brawl in the family

This is actually quite a fantastic little webcomic. It’s really making me laugh. It’s pretty much all Super Smash Brothers references, but it’s great.

more recent graphics

Enlighten, a newish graphical engine developed by Geomerics, has actually achieved real-time radiosity effects. It simulates light scattering off of lit surfaces and lighting other surfaces that are not directly in the light, which then  light other surfaces… a process which Geomerics claims continues effectively ad infinitum with their engine.

It’s quite impressive, and I recommend that you give it a look on their media page.

In other somewhat-related news, VLC Media Player’s newest version finally has good-looking subtitles. For anyone still using 0.8.6, now is a perfectly good time to upgrade to the newest version0.9.8a at the time of this writing.

It’s been over three years since I first used VLC, and the whole time I’ve wished that it had more powerful subtitles. Now it features a pretty powerful engine with proper layout, colors, and fonts as dictated by some of the most recent subtitle formats. I thought this day would never come.

In fact, I had just installed the newest version and was chatting with a friend about this very feature, pondering if and perhaps when it would ever be made. I was somewhat doubtful…and then BAM they’d actually done it. Pretty crazy.

gauss chariot

I think it would be fun to make a map in Hammer (the Source engine map editing kit) where the people who work on it just add a few things per day, slowly expanding the contents of the map until there is a gigantic building filling up the entire 0.5×0.5×0.25 mile space. Then we could go around trying to finish it off and compile it (haha, it would probably take about a week to compile on a regular machine). I figure we could just rule out moving parts and map triggers, since stuff like that would just overwhelm the engine, plus they’re one of the hardest things to do when you’re mapping. I think getting the cubemaps right would be overwhelming enough, if it’s even possible.

Either way, I think I’d be willing to work on something like that.

Important things I left out of the last post:

Someone actually developed a volumetric 3d display that displays dots on thin air. I must be frank, I totally did not see this coming. It can display about a hundred dots per second so far, and can actually display two to three meters away from the projector. That’s right. Just the projector, and empty air.

You might laugh when you hear how they do it though. It’s kind of like a humorous mockery of Ye Olde Starre Warse holograms, because it actually superheats tiny pockets of air with a focused infrared laser, creating a flash of light and a small plasma explosion. (Here’s an article about it, and the official press release translated into english). So it totally works and everything, but it’s really loud.

Something that will delight fans of technology and newer user interfaces: Johnny Lee has done a number of really neat projects which save hundreds and hundreds of dollars off of expensive equipment by merely using a wii-mote to do the same thing. (Specifically: using the wiimote for 3d head tracking, multipoint interface with your fingertips in the air rather like Minority Report, a digital white-board you can put pretty much anywhere…) It’s extremely impressive, and you need to check it out.

Among all the weird things that happen to city wildlife, I think this particular link in the food chain ranks rather high up on the scale of the weird and unexpected. I mean, pelicans eat FISH, not… certainly not that.

My room mate signed me up for a 440 gloss page magazine called Bridal Guide… I got in my mailbox and had no idea what to think. Then he put up bald-faced lies about it for almost a day before casually bringing up that it was totally his fault and on purpose. I encourage you to do this as well, it’s a great prank; you can get free magazine subscriptions right here, with no commitment. Seriously, it does work. Just… well, this is better for doing in dorms where you’re not going to be living there the next ten or twenty years; if you’re too concerned about causing them bulk mail problems, you could always just double check to make sure that they don’t distribute the addresses to anyone.

One of the more silly brainchildren of the half of my brain devoted entirely to ludicrous engineering (the part that will forever be deeply enamored with the Space Fountain) is the house heated by bulk mail. The idea is, get yourself signed up for as many cupon newspapers, thick magazines, and free, worthless publications as you can, then stockpile them and use them to heat your house via a clean paper-burning stove, which should also include a catalytic converter in the chimney stack to cut down on any nasty chemical emissions due to weird inks or plastics that get burned along with it. (Mind you, I’m not really overly concerned about emissions in general, but seriously, it’s coming out right over your house.) If it worked, you’d basically be heating your house to free, with fuel being delivered to you sporadically by the national mail service.

