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09 Sep 14:44

Amazon vs Hachette is nothing: just WAIT for the audiobook wars!

by Cory Doctorow

In my latest Locus column, Audible, Comixology, Amazon, and Doctorow’s First Law, I unpick the technological forces at work in the fight between Amazon and Hachette, one of the "big five" publishers, whose books have not been normally available through Amazon for months now, as the publisher and the bookseller go to war over the terms on which Amazon will sell books in the future. Read the rest

09 Sep 16:31

Beat your brain's stupid hyperbolic discounting

by Cory Doctorow

Dispassionately, we know that cheating on our diets or procrastinating on our stupid deadlines isn't worth it, but our stupid brains treat most future consequences as if they're worth nothing, while treating any present-moment benefits as though they were precious beyond riches -- so how do you get the "hyperbolic discounting" part of your brain to shut up and listen to reason? Read the rest

08 Sep 11:07

In the Interests of Safety: using evidence to beat back security theater

by Cory Doctorow
"Health and Safety" is the all-purpose excuse for any stupid, bureaucratic, humiliating rubbish that officialdom wants to shove down our throats. In the Interests of Safety, from Tracey Brown and Michael Hanlon, is the antidote: an expert dismantling of bad risk-analysis and a call-to-arms to do something about it, fighting superstition and silliness with evidence. Read the rest
09 Sep 09:00

Real-Life Katamari Terrorizes a Beach

by Brian Ashcraft

Grab the kids, and run. Because there's a new king of the beach. Or should I say, Prince?


08 Sep 15:40

Too…much…sarcasm — I dinna think the brain can take it, Captain!

by PZ Myers
08 Sep 00:00


Officer suspended from horse.
03 Sep 08:04

Addendum to the modified Maslow Hierarchy

by Cory Doctorow

You're likely familiar with the modified Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs with the giant WIFI added to the bottom; now comes Sam Wiss's important addendum.

04 Sep 14:57

17 Of The Most Unusual Beaches Around The World

by linadavidaviciute

When someone says “beach” you probably think of yellow or white sand, rolling waves, bright sunlight and a beer or fruity cocktail. But beaches come in far more different shapes and colors than some of us might have expected. Here are 17 beaches that, in one way or another, might not be anything like the beaches you’re used to.

One of the most striking differences in many of these beaches are the different sand colors. Sand is generally formed out of whatever the waves happen to be banging against the shore, be they rocks, shells, corals, or glass. Rare green beaches can contain olivine, which is a remnant of volcanic eruptions, and black beaches are also generally formed by volcanic remnants. The pink beaches of Bermuda are colored by coral remnants.

If you have a photo of a unique beach out there that should be on this list, share it with us below this post!

Unique Glass Beach in California


Image credits: unknown


Image credits: digggs

The glass beach near Fort Bragg in California formed after the trash dumped there for years by local residents was pounded into sand by the surf. The dumping was eventually prohibited, but the glass sand remains.

Hidden beach in Marieta, Mexico


Image credits:


Image credits: Miguel Naranjo

This beach in Mexico is said to have formed after the Mexican government used the uninhabited islands for target practice in the 1900s.

Maldives Beach That Looks Like Starry Night Sky


Image credits: Will Ho


Image credits: Will Ho

The lights on this beach in the Maldives are caused by microscopic bioluminescent phytoplankton, which give off light when they are agitated by the surf.

The Beach of the Cathedrals, Ribadeo, Spain


Image credits:

The stunning cathedral-like arches and buttresses of this beach in Spain were formed by pounding water over thousands upon thousands years.

Pink Sand Beach, Bahamas


Image credits:


Image credits:

The idyllic pink sand of the Bahamas is pigmented by washed-up coral remnants, which are dashed and ground to tiny pieces by the surf.

Extreme Plane Landings at Maho Beach, Saint Martin


Image credits: Benny Zheng


Image credits: Kent Miller

Jokulsarlon, Iceland


Image credits: Manisha Desai


Image credits: D-P Photography

The black volcanic sand on this Icelandic beach contrasts beautifully with the white and glassy chunks of ice.

