Day: September 15, 2016

World's most accurate dinosaur model

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This cartoony character is considered the most accurate model of a real dinosaur ever created. Paleoartist Bob Nicholls based his reconstruction of Psittacosaurus on an incredibly well-preserved fossil from China (image below) studied by University of Bristol paleontologist Jakob Vinther and colleagues. From The Guardian:

Psittacosaurus fossils are commonly found across most of Asia. The bipedal adults used their distinctive beaks to nibble through the vegetation of the Cretaceous, more than 100m years ago. The relatively large brain of Psittacosaurus leads scientists to suspect it may have been a relatively smart dinosaur, with complex behaviours. The large eyes hint that it had good vision….

The reconstruction is the culmination of around three months’ work, from detailed drawings to finished fibreglass model. Nicholls created a steel frame and bulked it out using polystyrene and wire mesh, before sculpting the surface in clay:.“This is where the subject finally comes to life,” he explains, “by adding all the skin details such as scales and wrinkles, and beaks and horns.” A master mould was made from this sculpture, allowing Nicholls to make fibreglass models ready to be painted.

I asked Nicholls what makes this Psittacosaurus so special? “The most surprising features include an unusually large and wide head, highly pigmented clusters of scales on the shoulders, robust limbs, patagiums (skin flaps) behind the hind limbs, and a highly pigmented cloaca.” These features make him confident this is the most accurate reconstruction ever produced: “When the anatomy surprises me – it confirms that I’ve followed the fossil evidence rather than any preconceived ideas of my own.”

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Nimona – A modern medieval world where the bad guys are good and the good guys often aren't

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Nimona

by Noelle Stevenson

HarperTeen

2015, 272 pages, 6 x 9 x 0.7 inches (softcover)

From $8 Buy a copy on Amazon

A few years ago, I had the good fortune of discovering Noelle Stevenson’s comics through an interview she did with Danielle Coresetto of the webcomic Girls with Slingshots. I read Nimona when it was available in full online and fell absolutely head over heels in love with the comic, blasting through it from start to finish in one sitting. When I revisited the site a few months later to show it to a friend, I was delighted to find out that it had been picked up by HarperTeen and was to be published later that year – no one deserved a publishing deal more than this incredibly talented illustrator and writer.

The graphic novel is set in a fresh fictional world of Stevenson’s imagining, inspired by the medieval fantasy scene but infused with science and technology. The titular character, Nimona, is a shape-shifting young girl who has foisted herself upon her favorite super-villain, Ballister Blackheart, as his sidekick and general mischief-maker. In a Despicable Me-esque fashion, the moral and big-hearted Blackheart has dedicated his life to grand (and mostly failed) schemes against the Institution of Law Enforcement & Heroics, a shadowy corporation with shadowy motives that ousted Blackheart years before. Nimona herself is brash, mischievous, and reckless – and in a split second, can turn into a rhino to smash through a steel door, or into a dragon to fly off with a massive chest of gold.

The characters are clever, snarky and lovable; the plot is filled with adventure and, at turns, heartbreak. Stevenson’s art is wonderfully stylized, colorful and expressive with charming and memorable character design. It’s a tricky thing to make a cast of characters this likable without it feeling cheap or like pandering, but don’t worry, there are no Mary Sues here. Every character has depth and pain and plenty of flaws, but they wiggle into your heart a little deeper for it. Their bickering and bantering give them a real family feel.

What I love most about Nimona is the delightful subverting of expectations and conventions: the collision of the modern and the medieval; a world where science and magic and technology all work side by side. The bad guys are good guys and the good guys often aren’t. Our hero is a super-villain, and the strongest characters are the most vulnerable. The contrasts don’t feel like stark juxtapositions – they feel like a harmonious blend of swords and science in the loveliest way possible.

– Michelle Kaatz

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Trump Jr says his dad can't release tax returns because it'll have "every person in the country asking questions"

Portrait of Donald Trump by Kerbstone. CC0 Public Domain

Donald Trump Jr. says his father can’t release his tax returns “because he’s got a 12,000-page tax return that would create … financial auditors out of every person in the country asking questions that would detract from (his father’s) main message.”

We can’t have people asking questions! Meanwhile, according to CNN, “Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has released nearly four decades of tax returns.”

