Friday, March 30, 2007
Target.com is offering this kid's version of the Zorb.
In the words of the advertising blurb:
• Kids can literally have a ball [Erk! Ed.] while safely crawling, bouncing and rolling around this gigantic sphere [I'm guessing 'safely' is provisional on keeping it away from glass tables, brambles, cliffs and busy roads! Ed.]
• Made of a heavy-gauge vinyl, the ball inflates to 7’ diameter
• Comes with peek-a-boo windows and super-thick pillows of air cushioning against the ground
• Indoor or outdoor use; world's largest Giga ball
• Ages 4 years and up
And all for just $199.99.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
ClarkVision.com reports: [edited]
How many megapixels does the human eye possess?
The eye is not a single frame snapshot camera. It is more like a video stream. The eye moves rapidly in small angular amounts and continually updates the image in one's brain to "paint" the detail. We also have two eyes, and our brain combines the signals to increase the resolution further.
We also scan a scene to gather more information. Because of these factors, the eye plus brain assembles a higher resolution image than possible with the number of photoreceptors in the retina.
Consider a view in front of you that is 90 degrees by 90 degrees, like looking through an open window at a scene. The number of pixels would be 90 degrees x 60 arc-minutes/degree x 1/0.3 x 90 x 60 x 1/0.3 = 324,000,000 pixels (324 megapixels).
At any one moment, you actually do not perceive that many pixels, but your eye moves around the scene to see all the detail you want. But the human eye really sees a larger field of view, close to 180 degrees. Let's be conservative and use 120 degrees for the field of view. Then we would see 120 x 120 x 60 x 60 ÷ (0.3 x 0.3) = 576 megapixels.
ISO Sensitivity of the Human Eye
After 30 minutes darkness: ISO 800. In bright sunlight, over 600 times less, which would put the ISO equivalent at around 1.
The Dynamic Range of the Eye
The eye is able to function in bright sunlight and view faint starlight, a range of more than 10 million to one. The eye is a contrast detector, not an absolute detector like the sensor in a digital camera. The range of the human eye is greater than any film or consumer digital camera.
The Focal Length of the Eye
Object focal length of the eye = 16.7 mm
Image focal length of the eye = 22.3 mm
Thanks to Sora for the loan of her (very beautiful) left eye.
vnunet reports: [edited]
Samsung has unveiled the successor to its first generation Ultra Mobile PC Q1, the Q1 Ultra, at the CeBIT trade show in Hanover. The most noticeable change is the addition of a keyboard, split on either side of the screen. It also has a small joystick nub for mouse control if touching the screen is inconvenient.
The 7in WSVGA screen runs Windows Vista Home Premium at a resolution of 1024 x 600 and is backed by a UMPC Intel processor, 1GB DDR2 memory and 60GB 1.8in hard drive. It supports wired Lan, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HSDPA and WiBro.
Users can also connect devices via the two USB sockets and there is an SD slot for expandable memory plus an audio jack for connecting headphones. Samsung has added two cameras to the ultra, a 1.3-megapixel unit for photos, and a front facing camera to enable webcams.
The Q1 Ultra measures 5.5” x 1” x 9” (large paperback book), and weighs 690g.
colorblender.com offers an online colour picker: [edited]
To get started, choose a preferred color using the color picker, and a 6-color matching palette (a 'blend') will be automatically calculated.
Using the radio buttons you may switch to Direct Edit mode to tweak or edit individual colors of your blend.
Blends can be saved for future use, and will be available whenever you return to this site from the same workstation, given that your browser accepts cookies.
Need some inspiration? Load a random blend!
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
RegHardware reports: [edited]
Samsung has upped the capacity of its Flash-based SSD line to 64GB, offering the unit in the media player- and notebook-friendly 1.8in form factor.
The 64GB drive is faster than its predecessor too, with maximum read and write speeds of 64MBps and 45MBps, respectively - 4.3 and 6.4 times than a typical 80GB hard disk drive, Samsung claimed, and 1.2 and 1.5 times faster than its 32GB SSD.
