Nuclear yuks: ‘Original Canned Radiation’ gag product is purest 1979
02.24.2014
10:21 am

Topics:
Amusing
Science/Tech

Tags:
Three Mile Island

Canned Radiation
 
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a whole lot of people were more or less resigned to the eventual inevitable newscast alerting citizens to an irreversible catastrophe involving a nuclear power plant. The Three Mile Island accident happened in central Pennsylvania in 1979, the same year that The China Syndrome hit #1 at the U.S. box office for four weeks in a row. The word of the moment was “meltdown,” which has since morphed into a signifier for an emotional breakdown—it’s interesting to ponder the scary origins of that term. The disaster did end up happening, but nobody suspected that the location might instead be a place like Chernobyl, a town in northern Ukraine, then a part of the USSR.

I grew up a few miles from the Indian Point power plant in Westchester County, NY. I vividly remember the helpful and entirely futile document distributed to local residents as to what to do in the event of an emergency. A glance at a map is sufficient to drive home the idea that if something catastrophic were to happen to Indian Point, there wasn’t going to be any realistic way to deal with the roughly 25 million people living in places like New York City, Long Island, western Connecticut, and northern New Jersey.
 
Canned Radiation
 
When you’re confronted with irrational risks and meaningless solutions, the mind turns to satire. The package of lethal radiation pictured above was “canned on location at T.M.I.”—actually, the empty canister was produced by Brenster Enterprises of Etters, Pennsylvania, a town that’s located right where Three Mile Island is. If anyone can make fun of Three Mile Island, it’s got to be the people living right there, huh?

Here’s a list of suggested uses for the product:
 

Remove label and tell your enemy its laughing gas.
Energy free night light (illuminates in darkness).
Mix with cold cream for that radiant beauty.
Instant male sterilization (sniff twice daily).
Use as a room air freshener.
Toothpaste recipe: mix 3 to 1 ratio with basking soda, for ever glowing smile.

 
At the Health Physics Historical Instrumentation Museum Collection at the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) website, you can see a few other amusing artifacts from the nuclear age. My favorite is the “Frisky Whiskey,” an empty bottle that had a motor of some kind that would cause it “to shake violently when it is picked up,” explaining the label’s claim that “you will note its 150 proof strength from the moment you pour.” According to the label, every bottle is “tested by Geiger counter.”
 
Frisky Whiskey
 
Frisky Whiskey
 
The godfather of nuclear-era black humor surely has to be Tom Lehrer, whose “Who’s Next?” artfully called attention to the inevitable consequences of nuclear proliferation.
 

 
via Messy Nessy Chic
 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Relive the heady era of ‘Uranium rock’ with Doris Day’s ode to the Geiger counter and more!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Acne bacterium is named after Frank Zappa, immediately releases four albums in gratitude
02.19.2014
12:02 pm

Topics:
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:
Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa
 
I lived in Austria for a while—I was living there in 1993 when the sad news of Frank Zappa’s death came down the pipe. It was striking to me how much more vital his fandom was there; intense Zappa fans were (and are) very, very common, you’d see casual references in the media to Zappa quite often. This quality he shares, I suppose, with Jerry Lewis and countless bebop heroes, he was more appreciated in Europe than in his native U.S. When he died he was truly mourned in the public sphere. I wasn’t in America at the time (obviously), but I doubt that it was quite as keenly felt here as it was in Europe.

So when I heard that some scientists had decided to name a strain of bacteria after Frank Zappa, I knew that they would turn out to be from Europe, and I was right about that. Italian microbiologist and ardent Zappa fan Andrea Campisano of the Edmund Mach Foundation is the lead author of the study published Tuesday in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution about P. acnes Zappae, “a formerly pimple-causing bacterium that apparently has moved from human skin to the bark of grape vines.”

The Italian word zappa means “hoe,” and the name of the new strain is also a reference to “the agrarian roots of the wine-related institute where the discovery was made.” Actually, Zappa has this in common with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The root “egge” in Arnold’s name means “harrow” or “back hoe,” and the word “Schwarzenegger” would translate as “black back-hoe man.”
 

