Parasite fills cicadas with amphetamines and mind-altering drugs

Matt Kason, a fungi researcher at West Virginia University, has discovered that cicadas whose bodies have been corrupted by the fungus Massospora keep flying around, have tons of energy and get really horny, because the fungus is doping them with meth and shrooms.

Via the Atlantic:

I asked Kasson if it’s possible to get high by eating Massospora-infected cicadas. Surprisingly, he didn’t say no. “Based on the ones we looked at, it would probably take a dozen or more,” he said. But it’s possible that earlier in the infections, before the conspicuous saltshaker stage, the fungus might pump out higher concentrations of these chemicals. Why? Kasson suspects that the drugs help the fungus control its hosts.

Infected cicadas behave strangely. Despite their horrific injuries, males become hyperactive and hypersexual. They frenetically try to mate with anything they can find, including with other males. They’ll even mimic the wing-flicking signals of females to lure males toward them. None of this does them any good—their genitals have either been devoured by the fungus or have fallen off with the rest of their butts. Instead, this behavior only benefits the fungus, allowing its spores to find new hosts.

Kasson suspects that cathinone and psilocybin are responsible for at least some of these behaviors. “If I had a limb amputated, I probably wouldn’t have a lot of pep in my step,” he said. “But these cicadas do. Something is giving them a bit more energy. The amphetamine could explain that.”

Psilocybin’s role is harder to explain.

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Theodore Gray, co-founder of Wolfram Research, talks about his favorite tools

Kevin Kelly and I interviewed Theodore Gray the co-founder of Wolfram Research, makers of Mathematica and Wolfram|Alpha. He’s also the founder of App publisher Touch Press and the author of many books that Kevin and I own and love, including The Elements, Molecules, Reactions, and Mad Science. He’s also the proprietor of periodictable.com.

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GU Eagle BF-1309 Laser Cutter

"I used to have a lot of different tools that I really liked. I like tools. I'm kind of tool guy. But once I got this laser cutter, it's like everything else has fallen by the wayside, because this thing is just so much more fun and more enabling of things that any other tool I've ever had. ...Their smallest and cheapest model is a 130 watt CO2 tube with a 51 by 35 inch working area. I mean, this thing is the size of a grand piano. And it's like it's huge. It's way, way bigger than I had any intention of getting, and frankly more than I had planned to spend on a laser cutter. … . It's just huge, and it's very powerful, and it's very fast, and it can cut half-inch acrylic like butter. You can actually cut inch-thick acrylic if you're willing to go a little slow."

Milwaukee M18 Fuel Deep Cut Band Saw

"A handheld bandsaw. This was probably, I don't know, more than 20 years ago when I was building a house. Read the rest

Alex Jones is suing the parents of a Sandy Hook victim for $100,000

Unhinged conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been leading a psychotic crusade against the Sandy Hook victims' families since before the crime scene tape was even removed from the building. For five years, Jones and his followers (insert drinking the Flavor-Aid reference here) have accused the government of conducting a false flag operation in Newton in order to overturn the Second Amendment. This, of course, is utter bullshit. But that hasn't stopped them from cyberstalking the families, accusing them of lying about their dead children, and in some cases, sending death threats. The harassment has been severe enough to cause some of the families to relocate.

In Texas this week, a defamation claim by the family of Noah Pozner will be heard in court. The Pozners, whose 6-year-old son Noah was one of the victims, have been forced to move seven times due to the harassment of Jones and his Infowars infantry. The case is one of several related to Sandy Hook that has been filed against Jones. But it is the Pozner case that seems to have gotten under Jones' skin. He is suing the Pozners for $100,000 to cover his legal costs.

"Mr. Jones is trying to have the Pozner and Fontaine cases dismissed under the Texas Citizens Participation Act, which protects citizens’ right to free speech against plaintiffs who aim to silence them through costly litigation. Mr. Jones is seeking more than $100,000 in court costs from the Pozner family."