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UNH will spend $1M of librarian's bequest on a football scoreboard

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Robert Morin worked for 50 years as a cataloger at the University of New Hampshire library (he was also a UNH alum); he was thrifty, ate microwave dinners and drove a 1992 Plymouth, and saved $4M, which he gave to the university as an unrestricted gift, and so the university is giving $100K to the library he worked in and $1M to the football team to pay for a new scoreboard.
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In a leaked "weaponized information" catalog, Indian cyberarms dealer offers blackest-ever SEO

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In 2014, an Indian company called Aglaya brought a 20-page brochure to ISS World (AKA the Wiretappers’ Ball — the annual trade fair where governments shop for surveillance technology): the brochure laid out the company’s offerings, which ranged from mobile malware for Ios and Android to a unique “Weaponized Information” selection that combined denial-of-service with disinformation to “discredit a target” online.
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The hidden lever to raise aisle seat armrests on commercial planes

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My friend, the brilliant Pam Grossman (What is a Witch, Phantasmaphile), posted the following discovery on her Facebook page.

You are undoubtedly already familiar with the fact that the armrests on plane seats can be raised and lowered, all expect for the aisle rest. Turns out, that one can also be raised, if you can find the lever. It’s under the armrest (if it exists on your model aircraft) and probably looks something like the one above. Pam describes her squee in finding it to be a for-real feature:

I have been taking a lot of flights of late, and so I have garnered a few tips to offer re: how to make things *slightly* less horrid when doing so. But holy horses, this one changed my life on this last go-round. When I tried it – and it worked! – it was all I could do to keep from leaping to my feet and crowing about it to my fellow passengers like some sort of zealous banshee.

In the responses on her FB page, someone asked about the other “few tips” she alluded to. I asked Pam’s permission to include her reply here. There may be a few useful ideas in here for you. I have recently become a convert of 1 & 2:

Oh, not secrets. Just silly little tips. Here are a few more: 1. TSA Pre-Check is highly worth it and makes everything so much better. 2. Buying a carry-on wheelie bag with 4 wheels that go in all directions is worth it 3. Wear the same outfit every time you travel, and it should have multiple layers, and a hood 4. Order the tomato juice, no ice (with a squeeze of lime if possible) and pretzels for a free meal 5. Buy the Tapas Snack Box on Delta. It has good hummus and enough snacks you can take with you for future meals 6. Though if they have 2 services, space them out. So snack box during 1st service, tomato juice during 2nd service or vice-versa 7. If, when you board, the overhead bins are getting full, put your bag on as soon as you find a spot before your seat, not after, otherwise it’s a pain to have to swim upstream and get your stuff when you deplane 8. If the airline messes up (and they often do), definitely send a firm but polite note to them about it and tell them you want to be compensated somehow, which in my experience usually results in bonus mileage points. OH MAN, so much more, but that’s a good start.

[Image via Broken Secrets]

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Elizabeth Warren to FBI director: now that investigations are fair game, what about banksters?

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When FBI Director James Comey released detailed notes on the Bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server, they broke with precedent, specifically, their refusal to release documents explaining why they totally failed to prosecute any of the bankers responsible for tanking the US economy in 2008 and destroying the lives of millions of Americans.

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Santa Monica's lost Googie diner may reopen

Via Santa Monica Public Library

In my late teens and early 20s the Penguin was an amazing spot to hang out. The restaurant was an absolute time machine, right down to their ‘eat this giant hamburger and win a t-shirt’ challenge. After spending around two decades as an orthodontists office, LA Eater reports that Mel’s Diner is trying to move in!

Per planning commission reports in Santa Monica, it appears Mel’s is looking to re-open the location as a 24×7 diner.

Via the Eater:

A tipster points to this Planning Commission report for Santa Monica, which points towards a meeting to be held in just one week’s time that will (hopefully) establish a conditional use permit for one Mel’s Drive in right in Lincoln Boulevard. It’s a nice replacement of sorts for Norm’s, which had to close to make way for some development.

The 5,352 square foot property sits right off the freeway on Lincoln in a former orthodontics business, but carries the peaked roof and wide frontage of a Googie restaurant — making it perfect for Mel’s to arrive. Originally built in 1959 as the Penguin Coffee Shop, the spot could once again be hosting diners twenty-four hours a day if Mel’s gets their way.

Every time I’d be exiting the 10 at Lincon, westbound, the Dr. Beauchamp’s sign would break my heart a bit. Mel’s isn’t my favorite diner but it is wonderful to think of that space being used as a restaurant again. I remain confident there are plenty of orthodontists in West L.A.

