You are browsing the archive for Watercooler.

Thursday Watercooler

7:27 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

 

A lone cyclist approaches the many spires of the Temple of Transition as dust blows

Scientists document the long-term psychological effects of Burning Man.

Tonight, the Firedoglake Watercooler is in solidarity with Block the Boat, the recent record-breaking boat blockade for Gaza that prevented an Israeli ship from unloading in the Port of Oakland. Protesters kept the ship from unloading for almost four days, and inspired upcoming solidarity actions in other cities.

The protesters gathered Sunday at the port to stop the ship from docking and unloading, but it docked at the port Sunday evening The demonstration was under the auspices of the Block the Boat coalition organized by the San Francisco-based Arab Resource and Organizing Center.

Unionized dockworkers at the port on Sunday honored the picket line and refused to unload the ship.

‘Workers honored our picket and stood on the side of justice, as they historically have,’ the center said in a statement on its website. ‘Oakland said no to Zionism and blocked the boat for an entire weekend. This is the first time in history that this has happened. Israeli apartheid is falling one port at a time.’

‘Zim has undoubtedly suffered significant economic losses, and we have set a powerful precedent for what international solidarity with Palestine, through boycott, divestment and sanctions, can look like,’ Reem Assil of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, said.

Similar actions are expected to take place at ports in Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., this week and later in Vancouver.

More information on the union perspective is available in this article from Working In These Times.

Thousands are preparing to attend Burning Man, the massive counterculture art festival in Nevada’s Black Rock desert, next week. Though much in the media has been made of the multimillionaires who attend Burning Man, many people of more modest means continue to find meaning in the week long event and it’s more inexpensive regional alternatives. A recent article by Eric W. Dolan, writing on Psypost, summarizes a recent study showing that attending Burning Man alters your emotional responses.

‘What first drew me to study emotion regulation at Burning Man is that Burning Man has very explicit values (the ten principles of Burning Man) and one of them is radical self-expression,’ [lead author Kateri] McRae explained. ‘I thought it would be really interesting to see how that explicit value impacted the types of emotion regulation that people use when they’re there. And indeed, we find that people inhibit their emotional expression less often when they’re at Burning Man than typically at home.’

For their study, the researchers surveyed 16,227 individuals at Burning Man over the course of four years to investigate two emotional regulation strategies, expressive suppression and cognitive reappraisal.

Going to Burning Man made individuals less likely to inhibit the expression of both positive and negative emotions. Those at Burning Man were more open about their emotions in general, but were more likely to feel uninhibited about expressing positive emotions rather than negative ones. McRae and her colleagues found decreases in the suppression of positive emotion were considerably stronger than the decreases in the suppression of negative emotion.

‘What was most surprising to us was that this decreased inhibition was not global,’ McRae told PsyPost. ‘In other words, people aren’t “letting loose” in every sense when they are at Burning Man (which is one stereotype that some people hold about the event). In fact, people use an emotion regulation strategy called reappraisal MORE often when they’re there.’

‘So the paradox of Burning Man is that people are more open, less inhibited when expressing their emotions, but also more thoughtful in terms of reframing, reconsidering or reevaluating their emotions (which is what reappraisal entails).’

When it comes to rich attendees I don’t think an event that encourages the wealthy to give away more of their money is necessarily a bad thing — but too many probably come more to gawk than to share (I seriously doubt Grover Norquist will grok the gift economy this year). My experiences of radical self-expression within the Burning Man community (largely at Texas regional events) have inspired much of my activism — though sadly Burning Man’s freedom itself is now increasingly threatened by overzealous police. I hope the event survives, and more importantly, that the community finds ways to make the experience more accessible to others.

Housekeeping notes:

  • Please review our About Us page if you need a refresher on site rules, and
  • We encourage you to use our flag system — if you see an abusive comment, user or post, please flag it rather than replying. We review every flag and take the best action available to us.
  • If you have questions or concerns about Firedoglake-specific issues, please limit their discussion to Watercooler posts rather than starting new posts or making off-topic comments in others. But remember,
  • Firedoglake editors and staff are not allowed to comment on any moderation decisions.

The Watercooler is an open conversation. Ask questions, share links and your thoughts.

Read the rest of this entry →

Wednesday Watercooler

8:43 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

 

A model of a neanderthal with a walking stick

“So, want to go out for drinks on Friday?”

