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End of the world less than two weeks away

I have no idea who shot this photo, but I like it.

(via TDW)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Willard S. Boyle inventor of the digital eye R.I.P.
04:19 am



Boyle and Smith at Bell Labs.

The co-inventor of the charge-coupled device, CCD, Willard S. Boyle has died. His invention altered the way we capture and share images forever. What you see is what you get, thanks to Boyle and his partner George E. Smith.

The CCD is a device that is smaller than a dime and…

[...] is the eye behind every picture on the Internet, every digital and video camera, every computer scanner, copier machine and high-definition television.

Its work extends from supermarket barcode readers to the Hubble Space Telescope, from fax machines to the cameras that roamed Mars and the oceans’ floor.

It works by taking advantage of what is called the photoelectric effect, which was explained by Einstein and brought him the Nobel in 1921. The photoelectric effect is the name given to the observation that when light is shined onto a piece of metal, a small current flows through the metal.

The CCD devised by Dr. Boyle and George E. Smith captures light and stores it, then displays it by converting it into electrical charges.

In this video from 1978, Boyle and Smith describe how their invention, for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2009, functions.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Dancing ‘tree’ magnets love hi-NRG disco
05:31 pm



Sixty four dancing “tree” magnets covered in iron dust are synchronized to Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy” by artist David Durlach of TechnoFrolics. Even if you’re not a fan of poppy 80s hi-NRG disco, you can’t help but find this video utterly hypnotic.


(via Cakehead)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
For Sale: One Martin-Baker Aircraft Ejector Seat
06:48 am



Here’s something you don’t see everyday: For Sale, one Martin-Baker aircraft ejector seat.

One careful owner, no doubt. This James-Bond-like accessory is currently available on e-bay and is advertised as:

The ultimate in armchair flying !!!!

This is a Martin-Baker aircraft ejector seat mounted on a trolley with an attached control column.
I believe both the ejector seat and control column are from a Canberra bomber.

As well as being an unusual and interesting piece of furniture, the seat could be used as part of a
flight simulator or gaming set-up. It is certainly a talking point!

The seat is fitted with a complete harness and has a suede seat pad which contained a survival pack.
Overall, the seat, trolley and control column are a little scruffy and would benefit from a good clean up
and polish. The ejection rocket and parachute have been removed.

The trolley is fitted with small castors so the whole assembly can be moved around. The seat and
control column are easily removable for transportation and would fit into the back of a hatchback with
the seats down.

Cash on collection and I would be prepared to deliver up to a 50 - 60 mile radius of Bromley, Kent
for fuel cost.

For more information check here. Bids close on 11 May, 201122:19:18 BST.

A Martin-Baker Ejection Seat in action
More snaps of the ejector seat after the jump…
With thanks to John Butler

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
I have seen the future of rock and roll and there’s nothing there
01:38 am



Borders Books, Austin. R.I.P.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. In this 1978 newscast on movie piracy, we encounter the same wariness that greeted video cassette recorders three decades ago as we’ve seen in recent years with black boxes, CD and DVD recorders, Internet downloading and Youtube. E-books are next.

As art becomes increasingly inexpensive or free to own does it lose its value? Do we start to take it for granted? I know I do. I’m surrounded by CDs of music I’ve downloaded and burned and haven’t even listened to yet. I remember when buying a vinyl record was a big event.

Not only has music and movies become available at little or no cost, the devices we use to record and store them have become dirt cheap. In 1978, VCRs were selling for $1000. Videos, blank or pre-recorded, were ridiculously expensive. I remember buying Road Warrior back in the early 1980s on Betamax for $89.00. It wasn’t that long ago when blank CDs sold for $20, same with DVDs. Now you can pick up a dozen for less than the cost of the New York Times print edition…if you’re still buying newspapers. The cost of duplicating music and movies at home has gone from the absurdly expensive to the fatally cheap.

So now, with music, movies, and eventually books, available online for the cost of a 25 cent blank digital disc how does this work out for the creative community and the future of pop culture?  Free everything is terrific for the consumer (as distinguished from buyer), but what happens to the people creating the music, movies and books? What happens to the people working in record stores, video stores and bookstores?

