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PERCHED PARROTS
PERCHED PARROTS: Parrots sat on German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she visited a bird park in Marlow, Germany, Tuesday. (Franzi Zoeger/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

JUNIOR ASTRONAUT
JUNIOR ASTRONAUT: A boy wore an astronaut costume in the parking lot of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., Tuesday. The space shuttle Discovery will go on display at the center. The shuttle was flown around Washington Tuesday; it will be towed to the center Thursday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

SICK BOY
SICK BOY: A boy sat up in his hospital bed in Guinea-Bissau Tuesday. (Andre Kosters/European Pressphoto Agency)

TOPSY-TURVY
TOPSY-TURVY: Benjamin Bailey helped to clean up his friend’s tornado-ravaged home in the Pinaire Mobile Home Park in Wichita, Kan., Monday. Severe weather tore through Kansas and other states over the weekend, killing several people. (Mike Hutmacher/the Wichita Eagle/Associated Press)

LAUGHING OUT LOUD
LAUGHING OUT LOUD: Nazir Haynesworth, 14 years old, laughed as he played in a fountain in Philadelphia’s Logan Circle Monday. (Matt Slocum/Associated Press)

A CLEAR VIEW
A CLEAR VIEW: A fan sat in the grandstand before the Champions League semifinal soccer match between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid started at the Allianz Arena in Munich Tuesday. (Marc Mueller/dpa/Zuma Press)

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Randall Munroe's produced another in his series of his spectacular, gigantic charts of unimaginably large and complex things compared and rendered tractable by the human imagination. "Lakes and Oceans" has everything you need to cultivate an appreciation for the vasty depths and the ocean blue. Plus, a snarfworthy punchline at the deepest depths.

Lake and Oceans

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Here's Kevin Smith discussing his success as an independent, and rebutting critics who say that his go-it-alone strategy for his Red State (which is, by the way, excellent) was only possible because he'd made a name for himself:

Anyone that tells you "oh he could do it because he's Kevin Smith"—tell 'em horseshit, man. That's somebody who's trying to tell you "don't try, you can't try, he did it, he can do it, you can't do it." Don't listen to that shit man. Think of life and progress as a game—I always think of it in terms of a game of hockey. When you're skating with the puck towards the net there's always a motherfucker trying to hook you from behind, just to slow you up enough, 'cause nobody wants to see anybody succeed. So don't listen to that. When you hear somebody go "well of course he could do it, he's Kevin Smith"—those same assholes, before I did it, were like "it's never gonna work, it's dumb, he crazy". And then when it worked, they didn't go like "you know what? we were wrong"—instead they say "well only he could do it because he's Kevin Smith" and I say horseshit. Kevin Smith wasn't always Kevin Smith, nor was Kevin Smith the little kid that pulled the fucking sword from the stone.

Now am I going to say like, this is the only way it should ever be done forever? No but you're always looking for alternatives, because the old method doesn't so much work anymore. You can't just put a commercial on TV and expect a bunch of people to show up and see it at the movie theatres. They have too many choices. They can just stay home and surf porn on the internet. Why would you want to go see The Avengers when you can watch like three people having sex from the privacy of your own home? You're competing for attention, and in a world where you're competing for attention, you have to figure out ways to make it more interesting for the audience to come out. It's no longer enough to be like "here's the movie, come see it".

Techdirt's Mike Masnick relates this to Masnick's Law: "in any conversation about musicians doing something different to achieve fame and/or fortune someone will inevitably attempt to make the argument that 'it only worked for them because they are big/small and it will never work for someone who is the opposite,' no matter how much evidence to the contrary might be readily available."

Kevin Smith On Why You Don't Have To Be Kevin Smith To Try Innovative New Things

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For the past five years, Peter Jansen, a Canadian scientist whose PhD is in neural computation and cognitive modelling, has been developing a series of open source hardware "tricorders" -- handheld sensor packages running GNU/Linux that can be used by everyday people to make and record observations about the world around them. There are several versions of the tricorder, some with sensors attached (atmospheric, electromagnetic, spatial), others that are "blank," with places to mount your own sensors. The latest version, the Mark IV, is still in development, and is intended to be mass-produced at low cost.


The Tricorder project emphasizes accessibility. The devices we build are meant to be as inexpensive as possible, so folks might have access to them without having to worry about the cost, or their difficulty of use. My hope is that someday every household — and every child who wants one — might have access to a small device that can easily be kept close in a pocket or bag, and quickly pulled out when curiosity strikes. By turning a walk home through the park into a nature walk, and Dad's spring time home repairs into a lesson about heat flow, it's my hope that everyday experiences will become opportunities to learn and develop an intuitive understanding and deep fluency with the science of our everyday world.

