June 24, 2012

The origami artist vs. the painter

Photo of Sarah Morris paintings

So often copyright cases are easy… an underdog citizen on one side, a huge corporation and evil unfair current copyright law on the other. But here's a copyright dispute where it's possible to be sympathetic to both sides.

Robert Lang is perhaps the greatest living origami artist. He's pushed the bounds of this ancient art and is the creator of numerous works that will make you say "I can't BELIEVE that's a single piece of folded paper!" (See for yourself).

Lang begins many of his projects by creating a crease pattern…a diagram showing how to fold a piece of paper to achieve the desired end product. (Here's a sample of some of Lang's crease patterns). The patterns themselves are attractive works of art -- intricate grids of lines dividing and re-dividing the paper into smaller and smaller regions.

Enter painter Sarah Morris. She saw Lang's crease patterns and used them as the basis for a series of large brightly-colored abstract paintings.

Lang says Sarah Morris ripped off his work. Morris says nonsense, that while she used the crease patterns as a jumping off point her finished paintings are unique independent works. In the words of copyright law, Morris maintains that her canvases are "transformative" works and therefore she did not infringe on the copyright Lang holds on his crease patterns.

Lang disagrees, and is suing Morris.

What do YOU think?

(via Make magazine and kpcc.org).


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Posted by Chris Spurgeon June 24, 2012 03:07 PM Permalink 

June 17, 2012

The streaking sky seen from the ISS

photo of the earth and stars from the International Space Station

Here's a bit of beauty to finish off your weekend.

The International Space Station zips around the Earth day in and day out, streaking across the sky at about 17,000 miles per hour. Don Pettit is one of six astronauts currently on the ISS, and in his spare moments he's been making some beautiful photos that capture that streaky flight.

Pettit typical takes 30 second exposures of the passing earth, and then stacks multiple exposures into single finished images.

Check them out on the Fast Company design blog.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon June 24, 2012 03:07 PM Permalink 

June 15, 2012

Zach Lieberman's poem to the endless frustration and reward of interactive art

photo from Zach Lieberman and Golan Levin's REFACE project. Photo lifted from http://thesystemis.com/projects/reface/

At the just-concluded eyeo festival in Minnesota, renowned interactive artist Zach Lieberman gave a moving poetic address to all those flailing in the vaguely defined constantly changing world of interactive art. A world rife with "memory leaks, compiler error, uninitialized variable, lighting, bad lighting, someone trips on a cable, plugged into the wrong socket, don't have the right adapters, projector is broken, missing flights, getting lost, loosing stuff, batteries run out, logic errors and syntax errors."

He did a great job inspiring everyone in the room. Read the whole thing, and be re-inspired too. Here's an excerpt…

this is a love letter to those who are on the frontlines, and if you are not on the frontlines, an invitation to join us. What I say to students is the world is hungry for ideas. We need you.

This is A love letter to those who are conquering quaternions, who are mastering matricies, who are decoupling and recoupling, who are soldering with their right hand, eating a sandwich with their left hand, on hold with digikey, to those who are writing code in taxis, who are pulling from git in the airport, whose hotel rooms and office rooms and bedrooms look like warzones, to those who are in the zone, out of the zone, trying to find the zone - to the countless hours of determination, will power, and ingenuity that go into working with this medium.

and so I say: go.

press play.

compile.

turn on the power, turn off the lights, turn on the lights, open the curtain, open the doors, start the show, invite people, post the video, send the link, push the code to git, hit save, hit run, run with it.

go with it.

go.

what is the worst that can happen?

Zach's posted the full thing on github (which BTW may be a first, using github as a repository for an inspirational address).

If you want to learn more about the great work of Zach Lieberman and his collaborators, check out his site at thesystemis.com.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon June 24, 2012 03:07 PM Permalink 

July 17, 2011

Can this monkey copyright his self portrait?

monkey self portrait

There's a wonderful kerfuffle going on right now around this photo. It's a self portrait, taken by a macaque monkey in Indonesia, shortly after the monkey nipped the camera of nature photographer David Slater (evidently the monkey accidentally snapped the shots while looking at its reflection in the lens). By itself the pictures are charming, but then the question arose, who owns the copyright to the photos?

