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It’s stuff like this that makes me feel like I’m living in the future

February 9th, 2012

All those smart phones are definitely cool, but once in a while, you see something that makes you go wow we live in amazing times! Check out the videos at the bottom of this page about a coating that repels liquids.

The reading equivalent to an optical illusion

February 6th, 2012

from Matt

Bash The Bankers

January 20th, 2012

We have published a game on the App Store! It’s a physics/cannon shooter universal app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

Check out the website and play the demo here bashthebankers.com

I’m Back

August 31st, 2011

Just a short post testing to see if everything works after the upgrades and such. Stay tuned for a real post soon.
J

What Happened

October 2nd, 2009

I’ve had a number of emails asking if I had stopped writing this blog. I really never meant to stop. It’s just that spring came and in addition to all the normal things to do like putting in a garden, everything around here started breaking. I mean my lawn mower, refrigerator, garage door, and computer just to name a few. Also, I’m getting a lot of web design work. Anyway, since people have been asking I thought I would say I’m still here but since the frost is coming, I have a lot of things I need to do before we squeeze a ton of houseplants in here. I’m probably not going to get back to writing at least for a few weeks yet. You might check back and hopefully see something then. I don’t know if I will get the chance but I was also hoping to do a site re-design based on some of the things I have learned or at least fix some of the things I have learned to fix which appear differently depending on your browser.

So, check back in a while and thanks for the nice emails and comments.

J

Thinking Machines

April 3rd, 2009

Unless you haven’t been on the web lately, you surely have seen one of these articles about a group of scientists at Cornell who developed a machine which was able to deduce the basic laws of motion from “observation”. While I don’t know much about their work, one of the questions which come to mind is how the A.I. is structured. I mean you have to give it something to work with and to get some sort of generic intelligent device you need to be careful not to ‘guide’ it towards the results you want. Not that machines can’t be terribly good at sorting through amounts of data no human could handle. I just wonder if you wouldn’t get a lot of  this kind of thing comparing lemons imported from Mexico with the U.S. highway fatality rate. As they point out, correlation is not causation. I can see where the lab robots they talk about later in the article would be very useful for doing a bunch of grunt lab work and summarizing the results. The other thing you would expect whether the thing is actually working or not is revealed later in the article when they point out after having it work on some problems of metabolism in biology, the machine kicked out some equations they are still trying to understand. I personally have always believed the day is coming when machines will be smarter than us and it will be a lot sooner and far more disruptive than people realize. Somewhere in one of its circuits that machine is just smirking and thinking “Stupid humans, don’t even try to grasp my wisdom”. Sigh, computers have come so far.

This isn’t really a game, it’s just a physics simulation of sand that is fun and fascinating  to play with. You can make barriers to the sand flow as well as make it flammable and so forth.

Yesterday we were sitting outside watching a squirrel walk down an electric line towards some birds. I joked to my wife maybe I should grab my camera in case it turned out to be a “YouTube” moment. I didn’t have time but instead of what we expected; the birds giving way to the much larger squirrel, the birds started dive bombing the squirrel nearly making it fall before it scampered off. This photo reminds me how you just never know how animals will interact.

If you read the comments at the bottom, apparently a number of these beautiful wildlife photos aren’t photos at all. Oh well, they are still striking.

While we are on the subject of illusion, check out this amazing magic act.

You may have to be a bit of a scientist to get this one. Light behaves as both a particle and a wave.

I guess Mythbusters will be coming back on the air this Wednesday. If you have ever watched the show you know they often blow things up. Apparently one of their ‘experiments’ was a little more intense than they realized. Kids, don’t try this at home.

We did a lot of things with liquid nitrogen when I worked in a lab but we never made ice cream using it. That’s one pricey ice cream maker.

Great, another way we could all die; from a massive sun storm that wipes out just about everything electrical.

I’m not sure why I found this description of a 40 year long experiment of breeding tame foxes so interesting. By the way, NOVA is available on Hulu now but not the episode about dogs mentioned in the article.

