Shared posts

25 Apr 20:34

This is not a long-legged fox

by Minnesotastan

It's a "maned wolf."  But it's not a wolf.

It is the unique entity in the genus Chrysocyon.  "There are no known extant or extinct species that come close" (because it's the only one that survived the mass extinctions of the Pleistocene).

Explained at Biomedical Ephemera, or: A Frog For Your Boils.

Addendum:  The evolutionary advantage of those long legs can be seen in this video of it in its natural environment (hat tip to Brazilian reader Binho).
25 Apr 20:23

"Daddy, what's a 'global steel war'?"

by Minnesotastan
As reported in The Telegraph:
China is on a collision course with the world’s leading powers over excess steel output after it refused to sign up to an emergency global plan to cut capacity and eliminate subsidies. The clash comes as fresh data confirms fears that China is still cranking up production and even reopening shuttered plants supposedly due for closure, despite the massive glut on the world market. Chinese mills produced a record 70.65m tonnes in March, 51pc of global output and five times as much as the whole EU...

“The scale of the emergency in the sector means it is now life or death for many companies,” said Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU trade commissioner... Brussels has been slow to roll out anti-dumping sanctions, partly due to pressure from Britain and other states courting China for their own political reasons. While the US has imposed penalties of 266pc on Chinese cold-rolled steel, the EU has acted more slowly and stopped at 13pc...

Emmanuel Macron, the French economy minister, said Europe can no longer tolerate the flood of Chinese supply. “You do not respect the rules of world trade. Your steel output is subsidised, and the excess capacity is dumped below cost. It is destroying our productive capacity, and it is unacceptable,” he said...

“The American steel industry faces the greatest import crisis in modern history,” said Tim Murphy, head of the Congressional steel caucus. “We’re at the tipping point, with US mills averaging only 70pc of capacity utilisation, a level that is simply not sustainable. We are in real danger of losing this industry and becoming dependent on foreign countries. We can’t let that happen.”..

China is still selling steel in the EU market at prices below its own production costs, and that does not even take into account transport...”

Yet any sanctions risk setting off tit-for-tat retaliation, and a slide towards 1930s-style protectionism.
25 Apr 11:54

There is more evidence that ex-wrestling coaches will molest your children, than that transgender people will

by PZ Myers

Ah, Republican hypocrisy. Ripe and pungent, flowing everywhere. While they’re flailing across the land to gin up a new moral panic over transgender people needing to pee, they’re also rushing to defend a convicted child molester who was one of their own. Dennis Hastert, form speaker, is guilty of sexually abusing children when he was a wrestling coach, and is about to be sentenced. His pals have written letters begging for leniency, and those letters have been made public, because the judge refused to accept them unless they were made openly.

So here’s the verminous Tom DeLay:

So I know his heart and have seen it up close and personal. We all have our flaws, but Dennis Hastert has very few. He is a good man that loves the lord. He gets his integrity and values from Him. He doesn’t deserve what he is going through. I ask that you consider the man that is before you and give him leniency where you can.

So we get a heavy dose of Christian hypocrisy, too. If Hastert gets his integrity and values from Him, that really puts an insidious twist on Matthew 19:14 (Suffer the little children to come unto me).

I also have to ask: do transgender men and women deserve what they go through?

24 Apr 15:31


23 Apr 01:34

A dropship delivering more than just LEGO bricks

by Elspeth De Montes

A dropship is a fictional aerial transport vehicle featured frequently in science fiction and video games, and this is a fine example built by Horčik Designs. This particular dropship has aggressive shaping and plenty of weaponry to provide security. Horčik has clearly spent a great deal of time adding stickers to complete the look. The variety of slopes, curves and angles used is really very impressive.

G3Dropship "Bricks away"

Check out those sexy angles and the aggressive nose art…

G3Dropship "Bricks away"

You can see other views on Horčik’s VTOL dropship album on Flickr. A previous dropship blogged by TBB happens to be a favourite of mine and is also worth a look, the Syd Mead inspired dropship.

22 Apr 19:30

It’s not just about Ghost in the Shell and Dr. Strange....

