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‘The Diatomist’: Explore the creation of microscopic kaleidoscopic Victorian-era artforms


 
The Diatomist is a short documentary about Klaus Kemp, master of the Victorian art of diatom arrangement.

Diatoms are single cell algae that can be found virtually anywhere where there is standing water. Drains, ponds, bird baths, that’s where they live, invisible to the naked eye until the discovery of the microscope. For protection, the tiny organisms create a glass-like shell around themselves, almost like they are living jewels. During the Victorian era, microscopists would arrange diatoms into elaborate and kaleidoscopic patterns—think of it as a rough equivalent of building a ship in a bottle, but with some of the tiniest microorganism to be found on Earth. Their meticulous works, marrying art and science could only be viewed under a microscope.

Since he was a teenager, Mr. Kemp has devoted his career to creating stunning diatom arrangements and is acknowledged as the last great practitioner of this artform. Matthew Killip’s exquisitely beautiful short film The Diatomist showcases his incredible work.
 

 
Director’s Statement:

I’m really interested in the way people interact with the natural world (I’ve previously made a series of short documentaries for UK TV about working relationships with monkeys and apes. I’m also a huge admirer of the Victorian naturalists ... So I was very excited when I recently saw my first Diatom arrangements, by the German master JD Möller (1844 - 1907).  The arrangements really embody that beautiful combination of art and science one can find in the period, and I loved seeing the hand of man display the work of nature so beautifully. The overwhelming variety and intricacy of diatoms can’t help but recall Darwin: “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

I was very curious to see if anyone still practiced diatom arrangement and also to find out how it was done. I managed to track down Klaus Kemp in the UK—he’s really the only person doing this to a professional level (he’s able to make a living from a small base of collectors) - and filmed with him for one afternoon in December 2013. During the filming Klaus told me all the Victorian diatomists took their secrets to the grave, so there was no accurate information on the practice when he first started, aged sixteen. It has taken him years to be able to create these stunning microscopic slides of arranged diatoms, and although The Diatomist is a modest short film I hope it does some justice to what really is Klaus’ life’s work.

 

 
All diatom arrangements and photographs by Klaus Kemp. Soundtrack by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Bernard Herrmann and Cults Percussion Ensemble.

Matthew Killip is an English filmmaker living in New York. His documentaries have been broadcast on UK television and exhibited in festivals around the world including Sundance and True/False.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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If everyone wore this mask, Big Brother’s facial recognition software won’t work


 
As with so much else, William Gibson got there before just about everyone else. In his 1984 novel Neuromancer, which despite its deservedly huge rep probably still doesn’t get name-checked as often as it should, Gibson foresaw the utility of citizen camouflage, the political necessity to stay anonymous, to hide in plain sight. Here are a couple of quotations from Neuromancer:
 

The Panther Modern leader, who introduced himself as Lupus Yonderboy, wore a polycarbon suit with a recording feature that allowed him to replay backgrounds at will. Perched on the edge of Case’s worktable like some sort of state of the art gargoyle, he regarded Case and Armitage with hooded eyes.

-snip-

The precis began with a long hold on a color still that Case at first assumed was a collage of some kind, a boy’s face snipped from another image and glued to a photograph of a paint-scrawled wall. Dark eyes, epicanthic folds obviously the result of surgery, an angry dusting of acne across pale narrow cheeks. The Hosaka released the freeze; the boy moved, flowing with the sinister grace of a mime pretending to be a jungle predator. His body was nearly invisible, an abstract pattern approximating the scribbled brickwork sliding smoothly across his tight one piece. Mimetic polycarbon.

 
Those things were written thirty years ago. It’s now 2014, and we’ve all seen Facebook find the faces in our pictures with alarming alacrity.

