It’s more than 15 years since Portugal decriminalised all drugs, & transferred all the money they used to spend on shaming,…

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Unidentifiable fossils: palaeontological problematica

Science, palaeontology, classification, problematica, species, evolution

There is a detailed vocabulary used to describe organisms which defy classification and a system of nomenclature to denote confidence limits on probable or speculative affinities, but they are generally grouped together as “problematica”. A handy grab-bag of misfits that have exasperated or eluded scientists, ready for future generations to have a go at. In museums, problematica specimens reside in drawers and cabinets equivalent to the ubiquitous drawer of odds and sods that most people have in the kitchen.


Giant Hands Bridge in Vietnam


The giant hands bridge is the new astonishing attraction near to the Bà Nà Hills resort, in the city of Da Nang, Vietnam. This structure is sustained by two enormous stonemade hands, which have been weathered with cracks and moss to look like an archeological relique. The attraction has already seduced a lot of curious tourist who can admire a unique landscape from the golden bridge.

Giant Hands Bridge in Vietnam

If you write out the basic facts of trees, but framed as technology, it sounds like impossible sci-fi nonsense….

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If straws can lead people to create a bigger zone of accountability for big companies and single-use culture, there’s a chance….

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tried synthetic fossilization (future fossilising) of eukaryotic cell samples (onion) immersed in sodium silicate/pcb…

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What are the best ambient / electronic / experimental music podcasts you know of? (Actual podcasts with RSS feeds, not Mixcloud…

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Four Thieves Vinegar Collective: DIY epipens were just the start, now it’s home bioreactors to thwart Big Pharma’s price-gouging


When last we met the Four Thieves Vinegar collective – a group of anarchist scientists who combine free/open chemistry with open source hardware in response to shkrelic gouging by pharma companies – they were announcing the epipencil, a $30 DIY alternative to the Epipen, Mylan’s poster-child for price-gouging and profiteering on human misery.

It’s been two years since the epipencil and Four Thieves has been been busy.

Michael Laufer is one of the founding Four Thieves, and he’s just presented a wide-ranging look at the Collective’s technical accomplishments at HOPE, the Hackers on Planet Earth conference held every two years at New York’s Hotel Pennsylvania.

Their main accomplishments involve the Apothecary Microlab, a DIY automated chemistry robot that you download and 3D print and assemble, using common hardware, electronics, and chemistry components. With the Microlab and the right chemicals, you can synthesize a variety of lifesaving drugs.

Home pharma manufacturing is not without risks – you could easily end up making poison instead of medicine. But as Daniel Oberhaus points out in his Motherboard profile of Laufer, the Four Thieves have made amazing strides in harm reduction in drug synthesis. Using a database from a startup called Chematica, they mined 250 years’ worth of organic chemistry history to find the safest-possible synthesis paths to the molecules they were trying to synthesize (unfortunately, Merck bought out Chematica and took the database proprietary, though there’s a darkweb site with a password-protected, leaked version of the Chematica database that Laufer would like your help in breaking).

Right now, the Microlab can produce five drugs, including Naloxone (which saves the lives of people dying of opiod overdoses, and which uses oxymorphone bought on the street as a precursor, “making medicine from poison”); and cabotegravir (an experimental drug that prevents the spread of HIV from needle-sharing, which the collective makes available to heroin dealers to cut their products with).

They’ve got all kinds of ambitious plans, too. They’re investigating using books as a medium for growing GM mycelia that could devour the cellulose in the paper and produce precursors; these books could be mailed at media rates between biohackers in a postal P2P system they call “biotorrents” (they’re also thinking of using CDs as petri dishes, taking advantage of standard mailers and packaging). They’re planning a work-focus on rare and orphan disease, and blockbuster drugs like Solvadi, the $84,000, one-shot Hep C cure.

The whole thing has the ring of OG hacker groups like Cult of the Dead Cow, as brilliant at media as they were at tech.

To everyone writing about adverts, microtargeting, the law, Turkey, racists, Jo Cox today, never forget this graph. It’s…

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2018 is only halfway over, but a troubling climate change trend is already apparent



Earth is in the midst of a 40-year-long accelerated warming trend spurred on by human-caused climate change, and 2018 isn’t helping.

Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and Columbia University showed this week that the average surface temperature on Earth between January and June this year was the third hottest half-year on record, since good record keeping began long ago, in 1880.

But the trend goes much deeper than that.

The first half of the last four years — 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 – all take the top four hottest-recorded January to June periods ever documented.