It’s not just about Ghost in the Shell and Dr. Strange. This great Vox video examines Hollywood’s long, unfortunate history of casting white actors in Asian roles, and why it matters.

22 Apr 21:53

Life-size Unikitty uses 30,000 LEGO bricks and is 6 feet tall

by Iain

The term “life-size” might be hard to define for a digitally animated LEGO cartoon character. But I’ll happily accept Christoph Bartneck‘s interpretation of the term with his gigantic LEGO version of Unikitty! Here is the creator with his creation:

I love the choice of sparkly eyes for the face. But the best part? The enormous head actually rotates, thanks to a LEGO compatible thrust ball-bearing that Christoph designed. Here’s a video showing the model from every angle and also demonstrating its unique power functions:

22 Apr 20:49


22 Apr 18:11

this-is-life-actually: Amy Schumer absolutely nailed what’s...


Amy Schumer absolutely nailed what’s wrong with women’s health in America by literally putting Congressmen in charge of her body. But more than that she exposed the hypocrisy in how they treat her.

Follow @this-is-life-actually

22 Apr 11:31

Who is the big bad stressor?

by PZ Myers

You could argue that humans were more impactful than the radiation.

You could argue that humans were more impactful than the radiation.

Boxplot has been running this comic series on the science behind the video game Fallout — basically its about the reality of radiation. You know it’s not good for you, right? It doesn’t give you superpowers, and mutations in somatic tissues are called “cancers”?

But at the same time, there are a couple of places where radiation drove people away — Fukushima and Chernobyl come to mind — and we’re currently seeing a remarkable rebound, as nature comes rushing in to flourish. There’s the temptation to wonder if maybe radiation isn’t as bad as the scientists say it is.

Rather, though, we should be making the point in the panel above and to the right. Humans are much worse for the environment than we think.

18 Apr 15:40

Your Phone Number Is All a Hacker Needs To Read Texts, Listen To Calls and Track You

by manishs
Samuel Gibbs, reporting for The Guardian: Hackers have again demonstrated that no matter how many security precautions someone takes, all a hacker needs to track their location and snoop on their phone calls and texts is their phone number. The hack, first demonstrated by German security researcher Karsten Nohl in 2014 at a hacker convention in Hamburg, has been shown to still be active by Nohl over a year later for CBS's 60 Minutes. The hack uses the network interchange service called Signalling System No. 7 (SS7), also known as C7 in the UK or CCSS7 in the US, which acts as a broker between mobile phone networks. When calls or text messages are made across networks SS7 handles details such as number translation, SMS transfer, billing and other back-end duties that connect one network or caller to another. By hacking into or otherwise gaining access to the SS7 system, an attacker can track a person's location based on mobile phone mast triangulation, read their sent and received text messages, and log, record and listen into their phone calls, simply by using their phone number as an identifier.Also from the report, "60 Minutes contacted the cellular phone trade association to ask about attacks on the SS7 network. They acknowledged there have been reports of security breaches abroad, but assured us that all U.S. cellphone networks were secure." Update: 04/18 16:51 GMT by M :Reader blottsie writes: U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Cali.) on Monday called for a full congressional investigation into the aforementioned widespread flaw in global phone networks.

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Read more of this story at Slashdot.

21 Apr 05:44

Don’t look down!

by Nannan

A train crashing over a collapsed wooden bridge is a classic Hollywood peril that we now get to see built in bricks thanks to W. Navarre. Many aspects of the model are built without using prefabricated parts such as the train tracks, train wheel chassis, and even the cow catcher on the front of the train. Check out more photos of this detailed creation on MOCpages.

20 Apr 17:45

(via TrollX)

(via TrollX)

20 Apr 18:22

Social Autopsy founder Candace Owens channels GamerGate in bizarre attack on Zoe Quinn

by David Futrelle
It's always Zoe Quinn's fault, apparently

It’s always Zoe Quinn’s fault, apparently

So this Social Autopsy debacle is one of the saddest, most surreal spectacles I’ve seen in a long time.