The Moeraki Boulders (Dragon Eggs) In Koekohe Beach, New Zealand


Image credits: Gerald Guerubin


Image credits: Farkul J


Image credits:

The boulders on this New Zealand beach are concretions – balls of sedimentary rock harder than the sedimentary earth that formed around them, which has long since washed away. These boulders get uncovered and smoothed by pounding waves.

Green Sand In Kourou, French Guiana


Image credits: Arria Belli

Papakōlea Green Sand Beach, Hawaii


Image credits:


Image credits: Mark Ritter

The green sand on this beach in Hawaii is caused by the mineral olivine, which is formed by lava as it cools in the sea.

Giants Causeway Beach, Ireland


Image credits: Michael


Image credits: Stefan Klopp

The giant’s causeway was formed 50-60 million years ago when basalt lava rose to the surface and cooled, cracking into strange, large columns.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach, Hawaii


Image credits:


Image credits: poco a poco

The black sand on Punaluu is formed by basalt lava, which explodes as it flows into the sea and rapidly cools.

Red Sand Beach, Rabida, Galapagos


Image credits: unknown


Image credits: Robert Peternel

The red sand at Rabida was formed due to the oxidization of iron-rich lava deposits, although it could also be due to washed-up coral sediments.

Shell Beach, Shark Bay, Australia


Image credits:

The water near Shell Beach in Australia is so saline that the cockle clam has been able to proliferate unchecked by its natural predators. It is this abundance of molluscs that floods the beaches with their shells.

Pfeiffer Purple Sand Beach, California


Image credits: Tom Grubbe | dfmead


Image credits: irene joy

The purple sand at this beach (which is only found in patches) is formed when manganese garnet deposits in the surrounding hills erode into the sea.

Vik Beach, Iceland


Image credits: Stephan Amm

Iceland is a land with a lot of volcanic activity, which is why black volcanic beaches are so common there.

Cave Beach in Algarve, Portugal


Image credits: Bruno Carlos

The Algarve coast consists of limestone, which is easily eroded and can form stunning sea caves like this one.

05 Sep 14:51

The most metal elephant I've ever seen

05 Sep 07:14

Russia's population declined by 7m (5%) between 1992 and 2009

by Cory Doctorow

The decades since the collapse of the USSR are the longest period of depopulation in Russian history, and the first peacetime loss of that scale anywhere in the world. Booze, violence, obesity, and poor standard of living alone don't account for the mortality either. Read the rest

04 Sep 12:26

;.; this bird.

;.; this bird.

03 Sep 11:24


by Author


This week’s prompted by Dominic Grieve.

Congrats to Patrick in the UK who wins this month’s raffle prize of a signed copy of the 1st volume of J&M strips, “Where’s the Soap?” Congrats!

Why not become a Patron of the Blasphemous Arts? Book shop here

02 Sep 12:30

Notice: Unlawful Behavior Prohibited

by Kevin

"The first part is informative," says Anson, who saw this sign at a bus station. The rest of it, not so much:

Unlawful Behavior Prohibited

I'd like to think we could infer that lawful behavior is permitted, but I might be reading too much into this.


Related Stories

02 Sep 06:59

Fake, phone-attacking cell-towers are all across America

by Cory Doctorow

The towers attack the baseband radio in your phone and use it to hack the OS; they're only visible if you're using one of the customized, paranoid-Android, post-Snowden secure phones, and they're all around US military bases. Read the rest

01 Sep 00:00


Time to dance in front of Mary Jane! If I'm lucky, she'll turn out not to practice pre-copulatory sexual cannibalism!
01 Sep 00:21

Frank Sinatra’s 1963 Playboy interview

by Mark Frauenfelder

Wow. That was quite a read. I particularly liked how the passion really welled up over the course of the interview. Starting cool and mellow, and progressively building to a near fever pitch.

