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‘Hippies from Hell’: The Dutch hacker collective who helped bring us the Internet
06.02.2015
09:23 am

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Movies
Science/Tech

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Hippies from Hell is a 53-minute documentary on the pre-World Wide Web generation of hackers in Holland directed by journalist Ine Poppe. The documentary shows Poppe learning about hacker culture from her 15-year-old son Zoro. The movie covers the group’s ideals and interest in subverting the official corporate computing ideology of the 1980s.

At the center of the group was a magazine called Hack-Tic, whose heyday was about 1989-1993; after that the action drifted to online message boards and listservs. It was kind of a Dutch version of 2600; both magazines identified old-school hacking of telephone systems as part of their origin stories. According to the movie, these Dutch hackers were instrumental in wresting control of the Internet out of the hands of large institutions who wanted to keep it for themselves.
 

 
The documentary focuses on “Net activists, hardware artists, security experts, puzzlers, and the members of TOOOL, the Dutch lockpicking foundation.” Among the prominent hackers in the group are Zoro, Carla van Rijsbergen, Patrice Riemens, RGB, Walter Belgers, Sharon Vlaming. To a surprising extent, given the well-documented sexism in Silicon Valley that has been making headlines recently, a high percentage of the innovative computer experts depicted in the movie are women. As someone says, “There’s a remarkable amount of women [in the scene].... some of them are good programmers, some of them have nothing to do with IT and aren’t regarded with contempt.”

To an unusual extent, the Hippies from Hell were and are interested in analog solutions to some extent. One fellow boasts about the strip of green plastic that restores the authentic look to an old arcade version of Space Invaders. Mathilde Mupe once contrived a kind of nature computer; her idea was to “take a terminal and rebuild a keyboard from pebbles” and “built a little altar with plants and grass ... by hitting the stones you could get on the Net.” Viewers will also be treated to riveting lockpicking competitions and “Powerpong,” an attempt to create a semi-analog version of Pong in which the power is generated through pedaling and the handlebars control the Pong paddles.

Probably the most striking and memorable sequence involves—I swear to God this is true—a nudist lockpicking workshop run by Germans.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘SEVERE TACO WARNING’ issued for California and several other western US states
06.02.2015
04:51 am

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Kooks
Science/Tech

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I can’t remember the last time I was able to muster a level of passion and excitement over any particular thing or activity that would compare to the love that Nova Scotia native, Frankie MacDonald, feels for all things weather-related. Frankie is an Internet enigma and superstar, having dedicated his life to monitoring weather systems worldwide and then uploading amateur forecasts, updates, and warnings—based on his analysis of those weather systems—to a personal YouTube channel called dogsandwolves.

That sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. Frankie’s videos are like no weather report you’ve ever seen before. In most of them, he barks rapid-fire instructions on how to stay safe in a staccato cadence like a jovial Marine Corps drill sergeant charged with the giddy task of relaying apocalyptic warnings about impending cataclysmic meteorological events—regardless of whether or not the dreaded threats are actually threats that need to be dreaded (or something that’s even real).

For example, it’s not unusual to hear Frankie warning everyone to brace themselves for the onslaught of milder temperatures in Minnesota, or to hear him predict a date for (and issue a “warning” about) the occurrence of some specific surrealistic meteorological event like “severe tacos” in California.

Frankie’s motto is “be prepared,” and he takes it very seriously. Here was his advice concerning a snowstorm that was approaching the Baltimore area in 2014:

People in Baltimore, Maryland: Be Prepared—have your winter boots, winter jackets, hats, gloves, scarfs and ski pants ready and order your pizzas and Chinese food and buy cases of Pepsi and Coke and do your grocery shopping! Don’t wait until the last minute—Do it right now!

By way of contrast, here is Frankie’s recent dire warning on how to survive “severe tacos,” which are predicted to hit California and several Western states in October of 2015:

People in California: Be prepared! Have your lettuce, taco sauce, tomatoes, and hamburgers ready—and it will be a lot of tacos! Especially in California in the Southern California, including the Los Angeles area and the surrounding areas, and the severe tacos will hit Oregon, Washington State and Vancouver, British Columbia and the surrounding areas! Best of luck to ya, people in California—be prepared for a lot of tacos in October, 2015! Take care and stay safe and don’t get caught in a lot of tacos—Stay safe!

