We’ve seen this a few times before, most notably with the cover of “Rock Lobster” by the “Bit52s” a couple years back. Here we have a case full of hard drives and other unidentified computer components playing what is arguably the song of the 1990s, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.
It should be said that the “Rock Lobster” cover works a bit better, but at least this experiment establishes conclusively that robots cannot reproduce the ass-kicking righteousness of Dave Grohl’s skull-shattering drum fills.
A young man from New York learned a painful lesson in electrical conductivity when he “tazzed” himself with a stun gun. The certainly intrepid, but perhaps not too bright D’angelo Conner was showing off the effects of a taser on a can of Coke, when he decided to repeat his experiment while holding a metal bracelet… and you know what is going to happen next.
Stunning! (and what’s with the couple in the background, anyway?!?)
I named this plant Nepenthes ‘H.R. Giger’ in October 2014 in memory of the recently passed Surrealist Artist from Switzerland who is perhaps best-known for creating the Alien creature for director Ridley Scott’s 1979 film “Alien”, which earned him an Academy Award for the Best Achievement in Visual Effects for his designs of the film’s title character, the stages of its lifecycle, and the film’s extraterrestrial environments. As the innovator of the nightmarish “Biomechanical” style, he had a long and well-respected career as a globally influential fine artist in the disciplines of painting, sculpture, industrial design, and interior design. When viewed extremely close and at an angle, the intersection of the peristome teeth and the lid spikes of the cultivar create a frightening alien landscape akin to those imagined by the late H.R. Giger (Fig. 6). This, and because the plant is darkly colored and has such a nightmarish appearance, I feel that it would be a fitting tribute to name the cultivar for the late visionary genius Hans Ruedi Giger.
For your scientific edification: pitcher plants are vines, and tend to climb up trees or sprawl close to the ground—the H.R. Giger cultivar has grown over six feet long, but could grow up to 30. Pitcher plants normally eat insects, but can also consume small vertebrates. Kaelin also notes that the flowers smell “like a pile of dirty sweatsocks”—charming!
And a fitting dedication to a master of body horror brilliance!
Sometime in the early 1920s the Bauhaus artist László Moholy-Nagy suggested that a new form of “music writing” could be created from the grooves in phonographic records. He believed experimenting with the groves would enable composers, musicians and artists to produce music without recording any instruments. Long before scratching, Moholy-Nagy also believed the phonograph could become “an overall instrument… which supersedes all instruments used so far.”
With the arrival of synchronized sound in movies, as seen and heard in the first talkie The Jazz Singer in 1927, Moholy-Nagy refined his idea believing a whole new world of abstract sound could be created from experimentation with the optical film sound track. He hoped such experimentation would “enrich the sphere of our aural experience,” by producing sounds that were “entirely unknown.”
In 1929, the Russians produced their first talkie, the snappily titled The Five Year Plan for Great Works. The possibility of synchronized sound inspired a trio of pioneers, composer Arseny Avraamov, animator Mikhail Tsihanovsky and engineer Evgeny Sholpo who were fascinated by the curved loops, arcs and waveforms on the optical soundtrack. The patterns made them wonder if synthetic music could be created by drawing directly onto the sound track. Of course, this they did, at first testing out vase-shapes and ellipses then Egyptian hieroglyphs—all with startling results.
In 1930, Avraamov produced (possibly) the first short film with a hand-drawn synthetic soundtrack.
An example of Avraamov’s early experimentation in ‘ornamental sound.’
Meanwhile back at the lab, Evgeny Sholpo was collaborating with composer Rimsky-Korsakov on building what was basically an “optical synthesiser” or Variophone that used an oscilloscope to cut waveforms on small paper discs to produce synthetic music (“ornamental sound”) that was synced to 35mm film, before being photographed onto the same film to create a continuous soundtrack. Kinda laborious, but neat, the end product sounding that sounded like the music to a 8-bit game cartridge.
A 65-year-old Sao Paulo man visited his doctor complaining of sinus pain, swelling around his nose and worms coming out of his nose. That last should have been a big clue, for when doctors investigated further, by inserting a camera up the man’s nose, they discovered over 100 flesh-eating maggots chowing down on the poor man’s nasal cavity.
The maggots were burrowing, squelching, pulping up the man’s interior and doing that kinda gross maggotty thing maggots do. Doctors had to remove the maggots one by one being guided by the camera and using a saline solution.
The maggots were identified as Cochliomyia hominivorax (or the New World Screwworm) which is prevalent in Central and South America and in certain Caribbean Islands. Female adult flies lay batches of 200-400 eggs, in rows around a fresh wound on warm-blooded animals. The larvae then feast on the flesh. This 65-year-old was lucky, as the maggots could have eaten his face away from the inside.
Maybe you guys are already familiar with Bina48, one of the most sophisticated robots ever built. She’s modeled after a very real woman named Bina Aspen, wife of Dr.Martine Rothblatt. Rothblatt is the CEO of biotech outfit United Therapeutics.
More than just a robot, Bina48 is a “mind clone.” Bina Aspen spent more than 20 hours recalling her childhood experiences, life experiences and thoughts. The information was “then transcribed and uploaded to an artificial intelligence database.”
Bina48 cost over $125,000 to make over a course of three years and was built by robot designer David Hanson.