I like Frank Sinatra's music. I didn't know he was so articulate and well-read, though. Go get 'em, Blue Eyes! Read the rest

30 Aug 04:54

There are two kinds of parrots…

There are two kinds of parrots…

30 Aug 15:54

Reformatting a Machine 125 Million Miles Away

by Soulskill
An anonymous reader writes: NASA's Opportunity rover has been rolling around the surface of Mars for over 10 years. It's still performing scientific observations, but the mission team has been dealing with a problem: the rover keeps rebooting. It's happened a dozen times this month, and the process is a bit more involved than rebooting a typical computer. It takes a day or two to get back into operation every time. To try and fix this, the Opportunity team is planning a tricky operation: reformatting the flash memory from 125 million miles away. "Preparations include downloading to Earth all useful data remaining in the flash memory and switching the rover to an operating mode that does not use flash memory. Also, the team is restructuring the rover's communication sessions to use a slower data rate, which may add resilience in case of a reset during these preparations." The team suspects some of the flash memory cells are simply wearing out. The reformat operation is scheduled for some time in September.

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31 Aug 04:33

kaminas-spirit: House dressed as a house painting a house on a...


House dressed as a house painting a house on a house

29 Aug 05:00


31 Aug 15:51

Homosexuality and evolution

by PZ Myers

I made the mistake of reading some of the comments on those last youtube videos. There were some good ones, but they were also laced with the usual grunting assholes complaining about gays and “trannies” and quoting the Bible and making racist remarks about Africans. Let us pass over those contemptible arguments; there’s no dealing with them rationally. Spit and move on.

But there’s another flavor of argument that annoys me to no end: people who cite science and evolution to support their ignorant misconceptions about human nature. I want to address two, one anti-gay and the other pro-gay, both wrong.

First, there is the reductionist who knows a tiny bit about selection.

interesting point of view, but no. Evolution is all about competition. If you dont produce offspring, you take yourself out of the running. They may help the larger group, but that is more along the lines of the group exploiting a weakness. Their genes do not pass on. In the evolutionary crucible, thats a game over. It doesn’t matter what disease you cure, what philosophy you teach, biologically, you lose. Now, again, in modern society, things are more complex. There are more qualities to a life than how many mini-me’s you can make, but for the purposes of biology, it ends there.

If evolution is all about competition, how come reproduction in sexual species requires cooperation between two individuals to occur? Have you ever noticed that reproduction isn’t actually literally replication? You take your complement of 20,000 pairs of genes, and you throw half of them away, splice the remainder into different combinations, and then you merge those with the similarly mangled set of genes from another person, and you produce a unique individual. Not a clone of either of you — someone completely different.

That should tell you right away that you aren’t the focal point of evolution. You are a test platform for a battery of genes, genes that are shared with other members of your community. Evolution sees the propagation of a pool of genes that tends to produce successful individuals; look up inclusive fitness sometime. You share genes and combinations of genes with your siblings, your cousins, and more distant relatives — there’s more than one way for your population to propagate itself than for every individual to maximize the number of offspring they produce.

I also have to laugh every time some oblivious multicellular animal announces that evolution is all about competition, and that all that matters is how many progeny you produce. Do you realize that your existence is entirely a product of cooperation? Your parents were made up of trillions of cells, almost all of them dedicated to specialized, non-reproductive functions, all in support of a tiny minority of cells that can produce gametes. And of all those gametes, only two combined to make you — the great lumbering mass of agglomerated metazoan cells that were your parents then dedicated themselves to cooperatively nurturing the little zygote that was you (and which was not genetically identical to either) into a roughly similar lumbering mass.

Further, if that’s too abstract for you, consider this: you’d most likely be dead right now if scientists hadn’t collaborated to make vaccines against childhood diseases, if doctors and family hadn’t worked to keep you healthy and educated. Imagine all those carpenters who built your house and plumbers who put in the pipes and electricians who wired it up; imagine the vast combines that work to deliver fuel for heating and food for eating. Everything that you think is important about you was created by cooperation.

If you think otherwise, go masturbate into a mud puddle and hope that some of your offspring can make it without any assistance.

