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Biohacking and Ethics

Back in 2017, a biophysicist tried to edit his genome live onstage at a conference. Using the gene-editing tool CRISPR to modify his DNA, the man pulled out a syringe and injected it into his arm. The whole event was livestreamed on Facebook, and the man made headlines that year. The man was Josiah Zayner.

This wasn’t the first time that Zayner did something really crazy. A year before that, in 2016, in a California hotel with Reset host Arielle Duhaime-Ross, Zayner performed a “full-body microbiome transplant”, with goals to fix gut issues and take control of his own medical care, as he found traditional methods very frustrating.

“He set about killing the collection of microbes that live on and inside his body, and replacing them with microbes he’d collected from a friend. The first step was getting that friend to give up his microbes — via skin swabs and poop,” Duhaime-Ross explains on the first episode of Reset.
To launch Reset, a new podcast from Recode and Vox in association with Stitcher about how tech is changing our lives, Duhaime-Ross revisited her 2016 story and interviewed Zayner once again. This time, as she explains below, they discussed what it means to be a biohacker in 2019 and where it might lead in the future.

The full podcast and the transcript is on Recode.

What are your thoughts on this one?

(Image Credit: EliasSch/ Pixabay)


The Pigs Are Evolving

Pigs are one of the most intelligent animals on the planet, along with the elephants, crows, and dolphins. The pigs, however, are not recorded to have used tools like the latter animals mentioned, until now.

A team of scientists has recently released the first known video of pigs using tools.

The ecologist behind the video, Meredith Root-Bernstein, told National Geographic she was watching a family of Visayan warty pigs at a zoo in Paris when she noticed one the animals picking up a piece of bark in its mouth and using the wood to dig around in the soil.
“I said, ‘Whoa, that’s pretty cool,'” she recalled to National Geographic. “When I looked up tool use in pigs, there was nothing.”

(Video Credit: Meredith Root-Bernstein/ YouTube)


Squirrel Wearing Underpants - Air Freshener

Squirrel Wearing Underpants - Air Freshener

Are you a little nutty about the smell of your motor vehicle? Bring the outdoors in with the Squirrel Wearing Underpants - Air Freshener from the NeatoShop. This delightful air freshener features your favorite woodland creature wearing a tasteful pair of tightie whities.

The Squirrel Wearing Underpants - Air Freshener is a treat for your senses. Your olfactory will rejoice at the fresh forest scent and your eyes will relish the modesty of your furry friend. Get one for your car today. 

Be sure to check out the NeatoShop for more great Car Accessories. New items arriving all the time. 

Don't forget to stop by the store to check out our large selection of customizable apparel and bags. We specialize in curvy and Big and Tall sizes. We carry baby 6 mo. all the way to 10 XL shirts. We know that fun, fabulous, and animal loving people come in every size. 


Creepy Purses Are the Right Look for You

Breanne Cremean offers many unique handbags and dice bags like this one in her Etsy shop. She calls them Creature Clutches. With eyeballs, mouths, and fangs, they create, if not the right impression, then an accurate one for you. Some people may eschew conversation if you carry one, but that's a helpful sorting tool in its own way.

-via Geekologie


Archaeologists Unearth Bloody Gladiator Fresco in Pompeii

The more Pompeii is excavated, the more we see the city as a once-thriving culture instead of just a site of tragedy. Before the 79 CE eruption of Mt. Vesuvius buried Pompeii under several feet of rocks and ash, it was a bustling place full of commerce, education, vice, and art. A fresco recently unearthed in a building thought to be a tavern and brothel depicts two gladiators at the end of a battle, complete with bloody wounds.

In a statement, Massimo Osanna, director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park, says the establishment probably proved popular among the city’s gladiators, who lived nearby. He adds, “We are in Regio V, not far from where there was a barracks for gladiators, where among other things, there was graffiti referring to this world.”

The three- by four-and-a-half-foot fresco features two types of gladiators: a murmillo armed with a short straight sword, curved shield and distinctive crested helmet and a thraex wielding a smaller shield and angled blade. The painting finds the thraex, who has dropped his shield and is seriously wounded, holding one thumb up in a plea for mercy.

Read more of what this scene, and other recent discoveries, tells us about Pompeii in its heyday at Smithsonian.


Man Who Abused YouTube Takedown System Now To Pay $25,000

A man from Nebraska has agreed to pay $25,000 after he abused YouTube’s takedown system under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The man, Christopher Brady, has also signed a public apology which admits that he has been falsely claiming that the materials uploaded by YouTube users are infringing his copyrights.

