Brain candy for Happy Mutants
Updated: 5 hours 6 min ago
I recently reviewed the incredible graphic novel biography, The Fifth Beatle: The Brain Epstein Story, written by Vivek J. Tiwary and illustrated by Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker. (It was just nominated for two Eisner awards!)
Last week I announced that Wink (a paper book review website that my wife Carla Sinclair edits) was holding a giveaway of the rare signed, numbered, slipcased "Limited Edition" of The Fifth Beatle, which is limited to 1500 copies, signed by all three creators and comes with an exclusive tip-in page of art. Entrants to the giveaway were asked to write their own text for the word balloons in the panel above. (Clockwise L-R John Lennon, George Harrison, Brian Epstein, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney. NOTE: John has 2 balloons.)
The entries were judged by Vivek J. Tiwary himself, and he selected a winner for the limited edition and a runner-up for a regular edition.
A: okay guys, the show was amazing but I really need a shower. NOW.
Runner Up: audiochunk
A: One sweet dream
Congratulations, Frunker and audiochunk!
Toby Barlow says: "Attention music lovers, designers, art directors, this is a very fun project we have just launched. We're going to create a record shop of fictional albums, and we would like you to be a part of it. Remember the lost art of the album? When you would stare at the Roxy Music, Iron Maiden, Clash, Smashing Pumpkins, Prince, Zeppelin, Cure, Yes or Joy Division album cover for hours at end? This is your chance to make AND sell your own album. For details, or to get involved, contact us here."
From the New York Times obituary: “Each new work of his is received by expectant critics and readers as an event of world importance,” the Swedish Academy of Letters said in awarding him the Nobel.
Mr. García Márquez was considered the supreme exponent, if not the creator, of the literary genre known as magic realism, in which the miraculous and the real converge. In his novels and stories, storms rage for years, flowers drift from the skies, tyrants survive for centuries, priests levitate, and corpses fail to decompose. And, more plausibly, lovers rekindle their passion after a half century apart.
Magic realism, he said, sprang from Latin America’s history of vicious dictators and romantic revolutionaries, of long years of hunger, illness and violence. In accepting his Nobel, Mr. García Márquez said: “Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination. For our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.” “Be calm. God awaits you at the door.” — Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera.
Bloomberg Visual Data reports on the ways people die, and how they have changed over time. The most interesting part of the report is about dementia and Alzheimer's:
The downside to living so long is that it dramatically increases the odds of getting dementia or Alzheimer's. That's why total deaths in the 75+ category has stayed constant despite impressive reductions in the propensity to die of heart disease.
The rise of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia has had a big impact on healthcare costs because these diseases kill the victim slowly.
About 40% of the total increase in Medicare spending since 2011 can be attributed to greater spending on Alzheimer's treatment.
This Day in Blogging History: TODOCAT; Jokes from the Cultural Revolution; Mickey Mouse's dwindling brand
One year ago today
Five years ago today
Ten years ago today
So, this happened.
“I’d like to ask you,” NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden asked Russian leader Vladimir Putin on a televised call-in show, “does Russia intercept, store or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals?” Putin, a former KGB agent and head of Russia's intelligence service, spoke about what they had in common: spycraft.
“Mr. Snowden, you are a former agent,” the president replied. “I used to work for an intelligence service. Let’s speak professionally.”
“Our intelligence efforts are strictly regulated by our law,” Mr. Putin said. “You have to get a court’s permission first.” He noted that terrorists use electronic communications and that Russia had to respond to that threat.
“Of course we do this,” Mr. Putin said. “But we don’t use this on such a massive scale and I hope that we won’t.”
“But what is most important,” Mr. Putin concluded, “is that the special services, thank God, are under a strict control of the government and the society, and their activities are regulated by law.”
More in this New York Times report.
The Sword and Laser (S&L) is a science fiction and fantasy-themed book club podcast hosted by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt. The main goal of the club is to build a strong online community of science fiction / fantasy buffs, and to discuss and enjoy books of both genres. Check out previous episodes here.
