The Truth About the Mouse

Have you ever wondered about how a computer mouse really works? What’s inside one of them, anyway? The mouse is one of those ubiquitous inventions we tend to take for granted.

Lawrence Hitches is some guy in Adelaide, Australia. I don’t know if he created this image while still stunned by the revelation of the truth about a mouse’s real source of energy, or if he found it somewhere. It doesn’t really matter, though, does it? The important thing is that the truth is now out, and the genie can’t be put back in the bottle! What will the PETA folks say?

Larry, who is still just amazed!

Zombies And Home Canning

I saw this nicely-done parody image somewhere… I’d probably never be able to find it again, but I did record the original source:

Ready Made Resources

The company sells energy-saving products of interest to homesteaders, and also to those who would like to prepare for that zombie attack which is always just around the corner.

Maybe they will send me a solar-powered zombie-detector in exchange for this free plug!

Larry

Dancing Through the Uncanny Valley

This video showed up in one of my “Following” feeds over at Google+; Thanks, Jeff Brown!

I found this video to be oddly compelling and more than a bit unsettling. Ostensibly a “dubbed” video of a man virtuosically dancing to the music of Foster the People, I kept feeling like this was not a human I was watching. Partly it was the lack of expression on the man’s face, and partly the mechanical “feel” of some of the dance moves. The synthesized music was appropriate, spacey and weird and eerily reflected by staccato dance moves.

I was reminded of the “Uncanny Valley”, a phrase coined by the Japanese robotics professor Masahiro Mori in 1970, well before the age of massive digital manipulation of visual and aural data. A summary and definition from a Wikipedia page:

The uncanny valley is a hypothesis … which holds that when human replicas look and act almost, but not perfectly, like actual human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers.

Of course the video shows a presumably real man dancing, but I surmise that quite a bit of video editing has been done to the original video data; thus the vaguely creepy feelings I at least had while watching. What do you think?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXO-jKksQkM?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

On a lighter note, here is a masterfully cast and performed video skit, sort of a modern version of one of the old “Candid Camera” segments. How would you react if you saw what appeared to be a crashed NASA satellite embedded in your car? Thanks go to Robin Shapiro for inadvertently alerting me to this video. Who is Robin and why has she ended up in my Facebook feed? I have no idea. Must be a friend of a friend…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgTyiaDmytw?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

Larry

A Greek Musical Collaboration

How would you like to hear seventy-seven Greek musicians and singers playing together? It’s like a virtual tour of current Greek musical culture. As the web-site caption informs us:

77 artists, 40 locations around attica — the greater athens area — greece, playing ecologically.

παίζουμε οικολογικά

(I didn’t know that I could cut-and-paste Greek script!)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEl_sIPBuns?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

This is a great example of a new genre: sequential videos of musicians synced up with their music, seamlessly flowing from one musician to the next, with overlap. The basic melody sounds like a Greek traditional song, but the musical genres presented range all over the map. I’ve seen and heard other examples of this type of video. It’s a wonderful way of conveying a sense of place and community. There should be a central repository for such efforts, like Flickr is for photos, and Youtube and several other sites are for music and ambient sounds.

Thanks go to Helen Sotiriadis for bringing this video to my attention. She’s a fine photographer who lives in Athens. Take a look at her photos here:

Helen Sotiriadis

Here’s a scaled-down example of her landscape photography:

Notice how the cloud contours seem to echo the shape of the land.

Larry

Detroit Science Center Lip Dub

This is a touching celebratory video. Take any team of people working on a project together and it is likely a few will be able to do the dance moves, etc., and lip-sync pop music effectively. Could this be due to hours of practice at karoake bars, or just singing in the shower and vacuum-cleaner-dancing with only a non-judgmental cat as audience?

