Guns for Armes: The Amazing True Story of the World’s First Real Life Superhero

Posted by on December 6th, 2013

By Klint Finley

Every night dozens of people around the world don masks and costumes and venture into the streets to fight crime.

Phoenix Jones and Master Legend are perhaps the most famous, but there are hundreds of costumed would-be crime fighters and their activities range from attempting to apprehend criminals to watching over the homeless while they sleep to make sure their positions aren’t stolen.

These caped crusaders aren’t mutants, aliens or cyborgs — they’re just concerned citizens. They have no superhuman powers. But with advances in technology — such as exoskeletons and bionic limbs — you might think it’s only a matter of time until we see the first grinder superhero.

Actually, we’ve had him for quite some time.

J.J. Armes courtesy of photographer Adam Hicks via Wikipedia - This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

The first real-life superhero may have been J. J. Armes, a private detective who has been active in El Paso since 1958. His super power? A gun implanted in one of his prosthetic hook that he could fire with his biceps — without using his other hook.

Armes lives in a mansion, surrounded by lions and tigers. He always wears three piece suits, and travels by limo driven by his body guard cum chauffeur. It’s no wonder Ideal Toy Company manufactured a line of action figures based on his likeness, and comic book mogul Stan Lee wants to make a movie based on his life.

Origin Story

Armes lost both his hands at the age of 12, he told People in 1975. A friend brought over a box that, unknown to Armes, contained railroad dynamite charges. When Armes opened it, his hands were blown off at the wrist. His friend was unharmed.

His hands were replaced with hooks, but he kept playing sports. He even taught himself how to write with the hooks. His life changed again at the age of 15 when he was recruited to appear in the film Am I Handicapped?, he told Texas Monthly in 1976. He quit high school, moved to Hollywood, and went on to appear in 13 feature length films.

But eventually he decided to turn his attention to crime fighting. He moved to New York City to study psychology and criminology and graduated with honors by the age of 19. He then returned home to El Paso and started his private investigation service, eventually becoming better known to the children of the city than the president of the United States.

He made national news in 1972 after rescuing Marlon Brando’s son from kidnappers in Mexico. He now commands multi-million dollar fees, and has, in addition to the limo, a fleet of expensive vehicles, including a Rolls Royce, a Corvette and a helicopter.
His for-profit crime fighting stands in stark contrast with Master Legend and Phoenix Jones, who work day jobs assisting the disabled and elderly. But Armes He’s deeply religious and says he stays committed being a PI, despite being so wealthy that he’d be able retire at any time, because of his devotion to God.  He doesn’t smoke, drink or swear. He doesn’t drink coffee, let alone take any illegal drugs.
And his crime fighting has come at a cost — he’s survived multiple assassination attempts and his life is in constant danger.

Secret Origin

Well, that’s the story that Armes wanted people to believe back in 1976, anyway. Texas Monthly writer Gary Cartwright did some digging that year and found that Armes story didn’t add up.

Armes’ real name is Julian Armas. He was born in 1939 to Mexican immigrants, not Italian immigrants as he claimed. His friend didn’t find the dynamite that blew off his hands next to a railroad track. They broke into a rail house and stole it.

The Academy of Motion Pictures had no record of Am I Handicapped?. NYU had no record of Armas, or Armes, ever attending the school, let alone graduating. Nor was there any record of his mentor Max Falen having taught there.

“Old friends recalled when he returned from California. Julian, or Jay J. Armes as he now called himself, drove an old, raggedy- topped Cadillac with a live lion in the back and a dummy telephone mounted to the dash-board,” Cartwright wrote. “He would pull up beside the girls at the drive-in and pretend to be talking to some secret agent in some foreign land.”

There was also no indication that he really had a vast network of PIs at his disposal.

He does own a big house, but it was it was located in a poor part of town and was only worth about $50,000 in 1975. The helicopter certainly wouldn’t have been able to fly. What money he had likely didn’t come from his PI work, Cartwright wrote, but from lucrative real estate deals facilitated by his wealthy friend Thomas Fortune Ryan.

It’s apparently true that he brought Brando’s son back from Mexico, but other PIs are dubious about his methods. “They didn’t believe the part about the three-day helicopter search in which Jay Armes survived on water, chewing gum, and guts, but they all know the trick of grabbing a kid,” Carwright wrote. “You hired a couple of federales or gunsels. The problem wasn’t finding the kid, it was getting him out of the country.”