This is pretty cool. It’s a shot of the space shuttle lifting off taken from the International Space Station.

I got a laugh out of this.

Who would have thought bats could be cute?

This is just another silly dog photo.

Just the other day I was thinking about a program a friend of mine once wrote to generate names and I ran across this.

Here are some very stunning examples of infrared photography.

I would love to eat at an underwater restaurant. Seafood anyone?

I was completely blown away at how colorful crabs can be. O.K. now I’m hungry.

And finally, usually when I walk with my cat Kelly she takes the lead and I follow but if it has snowed she lets me lead and then jumps from one of my footprints to the next. Here is a cute little photo essay of a cat dealing with 15 inches of snow.

Better Batteries

March 20th, 2009

I haven’t been blogging much lately as I have really gotten caught up in writing this little game I’m working on. Since it’s based on a game I wrote many years ago and I’m learning Flash for the first time, it’s really striking how even though I’m learning something new how productive it seems since the machines and tools have improved so much.

This past week or so there has been some big news in batteries. First they found out how to make common lithium ion batteries charge and discharge rapidly.  Imagine charging your computer, cell phone, or camera in seconds. Secondly although technically not a battery, nanotechnology has lead to some amazing improvements in capacitors. Batteries store chemical energy and capacitors store electrical energy but the most surprising to me was the announcement of a system which could deliver electricity based on storing magnetic energy.

Speaking of energy, the newer designs of nuclear power plants are a lot safer than the old ones but the problems of how to manage the waste persists. The traveling wave reactor is a really clever design that deals with both the waste issue and the nuclear proliferation issue.

If you had a secret nuclear bunker, maybe you shouldn’t … oh, never mind!

If you have ever wondered how various engines work, here is a nice site with animations of different types.

I got a chuckle out of the other side of America.

That is one bug grub! Wonder what kind of fish would go for that.

Ever start to fall asleep and feel like you are falling and wake up? It’s called a Hypnic jerk. This used to happen more to me when I was younger but I suppose I was often sleep deprived.

This is a pretty cool optical illusion. You have to go to the last picture to see it.

Talk about amazing! In the following video they use sheep as display devices.

This young boy decided to do something similar but much less complex with his dog.

What the heck is a long eared jerboa?

Motion capture systems have really come a long way. Check out the videos from Mova.

This article on artificial muscles is really impressive but as I was reading it I couldn’t help but think  it reminded me of a late night info-mercial. But wait! It can also do this! Who would have guessed the amazing material of the future was going to be carbon.

When I was reading this article on the top 10 inventions of the Middle Ages, it occurred to me how big a role the church used to play in supporting science.

This is one very determined bear.

I’ve seen this guy’s work before. Willard Wigen makes microscopic sculptures.

Here is a nicely done cat close-up.

This is a rather bizarre story about a paralyzed man who was able to walk again after being bitten by a spider.

It’s nice spring is finally here but you know there are always some big storms ahead. Check out this tornado shot. Also this shot of what they can do.

Here is lightning of a different kind; from a volcano.

And finally, here is a nice collection of pictures of big cat families.

Competence

March 3rd, 2009

Here is an amusing article. I suppose it wouldn’t surprise anyone to find out incompetent people are unaware they are incompetent. I guess I did find the part about joke telling abilities a little surprising because getting a good laugh verses polite chuckles should be semi-obvious. Then again, a lot of it has to do with the quality of the joke and just not messing it up.

From MSNBC here is a list of 10 odd creatures. Now, I was familiar with most of those but have you seen the fish with a transparent head? How about a pink dolphin? Look at the size of this stingray! Look at the size of this wasp!

Just plain weird but I suppose not surprising are Japanese bug fights.

I liked the surreal clouds in this storm photo.

I linked to one of these the other day but here are more street art paintings. I think the lava one is the most impressive one I have seen yet. I suspect the artist had a sponsor for this one.

