See a single atom in this magnificent photograph

See the tiny dot in the center of the photo above? That's a single strontium atom, visible to the naked eye. University of Oxford quantum physicist David Nadlinger's photo (full image below) won this year's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's scientific photography competition.

“The idea of being able to see a single atom with the naked eye had struck me as a wonderfully direct and visceral bridge between the miniscule quantum world and our macroscopic reality," Nadlinger says. "A back-of-the-envelope calculation showed the numbers to be on my side, and when I set off to the lab with camera and tripods one quiet Sunday afternoon, I was rewarded with this particular picture of a small, pale blue dot.”

From the EPSRC:

'Single Atom in an Ion Trap’, by David Nadlinger, from the University of Oxford, shows the atom held by the fields emanating from the metal electrodes surrounding it. The distance between the small needle tips is about two millimetres.

When illuminated by a laser of the right blue-violet colour the atom absorbs and re-emits light particles sufficiently quickly for an ordinary camera to capture it in a long exposure photograph. The winning picture was taken through a window of the ultra-high vacuum chamber that houses the ion trap.

Laser-cooled atomic ions provide a pristine platform for exploring and harnessing the unique properties of quantum physics. They can serve as extremely accurate clocks and sensors or, as explored by the UK Networked Quantum Information Technologies Hub, as building blocks for future quantum computers, which could tackle problems that stymie even today’s largest supercomputers.

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Enjoy the slo-mo thrill of a kid jumping on an ice-covered trampoline

Michelle McNew: "My crazy kid jumping on his buddy’s ice covered trampoline"

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Burberry announces new rainbow flag plaid and support for LGBTQ charities

On Saturday at London Fashion Week, Burberry will reveal its new collection featuring a rainbow plaid that the company says celebrates LGBTQ communities. They've also announced support for three LGBTQ charities.

"My final collection here at Burberry is dedicated to - and in support of - some of the best and brightest organisations supporting LGBTQ+ youth around the world," says Burberry chief creative officer Christopher Bailey who is leaving the company after 17 years. "There has never been a more important time to say that in our diversity lies our strength, and our creativity."

From the BBC News:

The Albert Kennedy Trust is being helped by the fashion house. It works to support young homeless LGBT people in the UK.

It says it's overjoyed to be receiving a generous donation from the brand - saying it will make a big difference to them.

"This announcement gives voice to a large and influential community about the importance of raising awareness of LGBT youth homelessness," it added.

The International, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association is also being helped by Burberry.

The third charity receiving funding is The Trevor Project - a US organisation that works to prevent suicide among the LGBT community and young people questioning their sexuality.

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Contrary to Chicago TV news, P.F. Chang's is not hosting the Winter Olympics

If only it were true. Chicago's ABC affiliate WLS-TV featured the graphic seen above during a story about the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. From the Chicago Tribune:

Jayme Nicholas, a spokesperson for the ABC affiliate in Chicago, told Inc. that the goof was the result of a mix-up. The graphic was created for a different “satirical piece” put together on Friday by sports anchor Mark Giangreco in which viewers were encouraged to invent their own Olympic sports, but it was mistakenly also used for the serious news story read on Saturday by weekend anchor Mark Rivera, Nicholas said.

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Wood that's stronger than steel

Researchers demonstrated a new process that makes wood stronger than steel. According to the University of Maryland mechanical engineers, their novel process could lead to a greener alternative to metal in automobiles, airplanes, or buildings. “This could be a competitor to steel or even titanium alloys, it is so strong and durable," says researcher Liangbing Hu. "It’s also comparable to carbon fiber, but much less expensive.” From the University of Maryland:

The team’s process begins by removing the wood’s lignin, the part of the wood that makes it both rigid and brown in color. Then it is compressed under mild heat, at about 150 F. This causes the cellulose fibers to become very tightly packed. Any defects like holes or knots are crushed together. The treatment process was extended a little further with a coat of paint.

The scientists found that the wood’s fibers are pressed together so tightly that they can form strong hydrogen bonds, like a crowd of people who can’t budge – who are also holding hands. The compression makes the wood five times thinner than its original size.

The team tested their new wood material and natural wood by shooting bullet-like projectiles at it. The projectile blew straight through the natural wood. The fully treated wood stopped the projectile partway through.

More: "Crushed wood is stronger than steel" (Nature)

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Bomb shuts down London City Airport

All flights today at London City Airport were cancelled after a bomb was found in the River Thames. The bomb is actually a German 500kg fused device that's been sitting in the Thames since the Germans dropped it during World War II. The unexploded ordnance was discovered during work on a dock near the airport. The Royal Navy is working to remove the bomb. From NPR:

The discovery of World War II era bombs in London is not particularly rare, as NPR's Ari Shapiro has reported. "During the Blitz, German planes dropped nearly 30,000 bombs on London in just three months," he notes.