Campisano said he played Zappa’s music regularly and kept a quote from the genre-bending rock musician displayed on his computer screen in the laboratory: “If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television … then you deserve it.”

 
Insofar as pimples and Frank Zappa albums share the trait of being incredibly common—Zappa released somewhere in the neighborhood 60 albums during his lifetime, and he died at the young age of 52—that’s another link.

And then there is this...

Here’s Frank and the Mothers of Invention, live at the Roxy in LA in 1973.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Norwegian mass murderer refuses to eat until prison upgrades his PlayStation console
02.17.2014
08:12 am

Topics:
Science/Tech

Tags:
Anders Breivik

Anders Breivik
 
As a moderately serious gamer, I have to admit I can relate to this a little. Actually, anyone who, say, uses a newer computer at home than the one available in the workplace might feel a pang of sympathy while the spinning wheel of death (or its OS equivalent) grinds pointlessly away while you’re trying to update a spreadsheet.

Anders Behring Breivik is sort of the Timothy McVeigh of Norway. In July 2011, in accordance with his right-extremist worldview, he detonated a bomb in a government building in Oslo, which killed eight people, and then went on a shooting spree on the island of Utøya, killing a further 69 people, most of them teenagers. In some ways his profile overlaps more with the Unabomber—Breivik is well-educated and distributed a lengthy manifesto justifying his actions—but that combination fails to capture the Hannibal Lecter-esque self-control and sangfroid that Breivik apparently exhibited. In August 2012 he was sentenced to “containment,” a form of punishment in Norway that can be extended if the authorities deem it necessary, with a “time frame” of 21 years in prison—the maximum sentence.

Apparently Breivik isn’t enjoying his containment very much. On Friday the French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) received a letter from Breivik in which he announced his intention to go on a hunger strike until conditions in the prison improve. He claims that he is being treated “worse than an animal” in prison and demands that the “torture” he is undergoing come to an end.

It’s not clear that most people would agree with Breivik’s use of the word torture here, although he may have a point about the unjust treatment. According to Pierre-Henry Deshayes of AFP
 

The demands include better conditions for his daily walk and the right to communicate more freely with the outside world, which he argues are in line with European rights legislation.

He also demanded the replacement of a PlayStation 2 games console for a more recent PS3 “with access to more adult games that I get to choose myself” as well as a sofa or armchair instead of a “painful” chair.

“Other inmates have access to adult games while I only have the right to play less interesting kids games. One example is “Rayman Revolution”, a game aimed at three year olds,” wrote the 35-year-old convicted killer.

Held apart from other prisoners since 2011 for security reasons, Breivik wrote that he has behaved in an “exemplary fashion” in prison, arguing that he has the right to a wider “selection of activities” than other inmates to compensate for his strict isolation.

Breivik also wants his standard weekly allowance of 300 kroner ($49, 36 euros) to be doubled, particularly to cover his postal charges for written correspondence.

His mail is monitored and censored by prison authorities which, he complained, considerably restricts and slows down his contact with the outside world.

 
The concept of being permitted to use an inferior gaming system to more recent models on the market being likened to, say, waterboarding is completely silly, a product of the high-flown rhetoric common to political terrorists like Breivik. And yet his case prompts interesting questions about prisoners’ rights in the digital age. In the United States, many prisoners suffer in severely inhumane conditions, including widespread overuse of solitary confinement. Breivik’s complaint about his PS2 system suggests an obvious analogy with reading materials—should particularly heinous criminals be denied access to the same copy of To Kill a Mockingbird other inmates enjoy? It’s not really clear.
 
