RSS Feed

‘science’ Category

  1. real-life monster movie

    September 25, 2008 by jjosh

    Warren Ellis has an interesting post linking to this article that links to a new report. (this info is moving moving moving!) Anyway, it’s about permafrost melt releasing giant chimneys of methane. From the quote of the quote:

    "In the past few days, the researchers have seen areas of sea foaming with gas bubbling up through "methane chimneys" rising from the sea floor. They believe that the sub-sea layer of permafrost, which has acted like a "lid" to prevent the gas from escaping, has melted away to allow methane to rise from underground deposits formed before the last ice age.

    They have warned that this is likely to be linked with the rapid warming that the region has experienced in recent years.

    Methane is about 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and many scientists fear that its release could accelerate global warming in a giant positive feedback where more atmospheric methane causes higher temperatures, leading to further permafrost melting and the release of yet more methane."

    As always though, Ellis puts it more succinctly:

    "Should all concerns be confirmed, it appears that we’re all going to die from the escape of monstrous planetary farts from beyond history."

  2. squarks

    September 16, 2008 by jjosh

    Good NYT article on why we should even care about the LHC…

    My favorite bits:

    "For every known species of particle (electrons, quarks, neutrinos, etc.), supersymmetry implies the existence of a partner species (called, with physicists’ inimitable linguistic flair, selectrons, squarks, sneutrinos, etc.) that to date has never been observed."

    "Many researchers suspect that dark matter is composed of sparticles."

    "Should the Large Hadron Collider have the power necessary to reveal extra dimensions of space — to overturn our belief that length, width and height are all there is — that would rank as one of the greatest upheavals in our understanding of the universe."

  3. RuBot

    September 15, 2008 by jjosh

    My bartender robot design is coming along. It will now have a rueben’s tube along the top of his head. Also LK has given me some great advice on the drink dispensing. In addition, it has been strongly suggested that this robot should have a mustache, bowler hat and monocle.

    Best name so far: DrunkDroid.

    Meanwhile, searching for inspiration brought me this which has given me nightmares.

  4. the sound of fire

    September 10, 2008 by jjosh

    There is something about the way the internet is so full of mind-blowing information — music, film, animation, large hadron colliders, etc. — that when you come across across something really great, a part of your brain lights up that doesn’t lght up all that often. I remember my friend Dr. Mercury telling me about experiments he was doing with fMRI machines that would image the brain activity during activities. He was involved with a study on humor. They would tell the participant a joke and then observe what part of their brain showed activity, hoping to get a better understanding of both the brain and humor.

    The joke was this:

    What did the elephant say to the naked man?

    How do you drink with that thing?!

    But to me the really funny part of the experiment was that they had to do a control group — a group where the participants were still scanned, but no humor was taking place — so they could compare the two. The control group joke went like this:

    What did the elephant say to the naked man?

    Hey there, naked man!

    I love that so much. If I had heard the control part I would’ve cracked up anyway.

    The point being, that this following science experiment, The Ruebens Tube, tickles some part of my brain that doesn’t usually light up. And it feels good. The guy fills a PVC pipe with gas, pokes small holes in it and puts a speaker at one end of it. He then lights the gas and plays tones through the speaker — fire EQ display. Amazing.

    Great work, garage-bound American John Lennon. Culled from Wired’s Top 10 Amazing Physics Videos, linked from  Metafilter.

  5. turn me on, dead man

    September 9, 2008 by jjosh

    They’re about to turn it on! Tomorrow, Sep 10th, 2am ET…prepare for black hole…

    live webcast here


    UPDATE – from KT in the comments:

    NY Times says “If the new collider is a car, then what physicists did today was turn on an engine, that will now sit and warm up for a couple of months before anybody drives it anywhere. The first meaningful collisions, at an energy of 5 trillion electron volts, will not happen until late fall.”

    So not out of the woods yet.

  6. time for a food party

    August 25, 2008 by jjosh

    Today is a good day for a party. But in this case, I’m talking about a food party.

    It’s so weird how in the beginning, she sings about picking donuts "for you and for me", but then in the next shot, she says she got the donuts for her and her alone! Wha? It makes me want one of those donuts. 

    via the blog of Wiley Wiggins! Yes, Mitch Kramer has a blog!

  7. binoc soc

    August 19, 2008 by jjosh

    This is fantastic. At a festival in Ireland (check the electronic thump in the background), a group of jump-suited folks decide to play soccer. Also they are wearing binoculars. Hilarity ensues.

  8. the LHC will rock you in the head

    August 5, 2008 by jjosh

    My fascination with the Large Hadron Collider continues to grow. It looks like the timetable for maybe creating a black hole in Switzerland should go something like this: first tests on Aug 8th, full test in Sept, and first full run "before year’s end". Can’t wait. 