The company that distributes Slater's work, Cater News Agency, wasted no time in claiming the copyright. But not so fast! The website TechDirt posted an essay pointing out that by default the photographer of a picture holds the original copy. Which in this case would be the monkey. But in many nation's copyright laws (including the US) it specifically that copyright applies only to works made by humans. So maybe no one holds the copyright.

Of course, Cater News Agency is adamantly against that point of view, photo agency's business model being based on strong copyright enforcement.

Art Info has all of the details.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon June 24, 2012 03:07 PM Permalink 

June 02, 2011

Top Ten new species of the year

photo of a new species of mushroom

Every year scientists discover something like 15,000 new species. Among those discovered last year are a new species of bacteria found clinging to the railing of the Titanic, a six-foot long fruit eating lizard found in a forest in the Philippines, and the Brazilian mushroom pictured here that glows with a bright greenish light.

The International Institute for Species Exploration has a photo gallery of the top ten new species of the year.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon June 24, 2012 03:07 PM Permalink 

May 30, 2011

Robot Film Festival

logo for the robot film festival
The slow steady takeover of all humanity by robots continues apace. They're all over outer space, becoming an ever bigger part of medicine, they're rocking the dance floor from one end of Japan to the other, and now they're getting their own film festival.

The Robot Film Festival is the brainchild of roboticist Heather Knight (who also has one of the coolest website names ever, Marilyn Monrobot dot com). The festival (which will be held July 16th & 17th in New York City) is still looking for submissions. Got a bot that dreams of being the next Clark Gable (or better yet, the first Calculon)? Submit a film! The films should be between 1 and 8 minutes long, and should feature a robot as one of the main characters or as a framing devices of the narrative.

You don't need to use a real robot, but you'll need to be able to attend the event with, or as, your robot if you want to take part in the Festival's red carpet award ceremony, known as the Botskers.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon June 24, 2012 03:07 PM Permalink 

May 29, 2011

Just Cause death video

still from Just Cause 2 death movie

Here's a brief bit of data visualization goodness for you all. Jim Blackhurst works for the company that makes the video game Just Cause 2 and his job gives him access to tons of (anonymized) data about the game. He took the three-dimensional coordinates marking where in the game more than nine million players died, and (with some help from the Processing programming language) used the data to create a haunting video showing the locations of all the carnage. Here's the video on You Tube. And if you want all of the geeky details on how the video was made, Blackhurst explains the whole process.

Thanks to Infovore for the tip.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon June 24, 2012 03:07 PM Permalink 

May 19, 2011

The turbine of BLOOD

photo of a pacemaker about to be implanted

While it's true that heart pacemakers have saved or improved millions of lives (not to mention qualifying millions of people for cyborg status) they do have downsides. High among them is the fact that pacemaker batteries eventually run down, requiring a surgical procedure to remove the old pacemaker and replace it with a fully charged one.

But what if the body itself could provide the electrical power the pacemaker needs? That's the novel approach being taken by a team at the University of Bern in Switzerland. They're developing a mini electric turbine that can be embedded in a major artery. As blood rushes past it turns the turbine generating more than enough electrical energy to keep the pacemaker fully charged. (In case you want the work details, a beating human produces between 1 and 1.5 watts of hydraulic power. The turbine only needs about a milliwatt to operate. It'll generate 800 micro-watts of electricity, and the pacemaker only uses about 10 micro-watts. (Which I guess leaves 790 micro-watts for our Matrix machine overlords)).

There are still details to be worked out (the biggest being making sure that clots don't form in the turbine) but it's a cool idea. Hell, I'd be up for a turbine in my thoracic artery just for the steam-punk cred of it. Details about the turbine here.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon June 24, 2012 03:07 PM Permalink 

May 17, 2011

Fixing Boston's potholes

data output from street bump

Man, do roads in Boston suck. I swear there are streets when it seems new potholes form in front of you as you drive, like some sort of cruel video game come to life. The city wages a constant war against fixing the potholes, but even just finding them all is a huge task.

To help with that, the city of Boston has rolled out an Android phone app called Street Bump. The app automatically records GPS and accelerator information and sends it on to the city. The idea is that if enough phones record sudden jolts at the same spot there's a good chance there's a pothole there.

