31 March 2007

Project: Make a Pinhole Camera Obscura

Hi -

Here is a fast and fun way to see upside-down images of bright things in your house (and, I guess, the sun). Make your own pinhole camera obscura in - I don't know - 20 minutes or less.

Also, I got to try a free prezo-sharing site called SlideShare.net.

Now, don't go staring into the sun or anything! But it works well if you turn off the lights and look at a candle flame.


27 March 2007

Memorable Books

What Books Actually Made a Difference to You Five Years Later?

The seemingly-recent explosion of books, articles, and Internet-fluff made me wonder, "What have I read so far that I actually remember it making some sort of impact on me? What didn't disappear from my short term memory moments after digesting it?"

Those questions have been floating around in my head lately, and I've come up with the following list. If any of you ends up trying this exercise, I'd be interested in the results.


21 March 2007

Bed of Nails

It looks as if I'm not beyond the, "Golly, I just saw the coolest video" stage of life, even in my 30s. Nine Inch Nails has this video in which... aw heck, just watch a couple minutes of it. It features those novelty nails-in-a-box things. [Quicktime]

If you actually are a fan, you might like a few instrumental recordings like the rehearsal footage of "Just Like You Imagined." (If you've never heard it before, they play the actual song in the middle of the clip.) Or this performance of "Something I can never have (still)."

Ok, that's melodramatic even for me right now, on a couch web-browsing. Do these guys ever wake up happy, faced with the chore of needing to get good and depressed for a studio session? Like, "Hey Trent, did you hear the one about the guy who..." blah, blah, telling jokes, and laughing, and having a great lunch somewhere, and then all, "Oh, man, dummy up. Act really depressed, we gotta record 'Something I can never have' for that DVD," like actors who giggle between dramatic takes. Or perhaps they're just down in the dumps for a bit. Like 10 years.

minerva> finger cunjena
Do college kids still use the "finger" command at Linux computer terminals to stalk (I mean) find friends the way we did in 1994? A story about the guy who wrote finger. [CNet]

Nothing 'til he talks! Want some coffee? Nothing 'til he talks!
How Police Interrogation Works.

Changing your OS X Shell to bash
At MacDevCenter.com.

Puzzles, or Animals in a Pond
Was reading Strogaz' nonlinear dynamics book - has an exercise along the lines of, "There is a circular pond with a duck swimming counterclockwise around the circumference. A dog is in the center. The dog chases the duck. It always heads towards the duck." If the dog is K times as fast as the duck, in what circumstances will he catch it? Turns out that although you can answer that question, you can't answer the seemingly easier question of "draw me the path the dog makes in time" if the dog and duck go the same speed unless you simulate it second by second. Here's an MIT problem set handout on it [PDF, see pp 2-6].

Of probably more interest to my puzzle-friends, my Googling about the above coughed up this page of various "puzzle hints" from a guy named Paul Hsieh.

A Bit That's Actually Funny!
In The New Yorker: what kids imagine the grown-ups are saying at dinner.

A Bit That's Actually Funny (and more tolerably so, if you went to Yale, and even more so if you care about the YPMB)
The Sousaphones of Wangoon (Excerpt)

Story of a Job Offer You Can't Refuse
What it must have felt like, and...

[c'mon, read it before continuing]

...photos of it from one of the job candidates. (I don't know, to me it feels over-produced and gimmicky. But the other bloggers were impressed.)


19 March 2007

My new food nemesis, the Metaweb, and...

Esther Dyson on Danny Hillis's Metaweb / Freebase project to "represent the world in a way that can be understood by computers as well as by people."

The winner for best grad student funk band name goes to...
The Max Funk Institut! Check out their funkified Zarathustra ("Also Funk/Rave in the Autoclave" [mp3]). Yes, this must be Dave Shechner week.

Airplane Last Words (don't click on this, DB)
A disturbing collection of transcripts and recordings from numerous plane crashes: "last words."

Science Fairs are Coming
Visit or maybe even judge one of the upcoming Massachusetts science fairs, like the Region IV (based in Somerville) or the all-state MIT pre-ISEF event. Ah, where is that dorky photo of me at the 1989 NJRSF?

What Creative People Have on Their Desks
Many photos at www.on-my-desk.blogspot.com.

Move Over, Rachel Ray, here's Bobby Flay
I admit to having an immature and quite-strong dislike of various TV personalities. However, celebrity chef Bobby Flay is most irksome. I am relieved to find I'm not the only person who feels this way about Mr. Flay.

Let's Make up for that with something Highly Intellectual
Happy Belated "Pi Day" (3/14), for those who missed it. Gosh, that reminds me that one of the first web pages we discovered in school (you know, where the machines were auto-loaded with Mosaic) was Eve Anderson's chanting-digits-of-Pi page. Some version of that still remains. Hey, looks like I wasn't the only one: here's "The Legacy of Eve Andersson" at kuro5hin.org, which proposes that Eve's page was the first blog.

From the Sick Bay near Boston, Mass,

13 March 2007

Marketing, learning robots, and genes-to-go

Improve Your Marketing Skills
Recommended reading list about marketing, from Seth Godin.

Holy smokes! Simple robots that learn how to move... even if you chop limbs off
From the "that's so life-like, it's eerie" department: Cornell's Hod Lipson strikes again. (YouTube video: "Resilient Machines Through Continuous Self-Modeling")

Prof. Lipson's list of articles that he recommends to people interested in mechano-software systems that "evolve."

Thinking Twice About...
...blogging about your children (CNET.com)

Web 2.0 Stuff I Don't Use, But Everyone Else Does
Perhaps Del.icio.us could keep track of the things I'd find on Digg, but am too busy seeing blow-by-blow descriptions of where my friends are on Twitter so I could talk to them on meebo.

Click Here to Order Genes
Codon Devices, a firm that fabricates custom DNA for researchers, has an "Order Genes" button on their website. Okay, now the future has arrived.

While we're at it, I hear that David Shechner will be giving a brief talk for the scientifically-interested public at the Boston Museum of Science about the potential origins of life, and his work in that area. It's called "Evolution in a test tube," but his Blumian working title is "Are you there God? It's me, Darwin."


08 March 2007

Marching Snare Drums

Hello -

I never thought I'd say this, but thank goodness for YouTube. I finally found a recording of the best, most impressive snare drumming performance I've ever seen: the group from the show "Blast." I used to spend many hours a day practicing rudimental snare drumming, the elements of which are strung together to form most of what you'd hear in military corps-style drumming.

Anyhow -- If the first five minutes of this doesn't give you goosebumps, I don't know what will: "Battery Battle." J-Fav got us front row, center-stage seats; I couldn't believe my eyes or my ears.


ps Want more? This is an older clip. Funny thing is that one of the hardest things that they do gets no applause, at 1:52 -- trading sides of a drumroll.

pps Hey band geeks! Here's Blast doing Malaguena.

ppps Alright, fine. Free marketing tip of the day: people are very likely to read the "ps" section of direct mail, even if they don't read the main body. Really - next time you get junk mail, see if it has a "ps." Marketers put "ps" in there to manipulate you. There, now you know.