[Video Link] Wes Chu has had many interesting (and varied) careers, but we're happy that he's focused on the fascinating tales of Tao. In this Google hangout, we talk about the upcoming finale to the series, where he's taking the story next, and answer your questions!
Read show notes here.
Sword and Laser is not just a podcast; we’ve also been a book club since 2007! Each month we select a science fiction or fantasy book, discuss it during kick-off and wrap-up episodes of the podcast, and continue that discussion with our listeners over on our Goodreads forums. So come read along with us, and even get a chance to ask your questions to the authors themselves!
Longtime Boing Boing reader Charles Statman recently recommended I take a look at The Complete Modern Blacksmith by Alexander Weygers. This fantastic HOWTO book is detailed and fun, even for someone who can never hope to actually use it.
Weygers explains techniques and methods for making tools, and the tools to make tools. His diagrams are clear and concise, and the text is simple. I can absolutely picture how I'd undertake many of the projects he documents, I just don't think I ever will. This book, however, provides incredible opportunities to learn about how things are made without ever having to get your hands dirty! Be it making your own anvil or designing a water pump system, from making new tools to fixing a broken one, this tome is ridiculously complete. It is actually 3 out-of-print books combined into one.
The Complete Modern Blacksmith got my brain working. Weygers likes to improvise and find cheap ways to do things without spending a lot of money to solve a problem, and that is fun.
I use several corded power tools around the yard and garden such as a chain saw, leaf vacuum, hedge trimmer, etc. Many’s the time I would put off a chore using them because I would have to uncoil the 100? of power cord and probably have to untangle/unkink it before using it. After the job was done, it would take another few minutes to coil up the power cord and try not to tangle it in the process.
A couple of types of cord reels I tried didn’t work particularly well. So I bought this weird looking cord winder a few years ago. After installing the wall mount near the power outlet in my garage and winding my cord into the basket, I was quite surprised to discover I could pull out the 100? of power cord, tangle/kink free in about a minute to the end of my driveway. I would do my chore (usually the leaf vacuum for lawn clippings and leaves) and, in another minute or two I could wind up the cord, detach the cord winder from the wall mount and put it on the shelf. Those chores now get done when needed instead of being put off since the cord unwinding/re-winding takes so little time. -- Jim Service
Wonder Winder Hand Crank Extension Cord Winder: $20
When Superman wants to super impress Lois Lane, he takes a lump of coal and squeezes it in his super fist until it becomes a diamond. Which is super.
Unfortunately, it’s not a scientifically accurate analogy for the creation of diamonds in nature. So when journalist Stephen Ornes’ 6-year-old son, Sam, asks how coal, which is black, can turn into diamonds, which are clear, there are actually a couple of issues we have to address. First, we need to know where diamonds actually come from. Then, even though diamonds aren’t coal, you’re still left with the basic question Sam is trying to get at—why can pure carbon be black under some circumstances and clear under others? Turns out, the answer has a lot to do with why life, itself, is based on carbon.
Coal is the compressed remains of ancient plants, dinosaur swamps sitting in the palm of your hand. But there are diamonds that are older than terrestrial plants. That fact alone should tell you that diamonds are not actually made from compressed coal. Instead, diamonds are probably formed deep in the Earth—much further down than the levels at which we find coal—where heat and pressure fuse atoms of carbon together into crystalline structures. Later, those crystals get vomited up from the depths with the help of volcanic vents. (You can read more about where diamonds really come from in a post I wrote back in 2012.)
It’s important to make the distinction between diamonds and coal because, if you don’t, then Sam’s question earns a misleadingly simple answer. Diamonds and coal are different colors because coal isn’t pure carbon. The stuff is loaded with impurities: Hydrogen, sulfur, mercury, and more. There’s a reason you don’t want to live next door to a coal-fired power plant and that reason is all the nasty stuff that gets released when the carbon in coal burns.
