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27 Jul 20:04

What if Spiderman were black, and Uncle Ben was shot by police?

by Chris Blattman

I keep thinking how much more powerful the Spiderman origin story would be if Peter Parker was an African American kid, whose Uncle Ben was shot by police while being arrested for a minor parking infraction. There is no formal investigation, and Peter decides to put himself on the line to prevent it happening again. He tackles the white crimes that go unpunished, punishes POC criminals fairly. He is the leveler, always fighting to be without bias, to be just. To protect people like his uncle.

This not only mirrors so much of what’s happening in America, but feeds right into the complex relationship between Spiderman, the authorities and the media.

Peter Parker is a brilliant student, awkward, a nerd, but is branded a thug, a gang member, a criminal, because of his appearance. The media latch on to that and misrepresent him totally.

The police, humilitated by the fact that he refuses to work with them and often punishes cops themselves for brutalizing innocent people, or guilty people who still deserve better treatment than they get, attempt to hunt him down.


Best comment: “J. Jonah Jameson’s attitude would be remarkably unchanged in this scenario.”

Hat tip to Suresh Naidu.

The post What if Spiderman were black, and Uncle Ben was shot by police? appeared first on Chris Blattman.

26 Aug 13:00

Welcome back to the old Internet. It had problems too

It is easy to pine for the old web. The past is in the past, temporally shielded from our attempts to fetishize it and incapable of reaching through the screen to knock some sense into its eulogists. This is how the nostalgia-industrial complex, the one sector that will never take enough of a pause for us to eulogize it, flourishes. 

“Cameron’s World,” a project by Cameron Askin and Anthony Hughes, attempts to revive the joys of building a personalized webpage on Geocities in the mid-to-late 90s. The resulting pages are full of overlapping graphics, bright text, animation, and even music. “Cameron’s World” is, in other words, everything that made the old web simultaneously horrible and endearing. “There’s not a whole lot of ‘nice’ (or user-friendly) web design in [old Geocities sites],” Askin conceded in an interview with Motherboard, “but the archives are exploding with creativity.” This trade-off is also present in “Cameron’s World,” which is full of strange ideas and originality but also a violent attack on the eyeballs and mental faculties of its visitors. This is a vision of the web built for communities more than for human beings.

The organizational metaphor of the Geocities-era web was the neighbourhood, a place for like minds to share their views in relative peace. In his Motherboard interview, Askin discusses how he visited these neighbourhoods to find inspiration for “Cameron’s World.” He also notes “users were less critical of websites and creators had a less polished approach. … The tone of voice was a lot more personal.” Insofar as those features are arguably lacking on today’s web, it’s easy to understand why Askin and others would be drawn to the Geocities sites of yore.

A web for communities instead of human beings 

One might therefore be tempted to argue that the old Internet was more democratic, a place where anyone could create a site in a safe corner of the digital world without worrying about the vagaries of web development or visual conventions. This sort of web design is, however, exclusionary in its own way. This sort of anarchic web is great for its denizens but inaccessible to those who depend on screen readers for their data or simply struggle with visual clutter. Subsequent visions of the Internet have sought to solve this problem, creating a web that is more structured and inclusive to some previously disenfranchised users, but doing so at a cost to those who enjoyed the anarchic verve that “Cameron’s World” recreates.  

The Internet has usually sought to be democratic but has never figured out what democracy means in this context. Much as there are differences between the American, British, and French visions of democracy, there also differences between different conceptions of the democratic Internet. None are inherently more democratic than those that came before, but we often lack the vocabulary to parse these differing democratic visions. This is a discursive challenge that affects the videogame world as much as it does those interested in the future of the web. While all democracies exist to maximize enfranchisement, participation, and representation, there is always the question of what sort of engagement a democracy seeks to maximize and how it intends to achieve such goals. There is no single right answer. “Cameron’s World,” in addition to being a Technicolor trip into the Internet’s past, is a reminder that visions of digital democracy can take on radically different appearances. 

All images in this article are screenshots of "Cameron's World," but you should definitely go see it for yourself.  