Armes came mostly clean in his autobiography, published later in 1976. He admitted his real name is Julian Armas. He didn’t admit to having broken into the railhouse himself, but didn’t claim that the other boy had found the dynamite charges either. Rather than claiming that a Hollywood director came showed up in El Paso and recruited him, Armes admitted that he went to California after high school. He wrote that he appeared in several films, but only in bit roles. He didn’t repeat the story about a mentor at NYU, and claimed only to have gotten a degree in criminology in California before returning to El Paso to become a private investigator.

Better Than Fiction

And not everything about Armes was a lie.

J. J. Armes Mobile Investigation Unit playset with J. J. Armes Action Figure with Custom Suit

Jay J. Armes "Mobile Investigation Unit" (Center) Jay J. Armes Doll w/custom made suit crafted by Armes' personal tailor. (Right) - Via http://www.spymall.com/investigators/action_figures.html

“It is true that Jay J. Armes drives around El Paso in the damnedest black limo you ever saw, armed to the teeth,” Cartwright wrote. “That pistol in his hook is the real McCoy; I watched him fire it.” And he really does have a fleet of vehicles, a flock of wild animals roaming the premises and a closet full of three-piece suits.

Today, at the age of 81, he’s still the head of the Investigators company. And his son Jay J. Armes III, who is an Investigator himself, has expanded the business into online retail with Spy Mall.

Even if you strip away the fabrications and exaggerations you’re left with an astounding tale. As Carwright wrote: “The real story is of a Mexican-American kid from one of the most impoverished settlements in the United States, how he extracted himself from the wreckage of a crippling childhood accident and through the exercise of tenacity, courage, and wits became a moderately successful private investigator. There is more sympathy, drama, and human intrigue in that accomplishment than you’re likely to find in any two or three normal studies of the human condition.”

Why then has his story largely been forgotten by the national media? Maybe it’s because of the tall tales in the beginning. Or maybe it’s because the media has little time for aging, disabled minorities.

Either way, J.J. Armes is a name worth remembering.

J.J. Armes did not respond to our request for comment on this story.
Special thanks to Trevor Blake.

External Links

Texas Monthly article

Investigators official site

Great photo shoot from 2008

A better photo of the action figure

The Real Life Superhero Project

Superheroes Anonymous

Klint Finley is a Wired reporter, TechCrunch columnist and the co-host of the Mindful Cyborgs podcast.  He can be found on Twitter as @klintron


GRINDER’S GUIDE TO THE NEXT 5 MINUTES: 2013 EDITION

Posted by on December 30th, 2012

Last year, we asked you for questions.

You gave them to us.

This year, we’d like to do the same thing, shockingly enough.

It’s THE GRINDER’S GUIDE TO THE NEXT 5 MINUTES: 2013 EDITION!

Here’s the deal. Ask us anything — anything at all — via our formspring account here: http://www.formspring.me/Grinding We will then answer your questions in a hopefully entertaining manner.

Remember to use the Formspring account and not the increasingly compromised comments system for this. That’s http://www.formspring.me/Grinding — stay anon if you want or not. No topic is off limits, but things involving Grinding, the future, or whatnot would probably be a good idea.

Go forth to our Formspring and sin no more…  unless that’s what you’re into.

 

 


We Have the Technology

Posted by on December 23rd, 2012

Fifteen years ago, Gulf War vet Authur Boorman was told that he would never walk without assistance again.

Now ignoring that this is also marketing for former WWE wrestler Diamond Dallas Page‘s yoga products, I wanted to highlight this video for a few reasons – its schmaltzy soundtrack not being one of them.   A lot of Grinders focus on body mods like magnetic implants and internal compasses and prosthetics like Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation rigs, AR glasses and brain-controlled arms and legs.  But what Authur is doing is no less “Grinding” than any of those things.   We use what works, and sometimes what works are systems people have been using to repair and enhance their bodies for thousands of years.

In a world where even some of our staunchest allies in the H+ movement are more interested in what price tag they can place on a posthuman future, it is important to remember that there exists technology beyond what we’ve been sold.   This isn’t a defense of “woo” – my interests here are practical –  this is a reminder that while many of us love cutting edge tech, there are technologies on the ground to be picked up and used to heal,  control, and enhance our bodies and minds.   I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in building a future that has a cover charge.

Of course, if you find something doesn’t work for you, move on to something else.    There’s no right or wrong way to rebuild and temper yourself.

