Learn How to Open a Door

Learn How to Open a Door - Steven Heller - The Atlantic

Via The Atlantic, ‘If Seinfeld was a show about nothing, the National Geographic Channel’s new show Going Deep With David Rees raises existential questions about what is less than nothing. There are episodes that teach the best way to do such thrilling stunts as open a door, climb a tree, dig a hole, tie your shoes, and make ice. But Rees, the creator of the comic strips “Get Your War On” and “My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable” and author of How To Sharpen Pencils, takes deadly dull themes and makes them both extraordinary and instructive.

It may sound like watching paint dry. But were Rees to ever film a segment on paint drying, I guarantee it would live up to the show’s motto: “DEFAMILIARIZING THE UBIQUITOUS SO AS TO INCREASE OUR APPRECIATION AND WONDER THEREBY.”The show extends the concept of Ree’s hilariously deadpan book about artisanal pencil sharpening, which he has also performed before live audiences. Rees, a native of Chapel Hill, North Carolina who hails from a family of academics, liked the idea of his weird how-to series airing under the august National Geographic banner. .. Rees acknowledges that his most significant influence in making this show was Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.Rees is a kind of a Mr. Wizard anti-hero for millennials…’

I’ve watched the first couple of episodes and I’m hooked. It’s funny and I’ve learned something.


The Latest Grotesquerie from the Man We Love to Hate

Via Salon.com, ‘The good news in Paul Ryan’s newly released anti-poverty proposal is that, for the first time in as long as anyone can remember, Ryan is not advocating the wholesale destruction of the social safety net. His past budgets – including the most recent – have envisioned catastrophic cuts to social programs all in the service of boosting military spending and alleviating the tax burden on the wealthy. At least for now, he’s transitioned from “destroy the safety net” to “grudgingly accept its continued existence.” So hooray for progress!

The bad news is that Paul Ryan’s view of that safety net is still largely detached from reality. Also, his approach to curing poverty seems to be to treat the poor in as paternalistic and insulting a way as possible by proposing that they sign “contracts” to remain eligible for public assistance. For real. “Contracts.” ‘


Upcycled t-shirts with patched-over logos

Via Boing Boing, ‘Logo Removal Service takes discarded gimme shirts bedecked with sponsor logos, and carefully patches over them with new fabric, transforming them into amazing and abstract new one-of-a-kind garments.’

I’ve long been vehemently opposed to being a free advertising billboard for corporate America. I rarely buy items that are conspicuously branded unless I can remove the labels or logos. I should’ve been the one to start a Logo Removal Service!


Anti-Surveillance Camouflage for Your Face

Via The Atlantic, ‘The idea behind CV dazzle is simple. Facial recognition algorithms look for certain patterns when they analyze images: patterns of light and dark in the cheekbones, or the way color is distributed on the nose bridge—a baseline amount of symmetry. These hallmarks all betray the uniqueness of a human visage. If you obstruct them, the algorithm can’t separate a face from any other swath of pixels.

CV dazzle is ostentatious and kind of rad-looking, in a joyful, dystopic way. The first time I saw it, three years ago, I found it charismatic and captivating. Here was a technology that confounded computers with light and color. Since then, more and more people have learned about the technology. Harvey has contributed op-art about dazzle to The New York Times and enthusiasts have held facial dazzle parties. After documents from the Snowden tranche revealed the NSA had harvested an enormous database of faces from images on the web, CV dazzle seemed all the more urgent.

No one I could find, though, had undertaken the real challenge: wearing the dazzle for days while going about everyday life. That final hurdle had been left for me to surmount.’


Another ‘Botched Execution’

Via NBC News.com, ‘An Arizona execution took nearly two hours on Wednesday, and witnesses said the inmate gasped and snorted for well over an hour after the lethal injection. The execution of double-murderer Joseph Wood — which Arizona carried out with a two-drug combination it had never before tried — is certain to fan the debate over how U.S. states carry out the death penalty.’