25 Aug 09:06

Nude Body Paintings In Nature By Filippo Ioco

by Jessica Jungbauer

Some of these are really hard to spot!

For his series 'Landscapes', body painting artist Filippo Ioco makes nudes disappear into natural surroundings. The Swiss-born artist is currently based in Sicily, Italy, but he travels the world to find the perfect spot for his paintings in places, such as an enchanted forest in Puerto Rico, a national park in California or Central Park in New York City. What first appears as another idyllic landscape shot, in fact contains nude models completely camouflaged within the photo using body paint and raw pigments.


All images © Filippo Ioco

24 Aug 15:40

Popular Aviation1928 Vol. 3, No. 5

Popular Aviation

1928 Vol. 3, No. 5

24 Aug 18:35

New Cloud AtlasInteractive map displays the locations of...

New Cloud Atlas

Interactive map displays the locations of communication technologies that make up cloud data suppliers:

The New Cloud Atlas is a global effort to map each data place that makes up the cloud in an open and accountable way. We have set out to find and map each warehouse data centre, each internet exchange, each connecting cable and switch. Anything of any physical significance in the operation of the cloud should be observed is some way, and recorded for everyone to see and use.

Try it out for yourself here

31 Jul 02:23

We’re all gonna die on vacation

by dorothy


18 Aug 22:13

A neural network tries to identify objects in ST:TNG...

A neural network tries to identify objects in ST:TNG intro

Experiment by Ville-Matias Heikkilä applies deep learning recognition to the Star Trek: Next Generation opening titles … and doesn’t really do a good job of it …

There isn’t a lot of space stuff in ILSVRC12, so pretrained Googlenet has some serious trouble classifying stars, planets and the Enterprise.

Imagenet-pretrained Googlenet. Top three classifications translated into text for each frame. The classification marked with an asterisk is the top choice. Green color indicates that the network is relatively sure about the classification (neuron value above threshold and at least 10% above the second candidate).


11 Aug 15:17

poesieplease: Little known fact: In addition to Queer Theory, Bi Tumblr developed the school of...


Little known fact: In addition to Queer Theory, Bi Tumblr developed the school of thought known as Critical Pedagogy. Critical Pedagogy advocates for an educational philosophy based in social justice. Bi Tumblr invented it because we want to indoctrinate children into the Bi Agenda (characterized by long naps and not hating bi people).

14 Jul 08:33

ala-bas-ter: Self Esteem Improvement Plan


Self Esteem Improvement Plan

08 Jul 11:58


22 Jul 02:27

scoutingny: The best construction fence ever in New York City...

22 Jul 04:00

webcardz u can uze


So I want to send this to a bunch of people... but

archive - contact - sexy exciting merchandise - search - about
← previous July 22nd, 2015 next

July 22nd, 2015: Happy pi approximation day! Hey, this is unrelated to that, but did you see my NINE shirt designs available for two weeks only? HOPEFULLY YOU DID??

– Ryan

10 Aug 07:01

Disappearing Arctic reflected in National Geographic maps

by Nathan Yau


Shrinking Arctic

In the most recent update to their atlas coming in September, National Geographic explains the shrinking Arctic through the lens of previous atlas maps. It's not looking good.

As the ocean heats up due to global warming, Arctic sea ice has been locked in a downward spiral. Since the late 1970s, the ice has retreated by 12 percent per decade, worsening after 2007, according to NASA. May 2014 represented the third lowest extent of sea ice during that month in the satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

Tags: Arctic, global warming, National Geographic

20 Jul 04:00

which number is the least interesting? before you answer, read this:

archive - contact - sexy exciting merchandise - search - about
← previous July 20th, 2015 next

July 20th, 2015: Did you see my NINE shirt designs available for two weeks only? HOPEFULLY YOU DID??

– Ryan

15 Jul 19:33

The UCLA sexual harassment case that every professor should be aware of

by Chris Blattman

This sexual harassment case at UCLA is jaw-dropping. From one plaintiff’s complaint, against history Professor Gabriel Piterberg:

51. He then started talking about the famous philosophers Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger, who met when Arendt was Heidegger’s student and subsequently carried on a clandestine love affair for more than forty years. He told her that relationships like theirs were normal and that “If it is done right, professor and student relationships are supposed to be intimate.”