Social Autopsy is, as you may have heard, a spectacularly wrongheaded attempt to fight cyberbullying by posting the personal information of alleged bullies online — that is, in internet lingo, by doxxing them, thus exposing them to the sort of vigilante “justice” that the Internet handles so very, very badly. Social Autopsy planned to assemble a database of 150,000 alleged bullies; how they were to be selected wasn’t altogether clear.

After Social Autopsy launched its Kickstarter campaign last week, it aroused opposition not just from GamerGater types who saw it as a Social Justice Warrior plot to destroy their free speech, but also from some of the main targets of Gamergate-style harassment, who knew all too well how such a platform could be abused by bullies, thus exacerbating the bullying that Social Autopsy is intended to stamp out.

Thankfully, Kickstarter suspended Social Autopsy’s campaign, presumably for violating the fundraising platform’s rules against projects that are “invasive of another person’s privacy.”

But that was not the end of it. No, this was, rather, where things started to get weird — and when Social Autopsy’s founder Candace Owens started spewing bizarrely GamerGatesque conspiracy theories about Zoe Quinn.

Before Kickstarter pulled the plug on the campaign. you see, GamerGate-target-turned-anti-harassment-activist Quinn approached Owens in an attempt to convey just what a bad idea her plan was and talk her out of it.

It turned out that Owens, despite herself being a past victim of cyberbullying, knew shockingly little about the problem her startup was ostensibly founded to solve. Not only had she not heard of Quinn; she hadn’t even heard of Gamergate, which is a bit like being an astronomer who hasn’t heard of the moon.

Instead of listening to Quinn, Owens declared war on her, spewing forth dozens of angry and accusatory tweets, charging that Quinn and fellow anti-harassment activist Randi Harper (who had posted a scathing, and not terribly polite, critique of Owens and her plan) were somehow the puppetmasters behind a barrage of abusive, threatening, and often blatantly racist anonymous messages that Owens (who is black) started getting not long after news of Owens’ plans hit Reddit and 4chan.

Owens quickly began to sound like every other internet crackpot who sees conspiracies in every Twitter mention.

So the online harassment expert who had never heard of GamerGate is apparently also an expert on the publishing industry who’s never heard of — which is already taking preorders for Quinn’s upcoming book, which (incidentally) will be published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

Owens also gave an interview to The Ralph Retort, a sleazy anti-“SJW” internet tabloid, rin which she threatened to release alleged information on Quinn and Harper that would cost them “everything.” She made similarly threatening allusions on Twitter, suggesting she was on the verge of launching what she called a #gamergatesequel against the two.

The first shot in GamerGate 2: The Sequeling took the the form of a sprawling blog post in which Owens, bizarrely, accused Quinn of being in cahoots with GamerGate. That’s right. She accused Quinn of working hand in glove with the movement that literally began with an ex-boyfriend’s attempt to smear her.

“I felt I was under attack by [GamerGate], and knew Zoe had tipped them off,” Owens wrote.

I was trying desperately to get people to understand that my company wasn’t bad, these people were; Zoe for intiating it, and Gamergate for fighting the battle for her with full force.

Later on, when the nasty emails stopped, Owens blamed this on Quinn as well.

One of the “proofs” Owens cited to back up her preposterous claims: Some of those who were sending her nasty messages used the term “dox,” a term that Owens had never heard of before she spoke to Quinn.

Oh, did I forget to mention this earlier? Owens, the alleged expert on online harassment, had never heard of doxxing. And so she concluded that everyone using the term was either a sockpuppet of Quinn and Harper, or in cahoots with them.

At one point in her post, after posting a screenshot of a threatening message she’d gotten from someone calling themselves dontdoxmexd, Owens added,

Interesting account name, no? Because there was that word that we had never heard before again: “dox”. And we began seeing it over and over again, rapidly.

Yeah, that’s kind of what happens when you try to start a doxxing site. People start using the word “dox” in their messages to you.

Even after learning of the existence of GamerGate, Owens professed to be shocked that pretty much all of the attacks on her seemed to be connected to the gaming community:

Less than 48 hours on Kickstarter, and for certain, we had somehow managed to go viral—but this was an odd instance of viral. We had gone viral within the very niche community of gaming, to which, we had no prior interest or connection to. That isn’t how viral works.

