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Saturday, February 23, 2013

One baby band

One baby band:

By Joey Angerone, of his 9 month old baby Quentin. (via Laughing Squid, thanks Joe Sabia!)

World's largest panorama: London

World's largest panorama: London:

Jeffrey sez, "I spent the last 4 months stitching 48 THOUSAND images together into a single panorama which lets you see things up to about 15 miles away.

This image is about 4 times larger than the previous world record image, a 114-gigapixel image of Shanghai (at the time incorrectly labeled as 271 gigapixels)

The panorama was shot from the top of BT Tower, using 4 cameras, lenses, and robots for moving the cameras. Three photographers using about $100,000 of gear spent 5 days up there. Ultimately we used 1 set of images which was shot over 90 minutes.

Stitching was done on two workstations with 192GB and 256GB of RAM, using Kolor Autopano Giga stitching software.

Sadly, the software choked on the gigantic dataset, and the stitching work ended up taking about 3 months longer than planned. This took a serious toll on my mental health. I am extremely happy to be finally putting this image out to the public and letting it see the light of day.

Of course there are errors in the image. In the end we had to deliver it to the client with a deadline which had already slipped by months. At any rate, there are FAR fewer errors in the image that I expected.

I hope you enjoy it. Can anyone find the pig?"

BT Tower 360 Panorama of London

(Thanks, Jeffrey!)

Friday, February 22, 2013

The semiotics of Double Dragon

[Good stuff. My new knowledge about the sociological effects of leaded gasoline seems to be coloring how I read a lot of things these days. -egg]
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The semiotics of Double Dragon

Finally, someone has written the in-depth article about the cultural ethos of classic 1980s beat-em-up Double Dragon. Dan Whitehead:

Like its closest peers—namely Renegade and Streets Of Rage—Double Dragon represents the vigilante myth at its most naked and vicious. In brief: The hero is a square-jawed white guy, clad in a blue-collar uniform of wifebeater and sleeveless denim jacket. ... It's the Reagan-era fantasy in a nutshell—the "one good man" of frontier myth updated for a world of crack dens and moral sleaze, taking down feral street punks with a bone-crunching kick to the face rather than a six-shooter.

A great article. However, I'm going to be that guy and suggest that he's not quite nailed the time period. Double Dragon was more a delayed echo of gritty 70s crime flicks such as Death Wish and The Warriors than Reagan-era neon paranoia (in arcades: Narc). Likewise, Double Dragon's elements of mysticism were more akin to Roger Moore Bond movies and kung-fu exploitation flicks than the contemporaneous Big Trouble in Little China. The lurid late-eighties glow--as resurrected in a 2012 reboot that owes as much to Ninja Turtles cartoons as the original game--only became the focus with the movie and later franchising. And this stuff about corn-fed Skynyrd types fighting urban america to the death? Not sure about that at all.

How it saddens me that Charles Bronson was not recalled from advanced retirement to play the the bad guy in a modern, Tarantino-esque Double Dragon film.

Graphene supercapacitors could make batteries obsolete

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Graphene supercapacitors could make batteries obsolete

A battery can hold a lot of energy, but it takes a long time to charge it. A capacitor can be charged very quickly, but doesn't hold a comparable amount of energy.

A graphene supercharger is the best of both: it takes just seconds to charge, yet stores a lot of energy. Imagine being able to charge your spent laptop or phone battery in 30 seconds, and your electric car in a few minutes. Also, unlike batteries, Graphene supercapacitors are non-toxic.

The Nobel Prize was awarded to the inventors of Graphene in 2010. Wikipedia defines Graphene as a "substance composed of pure carbon, with atoms arranged in a regular hexagonal pattern similar to graphite, but in a one-atom thick sheet. It is very light, with a 1-square-meter sheet weighing only 0.77 milligrams."

(via Tony Moore at the Boing Boing G+ community)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Music For Shuffle sketch #15 (by Matt Brown)“Been playing...

[This is a generative music approach I've thought a lot about but haven't ever tried to implement. Cool stuff. -egg]
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Music For Shuffle sketch #15 (by Matt Brown)
“Been playing...

Music For Shuffle sketch #15 (by Matt Brown)
“Been playing around with Unity a bit. It’s got amazing potential as a musical tool. So far, I’ve not done much – I made a crappy little room you can walk around. All the coloured objects and surfaces have loops of music attached to them, so you can go and listen to things by walking up to them, or whatever.”

