• The Arecibo radio telescope will be demolished

    The National Science Foundation announced that it will decommission and demolish the iconic Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. This comes after two cables suspending the telescope's 900-ton receiver platform above its massive dish broke while others are weakening. Completed in 1963, the Arecibo Observatory has been a key instrument in the development of radio astronomy. It's also where in 1974 my friend Frank Drake, SETI pioneer and telescope director at the time, transmitted an encoded message for any extraterrestrials who may be listening. Over at National Geographic, Frank's daughter, esteemed science writer Nadia Drake, has been covering the story. Here is Nadia's piece about today's sad news and the following is from her feature last week in National Geographic:

    Discoveries from Arecibo include the 1974 detection of a pair of whirling pulsars that are emitting gravitational waves—earning the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics—and the first confirmed planets spotted orbiting a star other than the sun in 1992. Scientists at Arecibo also worked out Mercury's rotation rate, spotted a repeating fast radio burst, and conducted numerous searches for communicative extraterrestrial civilizations—an endeavor popularized by Carl Sagan's novel Contact that was later made into a movie of the same name.

    In addition to observing the heavens and collecting radio waves, Arecibo is also an extremely powerful radar. Scientists use this capability to characterize asteroids that cross Earth's orbit, calculating their positions with extreme precision to figure out how to avoid future collisions. And in 1974, Dad used it to send an interstellar message to a clump of stars called the Great Cluster in the Hercules constellation. In it, he encoded information about humans, Earth, the solar system, and Arecibo, and broadcast it during a celebration of upgrades to the telescope.

    "It does atmospheric science, it does solar system science, it does astronomy, it does astrophysics," Rivera-Valentín says. "It's important for science, and for the entire world."

    image: University of Central Florida

  • These are the most common passwords that people are using (and shouldn't be) in 2020

    Password management software company NordPass published its list of the "Top 200 most common passwords of the year 2020." The top 10 are mostly the glaringly obvious ones that somehow people still use. "Password" even moved up a spot to number four! New additions include "picture1" and "senha," the Portugese word for, er, "password."

    "Top 200 most common passwords of the year 2020" (via CNN)

  • Indonesian man sells meteorite that fell through his roof for $1 million

    A meteor recently crashed through Josua Hutagalung's tin roof in Sumatra, Indonesia.

    "The sound was so loud that parts of the house were shaking too. And after I searched, I saw that the tin roof of the house had broken," Hutagalung, a 33-year-old coffin maker, told Indonesia's Kompas newspaper. "When I lifted it, the stone was still warm."

    The bad luck became very, very good luck when Hutagalung sold the 2.1kg space rock for more than $1 million. From The Independent:

    The meteorite is carbonaceous chondrite, an extremely rare variety estimated to be 4.5 billion years old – and reportedly worth around £645 per gram.

    Mr Hutagalung told The Sun he sold the rock to US meteorite expert Jared Collins – who then sold the item to a US collector, currently storing it at the Centre for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University.

  • The original, wonderful, folky, and slightly schmaltzy recording of "Turn! Turn! Turn!"

    Folk legend Pete Seeger penned "Turn! Turn! Turn" in the the late 1950s, but the release of his recording was preceded by the above 1962 version recorded by folk trio The Limeliters. One of the players on that Limeliters session was Jim McGuinn (later known as Roger McGuinn) who went on to form The Byrds and rearranged that song to be a massive folk-rock hit.

    image: album art/Discogs

    (via r/ObscureMedia)

  • On today's anniversary of Jonestown, here is a moving music video using footage from the Peoples Temple

    On November 18, 1978, more than nine hundred members of the Peoples Temple, under the guidance of cult leader Rev. Jim Jones, killed themselves or were murdered in the jungles of Guyana. Five years before the mass suicide-murder though, Jones was a pillar of the San Francisco community, hobnobbing with government officials and other big-shots while leading his adoring congregation in religious, social, and political activism. Inspired and moved by this strange and tragic story, the band Cults and director Isaiah Seret created the music video above in 2011 and premiered it on Boing Boing. Here is Seret's statement about the project:

    To tell the story of Cults' hauntingly beautiful track, "Go Outside", I was inspired to bring the band inside the world of Jim Jones' famous religious cult, Peoples Temple, and the eventual tragedy in
    Jonestown. Fortunately, when exploring the feasibility of this video I became acquainted with Fielding M. McGehee III, an expert on Peoples Temple history and the primary researcher for the Jonestown Archive. It is thanks to him and his encouragement that I was able to take on this project and through his support gained access to over two and half hours of home videos showing Peoples Temple in Jonestown. For this music video we didn't want to put a spin on the footage or the peoples lives—instead we wanted to re-tell and humanize their story. In order to achieve this we used a combination of stock footage, visual effects and other tricks to embed the band into the historical footage. This was achieved through my collaboration with my visual effects supervisor Bill Gillman and my cinematographer Matthew Lloyd. Lastly, I am moved to say when we completed the video we were able to preview it for some of the survivors of the Jonestown Massacre, who expressed their appreciation of our focus on the lives of the People's Temple members as opposed to exploiting the graphic images of the final tragedy.

    To learn more about the Peoples Temple and the event leading up to November November 18, 1978, visit: Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple (SDSU)

    image: Nancy Wong (CC BY-SA 4.0)

  • Dr. Martens planning for IPO in 2021

    Iconic punk, skinhead, and mall punk shoemaker Dr. Martens is planning for an IPO in early 2021. Oi? From Hypebeast:

    Permira, which acquired the company for around £300 million GBP (approximately. $398 million USD) in 2013, has appointed Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to act as global coordinators on the float.

    Permira purchased the company from the Griggs family, who had owned the company since it was licensed in the U.K. in the late 1950s. The last full financial year depicts a positive outlook for Dr. Martens, with underlying earnings doubling to the end of March.

    Video above from The Young Ones (1982).

    image: Vugluskr (public domain)
  • The invention of mirrors and why they matter

    All the way back to 6200 BC, and probably before that, humans made mirrors. In Turkey, they polished obsidian; in Egypt, copper. Over at Smithsonian, beloved Boing Boing contributor Clive Thompson explores the technological and cultural history of the mirror. From Smithsonian:

    During the medieval period in Europe, paintings of vice would include women gazing into hand mirrors while the skeletons of demons lurked behind them.

    Through the middle ages, the technology for mirrors was crude: Fashioned from blown glass, they were usually small and often convex. In the Renaissance, Italians began developing techniques for making flatter glass, and in 1507 hit upon a combo of covering the back of the glass with mercury and tin to produce startlingly clear mirrors. This new technology was enthralling, but so expensive that nobles sometimes sold property just to afford one. "I had some wretched land which brought me nothing but wheat," as one countess said in an account by the early 19th-century philosopher Henri de Saint-Simon, "so I sold it and bought this fine mirror." In the 16th and 17th centuries, mirror making was so costly that it required the investment of half of France's GDP. By the time the Renaissance was in full flower, wealthy noblemen could procure mirrors so large they could regard their entire body at a glance.

    It was a transformative sight. The historian Ian Mortimer believes that mirrors were central in developing the modern sense of the primacy of the individual over the community. "Mankind," Mortimer tells me, became "a valid topic of study in his own right; he's no longer seen through the lens of God's creation." Wealthy merchants and nobles began to commission more and more portraits[…]

    In one sense, our smartphones, with all these selfies, are now our pocket mirrors, inspiring the same self-conscious anxieties that mirrors provoked. Yet taking a selfie is also different from peering into a mirror: The mirror is mostly private, but every time we pose for a selfie, "we're aware of its potential for publicness," says Alicia Eler, author of The Selfie Generation.

    "The Original Selfie Craze Was the Mirror" by Clive Thompson (Smithsonian)

    image: detail of "Roman fresco of a woman fixing her hair using a mirror, from Stabiae, Italy, 1st century AD," Naples National Archaeological Museum (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  • Adam Jones from Tool's gorgeous short film announcing his custom guitar

    Tool's Adam Jones directed and composed the music for "The Witness," a short film announcing his 1979 Les Paul Custom guitar. Accompanying Jones on the gorgeous, expansive score are Tool bandmates Danny Carey and Justin Chancellor. Along with being a guitar virtuoso (duh), Jones is a hyper-talented visual artist, film director, and veteran special effects designer. He is quite the Renaissance wizard.

