camille interviewed 36 notable people -- artists, entrepreneurs, actors, athletes -- asking them their secrets of success. Joining me on the episode was Gweek's frequent co-host, Joshua Glenn, co-editor of Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun and HiLowBrow.

In this episode:

The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well

Ye-Ye Profile: Gigi Gaston

Fathom Butterfly - the notorious beauty queen, showgirl, Hammer horror actress, porn star, felon and feminist filmmaker tweets her memoirs

Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun, by Elizabeth Foy Larsen and Joshua Glenn.

Katana, by Ann Nocenti and Alex Sanchez

Science-Fiction: The Early Years, by Everett Franklin Bleiler

In Praise of Messy Lives, by Katie Roiphe

Geek Battle: The Game of Extreme Geekdom

Flow Free Read the rest

Brain Rot: Hip Hop Family Tree, Afrika Bambaataa Planet Rock

Read the rest of the Hip Hop Family Tree comics!

Read the rest

Adafruit debuts "Circuit Playground" -- a kids' puppet show about electronics

The first episode of Adafruit's "Circuit Playground," a kids' puppet show about electronics, "A is for Ampere," just went live and it's smashing.

How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial

Here's a look at Darryl Cunningham's new 176-page comic book, How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial. I enjoyed his levelheaded explanations and charming illustrations that expose anti-science charlatans, flim flam men, and deluded fools.

Is hydro-fracking safe? Is climate change real? Did the moon landing actually happen? How about evolution: fact or fiction? Author-illustrator Darryl Cunningham looks at these and other hot-button science topics and presents a fact-based, visual assessment of current thinking and research on eight different issues everybody’s arguing about. His lively storytelling approach incorporates comics, photographs, and diagrams to create substantive but easily accessible reportage. Cunningham’s distinctive illustrative style shows how information is manipulated by all sides; his easy-to-follow narratives allow readers to draw their own fact-based conclusions. A graphic milestone of investigative journalism!

Read the rest

Game of Thrones returns with critical mass of politicking

Funny thing about recaps: Some of the early feedback I got on the handful I did last season suggested people wanted less blow-by-blow, more macroanalysis. But I wonder how well that works for Game of Thrones: Friends, I've read all the books and watched every season so far twice, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't reach for a wiki a few times to make sure I had everything and everyone straight as we begin the third season.

I'm often afraid the show is going to shake less-obsessive Game of Thrones fans like a beauty in a bear pit, since we're reaching a critical mass of characters and politicking. Yet this is the season readers have anticipated most of all, and if the television adaptation has had one major strength so far it's its ability to abstract the muddy stuff and highlight over-arching themes.

I'll be your guide this season, and I'll try to focus on some of those themes, while seeing what I can do to help everyone keep their names, faces and facts straight as we return to the world of Westeros and beyond after a long, long winter. Read the rest