April 18

Fine-Feathered Friends

The two flat “blades” of a feather on either side of the main shaft are called vanes. In living birds that fly, the feathers that arise from the hand, known as the primaries, have asymmetrical vanes: the leading vane is narrower than the trailing one. It stood to reason that vane asymmetry was important for flight. And because fossils of Microraptor and its kin show asymmetrical feathers, some researchers argued, these animals must have been able to fly.

Recent work by flight biomechanics experts, including me, has overturned this received wisdom about feather vane asymmetry. Our research shows that feather shape is largely optimized to allow the feather to twist and bend in sophisticated ways that greatly enhance flight performance. Merely being anatomically asymmetrical doesn’t mean much. What matters is that the feather is aerodynamically asymmetrical, and for this to be the case, the vane asymmetry must be at least three to one—that is, the trailing blade needs to be three times wider than the leading one. Below this ratio, the feather twists in a destabilizing rather than stabilizing way during flight.
Scientific American: Why Feathers Are One of Evolution’s Cleverest Inventions [includes helpful illustrations -- and some truly stunning 4K+ photography] [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi at 6:43 PM - 6 comments

And when it's time for leavin', I hope you'll understand

Singer, song writer, guitarist Dickey Betts has died. A driving force and original member of the Allman Brothers Band, Dickey Betts was an early pioneer of two part guitar harmonies in rock music.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 3:04 PM - 25 comments

These frogs were thought close to extinction, but they've reappeared

These dramatically-coloured bright yellow and dark black frogs were thought close to extinction, but they've reappeared in a park blackened during Black Summer. (Black Summer was the massive and far reaching 2019-2020 Australian Bushfires/Forest Fires that were on a previously unprecedented scale, size, and scope.) For the first time in five years, northern corroboree frogs have been detected in Namadgi National Park. Almost 40 of the critically endangered species were spotted across the park by government ecologists. [more inside]
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 12:10 PM - 1 comment

Istanbull not Coinstantinople

Being early investors in tech wasn’t something that had historically been available to the average person in Turkey. The instant millionaires and billionaires and unicorns pretty much lived elsewhere. Now, Faruk Özer saw a possibility. People in Turkey could shelter their money in what was clearly going to be the next big tech boom. But the biggest opportunity wasn’t in trading coins—it was in running a cryptocurrency exchange. Exchanges collect people’s money and, for a commission, invest it; that gives people who don’t have the time or skills to invest directly into the blockchain a pathway to crypto. from He Emptied an Entire Crypto Exchange Onto a Thumb Drive. Then He Disappeared [Wired; ungated]
posted by chavenet at 11:44 AM - 11 comments

I Go Meow

The Kiffness x Cala - I Go Meow [3m]
posted by hippybear at 9:50 AM - 8 comments

“I still wanted to help. But I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.”

The Deaths of Effective Altruism [archive] by Leif Wenar is a critical assessment of the effective altruism movement, taking in Sam Bankman-Fried and billionaires, Peter Singer and other philosophers, and GiveWell and the wider network of charities working off effective altruistic ideas.
posted by Kattullus at 8:11 AM - 56 comments

The ultimate con

His real name appears to have been John McCarthy. And he was the con man who sold the Brooklyn Bridge. By Dean Jobb. (Previously on selling landmarks)
posted by bq at 7:38 AM - 13 comments

If you miss this comet, you’ll have to wait another 71 years

Want to see the "Devil Comet" at its brightest? If you miss it, you’ll have to wait another 71 years. Australians will be able to see comet 12P/Pons-Brooks aka the "Devil Comet" this week even without a telescope or binoculars. Here's how to spot it and snap a photo.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 12:49 AM - 10 comments

How easily & cavalierly the works of decades & centuries are demolished

It seems there is only one model for today’s ‘man of action’, and that is Shock and Awe. Overwhelming force deployed suddenly and overwhelmingly. A theatrical performance with no audience as such, only a houseful of victims. The lions eat the circus and then tweet about it. Ask no questions, tell only lies, and double down, triple down, quadruple down. The ineffably stupid ‘move fast and break things’ that has so much to answer for in our time. Our new ‘Innovation Hub’ has an asinine three-word slogan: ‘Grow Ignite Disrupt’. It would make just as much sense to have ‘Paper Scissors Stone’ for a motto. And rather more to have ‘Smash Grab Run’. from In Florida by Michael Hofmann [London Review of Books] [CW: DeSantis]
posted by chavenet at 12:35 AM - 41 comments