    Produced & Recorded By: Tim Dawson; Additional Engineer: Toshi Kasai; Mixed By: Evil Joe Barresi; Visual FX/CG: Matthew Charles Santoro; Additional Visual FX/CG: Tyler Jones & Dominic Hailstone; Guitar Scanning: The Scan Truck; Producer: Todd Harapiak; Executive Producers: Cesar Gueikian & Adam Jones; Artist Relations: Peter Leinheiser

    (via Daily Grail)

  • Nine weird penises in the animal kingdom

    When I visited the wondrous Icelandic Phallological Museum, I was struck at the diversity of penises found in just one country. In terms of size, the most impressive are the whale dicks. Indeed, the blue whale penis, which can range in length between 8-10 feet, is included in Smithsonian's survey of "Nine of the Weirdest Penises in the Animal Kingdom" by Corryn Wetzel.

    "Blue whale penises range between eight and ten feet, with a foot-long diameter," she writes. "Each of its testes along can weigh up to 150 pounds and can ejaculate gallons of sperm in a single go."

    Here's another one of the Smithsonian picks:

    Sometimes one just isn't enough. Or so it seems for the echidna, a spiny egg-laying mammal, which has evolved a four-headed penis. During copulation, echidna penises operate on a part-time schedule: half the penis temporarily shuts down while the other two heads are responsible for fertilization. But those extra two heads aren't there just to show off.

    Next time the echidna mates, he'll alternate which half he uses. By shutting down half of their penis at a time, male echidnas fit perfectly with the female's two-branched reproductive tract. This creature's coat of quills don't spare its genitalia, which features penile spines—a horrifying frequent trait in the animal kingdom (even humans once had them) which may increase fertilization success or trigger ovulation.

    More: A new book of dicks, human and otherwise

    Blue whale: NOAA Photo Library – anim1754 (public domain)
    Echidina: Gunjan Pandey (CC BY-SA 4.0)

  • Surreal pig couch for sale, cheap

    As of this writing, the stately and elegant pig couch above is still available via CraigsList NYC. At $250, it seems to be quite a bargain for someone with outré taste in home decor. From the listing:

    Got this pig shaped couch a few years ago. It was designed by artist Pavia Burroughs and is a really insane/cool addition to any home especially if you love pigs but even if you just like animals. Also very comfy!!!

    Selling it for $250 even though my boyfriend and I bought it for over 11k and it's in pristine condition. Need someone to pick it up ASAP as my new boyfriend hates it and sadly this is non-negotiable for him.

    (via @karenyhan)

  • Ponzi scheme suspect flees FBI on underwater scooter

    In something out of a James Bond movie, the FBI were pursuing a Northern California man allegedly behind a $35 million Ponzi scheme when he took off in his car. A chase ensued with the suspect, Matthew Piercey, 44, eventually abandoning his car and diving into Shasta Lake, propelling himself along using an underwater scooter. (The device is basically a fan you hold onto that pulls you through the water.) From KRCR:

    He didn't make it that far and was arrested when he came out of the water 25 minutes later, authorities say.

    Piercey is charged with wire fraud, money laundering and witness tampering.

    (via Fark)

  • Watch: First trailer for Tom & Jerry, the live action film

    At least they took the Cool World approach as opposed to risking a Sonic the Hedgehog Situation. However, the PG rating for violence concerns me that it won't be violent enough. From the description:

    One of the most beloved rivalries in history is reignited when Jerry moves into New York City's finest hotel on the eve of "the wedding of the century," forcing the event's desperate planner to hire Tom to get rid of him, in director Tim Story's "Tom & Jerry." The ensuing cat and mouse battle threatens to destroy her career, the wedding and possibly the hotel itself. But soon, an even bigger problem arises: a diabolically ambitious staffer conspiring against all three of them.

  • This pigeon just sold for $1.9 million

    New Kim is a 2-year-old homing pigeon that just sold for $1.9 million. The anonymous new owner of New Kim is the same person who last year paid $1.48 million for Armando, another champion pigeon. From the New York Times:

    In the sport, which dates back to at least the 1800s, homing pigeons are acclimated in a shared loft before being taken hundreds of miles away and released; the winner is the first to return. Soaring auction prices are only one sign of the sport's increasing glamour and competitiveness in China: Two men were convicted by a Shanghai court in 2018 of trying to fix a high-stakes race by putting their pigeons on a bullet train.

    New Kim, according to Nikolaas Gyselbrecht, the founder of PIPA, had two distinctions that helped her reach such an exorbitant price: She "performed as the best bird in Belgium in 2018," and she was among the last birds to be raised by Gaston Van de Wouwer, a famous breeder who has since retired.

    "You could compare it to a Picasso painting," Mr. Gyselbrecht said, referring to New Kim. "It will sell more than a local American artist."