Wednesday, October 26, 2011

43 Bright and Beautiful Jack O Lanterns

This Halloween it's time to create the greatest Jack O Lantern that has ever graced the front porch. Startle trick-or-treaters, make neighbors jealous, and munch candy while admiring the flickering flame in the perfectly carved pumpkin.

(Images via indypostedchrocodilesthegriplennyvasbinder)
Some of the best pumpkins are more sculpture than anything else. With extreme depth and no space for the typical candle, they are truly works of art.

(Images via trendhunter, digitalbusstop)

Many people regret eating too much candy on Halloween, and it's nice to know that Jack O Lanterns sometimes share that pain. While a bit crude, there's a great three dimensional quality to this kind of pumpkin carving.

(Images via picchore, picasaweb, mentalfloss)

Compelling (and terrifying) film characters are great pumpkin fodder. While it's not easy to carve a wonderfully realistic predator recreation, a martian is perfectly doable.

(Images via guidespot, geektonic, blissmassacre, digitalbusstop, royaltutorial, thehitman)

These Jack O Lantern examples may not be mind-blowing, but they'd still outshine nearly every pumpkin in the neighborhood. Spend a little more time this year and show some true creativity.

(Images via underneaththejunipertree, surfwithberserk, gypsyredtint, ebaumsworld)

Anthropomorphized pumpkins are delightfully comedic. It's especially strange to see pumpkins with realistic teeth grinning with creepy stares and stem noses, but it adds a great contrasting quality to the typical Jack O Lantern's glowing face.

(Images via coolpicturegalleryindypostedindypostedlennyvasbinderlennyvasbindernerdnirvanaizismile)

The realism attainable with such an odd medium as a pumpkin is shocking and impressive. Incredible detail, fantastic expression, and creative execution combine to form exhibit-worthy creations.

(Images via indescribableme, mindlessmirth, westseattleblog, menupagesypcommando)

Yes, pumpkins are cannibals. This is why it's always important to keep smaller pumpkins well away from the voracious, larger pumpkins.

(Images via babble, extremehalloween, lifehacker, completenewenglandholidash)

Some Halloween fanatics would argue that a Justin Bieber Jack O Lantern is one of the scariest on the block, but it's doubtful that this would stop someone from placing it next to their front door.

(Images via intricateart, ashleigh-animation, favim, gravewithaview, jasonmarkjones)

Tim Burton is the godfather of Halloween in his own way, and a multitude of pumpkins have been carved to honor his contribution to spooky culture.

(Images via outta-this-world, documentingreality)

Any manipulated material is inevitably used by Star Wars fans to pay homage to their favorite film series. As always, the fans bring an incredible amount of detail to the difficult task of forging a pumpkin into something epic.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Earth Officially Home To 7 Billion Humans

New submitter arcite writes "It's official: planet Earth is now home to over seven billion ugly-bags-of-mostly-water (otherwise known as humans). We're adding ten thousand new humans every hour, or one billion every nine years. Head over to 7 Billion Actions (put together by the UN with the help of SAP) and check out the population map data. Short of adopting a strict diet of Soylent Green, what viable solutions will enable us to survive on this increasingly crowded pale blue dot? What will the role of technology be in supporting this many people?"

Read more of this story 

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Epic Star Wars snark tee: "Show us on the trilogy where George hurt you"

Another find from New York Comic-Con: this epic Star Wars snark tee from Joel Watson, creator of Hijinks Ensue, a most excellent webcomic.

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Bookbinding in the Digital Age: an interview with Michael Greer

Michael Greer is a Bookbinder. I interviewed him to find out more about his unusual profession and his recent creation, the binary Genesis.

Avi Solomon

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Michael Greer

I'm a guy who loves books. For years that's meant teaching literature both here and abroad. I like getting into the heavy stuff. I work with teenagers who understand Hobbes, and when we read the Odyssey together, we read the whole thing, not just the fantasy bits. But I also like working with my hands and that's why being a bookbinder just seems to fit. It seems like such a rarity nowadays-the possibility to work with one's hands. Especially to create something from start to finish. And then when that something happens to be the text of a really good book, it just works.


