acta

Animated fractals in your browser

julia set

Click to zoom into Jonathan Potter's spookily beautiful-animated Julia set. The trick: webGL shaders applied to the scene, making it pulse and glow and coil like a dreaming machine. He also made a Mandelbrot in the same style, without the shaders (which limit how far you can zoom.) [via] Read the rest

Fantastic Manfrotto 3-way head

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I am absolutely thrilled with this Manfrotto 3-way head. My last one took nearly a decade to wear out, mostly due to abuse in salt water environments, and I had to have a new one.

This head works great with some of my larger lenses on board. The Nikon AI-S 300mm F2.8 and my Nikon AF-S 70-200mm F2.8 are both perfectly stable on this head. Friction controls are a nice addition, missing from my last head, and the collapsible levers get out us your way. Bubble levels pretty much exactly where you'd want them and a fantastic quick release system. It uses the same mount as previous pan-and-tilt Manfrotto head, so I can even use the old mounting plates.

I expect to get another 5-10 years out of this one.

Manfrotto MHXPRO-3W X-PRO 3-Way Head with Retractable Levers and Friction Controls via Amazon Read the rest

Post-Brexit, EU Commission plan to ram through disastrous Canada-EU trade deal dies

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CETA -- the "Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement" is a secretly negotiated deal between Canada and the EU, mirroring many of the most controversial provisions in notorious deals like ACTA, TPP, and TTIP -- including the "corporate sovereignty" clauses that permit multinational corporations to sue governments in closed courts, and force them to repeal environmental, labour and safety rules (albeit dressed up in new clothes that make the provisions appear different, without making any real difference). Read the rest

Giant "horrific-looking" first amphibious centipede discovered

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The world's first amphibious centipede has just been confirmed. It swims, and unlike other centipedes who hunt on land, this one hunts in water. It has super long legs to help it swim and, like all centipedes, is carnivorous. It also has a powerful bite, causing excruciating pain.

The discovery started in 2001, when entomologist George Beccaloni from the National History Museum in London was on his honeymoon in Thailand. He turned over a rock near a stream, and was surprised at what he found. According to National Geographic:

“It was pretty horrific-looking: very big with long legs and a horrible dark, greenish-black color,” he says. When Beccaloni lifted the rock it was hiding under, the centipede immediately escaped into the stream, rather than into the forest. It ran along the stream bed underwater and concealed itself under a rock.

With some difficulty, Beccaloni captured the centipede and later put it in a large container of water. He says it immediately dove to the bottom and swam powerfully like an eel, with horizontal undulations of its body. When he took the centipede out of the container, the water rolled off its body, leaving it totally dry.

Beccaloni brought the centipede back to the museum, where it was kept all these years, without further study. Then recently, another scientist from the Natural History Museum in London took a trip to Laos with his student from Thailand, and they discovered two more of these amphibious centipedes. A DNA test proved that they were indeed a new species, which they named Scolopendra cataracta, which means "waterfall" in Latin. Read the rest

Video feedback emulator generates gorgeous glitchy art

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Thea video feedback emulator offers a vague memory of fooling with video cameras and a strong flavor of crisp and fractal generative art, The results lurk somewhere between the decades. Click and drag your results for wild (and often brightly-flickering) variations. The creator explains how it works. [via Github]

What we’ve found most interesting about video feedback is: the sheer complexity of the images it produces through such simply-defined and implemented spacemaps that really only have to do with the relative positioning of two rectangles. It’s somewhat intuitive, but always surprising.

This is all just scratching the surface of the mathematics behind the patterns that video feedback is capable of, but hopefully it’s good enough for a start!

P.S. You’ll notice that many of the “interesting” patterns contain regions of diverse sizes. That is, they appear to have a broad range of spatial frequencies. What’s up with that?

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Beyond "solutionism": what role can technology play in solving deep social problems

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Ethan Zuckerman -- formerly of Global Voices, now at the MIT Center for Civic Media -- has spent his career trying to find thoughtful, effective ways to use technology as a lever to make positive social change (previously), but that means that he also spends a lot of time in the company of people making dumb, high-profile, destructive suggestions for using technology to "solve" problems in ways that make them much worse. Read the rest

Corbyn pledges to kill TTIP if elected

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TTIP is the farcically secretive, insanely corrupt trade agreement that the US and EU negotiated behind closed doors in parallel with the faltering Trans-Pacific Partnership. Read the rest

Generative, collaging architecture system designs impossible, Inception-like cities

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London's Daniel Brown created a generative design system that designs beautiful, brutalist cityscapes that are part Blade Runner Hong Kong, part Inception; he then manually sorts through the results, picks the best, and publishes them in a series called "Travelling by Numbers." Read the rest

The MPAA lobbyist who wrote SOPA will help draft the Democratic Party platform

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"Hollywood" Howard Berman, former-Congressman-turned-MPAA-lobbyist is one of the 15-member panel selected by the Democratic Party establishment to draft the party's platform for this summer's convention. Read the rest

Straddling buses would only work if they were made out of rubber

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Chinese engineer Song Youzhou has been trying to get traction for his straddling bus, a huge elevated bus that goes over, rather than through, traffic, since 2010. Read the rest

Patterns in Nature – The most magnificent designs come from math and nature, not human beings

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Step outside, look in any direction, and you’re sure to spot some exquisite designs in nature: the vivid jewel-like symmetry found on the wings of a butterfly, the fractal branching of trees, the pointillist patterns sported by a snake, or the hexagonal nest of a wasp, just to name a few. And science writer Philip Ball has captured some of this beauty with over 300 stunning photographs that he includes in his latest book, Patterns in Nature.

