Logic gates made of live crabs

In Robust Soldier Crab Ball Gate, recently published in Complex Systems, a Japanese-UK computer science team describe how they made functional logic gates by constructing a maze of narrow tunnels and spooking soldier crabs into running through them in predictable ways by exposing them to bird-of-prey silhouettes. Lead researcher Yukio-Pegio Gunji (Kobe University) and colleagues implemented a "billiard ball computer" (a computer that implements logic gates out of chutes through which balls are dropped, either colliding or falling straight through) using the crabs, who have a repertoire of deterministic flocking responses to various stimuli, including narrow passages and the presence of predator shadows. The result is a relatively functional AND gate and a less-reliable OR gate. A Technical Review blog summarizes the method well:

When placed next to a wall, a leader will always follow the wall in a direction that can be controlled by shadowing the swarm from above to mimic to the presence of the predatory birds that eat the crabs.

Under these conditions, a swarm of crabs will follow a wall like a rolling billiard ball.

So what happens when two "crab balls" collide? According to Gunji and co's experiments, the balls merge and continue in a direction that is the sum of their velocities.

What's more, the behaviour is remarkably robust to noise, largely because the crab's individuals behaviours generates noise that is indistinguishable from external noise. These creatures have evolved to cope with noise.

That immediately suggested a potential application in computing, say Gunji and co.

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Wil Wheaton Particle Emitter, an Augmented Reality

Michael Zoellner took the iconic Recursive Wil Wheaton t-shirt photo and turned it into an Augmented Reality Wil Wheaton Particle Emitter. When the photo is viewed through an AR app, it begins to fire an animated stream of correctly positioned recursive Wil Wheatons, each one more particulate than the last.

You probably have heard of the Recursive Wil Wheaton t-shirt. Paul (of Paul and Storm) sent it to Wil and this photo became quite popular. It was remixed by an unknown genius into an animated gif and “won at the internet”.

Over the weekend i experimented with the new PointCloud Augmented Reality SDK (which is by the way brilliant and simple: 3D tracking and HTML5). I took Recursive Wil and turned the concept around: A Wil Wheaton Particle Emitter.

Scott Meyer from basicinstructions.net sent me the original SVG file of the shirt’s image. My first try was using Processing.js for animation (Yes! Processing.js now works in AR). But SVG and CSS 3D were the better choice to get a perspective effect. And it’s hardware accelerated on iOS.

Michael is the same dude who encoded the opening of my novel Makers to be displayed as a persistence-of-vision lightshow which was mounted to the collar of a small, high-energy dog, who proceeded to tear-ass around a park one night, spelling out the book in glowing letters.

A Wil Particle Emitter in Augmented Reality Read the rest

Quien es mas malo: Tennessee vs Arizona

Tennessee and Arizona have been locked in a race to see which state can past the worst, most invasive, least constitutional anti-woman and racist legislation. In case you've lost track of which state is winning the race to the bottom, Skepchick provides a helpful scorecard. Arizona makes a strong showing, but I think that, for the moment, Tennessee is in the lead for most barbaric state in the union.

Also this week, Tennessee senators approved an update to the state’s abstinence-only education policy – which, I should add, doesn’t work seeing as the state has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the country – which would outlaw the teaching of “gateway sexual activity.” I know what you’re thinking: what is this “gateway sex” all the kids are talking about? Is it as awesome as oral?

According to Tennessee legislatures, “gateway sexual activities” are kissing and hand holding. You know, things that small children do. Joyous things that bring us closer together, as humans. Ways we express affection every day. Evil.

The bill would warn teens about the dangers of kissing and hand holding, and prohibit teachers from demonstrating such activities. I’m not really clear on whether that means a teacher would be fired for, say, kissing his wife when she picks him up at the end of the day. And what about the teachers of small children who need their hand held every now and again? Off limits? Again, unsure.

What I am sure about is that a bill effectively warning teens about affection is one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard.

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How to make your dull knobs look shiny new

From the Make Flickr pool, linux-works shares his secret for making dull instrumentation knobs shiny.

I bought a very old (1960's or 70's, roughly) power supply from eBay, in need of rejuvination.

Look at the two red knobs, top group and bottom group. both knobs were removed from the device, very thoroughly cleaned with hot water, soap and a sponge, then air dried. I was hoping that simply cleaning the knobs would be enough. it wasn't.

So, how did I get the top knob pair to be so nice and shiny?

Triple antibiotic ointment!

The stuff that comes out of a small tube that you use on skin cuts before you put a bandage on ;) it has a vaseline like base and this appears to bond (?) to the plastic or somehow refresh it.

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Functional BBS-style menued interface to Google

GoogleBBS is a functional BBS-style text interface to Google implemented in JavaScript. The creator, Austria's Masswerk, gave it this one-line description: "Google BBS Terminal – What Google would have looked like in the 80s."


