Boing Boing

This Ghostbusters Ecto1 Wheelchair Halloween Costume is Totally Amazing

IMGURian Ryan S. Miller posted this wonderful series of images: “Here is Jeremy's Costumer this year...The Ghostbusters Ecto-1!”

“Every year we've tried to step up the scale of the costume builds we do for Jeremy,” Ryan says. “This year we put it to a vote and our friends choose the Ghostbusters Ecto-1!”

Check it out in action, below.

"Self-control" can be switched off with electromagnetic brain stimulation

University of Zurich researchers used transcranial magnetic stimulation, a noninvasive method of inhibiting activity in parts of the brain, to "turn off" people's ability to control their impulses. They focused on the temporoparietal junction, an area of the brain thought to play an important role in moral decisions, empathy, and other social interactions. They hope their research could help inform our understanding of addiction and self-discipline. From Scientific American:

In their study, subjects underwent 40 seconds of disruptive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)—in which a magnetic coil placed near the skull produced small electric currents in the brain that inhibited activity of the posterior TPJ—then spent 30 minutes completing a task. To rule out a placebo effect, a control group received TMS in a different area of the brain. In one task, subjects made a choice between a reward (ranging between 75 and 155 Swiss francs) for themselves or one that was shared equally between themselves and another person, who ranged from their closest confidante to a stranger on the street. In another task subjects were offered an immediate reward of between zero and 160 Swiss francs or a guarantee of 160 Swiss francs after waiting three to 18 months. In a final task, subjects were instructed to take the perspective of an avatar and indicate the number of red dots on a ball that the avatar would see.

Subjects with an inhibited TPJ were less likely to share the money and were more likely to take the money up front rather than delay gratification and wait for a larger prize. They were also less able take on the perspective of the avatar, which makes sense, says Christian Ruff, a co-author of the paper and an economist at the University of Zurich. “The function of perspective-taking is essential to both of these tasks,” he says, in terms of both “thinking how someone else would feel if you give them money and also how you yourself in the future would feel with that money.”

The findings suggest that the TPJ plays an important role in perspective-taking, which (co-author Christian) Ruff describes as “a very basic social mechanism” that is essential not only for helping us figure out what other people may be thinking and feeling during social interactions but also in self-control, as we weigh the needs and desires of our current self against the needs and desires of our imagined future self.

Last call for the Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition!

Are you jonesing for a dose of optimism and possibility? In the mood to contemplate the cosmos? Want to experience a musical message for extraterrestrials the way it was meant to be played? The Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition, a project I launched with Timothy Daly and Lawrence Azerrad, is a lavish vinyl box set containing the contents of the phonograph record launched into space in 1977 and now 13 billion miles from Earth.

Our Kickstarter ends at 8pm PDT tonight (Thursday). Once we fulfill the rewards from this campaign, we'll never produce this deluxe 40th Anniversary Edition again.

We are so thankful enthusiasm and excitement about our project and the incredible Voyager interstellar mission. The curiosity and support is infectious. We're deeply grateful that a project that has been on our minds for so long has resonated with so many people around the world. Ad astra!

For more on the Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition, please visit our Kickstarter page here.

And here's an excerpt from an interview with me about the project, from The Vinyl Factory:

Ultimately it was a utopian vision for Earth as much as an actual attempt to communicate with extra terrestrials… Wasn’t it?

Yeah I think the idea is that if there is a civilisation that is intelligent enough to actually intercept it, they’ll be able to follow the instructions on how to play it. And I think that’s true. In some ways though, it doesn’t even really matter if it’s ever played or not by an extra-terrestrial civilisation.

And I firmly believe this, it was a gift to the cosmos but it was also a gift to humanity. And Linda Salzman Sagan, who was on the original committee, said something along the lines of there being two audiences, there was the extra-terrestrial audience and then there was the audience of the people on Earth. And that’s what’s exciting to us...

And the label you’ve set up for this end is Ozma Records…

It’s worth mentioning the name. So Ozma is the Princess of Oz from the Wizard of Oz books. That’s the first reference. But the second reference is connected to Frank Drake, who is a pioneer in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and was on the Voyager Golden Record committee. In fact he’s the one who came up with the idea of sending a phonograph record. In the 1960s he launched one of the first scientific efforts to search for extraterrestrial intelligence using radio-telescopes and that was called Project Ozma, named after Princess Ozma. So we wanted to honour him and use that name. Our hope is to release future records that lie at the intersection of science and art and music too, that also instil a sense of wonder.

Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition (Kickstarter)

Nintendo announces new hybrid portable game console

Nintendo's Switch is a touchscreen tablet with removable physical controls that turn it into a traditional handheld game console. It comes with a chunky dock to hook it up to a TV set for high-definition couch action; also announced is a traditional wireless gamepad to match the squared-off dark gray design: it's what disassembles to become the tablet's own controls.

Introducing Nintendo Switch! In addition to providing single and multiplayer thrills at home, the Nintendo Switch system also enables gamers to play the same title wherever, whenever and with whomever they choose. The mobility of a handheld is now added to the power of a home gaming system to enable unprecedented new video game play styles.

Switches use cartridges instead of discs: suggestively retro, especially in the promise of instant-on gaming, but also reflective of the general decline of optical media in favor of flash and high-bandwidth internet connections.

The promo video depicts intriguing social game cultures that don't yet exist—think kids toting their no-nonsense, easy-to-use Switches around to the pub and competitive event alike. For me it lit up dormant arcade-era neurons that Sony and Microsoft (and Apple, for that matter) never get close to.

It's out in March.

The tiniest touchscreen "phone" of them all

VPhone is a wee "phone", surely the most wee of them all. It has a 1.54-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth, FM radio, pedometer, 128MB (megabytes!) of storage, a heart rate monitor, some social network-monitoring apps, and a choice of "simple and stylish" black or silver trim. The radio's quad-band GSM, so if you can get your hands on one it should work on T-Mobile and ATT in the US.

Yes, there's also a 3.5mm phone jack. The Verge's Ashley Carman: Some of you might read these stats and think they’re sad. I kind of agree, but I just really love how little this phone is, so it cancels out depressing spec reality. ... The S8 appears to only be available in China, so we, once again, will have to keep dreaming. I’m trying, everyone! I think if we dream hard enough we can force these cool phones to appear in front of us. Will it.

Agreed! It's a curious device that seems more a chunky call-enabled smartwatch than a fully-featured mobile--and the English is a bit ropey on the product page, so it's not really clear if it can make voice calls without a BT connection to another device. Carman points to this 2.45"-screened crapgadget as the smallest bona-fide smartphone on offer; the ancient Sony-Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini, despite its age, is probably a better bet in the 2.5"-ish range.

Explore the galaxy in 3D with data from the Gaia satellite

Gaia is an interactive 3D map of the galaxy, coded by Charley Hoey and sourced from the eponymous mapping satellite's data: click, drag and scroll/pinch to change the viewpoint. It took a long time to load even on my desktop PC, but the results speak overwhelmingly for themselves.

The Gaia satellite by the European Space Agency is currently orbiting 1.5 million kilometers beyond the moon, twirling through the heavens and dutifully marking down the positions of every point of light it sees. I've processed the program's first batch of data to determine the 3D position of about 2 million stars. Click and drag to orbit, or scroll/pinch to zoom in and out, zoom all the way in to see our sun, just one star among millions. WebVR enabled!

Hoey explains in "torrenting the galaxy" what it took to model two million stars in the browser. Here's an official ESA image made from the same dataset; as beautiful as it is, the enormity of the data it represents seems absent.

Reviving an Ann Arbor Ambassador 60 terminal

JWZ documents his adventures in bringing a 1982/3 vintage Ann Arbor Ambassador 60 terminal (a rare portrait-orientation terminal) back into service -- fitting it with a Raspberry Pi and a new power-supply and getting it to boot its beautiful green-screen. (more…)

Magic use in Harry Potter novels charted

Skyler Johnson created an interactive infographic that charts the use of magic in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels. The spells are organized by count or time, with instances color-coded by the book they appear in. Hover over each use and you even get the quote, for context! [via Tor and Metafilter]

Emily Asher-Perrin writes: Perhaps not surprisingly, the spells that we see used most often are commonly used by Harry and his friends as means of non-violent resistance; Expecto Patronum; Expelliarmus; Stupefy. The Killing Curse appears sixth down on the list, which is fascinating–it is technically speaking the “most evil” of all the dark magic spells, and it is the most often used.