A single record-breaking month or year can be telling, but it’s not nearly as scientifically meaningful as these longer-term trends.

“When a record is broken once, it’s a fluke. When it happens again, it’s a coincidence. When it happens three times, it’s a trend, but when it happens every single year, it’s a movement,” Sarah Green, an environmental chemist at Michigan Technological University, said over email.

As NASA’s maps show, this heating trend is occurring all over the planet, showing how the entire global climate has been disrupted by potent heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, notably carbon dioxide.“

In a stable climate, one place is warmer than normal while another is colder,” said Green. “The GISTEMP global maps show that is no longer the case; it’s hotter pretty much everywhere.”

This includes Earth’s expansive oceans, which are much more absorbent that Earth’s rocky surface. Over 90 percent of Earth’s accumulating heat gets trapped by the seas.“

The inexorable heating of the oceans is especially worrying,” said Green. “Land temperatures fluctuate with a shift in the wind direction or a passing cloud, but the increasing temperature of the surface ocean shows that greenhouse gasses are trapping more and more heat on Earth.“

2018 is only halfway over, but a troubling climate change trend is already apparent

Worms frozen in permafrost for up to 42,000 years come back to life + join other freshly awoken ancient species in pursuing…

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Salt deposits marble the shoreline of Lake Coipasa in Bolivia’s Sabaya Province. At an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet (3,657…


Salt deposits marble the shoreline of Lake Coipasa in Bolivia’s Sabaya Province. At an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet (3,657 m), the lake is fed by the Lauca River, which drops dark volcanic sediment along its northwestern shore. That sediment, shown on the right side of this Overview, contrasts sharply with the light blue water and white salt crust.


19°10'32.3"S, 68°02'09.8"W

Source imagery: DigitalGlobe

Rise of Italian populist parties buoys anti-vaccine movement

antivax, anti-science, epidemiology, italy, herd-immunity, Facebook, idiocracy, measles-parties, 201

Last year [Italian postal police, who investigate online crime] shut down a Facebook page that organised “measles parties” so that parents could expose their children to the disease in an attempt to immunise them naturally. “Unfortunately it’s a fact that Italy has a coverage of measles that is similar to Namibia,” said Roberto Burioni, a professor of microbiology and virology at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan.


Excited to announce I’ll be speaking at: Coded Matter(s): Terra Fiction; an evening programme about art, sci-fi and imagining…

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If this sounds positively Pynchonian, you’re not wrong. I first came across octonions in “Against the Day” by Pynchon, where he…

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A photo essay by Kevin Faingnaert on the The ZAD (officially, ‘zone d’aménagement différé’, renamed by protesters as ’zone à…

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Looking to build an #AI Radiologist? The @NIH Clinical Center releases “DeepLesion” dataset of 32,000 CT images, measured and…

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I’m on the moderation team of a different academically-focused subreddit, and we have similar policies. Our subreddit is large…

academia, reddit, moderation, hate speech, free speech, trolls, 2018, metafilter, civil discourse

I’m on the moderation team of a different academically-focused subreddit, and we have similar policies. Our subreddit is large and doesn’t attract nearly as much Nazi propoganda, but we do get plenty of people who stubbornly refuse to engage with facts - sometimes because they’re replaced facts with racist or sexist prejudices, or even alt-right conspiracy theories. We often ban those ones. We no longer even wait until they’re real trouble on our subreddit; we’ll look at their user history and ban them based on past comments elsewhere.

I used to feel uncomfortable with this. I value free debate and inquiry highly, and it seemed contrary to it. But they aren’t interested in free debate or inquiry; on an academic subreddit, they don’t care what can actually be supported with facts and argument so long as it disagrees with their personal prejudices or political beliefs. All they do is drag the level of discussion down. And allowing them to post their bullshit just lends credibility to their views, because they’re being debated on an academic forum.

I’m a lot less uncomfortable with it now.


I am going to give what I will call an elementary demonstration. But elementary does not mean easy to understand. Elementary…

Feynman, science, elementary, intelligence, FFT, an infinite amount of intelligence

“I am going to give what I will call an elementary demonstration. But elementary does not mean easy to understand. Elementary means that very little is required to know ahead of time in order to understand it, except to have an infinite amount of intelligence. There may be a large number of steps that hard to follow, but to each does not require already knowing the calculus or Fourier transforms.”

