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Martian chronicles: Fantastic covers for UFO comics of the 1960s & 70s

Little green men ain’t what they used to be. We don’t need Sean Spicer to confirm that aliens have already landed and have squeezed their scaly green asses into government. Hell, they don’t even have to fire their ray guns to let us know their intentions are hostile. They’ve taken over and not a shot was fired.

Once upon a time, this kind of speculative alien invasion was the prime cut of science-fiction comics like UFO Flying Saucers. First published by Gold Key in 1968, UFO Flying Saucers evolved into UFO & Outer Space before ceasing publication in 1977.

During its just over a decade run, UFO Flying Saucers did ask all the right questions like “Do alien explorers hold earthlings in their grip?” and “Is Earth their laboratory? Are we their specimens?” Some might say, in light of recent events across the world, the answers are kinda obvious now. And worryingly these flying saucers might not just be in charge of one government—looks like they’ve got a whole deck of countries to play with.

Stephen Hawking once wisely pointed out that if alien intelligence ever read the messages we pump out into space then we should be careful as these extraterrestrials may be hostile and not “see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.” These UFO comics were way ahead of you there, Stephen.

Recently, scientists at the Australian National University, Swinburne University of Technology and the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO) confirmed “mystery bursts of radio waves that astronomers have hunted for ten years really do come from outer space.”

These Fast Radio Bursts are intense pulses of radio light that last for only milliseconds and come from way, way out in the outer reaches of space. These pulses were first discovered over ten years ago and are “about a billion times more luminous than anything we have ever seen in our own Milky Way galaxy.”

At first, they were thought to be interference. Now, it seems these pulses are some kind of transmission. ARC Laureate Fellow Professor Matthew Bailes has suggested the signals may (“bizarrely”) be “alien transmissions.”

If they are. Well, we know what to expect. If not, a refresher course of the covers to Gold Key’s UFO Flying Saucers and UFO & Outer Space might supply some useful answers.
More fabulous covers from UFO Flying Saucers and UFO & Outer Space, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
AI ‘on acid’ fucks with classic Bob Ross footage; everybody wins

For many of us, Bob Ross’ PBS show The Joy of Painting was an endlessly enjoyable random staple of the TV programming of our youth. Did anyone under the age of 57 ever actually seek out Bob Ross on TV? No, for me anyway, it was always encountered accidentally, this odd hippie with a paintbrush that was unlike everything else on the idiot box. As Patton Oswalt once observed, Ross was a Quaalude version of his predecessor and mentor on PBS, the more intense German émigré William Alexander.

A man named Alexander Reben has created the ultimate psychedelic Bob Ross artifact. It’s called Deeply Artificial Trees. According to Reben, “This artwork represents what it would be like for an AI to watch Bob Ross on LSD.”

There’s more, but I didn’t continue reading. I had all the information I needed.

via The Daily Dot

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Perpetual Pills,’ the reusable laxatives of the Middle Ages
06:10 am



Not really antimony, but silvered pills, via Marieke Hendriksen
The story of Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudun is interesting enough—it’s the basis for Ken Russell’s The Devils, hardly a dull movie. Yet the book is full of entertaining digressions, such as a lengthy parenthesis on the medical uses of antimony:

Certain compounds of antimony are specific in the treatment of the tropical disease known as kala-azar. In most other conditions, the use of the metal or its compounds is hardly worth the risks involved. Medically speaking, there was no justification for such indiscriminate use as was made of the drug during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. From the economic point of view, however, the justification was ample. [Loudun pharmacist] M. Adam and his fellow apothecaries sold Perpetual Pills of metallic antimony. These were swallowed, irritated the mucous membrane as they passed through the intestine, thus acting as a purgative, and could be recovered from the chamber pot, washed and used again, indefinitely. After the first capital outlay, there was no further need for spending money on cathartics. [Antimony-as-medicine opponent] Dr. Patin might fulminate and the Parlement forbid; but for the costive French bourgeois, the appeal of antimony was irresistible. Perpetual Pills were treated as heirlooms and after passing through one generation were passed on to the next.

If you coveted grandma’s Perpetual Pill, you might not have had to wait too long to get your hands into her chamber pot, because another result of taking antimony is death. Some researchers believe that Mozart died as a result of his “treatment” with antimony. Its reputation as a wonder drug coexisted uneasily with its reputation as a lethal poison. No matter how great the savings passed on to you, the consumer, in the little metal pill that lasts forever, there is such a thing as bad publicity, and one of its forms is agonizing death. Around the time of the Enlightenment, history’s real “greatest generation” stopped fishing Perpetual Pills out of their toilets.