Enjoy the work.

 

 


SNL Explains Drones

Posted by on November 20th, 2012


Warren Ellis: A Séance for the Future

Posted by on October 28th, 2012
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We (America) Stopped Dreaming

Posted by on March 11th, 2012


@shwood & @sfslim


Shaping Things

Posted by on March 8th, 2012

Adam Rothstein just posted a fantastic essay on near-future fabbing over on Rhizome that should be mandatory reading for anyone who is a regular here.

On the other hand, there will be a new set of object hackers, who will be spending all their free time online, discussing the precise interior dimension ratios of the new set of Target glassware (which, they have discovered, is almost exactly equivalent in volume to a very famous American glass company’s 1940 catalog). Their forums will be filled with discussion of the best way to minimize wind resistance on custom bicycle fenders, while still maximizing spray blockage. Drug paraphernalia will be designed for maximum efficiency, with a willing and ready test market. A new hacker vernacular will be filled with implicit understandings of the integrals of surface area and volume, of curves and angles, of phase change curves and stress tolerances. One more set of bright kids will take a hard tangent outward from the common understanding matrix of “mainstream society”. But if you’re nice to them, perhaps they’ll fab you a custom iPhone case for Christmas.

Via Rhizome: The Shape of Shaping Things to Come


Riot Police vs. Disabled Protesters

Posted by on February 27th, 2012

David Mercato - Reuters - Bolivia

(Photo: David Mercato, Reuters)

 

A caravan of about 50 adults and children ended a 1,000-mile, 100-day trek through Bolivia at the protest near government offices in La Paz on Thursday. Scuffles broke out and pepper spray was used after the group were blocked by riot police, who stopped them reaching the legislature and presidential palace to petitioning MPs and the presidential palace for a tripling of the £91 monthly state subsidy for disabled people. The protesters tried to break through the lines using their crutches and wheelchairs but were forced back in a melee in which several people were injured and four detained. The protest organisers then declared a hunger strike by 10 adults and a round-the-clock vigil by the rest.    (Via:  The Guardian)

 


THE GRINDER’S GUIDE TO THE NEXT 5 MINUTES: Part One

Posted by on December 30th, 2011
  • What is your opinion on merging spiritualism and deity worship with science and technology in the future? It seems to already be happening to a small extent, so what are the implications?  –Anonm1k3y: I consider myself a neo-Pythagorean. It’s a path through the future, but not for all.

    Kevin: I think it’s unavoidable simply because of the nature of technological development.  A large portion of spirituality involves dealing with the invisible landscape – heavens, hells, the spirits of places, personal histories – the intangible connections between things.  The general thrust of developing technologies seems to be invested in the same things — making data rich genius loci, creating an internet of things, making the implicit connections between things and people explicit.   In much the same sense that I consider most spirituality on par with a Graphical User Interface for consciousness, I think that we definitely will see new combinations of deity worship, spirituality, religion and the data-rich environment.    (A good example of a new spin on this is the sort of exotropic emergent godhead that Kevin Kelly calls the Technium and details in his book What Technology Wants.  There’s also the oft-cited rapture-style eschatology of the technological Singularity.)

  • Now that it has made me sign in, let’s see if this goes through… Humans are notoriously short-sighted and focused on their lives here and now. How would you ‘elevator pitch’ such a person to open their eyes to the necessity of understanding the future? –JaymGatesHumans are notoriously focused on the present. Why should the average person care about futurism, not as a fun SF theory, but as a science/belief/way to shape the world? –Anon

    m1k3y: When the sea of change becomes a tsunami, when infrastructure collapse piles on instituational collapse, piles on social change… people will be treadying water, looking for a narrative to explain just how they came to be almost drowning. SF theory then becomes srs bsnss. Especially when the alternative is nationalistic resurgence or exceptionalist denialism.

    Would it be that surprising if strange, new (techno) religions flower when more happens in the first month of 2012 than all of 2011. Just trying explaining this year to your 2010-pastSelf.

    The present will be a tiny blip of time. Now may last 10minutes.

    The result of a 100years of SF’nal thinking will help give shape to the chaos, and that will make all the difference. Its memes will turn victims into survivors. (It was always a rescue operation.)