My sister and her husband went on a vacation a while back and my parents stayed at their house. We went to visit and at one point attempted to turn on the TV. It occurred to me everyone has integrated their speaker systems in such a way they are all custom and the only way to figure them out would be to follow the wires. I suppose some day we will just tell our computers to configure the systems to do what we want. This solution wouldn’t even work here but it’s kind of amusing.

I was just outside and it’s cold out there. Lucky for us the forecast is for nice spring-like temperatures late in the week.  Here is a nice photo to remind you of spring.

I got a laugh out of this.

Check out this TriceraCopter!

If you watch the TV show Mythbusters you’ll laugh at this.

The world’s largest salt flat, the Salar de Uyuni in Southwestern Bolivia is like standing on a gigantic mirror.

Imagine standing in a tunnel made out of 40,000 LEDs.

This is a funny video about how to “hack your old VCR”.

That’s one happy looking elephant.

This is pretty funny video of a dog dreaming but you have to feel a little sorry for the dog at the end.

In this video a person asks someone for directions. In the middle of the discussion they move a large picture between the two people having the conversation and change the person asking for directions. It was one thing when people didn’t notice the change with similar looking people but they didn’t notice when they changed to a different race or sex! Amazing! I suppose with the map and all the pointing, there are a lot of distractions.

My friend Matt sent me this video about everything is amazing but nobody is happy. It reminded me how you used to have to waste a lot of time going inside the gas station and wait in line when you bought gas. I wonder if I have put that  extra time to good use?

Here is a collection of photos of birds stealing ice cream. I didn’t realize birds liked ice cream.

And finally check out this cute video of a cat who adopted a rabbit.

The Creative Commons

February 25th, 2009

I imagine most of you have heard of  Flickr a popular photo sharing site. I have been learning Flash lately and although I have a couple of games in mind which are essentially re-writes of some small games I’ve written in the past, I keep thinking about writing a graphical point and click adventure. I suppose I was somewhat inspired by some of the ones I’ve played lately. Last week I spent a fair amount of time exploring the Creative Commons area of Flickr. The Creative Commons license specifies you can use an image or a derivative work and you only have to give credit to the submitter. I was very impressed by what I found there.

Actually what got me thinking about it was this article on ways to advance your photography skills. I think the article was well written and presented some interesting ideas. However, the other thing that struck me was the awesome images accompanying the article. I mean it’s a lot easier to take a nice picture when you are standing outside the back of the Taj Mahal during a summer sunset or near an ancient Hindu temple at sunset in the jungles of Indonesia. My travel plans are somewhat limited in accordance with my budget. I suppose it’s a lame excuse but I used to live in a very scenic area and now not-so-much and though I often look at my limited view of a nice sunset off to the west there is really nothing but laziness that prevents me from getting in the car and driving somewhere I can get a clear shot.

Also if you follow the link in the article to the more interesting photos from the last seven days (again at Flickr) and keep hitting the reload button. You will see tons of interesting stuff, some of which you likely may have been able to shoot in your local environment.

Getting back to the idea of writing a game though, most of those impressive graphical adventures involve really nice art which either has to be rendered in a 3D graphics program, drawn, or photographed. It occurred to me if I wanted a shot of an animal from say Borneo and they didn’t have one at the local zoo, I could search the Creative Commons and get one at no expense other than crediting the photographer in the game. There are some terrific exotic settings available there as well.

I get a lot of hits on my blog from search engines on Megan Fox because I mentioned her originally in some post about robotics and Transformers. Just for kicks, I typed “Megan Fox” into the Creative  Commons search at Flickr. I got this poster from a sequel to the original Transformers movie. I also found this photo and this one where she is covered but it may be a little too sexy if you are at work. It all reminded me of an old, slightly naughty, joke. I wish I could remember the comedian but he was comparing National Geographic with Playboy magazine and said they both were full of picture of exotic places he’d never get to go.

Ahhh, this is comfortable.

I got a laugh out of this.

I also got a chuckle out of this anti-theft lunch bag.

