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This is what the bacteria that lives on your cell phone looks like
01.16.2015
05:42 am

Topics:
Science/Tech

Tags:
phones
bacteria

00bactphon.jpg
 
This week the University of Surrey in England released images of the types of bacteria that live on cell phones.

Scientist at the university put their phones in petri dishes containing agar—a gelatinous substance, obtained from algae that is supplemented with nutrients—to document the bacteria’s growth over three days. Though the images look gross most of the bacteria are harmless, and the final photos give a close-up view of the microscopic world with which we all intimately interact on a daily basis.

The most troublesome bacterium found was staphylococcus aureus that can cause skin rash, respiratory disease and food poisoning. The boffins at Surrey thought the staphylococcus aureus contamination had been caused by someone picking their nose.

Dr. Simon Park, senior lecturer in molecular biology told the Daily Mirror:

“From these results, it seems that the mobile phone doesn’t just remember telephone numbers, but also harbours a history of our personal and physical contacts such as other people, soil and other matter,” he said.

“[The experiment] was a way of showing [our students] directly and quite strikingly how contaminated their phones could be.”

The best advice to stopping this kind on bacteria thriving on your smart or cell phone is simply to clean it every week with some disinfectant.
 
001bactphones.jpg
 
03bactpho.jpg
 
Via Daily Mirror.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘American Psycho’ babble: E-mails from Patrick Bateman


 
In 2000, online marketing of Hollywood movie releases was in its infancy. Does anyone remember the Beast, the online alternate-reality puzzle that was created to promote the Steven Spielberg/Stanley Kubirck movie A.I.? That was in 2001. A year earlier, Lions Gate Films, tasked with distributing the Mary Harron’s movie American Psycho, created an online advertising campaign in which you could sign up to receive emails from the movie’s psychotic protagonist, Patrick Bateman. The emails were helpfully collected by and have been posted online by a man named Brian Kotek.

The book American Psycho has had a remarkable journey since its incredibly controversial release in 1991. I can’t think of another case in which a book was so shunned by the publishing community—Ellis had always been considered somewhat suspect, a flash in the pan, by New York publishing types, and when his third novel turned out to be a deadpan account of a psycopathic day trader, the New York publishing community, as one, decided they weren’t interested in plumbing the work for irony. The novel was acquired by Simon & Schuster, but the company dropped the project because of “aesthetic differences.” Vintage Books then purchased the rights to the novel and published the book. Essentially, the novel was unjustly treated as …, shall we say, a piece of disgusting pornography when in fact sensitive adults should have been perfectly able to differentiate between that kind of titillation and a more nuanced critique of American capitalism or of the violence of life in America. However IMO the negative perception of Ellis by people in the publishing world, overly eager to serve him his comeuppance, blocked that option.

When the movie was later adapted by Harron, the feminist-identifying (and British) director of I Shot Andy Warhol, that considerably helped resuscitate the book’s image and make it easier to see it as a deliciously nasty jape rather than a soulless exercise in sadism, which it never was in the first place. The movie has become something of a cult item, and Patrick Bateman (particularly for a passage in the book, repeated in the movie, relating his adoring attitude towards Huey Lewis) has become a favorite in memes, to the point that Weird Al Yankovic and Huey Lewis filmed a parody of the American Psycho scene for Funny or Die! in 2013.
 

This image comes from one of the Patrick Bateman emails.
 
The emails were not written by Ellis, but Ellis did approve them, so it’s not a stretch to consider the content of the emails as canon—at the time, they were touted as an “e-quel” to the novel (gag). In the emails we are transported from the heady world of the late 1980s to the year 2000, the present tense for the email recipients, and it turns out that Bateman did indeed marry Jean, his secretary. They have a son (Patrick Jr.) and he would like to get a divorce. Bateman’s attitude in the emails is more or less that of a truth-telling asshole, pretty much what you’d expect of a shallow, aggressive day trader who has literally gotten away with a handful of brutal murders. The emails are quite well written. We’re excerpted two of them here, but you can read ‘em all at this website.
 

Sun 3/26/00 4:45 PM
Subject: 10 Things I Hate

I Hate False Hope.

Don’t tell me everything will be fine when you know in advance that it won’t.

I Hate Bad Service.

You’re an Actor, fine. Go sleep with a Producer, and allow a trained professional to filet my Salmon.

I Hate people who refer to themselves in the third person.

It’s only acceptable if you’re already dead, as in the opening scene of “Sunset Boulevard.”

I Hate Davis Ferguson.

I believe I’ve already touched on that.

