Earth’s magnetic field is weakening

Satellite data from the European Space Agency have revealed that the Earth’s magnetic poles are weakening, and doing so faster than scientists previously thought.

From Mysterious Universe:

Chris Finlay, one of the researchers with the ESA, says that this new data is groundbreaking in terms of how much it reveals about Earth’s magnetic field: "Swarm data are now enabling us to map detailed changes in Earth’s magnetic field, not just at Earth’s surface but also down at the edge of its source region in the core. Unexpectedly, we are finding rapid localized field changes that seem to be a result of accelerations of liquid metal flowing within the core."

From ESA:

Although invisible, the magnetic field and electric currents in and around Earth generate complex forces that have immeasurable effects on our everyday lives.

The field can be thought of as a huge bubble, protecting us from cosmic radiation and electrically charged atomic particles that bombard Earth in solar winds. However, it is in a permanent state of flux.

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Welding mishap

This welder was perched on a column when the roof collapsed around him. He didn't fall. Read the rest

Deep learning AI "autoencodes" Blade Runner, recreates it so faithfully it gets a takedown notice

Artist and researcher Terence Broad is working on his master's at Goldsmith's computing department; his dissertation involved training neural networks to "autoencode" movies they've been fed. Read the rest

Demonstration of a piezoelectric motor

Ben Krasnow of Applied Science demonstrates the tiny fingers of a piezoelectric motor. (Here's my interview with Ben from last year.) Read the rest

Brigham Young professor told not to give fake urine to his students to drink

Brigham Young University assistant professor Jason Hansen can no longer offer glasses of artificial urine to his physiology students.

From ABC7Chicago:

Assistant professor Jason Hansen has been told to just explain the lesson next time rather than offering a mixture of water with vinegar and food coloring and calling it urine, Dixon Woodbury, chair of BYU's department of physiology and developmental biology, said Wednesday in a statement.

Hansen will not be disciplined.

Hansen said in a statement that he didn't mean to offend anyone when he recently offered a student the chance to drink urine in class to learn about the principles of hydration and dehydration. The woman didn't know it was fake urine. The second-year professor says he has done the same exercise in the past with no complaints.

"This is usually a fun way to teach this concept to the class," Hansen said in an email.

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“Let’s troll Bernie and Hillary supporters systematically,” said Trump fans on 4chan

Some Donald Trump supporters on 4chan--that time-honored bastion of gentility, courtesy, and sensibility-- hatched a plan on the forum to use sockpuppet Twitter accounts to pit Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters against one other. The plan had a slogan: “Let’s troll Bernie and Hillary supporters systematically.”

Their scheme didn’t really work, and has been removed from 4chan. But something like this could be effective in the future--and who knows, another instance of this same political game may be working elsewhere, undetected, right now. Read the rest

Tumblr's shoplifting community is organized, politically conscious, and at war with weightlifters

"Liftblr" is the informal, amorphous community of shoplifters who post their hauls to Tumblr using pseudonymous accounts, offering each other support and encouragement. Most seem to be young women, and their community's discourse often circles back to class war, politics, gender and consumerism. Read the rest

Amazon is suing its own retailers over fake reviews

If you're an Amazon seller and you pay people to review your products on Amazon, the company may sue you. The online commerce giant sued three sellers today for using sockpuppet accounts to post glowing but phony product reviews. Read the rest

Anakin Skywalker in middle age

Redditor Isaac_2 didn't just morph actors Hayden Christiansen (Young Anakin) and Sebastian Shaw (Elderly Anakin/Vader), but carefully photomanipulated the result for anatomical credibility and Star Warsyness. Some people see David Bowie; others see a more athletic George Lucas. See the working process at the Star Wars subreddit. Read the rest

Brian Brushwood's mind control magic trick

Here's Brian Brushwood showing how to do a great mentalism trick. The effect: Brian explains to the spectator that a psychologist once taught him about a famous Robert Frost poem that, when recited, will force the person who hears it to imagine a specific playing card. Brian then recites the poem to the spectator and asks the spectator what card he thought of. Then Brian tells the spectator to do a YouTube search on the psychologist who told Brian about it. The spectator plays the video and the psychologist says the same card the spectator thought of. Read the rest

DoD public relations' highest-ranking civilian gets community service for stealing license plates and harassing neighbor's nanny

Bryan Whitman -- familiar to many as the Pentagon's top spokesman during much of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- has settled a case with people who live near him in DC, who caught him repeatedly stealing the license plates off their nanny's car using a hidden camera. Read the rest

Purple Rain tribute by Amanda Palmer, Jherek Bischoff & strings, to benefit kids' charity Prince supported

Amanda Palmer provides vocals on this 10+-minute Purple Rain cover, backed by Jherek Bischoff and a string quartet consisting of Serena McKinney (violin), Ben Ullery (viola), Alma Fernandez (viola) and Jacob Braun (cello).

It's $1 to download from Bandcamp, with proceeds to the Elevate Hope Foundation, founded by Prince protege Sheila E to provide music therapy to abused and abandoned kids. Prince himself was a supporter of the foundation.

Purple Rain [Amanda Palmer & Jherek Bischoff/Bandcamp]

(via Metafilter) Read the rest

Prince died of a pain medication overdose

Updated: Fentanyl.

A law enforcement official told the Associated Press today that tests show Prince died of an opioid overdose. The iconic musician was found dead at Paisley Park, his home and studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on the morning of April 21, 2016. He was 57. Read the rest

US government agency's own numbers predict virtually no gains from TPP

The United States International Trade Commission, "an independent, bipartisan, quasi-judicial, federal agency of the United States that provides trade expertise to both the legislative and executive branches," has just tabled a deep, 792-page report on the likely economic benefits to the USA from the secretly negotiated, anti-democratic Trans-Pacific Partnership, and they predict that the agreement will deliver 0.01% growth to the US economy between now and 2032, when it will level off altogether. Read the rest

Mary Meeker's yearly report on global trends is out - good stuff

Mary Meeker, a venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has released the 230-page slideshow for her annual "Internet Trends" report. I've just started going through it and it's fascinating. What learned in the first 30 slides or so: Population growth is slowing, household debt is increasing, people are living longer, GDPs have been below average in recent years, smartphone sales are slowing, and user-generated video is the new big thing.

From Washington Post:

Even more than photos, user-generated video content is redefining marketing. As Meeker notes, Candace Payne’s viral video in a Chewbacca mask, viewed over 150 million in just one day, twice mentioned Kohl’s department store. The result? The company’s app leapt to the top in the iOS app store. No planned (and expensive) campaign could have hoped for such an outcome.

(Thanks for the video link, Gary!) Read the rest

No Man's Sky: culture or cult?

Forthcoming game No Mans Sky promises players the experience of exploring a nigh-infinite universe of beautiful, dreamlike worlds. But its fans are far from serene. When a journalist reported a development delay, he was sent death threats--a black hole of rage that expanded to the game's creators when they confirmed the news. Read the rest

EFF: FBI & NIST's tattoo recognition program exploited prisoners, profiled based on religion, gave sensitive info to private contractors

Dave Maass from EFF says, "Right now, NIST researchers are working with the FBI to develop tattoo recognition technology that police can use to learn as much as possible about people through their tattoos. But an EFF investigation has found that these experiments exploit inmates, with little regard for the research's implications for privacy, free expression, religious freedom, and the right to associate. And so far, researchers have avoided ethical oversight while doing it." Read the rest

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