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  • Doping doggies caught after Iditarod race

    If we can’t even trust our friendly four-legged athletes to not use performance enhancing drugs, which athletes can we trust?

    The committee responsible for overseeing the 45th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race found multiple dogs from the same team tested positive for the opioid pain relieving drug tramadol – one of Iditarod's banned substances – six hours after the race ended in March, according to NPR. This is the first such case of a doping scandal for the Iditarod since testing for banned substances began in 1994.

    The dogs face extreme temperatures and difficult obstacles during their 1000 mile trek through Alaska, which can tempt Mushers to increase their dogs abilities for hefty prize packages.

    Image: Frank Kovalchek

  • Surprise! DirecTV sends customer $184,000 bill

    DirecTV dished out a $184,530.67 satellite television bill to an Ohio woman, and no, it wasn't for a new HBO/Showtime package. Angela Mixon-Smith, an Army veteran, recently agreed to bundle her DirecTV service with a new AT&T cell phone plan, and has been receiving strange service bills ever since.

    Mixon-Smith said she opened the bill Monday and began to feel ill. According to KTLA:

    “I mean, my chest got heavy,” the Ohio, woman told KTLA sister station WJW in Cleveland on Wednesday. “I had to get some water. I don't drink. I was ready to drink." ...

    “I know I don't have that kind of money,” she said. “And, since April? There's no way.”

    AT&T, which merged with DirecTV in 2015, apologized for the error and recredited Mixon-Smith’s account. The spokesperson for AT&T who issued the apology did not give an explanation to KTLA for the mistake.

    Image: Dwight Burdette

  • Ayatollah Khamenei: Trump and administration "mentally retarded"

    The clearly politically incorrect Supreme leader of Iran dubbed President Donald Trump and his administration as “mentally retarded” after Trump declined to re-certify Iran’s compliance in the 2015 nuclear deal.

    Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has stated his approval for the “death to America” slogan, also said he won’t waste his time responding to Trump’s “nonsensical comments,” according to CBS.

    This hasn’t been the first time a world leader has mocked the president’s mental capacity. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un labeled Trump a “dotard,” back in September. Even Trump’s own Secretary of State reportedly called the president a “F---ing moron,” which Rex Tillerson refuses to outright deny.

    The United States’ role in the Iran nuclear deal is now placed in the hands of congress, and Khamenei is asking Europe to do more to maintain the multi-country accord.

    Image: Gage Skidmore

  • JOHN WILCOCK: The Diggers' Death of Money & Other Counterculture Moments of 1966

    Ethan Persoff will be speaking about the John Wilcock comic at The New School's Parsons School of Design, on November 7. Free and open to the public.

    Read Scott Marshall's adaptation of Nietzsche, An Illustrated Zarathustra.

  • Dinosaur art is not bullshit (unless you’re doing it wrong)

    2017 has not been the easiest year. Terrifying storms. The car crash of Brexit. Threats of nuclear war. F-bombs in Star Trek. It’s all a bit much, and even artwork of dinosaurs – yes, dinosaurs – aren’t safe. Boing Boing recently reported that “dinosaur art is mostly bullshit,” it being argued that so much data is lost in Deep Time that our attempts to bring non-bird dinosaurs to life in art are folly. How can our dinosaur art be anywhere close to reality when it’s all based on bones left out in the rain for millions of years? Well, consarn it, I’m not going to let 2017 take the credibility of dinosaur art away from us along with everything else. As someone who researches and illustrates fossil animals for a living, I’m here to tell you that dinosaur art isn’t BS – unless you’re doing it wrong.

    Restoring fossil animals in art is a practise known as ‘palaeoart’, and it’s a pretty science-heavy medium. In fact, there's not many aspects of contemporary palaeoart that are not informed, at some level, by data of some kind. We might imagine that a fossil record mostly composed of broken bones and shells doesn’t tell us much about ancient animal appearance, but that’s not really true. As more fossils are found and our ability to interpret them improves, we’ve started to make robust inferences about the life appearance of non-bird dinosaurs that were unthinkable just a decade or two ago.

