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King Penguin poop is rich in laughing gas

The poop of King Penguins releases high levels of nitrous oxide, aka laughing gas. An international team of researchers from China, Denmark, and the UK were studying how the retreat of glaciers and penguins activity impact soil greenhouse gases on South Georgia, an island north of Antarctica. They observed that the penguin guano is rich in nitrogen that, when it interacts with bacteria in the soil, is converted into nitrous oxide. From CNN:

"It is truly intense," said Bo Elberling, an author of the study. He noted it's not an insignificant amount, either -- the emissions measure about 100 times more than a recently fertilized Danish field. There was enough emitted nitrous, in fact, that one researcher went "completely cuckoo," while "nosing about in guano for several hours," Elberling said...

"The small nitrous oxide cylinders that you see lying in and floating around Copenhagen are no match for this heavy dose, which results from a combination of nitrous oxide with hydrogen sulphide and other gases," he added, referring to the containers designed for whipped cream but often used as a recreational drug.

"Combined effects of glacial retreat and penguin activity on soil greenhouse gas fluxes on South Georgia, sub-Antarctica" (Science of the Total Environment)

image: transformation of original photo by Andrew Shiva (CC BY-SA 4.0) Read the rest

Starbucks says "it will thrive" right before telling landlords they must lower the rent

Starbucks felt pretty confidant on May 4, when CEO Kevin Johnson posted on its website that Starbucks “will not just survive, but with adaptations and new routines, it will thrive.” But a day later, the company's COO Roz Brewer sent a letter to its landlords that said, “Effective June 1 and for at least a period of 12 consecutive months, Starbucks will require concessions to support modified operations and adjustments to lease terms and base rent structures.” Well, demanding reduced rent for one of the world's largest coffee restaurant chains is one way to thrive.

According to The Seattle Times:

Starbucks wants landlords to give it a break on rent for at least a year as coronavirus social-distancing measures batter sales at the Seattle-based global coffee chain...

Starbucks demanded the rent relief one day after the company announced it would reopen 90% of its 8,900 company-owned U.S. stores by early June. In a May 4 post on Starbucks’ website, President and CEO Kevin Johnson wrote that Starbucks “will not just survive, but with adaptations and new routines, it will thrive.”

The letter to landlords struck a more dire tone, asking them to “adapt to new realities” — including an anticipated $225 billion hit to the American restaurant industry over the next three months.

The company called the closure of many businesses to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus “a staggering economic crisis,” adding that “the psychological and economic scars will last for months, if not years.”

Details about how much of a rent reduction and which specific locations would get the reduction haven't yet been hammered out. Read the rest

New rules for Las Vegas casinos promise a grim, joyless experience

I despise everything about Las Vegas -- the garish resorts, the horrible city planning that makes it no fun to walk anywhere, the overpriced "fine dining," and the oppressive layer of sterile corporatism that guarantees no surprises or delight. But that's just me, some people love the place. I wonder if Vegas aficionados are going to still love it when they saunter back in the newly reopened casinos and discover that the buffets are gone, 6-foot physical distancing policies are enforced, gambling areas are divided up with plexiglass barriers, and employees are required to wear facemasks and gloves?

[via Hollywood Reporter]

CoronavirusBy https://www.scientificanimations.com - https://www.scientificanimations.com/wiki-images/, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Las Vegas photo by John Such on Unsplash Read the rest

Legendary East Village corner store, Gem Spa, closes its doors

The Gothamist is reporting the sad news that Gem Spa, the iconic NY corner store that has been a fixture at St. Marks Place and Second Avenue for around 100 years is being forced to shutter its doors and windows for the last time. The Spa has been struggling to keep up with increasing rent prices and COVID-19 has apparently proven to be the final nail in its coffin.

"It’s where Robert Mapplethorpe bought Patti Smith an egg cream on the day they met. It’s on the back cover of the New York Dolls’ 1973 debut (and where, according to lore, Johnny Thunders and others went for post-heroin sugar fixes between sets at CBGB). Before that, it was where Abbie Hoffman gathered Yippies to rain money on the New York Stock Exchange. It’s where Allen Ginsberg, Ted Berrigan, and other neighborhood poets went to pick up the Sunday New York Times on Saturday nights (and which was inevitably commemorated in their poems)."

Read the rest.

