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August 17, 2008

Why is it so?

photo of Julius Sumner Miller

A friend pointed me to this wonderful quirky resource... a collection of greatest hits clips from Julius Sumner Miller's science shows from the 60s.

Miller portrayed "Professor Wonderful" for a couple of years on the Mickey Mouse Club back in the 60s, and over the next few decades he racked up an amazing collection of TV credits... demonstrating the wonders of physics on public TV in America, on the CBC in Canada, on The Steve Allen Show, on commercials, and...for 23 years... on Australian TV.

Miller was the stereotypical physics teacher...thick accent, wild hair, experiments that often had a frisson of real danger. I particularly liked the bad-ass way he would often start his show:

How do you do, ladies and gentlemen, and boys and girls? My name is Julius Sumner Miller, and physics is my business.

Australia's ABC TV network has a collection of clips from the show online (they're in Real and Windows Media format). Enjoy!

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 08:25 AM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2008

Invent-A-Sport

Fruit ball

With the Olympics in full swing, Americans are once again being exposed to dozens of sports that are completely new and alien to them. While some Americans actually get excited by this (there's a small uptick in membership in things like archery and fencing clubs in the US after each Olympics) by and large many sports stay obscure decade after decade.

Maybe these sports lack that certain something that will enable them to catch fire in the US. But maybe you have the perfect idea for the great American sport? Now's your chance!

Over at Instructibles, clothing maker Horny Toad is running an Invent-A-Sport contest. First prize wins a bunch of clothes, but that's nothing compared to the eternal glory of inventing the next Fruit Ball (pictured), Pyro BBQ, or Hedge Jumping.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 07:12 AM | Comments (0)

August 07, 2008

The tragedy of the anti-commons

photo of sheep. Image available via a Creative Commons license at http://www.flickr.com/photos/alasam/2367542485/

You're no doubt familiar with the concept of The Tragedy of the Commons, the principle that says allowing uncontrolled access to a limited resource inevitably leads to over-use of the resource. (The over-fishing of the world's oceans is a classic example).

There's a good article in this week's New Yorker magazine looking at the opposite phenomenon...how having too much control over resources can also have harmful societal effects. Author James Surowiecki cites the oppressive force that copyright holders have on the legal and Fair Use of content, how wind power would have been much more prevalent by now if it weren't for the power of private land owners blocking needed new power lines, and how we'd all be benefiting from new drugs if pharmaceutical companies weren't so rapacious in slapping patents on everything in sight.

Good ammo next time you're trapped at dinner with some "private property is all" doofus. (I'm talking to YOU, stereotypical fathers-in-law!)

[Creative Commons licensed photo by alasam/flickr.com]

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 06:50 AM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2008

Amphibian

shot of amphibian in use

Kevin Kelly pointed me to this clever hack by some students at the MIT Media Lab called Amphibian.

The idea is that since there are hundreds of common objects in your home or office, all with unique weights, the simple act of putting an object on a scale connected to a computer can act as a unique input (for instance dropping your pen on the scale could automatically launch your word processor). It's a simple yet versatile way to establish a huge number of links between the computing world and everyday objects in the real world.

The Amphibian folks have released their software for free (Windows only right now). USB-enabled scales are available for as little as $10.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 06:55 AM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2008

Objectified: A Documentary Film by Gary Hustwit

Objectified logo

Fans (like me) of Gary Hustwit's great design documentary Helvetica have great reason for excitement. Hustwit's announced that his next project is another documentary, this one on the world of industrial design.

The film's called Objectified. In the same way that Helvetica illuminated the arcane and fascinating world of typography, Objectified aims to show what goes into the creation of the man-made objects that surround us, and how the decisions that product designers make shape our lives.

The premiere is scheduled for early 2009. To be alerted of advance screenings, sign up for the Objectified newsletter.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 10:31 AM | Comments (0)

The Toaster

photo of The Toaster

A friend pointed me to this great art exhibit from a few years ago called The Toaster. It's a giant (3 yard wide) mural of a piece of toast, made from 2,500 pieces of actual toast.

It took days for artists Ingrid Falk and Gustavo Aguerre to crank out the pieces of toast in every shade from off-white to charcoal black.

The self-referential concept of an image made out of the thing being represented (that is, a picture of toast being made out of toast) really appeals to me. I can't think of another example of this anywhere in art. That surely can't be right, can it? If you can think of one, post a comment, or just shoot me an email at chris-at-spurgeonworld-dot-com.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)