    Chief among these are abilities are our newfound appreciation of fossil colour. As a child of the 1980s and 1990s I was confidently told that we’d never know what colours extinct animals were but, thanks to modern science, this is no longer the case. ‘Palaeo colour’ is now predictable for a number of fossil animals, including many non-bird dinosaurs, penguins, marine reptiles and insects. In some cases we can only tell patterning, but in others we can reconstruct specifics of actual colour and even iridescence. This not only informs our take on the appearance of these species, but shapes our understanding of their behaviour and preferred habitats. Take that, 2017.

    We’re also stacking up fossils with preserved skin and other forms of soft-tissue, giving us direct insight into tissue types and bulk in certain species, as well as evolutionary maps of anatomical evolution. With these, we can make ever tighter predictions about, say, whether a dinosaur was covered in feathers or scales. Sometimes, we get it wrong, as we might have for Tyrannosaurus. Recently described Tyrannosaurus skin impressions suggest that – contrary to all its closest relatives and the expectations based on them – Tyrannosaurus was probably mostly or entirely scaled, and not covered in fluff as we’ve recently assumed. What this tells us is that tyrannosaur skin evolution was more complex than we thought, with some earlier species having feathers, but later species losing some or all of them. But rather than sobbing over the need to scrub feathers from older artwork, artists can be happy about this: our data has taken a step forward, and all future artwork of Tyrannosaurus can be just that little bit more accurate. In other words, our tyrannosaur palaeoart BS-level has just dropped a notch, and will continue to fall as artists have more and more information to work with.

    Of course, there are instances where artists are left largely in the dark and we have to forge ahead with minimal insight and information. Depending on the subject of our artwork, this might be something small – the last scrap of unknown information about a superbly known organism – or it might be vast chunks of anatomy. But palaeoart has climbed to a level where, even on the bleakest frontiers of restoration, we can narrow down some restorative possibilities. Evolutionary models allow us to track development of anatomy over hundreds of millions of years, ruling out some anatomical possibilities because they never arose on a given lineage. We’re learning more about the relationship between bones and soft-tissues, allowing us – in some cases – to predict skin types even when the soft-tissues of animals have been entirely lost. Not all prehistoric species can be restored with high confidence, but increasingly few leave artists entirely clueless. It’s an overstatement to say there is only one way to restore fossil dinosaurs in art, but there are not infinite ways, either. Good palaeoartists do not make these things up as they go along, but create art through a deductive process that follows the best modern science.

    This is not to say that all palaeoart is of equal credibility, of course. Indeed, some is nonsensical because of awful proportions relative to the fossil skeleton, and lousy understanding of animal form and anatomical evolution. But this only happens because these artworks are not well informed – they’re palaeoart hack jobs produced because no one thought to look, or had time to understand, how their subject animal was constructed. Blowing off the whole genre because of these works throws the baby out with the bathwater, and the last thing 2017 needs is upset babies blocking already stormed-strained drainage systems. Keep hold of those infants, folks, and find out about an art form before writing the whole thing off.

    Our new book, Dinosaur Art II, is a great place to see examples of palaeoart aimed at those top scientific standards. It’s stuffed full of lovely artwork of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals as well as artist interviews, giving insight into the process and methods of recreating worlds otherwise lost to time. If you’re after actual insights into extinct animal appearance, and not BS, it’s an excellent place to start.

    © Julio Lacerda, a mother Ornithomimus takes her chicks for a walk

    © Mark Witton, two tiny Wesserpeton evansae get in other's faces, because some animals are just jerks

    © Jason Brougham, Velociraptor mongoliensis and Protoceratops andrewsi, after the "Fighting Dinosaurs" specimen

    © Peter Schouten, Tupandactylus

    © Sergey Krasovskiy, Georgiacetus vogtlentis

  • Las Vegas gunman’s hooker, Hillary Clinton’s lies, and Jerry Lewis’s forged will in this week’s tabloids

    With its impeccable military intelligence contacts and team of White House insiders, the National Enquirer has scooped the world by obtaining “ISIS’s Map of Terror!” – revealing the jihadist group's “top secret” targets across America. Then again, it could be the route map of any retired couple planning to tour the States in an RV: targets include Mount Rushmore, Hoover Dam, Disney World, Dollywood, The Grand Ole Opry, the Statue of Liberty, and Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It’s only surprising that they didn’t include Wrigley Field. Oh wait – they did.