In my hometown of Austin, three Borders bookstores have closed in the past two months. People have lost jobs. Large buildings are now empty, impossible to lease. Publishing houses are quietly freaking out. There’s no place for them to ship their books, other than, and they’re still very much in the business of selling books you can hold in your hands made by printing machines operated by actual human beings. How many people does it take to make a Kindle versus the publishers, printers, graphic designers etc. involved in the publication of a book?

As indie record stores close, the big chains aren’t picking up the slack. Hell no. They’re devoting less and less retail space to CDs and DVDs and will sure as shit eliminate them entirely soon enough. More people laid off. Blockbuster is bankrupt (as much a victim of their shitty customer as changing technologies) and Movie Gallery is dead and buried. More jobs lost.

In the next few years, I predict we’ll see the death of Barnes and Noble and what’s left of the independent book, record and video stores. There will no longer be neighborhood gathering places for lovers of literature, film and music. The artsy oasis in the shopping mall, that little bit of Bohemia that exists in culturally starved suburbs across America will be a thing of the past. The kids you see hanging out at Borders talking about the latest vampire books will end up congregating in front of Hot Topics sniffing screen-print instead of book ink. And there is a fucking difference!

In the midst of the death throes of the brick and mortar store, artists creating the “product” are left with fewer and fewer outlets that SELL what they create.

I know, I know, you’ve heard it all before. But this shit is real. A society that fucks its artists, is a culture that is destroying its soul. Download to your little heart’s desire, but one day the source of all this goodness will have been sucked dry and there won’t be anybody left who can afford to replenish it. And I don’t believe for a moment that there’s a wave of new young bands, film makers and writers on the brink of creating world class art for the sheer beauty of it. Deep down everybody wants to make a living doing what they love.

As art gets cheaper, the cheaper the art. While everybody was busy celebrating the Internet for providing a free outlet for aspiring rockers to get their music out there, did anyone stop to notice just how much garbage was being created in the name of rock and roll?  Far from being music’s savior, the Internet has become its sewage system.

Video killed the radio star. The Internet killed the rest of us. And yes, I’m part of the process.

Even the good old reliable adult video store is dying and “C.J., the video machine owner” (now in his 60s) is pulling his pud watching Youporn.

When did we collectively arrive at the point at which art was determined to be worthless?

Bootlegging, pirating, porn and the dawning of free art as reported on Cleveland TV in 1978:

The corpse of a bookstore after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Do Automata Dream of Clockwork Sheep?
01:46 pm



This collection of short films comes from The House of Automata, a specialist company that restores, builds and maintains historic and antique automata, and make new ones to commission.

Two highlights from this incredible collection are the eerie but quite magical automated harpist by Vichy, and life-like “Nancy - the automaton”.

More videos from The House of Automata can be seen here.


Nancy - the automaton
More amazing automata after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
A mini-doc about the Minimoog
01:04 pm



Here’s a cute lil’ doc about the origins and early use of the wondrous Minimoog from the company that brought it into existence. It’s so very easy to take for granted today but this was the very first synth to have a built-in keyboard. I was fascinated to learn that its signature tone, the thing that allows it to cut through any musical setting it’s used in was an unintended excess of overdrive. Credit Moog for realizing what a brilliant mistake they had made and not changing it.

Bonus: Two of my favorite funky Minimoog workouts, firstly it’s The Harlem Buck Dance Strut from Les McCann’s 1973 LP Layers:


And here’s crooner Marvin Gaye bringing you some Minimoog (or is that an Arp Odyssey ?) magic on After The Dance (instrumental) from his brilliant and under rated 1976 LP I Want You:

Posted by Brad Laner | Leave a comment
Amateur Astro-photographer takes largest interactive image of night sky
04:39 pm



This is the largest true color photograph of the night sky ever created. It was shot by first time astro-photographer, Nick Risinger, a 28-year-old from Seattle. This is not just one view of the night sky but a 360-panorama composed from 37,000 individual photographs, taken by Risinger during his 60,000 mile trek across the western United States and South Africa.

“The genesis of this was to educate and enlighten people about the natural beauty that is hidden, but surrounds us,” Risinger said.

The project began in March 2010, when Risinger and his brother took a suite of six professional-grade astronomical cameras to the desert in Nevada. By June, Risinger had quit his job as a marketing director for a countertop company to seek the darkest skies he could find.