In reality, Brady didn't have any legitimate claim to the material, YouTube charged in an August lawsuit. YouTube said that Brady targeted at least three well-known Minecraft streamers with a series of takedown requests.
Under YouTube's rules, a series of three takedown requests in a short period of time can lead to the loss of a YouTube account—a serious penalty for someone who has built up a large following on the platform. According to YouTube, Brady would submit two bogus takedown requests against a target's videos. Then he would send the victim a message demanding payments—$150 in one case, $300 in another—to prevent the submission of a third request. For some reason, Brady allegedly offered victims a discount if they paid with bitcoin.
"This settlement highlights the very real consequences for those that misuse our copyright system," a YouTube spokesman told Ars. "We'll continue our work to prevent abuse of our systems."

Perhaps this is one of the great disadvantages of being a content creator on YouTube: anyone can abuse their copyright system.

What are your thoughts on this one?

(Image Credit: Pixabay)


A Plane Powered by an Electric Drill

What insane thing will Peter Sripol make next? When we last checked in, he attached a flamethrower to a Thomas the Tank Engine mecha. His most recent project was to build a functional model airplane powered with a cordless drill motor.

It was a big challenge. A drill and battery are heavy and the RPM is very low. But Peter's friends tolerated him long enough to make it work. The biggest challenge was getting their CNC mill to correctly cut a wooden propeller. And the end of the project, they ended up with a remarkably maneuverable aircraft.

-via Hack A Day


The Kidz Bop Cover Of Old Town Road Will Break You

I didn’t know that a Kidz Bop cover of Old Town Road existed until I stumbled upon this video, and how they altered the lyrics so well for children. Watch as jacksfilms get mystified on the choices Kidz Bop made for their version of the hit song. It may break you, or mystify you. I’ll just stick to the original one and its remixes, thank you very much. 


Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners

The Natural History Museum in London has announced the winners of their annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. The grand prize went to Yongqing Bao for the above photo entitled "The Moment." A Tibetan fox startled his marmot prey in the Qilian Mountains of China, and Bao caught the moment for posterity.  

Born and raised in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau area, Bao was fascinated by the local wildlife. He is now the Director and Chief Ecological Photographer of the Qilian Mountain Nature Conservation Association of China.

He is also a member of the Qinghai Photographers Association and Deputy Secretary-General of the Qinghai Wildlife Photographers Association. His work has been published in many magazines and newspapers and awarded in several international competitions.

The winner in the Young Photographer of the Year is Cruz Erdmann, for his colorful image of a big-finned reef squid, taken off the coast of Indonesia. Read about the winners at the competition's website, and see winning photos in the various categories in this gallery. -via reddit


Personality and Longer Life

Most, if not all, of us desire to have a longer life. You’d agree with me, however, that it’s even better to live a long and healthy life. 

While most people know what to do in order to achieve such a goal, some of these do not necessarily follow the advice given to them. Sometimes, a person can cheat in a program or routine that he dedicated himself into. For example, he might skip his early morning workout, or sneak a doughnut during a coffee break. This is why personality is important.

Researchers in behavioral medicine and health recognized decades ago that personality must be taken into account in understanding the factors which influence adopting a life-prolonging lifestyle. This field originated in the now-classic, though imperfect, studies on the “Type A Behavior Pattern,” in which hard-driving, impatient, achievement-oriented, and super-punctual individuals appeared to have higher risk of cardiovascular disease than their laid-back Type B counterparts. Researchers continue to expand on related personality and behavior patterns, with the latest entry being the “Type D” (for distressed), which refers to people who suppress their negative emotions, compromising their recovery from a cardiovascular event. More generally, however, researchers are interested in the overall personality traits or dispositions that can affect people’s health through lifestyle risk factors.

More of this over at Psychology Today.

What are your thoughts on this one?

(Image Credit: dbreen/ Pixabay)


Superman vs. the KKK

There's a new Superman comic available in stores today, except it's not exactly new, but a modern incarnation of an old story. Superman Smashes the Klan is the first of a three-part story in which the Man of Steel battles white supremacy and xenophobia.

The book comes from the award-winning cartooning team of Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru, who were inspired by the 1946 Superman story “Clan of the Fiery Cross.” That story wasn’t a comic, but rather an arc of the immensely popular Adventures of Superman radio serial. In the audio adventure, Superman battled the racist machinations of the Ku Klux Klan. Excoriated and embarrassed by one of the country’s most popular radio shows, the white supremacist group actually saw a drop in membership.