Here’s the pro-gay argument based on evolution. It’s just as annoying.

from a view strictly based in the ideas of natural evolution, i always assumed “homosexuality” was as old as the species… and that it was evolution’s way of both keeping the growth of the species in check (since humans are one of the few species that have sex for pleasure) and ensuring orphaned younglings have a chance at receiving care, guidence, and protection in their formative years. mind you this is just a personal theory based on the nature of nature…

Do not anthropomorphize evolution. Evolution is not an entity that plans and manages populations, it is not a nanny that cares about youngsters — if they are orphaned, one evolutionary outcome is for them to die, another is for survivors to support them, and all that matters is whether the population persists. In particular, evolution isn’t concerned with keeping populations in check — it’s simply a ratchet that permits populations to strive, and eventually and inevitably they hit physical and biological limitations, or pressure from some other growing population, and then physics happens.

Nothing personal. Evolution doesn’t play favorites. It can’t: it’s just the outcome of chance and physical laws interacting in particular environments.

Here’s my perspective on evolution and homosexuality.

Humans are complex organisms whose development is plastic and strongly dependent on environmental influences. There is selection pressure for the population reproduce, which we social beings accomplish with a significant subset of individuals providing sufficient progeny to replenish the population each generation, and with a similarly significant subset of the population working cooperatively to provide a supportive environment.

Evolution doesn’t care. All that matters is that the population thrives into the next generation, and that requires that individuals cooperate. Evolution is not a micromanager, either; we acquire random variations purely by chance, some work, some don’t, and in general, there are so many competing factors driving our survival that selection cannot possibly fine-tune emergent properties of behavior to such a degree that biology can specify exactly who you will bump genitals with. We are dealing with general tendencies expressed to varying degrees in individuals within a population.

If there is one biological imperative for humans, it is this: love one another. Build communities. Cooperate. Help each other in adversity. Successful populations will express these behaviors to a greater degree.

There are also biases towards favoring sexual interactions with members of a different sex, but that’s a secondary priority. Even if sexual preference were non-existent and totally random, women would pair up with men half the time, which would be more than sufficient to propagate our species, especially if the other half are working cooperatively to build safe homes and stable food supplies and provide loving educational environments.

From my biological perspective, the negative behavior that affects the survival of the species isn’t homosexuality, but anything that disrupts the cooperative bonds of community and foments hate — homophobia in humans is the destructive behavior that selection should work against. But keep in mind that if God has lousy aim, evolution is even worse…so we should also encourage behaviors that discourage attitudes that work against our survival.

31 Aug 19:18

Review: Cappucino flavor Lays

by Rob Beschizza

With a vivid description like that, it's hard to resist the temptation to switch to the all Cappuccino Lay's diet.

IMG_2127-0.JPG They smell like a tomb, and taste like stale crackers dusted with International Delight-brand instant coffee.
31 Aug 03:31

WATCH: trailer for documentary about Batman star Adam West

by Mark Frauenfelder

Starring Adam West is a profile of the actor who portrayed Batman in the 1966 television series, became instantly world famous, and then hit a brick wall with his career. Adam Mangels says: "This documentary is currently available for streaming on Encore Play and on Encore On Demand on most cable and satellite systems. Same bat-time, same bat-channel!)

30 Aug 15:37

The tape deck you probably won't be leaving for your great-grandson

by Rob Beschizza

"Laughing at previous generations makes me feel bad," writes John Self, "but this *is* pretty funny."

A TC-377 in good nick may fetch $50 or so on eBay.

28 Aug 19:51

Customer fined $250 for complaining, told "You are playing games with the wrong people"

by Cory Doctorow

Public Citizen is helping Cindy Fox sue Accessory Outlet for charging her $250 when she complained that an Iphone case hadn't shipped when promised; the company's rep told her that he'd fine her even more for emailing him to protest, adding an ominous "You are playing games with the wrong people and have made a very bad mistake." Read the rest

28 Aug 15:58

Adam Savage, muscle man!

by David Pescovitz

BB pal Adam Savage of Mythbusters made himself an incredible muscle suit! Check out those guns and boulders! (more…)

29 Aug 22:32

nateswinehart: Being good to each other is so important, guys.


