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Friday, December 7, 2012

Yann Frisch will boggle your mind

[Some of the most incredible sleight-of-hand I've ever, ever seen. -egg]

Yann Frisch will boggle your mind:

Yann Frisch is an amazing, young French magician. He's been winning awards and entertaining folks the world over.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Headless photographs of the 19th century

Headless photographs of the 19th century: Headlessss
NewImageI was delighted by this collection of 19th century "headless photographs." These Victorian illusory photographs likely inspired the "Head Photographer" self-portrait made by my late brother Mark in 1973. (Thanks, Randall!)



If you want to introduce a kid (or yourself!) to CAD (computer aided design), Tinkercad is by far the easiest and most fun way to begin. Today I mentioned to my 10-year-old that our CNC machine would soon be up and running. He asked what a CNC could do, and I said one example would be to carve a battlefield out of stiff foam for Warhammer figures.
That got his attention ;-) . He wanted to know how to tell the CNC what to do. I explained a bit about CAD, and showed him Tinkercad, giving the example of one cube that you could stretch and change.
Then I got busy with something else and left him to figure out Tinkercad himself. I came back an hour later and the below is what he’d designed. A ten-year-old. No training. One hour.

The green stuff we’re going to CNC out of a sheet of stiff foam. The rest we’ll probably 3D print on the Makerbot. It will take a weekend, but this could be our first 100% digital craft project.
This is an example of what I talk about in Makers: manufacturing technologies are getting so easy and cheap (even free) that anyone can use them. Kids today can grow up as fluent in CAD as they are in everything else on computers. Democratizing the tools of publishing brought us the Web. Just imagine what democratizing the tools of manufacturing will do.
We’ve used the previously reviewed Sketchup and Autodesk 123D, and both are great. But Tinkercad just runs in your Web browser and its simple interface disguises a very sophisticated cloud-based CAD engine.
-- Chris Anderson

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Computer classes should teach regular expressions to kids

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Computer classes should teach regular expressions to kids

My latest Guardian column is "Here's what ICT should really teach kids: how to do regular expressions," and it makes the case for including regular expressions in foundational IT and computer science courses. Regexp offer incredible power to normal people in their normal computing tasks, and we treat them as deep comp-sci, instead of something everyone should learn alongside typing.

I think that technical people underestimate how useful regexps are for "normal" people, whether a receptionist labouriously copy-pasting all the surnames from a word-processor document into a spreadsheet, a school administrator trying to import an old set of school records into a new system, or a mechanic hunting through a parts list for specific numbers.

The reason technical people forget this is that once you know regexps, they become second nature. Any search that involves more than a few criteria is almost certainly easier to put into a regexp, even if your recollection of the specifics is fuzzy enough that you need to quickly look up some syntax online.

Here's what ICT should really teach kids: how to do regular expressions

“On school-day mornings, I walk my grade-school-age son...

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"On school-day mornings, I walk my grade-school-age son...

"On school-day mornings, I walk my grade-school-age son 400 meters down the hill to the bus stop. Last winter, I fantasized about sitting at my computer while a camera-equipped drone followed him overhead.
 So this year, I set out to build one. For the basic airframe, I selected a quadcopter design for its maneuverability and ability to hover. Construction was straightforward: You can buy a quadcopter kit with all the pieces or, as I did, get parts separately and spend more time on system integration."

The DIY Kid-tracking Drone - IEEE Spectrum, via @justinpickard

Monday, December 3, 2012

Secret Password (5 Comments)

Secret Password (5 Comments):
''And look at the weird numbers I carved into the wall to prove you're not a robot.''

First comic of December! Such a significant milestone, we should throw a gigantic party! Eh, nevermind, that sounds like a lot of work.

The future of fuel has gone to sh*%.

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The future of fuel has gone to sh*%.

Everybody poops, including panda bears. (See about 0:35 in the above video for evidence.) But panda poop could turn out to be quite a bit more important than your average animal excrement. That's because scientists are "mining" it for bacteria that could help make better biofuel.

The key problem with biofuel today is that the stuff that's actually economical to produce — i.e., corn ethanol — isn't really that great for the environment. Corn farming uses a lot of fertilizer, water, and herbicide. Using corn that was previously grown for food to make fuel, instead, can lead to deforestation as people clear land to make up for the lost food farming. Some models of carbon dioxide emissions suggest that, by the time you factor in things like fossil-fuel derived fertilizers and the deforestation, a gallon of corn ethanol might not be any better for climate change than a gallon of gasoline. Not all the models agree on that. But even if corn ethanol produces fewer carbon emissions than gas, you still have to deal with the fact that growing nutrient-hungry corn on the same patch of ground over and over and over is really bad for local soil and water quality.

Cellulosic ethanol could be a much better alternative — particularly cellulosic ethanol made from native, perennial plants that don't require heavy inputs to thrive and actually improve the health of the land they're grown on. The problem: Converting those plants into fuel is, so far, a lot more expensive. Cellulose — the plant fiber that makes up things like stalks of bamboo and tall prairie grasses — is tough stuff and hard to break down.

That's where panda poop comes in. Pandas process tons of cellulose every day, right in their guts. Maybe the bacteria that work for them could work for us, too.

Read more about this research at Chemical and Engineering News

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Dog dressed as two dogs holding a present

Dog dressed as two dogs holding a present:
Dan Wrexham throws down the gauntlet: "If you've seen a better picture than this picture of a dog dressed as two dogs carrying a present, I don't believe you." I can't think of anything better.
Dog dressed as two dogs holding a present on Twitter via @willak via @Mike_FTW