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      Fun "urban blight" popsicle stick and graffiti art project for kids

      Graffiti Diplomacy is a Brooklyn-based graffiti art studio and educational outfit with a terrific Web site containing free lessons, handouts, and craft activities for beginning (and advanced) artists. Their "Urban Blight" diorama how-to, complete with popsicle stick picket fences, looks like a lot of fun to build and tag.

      Graffiti Crafting # 1 - Learn How To Make A Popsicle Stick Graffiti Picket Fence

      Read the rest

      You can make a Turing machine inside a game of Magic: The Gathering

      Magic: The Gathering is Turing complete. In a new scientific paper, researchers "present a methodology for embedding an arbitrary Turing machine into a game of Magic such that the first player is guaranteed to win the game if and only if the Turing machine halts." From Ars Technica:

      Furthermore, (software engineer Alex Churchill) and his co-authors -- Stella Biderman of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Austin Herrick of the University of Pennsylvania -- have concluded that Magic might be as computationally complex as it's possible for any tabletop game to be. In other words, "This is the first result showing that there exists a real-world game [of Magic] for which determining the winning strategy is non-computable," the authors write...

      A universal Turing machine is one capable of running any algorithm, while "Turing completeness" is a term "used to indicate that a system has a particular degree of complexity," said Churchill. "Any Turing-complete system is theoretically able to emulate any other." Being able to determine whether a given problem can be solved in principle is a key task in computer science. If Magic is Turing complete, then there should exist within the game a scenario where it's impossible to determine a winning strategy—equivalent to the famous "halting problem" in computer science.

      One way to demonstrate that a system is Turing complete is to create a Turing machine within it, and that's just what Churchill et al. have done with their work

      "It’s possible to build a Turing machine within Magic: The Gathering" (Ars Technica)

      Read the rest

      Mars rover has detected methane that could mean life on the Red Planet

      In the New York Times, Kenneth Chang reports that NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars has detected high amounts of methane, a gas that is commonly a signature of life. From the NYT:

      “Given this surprising result, we’ve reorganized the weekend to run a follow-up experiment,” Ashwin R. Vasavada, the project scientist for the mission, wrote to the science team in an email that was obtained by The Times.

      The mission’s controllers on Earth sent new instructions to the rover on Friday to follow up on the readings, bumping previously planned science work. The results of these observations are expected back on the ground on Monday...

      On Earth, microbes known as methanogens thrive in places lacking oxygen, such as rocks deep underground and the digestive tracts of animals, and they release methane as a waste product. However, geothermal reactions devoid of biology can also generate methane.

      "NASA Rover on Mars Detects Puff of Gas That Hints at Possibility of Life" (NYT)

      Read the rest

      Catholic bishop plans to dump holy water from plane to exorcise city's demons

      Holy chemtrails! Monsignor Rubén Darío Jaramillo Montoya, Catholic bishop of Buenaventura, Colombia, plans to drop holy water across the city to exorcise its demons. Apparently there have been 51 murders in just five months and the bishop wants to help the best way he knows how. From a Google-translated RCN Radio article:

      "It will be a great public demonstration of the entire community, where we will pour holy water to see if so many bad things end and the devil comes out of here," the priest said...

      For the moment, Bishop Jaramillo is coordinating the work with the National Navy and the mayor in order to have an aircraft for July 13 or 14 , when the Fiesta de San Buenaventura, the city's patron saint, is celebrated.

      More at Mysterious Universe.

      image: Contrails (NOAA) Read the rest

      People more likely to return lost wallets if there's cash inside

      You might think that when someone finds a wallet on the street, they're less likely to return it if there's cash inside. But you'd be wrong. According to a new three-year study across multiple countries, people are more inclined to return wallets stuffed with money. The more cash, the more likely they'll turn it over to the rightful owner. From the New York Times:

      “The evidence suggests that people tend to care about the welfare of others and they have an aversion to seeing themselves as a thief,” said Alain Cohn, a study author and assistant professor of information at the University of Michigan. People given wallets with more money have more to gain from dishonesty, but that also increases “the psychological cost of the dishonest act...."

