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12 Mar 21:11

Photographing Duran Duran nearly ended in blood being spilled and fingers being broken over copyright ownership

by Mark Frauenfelder

Acclaimed UK photographer Andy Rosen, who took many of the iconic photos of the early punk days, has written a nerve-racking, but entertaining piece about his bizarre experience he had after photographing Simon LeBon of Duran Duran.


It all began innocently with an assignment to photograph Simon Le Bon, lead singer of Duran Duran in 1983. It was the first time one of my images was worth more than the cost of an Indian takeaway and a pint of beer. It should have been a great moment. Instead, it ended badly, very badly. The band’s representatives threatened me to try and get me to sign over the copyright. When I refused they told me that if I sold the pictures “blood would be spilled”. A contract would be put out on me, my fingers would be broken, and for the next ten years, I better be watching behind me. The irony is everybody loved the images.

Recently, Rosen launched a blockchain based company called Sendergram, "a secure blockchain registered file sending, presentation, delivery and transaction platform for digital media for all creative types."

What makes Sendergram unique, is the way in which it aggregates and networks a variety of cloud storage services and ties them together with blockchain-based registration, tracking and certification to reinforce, protect and report copyright infringement.

From concept to delivery an immutable, time-stamped, and legally-defensible record of each digital asset and all communication, at each stage of the creative process, are protected, tracked & blockchain registered. Sendergram leverages the blockchain to establish accountability for all parties with verifiable proof of the existence, integrity, and authorship of any intellectual property, transaction or communication.

12 Mar 21:02

JavaScript Rules But Microsoft Programming Languages Are On the Rise

by msmash
Microsoft languages seem to be hitting the right note with coders across ops, data science, and app development. From a report: JavaScript remains the most popular programming language, but two offerings from Microsoft are steadily gaining, according to developer-focused analyst firm RedMonk's first quarter 2018 ranking. RedMonk's rankings are based on pull requests in GitHub, as well as an approximate count of how many times a language is tagged on developer knowledge-sharing site Stack Overflow. Based on these figures, RedMonk analyst Stephen O'Grady reckons JavaScript is the most popular language today as it was last year. In fact, nothing has changed in RedMonk's top 10 list with the exception of Apple's Swift rising to join its predecessor, Objective C, in 10th place. The top 10 programming languages in descending order are JavaScript, Java, Python, C#, C++, CSS, Ruby, and C, with Swift and Objective-C in tenth. TIOBE's top programming language index for March consists of many of the same top 10 languages though in a different order, with Java in top spot, followed by C, C++, Python, C#, Visual Basic .NET, PHP, JavaScript, Ruby, and SQL. These and other popularity rankings are meant to help developers see which skills they should be developing. Outside the RedMonk top 10, O'Grady highlights a few notable changes, including an apparent flattening-out in the rapid ascent of Google's back-end system language, Go.

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12 Mar 20:13

Neil deGrasse Tyson Proves Earth Is a Sphere, Because Apparently There are Still People Who Don’t Believe That?

by Teresa Jusino

One would think that ideas like “the Earth is round” wouldn’t be controversial at this point. After all, we’ve been to space and seen stuff. So, you know, whatever. But apparently there are enough people for whom “the Earth is round” is not a statement of fact that astrophysicist and Professional Explainer of Science to Average People, Neil deGrasse Tyson, felt the need to address this on his show, Star Talk.

Joined by comedian Chuck Nice, Tyson at first gave a very simple response to flat-Earthers: “We have video. From space. Of the rotating, spherical Earth. The earth is round.” Which, you know, yeah. But while they jokingly started to “wrap up” their conversation, they end up creating a nine-minute video talking about the many pieces of evidence that prove the Earth is round. What’s more, that it didn’t take modern scientific advancements and photographic evidence for people to know this. People have reasoned that the Earth must be a sphere since the time of the ancient Greeks.

Tyson describes an experiment performed by the Greek Eratosthenes, who lived in Alexandria around 250 B.C. Eratosthenes noticed that in the Egyptian city of Syene (near modern-day Aswan), you could see all the way to the bottom of a well at noon during the summer solstice. Yet on the same day, you couldn’t see to the bottom of a well in Alexandria.

A scene from Neil deGrasse Tyson's "Star Talk" on the Earth being a sphere

He also talks about the simple fact that during a lunar eclipse, the shadow of the Earth against the moon is always curved. If the Earth were flat, the shadow would look very different. Oh yeah, and then there’s the thing that anyone who’s spent any time on boats knows: when a boat sails off toward the horizon, it looks like it’s descending, fading from view from bottom to top. That wouldn’t happen if the boat were just sailing off into endless flatness.