Tonight’s video is “Giant Rubber Duck Sails Into Port of Los Angeles,” from LA’s ABC7.

The famous giant duck, designed by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, sailed into the Port of Los Angeles early Wednesday morning.

The duck is just one of the attractions at the five-day Festival of Tall Ships.

At 2 p.m., the six-story-tall duck sculpture will lead a parade of domestic and international ships making their way along the Main Channel.

Event organizers say the rubber duck is an impressive sight to see.

‘This is 61 feet, 11 tons, about 85 feet wide and about 110 feet long,’ said Craig Samborski, spokesperson for the Festival of Tall Ships. ‘I was shocked when I saw the size of it right in front of me.’

Until recently, scientists mostly agreed that Homo sapiens wiped out the neanderthals. Then came evidence of interbreeding. Now a new study suggests that neanderthals faded gradually and were assimilated over time into the human population as their numbers dwindled, rather than the widespread violent extermination believed before. From Live Science:

To help solve the mystery of when Neanderthals went extinct, scientists analyzed bone, charcoal and shell materials from 40 archaeological sites from Russia to Spain. They employed advanced techniques for more precise dating of these specimens that involved ultra-filtering molecules from bone samples for examination and removing organic contaminants that could make specimens seem younger than they actually are.

The new findings suggest that Neanderthals disappeared from Europe between about 41,000 and 39,000 years ago.

‘I think that, for the first time, we have a reliable extinction date for Neanderthals,’ said study author Tom Higham, a radiocarbon scientist at the University of Oxford in England. ‘This has eluded us for decades.’

The Neanderthal extinction occurred across sites ranging from the Black Sea to the Atlantic Coast of Europe. The timing and geography suggest Neanderthals may have overlapped with modern humans for 2,600 to 5,400 years, opening the door for genetic and cultural exchanges between the two groups for millennia.

These findings suggest that modern humans did not rapidly replace Neanderthals in Europe — say, via violent means. Rather, the Neanderthal extinction ‘might have been more complex and drawn out than previously thought,’ Higham told Live Science.

There is some genetic evidence that Neanderthals in Western Europe may have experienced declining genetic diversity about the time when the first modern humans began arriving on the continent, Higham said. “This might mean that they were fading out at this time, although, of course, our evidence suggests that there was a long period of overlap during which this occurred,” he said.

Neanderthals may not even have truly disappeared, but instead have been assimilated into modern human populations. “We know, of course, that we have a genetic legacy from Neanderthals of about 1 to 2 percent, so there was interbreeding,” Higham said.

Bonus: A right-wing think tank was forced to apologize for telling Amnesty International to “suck it,” via Talking Points Memo

Housekeeping notes:

  • Please review our About Us page if you need a refresher on site rules, and
  • We encourage you to use our flag system — if you see an abusive comment, user or post, please flag it rather than replying. We review every flag and take the best action available to us.
  • If you have questions or concerns about Firedoglake-specific issues, please limit their discussion to Watercooler posts rather than starting new posts or making off-topic comments in others. But remember,
  • Firedoglake editors and staff are not allowed to comment on any moderation decisions.

The Watercooler is an open conversation. Ask questions, share links and your thoughts.

Read the rest of this entry →

Tuesday Watercooler

8:32 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

 

Tonight’s video is “How do you know you exist?” from TED-Ed.

How do you know you’re real? Is existence all just a big dream? Has some mad scientist duped us into simply believing that we exist? James Zucker investigates all of these questions (and more) in this mind-boggling tribute to René Descartes’s “Meditations on First Philosophy.”

Lesson by James Zucker, animation by Stretch Films, Inc.

 

Painting of a woman with her arms up. Don't Shoot, It's Right to Rebel!

But how does the rest of the world see Ferguson?

Readers could have been forgiven for thinking the headline came from The Onion:Egypt urges US restraint over Missouri unrest.” No it’s real news, but the Egyptian government is definitely having a laugh at our expense, especially since their statement echoes our own from last year.

Al Jazeera America took a broad look at how the world media is covering the uprising in Ferguson.

