Author Archive | majestic

Fukushima Seaborne Radiation Has Reached North American Shores

The official line is that the radioactive seawater from Fukushima is so weak as to be harmless; what do you think, disinfonauts? The Statesman Journal tells the tale:

Seaborne radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster has reached North America.

Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution detected small amounts of cesium-134 and cesium-137 in a sample of seawater taken in February from a dock on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.


It’s the first time radioactivity from the March 2011 triple meltdown has been identified on West Coast shores.

Woods Hole chemical oceanographer Ken Buesseler emphasized that the radiation is at very low levels that aren’t expected to harm human health or the environment.

“Even if the levels were twice as high, you could still swim in the ocean for six hours every day for a year and receive a dose more than a thousand times less than a single dental X-ray,” Buesseler said.

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How To Make A Secret Phone Call


Photo: pug50 (CC)

Keeping your phone calls private is insanely difficult as Fast Company‘s DJ Pangburn finds out from Curtis Wallen:

…Amid pervasive sensors, drones, and data collection, making a private phone call can be a Herculean task.

Nevertheless, Wallen thinks it can be done—in short, by using a prepaid “burner” phone, posting its phone number publicly on Twitter as an encrypted message, and waiting for your partner to decrypt the message and call you at a later time.

His step-by-step instructions for making a clandestine phone call are as follows:

  1. Analyze your daily movements, paying special attention to anchor points (basis of operation like home or work) and dormant periods in schedules (8-12 p.m. or when cell phones aren’t changing locations);
  2. Leave your daily cell phone behind during dormant periods and purchase a prepaid no-contract cell phone (“burner phone”);
  3. After storing burner phone in a Faraday bag, activate it using a clean computer connected to a public Wi-Fi network;
  4. Encrypt the cell phone number using a onetime pad (OTP) system and rename an image file with the encrypted code.
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California Vaping: The New Subculture

I suppose it was inevitable that a new vein of slang would arise around vaping. BBC News Magazine elevates it to the level of a new subculture:

California is generally reckoned to be a trendsetter – it’s not necessarily that things are invented there but California is often an early adopter. Think raves, skateboards, hippies and a whole smorgasbord of drugs. So what’s next?

Vaping an Electronic Cigarette / E Cig / Vaporizor

Photo: Jonny Williams (CC)


There’s a cloud-chasing meet and I want to win. And no. Not the clouds in the sky. So here’s the set-up. I want a sub-ohm rechargeable, authentic mech mod so that I that can crank up the power. And a metal rebuildable atomizer. Drip tip, of course, and then a wire coil with a dual silica wick.

I know its old-fashioned but, you know what? I’ve never liked the eco wool. And steel mesh? I haven’t seen one of those for months now.

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Tech Titans Defy Death

Peter Thiel TechCrunch50.jpg

Peter Thiel by TechCrunch50-2008 (CC)

If you had billions of dollars of wealth at your disposal and presumably all the happiness those billions can buy, wouldn’t you want to search for immortality? That’s the obsessions of many of today’s tech titans; the Washington Post dials into their latest efforts:

Seated at the head of a table for 12 with a view of the city’s soaring skyline, Peter Thiel was deep in conversation with his guests, eclectic scientists whose research was considered radical, even heretical.

It was 2004 and Thiel had recently made a tidy fortune selling PayPal, which he co-founded, to eBay. He had spent what he wanted on himself — a posh penthouse suite at the Four Seasons Hotel and a silver Ferrari — and was now soliciting ideas to do good with his money.

Among the guests was Cynthia Kenyon, a molecular biologist and biogerontologist who had garnered attention for doubling the life span of a roundworm by disabling a single gene.

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Aliens Are Enormous

Well at least we won’t miss the arrival of aliens, if and when it happens: they’ll be the size of polar bears per Newsweek:

Aliens, if they exist, are likely huge. At least that’s the conclusion of a new paper by cosmologist Fergus Simpson, who has estimated that the average weight of intelligent extraterrestrials would be 650 pounds (300 kilograms) or more. ET would have paled in comparison to these interstellar behemoths.

Proof positive that aliens are among us!