Leo Selvaggio wants to do something about it, and he wants to use the logic of crowdsourcing to do it. Using 3D printing technology, Selvaggio has developed a simple, hard resin mask based on his own face, and he would like as many people as possible to use it in public settings, to confound the cameras that are always watching us and tracking our movements. It’s called the URME Personal Surveillance Identity Prosthetic. The mask is an abstraction, but a highly effective one. If you saw someone with this face on the street, you wouldn’t stop to take notice—which is part of the point. It faithfully reproduces Selvaggio’s own pasty skin tone and understated stubble in a way that blends in. The mask costs $200 but you can also procure a paper version if that is too pricey for you. The whole idea is radical enough that some countries have anti-mask laws.
 

 
You aren’t the only who benefits when you wear an URME mask in public—you’re also helping Leo himself hide. “What is actually happening is that you’re creating disinformation,” he says. “What happens when there’s a hundred Leos walking in public spaces, all from different parts of the country? What is an automated system going to say about me then?” But it doesn’t—can’t—stop with Leo’s face. Responding to a questioner who volunteered to be his “black face” on the video for his Indiegogo project (see below), which was successfully funded, Leo wrote back, “Actually the next phase of the project involves asking others to donate their faces so that there is a variety of prosthetics and masks available.”

Selvaggio hails from Chicago, which he asserts is “the most surveilled city” in the U.S.—it’s home to Operational Virtual Field, a system of 24,000 cameras all networked into a single hub that enables users—the police—to find a specific individual and then bring up any other relevant records in the system. The ACLU has called Operation Virtual Field, “a pervasive and unregulated threat to our privacy,” even as Richard M. Daley, Chicago’s last mayor, gleefully predicted that by 2016, there will be a camera on “almost every block.”

As always, it’s virtually impossible to navigate the Scylla of the right to privacy and autonomy and the Charybdis of public safety. Will the URME mask enable bank robbers and bombers of the Boston Marathon type to do their business? Will the teenagers who tagged your local high school use it to perpetrate their harmless mayhem? Very likely, yes. We’re all worried about that. But the flip side is, do we let the authorities monitor our every movement at all times? Do we do so without weighing in on the process?
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Adorable/creepy child converts his dead rat into into an adorable/creepy ‘ratcopter’
09.12.2014
03:09 pm

Topics:
Animals
Science/Tech

Tags:
rats


 
We all mourn the loss of a loved one in our own time and in our own way, but rarely does the death of a pet inspire such… aerial commemorations. After his pet rat, Ratjetoe was diagnosed with cancer and put to sleep, 13-year-old Pepijn Bruins was absolutely devastated. Then he remembered a tribute that he thought might befit his varmit friend. In 2012, an artist named Bart Jansen collaborated with radio control helicopter flyer Arjen Beltman to turn Jansen’s taxidermied cat Orville into an Orvillecopter.

Pepijn consulted his father and reached out to the duo, who were more than happy to oblige, with Beltman saying, “when I heard how upset he was, I just knew I had to help.” The technical difference between a lightweight ratcopter and a more wind-resistant catcopter proved a challenge of design, but with dedication and innovation, Ratjetoe was reborn and now soars like a glorious bird, a fitting memorial for a dear departed friend. Check out the Ratjetoe copter below, and try not to think of the terror a flying rat could inspire in an unsuspecting passer-by.
 

 
Via artnet

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Even the Westboro Baptist Church wants the new iPhone, despite picketing Steve Jobs funeral
09.11.2014
08:07 am

Topics:
Belief
Science/Tech

Tags:
Westboro Baptist Church
Apple


 
I tend to avoid writing anything about the Westboro Baptist Church, simply because they’re just not that funny anymore. The futile comedy of right-wing fringe always eventually wears thin, as hateful (yet largely impotent) antics eventually become repetitive and predictable. Sarah Palin said something vicious, yet totally ignorant? Of course she did. Glenn Beck deluded himself into another xenophobic conspiracy theory? Wow. Really?

Since the ole’ WBC has protested the funerals of everyone from dead marines to Matthew Shepard to Ronnie James Dio, it’s hard to imagine a context where they won’t rally, brandishing their trademark “God Hates Fags” signage in a grotesque, redundant performance. It’s ugly, but it’s a cliché, and an increasingly dull one.