The new solid-state drive isn't available yet - Samsung said the product won't go into mass-production until next quarter.
When it comes to entertainment platforms, my kidz have a fairly wide choice, including laptop computers and a range of gaming consoles. The latest of these is the Nintendo Wii, which is yet another example of Nintendo creating something that redefines the gaming genre.
Brook spent a good part of Saturday playing The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on it. However, toward the end of the afternoon I noticed that he had plugged a couple of GameCube controllers into it, and was playing Super Smash Bros Melee.
SSBM is a bizarre game in which various Nintendo characters kick 9 levels of pixels out of one another. Of all the games we've bought for the GameCube (and we've bought a LOT!) it is the most played.
I asked Brook why he liked it so much. "I don't know really" was his characteristically verbose reply, "I guess, it's just fun".
Yep. Not Hi-Def. Not 60 frames per second. Not 'cutting-edge'. Just fun.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Personal Finance Advice reports: [edited]
"I was over at a Japanese friend’s house the other night and he started to show me how to make origami with Japanese money."
The site has directions for making the T-shirt, a bow-tie, a spider, a rosette and an accordion.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Got a Mac? Updated to OS X 10.4.9 recently? Been having trouble ejecting CDs/DVDs?
Apple support reports:
"To prevent accidentally ejecting media, Mac OS X 10.4.9 adds a slight delay to the Media Eject key before it takes effect. To eject a disc, hold the Media Eject key. The disc will eject normally and the eject symbol will appear."
Yep, I wish they'd told me as well.
Friday, March 23, 2007
Pierre Haulot and William Boullier have produced a watch concept where time is viewed as a 'progress bar'.
In their own words:
"The relationship between the consumer and his watch is really important. The consumer identifies himself with his watch. It needs to reflect his personality and his way of life. Life is a succession of short or long term goals.
"Elio Linea is a watch which shows you your position on a linear scale (like a computer downloading gauge). You can visualize your position in a predetermined period, with the time spent and the time remaining."
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
BBC reports: [edited]
An ethical code to prevent humans abusing robots, and vice versa, is being drawn up by South Korea. The Robot Ethics Charter will cover standards for users and manufacturers and will be released later in 2007.
It is being put together by a five member team of experts that includes futurists and a science fiction writer. The South Korean government has identified robotics as a key economic driver and is pumping millions of dollars into research.
A recent government report forecast that robots would routinely carry out surgery by 2018. The Ministry of Information and Communication has also predicted that every South Korean household will have a robot by between 2015 and 2020.
Key considerations would include ensuring human control over robots, protecting data acquired by robots and preventing illegal use.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
CineMassive specialises in providing a range of multiple-display configurations.
The pictured set-up features a 1600 x 1200 pixel Samsung screen, surrounded by five of its smaller 1024 x 1280 pixel cousins, making for a total of 8,473,600 pixels!. And all for a not-ridiculous $3,299 (although, for comparison, the Dell 30" display - 4,096,000 pixels - retails at $1,699.00).
Monday, March 19, 2007
BBC reports: [edited]
Two leading UK climate researchers have criticised those among their peers who they say are "overplaying" the global warming message. Professors Paul Hardaker and Chris Collier, both Royal Meteorological Society figures, are voicing their concern at a conference in Oxford.
They say some researchers make claims about possible future impacts that cannot be justified by the science. The pair believe this damages the credibility of all climate scientists. They think catastrophism and the "Hollywoodisation" of weather and climate only work to create confusion in the public mind.
As an example, they point to a recent statement from one of the foremost US science bodies - the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The association released a strongly worded statement at its last annual meeting in San Francisco in February which said:
"As expected, intensification of droughts, heatwaves, floods, wildfires, and severe storms is occurring, with a mounting toll on vulnerable ecosystems and societies. These events are early warning signs of even more devastating damage to come, some of which will be irreversible."