But that doesn’t mean pure carbon always looks like diamonds. As an example, George Bodner, professor of chemical education at Purdue University, points to carbon black—the black stuff you see when you burn something in the flame of a candle. Another good example, this one from David McMillin, a Purdue professor of inorganic chemistry, is graphite. Like diamond, graphite is carbon. Unlike diamond, it’s a shimmery, silvery black. So what gives?
This is where things get complicated, because the differences between diamonds and carbon black, or diamonds and graphite, happen at the molecular level.
Think about the illustration of an atom—the big ball of a nucleus surrounded by a cloud of electrons whirling through shells designated by energy level. An atom of carbon has six electrons. Two in the lowest shell, closest to the nucleus, and four in the second shell. The lowest shell can only hold two electrons, so, for carbon, that shell is full and stable—an old married couple with a minivan and a cat. But the second shell can hold eight electrons, and carbon only has half that number. That means the electrons in carbon’s outer shell are on the market. They can attract electrons from other atoms, swap and share, binding the atoms together and forming new molecules.
Once that happens, an idea called molecular orbital theory comes into play, because becoming part of a molecule seems to change how electrons go about their business. You can’t think of a molecule of two atoms as a couple of nuclei planets, each with its proprietary electron satellites still distinctly circling. Instead, the electrons of both atoms merge to the point that, when we talk about orbits, we’re talking about molecular orbits now, not atomic ones.
There are two types of molecular orbits, pi bonds and sigma bonds, and each of those has a bond and an antibond. (You can imagine them as twins, one of whom has an inherently evil moustache.) It’s the difference in bonding that makes diamonds clear and other forms of pure carbon black.
Diamonds are entirely constructed from sigma bonds. When two carbon atoms come together to form diamond, the electrons are snugly held, right in between the nuclei. The sigma bond is a tight bond. In molecular chemistry, the tightest bonds happen at the lowest orbitals … the lowest energy levels. So if your bond is very low energy, then its evil twin—the antibond—must be the opposite. Very, very high energy.
Why does this make the diamond clear? The secret is in that big difference between the bond and the antibond. When a photon of light energy slams into a stable material, it can pass through it, be absorbed, or be scattered back in the direction it came from. The net energy (or wavelength) of that photon is a critical factor. When a bunch of atoms are as tightly joined as the ones in a diamond, the photon has to have a lot of energy to be absorbed and excite an electron into an antibonding level; it’s like throwing a bowling ball at a brick wall. A molecule of diamond is like the wall. And by the time you get out the heavy construction equipment and hit that wall with enough force to take a piece out of it … well, that little piece is also going to contain a lot more energy. In this case of the photon is outside the relatively low-energy spectrum of visible light.
So it’s not really that diamonds are clear—that they don’t absorb any of the light that hits them. It’s that our eyes can’t see the colors of really high energy photons. “If you looked at it with UV eyes, you’d see something different,” McMillin said.
In graphite, on the other hand, one quarter of the bonds are pi bonds. In a pi bond, the electrons have a little bit more leeway, like toddlers on a tether. They’re still tightly held, but the nuclei don’t confine them so much and they roam more through the material. And the difference between the bond and the antibond is less extreme. If a sigma bond is a brick wall, the pi electrons are more like bowling pins. Relatively low energy photons can energize them. In fact, graphite virtually absorbs every colored photon in the visible spectrum. None come through or scatter back toward us and we therefore see black. (It’s worth noting that this absorption isn’t like a black hole, where energy has almost no chance of escaping. Instead, in graphite, the energy is absorbed, but then exits again in a changed state—as much smaller bundles of heat energy.)
The difference between sigma-bonded diamonds—which throw off photons outside the spectrum of visible light—and pi-bonded graphite—which absorbs all colors of visible light is extreme. The fact that both are carbon is pretty important, because it means that carbon is extremely versatile. And that, George Bodner said, is what makes carbon such a great element to build life around. “You need strong bonds because you want this thing held together. But there are also times when you want it to, under right conditions, to open up or react. Carbon is so good at that, better than anybody else. And life on this planet evolved around that.”