Now, I know that most of you reading this know all this, but it’s astounding to think that there are still non-children to whom this needs to be explained. Tyson says:

“For me, the fact that there’s a rise of flat-Earthers is evidence of two things: One, we live in a country that protects free speech. And two, we live in a country with a failed educational system. Our system needs to train you, not only in what to know, but how to think about information and knowledge and evidence. If you don’t have that kind of training, you’d run around and believe anything.”

The video closes out with a mention of an awesome-looking site called, where you can sign up for free and learn more about science and math concepts in a fun and playful way. Because the only way to combat ignorance is with knowledge and an endless curiosity.

(via, image: screencap)

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12 Mar 20:11

National Geographic is trying to reckon with its racist past

by Cale Guthrie Weissman

For over a century, National Geographic has been one of the most beloved American magazines. People look to it for stories about nature, the world, and other cultures–the things that exist outside the scope of many people’s everyday lives. But the publication’s past editorial decisions are littered with examples of stereotypes, racist imagery, and “othering.” And …

Continue reading “National Geographic is trying to reckon with its racist past”

For over a century, National Geographic has been one of the most beloved American magazines. People look to it for stories about nature, the world, and other cultures–the things that exist outside the scope of many people’s everyday lives. But the publication’s past editorial decisions are littered with examples of stereotypes, racist imagery, and “othering.” And now the magazine is trying to make up for it.

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12 Mar 20:10

Ready Player One Is an Orgy of Nostalgia in All the Wrong Ways

by Evan Narcisse

The early reactions to Ready Player One after its screening at SXSW were mostly positive, but don’t count io9's among them. It isn’t so much a movie about loving old video games and other cultural artifacts. It’s about loving to love those things, which makes Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of the bestselling novel…


07 Mar 21:43

Every Episode of This is Us


The Pearson kids and their mother, Rebecca, are in the living room watching television, when Jack enters.

JACK: Hey, kids! Who’s ready to have a formative experience that will further articulate your single defining characteristic?

KIDS: Yay!

REBECCA: Is the thing you’re proposing that we do the very thing I just told the kids they could not do?

JACK: Yes.

KIDS: Can we, Mom, can we?!

REBECCA: I never tire of being undermined!

JACK: The way you know I’m great is that everyone keeps insisting how great I am.

REBECCA: How are you so perfect, babe?

JACK: Let’s do this activity before I die, which is absolutely going to happen.

- - -

Randall, Beth, Toby, Kate, and Kevin are all just hanging out in Randall’s house during the daytime and not going to work.

KATE: Hey, remember Dad, who is dead now?

KEVIN: He was great when alive, which is no longer the case as of multiple decades ago.

RANDALL: I am thinking of doing something ill-advised.

BETH: Mmm-hmm.

RANDALL: I was interesting once, but now I am mostly a vessel for intentionally corny dad jokes.

KEVIN: I was never interesting, and now I am mostly a vessel for meta-jokes about actors.

RANDALL: I look nothing like the kid version of myself.

BETH: I love you, baby, but this is over the top!

TOBY: I am supportive, which means that I badger Kate to do things despite her repeated insistence that she does not want to do those things.

KATE: Oh, Tobe!

KEVIN: It’s not clear what city I live in.

TOBY: [is doing the Cabbage Patch on the roof of a taco truck for no evident reason]

MIGUEL: Hey, I’m here now. My hair never doesn’t look weird.

- - -

Teen Kevin, Teen Randall, and Teen Kate are all standing outside at night. Jack walks up.

JACK: Kevin, Kate, Randall. Get in the corr.


JACK: Get in the corr.


JACK: Corr.


JACK: Corr.

TEEN RANDALL: Kevin, it’s fine if Dad can’t say “car”!

TEEN KEVIN: No, it’s not. It sucks. Everything sucks. Everything except my hair gel sucks.

JACK: Randall, Kate, get in the corr. Get in the corr, Kevin.

TEEN KATE: Dad, there’s no car here. What are you even talking about?

