On a Russian highway, a truck filled with propane cylinders explodes 39 times, boom, boom, boom, each explosion more spectacular than the last.
Spitbank Fort is an offshore island fortress built in the mid-Victorian to help protect Portsmouth. It's been renovated by some savvy hoteliers who've turned it into a luxury hotel and conference centre, and it's all rather gorgeous. You can book the whole thing for retreats, weddings, etc, or just book an individual room.
This stunning video of the Moon's rotation was made from images captured by NASA's Lunar Reconissance Orbiter's Wide Angle Camera (WAC). "A Unique View of the Moon" (Arizona State University)
Wait But Why has a fantastic series of graphs that aim to help us wrap our heads around the enormous timescales on which forces like history, biology, geography and astronomy operate. By carefully building up graphs that show the relationship between longer and longer timescales, the series provides a moment's worth of emotional understanding of the otherwise incomprehensible.
Humans are good at a lot of things, but putting time in perspective is not one of them. It's not our fault—the spans of time in human history, and even more so in natural history, are so vast compared to the span of our life and recent history that it's almost impossible to get a handle on it. If the Earth formed at midnight and the present moment is the next midnight, 24 hours later, modern humans have been around since 11:59:59pm—1 second. And if human history itself spans 24 hours from one midnight to the next, 14 minutes represents the time since Christ.
To try to grasp some perspective, I mapped out the history of time as a series of growing timelines—each timeline contains all the previous timelines (colors will help you see which timelines are which). All timeline widths are exactly accurate to the amount of time they're expressing.
Russell Brand explains to Guardian readers the circumstances under which he was ejected from the GQ fashion awards after giving a speech about sponsor Hugo Boss's connection to the Nazis. It's a pretty much perfect example of gonzo writing: over the top, acerbic, witty, and funny -- but with a serious point that's made all the better for the loony style.
I could see the room dividing as I spoke. I could hear the laughter of some and louder still silence of others. I realised that for some people this was regarded as an event with import. The magazine, the sponsors and some of those in attendance saw it as a kind of ceremony that warranted respect. In effect, it is a corporate ritual, an alliance between a media organisation, GQ, and a commercial entity, Hugo Boss. What dawned on me as the night went on is that even in apparently frivolous conditions the establishment asserts control, and won't tolerate having that assertion challenged, even flippantly, by that most beautifully adept tool: comedy.
The jokes about Hugo Boss were not intended to herald a campaign to destroy them. They're not Monsanto or Halliburton, the contemporary corporate allies of modern-day fascism; they are, I thought, an irrelevant menswear supplier with a double-dodgy history. The evening, though, provided an interesting opportunity to see how power structures preserve their agenda, even in a chintzy microcosm.
Subsequent to my jokes, the evening took a peculiar turn. Like the illusion of sophistication had been inadvertently disrupted by the exposure. It had the vibe of a wedding dinner where the best man's speech had revealed the groom's infidelity. With Hitler.
Foreign secretary William Hague gave an award to former Telegraph editor Charles Moore, for writing a hagiography of Margaret Thatcher, who used his acceptance speech to build a precarious connection between my comments about the sponsors, my foolish answerphone scandal at the BBC and the Sachs family's flight, 70 years earlier, from Nazi-occupied Europe. It was a confusing tapestry that Moore spun but he seemed to be saying that a) the calls were as bad as the Holocaust and b) the Sachs family may not've sought refuge in Britain had they known what awaited them. Even for a man whose former job was editing the Telegraph this is an extraordinary way to manipulate information.