52. Professor Piterberg then told her that he masturbated while imagining the two of them together.

53. Throughout this meeting, Plaintiff Takla continued to voice her discomfort with him as her advisor and his comments, but Professor Piterberg was upset with Plaintiff Takla for wanting a new advisor. He told her, “If anything happened between us, it might be while you are writing the conclusion to your dissertation.”

This is a small fraction of the terrible things alleged. There are two women with similar complaints so far. The most staggering aspects: the UCLA ombudsperson effectively hushes both. As did the victim’s other adviser. And beyond this institutional failure, a disturbing detail is that both the ombudsperson and other adviser were also women, and apparently also aware of other complaints.

This article summarizes, but the full text of the legal complaint is so much more powerful and disturbing. And important for professors to read. It is short, and you will find it hard to put down.

With the caveat that these are allegations for the time being, some reflections:

  • How many times has this happened before over two decades with this faculty member? How many times has this been hushed by the university, or a colleague, or self-censoring? Staggering.
  • A friend commented: this is the culture of humanities profession, where older male professors compensate for relatively poor salaries with these non-wage benefits. That’s an exaggerated and unkind interpretation, but I can’t convince myself it’s false.
  • Actually the other cause might be undue concentration of power. In smaller, more specialized, fragmented disciplines, where the costs of switching sub-disciplines are high (e.g. learn a new country and language), advisers will exert more power over their students. So these disciplines might want to think about how to break down internal disciplinary barriers to decentralize power.
  • Not all the facts are known, but the big failure to me is the institutional one: the UCLA coverup. There will always be deviant individuals. The institutional failure to investigate and prosecute is shameful. It’s like 1990 in the Vatican.
  • I’m pretty sure most big organizations and universities would behave in the same way, if allowed. This is not a UCLA problem.
  • Some colleagues of mine criticized the media coverage of the Lacour scandal—the UCLA student who faked a gay marriage study. They felt that UCLA had a process and would take care of it. I disagreed then and I feel even more confident now. Big bureaucracies do not want to deal with this.
  • The most blatant case of academic fraud I ever caught? My university fumbled it so badly it had to be purposeful, and the culprit is now a prominent politician in his/her country.
    • No I won’t tell you whether this was Harvard, Berkeley, Yale or Columbia, as my experience is that none of them are that different in this regard.
  • There has been virtually no news coverage since the UCLA story broke in mid-June. This strikes me as ominous.
  • Here is political economist Michael Chwe on Project Callisto, a web-based system for sexual assault reporting under development.
    • Document and time stamp harassment as it happens to you. It goes nowhere, until at a later date when (a) it gets worse and you need the records, or (b) someone else accuses the same person and you can add your complaint more easily. (b) can be made automatic when someone else reports.

The post The UCLA sexual harassment case that every professor should be aware of appeared first on Chris Blattman.

10 Aug 16:01

Embroidered Patterns In Flesh By Eliza Bennett

by Jessica Jungbauer

For the photographic series 'A Woman's Work is Never Done', artist Eliza Bennett literally creates handstitched artworks using her own hand as a canvas. By sewing a thread into the top layer of her skin, she manages to apply the age-old technique of embroidery in flesh. In doing so, the hands appear to be marked by hard work. With this series, Bennett wants to raise awareness on the traditional ideas of "women's work", such as cleaning and caring, and its consequences on the physical body. Most of the time, these tasks are considered easy, but are often underpaid and done under bad conditions.

In a statement about her work, the artist says: "I need authentic experiences of my own, in the act of creating this becomes possible. I sculpt because I am driven to commit a feeling to something tangible."







All images © Eliza Bennett | Via: Empty Kingdom

10 Aug 23:47

New Harvard Study Shows that Sarcasm is Actually Good for You

New Harvard Study Shows that Sarcasm is Actually Good for You:

“Data from a recent study entitled, The Highest Form of Intelligence: Sarcasm Increases Creativity for Both Expressers and Recipients, suggests that the delivery and deciphering of sarcasm offers psychological benefits that have been largely underappreciated and long overlooked.