JACK: Rebecca, it’s time to get in the corr. Miguel, corr. Randall’s real dad and Randall’s real dad’s boyfriend, in the corr, now. Tess, get in the corr. Not Kevin’s corr. Get in this corr, Tess. Sly Stallone, Sophie, corr. Now. Everybody in the corr. Gerald McRaney of Major Dad fame, get in the corr. Make room in the corr for Louie the dog, who is getting in the corr. Teen Kate, grab Louie’s travel crate for the corr. Beth, Toby, social worker lady, in the corr, now. Girl who Teen Randall made out with, Madison, Deja, Ron Howard, corr. Everybody get in the corr.

REBECCA: So perfect, babe.

07 Mar 21:15

Nick Offerman to play the Antichrist's dad in Amazon's Good Omens

by Sam Barsanti

Amazon’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens just received another positive sign, with Variety reporting that Nick Offerman has joined the cast. The story says he’ll be playing an American diplomat living in England with his son, Warlock, who is believed to be the Antichrist. As the main plot…


07 Mar 21:15

ConocoPhillips CEO: 'We did not drill our brains out' in the Eagle Ford

by Joshua Mann
“We took a little bit of a different tack in the Eagle Ford over the last couple of years.”
07 Mar 21:07

Get Out showed how much better horror is with a great protagonist

by Randall Colburn

To watch a modern horror movie is often to watch all the most interesting characters get killed while the boring, blank-slate protagonist goes on to save the day. If there’s one curiosity to so much of modern horror, it’s the tendency to try and connect with audiences by subbing out perspective and personality for…


07 Mar 20:52

2018 primary results: Statewide

by Charles Kuffner

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

Statewide Dem totals
Statewide GOP totals

Harris County Dem totals
Harris County GOP totals

(Please note that all results were coming in very slowly. I expect there will still be some precincts not yet reported by the time this publishes. So, I’m going to be less specific than usual, and may have to make a correction or two by Thursday.)

No real surprises here. Lupe Valdez and Andrew White will fight it out in the runoff. They combined for about 70% of the vote. Beto O’Rourke was a bit over 60% on his way to the Senate nomination. To be honest, I thought he’d score higher than that, but whatever. Statewide primaries are hard.

Miguel Suazo was near 70% for Land Commissioner, and Roman McAllen was near 60% for Railroad Commissioner. Mike Collier was leading by about seven points for Lt. Governor. The closest race was for Comptroller, where Joi Chevalier had a tiny lead over Tim Mahoney.

On the Republican side, Greg Abbott (90%), Ted Cruz (85%), Dan Patrick (75%), and Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick (75%), who I didn’t even realize had an opponent, all cruised. Baby Bush and Sid Miller were in the high 50’s and so also on their way to renomination. That means the only statewide runoff will be for the Democratic gubernatorial race.

One note on turnout: In 2014, there were 554,014 total votes cast in the Democratic primary for Governor. The early vote tally for the Dem gubernatorial primary was 555,002. So yeah, turnout was up. Republicans will probably have 30-40% more total turnout statewide, but I fully expect Dems to top one million at this point.

07 Mar 20:37

This online training will help you become a project manager

by Boing Boing's Shop

On its surface, project management sounds relatively simple: do what it takes to ensure company initiatives are achieved on budget and on time. But, the reality is that project management encompasses a lot of sophisticated methodologies and techniques to be successful, which is why companies aren't afraid to shell out six-figure salaries to those versed in these skills. The eduCBA Project Management Lifetime Subscription Bundle can help you join their ranks by familiarizing you with the leading tools of the project management trade, and it's on sale for $29 in the Boing Boing Store.

With this collection, you'll have lifetime access to more than 100 complete courses and 400 hours of training, covering key project management methodologies, such as Agile, Lean and Scrum. You'll learn about software project management, performance analysis, TQM and more. Plus, you'll use mock tests and online quizzes to stay on top of your training. With lifetime access, you can tackle these resources on your own time and at the pace that's right for you.

The eduCBA Project Management Lifetime Subscription Bundle is on sale for $29 in the Boing Boing Store.

07 Mar 20:30

The Vatican Hosts a Hackathon

by Andrea Valdez
Leaders at the Catholic Church organized VHacks to use technology to solve issues of social inclusion, interfaith dialogue, and resources for refugees.
07 Mar 20:30

Bros dominate VC, where 91% of decision-makers are male

by Ainsley Harris

Last year just 2% of venture capital dollars went toward startups founded by women. So perhaps it comes as no surprise that women comprise just 9% of the decision-makers at U.S. venture capital firms, according to a new Axios analysis based on Pitchbook data. (Axios only looked at VC firms that had raised a minimum of …

Continue reading “Bros dominate VC, where 91% of decision-makers are male”

Last year just 2% of venture capital dollars went toward startups founded by women. So perhaps it comes as no surprise that women comprise just 9% of the decision-makers at U.S. venture capital firms, according to a new Axios analysis based on Pitchbook data. (Axios only looked at VC firms that had raised a minimum of one fund of at least $100 million from 2013 to 2017.) In absolute terms, the numbers are even more stark: There are only 91 women, nationwide, with sway over how VC firms write checks.