Rayman Revolution
 
The enormity of Breivik’s crimes aren’t relevant to the purpose it serves to deny him petty privileges. Keeping him off the street is a non-issue, and Breivik is experiencing the very deprivations that make prison stints such a powerful disincentive, disincentives of which Breivik was presumably already aware when he committed his crimes. Of course, that logic can go only so far: nobody would suggest that the availability of merely double-ply toilet paper when triple-ply versions are also being manufactured would constitute anything for prisoners’ rights activists to get upset about. There’s a line in there somewhere, and the PS2 probably isn’t very near that line.
 

 
via Slate
 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Muslim-hating wingnut Pamela Geller justifies mass murder in Norway

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Retro iPhone speaker looks like a classic 1980s Panasonic tape player
02.06.2014
08:55 am

Topics:
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:
iPhone
tape recorders

Retro iPhone speaker
 
When I was 11 or so, I had a portable mono Panasonic tape player. It was the first cassette player I ever owned, and I played that thing to death. Standout albums for me at that time included The Beatles, 1962-1966 and 1967-1970; Billy Joel, The Stranger and Glass Houses; and the the original cast recording for the musical Barnum (it’s really very good!).

When I was at camp one time, another camper surreptitiously stuffed some grass into the little hole at the top of the cassette and recorded the inspired phrase “My name is Bob Hope!” over a section of “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”—I never did find the bastard who did it. To this day, I can’t hear that song without “hearing” the extra overdub when the appropriate section comes up.

Such fond memories are very much the point of the iRecorder Retro Speaker for iPhone 4/4S/5 (or, should you be too young to have such memories, perhaps you simply have succumbed to the allure of long-outmoded technologies). At $40.47, the item is priced to move—I may buy one of these suckers my own self.

Here’s a picture of the real thing:
 
Panasonic cassette recorder
 
It has a USB power socket and working buttons that let you play/pause, rewind and fast forward, and increase/decrease the volume. (The word rewind is rapidly becoming one of those words that will not have any intuitive meaning for anybody.) The handle does slide out for easy carrying, just as with the original model.

Here’s Bow Wow Wow and their ode to the cassette tape—reputedly the first “cassingle”—“C30 C60 C90 Go”:
 

 
via Das Kraftfuttermischwerk

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Unserious answers to serious questions from creationists

Ken Ham, Bill Nye
 
After the big Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate last night, Matt Stopera at Buzzfeed asked a bunch of sincere creationists to write down a question they would want to ask believers in evolution to answer and then pose while holding those questions up to the camera.

Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon and Beth Spencer of Lawyers, Guns, and Money took up the challenge and today attempted to give some brief, somewhat disrespectful answers to those questions. Marcotte’s answers, while dismissive, were somewhat on point; Spencer elected to answer with pure humor.
 
Creationist
Q: What mechanism has science discovered that evidences an increase of genetic information seen in any genetic mutation or evolutionary process?

Marcotte: I had the answer in a few seconds to this stunning question she put to we reality-based folks. There were also a bunch of people spouting nonsense they don’t understand about the second law of thermodynamics. This has also been addressed, though creationists just ignore it.

What really kills me is how smug these dumbfucks are about being dumbfucks. It really proves that one of the side effects of stupid is you really have no idea how stupid you are.

Spencer: What?
 
Creationist
Q: If we come from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?

Marcotte: If you come from your parents, why do you still have parents? If that sounds like a dumb question, consider that it’s exactly the same question.

Spencer: Because all this poo isn’t going to fling itself and creationists tire easily.
 
Creationist
Q: How can you look at the world and not believe someone created/thought of it? It’s amazing!

Marcotte: Again, it’s a useful moment to consider sexual reproduction and how it works. Despite the fact that I have a very specific set of features that are unique and amazing, it doesn’t mean my parents carefully crafted me. Amazing things can come from unconscious processes. Anyway, there’s many variations of this, often centering around the notion that the Big Bang and other processes (by the way, their man Ken Ham actually denies that the Big Bang happened, so they aren’t even keeping their own bullshit straight) have to have someone who started them. But, of course, that provokes a curious person to ask, “If everything that exists must have an intelligent force that created it, then who made God? And who made the person that made God? And who made them?” But these are incurious people. Indeed, one of their main points of incuriousity is regarding the people they are supposedly opposed to, “evolutionists”.

Spencer: No, perky lady, the word you’re looking for is “amazeballs.” Please re-write your sign.
 