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G20 hacker: cops dig up back yard in space-suits

Denise Balkissoon reports on a new twist in the trial of Byron Sonne, the Toronto security researcher who's been trapped in a kafkaesque nightmare ever since he was arrested on a raft of stupid "terrorism"-charges related to his efforts to point out that the billion-plus-dollar G20 security emperor had no clothes. Denise writes:

Byron Sonne (G20 Hacker) case got reopened for 60 minutes this week, so the Crown could terrify us with the knowledge that he had more potassium chlorate than they thought. It was dug up out of his old backyard during a media circus last week. They said they were going to explode it, but it didn't explode, so instead they made a boring fire.

Crown Attorney petitions to re-open Byron Sonne trial

(Thanks, Denise)

(Image: cropped, downsized thumbnail from a larger image by Tyler Anderson/National Post) Read the rest

A Corgi gets vacuumed (Video)


This gives new meaning to "Dust Buster". Read the rest

Clothes-iron modified to scorch Virgin of Guadalupe into your clothes

"Everything is coming up roses" is an electrical sculpture by Robert Weschler: it's a clothes-iron that's been modified to scorch images of the Virgin of Guadalupe into any garment upon which it is rested.

The steam holes of a working iron were re machined to mirror the iconic aura of the Virgin of Guadalupe. When cloth is scorched by the iron an image of the Virgin appears in the burn. The text on the T-shirts (everything is coming up roses) accompanies the burns and refers to the Virgin of Guadelupe's first appearance when she caused roses to grown on a barren hillside for the lone peasant Juan Diego.

Everything is coming up roses

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Box lifting sculpture from 1963

On eBay - this cute wooden model from 1963 that shows you how to lift things without hurting your back. Current high bid is $83. I wish the seller had a video of Oscar in action.

His name is Oscar, and his raison d’etre is to show you how to lift a heavy box without becoming the Brokeback Workman. He’s articulated, signed, dated and dirty as an outhouse rat, but he’ll clean right up with just a gentle soap and water bath.

And you know what else? He was made for P.M.A. Casualty Insurance Company of Pittsburgh. It says so right on the top of the base . . . under Oscar’s fanny.

(P.M.A. = “Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association,” in case you were curious.)

Old INDUSTRIAL FOLK ART Articulated WORKER MODEL Pittsburgh INSURANCE Lifts Box (Via Anonymous Works) Read the rest

R2D2 turntable

This R2D2 DJ turntable is a nice piece of work. I found it on Nerd Approved, to which it had been submitted by a reader named Jessica, who noted, 'Tech, lights and all mechanics are by Tex Nasty at Remix turntable lab. Paint/Theme art by Ed Hubbs at full blown kustoms."

The R2-D2 Turntable

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Snowball: excellent and addictive Flash pinball

Snowball is Pixeljam's Flash take on a computer pinball game, and it's an incredibly fun table. I intended to play for a few minutes to try it out and got sucked in for an hour. Snowball is simultaneously very true to the spirit of physical pinball while managing to deliver a board and several mechanics that would be nearly impossible to create in a mechanical game. The vertical scrolling mechanism is also a nice way of transcending the constraint of the usual landscape aspect ratio in computer displays.


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Quiz! Are these tasteless mobile apps real or fake?

In this quiz, you must decide whether 15 apps are for real, or completely made-up. From scatological humor to ethnic insensitivity and tasteless decor, the mobile marketplaces have ... some of it. Read the rest

First human-powered ornithopter takes wing (literally), 2010

In 2010, the Snowbird, a human-powered ornithopter created by a University of Toronto team, became the first HPO to sustain flight. The HPO project at U of T has a great YouTube feed of its various flights since, though it seems largely dormant today.

HPO Team News | Human Powered Ornithopter Project

(via Lifelines) Read the rest

London's dystopian Olympics: criminal sanctions for violating the exclusivity of sponsors' brands

As London ramps up for the 2012 Olympics, a dystopian regime of policing and censorship on behalf of the games' sponsors is coming online. A special squad of "brand police" will have the power to force pubs to take down signs advertising "watch the games on our TV," to sticker over the brand-names of products at games venues where those products were made by companies other than the games' sponsors, to send takedown notices to YouTube and Facebook if attendees at the games have the audacity to post their personal images for their friends to see, and more. What's more, these rules are not merely civil laws, but criminal ones, so violating the sanctity of an Olympic sponsor could end up with prison time for Londoners.

Esther Addley documents the extent of London's corporatism for The Guardian:

"It is certainly very tough legislation," says Paul Jordan, a partner and marketing specialist at law firm Bristows, which is advising both official sponsors and non-sponsoring businesses on the new laws. "Every major brand in the world would give their eye teeth to have [a piece of legislation] like this. One can imagine something like a Google or a Microsoft would be delighted to have some very special recognition of their brand in the way that clearly the IOC has."

As well as introducing an additional layer of protection around the word "Olympics", the five-rings symbol and the Games' mottoes, the major change of the legislation is to outlaw unauthorised "association". This bars non-sponsors from employing images or wording that might suggest too close a link with the Games.

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