Misguided Nostalgia for Our Paleo Pasts - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education

[I think she's partly battling strawmen here, but it's an interesting article. -egg]

Tortured junk-food pushers bare all

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Tortured junk-food pushers bare all

A long, investigative feature on junk food, health and the processed food industry in yesterday's NYT consists primarily of interviews with tortured and semi-tortured junk food scientists and execs who have perfected the art of getting you to eat food that makes you sick. It's quite a read:

Eventually, a line of the trays, appropriately called Maxed Out, was released that had as many as nine grams of saturated fat, or nearly an entire day's recommended maximum for kids, with up to two-thirds of the max for sodium and 13 teaspoons of sugar.

When I asked Geoffrey Bible, former C.E.O. of Philip Morris, about this shift toward more salt, sugar and fat in meals for kids, he smiled and noted that even in its earliest incarnation, Lunchables was held up for criticism. "One article said something like, 'If you take Lunchables apart, the most healthy item in it is the napkin.' "

Well, they did have a good bit of fat, I offered. "You bet," he said. "Plus cookies."

The prevailing attitude among the company's food managers — through the 1990s, at least, before obesity became a more pressing concern — was one of supply and demand. "People could point to these things and say, 'They've got too much sugar, they've got too much salt,' " Bible said. "Well, that's what the consumer wants, and we're not putting a gun to their head to eat it. That's what they want. If we give them less, they'll buy less, and the competitor will get our market. So you're sort of trapped." (Bible would later press Kraft to reconsider its reliance on salt, sugar and fat.)

Here's another good bit:

To get a better feel for their work, I called on Steven Witherly, a food scientist who wrote a fascinating guide for industry insiders titled, "Why Humans Like Junk Food." I brought him two shopping bags filled with a variety of chips to taste. He zeroed right in on the Cheetos. "This," Witherly said, "is one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure." He ticked off a dozen attributes of the Cheetos that make the brain say more. But the one he focused on most was the puff's uncanny ability to melt in the mouth. "It's called vanishing caloric density," Witherly said. "If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there's no calories in it . . . you can just keep eating it forever."

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food [NYT/Michael Moss]

(Image: Snakes?, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) ima...

I Can't Let You Do That, Dave: when we design computers to boss us around

I Can't Let You Do That, Dave: when we design computers to boss us around:
My latest Publishers Weekly column, "I Can't Let You Do That, Dave," is a look at the dangers of redesigning our computers to boss us around instead of doing what they're told and trying to help us:

Contrary to what’s been written in some quarters, Aaron Swartz didn’t attempt to download those journal articles because “information wants to be free.” No one cares what information wants. He was almost certainly attempting to download those articles because they were publicly funded scholarship that was not available to the public. They were scientific and scholarly truths about the world, information that the public paid for and needs in order to make informed choices about their lives and their governance. Fighting for information’s freedom isn’t the point. It’s people’s freedom that matters.

All of which makes the publishing community’s embrace of DRM and its advocacy for badly written, overly broad legislation to support DRM, fraught with peril. Since Frankenstein, writers and thinkers have recoiled in visceral horror at the idea of technology overpowering its creators. But when we actively build businesses that require censorship, surveillance, and control to thrive, we make a Frankenstein’s monster out of the devices that fill our pockets and homes, and the network that binds them all together.

I Can't Let You Do That, Dave

Wasa: the psychedelic animated overlay that "Whassup?" needed all along

Wasa: the psychedelic animated overlay that "Whassup?" needed all along:

Mathias Lachal remade the classic Budweiser "Wassup" ad. The new video, dubbed "Wasa," is a gorgeous, psychedelic animation triumph that must be seen. This is exactly what this video needed all along.


(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Google Glass demo video

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Google Glass demo video

This promotional video apparently demonstrates the Google Glass experience. The video itself reminds me of one of Hollywood's cliche friends-having-fun-day-out montage, only this one doesn't end with a pillow fight. Probably because it might damage the Google Glass.