    How the Enquirer gets such amazingly detailed inside information, I’ll never know.

    The Enquirer also “blows the lid off Hollywood’s casting couch scandal,” if “blowing the lid” means regurgitating actress’s allegations made over the past two weeks while adding nothing new.

    Comedy legend Jerry Lewis’s $75 million will was “forged,” claims a handwriting expert, who found that a dying 91-year-old’s signature doesn’t precisely match his signature when he was younger. Because at the age of 91 what could possibly make it harder to hold a pen or make one’s hand shake? Hard to imagine.

    Tom Cruise has obtained the level of Operating Thetan VI within the Church of Scientology, which the Enquirer claims means that he has the ability to heal with the touch of a finger. This could be good news for every starlet he beds in the future, who could wake up in the morning a born-again virgin.

    Would you consider yourself broke if you had $250,000 in cash? The Enquirer does just that to “broke” Bill Cosby, who allegedly “carries all his cash in a bag.” Not that the Enquirer has actually seen inside Cosby’s suitcase, but if he’s lugging it around with him it must be carrying a quarter mil in cash, because what else could he be hauling? Clothes? Fuller brushes? A headless torso? No, it must be $250,000 in walking money.

    The Enquirer also publishes details relayed by a prostitute who engaged in violent sex fantasies with Las Vegas massacre gunman Stephen Paddock – an "Enquirer World Exclusive" which first appeared in the UK's Sun newspaper almost two weeks earlier. She reveals Paddock’s text messages, with his desire to book a room on a high floor of the Mandalay hotel with a view over the concert grounds. Unlike the Sun, the Enquirer fails to mention that the prostitute’s last contact with Paddock was in June 2016.

    The Globe cover returns to its favorite sport of bashing Hillary Clinton, claiming that Caroline Kennedy hates Hillary because the former Secretary of State is supposedly behind rumors that John Kennedy Jr. was intoxicated when his plane crashed in 1999. Hillary's “evil lies" are repeated by the Enquirer at great length.

    Hugh Hefner died of lung cancer, report the Enquirer and the Globe, which seems at odds with last week’s claims that he died of toxic mold at the Playboy mansion.

    Fortunately we have the crack investigative team at Us magazine to tell us that Naomi Watts wore it best, that singer Kesha can only cook one thing – popcorn, that actress Rachel Bloom carries sunglasses, pepper spray and Prozac in her Prada purse (this feature never gets old!), and that the stars are just like us – they pump gas, eat lunch, and pick up their dry cleaning.

    Us devotes its cover to the “Secrets of the Royal baby!” which, despite the exclamation mark, are remarkably mundane: Duchess Kate suffered severe morning sickness; she and Prince William don’t want to know the baby’s sex; their ob-gyn postponed his retirement to deliver the infant; and the Lindo wing of St Mary's hospital has been reserved.

    People gives its cover to Harvey Weinstein’s victims, but adds nothing new to the exercise. "What did his wife know?” asks a side-bar story. After reading it, we’re none the wiser.

    We turn to the National Examiner to bring us the week’s real breaking news: The “Shocking Secrets” behind the 1990 romantic comedy Pretty Woman, the grammatically-challenged day “O.J. Attacked Own Daughter!” in 2003, and “Heartbreak killed Sandra Dee!” in 2005.

    Breaking news doesn’t get more broken than that.

    Onwards and downwards . . .

