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August 24, 2007

People who invent their own languages

screenshot of the Klingon language version of Google

There's a fascinating article in today's Los Angeles Times about people who invent their own languages. There are nearly 2,000 deliberately constructed languages (or "conlangs") out there...everything from Esperanto to Klingon(*) to languages known only to their inventors.

There's an amazing diversity in the motives of these language creators. The article profiles one woman who created her own language as a way to come to grips with her depression, others who want to speak a tongue that sounds just exactly right, and still others who make language from scratch as a way to learn more about the evolution of language.

(*)BTW the screenshot above is from the Klingon version of Google. Really, I'm not kidding. Go to the Google preferences page and change the Interface Language.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 09:01 AM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2007

Keepon rocks the house

still image from Keepon's video with Spoon

Back in March I wrote about the tiny robot Keepon as a harbinger of the next generation of robots...ones that are friendly, empathetic, and generally a pleasure to be around.

Now it turns out that Keepon isn't just adorable, he's a rock star! Check him out co-starring with the rock band Spoon in the music video of their song "Don't You Evah". Check it out on beatbots.org.

And catch Keepon and Spoon performing live in LA on September 10th, as part of the Wired NextFest.

Tags: Keepon  robots

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 12:24 AM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2007

The Seven Fortean Wonders of the World

photo of Easter Island available via Creative Commons at http://www.flickr.com/photos/vtveen/369744210/

Last month's unveiling of 7 New Wonders of the World has inspired the Charles Fort Institute to kick off their own search for their own Seven Wonders.

The Fort Institute specialize in studying the odd, unusual and unexplained, and they reckon the world has plenty of strange and wonderful places worthy of recognition (the statues of Easter Island pictured above are just one possibility).

Got a nomination? You've got 'til the end of September to let the Fort Institute know about it.

(Photo by vtveen/flickr.com)

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 12:02 AM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2007

Virus hits World of Warcraft

still from World of Warcraft. Image available under Creative Commons at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonassmith/135785143/

[Note: I originally mistakenly thought it was the plague itself that happened in the past few days. Actually, the plague happened back in 2005, it was the scientific analysis of how WoW players reacted to the plague that was new. I've corrected the post. Chris S.]

There was a devastating plague a couple of years ago, one that claimed the lives of thousands of victims. Haven't heard about it? That's because the virus happened online, in the virtual world called World of Warcraft.

The so-called "corrupted blood" virus spread rapidly and wiped out WoW players online avatars.

As disruptive as the computer virus has been, it's been a godsend for epidemiologists who study how people react to the threat of disease. For instance, according to a story about the outbreak on the BBC website, some players tried to come to the aid of infected players, while others fled WoW cities where the infection has taken hold.

Scientific American has an additional article on the outbreak.

(Image by Agent Smith/flickr.com)

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 09:48 PM | Comments (2)

August 14, 2007

You're almost certainly a computer simulation

Neo confronts the architect in The Matrix Reloaded

Check out the big brain on the New York Times. Today's Science Times section of the NYT has an article on the work of Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom. Bostrom puts forth a theory that at first sounds crazy -- that all of us and everything we know -- that the entire world -- is just the creation of a very large and sophisticated computer program.

I know, this all just sounds like The Matrix, but Bostrom has a well thought-out argument. It basically goes like this... in the not too distant future computers will be powerful enough to completely simulate the human brain. If computers will theoretically be able to simulate humans, there's every reason to believe that someone will go ahead and have a computer do just that. Further, if computers will be simulating human consciousness someday, there's every reason to believe that it's already happened...that it's actually already the future, and we're all just little subroutines in a massive computer program.

Want to have your mind blown? Read John Tierney's article in the Times, or Bostrom's website on his theory, www.simulation-argument.com.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 09:54 PM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2007

Making better highway signs

photo from the New York Times showing variations on highway signs

2007 is going down as the year that the importance of type design hit the mainstream. First there was Gary Hustwit's great documentary Helvetica, showing how one typeface shaped the second half of the 20th Century. Now the New York Times has run a great article talking about the redesign of the font used on highway signs.

The article, The Road to Clarity, recounts the design and evolution of Clearview, a new typeface that makes highway signage clearer and legible from a greater distance. It does a great job explaining how little things like increasing the size of the center hole in a lowercase "a" can make a font easier to read. It also examines the way that the choice of typeface convey import, meaning an emotion.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 06:52 AM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2007

Terrorist organization logos

Red Brigade logo

My friend John pointed me to this great post on Ironic Sans deconstructing the logos of terrorist organizations. Terrorists want publicity for their actions, and...as any graphic designer or ad exec can tell you...a good logo is one of the best way to get noticed and remembered.

The terrorist org logos are helpfully organized by primary design motif. Pictured above, the Red Brigade logo, one of the best known "star in a circle" designs.

Tags: terrorists  logos

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 07:56 AM | Comments (1)

August 10, 2007

Sample Lab

Sample Lab photo

That hotbed of consumer innovation, Tokyo, is host to another new idea...sampling salons. The Sample Lab lets members (you have to pay a thousand Yen for a membership) test out everything from cosmetics to electronics to foods. Members get to try, and buy, products before they're released to the general public. And the manufacturers get product feedback before their items go into general release.

The Sample Lab has a website (in Japanese) and there's a write-up about it on Springwise.com.

Tags: shopping

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 06:21 AM | Comments (1)

Bank trouble in Second Life

screen shot of Second Life residents at ATM machine

Interesting article on the Technology Review website about some financial turmoil in Second Life. Second Life has a large and complex economy, with in-world banks and stock exchanges, and millions of Linden dollars (the official currency of Second Life) changing hands daily. According to the article, some SL banks charge interest that would be considered insanely high in the real world, and are proving to be too high even in Second Life. As a result, there's been a bit of a run on some Second Life banks and a call for more (or even some) banking regulation.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 05:48 AM | Comments (0)

August 08, 2007

Lunch in a Box

photo of Bento box from lunchinabox.net

There is a special place in my heart for those who take mundane tasks and imbue them with art...Gap workers who turn folding T-shirts into intricate choreography...auto body workers who using only Bondo and belt sanders create precise and complex shapes...janitors who guide a 200-pound floor polisher down a hallway like Astaire guiding Rogers.

Add to that list Biggie, the creator of the website Lunch In A Box, a website devoted to one woman's exploration of the Bento Box, those Japanese-based meals consisting of several small items artistically arranged in an easy-to-carry container.

Flip through several days worth of the site's entries (complete with yummy pictures) and see if you don't start yearning for more than your regular PB&J in a paper bag.

Tags: food  bento

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 06:18 AM | Comments (0)

August 06, 2007

Happy birthday web!

Photo of Tim Berners-Lee

Take a moment to celebrate the invention you're using right now, the World Wide Web. It was on this date in 1991 that CERN researcher Tim Berners-Lee published his description of his World Wide Web project to the alt.hypertext newsgroup, and made the service publicly available on the Internet.

The rest, as they say, is history.

By the way, if you're interested, here is arguably one of the very first web pages, a bare-bones description of the WWW project.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 10:12 PM | Comments (0)