    Meanwhile, here’s a rap by a science writer working at the LHC, all about what’s supposed to happen. I love it when science is explained using rap.

    from the ever vigilant bb

  9. some magick shiz

    July 25, 2008 by jjosh

    This is from Derren Brown’s "Something Wicked This Way Comes"…I watched this last night and found it pretty great. His sense of showmanship is really good, and it makes me feel like maybe this was what it was like watching magicians in the early 1900’s, before tv and the net made us all savvy…

    It’s 9 minutes long, but a darn good illusion-y time…

  10. taste the rainbow, suckas

    July 23, 2008 by jjosh

    Adding to my Case: the fact that sometimes I feel like everyone else on the internet is some kind of damn genius. This guy worked out how to make a sequencer using paper, skittles and a webcam. The webcam picks up where the skittles are placed, and somehow software translates each position to a different drum sound. Moving the pieces around makes different patterns of different instruments.

    Weird science.

    I Eat Beats from Kyle McDonald on Vimeo.

    On his Vimeo page, the author says:

    Future directions may include: more sensor types (e.g., a slider for tempo control), note-sequencing mode, and assigning the different colors to different rhythms or instruments (purple as bassline, or yellow as "every other measure").

    There is a cut in the middle where it transitions from solo improvisation to three people interacting simultaneously. Any out-of-sync audio/video is due to my frazzled camera.

    One of the other big problems: people like to eat Skittles.

  11. chronotopic anamorphosis

    July 7, 2008 by jjosh

    This is on vimeo, via kottke…the effect is pleasing on the eyes, though a bit difficult to describe to people…the maker of the video describes it like this:

    The image is digitally manipulated by fragmenting it into horizontal lines and then combining lines from different frames in the display. The result is a distorsion of the figures caused by their motion in time, or, as Brazilian researcher Arlindo Machado calls it: chronotopic anamorphosis.

    It’s not long, doesn’t have any audio, and totally worth it for the door trick at the end…

  12. Boozbot

    June 15, 2008 by jjosh

    Last night I went out in the rain to this event at the Eyebeam gallery in Chelsea. I’ve been to a couple of things there (Robot Talent Show!), and they do these Mixer events every now and then…we tried to go to one when AK was in town but we got there too late. That time, it was pretty much finished, but we could tell that something cool had definitely gone down — leaves all over the ground, and weird screens set up and so on. So last night I got there well in time, and it had bunch of different, interesting things…

    First off, there was a stage with bands, DJ’s, etc. and 3 giant screens being VJ’d behind them…pretty cool, the visuals were amazing, but I wanted the music to be better…

    In another room, they had a large inflatable pool filled with inky-black water. People would get into a bathing suit, stretch out on some kind of weird rack, and then get submerged into the pool. As this was happening, behind them on a giant screen, somehow a computer was tracking what their body looked like in the water. In realtime. It was really wild. Kind of like Minority Report, or as someone next to me remarked, "It’s a Hybrid!"

    This low-fi cellphone movie doesn’t do it justice, and you can only just see the screen at the end, but here, check it:

    I should also mention that it was $15 to get in, but then it was open bar(!!), which was nice. So the music was decent, the ink bath was wild, but really, in my mind the real money-maker, the thing that made it all worth it, was Boozbot.

    A robot bartender!!!! I got in line and a guy next to me said "A robot bartender?" and for some reason I answered by saying "Finally." Because really, shouldn’t we have had this before? The experience was amazing. You got up to Boozbot and there was a list of drinks he could make (vodka straight, vodka tonic, vodka tonic and cran) next to a USB mic. You’d speak into the mic and Boozbot would chat with you for a bit. When he talked they had this small screen animating an 8-bit graphic-y mouth, and he spoke (naturally) though a metallic speech synthesizer.

    There was obviously someone watching you through his camera eyes, ‘cuz Boozbot would talk about your appearance, and make conversation with you that wasn’t computer-based. After talking to him for a bit he’d make your drink by dispensing the quantities of ingredient through the plastic tubes at the end of his hand (see that in the pic)? It was so much fun.

    Later in the evening, quite randomly, I ended up running into the guy who made Boozbot and having a conversation with him. He wasn’t geeky at all, more of a space-case type, and really friendly and cool. I was trying to ask about how much Boozbot could actually do on his own and —

    "You mean how autonomous he is?" the guy cut me off.

    "Right. How autonomous is he?"

    "Well actually it would be illegal for him to be completely autonomous because to serve alcohol you need to be able to id people. So he’s only semi-autonomous. But damn I would love to see the cops arresting him for being completely autonomous!"