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Pesco speaking at big free conference about space in San Francisco next week

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BB pal Ariel “Spacehack” Waldman has curated a stellar program for the big DENT: SPACE conference next week (9/21-9/22) in San Francisco! I’m honored to be on the schedule with such amazing people as SETI Institute’s Seth Shostak, science writer Mary Roach, The Planetary Society’s Emily Lakdawalla, Ars Technica’s Annalee Newitz, UC Berkeley planet hunter Alex Filippenko, and so many more fascinating folks! I’ll be joining Ariel on stage Thursday at 2:50pm to talk about space history and the intersection of science and art to instill a sense of wonder about the universe, and a far out new project that I’ll announce soon. See below on how to get a free ticket! Ariel writes:

On September 21-22, 2016, Dent:Space takes place at the Innovation Hangar at the Palace of Fine Arts (formerly the Exploratorium museum) with two stages of fascinating speakers spanning the technological, artistic, commercial, scientific, educational, and DIY aspects of space exploration. We’re also putting together an exhibit hall for the conference — kind of a World’s Fair-like set of interactive demos that illustrate the future of space exploration and its many possibilities. We were able to give away 3,000 free tickets to the talks and exhibits, but we’ve run out of room for that. In the interest of keeping it all accessible for as many as possible, tickets are still only $49. But, as a (Boing Boing reader), you can still grab a free ticket here

Dent:Space is a celebration of humans breaking the status quo of who can be involved and what can be achieved in space exploration. This event is for anyone interested in the future of space exploration and how they might be able to contribute their skills to it through software, design, hardware, entrepreneurship and collaborative efforts. The event is tailored for people from all backgrounds/industries to attend (if you work with space stuff already, great! but not needed to enjoy the event). We promise to fill you with ideas and send you home and back to work with a take-out box full of inspiration.

Space colony painting above by Rick Guidice courtesy of NASA.

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Support the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's action against predatory payday lenders

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The predatory payday lending industry — “‘legalized loan sharks collect 75 percent of their fees from people stuck in more than 10 loans a year by charging 300 percent APR” — is lobbying hard to kill the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposed “debt trap” rule, “that would require lenders to determine whether borrowers can afford to pay back their loans and cut off repeated debit attempts that rack up fees and make it harder for consumers to get out of debt.”
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Easy Peanut Butter Fudge

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My partner’s mom makes peanut butter fudge on what seems like a weekly basis. I’m not sure how she can consume so much of it. She has a dedicated baking pan just for this fudge and there’s always a tub of it in the fridge.

But when I emailed her asking for the recipe, she didn’t know how to give it to me. Like most recipes of hers, she free-forms it, adding peanut butter until the batter “looks and feels” right.

It looked like I’d need to head into the kitchen and do some experimenting!

Continue reading “Easy Peanut Butter Fudge” »

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To find Hillary Clinton likable, we must learn to view women complexly

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Whether you realize it or not, you’ve spent your entire life being trained to empathize with white men. From Odysseus to Walter White, Hamlet to Bruce Wayne, James Bond to the vast majority of biopic protagonists, our art consistently makes the argument that imperfect, even outright villainous, men have an innate core of humanity. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Good art should teach us to empathize with complex people. The problem comes not from the existence of these stories about white men, but from the lack of stories about everyone else.

That’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot during this increasingly insane presidential election season. Particularly as I try to wrap my head around the fact that Hillary Clinton is on one hand the most qualified human being to ever run for president of the United States, and, on the other, one of the most disliked presidential candidates of all time. In fact, Donald Trump is the only candidate who is more disliked than Clinton. And he’s not only overtly racist, sexist, and Islamophobic, but also unfit and unprepared for office. How can these two fundamentally dissimilar politicians possibly be considered bedfellows when it comes to popular opinion?

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton celebrates among balloons after she accepted the nomination on the fourth and final night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia

Gallons of digital ink have been spilled trying to figure out why Clinton struggles so much with likability. But perhaps the problem isn’t with her at all. Maybe it’s with us.

We tend to talk about likability as a black or white issue. But like the old adage, “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like,” there’s no universal component of likability. After all, erudite Barack Obama, folksy Joe Biden, and angry Bernie Sanders couldn’t be more different, yet all three are beloved by their bases. Even Donald Trump—as divisive as he is—clearly has a magnetic pull among his loyal supporters.

