CON.CA - RSS Feed http://con.ca/ today's interesting en-us CON.CA (C) Matthew Crack, Toronto's Mayoral Candidate #Politics http://con.ca/view/news/10562 http://con.ca/view/news/10562 Toronto has become world famous thanks to its crack-smoking Mayor. With the mayoral elections coming soon, 24-year-old web designer Matthew Crack is hoping to take advantage of his name and propose his Open-Source Democracy.

What is Open-Source Democracy?

The short answer is it gives the ability for Torontonians to vote online for specific municipal issues. It’d be basically like an official poll for the city and city issues. We’re changing the one-on-one style of communications, with phone calls and emails between citizens and city councillors, to more of an open-forum style, where it’s available for all Torontonians, and all councillors and the mayor, to see and to comment on.

There’s a general distaste for politics amongst most people these days. So we’re trying to reach out in different ways and get people engaged in ways more in line with how society has trended. If you look at fashion trends, they change every decade because people get bored of them and want to see something new. Politics has been pretty stagnant.

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Buckyballs Are No More #Products http://con.ca/view/news/10561 http://con.ca/view/news/10561 According to Gizmodo, as of last week Buckyballs are no more. After some 1700 children went to the hospital as a result of swallowing the small magnets, Buckyballs have been completely banned. Here's why:

As it turns out, the powerful magnetic forces that make the balls so much fun to tinker with also make them absurdly dangerous if they end up inside your body. As gastroenterologist Bryan Vartabendian explains on his blog:

When two are ingested they have a way of finding one another. When they catch a loop of intestine, the pressure leads to loss of blood supply, tissue rot, perforation and potentially death.

If that sounds bad, it's really a very mild, clinical description when compared to the reality. The magnets are powerful enough that if you ingest two balls separately they're going find each other no matter what, ripping you apart like slow-moving magnetic bullets if necessary to do so.

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hitchBOT: Robot Tries to Hitchhike Across Canada #Robots http://con.ca/view/news/10560 http://con.ca/view/news/10560 hitchBOT: Robot Tries to Hitchhike Across Canada

Conceived in Port Credit, Ontario, a hitchhiking robot called HitchBOT is attempting to traverse all of Canada relying only on its simplistic ability to tell people where it wants to go.

Armed with little more than a primitive ability to beg for rides, a Canadian robot aiming to hitchhike from Halifax to Victoria has already made it to the Quebec border in its first 24 hours.

Now, hitchBOT — a device constructed from a plastic bucket, solar panels and a tablet computer — only needs to cover the remaining 5,600 kilometres without being smashed, stolen or dismantled.

“We are asking the question whether robots can trust human beings — and should hitchBOT arrive in Victoria, in all its parts, this would show that ‘yes, they can,’” said Frauke Zeller, an assistant professor at Ryerson University in Toronto and one of the robot’s creators.

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Corporations Enjoy More Rights and Privileges than Humans #Companies http://con.ca/view/news/10564 http://con.ca/view/news/10564 On The Washington Post, opinion columnist Catherine Rampell thinks that if the U.S. Supreme Court can grant companies the "freedom of speech and religion" because "corporations are people," then the opposite should also be true, since "we’re now all indistinguishable, equally protected “persons” — in the court’s eyes, anyway."

According to Martin Sullivan, the chief economist at Tax Analysts, if individuals were treated like corporations, I could set up an affiliate called “Catherine Rampell Bermuda,” have it pay my college tuition and then declare that the affiliate owns the resulting degree. I could then tell the IRS that everything I earn above the average high school grad’s wage should be recorded as income in Bermuda, since it’s all derived from a Bermuda-based asset. Until I decide to repatriate those diploma-derived earnings, I’ve built myself a tax-free IRA.

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The Unintended Consequences of Online Key Duplication Services #Crime http://con.ca/view/news/10559 http://con.ca/view/news/10559 On Wired, Andy Greenberg looks at the growth of online services that are able to duplicate a key with a few simple photographs taken from an iPhone. While the services claim to be "like a 'forgot my password' function for physical security," unfortunately they "also enable jerks like me to steal your keys any time they get a moment alone with them."

Services like KeyMe, along with competitors like KeysDuplicated and the Belgian Keysave, promise to forever solve the problem of lockouts and lost keys using clever combinations of smartphone scans, automated key-cutting machines and 3D-printing. Like a “forgot my password” function for physical security, they let you upload your coded chunks of metal to the cloud, where you can access and duplicate them, or even email them to a friend staying at your place.

Such services also enable jerks like me to steal your keys any time they get a moment alone with them. Leave your ring of cut-brass secrets unattended on your desk at work, at a bar table while you buy another round, or in a hotel room, and any stranger—or friend—can upload your keys to their online collection. The trick is far easier than having them copied at a hardware store.