    "Yeah, that would be a great court scene…Boozbot taking the stand…"

    I then told him that I was going to borrow his idea and take it out to Burning Man, which he said was fine, so I’m stoked for that. I’ve already got some mods that I think would make it a better experience, so now all I have to do is solve the engineering issue of regulated hydraulic pumps to make the drinks. I think my dad could probably help me out with that, so it’s on. But I can’t call him Boozbot ‘cuz that’d be downright stealing. And it’s too bad, ‘cuz what a perfect name. 

    Maybe Robooze? Johnny 500 proof? Liquorbot? Drink-a-tron? Robartender?

    Help me out people…

    UPDATE – It should be pointed out that when I presumptuously speak of borrowing the idea of Boozbot, I am more speaking to the spirit of the idea, and not to that actual execution. I just read a fascinating blog entry on how Boozbot works, and I love the complexity of it, but it’s…how can I put this?…a bit out of my skill set. Only time will tell whether this is a project that comes to life…

  13. time to Wii/Pii

    June 12, 2008 by jjosh

    Well at this point everyone’s probably at least a little familiar with the Wii, Nintendo’s semi-revolutionary game system with the motion sensor controller. I haven’t played the thing myself (game systems make me stay up until 3 in the morning trying to win the robot) but everyone I know says it’s the greatest thing since Guitar Hero. The new Wii Fit game(?) made the front page of the New York Times Sunday Style section a few weeks ago, so it’s definitely in the popular consciousness.

    A while back I came across a pretty keen Ted lecture about how to use the Wii remote to make some sophisticated and cheap equipment…it’s pretty cool if you’re into that kind of thing…I love this stuff, listening to brainiacs wax poetic about their specific area of uber-nerd expertise…


    but then MM (thanks, Malcolm!) hipped me to this new Wii game that made me realize they have barely scratched the surface of what this thing can do. It’s available at, but let’s not bother with descriptions or critiques, let’s just go right to the videotape:

    Some of you are loving this (I’m looking at you Devito!), some are hating it (M Trump, nice to see you), but I have to say I do love this part:

    According to the Japanese text on the box "Super Pii Pii Brothers promotes good bathroom skills and allows women to experience for the first time the pleasure of urinating while standing."

    What a pleasure it is. What a true pleasure it is.

  14. when I get that feeling I need virtual healing

    May 19, 2008 by jjosh science corrospondent Pat G returns with a link to an article that suggests the reason aliens haven’t contacted us yet is that they’re probably all geeking out in their own virtual worlds. You could make an awesome virtual world that does everything you could ever want it to, and then you wouldn’t have to bother with expending all the energy to go to other planets or build more crap on your own planet.

    When the conversation gets to environmental concerns (as it often does in our house), I often feel that to have hope in the face of such disaster requires a fundamentalist faith in technology. Sometimes I have to break it down like "Well, I honestly think that this crises might be the thing that spurs us to space travel to colonize other planets." And I’m not really joking, you know? But now I think this virtual reality angle is so much more energy effecient, it will become my new go-to. A bit harder to explain, but perhaps a bit easier to absorb than the whole "other planets will save us" theory.

    It reminded me of this chilling scene from Carla Speed McNeil’s amazing sci-fi comics epic, Finder. If you are into comics at all and don’t know Finder, you must go and get it and get into it now. Now, I say! It is amazing. She’s the only comics person that I actually went to a convention to meet. Check her website,, she’s got first chapters from many of her books there for you to check out, or you can order the trades from her. I recommend starting from the beginning with Sin-Eater. It’s so dense and amazing…

    Anyway, this scene is from "Dream Sequence", and it shows the extension of all this thought, introducing a character who goes to work in a virtual world, in a sort of cubicle farm. It really stuck in my head because it seems so plausible…

  15. bugs! bug me…

    May 7, 2008 by jjosh

    In February, right when I had started the blog, I was working on a project at Sundance Channel when I saw an editor working on these amazing Isabella Rossellini short pieces based on the sex life of bugs(!!). They are weird and amazing. Yes, they have that sort of "consciously viral" quality to them (i.e., "I’m a big business but I’m making something weird so it gets forwarded around the internet!"), but luckily Isabella R is so over-the-top and great that it doesn’t matter.

    I immediately thought I would grab them from the edit room and post them on my blog before they were even out! I had just started my blog, and already a real scoop! This was going to be great!

    Then I realized that Sundance would know it was me and I really like working there (still, I kinda feel, as Gillanders would say, "the old Josh would have done it."). So I’ve been patiently biding my time for them to have an official release and now it has happened. Here is a brief sampling of two of them, bee and snail. Find the rest on the Sundance site here.

    (For some reason they’re not available outside the US, which has caused a bit of a stink on the internets (old-school rights management in a new school world)…someone on boingboing provides a workaround to the original flv’s here)