    Kevin: I’m of the opinion that 99.9% of “futurism” has nothing to do with the future at all, and is simply about understanding the present or the recent past.   The idea that it is focused on the future seems to simply be some slight-of-mind to soften the ontological blow that comes with the dual facts that yes, people are focused on the here and now and that they very rarely understand it.  That’s certainly the case with futurism as it manifests in the corporate world.  Douglas Rushkoff has made an excellent career of explaining the world as it was 10 minutes ago to corporations and business audiences under the guise of the “next big thing”. And that’s not a dig, either, there’s a serious need for that sort of social prestidigitation.

    Science Fiction and its forward-looking kin is a vehicle that allows artists to essentially rapid prototype and testbed futures — and if successful begin to manifest them. The space race was driven by rocket jockeys who were also often SciFi geeks — be they writers or fans. William Gibson’s vision of cyberspace informs and shapes the conversation about information technology to this day. At its best, Sci Fi is a vehicle that allows the artist to pluck things from the future so as to terraform the present.

    My elevator pitch would strangely be a sports metaphor:  ”If you don’t keep your eye on the ball, you’ll never hit anything.” And that’s really what it boils down to.  Without understanding today enough to have an idea of how to deal with the future. And I think that’s key, right there;  the ability to develop strategies for dealing with future events is vastly more valuable than the ability to predict future events.  Without understanding that, you’re just swinging blindly. Life without context is just a big mess of sound and fury and noise.  And that is no way for anyone to live their life, much less for a culture to try and navigate through the world.

  • Where do you think the latest round of political protest in America and the UK (to narrow it down a bit) is heading? –DavidForbesm1k3y: The states will still exist, but UK faces further instabiliy and likely overreactions from polices. Nights of riots will return, for longer. Obama will look even worse by then, and will probably be forced out by Hildawg for re-election. For the populations, things will get ever more political, but in wildier directions. We’ll see more insane versions of Tea Party and other nationalistic manifestatians. Tactical, flash occupies, increasingly surreal, and permanent encampments as they ally with friendly pre-existing institutions (say, liberal churchs for instance).

    Equal parts new instabilities in old areas, and fresh, unanticipated cohesions at the edge of the new and the old.

  • If 2012 gives us a general contraction of economic growth, the potential collapse of the Euro and a general all-around shortage of available cash, what sort of things can we be doing to minimize negative impacts? How do I buy jetpack without cash? –amkelly0m1k3y: detach, or at least insulate, yourself from the mainstream status-quo such as it existed before the beginning of the GFC.

    time rich, money poor; you mightn’t have a (full-time) job, but you will have time to pool resources with fellow travellers, scrap together equipment. start a neighbour market garden on vacant or adandoned land. swap equipment, get maximum benefit from the resources of the group using (something like) http://neighborgoods.net/. and above all else – LEARN/STUDY/PLAY.

    the further you live into the future, the more valuable you’ll be as a guide to those that follow you. (don’t buy a jetback, build a peer2peer jetpack factory)

    Kevin: Don’t concentrate on buying a jetpack, concentrate on establishing resilient sustainable communities that have the ability to construct jetpacks en masse.  Hosnestly, I think resilent sustainable communities are the key to progress in the face of  global financial collapse and the increasingly maddened anti-ethical actions of collective Large Actors (aka megacorps).  I’m not saying that you have to go off the grid into rural France a la the “Tarnac Nine“.  I mean, that’s an option, sure. But community building, even in the sprawling urban environments is key.

    The tricky part is — well, one of many tricky parts — that self-sufficiency usually looks like Crime in the eyes of the State. (And it looks like competition in the eyes of the Corporation.) Look at some of the Occupy enclaves — where it seems like their major infraction was having the gall to show that different types of urban communities were possible in front of the public.

  • What new tech are you most excited about in 2012? What trend! –Anonm1k3y: Hardware and software being used, adapted, created by the independant citizens of the Ocuppy movement. Such as this new SNS http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/12/occupy-facebook/all/1. Definitely the emergant Drone Culture; kinect hacked quadcoptors vs predators. And DIY BioGen, something interesting should surely come from there.

    Surprise trend.. even more apocalyptic cults and new strange techno-religions flowering.