According to Professors Hardaker and Collier, this may well turn out to be true, but convincing evidence to back the claims has not yet emerged.
A former president of the Royal Meteorological Society, Professor Collier is concerned that the serious message about the real risks posed by global warming could be undermined by making premature claims.
"I've no doubt that global warming is occurring, but we don't want to undermine that case by crying wolf."
This view is shared by Professor Hardaker, the society's chief executive.
"Organisations have been guilty of overplaying the message," he says. "There's no evidence to show we're all due for very short-term devastating impacts as a result of global warming; so I think these statements can be dangerous where you mix in the science with unscientific assumptions."
Professor Hardaker also believes that overblown statements play into the hands of those who say that scientists are wrong on climate change - that global warming is a myth.
"I think we do have to be careful as scientists not to overstate the case because it does damage the credibility of the many other things that we have greater certainty about," he said. "We have to stick to what the science is telling us; and I don't think making that sound more sensational, or more sexy, because it gets us more newspaper columns, is the right thing for us to be doing.
Friday, March 16, 2007
WorldChanging.com reports: [edited]
Free-for-all is a term generally used to describe chaos. And chaos is a word one could use to describe much of Delhi. But at the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib kitchen, a Sikh temple which serves meals to around 10,000 people every single day, there's not a trace of chaos. And the food is free. For all.
This week, Alex and I are at the Doors of Perception conference in India, where the theme is "Food and Juice." It's an exploration of food systems worldwide, and the energy required to make them go.
On the first full day of the conference, the fifty-odd attendees split into small groups to go exploring the city of Delhi through its food culture. A number of groups focused on the prolific street vendor network, several looked at Delhi's water, and my group of nine went to Gurdwara Bangla Sahib to see how they achieve the daunting task of feeding thousands of people in single a day.
As Debra Solomon told us when introducing the excursion the previous evening: "They do the most exquisite dishwashing ritual you'll ever see." But actually, the Sikh guide who escorted us through the temple grounds told us in no uncertain terms that the kitchen activities are absolutely without ritual.
"Cooking food is cooking food," he said, "No ritual. Just cooking." But if it can't be called a ritual, it can surely be called a dance - a rhythmic, continuous choreography with mounds of dough, cauldrons of lentils, dozens of hands, and an endless stream of hungry visitors.
Every Sikh temple throughout the world has a Langar (Punjabi for "free kitchen"). This is not a soup kitchen. It's not exclusively for the poor, nor exclusively for the Sikh community. Volunteering in the cooking, serving and cleaning process is a form of active spiritual practice for devotees, but the service they provide asks no religious affiliation of its recipients.
Our guide's chorus was, "Man, woman, color, caste, community," meaning you will be fed here regardless of how you fit into any of those classifications. This spirit of inclusion and equality is reinforced by the kitchen's adherence to vegetarianism, not because Sikhs are vegetarian, but because others who visit may be, and by serving no meat, they exclude nobody.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
In an article that will have Luddites muttering "I told you so", Technology Review reports: [edited]
A bevy of seven-inch-high s-bots in Switzerland would make Machiavelli proud, though their conduct might make us humans ponder our own behaviour, and that of future intelligent machines.
Programmed to live lives of just two minutes, these mechanical beings work together over the course of hundreds of generations to find "food" and to avoid "poison." The experiment, by Swiss entomologist Laurent Keller, is designed to help us better understand how social creatures evolve to communicate. Working at the University of Lausanne, Keller's team built cute devices with wheels, cameras, ground sensors, and a programmed "genome" that dictated responses to their surroundings.
Some s-bots had blue lights they could flip on and off to signal others. Their robo-ecosytem contained small trays that looked like ashtrays with Christmas lights that were designated as food or poison. If the s-bots found the former, they could "mate", sharing their "genome" programming so that it is passed on to the next "generation"; if not, they died off, and so did their "genes." The idea was to simulate events that would take thousands of years or longer for honeybees or humans to develop, and compress it into about a week - which for these bots was 500 generations.
