Incredible giant chocolate geodes

Alex Yeatts, a student at the Culinary Institute of America, worked for six months to cook up amazing chocolate geode cakes. Crack one open to reveal the dazzling sugar crystals. Stunning work.

A post shared by Alex Yeatts (@alex.yeatts) on Mar 11, 2017 at 10:18am PST

A post shared by Alex Yeatts (@alex.yeatts) on Mar 20, 2017 at 6:59am PDT

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Quiz: Was this painting made by a human artist or ape?

Which of the paintings above is by a respected abstract painter who is human and which was painted by a non-human ape in the Congo?

The answer is in the comments.

Take the full quiz here: "An artist or an ape?"

(via @pickover) Read the rest

DJI proposing "electronic license plates" for drones

Drone manufacturer DJI published a white paper proposing a kind of license plate for drones in the form of a wireless identifier that the buzzing UAVs would be required to broadcast. The paper describes a possible way to balance the privacy of drone operators with perceived public concern about whose controlling the bots buzzing overhead. You can read the full paper as a PDF here. From David Schneider's column in IEEE Spectrum:

As the company points out in its whitepaper, drone operators might want to maintain anonymity even if there were people around to witness their flights. Suppose, for example, that a company were surveying land in anticipation of purchasing and developing it. That company might not want to clue in competitors. Or perhaps the drone is being flown for the purposes of investigative journalism, in which case the journalists involved might not want others to know about their investigations.

DJI proposes that drones be required to broadcast an identifying code by radio . . . That code would not include the name and address of the owner, but authorities would be able to use it to look that information up in a non-public database—a kind of electronic license plates for drones.

At the same time, it’s easy to understand why law-enforcement or regulatory authorities would sometimes want to identify the owner or operator of a drone, say, if somebody felt the drone were invading their privacy or if a drone were being flown close to a nuclear power plant.

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How new emojis are born, a comic

Over at The Nib, excellent historical cartoonist Andy Warner, author of the wonderful Brief Histories of Everyday Objects, tells the story of how the Unicode Consortium brings new emoji into our online lives. From The Nib:

Read the full comic: "Want a New Emoji? Good Luck." Read the rest

The man who literally sniffed out the problems in NYC's subway

In the early 20th century, James "Smelly" Kelly used his legendary sense of smell and DIY inventions to find hazards, leaks, elephant poop, and eels that were causing problems in the New York City subway system. Atlas Obscura's Eric Grundhauser profiles the the man known as The Sniffer:

In addition to finding water leaks and plumbing issues, Kelly was also responsible for detecting dangerous gas and chemical leaks. From invisible gas fumes that could be ignited by a random spark, to gasoline draining into the system from above-ground garages, Kelly was there to find them out using his allegedly hypersensitive nose.

The most sensational tale of Kelly’s sense of smell was the time he was called to a 42nd Street station to suss out a stench that had overtaken the platforms. According to Kelly’s own account, the smell was so bad it almost bowled him over, but as he got his head back in the game, he pinpointed the source of the reek as… elephants. Amazingly, he was correct. The station in question had been built beneath the location of the old New York Hippodrome, which had been torn down in 1939. The Hippodrome had often featured a circus, and layers of elephant dung had ended up buried at the site. A broken water main had rehydrated the fossilized dung and subsequently leaked into the subway. Until, that is, Smelly Kelly was able to identify it.

"The Man Who Used His Nose to Keep New York’s Subways Safe" (Atlas Obscura) Read the rest

What is the fastest music that humans can play and appreciate?

Bass player/instructor Adam Neely explores the fastest "useful" music that humans can play. It's a fascinating topic, really, especially how he, and scientists/musicologists, frame the question around what's musically "useful." And yes, speed metal is considered "useful."