Russian and Iranian media have, perhaps unsurprisingly, printed scathing judgments about the police response to protests in Missouri. One Russian site, Svobodnaya Pressa, coined the term ‘Afromaidan,’ implying that the U.S. is getting a dose of its own medicine for backing anti-Russian Euromaidan rallies in Kiev, Ukraine. The article poked fun at the notion of a land of opportunity, signaling that America’s ‘race war’ proves Washington’s hypocrisy.

PressTV in Iran led with the Ferguson story on its website Monday. A news feature quoted an African-American historian referring to ‘institutionalized racism’ in the U.S. and calling the country a ‘human rights failed state.’ And Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s Facebook page read Sunday: ‘Look at what they do to the black community in their own country … . The police may beat them to death over the crime of having dark skins!’

[...] German media site Deutsche Welle, meanwhile, highlighted similarities between minorities in Germany and the U.S. while publishing some commentary on the tone of American television broadcasts: ‘In the current U.S. media coverage of Michael Brown’s death, his photo is almost nowhere to be seen. Media reports are dominated by the images of burning suburban streets and a militarized police force – a visual language that suggests war rather than the tragic death of an unarmed young man shot by a police officer.’ Other German news portals are similarly critical, with scathing evaluations of America’s ‘postracist’ society, and of the quick deployment of weapons in Ferguson.

[...] In Turkey, the pro-government newspaper Takvim has treated the Ferguson unrest as it perceives U.S. media covered protests in Istanbul’s Gezi Park last summer. A recent headline derisively referred to American officials as monkeys. An excerpt from the article read: ‘Units patrolling in armored vehicles caused terror. They beat up journalists who were taking photos and sent them to prison.’

Brazilian news site O Globo ran an article on Ferguson emphasizing how U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon ‘appealed to U.S. authorities to ensure protection of the rights of demonstrators.’

And in closing:

Housekeeping notes:

  • Please review our About Us page if you need a refresher on site rules, and
  • We encourage you to use our flag system — if you see an abusive comment, user or post, please flag it rather than replying. We review every flag and take the best action available to us.
  • If you have questions or concerns about Firedoglake-specific issues, please limit their discussion to Watercooler posts rather than starting new posts or making off-topic comments in others. But remember,
  • Firedoglake editors and staff are not allowed to comment on any moderation decisions.

The Watercooler is an open conversation. Ask questions, share links and your thoughts.

Read the rest of this entry →

Monday Watercooler

8:24 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

 

A sign advertising Deep Fried Frozen Margaritas at the Texas State Fair.

Deep fried oreos? That’s SO five years ago.

Tonight the Firedoglake Watercooler is in solidarity with a dam blockade underway in Manitoba, Canada.

Elder Winston Wutunee Blessing PH 280 Blockade.

Backed by four of the five band councillors, members of Tatakweyak Cree Nation are now blocking Manitoba Hydro traffic on Provincial Road 280, the only route to the site of the recently approved Keeyask Dam.

West Coast Native News explains more about the Keeyask dam blockade and their demands.

Members of Tataskweyak Cree Nation (TCN) in Split Lake are blocking construction and Manitoba Hydro vehicles from passing through Split Lake on Provincial Road 280 near the site of the Keeyask Generating Station construction site to protest the deterioration of the highway and the Crown corporation’s treatment of the First Nation.

‘We have been left behind,’ said TCN Coun. Melanie Spence, one of the blockade organizers, in a press release. ‘Now that Hydro has our consent to build Keeyask, the company is treating us more like an obstacle than a partner.’

[...] The Keeyask site is 58 kilometres from Split Lake, the main TCN community. Split Lake is located about 140 kilometres northeast of Thompson, also along PR 280. Councillor Melanie Spence, one of the blockade organizers, says people in the community are fed up with being treated like second class citizens. While Manitoba Hydro reaps huge benefits off TCN lands and waters, local people are left to endure conditions and a level of health and infrastructure services that most Canadians would never tolerate.

According to the official release, their demands include:

  • paving of PR 280;
  • resolution of a range of outstanding hydro-related damage claims from trappers and commercial fishers;
  • good faith dealings by Hydro with respect to various construction work contracts that were to be granted to TCN-owned companies (related to Bipole III, PR 280 upgrades and Keeyask);
  • a better hiring process and better working conditions for TCN members at the Keeyask site;
  • a solution to hydro bills that are much higher than the provincial average;
  • a reasonable compensation package for the family in whose home are Keeyask is being built; and
  • environmental mitigation measures related to existing hydro operations.