The results: the bots sharing genes learned to help one another perpetuate their "DNA," using their lights to signal to their clan when they discovered food. When outsiders with different genomes were introduced, members of the clan sometimes blinked their lights far away from the food to draw the strangers away.
Keller and his team did not expect this level of sophistication in the bots' communication. They concluded that kinship and the imperative of the group to survive spurred a group dynamic that included helping one another and deceiving outsiders. Other researchers are planning to build more bots to test how other forms of group behavior might have evolved.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
The Sony Vaio VGN-UX1XN ultra-mobile PC has been available in Japan for a while, and is now being released in Europe.
Reg Hardware have posted a (broadly positive) review of it.
They like its 500g weight, 1,024 x 600 pixel touch-sensitive screen and tiny (15 x 9.5 x 3.5cm, think half the size of a large paperback book) proportions. They're not so keen on its lacklustre storage space, speed and battery life.
What they don't mention is what immediately struck me (apart from its awful name). Why have Sony given their cutting-edge, £2,000 ultra-portable flagship the aesthetics of a 1970s Dymo-labelling machine?
New York Times reports: [edited]
In coming months Coca-Cola and PepsiCo will introduce new carbonated drinks that are fortified with vitamins and minerals: Diet Coke Plus and Tava, which is PepsiCo’s new offering.
They will be promoted as “sparkling beverages.” The companies are not calling them soft drinks because people are turning away from traditional soda, which has been hurt in part by publicity about its link to obesity.
While the soda business remains a $68 billion industry in the United States, consumers are increasingly reaching for bottled water, sparkling juices and green tea drinks. In 2005, the amount of soda sold in this country dropped for the first time in recent history. Even the diet soda business has slowed.
The new fortified soft drinks earned grudging approval from Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition advocacy group and frequent critic of regular soft drinks, which it has labeled “liquid candy.”
“These beverages are certainly a lot better than a regular soft drink,” he said. But he was quick to add that consumers were better off getting their nutrients from natural foods, rather than fortified soft drinks.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
The Register reports: [edited]
The online presence of The Bookseller is running its annual poll to determine which six tomes should receive the 2007 "Oddest Titles" prize.
The magazine's deputy editor, Joel Rickett, told the BBC: "It continues to celebrate the bizarre, the strange, and the simply odd. This year's shortlist shows that despite publishers cutting back their lists, literary diversity continues to flourish."
The shortlist includes:
- Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan
- How Green Were the Nazis?
- D. Di Mascio's Delicious Ice Cream: D. Di Mascio of Coventry? An Ice Cream Company of Repute, with an Interesting and Varied Fleet of Ice Cream Vans
- The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification
- Proceedings of the Eighteenth International Seaweed Symposium
- Better Never To Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence
The winner of the Oddest Titles laureat will be announced on 13 April.
Monday, March 12, 2007
The Freedom of the Seas is the largest cruise ship yet built. Cabins sizes range from 160 square foot, twin-bed interior cabins to the palatial 14-person, 1200 square foot Presidential Suite.