Tonight on BBC Three is the premier of Teen Exorcists, in which Brynne Larson and Tess and Savannah Scherkenback, teenage girls from Arizona who happen to be exorcists just like Brynne's dad, visit the UK! I bet they were a huge hit there. After all, Harry Potter author JK Rowling is British and, as Tess Scherkenback says, "The spells and things that you're reading in the Harry Potter books, those aren't just something that are made up, those are actual spells. Those are things that came from witchcraft books." What wonderful ambassadors of American culture these young women are. You can learn more about them in this BBC News profile: "Teen exorcists: Women who expel demons on stage"
An "expert" quoted in the Independent predicts that thieves will amputate their victims' fingertips in order to bypass the biometric locks on the new Iphones. I'm not particularly worried about this vulnerability (if you're willing to cut off someone's fingertip to unlock his phone, you're probably also willing to torture him into giving up his PIN), though I remember reading stories of carjackers who amputated their victims' fingertips in order to make off with their biometrically protected cars.
More interesting is the prediction that phone thieves will lift their victims' fingerprints and use them to bypass the readers. As German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble discovered, you leak your fingerprints all the time, and once your fingerprint has been compromised, you can't change it. (Schauble was pushing for biometric identity cards; playful Chaos Computer Club hackers lifted his fingerprints off a water-glass after a debate and published 10,000 copies of them on acetate as a magazine insert).
This is the paradox of biometric authentication. The biometric characteristics of your retinas, fingerprints, hand geometry, gait, and DNA are actually pretty easy to come by without your knowledge or consent. Unless you never venture into public without a clean-room bunny-suit, mirrorshades, and sharp gravel in your shoes, you're not going to be able to stop dedicate strangers from capturing these measurements. And as with Schauble's fingerprints, you can't revoke your DNA and replace it with new DNA once a ripoff artist has used it to clean out your bank-account or break into your workplace.
That's why cops use them, after all: it's nearly impossible to keep them to yourself, and once they're in the wild, they can be used against you.
Fraudsters have also succeeded in lifting and duplicating prints with technology that “is only going to improve with time”, he added.
“Thieves in some regions have worked out that you can force a victim to unlock a secured device, and in some extreme cases have also mutilated victims in order to steal their fingerprint.”
The hi-tech scanners are said to work best when combined with a pin code or another security feature.
“Fingerprints can be a useful addition to security but their value depends highly on the type of fingerprint reader and how it is being used - for example, the best use of a fingerprint is to provide a convenient way to unlock something in a medium to low security scenario,” Mr Rogers said.
iPhone 5S: Thieves may mutilate owners in bid to gain access to fingerprint-reading handsets, expert warns [Katie Hodge/The Independent]
There has been no shortage of news about bonehead TSA employees, which is surprising for an agency that has recruited security personnel by advertising on pizza boxes. But it really outdid itself when it hired Nna Alpha Onuoha, who until Tuesday was a TSA screener at LAX. This is the guy who, in June, angrily told a 15-year-old traveler to "cover yourself," something we learned about because the girl's father happens to be a co-founder of one of the world's most popular blogs.
Now the same guy is back in the news for trying to shut down LAX with a fake bomb threat.
The TSA did suspend Onuoha after the earlier incident, probably due to the bad publicity since its employees have done far worse and gotten away with it. (On the other hand, maybe they just temporarily ran out of vowels.) The suspension only lasted a week, though, and so he was back on the job until Tuesday, when he resigned.
According to the arrest affidavit mentioned in The Guardian, Onuoha then returned to TSA HQ and left a sealed envelope there addressed to a manager. He then made several calls saying that the airport should be evacuated because he was about to "deliver a message to America and the whole world." The envelope was found to contain an eight-page document entitled "The End of America, the End of Satan, we were not defeated," which according to The Guardian "expressed his thoughts on the episode involving" the 15-year-old girl. Either he didn't try to conceal his identity or this reference made it obvious who he was, which led to a visit from law enforcement. His apartment was empty except for a note that read "09/11/2013 THERE WILL BE FIRE! FEAR! FEAR! FEAR!"
When he was arrested, he told agents he had not intended these statements to be interpreted as threats. Yep, that sounds about right.
No bombs or weapons were apparently found, but this sort of thing is still "domestic terrorism" at least according to some legal definitions, and at a minimum it qualifies as making a "terroristic threat." Setting aside some serious issues with these laws, which as applied have been used to stomp all over free speech, by the government's own definitions it would appear that the TSA has been employing a terrorist.
