Makerbot announces three new 3D printers, including a massive 47.5cm tall monster

Yesterday at CES, Makerbot CEO Bre Pettis announced three new 3D printers, including a massive, fifth-generation Replicator capable of producing objects that are 45.7cm tall and 30.5cm wide/long. Interestingly, all three new models -- there's also a simple, one-button version and a desktop prosumer version -- sport clear plastic sides. 3D printers are very susceptible to disruption from even slight breezes (the wind cools the plastic between the nozzle and the previous layer) but there's a completely batshit patent on the totally obvious "invention" of putting see-through sides on a 3D printer, so in general printers don't ship with sides, and manufacturers don't publicly advise their customers to add plastic sides to their machines. Read the rest

Happy 99th birthday, Alan Watts

Take a moment and listen to these words by Alan Watts, on what would have been his 99th birthday.

Video Link Read the rest

Flowers from Al: pervy singularity collaboration with Stross

Here's part one (MP3) of my 2003 short story "Flowers From Al," written with Charlie Stross for New Voices in Science Fiction, a Mike Resnick anthology. It's a pervy, weird story of transhuman romance. Read the rest

Passive Aggressive Notes' best of 2013

The annual best-of collections from Passive Aggressive Notes are always a great read, and this year is no exception (pedantic pre-emption: Passive Aggressive Notes also collects notes that are merely aggressive, rude, snotty, or otherwise humorously objectionably and obnoxious). Read the rest

Device found on New York-bound plane forces emergency landing in Kansas City

Matthew says: "An American Airlines flight made an emergency landing in Kansas City after a passenger left a USB flash drive in the bathroom. The FBI now says the device was taped to the bathroom ventilation duct and contained a small camera." Read the rest

Hilarious review of the Nikon Df

I've been puzzled by the Nikon Df myself, and I'm a long time Nikon shooter. Same sensor as their most advanced camera, the D4, with dials and knobs Mike Brady would feel comfortable with.

Video Link Read the rest

Edited tweet used in ad

Inside Llewyn Davis is a movie. Its producers ran a full-page ad (price: $70k!) in the NYT which featured little more than the above tweet, from critic Tony "A.O." Scott.

Many found it eye-rollingly precious, but there was a worse problem: despite being carefully formatted to look exactly like an actual on-the-web tweet, it turned out to have been edited to remove some words inconvenient to the advertising message being crafted from it. The original posting follows. Read the rest

Not Playing Podcast 006: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure Time

In each episode of Not Playing, Lex Friedman and Dan Moren watch movies they've never seen – but that everyone else has. There are two versions of each episode available — the capsules and the commentary track versions. Listen to their thoughts before and after they watch the movie, or listen to the longer, full commentary-track episodes and watch the classics again for the first time, with Lex and Dan! — Mark

This week we travel through time. It’s 1989’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which Dan feels confident Lex will love. Time travel, comedy, and Keanu Reeves—what’s not to love?!

Hot topics include Back to the Future, the later careers of fine comic character actors (like So-crates), and the best time travel moment in cinematic history.

This episode is brought to you by Squarespace. You can save 10% and support Not Playing if you use the offer code NOTPLAYING — no credit card required to start your free trial!

As with every episode of Not Playing, there are two versions of this episode available:

The Bite-Sized Version: We discuss what we know about the film before we watch, and then share our reactions immediately after the credits roll.

The Commentary Track: We still discuss what we know about the film before we start watching it. Then, we provide a real-time commentary track on the film as it unfolds—and you can tag along. We’ll tell you when to press Play.

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Fine art socks

Hot Socks does a nice line of multicolored socks woven with all sorts of fine-art images. Read the rest

Michael Bay walks out of Samsung press conference

"Michael Bay just walked on stage, flubbed his lines, and walked off at a Samsung CES press conference," reports Gizmodo's Leslie Horn. "It was weird."

MICHAEL: How is everyone today? My job as a director is I get to dream for a living.

HOST: Michael, you're known for such unbelievable action. What inspires you? How do you come up with these unbelievable ideas?

MICHAEL: I create visual worlds that are so beyond everyone's normal life experiences, and Hollywood is a place that creates a pure escape. And what I try to do, as a director... uhhhh ... argh! The type is all off. Sorry, but I'll just wing this.

HOST: Tell us what you think.

MICHAEL: Yeah. We'll wing it right now. I try to take people on an emotional ride and, um.

HOST: The Curve [TV]. How do you think it's going to impact how viewers experience your movies?

MICHAEL: Excuse me, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. *flees*

HOST: Ladies and gentlemen, let's thank Michael Bay for joining us!

AUDIENCE: *applauds*

If you listen hard enough, you can hear the Adobe DRM server creaking under the weight of everyone firing up After Effects to add massive explosions into the above video.