Image: Alex Lozupone, CC BY-SA 4.0 Read the rest

The "psychobiome" is bacteria in your gut that affects how you think and act

An array of scientific evidence suggest that in some cases, the bacteria in your gut–your microbiome–could be tied to neurological and psychological disorders and differences, from anxiety and autism to Parkinson's and schizophrenia. The journal Science published a survey of the field and the Cambridge, Massachusetts start-up Holobiome that hopes to use insight into this "psychobiome" to develop treatments for depression, insomnia, and other conditions with a neurological side to them. From Science:

For example, many people with irritable bowel syndrome are also depressed, people on the autism spectrum tend to have digestive problems, and people with Parkinson’s are prone to constipation.

Researchers have also noticed an increase in depression in people taking antibiotics—but not antiviral or antifungal medications that leave gut bacteria unharmed. Last year, Jeroen Raes, a microbiologist at the Catholic University of Leuven, and colleagues analyzed the health records of two groups—one Belgian, one Dutch—of more then 1000 people participating in surveys of their types of gut bacteria. People with depression had deficits of the same two bacterial species, the authors reported in April 2019 in Nature Microbiology.

Researchers see ways in which gut microbes could influence the brain. Some may secrete messenger molecules that travel though the blood to the brain. Other bacteria may stimulate the vagus nerve, which runs from the base of the brain to the organs in the abdomen. Bacterial molecules might relay signals to the vagus through recently discovered “neuropod” cells that sit in the lining of the gut, sensing its biochemical milieu, including microbial compounds.

Read the rest

Beat poet Michael McClure, RIP

Esteemed Beat poet Michael McClure has died of complications from a stroke he suffered last year. He was 87 years old. A key figure in the 1950s San Francisco scene that formed around Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin's City Lights Bookstore, McClure was a contemporary of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Philip Lamantia. Along with his ecstatic, rhythmic poems, McClure also penned plays, songs, novels, and journalism for the likes of Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. Above, McClure reads his poetry to lions in 1966 for the USA: Poetry television series. From the New York Times:

A then 22-year-old McClure helped organize the famous Six Gallery beat poetry reading on Oct. 7, 1955, and later read at the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park that launched the Summer of Love in 1967 and at The Band’s “Last Waltz” concert at Winterland in 1976[...]

In McClure’s 1982 nonfiction account of the Six Gallery reading, “Scratching the Surface of the Beats,” he set the stage for the revolution that was to follow in the mid-1950s:

“The world that we tremblingly stepped out into in that decade was a bitter, gray one," he wrote. “We saw that the art of poetry was essentially dead — killed by war, by academies, by neglect, by lack of love, and by disinterest. We knew we could bring it back to life.”

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Florian Schneider, co-founder of Kraftwerk, RIP

Florian Schneider, the co-founder of Kraftwerk, has died at age 73. Schneider's influence on all forms of electronic music, from disco to new wave, hip hop to techno, is his legacy. He moved culture. From The Guardian:

Born in 1947, Schneider was the son of Paul Schneider-Esbelen, a noted architect who designed Cologne’s airport. Schneider first played music in various groups while studying in Düsseldorf, beginning in a band called Pissoff. Operating in the experimental, open-minded rock scene dubbed “krautrock” in the British press, he formed the group Organisation with Ralf Hutter, the pair later forming Kraftwerk in 1970.

Schneider played the flute, violin and guitar, though often filtered through electronic processing. His interest in electronic music grew. “I found that the flute was too limiting,” he later said. “Soon I bought a microphone, then loudspeakers, then an echo, then a synthesiser. Much later I threw the flute away; it was a sort of process.”

After three albums with Hütter in the mid-70s, Kraftwerk released Autobahn and expanded to a quartet. The album was composed primarily on synthesisers, and its highly original sound and witty lyrics made it a hit, with the title track reaching No 11 in the UK and No 25 in the US.

top image: Daniele Dalledonne (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Is anyone surprised?: "Reopen America" is an astroturf campaign

Simon Chandler writes on Forbes:

Gun advocacy and conservative groups are responsible for astroturfing the reopen America campaign that has swept the US in recent days, according to research from cybersecurity experts.

Since April 15, protests against coronavirus lockdown measures have been sweeping across various American states. Informally unified under the ‘Reopen America’ slogan, they seek an end to measures intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus. They’ve arguably been flared up by tweets President Donald Trump posted on April 17.

But according to new research from cybersecurity researchers, many of these protests are neither spontaneous nor organic. Cybersecurity expert Brian Krebs and researchers at DomainTools have separately analysed web addresses including the word "reopen." And interestingly, they’ve found that many of these can be linked to domains associated with gun advocacy groups, lobbyists, and other conservative organizations.

