Glass skeleton sculpture – illuminated with glowing krypton

Krypton, being what chemists call a noble gas, glows when it’s housed inside of a gas-discharge lamp…

Embodiment. That’s the name of the arresting sculpture pictured here. Crafted by Portland-based sculptor Eric Franklin, Embodiment took over 1,000 hours to produce. The sculpture stands at 78-inches tall, and actually comprises 10 separate pieces. Each component had to be sculpted individually by flameworking borosilicate glass before being carefully assembled into the full skeleton you see here.

“Every glass seal has to be perfect, and this piece contains hundreds. Everywhere one tube joins another, or a tube terminates, glass tubes were sealed together. They have to be perfect in order to preserve the luminosity of the krypton. If one rogue molecule gets inside the void of the glass tubing it can eventually contaminate the gas and it will no longer glow. There are times when the holes in the seals are so small that you cannot actually see them with your eyes without the help of a leak detector. Once the glass pieces are ready to get filled with gas, I pull a high vacuum while the glass is hot in order to evacuate any dust or water vapor from the interior surface until there are literally no molecules inside the void of the glass. Then the krypton can be introduced and the glass sealed off.”

Incredible dedication to his craft. And a stunning, beautiful result. See more views over here.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Firefly Squids in Toyama Bay, Japan

The Firefly Squid is a bioluminescent squid growing to a length of only three inches. The squid is equipped with special light-producing organs called photophores that emit a deep blue light. Large photophores can be found on the tips of the tentacles as well as around the eyes. Thousands of tiny photophores can be found throughout the squid’s body, giving it the ability to emit light along its entire form. In the Toyama Bay, in the central Japan Sea, the squid are found in fantastic abundance. Normally living at 1200 feet underwater, waves in the Toyama bay pushes the squid to the surface in massive numbers where they are fished by tons from March to June.

The spawning season of the firefly squid also runs during the same period. Millions of squid come together to fertilize and to drop their eggs in the Toyama Bay. The big reunion of these squids is one big light show that you can admire and it attracts thousands of tourists. This event is very important for other sea creatures and sea birds who enjoy eating the dead bodies of the firefly squid. Firefly squids is also considered a delicacy in Japan.

Fascinating. Mouthwatering. Beautiful.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Kurt Vonnegut’s letter to South Dakota censors, book burners

Drake High School in North Dakota made headlines in October of 1973 when school board members burned 32 copies of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter-House Five because they found it “objectionable”…

The Daily News article from that day quoted Drake Public School Board President Charles McCarthy, who told the paper he didn’t think the book was fit for children…”We didn’t approve of its obscene language,” McCarthy said Nov. 9, 1973. “It might pass in a college, but not in this school.”

Now, it turns out, Vonnegut wrote to the school board the following month expressing his disgust and contempt. From popular blog Letters Of Note:

November 16, 1973
Dear Mr. McCarthy:

I am writing to you in your capacity as chairman of the Drake School Board. I am among those American writers whose books have been destroyed in the now famous furnace of your school.

Certain members of your community have suggested that my work is evil. This is extraordinarily insulting to me. The news from Drake indicates to me that books and writers are very unreal to you people. I am writing this letter to let you know how real I am.

I want you to know, too, that my publisher and I have done absolutely nothing to exploit the disgusting news from Drake. We are not clapping each other on the back, crowing about all the books we will sell because of the news. We have declined to go on television, have written no fiery letters to editorial pages, have granted no lengthy interviews. We are angered and sickened and saddened. And no copies of this letter have been sent to anybody else. You now hold the only copy in your hands. It is a strictly private letter from me to the people of Drake, who have done so much to damage my reputation in the eyes of their children and then in the eyes of the world. Do you have the courage and ordinary decency to show this letter to the people, or will it, too, be consigned to the fires of your furnace?

…Vonnegut never received a reply.

Which speaks volumes. Today – in schools with the courage of our Constitution, the radicals who wrote it, Vonnegut’s work is studied.

That doesn’t mean censorship has ended. RTFA for note of the recurring intellectual corruption that holds some kind of papier mache reality to a higher standard than a creative discussion of truth and insight. Cowards still cloak their patronizing fear in patriotism and prayer.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Twitter fires back at spam providers — in court

Since the microblogging service exploded in popularity just a few short years ago, Twitter’s most egregious problem has been spam. Type ‘iPad’ in a tweet, and expect a deluge of twitterbots @replying you with fake offers of $99 discount tablets.

Twitter took a new step in its fight against spammers on Thursday, filing a lawsuit in a San Francisco federal court against companies that create tools to automate posting to and following people on Twitter.

The suit names five defendants: TweetAttacks, TweetAdder, TweetBuddy, James Lucero and Garland Harris — which Twitter claims are the biggest offenders in the Twitter spamming racket — arguing they are the arms dealers to those who fill the service with fake profiles and unwanted @ messages.