Being good to each other is so important, guys.

29 Aug 20:59

TSA: Timely Sword Advice

by Kevin

I can't say that every video on the TSA HQ Public Affairs YouTube channel is stupid, because I'm not going to watch them all. I do feel safe saying that they are all probably stupid, and am on fairly solid ground saying that this one is actually stupid.

In this video (thanks, Zach), a TSA agent has some helpful advice for those who may not be aware they are armed with a sword:


Of course, anyone who does not know their cane conceals a sword or dagger (almost certainly an elderly or disabled person with a second-hand cane) poses no threat, while anyone who does know it will not need, want, or follow this advice. I'm not saying they shouldn't make an effort to keep swords off planes as part of their normal procedure (although they can stop worrying about lightsabers), but I am saying the making of a special video to raise sword-cane awareness does not seem like a wise use of resources.

Hey, here's a video made especially for kids! If you've always wanted to watch a cartoon dog indoctrinate his children by demonstrating how to comply unquestioningly with authority, now's your chance:


Strangely, no one takes any member of the family aside for a needless groping in this one, but as I said, I haven't watched all the videos.

Speaking of groping, now seems like a good time to mention that the man who was arrested for doing that at San Francisco Airport after he pretended to be a TSA agent in order to get women into a private screening booth is not going to be prosecuted for anything. The local district attorney's office said it had been unable to locate the victims, who went on their way after the incidents. For that reason and because there are no cameras inside the screening rooms, "[w]e don't know if anything improper" happened, a spokesperson said.

But even if they couldn't prove that, surely it's illegal to pose as a TSA agent and infiltrate a checkpoint in the first place, which would have been caught on camera. Right? Wrong, according to the San Mateo County DA. "While it's illegal to impersonate a police officer," he said, "there is no law against impersonating a TSA agent." First, it is good to remember that TSA agents are not law enforcement officers, although the TSA would like you to think they are. Second, what? As FindLaw pointed out, there are at least two federal statutes that make it a felony to pose as a "federal employee," which TSA agents certainly are. In fact, one of those laws specifically makes it a crime to impersonate a federal officer or employee in order to detain or search someone. Seems like you could run that one up the flagpole.

But no. There was some speculation that the man was not being prosecuted because he is a wealthy banker whose father-in-law is a high-ranking politician (in Hong Kong). There is also some speculation (by me) that prosecuting him would have highlighted the fact that one can apparently stroll into a checkpoint and start groping people without being noticed right away by our crack security teams.

It could also be argued that TSA agents themselves are "impersonating federal officers" (which they are not) for the purpose of searching people, and so are committing that particular felony all day long. Haven't seen anyone else mention that yet but I'll just throw it out there.

So, if you're traveling this holiday weekend, you might want to demand a public groping so it will be caught on camera if it turns out it's not "official."

29 Aug 16:04

Classic Space with a cup of Lava

by Simon

I’m a big fan of collaborative builds, there’s nothing like working with fellow builders in creating something bigger than yourself. And at Brick Expo down in Australia, three builders: Josh (I Scream Clone), Rod (intrastella), and Mark (Bricktron) came together and created a classic space layout that is just out of this world:

BrickExpo 2014 01

Not ones to be satisfied with just one theme, these musketeers were able to fuse Classic Space, M:Tron, and Blacktron (monorail!):
BrickExpo 2014 03

And if you look really hard, you’ll even spot an LEGO’s recent nod to classic space, the infamous Exo-Suit:
BrickExpo 2014 02

29 Aug 00:00

Writing Skills

I'd like to find a corpus of writing from children in a non-self-selected sample (e.g. handwritten letters to the president from everyone in the same teacher's 7th grade class every year)--and score the kids today versus the kids 20 years ago on various objective measures of writing quality. I've heard the idea that exposure to all this amateur peer practice is hurting us, but I'd bet on the generation that conducts the bulk of their social lives via the written word over the generation that occasionally wrote book reports and letters to grandma once a year, any day.