However, recently the Westboro Baptist Church took a visit to New York City, and I’ll-be-damned-to-gay-hell if the kooks didn’t surprise me! The lovely folks at Animal New York reached out to them as they picketed…I dunno, cronuts or something, only to learn that the parishioners are avid Apple fans! (Perhaps they sensed the disinterest of famously unflappable New Yorkers—we often see weirder shit than the WBC in the freaking Financial District.) Cult leader Steve Drain, emailed Animal this ringing endorsement:
 

The iPhone 6 will allow us to preach to this sinful nation more effectively than the 5s! Bigger screen to see our signs more clearly—like ‘Repent or Perish’ or ‘Fag Marriage Dooms Nations’! More people will mock our using of the phone, citing (incorrectly) a hypocrisy in using a device designed and marketed by a man whose funeral we picketed for his idolatry, then atheism, and adultery (Steve Jobs). Which device do you think our ‘Why Did God Destroy Sodom?’ will display best on? iPhone6, Galaxy 5, or HTC? I bet the preaching will be effective, by God’s hand, as viewed in all of them—don’t you think?

 
Yeah, you read that right, but Grindr looks better on the new iPhone, too. Instead of picketing the Chelsea Apple Store with signs that say “iPhone 666,” or “Fag iPhone Enabler,” the Westboro Baptist Church has decided their use of this chic new tech will spread their unholy message—and they’ve come to this conclusion despite having protested Steve Jobs’ funeral in 2011. Incidentally, they announced their plans to do so over Twitter… on their iPhones. I know very few of us can presently escape the clutches of global capitalism and all, but isn’t there some biblical reference to a bad tree being unable to bear good fruit?

Then again, the Westboro Baptist Church has never been very big on fruits…
 

 ;
Via Animal New York

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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‘Tampon Run’: Teenage coders make a video game about menstruation at summer camp
09.11.2014
07:38 am

Topics:
Games
Science/Tech
Sex

Tags:
video games
menstruation
tampons


 
While Anita Sarkeesian receives death threats and rape threats for the crime of generating thoughtful, detailed critiques of the sexism in video games, as happened just a couple of weeks ago, then you know that the world of gaming sorely needs a lengthy session of sensitivity training—if its problems with women aren’t so deep-seated as to resist any improvement, that is.
 

 
Enter Andy Gonzales and Sophie Houser and their charming Flash game Tampon Run, which they designed this summer at a camp called Girls Who Code. Gonzales and Houser are both high school students in New York who wanted to attack the sexism in the gaming industry.

As Gonzales says:

“We were brainstorming what our potential feminist game would look like, and Sophie jokingly suggested a game where you could throw tampons at people. The moment she said it, we realized it was a game we could make. We did some research about the menstrual taboo and realized it was a real problem that we could legitimately address with our game.”

The game is preceded by a few splash screens in which the creators explain their purpose in designing Tampon Run:

“Although the concept of the video game may be strange, it’s stranger that our society has accepted and normalized guns and violence through video games, yet we still find tampons and menstruation unspeakable. Hopefully one day menstruation will be as normal, if not more so, than guns and violence have become in our society.”

The game itself is very simple—it emulates Mario Bros. by having a character run in a rightward direction, shooting projectiles to kill an endless succession of oncoming marauders, except the projectiles in this case are tampons. Even removing the tampons from the equation, just having the protagonist be a woman is a relative rarity in video games. You shoot the tampons at the “enemies” until you run out of ammo, but every now and then a fresh box of tampons hovers near you, and when you jump you can refresh your supply. If an enemies reaches you, you lose two tampons. The game ends when you run out of tampons. The game doesn’t exactly reward hours of playing time, but I enjoyed it well enough—in my third game I achieved a high score of 129!
 

 
via Internet Magic

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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The hymnal of the brainwashed worker: IBM’s 1937 corporate songbook
09.03.2014
10:08 am

Topics:
Science/Tech

Tags:
IBM
songbook


This fellow appears to be doubting the greatness of Big Blue’s “supreme leader.” We can’t have subversives here at IBM!
 
