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A recording of Carl Sagan saying the word ‘billions’ once, but stretched for an entire hour
01.08.2015
12:11 pm

Topics:
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:
Carl Sagan


 
The sound recording below reminds me of the ambient drone surrounding the spacecraft that hovers over the barren lunar surface before Dr. Heywood Floyd and crew visit the obelisk in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, or maybe a group of highly focused Franciscan monks or possibly the very sound of time itself. This, of course, makes complete sense, because the track is of Carl Sagan saying the word “billions” one time, but stretched out over the span of an entire hour.

Sagan, host (obviously) of the original, pre-Neil DeGrasse Tyson Cosmos series sounds downright avant-garde in the listenable(?) piece that results from the supposed stretch. 

John Kannenberg, a reader of the very cool, futurist io9 website apparently sent the recording to the site via Sound Cloud link recently. He asked simply, “This might be of interest?” io9 replies in their inevitable post that:

Yes. Yes, John, you beautiful genius. This is our wheelhouse.

As I write this, I’m sitting in my local library listening on headphones, and, oddly enough, it’s kind of great.

I’d like to join the folks at io9 in saying “Bravo, Mr. Kannenberg,” whoever you are. 
 

 
via io9

Posted by Jason Schafer | Discussion
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Nerd Alert: The Internet Archive releases thousands of classic MS-DOS games
01.07.2015
09:46 am

Topics:
Games
Science/Tech

Tags:
Video Games

Oregon Trail
 
If you like your game play pixelated and your background music repetitively bleeping, or if you just want to take a look at how far along video game design has come over the last thirty-or-so years, you’re in luck! The Internet Archive has just released a collection of over 2,000 MS-DOS games that you can play through your Internet browser right now.

The collection, which you can find here, holds some popular titles you’ll probably recognize if you’re of a certain digital vintage including Q-bert, Ms. Pac Man, The Oregon Trail, Double Dragon and a couple of titles from the Street Fighter series, to name just a few. You’ll also find lesser known (at least to me) games, some of which are bound to generate a laugh or two such as Sex Vixens from Space, Tongue of the Fat Man and the inexplicable Captain Bible in the Dome of Darkness.

By the way, the page for these selections warns that the “EM-DOSBOX in-browser emulator” used to play these games can be a little buggy. So watch out for that I guess.

Below you’ll find a clip just over 13 minutes long of somebody playing the aforementioned Tongue of the Fat Man created in 1989 that might give you an idea of the kind of wacko video game action that we’re talking about here in some cases.
 

 

Posted by Jason Schafer | Discussion
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Listen to John Cage’s 4’33”—on Auto-Tune!
12.30.2014
10:41 am

Topics:
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:
John Cage
Autotune


 
Somebody had the genius idea of applying the glorious technology of Auto-Tune, previously most associated with the likes of Cher, T-Pain, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne, to John Cage’s iconic “silent” composition 4’33”. Reports Matthew Reid, uploader of the YouTube video, “I performed John Cage’s 4’33’‘, treated the recording as a found object and re-mixed it in autotune. Let the debates begin.”

Amusing as it may sound, in the execution it’s pretty close to Cage’s original intent, as far as I can tell. 4’33” was always about ambient sound, not silence, and siccing Auto-Tune on it seems right in line with the general agenda.

If you click on the video and find it boring, well, that’s on you. You knew going in that it no instruments are played, right? Here’s a look at the score (yes, 4’33” has a score). “Tacet” is Latin for “It is silent.”
 

 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
John Cage: 4’33” (Vuvuzela cover version)
Nicolas Cage does John Cage’s 4′33″

via Lawyers, Guns & Money

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Do drummers have different brains from the rest of us?


 
The April 25, 2011 issue of the New Yorker contained a fascinating article about David Eagleman, the celebrated neuroscientist and director of the Laboratory for Perception and Action at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. The title of the piece is “The Possibilian: What a brush with death taught David Eagleman about the mysteries of time and the brain.” It’s far too complex an essay to summarize in a blog post, but if you enjoy pop science articles (and Doctor Who) as much I do, this one is an absolutely terrific read.

What I wanted to call your attention to here is an incredible event described in the article where a bunch of professional drummers, invited by Brian Eno and from some of the biggest bands in the world, allowed Eagleman to observe them. They were outfitted with EEG units on their heads in special workstations for the data collection. The tests were conducted on a laptop. A software program asked the drummers to do four things: Keep a steady beat; compare the length of two tones; synchronize a beat to an image and compare different rhythms to one another.

Burkhard Bilger writes:

Early this winter, I joined Eagleman in London for his most recent project: a study of time perception in drummers. Timing studies tend to be performed on groups of random subjects or on patients with brain injuries or disorders. They’ve given us a good sense of average human abilities, but not the extremes: just how precise can a person’s timing be? “In neuroscience, you usually look for animals that are best at something,” Eagleman told me, over dinner at an Italian restaurant in Notting Hill. “If it’s memory, you study songbirds; if it’s olfaction, you look at rats and dogs. If I were studying athletes, I’d want to find the guy who can run a four-minute mile. I wouldn’t want a bunch of chubby high-school kids.”