What happened on your trip to Morocco?


By the spring of 2007 I was finishing up 4 years teaching at an American school in Casablanca. One of my colleagues had these beautiful leather bound books on his shelves at home and he told me where I could find the binder. So for a few years I would take the train up to Rabat and drop off a few books now and again.

Just before my wife and I started packing to leave, I brought one last project to the binder. I had put together a bunch of essays and travel articles that I'd written and formatted into a proper book. I made seven copies and brought them to the binder. A week or so later I went to pick them up. By this time I was an established client so he really made them nice…all kinds of beautiful marbled papers and nice leathers. It was one thing to have another author's book rebound, but seeing your own in full leather…well, I was hooked.

School was out so I was there at an unusual time (for me) and as I was talking to the old man who owned the shop I heard a loud pounding from behind the wall. "What's that?" I asked. "The binder," he said. I'd always thought he was the binder, so it kind of took me by surprise. Turns out that the actual binder worked in the basement. I'd never seen him. I asked the owner if I could come watch him work one day. The next week my wife and I showed up. The binder hadn't been told we were coming and seemed a little at a loss at first. I asked a question, my wife translated, and he would give one or two word replies. After a few of these exchanges he got up and reached behind a bunch of old rags and pulled out an old book. For the rest of the day, he showed us the way a book was made. He also told stories about the shop and it came out he would be retiring and the shop would probably close. It was hard news. The end of something special.

That afternoon as my wife and I walked to the train, I told her I wanted to learn bookbinding and that's what happened. After the summer, I worked at the shop for free and learned by watching and then by doing. It was one of the best experiences of my life.


Could you describe the bookbinding process?


The bookbinding process can be disturbing. It's violent at first. You literally tear the book apart. Most older books were sewn, so you cut the thread and then pull each signature or booklet off the book. Then you sew them back together again on a sewing frame which is basically a loom for books.

With so much thread in the book, it's fatter in back than in front, so to correct for this, the spine is glued up and rounded to take up some of the swell. After that, the book is put into a press and the spine is hammered so that the signatures bend over creating little shoulders. Essentially, you're creating an arch. The boards act as columns. The arch of the spine works to fight gravity and keep the pages from sagging too much on the shelves.

While the glue is drying you prepare the boards. Heavy carton is cut to size and lined with newspaper on the inside which makes them warp and sort of hug the text block. It looks awful. These boards get sanded and then attached to the text block with the cords. Meanwhile, the leather is cut out. In Morocco, we had a great machine that tapered off the leather so that it would fold over the edges better, but now I do all that work by hand. The leather is pasted up and then sort of molded onto the back of the book and then the front and back covers. It's tricky getting it folded over at the top and bottom of the spine and bookbinders pride themselves on the shape they give to these "endcaps." The pull of the leather counteracts the pull of the newsprint and the boards end up flat.

The final task is the finishing…putting on the title with gold foil. It's the hardest part of the job and the most stressful. You've got a pallet full of hot letters and one chance to place them squarely onto the back of a curved spine. I usually feel pretty awful about a book until it finally gets covered in leather. They just look so bad. But then my spirits lift and once the gold lettering is on, I'm usually feeling pretty happy again. It's like alchemy.


What's the importance of bookbinding in a digital age?


My friend who owns several bookstores often laughs at me. "We're in a dying trade," he says. Too often, I have to agree with him. But when I get sick of all the information beaming at me through the computer and over the radio and tv, a book made of paper can be just the thing. It's nice to handle something that is still unplugged.

The other thing is that so much of the digital world is actually more ephemeral than the physical world. I have ten year old computer files that I can't read. How long will a Nook last? Last night I was reading a book by Ernie Pyle about the Second World War when my wife walked into the room. It dawned on me that she was in our bedroom, but I was watching our navy transports unload soldiers on the beaches of Sicily. I was plugged in but the book wasn't. Then it will go back onto the shelf until someone else picks it up…ten, twenty, twelve hundred years from now.