An apothecary jar containing antimony, via Phisick
Nature reports: “A more refined alternative, generally used in the 1600s after the pellets were outlawed, was to drink wine that had been left standing in an antimony cup overnight.” But the English translation of Pierre Pomet’s Complete History of Drugs, published in 1748, contained some DIY advice for the unregenerate Perpetual Pill-seeker in the chapter “Of Regulus of Antimony with Mars or Iron” (“made of Antimony, Salt-petre, and Points of Horse-nails, or small Nails melted together”):

Whereas most People who have Occasion for the Goblets or Cups of the Regulus, find difficulty to come by them, let them apply to a Founder, and they may have what Sorts and Sizes they will, at a cheap Rate, without troubling themselves with Moulds, as several have done to their Labour and Cost, who have at last been obliged to give over the Attempt, not being able to make one Cup without a Hole, or some other Defect. You may also get these same Founders to make you the perpetual Pills, or you may easily make them yourself with a Musket-ball Mould.

The Pills serve for those that have the Twisting of the Guts, or Miserere mei, so called. When they are returned from out of the Body, it is but washing and cleaning them again, and they will serve as oft as you please; which gives them the name of Perpetual.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
You can own Marilyn Monroe’s pelvic x-ray because nothing is too creepy for a true fan
05:57 am


Marilyn Monroe

I was a little squicked out when the auction of locks of Marilyn Monroe’s hair was announced last year, so this is just straight up weirding me out.

The same auction house, the legendary Julien’s (“THE AUCTION HOUSE TO THE STARS!”) has announced its latest in a series of Hollywood Legends auctions. this one featuring loads of property from the estate of Patrick Swayze. Especially, um, devoted fans can bid on his hockey uniform from Youngblood which, yes, includes athletic supporters, and on his banana hammock from Keeping Mum.

A still from Keeping Mum. Before you go drawing any conclusions just based on that, Rowan Atkinson and Dame Maggie Smith were in the film, too.

In addition, as seems to be the case with practically every celebrity auction they do, there’s a passel of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia, much of which is pretty run-of-the-mill, until you get to her chest and pelvic x-rays.





A Marilyn Monroe pelvic X-ray dated November 9, 1954. Information ghost printed in the upper right of the X-ray reads “Cedars of Lebanon Hospital/Drs. E. Freedman and S. Finck/ Name Di Maggio, Mrs. Marilyn/ No. 50612 Date 11-9-54/ Ref. By Dr. L. Krohn.” Dr. Leon Krohn was Monroe’s gynecologist.

17 by 14 inches

The provenance is interesting—“As a radiology resident at Cedars, a young doctor obtained this X-ray and one other, of Monroe’s pelvis. When he taught students, he used these X-rays to ensure that they were paying attention.“ OK, actually pretty funny, but I’d prefer not to speculate on why else someone would collect something like this. Images of Monroe’s chest have been around since 1947, though this is another level of exposure beyond mere toplessness. As for Ms. Monroe’s pelvis, that remained a bit more demure. But as I’m neither a woman nor a doctor, I’m out of the loop on gynecological techniques and instruments, and so I’m in the dark as to what exactly the apparent device is in the x-ray. Are we seeing an IUD insertion here? (Asking for a friend.)

Anyway, the auction takes place on April 28th. If you’re going to bid on these Monroe items, good luck to you, I guess, and please keep your reasons to yourself.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
A startling number of iPhone users want to fuck Siri
10:17 am


Amazon Echo

In 2013 Spike Jonze released a daring and fascinating movie called Her, set in an indeterminate future in which Theodore Twombly, ably played by Joaquin Phoenix, falls in love with the operating system on his phone, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, who goes by the name Samantha.

According to recent research undertaken by Mindshare and J. Walter Thompson, a surprising number of smartphone users fantasize about just such a relationship. The report, which is titled “Speak Easy: The Future Answers to You” (does it?), covers a wide array of research into user attitudes about speech recognition and natural language processing with a focus on voice hardware products such as the Amazon Echo.

In a section called “Craving Intimacy,” the report looks at the desire of users to have a “deeper connection” with their “voice assistants.” A majority of users (60%) understandably affirmed that vastly improved comprehension on the part of the devices would greatly increase the propensity to use it.

This rapidly becomes a tricky area, the report’s authors point out, because as the abilities of the voice assistants and the integration of services increase, the potential for fraud or abuse also increases dramatically, which means that the services require a significant degree of trust—and trust is an inherently emotional aspect of human life that also requires a willingness to be vulnerable. As one focus group member said, “You can build trust by, hopefully, making sure no one’s ripped off while giving them access to do amazing things.”