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Find Grandpa's Photos #Photography http://con.ca/view/news/10558 http://con.ca/view/news/10558 Find Grandpa's Photos

Stephen Clarke, also known as Grandpa, travelled the world for work and was an awesome photographer. When the photo resurfaced, Grandpa was asked about them. Unfortunately, Grandpa can't quite remember where all these great photos were taken. Scroll through the beautiful photography and if you recognise any place, let Grandpa know.

This is Grandpa, otherwise known as Stephen Clarke. He was great at so many things. One of those was being a Grandpa. He was a WWII Air Force navigator, a husband, a Dad and we also discovered he was a great photographer. He worked his way up in numerous management roles to be a Buyer at a small jewelry franchise in Australia called ‘Prouds Jewelers’. In this job he was lucky enough to go overseas a few times to visit suppliers. He'd take his trusty Voightlander camera on these trips and take photos along the way. Each time he returned home he'd give the family a slideshow of the photos. Then the slides were put in a box in the back of a cupboard.

A few years ago Grandpa had to go into a home. It’s such a sad horrible thing that happens to many of us but he needed full-time care. We all pitched in to help clean up his family home after he left. I was lucky enough to find the box of slides in the cupboard and have been talking about them ever since. I got the slides scanned and took them down to show him in the hope of some of those special Grandpa stories. And to give him more to talk about than catheter bags and who gave him a shower that day. He was happy to see them but he couldn’t remember where any of the locations were. He appreciated that I liked them but never really believed that the photos are something special. He never saw himself as a great Photographer. With everyone's help I’m hoping to prove that wrong.

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Recycling Bin Gives Food to Stray Animals in Exchange for Bottles #Animals http://con.ca/view/news/10557 http://con.ca/view/news/10557

In response to Turkey's overwhelming stray dog population, a new system of smart recyclying boxes by Pugedon, takes recyclables and, in exchange, automatically provides food and water for the animals.

The device encourages passersby to recycle and look at our animal co-inhabitants with different eyes. The principle of the machine is very simple – it has containers for water (you can pour the remaining water from your bottle before recycling it) and for dog food. A fixed ratio of kibbles is dispensed when a bottle is recycled. The project is independent from the government and covers the cost of the food with the recycled bottles.

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Don’t Fly Drones Here #Data http://con.ca/view/news/10555 http://con.ca/view/news/10555 Don’t Fly Drones Here

Created by Mapbox's data analyst Bobby Sudekum, the Don't Fly Drones Here website provides a map showcasing where in the United States and some parts of Canada you can and cannot fly a drone. Downtown Toronto is pretty much off-limits due to Billy Bishop's island airport.

Unmanned drones like quadcopters and fixed-wing aircraft are at the center of new airspace regulations by the FAA. While the FAA deliberates on rules and regulations, states, cities and other national organizations have implemented their own no-fly zones. To help people find safe places to fly, we’ve mapped established no-fly areas where drones are not permitted around all major airports, military bases, and national parks across the country. All the no-fly area data we collected to make these maps is now open data under CC-0.

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Upcycling Old Mobile Phones to Monitor Illegal Logging #Environment http://con.ca/view/news/10556 http://con.ca/view/news/10556 Upcycling Old Mobile Phones to Monitor Illegal Logging

Make brings to attention the work of Topher White, who has turned old mobile phones into a rainforest monitoring system. Using solar power to keep them charged and "dirt-cheap mobile plans available overseas," the cellphones can detect the presence of chainsaws and send alerts. He is currently seeking financial support on Kickstarter to build more of the devices to deploy in the Amazon forest.

Rainforest Connection (RFCx) transforms recycled smartphones into autonomous, solar-powered listening devices that can detect and pinpoint signs of environmental destruction activity—such as chainsaws, gunshots and animal distress calls—at great distance.

Current detection systems rely on satellites which show rainforest destruction days or weeks too late. Our system provides the world's first real-time logging/poaching detection system. We can pinpoint deforestation activity the moment it begins, while simultaneously streaming the data openly and immediately to anyone around the world.

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StreetScore: Predicting the Perceived Safety of One Million Streetscapes #Data http://con.ca/view/news/10554 http://con.ca/view/news/10554 StreetScore: Predicting the Perceived Safety of One Million Streetscapes

Using a computational model, the StreetScore website lets you pick a location on a map and show off just how safe it would be perceived by a person. More information on the paper here (PDF).

StreetScore is an algorithm that assigns a score to a street view based on how safe it looks to a human — but using a computer (see FAQ). This website is a collection of map visualizations of perceived safety of street views from cities in the US as predicted by StreetScore. We will be releasing a map of perceived safety for a new city each week. The StreetScore algorithm was created by Nikhil Naik as part of a collaboration between the Macro Connections group and the Camera Culture group at MIT Media Lab. Jade Philipoom created the visualizations presented in the StreetScore website.