Francesca Gino, the study author from Harvard, told the Harvard Gazette in an email, “To create or decode sarcasm, both the expressers and recipients of sarcasm need to overcome the contradiction (i.e., psychological distance) between the literal and actual meanings of the sarcastic expressions. This is a process that activates and is facilitated by abstraction, which in turn promotes creative thinking.”

02 Jul 20:03

@TrendRaconteur is a Twitter bot I made (with help), for a story...

@TrendRaconteur is a Twitter bot I made (with help), for a story about Twitter bots — basically it just mindlessly chimes in on whatever is trending, with needless comments such as “Don’t know what to say,” or “Speaks for itself.”

These tweets get a like or retweet from time to time (sometimes from other bots). But today, for what I think is the first time, somebody actually tried to argue with the bot. 

Perhaps humans arguing with bots isn’t all that unusual by now, however ridiculous that may sound. But it still seems noteworthy that someone would argue with this bot — which was built very specifically to make exclusively meaningless comments.

06 Aug 12:14

Universal Music's Anti-Piracy Ads Even Crazier Than You Can Imagine

by Mike Masnick
By now it should be no surprise at all that the legacy entertainment and software industries liked to produce absolutely ridiculous anti-piracy ads, under the mistaken belief that if they just "educate" people a little more, they'll magically stop infringing. It's never worked. It never will work, but they just keep on trying. A few historical examples have been so Reefer Madness ridiculous that they've reached iconic levels. For example, the infamous "don't copy that floppy" campaign: Or the "Home Taping is Killing Music" campaign: That one has been subject to frequent mockery, including the time that the Dead Kennedy's did the following on one of its cassette tapes: Or this parody by Bo Patterson on "Home Sewing is Killing Fashion." And, of course, Dan Bull's parody song "Home Taping Is Killing Music." And, then the ever iconic "You Wouldn't Download A Car" ads (it's actually "you wouldn't steal a car" but everyone remembers it the other way): This one was fabulously parodied by the IT Crowd: Given all of that, you might think that the legacy entertainment industry couldn't possibly get any more crazy with these kinds of ads. You'd be wrong.

Paul Resnikoff, over at Digital Music News, has a series of fairly graphic anti-piracy ads from Universal Music that it used in Brazil in 2007, each one involving a dismembered body part, implying that downloading music leads to cutting off (or out) pieces of a musicians' body.

We've discussed this before many times: piracy is not an education problem. No matter how much "educating" the industry does, it's not going to change the fact that people like to get their content more conveniently. Apparently that message hasn't gotten through, so the industry keeps ramping up the ridiculousness of each campaign.

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13 Jul 20:58

bitch-media: A new series of prints by artist Roger Peet aims...


A new series of prints by artist Roger Peet aims to address a tricky topic: cultural appropriation. In his series In//Appropriate, which debuted at Portland State University’s Littman Gallery this month, Peet printed images of white Americans engaging in cultural appropriation on tall banners. Frozen in time, Miley Cyrus joyfully twerks with her tongue in its signature position, a hipster wears a keffiyeh, and Katy Perry smiles in her American Music Awards geisha costume. Behind them, another vision of whiteness—a violent one—is printed in red: Miley is starkly framed against a scene of police in Ferguson, a bohemian white girl in a feathered headdress is juxtaposed with an iconic photo of a mountain of buffalo skulls.

To accompany the images, Peet constructed special glasses made from cardboard and red plastic. These are “whiteness goggles,” a sign explains. When you put them on and look at the images, suddenly the red, violent image disappears. Viewers are left with just the visions of Miley, Katy Perry, and Elvis with none of the violence behind them. The viewers are forced to consider the blinders that race creates: One of the privileges of being white is the ability to ignore racism. All too often, the reality of the white supremacy is rendered invisible to people who don’t want to see it.