Creationist
Q: Why do evolutionists/secularists/humanists/non-god-believing people reject the idea of their [sic] being a creator god but embrace the concept of intelligent design from aliens or other extra-terrestrial sources?

Marcotte: Just making shit up because actually bothering to learn anything about these various groups might cause him to actually reconsider his opinions.

Spencer: They don’t. Next question.
 
Creationist
Q: How do you explain the sunset if their [sic] is no god?

Marcotte: It’s true, this one is a stumper. Some say that the sunset is caused because the sun god who rides his chariot through the sky every day crash lands on the ground, only to be reborn in the sunset, gently expelled by Mother Earth in a ray of light every morning. Some say the sun is a giant fireball God throws across the sky that explodes every night. Scientists clearly have no explanation, which goes to show that they are full of shit.

Spencer: If you get to credit god with sunsets, can I finally get everybody to admit that Satan created the raisin? I look at raisins and I am certain THERE IS NO GOD.
 
Creationist
Q: Are you scared of a Divine Creator?

Marcotte: A little bit, but on the list of fictional characters I’m afraid of, he falls really low. Way below Amy from Gone Girl, but probably higher than Elizabeth Bennett.

Spencer: Yes. John Waters is terrifying.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
The Machine Is Bleeding to Death: How to turn the Super Bowl into a twisted Cronenbergian nightmare
02.01.2014
07:23 am

Topics:
Science/Tech
Sports

Tags:
Super Bowl
football

Mom about to get crushed yet again
‘Mom,’ about to get crushed yet again
 
One of the lovely things about video games is that, with enough ingenuity and determination, you can sometimes transform a game into something more personal and unexpected. For the 2013-2014 NFL season, Jon Bois at SBNation, in his “Breaking Madden” series, has been demonstrating the bewildering variety of forms that the popular NFL simulation Madden NFL 25 can take, by bending—nay breaking—“rules, injury settings, all manner of player ratings, player dimensions, and anything else the game’s developers have made available to us.” On Wednesday he released his special Seahawks-Broncos Super Bowl ultra-mod—and it’s a corker with surprisingly emotional resonance. (Denver fans may want to stop reading about now…..)

A wonderful aspect of a highly refined NFL sim of this type is the ability for the player to intervene. Want to create a Barry Sanders clone that looks just like you and bears your name to boot? Have at it! That’s exactly the type of shit EA Sports, producer of Madden NFL 25, wants you to do—it creates unique user satisfactions, and that translates into brand loyalty and towering revenues for EA Sports.

In essence what Bois is doing resembles something that Morpheus says to Neo in The Matrix: “It has the same basic rules, rules like gravity. What you must learn is that these rules are no different that the rules of a computer system. Some of them can be bent. Others can be broken. Understand?” Bois is hammering, hard, on the “rules” of an NFL game by maxing out various variables, such as the size and talent of the players, fatigue factors, and so forth. In one game Bois managed to induce 30 fumbles in a single half. In another, he equipped the Patriots with a team full of Tom Bradys and then engineered a situation whereby “Touchdown Tom” (Brady’s new nickname) could come back from a 74-0 halftime deficit.

For Super Bowl XLVIII, Bois’ goal was to generate a “Super Rout” in which one side scored one thousand points in a single game. With the appropriate caveats (as you will see, he wasn’t able to bring the game to completion), he succeeded in doing that. But along the way, Madden NFL 25 generated something far more poignant than a mere ultra-lopsided machina football game.

Bois’ idea was to create a Seahawks team full of massive, athletically gifted super-behemoths and make the Broncos a squad of puny weaklings. (Worry not, Broncos fans: Bois’ reasons for choosing the Seahawks to be the winning team were scrupulously fair; it just happened to work out that way.) Bois invited readers to submit personal names for all of the players on the two teams (with a real-life charity component), which is why the Broncos’ QB ended up being called “Mom.”
 
