Vaped crusader


During a House Transportation Committee hearing on a proposal to ban vaping on airplanes, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) took a hit from his vaporizer and exhaled a cloud of mist, saying, There is nothing noxious about this whatsoever." The congresswoman sitting next to him waved the cloud away.

Rep. Duncan Hunter argued the amendment would make it tough for people with asthma inhalers or people inhaling "medicine of the future" through vaporizers to take their hits on a plane.

"For freedom's sake," said Hunter.

The amendment passed.

Einstein was right about ripples in spacetime!


Gravitational waves are real, and scientists have detected them. In the video above, PBS Space Time explains the discovery by researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). From the New York Times:

A team of physicists who can now count themselves as astronomers announced on Thursday that they had heard and recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light-years away, a fleeting chirp that fulfilled the last prophecy of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

That faint rising tone, physicists say, is the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago (Listen to it here.). And it is a ringing (pun intended) confirmation of the nature of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits from which not even light can escape, which were the most foreboding (and unwelcome) part of his theory.

More generally, it means that scientists have finally tapped into the deepest register of physical reality, where the weirdest and wildest implications of Einstein’s universe become manifest.

Below, NASA's animated simulation of the black holes merging and releasing the gravitational radiation (background here):

above image credits: R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL

Skyjacker D.B. Cooper living like royalty in Nepal, and other tabloid stunners


[My friend Peter Sheridan is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for British national newspapers. He has covered revolutions, civil wars, riots, wildfires, and Hollywood celebrity misdeeds for longer than he cares to remember. As part of his job, he must read all the weekly tabloids. For the past couple of years, he's been posting terrific weekly tabloid recaps on Facebook and has graciously given us permission to run them on Boing Boing. Enjoy! - Mark]

Why let facts get in the way of a good story?

Princess Diana was assassinated with a lethal injection administered by a British agent on the orders of Prince Charles, who could face murder charges, concludes an “explosive new autopsy” conducted “after her body was exhumed last year,” reports the Globe.

Only one problem with the story. Diana’s body has never been exhumed. So there’s no new autopsy report, and no murder charges. In fact, her grave has been allowed to grow over with foliage and return to nature, giving the lie to any “secret” exhumation.

The Globe's laissez-faire attitude to facts is summed up in its story on the CIA’s “X-Files” allegedly proving that “UFOs are visiting Earth.” Tucked away in the final paragraph is a so-called "intelligence insider” saying: “While these reports don’t actually confirm the sightings - they sure don’t disprove them either.”

It’s a philosophy evident in the Globe's “world exclusive” interview with fugitive jet hijacker D. B. Cooper, missing for 44 years since he parachuted from a plane over Oregon with $200,000 in ransom money. The Globe interviews “Cooper,” now calling himself Alex and living “like royalty” in remote Nepal, which presumably means he’s trying to get British agents to inject his wife with poison. At the conclusion of its three-page report, the Globe acknowledges that there have been numerous people claiming to be Cooper through the years, but “Alex insists he’s the real deal.”

Well, if that’s good enough for the Globe, that’s good enough for me. Alex wouldn’t be lying, would he?

It takes a brave editor to tell millions of Americans that their eyes are lying, but the plucky Globe goes for it anyway, reporting: “Guy in bear suit raped DiCaprio.” The conceit that the CGI bear in ‘The Revenant’ raped DiCaprio’s character Hugh Glass was quickly quashed by filmmakers when first reported before the movie's release. But now that millions have seen the movie and we all know there’s no rape scene - it’s a female bear, for crying out loud - it requires immense journalistic fortitude to repeat the story in the face of all evidence to the contrary. That’s surely the sort of journalistic independence that wins awards.

The National Enquirer, not to be outdone, claims that O.J. Simpson’s murder weapon was in a bag hidden by Kris Jenner, now the Kardashian klan momager. The cover teases: “Simpson’s mystery bag buried - where she put it.” But the story inside says that Kris “had no idea” what was in the locked bag - so why would any sane person bury a perfectly good Louis Vuitton briefcase? Okay, so the cover promises to tell us “where she put it.” The answer, according to an Enquirer source: “Where that buried bag is today remains a mystery.” No kidding. Which makes it all the more wonderful that the Enquirer’s front page features a giant photo of “the bloody knife,” still covered in fresh bright red blood, like some kind of holy relic where blood miraculously doesn’t darken with age. At least we now know where the murder weapon is - in the Enquirer’s offices.