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07 Mar 20:15

This Smart Paint Talks To Canes To Help People Who Are Blind Navigate

by Adele Peters

The Ohio State School for the Blind is pioneering new technology that causes canes to vibrate when it touches lines of traffic paint.

The crosswalk on a road in front of the Ohio State School for the Blind looks like one that might be found at any intersection. But the white stripes at the edges are made with “smart paint”–and if a student who is visually impaired crosses while using a cane with a new smart tip, the cane will vibrate when it touches the lines.

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07 Mar 20:12

This is why museums matter

by David Pescovitz

"History isn't a a cold, dead thing but always contested and in flux." In this short video, PBS's The Art Assignment does a fine job explaining why museums matter:

The powerful and privileged have hoarded precious artifacts in museums for centuries, and it's only recently that these treasures were made available to the rest of us. What purpose did museums serve? And why does every city have one today?

02 Mar 18:13

Avoiding unsolicited advice is the key to a strong friendship

by Caroline Siede

Here’s some unsolicited advice: Try avoiding unsolicited advice! At least that’s the recommendation of Anna Akana, who realized she would too often respond to her friends’ emotional woes by making suggestions about what they should do. After spotting this pattern, Akana decided to change her conversational style and found that her friendships dramatically improved. Now instead of offering advice, Akana just tries to be a supportive sounding board by saying things like, “How does that make you feel?”, “Wow, that sounds really hard, how are you handling it?”, and “I totally understand why you’re upset. What do you think you’re going to do?” You can watch Akana explain her new friendship philosophy right here:
02 Mar 18:12

Watch how to etch glass with vinyl stencils and sand

by Andrea James

Plotters with precision cutters certainly make glass etching easier that making stencils by hand, but it's still very labor intensive. (more…)

02 Mar 18:10

David Sedaris Creates a List of His 10 Favorite Jazz Tracks: Stream Them Online

by Colin Marshall

Image by WBUR, via Wikimedia Commons

You can't read far into David Sedaris' writing without encountering his father Lou, a curmudgeonly, decades-and-decades-retired IBM engineer with a stiffly practical mind and a harsh word for everybody — especially his misfit son, dedicating his life as he has to the quasi-occupation of writing while living in far-flung places like Paris and rural England. Even now, solidly into his nineties, Sedaris père keeps on providing the sixtysomething Sedaris fils with material, all of it — once polished up just right — a source of laughter for the latter's many readers and listeners. But Lou has also given David something else: a passion for jazz.

"My father loves jazz and has an extensive collection of records and reel-to-reel tapes he used to enjoy after returning home from work," writes Sedaris in one essay. "He might have entered the house in a foul mood, but once he had his Dexter Gordon and a vodka martini, the stress melted away and everything was 'Beautiful, baby, just beautiful.'" He then goes on to tell the story of how his father once attempted to train young David and his sisters into a Brubeck-style family jazz combo — a hopeless dream from the start, but one that has since entertained his fans around the world. (Not that Sedaris hasn't provided some of that entertainment by performing commercial jingles in the voice of Billie Holiday.)

Appearing on a guest DJ segment on Los Angeles public radio station KCRW, Sedaris told of how his father introduced him to jazz: "I remember seeing the movie Lady Sings the Blues, right, and thinking Diana Ross did such a good job. And my Dad saying, 'Oh boy, you've got a lot to learn,' and then him playing Billie Holiday 78s for me... and then him taking it back even further and sitting me down to listen to Mabel Mercer. He really did give me quite an education and it's the music that's stuck with me." As for the first jazz album he ever heard, he names in a recent JazzTimes interview Charles Mingus' The Clown, the one "with a close-up of a clown’s face on the cover" that still, in his estimation, "looks so modern and it sounds so modern."