  • The video game industry's best-of-class DRM is routinely cracked in less than 24 hours

    Denuvo is billed as the video game industry's "best in class" DRM, charging games publishers a premium to prevent people from playing their games without paying for them. In years gone by, Denuvo DRM would remain intact for as long as a month before cracks were widely disseminated. (more…)

  • In 1911, three men struggled for five weeks through the Antarctic winter to collect penguin eggs

    In 1911, three British explorers made a perilous 70-mile journey in the dead of the Antarctic winter to gather eggs from a penguin rookery in McMurdo Sound. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll follow the three through perpetual darkness and bone-shattering cold on what one man called "the worst journey in the world."

    We'll also dazzle some computers and puzzle over some patriotic highways.

    Show notes

    Please support us on Patreon!

  • 16 Democratic Congressional hopefuls have outraised the incumbent Republicans they're challenging

    12-term Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen [R-NJ] raised $157k last quarter, while two of the Democrats who're challenging him in 2018, former Navy pilot Mikie Sherrill and family advocate Tamara Harris both outraised him by big margins -- $498,000 for Sherrill! (more…)

  • A curiously incomplete history of the early years of DRM

    Ernie Smith's Motherboard article on the early years of DRM gets into some fascinating stories about things like IBM's Cryptolope and Xerox PARC's Contentguard (which became a patent troll), Intertrust's belief that it is "developing the basis for a civil society in cyberspace" and the DeCSS fight. (more…)

  • A working modem using HTML5 sound

    Martin Kirkholt Melhus's workplace bans connecting his development computer to the internet, so he hacked together a modem using HTML5: by plugging over-the-ear headphones into his laptop's 3.5mm audio jack and then placing the headphones over a network-connected built-in mic, he is able to tunnel a network connection outside the firewall (or that's the theory; as he notes, "This was only ever intended as a gimmick and a proof of concept - not something that I would actually use at work.") (more…)

  • $15 lightweight, stackable backpacking cookware

    This is the lowest price I've seen for this super popular, cheap 10 piece camping cook set.

    The pot and pan, with lids, neatly stack. Netly stack into a size that is just right to fit into my VW Vanagon's sink, with some dishtowels and a cutting board, for storage as I drive around. It also comes with a sponge, stainless steel spork, a spoon and some bowls.

    Handles on the pot and pan are not terrible to use, which inspired my purchase. Most camp cook set pots and pans come with burn the shit out of you handles, or complicated weird latch systems. These just fold out and have some silicone for grips.

    The set is worth it just for the pot and pan. At $15 you can throw this kit into your emergency/bugout bag and have something to boil water in once the apocalypse comes.

    Honest Portable camping cookware mess kit folding Cookset for hiking backpacking 10 piece Lightweigh durable Pot Pan Bowls Spork with nylon bag outdoor cook equipment via Amazon

  • Talking Walkaway on the CNet book-club podcast

    CNet has started a new book-club podcast, and they honored me by picking my novel Walkaway as their second-ever title. (more…)

  • Trump's “free market” FCC loves monopolies, especially when they rip off prisoners' families

    The American prison system is home to one of the greatest market-failures in the history of telephony (which is saying something): a monopolistic system in which sole-supplier, hedge-fund owned telcoms operators charge as much as $14/minute for prisoners to talk with their lawyers, families and loved ones. (more…)

  • BlankPage is a writing app that minimizes distraction


    As any author will tell you, the way to become a better writer is to do it every single day. To help promote your daily writing habit, BlankPage provides a clean environment that tracks your progress over time. This app is currently being offered in the Boing Boing Store for $24.99.

    Since writing well demands focus, it can be tough to stay on task when your interface is cluttered with unnecessary formatting options. BlankPage keeps it minimal: only the title, content, and the current word count are on display while you work. Each piece you write can be treated as a standalone article, or freely arranged into a larger work.

    BlankPage also lets you set goals for how much you would like to get done during each session, and gives motivational messages to keep you on task while working on big or small projects.

    You can get lifetime access to BlankPage from the Boing Boing Store now for $24.99.

  • Ceasing to honor Jefferson Davis, Mississippi public school renamed for Obama

    Students at an elementary school in Jackson, Mississippi have elected to rename their institution in honor of the legitimately elected 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.