Madden NFL 25
 
To get the whole picture of what happened, I heartily recommend reading Bois’ piece; it’s crammed with animated graphics, and they really paint a picture. I also recommend watching Bois’ video preview linked below, if you’re having trouble following what’s going on or why it matters, it’s very helpful.

As expected, Bois’ Seahawks dominated every play to a phenomenal degree. Before the first quarter was even over, the Seahawks were winning 366 to zero. Every Broncos play was resulting in a fumble, and every Seahawks play was resulting in a touchdown. The Broncos were outmatched to an extent that would never be imaginable in real life.

But weird things were happening along the way. An inordinate number of the Seahawks kickoffs were striking the hind quarters of the Broncos return personnel—in other words, bouncing off their asses. Beyond that, after a while Madden NFL ceased being able to tally the score accurately. At one point the score was both 255-0 and 266-0 according to different displays, and Bois says neither score was actually the correct one at that juncture. Even weirder, the Broncos players stopped trying (!), which is more or less what you’d expect to happen in real life but not in a computer simulation. At one point Madden NFL 25 called a false start penalty even though Bois had turned off penalties for the game. There’s a reason Bois titled his writeup “The Machine Is Bleeding to Death.”
 
Broncos-Seahawks hybrid
 
Broncos-Seahawks hybrid
 
The magnificent ending to all of this occurred just before the end of the first quarter. Bois called for a replay of that weird shouldn’t-have-been penalty, and instead of a replay the system produced, perched alone on the 50-yard line, a single hybrid fetus player in the center of the field. It was vaguely equine-looking. You can see it above. The ... “player” was wearing both Seahawks and Broncos gear at the same time, and didn’t have the four limbs one expects from a humanoid figure. Madden NFL 25 had coughed up a creature out of any number of David Cronenberg movies, and the experiment’s facile similarities to Videodrome were only part of the eerie, weird beauty Bois had managed to wring out of the game.

At that point, interpreting the odd football fetus-creature as something akin to Madden NFL 25 crying “uncle,” Bois invoked the mercy rule and stopped the game.

Speaking for myself, Bois’ article was the only bit of pre-Super Bowl commentary that induced a surprising reaction in me; I enjoyed the hell out of it. And I’m putting down $50 on a 366-0 Seahawks victory at Vegas…...
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Glow-in-the-dark Solar System underwear


 
Because why not, right? Portland-based Etsy shop Make It Good makes these handmade glow-in-the-dark Solar System undies for both men and women. The kid in me digs them. I’d wear the hell out ‘em (just like I did with my Wonder Woman Underoos when I was around 8 years old).

They’re reasonably priced at $18.00 for women’s and $28.00 for men’s.


 
Via Boing Boing

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
Killing Nazis with kindness—by ‘liking’ them on Facebook
01.29.2014
04:51 am

Topics:
Activism
Politics
Science/Tech

Tags:
Facebook
Nazis

Like Attack
 
January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and this year an ad-hoc German collective called Laut Gegen Nazis (Loud Against Nazis) staged an intriguing protest against the Nazi Party of Germany, or the National Democratic Party of Germany, as they style themselves (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands, NPD), by using the innocuous tools of Facebook to call attention to the damnable persistence of Nazi ideology in Germany.

Laut Gegen Nazis called it a “Like Attack”—they encouraged liberal opponents of fascist ideas to flood the NPD’s Facebook page by “liking” it and also by posting, as a comment, a link to a liberal-friendly image such as “Rassismus tötet!” (Racism kills!) or a rainbow version of the Nazi logo. In addition users were urged to adopt one of those very same images as their personal icons for the day (as they would obviously be seen on the NPD’s page itself).
 
Laut Gegen Nazis
 
The slogan for the day was “Wir überfremden die NPD!”—which clever phrase requires a bit of unpacking. The German word überfremden is not a common one; it appears to be a bit of neo-Nazi jargon, and it means to be overrun by foreigners—such sentiments are surely discernable enough in the U.S. and U.K. as well. The genius of the slogan lies in the fact that Laut Gegen Nazis was proposing to do just that to the NPD’s Facebook page—overrun it with outside elements.