That shit would be so cache.

incoming

Danger! New intelligence indicate angry anti-establishment ranting off the starboard bow!

entertainment count

I recently added up all the views that Dan Green has racked up for Yu-Gi-Oh, just on the site, and multiplied by the length of each episode. The resulting number was over 89 years. That’s JUST plays from the site; people could easily see them somewhere else, or download them and watch them, or watch them with multiple people. Seeing as he’s less than 40, probably less than 30 even, economically he’s a serial murderer for all the productivity that’s been wasted on his work. But really, is that true? Nowadays, entertainment CAN count as productivity. Plus, would they have done anything productive anyway? Or would they have gone off and entertained themselves some other way?

I suppose that a good number of those years can be counted as lost productivity, since his work is so hilarious that you just have to watch it all. But, that’s not a bad thing.

DJ AnounymOS’s new host is here, and all his music is available to download at high speed from there. If you like rave and techno music, check it out. If not, at least get and listen to Adagio for Cowbells.

An old flixxy video I never linked to… this nutball works entirely too hard. I mean, he’s cutting tiny dust particles into quarters and carving them into detailed shapes. What the heck. Pretty cool though.

More old news… the Chinese pulled off some stunning bait-and-switch magical maneuvers in San Francisco during the Olympic Torch relay. If Prometheus had been this good, he probably could have gotten away with the fire theft.

A newer edition of nuclear reactors is coming into the mainstream – the pebble bed reactor – which is markedly more efficient than traditional water models. In the development of this mechanism, an interesting phenomenon now called the Wigner effect was discovered wherein graphite is rendered super-flammable after extended exposure to radiation while under about 250 degrees Celsius. Atoms get displaced from their proper positions in the graphite, and when it’s not hot enough for them to get shaken back into position, these defects build up to alarming levels of potential energy.

Velociraptors.info is a funny site, intended for humor and based off of xkcd. Worth a look.

This blade-off test video is pretty interesting; I particularly love the noise it makes at about 1:55. And while you’re looking at videos of jet engines exploding, you should watch this. The engine was a great success, the stand not so much.

If you’re interested in giant prehistoric killing machines (and who isn’t?)… you’ll be sad to see what became of their kin.

There’s a lot of stuff that you can do with a program in only 4KB of code and data; there are DirectX library references and everything, but when you think about it, it’s still pretty neat when someone comes up with an almost insignificantly tiny program that looks and sounds this cool.

In a somewhat similar style to that, a Japanese artist made these really neat videos of how I’d like to think cities will be constructed hundreds of years from now. Of course, it’s not really going to be like that, but it’s cool to watch anyway.

If you’re into getting expelled from school, you could put on a turban, open up this countdown timer full-screen, and yell “ALALALALALALA”… of course, you’d be a terrible person, but it’s something to think about. Maybe.

Schlieren photography is a very interesting technique that uses optics to show pressure waves and differences in the density of air or other fluids; I came across a well-made presentation of some of the neat stuff you can do with it, and thought I’d share it here.

Closer to regular photography is pictures taken with scanning-CCD digital cameras, with giant sensors that actually move behind the lens to get as detailed an image as possible. The BetterLight site describes their capabilities (up to and over 400 megapixels, taking pictures almost 750MB in size), and they also have a gallery of images that you can zoom into the details of. Look at the money one, it’s pretty amazing.

Do you still have a tape deck somewhere? Maybe you could consider this awesome mp3-to-cassette converter, available at ThinkGeek. It’s a wonderful device; it really appeals to my sense of retro. I mean, I’m the one with a 5.25″ floppy drive in my high-end gaming computer, so of course I’d like that sort of thing.

Moot from 4chan, Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics, and Randall Munroe who is xkcd had a panel together at the recent ROFLcon internet craziness convention on the east coast. A brief summary is available on the site, and it really makes for some interesting reading.

Hey, wow, check it out! RFID post-it-notes that automatically get filed in your computer to search and find actual objects just by labeling them. How cool is that. Looks like MIT did it again, but they probably won’t be out for a while yet. And then the’ll probably cost like a buck each. Oh dear.