I very much enjoy pointing this out because as you may recall, this is the agency that has been telling us for years that it can find terrorists just by looking. Hey guys, here's one you missed. Funny, he's been standing right next to you the whole time.
Brad from Forecast the Facts sez, "Google is throwing its money around in DC politics, led by Republican operative Susan Molinari. Unfortunately, that means that Google's lobbyists have discarded its 'Don't be evil' philosophy. They're now holding fundraisers for Sen. Jim Inhofe ("Global warming is a hoax'), bankrolling Competitive Enterprise Institute ('CO2: We Call It Life'), and joining the American Legislative Exchange Council ('Even substantial global warming is likely to be of benefit to the United States').
"In response, hundreds of people have flooded the Google+ page for the Google DC headquarters with one-star reviews. The page also now includes photographs from the protest organized by Forecast the Facts and Greenpeace during the Google DC fundraiser for Inhofe. This digital activism is only part of a 150,000-person strong campaign led by Forecast the Facts, which has organized protests of Google in DC, Mountain View, and New York City. Google doesn't have to be evil to be a part of our democratic system. The company should be working to fix the corruption, not financing it."
It’s intimidating to move to a new city -- New York City, especially so.
Back in March, illustrator and t-shirt designer Nathan Pyle published a series of "tips and etiquette" GIFs to help tourists and newcomers navigate New York City. Now, he is back with a second set and even more wisdom to share.
Pyle, who’s been living in New York City for about five years, writes via email that his inspiration for the series came from a love for airplane safety diagrams. But what about inspiration for individual drawings? Pyle writes, "Some mistakes I've made myself (breathing in the Garbage Scent Death Zone) and others I've seen friends make (mixing up Chrysler and Empire State buildings)." The usual process for creating these GIFs starts with a hand-drawn image, which is then touched up in Adobe Illustrator and finally animated in Adobe After Effects.
The first series of graphics had been so popular that Pyle got a book deal immediately. According to Pyle, most of the content in the book (now available for pre-order on Amazon) is still "super secret." However, he'll keep posting new content -- including graphics that didn't make the cut -- on the official Facebook page everyday until the book publishes in 2014.
All images by Nathan Pyle and used with permission.
Now THAT is physical comedy
I’m sure a lot of people don’t think of video games as pieces of art, but I’d say they’re wrong, and this proves it. Reddit user RudeBootie has put together a collection of 125 different backgrounds from various fighting backgrounds in animated GIF form, and they’re pretty mind-blowing.
As you can see above and below the artists that created these backgrounds did some fantastic things with pixels, and yes, it’s all pixel art. These images are packed with a ton of details and I’d have to imagine that backgrounds like these would take weeks to complete. My personal favorites are the blowing sand in the Egyptian scene above and the totally random manatees in the GIF below.
Don’t forget to check out the full collection by clicking here.
It’s no secret that I love Monty Python, so it’s really no surprise that someone like Rifiröfi would be able to successfully appeal to my vanity in order to share his own LEGO Monty Python creations. The thing is, Rifiröfi LEGO recreations of key scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail are really quite good — wonderful custom minifigures presented with well-built scenes in pseudo-official box art.
Here’s The Rabbit of Caerbannog, with its “nasty, big, pointy teeth!”
Fortunately, the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch is at hand to assist King Arthur and his brave knights.
But one of my favorite scenes is when *SPOILER* Sir Bedevere establishes that Connie Booth’s character is a witch because she weighs the same as a duck.
Okay, fine, I can’t pick a favorite scene. Here’s the Black Knight.
Finally, no depiction of Monty Python and the Holy Grail would be complete without the French knights and Arthur’s assault on their castle.
Check out all of Rifiröfi’s LEGO Monty Python scenes on Flickr. And since I’m in a mildly self-aggrandizing mood, you can take a trip in the wayback machine with me and visit my own LEGO Monty Python photoset on Flickr. (For the record, I think Rifiröfi’s scenes are way better than mine — some of the earliest LEGO photos I posted online back in 2004.)