I Hate Bad Albee.

Don’t bring up your inner demons to share with the others at the table. We really don’t care to know if you’re afraid of Virginia Woolf. Stay home and freak out. Buy a Chainsaw.

I Hate The Work of Jean Michel Basquiat.

Let’s see what he could do sober.

I Hate Politicians Who Comb Over Their Bald Spots.

If you are going to lie about the state of your own head, how can anybody trust anything you have to say about anything important?

I Hate False Modesty.

Why bother?

I Hate Beggars.

They CAN be choosers, like in choose to get a job.

I Hate Not Being Understood.

Do I make myself clear?

I Hate Davis Ferguson.

All right, that’s 11.

Virtually yours,
Patrick Bateman
bateman@AmPsycho2000.com

 
This next one is a personal favorite of mine because Bateman shows off his music criticism skills, which won him so much favor when he applied them to Huey Lewis’ “Hip to Be Square.”
 

Tue 4/4/00 1:21 PM
Subject: The Hills Are Alive

In spite of Rap Artists’ protests to the contrary, music today, for the most part, has lost it’s soul. Actually, “Killed” is a better word, for the call to violence that is such an integral part of today’s music betrays what music was meant to be. From the first caveman who noticed the haunting chant of the wind over an entrance to his cave, all the way to the most contemporary interpretations of techno-pop by artists such as Tangerine Dream, music is meant to glorify life—to be a treat for the soul, an exclamation point, an expression of hope, a celebration. Not an outlet for hate.

The mood and needs of a Society are best expressed by the work of the Artists of the day, who speak for a people better than any politician or pundit.

Bob Dylan expressed the need for self-evaluation during Vietnam. Cole Porter spun fantasies as the world faced depression. Elvis liberated the youth of America born during a time of War. The Beatles were perhaps the world’s first cultural happening, bringing together the children of the world across the boundaries of geography and culture.

Madonna doesn’t just sing about freedom for women. She IS freedom for women. It is fascinating that after the turn of the Millennium, the world has found a renewed appreciation for artists such as Burt Bacharach and Santana, comfort food for the ears.

Meatloaf, if you will, both literally and figuratively.

Virtually yours,
Patrick Bateman

 

Another image from the Patrick Bateman emails.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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A recording of Carl Sagan saying the word ‘billions’ once, but stretched for an entire hour
01.08.2015
12:11 pm

Topics:
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:
Carl Sagan


 
The sound recording below reminds me of the ambient drone surrounding the spacecraft that hovers over the barren lunar surface before Dr. Heywood Floyd and crew visit the obelisk in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, or maybe a group of highly focused Franciscan monks or possibly the very sound of time itself. This, of course, makes complete sense, because the track is of Carl Sagan saying the word “billions” one time, but stretched out over the span of an entire hour.

Sagan, host (obviously) of the original, pre-Neil DeGrasse Tyson Cosmos series sounds downright avant-garde in the listenable(?) piece that results from the supposed stretch. 

John Kannenberg, a reader of the very cool, futurist io9 website apparently sent the recording to the site via Sound Cloud link recently. He asked simply, “This might be of interest?” io9 replies in their inevitable post that:

Yes. Yes, John, you beautiful genius. This is our wheelhouse.

As I write this, I’m sitting in my local library listening on headphones, and, oddly enough, it’s kind of great.

I’d like to join the folks at io9 in saying “Bravo, Mr. Kannenberg,” whoever you are. 
 

 
via io9

Posted by Jason Schafer | Discussion
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Nerd Alert: The Internet Archive releases thousands of classic MS-DOS games
01.07.2015
09:46 am

Topics:
Games
Science/Tech

Tags:
Video Games

Oregon Trail
 
If you like your game play pixelated and your background music repetitively bleeping, or if you just want to take a look at how far along video game design has come over the last thirty-or-so years, you’re in luck! The Internet Archive has just released a collection of over 2,000 MS-DOS games that you can play through your Internet browser right now.

The collection, which you can find here, holds some popular titles you’ll probably recognize if you’re of a certain digital vintage including Q-bert, Ms. Pac Man, The Oregon Trail, Double Dragon and a couple of titles from the Street Fighter series, to name just a few. You’ll also find lesser known (at least to me) games, some of which are bound to generate a laugh or two such as Sex Vixens from Space, Tongue of the Fat Man and the inexplicable Captain Bible in the Dome of Darkness.

By the way, the page for these selections warns that the “EM-DOSBOX in-browser emulator” used to play these games can be a little buggy. So watch out for that I guess.

