The energies flowing through these things are, interestingly, becoming more and more dense. If you take the amount of energy that flows through one gram per second in a galaxy, it is increased when it goes through a star, and it is actually increased in life…We don’t realize this. We think of the sun as being a hugely immense amount of energy. Yet the amount of energy running through a sunflower per gram per second of the livelihood, is actually greater than in the sun… Animals have even higher energy usage than the plant, and a jet engine has even higher than an animal. The most energy-dense thing that we know about in the entire universe is the computer chip in your computer. It is sending more energy per gram per second through that than anything we know. In fact, if it was to send it through any faster, it would melt or explode. It is so energy-dense that it is actually at the edge of explosion.
I’m not usually taken in by futurist brain-dumps like this, but I did like the comments on how current technology is pushing the physical limits of energy density. I mean, wow … we are beyond suns! This excerpt is from a Jason Silva essay called “We Are Information Experiencing Information” that is typically Silva-esque in its breathlessness and excitement. A good read, though.
I’m not what you’d call a pure “singulatarian”, but I am fascinated by the coalescence of our minds and technology into these sort of super-organisms of connected thought and perception, at least as an idea if not in practice. I am not at all sure that we will one day exist completely beyond our meatspace as a result of that cooperative tech, but imagine what will be possible when our experience and the world which we can create is no longer limited to our solitary experience! When we become so self-aware that these technological mini-minds we all carry allow us to enrich our lives rather than merely distract ourselves from them.
How the Duck Hunt Gun Worked
This settles a mystery that has plagued my now semi-grown-up brain for decades, even more than the memory of that hound’s taunting laughter.
If you’re like me, and you played a lot of Duck Hunt growing up, you never quite figured out how the dang gun worked. I mean, I assumed it was shooting something at the screen, like maybe a beam of infrared, and the Nintendo console would somehow triangulate where I was shooting from, and somehow calculate how big my TV was, decipher some x,y coordinates from that and then determine if I had actually hit the duck.
Of course, none of that takes into account that it still registered the kills when I was
cheating experimenting by putting the gun right on the screen and pulling the trigger wildly. Well, thanks to the folks at Mental Floss, I know the truth.
The gun didn’t shoot anything.
It was a receiver! Check it out:
When you point at a duck and pull the trigger, the computer in the NES blacks out the screen and the Zapper diode begins reception. Then, the computer flashes a solid white block around the targets you’re supposed to be shooting at. The photodiode in the Zapper detects the change in light intensity and tells the computer that it’s pointed at a lit target block — in others words, you should get a point because you hit a target. In the event of multiple targets, a white block is drawn around each potential target one at a time. The diode’s reception of light combined with the sequence of the drawing of the targets lets the computer know that you hit a target and which one it was. Of course, when you’re playing the game, you don’t notice the blackout and the targets flashing because it all happens in a fraction of a second.
My sleep tonight will be that much sounder, now that this has been settled. Now if we could just explain that Power Glove …
The Oldest Known Recording, Restored in the Digital Age
Hearing the voices of dead people might make you feel a little odd, but give this a listen.
In 1878, writer Thomas Mason sat down in front of one of Thomas Edison’s just-invented phonograph recorders, and captured himself playing cornet, laughing, and even the first recorded screw-up (trying to read a line from “Old Mother Hubbard”.
According to writings, Edison had recorded himself the year before, just after he invented the device, reading “Mary Had A Little Lamb”. This recording has since disappeared, making Mason’s the oldest known playable copy.
Except it wasn’t really “playable”. The metallic drum had deteriorated so badly that it couldn’t be played mechanically, so Lawrence Berkeley scientists had to develop a way to digitally scan the grooves and convert them into real sound.
Check out Rebecca J. Rosen’s article at The Atlantic to find out more about the history of this recording and to hear more samples, and check out the research project’s site to find out how they did it. So. Cool.
It’s nice to know that, for as long as people have been laying sound to records, they’ve been messing up. No one’s perfect, even the pioneers of sound! At least we can laugh with them, right along with the recording.