Superman Smashes the Klan is the first time “Clan of the Fiery Cross” has been adapted to comics. And Yang and Gurihiru’s Superman is a classic 1946 Superman. He hasn’t figured out how to fly yet and he’s never seen kryptonite before, a nod to how many core aspects of the character originated in that very series. Writers on the The Adventures of Superman serial went on to introduce those elements, along with Jimmy Olsen, and Daily Planet editor Perry White, and the endlessly quotable “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!”

Polygon spoke to author Gene Luen Yang about his approach to the project, and has a 16-page preview of the first chapter.  -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Gene Luen Yang, Gurihiru/DC Comics)


Las Marthas

Every February in Laredo, Texas, the entire town celebrates George Washington's Birthday with a festival, which includes a peculiar debutante ball sponsored by the Society of Martha Washington, in which young women dress as a stylized fashion ideal of the mother of our country.

The dresses take a year to sew, and the girls spend a year learning how to wear them: how to glide, how to float their arms out so they never touch the skirts, how to hold their heads under the weight of the coiffure. The look is Marie Antoinette in her let-them-eat-cake days, and the dresses, like Marie’s dresses, weigh so much—up to one hundred pounds—that they hurt the girl. They leave bruises at the shoulders and hips where the dress bones pull down on girl bones. The dresses, like the gestures, are passed down from mother to daughter.

Each girl needs five dressers, who first lace her into her corset, then affix the “cage” of the hoop skirt to her waist, sneaking a pillow between the cage and her body so her skin isn’t rubbed raw. Then come petticoats, and the dress on top. The dressing occurs over a tarp with a hole cut into its center, and once everything is in place, the women pick up the girl and the tarp together and walk her to the stage so that the dress never touches the ground. If it is raining, they wrap her in plastic too.

The history behind the ball goes back to the 1840s, when settlers from the East were sent to Laredo to "Americanize" the newly-annexed Texas. Read that history and how the modern Marthas do their thing at Believer magazine. -via Digg


Should You Be Polite To Siri?

The use of artificial intelligence-powered voice assistants has been prevalent in today’s generation. Whether it’s for weather, news, homework help, or just simply asking Alexa, Google Assistant or Apple’s Siri to do something on our behalf, these interactions with these voice assistants are frequent and can be done by anyone. This current situation begs the question as to whether or not these machines deserve the respect we give towards fellow human beings, should we use words like “please” and “sorry” when we ask these voice assistants to look at the weather for us? USA Today has the details: 

Dr. Laura Phillips, a clinical neuropsychologist at the Child Mind Institute, says the answers are “complicated and really nuanced."
What makes things more complicated is that “digital assistants have this aura of authority,” says Dr. Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychological Research Center in Newport Beach, California. We may know that they’re not human, but to kids, "they sound like adults, know lots of stuff and are easy to anthropomorphize." As conversational interfaces and AI evolves further, such distinctions may blur further.
"Kids learn through repetition, which is why we all say, 'What’s the magic word?' infinitum,” she says. 
“These AI-driven, non-human entities don’t care if you sound tired and crabby, or if you are purposely rude because it’s 'funny.' But interactions of all kinds build patterns of communication and interaction. The more you are used to bossing Siri around or bullying her, the more you’re used to that communication pattern," Rutledge says
In Iowa City, senior marketing manager Dana Turner says her husband has come up with another sound reason for treating voice assistants nicely. He “always says 'thank you’ to her because, he says, one day AI is going to take over the world and he wants to be saved.”

image credit: via wikimedia commons


Here’s A Ghost Choir To Soothe Your Worries Away

Louie Zong has given us a blessing in the form of animation and music, a video that you can leave playing in a separate tab as you do your task, or you can watch as you procrastinate! Watch as cute animated ghosts blast on a soothing, full choir of soft tunes to ease your worries away, or make you feel hyped for the spooky season! Personally, this video is on repeat for its cuteness and great sound! 


This Hawaiian Family’s 5.6 Pound Avocado Is Now The World’s Heaviest

Mark, Juliane and Loihi Pokini of Kula, Maui have the world’s heaviest avocado, weighing 5.6 pounds! The family shared that they picked the avocado in December and suspected they had a world record contender. They were correct, as their avocado beat the previous record at 5.5 pounds. In addition to their new Guinness World Record, the family shared that they previously grew a whopping 5.7 pound avocado. Unfortunately, they were unable to get the proper documentation to Guinness. Well, they have the record now! 

(via UPI)

image credit: Guinness World Records via UPI

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