What's the most satisfying thing about being a bookbinder? What are the challenges?


Bookbinding is one of mankind's oldest technologies and one that still can't be beat. I like the continuity, the fact that I learned from someone who had learned from someone…and so on. In the US, hand bookbinding as a trade has been nearly dead for many years. A few of us quixotic dreamers hang on. Still, the revolution in the last decade in on-demand publishing could create a space for us. Twenty years ago, self-publishers paid a hefty sum to print maybe 250 copies of their family history. They gave away ten and the rest went into the attic. For about the same amount of money, I can print and bind ten full leather volumes and create others on demand. The difficulty is letting people know that this kind of thing exists. When I do fairs, people often approach my table full of books with a mystified smile and say, "I didn't know anybody did this stuff anymore." If bookbinders can get the word out, we might be able to carve out a place for our services in the growing world of digital publishing.


How did you come up with the idea of a binary Genesis?


Initially, I just wanted to see what that river of ones and zeros would look like on the page. But then it just seemed like an idea I could wrap myself around. The bible had been translated into so many languages, why not put it in binary and bind it medieval style? I liked the irony, but I also liked what it said about the longevity of a book as a repository of information. I've owned three or four computers and they never made it past five years. How long will my book last?


How have people responded to the binary Genesis project? What fascinates them about it?


At the Maker Faire this year, people loved it. I always encourage people to pick up and handle my books. Like me a few years ago, many of them had never seen or handled a leather bound book, so at first they're drawn to that. The title is in binary on the cover so they really don't know what it is. When they open it up and see all those ones and zeros they kind of laugh. But then when I tell them it is the Book of Genesis in binary, they really seem to get it.

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Texas officials edited climate change out of environmental report

Texas scientists wrote a report detailing the state of the environment in Galveston Bay. Rick Perry-appointed officials from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality went through the report and systematically deleted every mention of changes to Bay ecology that could be attributed to climate change. Now the scientists are rebelling. All the authors have asked for their names to be removed from the published, censored version of the report, and they've shared the original paper with the press. You can see how the report was censored, page-by-page, at Mother Jones.

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13 Panoramic Street Artists Stencil Far & Spray Wide

Sweeping street art enlivens super-long walls and even entire buildings with bright, fun, thought-provoking paintings and illustrations. Including works by renowned urban artists like ROA, BLU, Phlegm and Mark Jenkins, this collection of large-scale graffiti, murals and other forms of street art shows how a little creativity can turn a depressed neighborhood or unremarkable cityscape into a cultural landmark.


(images via: vandalog)

Artist Jetsonorama created this massive, beautiful mural at a Navajo Nation reservation in response to the news that an Arizona ski resort planned to use reclaimed wastewater to make artificial snow on a mountain sacred to several North American tribes. The work, entitled 'The People Speak For Themselves', features the words of the artists' friends emblazoned upon illustrations of their faces.

Da Mental Vaporz & More at Galore Festival

(images via: vandalog)

Da Mental Vaporz at Galore DK from Butterfly on Vimeo.

Da Mental Vaporz crew joined ROA and several other notable graffiti artists at Galore Festival in Copenhagen in September 2011, creating this super-long wall of work while they were there. Photographer S. Butterfly, who created the above video, says ""The mural is a satyrical reference to unscrupulous people who are willing to deface street art walls for profit. The DMV also incorporated a tribute to Kase 2 (RIP), as well as Copenhagen landmarks, including the infamous  Christiania market, where you can find anything." Segments of the mural were painted on removable panels which were later taken to the "street art shop".

The Panda Crew

(images via: pandakroo)

Based mostly in Paris, Panda Crew is a collaboration of four artists bringing humorous cartoonish illustrations – often featuring pandas – to the walls of the world. While the collective often shows off smaller works like sketches on its blog, they also stretch out to cover entire walls and buildings.


(images via:

From WebUrbanist: "ROA is known for painting the dark, gritty side of nature – particularly animals that are not, to most, cute or lovable. Whether portraying rats slinking across urban surfaces, bedraggled creatures that have seen better days or the blood and guts beneath a bunny's soft fur, ROA clearly has a soft spot for the duality of the natural world and the rich variety of creatures it contains. "For me they tell so much more about this world then any other creature, but maybe in a year I'll only paint landscapes…" he said in an interview with FatCap."