Below you’ll find a clip just over 13 minutes long of somebody playing the aforementioned Tongue of the Fat Man created in 1989 that might give you an idea of the kind of wacko video game action that we’re talking about here in some cases.
 

 

Posted by Jason Schafer | Discussion
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Listen to John Cage’s 4’33”—on Auto-Tune!
12.30.2014
10:41 am

Topics:
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:
John Cage
Autotune


 
Somebody had the genius idea of applying the glorious technology of Auto-Tune, previously most associated with the likes of Cher, T-Pain, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne, to John Cage’s iconic “silent” composition 4’33”. Reports Matthew Reid, uploader of the YouTube video, “I performed John Cage’s 4’33’‘, treated the recording as a found object and re-mixed it in autotune. Let the debates begin.”

Amusing as it may sound, in the execution it’s pretty close to Cage’s original intent, as far as I can tell. 4’33” was always about ambient sound, not silence, and siccing Auto-Tune on it seems right in line with the general agenda.

If you click on the video and find it boring, well, that’s on you. You knew going in that it no instruments are played, right? Here’s a look at the score (yes, 4’33” has a score). “Tacet” is Latin for “It is silent.”
 

 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
John Cage: 4’33” (Vuvuzela cover version)
Nicolas Cage does John Cage’s 4′33″

via Lawyers, Guns & Money

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Do drummers have different brains from the rest of us?


 
The April 25, 2011 issue of the New Yorker contained a fascinating article about David Eagleman, the celebrated neuroscientist and director of the Laboratory for Perception and Action at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. The title of the piece is “The Possibilian: What a brush with death taught David Eagleman about the mysteries of time and the brain.” It’s far too complex an essay to summarize in a blog post, but if you enjoy pop science articles (and Doctor Who) as much I do, this one is an absolutely terrific read.

What I wanted to call your attention to here is an incredible event described in the article where a bunch of professional drummers, invited by Brian Eno and from some of the biggest bands in the world, allowed Eagleman to observe them. They were outfitted with EEG units on their heads in special workstations for the data collection. The tests were conducted on a laptop. A software program asked the drummers to do four things: Keep a steady beat; compare the length of two tones; synchronize a beat to an image and compare different rhythms to one another.

Burkhard Bilger writes:

Early this winter, I joined Eagleman in London for his most recent project: a study of time perception in drummers. Timing studies tend to be performed on groups of random subjects or on patients with brain injuries or disorders. They’ve given us a good sense of average human abilities, but not the extremes: just how precise can a person’s timing be? “In neuroscience, you usually look for animals that are best at something,” Eagleman told me, over dinner at an Italian restaurant in Notting Hill. “If it’s memory, you study songbirds; if it’s olfaction, you look at rats and dogs. If I were studying athletes, I’d want to find the guy who can run a four-minute mile. I wouldn’t want a bunch of chubby high-school kids.”

The idea of studying drummers had come from Brian Eno, the composer, record producer, and former member of the band Roxy Music. Over the years, Eno had worked with U2, David Byrne, David Bowie, and some of the world’s most rhythmically gifted musicians. He owned a studio a few blocks away, in a converted stable on a cobblestoned cul-de-sac, and had sent an e-mail inviting a number of players to participate in Eagleman’s study. “The question is: do drummers have different brains from the rest of us?” Eno said. “Everyone who has ever worked in a band is sure that they do.”

The drummers study was inspired by an anecdote Eno told Eagleman:

“I was working with Larry Mullen, Jr., on one of the U2 albums,” Eno told me. “ ‘All That You Don’t Leave Behind,’ or whatever it’s called.” Mullen was playing drums over a recording of the band and a click track—a computer-generated beat that was meant to keep all the overdubbed parts in synch. In this case, however, Mullen thought that the click track was slightly off: it was a fraction of a beat behind the rest of the band. “I said, ‘No, that can’t be so, Larry,’ ” Eno recalled. “ ‘We’ve all worked to that track, so it must be right.’ But he said, ‘Sorry, I just can’t play to it.’ ”

Eno eventually adjusted the click to Mullen’s satisfaction, but he was just humoring him. It was only later, after the drummer had left, that Eno checked the original track again and realized that Mullen was right: the click was off by six milliseconds. “The thing is,” Eno told me, “when we were adjusting it I once had it two milliseconds to the wrong side of the beat, and he said, ‘No, you’ve got to come back a bit.’ Which I think is absolutely staggering.”

Read: The Possibilian: What a brush with death taught David Eagleman about the mysteries of time and the brain (The New Yorker)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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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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