Archive | April, 2012

How To Hide From Face-Detection Technology

This could be a very important skill, pay attention kids! By John D. Sutter for CNN:

If you take Adam Harvey’s advice, here’s what you might wanna wear to a party this weekend: A funny hat, asymmetrical glasses, a tuft of hair that dangles off your nose bridge and, most likely, a black-and-white triangle taped to your cheekbone. Optional: Cubic makeup patterns all around your eyes.

All of these otherworldly fashion accessories – which could leave a person looking kind of like an opulent villain from “The Hunger Games” – have a singular goal: to stop your face from being detected by cameras and computers. Called CV Dazzle (short for “computer vision dazzle;” more on the name later), Harvey’s project is a provocative and largely theoretical response to the rise of surveillance cameras on street corners and face-detecting technology that’s been incorporated into social networking sites like Facebook and Flickr.

If you employ these techniques, Harvey, 30, hopes computers won’t even know…

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Grant Morrison: “Gayness is Built into Batman”

BatmanInteresting takes on Grant Morrison’s own creations and the mainstream mythology he has worked in this interview in Playboy:

Grant Morrison is the leading writer of superhero comic books in this universe—and possibly some others. At DC Comics he rebooted Justice League of America into a best-seller. At Marvel he did the same for X-Men. When his magnum opus, The Invisibles—a series about voodoo, time travel and the Marquis de Sade—was in danger of being canceled, he mobilized his fans in an unusual way: He exhorted them to participate in a worldwide magic spell by masturbating on Thanksgiving Day. Yes, he held a “wankathon.” It worked—or at least sales of The Invisibles improved.

If Morrison’s personal history includes magic, wild experiments with consciousness-tweaking substances and reported alien visitations, why does he keep writing about square-jawed guys with capes? “We’re running out of visions of the future except dystopias,” Morrison says.

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Where’s The Beef? Meat-Seeking Early Humans Wiped Out Most of the Prehistoric Large Animals

SmilodonAnn Gibbons writes on Science:

When human ancestors began scavenging for meat regularly on the open plains of Africa about 2.5 million years ago, they apparently took more than their fair share of flesh. Within a million years, most of the large carnivores in the region—from saber-toothed cats to bear-size otters—had gone extinct, leaving just a few “hypercarnivores” alive, according to a study presented here last week at a workshop on climate change and human evolution at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Humans have driven thousands of species extinct over the millennia, ranging from moas—giant, flightless birds that lived in New Zealand—to most lemurs in Madagascar. But just when we began to have such a major impact is less clear. Researchers have long known that many African carnivores died out by 1.5 million years ago, and they blamed our ancestor, Homo erectus, for overhunting with its new stone tools.

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Analytical Thinking Erodes Belief in God

The ThinkerDebora MacKenzie writes on New Scientist:

Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein famously did not believe in a supernatural God, and neither do some scientists today. It now appears there may be a good reason for this: thinking analytically dims supernatural beliefs, apparently by opposing the intuitive thought processes that underpin them.

The vast majority of people believe in a supernatural god or gods, says social psychologist Ara Norenzayan of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Yet there are hundreds of thousands of atheists and agnostics who do not. While scientists have begun to study the psychology of belief, we know little about what causes disbelief.

Humans use two separate cognitive systems for processing information: one that is fast, emotional and intuitive, and another that is slower and more analytical.

The first system innately imputes purpose, personality or mental states to objects, leading to supernatural beliefs. People who rely more on intuitive thinking are more likely to be believers, while the more analytical are less likely.

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Banks Cooperating With Each Other and Police to Track Occupy Protesters

BankstersMax Abelson reports in the San Francisco Chronicle:

The world’s biggest banks are working with one another and police to gather intelligence as protesters try to rejuvenate the Occupy Wall Street movement with May demonstrations, industry security consultants aid.

Among 99 protest targets in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday are JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America offices, said Marisa Holmes, a member of Occupy’s May Day planning committee.

Events are scheduled in more than 115 cities, including an effort to shut down the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, where Wells Fargo investors relied on police to get past protests at their annual meeting this week. “Our goal is to kick off the spring offensive and go directly to where the financial elite play and plan,” she said.

