A ball that inverts and changes color when it is midair, and the scientific literature that explains it

The Hoberman Switch Pitch Throwing Ball is a $12 toy that instantiates a dual polyhedron: every time you throw it, it turns inside-out; there's a wealth of scientific literature that explains how this works, including this open-access paper from the Journal of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures. Here's JWZ's summary: "The curved body panels that make it look like a sphere hide an internal structure that is a cube; or really, two tetrahedrons embedded in a cube; and when it its its activation energy, the tetrahedron becomes its dual, swapping faces and vertices." Read the rest

Podcast: The Man Who Sold the Moon, Part 08: the FINAL INSTALLMENT

Here's the eighth and final part of my reading (MP3) (party seven, part six, part five, part four, part three, part two, part one) of The Man Who Sold the Moon, my award-winning novella first published in 2015's Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer. It's my Burning Man/maker/first days of a better nation story and was a kind of practice run for my 2017 novel Walkaway.

MP3 Read the rest

Hillary Clinton’s funeral plans, and how to be like Donald Trump, in this week’s dubious tabloids

The tabloids take a running jump before leaping to some pretty wild conclusions this week – one of the few things they do well.

The National Enquirer has a series of stories based on Olympic-level leaping. "Scientology horror – Suri saw it all.” No, she didn’t. Tom Cruise’s daughter saw nothing of the alleged “brainwashing,” “threats” and “bizarre rituals” at the pseudo-religion’s headquarters, because like her father, she would have been kept far from any unsightly scenes or behavior, and also because she was only a toddler at the time. I challenge any 18-month-old to say: “Daddy, that cult member has been working here for 16 hours suffering inhumane living and working conditions.” Not going to happen.

“Cops Quiz O.J. in Goldman Dad Murder for Hire Plot.” No, they haven’t quizzed O.J. about his supposed scheme to kill murder victim Ronald Goldman’s father, Fred. Even the Enquirer story claims that prison authorities have only interviewed the jailhouse snitch making the allegation that O.J. wanted to hire a hit man, and have not quizzed Simpson. And the Nevada Dept of Corrections denies any investigation whatsoever.

“Army Thanks Enquirer for Exposing Troops’ Crimes!” No, it didn’t. The Army thanked the Enquirer for agreeing to give its investigators photographs that allegedly show U.S. forces in Afghanistan abusing enemy corpses, but that’s not the same as thanking the rag for making as-yet-unproven allegations of what it terms “morally offensive crimes.” Because we all know how the Enquirer is a bastion of American morality.

“Proof Teddy Could Have Saved Mary Jo!” Read the rest

After 17 years, luxury hotel lifts ban for man whose pepperoni brought disaster to his room

I've lived in British Columbia and Nova Scotia. This is, hands down, the best story I've ever read that involves both coasts.

According to The Times Colonist, 17 years ago, Nick Burchill, a naval reservist from Nova Scotia, was in Victoria, British Columbia for a work-related conference. He chose to stay at the Fairmont Empress Hotel: a high-falootin' luxury joint that's been a fixture on the city's downtown waterfront for decades. When Burchill came from the east coast, he knew that he'd be meeting with friends from the navy when time allowed for it. He brought them a gift: Chris Brothers Pepperoni sticks: a much-loved Nova Scotian delicacy. Not wanting anyone to feel left out, he brought, well, a lot. To keep the meat cool and edible until he could hand it over to his pals, Burchill cracked the window in his hotel room and laid the pepperoni out on the windowsill. He figured that the cool spring air would be enough to refrigerate the food. What happened next is the stuff of legend:

From the Times Colonist:

He spread the packages of pepperoni out on a table and along the window sill, then went for a leisurely four or five hour walk.

“I remember walking down the long hall and opening the door to my room to find an entire flock of seagulls in my room,” Burchill wrote. “I didn’t have time to count, but there must have been 40 of them and they had been in my room, eating pepperoni for a long time.”

Read the rest

Vatican: More trained exorcists needed to fight the demonic

According to the Vatican, demonic possessions are on the uptick. In order to meet the rising demand for assistance by those assailed by the demonic, the Vatican-backed International Association of Exorcists will be holding a training course for Priests interested in fighting the demonic. According to The Guardian, the course will held at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome between 16-21 April.