Richard P. Feynman

Wow. This has made my week. This is from the government’s own publication about the history of government communications. They…

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Google Translate’s deep dream: some translation requests yield weird religious prophesies


Feed 19 repetitions of the word “dog” to Google Translate and ask it for a Maori conversion and you get this: “Doomsday Clock is three minutes at twelve. We are experiencing characters and a dramatic developments in the world, which indicate that we are increasingly approaching the end times and Jesus’ return.”

There’s lots more where this came from, especially when translating into languages with small corpuses like Maori or Somali, and no one’s exactly sure why. The smart money is on “neural machine translation,” which is producing the literary equivalents of the furry animals that appear in images that are repeatedly processed through Deep Dreaming.

Takeaway: "Outside of cryptocurrencies, POW (proof of work) is already obsolete. Of the more than 160 companies developing…

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I’ve often heard people say "I don’t understand the finance sector because I’m no good at maths’. Finance, though, is not a…

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Happy #WorldListeningDay everyone. Today, reflect upon who you listen to, and whose voices are turned into noise. Jacques…

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We will solve the climate problem principally by improving the systems in which dysfunctional people operate, and not by…

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Fake news and botnets: how Russia weaponised the web

botnet, russia, estonia, cyberwar, information-warfare, Rastorguev, infrastructure, 2007, 2017, Gera

Once there was a fox that wanted to eat a turtle, but whenever he tried to, it withdrew into its shell. He bit it and he shook it, but he wasn’t getting anywhere. One day he had an idea: he made the turtle an offer to buy its shell. But the turtle was clever and knew it would be eaten without this protection, so it refused. Time passed, until one day there appeared a television hanging in a tree, displaying images of flocks of happy, naked turtles – flying! The turtle was amazed. Oh! They can fly! But wouldn’t it be dangerous to give up your shell? Hark, the voice on television was announcing that the fox had become a vegetarian. “If I could only take off my shell, my life would be so much easier,” thought the turtle. “If the turtle would only give up its shell, it would be so much easier to eat,” thought the fox – and paid for more broadcasts advertising flying turtles. One morning, when the sky seemed bigger and brighter than usual, the turtle removed its shell. What it fatally failed to understand was that the aim of information warfare is to induce an adversary to let down its guard. (In 1998, Sergei P Rastorguev, a Russian military analyst, published Philosophy of Information Warfare, which included a lengthy version of this anecdote)


trying out Tensorflow inferencing with pre-trained models on an ARM Cortex microcontroller. this STMF32F4 discovery board is…

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The first @_foam / @edenproject #InvisibleWorlds residency begins next week - Rosanna Martin of Brickworks. This is the first…

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We don’t talk enough about takeover-at-the-top disruption patterns. The business disruption model of encroaching from the…

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Whenever someone texts me “ETA?” I always reply "I don’t agree with their violent tactics, but I support the ideal of Basque…

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cosmic horror isn’t scary anymore; meaninglessness of the universe is now the status quo assumption, not a shocking revelation….

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Free PDF downloads of the two-volume Global Encyclopaedia of Informality; a catalogue of gift-giving, bribery, interest-driven…

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The economics of Walkaway


Edgeryders’ Alberto Cottica has published a detailed analysis of the economics of Walkaway, at the micro-, mezzo-, and macroscale. It’s a good, crisp analysis that really captures what I was going for.

Writers are notoriously bad at knowing what they’re doing and why, and good criticism is just as interesting for writers to read as it is for readers.

The economics in Walkaway are my attempt to nail down a bunch of half-formed ideas that have been knocking around in my own thoughts for decades. Cottica’s analysis actually improves on some of what I was able to do, and was a great read.

These statements are important in Walkaway, because they dispose of methodological individualism. The reasoning works like this:

1.    Most people like building things together. As long as the two elements of building and sociality are present, you do not need to obsess too much about incentives. In practice, you can blackbox individual behavior: observe what they do, then build a model in which they do it. No need to derive this behavior as the equilibrium strategy of a problem. This is a position close to behavioral economics.

2.   What matters, instead, are technologies for cooperation. Groups of humans that are better at cooperating will prosper at the expense of other groups that are not as good. Groups of humans get better at cooperating by adopting systems of rules that make cooperation easier. Therefore, humans are subject to evolutionary pressure both at the individual level and at the group level, and the in the group level the pressure is cultural. This is the interpretation proposed by cultural evolution biologists like E.O. Wilson and Joseph Henrich.

3.    It follows that an effective economic theory should not focus on individual behavior as an equilibrium of a set of individual incentives, but on system-level behavior as an equilibrium of interaction protocols.