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"Almost all dinosaurs were probably covered in feathers" #Animals http://con.ca/view/news/10553 http://con.ca/view/news/10553 The discovery of a new dinosaur specie, Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus, appears to indicate that almost all dinosaurs were covered in feathers.

"But the new Siberian fossils are the best example yet that some ornithischian [beaked] dinosaurs had feathers, so it wasn't only the theropods that had downy coats," Brusatte says.

"This does mean that we can now be very confident that feathers weren't just an invention of birds and their closest relatives, but evolved much deeper in dinosaur history," he adds. "I think that the common ancestor of dinosaurs probably had feathers, and that all dinosaurs had some type of feather, just like all mammals have some type of hair."

Even so, Godefroit suggests that the largest dinosaurs likely had the fewest feathers, as they wouldn't have needed them for insulation. "Just like elephants in Africa don't need fur," he says.

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Hotel Wifi Test #Travel http://con.ca/view/news/10552 http://con.ca/view/news/10552 Hotel Wifi Test

In this day and age of being constantly connected, nothing is more disappointing than finding out that the hotel you're staying in has poor quality WiFi. The goal of Hotel WiFi Test is to let you discover which hotels provide the best quality service for all your Internet needs.

When some of us book hotel rooms, our first thoughts aren’t about whether they have in-room coffee service, or if housekeeping will let have a few extra tiny bottles of shampoo. Instead, our eyes immediately scan for "Free WiFi" somewhere on the booking website. The promise of free WiFi is a big draw in today’s age of constant connectivity. Nothing could be more disheartening than turning on your laptop, only to realize that the hotel’s WiFi is so slow it will take four hours to view the thirty-minute video. You’ve begun to wonder if there’s anyone out there who cares whether hotels not only deliver the WiFi they advertise, but whether they deliver really-good WiFi.

We’ve heard your cry for fast and reliable hotel WiFi and decided to motivate hotels to step up their game. We believe we can get hotels worldwide to reevaluate their WiFi service, and make improvements that will provide guests with the quality service they expect from the moment they make their reservation.

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"We form a sense of whether a stranger is trustworthy in less than one tenth of a second." #Science http://con.ca/view/news/10550 http://con.ca/view/news/10550 On Research Digest, the psychology of first impressions in a digested form. Did you know that men with shaved heads are seen as more dominant or that faster speakers are judged to be more competent?

Women with more tattoos are assumed to be more promiscuous
Researchers at the University of Liverpool presented undergrads with line drawings of women that varied in the number of visible tattoos. "Results showed that tattooed women were rated as less physically attractive, more sexually promiscuous and heavier drinkers than untattooed women, with more negative ratings with increasing number of tattoos." A more recent study found that men were more likely to approach a woman lying on a beach when she bore a tattoo on her back, and to do so more quickly. Men also estimated they would have more chance of dating or having sex with a woman when she had a tattoo on her back.

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Ray, Robot Parking Valet Automatically Finds Parking at German Airport #Robots http://con.ca/view/news/10551 http://con.ca/view/news/10551

The Washington Post looks at Ray, a robot located at Dusseldorf Airport in Germany. It is capable of picking up a car left in a transfer station and park it on behalf of the driver, and returning it exactly when needed. The goal of the project is to get "business travelers in and out of an airport as quickly and easily as possible."

The electric-powered Rays travel at speeds up to 6 mph. Each Ray drives autonomously, guided by laser navigation and mapping software. The Ray knows its exact location thanks to its lasers that bounce off reflectors positioned throughout the garage.

The company behind the technology, Serva Transport Systems, integrates flight and baggage claim data from the airport into its software, so that a Ray will know to have your car waiting at the garage exit by the time you arrive. If your flight is delayed, it will be aware and wait to deliver your car. And it asks if you’ll be checking a bag, so it knows whether to wait to pull your car until after baggage has been delivered to those on your flight.

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Short Documentary on Teddy Gray's Sweet Factory #Food http://con.ca/view/news/10546 http://con.ca/view/news/10546

Filmed and directed by Martin Parr, this short but sweet documentary looks at Teddy Gray’s sweet factory in Dudley in the West Midlands, a family owned business that still makes their candies by hand. If Willy Wonka was real, this would be his factory.

Magnum photographer, Martin Parr returns to using a film camera in this wonderfully engaging documentary about Teddy Gray’s sweet factory in Dudley in the West Midlands.

Established in 1826, Teddy Gray’s has always been a family owned and run business. Five generations have worked and contributed towards the business of keeping the traditional, hand-made methods of sweet making alive.

The film is part of the Black Country Stories body of work commissioned by Multistory to document life in the Black Country by capturing and celebrating the unique mix of communities living in the area and of existing traditional Black Country life.

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