Read the rest.

[H/t Alberto Gaitán]

Image: Lorie Shaul, CC BY-SA 2.0 Read the rest

Chris Christie says losing 3,000 humans lives every day to Covid-19 is a fair price to protect the economy

America's ultrarich recently trotted out talking puppet Chris Christie to make the case that allowing as many people to die from coronavirus every day as were killed in the 9/11 attacks is a good bargain for United States economy.

From Complex:

[On CNN] Christie was also asked specifically about the fact that a Trump administration model is now projecting an estimated daily death count of up to 3,000 people by the start of June. Asked if the American people "would be able to accept" the reality of reopening following such news, Christie said, "They're gonna have to."

(Image: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0, modified) Read the rest

Listen to a rare Kraftwerk live concert from 1975

In the latest edition of High Weirdness author Erik Davis's essential e-newseltter The Burning Shore, he points us to this wonderfully rare live recording of a complete Kraftwerk concert from a 1975 performance in Canada. It's charging my battery and now I'm definitely full of energy. Erik writes:

...It captures the newly-christened touring quartet of Schneider, Hütter, Flür, and Bartos stretching their electronic wings on their first full international tour. Delicate, playful, and unpretentious, having fun with their goofy machines and modest vocal chops, the group enters a low earth orbit with a “robot pop” sound that remains organic, improvisatory, and still friendly toward the flute. We open with the diaphanous cascades of “Kling Klang”, pass through the galactic drift of “Komentenmelodie 1”, and close with a 25-minute “Autobahn” that manages to both ride the groove and break down in all the right ways. The home-cooked rhythm rigs are particularly charming, constantly shifting timbres and patterns while forging the revolutionary conjunctio of electronics and The Beat. At a time when most prog bands were sludgy with cleverness, this music enacts a genuinely progressive marriage of kosmiche slop and electronic futurism, deployed with the lightest of radioactive touches.

image: "Kraftwerk concert in Zürich, 1976" by Ueli Frey (CC BY-SA 3.0) Read the rest

Outdoor pet cats kill more animals than wild cats do in the same size area

Wild cats certainly kill many more other animals than outdoor pet cats. After all, they have to hunt for their food instead of just bug their human companions. But a new study by North Carolina State University zoologists and their colleagues revealed that outdoor pet cats kill between two and ten times as many animals as wild cats in the same size area. Apparently, every year North American pet cats with outside access kill between ten and thirty billion birds and mammals. But according to the new data gleaned from GPS cat collars, our feline friends generally don't venture further than 100 meters away from their home. Still, their hunting can be a real problem when it comes to conservation. From Scientific American:

[...]In some places, including California, Florida, Australia, and elsewhere, cats were an important threat to some species that are already in trouble.

"On one hand, it’s kind of good news that the cats aren't going out further abroad, but it’s bad news that they're quite likely to have an impact on animals they share space with near their houses," [says North Carolina State University zoologist Roland Kays.]

With so much killing concentrated around people's houses, the positive impacts of urban wildlife—like the beauty of songbirds, or the way small lizards can control insect pests—could get washed away in precisely the areas where those benefits are most appreciated.

image credit: Stiopa (CC BY-SA 4.0) Read the rest

Enormous and “potentially hazardous" asteroid will fly by Earth tomorrow

Tomorrow, an asteroid that's at least a mile wide will pass by Earth. While NASA considers the object, named 1998 Or2, to be "potentially hazardous," it won't hit us. This time. It won't get closer than around four million miles away. Above is a time lapse of the asteroid captured through a telescope by amateur astronomer Ingvars Tomsons in Riga, Latvia. As the asteroid and Earth continue to orbit our sun, it'll continue to be a risk. And this rock is not the only one that could someday sock it to us. At National Geographic, Nadia Drake explains the risk of a catastrophic astronaut impact and NASA's fascinating planetary defense plan, including their Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) planned for next year. From National Geographic:

“[The object that will pass us tomorrow] just a whopping big asteroid,” says Amy Mainzer of the University of Arizona, one of the planet’s leading scientists in asteroid detection and planetary defense. “It’s smaller than the thing thought to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, but it is easily capable of causing a lot of damage.”

An asteroid passing relatively close to Earth is more common than most people realize. Every year, dozens of asteroids that are big enough to cause regional devastation pass within five million miles of Earth—the cutoff for potentially hazardous asteroids. On average, one or two space rocks large enough to cataclysmically impact a continent pass by each year.