The Biggest Man-Made Hole on Earth

Via Gizmodo: ‘The land where Bingham Canyon Mine sits was settled by Mormon 166 years ago, but it didn’t emerge as a powerhouse producer until the turn of the 20th century. Today, the mine is 2.5 miles wide and more than half a mile deep. It’s so big, it can be seen from the naked eye aboard the ISS.

Last year, Bingham became the site of the largest landslide thats ever taken place in North America outside of volcanos. But because Rio Tinto, the company that owns the mine, keeps an incredibly close watch on the pit—including using an interferometric radar system to monitor stability—the extraordinary events of April 23, 2013, were predicated long in advance. There was even time to issue a press release.

That night, a landslide shook the area around the mine so hard, it registered as a 5.1 earthquake. Upwards of 70 million cubic meters thundered down into the open pit, creating a huge swath of debris and rock that cascaded down the mines neat, striated walls. No one was hurt, remarkably—except for Rio Tinto, the mines owner, which reported that the “rock avalanche” would cut production by 100,000 tons.

All the most amazing supernovas ever photographed


Via Sploid, ‘NASA has revealed spectacular, newly reprocessed images of four of the most amazing supernovas ever captured by a human science instrument—the Crab Nebula, Tycho, G292.0+1.8, and 3C58—to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Chandra observatory. I decided to go one step further and collect them all…

What you can see here are the complete collection of most important ever captured by humankinds instruments, starting with the rest of the new Chandra series…’


It’s Time for England to Ask: Should Prince George Step Down?

Via Gawker, ‘Prince George, heir to the British throne, turned one human year old on Tuesday. An occasion for celebration, perhaps, and yet we find ourselves troubled: If one thing has become clear over the last year, it is that George Alexander Louis of Cambridge is far from ready to serve as the solemn figurehead of a commonwealth of nations whose combined population numbers in the hundred millions.

Even with a restrained British press, palace media offices have been unable to quell the yearlong deluge of photographs of Prince George at official events crying, screaming, sneering, leering, pouting, shouting, squirming, flailing, grabbing a boob, eating his moms hair, and looking on with chilling coolness as the world around him descends into godless chaos.’

This Molecule Can Prove Youre a Supertaster… Or a Caffeine Junkie

Via io9, ‘Some patients found the drug to be unbearably bitter. Some found it only slightly bitter. Some didnt notice a flavor at all. With a little research, scientists found that those who could taste the bitterness in PROP tended to have more taste receptors, and that this ability seemed to run in families. Now PROP is used in one of tests that determines if someone is a supertaster. Patients swish a cup of liquid, with some PROP mixed in, around in their mouths, or they put a paper saturated with PROP on their tongue. If theyre supertasters, they wont want to be tasting long. Supertasters find PROP overwhelmingly bitter and unpleasant. People with slightly heightened senses of taste find it only slightly bitter. Everyone else tastes only the water or the paper.

Supertasters arent only repulsed by the bitterness in PROP. They can also taste the bitterness in alcohol, and in caffeinated drinks. Adding a lot of sugar to the drinks can mitigate the taste, and supertasters, like everyone else, love the taste of sugared-up coffees. Still, for the most part, people who respond badly to PROP tend to be the sort of people who only go into coffee shops for the pastries, and sit hollowed-eyed in bars, wondering why they never serve cake. Lifes bitter enough already.

An interesting side note – PROP is the first test for a supertaster. The next one? A peppermint LifeSaver. If Wrigley announced on the wrapper that peppermint LifeSavers were medical-strength candy, Id start buying them.’


This Tree Is Growing 40 Different Kinds Of Fruit At Once

Via io9, ‘This single and quite colorfully blossoming tree grows 40 different varieties of peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries, and even almonds… After sculptor Sam Van Aken bought a failing orchard in upstate New York full of hundreds of different fruit trees, he began the painstaking process of grafting several of the different varieties together into one tree. Six years later, the result is this 40-fruit bearing tree, which includes some heirloom varieties that are centuries old.’