In 2015, a German bomb of about the same size was discovered in an east London neighborhood, prompting an evacuation.

At that time, Matt Brosnan, a historian at the Imperial War Museum, told the BBC that we don't know exactly how many of the bombs dropped could still be hidden.

"Clearly not all of those would have exploded, because of defects or other reasons, and they could have buried themselves tens of feet below the surface so we simply don't know where they are," he told the broadcaster.

"World War Two ordnance found in the Thames" (Metropolitan Police) Read the rest

Lions ate suspected poacher

Lions near South Africa's Kruger National Park ate a suspected poacher over the weekend.

"It seems the victim was poaching in the game park when he was attacked and killed by lions," Limpopo police spokesman Moatshe Ngoepe said. "They ate his body, nearly all of it, and just left his head and some remains."

Police found a hunting rifle and ammo near the body.

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Japanese inn with "self-driving" robotic slippers and other autonomous amenities

Nissan, to show off its autonomous parking tech, outfitted an inn in Hakone, Japan with "self-parking slippers," autonomous floor cushions that tidy themselves, and a TV remote control that straightens itself on the coffee table. While obviously a marketing gimmick, self-knolling anything is quite appealing to me. ProPILOT Park Ryokan (Nissan)

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Watch professor smash laptop in front of class

Boing Boing pal Eric Paulos, an engineering professor and artist at UC Berkeley, has a history of high-tech provocations, from his early work with machine performance group Survival Research Laboratories to his controversial art installations such as a vending machine for pathogens. Above is the performance/prank Eric recently staged to open his Critical Making class:

On the first day of class, I wanted to make a point about expectations – about expectations for this course and more importantly about leaving them behind as we engage in the material and topics within Critical Making. Rather than say it or even show a slide, I unexpectedly and dramatically lifted "my" laptop and smashed it across the floor of the classroom.

Next, I setup the room, ensuring that the impact area would be clear and safe and also that I could adequately conceal my real laptop underneath using a haphazardly stacked set of design textbooks as camouflage. You can see my real laptop in the image below, carefully concealed underneath the broken laptop. I was able to easily advance my slides using a handheld remote control. I placed a board across, concealing my real laptop and then placed the staged laptop on top. A few more books covered up the board and a fake cable were attached to the broken laptop giving the illusion that all was normal – as expected.

I rehearsed the staging, where I would stand, what I would say, and how I would grab the laptop. Remember the bottom of the laptop would completely fall apart if lifted improperly.

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Double clitorises, spiked penises, and other reptilian reproductive parts

Reptiles have unusual reproductive equipment. For example, female snakes and lizards have two clitorises. Meanwhile, the male tuatara has no penis. "The male simply mounts the female and places the opening of his cloaca—-the cavity where the intestinal, genital, and urinary tracts meet in reptiles—-over hers," writes Tina Deines in a National Geographic article. From Nat Geo:

The hemipenes(double penis) of lizards and snakes sport tiny spikes and hooks.

Scientists have a few ideas about why hemipenes exhibit this sort of ornamentation. According to one hypothesis, male and female genital form has adapted so that mating can occur only between a male and female of the same species. The genitals of males and females of the same species fit together, and the spikes and hooks could help the male keep his hemipenis in place during mating.

One study found that those spikes and hooks may also increase the duration of copulation, thereby increasing mating success.

“I would stress that the female genitalia need to be studied in order to fully understand the function of elaboration of the male genitalia,” says (University of Queensland zoologist Christopher) Friesen.

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Supercut of every Best Visual Effects Oscar winning film

I'd say things peaked in 1968 with 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Environments: a pioneering 1970s ambient soundscape series now in app form

In 1969, Irv Teibel(1938-2010) released a record that would have a profound impact on ambient and New Age music that's continues to this day. "Environments 1: Psychologically Ultimate Seashore" was the first in a catalog of albums that melded pop psychology with environmental sound recording to sooth the mind. Over the years, Treibel's company Syntonic Ressearch Inc. produced 11 albums with 22 soundscapes ranging from "Optimum Aviary" to "Wood-Masted Sailboat" to "Ultimate Heartbeat."

"The music of the future isn't music," Teibel said.

Now, audio archaeologist Douglas Mcgowan, curator of the sublime I Am The Center New Age compilation that I raved about here, Syntonic Research Inc, and the fine folks at Numero Group have brought the Environments catalog to iOS. Environments is now a fantastic $2.99 app with all 22 remastered long-form soundscapes in easily swipeable form. It's intuitive, beautifully minimalist, and a perfect evolution of the original work. Turn on, tune in, chill out.

