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Just a week after Pirate Bay raid, Tribler makes shutting down BitTorrent impossible


 
When police in Sweden carried out a raid on a server farm in Stockholm on December 9th, seizing servers, computers and other equipment and simultaneously knocking The Pirate Bay and several other prominent torrent trackers (including EZTV, Istole, Zoink and Torrage) offline, it was assumed that they’d struck a crippling blow to the BitTorrent ecosystem.

But before Hollywood and the music industry could celebrate comes the news that a team of Dutch researchers at Delft University of Technology have figured out how to make BitTorrent completely anonymous and remove the necessity of central servers, producing a new client—called “Tribler”—that will keep things alive, even after all torrent search engines, indexes and trackers have been pulled offline.

Tribler’s lead researcher Dr. Johan Pouwelse told Torrent Freak: “Tribler makes BitTorrent anonymous and impossible to shut down.”

“Recent events show that governments do not hesitate to block Twitter, raid websites, confiscate servers and steal domain names. The Tribler team has been working for 10 years to prepare for the age of server-less solutions and aggressive suppressors.”

After last week’s Pirate Bay raid Tribler saw a 30% increase in downloads. The tax-supported team at Delft are confident that their encrypted torrent client can make the Internet safer for downloaders:

“The Internet is turning into a privacy nightmare. There are very few initiatives that use strong encryption and onion routing to offer real privacy. Even fewer teams have the resources, the energy, technical skills and scientific know-how to take on the Big and Powerful for a few years,” Pouwelse says.

You can download Tribler here. There are versions for Windows, Mac and Linux and Tribler is completely Open Source.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Hey Vegans: ‘Mushroom is Murder’!
12.16.2014
09:06 am

Topics:
Drugs
Science/Tech

Tags:
marijuana
cannabis
truffles


 
Dangerous Minds pal Michael Backes is one of the world’s foremost experts on marijuana. He writes with this fascinating scientific tidbit you might want to ponder before tucking in to that meatless mushroom loaf for dinner tonight:

All animals, including humans, possess endocannabinoid systems responsible for feeding, energy expenditure, memory, and pain regulation. The production of endocannabinoids is one characteristic that distinguishes animals from plants. When someone smokes weed, phytocannabinoids produced by cannabis actually mimic the body’s endocannabinoids. 

New research from Italy now shows that truffles, the highly prized and insanely expensive fungi, also produce endocannabinoids. Truffles grow underground near oak trees and can ultimately fetch $1500 per pound. That truffles produce endocannabinoids is just the latest evidence that fungi are more closely related to animals than plants. Plants, animals and fungi all share a common ancestor, and increasingly it appears that fungi are much more akin within the evolutionary tree to humans than say, lettuce. (I certainly feel more simpatico with truffles than turnips or kale, don’t you?)

The endocannabinoid content of truffles may be one of the reasons that humans prize them, since these compounds are active at incredibly small doses and the aroma of fresh truffles feels quite intoxicating. Vegans, however, might find themselves in a bit of a quandary as fungi move more closely towards animals in the hierarchy of nature. Many vegans take the ethical stand that veganism is cruelty free because plants do not suffer when harvested or eaten. The reality is that plants possess very robust signaling systems that share characteristics with the nervous systems of animals. We may have difficulty perceiving the suffering of plants, simply because a plant’s internal signaling system and subsequent reaction is slower than an animal’s nervous system. Vegans hoping to fully eliminate any chance of suffering in their eating patterns may wish to look into inedia.

My takeaway from this is that pigs and billionaires seek out the same drug.

Michael Backes is the author of Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana (endorsed by Dr. Andrew Weil) and head of research and development for the medical marijuana company Abatin. Previously he was a co-founder of Cornerstone Collective, California’s first research-based medical cannabis collective.