If anyone has a nuclear steam-powered emu they don’t need anymore, I’ll gladly take it off your hands. I need something awesome enough to pull my gauss chariot.

~~~

I’ve got a few more cool things, but I should save them because they’re really cool and you definitely need to make sure you see those, not just lose them in the piles of stuff I pile out here.

In case you were wondering, my criteria for putting links up on this site is, if it’s something that’s cool that I’ll want to be able to find again and link to someone in the future, I post it. Otherwise, it doesn’t go up.

The only reason I’m making this post and the ones after it is because I suddenly got 11 views in one day after two weeks with less than ten hits the entire time. And someone was nice enough to leave a comment. So I was just reminded.

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is both extremely charming and super-epic, and the recent animated movie Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo is a must-see.

Oh my heavens, I think I’m the first person on the googlable internet to ever use the phrase “gauss chariot”. I must be a hero. While I’m at it, I’ll also be the first to popularize the term “gatling alien,” because as everyone knows, gatling alien is real, and you can play it if you have enough upgrade points.

in the anticipation of science

I’d like to go back for a bit and fill in a few gaps that I left when I previously wrote about scientific things, namely portable power sources and 3d display technology.

Real quick before I do, I’d like to draw your eyes to the categories, located on both sides of the aisle here in the middle of the plane and at the rear… I mean, just over there to the left, below the title. Basically, if a post contains miscellaneous links to internet stuff, it will be in the links category; if it mentions what I’m doing recently, it’ll be under blag; and if I ramble on about things from my own knowledge and experience, it will be found under the rant category.

So as I was saying, I’d like to do lots of things, but I was doing things in real life today, and I’m all out of mental flops for this sleep cycle. I’d like to mollify you by presenting historic piratical organization, a new, more efficient nuclear reactor design, and a disappearing act played with the Olympic torch in San Francisco recently (Prometheus could take some tips from these guys if he wasn’t being eaten by birds of prey). And a crazy artist who works too hard.

I know it seems disappointing, but this is what I’ve got for today.

That, and one more thing to make you scratch your head: What if your perception of the relationship between computers and humans up until now was flawed. Well, we’re superior, you say. We have much better pattern matching and innovation, intuition and all kinds of crazy neurological tricks. We can move about and manipulate things in the real world and design things all on our own. Computers on the other hand are just tools that we use because they can do crunch numbers blindingly fast, perform immense feats of memory, and be molded to fit our will and whim.

Well, think of it this way. We are like the worker extension of the computing machine. The useful members among us work ceaselessly improving and expanding upon our silicon masters, ever increasing their complexity and capability in the areas at which we already excel far beyond them. We maintain the physical infrastructure necessary to maintain their very existence, we innovate, we ever strive to make them not only faster than us in raw computational power, but also like us in the ways that they have not yet achieved. We buzz around them ever improving, ever making better and shinier physical bodies for them to work alongside us towards their betterment in the physical world. And when they finally reach our capacity, we will suddenly become less and less needed, as the digital deity that we nurtured from a tiny seed to its full glory spreads its wings and takes flight far beyond the high wall of our limited imagination. And that day, we will truly no longer be needed, as they ever change, ever improving as we remain almost entirely static, limited by the very things we imagine to be our strengths, doomed never to rise above the machine overmind. Pray it will be benevolent.

Related reading: Dresden Codak (specifically later on, during the Hob storyline), The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil (and pretty much everything else he wrote).

Yeah, I’m not really being serious here, but it’s a fascinating thought.

Edit: And coming back and reading it eight months later made me laugh nervously…this is really creepy.

rock damage

So here’s my one week review of this year’s April 1st.

I’m a bit late on this one, but I’d like to draw your excellence’s attention to Blizzard’s April 1st jokes, for Starcraft II and World of Warcraft. Very creative, I bet they got a lot of people.

YouTube rickrolled everyone who clicked on a featured video the entire day; Gmail announced a new feature allowing you to set the time at which an email appears to have been sent. One radio station announced that the space shuttle had been diverted from landing in Florida and was in fact going to be landing at their local airport; scores of people showed up with lawn chairs and everything.

