Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cloud - a digital/mechanical masterpiece

While trolling through my RSS feeds, I came across this fantastic sculpture by London based Troika.

From Make:

London based Troika has been commissioned by Artwise Curators to create a signature piece at the entrance of the new British Airways luxury lounges in Heathrow Terminal 5. 'Cloud' is a five meter long digital sculpture whose surface is covered with 4638 flip-dots that can be individually addressed by a computer to animate the entire skin of the sculpture. It's really amazing and shots a lot of the technical process

This sculpture reminds me of shifting chromatophores, but instead of flesh we have a touch of clockwork.

You can picture mechanical air-squid, signaling their hunting patterns, across kilometres of space, to the rest of the pride while they stalk the skywhale.

Or maybe that's just me.

Check out more art by Troika

An extra Six for Science

1. The holocene is over - what should we call the new geological age?

2. When you're being catty, you're being human.

3. Some of our brown eyes turned blue about six thousand years ago...

4. Who can stop the rain? China, that's who.

5. First baseball, than cycling, now rodeo bulls?

6. Doomsday seeds on the way to their new home - don't be scared

Mechanized Gorilla Suit

Now this is armored suit I could really act out my steampowered mecha-simian fantasies.

Check out more amazing art by Joao Paulo Alvarez.

Six for Science

1. There's a big ol' Giant Particle Accelerator in the sky!

2. Spider-shape "stretch" mark on the surface of Mercury.

3. Unknown disease killing thousands of bats. Sorry about the downer, but not all science is pretty.

4. Black Death was not an indiscriminate killer - there was a good reason why millions died.

5. Chimps are bad capitalists - that makes me happy, for some reason.

6. Hummingbirds tail-feathers vibrate like a clarinet reed - that's what makes the "chirp" sound.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Future Soon is one year old - get ready for incessant science screaming

Yes, the future soon is one year old today! And what do we have to show for it? Well... stuff.

That's right, stuff. Chris and I got it together enough to buy a domain name, get some email addresses (we have over 200 still available) and averaged a post a day.

So, good for us.

Looking back over the year, I am reminded how the future soon started.

It was the fall of 2006, and I was my egotistical self, holding court over all I surveyed. I was trying to convince my radio partner that we needed to cover NASA's space elevator design competition. She refused, saying it was boring and not newsy enough.

Not newsy enough? Doesn't she realize that the creation of a functioning space elevator will solve the worlds problems and help us spread life throughout the solar system? That the fate of our species, and the rest of the planet, may rest in the hands and minds of tech-nerds from Saskatchewan?

She will, future sooners, she will.

Anyway, I was getting nowhere with this she-luddite. I was almost ready to fly into a sarcastic rage when a funny bald and bearded man said, "space elevators are awesome." And in that moment, I realized that there was another person like me, raging against the casual dismissal of science and the wonder of the world.

I think I fell in love with Chris a little bit that day, and I will fight anyone who questions that.

It didn't take Chris and I long to start hatching our scheme, but it wasn't easy.

First we planned to have a radio show, and broadcast from King's College in Halifax. That idea was kaiboshed by administration, because only radio course-work could be carried out with school equipment. Then we tried to get a radio show on CKDU, the Dalhousie student radio station. Chris and I went through the orientation, learning how to work the boards and about programming.

But this was not to be. We waited for weeks for an answer from the program director, but got nothing. I guess I should have seen that coming when during a CKDU meeting with new volunteers, we were asked what type of show we wanted to produce. The first 15 people said hip-hop, another 2 said indie rock, and I said a science show.

There was silence.

A few weeks pass as Chris and I go on our journalism internships and holidays. What was to become of the future soon?

Our future came to us after a night of New Years Eve merrymaking and several rounds of Christmas Tree fencing. The carnage was spectacular, but the new insight into our lives was profound - We will start a blog! (Please read with stentorian voice.)

And then, thirty days later, we did it.

So what have we achieved? Not as much as we would have liked, but enough to keep us going. By this time next year this blog will be a very different beast, with more features, content and, hopefully, more readers.

For those of you who have read us every once and a while, Chris and I thank-you.
So the next time you see cool science stuff, no matter how insignificant, tell everyone you know.

Because, when it comes right down to it, the future is soon.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Science art - building a sun, one particle at a time

Graphics by Robert Hodgin
found via ffffound

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Flying stick camera - connection to the past

A little more than a year ago, when this blog was shiny and new, I had a few crazy posts.

Like this one about re-purposing Korean gun robots to shoot dandelion-seed inspired sensor packages.

Well now I have a better sensor package design - the flying stick camera. It spins like a helicopter, and with some fancy design (either internal gyroscopes or self-stabilizing rudders) keeps its cameras good an steady.