No, but that’s how GamerGate works — as Quinn had tried to explain to her.

Later in the post. Owens wondered, rhetorically,

Why did our kicksktarter campaign get so viciously attacked after 12 hours? Why had it gone viral within just one community? Why were we on reddit, blogs, 4chan, being tweeted every 3 seconds, receiving hate mail, threats, and spam from every direction? Why had someone taken the time to photoshop my face beside a swatsika?

Because that’s the sort of crap that GamerGate pulls all the time?

No, Owens insisted, this was all evidence that Quinn and Harper, working together, had launched what she called, somewhat peculiarly,

an effort of cyber-terrorism. When I began suspecting as much, I created a list of all of the twitter names we had seen tweeting at us aggressively from the start. They were all anonymous and they were all retweeting one another, to make it appear as though they had all agreed and that the conclusion was unanimous about Social Autopsy; they were trying to appear bigger than they actually were.

Yeah, that’s pretty much standard GamerGate procedure.

Later, Owens mused,

It’s interesting, and really something I had never considered. Just how much power you could yield if you devoted yourself to creating a cyber unit. Even if it was just you and 20 other people involved, each with multiple fake accounts.

Well, it was more than 20 people, but again Owens has described GamerGate to a T.

You could feign friends, feign your own support, and exaggerate your own presence and significance. Yes, if you were willing to spend full time dedicated to the web, you could begin to distort reality by presenting an assumed majority.

A false, assumed majority, that goes back and fourth on a 4chan thread. A false, assumed majority, that hits the internet writing as many awful things about Candace Owens and her technically not-yet-founded company SocialAutopsy, before they even get an opportunity to launch.

Replace “Candace Owens and her technically not-yet-founded company SocialAutopsy” with “Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu and Randi Harper and …” and once again, Owens has provided us with a perfect description of GamerGate.

Adding to the surrealiity, large chunks of Owens’ posts were devoted to fictionalized “imaginings” of Quinn’s reaction to the Kickstarter.

Maybe she was twirling her hair, maybe she was drinking a coffee—maybe she was sitting a top her bed in sweatpants; the relevant point here of course if that she was logged onto the Internet.

Perhaps she saw it right there on twitter, with the hashtag #cyberbullying affixed to it. Perhaps one of her of her 73.2k followers messaged it to her, or perhaps it landed right on her feed, having been circulated by the very anti-bullying organizations that she followed. The relevant point here of course, is that she saw it. …

Maybe she sit spit out her coffee, perhaps she froze with a strand of hair still wrapped around her finger; the point here of course is that whatever she was doing, she had now stopped to pay full attention.

Owens imagined an even more ludicrous scene taking place at Quinn’s after their awkward phone call came to an end:

I imagine she had collapsed onto the floor of her bedroom in hysterics, maybe even punching a pillow in frustration on the way down

These were not the only fictional sections in Owens’ post. Owens also repeated, as if true, some of the malicious fictions that GamerGate has spread about Quinn. “I read the multiple stories about how Randi and Zoe had made their money off of abuse from men,” she wrote, as if either woman had somehow brought all this abuse down on themselves in a convoluted plot to make big bucks.

I had read specific examples regarding other women they had harassed and taken down, and about how they themselves had been accused of doxxing. Former victims contacted me (with their real names), and provided me with examples of their DNA: racism, misogyny, gamergate, troll accounts: a cocktail for success.

Later on she repeated the standard GamerGate claim that

trolling and harassment is not only an unfortunate societal issue, but that it is a business that affects the bottomline of many people. That there are .orgs established because of it, that books deal are stricken regarding it, and that individuals are being propelled to fame as spokespersons on the exact same issue that they would never want to see nipped in the bud. Because they feed it.

It is, ironically, true that internet abuse is a business. Not to Quinn or Sarkeesian, who never asked for any of the abuse they’ve gotten, but for those who’ve made a sometimes handsome living targeting people like Quinn and Sarkeesian — ranging from YouTube blabbers like Thunderf00t and Sargon of Akkad to the odd (and now broken up) couple behind The Sarkeesian Effect to, well, Ethan Ralph of the Ralph Retort, who built his site by pandering to the GamerGate troll army.