​New Poll Reveals The U.S. Is Number One In Climate Change Denial


Via ​io9, ‘54% of Americans agreed with the statement, “The climate change we are currently seeing is largely the result of human activity.” While thats a slight majority, it ranks last compared to the other countries polled, including France 80%, Brazil 79%, South Korea 77% and Great Britain 64%. That result could help explain why the U.S. also ranked last on whether “we are heading for environmental disaster unless we change our habits quickly.” On that question, 57.3% of Americans agreed, compared to France 74.7%, Brazil 78.4%, South Korea 77.2% and Great Britain 58.8%.’

White holes: Hunting the other side of a black hole

Free Arturo

via Telegraph.UK, ‘More than 200,000 people have signed an online petition calling for a polar bear living in ‘deplorable’ conditions in an Argentinian zoo to be moved.Supporters of the online appeal want to transfer Arturo, who has been dubbed the ‘world’s saddest animal’, to Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, Canada.’


Stop calling soldiers “heroes”

Via Salon.com: ‘It stops us from seeing them as human — and dismisses their experience. “Hero” sounds like praise, but its not: It glosses over the human cost of war, and keeps us from helping our vets. ‘ — CARA HOFFMAN

[In fact, mightn't it be more appropriate to refer to many of them as "victims"?]


I’m Presumably in this Database. How About You?

Via Boing Boing, ‘US “suspected terrorist” database had 1.5M names added to it in past 5 years: The scale of the secret blacklist was revealed in a civil suit over the Terrorist Screening Database, and it shocked the judge.99 percent of the names submitted to the list are accepted; the court called this “wildly loose.” The database has grown from 227,932 names in 2009 to its current stratospheric heights. There is no official, public procedure for having your name removed from the list.’


HIV Undetectable In Two Patients Following Bone Marrow Transplants

Via IFLScience, ‘The two men, ages 47 and 53, respectively received bone marrow transplants three and four years ago to treat lymphoma and leukemia. Though the HIV virus is no longer detectable in either of them, they are still undergoing antiretroviral therapy ART as a precaution, and Cooper refuses to say that the men have been “cured” due to the possibility of relapse, as witnessed in other patients whose viral loads had dropped to undetected levels only to reappear later.’


An Experimental Stem Cell Treatment Lead To A Woman Accidentally Growing A Nose On Her Spine

Français : Nez

Via IFLScience, ‘Who knows where a nose grows? Here’s a curious case. An 18-year-old woman sustained a spinal cord injury that left her legs paralyzed. Three years later, stem cells from her nose were transplanted into the injury site. She developed back pain eight years afterwards, and imaging revealed a mass at the implantation site. The 3-centimeter-long spinal cord mass was mostly nasal tissue and contained large amounts of thick, mucus-like material.’


Annals of Emerging Disease


Latin name: Culex pipiens

It’s only a matter of time before the chikungunya virus spreads in the U.S. When the name of a virus translates as “to become contorted” as in, with joint pain you know it is not something you want to catch. Unfortunately, your chances of encountering chikungunya are increasing.Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne illness that has no cure. On the plus side, its unlikely to kill you. On the downside, if you catch it, treatment is about easing the discomfort of symptoms and waiting for it to pass.’ Via Boing Boing

The polar flip

Via kottke, ‘According to data collected by a European satellite array, the Earths magnetic field is shifting and weakening at a greater pace than previously thought. One of the reasons for the shift might be that the magnetic North and South poles are swapping positions.’


Whats So Funny?


Via The Chronicle of Higher Education, ‘There is, in short, far too much written—and still being written—on the subject of laughter for any one person to master; nor, frankly, would it be worthwhile to try. Confronted with the product of centuries of analysis and investigation, one is tempting to suggest that it is not so much laughter that defines the human species, as Aristotle is supposed to have claimed, but rather the drive to debate and theorize laughter.

Partly in response to the profusion of views and speculation, theories of laughter are typically divided into three main strands. Few books on laughter fail to offer, somewhere near the beginning, a brief enumeration….’