Imagine these things shooting out of a semi-intelligent cannon at 100 per second.
And much smaller, like the size of a dandelion.

found via yanko design

Post for Chris - Crow with tool

Chris, what do you think this crow would have done with that broken table?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Cory Doctorow's "Other People's Money"

Here is a little audio of Cory's story "Other People's Money." I ripped it from a Danwei video, added some music, and put it in my podcast feed.

But it's ok, because I asked Cory first.

powered by ODEO

To read the story - go to Forbes.
To hear a dramatisation - go to Escape Pod
The music is Record Store Renegade by Bankrupt.

Find more Cory stuff at craphound.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Australian Teen's Amazing Immune System

Fifteen-year-old Australian Demi-Lee Brennan received a liver transplant, and her transplant's immune system.

In case you are wondering, that last bit is new to science.

Brennan's doctors first noticed that her blood type changed to the blood type of the liver, and that stem cells from the donor have now infected her marrow and are producing the new blood.

What does this mean? Brennan's immune system "switched itself"over to the new blood type, allowing stem cells to replicate, causing her body to truly mesh with her donated liver. That means she no longer has to take anti-rejection drugs.

If this can be replicated, then the success rate for transplanted organs would increase dramatically.
Right now, transplant rates for success hover around 80%.

Found on ABC News via The Pirate's Dilemma

Data on transplant success found in the United Network of Organ Sharing (2004). Survival reports.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

More SpaceShipTwo - Pin-up

Good thing she has a helmet on....

SpaceShip Two

Here is the next generation of Rutan spaceplanes - the SpaceShipTwo. It's bigger than the original, with space for tourists (and hopefully payloads.) And the ship gets its own version of the White Knight.

But what will these ships do?
From Dezeen:

Both Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic believe the system has sufficient lifting capability to launch unmanned vehicles designed to carry small satellites and other scientific payload into low earth orbit. While the first priority for Virgin Galactic is developing the market for human spaceflight, the Company is already assessing the potential for unmanned launch capability.

SpaceShipTwo is now nearly 60% complete. It incorporates both the lessons learned from the SpaceShipOne program and the market research conducted by Virgin Galactic into the requirements future astronauts have for their space flight experience. It also has built-in flexibility to encompass future requirements for other scientific and commercial applications.

Whilst the two vehicles comprising the space launch system have been under construction, Virgin Galactic’s cadre of future astronauts has continued to grow strongly to well in excess of 200 individuals with around 85,000 registrations of interest to fly. The deposit base now exceeds $30m representing more than $45m of future income to the fledgling spaceline.

So, unlike other low earth orbit enterprises, there is some actual cash flowing into th program.

With more than 80 of SpaceShipTwo’s first passengers going through medical assessment and centrifuge training at the NASTAR facility in Philadelphia, people are getting ready to fly.

I think this is excellent, and I am very excited about the new commercial designs. But I sure hope Burt keeps the original planes flying - unlike these two new workhorses, SpaceShipOne looks like the future we wanted to have.

If you are having problems getting on to Virgin Galactic, check out dezeen and wired for breaking coverage.

Monday, January 21, 2008

80 Million Nouns makes a very cool picture

This is what the English language looks like - at least the nouns. The picture is organized through a semantic hierarchy, meaning similar types of words are placed together, and the difference in meaning between words dictates their distance from each other.

Go to the MIT site to try it out.

MIT is doing this research to figure out how to organize and locate pictures online.

Now, what would a picture of all words look like? And would there be priority based on usage, age, or etymology of a word?

found via infosthetics

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Where we're going, we don't need roads

Lego is cool.
found via Brick Blogue

Friday, January 18, 2008

Six for Science

Here we go:
1. Ice clouds on Mars are kind of weird.
2. Old ice in the Arctic is almost gone.
3. Old North America gets less natural every year.
4. Ba Ba Black Sheep have you any wool? No sir, no sir, because I no longer breed true.
5. Ant berries
6. Finally, video contacts

Yes, this image is of a rabbit wearing experimental contact lenses. Don't worry, I'm sure she will still make a fine hat.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

When Giant Planets Collide

Credit: David A. Aguilar (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA

One hundred a seventy light years away orbits a very strange brown dwarf star (called 2M1207b). This star is only 8 million years old, and is a little warmer than usual (1600 kelvin vs. 1000 kelvin.)

Scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics think they know the reason - a massive collision between two planets.

From Science Daily:

2M1207B might be the product of a collision between a Saturn-sized gas giant and a planet about three times the size of Earth. The two smacked into each other and stuck, forming one larger world still boiling from the heat generated in the collision.