UPDATE: Aaaand done. By John Herrman. Read the rest

The Hired Hand soundtrack (1971) by Bruce Langhorne

The Hired Hand is a 1971 western directed by and starring Peter Fonda. I've never seen the film but today I heard the score and it is absolutely fantastic. The composer is Bruce Langhorne, a veteran of the 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene, and the inspiration behind Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." Also of note, Langhorne lost two fingers on his right hand as a child but clearly that doesn't impair his playing. The Hired Hand OST is a beautiful collection of atmospheric ghostly banjo, lapsteel, violin, and piano. Dig the cinematic blues:

The Hired Hand by Bruce Langhorne

Recently released by Scissor Tail Editions, the music has been compared to contemporary electronic experimentalists like Black Dice and Boards of Canada! Along with a digital download, Scissor Tail Editions sold 1,000 copies on 180-gram vinyl. I teared up when I realized they are completely, utterly sold out.

Have a listen and buy the digital album for $10 here: "The Hired Hand" Read the rest

Bruce Sterling's state of the world, 2014 edition

Every January, Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky take to the WELL's public "Inkwell" conference for a "State of the World" discussion that ranges far and wide over the previous year and the year to come. Reading this is one of the highlights of my new year, every year, and this year is no exception. Read the rest

LaCie 'Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2': ridiculously fast desktop storage

MacRumors shares this CES 2014 announcement from LaCie. As last year's 'Little Big Disk Thunderbolt' clocked in at a mere 780MB/s this years model boasts speeds of 1375MB/s, now Rob's at home 4k editing studio can be complete! I can't imagine what else you'd want this for? Read the rest

Feds spend more subsidizing undergrads than undergrads pay in tuition

Here's an analysis of the New America Foundation's Federal Education Budget Project, a wide-ranging and thorough look at the way the government spends on education. It shows that the total take from American universities in tuition for undergraduate programs is $62.6B, while the Federal government is spending $69 billion on grants, aid loans, tax breaks and other funding.

The implication is that it would be cheaper to give away university education than to charge for it, but that's not quite right (federal education funding pays for more than tuition -- it also includes housing, food and other expenses, and the feds are already subsidizing colleges out of their $69B spend). But it does suggest that the education system is really screwed up, an expensive boondoggle that is optimized for paying bondholders who own student debt, rather than turning out an educated, resilient and adaptable nation. Read the rest

US farmers cautiously growing hemp again after 56 years of brain-dead prohibition

Hemp is a useful crop. It's used to make paper, cloth, food, fuel, and many other products. But hemp farming in the United States has been illegal for 56 years. The government outlawed hemp cultivation because it didn't want people hiding marijuana crops in hemp fields (they look the same, but hemp does not contain psychoactive compounds, at least not enough to matter).

Interestingly, products made from hemp are legal in the US, but they must be imported from countries that aren't as insufferably schoolmarmish. This year, however, US farmers are starting to grow hemp again. Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana for recreational use, and some farmers are taking this as permission to grow non-psychoactive hemp in those states. (Hemp, both the inert and psychoactive varieties, is still prohibited under federal law). The first company in line to buy US-grown hemp is Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps. Alternet's April M. Short has a good article about the movement.

The U.S. is one of the fastest expanding markets for hemp in the world, and imports currently come primarily from Canada and China. America imported $(removed) million worth of hemp products in 2011, up from $(removed) million in 2000, the majority of which is used to make granola bars, cooking oils, and personal care products.

Steenstra says in addition to supporting American farmers, a local hemp industry will bring the prices down, and mitigate ecological impacts. Dr. Bronner’s is based in California, where just last month a bill to legalize hemp was passed— contingent upon the Justice Department’s reaction.

Read the rest

Facts and fear about genetically modified food in Hawaii

At The New York Times, Amy Harmon has a fascinating long read about the battle over banning GMOs on the island of Hawaii, and the story of a county council member who came to believe GM plants, as plants, are safe after researching the scary claims made by the ban's proponents. It's an interesting story and reminds me of how I ended up not being afraid of genetically modified food (at least not of the plants, themselves, in any blanket way). Basically, when the claims the anti-GMO people made kept turning out to be mixed-up, misleading, confused, and flat-out wrong, I started questioning whether they actually knew what they were talking about.

Another interesting thing happening in this piece is the comparison Harmon makes between the anti-GMO crowd on the political left and the climate change denialists on the political right. In both cases, you get anti-science, conspiracy-laden rhetoric that tends to ignore any data that doesn't fit ideology. The difference, of course, is that the same people on the left who spread incorrect scare stories about GMOs are often the same people who jump to correct the climate change deniers and lecture them about good science. At the New Republic, Isaac Chotiner writes about this weird inconsistency, and what it means in the context of politics and culture wars.

Thanks to Pesco for the New Republic link! Read the rest

Hop a high-speed train

Here's a fascinating idea for how people could board a high speed train without it ever having to slow down. Read the rest

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