    Kevin: Drones, 3D printers that print 3d printers, the next BitCoin. If I were to be so presumptuous to declare 2012 “The Year Of…” something, I’d have to say it’s “The Year of the Superempowered meeting Outlaw Economies.”  2011 has arguably been the year of the Superempowered, starting with Wikileaks really exploding in the end tail of 2010 and steamrolling through the penetration of Anonymous into the mass culture, Arab Spring, Occupy, etc.  I think this is when groups like those and other hyperempowered individuals will really latch onto — or construct — new economies that operate parallel to state economies.  Sure, these shadow economies already exist, just ask militant hyperempowered groups like Al-Qaeda or anyone in the drug trade. But even though its future is murky, I think BitCoin was a huge sea change. While it became notorious for five minutes as the way to buy drugs online and then faded into obscurity as soon as the currency started bleeding value, BitCoin showed that a digital parallel economy could be established with an ese that probably spooked the hell out of some Nation States.

    Just like in the days when MySpace was king and it was obvious that someone was going to manage to actually do social networking right. (And hate them or love to hate them, Facebook seems to have gotten the magic formula at least mostly right.)  It’s just a matter of time before any of the groups attempting to build on BitCoin’s success manage to find a solution that sticks. And then, you’ve got hyperempowered individuals and groups who have the tools to move resources around on an unprecedented global scale.  This will put bombs in the wrong hands, and it’ll put food and resources in the right hands at an unprecedented rate.

    And to give that context, the “global black market” — or as economist Robert Neuwirth calls it, “System D”  — is already estimated at $10 trillion dollars.  Imagine being able to move even a tiny percentage of that in the form of a borderless, stateless, non-currency. If Neuwirth’s projections are right, System D already possibly represents the second largest economic system in existence. Now I’m far from a Capitalist, but the ability to render a consistent, value-retaining, non-physical, stateless currency into the hands of stateless non-hierarchical, rhizomatic organizations and collectives — a.k.a. Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, “The Protester” — seems like the very definition of a disruptive technology.

    The elevator pitch being “What if Anonymous had access to millions of dollars that were untraceable and never had to touch a bank?”

    Also:  Cheap and reliable drones.  I’m guessing there’s a 50/50 chance that “Drones” will be Time’s next Person of the Year.

  • Mecha-Sterling vs GodzEllis. Who will emerge victorious? –AnonKevin: I think it’s like the tagline for the Alien vs. Predator film:  ”Whoever wins, we lose.” Or something like that. I love when Ellis writes about technology. He tends to explore things with a journalist’s eye and a romantic’s heart.  Sterling has a knack for generating likely science fictional scenarios and learning lessons from then as if they were dispatches from the near future. My favourite Ellis book is Frankenstein’s Womb and my favourite Sterling book is Shaping Things. (The latter of which is pretty much mandatory reading.)

    m1k3y: In the final seconds, when all seems lost, they will unwittingly perform a ninth level, interlocking power move summoning the transcendant object from beyond spacetime: BARBELITH.


THE GRINDER’S GUIDE TO THE NEXT 5 MINUTES: Call for Questions

Posted by on December 29th, 2011

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3159/3057646798_77fde115d2_d.jpg

It’s been an annual tradition for Chairman Bruce (and others) to have an extended Q&A over on the ancient and venerable The Well message boards. Bruce Sterling’s State of the World has long been an annual highlight of the season for us here at Grinding. But since it seems it’s not going to happen this year, there’s no long rambling thread of information laying out an exquisite cartography of exactly how fucked we are.

Well screw that, we say.

Here’s the deal. Ask us anything — anything at all — via our formspring account here: http://www.formspring.me/Grinding We will then answer your questions in a hopefully entertaining manner. It would be nice if some sort of intelligent conversation manifested as an emergent phenomena from this experiment, but we’re perfectly willing to let a cascade of dick, fart, and Tea Party jokes roll us into 2012.   (No, we’re not. I’m just trying to sound cavalier.)

Remember to use the Formspring account and not the increasingly compromised comments system for this. That’s http://www.formspring.me/Grinding — stay anon if you want or not. No topic is off limits, but things involving Grinding, the future, or whatnot would probably be a good idea.

Come, let us reason together! Alternatively, let us party like it’s the end of the world!!!


In Defense of the Retail Simulacra

Posted by on December 10th, 2011

Recently, retail clothing chain H&M has caught a great deal of flack for using computer generated bodies in their online catalog. And while there is something to be said for looking critically at the introduction of computer-generated “perfection” into an industry already psychotically obsessed with unattainable standards of physical beauty, Coilhouse’s Nadya Lev has some relevant re-contextualization to share:

Also, this foray into the uncanny valley brings us one step closer to the age of the idoru. With teenage pop idol Aimi Eguchi, whose face is a composite of six different singers, and vocaloids (singing synthesizers) such as pigtailed holographic superstar, we’re almost there — in The Future.  And even though H&M’s online catalogue conforms to the same beauty standard as any other big fashion retailer, this technology actually has potential to subvert the paradigm altogether.