Passenger capacity - 3634
Crew members - 1360
Length - 1112 ft (New York’s Chrysler Building, 1046 ft)
Beam - 184 feet
Fuel consumption: 28,000 gallons per hour
Operating costs: $1 million per day
Passenger Decks - 15
Cabins - 1800
Saturday, March 10, 2007
London to Lincoln:
The Gambler - Don Schlitz
The Wee Hours Review - Roman Candle
The Night I lost my head - Maximo Park
Yeah Yeah Yeah - Greyhounds
What Do You Want From Me - Monaco
The Hidden Track - Earlimart
Green Eggs And Ham - DylanHearsAWho.com
When I Get Low I Get High - Back Porch Vipers
Sydney - Halifax
Not Sure Yet - Dat Boy Mikee
Morning Wonder - The Earlies
Breathe - Prodigy
Seperated - Unbusted
Psycho Lover - The Things
Lost In The Plot - The Dears
The story of - The Heavenly States
Too Many Daves - DylanHearsAWho.com
Mena Patina - Jade Day
Walk on By - Gabrielle
South Austin Jug Band - South Austin Jug Band
Beetlebum - Blur
Bellissima - DJ Quicksilver
McElligot's Pool - DylanHearsAWho.com
Skyline - Svengali
The Planeiac - Palomar
suspension - Mae
Encore Une Fois - Sash
Block Rockin Beats - The Chemical Brothers
You Are You Are - Beangrowers
Perfect Weapon - Communique
New Light Of Tomorrow - Husky Rescue
mudpies and gasoline - Patricia Vonne
Pressure and Heat - Patrice Pike
So What Could I Do - Cranebuilders
Post To Wire - Richmond Fontaine
My Backyard - Nora O'Connor
Feel Good Hit of the Summer - Queens of the Stone Age
One Taste Of The Bait - Webb Wilder & The Nashvegaans
poison - The Waco Brothers
Alone - Bee Gees
Spanish Radio - deSoL
Lincoln to London
Grace Kelly - Mika
Soul Finger - The Bar-Kays
It's Chico Time - Chico
Toxic (Radio Edit) - Mark Ronson
My Interpretation - Mika
Keep on Jumpin' - Todd Terry
Sunshine - Umboza
Jazz It Up - Reel 2 Real
Walking on the Milky Way - Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Romantic Type - The Pigeon Detectives
Groovin' - Pato Banton
Blurred - Pianoman
Monster - The Automatic
Would You Love a Monsterman - Lordi
Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield
After All (trance version) - Delerium Feat Jael
Mysterious Girl - Peter Andre
Rawhide - Frankie Lane
Off the Hook - CSS
Enjoy It! - In Search Of The Castaways
Canaval De Paris - Dario G
Born Slippy (single) - Underworld
Tony the Beat (Rex the Dog Radio Version) - The Sounds
Boys Will Be Boys - The Ordinary Boys
Stuck Between Stations - The Hold Steady
Fight For Your Honor (Karate Kid) - Chicago w/Peter Cetera
I'm Into Something Good - Herman's Hermits
Big House - Lil' Markie
I Gave You My Heart (Didn't I) - Hot Chocolate
There's Nothing I Won't Do - JX
Good Enough - Dodgy
Melody - Erin McKeown
Why Won't You Give Me Your Love? - The Zutons
Chips Ahoy! - The Hold Steady
Sing Me Spanish Techno - The New Pornographers
You're Gorgeous - Babybird
Seven Days and One Week - BBE
Another girl, another planet - Only Ones
The Typewriter - Leroy Anderson
Best Friend - Toy Box
She Gets Away - Crash Kelly
House Of Love (Pedigree Mix) - East 17
Girls Talk - Dave Edmunds
Breathe Tonight - Alice Martineau
Yeh Yeh - Matt Bianco
On Any Other Day - The Police
Friday, March 09, 2007
Virtusphere reports: [edited]
Virtusphere is an international award winning product that revolutionizes the way man interacts with computers. The patented method and system provide infinite space and the most immersive experience for simulated training, exercise and gaming to address a $42 billion vis-sim market.
The VirtuSphere platform consists of a large hollow sphere that sits on top of a base and allows the sphere to rotate 360 degrees. Wearing a wireless, head-mounted display, users can step inside the sphere to fully interact in immersive virtual environments. The VirtuSphere enables 6 degrees of freedom – one can move in any direction; walk, jump, roll, crawl, run over virtually unlimited distances without encountering real-world physical obstacles.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Andrew Lipson reports: [edited]
Daniel Shiu and I worked on this as a joint project after we finished our rendition of Escher's "Ascending and Descending", making it our fourth Escher picture rendered in Lego. Once again, no camera tricks, but the picture has to be taken from exactly the right place, and boy did we get tired of trying to find where that place was.