Sir Isaac Newton’s “death mask,” a mask “prepared shortly after his death to serve as a likeness for future sculptures.”
This “death mask” is deteriorating due to age, but thanks to a Microsoft Kinect, the digital recreation you see above will allow his visage to live on indefinitely. He would be impressed.
And then he would accuse you of witchcraft.
How Computer-Generated Animations Were Made, Circa 1964
Interesting computer-made presentation demonstrating the earlier concepts of computer graphics. It is 15 minutes long, silent, and very slow moving, but from a digital literacy perspective, essential watching:
This film explains how the computer scientists and mathematicians at Bell Labs created early computer graphics films, like most (though not all) of these films, made by Bell Labs employees E.E. Zajac, A. Michael Noll, Ken Knowlton, Frank Sinden, and many others.
This film, A Computer Technique For the Production of Animated Movies, from 1964, gives the basics on the process, from Ken Knowlton’s BEFLIX programming language for a raster-scan (bitmap) output, to the hardware details (IBM 7094 mainframe, Stromberg-Carlson 4020 microfilm printer).
Single molecule images published.
The IBM team that took these images was the same one that took the first ever single-molecule image in 2009. The new work is so detailed that the type of atomic bonds between the atoms can be seen.
The team, which included French and Spanish collaborators, used a variant of a technique called atomic force microscopy, or AFM.
AFM uses a tiny metal tip passed over a surface, whose even tinier deflections are measured as the tip is scanned to and fro over a sample.
They are carried out at a scale so small that room temperature induces wigglings of the AFM’s constituent molecules that would blur the images, so the apparatus is kept at a cool -268C.
We need to just stop for a second and remember the fact that we are looking at atomic bonds here, people. Amazing stuff.
How accurate is this? This is what the model of this molecule looks like (hexabenzocoronene):
On September 12, 1962, President Kennedy made an inspiring case for space exploration and putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Speaking at Rice University, where he was an honorary visiting professor, Kennedy explained, “I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency. ” Indeed, the U.S. tripled the budget for space exploration between 1961 and 1962, and on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 made history.
What else might we choose to do not because it is easy, but because it is hard?
Source: The Atlantic
Asobi by Yasutoki Kariya
“Asobi” was created by art student Yasutoki Kariya for his senior thesis exhibition. Meaning “play,” the installation is comprised of 11 computer-programmed incandescent light bulbs hung from strings. They playfully re-enact Newton’s Cradle, visualizing the transfer of kinetic energy in the form of light. (via Spoon & Tamago)
This is a phenomenal project combining art and physics. Newton’s Cradle is that old desktop toy where swinging metal spheres swing in near-perpetuity, demonstrating Newton’s Laws of Motion in a hypnotic, if synthetic, fashion.
Also, this has more notes than anything I’ve ever seen on Tumblr.
Space Fence: Watching Over Us
Earth is surrounded by a dense population of orbiting man-made junk, such as derelict spacecraft, obsolete satellites and rubble and shards from explosions or collisions. NASA estimates that there are 22,000 pieces of junk bigger than a softball orbiting us, 500,000 pieces bigger than a marble, and hundreds of millions of pieces smaller than 1cm. This junk is dense and fast-moving, and collisions with current operational satellites could be devastating—not to mention the International Space Station—so the US-based “Space Fence” program is being developed to improve the way we detect, track, measure and catalogue this debris. It will replace the aging Air Force Space Surveillance System (installed in 1961), and with ground-based radars at different geographical sites, the Space Fence program will be able to detect smaller microsatellites and debris than current systems allow. It’s expected to track 200,000 objects in a search area 220,000 times the volume of Earth’s oceans, helping us differentiate between potential and actual threats and therefore protect satellites vital to the functioning of GPS, banking, and communication. Lockheed Martin is developing the radar system for the US Air Force, and the program is expected to go live in 2017.
Very cool project. For more on our debris danger, check out the film Space Junk: 3-D!