The three theories, broadly, are described as the superiority theory, the incongruity theory, and the relief theory. Each has attractions and shortcomings. What appeals to you? (What makes you laugh?)


Peacemaker Bangle

Via Combat Flip Flops, ‘This was a bomb.

270 million bombs were dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War. 30% of them are still sitting there ready to explode, in fields, behind trees, next to schools.

But local artisans are melting down some of the unexploded ordnance (“UXO“) to hand craft art like this Peacemaker bangle.

Double Bottom Line: When you buy one you help fund the clearing of 3 square meters of UXO. You literally help save life and limb. And you help create jobs. Look good.  Feel Good.  Do Good.

Made from Unexploded Ordnance UXO and War Scrap2.6” diameter, 8.3” circumference. Made in Laos.’


R.I.P. Charlie Haden

Influential Jazz Bassist Is Dead at 76: ‘His jazz career crossed seven decades, with barely a moment of obscurity. He was in his early 20s in 1959, when, as a member of the Ornette Coleman Quartet, he helped set off a seismic disruption in jazz. Mr. Coleman, an alto saxophonist, had been developing a brazen, polytonal approach to improvisation — it would come to be known as free jazz — and in his band, which had no chordal instrument, Mr. Haden served as anchor and pivot.

Mr. Coleman’s clarion cry, often entangled with that of the trumpeter Don Cherry, grabbed much of the attention, but Mr. Haden’s playing was just as crucial, for its feeling of unerring rightness in the face of an apparent ruckus.

In addition to Mr. Coleman, with whom he continued to play intermittently in the 1960s and ’70s and later, in the occasional reunion, Mr. Haden worked with many principal figures of an emerging jazz avant-garde. For a decade starting in 1967, he was a member of a celebrated quartet led by the pianist Keith Jarrett, with Dewey Redman on saxophone and Paul Motian on drums.

The Liberation Music Orchestra, which released its debut album in 1969, was Mr. Haden’s large ensemble, and an expression of his left-leaning political ideals. The band, featuring compositions and arrangements by the pianist Carla Bley, mingled avant-garde wildness with the earnest immediacy of Latin American folk songs. Mr. Haden released each of the band’s four studio albums during Republican administrations; the most recent, in 2005, was “Not in Our Name,” a response to the war in Iraq.

Mr. Haden, who liked to say he was driven by concern for “the struggle of the poor people,” hardly restricted his opinions to the Liberation Music Orchestra. While playing a festival with Mr. Coleman in Lisbon, in 1971, he dedicated his “Song for Ché” to the black liberation movements of Mozambique and Angola, and was promptly jailed.’  (NYTimes obituary)

Girl believed to be cured of HIV now has detectable levels of the virus

Via Salon.com,  ‘In a disappointing turn of events, representatives from the National Institutes of Health announced on Thursday that a young girl previously believed to have been cured of HIV now has detectable levels of the virus. The nearly 4-year-old Mississippi girl was treated aggressively with anti-retroviral drugs for the first 30 hours after her birth and remained without treatment for nearly two years, leading researchers to declare her the first child to be cured of HIV. But, after two recent tests, doctors say the girl has relapsed.’


That Feeling When You Walk Down a Dark Street and Meet a Jellyfish

Via io9, ‘ Every night, at 10 pm, something mystical happens at a derelict building in Liverpool. The storefront shutter opens, revealing a massive, ethereal water tank filled with live jellyfish.

The installation, created by the artistic duo Walter Hugo & Zoniel, is called “The Physical Possibility of Inspiring Imagination in the Mind of Someone Living.” Although its part of the Liverpool Biennial—the largest contemporary art festival in the UK—the artists didnt promote or even announce the exhibit. It just quietly appeared one evening, in order to allow the random passerby to experience the surreal encounter with fresh eyes.

The installation will be on display until July 27. And, if you dont happen to find yourself wandering the streets of Liverpool late at night, you can watch video recordings of streamed footage…’


So Just Swallow!

