Posted in Blog Archive

Posted by abeodbart March 31, 2011 at 10:19 am

BBC NEWS: “A tongue-in-cheek Twitter user giving “updates” on a missing deadly Egyptian cobra now has some 154,000 followers.

The 20in (50cm) venomous snake escaped from New York City’s Bronx Zoo on Friday, and is yet to be found.

In one tweet, BronxZoosCobra says: “On top of the Empire State Building! All the people look like little mice down there. Delicious little mice.”

In its Twitter account, The Bronx Zoo – which has some 8,000 followers – admits it is currently “the snake’s game”.

The identity of the person behind BronxZoosCobra’s tweets has not been revealed.

Citing the animals from the animated movie Madagascar as inspiration, the “snake” claims to be a huge fan of Tina Fey, but is not so keen on Donald Trump or those who work on Wall Street.

Listing location as “Not at the Bronx Zoo”, it has “visited” tourist attractions including the High Line, the museum of Natural History and Ray’s Pizza.

One of the more recent posts played on New Yorkers’ fears of the scaly escapee.

“It’s getting pretty cold out. I think it’s probably time to crash. Oh look, an apartment window someone left open just a crack. Perfect!”

Zoo officials said on Monday they were confident the adolescent Egyptian cobra was hiding in a non-public area of the Reptile House but conceded that finding it would be difficult.

The zoo closed the reptile house “until further notice”.”

Via BBC News


Posted in Blog Archive

Posted by abeodbart March 30, 2011 at 10:54 am


DISCOVERY NEWS: “Like a nerdier Nostradamus, H.G. Wells practically predicted the Internet in his 1937 essay “World Brain: The Idea of a Permanent World Encyclopedia.”

In it, Wells describes this futuristic encyclopedia (made possible in his mind by revolutionary microfilm) as a “world organ to ‘pull the mind of the world together,’ which will be not so much a rival to the universities, as a supplementary and coordinating addition to their educational activities — on a planetary scale.”

And in many ways, Wells’ vision has been realized by the Internet. Digital archives scattered among servers around the world house innumerable books, documents, records, photographs and films that collectively represent an outpouring of human knowledge.

“That (H.G. Wells) essay collection is utopian, but really, if you look at what we’re all trying to do, this idea of a permanent world encyclopedia that he has, it’s really a template for what’s happening,” said Paul Jones, director of the digital archive and associate professor of information science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

“The real question is can that ever be accomplished, and the answer is ‘no’ — but why not try?” Jones told Discovery News.

For the past 18 years, Jones and others working with Ibiblio have been digitally preserving collections as well as “vernacular work,” which are freely accessible works in the public domain. A well-known example of vernacular work is the collection of songs composed by Roger McGuinn, former leader of The Byrds, which he’s published under a Creative Commons shared licensing agreement.

Although establishing digital libraries depends on server space, real tug-of-war over how many knowledge works (books, recordings, other documents) will end up accessible online happens between librarians and lawyers.

Why? One word: copyright.

“One of the primary roadblocks (to expanding digital libraries) is copyright,” said Maura Marx, a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center and lead organizer of its Digital Public Library of America initiative. “Its one-size-fits-all nature locks up all works as if they will remain commercially viable for extended periods of time. Not everything is “Harry Potter” — there is no provision, for example, for circulation of scholarly works after an initial period of commercial distribution, or for any other deviation from locking things up for life, plus 70 years.””

Read more at Discovery News (Thanks Annette M)


Posted in Derren's Posts

Posted by Derren Brown March 29, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Well. Here we are. Thank you and hello and yes. About a million years ago, (when there were pirates and dinosaurs, as a friend’s young son cutely pointed out the other day) we opened in Brighton. Madly and with great delight. I switched off Twitter, missed a funeral I desperately wanted to attend, and set about trying to get the show ready for the first preview night. Weeks of exciting 7am – 1am work days and increasingly intense rehearsal spiralled blindly towards the first moment when I would step out and try, for the first time with real people, a show that cannot begin to work without real people taking part.