We need a new word to describe Alex Jones. Read the rest

23,000 refugees have fled violence in Nicaragua

Last week, Nicaraguan president and dictator-in-training Daniel Ortega had the gall to declare that the violence and protests that have plagued his nation since April had come to an end. His nation's doing just fine! At the time that this bullshit dribbled out of his cakehole, protests against government corruption, cronyism and the government’s slow role into fascism were still ongoing. To date, approximately 300 people have died as elements of Nicaragua’s police and paramilitaries loyal to Ortega have attempted to put a bloody end to the growing voice of dissent and disgust for his administration.

Not everyone in the South American country wants a piece of this action.

According to Al Jazeera, upwards of 23,000 Nicaraguan citizens have fled to neighboring Costa Rica, seeking refugee status, due to the escalating violence surrounding the demand that Ortega step down from power and his refusal to do so.

From Al Jazeera:

William Spindler, UNHCR spokesman, told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that an average of 200 asylum applications are being lodged every day in Costa Rica.

"Besides the 8,000 who have filed asylum claims, and the 15,000 who are waiting to do so, thousands more have arrived in Costa Rica but have not yet contacted authorities there," added Splinter.

Panama, Mexico and the United States also saw a rise in claims by Nicaraguans in the first half of this year, but the numbers in these countries are still in the low hundreds, according to the UNHCR.

Costa Rica and Nicaragua, which share a border, have bickered over land rights and environmental issues for years. Read the rest

A bunch of electronics components for $10

If you are getting started in electronics, or just want to refresh your component inventory, this $10 kit comes with a lot of good basic stuff. See everything it comes with on the Amazon description page.

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Fascinating look at how America uses its land

Bloomberg has an interactive report that shows how America uses its land for different purposes. I was surprised by how much land is dedicated to livestock pasture: 41%. Also the 100 largest landowning families own land equal to the size of Florida. Read the rest

One US dollar costs 175,000 Venezuelan bolívars

In 2010 a Venezuelan bolívar was worth about US$0.50. Today it's worth US$0.0000058.

Here's another way of looking at it. A satoshi is one one-hundred-millionth of a single bitcoin. At the current exchange rate, a bolívar is worth less than 1/8th of a satoshi.

The Central Bank of Venezuela is getting ready to issue a new currency, called the bolívar soberano. The plan was to make 1,000 bolívar = 1 bolívar soberano in June, but the president decided to wait until later this month and make 100,000 bolívar = 1 bolívar soberano.

This is what 2,1m bolivars (1 USD) looks like. Inflation this week was 50% aproximately - 170% montly inflation from r/pics

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Great video of a wriggling worm found in fish at a New Jersey restaurant

Worms in fish are not so uncommon. But rarely do we actually see them, especially alive, on a dinner plate, at a restaurant. That's what makes this video so fascinating. It's well-shot and captures a live wriggling worm on someone's plate of codfish.

As a side note, after the customer posted the video on Facebook, the restaurant who served the pink appetizer, Stella Marina Bar & Restaurant, was none too pleased, and a social media feud between customer and restaurant ensued. You can read about it here if you're interested. Read the rest

Colluding with foreigners to influence an election is a crime

In this video Delaware Senator Chris Coons reads the U.S. code that plainly says it is unlawful for a person to accept anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a federal, state, or local election.

Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who have both declared that "collusion is not a crime," are either lying or dazed and confused. Probably both.

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Queen collapses, Stacy Peterson’s body found, Jennifer Aniston’s post-divorce hook-ups, and other news that never happened, in this week’s fact-challenged tabloids.

It’s the summer silly season, and this week’s dubious tabloids are more fact-free than ever.

“Drew Peterson’s Wife’s Body Found!” screams the cover of the National Enquirer.