Via io9, ‘You Have a Painkiller Six Times Stronger Than Morphine In Your SalivaRight now, you are walking around with a mouth full of extremely powerful, untested pharmaceuticals. Your saliva contains opiorphin, a painkiller thats about six times more powerful than morphine.

After so many decades spent prodding lab rats, one would think that there is nothing more to be discovered about the horrid little things, or how they relate to humans. One would be wrong. What a fool one is! In the early 2000s, scientists discovered that rat saliva contains sialorphin, a powerful painkiller. Rats are, in many ways, analogous to humans. Researchers began wondering if human saliva contained its own painkilling compound.

Enter opiorphin, a painkiller that seems to be both very effective and very simple. It works by preventing the breakdown of little chemicals called enkephalins. These chemicals stimulate the bodys opiate receptors, which block pain signals. Liberal application of opiorphin keeps the bodys own pain-blocking system going. Why such a powerful pain-killer is in saliva is up for debate…


Don’t We Learn Anything??


PINE WARBLER (Dendroica pinus).

Via National Geographic: ‘Second Silent Spring? Bird Declines Linked to Popular Pesticides.

Pesticides don’t just kill pests. New research out of the Netherlands provides compelling evidence linking a widely used class of insecticides to population declines across 14 species of birds.

This new paper, published online Wednesday in Nature, gets at another angle of the story—the way these chemicals can indirectly affect other creatures in the ecosystem.Those insecticides, called neonicotinoids, have been in the news lately due to the way they hurt bees and other pollinators. (Related: “The Plight of the Honeybee.”) ‘


How Hot Your City Could Be By 2100 If Climate Change Goes Unchecked


Via Gizmodo, ‘Its a sorry truth that hits you mid-July: Average summer temperatures have been rising since the 1970s. If we continue down this path, according to a new study by Climate Central, in 2100, summers in Boston will feel more like sticky Miami—and summers in Miami will feel like toasty Harlingen, Texas.

Simply type where you live into the chart… and youll get an instant comparison between the average summer high temperature in your city today and the city your home is more likely to feel like in 86 years. If greenhouse gasses and climate change keep chugging along at the rates they are right now, anyway. Its more of a fun thought experiment than an exact science.

It’s surprising to see not only the temperature increase but the comparison city. San Diego average high 78.17 degrees will only be as warm as Lexington, Kentucky 84.61. But Fargo average high 80.24 degrees will warm by over 12 degrees by 2100, making it feel more like Tyler, Texas 92.08. In fact, most American cities will end up feeling like somewhere in Texas or Florida by 2100.Type in Las Vegas, however, and theres no American comparison. Youll be shuttled halfway around the world to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where the average summer high is a balmy 111 degrees.

This map cant tell the future though. This is only a prediction based only on current trends—if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at the rate that they have been increasing since the 1970s. Even though this map shows a very dystopian future, its one that we can hopefully avoid.’


Previously Uncontacted Amazon Tribe Make Contact With Outside World

Via IFLScience, ‘Brazilian officials reported recently that a tribe of people living in the Peruvian Amazon, who previously had no contact with the outside world, have just contacted a settled tribe near the Brazil-Peru border while attempting to flee illegal loggers. The group was first discovered in 2011 from aerial photographs taken by the Brazilian government.

José Carlos Meirelles worked for the Brazilian government agency FUNAI for 20 years in order to protect these indigenous people and their rights. He told Survival International that this situation felt a bit desperate, as it was the first time in 30 years that the uncontacted group were the ones to make first contact with outsiders. “Something serious must have happened. It is not normal for such a large group of uncontacted Indians to approach in this way. This is a completely new and worrying situation and we currently do not know what has caused it.” ‘


A cultural view of agony

159/365. Agony.