Koolburger sez, "Beautiful paintings by Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag. Blending everyday life in Sweden in the 70's with neofuturist structures." These really are amazing, and have a strange air of plausibility that makes them into something like design fiction for a future that never was. He sells prints, too.
I do like it when people who are far more adept at constructing an argument elucidate exactly why I think the whole world is fucking bonkers.
David Graeber, who wrote last year's incredible Debt: The First 5,000 Years, has an extraordinary essay up called "On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs," which explores the phenomenon of people in productive industries (nursing, teaching, etc) being relentlessly ground down on wages, job stability and working conditions; while all the big money aggregates to the finance industry and a layer of "bullshit jobs" like corporate attorneys, administrators, etc -- who do jobs that produce no tangible benefit.
Even more perverse, there seems to be a broad sense that this is the way things should be. This is one of the secret strengths of right-wing populism. You can see it when tabloids whip up resentment against tube workers for paralysing London during contract disputes: the very fact that tube workers can paralyse London shows that their work is actually necessary, but this seems to be precisely what annoys people. It’s even clearer in the US, where Republicans have had remarkable success mobilizing resentment against school teachers, or auto workers (and not, significantly, against the school administrators or auto industry managers who actually cause the problems) for their supposedly bloated wages and benefits. It’s as if they are being told “but you get to teach children! Or make cars! You get to have real jobs! And on top of that you have the nerve to also expect middle-class pensions and health care?”
If someone had designed a work regime perfectly suited to maintaining the power of finance capital, it’s hard to see how they could have done a better job. Real, productive workers are relentlessly squeezed and exploited. The remainder are divided between a terrorised stratum of the, universally reviled, unemployed and a larger stratum who are basically paid to do nothing, in positions designed to make them identify with the perspectives and sensibilities of the ruling class (managers, administrators, etc) – and particularly it’s financial avatars – but, at the same time, foster a simmering resentment against anyone whose work has clear and undeniable social value. Clearly, the system was never consciously designed. It emerged from almost a century of trial and error. But it is the only explanation for why, despite our technological capacities, we are not all working 3-4 hour days.
Thanks to the European Space Agency (ESA), a photostream shared by Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano documents his six-month Volare mission at the International Space Station (ISS). Parmitano provides extraordinary views of Earth’s geographic features and candid shots of a cosmonaut’s daily life, including a selfie shot during his first spacewalk and floating over colleagues at Sunday dinner. Seen from the “window of the world” spot on the ISS, a Bolivian snowy peak resembles a snowflake and a South Pacific budding storm appears like the top of a white rose. The sights captured in his mission photos are nothing short of astounding, and we look forward to seeing more from his expeditions.
In this ongoing series titled Unlikely, artist and photographer Giuseppe Colarusso imagines bizarre and humorous objects, each of which is either technically impossible, improbable, or simply useless in its proposed design. Colarusso tells me via email that many of the pieces he fabricates himself, however some are digitally created in Photoshop. So what’s the point? He hopes each image will make you stop, think and hopefully bring a smile to your face, which is definitely a worthy cause. Also, I would pay top dollar for that spray paint can with adjustable hue sliders, so could somebody make that? See some 50+ additional concepts over on his website. (via Bored Panda)
What's remarkable is that there are so few places left where one can expect to be without internet. Assuming of course you can find your way around obscene data roaming charges while overseas.
Though of all places, a plane is the best place to have internet. I find it nearly impossible to do anything rewarding while on a long haul flight, and there's no better time killer than browsing the internet.
This comic was drawn and published while flying on an airplane.View
The Butterfly of the Sea
This is fish is called the Sea Robin, otherwise known as a Gurnard or The Butterfly of the Sea. This interesting fish is a bottom dweller. They have several sets of specialized fins, including some that allow the fish to swim and others that let it perch on the seafloor. It’s not related to flying fish, nor do they glide in air. The Sea Robin’s large pectoral fins are normally held against the body, but are spread out when threatened to put off predators.