Nowadays tech is pretty discreet about indoctrinating their labor force into a corporate cult. You have Google, of course, who lets you bring your dog to work while providing free food, community gardens, massages and sleep pods—but how did they keep your ass happily at your work desk without such “perks” in ye olden tymes? Well, IBM decided to use rhythmic, melodic chanting—some might even call them “songs,” but I think the propaganda is explicit enough to make note of the North Korea-type brainwashing techniques therein.

The 1937 booklet, Songs of the IBM starts out with some rote patriotism—“The Star-Spangled Banner” and “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” though only the first of the 13 verses of the latter. Then there are five songs dedicated to IBM President, Thomas J. Watson, some with multiples verses and a chorus. That is to say three more songs than employees were expected to sing about America!

Here’s an example from “To Thomas J. Watson, President, I.B.M. Our Inspiration:”

Thomas Watson is our inspiration,
Head and soul of our splendid I.B.M.
We are pledged to him in every nation,
Our President and most beloved man.
His wisdom has guided each division
In service to all humanity
We have grown and broadened with his vision,
None can match him or our great company.
T. J. Watson, we all honor you,
You’re so big and so square and so true,
We will follow and serve with you forever,
All the world must know what I. B. M. can do.


Then, there are two songs for the Vice-President (though one has six verses), five verses for the Vice President and General Manager, one for the Vice President in Charge of Manufacturing, and so on and so forth, down the masthead, until they get to what I assume is middle management, before finally just singing the praises of the company itself. Here’s part of a sweet little IBM loyalty oath!

We don’t pretend we’re gay.
We always feel that way,
Because we’re filling the world with sunshine.
With I.B.M. machines,
We’ve got the finest means,
For brightly painting the clouds with sunshine.

 
Don’t you feel more dedicated already? All of these were sung to the tunes of well-known songs, like “My Old Kentucky Home,” or “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.” The former ode to Thomas Watson used the melody of “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean,” and the latter simply a rewrite of “Painting the Clouds with Sunshine.” Don’t know it? Well listen below and try singing along! Or aren’t you a team player? Check out the rest of the songbook here, but don’t drink the Kool-Aid.
 

 
Via Ars Technica

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Bizarre, expensive porcelain stereo speakers in the form of political dictators


 
Russian artist Petro Wodkins is behind the design, manufacture, and sale of these hand-made porcelain “Sound of Power” speakers in the shape of five powerful heads of state. The group consists of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Kim Jong-Un of North Korea, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Barack Obama of the United States. I find it almost refreshing that Obama could make this list, it smacks of a certain contrarian je ne sais quoi.

The craftsmanship on these beauties is purported to be impressive: as the PR materials brag, “The figurines are crafted by artists and we put a lot of attention to the authentic details, like the small stars on the buttons on the shirt of Kim Jong-Un.” I have to admit that when I do shop for international dictator audio equipment, I do look for that sort of attention to detail.

The speakers come in three sizes. The 10-inch model costs about $1,200 and is appropriate for use with a desktop computer. The largest is the 43-inch model, which runs roughly $39,000 and will instantly become the most attention-getting object of almost any room in which it is present, as depicted below. As you can see, the speakers are also useful for providing a surface upon which the spoiled children of plutocrats can lean comfortably.
 

 
If you don’t like speakers in the shape of meanie dictators, you can opt to get speakers custom-made of your own head or anyone whose head you can subject to a 3D scanner. The custom model is available in “white or gold” and “prices start” at around $165,000.
 