First, inflation. Then, collapse. You really don't want to be a Peep in space.
[Video Link] The graphics for Hitman GO are beautiful. I have not played it yet. Can someone who has please review it in the comments? Is it worth $5, plus all the in-app purchases required to move to the next chapters? Hitman GO is a turn-based puzzle game where you will strategically navigate fixed spaces on a grid to avoid enemies, infiltrate well-guarded locations and take out your target on beautifully rendered diorama-style set pieces. Hitman GO
Twaggies--cartoons made from peculiar and noteworthy tweets--have been running since 2009. Now they're animating them, and here's the rather violent first episode! "Today's theme is grammar nazis," writes Twaggist-in-chief David Israel, "for all you smart folks who hate when people make ridiculous grammar mistakes."
Chasing Sheep posted part 2 of its visual history of Turtle-loving reporter April O'Neil; read part 1 first. One key issue: is April O'Neil a whitewashed person of color? Apparently, her ethnicity was never definitively settled in the original comic. Then the TV show happened, and that was that.
The first European settlement in the Americas was founded in what is now the Dominican Republic. That is, to say, it was founded on a warm, fruit-growing island. And, yet, scurvy was apparently a major reason that settlement failed.
Elly Blue is a bike activist, writer, and publisher, and has run more Kickstarter campaigns than nearly any other person or group. She is fiercely in favor of using bikes as a primary mode of transportation, and is a feminist bicycle activist. We talk funding, publishing, and persistence.
This episode is sponsored by:
New Relic helps everyone's software work better, and if you’re in any business today, you’re in the software business. Software powers our apps, runs our databases, manages our accounts, and runs ecommerce sites and email programs. New Relic monitors every move your application makes, across the entire stack, and shows you what's happening right now. Visit newrelic.com/disruptors to find out more.
Abraham Finberg, CPA: From dealing with those pesky 1099Ks to complex accounting needs, go to finbergcpa.com for all your financial support. Services can be as simple as a 15-minute phone consultation session all the way up to outsourcing your whole internal accounting office. Use promotion code DISRUPT to get a free phone consultation today!
Things we mention in this episode:
Elly has launched 19 Kickstarter campaigns; the 18 completed campaigns have all funded successfully. Her 19th is underway. A children's book, Zoom! The story of a boy and his balance bike, was her biggest project with over $10,000 raised. (Sign up for her mailing list.)
Jean MacDonald spoke to us about App Camp for Girls; she recently left her for-profit job to become executive director of the program she helped found. Amelia Greenhall explained the purpose of and process to create Double Union, a women-oriented makerspace in San Francisco. (Amelia and colleagues recently launched the publication Model View Culture, and just shipped their first quarterly issue.) Elly's boyfriend, Joe Biel, founded Microcosm Publishing. I talked to Matt Bors about his book crowdfunding campaign.
I wrote an Economist item recently about the perils of taking a book aimed for print production and creating an ereader edition. Elly mentioned George Packer's lengthy article about Amazon.com in the New Yorker. Elly wrote about Dutch-style cargo bikes, bakfietsen, for The Magazine.
The New Disruptors is a podcast about people who make art, things, or connections finding new ways to reach an audience and build a community. Glenn Fleishman is the host, and he talks with new guests every week. Find older episodes at the podcast's home.
Support The New Disruptors directly as a patron at Patreon starting at $1 per month, with on-air thanks, premiums, and more at higher levels of support. We do this show with your help.
Discussing Lenny Bruce in the sixties, Nat Hentoff writes, "I might be able to understand - though not really - why anyone with a knowledge of the major tensions of our time would not find Bruce funny; but I cannot understand how other [cultural critics] fail completely to comprehend what he is saying." (Read the entire Village Voice column, April 6, 1960.)
Paul Krassner's Impolite Interview with Lenny Bruce for The Realist.