The heat produced from this collision explains the higher temperature, say the scientists.

Even if this idea is wrong, the scientist think that we will see recent remnants of planetary collision when the Giant Magellan Telescope goes into service.

More origami telescopes

Origami telescope by Seiji Nishikawa
I just like this picture.

More Space Origami - Telescopes

It's hard getting stuff in orbit, especially giant telescopes. That's why Robert Lang, origami-scientist, has been brought in to design a 10o m diameter folding lens.


From Damn Interesting (via Geekdad)

The lens would have to somehow fit in this narrow compartment shaft to be launched into space. This is where Dr. Robert Lang entered the picture. The Diffractive Optics Group contacted Dr. Lang and requested a visit. After examining the problem, Lang explored various origami designs that could be applied to the lens. It became evident that through a limited number of collapsible facets, the size of the lens could be reduced with origami folds while maintaining the integrity of the surface once expanded in space.

Lang has already built the prototype - a 5 m lens. ( above.) The final lens will look something like this...
Project Eyeglass promises to be 40 times more powerful than Hubble, allowing observation of extrasolar planets and the farthest reaches of the universe.

But how will it work?


"The Eyeglass is a two-part telescope in which a large, thin, diffractive lens gently focuses light towards a small conventional telescope, acting as an eyepiece, a short distance away." The lens spins in space, like a giant LP record, so that centrifugal force keeps it flat. And like an LP, the lens is made of a series of concentric grooves. Each groove acts as a separate bit of lens, focusing light on the eyepiece. Such a telescope would have enough light-gathering power to spot footballs on Earth from thousands of miles up or, if pointed the other direction, take pictures of Earth-like planets around other stars."

Check out more of Lang's work - not only is he a scientist and mathematician, but a gifted artist.

"Redpath Pteranodon," a 4-meter (16 ') wingspan origami Pteranodon installed at the Redpath Museum, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

Paper planes from space

Origami spacecraft could soon be plummeting from space, just you watch!

From Pink tentacle:

Researchers from the University of Tokyo have teamed up with members of the Japan Origami Airplane Association to develop a paper aircraft capable of surviving the flight from the International Space Station to the Earth’s surface.

The researchers are scheduled to begin testing the strength and heat resistance of an 8 centimeter (3.1 in) long prototype on January 17 in an ultra-high-speed wind tunnel at the University of Tokyo’s Okashiwa campus (Chiba prefecture). In the tests, the origami glider — which is shaped like the Space Shuttle and has been treated to withstand intense heat — will be subjected to wind speeds of Mach 7, or about 8,600 kilometers (5,300 miles) per hour.

This is very cool, similar to work done by the Dark Sky Station folks, but with origami. Over the last few weeks I have been writing notes about a future robo-papercraft world. Let's see if I can ride the wave.

Hippo sized rodent - the hippo rat

Must be a rodent type day.

This one-tonne rodent was found in a fossil bed in Uruguay.

How big is big? Well if the capybara, the largest rodent living, is the size of a dog, this beast is the size of a bull.

From National Geographic:

"The megarodent lived in lowland rain forests between two and four million years ago, perhaps using its massive teeth to fend off saber-toothed cats and giant, flightless, meat-eating birds, researchers say."

"The rodent's fearsome front teeth and large size may have been used to fight over females for breeding rights, assuming it was a male, he said."

Despite the big teeth, this rodent is thought to have lived a lifestyle similar to a hippo.

Dubbed Josephoartigasia monesi, this animal gives us further understanding of pre-landbridge South America.

And scientists suspect that there might be a number of larger rat species still to be discovered in the fossil record. The future soon waits with baited breath.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Creating bat-mice, or, what one gene can do to a fore-limb

Not the species of bat that genes were taken from... I just like this picture.

Scientists at the MD Anderson Cancer Center have switched mouse regulatory genes with bat regulatory genes, creating a longer-limbed hybrid.

What does that mean? By switching a regulatory gene, the scientist's are changing the genome by how it is expressed, kind of like changing how you look by letting your hair grow-out.

Except this is a deep morphological change that will be passed on to offspring.

The result in this experiment was a mouse that had longer fore-limbs. Although this is only the first of many changes that would have to occur to allow flight, it is a beginning.

I am guessing that this research by MDACC is not to create flying rodents, but study how switching around a few genes can fight cancer.

If this note doesn't make sense, go to Science Daily.

While trying to figure out this story, I found this interview with Nobel Prize winner in Medicine Mario Capecchi. In it, Capecchi talks about his work with "knock-out" genes - fully replacing genes with other genes.

Capecchi thinks that the difference between mice and micro-bats (insectivores) can be explained through rapid evolution, helped by morphological changes controlled by a small number of genes.