The State Fair of Texas begins next month and fried food vendors are already vying for the Big Tex Awards, named for the fair’s giant talking statue rebuilt last year after an electrical fire. From KVUE:

The competition, which began in 2005, picks the most creative and best tasting options from the fair vendors’ newest concoctions each year. Last year, Fried Thanksgiving Dinner took the title for most creative while the Fried Cuban Roll won best tasting.

The contestants presented their creations to the State Fair of Texas earlier this month, and the field has been narrowed to eight. Here are the finalists and their descriptions, as written in a fair press release:

[...] Chicken Fried Loaded Baked Potato by Butch Benavides

The creamy and moist insides of a baked potato, loaded with generous amounts of butter, bacon, and cheddar cheese, are coated and battered with a delectable blend of spices and flour that create a perfect combination of fried crispy crust and delicious, creamy loaded baked potato. Served with a ranch dipping sauce.

Deep Fried “Breakfast for Dinner” by Edna Sutton & Tom Grace

A twist on a favorite American dinner — “Breakfast for Dinner.” This is a 10″ flour tortilla stuffed with eight favorite breakfast items – scrambled eggs, breakfast sausage, bacon, potatoes, ham, onion, cheddar cheese and gooey cinnamon roll bits – that are deep fried until golden brown and served with a creamy country gravy, salsa and a pico-queso dip.

[...] Fried Sriracha Balls by Mark Zable

A lip-smacking combination of shredded chicken, corn, green chilies, tomatoes, and Sriracha hot sauce, formed into balls and coated with crispy tortilla chips. It is then flash-fried until golden brown. For those who like their food higher on the Scoville Scale, extra Sriracha Sauce is available.

Thanks to Katey Psencik for the tip.

Housekeeping notes:

  • Please review our About Us page if you need a refresher on site rules, and
  • We encourage you to use our flag system — if you see an abusive comment, user or post, please flag it rather than replying. We review every flag and take the best action available to us.
  • If you have questions or concerns about Firedoglake-specific issues, please limit their discussion to Watercooler posts rather than starting new posts or making off-topic comments in others. But remember,
  • Firedoglake editors and staff are not allowed to comment on any moderation decisions.

The Watercooler is an open conversation. Ask questions, share links and your thoughts.

Read the rest of this entry →

Thursday Watercooler

8:45 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

 

A giant redwood towers high above the camera

See you at the top!

Tonight’s video is “What’s Hidden Among the Tallest Trees on Earth?” from TED-Ed.

When Stephen Sillett was a boy, he took to the forests of Pennsylvania with his brother and grandmother. Looking up into the dense branches and leaves, his curiosity was piqued: What was hidden up there? Wendell Oshiro tells the story of an adult Sillett’s bold (if not a little dangerous) exploration of the canopy of an ancient redwood and details some of the fascinating discoveries he made.

Lesson by Wendell Oshiro, animation by Black Powder Design.

Patent trolls — corporations which only exist to bully legitimate businesses with frivolous lawsuits over vague technological innovations they supposedly own. But trolls depend on the prohibitive legal costs of fighting their lawsuits to keep companies from fighting, and a Brooklyn law clinic just rescued a company by offering free supportBoing Boing has a summary of what happened:

When they were approached by a small NYC startup that was being sued by a patent troll called 911 Notify, LLC, who had a ridiculous patent on ‘notifications’ (basically, if someone calls 911, look up their emergency contact info and call that number) that wanted $250,000 to settle, they went to work.

By putting the troll on notice that there was an unlimited amount of free legal hours from third-year law students available to the defendant — students who got more out of the experience if they got to work on a full-blown trial that could invalidate the dumb-ass patent — they terrified the troll into dropping the suit and running away.

I think there are other ways of recreating this dynamic (though this is a great way, because it gets law students really valuable experience that they would otherwise have to get after graduation while interning, provides a community service, and makes the world a better place), without relying on an infinite supply of third-year law students.

Patent lawyer Eric Adler, writing in Medium, explains in much detail how it was done and how other companies or student legal clinics can adopt his strategy.

Bonus: Rawstory reported on a group of strippers from Ohio that fought back against harassment by a local church with a topless counterprotest.

