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The Last Oceanographer at the Coast Guard’s Search and Rescue Division

Art Allen joined the Coast Guard in 1984 as a junior researcher. He spent the next 35 years trying to improve the Coast Guard's ability to save people lost at sea, in large part by studying drifting objects, which had barely been done before. But it wasn't until 2001 that he watched how their rescue operations worked in real time. A storm came in that night, and the Coast Guard was dispatched to multiple rescues, including a sailboat reported missing at the end of the shift. With scant information and a dearth of tools to calculate where the craft might be, the area to search was too large to locate the sailboat quickly.

And so the Coast Guard went looking for something without any real idea of where it was. The helicopters and an 87-foot cutter searched through the night, and found nothing. Not until the following morning did the sailboat appear, upside down, a long way from where the Coast Guard had been searching. A fishing boat spotted it. Two adults were in the water beside the boat, alive. A 42-year-old woman and her 9-year-old daughter, both wearing life vests, were taken off the hull. They’d gone hypothermic. A few hours later, at a local hospital, both were pronounced dead.

Art had stayed late into the night and seen all this unfold, in real time. “I watched this happen,” he said, rising from his dining room table. We’d been sitting there talking for maybe five hours before he’d thought to mention the incident. “These two were the same age as my wife and daughter,” said Art — and suddenly he was fighting back tears.

After that incident, Art Allen threw himself into developing a computer program that many people owe their lives to, even though they don't know it. Read Allen's fascinating story at Bloomberg.  -via Metafilter


Cats vs. Invisible Wall

The humans erected an invisible wall, and the cats are completely bumfuzzled. If anyone tells you that cats don't have expressive faces, you just show them this video. They eventually find their way through, but they appear to remain confused even then.


2019 Nikon Small World Microphotography Winners

Yes, this is a turtle, but it's a fluorescent turtle embryo just over an inch long. Teresa Zgoda and Teresa Kugler won first place in the 2019 Nikon Small World Microphotography competition with the image. It was a challenge to photograph such a large object under a microscope, and the final image is the result of stacking and stitching hundreds of infinitely-detailed images. Read more about the winning picture here. You can see more winning images, with the top twenty gathered in this gallery, where you'll also find links to honorable mentions and more. -via Damn Interesting


Indigenous Wisdom May Be What We Need To Survive The Apocalypse

Early August 2019. A government over 500 years old assembled to talk about its constitution. The meeting may perhaps be one of the most solemn meetings that ever happened.

The gathering was not held in a glittering, white, neo-classical Capitol propped up by columns crowned with Corinthian ornaments. The proceedings did not take place on a hill, or in a city, or within the boundaries of a capital district. The ceremony did not begin with a thunderous, patriotic anthem. The consti­tution was not read from archival parchment or legislative text. In fact, the constitution was not read at all. The speakers did not stand before a podium in the chambers of Parliament or halls of Congress. They did not prepare soundbites. If you had searched Twitter, you would not have found a single hot take about it. No chanting agitators came to protest. Minutes were not taken. Few beyond the attendees even knew it ­happened. 

But for Julian Brave Noisecat, despite its obscurity, the meeting was a historic milestone. It signalled the return of a good government — an Indigenous government.

See the full story over at The Walrus.



The World Isn’t Prepared for Omniviolence

Picture this for a moment. A lone actor in Nigeria deceives women and teenage girls into downloading malware which enables the man to monitor and record their activity. He can use this as blackmail in the future.

The hypothetical scenario written above was given by Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum in their book The Future of Violence.

The real story involved a California man who the FBI eventually caught and sent to prison for six years, but if he had been elsewhere in the world he might have gotten away with it. Many countries, as Wittes and Blum note, “have neither the will nor the means to monitor cybercrime, prosecute offenders, or extradite suspects to the United States.” 

To put it simply, technology allows criminals to target anyone anywhere, and get away from their crime.

More details over at Nautilus.

What are your thoughts about this one?