April 17


'on the Tories' (slyt. 1:00)
posted by clavdivs at 8:55 PM - 6 comments


"Weird Al" Yankovic - Real or Cake? [37s, CW]
posted by hippybear at 7:56 PM - 42 comments

and we'll all go together

Jacob Collier, Laufey and dodie perform a stunning rendition of the Scottish/Irish folk song "Wild Mountain Thyme" together with the National Symphony Orchestra and some delightful audience participation, for the series Next at the Kennedy Center, in an episode presented by Ben Folds.
posted by yasaman at 2:09 PM - 28 comments

"so many tech demos end up hiding an ugly truth deep down"

Amazon Go, "a new kind of corner store," that company's futuristic storefront where you installed an app on your phone, and could shop for things just by picking them up off of shelves and walking out the door with them, is being shut down. Some random internet person called "Matt Haughey" described his experience with the store, and how it wasn't nearly as magical as it seemed: as it turned out it was a kind of technological sleight-of-hand, instead of using RFIDs and weight-sensing shelves and other techno-devices, they just had a whole lot of people watching cameras. Another random person on Mastodon points out the whole-lot-of-people part was probably a bunch of subsistence contractors in other countries. A third random person notes, even doing that, the store concept couldn't be made to work. Meanwhile the important gigantic hovering electronic head of Jeff Bezos floats above us all, unmoving but watching, silently.
posted by JHarris at 1:24 PM - 60 comments

Twitter AI says

Klay Thompson Accused in Bizarre Brick-Vandalism Spree. "In a bizarre turn of events, NBA star Klay Thompson has been accused of vandalizing multiple houses with bricks in Sacramento. Authorities are investigating the claims after several individuals reported their houses being damaged, with windows shattered by bricks. Klay Thompson has not yet issued a statement regarding the accusations. The incidents have left the community shaken, but no injuries were reported. The motive behind the alleged vandalism remains unclear."
posted by clawsoon at 1:16 PM - 44 comments

Airchat: Boring as hell

On Monday, I described Facebook as a “data holding pen for advertisers to harvest,” but it’s not just Facebook and it’s not just advertisers. Every social network — Reddit, Tumblr, X/Twitter, TikTok — is now primarily an AI training pool. Though, I’ve reached the point where I don’t even really care about that anymore. The real issue with Airchat is that it’s boring as hell. Ryan Broderick of Garbage Day critiques Airchat, a new “audio-first social network.” [more inside]
posted by Bella Donna at 12:16 PM - 15 comments

The Perilous Lives of International Students

They come here for the promise of a good education and a better future. Then they discover the target on their backs. (slTorontoLife) [more inside]
posted by Kitteh at 11:25 AM - 18 comments

Slowly, inch by inch, choice by choice, our stuff gets cheapened

The Problem with Adam Savage's Favorite Pencil: Former Mythbuster and MeFi's Own asavage goes on a surprisingly emotional tear about tool acquisition in the maker space, Blackwing 602s, Jeff Tweedy's pencil nerdery (🔔), and the "encheapening the product to increasening the profit" that has befallen his beloved PaperMate Sharpwriter #2. (It's not really about pencils.) [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi at 11:21 AM - 64 comments

How many bathrooms have Neanderthals in the tile?

A Reddit poster finds an ancient jaw in his parents' new travertine
posted by ShooBoo at 10:59 AM - 9 comments

Fish boy born in Manila

I pray you're born with gills, a short climate change comic by Ren Galeno.
posted by simmering octagon at 9:58 AM - 6 comments

Museums are in the business of returning things

New regulations around the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) went into effect earlier this year. Some institutions are scrambling to comply by removing and rethinking exhibits (The American Museum of Natural History to Close Exhibits Displaying Native American Belongings) - others already had solid processes in place to comply with the spirit of the law, enacted in 1990 (Some Museums Scrambled to Remove Native American Items From Display. These Museums Didn’t Need to). Others drag their feet (Alaskan tribes came to Denver to reclaim their cultural heritage. They left empty-handed). Meanwhile, in addition to sacred artifacts, hundreds of institutions still inappropriately hold thousands of human remains.. All of this occurs in the context of such scandals as the theft of human remains by a National Park Service employee who stored them in his garage for thirty years explicitly to avoid complying with the law.
posted by bq at 8:16 AM - 5 comments

FAFSA: The Bureaucracy of Suspicion

"Before 2024, the FAFSA was a Frankenstein’s monster, with all kinds of different forms grafted together to create a confusing and demoralizing process that left far too many eligible students unable to access their aid. This year, the Department of Education rolled out major revisions that are, in fact, much better — but only if they work. Right now, they don’t." David M. Perry (co-author of the wonderful The Bright Ages) with an opinion piece on the ongoing problems with FAFSA, incrementalism, and the suspicion around giving students money for school.
posted by mittens at 6:44 AM - 45 comments