The idea of studying drummers had come from Brian Eno, the composer, record producer, and former member of the band Roxy Music. Over the years, Eno had worked with U2, David Byrne, David Bowie, and some of the world’s most rhythmically gifted musicians. He owned a studio a few blocks away, in a converted stable on a cobblestoned cul-de-sac, and had sent an e-mail inviting a number of players to participate in Eagleman’s study. “The question is: do drummers have different brains from the rest of us?” Eno said. “Everyone who has ever worked in a band is sure that they do.”

The drummers study was inspired by an anecdote Eno told Eagleman:

“I was working with Larry Mullen, Jr., on one of the U2 albums,” Eno told me. “ ‘All That You Don’t Leave Behind,’ or whatever it’s called.” Mullen was playing drums over a recording of the band and a click track—a computer-generated beat that was meant to keep all the overdubbed parts in synch. In this case, however, Mullen thought that the click track was slightly off: it was a fraction of a beat behind the rest of the band. “I said, ‘No, that can’t be so, Larry,’ ” Eno recalled. “ ‘We’ve all worked to that track, so it must be right.’ But he said, ‘Sorry, I just can’t play to it.’ ”

Eno eventually adjusted the click to Mullen’s satisfaction, but he was just humoring him. It was only later, after the drummer had left, that Eno checked the original track again and realized that Mullen was right: the click was off by six milliseconds. “The thing is,” Eno told me, “when we were adjusting it I once had it two milliseconds to the wrong side of the beat, and he said, ‘No, you’ve got to come back a bit.’ Which I think is absolutely staggering.”

Read: The Possibilian: What a brush with death taught David Eagleman about the mysteries of time and the brain (The New Yorker)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Just a week after Pirate Bay raid, Tribler makes shutting down BitTorrent impossible


 
When police in Sweden carried out a raid on a server farm in Stockholm on December 9th, seizing servers, computers and other equipment and simultaneously knocking The Pirate Bay and several other prominent torrent trackers (including EZTV, Istole, Zoink and Torrage) offline, it was assumed that they’d struck a crippling blow to the BitTorrent ecosystem.

But before Hollywood and the music industry could celebrate comes the news that a team of Dutch researchers at Delft University of Technology have figured out how to make BitTorrent completely anonymous and remove the necessity of central servers, producing a new client—called “Tribler”—that will keep things alive, even after all torrent search engines, indexes and trackers have been pulled offline.

Tribler’s lead researcher Dr. Johan Pouwelse told Torrent Freak: “Tribler makes BitTorrent anonymous and impossible to shut down.”

“Recent events show that governments do not hesitate to block Twitter, raid websites, confiscate servers and steal domain names. The Tribler team has been working for 10 years to prepare for the age of server-less solutions and aggressive suppressors.”

After last week’s Pirate Bay raid Tribler saw a 30% increase in downloads. The tax-supported team at Delft are confident that their encrypted torrent client can make the Internet safer for downloaders:

“The Internet is turning into a privacy nightmare. There are very few initiatives that use strong encryption and onion routing to offer real privacy. Even fewer teams have the resources, the energy, technical skills and scientific know-how to take on the Big and Powerful for a few years,” Pouwelse says.

You can download Tribler here. There are versions for Windows, Mac and Linux and Tribler is completely Open Source.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Hey Vegans: ‘Mushroom is Murder’!
12.16.2014
09:06 am

Topics:
Drugs
Science/Tech

Tags:
marijuana
cannabis
truffles


 
Dangerous Minds pal Michael Backes is one of the world’s foremost experts on marijuana. He writes with this fascinating scientific tidbit you might want to ponder before tucking in to that meatless mushroom loaf for dinner tonight:

All animals, including humans, possess endocannabinoid systems responsible for feeding, energy expenditure, memory, and pain regulation. The production of endocannabinoids is one characteristic that distinguishes animals from plants. When someone smokes weed, phytocannabinoids produced by cannabis actually mimic the body’s endocannabinoids. 

New research from Italy now shows that truffles, the highly prized and insanely expensive fungi, also produce endocannabinoids. Truffles grow underground near oak trees and can ultimately fetch $1500 per pound. That truffles produce endocannabinoids is just the latest evidence that fungi are more closely related to animals than plants. Plants, animals and fungi all share a common ancestor, and increasingly it appears that fungi are much more akin within the evolutionary tree to humans than say, lettuce. (I certainly feel more simpatico with truffles than turnips or kale, don’t you?)

The endocannabinoid content of truffles may be one of the reasons that humans prize them, since these compounds are active at incredibly small doses and the aroma of fresh truffles feels quite intoxicating. Vegans, however, might find themselves in a bit of a quandary as fungi move more closely towards animals in the hierarchy of nature. Many vegans take the ethical stand that veganism is cruelty free because plants do not suffer when harvested or eaten. The reality is that plants possess very robust signaling systems that share characteristics with the nervous systems of animals. We may have difficulty perceiving the suffering of plants, simply because a plant’s internal signaling system and subsequent reaction is slower than an animal’s nervous system. Vegans hoping to fully eliminate any chance of suffering in their eating patterns may wish to look into inedia.