    Via the Root:

    According to NBC News, the Davis Magnet International Baccalaureate Elementary School in Jackson, Miss., will now be called the Barack Obama Magnet International Baccalaureate Elementary starting the beginning of the next school year, the school’s PTA president, Janelle Jefferson, announced at a Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night.

    Jefferson said that the name change came up after the issue was raised by a student.

    “They know who [Davis] was and what he stood for,” she said. “This has a great impact on them because [Obama] is who they chose out of anybody else they could. This is the person that the whole school supported. He was their No. 1 choice.”

    Jefferson said that the students at Davis, 98 percent of whom are black, selected Obama because they were alive during his presidency and felt that he shared and represented their principles.

    There is no sense in honoring the men who attempted to split the United States so they could maintain the practice of slavery.

  • Ghostwatch, the greatest TV Halloween hoax of all time

    When I was a kid, home alone in 1993, I turned on the TV to find one of those live call-in shows. "Ghostwatch" was presented as light-hearted Halloween fun from the BBC, jumping between phone calls from the public, panel discussion and an on-location "real life" paranormal investigation.

    In the studio was the trusted greybeard and sceptic Michael Parkinson, talking to an expert on the paranormal. In the house, engaging with a mother and two young girls, was the Children’s BBC darling Sarah Greene. Greene’s husband, Mike Smith, manned a bank of phones in a Crimewatch-style set up, with a number flashing at the bottom of the screen. If you called the number, as thousands of people did, you got through to a bank of real parapsychologists. ... Craig Charles, then at the height of his fame with Red Dwarf, was the reporter on the ground, mocking the entire enterprise...

    But it was really a movie, a novel and realistic hoax. Ghostwatch (available now on DVD) headed an inch at a time from its convincing, deliberately boring reality show framing into a demonic nightmare. This was stunningly original work in 1993 and the nation was savaged by it. The over-the-top ending, intended to make it all look like hokey fun, seemed to have the opposite effect: they killed the key presenter of Children's BBC on "live" television, at the hands of a dead child molester's spirit, while knowing that the children would be watching! Or, worse, sent to bed by their parents as they realized where the show was going.

    The budget for Ghostwatch was huge. The team was given about £900,000 and gave a third of it back. It would be shot on video, to make it look like news. They hired Winston Ryder, the sound designer for David Lean’s Great Expectations, who created the sound of screaming cats by rubbing balloons.

    Greene had to go on TV the next day to reassure the nation she had not been lost to the darkness -- an ending uncannily similar to that depicted in The Blair Witch Project a few years later.

    In November 1993, a year after the programme’s one-off airing, two doctors from a child psychiatry unit in Coventry, Dawn Simons and Walter Silveira, submitted an article to the British Medical Journal (BMJ) recording the first cases of post-traumatic stress disorder caused by a television programme.

    It was full of stone-cold manipulations of the audience, from the ace casting of starchy, straight-laced Parkinson to a scene where the on-location film crew appears to catch a teenage girl hoaxing them by knocking pipes -- a particularly adept validation of the audience's skepticism as a prelude to ruthlessly violating it.

    I don't want to watch it again because I worry that its bag of tricks will be so hackneyed and dated now as to be ridiculous from the outset, even to a child. But it was a lightning bolt of postmodern television craft, emerging from the haunted timeless calm that followed the cold war, an early warning of what was to come.

    The odd coda: the British tabloids tried to use the Ghostwatch controversy to get the BBC shut down, but their fake outrage shouted down the real outrage. This inoculated the show against any genuine public anger while investing it with such an aura of mystery and power the BBC would never rebroadcast it. And so legends are born.