Earth will almost certainly confront a space rock large enough to obliterate a city, or worse, at some point in its future.

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Is Magic Leap the Theranos of augmented reality?

Augmented reality startup Magic Leap was founded in 2014. It demonstrated a new kind of technology called "light field signal generation" that promised to be far superior to existing augmented reality and virtual reality technology. It received $2.6 billion in funding from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins, and Google.

In 2018 Magic Leap released a headset called the Magic Leap One, which almost everyone was disappointed with. The problem with it, according to this Tech Crunch article is that Magic Leap pulled a bait-and-switch. It did not use light field signal generation. It used  the same kind of technology found in other augmented reality headsets released by Microsoft and others years earlier.

It appears Magic Leap was unable to sufficiently miniaturize the groundbreaking technology. From Tech Crunch:

As The Information’s Reed Albergotti revealed more than three years ago, “The Beast” was Magic Leap’s original demo box. It was everything people said. It was stunning, dreamlike, breakthrough technology. And it weighed “several hundred pounds.”

“The Beast” was followed by “The Cheesehead,” which fit on a human head, and “showed they could miniaturize the light field signal generator they’d invented” … but still weighed “tens of pounds,” obviously far too heavy for any real-world applications. (There are pictures of both in the linked CNET piece.)

“The Beast” and “The Cheesehead” help explain the multiple rounds of massive venture investment. But then — could Magic Leap miniaturize their breakthrough technology further, to anything actually releasable?

Clearly they could not, and that’s the crux of the matter, the answer to how and why Magic Leap raised $2.6

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How Pong's inventor gave Woz a hack to bring color to the Apple II

In 1977, Steve "Woz" Wozniak used a neat hack to bring color to the Apple II computer. According to IEEE Spectrum, the obscure trick, called NTSC artifact color, "allows digital systems without specialized graphics hardware to produce color images by exploiting quirks in how TVs decode analog video signals." That hack later was employed by the IBM PC, Radio Shack TRS-80, and other early home computers. But how did Woz learn about it? Turns out, videogame legend Al Alcorn, inventor of Pong, turned Woz onto the hack. From IEEE Spectrum:

Stephen Cass: Analog NTSC televisions generate color by looking at the phase of a signal relative to a reference frequency. So how did you come across this color test tool, and how did it work?

Al Alcorn: When I was 13, 14, my neighbor across the street had a television repair shop. I would go down there and at the same time, I had my father sign me up for an RCA correspondence course on radio and television repair. So, by the time I got to Berkeley, I was a journeyman TV repairman and actually paid my way through college through television. In one repair shop, there was a real cheap, sleazy color bar generator [for testing televisions]. And instead of doing color properly by synthesizing the phases and stuff like that, it simply used a crystal that was 3.58 megahertz [the carrier frequency for the color signal] minus 15.750 kilohertz, which was the horizontal scan frequency. So it slipped one phase, 360 degrees, every scan line.

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Listen to Iggy Pop and Bootsy Collins cover "Family Affair" by Sly & The Family Stone!

Family Affair by Iggy Pop

Today is Iggy Pop's 73rd birthday! In celebration, he released this cover of Sly & The Family Stone's classic "Family Affair" (1971). Listen above! Who's playing bass? Ah, the name is Bootsy, baby! The great Bill Laswell produced. From Pop's Bandcamp page:

“To all Poptimists! [this track] made me feel good and it was good company and I hoped I could put it out and it would be good company for someone else too.”

image credit: Aaron Rubin (CC BY-SA 4.0) Read the rest

Sci-fi author David Brin's recommended reading list

Science fiction author and futurist, David Brin, has put together an excellent list of sci-fi books to read. He posted this list years ago, but has re-surfaced it to remind people that now is a great time to READ.

He has the books divided up into interesting categories, like Harbingers of Hope, Sci-Fi for Kids, the Hard Stuff, Fantasy - with Brains, etc. Hundreds of great recommendations here.

Image: Glogger CC BY-SA 3.0 Read the rest

Tom Waits pens touching letter to beloved, eccentric music producer, Hal Willner

Last week, we lost famed music impresario, Hal Willner, likely to COVID-19. Willner was a beloved figure throughout the music community, and in the wake of his death, there have been many touching tributes and people have been resurfacing all sorts of obscure wonders that demonstrate Willner's tremendous range and his talent for putting together unique and inspiring productions.

Yesterday, American Songwriter posted this letter that Tom Waits wrote in tribute to Willner. Read the rest

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