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June 30, 2007

Grenada's underwater sculpture garden

photo of the underwater sculpture garden

Here's a little bit of beauty for your weekend. Sculptor Jason Taylor has created a sculpture garden in Grenada, entirely under water. Taylor's works sit in about 20 feet of water, where they are slowly... slowly... being changed by the sea. Taylor's website has photos and videos of the sculpture, as well as the precise location in case you want to visit.

(Thanks pixelsumo)

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 10:41 PM | Comments (1)

June 28, 2007

The weather with David Lynch

photo of David Lynch

The best part of my morning commute happens at about 10 minutes before nine, when radio station Indie 103.1 does the the weather. That's because their weatherman is none other than idiosyncratic film director David Lynch.

Lynch's weather reports are, to say the least, unique. He gives a terse description of current conditions at his location.... which may or may not be Los Angeles... followed by a thought for the day... which may or may not make sense. Then he abruptly hangs up. Brilliant!

If you're in the L.A. area, tune in and catch it. If you're anywhere, you can catch the daily forecast on Lynch's website, davidlynch.com

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 09:48 PM | Comments (0)

June 27, 2007

Be your own spaceship

image of re-entry suit from Popular Science magazine

Over the decades I've known him, my good friend Dr. Foo has come up with more great plot ideas than a whole Hollywood Starbucks full of script writers. More than 20 years ago he had the idea of a new extreme sport for the ultra-rich... you go into orbit on the shuttle, don a space suit, hop out for a little bit of EVA, then strap a heat shield on your feet, fire the retro-rockets strapped to your back, plunge through the atmosphere, pop your parachute, and drop softly back into your back yard.

Now dammed if someone isn't thinking about doing it for real. Or at least something close to it. An article in the new issue of Popular Science lays out current work being done in the area. One company thinks they'll be able to offer sub-orbital parachute re-entry from 60 miles up within a couple of years, and at least one JPL engineer says there's no reason you couldn't design a spacesuit and personal heat shield that would allow a human to fall back all the way from full earth orbit.

Read the full article online right here.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 04:49 PM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2007

Happy 50th anniversary Frisbee!

Photo of a dog playing Frisbee. Photo CC licensed and available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/wausaublog/210385400/

An important day today. It was exactly 50 years ago (June 24, 1957) that Wham-O toys stopped calling their new plastic flying disc toys "Pluto Platters" and started calling them "Frisbees".

According to legend, the term Frisbee is derived from the Frisbie Bakery in New Haven, CT. Years before the plastic toys made their debut, students at Yale University would toss around empty metal pie plates from the bakery. (An original Frisbie Bakery pie tin is one of my most prized possessions).

The SJ Mercury News has an article on the name change.

(Photo by wausaublog/Flickr.com)

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 08:45 AM | Comments (0)

Floating light bulb

photo of Jeff Lieberman's floating light bulb

Looking for a art installation that is both elegant and possessed of a metaphor that even the most literally-minded art newbie can latch onto? Check out Jeff Lieberman's Lightbulb. Lieberman has created an incandescent lightbulb that floats...fully lit...in mid-air. It looks like magic, but it's actually clever electronics. (Though, come to think of it, if electronics isn't magic, then I don't know what is). The bulb is filled with LEDs that get power via induction, and the bulb itself floats via a combination of electromagnetism and Hall effect feedback.

Want to make your own? Lieberman has full technical details.

Tags: art  electronics

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 07:45 AM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2007

Sea Phantom

photo of the Sea Phantom

Coming soon to an ocean or lake near you... the most bad-ass boat ever. The Sea Phantom from Maritime Flight Dynamics tears across the water, being held just above the waves by shock-damped hydrofoils.

The designers predict they'll be able to routinely hit speeds of 100 MPH, without the high gas consumption and jarring and pounding of other high-performance boats.

And the thing looks so damn cool. It's the boat that Darth Vader would have. Or Kaizer Soze.

Maritime Flight Dynamics doesn't say what the Sea Phantom will cost. But if you have to ask, you can't afford it.

Tags: boats

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 10:00 PM | Comments (1)

Hear my talk on the best geo hacks of the last 2000 years

Me (Chris Spurgeon) speaking at the Where2.0 conference.  Thanks to James Duncan Davidson/O'Reilly Media for the photo

Last year I gave a talk at the Where2.0 conference on the best geo-hacks of the past 2,000 years. I got to turn people on to things like Cassini's mapping of the moons of Jupiter, Polynesian navigation, and the genius behind the map of the London Underground.

Now the popular podcasting site IT Conversations has made the full audio of the talk available for free listening and download. Enjoy!

(Thanks to James Duncan Davidson/O'Reilly Media for the photo of me speaking at Where2.0).

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 09:38 PM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2007

Lunar-resonant streetlights

diagram of lunar-resonant streetlights in action

Each year Metropolis magazine sponsors a competition to locate an up and coming young design firm. This year the magazine's competition was all about energy conservation, and the winner was a San Francisco-based design collective called Civil Twilight.

Their winning design is a clever innovation called lunar-resonant streetlights. They're streetlights that automatically dim throughout the month as the moon gets brighter. The scheme reduces streetlight energy use by more than 80%. All well and good. But the really great thing about it is how it brings the moon back into urban life.


Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 11:45 PM | Comments (0)

Largest island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island

island in a lake photo

The largest island in the world is Greenland, the largest lake in the world is the Caspian Sea. But what about the largest lake that's on an island? Or the biggest island in the middle of a lake? This webpage takes those types of questions to the obsessive-compulsive extreme, eventually identifying the largest island on earth that's in a lake, that's situated on an island, that happens to be in a lake, that itself is located on an island.


Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 12:52 PM | Comments (4)

June 15, 2007

Processing: The Book

cover of Processing book

Time and time again in the past few years, when I've seen a jaw-droppingly beautiful work of interactive video art and then asked the artist how they did it, I've received a one word answer... "Processing".

Processing is a programming language...a little like Java, but easier to learn and use...that is uniquely suited to manipulating audio and video. It was developed by interactive media artists at MIT and UCLA and has been championed by digital media heavyweights like Ben Fry, John Maeda, and Casey Reas. Word has spread about Processing, and its use is starting to reach a critical mass, just the way Photoshop did for graphic designers 20 years ago. Right now, in art school dorm rooms and computer labs, an army of inspired, sleep-deprived students...the next generation of video artists... are hacking together all sorts of stunning digital assaults on our senses, all because of the Processing language.

And all of this has happened despite the fact that there's no book on Processing. At least, there wasn't until now. Just last week I got my copy of Processing: Creative Coding and Computational Art by Ira Greenberg, and it's a great work. The book lays out the basics and intricacies of the language, but it does it with an artist's sensibility (which makes sense, given that Greenberg is both an artist and a professor... who happens to hold joint appointments in both the art and computer science departments at his college).

I'm thoroughly enjoying hacking together stuff with this book's help, and I those of you are there who are fellow computer artists will too. You may wind up bleary-eyed, but your computer screen will look amazing.

(Speaking of amazing, the stunningly beautiful iTunes music visualizer
Magnetosphere was developed in Processing.)

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 04:51 PM | Comments (0)


screenshot of Magnetosphere in action

Here's a little bit o'beauty for your weekend. The folks at barbarian software have just released a iTunes visualizer called Magnetosphere, and it's already getting rave reviews for its haunting, hypnotic display.

Magnetosphere pulses and flows in perfect synch to your music. Grab the free download, install it, watch a few songs and you may find yourself never needing to watch another music video.

By the way, Magnetosphere was developed in the Processing programming language, which is rapidly becoming the tool for artists who use video display as their canvas. See the adjoining post for info on the first comprehensive book on Processing.

(Thanks O'Reilly Radar)

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 04:27 PM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2007

Robot faces of the future

photo of Meiji University's Kansei robot

I've written before about the work being done to make robots more empathetic and easy to get along with. There's some interesting work in this area going on right now at Meiji University in Japan. Their experimental robot, Kansei, is designed to exhibit facial expressions appropriate to the words it hears. (We humans do this type of thing all the time. During conversation, we're constantly tweaking our expression in tiny ways that indicate interest and empathy to the speaker).

Kansei recognizes about half a million words, and will tweak its facial expression to match the conversation it hears. This YouTube video shows that we still have a long way to go in this area, but it's interesting nevertheless.


Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 07:33 AM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2007

Remix the London 2012 Olympics logo

London 2012 logo

Yesterday the folks behind the London 2012 Olympic Games unveiled the Games' logo, and it's faced an assault of derision from the first moment (Check out some recent news coverage). And at first glance it is absolutely butt-ugly. But it may be worth reserving judgement for a while.

The London 2012 folks want the public to create their own variations on the logo (they've even provided some starter templates). They've already posted some examples of art based on the logo. With five more years to go, there's plenty of time for your entry too. Who knows? Maybe, just maybe, the logo could turn into a cool, multi-year, multi-national cooperative art project.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 06:24 AM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2007

LOLcode classes now forming at Machine Project

cover of LOLCode book

OMG! Just when you thought the LA-based art space Machine Project couldn't blur the boundaries between art, culture, and the hacker/maker world any further, they announce this... a course on basic computer programming taught in LOLCODE.

LOLCODE is, as I'm sure you all know, a computer language based on the way cats in LOLCATS pictures speak. Here's a typical program...

	UP VAR!!1

...obviously a mastery of this newest computer language is a quick, sure path to that pile of stock options you've been dreaming of. So, don't delay! Machine Project's one day course on June 16th is free, but pre-registration and a 12-pack beer donation are required. Full details on the Machine Project website.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 09:24 PM | Comments (0)

June 03, 2007

The coming explosion of Second Life books

cover of Designing Your Second Life

If you were looking for a book to help you make sense of Second Life, you've only had one choice (though it's a good one), Second Life, The Official Guide.

But now it looks like we're going to be ass-deep in SL books within the next few months. I've particularly intrigued by Designing Your Second Life a forthcoming book that will help you make sure your avatar is particularly beautiful, and that your virtual home is particularly stunning.

Tara Anna, who actually runs a bookstore within Second Life, put up this page on Amazon running down the forthcoming Second Life book releases.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 07:19 AM | Comments (0)