While not a GamerGater herself, Owens has indeed “descended into Gamergate Trutherism,” as New York magazine’s Jesse Singal so aptly put it.

Owens ended her post promising to further investigate what she calls the “cyber-industry” of, I guess, getting trolled and harassed by armies of dickheads, which she posits must be “a business that has profit margins that would ripple our economy if it came crashing down.” She pledged to start her investigations with “Ms. Zoe Quinn and Randi Lee Harper.”

Doxxing is a terrible way to fight harassment, but even if it were a noble endeavor, Owens is one of the last people on planet earth who should ever be put in charge of defining just who is and who isn’t a bully.

CORRECTIONS: In the original post I described Ethan Ralph of the Ralph report as a former Gamergater who described himself as a “proud neo-troll.” Despite declaring “I’m Done With GamerGate Politics” last November, he still considers himself part of Gamergate. The “neo-Troll” label belongs to another Ralph Retort contributor, not Ralph himself. I regret the errors, and I’ve corrected the post.

20 Apr 01:11

gameraboy: 1966 Batman Super Micro Secret Bat-Radio

19 Apr 23:27

summer is actually the gothest time of the year, because it is the time that we goths suffer the most, which is goth

19 Apr 15:01

The Eiffel Tower isn't very heavy

by Minnesotastan
The lattice structure of the tower generates strength out of proportion to weight:
...The most startling piece of trivia that I’ve heard about the tower is that it weighs less than the cylindrical column of air that it sits in! That’s right, if cylindrical tube were placed over the tower, the weight of the volume if air inside the tube would exceed that of the metal in the tower...

The density of wrought iron is approximately: 7.70 g/cm3
At a weight of 7,300 tonnes, this amount of iron has a volume of approximately: 948 m3
  • If melted down into a sphere of iron, this ball would have a radius of just 6.1 m
  • If flattened into a coin with a diameter the circumscribes the base of the tower, it will be just 4 cm thick!
...Using the dimensions of the foot of the tower, the diameter of the cylinder can be calculated...

Knowing the height of the tower, combined with the disc diameter we determined above allows us to calculate the volume of the cylinder. There is approximately 7.96 million m3 of air in this tube. [adjusting here for the varying density of air at different altitudes] ...we can take a simple average for the density of the air to give a value of 1.19 kg/m3.

Multiplying by the volume we get a value of approx 9,400 for the mass of the air. Even with our approximations, this is certainly greater than the quoted 7,300 tonnes for the mass of the iron.

It's true - the mass of the air in the cylinder surrounding the Eiffel Tower, is heavier than the tower itself!
19 Apr 14:50

The youngest starting pitcher in baseball history

by Minnesotastan

Image cropped for size from the original at imgur.
19 Apr 13:55

Amazon supporting scammers

by PZ Myers

KU was a bad idea from the outset. It's no surprise to me that that big winners from it are people producing useless crap. The whole system was designed to devalue the work of individual authors and maximise the portion of Kindle profits that stayed within Amazon.

I subscribe to Kindle Unlimited — I’ve found it useful, and I’ve found several books that have been helpful. I downloaded a couple of camera tutorials, for instance, that were straightforward and direct and coupled practice and concept very nicely (for example, this one by Al Judge) that explained apertures and f/stops well (I already understood the concepts) by showing me how they were implemented in my camera.

Unfortunately, Kindle Unlimited turns out to be extremely exploitable, and there are scammers taking advantage of it. Follow that link for all the details, but the short summary is that a) all authors divvy up a pot of money from KU subscribers, b) the author’s share of the pot is determined by how many of their pages are “read”, c) Amazon has an awesomely stupid algorithm for measuring pages read, so that if someone downloads the book and just zips to the last page, the author is credited for the whole book read, d) so people are creating garbage books and getting co-conspirators to download it for free and jump to the end.