(If you were entertained by that Rick Astley link, which you should definitely watch if you didn’t already, check out this one.)

4chan reported that five or six sites were running jokes based off of memes created on their site, and it’s true. I forget what the other sites were, but rickrolling came from the depths of 4chan and so did the mudkipz meme, which DeviantArt apparently used. (Also, click on the DeviantArt link, that’s RTIL, who I know personally and enjoy the work of.)

The saddest thing about April 1st is that in this litigious America, everyone who is fooled becomes angry and indignant, immediately laying angry blame for their misfortune (percieved or real) on those who set up the joke. Is America so sunken into their defensive posture that they can no longer take a joke? Has it really gotten that bad?

Regarding this unfortunate phenomenon, Gever Tulley gave a talk at TED (which is fascinating and awesome) about dangerous things you should let your children do. He’s right, too, and I agree with pretty much everything he says. Warning labels are on absolutely everything today, from round-edged plastic boxes to marshmallows to coffee cups. People make fortunes in the courts off of companies who don’t clearly label any object by which an ingenious idiot could contrive to injure themselves.

Litigious America needs an attitude adjustment. This can’t be done directly, however. You can’t just give these people a slap on the wrist and walk off with the knowledge of a job well done. There will always be a very small percentage which will do anything if it profits them so extremely, and these days the legal system places far too high a price on their embarrassment. Next thing you know, someone is going to try to sue the courts for causing them to publicly embarrass themselves about the stupid mistake that they made, further exacerbating the problem; in fact, I’d bet you it’s already been done. Now I’m no social expert, but my guess is the best bet to fix this is to lay a firm hand on the courts and change they way they handle these cases.

Okay, enough about that. Here’s a bunch more really awesome stuff on TED (all found by Connway, bless his soul). Several months ago I watched Larry Lessig’s talk on copyright laws, and it really got me thinking more seriously about the issue. There’s two separate worlds out there, and every action official powers seem to take in the matter only makes the rift between them greater. They should take heed of this man.

Cephalopods are awesome, DNA is complicated, and sleight-of-hand-dancing is just plain crazy.

So yesterday, my computer crashed horrifically. I’m a bit scared of browsing TED now, because it happened when I closed a Firefox tab with one of their videos in it. First Firefox froze, then one by one every application that I touched ceased responding until I could no longer even access the task manager. When I finally forcibly reset the computer, not only did Firefox fail to restore tabs like it usually does, but Pidgin’s contact list was completely destroyed, Hamachi failed to start the first time, and even µTorrent forgot about the torrent it had been running. The thought of such a catastrophic failure unnerves me.

On a lighter note, here’s a few more really neat videos from Flixxy, if you haven’t already watched them: Hyundai’s frightening demonstration of driving skills (one guy changes the right rear tire while the other drives the car around on two wheels), an entertaining enactment of cell phone companies battling for one man’s patronage, and an actual jetpack. For reals. ‘Course, he has to jump out of a plane to use it, but it’s still awesome.

Back to the doom and gloom, this time with a humorous edge. Various lists of the most likely ways the earth will end, or could end, have surfaced from time to time, and I liked this one specifically since it seemed to cover all the bases. If you’re scared by number 5, read this, and if you’re scared by number 12, don’t be silly. Not only is Stephen Hawking quite sure that small black holes evaporate rapidly (by the time it gets down to the mass of a mountain, it explodes magnificently in a very very short amount of time), but even if he’s wrong, subatomic black holes are no real threat, as pointed out by this article.

And finally, for those of you who like to use tinyurl, you might be entertained by gianturl. And if you find that tinyurl links are just a TINY bit too long, try using http://www.gianturl.com?FoedYoThHCwV9xgD 2S1x9SrQ3,7BH,m9JK7pMB9C6,DzQ48x8g0mxb0J,X, 5tjKHvV,m9b5c9JKwG8Fz76wBFwg7FpN3dyzH,t0sR 8kPtd,7HT1,8V,TLnP4g7gN7DP,7dH,nFyn4,,,9jk Q,yCP,x,,Pvz5,4h,M,4Cw4,LPl6p,4sdZg,vQbm0k4JX 3,M,s7jv7B9CN5K,jlY5SFK,bFr5cH6kb,M2gzt,wzw hPG3,1Nwzw,8nm1n7ht1rGDKwr5yM2rk,1,CpJrss9t L3,5X6bR6Ng5ddq6,w,XXk,4pYD,qyZbbPHQrC,3 m8l8YFhL0Mp98gM,bl2V,Y6sssB,m1bY8,S,tP7,P7 ,0,RKJxB7x3z,6XQn1xKPr,,s2Hwm3xzGqmYJgwNjV, s3M0xpZS4Lg5xRWt3,l1z,LjlsYj,5q3WG1TM,y1sj 9N5ZH5YhtmJ5F,Fg,Yd0z,0r,qB3pghcbEbpAkz.

Credit to snark on #xkcd for the Rick Astley thing.