When Sedaris' official Facebook page posted ten of his favorite songs, he came up with an all-jazz list including the work of Nina Simone, Antonio Carlos Jobim, John Coltrane, and other luminaries of the tradition. (He did not, of course, neglect Billie Holiday.) A fan turned it into a Spotify playlist, which you'll find embedded below (and if you don't have Spotify's free software, you can download it here):

"I used to work in complete silence," Sedaris tells JazzTimes, but "about three or four years ago I started listening to music [while I work], but not music with lyrics in it." Much of the jazz he loves fits that description, and he's also, in combination with the variety of music-streaming services available now, discovered new jazz artists while writing. Having put drinking and smoking completely behind him — and having written about both of those experiences — Sedaris retains jazz as one of the substances that keeps him going. It certainly seems to have worked for the man who brought the music into his life, whom Sedaris has imagined may yet outlive us all: "If anything happens to me," he says, "the one thing my father wants is my iPod."

Related Content:

20 Free Essays & Stories by David Sedaris: A Sampling of His Inimitable Humor

Be His Guest: David Sedaris at Home in Rural West Sussex, England

David Sedaris Sings the Oscar Mayer Theme Song in the Voice of Billie Holiday

Haruki Murakami’s Passion for Jazz: Discover the Novelist’s Jazz Playlist, Jazz Essay & Jazz Bar

The Best Music to Write By: Give Us Your Recommendations

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

David Sedaris Creates a List of His 10 Favorite Jazz Tracks: Stream Them Online is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

02 Mar 18:10

Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong'o to lead an army of badass female warriors in The Woman King

by Katie Rife

Comic book shop-style debates about whether the Amazons or the Dora Milaje would win in a fight are fun, but how about the story of some real-life African “Amazons”? That’s the premise behind The Woman King, a new project being developed over at TriStar Pictures. Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong’o have been tapped to star…


02 Mar 18:10

Are ‘You’ Just Inside Your Skin or Is Your Smartphone Part of You?

by Karina Vold

In November 2017, a gunman entered a church in Sutherland Springs in Texas, where he killed 26 people and wounded 20 others. He escaped in his car, with police and residents in hot pursuit, before losing control of the vehicle and flipping it into a ditch. When the police got to the car, he was dead. The episode is horrifying enough without its unsettling epilogue. In the course of their investigations, the FBI reportedly pressed the gunman’s finger to the fingerprint-recognition feature on his iPhone in an attempt to unlock it. Regardless of who’s affected, it’s disquieting to think of the police using a corpse to break into someone’s digital afterlife.

Most democratic constitutions shield us from unwanted intrusions into our brains and bodies. They also enshrine our entitlement to freedom of thought and mental privacy. That’s why neurochemical drugs that interfere with cognitive functioning can’t be administered against a person’s will unless there’s a clear medical justification. Similarly, according to scholarly opinion, law-enforcement officials can’t compel someone to take a lie-detector test, because that would be an invasion of privacy and a violation of the right to remain silent.

But in the present era of ubiquitous technology, philosophers are beginning to ask whether biological anatomy really captures the entirety of who we are. Given the role they play in our lives, do our devices deserve the same protections as our brains and bodies?

After all, your smartphone is much more than just a phone. It can tell a more intimate story about you than your best friend. No other piece of hardware in history, not even your brain, contains the quality or quantity of information held on your phone: it ‘knows’ whom you speak to, when you speak to them, what you said, where you have been, your purchases, photos, biometric data, even your notes to yourself—and all this dating back years.

In 2014, the United States Supreme Court used this observation to justify the decision that police must obtain a warrant before rummaging through our smartphones. These devices “are now such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy,” as Chief Justice John Roberts observed in his written opinion.

The Chief Justice probably wasn’t making a metaphysical point—but the philosophers Andy Clark and David Chalmers were when they argued in “The Extended Mind” (1998) that technology is actually part of us. According to traditional cognitive science, “thinking” is a process of symbol manipulation or neural computation, which gets carried out by the brain. Clark and Chalmers broadly accept this computational theory of mind, but claim that tools can become seamlessly integrated into how we think. Objects such as smartphones or notepads are often just as functionally essential to our cognition as the synapses firing in our heads. They augment and extend our minds by increasing our cognitive power and freeing up internal resources.

If accepted, the extended mind thesis threatens widespread cultural assumptions about the inviolate nature of thought, which sits at the heart of most legal and social norms. As the US Supreme Court declared in 1942: “freedom to think is absolute of its own nature; the most tyrannical government is powerless to control the inward workings of the mind.” This view has its origins in thinkers such as John Locke and René Descartes, who argued that the human soul is locked in a physical body, but that our thoughts exist in an immaterial world, inaccessible to other people. One’s inner life thus needs protecting only when it is externalized, such as through speech. Many researchers in cognitive science still cling to this Cartesian conception—only, now, the private realm of thought coincides with activity in the brain.