Elephant seal back in town yet again just days after being relocated

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has confirmed that Victoria’s (in Canada) favourite stair-climbing, beach-lounging elephant seal is back in town, less than a week after he was relocated. [more inside]
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 6:10 AM - 17 comments

Tom Francis makes an entrance at the Olivier Awards show

Great video of Tom Francis singing "Sunset Boulevard" as he makes his way into the Royal Albert Hall for the 2024 Olivier Awards show.
posted by Czjewel at 2:24 AM - 7 comments

This trend isn’t really about food or health. It’s about performance

Hosting a lavish banquet or ordering lobster is no longer a sufficient signifier of status; today, a sign of true wealth is the ability to forgo food entirely. Eating essentially betrays a person’s most basic human needs; in an era obsessed with ‘self-optimisation’, not eating suggests that a person is somehow ‘beyond’ needs and has achieved total mastery of their body with a heightened capacity for efficiency and focus. from Why don’t rich people eat anymore?
posted by chavenet at 12:28 AM - 45 comments

NPR Is a Mess. But “Wokeness” Isn’t the Problem.

NPR, the great bastion of old-school audio journalism, is a mess. But as someone who loves NPR, built my career there, and once aspired to stay forever, I say with sadness that it has been for a long time.
Alicia Montgomery talks about the history of NPR and how things came here, especially regarding her former NPR colleague Uri Berliner's commentary blaming 'wokeness' and Democratic partisanship for the apparent loss of confidence in the once-unimpeachable institution and similar conversations around this issue.
And that story is that NPR has been both a beacon of thoughtful, engaging, and fair journalism for decades, and a rickety organizational shit show for almost as long. If former CEO John Lansing—the big bad of Uri’s piece—failed to fix it, or somehow made it worse, that’s a failure he shared with almost every NPR leader before him. But if, as Uri charges (albeit in a negative way), Lansing genuinely managed to break the network loose from the grasp of self-righteous white liberal identity politics, even in an imperfect way, that would surprise the hell out of me. Especially given the well-reported exodus of top journalists of color, and the loss of a diverse group of journalists during last year’s podcast layoffs.
posted by Pachylad at 12:15 AM - 94 comments

April 16

Food Origins: Why Jesus never ate a banana

69 percent of the global diet is "foreign," says a study that pinpoints the origin of 151 food crops (interactive map) Since the mid-20th century, diets around the world have become more diverse and more homogenous, with supermarkets and other retail outlets the world over increasingly offering a similar range of food options. [more inside]
posted by winesong at 7:45 PM - 22 comments

"This is invisible walls explained, once and for all."

PannenKoek2012: "If you’ve wondered where I’ve been for the past 10 months, it was working day and night on this one video." (YouTube, 3hours, 45 minutes) [more inside]
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 6:18 PM - 6 comments

Meat asks the trivia questions.

They're made out of meat.
posted by kaibutsu at 6:02 PM - 11 comments

The Cloud Under The Sea: the ships that repair undersea cables

The world’s emails, TikToks, classified memos, bank transfers, satellite surveillance, and FaceTime calls travel on cables that are about as thin as a garden hose. There are about 800,000 miles of these skinny tubes crisscrossing the Earth’s oceans, representing nearly 600 different systems, according to the industry tracking organization TeleGeography. The cables are buried near shore, but for the vast majority of their length, they just sit amid the gray ooze and alien creatures of the ocean floor, the hair-thin strands of glass at their center glowing with lasers encoding the world’s data. If, hypothetically, all these cables were to simultaneously break, modern civilization would cease to function. [more inside]
posted by the duck by the oboe at 5:48 PM - 14 comments

Got WiFi? Will Spy

“anyone from a landlord to a laundromat – could be required to help the government spy.” (Guardian) The Guardian covers the Houses expansion of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Although presented as a re-authorization, “The Turner-Himes amendment – so named for its champions Representatives Mike Turner and Jim Himes – would permit federal law enforcement to also force “any other service provider” with access to communications equipment to hand over data.” [disclaimer: I am related to the author of this article.] [more inside]
posted by CMcG at 5:40 PM - 6 comments

The world's oldest-known wombat is about to turn 35

Lovingly known as Mr Wine, the world's oldest-known wombat about to turn 35. Found as an orphan in Tasmania in 1989, Wain the wombat — also known as Mr Wine — is shuffling toward his mid-30s at a zoo in Japan, exceeding the average age of his wild counterparts by an estimated 20 years.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 3:35 PM - 9 comments