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Watch MC Escher make art in this short documentary

M.C. Escher: Adventures in Perception (1971) is a 20-minute Dutch documentary about the artist and includes scenes of him working in his studio. From Open Culture:

Obsessed with perspective, geometry, and pattern (Escher described tessellation as “a real mania to which I have become addicted”), his images have, by the count of mathematician and Escher scholar Doris Schattschneider, led so far to eleven separate strands of mathematical and scientific research.

The twenty-minute Adventures in Perception, originally commissioned by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, offers in its first half a meditation on the mesmerizing, often impossible world Escher had created with his art to date. Its second half captures Escher in the last years of his life, still at work in his Laren, North Holland studio. It even shows him printing one of the three titular serpents, threaded through a set of elaborately interlocking circles, of his very last print Snakes. He never actually finished Snakes, whose patterns would have continued on to the effect of infinity, and even says here of his officially complete works that none succeed, “because it’s the dream I tried for that can’t be realized.”

(via Neatorama)

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The Doors' Ray Manzarek tells, and plays, the history of "Riders on the Storm"

The great Ray Manzarek makes magic on the Fender Rhodes as he reveals the musical evolution of the classic Doors song. (Don't blink or you'll miss guitarist Robby Krieger.)

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Video from camera falling from airplane and landing in pig pen

An oldie but goodie. I was expecting the GoPro logo to pop up at the end.

"Camera falls from a sky diving airplane and lands on my property in my pig pen. I found the camera 8 months later and viewed this video."

(via Kottke)

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Coldplay and Smash Mouth mash-up: "Sky Full of All Stars"

This makes me like one of the songs a bit more and dislike the other a bit less. Read the rest

Working model of female reproductive system has first period

The EVATAR is a working model of a reproductive system made from a mouse ovary and bits of a human uterus, cervix, vagina, fallopian tubes, and liver. Developed by Northwestern University researcher Teresa Woodruff and her colleagues, the EVATAR is intended to help better test the effects of medicines and toxins on women. And now it's completed its first full menstrual cycle. From National Geographic:

The tissues produced hormones that coursed through the miniature reproductive system, their levels rising and falling over 28 days.

Eventually, multiple synthetic systems could be linked up to essentially create a “human in a dish,” some researchers hope, reducing the need to experiment directly on people or animals.

And scientists hope such devices could one day use a patient’s own tissues to tailor treatments to an individual. Woodruff imagines a future in which a person’s medical care might be tailored using a series of personalized avatar devices as their own metabolism changes through the years.

“I think the future of women’s health is bright,” (Woodruff) says.

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Trip out on Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" concert screen projections

When Pink Floyd took the stage on their mid-1970s "Dark Side of the Moon" tour, they performed in front of a stunning video cut-up created by British animator Ian Emes. Above are screen projections from the 1974 French tour. Below, a reel from the 1975 North American tour. (The album audio was added by someone else later.) From Wikipedia:

Emes' first major work, 'French Windows', was started while he was subsequently a student at Birmingham College of Art and finished while he was unemployed. It was set to the Pink Floyd recording "One of These Days". After it was shown at Birmingham's Ikon Gallery, it was screened on the television programme The Old Grey Whistle Test, and thereby came to the attention of Pink Floyd. The band invited Emes to give them a private screening, and afterwards to make films to be projected during performances of The Dark Side of the Moon. His animation for their song "Time" is on Pink Floyd's Pulse DVD. He subsequently worked with Roger Waters, making live action film for his performance of The Wall – Live in Berlin.

As a result of his work for Pink Floyd, Linda McCartney asked Emes to animate Wings' "Oriental Nightfish". He has also made animations for concerts by Mike Oldfield, and directed The Chauffeur for Duran Duran.