But today’s legal institutions are straining against this narrow concept of the mind. They are trying to come to grips with how technology is changing what it means to be human, and to devise new normative boundaries to cope with this reality. Justice Roberts might not have known about the idea of the extended mind, but it supports his wry observation that smartphones have become part of our body. If our minds now encompass our phones, we are essentially cyborgs: part-biology, part-technology. Given how our smartphones have taken over what were once functions of our brains—remembering dates, phone numbers, addresses—perhaps the data they contain should be treated on a par with the information we hold in our heads. So if the law aims to protect mental privacy, its boundaries would need to be pushed outwards to give our cyborg anatomy the same protections as our brains.

This line of reasoning leads to some potentially radical conclusions. Some philosophers have argued that when we die, our digital devices should be handled as remains: if your smartphone is a part of who you are, then perhaps it should be treated more like your corpse than your couch. Similarly, one might argue that trashing someone’s smartphone should be seen as a form of “extended” assault, equivalent to a blow to the head, rather than just destruction of property. If your memories are erased because someone attacks you with a club, a court would have no trouble characterizing the episode as a violent incident. So if someone breaks your smartphone and wipes its contents, perhaps the perpetrator should be punished as they would be if they had caused a head trauma.

The extended mind thesis also challenges the law’s role in protecting both the content and the means of thought—that is, shielding what and how we think from undue influence. Regulation bars non-consensual interference in our neurochemistry (for example, through drugs), because that meddles with the contents of our mind. But if cognition encompasses devices, then arguably they should be subject to the same prohibitions. Perhaps some of the techniques that advertisers use to hijack our attention online, to nudge our decision-making or manipulate search results, should count as intrusions on our cognitive process. Similarly, in areas where the law protects the means of thought, it might need to guarantee access to tools such as smartphones—in the same way that freedom of expression protects people’s right not only to write or speak, but also to use computers and disseminate speech over the internet.

The courts are still some way from arriving at such decisions. Besides the headline-making cases of mass shooters, there are thousands of instances each year in which police authorities try to get access to encrypted devices. Although the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution protects individuals’ right to remain silent (and therefore not give up a passcode), judges in several states have ruled that police can forcibly use fingerprints to unlock a user’s phone. (With the new facial-recognition feature on the iPhone X, police might only need to get an unwitting user to look at her phone.) These decisions reflect the traditional concept that the rights and freedoms of an individual end at the skin.

But the concept of personal rights and freedoms that guides our legal institutions is outdated. It is built on a model of a free individual who enjoys an untouchable inner life. Now, though, our thoughts can be invaded before they have even been developed—and in a way, perhaps this is nothing new. The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman used to say that he thought with his notebook. Without a pen and pencil, a great deal of complex reflection and analysis would never have been possible. If the extended mind view is right, then even simple technologies such as these would merit recognition and protection as a part of the essential toolkit of the mind.Aeon counter – do not removeThis article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

Image Credit: Sergii Tverdokhlibov /

01 Mar 21:43

Report: Houston's housing market deemed overvalued

by Fauzeya Rahman
An overvalued market is defined as one in which home prices are at least 10 percent higher than the long-term, sustainable level.
01 Mar 21:43

Meet the Woman Who Guides NASA's Juno Probe Through Jupiter's Killer Radiation

by Ryan F. Mandelbaum on Gizmodo, shared by Cheryl Eddy to io9

On the night of July 4th, 2016, scientists successfully maneuvered a basketball court-sized probe into the orbit of the largest planet in the solar system. Some at the Florida launch cheered, some breathed a sigh of relief. But for NASA’s Heidi Becker, this could have been the mission’s end.


01 Mar 21:42

Terry Pratchett's Discworld Is Finally Being Turned Into a Show

by Beth Elderkin

It’s a good time to be a Terry Pratchett fan. BBC Studios has announced that they’ve picked up Discworld and are planning on creating a six-part show based on the book series. Based on the working title, it could be the series that’s been in the works for years.


01 Mar 21:42

The Language In “Black Panther” Is Totally Real. Here’s How To Speak It

by KC Ifeanyi

Wakanda may be a fictional country, but the language they speak is very real.

What: A tutorial on how to speak Xhosa, the language spoken by Wakandans in Black Panther.