See the rest over at Coilhouse.

[See also: Building a Better Pop Star, and Building a Better Pop Star II]


Marco Tempest’s Open Source Techno Magic

Posted by on November 16th, 2011
Using sleight-of-hand techniques and charming storytelling, techno-illusionist Marco Tempest brings a jaunty stick figure to life onstage at TEDGlobal.”


The Animated “Stoned Ape”

Posted by on August 1st, 2011

Longtime readers will know by now that – scientific issues aside – some of us here at Grinding have a fondness for the “Stoned Ape” theory of the evolution of consciousness, language and technology.

The following video details a… version of that theory – with killer videodrome singularity robots, too.

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“This is a clip from Duncan Trussell’s Comedy Central Pilot “Thunderbrain.” The animation and voice over was by Will Carsola from daybyday (www.livedaybyday.com) and it was produced by RZO Hothouse (http://www.hhouseproductions.com/)”


No Cure For Cancer

Posted by on May 15th, 2011

I’ve gotten a lot of mail this weekend about the supposed new “Canadian cure for cancer” and while I hate to rain on parades, I thought I’d do a bit of fact checking before getting too excited.  There were a few things that made me scratch my head when reading the initial article. (Starting with the fact it’s a four-year-old piece on a notorious Content Mill site that is just now circulating.)  So, I went to a friend of mine, who has worked extensively in the field of nuclear medicine and this is what she had to say:

If you read the article it talks about how University of Alberta scientists have used a drug called dichloroacetic acid (DCA), and according to the article, Big Pharma aren’t interested because the drug is off-patent and they can’t make money off of it. So bang, the Canadians cured cancer and no one cares.

…Except that’s not really true.

University of Alberta scientists are currently working on small-scale clinical trials of DCA; according to their most recent update, they’ve trial-ed this on five patients–five–which is not a large enough sample for us to go ahead and say that cancer has been ‘cured.’

Furthermore, they don’t go into great detail, but what they do say isn’t that they cured any of those patients. “In some patients there was also evidence for clinical benefit, with the tumors either regressing in size or not growing further during the 18 month study.” No idea how many “some” of the five patients are, but clearly at least one of the five had further tumor growth during the 18 months. There’s also a note mentioned about how it took 3 months for the drug to reach therapeutic levels; three months in a glioblastoma patient is pretty damn long (a GBM is a fast-growing brain tumor that untreated will kill you in two to four months, on average; with treatment it tends to kill you in fourteen months, and it has a ridiculously low five year survival rate. The wikipedia page gives a decent overview.)

Anyway. Point being, this ‘magic bullet’ has been trial-ed on five people at this point, and they’re still very much in the clinical trials stage. This means we’re likely years off from the point where we have to start worrying who’s going to make money off of DCA as a cancer treatment, because we’re years off from knowing whether or not it’s actually, well, a cure. (Or, like most things in cancer treatment, just a promising treatment that helps some people and has some unpleasant side effects.)

If you’re worried about whether or not they’ll be able to get adequate funding (which, in all things scientific these days, is a well-founded concern), visit the U of A team’s home page, read what they’re doing, and make a donation if you think it’s something worth exploring further. But please, for the love of god, let’s not continue to propagate mistruths and obfuscations published by a website whose advertising slogan is ‘publish easily, attract readers, earn rewards.’ There’s a reason publishing is hard, and it’s not because Big Pharma makes it so–it’s because we publish scientific results in peer reviewed journals, and they’re held to fairly rigorous standards there.

I’m under no illusion that we will see a FDA approved, Big Pharma approved cure for cancer until pharmaceutical companies can figure out a way to charge more for it than the billions they rake in from cancer treatment each year.  But it’s way too early to imply that this avenue of research is the suppressed holy grail of cancer research.   Trust me – I’ve lost my father, my sister and all of my aunts and uncles to cancer and I’ve had my own scare – when a cure is developed, no matter how off the grid it may be, I’ll be thrilled beyond words.  But an out of date, poorly researched Hubpages article misrepresenting the work of a group of hard-working scientists is no reason to uncork the champaign and thaw out the Duke…

…not just yet at least.