Marc Maron's WTF podcast interviewing Paul Krassner, discussing Lenny Bruce.
WFMU and Kliph Nesteroff present:
The 'marijuana will rot your brain' debate: neurological differences don't necessarily mean impairment
There's a new study out that's being touted as proof that marijuana makes you dumb. But, while the results do show differences in the brains of people who smoked pot, the conclusion about what that means is seriously flawed, writes Maia Szalavitz at The Daily Beast.
Most of the time, it's difficult to explain why scientific research or a conclusion about research results is flawed. That's not the case here. You only have to understand two concepts: "normal" and "healthy".
The 20 marijuana-smoking participants, who took the drug at least once a week, were deliberately selected to be healthy. If they had any marijuana-related problems—or any psychiatric problems or other issues—they were excluded from participating.
Are you beginning to see what’s wrong? Although the pot-smoking participants showed brain differences in comparison to the controls who were also selected to be normal— both groups were normal! If the smokers had any marijuana-related problems or any type of impairment, they would not have been included in the first place. Therefore, the brain changes that the researchers found were—by definition—not associated with any cognitive, emotional, or mental problems or differences.
In a series of photos dating back to May 2012, NASA scientists have identified a bright object at the edge of Saturn's outermost ring. Nicknamed "Peggy", the object is a kilometer across and could be a moon about to calve off the rings. Or, alternately, it could be a moon that got too close to the rings and is in the process of disintegrating.
If you've ever tried to split your own firewood, you know it's kind of a pain in the tookus. Swinging the axe with enough force to drive the wedge into the wood and also split said wood (rather than just getting the axe head stuck) is not easy. That's why lumberjacks have big arms.
So Finnish inventor Heikki Kärnä redesigned the axe. Instead of working as a wedge, his axe is a lever. And it's sort of mesmerizing to watch.
It works because the Kärnä axe's center of gravity is to the side, rather than in the center, of the blade.
Upon hitting the top of the log and penetrating it slightly, the leading edge of the axe head begins to slow down. Where the axe blade widens sharply it stops the axe’s penetration. However, the mass of the axe head still has kinetic energy and the off line center of gravity forces it to rotate eccentrically down towards the wood. This rotational movement causes the leading edge, or sharp edge of the blade to turn in a lever action, forcing a split with all the force of the kinetic energy of the axe multiplied by the leverage of the axehead. The widening blade edge also has a benefit in that it helps to prevent the axe from penetrating into the wood and getting stuck there as is often the case with traditional axes.
The 1.9kg axe head has a significant amount of kinetic energy when it begins the rotational movement. While the centre of gravity of the head continues first to the right and then downwards the edge moves in a rotational direction to the left. This movement uses the rotational torque to split a log and push it away from the wood. In total the edge opens the wood by 8 cm. When the axe has rotated sideways it has used most of its energy and ends on top of the log on the in a sideways fashion. This safety feature ensures that the axe does not continue towards your legs and the axe remains totally in control. In addition, the axe holds the log steady on the chopping block ready for the next swing.
Also, the official company "Tale of the Vipukirves Axe" is sort of hilarious, in a Lake Wobegon kind of way.
Throughout his arduous work the axe often swung close to the hard working man's calves. The axe struck him more than once, but luckily the man was wearing protective overalls with his hems stiff into his rubber boots. After receiving a few mighty blows from the axe, he was forced to toss his boots into the trash. When the hard day's work was over, the man collected all the resinous branches into one pile and the trunks cut with a power saw in the other. They would wait to be cut into firewood.
“Darn it!” the man said in despair. “Making firewood is so much work, and it's dangerous too!”
He sat down on a stump, threw his gloves in the moss, wiped the sweat from his forehead and started cogitating. He grabbed the axe that the hardware salesman proclaimed to be the best on the market and began to examine the blade and the handle, turning the piece of metal in his sap-covered hands. Then it came to him.
”Eureka! I need to work on this!”
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