    Essential reading:

    Ghostwatch: the Halloween hoax that changed the language of television [New Statesman]

  • Jake Likes Onions: damned funny webcomics

    My latest Twitter follow is @jakelikesonions, whose bi-weekly cartoon of the same name has been going since 2015, and represents a very deep set of funny stuff to lose yourself in. Some recent gooduns below: (more…)

  • Some thoughts on whether intelligence is linked to anxiety and depression

    In High intelligence: A risk factor for psychological and physiological overexcitabilities, a group of academic and industry neuroscientists survey a self-selected group of 3,715 MENSA members about their mental health history and find a correlation between high IQ and clinical anxiety and depression disorders, an effect they attribute to "overexitabilities" -- "the same heightened awareness that inspires an intellectually gifted artist to create can also potentially drive that same individual to withdraw into a deep depression." (more…)

  • Cult driving simulator spawns YouTube genre of automotive chaos is a driving simulator that's acquired a cult following due to its uncannily realistic modeling of soft-body physics. YouTube is full of crash videos created with it: the thanato-erotic Ballardian lure of mangled automobiles, but with mercilessly bad electronic dance music.

    The driving feel is authentic and visceral, and crashes are realistic and violent; yet the physics are accessible enough to drive with a keyboard or gamepad while still being authentic with a full racing wheel with uncompromising realism.

    Environments and vehicles in are hand-crafted with passionate attention to detail. With years of meticulous design, research, and experience, we authentically recreate the feeling and excitement of real world driving.

    Enjoy "Insane Trucking Crashes #1":

  • 1600 sprites for your starkly old-school 1-bit games

    For twenty dollars, you can download 1600 1-bit sprites for use in artwork, games, icons or whatever other project you desire. [via]

    You can use this game assets for personal/commercial projects, no credit needed. If you do, please let me know to promote it on my twitter! ;)

    Made by Davit Masia, it's such an incredibly vast and deep set of work. Expect to see its DNA in pixel-art inventories and villages for years to come.

  • Khaled Ipsum: uplifting dummy text from the wit and wisdom of DJ Khaled

    Lorem Ipsum is the not-really-meaningless dummy text used by designers when they need to "greek" some type into a template. (more…)

  • 'Profoundly deaf' baby hears her mom's voice for the first time

    According to her mom, blogger Christy Keane, baby Charly was born "profoundly deaf." In this truly heartwarming video, you'll see this precious child responding to her mom's voice for the first time ever through the miracle of hearing aids.

    Charly gets quite emotional and seems unsure whether to smile or cry. Who can blame her?

    On Instagram, Keane writes, "We didn't think she would hear anything so this was more incredible than I can put in to words."

    Oh, my heart.


  • Buy this guy's time with his own personal cryptocurrency

    My Montreal-based tech-entrepreneur friend Evan Prodromou has behind the launch of several companies, including his current one,

    Evan's also a married dad of two. Additionally, he says he spends three to five hours a week helping friends, or friends of friends, with their business. It's safe to say that he's a busy guy. [caption id="attachment_551956" align="alignnone" width="480"] Evan Prodromou[/caption]

    To help manage his schedule, he's made it possible to buy (and sell) his time by creating EvanCoin, his own personal cryptocurrency.

    Wired explains:

    As of October 1, the date of Evancoin’s initial coin offering (ICO), you can ask him for some Evancoin. He’ll probably give you some. Then you can use these tokens by “paying” for his time with them.

    But they’re a kind of money, so you can also bank them for the future. Evancoin could gain or lose value depending on how it’s traded—how much demand there is for Prodromou’s time and what the supply of the currency is at the moment. You could also just sell your Evancoins for cash: As of this writing, each Evancoin, representing an hour of Prodromou’s attention, is worth about $45. (That’s well below his usual consulting rate, but he’s pleased nonetheless—it’s early days for the currency, and the market is acknowledging the worth of his time, then discounting for the risk inherent in the scheme’s novelty.) What if you sell your Evancoins to someone who wants to trade them for Prodromou’s time rather than for dollars? He’s game—as long as you’re not planning to ask him to do something “illegal, humiliating, or abusive to others.”

    It's a little complicated to get some EvanCoin (at least to me it is) but if you're interested, check out the process here.