The first preview was a relief: it always is to receive a lovely reaction and a standing ovation to material that has never been performed before. Nonetheless there was much to change and reconsider, and material was dropped, swapped and kicked into better shape. Polly Findlay, my new director, is a complete poppet and a huge delight. Some of the team is new too: Iain and Jen are not with us this year and have been replaced by a couple of new, brilliant, lovely chaps. It’s a happy bunch, which is very important to me.

Brighton previews over, we opened the official tour in Woking. Now it was time for the show to really get up to speed and find its pace. There’s a tendency, as I don’t work from a tight script, for parts to get fleshed out inadvertently and for the energy of the whole thing to sap. Over this week and the next, In Liverpool, over twenty minutes got added to the show for no reason other than me letting parts sag here and there as I became more comfortable with it. Since then I have done some important reign-pulling and tightened it again. We had some technical difficulties in Woking, and learnt a few valuable lessons, and then heaved ourselves to Liverpool for a week with that most bustling, fun, splendid of audiences. Another brilliant in-house crew looked after us: we’ve been really spoilt so far with excellent theatre teams. It’s a big, heavy set this year to get in. The early shows packed into the back of a van: now we have two juggernauts to house all of our walloping nonsense.

Liverpool was great: the audiences and volunteers a real treat. We finished Liverpool on the Saturday and had to set up in Grimsby auditorium for the Sunday, something which turned out to be beyond our capabilities. At the time we would normally let in the audience, the crew were still building the set. It was ninety minutes late that we opened the house, to, I must say, a remarkably friendly crowd. The venue is a multiple-purpose hall and like many of those venues, you can’t hear the audience from the stage. So I came out fearing that we’d lost everyone’s goodwill, and then trotted through the opening routine to what sounded like four people barely paying attention. It took me a while to trust that people might actually be enjoying themselves. Meanwhile, the desire to make up on lost time helped me knock the pace of the show back into place.

Everything that could have gone wrong the afternoon of that show found its way to spectacularly fail. In a theatre, a huge rig is lowered to the stage and all our lights and headers and things we need to hang are hung accordingly. A hall like Grimsby Auditorium does its utmost to accommodate, but has no such rig: therefore everything has to be hoisted with motors. We broke both of their motors. One of our drivers had got waylaid on the way to the venue through no fault of his own and everything turned up late. The day was one of horrific turmoil. It was only due to the dedication of a profoundly patient, skilled and tireless in-house crew that the show went up at all.

The second night at Grimsby was, of course, super-smooth in comparison. But then the show had to be taken down and packed into those trucks. It was only a two-night run (most are a week or more). Jonas, our sensationally loveable sound and lighting guy, stayed on until the end, which happened at 4 am. He was then up at 7.30 to head down to Southend where we play tonight. Another colossal challenge for everyone involved. Apart from me. The Star. I get to nap and write up my blog…

There has been time for fun. In Liverpool I caught up with my A Level teacher from Whitgift, who is now Headmaster of Birkenhead School. And what a school, and what a headmaster. I went in to be interviewed as part of their quite excellent series of sixth-form lectures – and am sure I dropped the standard having had nothing prepared. Two top prefects – Josh and Tash – kicked off the questions and the whole thing, for me at least, was a pleasure. Afterwards the prefect team of Josh, Tash, Ed and Tom showed me around the beautiful campus. Not for the first time in recent years, I was bowled over by how much nicer pupils are now than when I ranked rather scrawnily amongst their number. How trite it is to complain about the youth of today being such and such and so and so. It’s the automatic, mindless cry of every older generation seeing a landscape of language and culture shift beneath its feet. Kids are without doubt getting nicer. There wasn’t a hint of the snickering shittiness of the class of ’89. I felt like I was meeting university students: already matured, comfortable in themselves, open, tactile, utterly charming. We were NEVER like that. And I have seen this at several schools, although I have no doubt that the residency of John Clark as Head is part of the formula for this school’s particular brand of delightfulness. As a Modern Languages teacher he was always brilliant, bright and effortlessly popular. As a Head he is hands-on, knows all his wards by name and interests, is every bit as popular, and motivated by a deep affection and pastoral urge that I found quite moving. Thank you everyone at the school for making the day such a treat for me.