Below, a recent talk by Michael Backes at Seattle Town Hall:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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New species of snail is named after Joe Strummer
12.15.2014
09:01 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music
Punk
Science/Tech

Tags:
The Clash
Joe Strummer


 
Shannon Johnson, a researcher at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, has named a newly discovered species of deep sea snail, Alviconcha strummeri, after Clash leader Joe Strummer, telling the Santa Cruz Sentinel

“Because they look like punk rockers in the 70s and 80s and they have purple blood and live in such an extreme environment, we decided to name one new species after a punk rock icon.”

The name A. strummeri honors Joe Strummer, the lead singer and a guitarist of the British punk rock band The Clash.

The golf ball-sized snails rock out near hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean, as deep as 11,500 feet.

We wouldn’t quibble with the decision to honor Strummer. After all, who but a hater would deny the Clash their due? But given that A. strummeri is yellow and spiky and the late Strummer was neither, there’s more of an actual resemblance between the snail and plenty of other potential honorees, though admittedly, they may merit the distinction in, um, varying degrees.
 

Joe Strummer, the Clash
 

Lars Frederiksen, Rancid
 

Billy Idol, Generation X, solo
 

Paul Cook, Sex Pistols
 

Guy Fieri, gigantic doucherocket
 
Via the A/V Club

Previously on Dangerous Minds
Acne bacterium is named after Frank Zappa, immediately releases four albums in gratitude

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Floaters: So what are those damned moving amoeba things in your eyes, anyway?
12.10.2014
10:02 am

Topics:
Science/Tech

Tags:
vision
floaters
eyes


 
You know those floaty, amoeba-shaped things you can see if you press your closed eyes with your hands then look at a bright light? When I was a kid and saw those damned things I convinced myself that I had a special power where I had some sort of “microscopic vision” talent. I thought I could control them. I couldn’t. But it was fun to think so. Yep, I was a weird little kid. 

It still happens to me from time to time in my adult life, so I found this short TED-ed video—that explains exactly what that visual phenomenon is known as “floaters”—highly informative and fascinating.


 

 
Via World’s Best Ever

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Turntablism: So there’s a Spirograph record player hack
12.06.2014
09:54 am

Topics:
Amusing
Art
Design
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:
turntable
Spirograph


 
As if having a turntable didn’t already cause me and my savings account enough trouble, after seeing these videos, now I really want another one. There are some crafty people out there who’ve figured out how to make record players function as visual art tools. Specifically, drawing roulette curves, not entirely unlike Christian Marclay weilding a Spirograph. (If someone with better math-fu wants to correct me on what kind of curves these are exactly, PLEASE go for it, I’m all ears.)
 

 
I’d love to do something like this, but actually play the records, credit each drawing to the two musical artists whose albums “made” the art, and show them in such a way as to allow the viewer to hear the mashed-up musical works. Maybe go ultra-meta and use concrète artists? Spyro Gyra vs ... well, any musician named “Graff?” It could get quite ridiculous!
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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The forgotten brains of the Texas state mental hospital


 
Anatomical art generally generally depicts recognizable, perfectly formed parts or figures, flayed open to display all the beauty and genius of our design. It’s medical, certainly, but it’s usually a testament to the beauty of the human body. Photographer Adam Voorhes goes in an entirely different direction in the book Malformed: Forgotten Brains of the Texas State Mental Hospital. How he came across his evocative subjects is a surreal story. From the book’s description:

Hidden away out of sight in a forgotten storage closet deep within the bowels of the University of Texas State Mental Hospital languished a forgotten, but unique and exceptional, collection of hundreds of extremely rare, malformed, or damaged human brains preserved in jars of formaldehyde.

Decades later, in 2013, photographer Adam Voorhes discovered the brains and became obsessed with documenting them in close-up, high-resolution, large format photographs, revealing their oddities, textures, and otherworldly essence. Voorhes donned a respirator and chemical gloves, and began the painstaking process of photographing the collection.

Not only had decades worth of rare brains just been tossed aside, Voorhes learned that their abandonment followed a “Battle for the Brains,” where even Harvard attempted to get ahold of the collection. By the time Voorhes began photographing them, half were missing, and many of the remaining specimens suffered from neglect. Working with a journalist, he set out to find the rest of the brains, even renewing interest in the collection—The University of Texas is doing MRI scans on them now.

