Cetacean needed: Wikipedia whale diagram needs line-art

The missing elements in the diagram on the Wikipedia page for List of cetaceans is missing some line-art of various whales and such. Where the art is missing, the box simply bears the legend "cetacean needed." (ObRef XKCD)

Nice work editor of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cetaceans … - missing diagrams labeled 'cetacean needed' @doctorow pic.twitter.com/B18yrKrJvI Read the rest

Some copiers randomly change the numbers on documents

In Xerox scanners/photocopiers randomly alter numbers in scanned documents, computer scientist David Kriesel shows that the Xerox WorkCentre 7535 randomly changes the numbers in its scans. The copier has firmware that tries to compress images by recognizing the numbers and letters in the documents it scans, and when it misinterprets those numbers, it produces untrustworthy output. The bug also occurs in the Xerox 7556 and possibly other machines, and as Kriesel points out, this could mean that engineering diagrams, invoices, prescriptions, architectural drawings and other documents whose numeric values are potentially a matter of life-and-death (or at least financial stability) are being randomly edited by machines we count on to produce faithful copies. Read the rest

EB White on why he wrote Charlotte's Web: "A book is a sneeze"

Letters of Note has a 1952 letter from EB White to his editor, Ursula Nordstrom, occasioned by the impending Harper & Row publication of Charlotte's Web. Asked to explain why he wrote the book, he describes, beautifully, the circumstances of how he came to write it. But when he gets to the end, he says, "I haven't told why I wrote the book, but I haven't told you why I sneeze, either. A book is a sneeze." That guy -- he should think of taking up writing. Read the rest

Danny O'Brien on civil liberties groups, the NSA and Bruce Sterling

Yesterday, I posted my reaction to Bruce Sterling's essay The Ecuadorian Library, where Bruce described activists as "living in a pitiful dream world where their imaginary rule of law applies to an electronic frontier." Danny O'Brien, who recently returned to a job at the Electronic Frontier Foundation after a stint at the Committee to Protect Journalists, has written an excellent essay on the way that civil liberties and civil society groups and activists have devoted their lives, and risked their safety, in the cause of civil liberties online. Read the rest

Leaves of Glass: Breaking Bad’s Walt Whitman fixation, and 'Ozymandias' deconstructed

At Poetry Magazine, TV critic Kera Bolonik answers the questions, "how does Walter White compare to Walt Whitman? And what cynical commentary on our times, on humanity, does series creator Vince Gilligan make with this subversive pairing?"

Some snippets from her answers: Read the rest

Charlie Jane Anders's sf story, "Victimless Crimes"

The Mary Sue has reprinted Charlie Jane Anders's amazing sf story "Victimless Crimes," originally published in this month's Apex Magazine. Anders is one of the editors at IO9 and is a talented sf writer: Read the rest

Jeff Bezos's letter to the WashPo staff

With the announcement that Jeff Bezos is acquiring the Washington Post, Bezos has published an open letter to WashPo employees explaining what he plans on doing with the paper. It starts with, "The values of The Post do not need changing." Nevertheless, "There will, of course, be change at The Post over the coming years" -- mostly related (obviously) to the Internet. Read the rest

Mark Wagner's currency collages

Mark Wagner is an American visual artist who collages US currency to make incredible images; it's not clear to me whether this constitutes an illegal destruction of currency, but if it does, then that law is wrong. Shown here: a detail from The Way of the Dinosaur, 2013. Read the rest

Ethical questions for security experts

Alex Stamos's Defcon 21 presentation The White Hat’s Dilemma is a compelling and fascinating look at the ethical issues associated with information security work in the era of mass surveillance, cyberwar, and high-tech extortion and crime. Read the rest

The 30 Days Ramadan Photo project

Since 2009, New York City-based twentysomething comedian Aman Ali and photographer Bassam Tariq have spent the Islamic holy month of Ramadan visiting mosques around America and documenting Muslim culture in the US. They've also guest-blogged individually and together for Boing Boing in the past. Bassam today sends word that with this year's incarnation of the project, they're trying to "curate some of the best and most powerful user uploaded photos during Ramadan from the world." Check it out: 30daysramadan.com. Read the rest

Happy birthday to Neil Armstrong

Steve Jurvetson (of venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson) posts this photograph of himself with "the true Armstrong hero," on the occasion of the late astronaut Neil Armstrong's birthday -- which was yesterday, August 5, same as mine! From Steve's post:

At Kelly's house, I had the chance to ask him a question about the first landing on the moon that provoked a response that seemed poignant and awe-inspiring.

I asked him, of all of the systems and stages of the mission, which did he worry about the most? He had spoken about the frequently failing autopilot... the reliance on a global network of astronomers to spot solar flares in time to get the warning out... the onboard computers being less powerful than a Furby...

Read the rest

PBS NewsHour becomes first nightly national newscast anchored by two women

This is cool news: The PBS NewsHour (which I have contributed to, via their science correspondent Miles O'Brien) today announced that they'll be the first nightly news broadcast in the US with two female anchors. This shouldn't be a big deal, bla bla, but come on. It is. Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff.

Brian Stelter: "The co-anchor arrangement harks back to the 1970s, when Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil founded the nightly newscast that was later named “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.” The two men jointly presented the program until 1995." Read the rest

Why writers should stand up for libraries

Earlier this summer, I worked with the American Library Association on their Authors for Library Ebooks project -- which is asking authors to call on their publishers to offer ebooks to libraries at a fair price. Right now, libraries pay several times more for ebooks than people off the street -- up to six times more! I recorded this video explaining why libraries and authors are natural allies. Read the rest

3D printable objects modeled on expired 19th century patents

Martin Galese's Thingiverse account is full of amazing 3D objects modeled on 19th-century patent drawings. Galese, a patent attorney, has launched his project -- and an accompanying Tumblr of lovely patent drawings -- to help people understand the value he perceives in the patent system. Read the rest

Judge who accepted private-prison bribes to send black kids to jail sentenced to 28 years

In 2009, I wrote about Judge Mark A. Ciavarella, one of two Pennsylvania judges who was paid bribes by a private prison contractor to send black children to prison and keep the for-profit prisons full. Ciavarella, who once sent an African-American child to jail for three months for posting negative comments about her assistant principal on MySpace, has been sentenced to 28 years in prison. He was convicted of racketeering, and has been stripped of his state pension. Read the rest

Death masks of famous scientists

This is Isaac Newton's face, frozen in plaster and wax. It's one of two death masks owned by the Royal Society. (The other preserves the face of mathematician, physicist, and early-20th-century science communicator James Hopwood Jeans.) Why take plaster casts of the faces of the dead? The tradition dates back to the pre-photography era where, if you wanted to see what a person actually looked like, a cast (whether of their face in life, or death) was the most accurate way to do it.

The Royal Society has more on the history of death masks, and pictures of the two they own. Read the rest

Don't touch that hot stove!

The complicated process that allows your brain to quickly cancel an order and replace it with another. Read the rest

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