Categorized in chapters such as Symmetry, Fractals, Spirals, Cracks, and Flow and Chaos, Ball explains with both images and an accessible narrative how the most magnificent designs on the planet come from math, physics and chemistry, not human beings. He describes the various mathematics that create various patterns, and also points out parallels between similar patterns with seemingly unrelated sources. For example, the spots on a butterfly mimic the face of an owl. The “spots” on a giraffe look similar to cracked mud. Ball turns complex science into a fascinating read, and his gorgeous coffee table book is perfect for both the science and art minded alike.

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The story of Traceroute, about a Leitnerd's quest

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Johannes Grenzfurthner talks about Traceroute: On the Road with a Leitnerd(*)
(*) Leitnerd is a wordplay referring to the German term Leitkultur.

Echo Observatory: beautiful, tactile fractal explorer with knobs on

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Love Hulten writes, "The Echo Observatory is a handcrafted tribute to fractals and self-similar patterns. It's a mysterious artifact that both generates and visualizes complex mathematical formations, in real-time." Read the rest

Snow artist stomps awesome fractals with just his two snowshoes

Sierpinski Triangle in snow by Simon Beck
Skier and snow artist Simon Beck stomps around in the snow for 11 hours or more to make each of his beautiful fractal snow art masterpieces. He has to walk around 25 or 30 miles to stamp a design of about 100 meters square, using only his two snowshoes. It began as a form of exercise, and has become far more.

From The Finch and Pea:

For more than a decade, Beck has made elaborate designs in snow, mainly in the French Alps, using only snowshoes and a compass. He started out making mandala-like circular shapes, but moved on to much more complex designs over the years. Beck told Discovery News that he started incorporating fractal patterns into his work after reading James Gleick’s book “Chaos: Making a New Science.”

More images at the artist's website and on Facebook.

About the image below, he explains:

The first attempt to draw the dragon made for Baslev's movie DRAKONY, in Siberia (Yakutsk) in October 2015. This was rejected as I had used a bit too much artistic licence and not drawn accurately enough according to the sketch I had been given!

Mandelbrot Set in progress

[Via Smithsonian Magazine]

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Profile of James Love, "Big Pharma's worst nightmare"

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Jamie Love is one of the founders of Knowledge Ecology International (formerly the Consumer Project on Technology), a super-effective activist NGO that helped to establish low-cost, global access to HIV/AIDS drugs. Read the rest

Classic 16-bit Amiga artwork archived online

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The Amiga Graphics Archive is where you can find a growing collection of artwork distinctive of the legendary 16-bit home computer. (i.e. 320x200 in 32 colors (64 with half-brite mode (or 4096 with some nasty attribute clash)) from a palette of 4096)

Launched in 1985 the Commodore Amiga boasted graphics capabilities that were unsurpassed for it's time. It featured an intricate collection of custom chips that enabled it to do things that, until then, had been impossible to achieve with other personal computers. This site is dedicated to graphics made with or for the Commodore Amiga home computer.

Pictured above is "The Seeing Angel", by Louis Markoya. Read the rest

Professor Stewart's Incredible Numbers is a delightful book of recreational math

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When I was a kid one of my favorite books was George Gamow's One Two Three . . . Infinity: Facts and Speculations of Science. (It's a pity that the current edition has such a crappy cover. Here's the cover to the copy I own, which is much cooler looking). This book taught me about huge numbers, infinity, and the fourth dimension. I loved Gamow's hand-drawn illustrations, too. If you don't have this book, I suspect you will enjoy it.

Professor Stewart's Incredible Numbers, by Ian Stewart, reminds me of One Two Three . . . Infinity. It's missing the charming hand-drawn illustrations, but it has many of the same topics in Gamow's book (like the Towers of Hanoi, and the Four Color Map Theory), plus quite a few other fun number-related items that Gamow didn't cover, such as fractals, the Birthday Paradox, and the Sausage Conjecture.

When I told my 12-year-old about the Four Color Map Theory, she immediately went to work with colored pencils and paper to prove me wrong. I can't find the fantastically complex maps she came up with, but if I locate them, I'll post them here. She eventually came up with an intuitive understanding of why any map you draw only needs four colors to ensure no two bordering shapes have the same color.

UPDATE: I found Jane's maps:

Read the rest

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