      Christian Zünd, a doctoral student and co-author, said a survey they conducted found that “without money, not reporting a wallet doesn’t feel like stealing. With money, however, it suddenly feels like stealing and it feels even more like stealing when the money in the wallet increases...."

      The researchers surveyed people to see if they expected bigger rewards for returning more money; they didn’t.

      Read the rest

      USB inventor admits that the plugs are annoying

      In 1996, Intel released USB (Universal Serial Bus) 1.0 and we have been annoyed ever since. National Public Radio spoke with engineer Ajay Bhatt who led the team that unleashed the perpetually frustrating non-reversible plug on the world. From NPR:

      "The biggest annoyance is reversibility," Bhatt told NPR. Nonetheless, he stands by his design.

      Turns out there's a very specific reason for the USB's lack of reversibility.

      A USB that could plug in correctly both ways would have required double the wires and circuits, which would have then doubled the cost.

      The Intel team led by Bhatt anticipated the user frustration and opted for a rectangular design and a 50-50 chance to plug it in correctly, versus a round connector with less room for error...

      "In hindsight, based on all the experiences that we all had, of course it was not as easy as it should be," Bhatt said.

      Read the rest

      Watch this incredible real-life Jaws moment

      Jeff Crilly and his friends were participating in a mako shark fishing tournament off the Jersey Coast when a different kind of shark came by for a snack of chum. Yes, they're gonna need a bigger boat. John Chisholm, a shark expert at the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife, estimates the 16- to 18-foot Great White weighs as much as 3,500 pounds.

      From the Asbury Park Press:

      Chisholm keeps a running database of great white sharks he's identified by certain features, such as markings. Crilly's shark had white markings on its gills, which Chisholm found no matches for in the hundreds of sharks logged in the database.

      "She wasn't in there. I was able to determine it was a new shark and if we ever see it again, we'll be able to identify her," Chisholm said.

      Chisholm invited Crilly to name the animal and he dubbed her Sherri. After his mom. Read the rest

      Here's the final creeptastic trailer for Stranger Things 3

      "What if he never left? What if we locked him out here with us?"

      July 4.

      Read the rest

      Listen to the cowboy throat singer

      Throat singing, aka overtone singing, is a well known practice in the traditional music of Mongolian, Tibetan, and other indigenous people around the world. Surprisingly, you can also hear it on "Lonely Cowboy," a fantastic 78 RPM shellac record from 1927 by cowboy singer Arthur Miles that also features some lovely yodeling!

      (via Weird Universe) Read the rest

      That's Dr. Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck to you!

      After eight years, Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck has earned her PhD in higher education from Cardinal Stritch University. And yes, Marijuana Pepsi is her real given name. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

      Her mother, Maggie (Brandy) Johnson, who still lives in Beloit, (Wisconsin) picked out her name and proclaimed that it would take her around the world. Her sisters, one older and one younger, got relatively common names, Kimberly and Robin.

      Teachers, classmates, bosses and other people in Marijuana's life pushed back against her name and teased her. Some suggested she go to court and change it. Some flat out refused to call her that or insisted on Mary, which she rejected.

      As much as people blamed and judged her mother for the name, Marijuana credits her mom with making her the strong, balanced, entrepreneurial woman she is today...

      But mostly she embraces the name as proof that you can overcome any obstacle in life and achieve your dreams...

      It's fitting that an African American woman who has gone through life as Marijuana Pepsi chose as her dissertation topic: "Black names in white classrooms: Teacher behaviors and student perceptions."

      "Yes, her name really is Marijuana Pepsi, and now she's Dr. Marijuana Pepsi to you" by Jim Stingl (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) Read the rest

      A treadmill that trips you... for science

      As part of research on how to make better prosthetic legs, Vanderbilt University engineers put people on a treadmill and made them stumble. Over and over. By better understanding peoples' stumble reflex, they hope to improve the computer-controlled stumble response in prosthetics. But to learn how people catch themselves, they had to trip them first. And that required building a stumble device into a treadmill. From Vanderbilt University:

      Andrés Martínez strode briskly on the treadmill, staring straight ahead and counting backwards by seven from 898, a trick to keep his brain from anticipating the literal stumbling block heading his way: a compact 35 pounds of steel specifically designed to make him fall.