(Image Credit: TheDigitalArtist/ Pixabay)


Why Actors Get Lost In A Role

At his English boarding school in the 1990s, Christian Jarrett along with his friends would spend hours in roleplaying games. His favorite was Vampire: The Masquerade, and he still remembers how he had a psychological hangover after he spent an afternoon immersed in the character of a merciless, cruel undead villain.

It took a while to shake off the fantasy persona, during which time I had to make a conscious effort to keep my manners and morals in check, so as not to get myself into some realworld trouble.

If immersion in a fantasy character for a few hours can lead to a change in one’s sense of self, “what must it be like for professional actors, and especially so-called method actors, who follow the teachings of the Russian theatre practitioner Konstantin Stanislavski and truly embody the parts they play?”

There is certainly anecdotal evidence that actors experience a blending of their real self with their assumed characters. For instance, Benedict Cumberbatch said that, while he enjoyed playing a character as complex as Sherlock Holmes, there is also ‘a kickback. I do get affected by it. There’s a sense of being impatient. My mum says I’m much curter with her when I’m filming Sherlock.’
Mark Seton, a researcher in the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Sydney, has even coined the provocative term ‘post-dramatic stress disorder’ to describe the sometimes difficult, lasting effects experienced by actors who lose themselves in a role. ‘Actors may often prolong addictive, codependent and, potentially, destructive habits of the characters they have embodied,’ he writes.

Some, however, don’t agree with this kind of view. See more on Aeon.

What are your thoughts about this one?

(Image Credit: BBC/Hartswood Films/ Aeon)


Facebook and Political Ads

There’s a newly spotted code on a Facebook website, and it suggests that the platform might be preparing to take a leap forward in transparency around how political ads are targeted to its users. Facebook, however, denies this and states that no such change is afoot.

Microtargeting on Facebook allows progressive voting rights groups to show their ads only to racial minorities. Or a pro-nuclear energy group to choose vegans as its target audience. In 2016, Russian operatives attempted to divide the American population by directing Facebook to show racially divisive messages, for instance, only to African-Americans. Such targeting power is built into Facebook’s design. In fact, a recent Senate Intelligence Committee report said Russian meddlers had used the Facebook platform “exactly as it was engineered to be used.”
Yet this information about how each ad is targeted is available only to people who see one and then click on an obscure button. It’s known on the platform as “Why am I seeing this?” or “WAIST,” and Facebook has consistently refused to disclose WAIST info for individual ads to the broader public.

The information, however, appears to be a part of an upcoming redesign of Facebook’s political ad transparency website, at least according to Quartz’s review of the code. But Facebook spokesperson Tom Channik denies this, saying that they are “not considering adding targeting parameters to the ad library at this time.”

But earlier this month, the JavaScript code inside Facebook’s ad library site included several references to a button for WAIST.

Know more about this over at the site.

What are your thoughts about this one?

(Image Credit: ElisaRiva/ Pixabay)


Bizarre, Brainless “Blob” Unveiled At Paris Zoo

Home to some 180 species is the Paris Zoological Park. Many of these species would fall in the “standard zoo fare” category, like zebras, giraffes, penguins, toucans, turtles, and other common animals you would see in a zoo. This week, however, would be a surprise for everyone, as the Paris Zoological Park unveils a mysterious creature. It’s not a fungi, nor is it an animal.

Physarum polycephalum is a yellow-hued slime mold, a group of organisms that are not, in spite of their name, fungi. Slime molds also aren’t animals, nor are they plants. Experts have classified them as protists, a label applied to “everything we don't really understand,” Chris Reid, a scientist who has studied slime molds, told Ferris Jabr of Scientific American back in 2012.
Like other slime molds, P. polycephalum is a biological conundrum—and a wonder. It’s a single-celled organism with millions of nuclei that creeps along forest floors in search of bacteria, fungal spores and other microbes. It can detect and digest these substances, but it doesn’t have a mouth or stomach. The Paris Zoological Park grew its organism in petri dishes and fed it oatmeal, which it seemed to like, reports CNN's Julie Zaugg. Zoo staff named the creature the “blob” after a 1958 horror B-movie, in which a gloopy alien lifeform descends upon a Pennsylvania town and devours everything in its path.