 

“IT MAY FLOOD THE STREETS WITH TACOS!”
 
Frankie’s forecasts tend to involve either actual changes in the weather or some type of food falling from the sky. Nevertheless, his YouTube channel has received over 10 million hits, and he was recently honored in the House of Commons with these words: 

We, as Cape Bretoners, are very proud of Frankie the Weatherman and wish him all the best as he continues to keep us safe from Mother Nature.

Someone has even inked a tattoo of Frankie on his leg:
 

 
The bottom line is that Frankie the Weatherman just wants you to be prepared and stay safe. Any other utility that can be attributed to his fantastic weather updates may be a bonus, but if he has helped you to be prepared for inclement weather in any way, then his job is done. And as far as today’s forecast is concerned, there’s a 100% probability that Frankie MacDonald will be having more fun than you.

Meanwhile, beware West Coasters—The SEVERE TACOS are headed your way!
 

 

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Meet ‘Patrick’: The robotic proctology-simulation ass
05.21.2015
09:22 am

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Science/Tech

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This week Medical Daily reported on “Patrick,” a “simulated patient that talks to medical students while offering real-time feedback about the virtual prostate exam he’s receiving.”

Patrick is connected to a mock prostate in a robotic ass.

From Medical Daily:

Patrick serves a dual purpose: personal and professional. Personally, he comes equipped with software that enables him to interact emotionally with the student and voice any concerns he has about the procedure. Dr. Benjamin Lok, one of the program’s designers, says the interpersonal relationship Patrick helps foster is invaluable from a practicing perspective. “This virtual human patient can talk to the learner, expresses fears and concerns about the prostate exam, and presents a realistic patient encounter,” Lok told Geekosystem.

The other purpose he serves is functional. Patrick is endowed with force sensors, which can alert the student when he or she is being too aggressive, and can report how thorough the student was in his or her examination.

“Consider this,” Lok said, “how would a medical student know if they are doing a good prostate exam? Currently it is impossible for the educator to gauge performance. This simulation provides performance, feedback, and an opportunity to learn and lower anxiety.”

The image of “Patrick” in action looks to us like the very worst video game peripheral imaginable. Let’s hope he’s not the butt of too many jokes. We’d all rather our new doctors get some simulator practice in before going to town on the rest of us.

Via Medical Daily

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
In the very near future there will be ‘home-brewed’ drug beer made from yeast
05.19.2015
07:04 am

Topics:
Drugs
Science/Tech

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Well, here’s a thing: soon you may be able to brew your own drugs—that’s according to an article in the New Scientist which points out that:

Genetically engineered yeasts could make it easy to produce opiates such as morphine anywhere, cutting out the international drug smugglers and making such drugs cheap and more readily available.

This also means the Taliban-supporting Afghanistan poppy trade would no longer flourish and junkies could fix themselves a homegrown brew of smack, without even having to score. Or leave the house for that matter. This is gonna be HUGE.

However, there is one fairly major stumbling block: the genetically engineered yeasts capable of doing this do not as yet exist. That’s kind of a big one. But researchers hope to change this as they point to the “number of drugs, scents and flavours once obtainable only from plants can now be made using genetically modified organisms.”

Now they want to add opiates to that list because “they are part of a family of molecules that may have useful medicinal properties”:

Plant yields of many of these molecules are vanishingly small, and the chemicals are difficult and expensive to make in the lab. Getting yeast to pump them out would be far cheaper.

And about as easy as tending to a Kombucha SCOBY, something even a junkie could manage.

Of all the relevant researchers questioned by the New Scientist none doubted that brewing drugs would eventually happen.

“The field is moving much faster than we had previous realised,” says John Dueber of the University of California, Berkeley, whose team has just created a yeast that produces the main precursor of opiates. Until recently, Dueber had thought the creation of, say, a morphine-making yeast was 10 years away. He now thinks a low-yielding strain could be made in two or three years.

It might take many more years to produce a high-yielding strain. But once it exists, in theory anyone who got hold of it could make morphine in their kitchen using only a home-brewing kit. Merely drinking tiny quantities of the resulting brew – perhaps as little as a few millilitres - would get you high. “It probably is as simple as that,” says Dueber. “The beer would have morphine in it.”

We need to start thinking about the implications now, before such strains – or the recipes for genetically engineering them – become available, he says.

