The Pipwick Papers

It's an ant.

Last week I was in Iceland observing the international internet spaceship convention that is EVE Fanfest. It was fascinating stuff but ALAS meant an absence of Pipwick Papers on account of me not looking outside videogames for, like, five out of seven days. This week, however, I’ve taken a day off and have confirmed that the outside world is still doing things you might find interesting. Here’s this week’s roundup. Think of it as a geothermic spring, covering you in curious soothing warmth except the warmth is weblinks and the spring doesn’t exist and I’m making no guarantees about warmth or being soothed.

This is not the Sunday Papers.

  • The Week has a history of British Summer Time which also features DOUBLE British Summer Time
  • The Washington Post’s Tom Jackman explains how two George Mason University students have come up with a way to extinguish fires using low frequency sound waves
  • The basic concept, Tran said, is that sound waves are also “pressure waves, and they displace some of the oxygen” as they travel through the air. Oxygen, we all recall from high school chemistry, fuels fire. At a certain frequency, the sound waves “separate the oxygen [in the fire] from the fuel. The pressure wave is going back and forth, and that agitates where the air is. That specific space is enough to keep the fire from reigniting.”

  • The Princeton Review tries to take Taylor Swift to task for crimes against grammar. The Princeton Review gets the lyrics wrong and is then wrong once it gets them right, as Steven Poole points out in The Guardian
  • Pictures of a newly described frog species capable of turning its skin from spiky to smooth in The Scientist
  • 3D printed ants using teamwork to move large objects
  • The Guardian’s Eric McCann on why Utah has brought back firing squad executions
  • Though it may seem a relic from the distant past, it was only 10 years ago that the state actually did away with the shooting people to death. Inmates sentenced before 2004 were given the option to choose the firing squad over lethal injection, which is how in 2010 Ronnie Lee Gardner became the last person executed in the US by firing squad.

  • Vince Beiser writes for Wired on the deadly global war for sand – it’s something I knew nothing about, despite the amount we use in construction and manufacture every year
  • Aaaaand if you wanted to know about a group of biohackers trying to give themselves night vision by dribbling a chlorophyll analogue into their eyeballs Mic’s Max Plenke has you covered
  • 28 Comments

    1. thedosbox says:

      Prediction: Robot ants are going to murder us in our sleep.

      • Doomstar says:

        Prediction: I think you’ll probably wake up screaming before you die.

        • DrScuttles says:

          Not if they’ve already sewn your mouth and eyes shut.

          • Sin Vega says:

            HACTUALLYYYY if they operate like, say, army ants, you won’t be able to scream because they’d kill you by crawling down your airway and into your lungs.

      • Spacewalk says:

        Benevolent ant overlords are going to dribble chlorophyll analogue into our eyes to give us night vision using low frequency sound waves even though we aren’t smooth enough to get song lyrics right during the British summer time.

    2. LionsPhil says:

      I was not expecting to read about such an extensive black-market industry for sand.

      • Valkyr says:

        Me neither… Superb article.

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        Harlander says:

        Oh man, are we going to have to face Peak Sand at some point?

        • LTK says:

          Probably not, there’s always more sand to be gotten from somewhere, but it’s looking like the environmental impact of all the mining is going to be severe. That’s going to cause a lot of trouble long before we actually run out of sand.

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      Bluerps says:

      The link to the spiky frog doesn’t work. :(

    4. Anthile says:

      It’s strange that the Guardian article doesn’t mention it but one of the chemicals used was sodium thiopental which is primarily produced in the EU and since 2011 they are no longer allowed to export it into the USA because they kill people with it. In the USA, Hospira also ceased the production of the chemical around the same time for similar reasons. This means the various US states had to use different chemicals which turned out to be a bureaucratic nightmare and the new poison injections didn’t work all that great either. It’s kind of difficult to test lethal injections properly.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Well, I guess you could do animal testing.

        I mean by the point you’ve decided it’s ethically acceptable to end the lives of people, you probably don’t have much regard for the life of any other creature either.

      • onodera says:

        I still don’t understand why they don’t use something like nitrous oxide with no oxygen. You take a deep breath, fall asleep and die of asphyxiation. Or a macerator, since the poultry companies claim it ensures a quick and painless death.

    5. Carra says:

      Fighting fire with sound, meh. Just read an article this week about how they fought fire in Russia. With atom bombs!

      • bleeters says:

        I can’t decide if that article is hilarious or terrifying. Probably the latter, given that the idiots who thought using atomic bombs for excavation work were able to actually try it. Because they had access to atomic bombs.

      • KenTWOu says:

        Youtube video: Тушение газового пожара ядерным взрывом.

    6. Robert Post's Child says:

      Seeing those ants skitter around kinda looked like an insectoid Blue Man Group, which I guess is the dark terrible future we all have to look forward to.

      I suppose it’s also only a matter of time until Call of Duty: Bio Ops, in which one may press X to take night vision drops, and your body armor is based on some crustacean’s shell. Which I’d totally play, btw.

    7. yan spaceman says:

      I suppose it is only a matter of time that someone gets robot ants in their robot pants.

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      Andy_Panthro says:

      We need some robot ants to deal with all the spambots…

    9. April March says:

      I haven’t read the article yet but I have good hope that Double British Summer Time is the time to be twice as British.

      (Also, isn’t that too early? I’m in Brazil and we came out of DST just over a month ago… also don’t say DST in Brazil, because it means STD.)

      • Cockie says:

        Europe switched to summer time this weekend.
        Also, I hate daylight savings switching, messes up my biorhythm for weeks :/

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      tigerfort says:

      The scary thing about firing squads is that people (and specifically, in the US, cops) will volunteer to be on them.