  • Halloween Brimstone Bread

    Instructables member Tye Rannosaurus has baked something special for Halloween, blood-red-on-the-inside and black-as-soot-on-the-outside Brimstone Bread:

    Rumor has it, when demons in Hell make this bread, they roll the dough in the deep pits of sulfur and soul dust and cook them in the hot brimstone vents. Unfortunately, as you are mortal and have neither access to soul dust or brimstone vents, I’ve had to make a few adjustments to the recipe for you.

    While these rolls aren’t actually “Hell Authentic,” they’re close enough to get the job done.

    More of Tye's horrible Halloween recipes can be found at Necro Nom-nom-nomicon.

  • Jackie Chan went undercover on Reddit and other sites to answer fan questions

    For a publicity stunt for his new movie The Foreigner, the lovable Jackie Chan signed up for a bunch of new online accounts under the name "ActuallyJackieChan" and humorously started answering questions from fans. Of course, without verified checkmarks on those accounts, the martial arts actor just looked like someone posing as Jackie Chan.

    Here's what he wrote on Reddit:

  • Why Trial by Ordeal was like a medieval polygraph

    Peter T Lesson writes that the trial by ordeal was "an effective test of guilt", contrary to its brutal suggestion of divine judgment. As unscientific as it seems to determine guilt by dunking someone's arm in boiling water, the threat of it is a cunning way to elicit truth in the absense of evidence—so long as the subject is confident God will protect them if they are innocent.

    It's rather like modern lie detectors, generally inadmissible in court but used pervasively in interrogations.

    Suppose you’re guilty: you know you stole your neighbour’s cat, and so does God. In this case, you expect that if you undergo the ordeal, God will let the boiling water burn you, evidencing your guilt. Thus, you’ll have to pay the large fine – and your hand will be boiled to rags to boot. In contrast, if you confess, you’ll save a bit of money, not to mention your hand. So, if you’re guilty, you’ll confess.

    Now suppose you’re innocent: you know you didn’t steal your neighbour’s cat, and again so does God. In this case, you expect that if you undergo the ordeal, God will perform a miracle that prevents the boiling water from burning you, evidencing your innocence. Thus, you won’t have to pay any fine – and you’ll keep your hand intact. This is better than if you confess to stealing the cat, in which case you’d have to pay a fine for a theft you didn’t commit. So, if you’re innocent, you’ll undergo the ordeal.

    The trick is, of course, that the water was usually a safe temperature. The heat of the water is the priest's verdict, not his trier of fact.

    It's fascinating and convincing, not least because it describes a complex ritual performance dependent on a stable, predictable social context. The sort of thing that becomes dangerous when the context changes.

  • Ron Popeil's ingenious crap

    Once, humanity was challenged with the effort of scrambling eggs. Then came Ron Popeil.

    Ron Popeil is like the dad in Gremlins, except he was real. The man invented everything cool you could buy from a tv commercial when I was a kid. The Popeil Pocket Fisherman? The Smokeless Ashtray? The Snaffler? Who tried GL-9 Hair Spray?

    Ron's inventions were so prolific, and so effectively sold, he formed RonCo to front them all.

    Somehow Donald Trump is President and not Ron Popeil.

  • Watch: Little sled person treks Line Rider track synchronized to “In the Hall of the Mountain King”

    YouTuber DoodleChaos spent over a month configuring a track in the 2006 hit game Line Rider. The result is a delightful harmonic pairing of Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” to the originally silent flash game.

    The tiny sledder dips and bounces on lines drawn to hit Grieg’s musical notes. The adventure grows more treacherous for the sledder as the tempo picks up and the rider reaches an increasingly louder and sled-less end.

  • Arizona man suspected of destroying home with makeshift spider-killing flamethrower

    An Arizona man channeled his inner Ellen Ripley after he was suspected of using a propane torch to burn alien creatures known as spiders from his mobile home Sunday night.

    Fire officials suspect the man used the torch to kill spiders and burn their webs underneath his Tucson home, according to KVOA.

    The brave attempt was a rare challenge against our arachnid overlords, but left 22 firefighters battling an eleven-minute blaze that destroyed the home and left two residents in the care of the Red Cross.

    Image: pxhere