Student's DoNotPay app expands to include pushbutton small claims lawsuits

Joshua Browder launched DoNotPay when he started his computer science degree at Stanford; at first the app automated the process of fighting traffic tickets, then it expanded to helping homeless people claim benefits, then he automated suing Equifax for leaking all your financial data, then navigating the airlines' deliberately confusing process for getting refunds on plane tickets whose prices drop after you buy them. Read the rest

Congrats to this year's MacArthur "geniuses," including the amazing Kelly Link!

The MacArthur Foundation has announced its 2018 Fellows (AKA the "MacArthur Genius Prize winners"), a list of 25 remarkable people from all disciplines, including the incomparable Kelly Link (previously), who joins other science fiction writers who won the prize, including Octavia Butler and Jonathan Lethem. Congrats, Kelly! Read the rest

The first science fiction con was held in 1891 at the Royal Albert Hall

Charles Wallace writes, "In 1891 the Royal Albert Hall hosted what may be the first sci-fi convention, centered on the book 'The Coming Race' by our old friend Edward Bulwer-Lytton. The video linked above features a trip to the archives of the Royal Albert Hall by host Brady Haran. Good proto new-age weirdness with through-threads to current neo-nazis. Fun for all!" Read the rest

Profiles of the three worst Republican lawmakers running for re-election in Texas

Susan Schorn writes, "The Political Action Committee 'Cowboys for Liberty' has released some funny, horrifying videos about the three worst GOP office-holders up for re-election at the state level in Texas: Sid Miller, Ken Paxton, and Dan Patrick (the rodeo clown, indicted fraudster, and former talk show host, respectively)." Read the rest

A new flag for Mississippi: the Mighty Magnolia

Chase Quarterman writes, "In early 2016, I began working on a graphic design thesis project that explored Mississippi history and symbolism, relating to a re-design of the Mississippi flag (I'm a native of Jackson, MS). After two years of research, survey questions, and design development, I have created a flag for your consideration: The Mighty Magnolia Flag. The final design is simple, but full of symbolism that is unique to the state of Mississippi. I have collaborated on a short animation that details these unique symbolic attributes." Read the rest

Matt Damon's eerily good Kavanaugh SNL sketch

Say what you will about the Trump era: it has ushered in a SNL renaissance. Between Baldwin's eerily good Trump and McKinnon's Sessions, Melissa McCarthy's Spicer and Bill Murray's Bannon, SNL is proving Garry Trudeau's point that satire isn't supposed to change minds, it's supposed to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Read the rest

Wondrous winners of Nikon's "Small World in Motion" microscopic video contest

Above is a "Zebrafish embryo growing its elaborate sensory nervous system (visualized over 16 hours of development)" captured by Elizabeth Haynes of the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and colleagues. This wondrous clip is the winning entry of Nikon's "Small World in Motion" microscopic video contest revealing dynamic weirdness and beauty at the tiniest scales. Below, second place, Dr. Miguel Bandres and Anatoly Patsyk (Technion - Israel Institute of Technology), "Laser propagating inside a soap membrane;" and third place, "Polychaete worm of the Syllidae family," by Rafael Martín-Ledo of the Conserjería Educación Gobierno de Cantabria.

See more: Small World 2018 World In Motion Competition

Read the rest

Comedy/documentary explains quantum computing for a "confused general audience"

Jim Mortleman & Stuart Houghton write, "We're two UK tech journalists who also write comedy. This is our (UK-based) scripted comi-documentary podcast explaining the weird, wacky and potentially world-changing field of quantum computing to a curious but confused general audience. With laughs. In episode one we answer the question 'What the photonic muck is a quantum computer?' with the help of some of the world's leading quantum physicists and, er, Al Murray The Pub Landlord." Read the rest

Guy recreates Disneyland's Fantasyland in his basement

John Frost writes, "Travis, a railroad engineer, recreated iconic buildings from Disneyland's Fantasyland in his spare time. The result is an incredibly detailed and faithful recreation of facades to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Snow White's Scary Adventures and more." Read the rest

CBS smashes fans' virtual, noncommercial recreation of the USS Enterprise

For two years, a group of die-hard Star Trek fans labored to create Stage 9, a totally noncommercial virtual replica of the USS Enterprise built with Unreal Engine; they assumed that when CBS Vice President for Product Development John Van Citters was serious in 2016, when he publicly acknowledged the debt that Star Trek owes to its fans and assured people creating fan media that "They’re not going to hear from us. They’re not going to get a phone call, they’re not going to get an email. They’re not going to get anything that’s going to ruin their day one way or another and make them feel bad, like they’ve done something wrong." Read the rest

A message to the kids from America's gerontocracy: DON'T VOTE

"Everything’s fine the way it is. Trump…that was us. He’s our guy. Tax cuts for the rich? Hell yeah, I’m rich as fuck. Climate change? That’s a “you problem”…I’ll be dead soon. Sure, school shootings are sad, but I haven’t been in a school for 50 years." Voter registrations close soon in many key states. Register here. (via Kottke) Read the rest

Trailer for Capernaum, a "neorealist movie" about street kids, slum life, modern slavery and migration

Lebanese director Nadine Labaki's Capernaum won this year's Cannes Jury Prize; it premiered in Lebanon this week and will be in North American cinemas starting December 14; It's a "neorealist movie" with an all-amateur cast that sheds some light on the life of outcasts: street children, inhabitants of slums, while tackling modern slavery and illegal immigration. Read the rest

Ticketmaster stung by undercover journalists, who reveal that the company deliberately enables scalpers and rips off artists

Even in this era, dominated by vertically and horizontally dominant monopolists, few companies are as chronically dirty and corrupt as Ticketmaster (previously), whose parent company, Livenation, is the world's largest concert promoter. Controlling promotion and ticketing is a one-two punch for a monopolist: Livenation's rival promoters still inevitably end up selling tickets through Ticketmaster, enriching their biggest competitor. Read the rest

Nature's greatest con-artists: the parasitic beetles that trick ants into barfing into their mouths

Myrmecophiles are parasitic beetles that use chemical cues to fool ants into bringing them into their nests and regurgitating food into their mouths, diverting the colony's bounty of semi-digested ant-chow from the queen and her babies to their own hungry guts. Ant Lab shows us how a Xenodusa beetle can con Camponotus ants into a lifetime of free meals and cuddles. For further reading, check out Behavior and exocrine glands in the myrmecophilous beetle Lomechusoides strumosus (Fabricius, 1775) (formerly called Lomechusa strumosa) (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae) in PLOS One. (Thanks, Adrian!) Read the rest

Ted Chiang lecture on interspecies communications

Avi Solomon writes, "Author Ted Chiang (previously) discusses the making of The Great Silence as well as other works addressing interspecies communication, including 'Story of Your Life,' the novella which was adapted into the 2016 feature film, Arrival." Read the rest

My closing Decentralized Web Summit keynote: "Big Tech's problem is Big, not Tech"

Back in August, I gave the closing keynote at the second Decentralized Web Summit, entitled "Big Tech's problem is Big, not Tech; the Internet Archive released video right afterwards, but now they've cleaned up the video and rereleased it for your viewing pleasure. Read the rest

The Most Perfect album: musical tributes to all 27 US Constitutional amendments

For more than two years, Radiolab has been running a brilliant side-podcast called More Perfect which involves deeply reported, engaging stories about Supreme Court decisions, skilfully mixing in audio from the trials, historic or new interviews with the people involved, and commentary from scholars and activists that serve to illuminate the incredible stories behind the court decisions that have shaped life in America. Read the rest

More posts