Sadly, many of the brains were likely disposed of after a lack of resources and care left them to fallow (and bureaucracy failed to record it). It was reported just yesterday that 100 of the brains were thrown out in 2002, as they had deteriorated beyond medical usage—one was rumored to be the brain of Charles Whitman, the ex-Marine who went on a shooting spree from the University of Texas at Austin clock tower that killed 16 people in 1966. Many brains remain missing, and people are still trying to track them down.
 

 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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New Yorkers & Angelenos absolutely losing their sh*t over a bicoastal video hook-up in 1980


 
It’s obscene how we take technology for granted. The Internet is the greatest communication tool since the written word, and what do I do with it? I (expertly) evaluate dick jokes for wage labor, and look at videos of cats soothing babies to alleviate my Seasonal Affective Disorder. We’ve not always been so cynical though.

Artists Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz created an installation called “Hole in Space” in 1980. Utilizing cutting edge satellite technology, life-sized audio-visual transmissions were displayed in real-time between New York’s Lincoln Center and an open air shopping mall in Century City, Los Angeles. Not only was the installation setup utilizing technology few had ever seen (much less used), no explanation was given for what was transpiring and no sponsors or artists were credited—it was sort of a huge, impromptu guerrilla video-chat.

Unlike say, a Google Hangout or Skype chat, participants in the piece (who were completely random passers-by), had no “video reflection” of themselves—they couldn’t see their own transmission as the other line did, because there was no extra window mirroring them. This made for a completely organic, unselfconscious moment of communication. The piece ran in two hour increments, for three days (November 11, 13 and 14) and as news of the public-space, bicoastal party line spread, the crowds grew.
 

 
The video below is taken from those impromptu interactions between New York and LA, and it’s absolutely amazing. Viewers/communicators are so shocked and delighted by such a seamless connectivity across the country—it’s an incredibly moving thing to witness. I can’t actually think of a time in my entire adult life where I’ve been as surprised or affected by technology as these people were—much less in public.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Check out ‘The Internet Show,’ an hour-long PBS special from the dawn of cyberspace
11.19.2014
11:59 am

Topics:
Science/Tech
Television

Tags:
Internet
PBS


 
A YouTube user named Andy Baio has collected a number of explanatory videos dating from the very dawn of the commercialized World Wide Web (roughly 1995 for our purposes here) and created a killer playlist featuring them. Here’s Baio on the group of videos:
 

A while back, I started collecting old VHS tapes about the Internet from the early- to mid-1990s. While most of these are pretty corny, they also inadvertently captured pieces of the web that don’t exist anywhere else. The Internet Archive’s earliest snapshots were in late 1996, so anything before that is extremely sparse. The videos, silly as they are, still represent valuable documentation of the early web.I digitized the VHS tapes using a VCR connected to a MiniDV camera’s pass-through feature to my Macbook Pro. After I started putting these online, a couple more were sent to me, which I’ve included in the collection. And then my VCR broke.

 
As Baio writes of this delicious video, which dates from 1995, “Ripped from VHS, The Internet Show is an hour-long introduction to the mid-90s Internet from PBS Home Video, hosted by writers Gina Smith and John Levine.” It’s impossible for such videos not to appear hideously dated, but this program isn’t too horrible. Smith and Levine do a decent job walking newbies through the history of the Internet (ARPANET etc.) and some technical aspects no ordinary end user needs to know about (packet switching) as well as the nuts and bolts of writing an email and so forth. They bandy about a whole lot of scarcely familiar slang, such as “Internaut” (???) as well as well-nigh obsolete terminology like “cyberspace.” But you can hardly blame them for that. Pre-iPhone, pre-Facebook, pre-Google, pre-Netscape even, the Internet in 1995 seems awfully arcane to us today but in fact the essential components of the Internet were already present, including email, chat, newsgroups, spam, political activism, mapping programs, emoticons, and e-commerce—Smith and Levine touch on them all.