Back in the real world, Us magazine tells us that TV’s ‘Bachelor’ Ben Higgins “goes too far” by telling two women “I love you.” As if falling in love with a serial cheater who simultaneously dates 20 women might not bring a little heartache along the way. Lorde and Chloe Grace Moretz wore it best, Craig Ferguson reveals “I think I’m a ‘Rachel,’ but I know I’m a ‘Monica,’” and the stars are still just like us: they share umbrellas, they cleanse their skin, they pick produce and they jog - though not all at the same time, I imagine.

People magazine anoints Ryan Reynolds the “Sexiest Dad Alive” on its cover, which also promises: “Gwyneth Paltrow - Sex, Beauty & Feeling Younger Than Ever!” But inside the mag, while Gwynnie talks about her new skin-care line, finding gray hairs and wrinkles, she doesn’t come close to mentioning sex. People magazine - they’re just like the Globe. Actress Maggie Grace carries keys, lip balm and a phone in her purse, and yet again I never fail to be surprised by the contents of celebrity bags. Maybe Us magazine should have Kris Jenner empty her handbag, and see if O.J.’s bloody knife falls out.

Onwards and downwards . . .

An in-depth pictorial history of The Who as well as the times themselves


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

The Who: 50 Years: The Official History charts the history of what some claim is “the greatest live rock band” from infancy to now by way of text and pictures. Long before there was a band, there was childhood. That is where the book starts after a brief introduction by music and film producer Bill Curbishley. It begins with a section recounting events in the last days of World War Two. Pete Townsend was born two weeks after VE Day (Victory in Europe) and four months before VJ Day (Victory in Japan). The themes of war such as unresolved aggression, hate, cynicism clashing with idealism, and more were part of those days and became the band’s themes. Along with pictures of some of the band members in childhood, there are numerous pictures of the aftermath of the war. Civilians struggling to survive a daily existence in bombed-out rubble and wreckage. The time shaped the music and became a cornerstone for the band. As the years passed and new events happened, those events further shaped their music.

That progression forward through time based on the culture drives the format of the book. In sections delineated by time segments of anywhere from a year up to over twenty years, images of the band members aging as well as the culture changing and evolving supplement a text that explains how the music changed. This book offers a perspective on how the lives of those involved with The Who were changed, as was their music, by a world that was changing often at a break-neck pace.

As a result, while the focus is on The Who, this coffee-table-sized tome also provides an in-depth pictorial history of the times themselves. A history book that begins in the dying days of World War Two and continues now as does the music. The over 300 page book also includes an index, a listing and detailed notes of all the albums, as well as the treasure trove of photographs and history sure to delight any fan of the band. It also serves as remarkable book that explains how the culture and society of the times shaped a legendary band. What is not charted and cannot be accurately assessed at this point is what influence their music has had on changing the culture. – Kevin R. Tipple

The Who: 50 Years: The Official History
by Ben Marshall
Harper Design
2015, 320 pages, 9.9 x 11.1 x 1 inches
$32 Buy a copy on Amazon

Facebook's "Free Basics" and colonialism: an argument in six devastating points

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Though India's independent telcoms regulator has banned services like Facebook's "Free Basics" -- which bribed phone companies to exempt Facebook's chosen services from the carriers' punishing data-caps -- the debate rages on, as Free Basics has taken hold through many poor countries around the world. (more…)

Man promises to eat potatoes only for 2016

Image: Shutterstock

Andrew Taylor, 36, weighed 332 pounds on January 1st. He decided that was too much for him, and he resolved to eat nothing but potatoes for a year, in the hope that it will cure his binge eating. He shed 22 in January. He is also uploading videos of his progress on YouTube. From Oddity Central:

[Taylor] has baked, boiled, and steamed potatoes, and even experimented with odd dishes like potato pancakes. He also includes sweet potatoes for variety, and sometimes uses a plant-based milk for flavor, but he never cooks them with oil. He claims that he gets 99 percent of his daily calorie requirement from potatoes, and the rest from seasoning. He carries potatoes with him everywhere to snack on whenever he’s hungry.

Apart from losing weight, Taylor believes eating potatoes has helped heal some of his bad eating habits from the past. “I’ve changed from seeing food as a way of getting comfort or pleasure,” he wrote on his Facebook page ‘Sput Fit’, where he shares frequent updates about his experiment. “I’ve been exercising more, I’m full of energy.”

I think I could be happy with a potato diet, as long as I could have sweet potatoes and prepare them with copious amounts of olive oil, coconut oil, or butter.

Crowdfunding "The Haystack": an independent documentary on surveillance in the UK


Edward Snowden said that Britain's spies have "some of the most extensive surveillance powers in the world," and those powers are about to be dramatically expanded if the Snoopers Charter passes Parliament. (more…)