(images via: phlegmcomicnews)

Phlegm loves to find "unloved walls" and turn them into works of urban art, often covering vast surfaces with oversized animals and his signature telescope. The UK-based artist began his street art career after being "sucked into the art machine", preferring to work for himself. He now puts out a highly successful comic that often gets snapped up as soon as it's printed.


(images via: unurth, designer daily)

How stunning is this ultra-saturated mural covering an entire building in Lodz, Poland? Artist Aryz completed it for the annual festival Galeria Urban Forms. Artist and illustrator Aryz is from Barcelona, and his work is highly distinguishable both for its style and its eye-popping vivid colors.


(images via: susso33)

From Madrid comes Suso33, decking out buildings in Spain and other countries with leaping dancers and looming faces. The artist has a pretty amazing technique using both hands at the same time, as demonstrated in this video.

SatOne + ETAM Crew at Galeria Urban Forms

(images via: galeria urban forms)

Munich's SatOne teamed up with the ETAM Crew of Poland to create this vivid, sweeping work of art for the Galeria Urban Forms festival in Lodz. With SatOne offering a futuristic, abstract style and ETAM supplying richly colored illustrative elements, this pairing was definitely an inspired one.

Alexandre Farto

(images via: photographyrea)

Fine art in a realistic style comes to the streets in large-scale works by Portuguese-born, London-residing artist Alexandre Farto. In one of his most lauded techniques, Farto lays down wheat-pasted paper and then scratches out the details, leaving behind the textured urban surface of the background. Farto, a.k.a. VHILS, also works with prints, billboards, metal and mixed media..

Mark Jenkins

(images via:

This incredible installation goes beyond an impressive panoramic work of street art, adding a rather disturbing element: the dead body of the artist that created it. Or at least, that's what it seems like to concerned passersby before they approach the stabbed figure and realize it's just a mannequin. Jenkins has made a name for himself not as a graffiti artist but for his thoughtful and often shocking urban installations, which are often inserted into public spaces guerilla-style.


(images via:, rob monroe)

Artist BLU brings together his most famous work in a series of stop-motion graffiti animations using a large concrete wall as a canvas. The Argentinian, whose real identity has never been revealed, is known for these digital shorts and for his vast body of murals which can be found all over Central and South America, in the West Bank, London, Spain, Germany and Eastern Europe as well as in his current home country of Italy.

BLU also created the incredibly long evolution mural, appropriately entitled A Very Long Story, photographed here by Rob Monroe.

Multiple Artists in China

(images via:

Could this be the world's largest urban mural? A number of artists joined together to cover more than 200,000 square feet on 21 buildings in Qingdao, China's Taidong commercial district. The work was completed in June 2008 for the Beijing Olympics.

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Image of the day: Who knows what women really want?

Image of the day: Who knows what women really want?

Presented without comment.

Sent with Reeder

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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mystery hit-and-run enema

A visually impaired man who'd recently undergone intestinal surgery answered the door to find a woman who announced that she was there to give him an enema. He complied, but later felt that there was something suspicious about the proceeding, so he called his doctor, who confirmed that no enema had been ordered in his case. His visual impairment is severe enough that he can't describe his assailant.

A day later, on Monday, the enema recipient began wondering about what had happened to him but took no action. By Tuesday, he felt compelled to shed some light on the experience, so he contacted police. An investigating officer promptly called the man's doctor and was told no enema had been prescribed, ordered or approved.

Sonoma police turned the case over to the domestic and sexual assault unit of the Sonoma Sheriff's Office who have yet to make sense of the caper.

