Day: July 4, 2016

Magician flubs trick, impales spectator's hand on spike


WARNING: A person gets stabbed in the hand in this video.

This has happened again.


Here’s how the spike trick is supposed to work: a magician shows the spectator a large nail mounted on a block of wood. He sets it on the table so the nail is pointed up. Then he covers the nail with a paper bag. He places three identical paper bags next to the bag covering the nail. He turns his back and asks the spectator to shuffle the four bags around on the table so that the magician has no idea which one has the nail. The magician turns around to face the bags, then slams his hand down one a bag. It was empty. He repeats the process until only one bag is left. He lifts the bag to reveal the nail. It’s a nerve-wracking trick.

Recently a magician performed the trick and made a bad mistake, driving the nail through his hand. You can see the photos here. Fortunately, he’s going to recover.

And here’s a video from 2007 that captures another magician stabbing himself. It’s not too graphic, but it is hard to watch anyway because you know what’s coming.

I have no interest in performing this trick.

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Poland Signs Space Partnership Deal With China, Eyes Increased Industry Cooperation

Marek Banaszkiewicz, the president of the Polish Space Agency, or POLSA. Credit: POLSA

WARSAW — Poland’s space agency POLSA recently signed an agreement with the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA). The two agencies are to cooperate on joint research, monitoring and developing new telecoms solutions.

The agreement was signed by Polish President Andrzej Duda and Chinese President Xi Jinping during the latter’s official visit to Warsaw in late June.

Partnership with China

“The cooperation between the Polish Space Agency and the Chinese National Space Administration will be related to three fields: space research, exchange and use of satellite data to develop our scientific knowledge on Earth, including observation and monitoring of climate change and the environment, and the development of space technology, including in the field of telecommunication,” professor Marek Banaszkiewicz, the president of POLSA, told SpaceNews. “The development of space technologies is one of the fields of cooperation between POLSA and the CNSA, so we will certainly discuss transfers of technology from the Chinese space sector.”

The latest efforts to spur space cooperation with China could be related to the plans which were unveiled by Polish government officials earlier this year, under which the cabinet is mulling the establishment of a national space company. The company’s purpose would be to spur development of smaller companies from the Polish space sector.

Increased Cooperation by Companies

Banaszkiewicz said that, following the signing of the latest deal between Beijing and Warsaw, “Polish entrepreneurs will be most interested in the field related to the development of technology and telecommunications.”

Asked about the potential for new partnerships between space companies from Poland and China, the agency’s president said that “the Chinese are a very active player in the space industry. They have numerous contacts, and they initiate many meetings and build business relations on their own.”

At a debate held on June 16 by local news weekly Gazeta Polska, Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Development Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that the government will support efforts by private companies to develop the country’s space sector, and that the cabinet has the ambitions to foster the launch of Poland’s first satellite.

POLSA’s agreement with the CNSA marks the signing of the first such deal this year. In 2015, the Polish agency signed agreements with its counterparts from France, Italy, Ukraine and Brazil.

Following last year’s deal between POLSA and the Space State Agency of Ukraine (SSAU), Poland’s leading state-owned defense group PGZ inked an agreement with the Ukrainian agency to cooperate on joint projects, including satellite development. To complement the deal signed by Beijing and Warsaw in June, PGZ could also establish closer cooperation with the Chinese space sector.

Based in Gdansk, on the Polish Baltic Sea shore, POLSA was set up in 2014 with the aim to coordinate the efforts of Poland’s business and scientific circles to increase the country’s space presence. In addition to this, POLSA says it is responsible for assisting in the acquisition of funds from the European Space Agency, promoting satellite technology, and enhancing Poland’s defense capacities.

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Annual trashing of Pittsburgh by Kenny Chesney fans breaks tonnage record

Photo: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

More than 48 tons of trash were left by fans of Kenny Chesney attending a concert this week in Pittsburgh—something of a tradition for the country singer. The piles are staggering, the smell appalling: an aftermath so disgusting it has some speculating on how it’s even possible to generate so much trash in such a short amount of time. It’s almost as if it was trucked in and left there to make a point…

As the concert let out around 10:30 p.m. and cars began to clear from the parking lots, a reeking, hulking mass of garbage leftover from the day’s earlier festivities began to appear behind the exodus of country music fans.

Pickup trucks crunched glass bottles underneath tires; fluid from portable toilets overflowed into the street; people covered their noses with their shirts to escape the stench.

“You’re just walking around on a carpet of garbage.” Dozens of drunks were hospitalized and several people arrested, reports the Post-Gazette.

The tonnage is a record, apparently; a Billy Joel concert was attended last weekend by a similarly-sized crowd without event.

