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Submission + - What Clown on a Unicycle? (

R3d M3rcury writes: The New York Times has an article about walking and using a cellphone. But the interesting part was an experiment run by the University of Western Washington this past fall.

There was a student who knew how to ride a unicycle and a professor who had a clown suit. They dressed a student up as a clown and had him ride his unicycle around a popular campus square. Then they asked people, "Did you see the Unicycling Clown?" 71% of the people walking in pairs said that they had. 51% of the people walking alone said that they had. But only 25% of the people talking on a cellphone said that they saw the unicycling clown.

On the other hand, when asked "Did you see anything unusual?" only about one person in three mentioned a unicycling clown. So maybe unicycling clowns aren't enough of a distraction at the University of Western Washington...


Submission + - Don't Tase Me, Mom!

theodp writes: Taser International, the company that provides the electric-shock firepower used to tame unruly criminals and dispruptive college students alike, has introduced a product aimed squarely at children. At CES, the company announced the Protector Family Safety Program, a series of products designed to help parents monitor and control what their kids are doing with their phones. Protector goes beyond the usual monitoring of incoming and outgoing numbers, allowing parents to listen to actual calls and read text messages. Why not go ahead and incorporate the flagship Taser technology, suggests CNET's Larry Magid, and make a cell phone that shocks and stuns a child whenever they do something inappropriate.

Submission + - The Beaver mag renamed to end porn mix-up

NegativeCreep writes: Canada's second-oldest magazine, The Beaver, is changing its name after 90 years because the title is too often censored by online porn filters, preventing it from reaching new online readers.

Submission + - Man Charges Phone Using A Solar Panel And His Dog

andylim writes: It's really annoying when your phone runs out of battery power but what if you could charge it up using your dog? According to, a Swiss man called Erik Schiegg has created a "solar dog" charger that combines a solar panel with a dog for the ultimate portable charging solution. Shiegg explains that the charger works in cloudy weather conditions and it's at a better angle to the sun than if he was wearing it, "My Android phone is charged in no time." He also adds that it would be interesting if farmers used this idea and put solar panels on their animals.

Submission + - The Murky Origins of Zork's Name (

mjn writes: "Computational media researcher Nick Montfort traces the murky origins of Zork's name. It's well known that the word was used in MIT hacker jargon around that time, but how did it get there? Candidates are the term "zorch" from late 1950s DIY electronics slang, the use of the term as a placeholder in some early 1970s textbooks, the typo a QWERTY user would get if he typed "work" on an AZERTY keyboard, and several uses in obscure sci-fi. No solid answers so far, though, as there are problems with many of the possible explanations, that would have made MIT hackers unlikely to have run across them at the right time."

Submission + - Google phone infringing on a fictional story (

brohmes writes: Phillip K. Dick's estate claims Google's Nexus One is infringing on their IP rights. The 1968 Novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", basis for the cult classic "Blade Runner", featured a bounty hunter on the trail of Nexus 6 model androids.

Submission + - 2009 Darwin Award Winners announced (

Greg Lindahl writes: From the woman who jumped in a swollen creek to rescue her drowning ... moped, to the man who hopped over the divider at the edge of the highway to take a leak, and plunged 65 feet to his death, 2009 was a year both exceptional and unexceptional for Darwin Award-worthy behavior!

Submission + - Scientists accidentally blow up building ... (

jsage writes: From the Project On Government Oversight: “'Shock and Detonation Physics Group researchers heard a loud unusual noise from Technical Area 15, Building 562 after firing a shot from a large-bore powder gun (LBPG).' The researchers accidentally blew a building apart at Technical Area-15, on December 16, 2009 while testing a gun which acts like a Civil War cannon."
It's funny.  Laugh.

Researcher Trolls MMO, Surprised When Players Hate Him 895

D1gital_Prob3 writes with this excerpt from a story about David Myers, a Loyola professor who spent some time studying superhero MMO City of Heroes/Villains: "... he aimed the pointer at his opponent, the virtual comic book villain 'Syphris.' Myers, 55, flicked the buttons on his mouse and magically transported his opponent to the front of a cartoon robot execution squad. In an instant, the squad pulverized the player. Syphris fired an instant message at Myers moments later. 'If you kill me one more time I will come and kill you for real and I am not kidding.' ... As part of his experiment, Myers decided to play the game by the designers' rules — disregarding any customs set by the players. His character soon became very unpopular. At first, players tried to beat him in the game to make him quit. Myers was too skilled to be run off, however. They then made him an outcast, a World Wide Web pariah that the creator of Syphris — along with hundreds of other faceless gamers — detested."

Passenger Avoids Delay By Fixing Plane Himself Screenshot-sm 178

It would be a shame if an engineer on a recent Thomas Cook Airlines flight doesn't get a complimentary first class upgrade every time he flies. The engineer was on flight TCX9641 when it was announced that the trip would be delayed eight hours, while a mechanic was flown in to fix a problem. Luckily for the other passengers, the engineer happened to work for Thomsonfly Airlines, which has a reciprocal maintenance agreement with Thomas Cook. After about 35 minutes the man fixed the problem and the flight was on its way. A spokeswoman for Thomas Cook said, "When they announced there was a technical problem he came forward and said who he was. We checked his licence and verified he was who he said he was, and he was able to fix the problem to avoid the delay. We are very grateful that he was on the flight that day."

US Open Government Initiative Enters Phase Three 572

circletimessquare writes "The Obama administration opened a discussion forum in January of this year which has become an electronic suggestion box. It is now entering stage three, following brainstorm and discussion phases: the draft phase, in which the top subject matter is codified into suggestions for the government. 'Ultimately, the visitors advanced more than 3,900 ideas, which in turn spawned 11,000 comments that received 210,000 thumb votes. The result? Three of the top 10 most popular ideas called for legalizing marijuana, and two featured conspiracy theories about Mr. Obama's true place of birth.'"
The Courts

ASCAP Wants To Be Paid When Your Phone Rings 461

gerddie notes a piece up on the EFF site outlining the fairly outlandish legal theories ASCAP is trying out in their court fight with AT&T. "ASCAP (the same folks who went after Girl Scouts for singing around a campfire) appears to believe that every time your musical ringtone rings in public, you're violating copyright law by 'publicly performing' it without a license. At least that's the import of a brief (PDF, 2.5 MB) it filed in ASCAP's court battle with mobile phone giant AT&T."

Fifteen Classic PC Design Mistakes 806

Harry writes "Once upon a time, it wasn't a given that PC owners should be able to format their own floppy disks. Or that ports should be standard, not proprietary. Or that it was a lousy idea to hardwire a PC's AC adapter, or to put the power supply in the printer so that a printer failure rendered the PC unusable, too. Over at Technologizer, Benj Edwards has taken a look at some of the worst design decisions from personal computing's early years — including ones involving famous flops such as the PCJr, obscure failures such as Mattel's Aquarius, and machines that succeeded despite flaws, like the first Mac. In most instances — but not all — their bad decisions taught the rest of the industry not to make the same errors again."

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