(via Lowering the Bar)

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Superluminal neutrinos vs global warming

Walker White of Washington (WWW) wrote the following letter to the editor of Washington Post:
'Faster than light' vs. climate change
Because it's short and the message is important, I will reproduce it here.
The Sept. 24 front-page article "Faster than light: Revolution or error?" was remarkable. After more than 100 years, a potential flaw in Albert Einstein's unifying theory has emerged through experimentation. However, it is what did not happen that is more important. No "relativity deniers" were castigated by the press or political groups.  No financial regulations were created to prevent people from traveling to the future to reap profits on events they knew would happen. No one resigned in protest.

People on both sides of the climate-change argument should take note. This is what science looks like: a skeptical, methodical, precise and open process. All science is "settled," until it is not. Everything else is politics.
Very true.

Let me just reiterate the analogies as well as the huge contrast between the two situations. In both cases, we deal with a scientific claim that an "important effect exists". This claim is controversial but in both cases, you may find groups of scientists whose large majority backs one position and groups of scientists whose majority supports the opposite position.

In the case of climate change, the contrast is obvious. But the claim about faster-than-light neutrinos is bolder and much more striking than a vague claim about the expected rise of a bizarrely averaged absolute temperature (by less than 1% in a century) on a random planet somewhere in the Solar System. According to its own audacious plans, the OPERA collaboration wants to overthrow one of the three main pillars of physics which is the foundation of all natural sciences.

Relativity has really been taught at schools as a "settled science" for decades. OPERA claims nothing less than that Einstein – the most famous scientist in the history – was wrong in his most famous discovery, after all. Of course, most of Einstein's claims would have to be preserved in some way (because they have been tested in many other contexts) but fundamentally speaking, his rules and principles wouldn't exactly apply to the real world. In some sense, OPERA has raised a similar – arguably experimentally justified – claim to the claims of German "Aryan physicists" who criticized Einstein 75 years ago. No one feels the urge to emphasize this analogy.

The polarization in this debate is totally obvious. I estimate that 99% of theoretical high-energy physicists and phenomenologists would agree that with a probability higher than 90%, the OPERA claim is wrong. It is an artifact of an error. The percentage is larger than the optimistically claimed "percentages of climate scientists who agree with the IPCC's prophesy about a coming doom". And these 99% of theorists have lots of theoretical arguments as well as some arguments that are very empirical in character (observations of supernovae etc.).

On the other hand, we have (mainly) the OPERA experimenters. Something like one hundred of people have performed a very careful experiment (and millions of readers of the newspapers became enthusiastic fans of their bold claim). Because of the numerous hard-working people in the team and many checks and re-checks and cross-Czechs ;-), I am confident that a clear majority of the OPERA members feel more than 80% certain that their experiment is right and they have discovered new physics. They still know how to formulate their claims modestly and calmly, however.

If the paper doesn't have a "huge overlooked error", the statistical uncertainty of their self-confidence is pretty much irrelevant. For all practical purposes, their paper settles the question: Einstein is wrong. They claim to have found a speed of a genuine material object that exceeds the speed of light by "6 standard deviations"; scientists say it is a "6 sigma effect". The probability that such a big deviation (in the "faster-than-light" direction) occurs due to a random chance is approximately 1 part in half a billion.

This effect almost certainly didn't occur by chance. If it is wrong, it is not because the authors were unlucky; it is because they did something seriously wrong and they relied on someone else who did something seriously wrong.

So the controversy surrounding the superluminal OPERA experiment is defined much more sharply, goes to the very basics of physics as a physical science, and is equally divisive as the global warming arguments. However, what is happening is actually very different: no one screams at "deniers" on the other side (deniers of relativity or deniers of OPERA's experimental results). No one, not even your humble correspondent, proposes special labor camps where the wrong people would be stored. ;-)

Even though such a fundamental principle (of relativity) is at stake and despite a century in which the principle was treated as an indisputable scientific fact, no one is "really sure", I mean 99.9999% sure, that the experimenters are wrong (or right). A large team of good physicists has done a careful experiment, after all. Its apparent result is clear: neutrinos propagate faster than light in the vacuum.