It is my deep belief that knowledge brings about positive change. It's possible that the same instrument that can show a child how much chlorophyll is in a leaf could also show how them much pollution is in the air around us, or given off by one's car. As an educator and a researcher, I feel that if people could easily discover things about their worlds that were also important social topics, that they would then make positive social choices, like reducing their emissions, or petitioning for cleaner industry in their communities. By having access to general tools, people can learn about leaves, or air, or clouds, or houses — or light, or magnetism, or temperature — or anything the Tricorder can help them see.

Most of all, the Tricorder is designed to discover things that we don't already know. I'm excited about what you can discover with it. And that's what it's about. Little discoveries, everywhere.

the Tricorder project:

(via MeFi)

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Robert sez, "The gamified EyeWire project, now in open beta, is about using human computation to help trace the neurons in a retina. Tracing the neurons will help nail down the computation that goes on inside the retina leading up to the optic nerve, and lead to better methods of brain mapping. Come and help explore the eye's jungle!"

Game 1: Reconstructing Neurons
The first step of the challenge is to reconstruct the tree-like shapes of retinal neurons by tracing their branches through the images. You will accomplish this by playing a simple game: helping the computer color a neuron as if the images were a three-dimensional coloring book. The collective efforts of you and other players will result in three-dimensional reconstructions of neurons like this. Playing the game does not require any specialized knowledge of neuroscience — just sharp eyes and practice. If you like, you can stop reading this page, and proceed to detailed instructions for the game here or simply start playing. On the other hand, if you’d like to know more about the scientific plan, read on.

Game 2: Identifying Synapses
Reconstructing neurons involves tracing their branches, which are like the “wires” of the retina. This by itself is not enough for finding connectomes; we also need to identify synapses. This kind of image analysis will be accomplished through another game that will be introduced on this website in the near future. The identification of synapses will involve subtleties, due to limitations of the dataset, as will be discussed in detail later on.

Rules of Connection
Playing either of the above games will produce information that will be valuable for understanding how the retina functions. How exactly will the information be used? To answer this question, we should confront the issue of variability. We expect that every retina will be wired somewhat differently. In that case, would mapping the connections in one retina tell us anything that is applicable to other retinas? We expect that retinal connectomes will obey invariant rules of connection, and it is these rules that really interest researchers. Many of the rules are expected to depend on neuronal cell types, i.e., of the form “Cell type A receives synapses from cell type B.” Some such rules are already known, but the vast majority remain undiscovered.

EyeWire – Help Map the Retinal Connectome

(Thanks, Robert!)

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KNEE-DEEP IN THE NETHERLANDS
KNEE-DEEP IN THE NETHERLANDS: A man watched water rise around his home in Dordrecht, Netherlands, Thursday. The nation—25% of which lies below sea level—has been drenched by heavy rains and buffeted by strong winds for days. (Robin Utrecht/European Pressphoto Agency)

TANGLED UP
TANGLED UP: Librada Martinez, a member of the Ava Guarani ethnic group, scuffled with police officers who worked to clear a square in Asuncion, Paraguay, Thursday. People have been occupying the square, demanding government aid. (Jorge Saenz/Associated Press)

DISTRAUGHT
DISTRAUGHT: Estranged couple Matthew and Madonna Badger cried at the funeral for their three daughters in New York Thursday. Authorities say discarded fireplace ashes started a blaze at a Connecticut home where the girls died. Mrs. Badger and her friend escaped, but the girls and her parents were killed. (John Moore/Getty Images)

MOVING ON
MOVING ON: Boeing employees left a meeting Wednesday in Wichita, Kan., where it was announced that the company would relocate all of its Wichita operations by 2013. The closure will affect 2,160 workers. (Travis Heying/Wichita Eagle/MCT/Zuma Press)

DOWNTIME
DOWNTIME: Switzerland’s Dario Cologna lay down after crossing the finish line to win the FIS World Cup men’s cross-country skiing free-pursuit race from Cortina d’Ampezzo to Dobbiaco, Italy, Thursday. (Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters)

GOP ENDORSEMENT
GOP ENDORSEMENT: Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) listened as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke at a Boys and Girls Club in Salem, N.H., Thursday. Mr. McCain, the 2008 GOP nominee, endorsed Mr. Romney. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

LANDSLIDE LOSS
LANDSLIDE LOSS: The body of a girl who was killed when a mountainside collapsed early Thursday morning in Pantukan, Philippines, lay in a funeral parlor. Dozens of people were killed in the gold-mining village. The government had warned that the mountain was certain to crumble. (Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

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