After evictions and arrests from Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park to London that began last year, the movement against income inequality and corporate abuse will regain strength, said Brian McNary, director of global risk at Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations.

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San Diego Says Yarn-Bomber’s Stop Sign Flowers Must Be Stopped

stopsignIs it art? Is it vandalism? The city of San Diego is putting the kibosh on one of the most extensive yarn-bombing campaigns in history, in which 100 stop signs were turned into flowers via knitware. San Diego CityBeat relays a message from the artist:

I started planting flowers in earnest starting March 1st. The 100th one was planted last night. But today I got an email from Bill Harris who works for the city. I had expected it, and was considering an obstinate stance. After a 15 minute phone call, I decided to work with them, and plan an ending.

He started the call with “Congratulations on making it to 100.” He explained how people within the city had gone to great lengths to find a way to keep them. They even contacted other cities to find out what they did. “Even Berkeley takes them down,” he told me. The problem is that the stop sign is a traffic sign.

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U.S. Drones Killed 2,800 Civilians in Pakistan in 7 Years

Drone FiringVia Press TV:

A Pakistani human rights lawyer says over 2,800 of the 3,000 people killed over the past seven years in non-UN-sanctioned US assassination drone strikes in Pakistan were civilians, Press TV reports. Shahzad Akbar, the director of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, told Press TV on Saturday that only 170 of the people killed in the aerial attacks on the northwestern tribal belt of Pakistan have been identified as militants.

That means that “over 2,800 people were civilians, whose identities are not known, and they have just been killed on suspicion of being militants,” he added. US President Barack Obama publicly confirmed for the first time in late January that drone aircraft have struck targets inside Pakistan. Obama said “a lot of these strikes have been in the FATA”, the acronym for Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Pakistan contends that the drone strikes are counterproductive. “We are of the firm view that these are unlawful, counterproductive and hence unacceptable,” Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said on January 31.

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Netherlands Judge Backs Cannabis Cafe Ban For Foreign Tourists

Cannabis CafeVia BBC News:

A judge in the Netherlands has upheld a new law to ban foreign tourists from entering cannabis cafes.

While soft drugs are tolerated, there is growing concern at tourists visiting just for drugs, and foreign dealers selling illegally at home.

The ban is due to start in three southern provinces next month, and go nationwide by the end of the year.

A group of cafe owners argued at The Hague district court that the ban was discriminatory against foreigners. Under the new law, Dutch residents will still be allowed into the cafes, as long as they have valid identification, or possibly hold a new “weed pass”, which is also being debated. There are about 700 coffee shops, as they are called, in the Netherlands. The cultivation and sale of soft drugs through them is decriminalised, although not legal; police generally tolerate possession of up to five grams of cannabis.

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The Trust Molecule

Paul J. Zak, author of The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity, asks “Could a single molecule—one chemical substance—lie at the very center of our moral lives?” in the Wall Street Journal:

Research that I have done over the past decade suggests that a chemical messenger called oxytocin accounts for why some people give freely of themselves and others are coldhearted louts, why some people cheat and steal and others you can trust with your life, why some husbands are more faithful than others, and why women tend to be nicer and more generous than men. In our blood and in the brain, oxytocin appears to be the chemical elixir that creates bonds of trust not just in our intimate relationships but also in our business dealings, in politics and in society at large.

Known primarily as a female reproductive hormone, oxytocin controls contractions during labor…

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Swiss Woman Starves to Death on Sunlight Diet

SunlightVia the Herald Sun:

The woman embarked on the diet after watching the controversial 2010 documentary film In The Beginning There Was Light, newspaper Tages Anzeiger said.

The movie centres on Swiss chemistry doctor Michael Werner, 62, and 83-year-old Indian yogi Prahlad Jani, who both claim to derive sustenance from spiritual means rather than the intake of food — a concept also known as breatharianism.

Werner claims to have lived without food since 2001, while Jani told the documentary of how he had lived for 70 years not only without food, but also without water.

The woman, from the east of Switzerland, saw the movie and decided to try to survive entirely on light, preparing for the process by reading a book by Australian breatharian Ellen Greve, who goes by the name Jasmuheen. In line with the book, the Swiss woman, who was in her early 50s, did not eat or drink anything for a week — and even spat out her saliva — before resuming drinking in the second and third weeks.

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