The announcement of the upcoming Vatican course comes at a time when concerns over whether the rite of exorcism could be seen as a form of spiritual and physical abuse are being raised.

From The Guardian:

Last year, the Christian thinktank Theos reported that exorcisms were a “booming industry” in the UK, particularly among Pentecostal churches.

But some warn that “deliverance ministry” can be a form of spiritual abuse. Critics also say LGBT people and those with mental health issues are targeted for deliverance in the belief that their sexuality or psychiatric problems are the result of demonic possession.

For their part, the Vatican, as well as the Anglican and Orthodox churches, acknowledge that medical care and psychological assessment of anyone asking for exorcism is a must--mistaking a medically treatable condition for spiritual affliction doesn't help anyone. Of equal importance is the fact that, as part of an exorcist's training, it's reinforced that unwanted touching or unrequested exorcisms should not take place.

No matter where your beliefs (or lack thereof) fall on the issue of exorcism, having more trained exorcists rolling around out there will likely be a good thing for those who feel that their only recourse from torment or spiritual danger is through a cleansing rite. Read the rest

A hive of scum and villainy: meet the right-wing "Democrats" the DCCC is planning to win 2018 with

Ann Kirkpatrick cast the vote that kept Guantanamo Bay open and voted against cap-and-trade, and has been a consistent opponent of EPA air-quality measures; Jason Crow says he won't take corporate PAC money, so instead he's funded by his law firm which lobbies for casinos, fossil fuel companies (he also opposed gun control after the Aurora shooting happened on his watch in his district, having received large sums from the gun lobby) and he's the beneficiary of Bain Capital's largesse; Paul Davis voted to bar cities from enacting gun control rules, and for a ban on the use of state funds to support gun control lobbying, he's supported drug tests for welfare recipients and a corporate tax cut during the recession. Read the rest

This is the world's smallest sushi

At Tokyo's Sushiya no Nohachi (すし屋の野八) you can order sushi made with just one grain of rice (粒寿司). Fortunately, after the novelty wears off, you can also order regular-sized sushi that's said to be excellent! A plate of tiny sushi is free, so long as you also drop around US$50 on regular sushi. The tiny sushi plate includes Toro (tuna), Tai (sea bream), Chūtoro (medium fatty tuna), Hokkigai (surf clam), Uni (sea urchin), Tako (octopus), Tamago (egg), Gari (pickled ginger). From Tofugu:

The tiny sushi idea originally came from a customer in 2002 who challenged the owner's son (Ikeno Hironori) to see how small he could make a piece of sushi. Over time, it became something they were known for.

That said, when we asked how often they need to make a plate of small sushi, we were surprised.

"Just a few times a week and at most five times in a day." Though when customers from overseas order, they tend to be extra enthusiastic about the tiny sushi.

He told us that one woman from Europe burst into tears and cried for an hour and a half after seeing the cute, little sushi.

Read the rest

Even insured Americans flock to Mexico for low-cost, high-quality health-care

American health care is so screwed up, so horribly distorted by the insurance companies' abusive practices, that millions of Americans (even those with insurance) fly to Mexico every year to get state-of-the-art medical care -- and a resort vacation in the bargain -- rather than face the US system, and save money by doing so. Read the rest

China's falling space station burned up last night just north of the Spacecraft Cemetery

Last night, China's Tinagong-1 space station, about the size of a school bus, burned up as it fell over the Pacific Ocean. The Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques captured this hot image as the satellite was just 270 kilometers (170 miles) above Earth's surface. Kenneth Chang writes in the New York Times:

The demise of the station, Tiangong-1, became apparent when radar stations no longer detected it passing overhead. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries; the likelihood that pieces would land on someone was small, but not zero.

The station may have landed northwest of Tahiti, Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said on Twitter. That location is north of the Spacecraft Cemetery, an isolated region in the Pacific Ocean where space debris has frequently landed.

For the past few weeks the fate of Tiangong-1 has provided some drama. The Chinese lost control of the spacecraft a couple of years ago and thus could not guide it to the middle of an ocean. Because of the drag of air molecules bouncing off Tiangong-1, the station’s altitude dropped, and the descent accelerated quickly in the last few days.