Environments for iOS (iTunes)

For the whole Environments story, read: Natural Selection (Pitchfork)

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Chandelier containing living microalgae to "purify the air"

Artist, inventor, and bio-hacker Julian Melchiorri created "Exhale, the Bionic Chandelier," a hanging electric light that "purifies the air indoors through photosynthesis performed by living microalgae enclosed into leaf modules." Exhale is now part of the Victoria and Albert Museum's permanent collection. From the project page:

Exhale is also the first living object which continuously grows while performing biologically-driven depurative functions. The light of the chandelier illuminate the space but also stimulates photosynthesis performed by tiny microalgae, this living microorganisms feed on carbon dioxide while releasing breathable oxygen into the room. This biological process performed by the chandelier establishes and explores a new symbiotic relationship between object and people where life-giving resources are constantly exchanged, and where each other waste enables respective metabolic processes. This exchange recalls how biospheric systems work, where waste ultimately doesn’t exists but is a valuable resource for other elements in that system.

Bionic Chandelier (via The Kid Should See This)

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Flat-Earther's rocket failed again

Over the weekend, flat-Earther and DIY rocketeer Mike Hughes tried again to launch himself into space. Unfortunately, he failed. As a result, his belief that the Earth isn't round stands. The Washington Post has been following Hughes's misadventures:

All critics would be silenced, Hughes promised then, when he finally launched on private property outside the town of Amboy, Calif., on Saturday....

“I pulled the plunger five different times,” Hughes said. “I considered beating on the rocket nozzle from the underneath side. But you can't get anyone under there. It'll kill you. It'll scald you to death. It'll blow the skin and muscle off your bones.”..

Hughes's plans are unclear now. He said he'd take apart the rocket to see what went wrong, but he has commitments to think of besides science. He was supposed to be in court on Tuesday, he told the crowd, because he was suing the governor of California for unspecified reasons. He was also trying to claim the legal right to Charles Manson's guitar. He is a man of many ambitions...

“Guys, I'm sorry,” Hughes said. “What can you do?”

"A flat-earther finally tried to fly away. His rocket didn’t even ignite." (Washington Post) Read the rest

Hear Douglas Rushkoff and David Pescovitz talk about the Voyager Golden Record

I was honored that old-school Boing Boing pal Douglas Rushkoff, author of numerous essential books for happy mutants, invited me onto his Team Human podcast to talk about the Voyager Golden Record, the iconic message for extraterrestrials that my friends Tim Daly, Lawrence Azerrad, and I released on vinyl for the first time. As always, Doug masterfully connected the dots between media, art, culture, and science and kept me on my toes with wonderful provocations and observations. I hope you enjoy it! Listen below.

From Team Human: "Music for Aliens":

Playing for Team Human today is journalist, Boing Boing editor, Institute for the Future research director and recent Grammy Award Winning record producer David Pescovitz. Douglas spoke to David just days before he won the Grammy, with collaborators Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad, for best boxed or special limited-edition package for The Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition. The Voyager vinyl is an incredible artifact to hold and hear. The original Voyager Golden Records were launched on board the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft in 1977. Today these phonograph records are floating in interstellar space on Voyager 1 and at the edge of our solar system on Voyager 2. The records contain greetings, messages of peace, recordings of the “Sounds of Earth,” as well as an arresting collection of music from across the globe. The Voyager project continues to resonate as both a time capsule and a beacon of hope. Pescovitz, Daly, and Azerrad’s meticulously sourced and documented 40th Anniversary vinyl release pays homage to the wonder and hopeful spirit that animates this space project.

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Inside Hong Kong's insanely cramped and illegal "coffin homes"

Photographer Benny Lam spent several years documenting grim living conditions in Hong Kong where people live inside tiny "coffin cubicles" within illegally divided apartments. The images are grim glimpses of life in the city with the most expensive housing market in the world. The photo series is titled "Trapped." From National Geographic:

Pushed out by soaring rents, tens of thousands of people have no other option than to inhabit squatter huts, sub-divided units where the kitchen and toilet merge, coffin cubicles, and cage homes, which are rooms measuring as small as 6’ x 2.5’ traditionally made of wire mesh. “From cooking to sleeping, all activities take place in these tiny spaces,” says Lam. To create the coffin cubicles a 400 square flat will be illegally divided by its owner to accommodate 20 double-decker beds, each costing about HK$2000 (over $250 USD) per month in rent. The space is too small to stand up in.

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United States Postal Service issuing Mister Rogers stamp

On March 23, the United States Postal Service will issue a Mister Rogers stamp celebrating the host of the iconic children's TV show. The dedication will take place in the Fred Rogers Studio at Pittsburgh's WQED, the place where "Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” began. Read the rest

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