Photo: Valerie (CC)


The argument relies on a mathematical model that assumes organisms on other planets obey the same laws of conservation of energy that we see here on Earth—namely, that larger animals need more resources and expend more energy, and thus are less abundant. There are many small ants, for example, but far fewer whales or elephants.

Thus, throughout the universe, as is the case on Earth, there are likely more small animals than large ones, says Simpson, a scientist at the University of Barcelona.

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‘Bad Bitches’ With Bombs

‘Bad Bitches’ With Bombs: it has a certain ring to it, but the two New York women who actually wanted to be those terrorist groupie “bitches” were just the latest wannabes who got a hold of The Anarchist Cookbook, which features heavily in the Government’s complaint filed in federal court.

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 10.38.24 AM

Screen shot from U.S. Government’s complaint against Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui.


The Daily Beast reports:

A pair of Queens, N.Y., women indicted on terrorism charges Thursday were jihadist groupies who idolized, studied, and even befriended some of the world’s most notorious terrorists—all in the hopes they might one day “make history” and pull off a major attack in the United States, law enforcement officials allege.

A lengthy criminal complaint unsealed in federal court Thursday describes how Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui repeatedly called Osama bin Laden a hero, modeled themselves after terrorists like the Boston Marathon bombers, and even drew inspiration and bomb-making ideas from right-wing extremists who blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

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Scan Allows Scientists to Determine Biological Age From the Face Alone

You know how there’s always some ancient person emerging from a formerly “hidden” culture who’s supposed to be hundreds of years old? Well now we can just scan them to find out their real age. That’s assuming the software’s any good, mind. From the Guardian:

Scientists have created a 3D imaging system they claim can reliably predict a person’s biological age from the look of their face alone.

These 3D images are a composite of two sets of female faces, showing the average facial structure for each age group in the study. The left image shows the average of the 17-29 year-old women, the right 60-77 year-old women. Composite: Chinese Academy of Sciences

These 3D images are a composite of two sets of female faces, showing the average facial structure for each age group in the study. The left image shows the average of the 17-29 year-old women, the right 60-77 year-old women. Composite: Chinese Academy of Sciences


The researchers believe the technology could be used to judge whether proposed anti-ageing treatments have any effect, and to help doctors fine-tune advice and therapies for their patients.

They developed the technology after scanning the faces of more than 300 people aged 17 to 77 and building up a map that reveals how the human face changes over a lifetime.

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Ten Percent of California’s Water Goes to Almond Farming

The media’s making a big deal out of California’s statewide water rationing, with state residents freaking out about not being able to water their MiracleGro lawns, wash their chrome-hubcapped cars and so forth. The real culprits are the farmers, though, and none more so than the almond growers per Slate‘s Eric Holthaus:

Denair, Calif.—In California’s vast Central Valley, agriculture is king. But the king appears fatally ill, and no worthy replacement is in sight, as the area noticeably reverts into the desert it was little more than a century ago.

Almond trees

An almond orchard just outside of Turlock and Hughson, CA.

Signs line the back roads here that run parallel to wide irrigation ditches:

“Pray for rain”
“No water = No jobs”

As I’ve already discussed in the Thirsty West series, city-dwelling Californians are a bit insulated from near-term water shortages thanks to the state’s intricate tentacles of aqueducts, pipelines, and canals that divert water from the snowcapped Sierras to the urban core along the coast.

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The Definitive Oral History of Max Headroom

Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusionIf you’re not old enough to remember Max Headroom, perhaps the name rings a bell from reading Ernest Cline’s superb novel Ready Player One (soon-ish to be Steven Spielberg motion picture). If the answer is still no, you need to bone up on your pop culture history. Handily, The Verge‘s Bryan Bishop has written up the definitive oral history of Max Headroom:

On Thursday, April 4th, 1985, a blast of dystopian satire hit the UK airwaves. Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future was a snarky take on media and corporate greed, told through the eyes of investigative journalist Edison Carter (Matt Frewer) and his computer-generated alter-ego: an artificial intelligence named Max Headroom.

Set in a near-future where global corporations control all media and citizens are hopelessly addicted to dozens of TV channels, the movie follows Carter — working for the mysterious Network 23 — as he discovers that network executives have created a form of subliminal advertising known as “blipverts” that can actually kill.

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