Any clearer?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A new future soon feature

You may notice that the right-hand column has a new component. The Future Soon poll will be updated every month and will, hopefully, feature a question about a relevant science or technology topic.

We've also made it much easier to get in touch with us. If you, dear reader, have a question, comment or complaint, feel free to contact us at

If the feedback option turns out to be a success, we may use any emails we receive to run a post of the best submissions.

* Special thanks to the fine folks at The Sportramblers for making me aware that polls are even an option on blogger now.

A little Terreforming can go a long way - Tokyo

What do you do when you live in a 80's-style hyper-future city, with only four percent of land given to greenspace? You take the plants to the street, or anywhere else you can squeeze a plant.

PingMag has an excellent little article on what people in Tokyo are doing to make there cement and steel world more like the green cities that once flourished in Japan

From PingMag:

"With no grassy spaces to use as gardens, Tokyoites often decorate their doorways, stoops and walkways with loads upon loads of flowerpots. Here are what we’ll call flowerpot gardens."

"Notably in the older sections of, for example, Asakusa and Ueno, many homeowners use three-tiered, bleacher-like stands to make multi-storey flowerpot gardens, echoing Tokyo’s multistorey lifestyle."

"Expanding beyond doorway yards and shop fronts, these flowerpots are placed in spaces you’d never imagined before: pots as decor of parking lot curbs, boarded-up basement windows or even construction sites?"

So if they can take back the streets in Tokyo, why can't we?

Check it out.

Found via Core77 Design

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Books that I want: Satellites by Jonas Bendiksen

I have had dreams about this photo of rocket-scavengers being besieged by white butterfly on the Altai steppes. And now I want the book that it comes from - Jonas Bendiksen's Satellites.

From what I can gather this books is a photo-journey through the remnants of the USSR, places that still remain partly behind a ghostly iron curtain.

Check out more of Bendiksen's work.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Flying Foxes and heat stroke

Photo by Pat Scala
It's hot down in Australia for grey-headed flying foxes, causing some bats to fall out of the trees due to heat exhaustion.

But the clever chirpoterids have ways of beating the heat.
From The Age:

"They skim the Yarra River surface, scooping water into their mouths and wetting their furry chests. They fly back to their upside-down roosts in low branches of eucalypt trees and wet their wings by rubbing their wet chests. By flapping their wings, they create a cool breeze to fan themselves and their young.

Perhaps their smartest move is somehow inducing humans to monitor them for heat stress.

DSE staff and three animal welfare volunteers were at Yarra Bend Park yesterday to ensure the 13,000-strong colony survived the heat. The DSE has been concerned that flying foxes may die from overheating on extremely hot days. Signs of dehydration include the bats panting too deeply, losing co-ordination, constantly holding their wings out wide, and huddling on the river bank.

Treatment options include spraying mists of water into the colony. If a bat falls out of a tree and does not recover, a veterinarian or wildlife carer is called and fluids are dropped into their mouths with a syringe."

Clever bats.

The grey-headed bat numbers have been dropping significantly over the last decade, with as many as 90 thousand animals missing. Hopefully the significant periods of drought in Australia isn't pushing these close relatives of ours out of the trees.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Six for Science

Here we go:

1. First train stations now cell phones - how your body heat is the next fuel source. Please, no more Matrix comparisons.

2. One of my early science loves is now a new tool of the military in Iraq - Anthropology to save lives on both sides of the gunfire.

3. How rivers build mountains - Tibet's mighty Yarlung Tsangpo River, and how it has shaped the Earth's crust.

4. In space, no one can tax you... that is if the State of Virginia has anything to say about it.

5. Hypnotism can change your brain in certain situations. So maybe stay away from hypnotist shows at the bar... or not.

6. A giant gas cloud is hurtling towards our galaxy at 240 km/second, so find someplace to hide. You only have 40 million years to get prepared.

Daily Dose of Clockpunk - Da Vinci's Wooden Car

Found on page 812r of the Codex Atlanticus, Da Vinci's wind-up wooden car was never built.

Correction, proof that the car was never built has never been found.
This is a great piece of work - springs, wood, renaissance design. Just add a little Leibniz calculating machine, and you have yourself a new world.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Japanese Hardcore in the Future - ILL MACHINE (x ULTRA BRAiN)

Here's a video with some robotic Japanese hardcore music. Get ready for something like graffiti/stop-motion anime and then make it really, really loud.

This a track off the recently released Nu Riot CD by Wagdug Futuristic Unity.

Oh, yeah, happy new year.

Expect things to get better around here.

Turn up the music.

found via pink tentacle