Blue wave of death caught on camera

‘Death is frequently associated with the colour black, but for some worms the grim reaper comes wearing robes of fluorescent blue.

Hours before it dies, a wave of blue light flows through the body of a flatworm, Caenorhabditis elegans. Now, the biological mechanisms leading up to the flatworm’s death have been studied for the first time – revealing an unexpected source for this blue wave of death.’ (New Scientist).

Town considers licenses for ‘drone hunting’

‘…The town of Deer Trail, Colo., is looking to begin offering “drone hunting licenses” and actually paying rewards to anyone who presents proof that they were able to bring down an unmanned aerial vehicle belonging to the United States federal government, according to reporting by Denver TV station KMGH.

Phillip Steel, the man who drafted the ordinance, as well as other supporters, say it will provide a new source of revenue for the town, but Steel concedes that it’s not exactly like Deer Trail has a drone problem. In fact, he’s never seen one over the town.

“This is a very symbolic ordinance,” he told KMGH. “Basically, I do not believe in the idea of a surveillance society, and I believe we are heading that way.” ‘ (Crave – CNET).

69-year experiment captures pitch-tar drop

‘It took seven decades, but the pitch has finally been caught in the act. Since 1944, physicists at Trinity College in Dublin have been trying to measure the viscosity of pitch tar, a polymer seemingly solid at room temperature, and witness it dripping from a funnel. A drop forms only rarely, but last week a Webcam was on hand to witness the magic moment.

“The viscosity of pitch-tar is calculated to be 230 billion times that of water or 230,000 times the viscosity of honey,” the college’s School of Physics says on the experiment page. “Nobody has ever witnessed a drop fall in such an experiment — they happen roughly only once in a decade!”

The experiment is one of the oldest in the world, but a similar attempt at the University of Queensland in Australia has been going since 1927. It has only yielded eight drops. A Webcam that was poised to record a drop of the Australian pitch in November 2000 malfunctioned, but another drop could fall this year: see the live view here. It could take another century for all the pitch to flow through the funnel.’ (Crave – CNET).

Do You ‘Hate America’?

Bill O'Reilly

Think the U.S. justice system treats African Americans unfairly? Then you “simply hate America” or suffer a “victim mentality,” according to Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.

After highlighting some of the violence that occurred after George Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder, the Fox News host said Monday night those upset by the verdict could be roughly divided into two groups: those who hated America and those overwhelmed by a victim mentality. (The Raw Story).

Edward Snowden’s yet-unleaked leaks could be USA’s ‘worst nightmare’

“Snowden has enough information to cause harm to the U.S. government in a single minute than any other person has ever had,” says Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who was first to publish the documents that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked about the US government’s surveillance programs.

“The U.S. government should be on its knees every day begging that nothing happen to Snowden, because if something does happen to him, all the information will be revealed and it could be its worst nightmare.” (Boing Boing).

‘Ender’s Game’ author: Where’s ‘tolerance’ now?

Over the years, “Ender’s Game” author Orson Scott Card has written screed after screed railing against gay marriage. Here’s just a selection: In 1990, he wrote an essay defending a Georgia law against sodomy, even in private. In 2004, he argued that gays have the legal right to marry, just not each other. In 2008, he published a long article arguing that homosexuality is a mental illness and a dysfunction, and that gay marriage would spell the end of democracy in the U.S. In 2012, he argued incorrectly, at least in the U.S. that no laws remained that discriminated against gay people.

In response to this well-documented history, queer geek organization Geeks Out called for a boycott of the upcoming sci-fi film “Ender’s Game,” which is based on Card’s 1985 book, a mainstay of geek teen libraries since its release. “Stand against anti-gay activism and deny Orson Scott Card your financial support by pledging to skip Ender’s Game,” Geeks Out said.

In response, Orson Scott Card recently released a statement to Entertainment Weekly to dismiss the boycott’s position, arguing that the book itself makes no mention of gay rights, and besides, since the Supreme Court recently struck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, the battle is over (it’s not)…’ (CNET).

Understanding Evil


The man sitting in front of me is a mass murderer. He is a serial rapist and a torturer. We are chatting about the weather, his family, his childhood. We are sharing drinks and exchanging gifts. The man is in his 80s now, frail and harmless, even charming. Instinctively I like him. It is hard for me to connect him to the monster he was so many decades ago. I think it must be hard for him, too.

…By representing atrocity, are we giving voice, and therefore respect, to the victims who have been silenced? Or are we sensationalizing the private stories of those who have already been violated? When we take evil that is beyond understanding and put it into words, are we bringing healing clarity to the raw confusion of trauma? Or are we falsely packaging and simplifying something that ought never to be reduced, translating inexpressible evil into something common just for the sake of sharing a story?…’ — James Dawes (The Chronicle of Higher Education).

Happy birthday boson! Six outstanding Higgs mysteries

Visual Higgs Boson

‘Happy birthday, Higgs boson! A year ago today, the discovery of the particle credited with giving others mass was announced to a packed and jubilant auditorium at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland. The moment marked the end of a 50-year hunt. But although the boson has been found, there is still plenty we do not know about the celebrated particle. Here are the most interesting unknowns that surround the Higgs boson.’ (New Scientist).

The Connected Brain


Fringe (TV series)

Tom Stafford: “I’m giving at talk at the Edinburgh festival on August 9th, called The Connected Brain. It will be at Summerhall (Fringe Venue 26 during the festival), cost £3, and here is the blurb:

Headlines often ask if facebook is making us shallow, or google eroding our memories. In this talk we will look “under the hood” of research on how digital technology is affecting us. We will try and chart a course between moral panic and techno-utopianism to reveal the real risks of technology and show how we can cement the great opportunities that it presents for the human mind.

The talk will be similar to the one I did in London recently at the School of Life. Ben Martynoga wrote up some details of that talk, which you can find here. The ideas in the talk involve using some examples from the Mind Hacks book to illustrate some principles of how the mind works, looking at the extended mind hypothesis and reminding ourselves of some of the history of moral panics around information technologies, which Vaughan has written so engagingly and often about (thanks Vaughan!). The place I get to, which is where I’m at with my thinking and where I hope to start a discussion with the audience, is that, rather than panic about technology making us dumb, distracted and alone, we need to identify the principles which will help us design technology which makes use smart, able to concentrate and empathetic.” (Mind Hacks).