Housekeeping notes:

  • Please review our About Us page if you need a refresher on site rules, and
  • We encourage you to use our flag system — if you see an abusive comment, user or post, please flag it rather than replying. We review every flag and take the best action available to us.
  • If you have questions or concerns about Firedoglake-specific issues, please limit their discussion to Watercooler posts rather than starting new posts or making off-topic comments in others. But remember,
  • Firedoglake editors and staff are not allowed to comment on any moderation decisions.

The Watercooler is an open conversation. Ask questions, share links and your thoughts.

Read the rest of this entry →

Wednesday Watercooler

7:24 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

 

A woman in old-fashioned French clothing offers a cheeseburger and fries to a black cat, under the McDonald's logo.

“I can has satellite?”

Tonight’s music video is “Blood Like Cream” by Red Fang.

Would you like fries with that satellite? Civilian scientists, operating from an abandoned McDonald’s in Mountain View, California took control of an equally abandoned satellite after a successful crowdfunding campaign. From Beatbeat:

The ISEE-3 is a disco-era satellite that used to measure space weather like solar wind and radiation, but went out of commission decades ago. Now, a small team led by [Keith] Cowing has taken control of the satellite with NASA’s silent blessing. Mr. Cowing is a former NASA employee, and now runs a handful of space news sites, like NASA Watch and SpaceRef. Sitting out in the desert one night after a documentary shoot, Mr. Cowing asked Bob Farquhar, an old NASA researcher who worked with the ISEE-3 in its glory days, what it would take to bring the satellite out of retirement.

The satellite’s battery has been dead for over 20 years, but it had solar panels to power 98 percent of the satellite’s full capabilities. In its heyday, it ran missions around the Moon and Earth, and flew through the tail of a comet. But technology gets old, and everyone happily let the successful satellite go, knowing it would be back in Earth’s orbit someday—namely, 2014. Since the satellite went offline, the team had retired, the documentation was lost and the equipment became outdated. They could still hear the satellite out there talking, but they’d need to build the equipment to talk back.

[... T]hey began a crowdfunding campaign that would beat its $125,000 goal and go on to raise $160,000. Within another six weeks, a small team was in Puerto Rico, running around Arecibo Observatory running tests, hoisting a transmitter into place with a helicopter, ready to make contact. At the outset of the crowdfunding campaign, they brought the idea to NASA, but there was no precedent on which to base an agreement. No external organization has ever taken command of a spacecraft, but NASA didn’t want to say no, so they asked the team if they needed any help.

[...] Their new control center, dubbed ‘McMoon’s,’ fit all of the criteria they needed: the doors locked, and it was free. For their console, they pulled a broken flatscreen TV from a government dumpster and fixed the power supply. The other pieces are from eBay, including a Mac laptop and some radio parts. [...] Until now, when NASA wanted to conduct research, they’d collect data and disappear with it for a few months before publishing. But the data from ISEE-3 is going to be available to anyone who wants access to it. It’s a spacecraft funded by the public, and available for the public.

‘We’re allowing anybody who is interested and has a computer to be able to do something with the data,’ Mr. Cowing said.

Bonus: Consumerist reports than a Wal-Mart in Indiana is “under siege by feral cats.”

Housekeeping notes:

  • Please review our About Us page if you need a refresher on site rules, and
  • We encourage you to use our flag system — if you see an abusive comment, user or post, please flag it rather than replying. We review every flag and take the best action available to us.
  • If you have questions or concerns about Firedoglake-specific issues, please limit their discussion to Watercooler posts rather than starting new posts or making off-topic comments in others. But remember,
  • Firedoglake editors and staff are not allowed to comment on any moderation decisions.

The Watercooler is an open conversation. Ask questions, share links and your thoughts.

Read the rest of this entry →

Tuesday Watercooler

8:19 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

 

Tonight’s video is “Wizard’s Duel” from the Tim & Micah Project, an excerpt from the upcoming The Tim & Micah Project: PILOT.

Sad news for this lovelorn pug:

A gray tabby kitten in a box watches the camera warily.

Spy kitteh is watching you!