“Long tails drive everything. They dominate business, investing, sports, politics, products, careers, everything. Rule of thumb:…


“Long tails drive everything. They dominate business, investing, sports, politics, products, careers, everything. Rule of thumb: Anything that is huge, profitable, famous, or influential is the result of a tail event. Another rule of thumb: Most of our attention goes to things that are huge, profitable, famous, or influential. And when most of what you pay attention to is the result of a tail, you underestimate how rare and powerful they really are.”

Tails, You Win

If you were to get a cruise ship in good condition at bargain rates, with financing, and set up a no-profit-no-loss sustainable…

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How Data-Gathering Seals Help Scientists Measure the Melting Antarctic


An ice-loving Weddell seal, equipped with headgear and ready to assist oceanographers. (Brice Loose)


In 2014, Loose was part of a team to help tag elephant (Mirounga leonina) and Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) for a study. The seals weren’t the subjects of the study, though—they were its research assistants. Loose was helping fit the able divers with trackers so that they could collect data on the Amundsen Sea’s temperature and salinity at great depths, which would provide clues into the mechanism of the rapid ice melt in Antarctica. The research was published in Geophysical Research Letters in May 2018.

Currently, scientists theorize that Antarctic melting is partially caused by a warmer, saltier current beneath the ice known as the “circumpolar deep water.” These waters, which are present at depths of 400 meters, are brought to the surface and lick the underside of ice sheets, melting them and enabling sea levels to rise.

“In Pine Island Bay, this is particularly important,” says Helen Mallett, the lead author of the study and a postgraduate researcher at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. “The circumpolar deep water there is melting the unstable, fast thinning Pine Island Glacier, which in turn drains the vulnerable and massive West Antarctic Ice Sheet.” If all the unstable ice in west Antarctica melts, sea levels could rise by up to 10.5 feet globally.

Scientists know the warm current exists in the Amundsen Sea, but they need to know more. To get a complete picture, scientists need to answer some basic questions: Where are the warm waters, exactly? How thick is the layer of warm water ? How does it vary from winter to summer?

For this, they turned to the enormous marine mammals with large puppy dog eyes.

Seals are known for their impressive diving skills, with some species torpedoing down to depths of 2,000 feet even in sub-zero temperatures. These skills made them the perfect partners for collecting temperature data at the seafloor. Researchers had not collected any winter data in this region because the conditions are too harsh for humans.

“We could see that seals dive at these extreme depths and go these vast distances,” says Mike Fedak, a seal biologist at the University of St. Andrews in the UK who has been tagging animals for the past 39 years. “These animals go where we can’t.”

How Data-Gathering Seals Help Scientists Measure the Melting Antarctic

Drought and Drone Reveal ‘Once-in-a-Lifetime’ Signs of Ancient Henge in Ireland


Not all consequences of a drought are bad……..

Signs of a henge, a man-made enclosure from thousands of years ago thought to serve as a gathering place, were photographed by a camera-enabled drone on Monday.CreditAnthony Murphy


It took an unusually brutal drought for signs of a 5,000-year-old monument to suddenly appear in an Irish field, as if they had been written into the landscape in invisible ink.

On Monday, Anthony Murphy, an author and photographer, sent a camera-enabled drone high above the Brú na Bóinne archaeological landscape, a Unesco World Heritage Site about 30 miles north of Dublin. He suspected that recent dry conditions might reveal evidence that a henge — a man-made enclosure from thousands of years ago thought to serve as a gathering place — had once been there.

What he and a friend saw in the images shocked him: a series of discolorations in the farmland, caused by differences in soil, spread about 150 meters wide in a perfectly circular pattern. He had flown the drone over the same field many times before and never saw a hint of what was now perfectly clear, he said.

It has been more than 40 days since the Dublin area has had significant rainfall, and the dearth of water had left the field, which is on privately owned land, scorched by the sun.

The drought also revealed the sites of ruins in Wales. From ABC News:

Cropmarks of a large prehistoric enclosure in the Vale of Glamorgan with the faint footings of a probable Roman villa within.Supplied: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW)

Cropmarks of a large Bronze Age barrow cemetery on the Llyn Reninsula, Gwynedd. Supplied: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW)

Drought and Drone Reveal ‘Once-in-a-Lifetime’ Signs of Ancient Henge in Ireland

Just to be very clear, I want to live in the open-source hackable networked sex toys queer cyberpunk world, and not the…

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Worker bees are pansexual nonbinary creatures who give a good rub to both pistils and stamens which we clumsily talk about as…

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