Unfortunately, so far the results are mixed, and the data isn't doing a good enough job finding potholes. But they're not ready to give up yet. Boston's offering a prize of US$25,000 to the person who can use the existing data and do a better job predicting where in the cities the potholes are. If you'd like to try, here are the official rules.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon June 24, 2012 03:07 PM Permalink 

May 10, 2011

Technology Life Skills

photo of woman by Jenny Lee Silver. Used via a Creative Commons license

There may be no one who's thought more deeply, and from more different perspectives, about technology than Kevin Kelly.He's a founder of Wired, written books on everything from the history of technology to emergent complexity.

Kelly's written a practical set of rules for negotiating the ever changing technological landscape. Among his guidelines:

You will be newbie forever. Get good at the beginner mode, learning new programs, asking dumb questions, making stupid mistakes, soliticting help, and helping others with what you learn
Nobody has any idea of what a new invention will really be good for. To evaluate don't think, try.

Read the full list here.

Photo "Learning" by Jenny Lee Silver made available under a Creative Commons license. Original and details here. Thanks!

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon June 24, 2012 03:07 PM Permalink 

Arranging the names on the 9/11 Memorial

Names from the 9/11 Memorial
This autumn a new memorial commemorating the September 11th terrorist attacks will open at the Ground Zero site in New York City. The memorial will feature the names of the 3,500 victims of the attacks, and THAT led to quite a technical challenge.

It would have been easy to just arrange the names in alphabetical order. But the designers wanted the names arranged by affinity... so friends would be listed together, as would co-workers, colleagues, etc. Families of the victims submitted nearly 2,000 different requests for names to be placed next to other names.

The task of arranging the names fell to designer and vizualization expert Jer Thorp. There's an article on how he did it on fastcompany.com.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon June 24, 2012 03:07 PM Permalink 

April 30, 2011

Star Wars meets Jean-Paul Sartre

Star Wars with Jean-Paul Sartre subtitle

It's well known that George Lucas used a a number of central themes from mythology when he created Star Wars.

But what if he had taken a different tack? What if he turned to...wait for it...French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre? The results might have been a little like this series of Star Wars clips. The sub-titles are all direct quotes from Sartre's works. Enjoy!

Thanks facilegestures.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon June 24, 2012 03:07 PM Permalink 

April 28, 2011

How to make an hourglass

photograph of hourglass being made

Here's a bit of beauty for your weekend. This lovely little video shows the step-by-step process of making an ultra high end hourglass. If you have US$28,500 you can pick one up from Marc Newson. If not, spend a tranquil three minutes watching one of these masterpieces taking shape.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon June 24, 2012 03:07 PM Permalink 

Search for extraterrestrial life put on hold

photograph of the Allen Large Array telescopes
I was sad to learn that budget problems has brought to a (hopefully temporary) end to the search for extra-terrestrial life. For more than two years the SETI Institute has used an array of radio telescopes in California to signals from distant stars that may be generated by some alien form of intelligent life.

Funding for the day to day operation of the telescopes comes...or came... from the University of California via grants from the National Science Foundation and the state of California. But now those grants have been slashed to a tiny fraction of the US$2.5 million dollars needed to run the array each year. As a result, UC has had no choice but to shut down operations.

Continue reading "Search for extraterrestrial life put on hold"

Posted by Chris Spurgeon June 24, 2012 03:07 PM Permalink 

April 26, 2011

The most expensive book on flies EVER

screen shot from Amazon, taken from Michael Eisen's It's Not Junk blog

You may have missed this, but for a little while earlier this year one of the most expensive science books in the world was a little known work called "The Making of a Fly" by Peter Lawrence. At least that's what a couple of book sellers on Amazon.com thought. It turns out both of these sellers have automatic systems in place that notice the price competitors have quoted for a book, and then adjust their price accordingly. In the case of "The Making of a Fly" two sellers were trapped in a feedback loop where each one set their prices based on the other's price. This process ran unchecked for who knows how many days before the book (which had an original list price of US$70) reached the insane level of over two million (US) dollars.

Evolutionary biologist Michael Eisen credits a postdoc in his lab with first noticing this craziness, and bringing it to his attention. Eisen tracked the climb in price day by day and he's written up a fascinating blog post analyzing the automated algorithms at work here.

Lessons to be drawn from this innocent run amuck process in light of the huge tangle of automated stock trading systems running right now all around the world is left as an exercise for the reader.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon June 24, 2012 03:07 PM Permalink