Bina48 recently was on a panel at SXSW which you can watch here. It’s really weird. Bina48 begins expressing how nervous she is in front of a large crowd and then tells a joke to calm everyone’s nerves. WAT?!
But here’s where shit gets real strange. A video of Bina48 having a conversation with Bina Aspen. Prepare yourself for a total head trip…
This series is called “Random Tweets Reformatted as Telegrams.” It’s an easy trick, but putting these “virtual” messages usually consumed on smartphone screens on old-timey telegrams more redolent of the Wild West or the Hindenburg crash or something, it just works.
Gute notes that “there are notable similarities between formats, such as the economy of words and syntax imposed by a limited number of characters,” which is certainly true. Plus, the last Western Union telegram, a medium that had existed for more than a century, coincided almost exactly with the first Tweet—there was a gap of almost two months—so it’s like the one short-form method of communication passed the baton on to the other.
When you first hear about the Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art, one immediately wonders whether its purpose is in any way therapeutic or perhaps that actually plays some kind of odd and unexpected research role. But no, the point appears to be far more mundane: some embroidery enthusiasts just find brain scans and fMRI images visually appealing and enjoy reproducing the vibrant and oftentimes striated outputs of the complex medical devices in the form of embroidered quilts.
“I couldn’t help but look at them with the eye of a quilter,” says Taylor, a psychologist at the University of Oregon and a key contributor to the museum’s holdings. “I thought the folds of the cerebral cortex would be great in velvet.” Taylor’s first piece was a quilt with a cerebral cortex in blue velvet on a silver background; it took her several years to complete four brain-scan quilts. “Not very many,” she admits. “They take a long time to do.”
Curator Bill Harbaugh, whose day job is economics professor at the University of Oregon, welcomes visitors to the site with the following message:
This is the world’s largest collection of anatomically correct fabric brain art. Inspired by research from neuroscience, dissection and neuroeconomics, our current exhibition features a rug based on fMRI imaging, a knitted brain from dissection, and three quilts with functional images from PET. The artists are Marjorie Taylor and Karen Norberg. Techniques used include traditional Nova Scotian rug hooking, quilting, applique, embroidery, beadwork, knitting, and crocheting. Materials include fabric, yarn, metallic threads, electronic components such as magnetic core memory, and wire, zippers, and beads.
While our artists make every effort to insure accuracy, we cannot accept responsibility for the consequences of using fabric brain art as a guide for functional magnetic resonance imaging, trans-cranial magnetic stimulation, neurosurgery, or single-neuron recording.
Marjorie Taylor, “Warm Glow, or fabricMRI: Bill’s Brain,” 2009
For the past several days, I have been having an absolute BLAST messing around with the beta for Liverpool, England-based web developer Errozero’s Acid Machine. I learned about it via Fact last week, and I don’t even know why I didn’t just post it here right away, but better later than never, no? The Acid Machine is a free browser-based electronic composition device based around the legendary Roland TB-303, and it’s great fun.
Some background for those who need it: Roland’s Transistorized Bass 303 was a unique example, in the history of sound producing devices, of abject failure redeemed. It was (mis)conceived as a bass accompaniment tool/toy for guitar players, and God only knows why—has any guitarist in history ever despaired of finishing a song for want of a bass player who sounded like a ‘50s b-movie robot enduring a painful gastric incident? Since its target market couldn’t have cared less, production of the little wonders was stopped in 1984, after just a year and a half of their existence. But the deeply messed up sounds it could produce were like mother’s milk to the burgeoning Acid House movement just a few years later. That wonderfully mind-bending squelch/fart noise common to all early Acid House tracks was made by hitherto unwanted 303s that found proper homes where they’d be loved and cared for. The sound became so sought-after among techno artists and the happy-face t-shirt crowd, it’s eternally baffling that Roland didn’t just start making them again. Original devices perpetually hover around $2,500-3,000 on eBay. A clone made by a company called Cyclone Analogic can be had for much less.
The device inspired software emulators just about as soon as software synthesis became widespread in the late ‘90s, including the still legendary ReBirth, which was discontinued ten years ago but lives on as a (FREE!) Reason plug-in, and as a $15 tablet app. There’s seriously no reason to spend three thousand dollars to chase that sound unless you’re a collector looking to possess one of the devices as a trophy. The Errozero Acid Machine is a simplified take on the ReBirth interface; it features two 303 simulators you can pit against one another, and a basic drum machine. You can store up to eight patterns for each device, and organize them into compositions with an intuitive sequencer. Like I said, I’ve been having a FINE old time with this. I don’t have a tablet, and there’s no phone version (the iPhone screen is frankly just too goddamn small for ReBirth’s many controls), so I’m loving the browser-based Acid Machine beta. Other useful functions: it will generate a URL to make your finished composition shareable, or it will generate a .wav file you can download and save. No MIDI output that I can see, but this is, again, a beta: the tiny-print reads “A work in progress web audio tool by Errozero - Works best in Chrome.” Perhaps the ability to output MIDI files is forthcoming?
If you’ve made your way this far through this post still having no earthly idea what the hell I’m talking about, “Acid Trax” by Phuture is as definitive as 303 songs come. It’s a slow build, but the distinctive device starts fading in at about 1:05.
This wonderful 20-minute doc on the devices tells you anything you’d want to know about them.