Imagine that, Oklahoma octopus

Oklahoman Cal Clifford asked for a pet octopus at every birthday, Christmas and major holiday. For his ninth birthday, Cal's parents made his dream come true. Then the eggs started to appear... [more inside]
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:55 PM - 22 comments

30 years since the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA)

What's in your prenatal vitamin? Dr. Gunter on the recent U.S. Government Accountability Office's report: Only one product contained everything listed on the label (within the accepted deviation).
What's really in that sports supplement? 23 of the 57 products (40%) did not contain any detectable amount of the labeled ingredient. 7 of the 57 products were found to contain at least one FDA-prohibited ingredient.
Revealing the hidden dangers of dietary supplements (and archive version): Since 2005, when he found his patients were being sickened by a Brazilian weight loss supplement containing anti-depressants and thyroid hormones, Cohen has become something of a mix of Indiana Jones and Sherlock Holmes in the supplement world. [more inside]
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:39 PM - 21 comments

I can think of at least one more

Librarians have never been a quiet bunch: Information, after all, is power. To mark National Library Week—typically celebrated the second full week of April—Atlas Obscura, fittingly, went into the archives to find our favorite stories of librarians who have fostered cultural movements, protected national secrets, and fought criminals. 6 Badass Librarians Who Changed History: How German Librarians Finally Caught an Elusive Book Thief 📚 The Librarian at the Nexus of the Harlem Renaissance 📚 The Radical Reference Librarians Who Use Info to Challenge Authority 📚 The Women Who Rode Miles on Horseback to Deliver Library Books 📚 A Day in the Life of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Librarian 📚 The Librarian Who Guarded the Manhattan Project’s Secrets
posted by Rhaomi at 12:39 PM - 10 comments

How did a priceless Nez Perce collection from Idaho end up in Ohio?

And why did it take over a century for the collection to return home? "A testament not only to our resilience, but to other people’s acknowledgment of basic humanity." A story about a collection of artifacts returning to its appropriate home with a surprisingly heartwarming coda. Video interviews about the collection and its voyage, and breathtaking images from the Wetxuuwíitin’ collection. [more inside]
posted by bq at 10:07 AM - 5 comments

Digital preservation, access control, and scholarly needs

'So, I hope CLOCKSS does have a complete digital copy of the journal, but the question is: will CLOCKSS make it available? This all depends on CLOCKSS assessment of whether a “trigger event” has occurred here.' Ross Mounce, commenting on the disappearance of recently-concluded chemistry journal Heterocycles from the web more than four months ago, raises questions about nonprofit digital archive CLOCKSS ("Controlled LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe)"), and similar "dark archives" that preserve research journals in a kind of escrow. (CLOCKSS has, so far, released "66 journals comprising 13,000 articles" into Open Access.)
posted by brainwane at 9:48 AM - 14 comments

Blue Andrew Man Huang Group

Blue Man Group & Andrew Huang 🥁🌵 DESERT PORTAL Music Video [5m, Blue Man Group YT channel] Getting weird with Blue Man Group [11m15s Andrew Huang YT channel]
posted by hippybear at 6:40 AM - 10 comments

“Anything about us, without us, is against us.”

There are clear continuities between the two German genocides. Many of the key elements of the Nazi system – the systematic extermination of peoples seen as racially inferior, racial laws, the concept of Lebensraum, the transportation of people in cattle trucks for forced labour in concentration camps – had been employed half a century earlier in South-West Africa. Heinrich Göring, the colonial governor of South-West Africa who tried to negotiate with Hendrik Witbooi, was Hermann Göring’s father.
–From the essay Three Genocides by forensic architect Eyal Weizman.
posted by Kattullus at 5:35 AM - 23 comments

Landmark building in Copenhagen on fire

Old Stock Exchange Building from 17th Century burns Yet another building renovation gone wrong.
posted by palnatoke at 2:39 AM - 13 comments


Rest of World shadowed workers in São Paulo, Lagos, Dhaka, and Jakarta to get an intimate look at how they spend their breaks between orders. from Portraits of gig workers in rare moments off the clock [Rest of World]
posted by chavenet at 2:01 AM - 9 comments

April 15

The strangest new sport in the Netherlands: tegelwippen, "tile whipping"

The strangest new sport in the Netherlands: tegelwippen, "tile whipping", or "whipping away" the paving stones. "A lot of people think that tiles are easier, but actually when you have larger trees, you get very few weeds underneath them and you can make it really easy," she says. "When I had paving I would never sit here, but now it’s a garden, it’s cooler in summer and in the spring, it’s lovely." [more inside]
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 11:39 PM - 20 comments