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Hidden "anti-crime" mics are proliferating on US public transit, recording riders' conversations


New Jersey public transit was forced to remove the bugs it had installed on its light rail system after a public outcry, but Baltimore’s buses and subways remain resolutely under audio surveillance, while in Oakland, the cops hid mics around bus-shelters near the courthouses to capture audio of defendants and their lawyers discussing their cases.

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Read the bizarre Olympic Committee demands that led Oslo to pull out of the 2022 hosting race


Oslo wanted to host the 2022 Winter Games, but has decided against it because of the International Olympic Committee’s demands for special treatment. The IOC’s imperial arrogance and opulence would be amusing—were it not the tip of an iceberg of corruption and despotism that floats from city to city every two years.

• They demand to meet the king prior to the opening ceremony. Afterwards, there shall be a cocktail reception. Drinks shall be paid for by the Royal Palace or the local organizing committee.

• Separate lanes should be created on all roads where IOC members will travel, which are not to be used by regular people or public transportation.

• A welcome greeting from the local Olympic boss and the hotel manager should be presented in IOC members’ rooms, along with fruit and cakes of the season. (Seasonal fruit in Oslo in February is a challenge …)

• The hotel bar at their hotel should extend its hours “extra late” and the minibars must stock Coke products.

• The IOC president shall be welcomed ceremoniously on the runway when he arrives.

• The IOC members should have separate entrances and exits to and from the airport.

• During the opening and closing ceremonies a fully stocked bar shall be available. During competition days, wine and beer will do at the stadium lounge.

• IOC members shall be greeted with a smile when arriving at their hotel.

• Meeting rooms shall be kept at exactly 20 degrees Celsius at all times.

• The hot food offered in the lounges at venues should be replaced at regular intervals, as IOC members might “risk” having to eat several meals at the same lounge during the Olympics

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Airbus Safran Launchers awaits August European Commission competition ruling

France M51 launch

TOULOUSE, France – The July 30 consolidation of Airbus Safran Launchers allows the transition of 7,500 employees to the new entity from the two parent companies following resolution of a tax issue but has no bearing on the investigation of ASL by European Commission authorities.

The commission recently extended, for the second time, its review of ASL’s proposed purchase of the 35 percent of launch-services provider Arianespace now owned by the French space agency, CNES. The new tentative deadline for the decision is Aug. 10.

The commission did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the cause of the latest delay.

ASL, the French government and CNES have agreed to the transaction, valued at 150 million euros ($166 million). The commission is weighing measures to assure that an ASL-dominated Arianespace will guarantee fair treatment to Arianespace’s minority shareholders, to all satellite builders likely to use the future Ariane 6 rocket and to the future Vega-C small-satellite launcher to the extent that its capacity overlaps that of Ariane 6.

Thierry Mandon, France’s state secretary for higher education and research, who has minister-level responsibility for space, said in a June 28 interview with French financial daily Les Echos that ASL had made the needed concessions to resolve the outstanding issues.

But a European industry official said that was not yet the case, and that ASL was still negotiating Arianespace’s minority shareholders’ future rights and responsibilities.

ASL was formally created in January 2015. But only about 450 people from the two companies were moved to the combined entity pending a French tax review of Safran’s cash payment to Airbus in return for a 50 percent share of ASL.

Rocket-motor builder Safran’s own activities put into the joint venture would have left it with a minority stake. Safran and Airbus on June 30 said the payment would total 750 million euros ($831 million).

Marwan Lahoud, Airbus’s director of strategy, said the transaction was not a payment to Airbus so much as an investment by Safran into ASL.

French authorities apparently accepted Airbus’s reasoning. French Economics Minister Emmanuel Macron, during a June 30 press briefing following a meeting of Cospace – a French industry-government grouping that steers overall space policy – said the final step of ASL’s completion would not have occurred if the fiscal treatment of the Safran payment had not been resolved.

Macron did not provide any details on how the payment would be assessed by French tax authorities. He stressed that the ASL’s creation is more important than a simple tax matter.

“This is first and foremost a strategic decision,” Macron said, recalling that advances among Arinaesapce’s commercial-launch competitors were at the origin of the decision to create ASL.

Unlike its competitors in the United States, Russia, India, China and Japan, Arianepace depends on commercial launches, and not government contracts, for the lion’s share of its annual revenue. Because of that, the French government views a commercially successful Arianespace as necessary to preserving France’s, and Europe’s, autonomous access to space.

ASL is prime contractor for the new Ariane 6 rocket. A final disbursement of …read more

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Peak indifference: privacy as a public health issue


My latest Locus column, “Peak Indifference”, draws a comparison between the history of the “debate” about the harms of smoking (a debate manufactured by disinformation merchants with a stake in the controversy) and the current debate about the harms of surveillance and data-collection, whose proponents say “privacy is dead,” while meaning, “I would be richer if your privacy were dead.”

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