Read the rest

The Tentacuddle: a cthulhoid slanket

The Tentacuddle is another of Thinkgeek's not-April-Fools products launched on Apr 1 but seriously for realsies; it's $60, acrylic, 40"^2 plus five two-foot-long besuckered tentacles whose terminal apertures will admit your own appendages for eating or other manipulative/ambulatory tasks, and it's machine washable. Read the rest

Review: Black Panther

I thought it was funny how they kept having Erik Killmonger do irrationally psychopathic things, just in case the audience starts wondering why they're supposed to side with a moderate CIA-backed autocrat.

★★★★★ Read the rest

John Oliver on America's immigration courts, where families are torn apart and young children represent themselves

John Oliver is in very good form in this 18-minute explainer on America's ghastly immigration courts, where "we try death penalty cases like it was traffic court," forcing refugee claimants (even children as young as three years old) to represent themselves in deportation proceedings where their very lives are at stake. Read the rest

Scientists design fire alarm wallpaper made from the same mineral as bone and teeth

Researchers demonstrated a prototype "fire alarm wallpaper" that's meant to be flame-resistant while also integrating a nanotechnology-based sensor that triggers a siren and warning lights. Ying-Jie Zhu at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and colleagues published their work in the journal ACS Nano.

The new wallpaper is based on hydroxyapatite, which is the primary inorganic component of bone and teeth. Although hydroxyapatite is typically brittle and inflexible, in previous work the researchers found that forming ultralong nanowires made of hydroxyapatite gives the material a high flexibility suitable for making wallpaper.

In order to make the nonflammable wallpaper a "smart material" capable of automatically sounding an alarm in response to a fire, the researchers incorporated an ink-based thermosensitive sensor onto the wallpaper.

The thermosensitive sensor is fabricated on the surface of the wallpaper by a simple drop-casting process using an ink containing graphene oxide. The tiny sensor is placed on the backside of the fire- resistant wallpaper so that it is out of sight and protected by the fireproof wallpaper.

The sensor is composed primarily of graphene oxide, which is electrically insulating at room temperature. However, when exposed to heat, the oxygen-containing groups are removed, making the material highly conductive. The sensor is connected to an alarm, so when a fire occurs and the sensor begins to conduct electricity, it causes the alarm to go off.

"Fire alarm wallpaper detects, resists, and warns of house fires" (Phys.org)

Read the rest

Cloudflare's 1.1.1.1: an encrypted, privacy-protecting DNS service

Cloudflare, a company with a history of resisting surveillance and censorship orders (albeit imperfectly and sometimes with undesirable consequences) has announced a new DNS service, hosted at the easy-to-remember address of 1.1.1.1, which accepts connections under the still-novel DNS-over-HTTPS protocol, and which has privacy designed in, with all logs written only to RAM (never to disk) and flushed every 24 hours. Read the rest

Why humans are so enchanted with cats

We think cats are our pets but we are mistaken. The New Yorker interviews Abigail Tucker, author of The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World:

She explains how “cats domesticated themselves”—essentially by choosing proximity to people as their survival strategy—and then proceeded to infect one in three humans on Earth with a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which affects our behavior in ways that are still not entirely understood, although there is speculation that one of the symptoms might be an attraction to cats. Scientists estimate that there could be as many as a billion cats in the world, and their number continues to grow. So, if you feel like you live under your cat’s paw, you might as well get used to it. As Tucker says, “We’re never going to get control over these animals.”

(The New Yorker) Read the rest

Here are the moats and walls Facebook has been building for years to defend against #DeleteFacebook

As we set ourselves to the task of dooming Facebook to the scrapheap of history, it's worth considering the many ways in which Facebook has anticipated and planned for this moment, enacting countermeasures to prevent the rise of a competitor focused on delivering things that help users (making it easy to find people to form interest groups with), rather than focused on "maximizing engagement" and spying on us. Read the rest

Governing a decentralized internet without votes

When we think of democracy, we generally think of voting: the people are polled, the people decide. But voting is zero-sum: it has winners and losers. There are other models of governance that can make claim to democratic legitimacy that produce wins for everyone. Read the rest

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