My takeaway from this is that pigs and billionaires seek out the same drug.

Michael Backes is the author of Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana (endorsed by Dr. Andrew Weil) and head of research and development for the medical marijuana company Abatin. Previously he was a co-founder of Cornerstone Collective, California’s first research-based medical cannabis collective.

Below, a recent talk by Michael Backes at Seattle Town Hall:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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New species of snail is named after Joe Strummer
12.15.2014
09:01 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music
Punk
Science/Tech

Tags:
The Clash
Joe Strummer


 
Shannon Johnson, a researcher at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, has named a newly discovered species of deep sea snail, Alviconcha strummeri, after Clash leader Joe Strummer, telling the Santa Cruz Sentinel

“Because they look like punk rockers in the 70s and 80s and they have purple blood and live in such an extreme environment, we decided to name one new species after a punk rock icon.”

The name A. strummeri honors Joe Strummer, the lead singer and a guitarist of the British punk rock band The Clash.

The golf ball-sized snails rock out near hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean, as deep as 11,500 feet.

We wouldn’t quibble with the decision to honor Strummer. After all, who but a hater would deny the Clash their due? But given that A. strummeri is yellow and spiky and the late Strummer was neither, there’s more of an actual resemblance between the snail and plenty of other potential honorees, though admittedly, they may merit the distinction in, um, varying degrees.
 

Joe Strummer, the Clash
 

Lars Frederiksen, Rancid
 

Billy Idol, Generation X, solo
 

Paul Cook, Sex Pistols
 

Guy Fieri, gigantic doucherocket
 
Via the A/V Club

Previously on Dangerous Minds
Acne bacterium is named after Frank Zappa, immediately releases four albums in gratitude

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Floaters: So what are those damned moving amoeba things in your eyes, anyway?
12.10.2014
10:02 am

Topics:
Science/Tech

Tags:
vision
floaters
eyes


 
You know those floaty, amoeba-shaped things you can see if you press your closed eyes with your hands then look at a bright light? When I was a kid and saw those damned things I convinced myself that I had a special power where I had some sort of “microscopic vision” talent. I thought I could control them. I couldn’t. But it was fun to think so. Yep, I was a weird little kid. 

It still happens to me from time to time in my adult life, so I found this short TED-ed video—that explains exactly what that visual phenomenon is known as “floaters”—highly informative and fascinating.


 

 
Via World’s Best Ever

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Turntablism: So there’s a Spirograph record player hack
12.06.2014
09:54 am

Topics:
Amusing
Art
Design
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:
turntable
Spirograph


 
As if having a turntable didn’t already cause me and my savings account enough trouble, after seeing these videos, now I really want another one. There are some crafty people out there who’ve figured out how to make record players function as visual art tools. Specifically, drawing roulette curves, not entirely unlike Christian Marclay weilding a Spirograph. (If someone with better math-fu wants to correct me on what kind of curves these are exactly, PLEASE go for it, I’m all ears.)
 

 
I’d love to do something like this, but actually play the records, credit each drawing to the two musical artists whose albums “made” the art, and show them in such a way as to allow the viewer to hear the mashed-up musical works. Maybe go ultra-meta and use concrète artists? Spyro Gyra vs ... well, any musician named “Graff?” It could get quite ridiculous!
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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The forgotten brains of the Texas state mental hospital


 
Anatomical art generally generally depicts recognizable, perfectly formed parts or figures, flayed open to display all the beauty and genius of our design. It’s medical, certainly, but it’s usually a testament to the beauty of the human body. Photographer Adam Voorhes goes in an entirely different direction in the book Malformed: Forgotten Brains of the Texas State Mental Hospital. How he came across his evocative subjects is a surreal story. From the book’s description:

Hidden away out of sight in a forgotten storage closet deep within the bowels of the University of Texas State Mental Hospital languished a forgotten, but unique and exceptional, collection of hundreds of extremely rare, malformed, or damaged human brains preserved in jars of formaldehyde.

Decades later, in 2013, photographer Adam Voorhes discovered the brains and became obsessed with documenting them in close-up, high-resolution, large format photographs, revealing their oddities, textures, and otherworldly essence. Voorhes donned a respirator and chemical gloves, and began the painstaking process of photographing the collection.

Not only had decades worth of rare brains just been tossed aside, Voorhes learned that their abandonment followed a “Battle for the Brains,” where even Harvard attempted to get ahold of the collection. By the time Voorhes began photographing them, half were missing, and many of the remaining specimens suffered from neglect. Working with a journalist, he set out to find the rest of the brains, even renewing interest in the collection—The University of Texas is doing MRI scans on them now.

Sadly, many of the brains were likely disposed of after a lack of resources and care left them to fallow (and bureaucracy failed to record it). It was reported just yesterday that 100 of the brains were thrown out in 2002, as they had deteriorated beyond medical usage—one was rumored to be the brain of Charles Whitman, the ex-Marine who went on a shooting spree from the University of Texas at Austin clock tower that killed 16 people in 1966. Many brains remain missing, and people are still trying to track them down.
 

 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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