In a recent paper on “How to Weaponize Your Pets,” presented at the annual security conference DefCon, a clever hacker used a feline to highlight security holes in neighborhood WiFi networks. From Wired’s Threat Level:

Late last month, a Siamese cat named Coco went wandering in his suburban Washington, DC neighborhood. [... H]e’d been fitted with a collar created by Nancy’s granddaughter’s husband, security researcher Gene Bransfield. And Bransfield had built into that collar a Spark Core chip loaded with his custom-coded firmware, a Wi-Fi card, a tiny GPS module and a battery—everything necessary to map all the networks in the neighborhood that would be vulnerable to any intruder or Wi-Fi mooch with, at most, some simple crypto-cracking tools.

Despite the title of his DefCon talk—’How To Weaponize Your Pets’–Bransfield admits WarKitteh doesn’t represent a substantial security threat. Rather, it’s the sort of goofy hack designed to entertain the con’s hacker audience. Still, he was surprised by just how many networks tracked by his data-collecting cat used WEP, a form of wireless encryption known for more than ten years to be easily broken. ‘My intent was not to show people where to get free Wi-Fi. I put some technology on a cat and let it roam around because the idea amused me,’ says Bransfield, who works for the security consultancy Tenacity. ‘But the result of this cat research was that there were a lot more open and WEP-encrypted hot spots out there than there should be in 2014.’

In his DefCon talk, Bransfield plans to explain how anyone can replicate the WarKitteh collar to create their own Wifi-spying cat, a feat that’s only become easier in the past months as the collar’s Spark Core chip has become easier to program. Bransfield came up with the idea of feline-powered Wi-Fi reconnaissance when someone attending one of his security briefings showed him a GPS collar designed to let people locate their pets by sending a text message. ‘All it needed was a Wi-Fi sniffer,’ he says. ‘I thought the idea was hilarious, and I decided to make it.’

Bonus: The Deadly Giant Anteater, via LiveScience

Housekeeping notes:

  • Please review our About Us page if you need a refresher on site rules, and
  • We encourage you to use our flag system — if you see an abusive comment, user or post, please flag it rather than replying. We review every flag and take the best action available to us.
  • If you have questions or concerns about Firedoglake-specific issues, please limit their discussion to Watercooler posts rather than starting new posts or making off-topic comments in others. But remember,
  • Firedoglake editors and staff are not allowed to comment on any moderation decisions.

The Watercooler is an open conversation. Ask questions, share links and your thoughts.

Read the rest of this entry →

Monday Watercooler

7:52 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

 

Close up of bubble wrap

Stress reliever AND boon to science. What else can bubble wrap do?

Tonight, the Watercooler is in solidarity with Colorado Plateau Resistance, which shut down construction at a Utah tar sands mine.

People of the Colorado Plateau shut down construction of a tar sands mine in Utah Aug. 6.

A small band calling themselves Colorado Plateau Resistance swarmed machinery and put their bodies in the way of their path, completely stopping construction of the mine for part of the day.

This direct action is one in a long string of actions organized by people opposed to the mining destruction.

‘The Colorado Plateau and its inhabitants are are under invasion on multiple fronts of the energy industry,’ the group said. ‘This tar sands mine is a bloody blip in a bigger scheme threatening this land, including the reopening of uranium mines that have poisoned indigenous communities for generations; the planned construction of a nuclear generator in Green River, Utah; violent and vast scraping of the land and squandering of sacred water in pursuit of lowest-grade fuel sources like tar sands and oil shale; a new ‘oil’ refinery in Green River perhaps to centralize production and distribution of those super-toxic tar sands and oil shale fuels; and all of this paid for and made possible by the dangerous fracking boom, which is poisoning our air and water and killing the most vulnerable members of our communities, our babies and old people.’

Bubble wrap, a wasteful product (or stress reliever), has found a new use in science labs. From NPR:

Scientists at Harvard University have figured out a way to use these petite pouches as an inexpensive alternate to glass test tubes and culture dishes. They even ran glucose tests on artificial urine and anemia tests on blood, all with the samples sitting inside bubble wrap.

‘Most lab experiments require equipment, like test tubes or 96-well assay plates,’ says chemist George Whitesides, who led the study. ‘But if you go out to smaller villages [in developing countries], these things are just not available.’ One glass test tube can cost between $1 and $5. Bubble wrap, by contrast, is dirt cheap. One square foot of it, with about 100 to 500 bubbles depending on bubble dimensions, costs only 6 cents, Whitesides and his team reported Thursday in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

‘You can take out a roll of bubble wrap, and you have a bunch of little test tubes,’ he says. ‘This is an opportunity to potentially use material that would otherwise have been thrown away.’