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01 Mar 21:41

Algorithms Are Creating A “Digital Poorhouse” That Makes Inequality Worse

by Adele Peters

A new book, “Automating Inequality,” catalogs the ways government technology for the poor often ends up being punitive rather than uplifting.

In Los Angeles, an algorithm helps decide who–out of 58,000 homeless people–gets access to a small amount of available housing. In Indiana, the state used a computer system to flag any mistake on an application for food stamps, healthcare, or cash benefits as a “failure to cooperate;” 1 million people lost benefits. In Pittsburgh, a child protection agency is using an algorithm to try to predict future child abuse, despite the algorithm’s problems with accuracy.

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01 Mar 21:41

In the Future, There Will Be No Limit to What AI Can Accomplish in Science

by Peter Rejcek

New planets found in distant corners of the galaxy. Climate models that may improve our understanding of sea level rise. The emergence of new antimalarial drugs. These scientific advances and discoveries have been in the news in recent months.

While representing wildly divergent disciplines, from astronomy to biotechnology, they all have one thing in common: Artificial intelligence played a key role in their scientific discovery.

One of the more recent and famous examples came out of NASA at the end of 2017. The US space agency had announced an eighth planet discovered in the Kepler-90 system. Scientists had trained a neural network—a computer with a “brain” modeled on the human mind—to re-examine data from Kepler, a space-borne telescope with a four-year mission to seek out new life and new civilizations. Or, more precisely, to find habitable planets where life might just exist.

The researchers trained the artificial neural network on a set of 15,000 previously vetted signals until it could identify true planets and false positives 96 percent of the time. It then went to work on weaker signals from nearly 700 star systems with known planets.

The machine detected Kepler 90i—a hot, rocky planet that orbits its sun about every two Earth weeks—through a nearly imperceptible change in brightness captured when a planet passes a star. It also found a sixth Earth-sized planet in the Kepler-80 system.

AI Handles Big Data

The application of AI to science is being driven by three great advances in technology, according to Ross King from the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology at the University of Manchester, leader of a team that developed an artificially intelligent “scientist” called Eve.

Those three advances include much faster computers, big datasets, and improved AI methods, King said. “These advances increasingly give AI superhuman reasoning abilities,” he told Singularity Hub by email.

AI systems can flawlessly remember vast numbers of facts and extract information effortlessly from millions of scientific papers, not to mention exhibit flawless logical reasoning and near-optimal probabilistic reasoning, King says.

AI systems also beat humans when it comes to dealing with huge, diverse amounts of data.

That’s partly what attracted a team of glaciologists to turn to machine learning to untangle the factors involved in how heat from Earth’s interior might influence the ice sheet that blankets Greenland.

Algorithms juggled 22 geologic variables—such as bedrock topography, crustal thickness, magnetic anomalies, rock types, and proximity to features like trenches, ridges, young rifts, and volcanoes—to predict geothermal heat flux under the ice sheet throughout Greenland.

The machine learning model, for example, predicts elevated heat flux upstream of Jakobshavn Glacier, the fastest-moving glacier in the world.

“The major advantage is that we can incorporate so many different types of data,” explains Leigh Stearns, associate professor of geology at Kansas University, whose research takes her to the polar regions to understand how and why Earth’s great ice sheets are changing, questions directly related to future sea level rise.

“All of the other models just rely on one parameter to determine heat flux, but the [machine learning] approach incorporates all of them,” Stearns told Singularity Hub in an email. “Interestingly, we found that there is not just one parameter…that determines the heat flux, but a combination of many factors.”

The research was published last month in Geophysical Research Letters.

Stearns says her team hopes to apply high-powered machine learning to characterize glacier behavior over both short and long-term timescales, thanks to the large amounts of data that she and others have collected over the last 20 years.

Emergence of Robot Scientists

While Stearns sees machine learning as another tool to augment her research, King believes artificial intelligence can play a much bigger role in scientific discoveries in the future.

“I am interested in developing AI systems that autonomously do science—robot scientists,” he said. Such systems, King explained, would automatically originate hypotheses to explain observations, devise experiments to test those hypotheses, physically run the experiments using laboratory robotics, and even interpret the results. The conclusions would then influence the next cycle of hypotheses and experiments.

His AI scientist Eve recently helped researchers discover that triclosan, an ingredient commonly found in toothpaste, could be used as an antimalarial drug against certain strains that have developed a resistance to other common drug therapies. The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Automation using artificial intelligence for drug discovery has become a growing area of research, as the machines can work orders of magnitude faster than any human. AI is also being applied in related areas, such as synthetic biology for the rapid design and manufacture of microorganisms for industrial uses.