As the Das Kraftfuttermischwerk blog pointed out, the project had the distinct drawback of having to oblige users, however briefly, to “like” such an odious entity as the NPD in order to function. But a sizable number of people appeared not to mind that particular taint, anyway.
 
NPD Facebook page
 
In the end, the NPD admins presumably had to work a little harder to maintain their page (it appears that many of the comments were scrubbed, although as of this writing—1/29—a few more recent comments could be seen on NPD’s website), and who knows how many minds, if any, were changed. But it remains a pretty clever implementation of social media to land a collective political point.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
World’s first bra that only unhooks when true love is detected
01.24.2014
03:06 pm

Topics:
Fashion
Science/Tech

Tags:
Bras


 
According to this ad, women have no clue when they’re confronted with true love and who they should take their tops off for. None. But never fear, Japanese lingerie manufacturer Ravijou has it all worked out for us clueless ladies: A bra with a front clasp that only unhooks when “true love” is detected. Yep! You heard me.

The bra comprises of a sensor which monitors your heart rate and other vitals, the data is constantly transmitted via Bluetooth to a mobile phone which processes the data using a special app and measures the heart rate elevation using special algorithms and preset data and it is only when your heart has truly found that special someone would it beat in a way that the app would recognize and wirelessly unhook the bra.

Ladies can relax as not any changes in heart rates will unhook the bra as the experts at Ravijour say it is only when a woman falls in true love does she get excited enough for the Adrenal Medulla to secrete Catecholamine which affects the autonomic nerve and increases the heart rate which is detected by the sensor and processed by the specially developed iOS app.

Thanks for sorting this out for me, Ravijou! I would have never known who’s truly worthy of my boobage without you!

If this wasn’t from Japan, you wouldn’t believe it was real, but because it is from Japan, I think it’s safe to assume this is a real product.
 

 
Via Geekologie

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
Oops! Google Maps brings back ‘Adolf Hitler Square’ in Berlin for a few hours
01.10.2014
09:25 am

Topics:
History
Science/Tech

Tags:
Berlin
Google Maps

Adolf-Hitler-Platz, Google
 
For a few hours on Thursday, the address “Theodor-Heuss-Platz” in western Berlin reverted to its name during the Third Reich—“Adolf-Hitler-Platz”—at least on Google, anyway.

As is often the case in Europe—think of Leningrad/St. Petersburg—the names of places are themselves a kind of condensed history of the twentieth century. Such is the case with Theodor-Heuss-Platz. From its construction in the early 1900s to 1933, the square was called “Reichskanzlerplatz,” or “Imperial Chancellor Square.” From 1933 until 1945 (BZ, the paper that uncovered Google’s goof, says 1947) it was named after Der Führer. After the war (whether 1945 or 1947) it reverted to Reichskanzlerplatz. Then in 1963 the square was named after Theodor Heuss, who was the first President of the Federal Republic of Germany after World War II, from 1949 to 1959. (The position of President is largely a ceremonial one in Germany; the current President is not Angela Merkel—she’s the Chancellor—but rather Joachim Gauck.)
 
Adolf-Hitler-Platz, Berlin
 
According to BZ, a spokesman at Google apologized and said that they would look into why this change occurred. So far, they don’t know why it happened. When I first read about this, my first thought was that they had somehow permitted data from an old-timey map to get through—which just goes to show how naive I am. BZ points out that Google Maps permits certain changes from users, to account for short-term construction or changes in traffic. It takes only one disgruntled neo-Nazi to make a change like that.

BZ also points out that Google Maps has a pretty good record in terms of dealing with historical place names. For instance, if you put “Karl-Marx-Stadt,” Google Maps instantly directs you to Chemnitz, as the East German city was known before 1953 and after 1990.

Here is how the square looked during the Third Reich and how it looks today:
 
Adolf-Hiter-Platz, Berlin
Note: “im Flaggenschmuck” means something like “In flag mode” or “Done up in flags.”
 
Theodor-Heuss-Platz, Berlin
 
via Spiegel Online

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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