Would you believe people can earn $60,000/month with this game? I am not endorsing this. Do not leap into the action thinking you can make some quick bucks fast. It’s unethical, and at some point, I hope, Amazon will wake up and crack down on these thieves, at which point it will hurt the perpetrators.

Here’s an example of the kind of crap that’s filling up the virtual bookshelves. Notice that it’s got kind of a click-baity title to draw in people with very specific obsessions, ROMANCE: BWWM: Between Love & Friendship (BWWM Paranormal Scifi Romance Collection) (Interracial Alpha Male Pregnancy Short Stories) (I’m already a bit creeped out by just the title), and that it’s 3,000 (that’s THREE THOUSAND) pages long. But after a badly written opening section to get past automated spam detection, this is what you get:


I’m not against people reading racist porn pregnancy stories, I guess, but keep in mind — that author is stealing a bigger portion of the KU revenue than they deserve by padding their crappy book with scavenged random text, and the book is also so bad that they aren’t getting a real readership — they’re bringing in click-farms to download it and throw it away.

Let’s hope Amazon gets their act together and fixes this.

18 Apr 15:21

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Standard Deviatin'


Hovertext: Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I increase your sample set?

New comic!
Today's News:
17 Apr 14:41

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Backdoors


Hovertext: See, the problem is it would also be REALLY COOL if they could do it.

New comic!
Today's News:
18 Apr 13:55

Mercola gets a $5 million slap

by PZ Myers

Joseph Mercola, the popular quack, has been selling tanning beds with a twist. He’s been claiming that exposing yourself to fairly high intensity ultraviolet light will prevent cancer. That’s right. An exposure that causes a low level of direct DNA damage prevents skin cancer, according to a quack.

The courts weren’t going to buy that nonsense, so Mercola settled a false advertising suit, promised to refund up to $5.3 million in tanning bed sales, and to never do it again. Of course he already has an explanation.

But speaking Thursday, Mercola said he only settled the case as “a business decision,” and stands by his claims that his tanning beds had cancer-fighting benefits and that Americans were suffering from what he called an “epidemic” of under-exposure to ultraviolet light, which he said could be treated by “moderate” sun bed use.

The duck says what?

He also swears he’s not selling these things for the money, but solely to help people.

While he acknowledged Thursday that he’d sold thousands of tanning beds between 2012 and last year, he said his business is not “a tool … to get me a bigger house and car” but rather a means of funding his mission to “inform consumers” about “natural health.”

He said he moved from the Chicago area to Florida, where he owns a waterfront mansion, four years ago because of his belief in the health benefits of the sun.

He’s not in it for the money, but he’s able to shrug off a $5 million judgment and has a waterfront mansion in Florida.

I have suddenly thought of one good consequence of global warming. One.

17 Apr 13:44

Looks A-rab, has an A-rab name, speaks A-rab…must be a TERRRRIST!

by PZ Myers

This is what this profiling nonsense comes down to. Khairuldeen Makhzoomi boarded a Southwest Airlines flight, and had a conversation on his cell phone with a relative.

On his way back to Berkeley, Makhzoomi, a loyal Southwest premier rewards member, boarded his flight to Oakland and called his uncle in Baghdad to tell him about Ki-moon’s event. At the end of the phone call, conducted in Arabic, Makhzoomi said goodbye to his uncle with the phrase “inshallah,” which translates to “if God is willing.”

When Makhzoomi hung up, he noticed a female passenger looking at him. Once he made eye contact with her, she got up and left her seat.

“She kept staring at me and I didn’t know what was wrong,” he said. “Then I realized what was happening and I just was thinking ‘I hope she’s not reporting me.’”

Minutes later, an airport employee arrived to remove Makhzoomi from the airplane. Makhzoomi was escorted onto the passenger boarding bridge where he was met by three security officers.

Yep. He was kicked off the flight and interrogated by the FBI. This is rank madness. If anyone should have been kicked off, it’s that paranoid woman who reported him for speaking a foreign language.

Southwest Airlines released a statement about the event.

A statement from Southwest Airlines says that prior to departure, the flight crew decided to investigate potentially threatening comments made by Makhzoomi aboard the aircraft.