The Jetman Cometh

Posted by on May 11th, 2011
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Flying his jet-propelled wing attached to his back, and steering only by moving his body, Rossy launched from a helicopter at 2,440 metres above the the Grand Canyon, according to his Geneva press office.

Skimming the rockscape at speeds of up to 300km per hour, Jetman sustained flight for more than eight minutes, 60 metres above the rim of Grand Canyon West before deploying his parachute and landing smoothly on the canyon floor.

[More at: swissinfo.ch]


All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

Posted by on May 3rd, 2011
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Just stumbled upon the trailer for Adam Curtis’ new documentary – All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace and it looks, shall we say, extremely relevant to our interests.    For those unfamiliar with his work, Adam Curtis is a documentary filmmaker best known for his brilliant series of looks at modern history:  The Century of Self, the Power of Nightmares, and The Trap – Whatever Happened To Our Dreams of Freedom?   I can’t recommend those films enough for someone who wants to spend a few evenings coming to grips with what the hell happened in the 20th and early 21st centuries.   Propaganda, Psychology, Marketing, Nightmare Politics, Religious Extremism, and Game Theory – Curtis weaves them all together in a clear and concise manner into an extremely lucid and convincing secret history of modernity.

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace is due sometime this year from the BBC.


New Sarif Industries PR Video

Posted by on April 13th, 2011

Woke up to an email from our friends over at Sarif Industries, this morning.  Sarif – whom we’ve covered before – has just released a video showcasing their new line of prosthetics.

Sadly, Sarif Industries is just a viral marketing site for the upcoming Deus Ex: Human Revolution video game.   Still, its a nice bit of enhancement porn to start the day with, isn’t it?


Transcendent Man

Posted by on March 4th, 2011

Your Friday Afternoon Movie for this week…

…yes, I AM stealing the “Friday Afternoon Movie” from COILHOUSE - we’ll keep it between us, right?

Your Friday Afternoon Movie for today is: Transcendent Man: the Life and Ideas of Ray Kurzweil.  Long time readers will know that I’m not the world’s biggest cheerleader for Kurzweil, but this documentary is still very much worth a look, even if you’re a grumpy old creature like myself.  The film is 9 parts on youtube.


The Invisible Wi-Fi Landscape

Posted by on March 1st, 2011

Immaterials: Light painting WiFi from Timo on Vimeo.

This project explores the invisible terrain of WiFi networks in urban spaces by light painting signal strength in long-exposure photographs.

A four-metre long measuring rod with 80 points of light reveals cross-sections through WiFi networks using a photographic technique called light-painting.


Octomom as Selfish Cyborg

Posted by on February 1st, 2011

Ph.D. Octopus’ Luce has a fascinating article up, concerning the social construction of Nadya “Octomon” Suleman as a selfish cyborg:

In contrast no mention was initially made of Suleman’s refusal to undergo the same selective reduction procedure. A bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania called the scandal an “ethical failure” and there were invocations only of Suleman’s obsessions, not God’s gifts. Of course Suleman embodied one of the media’s favorite objects of fascination and reproach: young, female, desirous, and with a body that performed feats unknown to natural woman. Like other media favorites, Suleman even got her own hybridized nickname, Octomom, but unlike Brangelina, the hybridity was maternal rather than romantic, interspecies rather than intra-; Octomom was part-mom, part-(marine)-beast, and implicitly part-machine.

Though at first the nickname Octomom seems to reduce Suleman to the sum of her eight kids, the focus on Suleman’s desire or “obsession” instead reduced her eight newborns to herself. The scorn heaped on Suleman’s actions carried the implication that the children should never have been born in the first place, a curious stance for a society obsessed with abortion, celebrity children, and big families like the conservative Christian Duggars and John & Kate Plus 8. But Suleman made no attempt to explain her extraordinary pregnancy outside her own personal desires, and she lacked the trappings-husband, comfortable income, religious belief-that might have normalized it socially.

As a result, Octomom became a symbol of selfish enhancement, artificial excess, and irresponsible motherhood, and a reproductive technology that has been used to conceive over 250,000 pregnancies in the United States since the early 1980s suddenly became the focus of intense public discussion, giving bioethicists a platform to point out that while IVF is widelyregulated throughout Europe, the US federal government only demands that ART clinics track their success rates.

Read the rest at Ph.D. Octopus.

[Link via Jezebel.]