More details of this blob over at Smithsonian.com.

(Video Credit: CBS News/ YouTube)


As Long as You're Bloody

The Slashstreet Boys presents their serial killer version of "As Long as You Love Me" by the Backstreet Boys, complete with '80s neon windbreakers and soft focus cinematography. This is from the Merkins. If you like it, you'll love their song from last Halloween, "I'll Kill You That Way." -via Geeks Are Sexy


Combating Opioid Addiction Through The Use Of Online Forums

When he was three months old, Ryan Le Blanc had his first dose of opioids, after surgery for a unilateral cleft palate. Now in his late 20s, the English-as-a-second language teacher has been subject to about 15 more surgeries with varying severity. With each operation that he underwent, Le Blanc was introduced to a new painkiller.

At age 14, Le Blanc started buying illegal opioids for fun. Two years later, at age 16, he would be injecting heroin, a habit that he would be carrying from high school through college graduation.

As a teenager, Le Blanc came across Bluelight.org, a drug forum now more than 20 years old. He read post after post — innumerable lines of text and images about the substances he was taking, how to take them safely, and how to quit.

Today, as the opioid epidemic worsens and claims about 130 lives daily in 2018 and in the United States alone, drug forums such as the one mentioned above are no longer just an area of interest for the forum users alone. Researchers have also taken an interest in drug forums, in hopes that they will know how to tackle the topic of drug use better.

...a cadre of researchers is looking for solutions to addiction and overdoses in the sprawl of drug forums. The researchers say that drug forums on the dark net — a catch-all for internet hubs that are often encrypted or unavailable through regular search engines — along with more mainstream counterparts like Bluelight and drug-related threads on the website Reddit, might be a medical or research tool in their own right.

More about this on Undark.

(Image Credit: Vacho/ Pixabay)


Wireless Earbuds Compared

Smaller. Lighter. Better than the original. 

That’s how Pixel Buds 2 can be described, a new version of the two-year-old Pixel Buds headphones, which Google has announced last Tuesday. Now that the new version has ditched its fabric-covered cord which used to connect the two earbuds (on the original Pixel Buds), the new version now makes a better contender against Apple’s AirPods, the Samsung Galaxy Buds, and others. But how they sound or how they work, we won’t know until 2020.

But what we can talk about right now is their design and fit, which is more important to some consumers than even sound quality, and just how much competition they already have right now.

Design is crucial when it comes to wireless earbuds. A lot of these earbuds, because of their poor design, cause inconvenience to the user.

A lot of wireless earbuds are unattractive, can sometimes fall out of people’s ears, and may involve tons of tinkering to keep them snug and comfortable.

Perhaps the reason AirPods have been a hit is because of its acceptable look, and it fits well for most users, despite the drawback in audio quality. If Google is to have a fighting chance against Apple’s AirPods, they’d have “to hit many of the same comfort and style marks”.

Check out The Verge as it compares the various wireless earbuds.

Which do you think is the best?

(Image Credit: Dan Seifert/ The Verge)


Rihanna Is From Jamaica, Not From Barbados, Jamaican Netizens Campaign

Rihanna is well-known as a celebrity from Barbados. She has an official ambassador position, even! But Jamaican Twitter has a different idea on the famous star’s place of origin. Since the rest of the world is so ignorant about the Caribbean, except that Rihanna’s from there, Jamaicans can tell the world that Rihanna is actually from Jamaica, and the world wouldn’t know better. 


This joke has set fire to the Twitter campaign, #RihannaIsJamaican which featured participants who have constructed Jamaican Rihanna’s entire biography, edited her Wikipedia page, and edited photoshopped versions of her passport and Jamaican currency. 

(via Paper)

image credit: via wikimedia commons

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