We wouldn’t remove passengers from flights without a collaborative decision rooted in established procedures, the statement reads. We regret any less than positive experience onboard our aircraft. … Southwest neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind.

Yeah, right. Then perhaps they could tell us all what the potentially threatening comments that informed their decision to refuse service to a customer might have been?

16 Apr 13:42

Hasn’t neoliberalism done enough damage?

by PZ Myers


Time for it to die, and for the corpses of von Mises and Hayek to be dug up, paraded through the streets, and thrown into the Tiber. Every once in a while, I get some ass who snootily tells me that his (strangely, it’s always been a man) brand of liberalism is superior to mine, and then proceeds to announce that he is a true “classical liberal” (translation: he’s a flaming Libertarian) or more rarely, that he is a “neoliberal”, although that species of conservative prefers to hide the term under a fog of economic buzzwords. I detest them all.

Now George Monbiot has written a wonderful summary of the crimes of neoliberalism, that poisonous doctrine of St Reagan and St Thatcher. It’s one of those essays where I do a disservice to it by quoting only a small portion of it — but I’ll do it anyway, just so I can tell you to go read the whole thing.

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

It is the most pernicious and pervasive ideology of our time. I’ve been hearing a lot of it in complaints about tenure and teachers’ unions lately — “these are just efforts to give teachers job security“, as if that were some horrible abomination. Shouldn’t we aspire to give everyone job security? Isn’t it a good thing when people can rely on stable employment and income? But no, much of the public has absorbed this notion that chaos and fragility are virtues, that we need to be able to, for instance, fire people as punishment for inefficiency.

They never seem to care that the beneficiaries of that ruthlessness all seem to be the most useless parasites, the profiteers and rent-seekers and exploiters of the market. The punishment is the thing. We’re all getting screwed over, but hey, at least we get the vicarious thrill of seeing someone else screwed over even more.

16 Apr 12:53

LEGO tape recorder is a retro-delight

by Rod

Our younger readers will likely have no idea what this is, but Nathan Wells has built a fantastic cassette tape recorder model. The proportions are spot-on, but my favourite detail is the use of gold rings to provide the little touches of metallic detail in the mic and headphone sockets. Lovely stuff.

Tape Recorder 01

There’s even a cassette to go with it…

Tape Recorder 16

But what’s on the tape? Is it a compilation tape, pulled together for a new girlfriend? Or is it a pirated copy of the latest game for the ZX Spectrum? Only Nathan knows, and he isn’t telling.

16 Apr 20:06


15 Apr 15:57

Memeday: Flat Earthers channel GamerGate in their attacks on Neil deGrasse Tyson

by David Futrelle
Flat Earthers: Not big fans of Neil deGrasse Tyson

Flat Earthers: Not big fans of Neil deGrasse Tyson

Like a lot of people, I was a bit gobsmacked a couple of months ago when rapper B.O.B. came out as a literal Flat Earther, as in, someone who literally believes that the earth is a disk, not a sphere.

Having something of a professional interest in bad ideas and the people who hold them, I’ve been poking around in the FlatEarthosphere ever since. Turns out they have a lot in common with the bad-idea-believers that I’ve been writing about daily since I started this blog.

Like the internet’s innumerable antifeminists, the Flat Earthers love making interminably long videos in which they ramble incoherently about their beliefs.

Happily for those of us with shorter attention spans, they also like making memes, many of which are strikingly similar to antifeminist memes not only in their often inept design but in the fundamental dishonesty of many of their “arguments.”

Consider, for example, the way that Flat Earth mememakers have given science dude Neil deGrasse Tyson the Anita Sarkeesian treatment.

The Flat Earthers hate Tyson, who took down B.O.B. and his Flat Earth beliefs on Twitter in a literal mic-dropping moment on the Larry Wilmore show and even by making a cameo in a diss track aimed at the rapper.

While not inundating Tyson with death and rape threats, as far as I know, the Flatties have pored over his past writings and public appearances looking for things they can go after him about — much as Gamergaters did with Sarkeesian.

And, as Gamergaters have done many times with Sarkeesian, the Flatties have taken innocuous remarks from Tyson and misrepresented them so thoroughly that, to them at least, they look like a “gotcha!”