Is it any wonder, then, that some users have started to fantasize about a sexual relationship with Siri or Alexa? Not surprisingly, according to neuroscience experiments discussed in the report, “the emotional response to voice assistants is considerably lower than for both a face-to-face human interaction and a touch or text interface,” which is chalked up to the “rudimentary personalities” of Alexa or Siri, but users’ comfort level with their assistants increased with the benefit of further exposure and familiarity with them.

And where familiarity and comfort go, intimacy and sex cannot be far behind:

Over a third (37%) of regular voice technology users say that they love their voice assistant so much that they wish it were a real person. Even more astonishing is that more than a quarter of regular voice technology users say they have had a sexual fantasy about their voice assistant.

To be precise, “26% of regular voice tech users say they have had a sexual fantasy about their voice assistant.”

In October, the Telegraph reported that personal voice assistants were frequently being used by “some men” who wanted to “talk dirty.” Ilya Eckstein, chief executive of Robin Labs, a company in the UK, noted that the behavior was seen most often in “teenagers and truckers without girlfriends”:

This happens because people are lonely and bored…. It is a symptom of our society. As well as the people who want to talk dirty, there are men who want a deeper sort of relationship or companionship.

Eckstein also stated that such people “want to flirt, they want to dream about a subservient girlfriend, or even a sexual slave.”

A woman tasked with working on that Microsoft’s Cortana product has said that “a good chunk of the volume of early-on inquiries” addressed the voice assistant’s sex life. 
via Dazed

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The world’s spider population could eat every human being in a year
03:17 pm



If you’re scared of spiders, don’t read this post.

Seriously, don’t read this.

The great evolutionary biologist J. B. S. Haldane once wrote of “our Creator” that he “would appear as endowed with a passion ... for beetles ... for the simple reason that there are nearly 300,000 species of beetle known ... as compared with somewhat less than 9,000 species of birds and a little over 10,000 species of mammals.”

Well, God may like beetles, he also has an inordinate fondness for spiders, for there are very, very many of them.

A pair of biological researchers, Martin Nyffeler at the University of Basel in Switzerland and Klaus Birkhofer of Lund University in Sweden, recently published some fascinating findings involving the biomass of spiders in The Science of Nature earlier this month.

If you were to add up all the spiders in the world, they would collectively weigh 29 million tons. Nyffeler and Birkhofer attempted to measure the amount of food spiders consume in a given year. As you know, spiders subsist largely on insects, but it does happen sometimes that spiders eat lizards, birds, and even small mammals.

According to the two biologists, all of the spiders on the earth consume somewhere between 400 million and 800 million tons of prey in any 12-month period. Just in case you’re insufficiently impressed by the big numbers being thrown around, the quantity of meat and fish that humans consume every year is around 400 million tons. Therefore, it’s quite possible that the world’s spiders are eating more animal biomass than humans are.

It gets worse.

How much do you think that all human biomass weighs? According to estimates, the total weight of all human adults is 287 million tons, and even if you add in all of the children in the world, you still don’t reach 400 million tons, which is the low end of the estimate for how much spiders eat in a year.

Is there a spider in your house? Is he watching you? If so, what is he thinking about?

If spiders ever get their act together, we’re fuuuucked.
via Wonkblog

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Maps to the Stars: Beautiful astronomical drawings from the 19th century
09:35 am


Étienne Léopold Trouvelot

The Great Comet of 1881.
Étienne Léopold Trouvelot was a French artist and astronomer who produced some 7,000 illustrations based on his astronomical observations during his lifetime.

Originally from Aisne, France, Trouvelot fled with his family to America after a coup d’état by Louis Napoleon in 1852. They settled in Medford, Massachusetts, where Trouvelot supported his family as an astronomer and artist. He produced detailed astronomical drawings. A selection of these illustrations was shown to Joseph Winlock, the director of Harvard College Observatory. Impressed by Trouvelot’s work, Winlock invited the Frenchman to join the Observatory staff in 1872. Trouvelot was also invited to spend a year working with U. S. Naval Observatory’s 26-inch refractor.

Trouvelot wrote some fifty scientific papers and is credited with discovering “veiled spots” on the Sun in 1875. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1877

In 1881, fifteen of his famed pastel illustrations were collected together and published as The Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings.
Trouvelot introduced the Gypsy Moth to America.
Apart from his fine scientific work, Trouvelot is now remembered for his meddling as an amateur entomologist. In 1860, he accidentally introduced the Gypsy Moth to America. Trouvelot brought some Gypsy Moth egg masses out of Europe to his home in Medford. He had some strange idea of helping the declining number of silk-producing moths in the States. How he intended to do this is not quite clear. Unfortunately, some moths escaped. Trouvelot notified local authorities to the possible danger but nothing was done. Within a few years, colonies of the Gypsy Moth were causing havoc across large areas of the east coast. Attempts to eradicate this invasive pest failed. Today the Gypsy Moth costs over $800 million in damages every year.