Other teams are working on producing tropane alkaloids – a family of compounds that include drugs such as cocaine. Cocaine-making yeasts are further off, as we still don’t understand certain critical steps that coca plants use to make cocaine. But there’s no reason we cannot engineer yeast to produce any substance that plants produce, once we understand the machinery, says biochemist Peter Facchini of the University of Calgary in Canada. “So indeed someone could potentially produce cocaine in yeast.”

 
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Mead homebrew, but one day it maybe possible to brew heroin or cocaine beer.
 
Brewing drugs would certainly “democratize” drug production and give bearded hipsters an, er, addictive new hobby. It would also be difficult to police, and as the law currently stands difficult to prosecute (Good luck outlawing a yeast!). Unlike crystal meth labs,  brewing does not create a toxic mess: waste products are just brackish water and some very mild chemicals like acetate.

The main concern is that such brewing techniques fall into “the wrong hands,” which is believed to be a major possibility.

REALLY??? YA THINK???

Read the whole article here.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
New study finds that smoking weed DOES NOT cause psychotic episodes in teens
05.13.2015
02:42 pm

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Drugs
Science/Tech

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Well, whaddya know…a new study conducted by researchers from the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London, the University of Oxford and the University of Leeds runs counter to arguments put forward by drug prohibitionists by concluding that cannabis use in adolescents does not cause psychotic episodes.

Published in the Psychiatric Research Journal, the report “Psychotic experiences are linked to cannabis use in adolescents in the community because of common underlying environmental risk factors” questioned 4,830 16-year-old twins—to rule out genetic factors—asking whether they had ever tried cannabis? Respondents answered “Yes” or “No.”

The researchers then examined whether the respondents had ever had any psychotic episodes (PE) which were divided into five self-report subscales:

...paranoia (15 items), hallucinations (9 items), cognitive disorganisation (11 items), grandiosity (8 items), anhedonia [the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable] (10 items) and one parent-rated subscale: parent-rated negative symptoms (10 items)....Response scales related to frequency of experiences for paranoia and hallucinations (“Not at all” (0),“Rarely” (1), “Once a month” (2),“Once a week” (3), “Several times a week” (4), “Daily” (5)).

The end result found that both cannabis use and psychotic episodes were triggered by environmental factors—ranging from being poor to bullying (“peer victimization”).

The report revealed how children who are under stress for other reasons tend to smoke cannabis, and are also at higher risk of psychotic episodes. The researchers found:

Cannabis use and psychotic experience co-occur due to environmental factors.

Focus on specific environments may reveal why adolescent cannabis use and psychotic experiences tend to ‘travel together’.

Exposure to socioeconomic disadvantage may induce stress that triggers the development of psychotic episodes and cannabis use.

However, the report “investigated the association between cannabis use and PEs and not clinical psychosis. Findings should therefore be interpreted with the view of PEs as trait based phenotypes, and not clinical psychosis.”

The whole report can be read here.

It’s not just teenagers who enjoy a smoke… here’s some grandmas trying weed for the first time….
 

 
H/T Metro, via Psychiatric Research Journal
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Introducing Typedrummer: Forget work, for the next hour or so, you’ll be producing phat beatz
05.11.2015
06:57 am

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Music
Science/Tech

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Web developer Kyle Stetz has come up with a completely badass gizmo called “Typedrummer” that allows you to create “ascii beats.” Essentially, it’s the easiest drum sequencer in the world. Drum sounds are assigned to the letter keys of the keyboard. You start typing, and all at once you’re “making beats” effortlessly.

The first thing I typed in was “bad beat,” and I gotta say, it actually wasn’t bad. Try it!

As you learn what sounds are assigned to what keys, you can get creative and do some complex and interesting beats—at least for such a simple tool. I mean, it’s not going to put any drum-machine makers out of business, but it’s certainly a toy that has actual practical real-world uses. For now, you are somewhat limited in what you can do tempo-wise. Adding a parenthesis allows you to do a triplet—hopefully we’ll see the addition of more special features soon!

One unintentional “special feature” is that—at least in Chrome—if you have a beat going and you switch to a different window, the beat goes a bit wonky—which is actually a cool end-result. You can switch windows to create glitchy breakdowns!