Every night, Risinger and his father set up the cameras on a tripod that rotates with Earth. The cameras automatically took between 20 and 70 exposures each night in three different-color wavelengths. Previous professional sky surveys (including the Digitized Sky Survey of the 1980s, which is the source for the World Wide Telescope and Google Sky) shot only in red and blue. Including a third color filter gives the new survey a more real feeling, Risinger said.

“I wanted to create something that was a true representation of how we could see it, if it were 3,000 times brighter,” he said.

Risinger sought out dry, dark places far from light-polluting civilization. Most of the northern half of the sky was shot from deserts in Arizona, Texas and northern California, although Risinger had one clear, frigid night in Colorado.

“It was January and we were hanging out in Telluride waiting for the weather to clear in Arizona or Texas,” he said. “Finally we realized the weather was hopeless down south, but it was perfectly clear where we were.” They drove an hour away, set up near a frozen lake, and sat in their car with the heat off for 12 hours as the temperature outside dropped to minus 6 degrees Fahrenheit.

“I would have loved to turn the car on for heat, but I was afraid the exhaust would condense on the equipment and make a shutter freeze or ice up the lenses,” Risinger said. “Certainly it was the coldest I’ve ever been, but I’ve still got all 10 toes and fingers.”

The southern hemisphere was captured in two trips to South Africa, not far from the site of the 11-meter Southern African Large Telescope. While there, Risinger and his father stayed with a sheep farmer who also watched the skies with his own amateur telescope.

Back in Seattle, Risinger used a combination of standard and customized astrophotography software to subtract noise from the cameras, stack the three colors on top of each other, link each picture to a spot on the sky and stitch the whole thing together. He taught himself most of the techniques using online tutorials.

Risinger plans to sell poster-sized prints of the image from his website and is looking for someone to buy his cameras, but otherwise has no plans to make money from his efforts. He wants to make the panorama available to museums and planetariums, or modify it for a classroom tool.

“When Hubble shoots something, it’s a very small piece of the larger puzzle. The purpose of this project is to show the big puzzle,” he said. “It’s the forest-for-the-trees kind of concept. Astronomers spend a lot of their time looking at small bugs on the bark. This is more appreciating the forest.”

A giant zoomable high-definition version can be seen here.
Via Wired

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Why Intelligent People Use More Drugs
04:02 pm



Satoshi Kanazawa is an evolutionary psychologist at LSE and the coauthor of Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters (a book, I highly recommend, no pun intended). He also has a great blog on Psychology Today’s website.

Kanazawa has a theory, which he calls the “Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis” which goes something like this: “Intelligence” evolved as a coping mechanism of sorts (maybe stress-related?) to deal with “evolutionary novelties”—that is to say, to help humankind respond to things in their environment to which they were previously, as a species, unaccustomed to. An adaptation strategy, in other words.

Translation: Smart folk are more likely to try “new” things and to seek out novel experiences. Like drugs.

How else to explain toad licking? Someone, uh, “smart” had to figure that one out, originally, right? Someone intelligent had to come up with the idea to synthesize opium into heroin, yes? Yes.

But to be clear, and not to misrepresent his theories, Kanazawa clearly states (in the subtitle) that “Intelligent people don’t always do the right thing,” either…

Consistent with the prediction of the Hypothesis, the analysis of the National Child Development Study shows that more intelligent children in the United Kingdom are more likely to grow up to consume psychoactive drugs than less intelligent children.  Net of sex, religion, religiosity, marital status, number of children, education, earnings, depression, satisfaction with life, social class at birth, mother’s education, and father’s education, British children who are more intelligent before the age of 16 are more likely to consume psychoactive drugs at age 42 than less intelligent children.

The following graph shows the association between childhood general intelligence and the latent factor for the consumption of psychoactive drugs, constructed from indicators for the consumption of 13 different types of psychoactive drugs (cannabis, ecstasy, amphetamines, LSD, amyl nitrate, magic mushrooms, cocaine, temazepan, semeron, ketamine, crack, heroin, and methadone).  As you can see, there is a clear monotonic association between childhood general intelligence and adult consumption of psychoactive drugs.  “Very bright” individuals (with IQs above 125) are roughly three-tenths of a standard deviation more likely to consume psychoactive drugs than “very dull” individuals (with IQs below 75).

Shit, I must’ve been pretty smart because I purt’near crossed almost everything off this list (except for the sleeping pills) by the time I was seventeen!