The general tone and the graphics and the clothing styles are purest mid-1990s, which is always amusing. One of the most surprising aspects of the video is that it’s shot not in Silicon Valley but in Texas, at Houston’s Rice University. At about 20 minutes in, there’s a nice Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference, which is all the better for the hosts not calling attention to it.
 

 
via ANIMAL

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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You can run, but you can’t hide: Watch this wild heat-vision police pursuit helicopter footage
11.18.2014
02:25 pm

Topics:
Crime
Science/Tech

Tags:
police
surveillance
heat vision


 
Last Friday, in the Haller Lake neighborhood of Seattle, police identified a stolen SUV and went into pursuit. The driver and his passenger abandoned the vehicle and ran into Washelli Cemetery. The suspected criminals could be forgiven for thinking that they had the upper hand—the cemetery was pitch-dark and they had no shortage of places to hide. What they weren’t counting on were the high-tech contributions of the King County Sheriff’s Office Guardian-One helicopter unit armed with a heat-vision camera that turns any human being into a glowing white beacon in an expanse of black and gray.

“Looks like I got a couple of hiders…. if you go, third row in, I believe, and just like 20 feet in….,” says the helicopter pilot to the two policemen on the ground in pursuit of the alleged SUV thief hiding under a bush—within seconds they’ve got the first suspect in custody.
 

Two cops, at top, zero in on the perp
 
According to the Seattle PI website:

“A police dog performed a track after officers arrested the pair and found a gun among the gravestones, reports say. Officers determined the gun was stolen and seized it from the scene. Police booked an 18-year-old man into King County Jail for investigation of vehicle theft and eluding, and a 19-year-old man for obstruction and a warrant.”

If the video doesn’t change your expectations of getting caught the next time the police are after you, it might remind you of an especially cool video game or action movie, just because it looks so incredibly awesome.
 

 
via Vocativ

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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After dinner with theremin pioneer Clara Rockmore and Robert Moog


 
Theremins are associated with the Beach Boys and as a cheesy sound effect used for UFOs in sci-fi movies from decades ago, although actually in both cases the instrument in question is actually a Tannerin, otherwise known as an electrotheremin, which is far easier to manipulate to get the desired tones—that was developed by Paul Tanner, trombonist with the Glenn Miller Band.

But this is the theremin we’re talking about, and you can’t talk about the development or popularity of the theremin without discussing Clara Rockmore. A native of Lithuania, Rockmore (1911-1998) has been called the “premiere artiste of the electronic music medium” (look at the album cover below), “the greatest theremin virtuosa” and “probably the world’s first electronic music star.”

Rockmore’s given name was Clara Reisenberg—her sister was the well-regarded pianist Nadia Reisenberg. In pictures, Rockmore seems like (in younger pics) a magician’s assistant or (as she gets older) someone’s dowdy old aunt. But don’t let appearances fool you—Rockmore was pretty badass. Léon Theremin, inventor of the instrument that bore his name, wanted to marry her and proposed several times, but she turned him down cold and married an attorney instead. In 1940 she toured the U.S. with none other than Paul Robeson. She was 66 years old in 1977 when her first album, The Art of the Theremin, was released. (Actually, the album in question, pictured below, hardly has a discernable title—if anything it’s Theremin—but over time it has come to be called The Art of the Theremin.)
 

 
Nobody seems to know when the footage in the clip below was taken, but judging from the quality of the video, the haircuts, and the clothes, I’d say it was the mid- to late 1970s. In attendance are Clara Rockmore and her sister Nadia; Nadia’s son Bob Sherman, who introduces the scene; Dr. Robert Moog; and Dr. Thomas Ray, who is named as a scholar of electronic music. Moog, of course, produced The Art of the Theremin, which perhaps serves as another clue as to the timing of this clip.

I really dig the odd sculptural item in the middle of the table, with the dangling silver orbs. After a few minutes’ chitchat about the theremin, Rockmore treats us to a few minutes of “Hebrew Melody.”
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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