From the sublime, to parrots and monkeys. Yesterday I went to visit the National Parrot Sanctuary and Zoo in Friskney, near Skegness. I am, as you may know, their Patron Saint. The big news is that they have expanded into monkeys. Any lingering stresses of Grimsby’s first night were lifted the second our shoulders were occupied by huge, friendly Macaws or glorious lemurs. All these animals are rescued, and populate the largest sanctuary of its kind on the planet. Or maybe Europe. I should check. Steve, who runs it without a break, is the greatest expert on parrots in the country – maybe Europe or the universe – and still, after twenty years of running the place, is fuelled by the most contagious passion for understanding the creatures. To listen to his stories is such a pleasure: how one night he sat outside with a glass of wine while a lone African Grey pierced the moonlight with an aria from some previous owner’s favourite opera; how he stood in an aviary and made repetitive clucking noises as part of a test to see how quickly a new sound would be picked up and disseminated amongst the bird community, only to be greeted with an extended stony silence followed by a single ‘Shut the fuck up’ from the ranks of anonymous Greys.

Coops and I were allowed into the lemur house with a dish of raisins. How extraordinary it is to have a creature with opposable thumbs feed from your hand. They don’t grab the bounty from your palm as expected: these glorious, friendly, spirit-lifting bundles of highly attentive fluffiness reach out and grab your wrist and pull your hand closer, and don’t let go until they’re done.

Delights and wonders. Do go see the zoo if you’re anywhere near that part of the world. Unlike any other zoo, where the animals pace or lie bored in a corner, here you walk past and through aviaries where the inhabitants flock to you and beg your attention with a thousand sweet hellos. You leave soaring: every bit as daft and weightless as they are.





Posted in Blog Archive

Posted by abeodbart March 28, 2011 at 1:46 pm

DAILY MAIL: “A 12-year-old child prodigy has astounded university professors after grappling with some of the most advanced concepts in mathematics.

Jacob Barnett has an IQ of 170 – higher than Albert Einstein – and is now so far advanced in his Indiana university studies that professors are lining him up for a PHD research role. The boy wonder, who taught himself calculus, algebra, geometry and trigonometry in a week, is now tutoring fellow college classmates after hours.


And now Jake has embarked on his most ambitious project yet – his own ‘expanded version of Einstein’s theory of relativity’. His mother, not sure if her child was talking nonsense or genius, sent a video of his theory to the renowned Institute for Advanced Study near Princeton University. According to the Indiana Star, Institute astrophysics professor Scott Tremaine -himself a world renowned expert – confirmed the authenticity of Jake’s theory.

In an email to the family, Tremaine wrote: ‘I’m impressed by his interest in physics and the amount that he has learned so far. ‘The theory that he’s working on involves several of the toughest problems in astrophysics and theoretical physics. ‘Anyone who solves these will be in line for a Nobel Prize.'”

Read more at The Daily Mail (Thanks Rob)


Posted in Blog Archive

Posted by abeodbart March 27, 2011 at 8:11 am

DISCOVER: Archeologists have discovered thousands of stone tools in Texas that are over 15,000 years old. The find is important because it is over 2,000 years older than the so-called Clovis culture, which had previously thought to be the first human culture in North America. As Texas A&M University anthropologist Michael Waters says, “This is almost like a baseball bat to the side of the head of the archaeological community to wake up and say, ‘hey, there are pre-Clovis people here, that we have to stop quibbling and we need to develop a new model for peopling of the Americas’.”

Full article at Discover Magazine


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