      Special goggles kept him from looking down. Arrows on an eye-level screen kept him from walking off the sides. A harness attached to a ceiling beam kept him safe. Sure enough, when a computer program released the steel block, it glided onto the treadmill, and the Vanderbilt University PhD student struggled to stay on his feet...

      “Not only did our treadmill device have to trip them, it had to trip them at specific points in their gait,” said Shane King, a PhD student and lead author on the paper. “People stumble differently depending on when their foot hits a barrier. The device also had to overcome their fear of falling, so they couldn’t see or feel when the block was coming.”

      "A novel system for introducing precisely-controlled, unanticipated gait perturbations for the study of stumble recovery" (Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation) Read the rest

      Freak out on this fantastic hand illusion

      And I thought the people with six fingers on one hand were impressive! Watch below.

      Read the rest

      The Flintstones meet the Roman Empire, starring Dom DeLuise

      This is the title sequence for The Roman Holidays, a Hanna-Barbera Productions cartoon that lasted for 13 episodes in 1972. It was quite similar to The Flintstones which itself was inspired by The Honeymooners. From Toonopedia:

      The show's title came from the setting (ancient Rome) and the protagonists' family name (Holiday, which was just ever so typical a family name back then). Dad's first name was Gus and Mom's was Laurie. They had a teenage daughter named Groovia, an in-house son-in-law named Happius (usually called Happy) and a younger daughter named Precocia. Their pet cat, Brutus (no relation), was actually a lion. Like modern nuclear family heads, Gus went to work every day, where his boss was Mr. Tycoonus, and came home each night to the Venus de Milo Arms, where his landlord was Mr. Evictus (Dom DeLuise! -ed.).

      (via r/ObscureMedia) Read the rest

      On Paul McCartney's birthday today, listen to Tammy Wynette cover "Yesterday"

      Sir Paul McCartney turns 77 today. To celebrate, enjoy this lovely cover of "Yesterday" as recorded by country music superstar Tammy Wynette in 1968.

      Read the rest

      The world's first Tesla pickup truck

      Master maker Simone Giertz and her friends transformed her Tesla Model 3 into an electric pickup truck. Their fake TV commercial is above; build video below. TRUCKLA: Available nowhere. Now.

      Read the rest

      Startling photo of magically levitating fisherman

      It's not Photoshop. I can tell by the pixels and from seeing a number of levitating fishermen in my time.

      (r/confusing_perspective) Read the rest

      Snail slime inspires new super-strong reversible glue

      Snail slime -- called an epiphragm -- is an incredibly strong yet reversible adhesive. Now, University of Pennsylvania scientists have developed a new kind of glue that employs the same mechanism as the epiphragm. The new material dries like superglue but once wet, it loses its adhesion. For years, scientists have explored adhesions inspired by nature but none have been demonstrated to have the same amount of strength and reversibility. For example, the researchers report that their new adhesive "is 89 times stronger than gecko adhesion." From the University of Pennsylvania:

      The breakthrough came one day when Gaoxiang Wu was working on another project that involved a hydrogel made of a polymer called polyhydroxyethylmethacrylate (PHEMA) and noticed its unusual adhesive properties. PHEMA is rubbery when wet but rigid when dry, a quality that makes it useful for contact lenses but also, as Yang's team discovered, for adhesives.

      When PHEMA is wet, it conforms to all of the small grooves on a surface, from a tree trunk's distinct ridges to the invisible microporosity of a seemingly smooth wall. This conformal contact is what allows PHEMA to stick to a surface.

      To demonstrate just how durable their PHEMA adhesive is, one of Yang's lab members and co-first author, Jason Christopher Jolly, volunteered to suspend himself from a harness held up only by a postage-stamp-sized patch of their adhesive; the material easily held the weight of an entire human body. Based on the lab tests, the team determined that, although PHEMA may not be the strongest adhesive in existence, it is currently the strongest known candidate available for reversible adhesion.

      Read the rest

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