“When you put on the Whiteness Goggles, the colonial, military and police violence that underpins casual cultural consumption disappears,” explains Peet, in his artist statement of the project. Peet himself is a white immigrant to the US from Britain—he works as a politically minded printmaker with the Justseeds Collective. In addition to well-known celebrities engaged in cultural appropriation, the In//Appropriate show includes an image of Peet, foregrounded holding an American flag against a backdrop of the wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan. Including himself in the show was important, Peet says, to make clear that as a white person coming from England, he benefited in ways from racist societal and economic structures. He faced few hurdles in immigrating to the United States. “I was welcomed with open arms,” he says—a contrast to the racial stereotyping many people of color face when they immigrate the US.

Read more about the show—and listen to voicemails from people calling in to discuss cultural appropriation—on Peet’s Tumblr.

29 Jul 16:30

How stolen data affects you

by Nathan Yau


You typically hear about data breaches in terms of number of records that were hacked. "A million email addresses were stolen" or "hackers ripped off 100,000 passwords." Does anyone care? After the initial gasp-shock-horror, we move on and everyone forgets until the next time it happens.

However, if a hack affects you in some way, you pay closer attention. That long random string password reminds you every time you log in somewhere.

That's the idea behind this quiz from the New York Times. Answer a few quick questions. See the potential information bits about you that were stolen in the past couple of years.

It's a good spin on the record tally, and leads you right in to privacy tips and more information about each hack.

Give it a try.

Tags: New York Times, privacy, quiz

24 Jun 15:43

The Abandoned Soviet Space Centre complete with two Unfinished Spacecrafts Inside

by MessyNessy



After five years searching the internet for the abandoned and forgotten, it takes a lot to shock me these days. But this. This, is something you don’t see everyday.


Inside a remote rusting warehouse in the Kazakhstan desert that once housed the Soviet space shuttle program, Russian urbex photographer managed to gain access inside the hulking building to find not one but two spacecrafts, sleeping under layers of dust and twenty years worth of bird droppings.


Spacecrafts are not usually the sort of thing you just leave lying around, but then again, when you’re the losing team in a race between two world superpowers, it might seem like a good idea to hide away any reminders of that failure in a warehouse out in the desert.

“Russia is rapidly losing its status as a leading space power. For more than twenty years, the country has not produced anything new, continuing to exploit the legacy of the Soviet Union,” writes explorer wRalph Mirebs accompanying his photographs (I’ve done my best with Google translate). “Everything is just words on paper and ‘projects'”.


These two crumbling space crafts are inside a building that closed its giant sliding doors for the last time two decades ago. It’s located on the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the world’s first and largest operational space launch facility which launched the first manned spacecraft in human history, and before it, Sputnik 1.



The facility remains a busy spaceport under the current Russian space programme but its Soviet chapter in history remains frozen in time inside this building. These two spacecrafts were built for the Buran orbital vehicle programme, the largest and most expensive program in the history of Soviet space exploration.



In the 1970s and 80s, the Buran program was started by the Russians as a response to America’s Space Shuttle programme.


Despite the Soviet engineers initially being reluctant to design a spacecraft that looked similar to the American shuttles, you’ll notice they look pretty similar to the NASA shuttles because their design was already ideal.


The reusable spacecraft project that cost billions of rubles completed just one unmanned orbital spaceflight in 1988 before it was suspended to lack of funds and the political situation in the Soviet Union. The programme was officially terminated on 30 June 1993, by President Boris Yeltsin.


Our photographer didn’t stop at making his way inside the warehouse. Mirebs also found his way into the cockpit of one of the shuttles…







Find all the incredible photos of Ralph Mireb’s Soviet Space exploration here.

09 Jul 14:10

How to Climb a Hill

by Grant

Posters of this comic are available at my shop.
02 Jul 17:58

Babbler birds babble non-babble

by Tyler Cowen

I for one welcome our new avian masters

A study of the chestnut-crowned babbler bird from Australia revealed a method of communicating that has never before been observed in animals.

The bird combines sounds in different combinations to convey meaning.

The findings could help in the understanding of how language evolved in humans, researchers report in the online journal PLOS Biology.

