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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On the history of books bound in human flesh

On the history of books bound in human flesh:

From "the chirurgeon's apprentice," a fascinating and squick-inducing blog/website devoted to chronicling "the horrors of pre-anaesthetic surgery," an entry about the history of books bound in tanned human skin. Snip from details about the image shown above:
And then there were books which claimed to be made from the human flesh but were, in fact, not. One example comes from the Wellcome Collection in London [left]. It is a curious little notebook which professes to be ‘made of Tanned skin of the Negro whose Execution caused the War of Independence’. Presumably, this refers to Crispus Attucks, a dockworker of Wampanoag who was the first person killed by the British during the Boston Massacre. Immediately following his death, Attucks was held up as an American martyr. As a consequence of its alleged origins, this notebook has become a symbol of the American Revolution.

More. And if you enjoy tweets about 17th-century surgery, you'll want to follow Lindsey Fitzharris, the medical historian behind the "Chirurgeon’s Apprentice" website. (via Vaughan Bell)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Algorithms for smart sand that sculpts itself

Algorithms for smart sand that sculpts itself:
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Above is an example a "smart pebble," outfitted with a microprocessor and magnets, that MIT researchers are using to prototype algorithms for "smart sand" that could form into any shape. Sure, it's early days. But still! Smart sand! From MIT:
 Newsoffice Images Article Images Original 20120330135859-2

At the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in May — the world’s premier robotics conference — (MIT's Distributed Robotics Laboratory) researchers will present a paper describing algorithms that could enable such “smart sand.” They also describe experiments in which they tested the algorithms on somewhat larger particles — cubes about 10 millimeters to an edge, with rudimentary microprocessors inside and very unusual magnets on four of their sides.
Unlike many other approaches to reconfigurable robots, smart sand uses a subtractive method, akin to stone carving, rather than an additive method, akin to snapping LEGO blocks together. A heap of smart sand would be analogous to the rough block of stone that a sculptor begins with. The individual grains would pass messages back and forth and selectively attach to each other to form a three-dimensional object; the grains not necessary to build that object would simply fall away. When the object had served its purpose, it would be returned to the heap. Its constituent grains would detach from each other, becoming free to participate in the formation of a new shape.

"Self-sculpting sand"

Projected tiger has golden 2D run through Paris

Projected tiger has golden 2D run through Paris:
Click here to view the embedded video.

via Laughing Squid