Thanks to John Nack for the link.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Glass has worked in public radio for over 20 years. Since 1995, he has hosted and produced This American Life, from WBEZ. It reaches over 1.6 million listeners weekly. Glass can be heard in nearly every episode.
These 5-minute videos provide his take on the essence of story-telling and the importance of persistence, ruthlessness and failure in the creative process.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
BBC reports: [edited]
Making robots that interact with people emotionally is the goal of a European project led by British scientists. Feelix Growing is a research project involving six countries, and 25 roboticists, developmental psychologists and neuroscientists.
Co-ordinator Dr Lola Canamero said the aim was to build robots that "learn from humans and respond in a socially and emotionally appropriate manner". The 2.3m euros scheme will last for three years.
"The human emotional world is very complex but we respond to simple cues, things we don't notice or we don't pay attention to, such as how someone moves," said Dr Canamero, who is based at the University of Hertfordshire.
The project involves building a series of robots that can take sensory input from the humans they are interacting with and then adapt their behaviour accordingly.
Dr Canamero likens the robots to babies that learn their behaviour from the patterns of movement and emotional state of the world around them. The robots themselves are simple machines - and in some cases they are off-the-shelf machines. The most interesting aspect of the project is the software.
One of the areas the robots will be learning from is human movement. "Motion tells you a lot about your emotional state. "The physical proximity between human and robot, and the frequency of human contact - through those things we hope to detect the emotional states we need."
"It is very important to detect when the human user is angry and the robot has done something wrong or if the human is lonely and the robot needs to cheer him or her up. We are focusing on emotions relevant to a baby robot that has to grow and help human with every day life."
One of the first robots built in the project is exhibiting imprinted behaviour - which is found among birds and some mammals when born. "They get attached to the first object they see when born. It is usually the mother and that's what makes them follow the mother around.
"We have a prototype of a robot that follows people around and can adapt to the way humans interact with it. It follows closer or further away depending on how the human feels about it.
Dr Canamero says robots that can adapt to people's behaviours are needed if the machines are to play a part in human society. At the end of the project two robots will be built which integrate the different aspects of the machines being developed across Europe.
Monday, March 05, 2007
Librivox is a project where volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files back onto the net. Their goal is to make all public domain literature available as free audio books. It is a volunteer-run, open source, free content, public domain project.
It is a worthy aim, although some of the readers' voices make Steven Hawking sound interesting. However, their latest project is ambitious enough to warrant a mention... they've just released Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species (by means of natural selection). All 24 hours 30 minutes of it! (cue comments about major evolutionary shifts occurring while listening to it).
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Friday, March 02, 2007
The Register reports: [edited]
For the first time since 2004 the UK is set to bask in the spooky reddish light of a full lunar eclipse.
This Saturday night (3 March) the Earth will move between the sun and the moon. The Earth will cast its shadow on the moon, leaving our largest natural satellite to bask only in refracted Earthlight, which it reflects back to us in all its bloody glory.
The actual colour of the reflected Earthlight depends on the condition of the Earth's atmosphere, particularly its dust content. It can be anything from a deep coppery red to a dull grey.
Proceedings begin shortly after 8pm, when the moon moves into our planet's penumbral shadow. It takes a little over an hour for it to move into the darker umbra, but this stage should begin by half past nine, and reach totality by a quarter to eleven.
The eclipse will last for around 75 minutes, finishing two minutes before midnight. The moon will be totally out of our shadow by half past two in the morning.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Sagem has launched what it claims to be the smallest Bluetooth headset on the market.
The Sagem H4 measures 35 x 18 x 12.5mm and weighs 9.5g (that's three 5p pieces).
The device is compatible with most Bluetooth mobile phones, and can be programmed to store two favourite numbers which can be called at the touch of a dedicated button.
The Sagem H4 costs £51.