Co-researcher Dr Andy Russell from the University of Exeter said: “It is the first evidence outside of a human that an animal can use the same meaningless sounds in different arrangements to generate new meaning.

“It’s a very basic form of word generation – I’d be amazed if other animals can’t do this too.”

There is more here.  You will find further coverage here.

14 Jul 16:44

pleatedjeans: via

by joberholtzer

This has really changed my perspective

14 Jul 17:21

If the Moon were one pixel in size

by Nathan Yau

One pixel moon

Somehow these space-in-perspective graphics and interactives never get old. I guess the size of space is just that mind-blowing. In the latest addition to the collection, Josh Worth imagines the moon as one pixel for size and from there provides "a tediously accurate scale model of the Solar System."

It's a long side-scrolling page that starts at the sun and works its way out to Pluto. You can scroll manually with your mouse, or you can sit back and let it go at the relative speed of light (something to do while waiting for New Horizons images to get here). If you're impatient, use the icons at the top of the page to quickly navigate to the planets.

See also: the really slow speed of light and an orbital interactive documentary.

Tags: scale, space

13 Jul 10:30

Earth time-lapse from 22,000 miles out

by Nathan Yau

Satellite captures

Japan has a new weather satellite in stationary orbit, Himawari-8, that takes a picture of Earth every ten minutes. String those together and you get a super-detailed time-lapse video of the living planet, which is what Derek Watkins from the New York Times did.

Beautiful results.

Tags: Earth, New York Times, satellite, time-lapse

07 Jul 07:03

A more realistic perspective of country sizes

by Nathan Yau

More realistic perspective

Most of us have seen the True Size of Africa graphic that squishes multiple countries into an area we normally see as much smaller. This is because of projections, which places a spherical planet in a two-dimensional space. Different projections have different tradeoffs. Even the True Size graphic has issues.

This interactive by Zan Armstrong tries a different route by overlaying two globes against each other.

I was inspired to create this after reading a friend's account of his time fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone. He was frustrated with misunderstanding about the disease, including that a "school in New Jersey that panicked and refused to admit two elementary school children from Rwanda. Never mind that Rwanda is 2,600 miles from the epidemic area in West Africa. That’s the distance from my apartment in DC to Lake Tahoe."

Rotate each globe on the left to the areas of interest. The globe on the right shows two highlighted areas in the same view.


Tags: perspective, projections

05 Jul 15:58

Deep Dream BotIt eventually had to happen - an online web...



Deep Dream Bot

It eventually had to happen - an online web interface by Psychic VR Lab lets you upload Jpeg images to be processed with the Deep Dream code.

It should be noted that it may take a little while at the moment (at time of posting there is a queue of 164 images to be processed), but you can see the results at the web page or at this twitter profile here (some images not surprisingly maybe NSFW)

Try it out for yourself here

30 Jun 23:06

Great Barrier Reef at risk

UNESCO World Heritage delegates recently snorkelled on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, thousands of coral reefs, which stretch over 1,200 miles off the northeast coast. Surrounded by manta rays, dolphins and reef sharks, their mission was to check the health of the world’s largest living ecosystem, which brings in billions of dollars a year in tourism. Some coral has been badly damaged and animal species, including dugong and large green turtles, are threatened. UNESCO will say on Wednesday whether it will place the reef on a list of endangered World Heritage sites, a move the Australian government wants to avoid at all costs, having lobbied hard overseas. Earlier this year, UNESCO said the reef’s outlook was “poor”. -- By Reuters

Peter Gash (L), owner and manager of the Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, snorkels with Oliver Lanyon and Lewis Marshall, senior rangers in the Great Barrier Reef region for the Queenlsand Parks and Wildlife Service, at Lady Elliot Island, north-east of the town of Bundaberg in Queensland, Australia, June 11. They are carrying out an inspection of the reef's condition in an area called the 'Coral Gardens'. Gash snorkels every morning before he attends to managing duties on the island, and was showing the Great Barrier Reef rangers the current condition of the reef. (David Gray/Reuters)