Via Mind Hacks, ‘New Statesman has a fascinating article on the ‘cultural history of pain’ that tracks how our ideas about pain and suffering have radically changed through the years. One if the most interesting, and worrying, themes is how there have been lots of cultural beliefs about whether certain groups are more or less sensitive to pain. Needless to say, these beliefs tended to justify existing prejudices rather than stem from any sound evidence.’


Federal judge: Supreme Court should “stfu”

Via Salon‘In the wake of the Hobby Lobby ruling, George H.W. Bush appointee Judge Richard George Kopf has some advice for how the Supreme Court can guard against losing even more prestige and legitimacy in the eyes of the public: STFU.

“[T]his term and several past terms has proven that the court is now causing more harm division to our democracy than good by deciding hot button cases that the court has the power to avoid,” Kopf writes at his personal blog, Hercules and the Umpire.

“As the kids say,” Kopf continues, “it is time for the Court to stfu.” ‘


When you fly a drone into fireworks, its quite beautiful

Via CNET, ‘The proliferation of controlled flying objects has incited many an imagination. Some believe drones should be used to deliver vacuum cleaners. Others might have more nefarious, prurient intentions. However, one man thought it might be entertaining to fly a DJI Phantom 2 drone into a fireworks display…

The drone was, according to the poster, Jos Stiglingh, equipped with a GoPro Hero 3 Silver camera. Once the footage was nicely edited and put together with an appropriate sliver of opera, the effect was rather greater than at your average fireworks display. It seems that so many now look all the same. They begin with a small bang and end with multiple bangs and flashes, as if you should always say goodbye with an assault on the senses. Seen from the drone, the whole thing takes on a far greater poetry.

Apparently, the flying machine was undamaged by its experience.’

A spook’s guide to the psychology of deception

The Art of Deception

‘Last February, a file from the Edward Snowden leaks was released from a 2012 GCHQ presentation called ‘The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations’. It describes the ‘Online Covert Acti

on Accreditation’ course which draws heavily on the psychology of influence and persuasion. This post will look at how they’re piecing together the science that forms the basis for these online operations.’ (Mind Hacks).

The answer in a few words: not very systematically. The deceivers don’t know what they’re doing but they do it well.

Do we really hate thinking so much we’d rather electrocute ourselves?

‘The story: Quiet contemplation is so awful that when deprived of the distractions of noise, crowds or smart phones, a bunch of students would rather give themselves electric shocks than sit and think.

What they actually did: Psychologists from the universities of Virginia and Harvard in the US carried out a series of 11 studies in which participants – including students and non-students – were left in an unadorned room for six to 15 minutes and asked to “spend time entertaining themselves with their thoughts.” Both groups, and men and women equally, were unable to enjoy this task. Most said they found it difficult to concentrate and that their minds wandered.

In one of the studies, participants were given the option to give themselves an electric shock, for no given reason or reward. Many did, including the majority of male participants, despite the fact that the vast majority of participants had previously rated the shocks as unpleasant and said they would pay to avoid them.

How plausible is this? This is a clever, provocative piece of research. The results are almost certainly reliable; the authors, some of whom are extremely distinguished, discovered in the 11 studies the same basic effect – namely, that being asked to sit and think wasn’t enjoyable. The data from the studies is also freely available, so there’s no chance of statistical jiggery-pokery. This is a real effect. The questions, then, are over what exactly the finding means.’ (Mind Hacks).

Can Your Spinach Hear You Chomping Down on Your Salad?

‘A small, flowering plant called Arabidopsis thaliana can hear the vibrations that caterpillars trigger when they chew on its leaves. According to a new study, the plants can hear danger loud and clear, and they respond by launching a chemical defense.

From anecdotes and previous studies, we know that plants respond to wind, touch, and acoustic energy. “The field is somewhat haunted by its history of playing music to plants. That sort of stimulus is so divorced from the natural ecology of plants that it’s very difficult to interpret any plant responses,” says Rex Cocroft from the University of Missouri, Columbia. “We’re trying to think about the plant’s acoustical environment and what it might be listening for.” ‘ (IFLScience).