King argues that machines are better suited to unravel the complexities of biological systems, with even the most “simple” organisms are host to thousands of genes, proteins, and small molecules that interact in complicated ways.

“Robot scientists and semi-automated AI tools are essential for the future of biology, as there are simply not enough human biologists to do the necessary work,” he said.

Creating Shockwaves in Science

The use of machine learning, neural networks, and other AI methods can often get better results in a fraction of the time it would normally take to crunch data.

For instance, scientists at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, have a deep learning system for the rapid detection and characterization of gravitational waves. Gravitational waves are disturbances in spacetime, emanating from big, high-energy cosmic events, such as the massive explosion of a star known as a supernova. The “Holy Grail” of this type of research is to detect gravitational waves from the Big Bang.

Dubbed Deep Filtering, the method allows real-time processing of data from LIGO, a gravitational wave observatory comprised of two enormous laser interferometers located thousands of miles apart in California and Louisiana. The research was published in Physics Letters B. You can watch a trippy visualization of the results below.

In a more down-to-earth example, scientists published a paper last month in Science Advances on the development of a neural network called ConvNetQuake to detect and locate minor earthquakes from ground motion measurements called seismograms.

ConvNetQuake uncovered 17 times more earthquakes than traditional methods. Scientists say the new method is particularly useful in monitoring small-scale seismic activity, which has become more frequent, possibly due to fracking activities that involve injecting wastewater deep underground. You can learn more about ConvNetQuake in this video:

King says he believes that in the long term there will be no limit to what AI can accomplish in science. He and his team, including Eve, are currently working on developing cancer therapies under a grant from DARPA.

“Robot scientists are getting smarter and smarter; human scientists are not,” he says. “Indeed, there is arguably a case that human scientists are less good. I don’t see any scientist alive today of the stature of a Newton or Einstein—despite the vast number of living scientists. The Physics Nobel [laureate] Frank Wilczek is on record as saying (10 years ago) that in 100 years’ time the best physicist will be a machine. I agree.”

Image Credit: Romaset /

01 Mar 20:07

Behold "David Lynch Teaches Typing"

by Clive Thompson

Rhino Stew Productions has produced a new game – David Lynch Teaches Typing.

I won't give out too many spoilers here, but suffice to say, it gets weird quickly.

01 Mar 20:07

Black Panther's Chadwick Boseman Sees T'Challa as a Familiar 'Enemy'

by Charles Pulliam-Moore

The ideological debate about whether Wakanda has a responsibility to open its borders to share its wealth and technology and help make the world a better place is arguably one of the most riveting parts of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther. The question weighed heavily on actor Chadwick Boseman’s mind as he prepared to…


09 Jan 19:09

Watch Hunter S. Thompson on 1967 TV game show "To Tell The Truth"

by David Pescovitz

A year after Hunter S. Thompson published his pioneering gonzo journalism book "Hell's Angels," he appeared on the wonderful TV game show "To Tell The Truth." Bud Collyer hosted with a panel of actors/entertainers Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Barry Nelson, Kitty Carlisle.

On the show, three people claim to be a particularly interesting or notable person described by the host. One is really that person, the other two are imposters. The panelists must ask questions to identify who isn't lying.

09 Jan 19:09

Novelty in science – real necessity or distracting obsession?

by S. Abbas Raza

Jalees Rehman in The Conversation:

ScreenHunter_2929 Jan. 09 19.53In a recent survey of over 1,500 scientists, more than 70 percent of them reported having been unable to reproduce other scientists’ findings at least once. Roughly half of the surveyed scientists ran into problems trying to reproduce their own results. No wonder people are talking about a “reproducibility crisis” in scientific research – an epidemic of studies that don’t hold up when run a second time.

Reproducibility of findings is a core foundation of science. If scientific results only hold true in some labs but not in others, then how can researchers feel confident about their discoveries? How can society put evidence-based policies into place if the evidence is unreliable?

Recognition of this “crisis” has prompted calls for reform. Researchers are feeling their way, experimenting with different practices meant to help distinguish solid science from irreproducible results. Some people are even starting to reevaluate how choices are made about what research actually gets tackled. Breaking innovative new ground is flashier than revisiting already published research. Does prioritizing novelty naturally lead to this point?

More here.