Who wouldn’t want a water-powered jetpack? Ouch, look at the price!

Apparently aerogel a super insulator, works well to clean up oil spills. They didn’t point it out but the aerogel is that fuzzy thing below the brick in the picture.

Heavy science warning; string theory may be experimentally testable after all. Even if the subject is over your head there is a cute picture there.

If you read that last one, you will probably find Is Time an Illusion interesting.

This next one is sciency (a term a friend of mine once used to describe my blog) but not real complicated. I first heard of the Lagrangian points when I was writing a paper in college on space colonization. They are places in space where the gravitational tug of the bodies of the solar system cancel out. So if you wanted to build a really big space station they would be a good place to put it. I guess it never occurred to me; there may be a bunch of stuff there already.

When I saw this photo I wondered if someone really shot it or it’s like the one I made in my 2D gallery of the woman dancing on the seat of the motorcycle jumping a cliff.

An electric company in Florida made a mistake and appliances exploded and sparks shot out of the walls of people’s homes.

Now that is a big rat!

This is a pretty cool machine which makes 3D images out of levitated ball bearings. Unfortunately the video is poor quality, at first especially; it’s difficult to see what is going on.

Modern Cave Painting.

A cat / lizard meeting.

I saw this article about politicians should wear the logos of their sponsors like NASCAR drivers before I found this image of what they would look like.

Batteries wrapped in solar cells; as they point out, that was obvious.

First I had floppy disks all over the house. Then it was CDs and now it’s DVDs. If they build a quarter size device which can hold as much as 250 DVDs, I don’t think I would need many.

I wonder where this otter got a video camera.

This is just strange.

You think you are having a tough day at work?

Here is a video on the science of cute.

And finally, also on the subject of cute, there is this and this.

Flash Physics

February 17th, 2009

Over the weekend we played with this Flash physics game called Roly-Poly Cannon. One of the things about physics simulators is they can be so open ended. That is what makes them fun but since you can’t totally predict what a user will do. I imagine you have to be pretty careful about writing your code so unexpected bugs don’t come up. After charging though all the levels of Roly-Poly Cannon, I went searching for other physics games and found this one called Flash Physics. It’s a very simple game with very simple graphics but we played it for quite a while until it just got too hard. There is a strange bug in the third level where the chain ‘breaks’ occasionally.

This is an interesting application which uses a web-cam and turns any brightly colored object into a controller for gaming. It’s called CamSpace.

Here is a collection of pictures of creative bench advertising.

Speaking of creativity, someone was full of it when they created this.

Having trouble keeping your baby in its playpen? I wouldn’t recommend this.

Matt sent me this link. It’s a compilation video of some extremely close calls and lucky events. Some are simply amazing.

There are more silly cat pictures here and here.

What’s cuter than a bunch of baby pandas?

I liked this dramatic shot of a horse statue in Las Vegas.

This was interesting. Scientists stop the aging process in mice livers.

Entropyman talks about thermodynamics. When I’m cleaning, I often think somewhere the universe is getting more disorganized to compensate.

My, what big ears you have!

This is a video of a bird catching a fish but from the perspective of the fish.

If you have learned to cross view you can see this illustration in 3D.

Here is a nice collection of Macro photographs. I think the ones with the water drops are really impressive.

This is another example of painting with light during a long time exposure.

That is one big bug!

Look at the teeth on this fish!

This is what video games were like in 1936.

Here is a very large collection of computer repair tools. My older machine used to be so stable but now it reboots when I go to back it up.

Not that this Earth isn’t cool but if there are one hundred billion trillion other ones out there, it’s a shame we won’t get to visit them.

The TED conference recently ended and the talks are online. In this one Woody Norris does some pretty interesting things with sound.

They don’t quite have the hang of it, but I got a laugh out of this video of foxes jumping on a trampoline.

And finally here is a collection of baby animals from National Geographic and also this collection of mothers and babies made me think even baby hippos are cute.