But Clinton is different. Even many of those who plan to vote for her admit they don’t find her particularly likable. According to The Washington Post, just 33 percent of Clinton supporters are “very enthusiastic” about supporting her while 46 percent of Trump supporters say the same about their candidate. (For the record, Clinton—like most women—tends to be far more popular when she’s in office than when she’s running for one.) Pundits usually blame Clinton’s favorability issues on her perceived caginess, her tone, and her general awkwardness when it comes to public speaking. Essentially: Clinton’s flaws make her unlikable.

But that’s not the case for male politicians. In fact, it’s often their flaws that make them likable. After all, on paper the idea of an old disheveled man yelling sounds downright unpleasant. But in practice Bernie Sanders is an utterly charming and refreshing political figure. And while one might assume …read more

Trump "plans" to make Peter Thiel a supreme court judge

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Billionaire trumpkin Peter Thiel’s got a law degree and pays lawyers a lot of money to destroy his enemies, so who better to occupy the vacant spot on the Supreme Court of the United States?

Donald Trump has made it clear he will nominate Peter Thiel to the Supreme Court if he wins the presidency, Thiel has told friends, according to a source close to the PayPal co-founder.

Trump “deeply loves Peter Thiel,” and people in the real estate mogul’s inner circle are talking about Thiel as a Supreme Court nominee, a separate source close to Trump told The Huffington Post. That source, who has not spoken to Trump directly about Thiel being nominated to the Court, cautioned that Trump’s offers often fail to materialize in real life.

It’s not clear whether Trump has indeed offered to nominate Thiel ― only that Thiel has said Trump would nominate him and that Trump’s team has discussed Thiel as a possible nominee. Both sources requested anonymity, given that Trump and Thiel have each demonstrated a willingness to seek revenge against parties they feel have wronged them. In Thiel’s case, he secretly financed lawsuits against Gawker.com with the intention of destroying the publication. He succeeded, and his role in the assault was only revealed in the final stages.

Thiel got rich building PayPal and went on to more success as a venture capitalist.

A conservative who occasionally affects the hamfisted libertarianism of people nerdy enough to read one long book when they are a child (but not nerdy enough for it to have been Anarchy, State and Utopia), Thiel complained about women getting the vote, believes that democracy and freedom are incompatible, thinks Lord of the Rings is a parable about economic freedom as the source of human happiness, yet finds taxpayers’ money an excellent lining for his own pockets.

It’s true, nonetheless! Who could be more fitting for a Trump court? They could even put it on a floating island.

(P.S. Trump isn’t planning anything of the sort, he just cuts meaningless headnod deals all the time with his supplicants.)

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Atmos' high-end versatile vaporizer is perfect for beginners

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The Vicod 5G Vaporizer is advertised as easy-to-use, and it’s a really solid vaporizer for beginners. One thing that immediately impressed me was its solid construction. Unlike other vapes, Vicod feels truly high-end and like it won’t just fall apart after a few uses.

You literally just click open the chamber, pack it, and you’re ready to go. The OLED screen even displays the temperature you’re lighting up at, and shows where the battery life stands.

Another great feature is that you can control the temperature to the degree (from 300F – 435F). This type of precision is rare and allowed me to really find my personal sweet spot for a perfect vaping experience. Thanks to the vents on both sides, I was able to create some impressively large vape clouds too.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this little vape, which is actually conveniently compact enough to fit in my pocket. The manufacturer also offers a good 5-year warranty which adds a lot of value to the deal.

You can find it in the Boing Boing Store for just $84.95 – 34% off the original price.

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Man ticketed for driving 88mph in his DeLorean

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Essex, England police ticketed Nigel Mills, 55, for speeding in his DeLorean. He was apparently going 88mph (although his top speed was 89mph). Mills insists that he “wasn’t trying to time travel.”

“Me and the rest of my family enjoyed the Back to the Future films,” he said about his purchase of the DeLorean. “When I’m out in it a few people recognise it, they slow down and take pictures – drivers take pictures out of their windows or try to film you and I get approached at petrol stations.”

Mills’s ticket was tossed out of court when the two officers who cited him didn’t show up. Probably because Mills erased them from existence.

(The Guardian)

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Machine learning system can descramble pixelated/blurred redactions 83% of the time

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A joint UT Austin/Cornell team has taught a machine learning system based on the free/open Torch library to correctly guess the content of pixellated or blurred redactions with high accuracy: for masked faces that humans correctly guess 0.19% of the time, the system can make a correct guess 83% of the time, when given five tries.
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