You may recall how Gamergaters seized upon Sarkeesian’s statement that “everything is sexisteverything is racist, everything is homophobic.” The comment, taken out of context from a talk she once gave, became the subject of endless jokes and indignant blog posts and even a music video.

And there were of course memes:



Sarkeesian was pretty clearly just pointing out that sexism (and racism, and homophobia) permeate almost every nook and cranny of our culture. Which is true. But Gamergaters assumed (or pretended) that she thought plants and birds and rocks and things were all sexist somehow.

The Flatties have done the same thing with some comments from Tyson on the not-quite-perfectly-spherical shape of the earth.

He gave a slightly longer explanation of this at an event in 2007. It’s not something that he made up; it’s true. The centrifugal force from the rotation of the earth has made the earth ever so slightly chubby. (Why it’s chubbiest slightly south of the equator I don’t quite know.)

Obviously, Tyson isn’t saying that the earth is literally the shape of a pear. He’s saying that it deviates an eensy teensy weensy bit from a perfectly spherical shape. Indeed, in the 2007 event he made clear that the earth is only very very slightly pear-shaped; that “cosmically speaking, we’re a practically a perfect sphere.”

None of this is really very hard to grasp. I’m utterly baffled by dark matter and string theory and most other things that astrophysicists spend their lives pondering, but I understand centrifugal force. Everyone who’s ever been on a merry-go-round understands centrifugal force.

But Tyson said “pear-shaped,” and the Flat Earth mememakers aren’t going to ever let him forget that.


He ha! He's just like that other black guy named Tyson!

He ha! He’s just like that other black guy named Tyson!






Other Flat Earth mememakers find the word “oblate” funnier than “pear.”

Tyson actually answered this question in the very same short talk in which he made the 'pear" remark, but never mind.

Tyson actually answered this question in the very same short talk in which he made the “pear” remark, but never mind.


There are more Neil deGrasse Tyson pear-shaped-earth memes out there — many many many more.

But I’m not sure anyone will ever be able to top this one.


Such is the state of Flat Earth memery today.

And after all this, the Flatties have so little self-awareness that they attack him for making jokes about them.


Jeez, Flat Earthers, so sensitive about a joke? Grow a pear.

13 Apr 15:22

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Love and Rockets


Hovertext: Now if we could just perfect the reusable first booster...

New comic!
Today's News:
14 Apr 18:57

The internet does not forget

by PZ Myers

We all remember this event, in which policeman John Pike casually hoses down students at UC Davis with pepper spray. Not only is it memorable, but if you google “UC Davis” the story is going to pop up on the first page of results.


The administrators at UC Davis are a bit touchy about the whole incident and wanted to do something about it. So what did they do? They hired one of those shady ‘reputation management’ companies to somehow expunge the story and image from search results, at a cost of at least $175,000. Those things never work, and you’re a fool to try them.

Except…maybe they did accomplish something.

Now when you search for UC Davis, the first results are all about the university’s dodgy, clumsy, ill-planned, and wasteful attempt to whitewash their reputation.

The lesson you should learn is that trying to cover up your sins with worthless SEO is going to only change your search results to a) remind everyone of the bad thing you did, and b) let them know that you’re desperate to cover it up.

Good work, administrators at UC Davis! You’re working hard to further stain the reputation of a very good school.

14 Apr 18:30

"I don’t read the comments any more, and even if I did the moderators block the worst of them, but..."

I don’t read the comments any more, and even if I did the moderators block the worst of them, but it’s not a coincidence that the articles of mine that attract the most abuse on social media are those about rape, harassment, political representation or everyday examples of sexism. Anything that suggests there’s still work to do for true gender equality sends some men into a rage – a response that mostly serves to prove my point.

If the mere act of writing about women’s issues sets off a stream of harassment and threats, surely we are nowhere near where we need to be.

- From today’s Guardian article “Insults and rape threats. Writers shouldn’t have to deal with this” by Jessica Valenti, in which she breaks down why gendered harassment is definitely not just criticism as some like to claim, and why it has to stop.