No, it wasn’t. A sonar scan has supposedly spotted a body-shaped object in an Illinois canal. After 11 years, “killer cop” Peterson’s missing wife Stacy’s corpse would most likely have suffered extensive decomposition. It could be anyone who recently fell into the canal, but is more likely an abandoned store mannequin, which is why authorities haven’t dredged it up yet.

Jennifer Aniston is having secret “sleepovers” with estranged husband Justin Theroux, claims the Enquirer, noting several of his cars parked in her garage. How does that work? Every time Theroux comes over for some break-up sex he brings three cars with him? Or could it be he’s just parking them at her home because she has the garage space?

"Natalie Wood Death Yacht Ransacked,” reports the Enquirer, citing “multiple sources” who claim that Robert Wagner “is behind it,” deliberately “destroying critical evidence.” That only makes sense if Wagner believes that the boat's lanterns, a ladder and bilge pump somehow miraculously hold incriminating evidence 36 years after Wood’s death on the yacht she was aboard before her drowning death in 1981. Or could it perhaps just be vandals and thieves stripping the old yacht Splendour?

And when the Enquirer reports that Justin Bieber is planning an all-nude wedding to his fiancé, well, it feels as if they’ve just decided the weather’s too good to be stuck in the office and are making it up so they can flee their desks and rush out to the beach. Read the rest

Facebook security chief Alex Stamos quits, joins Stanford 'Information Warfare' group

Facebook's longtime Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos is quitting, as announced earlier this year. The company seems to think it doesn't need a new CSO, despite having just acknowledged Tuesday it is the subject of ongoing, sustained, coordinated information warfare attacks just ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Read the rest

TSA might end security screenings at 150 U.S. airports. Experts say it's dangerous.

Documents obtained by CNN outline a plan to eliminate TSA security screenings at more than 150 small and medium sized airports that mostly service planes with 60 seats or fewer. Read the rest

How a miniature chess set is made

This relaxing video shows a miniature chess set being made with rotary tools, lathes, saws and other equipment. It's not quite a DIY guide, unless you already have a fabulous shop, but it definitely makes me want a nice chess set. Read the rest

Toronto councillor praises gerrymandering plan to silence "left-leaning" voices in the city

Robbo Mills writes, "Speaking at a press conference at the Provincial Parliament in Queen’s Park on Monday, Toronto Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti said Premier Doug Ford’s plan to gut Toronto City Council is a good move because it would silence 'left-leaning' voices on council. Read the rest

Now that telcos have "abandoned rural America," the only broadband comes from cable monopolies

You know what's worse than shopping for your ISP in a market served by a cable/teclo duopoly? Getting your internet from a cable monopolist who faces no competition at all. Read the rest

Bidding opens for the right to bring an original cast video of Hamilton to screens

When Lin-Manuel Miranda left the cast of Hamilton in 2016, the production created an archival video of the original cast performance, saying that he had "no idea" what they'd do with the footage, "Throwing it in a vault at Gringotts for a bit probly." Read the rest

Fox & Friends edits video to falsely discredit a US Senator

Mazie Hirono, the Democratic senator from Hawaii, was questioning the head of removal operations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Matthew Albence, over the administrations family reunification efforts. The folks at Fox & Friends, a well-known Trump Administration propaganda tool, selectively edited, and then intentionally presented the falsified video as proof the US Senator was "confused" over immigration law.

Via Media Matters:

Fox & Friends deceptively edited a clip of an exchange between Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and the head of removal operations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Matthew Albence, during a July 31 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing regarding oversight of immigration enforcement and family reunification efforts. Despite the way Fox & Friends presented the dialogue -- suggesting a sitting U.S. senator was “confused about the immigration laws” -- Hirono was, in fact, correct in her assertions that the Trump administration alone made the decision to start prosecuting everyone crossing the border illegally, which has resulted in the separation of hundreds of immigrant families. Albence would acknowledge Hirono’s assertion as “correct,” but Fox & Friends did not include the comment in its deceptively edited clip.

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