Whitesides is a master at converting cheap, everyday materials into lab equipment. He’s made a centrifuge from an egg beater and CD player. And he’s designed a glucose detector from paper and tape.

[...] Whitesides and his team tried injecting blood and chemicals into the clear blisters with a needle and syringe. They then sealed the holes with nail polish. The bubbles held the liquid with no problem. And since the plastic is clear, the team could use the mini-test tubes for tests that involve color changes. For instance, to test for anemia, the scientists added a chemical that changes colors when it reacts with iron in blood. They also successfully grew bacteria and worms inside the bubbles. But to make a good test tube or petri dish, the bubble wrap also needed to be sterile.

So Whitesides’ students filled the plastic bubbles with a solution of food for microorganisms and looked to see if bacteria grew inside. After four days, no microbes appeared. To their surprise, the air and plastic inside the bubbles were completely sterile.

That finding also surprised Michele Barry, a tropical disease doctor at Stanford University, who wasn’t involved in the study. ‘I had no idea that the bubbles themselves were sterile, which is fabulous,” she tells Goats and Soda.

[…[ Labs in poor countries have a great need to store samples, Barry points out. The bubble wrap could also be used to test water for toxic metals, such as mercury, arsenic and lead, she says. But the plastic packaging comes with many limitations. The mini-test tubes must be handled carefully or they’ll pop — literally. And bubble wrap is sensitive to light. It degrades over time.

Housekeeping notes:

  • Please review our About Us page if you need a refresher on site rules, and
  • We encourage you to use our flag system — if you see an abusive comment, user or post, please flag it rather than replying. We review every flag and take the best action available to us.
  • If you have questions or concerns about Firedoglake-specific issues, please limit their discussion to Watercooler posts rather than starting new posts or making off-topic comments in others. But remember,
  • Firedoglake editors and staff are not allowed to comment on any moderation decisions.

The Watercooler is an open conversation. Ask questions, share links and your thoughts.

Read the rest of this entry →

Cartoon Friday Watercooler: Æon Flux

7:39 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

 

It’s Cartoon Friday, again!

A close up of a woman's eye

Flies beware.

Tonight’s selection is the original installment of Æon Flux, sometimes also referred to as the Pilot or the first “season.” It originally aired chopped into short segments in the first season of MTV’s experimental animation show Liquid Television. This show was fertile ground for innovative and even just strange animation. We previously discussed on Liquid Television on Cartoon Friday, but I also selected a cartoon that aired on the show once before: Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s The Running Man.

This video includes the entire opening episode, uninterrupted. The story unfolds without words, and in its original form a viewer might easily miss a segment or end up seeing them out of order. The story deliberately engages with the tropes of action movies and anime in unexpected and disturbing ways. The iconic opening, in which Flux captures a fly in her eyelashes reminds me of the deliberately disorienting opening to Un Chien Andalou. The ending … well, I still don’t know what to make of all that. Some kind of fetish heaven?

After this first episode, Flux’s creator followed up with a series of shorts as a second season, also airing as part of the Liquid anthology show. Each short was self-contained, and included the death of the protagonist (or perhaps her clone?). For its third season, the show  spun-off into a series of 10 half hour episodes. In these, the characters began to talk, with Flux paired up in a series of conflicts with Trevor Goodchild, Flux’s nameless adversary in the original, but now sometimes ally or even lover. The series developed its own mythology, and with the addition of words sometimes traveled to strange philosophical territory.

Here’s how Geoffrey Miller, writing for DVD Verdict, describes this first episode — but keep in mind some of this context only exists due to three seasons of hindsight:

The pilot, stitched into a cohesive 12-minute whole from its original segments, follows Æon on an assignment to assassinate a Breen higher-up. At the same time, a deadly virus has infected the complex she’s infiltrated. Even though she doesn’t speak a word, her personality comes across loud and clear: She’s clever, dangerous, and sexy—a dominatrix clad in leather. She mows down hundreds of Breen guards in seconds, until they pile up in a foot-deep pool of blood. She’s also accident-prone, carelessly stepping on a nail that ultimately does her in.