Mugabe
 
Putin
 
Kim Jong-Un
 
Obama
 
Gaddafi
 
via The World’s Best Ever
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Murder suspect asked Siri how to hide a body; Siri gave him some answers!
08.13.2014
01:49 pm

Topics:
Current Events
Science/Tech

Tags:
Siri


 
I haven’t been following this case or know much about it, but a few years ago a teenager Pedro Bravo allegedly strangled and killed a young man—formerly a friend of his—named Christian Aguilar, a University of Florida student, in a Wal-mart parking lot. Bravo was convinced Aguliar was dating his old high school girlfriend and became so overcome with jealousy and anger, killing Aguliar and burying him in a nearby forest.

According to reports, Bravo allegedly asked Siri, “I need to hide my roommate.”

What’s creepy as hell is Siri actually responded with, “What kind of place are you looking for?” Siri then suggested the following: “Swamps. Reservoirs. Metal foundries. Dumps.”
 

 
Dumbfounding, isn’t it? HOW would Siri seemingly understand the nuance present in this situation?

You can read more about the case here and here.

Update: There appears to be some discrepancy with what actually happened. Watch the video below:

 
via Death and Taxes

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Your old discarded Windows 95 computer is stalking you
08.06.2014
08:06 am

Topics:
Amusing
Science/Tech

Tags:
Windows 95


 
Anyone who remembers August of 1995 will probably also remember the relentless promotional campaign that accompanied the release of Microsoft’s amazing new operating system, Windows 95. How times have changed. Apple was in the doldrums then, Microsoft was everywhere, and the name “Bill Gates” was on everyone’s lips. With a net worth of $76 billion, Gates is still the wealthiest man in the world (at least as of last March), but there’s no doubt that Steve Jobs passed Gates in some kind of global coolness billionaire metric sometime around the release of the first iPhone. Is Microsoft still even in business? It’s not always clear.

The cute and dorky status of the boxy messages emitted by Windows 95 constitute the cornerstone of a marvelous new website created by Neil Cicierega called, with great deadpan misdirection, “Windows 95 Tips, Tricks, and Tweaks.” That title doesn’t get you anywhere close to the site’s actual content, which is a series of disturbing screengrabs displaying messages from your last discarded Windows 95 machine, which has been developing a conscious mind since you last paid attention to it. Windows 95 now has the approximate personality of an obsessive stalker/serial killer, and its only quarry is you. Not to worry, I’m sure it’s harmless.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 
via io9

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Thanks to science, we can now see music without the hallucinogens!
08.05.2014
07:01 am

Topics:
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:
synesthesia


Art from Alex Piamonte
 
Wait, science—have you thought this through?!? Actually, in terms of pure science fiction curb appeal, this MIT demonstration is without a doubt some one of the coolest displays of technology I’ve ever seen. Essentially, sound vibrates matter in what are increasingly measurable ways, and with incredibly advanced video equipment, we can now reproduce the sound that was played in the presence of an object using only the visual recording of the object. These vibrations are so small they can’t be seen with the naked eye, but the video shows scientists reproducing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” from a houseplant, and Queen and Bowie’s “Under Pressure” from a pair of earbuds (nice choice).

The whole thing is pretty unbelievable, but when you see an actual, intelligible conversation rendered from video of a potato chip bag you realize there is some seriously next-level shit going on. The implications for surveillance are obvious—I’m reminded of HAL 9000 reading lips in 2001: A Space Odyssey—but I’m optimistic that work like this has amazing potential.

Obviously it’s the sort of thing that requires insanely expensive instrumentation and (at least as of now), very specific conditions, but isn’t it just so James Bond? This is not to excuse the reckless actions of such irresponsible scientists, who may be leading the youth away from proper drug-related synesthesia, and subsequently gutting the marketplace for honest, hard-working drug dealers.

I can’t help thinking that if this technology had been around during the era of the Grateful Dead, only the rich kid Deadheads would have had one. Soon though, it’ll be an app, giving people, ahem, “something to do” at concerts besides merely videotaping a show they aren’t really paying attention to…
 

 
Via ANIMAL

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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