Obviously, the true reason why people don't fight is that they're thinking about this issue as scientists. And in science, unexpected events may sometimes occur and have occurred. People really "don't care" personally whether relativity is right or wrong. If relativity is proved to be wrong (and it is a giant "if"), some basic beliefs I have taken for granted for 25 years will be shaken. But I will not be the only one and I can still be the first person who discovers the right theoretical description of the world that breaks relativity and allows for all those marvelous superluminal OPERA phenomena.

In the very same way, the OPERA members may shown to have done something wrong but it was such a complicated enterprise that no one would be shocked and people would forgive them. Moreover, each of the OPERA members has a significant likelihood to become the first person who discovers the error. Alternatively, the OPERA measurement may show that there is a significant error in the GPS system that may lead up to 18-meter errors in the measurement of the distances between CERN and Gran Sasso – and surely many other pairs of places on the Earth. This would make OPERA's work important as well – even though in a different context than the planned one.

Do you see my point? My real point is that despite the different backgrounds and different focus on what evidence is primary, which dramatically influences the expectations whether the big OPERA claim is going to be defensible, people simply remain impartial. They continue to be fair. The screaming about the "deniers" and "incontrovertible facts" in the climate change case boils down to the fact that something else than the scientific evidence and truth is driving people's behavior.

Walker White rightfully says that most of the climate scientists should look at the events that followed the audacious claims by OPERA and they should learn because this is what the real science is doing. Once the mistake in the experiment is found, the big claims will be forgotten and the hype we have seen will look ridiculous. But we're really not there yet. We face a sufficiently clear collision of two sets of arguments that has to be resolved.

Relativity's claims about the speed are vastly more accurate and solid than the claims by the anthropogenic climate change advocates – the speed of light is measured with the accuracy exceeding 10 significant figures and times and distances may often be measured at 16 significant figures (think about atomic clocks) while the error margin of the IPCC's figure for the climate sensitivity is approximately 100 percent which means that they "know" fewer than 1 significant figure. But even the much more accurate, solid, and theoretically justified claims of special relativity are "allowed to be questioned".

It's time to admit that the claims about a significant anthropogenic impact on the climate – which are much more vague, inaccurate, non-quantitative, and much less justified than the claims of Einstein's relativity – may be questioned, too. In fact, the observations and theoretical analyses have already shown that they're almost certainly wrong.

And that's the memo.

Freedom of speech gets shi*ted upon in Australia

Those TRF readers who were trying to suggest that everything was fine with freedom and democracy in Australia (I am talking about you, Tom of Perth, and others) should notice the result of a lawsuit:
Bolt shocked by court finding against him
In 2009, Andrew Bolt wrote two articles (It's so hip to be black and White fellas in the black) about a group of pale-skinned Aborigines who chose to identify themselves as Aborigines in order to get some benefits. What did he write about them so terrifying? He wrote about them that they're pale-skinned Aborigines who chose to identify themselves as Aborigines in order to get some benefits. (Just to be sure that you don't lose your common sense: Aborigines should mean that they're black, not white.)

What a scary inconvenient truth! In mathematics, it is also known as a tautology.

So what did the pale-skinned Aborigines who chose to identify themselves as Aborigines in order to get some benefits do about the inconvenient truth? Some of them (especially those who have been opportunistic as*holes already as kids) have sued Andrew Bolt. After all, they had a chance to win such a lawsuit even though no "doubly" white person could ever win such a ludicrous case (this advantage is one of the reasons why they identified themselves as Aborigines). So what happened?

Today, indeed, they won the lawsuit because the judge agreed it was an inconvenient truth and inconvenient truths are prohibited in Australia, especially if they're inconvenient for jerks who "chose their race" for personal gain. This is a shock, but a tolerable step, for one courageous man, Andrew Bolt. But it is a huge step towards totalitarianism for the Southern Hemisphere. Of course, you may easily find scum (II) in the Australian media that applauds to this revival of Stalinism on the smallest continent.

Via Jo Nova and Soylent Green

(I am terrified that even Jo Nova had to close the comment section on her blog and even avoid writing her own opinion about the event. Does the old capitalist world really have the moral credentials to criticize China or Russia for its suppression of freedom when things like that may take place in Australia?)
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September 29, 2011

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