Here I am

The Etak Navigator "Today, I’d like to tell you about the Etak Navigator, a truly revolutionary product and the world’s first practical vehicle navigation system."[via]
posted by dhruva at 9:48 PM - 26 comments

RIP Rico Wade, 1972 - 2024

Rico Wade of the Organized Noize production team has died. Operating from Wade's mom's dirt-floor basement in the early 90s, Organized Noize convened a group of artists that came to call itself the Dungeon Family. That group gave the world the first couple Outkast albums, the first Goodie Mob album, and several great singles. It's not an exaggeration to say that Rico Wade made some of the greatest American music of the last 50 years. It's an incredibly sad loss. [more inside]
posted by kensington314 at 1:04 PM - 16 comments

It is a terrible time for the press to be failing at reaching people

I believe it was a mistake to give away journalism for free in the 1990s. Information is not and never has been free. I devoutly believe that news organizations need to survive and figure out a revenue model that allows them to do so. But the most important mission of a news organization is to provide the public with information that allows citizens to make the best decisions in a constitutional democracy. Our government derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed, and that consent is arrived at through the free flow of information—reliable, fact-based information. To that end, news organizations should put their election content in front of their paywall. The Constitution protects the press so that the press can protect constitutional democracy. Now the press must fulfill its end of the bargain. from Democracy Dies Behind Paywalls [The Atlantic; ungated]
posted by chavenet at 12:49 PM - 64 comments

The Backdoor To The Entire Internet That Didn't Happen

A rather large drama unfolded a couple of weeks ago when it was discovered that someone had installed a backdoor into an installation utility used by much of the Open Source community. Backdoor found in widely used Linux utility targets encrypted SSH connections [Ars Technica] This was found by accident, a worker was maintaining his own code and found discrepancies in computer performance and investigated. How one volunteer stopped a backdoor from exposing Linux systems worldwide [The Verge] This seems to have been largely the work of one online account that spent years gaining trust in the group that maintain this tool. THE OTHER PLAYERS WHO HELPED (ALMOST) MAKE THE WORLD’S BIGGEST BACKDOOR HACK [The Intercept] The Mystery of ‘Jia Tan,’ the XZ Backdoor Mastermind [WIRED] Today, Fedora announced its own systems all clear of this thwarted backdoor attempt. CVE-2024-3094: All Clear
posted by hippybear at 10:58 AM - 53 comments

“Are you a gay Republican or a Republican gay?”

Interviews with the author of Coming Out Republican: A History of the Gay Right, Neil J. Young, on the podcast Conspirituality & at the Culture Study newsletter: The handful of lesbian Republicans contended that supporting reproductive freedom was consistent with gay Republicans’ belief in personal autonomy and limited government, “when we say the government should stay out of our wallets and out of our bedrooms, this is what that means!” However, even though a slight majority of Log Cabin members consistently called themselves pro-choice, more didn’t want the organization to take a public position because they thought that abortion wasn’t a “gay issue.” [more inside]
posted by spamandkimchi at 10:17 AM - 21 comments

Tokyo’s Public Toilets Will Leave New Yorkers Sobbing

The prevailing philosophy about public facilities of all kinds is that they must be indestructible and require minimal upkeep, since that is what they will get. Fighting the forces of disintegration is too costly and requires too much vigilance. These are the arguments of a society driven by self-disgust. [more inside]
posted by praemunire at 9:30 AM - 59 comments

A Free Download Now and Forever

“The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” is now available as a free download! Written by Christopher Schwarz and first published in June 2011, “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” is revered by many as a philosophical tome as well as a how-to book. The book includes instructions for building your own tool chest, as demonstrated here by MetaFilter's Own™ and JimCoin™ creator bondcliff!
posted by slogger at 8:25 AM - 17 comments

Faith Ringgold, 1930-2024

Faith Ringgold passed over the weekend. A crafter, an artist, a thinker, a mentor. I am maybe not the best person to eulogize her, but her life and work have touched so many and deeply influenced generations of Black artists. Her passing is a loss, her memory will be a blessing. [more inside]
posted by Lawn Beaver at 8:02 AM - 16 comments

Sheep are much cannier than we give them credit for

Sheep are much cannier than we give them credit for. These ovine facts may surprise you. The humble sheep might be considered by some as the perfect embodiment of docility. But they are not mundane mindless mammals — not in the slightest.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 7:27 AM - 22 comments

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