One user at “hacker news” at ycombinator.com published this list of “guesses” as to what each key represented on the sound palette:

a: click with a slight rattle, like rattan brushes
b: closed hihat
c: distored synth bass with rattle, like tambourine
d: distored synth bass higher pitch and muted
e: muted synth bass
f: sizzle ride hit like crash
g: maracas
h: muted maracas
i: afuche-cabasa
j: synth snare
k: deeper snare
l: castanets
m/n: tap on closed hihat - maybe striking the hardware?
o: booming tonal bass
p: half muted tonal bass
q: muted bass
r: very muted, blockish bass
s: synth splash
t: agogo bell
u: guiro upstroke
v: guiro downstroke
w: tambourine
x: snare
y: synth snare
z: concert bass
non-alpha: rest
(): beat = 1/3 - note: triplets will begin on the letter before the first open paren, it modifies the space before, not after, each note

.

Thanks Kyle Stetz, of the Internet, for giving the world the thing we’ll be doing for the next hour: Typedrummer!

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
New app saves you from drunk texting disasters!
05.06.2015
01:34 pm

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Amusing
Science/Tech

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For better or for worse, our highest priority as a civilization is probably avoiding social faux pas—more than climate change, more than a cure for cancer, more even than an end to world hunger, we just want to escape shame! Technology has only made these social anxieties more intense. We’ve all sent a regrettable text, whether typo/autocorrect error, a drunken mistake or the dreaded accidental “sending of a text to the person the text was about” (as brilliantly demonstrated below by comedian David O’Doherty). Finally though, there is hope!

A “Chicago-born entrepreneur” (okay, whatever) named Maci Peterson has recently developed On Second Thought, an app that could very well save us the embarrassment of texting disasters by putting a 60 second delay on all messages, giving you time to reread, rethink, regret and correct. From the site:

Never regret another message.

We understand, mistakes happen. Whether we’ve accidentally sent our boss a message meant for our spouse, or auto-correct has made us look like a jerk, we’ve all been there. With On Second Thought we can undo those mistakes before anyone knows we’ve made them. All you have to do is swipe your message left or right within moments after hitting “Send.”

Peterson was inspired by her own experience, once intending to send an ex “Hey, for some reason I keep missing your calls,” which was autocorrected to “Hey, for some reason I keep missing your cock.”

There but for the grace of God go we all!
 

 
Via Chicagoist

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Newly discovered human-shaped mushroom (yep, it’s poisonous!)
05.06.2015
09:44 am

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Science/Tech

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A human-shaped mushroom was recently discovered on the side of a road in Norfolk, England. Jonathan Revett, a fungi hobbyist, came across the lil’ buggers and sent the mushrooms in for analysis after being awestruck by their humanoid shape.

Apparently they’re a new type of Earthstar mushroom that have been given the name Geastrum britannicum. AND naturally, since they look like tiny, beret-wearing humans, the mushroom is highly poisonous and inedible. Makes sense.


 

 
via Geekologie and i09

 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Technology’s lost art: The ancient magic of the record label
05.04.2015
11:44 am

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Art
Music
Science/Tech

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In our race to embrace new technologies much has been lost. During the 50s and 60s General Electric spokesman Ronald Reagan appeared regularly on American television declaring with godlike certainty “that progress is our most important product.” And we bought it. And we’re buying it still.

Until their recent resurgence, vinyl records were a thing of the past. Now it’s compact discs that are being phased out. DVDs and Blu-rays are next. The powers that be want us streaming data through the ether without the hassle or production costs of actually making something you can hold in your hand and own, not just store in a cloud somewhere. In our embrace of the new, faster, most convenient thing, we’ve lost a substantial amount of what we love about the things we love, the things that make our lives more beautiful. My Sonos streaming device is an ugly block of white plastic. My turntable, a Thorens with a beautiful wooden plinth, is a masterpiece of design and function, gorgeous to look at, soulful, unique. My record collection is not just, to my ears, a superior way to listen to music, it is a wonderland of marvelous sleeve art, label design and picture discs. All of which I can hold in my hands, all responding to gravity and easily handed off to a friend to appreciate as much as I do. No one ever comes into my home and asks to see my set lists on Deezer or flips through my Amazon cloud collection.