“By shutting down tool providers, we will prevent other spammers from having these services at their disposal,” Twitter said in a company blog post. “With this suit, we’re going straight to the source…”

As for going after those who provide tools to automate spamming, Craigslist has had success. The classifed ads site sued spammers of its website in Federal court in 2009, and in one case won an injunction and $200,000.

So filing suit against the biggest players in the Twitter spam world sets the agenda for any other would-be spammers out there. If another tweet spam outfit pops up on Twitter’s radar, the company can point the would-be spammers to Twitter’s past legal actions, as well as the Craigslist win that sets precedent. It’s no guarantee that Twitter will win every lawsuit against spammers or sue every spammer, but it’s enough to make a spammer think twice about his future on Twitter — and possibly move to a less litigious or grown-up target.

Beyond this, Twitter says it will continue to fight spam through the development of further technical solutions on its own back-end, as well as growing its own in-house anti-spam team.

Overdue. And — it’s #abouttime.

A small pill, a large campaign — with positive side effects

Beginning of the campaign in February

On a cool February morning in north Delhi, “35 third graders sat at small desks in a spartan but tidy classroom,”Amy Yee writes in The New York Times. “They wore blue school uniforms and listened as their teacher asked in Hindi if they had had intestinal worms.”

“A third of the children raised their hands, including 9-year-old Arjun Prasad,” Ms. Yee writes. He sometimes felt stomach pain and weakness — symptoms of severe infection — he said. “A few minutes later, Arjun and his classmates were given deworming pills, and took them during the class,” she writes. “They were among the 3.7 million children in Delhi who have taken the pills as part of a recent campaign in India’s capital to stamp out the widespread but neglected ailment.”

The chewable pill, mebendazole, which the Delhi schoolchildren said tasted like peppermint, costs just 3 cents. It is safe, easy to administer in schools (teachers can be trained to do it) and costs 50 cents per child to distribute twice a year. Within a few days the pill flushes worms out of the body.

The Delhi campaign followed others in India. Bihar, a western state for years practically synonymous with poverty in India, last year dewormed a staggering 17 million schoolchildren — nearly double the population of Sweden. Andhra Pradesh, in southern India, distributed deworming tablets to 2 million children in 2009.

If giving deworming pills to schoolchildren is so easy and effective, why haven’t more large-scale programs taken off? Ms. Yee asks. In fact, rolling out mass deworming programs, especially in “infamously bureaucratic and corrupt India, is a huge logistical feat and a notable act of political will,” she writes…

Deworming tablets are widely used (they are sold over the counter in India) and don’t carry the political and ethical sensitivities of vaccines. They are generic, so patents are not an issue. Students do not need parental consent to take them, thus decreasing bureaucracy…

However, the deworming campaigns are just one more important step. Momentum must be sustained; children should take deworming pills twice a year for several years if infection is high…

Bihar is readying for the second round of deworming this May, and Delhi has pledged another deworming day this summer. “Government will take this on, they won’t take it halfway,” pledged Kiran Walia, Delhi’s minister for women and child development, in an interview in Delhi in February.

The world will watch and hope. The world will watch and offer more help if needed.

RTFA for lots more detail.

What Must Be Said – by Gunter Grass

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

But why have I kept silent till now?

Because I thought my own origins,
Tarnished by a stain that can never be removed,
meant I could not expect Israel, a land
to which I am, and always will be, attached,
to accept this open declaration of the truth.

Why only now, grown old,
and with what ink remains, do I say:
Israel’s atomic power endangers
an already fragile world peace?

Because what must be said
may be too late tomorrow;
and because – burdened enough as Germans –
we may be providing material for a crime
that is foreseeable, so that our complicity
wil not be expunged by any
of the usual excuses.

And granted: I’ve broken my silence
because I’m sick of the West’s hypocrisy;
and I hope too that many may be freed
from their silence, may demand
that those responsible for the open danger we face renounce the use of force,
may insist that the governments of
both Iran and Israel allow an international authority
free and open inspection of
the nuclear potential and capability of both.

Günter Grass’s poem provokes outrage – among all the same people who always defend Israel’s policies. I don’t think his position requires any sort of radical politics in the United States. A simple rejection of imperial expansion, racist and bigoted policies both internal and external to the nation of Israel, a further rejection of nuclear blackmail by the rightwing governments that have infected the politics of that nation since the assassination of their last hope for peace – is adequate.

Most of the world will not find this poem offensive. Most of the world shouldn’t be called anti-semites by the most bigoted defenders of Israel’s policies and politics. We’re clear in our own minds of the differentiation between human beings whose ethnic background is as Jews – no matter what nation calls them citizen – and the domestic and foreign policies of the nation of Israel.