Kanazawa concludes:

Consistent with the prediction of the Hypothesis, the analysis of the National Child Development Study shows that more intelligent children in the United Kingdom are more likely to grow up to consume psychoactive drugs than less intelligent children. ... “Very bright” individuals (with IQs above 125) are roughly three-tenths of a standard deviation more likely to consume psychoactive drugs than “very dull” individuals (with IQs below 75).

If that pattern holds across societies, then it runs directly counter to a lot of our preconceived notions about both intelligence and drug use:

People—scientists and civilians alike—often associate intelligence with positive life outcomes.  The fact that more intelligent individuals are more likely to consume alcohol, tobacco, and psychoactive drugs tampers this universally positive view of intelligence and intelligent individuals.  Intelligent people don’t always do the right thing, only the evolutionarily novel thing.

Speaking for myself—and I wasn’t a very innocent child by any stretch of the imagination—I was already trying to smoke banana peels (“They call it ‘Mellow Yellow’) and consuming heaping spoonfuls of freshly ground nutmeg when I was just ten-years-old. I got the banana peels idea, yes, from reading about the Donovan song and its supposed “hidden meaning.” The nutmeg idea came from the infamous appendix of William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, which I was able to pick up at the local mall (When my aunt, visiting from Chicago, caught wind of what my 4th grade reading material was, she was shocked—and told my mother so—but little did she know that I was already at that age actively trying my damnedest to get my hands on some real drugs).

This study explains a lot, I think. An awful lot!

Why Intelligent People Use More Drugs (Psychology Today)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Morningstar Commune and the roots of cybernetics
04:06 am



A photo of Morningstar Ranch featured in Time Magazine in 1967.
By the time I visited Morningstar Ranch (aka The Digger Farm) in 1968 it was becoming a suburb of the Haight Ashbury. Young hippies, like myself, were drifting through the Sebastopol commune not quite knowing why we there but feeling we needed to be there. It felt less like an actual community than a halfway house for people yearning for community. None of us were actually ready to settle down yet. We were too fucking young. The idea of going back to the land was nice in theory, but we were still digging what the cities had to offer: rock clubs, bookstores, Love Burger on Haight St., hot water and supermarkets.

Lou Gottlieb founded Morningstar Ranch in 1966. A former member of the folk group The Limelighters, Lou had a spiritual epiphany and felt compelled to explore alternatives to the status quo approach to living. Morningstar was Lou’s experiment in communal living, a work in progress that wasn’t really work but some kind of joyous attempt at re-defining how we lived as neighbors, lovers and caretakers of planet Earth.

Morningstar had an anarchic spirit. It was literally open to everyone. What you did when you got there was up to you. I don’t remember any rules. Most of us didn’t have the discipline or patience to become active members of Lou’s wild dream. We were either too lazy, too restless, or both. There was a core group that kept the place functioning as a community, but for the most part nomadic flower children passed through the place on their way to something called the future.

In nearby Palo Alto, the beginning of virtual realities were stirring in the shadows of mainframe computers.

Long before he co-founded The Hackers Conference, The WELL (considered by many to be the first online social network) and the Global Business Network, Stewart Brand was staging acid tests with Ken Kesey and his ragtag band of Merry Pranksters. Brand, who popularized the term personal computer in his book II Cybernetics Frontiers, took his first dose of acid at the International Foundation for Advanced Study in 1962.

The proto-cybergeeks conjuring electric magic in what would eventually be known as Silicon Valley were dropping Owsley and conceiving realities in which brain meat interfaced with machine and the mind could perceive itself in its true limitless state. Many of these bearded outlaws from computerland were Gottlieb’s close friends and early pilgrims to Morningstar.

We - the generation of the ‘60s - were inspired by the “bards and hot-gospellers of technology,” as business historian Peter Drucker described media maven Marshall McLuhan and technophile Buckminster Fuller. And we bought enthusiastically into the exotic technologies of the day, such as Fuller’s geodesic domes and psychoactive drugs like LSD. We learned from them, but ultimately they turned out to be blind alleys. Most of our generation scorned computers as the embodiment of centralized control. But a tiny contingent - later called “hackers” - embraced computers and set about transforming them into tools of liberation. That turned out to be the true royal road to the future.”  Stewart Brand (founder of The Whole Earth Catalog).

In this short clip from Canadian television, Lou envisions a cybernetic world where machines do the work while humans have all the fun.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
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