Some of Trouvelot’s drawings are available to buy as posters—details here.
The November Meteors, 1868.
Total Eclipse of the Sun, July 29th 1878.
See more of Touvelot’s beautiful astronomical illustrations, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The space burial of Dr. Timothy Leary and ‘Star Trek’ creator Gene Roddenberry

Twenty years ago, the perihelion of the Hale-Bopp comet coincided with the mass suicide of the Heaven’s Gate cult, whose members believed death was a sure way of hitching a ride on a spaceship. They put on new pairs of Nike Decades before eating phenobarbital and tying bags around their heads. Among the dead in Rancho Santa Fe was Thomas Nichols, whose sister Nichelle played Lt. Uhura on Star Trek. “He made his choices, and we respect those choices,” she told Larry King.

One month later, a Pegasus rocket carrying the remains of Dr. Timothy Leary, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, physicist and space colonization advocate Gerard O’Neill, Operation Paperclip beneficiary Krafft Ehricke, and 20 other former space enthusiasts launched from the Canary Islands.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Sheet music to play Kraftwerk’s ‘Pocket Calculator’ on a pocket calculator
02:04 pm



In the early 1980s people were very excited about pocket calculators—they were even, famously, available on wristwatches—and the savvy fellows in Kraftwerk spotted an opportunity for their well-nigh parodically impersonal form of music. It could be argued that 1981’s Computer World was Kraftwerk at their very Kraftwerkiest—every single track was about interacting with (or being?) a computer or a calculator, and every last vestige of a pulsating heartbeat and sex and real life you might encounter on the “Autobahn” had been shorn away.

“Pocket Calculator,” the first single off of the album, did fairly well for a Kraftwerk single. It was only Kraftwerk’s third single ever to crack Germany’s Top 100, and for some reason it managed to reach #2 in Italy. (It might have been that Kraftwerk had gone to the trouble to record “Mini Calculatore,” an Italian version of the song.)

The song “Pocket Calculator” actually contains a reference to the fact of calculators being able to play music—the line runs “By pressing down a special key, it plays a little melody.” Kraftwerk had a special version of the Casio VL-80 manufactured as a promotional item. You won’t be surprised to learn that “Taschenrechner” is the German word for “pocket calculator”:

As you can see, the machine itself features a representation of musical notes on the front. The song was actually recorded using a Casio FX-501P, which appears to have been a slightly more robust device.

Kraftwerk was eager for fans to play Kraftwerk hits on their own calculators, so they issued these special instructions—OK, let’s call it “sheet music”—to play not just the new material but also classics like “Trans Europa Express” and “Schaufensterpuppen” on the pictured VL-80.

The notation for “Pocket Calculator” reads:

4599 845887 4599 845887 6
4599 845887 4599 845887 6
44284 44284 44284 44284

In a March 1982 issue of The Face, we find the following:

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Avant-Garde Aerial Agriculture: What Are They Droning on About?
08:11 am



To celebrate the spirit of innovation and the visionary technology that went into the creation of the all-new 2017 Prius Prime, Toyota is honoring some unsung heroes. “Humans of the Year” are people who work behind the scenes to protect our environment. Here, we salute a future-looking scientist in the field of agricultural data collection. That might not sound too sexy until you find out that it’s all done with drones…

Greg Crutsinger is a leading expert in drone agriculture. As the Scientific Program Director at the Berkeley, California, headquarters of Parrot Drones, one of the most important drone manufacturers in the world, Greg oversees new technology to help make farming more efficient and effective. Formerly a tenure-track ecology professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada, Crutsinger flew drones to conduct his own research. Realizing that the greater quality of aerial data collected by commercially available drones could be a game-changer for the agricultural industry, Crutsinger left the career safety of academia and joined the team at Parrot.

We live in a world where food security is precariously balanced between the dual pressures of an exploding human population and climate change. Farmers need all the help they can get, and luckily for them, they’ve got a visionary scientist like Greg Crutsinger on their side.

More than just an expensive flying toy or something that can airdrop packages from Amazon onto your front porch, drones are increasingly being used by scientists in a variety of creative and unexpected manners. Some of the most fascinating extensions of drone technology can be found, for obvious reasons, in the fields of geology and agriculture. Drones can be used to accurately map farmland for greater success in crop watering and application of fertilizer and pesticides, to easily check snowpack levels, to have a look at the top of Redwood trees, to measure plant health by testing chlorophyll levels, and in novel ways that are being discovered each day by the likes of forward-thinking scientists like Greg Crutsinger.

Better data collection means more efficient farming, higher crop yields, and lower food prices for everyone. But the best way to understand how drone agriculture works is to see it in action.


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