The Lip Dub Member Event at the Detroit Science Center! The staff did 2 weeks of pre-production to plan things out. Then the production department and the singers rehearsed for 2 more weeks to get it right. Then the members came out for one amazing night and made it awesome! One walk through and five takes later we wrapped it up, all in time to get the kids to bed on time. Thank you so much to everyone who worked on this and who came out to join us. It was because of all of you the this night was a huge success.
What’s next? Who knows, but you can bet it will a ton of fun.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/27926879 w=400&h=225]

Detroit Science Center Lip Dub (Don’t Stop Me Now) from Detroit Science Center on Vimeo.

The song is by the British band Queen. Wasn’t Freddy Mercury quite a singer? He died of bronchopneumonia brought on by AIDS in 1991. One of the few Parsi rock singers, he has been missed.

Thanks go to Jennifer Ouellette, whose blog Cocktail Party Physics is one of my favorites. Jennifer posted the video on Facebook, I went to Vimeo and snagged the embedding code, and here we are!

Larry

Peacock Spider Mating Dance

The Peacock Spider is a tiny arachnid which lives in parts of Eastern Australia. Sharp-eyed entomologist Jurgen Otto was out on a walk and found an area which seemed to be a favorite habitat for the species. A patient soul, Otto got some good-quality video of the courtship of the tiny jumping spiders:

The Peacock Spider (Maratus volans)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GgAbyYDFeg?rel=0&w=560&h=349]

Part Two, complete with musical accompaniment and a Happy Ending:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppP03ERHbUI?rel=0&w=560&h=349]

Notice how the pedipalps seem to convey excitement and interest in both brilliantly-colored male and drab female. It’s difficult to avoid anthropomorphizing these little creatures.

Larry

Louis Wain, Schizoid Painter

I think it was around 1962 when a series of flat cardboard boxes began arriving via the mail to the suburban house in Cedar Rapids where my family lived. Of course I was curious that day when the first one arrived, but my mother said, “It’s addressed to your father — you’ll just have to wait until he gets home, honey.”

The parcel turned out to contain the first of many books in a series called “The Time/Life Science Library”. There was one book in the series which really fascinated me: “The Mind”. It was full of lurid accounts of mental disorders; I, as an eight-year-old who had led a sheltered life, was just amazed and fascinated. In particular the sequence of cat paintings by Louis Wain intrigued me. Those images documented the man’s descent into full-blown schizophrenia in a way that no prose description could have done.

I must confess that I was vividly reminded of those paintings years later during my LSD period in the mid-1970s.

My favorite of the series of paintings is the one at the top of this post. It is fairly representational, without the floridly weird geometric excesses of Wain’s later paintings. There’s something about that cat’s eyes…

Here’s a Youtube video which presents Wain’s descent into madness in a sequential fashion:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8MIe7_u_tA?rel=0&w=425&h=349]

There is some resemblance to Van Gogh’s later paintings, in particular his later self-portraits, such as this one:

Larry

A Phi Video

´Phi, commonly known as the Golden Ratio, is an irrational number with many fascinating properties. It can be derived with this equation:

(Image from Wikipedia)

I won’t delve into the various examples of phi which can be found in nature and art. There are many articles on the web concerning phi; a good starting point is the Wikipedia entry.

I will mention a visual and geometrical way to grasp this irrational number. Imagine a square, then imagine that the right-hand side of the square comes loose at the top-right corner and falls flat, continuing the bottom side of the square towards the right. Imagine a new side extending vertically and a connecting line extending from this new line’s top leftwards towards the terminus of the top of the square; what results is a rectangle. The ratio between the lengths of the long and short sides of this new rectangle is phi, the Golden Ratio.

A film-maker named Cristobal Vila has produced a very well-done video illustrating the Golden Ratio. Watch it, I’m certain you will enjoy it:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0tLbl5LrJ8]

My friend Jeff called this video to my attention. Thanks, Jeff!

Larry

Louis C.K. As a Cartoon Character

Louis C.K. is one of the funniest satirist/comedians around. There are many clips of his brilliant routines on Youtube. He’s often outrageously profane, so if that sort of humor offends you, just don’t watch them. I think this animation is well worth watching:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTzyudfuUtk&w=560&h=349]

Larry