Soccer match-rigging, straight out of a Gibson novel

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Soccer match-rigging, straight out of a Gibson novel

Here's a brutal, must-read article from Brian Phillips detailing the bizarre, globalized game of soccer-match-rigging, which launders its influence, money and bets through countries all over the world, in what sounds like an intense, sport-themed LARP of a William Gibson Sprawl novel:

Right now, Dan Tan's programmers are busy reverse-engineering the safeguards of online betting houses. About $3 billion is wagered on sports every day, most of it on soccer, most of it in Asia. That's a lot of noise on the big exchanges. We can exploit the fluctuations, rig the bets in a way that won't trip the houses' alarms. And there are so many moments in a soccer game that could swing either way. All you have to do is see an Ilves tackle in the box where maybe the Viikingit forward took a dive. It happens all the time. It would happen anyway. So while you're running around the pitch in Finland, the syndicate will have computers placing high-volume max bets on whatever outcome the bosses decided on, using markets in Manila that take bets during games, timing the surges so the security bots don't spot anything suspicious. The exchanges don't care, not really. They get a cut of all the action anyway. The system is stacked so it's gamblers further down the chain who bear all the risks.

What's that — you're worried about getting caught? It won't happen. Think about the complexity of our operation. We are organized in Singapore, I flew from Budapest, the match is in Finland, we're wagering in the Philippines using masked computer clusters from Bangkok to Jakarta. Our communications are refracted across so many cell networks and satellites that they're almost impossible to unravel. The money will move electronically, incomprehensibly, through a hundred different nowheres. No legal system was set up to handle this kind of global intricacy. The number of intersecting jurisdictions alone is dizzying. Who's going to spot the crime? Small-town police in Finland? A regulator in Beijing? Each of them will only see one tiny part of it. How would they ever know to talk to each other? Dan Tan has friends in high places; extradition requests can find themselves bogged down in paperwork. Witnesses can disappear. I promise; you'll be safe. Who can prove you didn't see a penalty? We're fine.

Best part? Pro soccer is so corrupt that they don't give a damn, despite the fact that there is no game there, just a network of frauds that may exceed $1B:

Let me answer that question by referring you to the phrase that I hope will be your primary takeaway from this piece. Soccer. Is. Fucked. Europol announced the investigation Monday, leaving everyone with the impression that this was an ongoing operation designed to, you know, stop a criminal, ma...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Scientists compare soda to a ‘ruthlessly efficient bioweapon’

Scientists compare soda to a ‘ruthlessly efficient bioweapon’:
The health advocacy organization Center for Science in the Public Interest is petitioning the FDA to limit the amount of sugar in soft drinks ”to safe levels consistent with authoritative recommendations.” Its position is that the quantity of sugar manufacturers put in soft drinks has become so large that it’s basically poisoning people.
“As currently formulated, Coke, Pepsi, and other sugar-based drinks are unsafe for regular human consumption,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson.  “Like a slow-acting but ruthlessly efficient bioweapon, sugar drinks cause obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.  The FDA should require the beverage industry to re-engineer their sugary products over several years, making them safer for people to consume, and less conducive to disease.”
Yes, that sounds extreme when you first read it (and if you’ve seen statements by the CSPI before you’ll notice they like to use a little shock value to draw attention to health issues). However, their point is actually a valid one. As Yale’s Dr. David Katz has pointed out, sugar is one of many substance where the “dose makes the poison.”
The notion that sugar is a “poison” was established when a lecture by Dr. Robert Lustig espousing that view went viral.

While the construction of alarming tables and figures demonstrating the calamitous effects of sugar (and specifically, fructose — Dr. Lustig’s particular nemesis) can be defended with legitimate science, it is nonetheless something of a distortion. Even more calamitous pathways could be mapped out for oxygen, which in excess is not just highly toxic, but lethal in rather short order. Oxygen, per se, is not poison of course. The dose makes the poison.
So, too, for sugar — including fructose. Our excessive consumption of it is the poison.
Basically what Katz and the CSPI are saying is that a modest amount of sugar isn’t going to harm anyone, but many people are currently eating (or drinking) way too much of it. The CSPI illustrates this by pointing out that while the American Heart Association recommends that women take in no more than 6 grams of added sugar a day and men no more than 9 grams, one sweetened 20-ounce soda contains 15 grams of sugar, far more than either recommendation. And that’s causing all sorts of health problems.
The bottom line for Weighthackers is that, because food companies are loading up their products with sugar so they can sell more of them and not because they’re good for you, it’s up to you to be aware of what’s in the things you’re eating and drinking. If you like soda, consider getting something like a Sodastream so you, not Coke or Pepsi, can decide what goes in your drink. That way you can keep your sugar intake under bioweapon levels.
The post Scientists compare soda to a ‘ruthlessly efficient bioweapon’ appeared first on Weighthacker.

Monday, February 18, 2013