The phasing out of vinyl, CD, DVD, celluloid, happened so fast that a lot of people were caught by surprise. I own a vintage audio store and people are coming in on a regular basis to buy CD players because the local big box stores don’t sell them anymore. You might be able to find a shitty player that will shuffle dozens of CDs or some crappy all-in-one system. But a good single tray player with a decent digital audio chip is getting harder to find unless you move into expensive audiophile gear territory. If you told me even five years ago that CD players and CDs themselves would become collectible I would have laughed and said you were nuts. Guess what? Anyone want to buy a Suicide Commandos’ CD for $400. I got one.

The return of vinyl is wonderful for many of us. But the big three music corporations hate it. They’ve had to shift back to making stuff. And they have to pay a lot of people to make it. The new records sold in my store put scores of people to work, from the guys who make my record bins, to workers pressing the vinyl to the artists designing record jackets again. Add to that the truckers who move the vinyl, the folks in my store who sell it and homegrown turntable manufacturers like U-Turn who can’t keep up with production demands. All those people making livings thanks to vinyl. Not to mention, the musicians who now have more control over their product and profit when they produce their own records. Yes, a record costs much more than a CD to make or an MP3 to stream. But a record is something special to a bands’ fans. It is an artifact, a totem, something you hold close to your heart knowing that not everyone owns one of these slabs of black magic. With demand so high and current production so limited, every record made today is almost instantly collectible. You may be fine listening to iTunes or Amazon cloud, but vinyl is something you want to own. It is precious. It is art.

So that’s my vinyl rant. It was all leading up to sharing these beautiful 78rpm record labels produced in Britain between the years of 1898 and 1926. Enjoy them. And be happy that we may be seeing their like again, if not already.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
What’s left of sexologist Krafft-Ebing’s personal collection of erotica
04.30.2015
06:34 am

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Amusing
History
Science/Tech
Sex

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Meanwhile, back at the Krafft-Ebing household.
“Ah, Richard, there you are—where have you been?”
“My dearest, I’ve been out…er…shopping.”
“Shopping? I hope you’ve not been buying any more of those dirty postcards with images of sexual congress and strange and unnatural fetishes.”
“Well, em, yes, as a matter of fact, I have.”
“But darling, you promised...”
“I know, I know, but these images of sexual congress and strange and unnatural fetishes are essential for my scientific research!”
“Your scientific research?”
“Yes, my sweet. These are not merely dirty postcards—these are prime examples of diverse sexual practices, which are essential research for the book I am writing.”
“Oh, I see. Well, I suppose that’s all right then.”
“Yes, it certainly is. Now, if you will kindly excuse me, I must…er…examine these new specimens… in private.”

I am sure it was never like that, but then again who knows? As Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing (1840-1902) certainly did have a fine excuse for collecting “French postcards” and assorted erotica during his lifetime. This Austro-German psychiatrist took a keen interest in all aspects of human sexual behavior and wrote an early pioneering book on the subject called Psychopathia Sexualis in 1886. This tome was intended as “a medico-forensic study,” a kind of reference book to be used by psychiatrists or as he described it: “men engaged in serious study in the domains of natural philosophy and medical jurisprudence.” Krafft-Ebing’s study popularized the terms “sadism,” “masochism” and “fetishism,” and was the first medical science book to examine homosexuality, bi-sexuality, necrophilia, pederasty, coprophilia, bestiality, transvestism, and exhibitionism.

However, some of his ideas reflected the mores of the day rather than objective scientific investigation—for example, he considered any non-procreational sex as “a perversion of the sex drive.”

“With opportunity for the natural satisfaction of the sexual instinct, every expression of it that does not correspond with the purpose of nature,—i.e., propagation,—must be regarded as perverse.”

He also thought homosexuality was an “inversion of the brain” caused during pregnancy. So he was far more vanilla than his personal collection of erotica might suggest.

Psychopathia Sexualis was of major importance in its day—but was quickly superseded by the work of an Austrian neurologist, the cocaine-injecting Sigmund Freud, whose studies into sex, dreams and human behavior made him the father of psychoanalysis.

This rather small selection of postcards and photographs is (apparently) nearly all that remains of Krafft-Ebing’s personal collection of erotica. The images deal with transvestism, with some reference to S&M, and mainly feature one particular individual. It is unknown who any of the people are, though two are rather fun examples of the infamous dirty or “French” postcard, which were popular across Europe from the 1880s onward.
 
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More from Krafft-Ebing’s personal collection of erotica, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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