(via r/ObscureMedia)

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Excellent beer bottle blowing cover of Michael Jackson's "Beat It"

The Bottle Boys blow like nobody's business. (via Laughing Squid)

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Monkeys helped man who mysteriously vanished in the Bolivian Amazon

Tourist Maykool Coroseo Acuña, 25, was lost in the Bolivian Amazon for nine days. He says that he was only able to survive thanks to "a group of monkeys, who dropped him fruit and lead him to shelter and water every day." And that isn't even the strangest part of the story surrounding Acuña. From Elizabeth Unger's fascinating article in National Geographic:

(Tour organizer Feizar Nava) had invited the tourists at the lodge to participate in a Pachamama ceremony—a tradition involving coca leaves, candles, and cigarettes—to thank Pachamama, or Mother Earth, for giving them permission to enter the forest.

When Maykool was asked to join the ceremony alongside the group, he had refused, Feizar said. And when a guide had returned to his cabin to check on him, he was nowhere to be found. The amount of time that had passed between when Maykool was last seen and when someone went back for him was only five minutes.

Panicked, Feizar and his guides checked every inch of the lodge. Maykool wasn’t there. The group headed out into the rainforest with flashlights. They searched until five in the morning, to no avail. Maykool seemed to have completely vanished.

“It’s because he offended the Pachamama.” Feizar said. “He didn’t want to participate in the ceremony.”

"Lost Tourist Says Monkeys Saved Him in the Amazon" (Nat Geo) Read the rest

Weird laws from around the world

(NSFW language)

Funny: In Florida, it's unlawful to have sex with a porcupine. Sad: In Russia, it's illegal to tell minors that gay people exist. (Sam O'Nella)

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Incredible Afrobeat music from Mali

Founded in 1989, Mr Bongo is an exquisitely-curated indie record (and film) label that uncovers incredible Brazilian psych, rare soul, avant-jazz, and deeply groovy Afrobeat recordings and reissues them in beautiful and informative vinyl and CD packages. Based in Brighton, UK, the label's latest compilation is titled The Original Sound Of Mali and the clips I've heard drive me wild. These 1970s and 1980s cuts from the war-torn West African country are so deeply groovy and raw, culled from tapes that the performers never expected would be heard beyond their local scene. Have a listen below. From an interview with David 'Mr Bongo' Buttle at Ran$om Note:

Going back to the beginning, I’ve always been inspired by Mali music. There’s a haunting, heavy quality to it. I used to work with Ali Farka Toure when I worked at World Circuit back in ’88, and I found out about Mali music then. So over the last 20 or 30 years I’ve been getting into the artists featured on this album; Idris Soumaoro, The Rail Band and so on. That process helped me find some of the people involved and start to license stuff. It took a long time; it’s taken about three or four years to put this together...

To a certain extent; the record is a document of a certain time that isn’t now. It’s good to draw attention to things though. Just by talking about Mali it opens up a lot of new stories, and that’s what inspired us initially.

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The mathematics of how sperm swim

A better understanding how a sperm swims its way toward an egg could help inform new treatments for male infertility. Researchers from the University of York have now come up with a mathematical formula to model how large numbers of moving sperm interact with fluid they're swimming through. From the University:

By analysing the head and tail movements of the sperm, researchers have now shown that the sperm moves the fluid in a coordinated rhythmic way, which can be captured to form a relatively simple mathematical formula. This means complex and expensive computer simulations are no longer needed to understand how the fluid moves as the sperm swim.

The research demonstrated that the sperm has to make multiple contradictory movements, such as moving backwards, in order to propel it forward towards the egg.

The whip-like tail of the sperm has a particular rhythm that pulls the head backwards and sideways to create a jerky fluid flow, countering some of the intense friction that is created due to their diminutive sizes.

“It is true when scientists say how miraculous it is that a sperm ever reaches an egg, but the human body has a very sophisticated system of making sure the right cells come together," (says University of York mathematician Hermes Gadêlha.)

“You would assume that the jerky movements of the sperm would have a very random impact on the fluid flow around it, making it even more difficult for competing sperm cells to navigate through it, but in fact you see well defined patterns forming in the fluid around the sperm.

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