Miller praises the show’s unique animation:

The animation and art direction is an utterly original mix of the darker side of anime with American underground comics. Every frame, drawn by hand, is filled to the brim with attention to detail and cinematic panache. The characters are tall, almost impossibly lanky, with hyper-realistic facial features. Although the world is a bleak one, there’s plenty of color. The architecture of Bregna, where most of the series takes place, is bathed in bright hues of orange and yellow, mixing classic European and Asian styles with a sleek modern sheen. When it was first aired, nothing like the show had ever seen before (and nothing similar has been seen since, besides Chung’s other work), yet it’s immediately cohesive and fully formed.

The AV Club interviewed Peter Chung to coincide with the 2003 release of Reign: The Conquerer, an anime he helped design. But interviewer Tasha Robinson asked him about Flux, his best known work:

Read the rest of this entry →

Thursday Watercooler

8:26 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

 

The colorful waters of Yellowstone's Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring: Now a drone dump?

Tonight the Watercooler is in solidarity with the 9 activists from London Palestine Action who were arrested after 2 days occupying the roof of Elbit Systems drone factory in protest of its production of weapons and parts used in the Israeli war machine.

The occupation of an Elbit Systems owned factory in Staffordshire ended Wednesday as police arrested the activists, who had managed to shut down production and maintain their occupation for over 24 hours. The protesters from London Palestine Action launched their action in the early hours of Tuesday morning, calling for the UK government to ‘stop arming Israel.’ Their actions are part of a wider campaign under the banner of BDS, which encourages states and individuals to boycott, divest and sanction Israel for its occupation of Palestinian land.

The factory built parts for unmanned aerial vehicles or drones. Parts developed in the factory are used in both Israeli military technology as well as the UK’s Watchkeeper drone programme.

Since 2010, the UK government have licensed the export of £42m (€53m/$70) worth of arms to Israel, £10 million within the last 12 months.

Speaking of drones, Ars Technica reports that a civilian drone may have crashed into Yellowstone National Park’s Grand Prismatic Hot Spring:

Officials at Yellowstone National Park told reporters on Wednesday that a tourist had crashed a small drone into the iconic Grand Prismatic Spring last Saturday. The incident marks the latest in a string of drone-related episodes in this region of Wyoming. A drone went down into Yellowstone Lake near the Grant Village Marina. Officials in nearby Grand Teton National Park have already issued one citation to a visitor for flying a drone within the park—it later got trapped in a tree and was then stolen, according to the Associated Press.

[...] Ars was able to finally reach park spokesman Al Nash, who said that the park received “eyewitness reports” of the drone crash on Saturday. ‘We have some information regarding the operator but this incident remains under investigation. We haven’t been able to locate the unit in the spring. Grand Prismatic Spring is big, deep and hot. We are considering a manned helicopter flight to see if we can spot it from the air.’

He also noted that the drone pilot could be issued ‘one or more citations.’ ‘Operation of unmanned aircraft is prohibited, and it’s also against the rules to put foreign objects in thermal features—those are two right off the bat,’ he added.

‘We have had ongoing issues for decades in Yellowstone with people treating our hot springs as if they were wishing wells,’ Nash continued. ‘The most common problem is people tossing coins. We have found a way to remove them. It depends on the given feature, typically we would use a tool from the boardwalk and one time we even had a boat that we put into these larger features. But foreign objects in our thermal features are not new, but this is certainly a very different wrinkle, and it presents a different challenge. I don’t know any of the details of this device. Ultimately if we can find this device it begs the question: does it do more harm leaving it there or would our efforts to remove it do more harm? Until we can locate it we can’t really answer that question, but we know it’s there.’

Thanks to Kade for this link.

Bonus: “Meet the CNN Anchor Who Called Fox News ‘Ignorant Fucksticks’ Over Climate Change” from Mother Jones.

Housekeeping notes:

  • Please review our About Us page if you need a refresher on site rules, and
  • We encourage you to use our flag system — if you see an abusive comment, user or post, please flag it rather than replying. We review every flag and take the best action available to us.
  • If you have questions or concerns about Firedoglake-specific issues, please limit their discussion to Watercooler posts rather than starting new posts or making off-topic comments in others. But remember,
  • Firedoglake editors and staff are not allowed to comment on any moderation decisions.

The Watercooler is an open conversation. Ask questions, share links and your thoughts.

Read the rest of this entry →