California police find street gang's underground lair

Police in Fontana, California were searching a suspected gang member's home when they found a manhole built into the floor. Down the ladder was a small secret underground hideout containing an arsenal, shooting range, and rather modest hang-out space. According to CNN, "interlocking rubber mats lined the ground in one area, with something resembling furniture pads or moving blankets fixed to walls, and a US flag hanging in one corner. Another area had a dirt ground and a wall lined with sandbags."

"We are the champions at Hide n Seek and no manhole will help you..." the police wrote on Facebook. "We strongly recommend that you put as much effort as you did in your underground cave, into becoming a productive member of society. You will thank us later for this advice." Read the rest

Can there be a mile-high skyscraper?

In 1956, Frank Lloyd Wright proposed the Illinois Sky-City, a skyscraper taller than one mile (~1,600 meters). That's more than twice the height of Dubai's Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest structure in the world. In the video above, Dutch architest Stefan Al asks "Will there ever be a mile-high skyscraper?"

If it happens, there should be a rooftop bar named... the Mile-High Club.

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Brain-zapping implants that change mood and lift depression

Teams of researchers are developing sesame seed-size neuro-implants that detect brain activity that signals depression and then deliver targeted electrical zaps to elevate your mood. It's very early days in the science and technology but recent studies suggest that we're on the path. Links to scientific papers below. Fortunately, the goal is to develop tools and a methodology more precise than the horrifically blunt "shock therapy" of last century. From Science News:

DARPA, a Department of Defense research agency, is funding (Massachusetts General Hospital's research on new brain stimulation methods) plus work at UCLA on targeted brain stimulation. Now in its fifth and final year, the (DARPA) project, called SUBNETS, aims to help veterans with major depression, post-traumatic stress, anxiety and other psychiatric problems. “It is extremely frustrating for patients to not know why they feel the way they do and to not be able to correct it,” Justin Sanchez, the director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, said in a Nov. 30 statement. “We owe them and their families better options.”

These next-generation systems, primarily being developed at UCSF and Massachusetts General Hospital, might ultimately deliver. After detecting altered brain activity that signals a looming problem, these devices, called closed-loop stimulators, would intervene electrically with what their inventors hope is surgical precision.

In contrast to the UCSF group, Widge, who is at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and his collaborators don’t focus explicitly on mood. The researchers want to avoid categorical diagnoses such as depression, which they argue can be imprecise.

Read the rest

Watch a low flyover of Jupiter's moon Europa

Kevin Gill, a NASA software engineer who deals in data visualization and analysis, created this new, director's cut of his low flyover movie of Jupiter's moon Europa. Cut from recently processed images transmitted back from the Galileo orbiter launched in 1989, Gill explains, the video "uses high resolution grayscale and low resolution color images taken between 1996 and 1998."

Both NASA and the European Space Agency have missions in development to collect much higher data about Europa from probes expected to launch in about four or five years. NASA's Europa Clipper will "investigate whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life."

That's all well and good, assuming we attempt no landing there.

(via Kottke) Read the rest

Fantastic Super Mario Bros. stop-motion paper animation in a notebook

Kisaragi double 6 created this fantastic hand-drawn stop-motion animation of the Super Mario Bros (1985) World 1-1 level.

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A teenage science geek's quest to collect every element on the periodic table

In the 1960s, when Scientific American copy editor Michael J. Battaglia was 15, he had a chemical romance with the periodic table. In fact, Battaglia was so fascinated by the basic substances of our universe that he tried to collect 'em all (at least the 104 elements that science knew about at the time.) From Scientific American:

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Young engineer upgraded the LEGO bionic arm he built for himself

Bioengineer David Aguilar (aka "Hand Solo") continues to upgrade his DIY LEGO prosthetic arms that we posted about previously with this fantastic fourth generation model. From Reuters:

All the versions are on display in his room in the (Universitat Internacional de Catalunya) residence on the outskirts of Barcelona. The latest models are marked MK followed by the number - a tribute to comic book superhero Iron Man and his MK armor suits....

After graduating from university, he wants to create affordable prosthetic solutions for people who need them.

“I would try to give them a prosthetic, even if it’s for free, to make them feel like a normal person, because what is normal, right?”

Read the rest

Watch Lucille Ball demo a 1939 ancestor of the "talk box" famously used by Peter Frampton

In this 1939 newsreel, the great Lucille Ball demonstrates the Sonovox, a device that brings amplified sound effects from vinyl records into the throat where the tongue and lips modulate it. Here's the patent for the Sonovox, invented by Gilbert Wright and used in TV advertisements, the movie Dumbo (1941) for Casey Junior the train's voice, and the "days of the week" radio jingle that was included on The Who Sell Out (1967).

Of course the Sonovox begat the "talk box" that routes an amplified instrument's sound from a small speaker into the musician's mouth via a rubber tube so they can shape the tone as if they're speaking. In the rock arena, Peter Frampton made the talk box famous on the track "Do You Feel Like We Do" (1973).

More on all this in my post last year featuring Pete Drake's beautiful pedal steel "talk box" tune "Forever" from 1963, long before Peter Frampton showed us the way.

(via r/ObscureMedia) Read the rest

Dieter Rams's "10 Principles of Good Design"

Legendary designer Dieter Rams lays out the ten principles underlying his approach to "good design."

A scene from "Rams", Gary Hustwit's new documentary about legendary designer Dieter Rams, with original music by Brian Eno. Motion graphics by Trollback & Co.

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Your locked phone could verify it's you by listening to your lips move

LipPass is a user verification system for mobile devices that verifies your identity by the unique way that you move your lips. Developed by researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the system doesn't validate based on the sound of your voice but rather the movement of your mouth. From IEEE Spectrum:

The researchers realized the audio components on smartphones can be exploited to depict the movement of a person’s mouth by analyzing the acoustic signals that bounce off the user’s face. Since each person exhibits unique speaking behaviors—like lip protrusion and closure, tongue stretch and constriction, as well as jaw angle changes—this creates a unique Doppler effect profile that can be detected by the phone. The platform then uses a deep learning algorithm, which extracts distinct features from of the user’s Doppler profile as he or she speaks. Next, a binary tree-based approach is applied to distinguish the new user’s profile from previously registered users, which also helps discriminate between the identity of legal users and spoofers...

In a controlled laboratory environment, LipPass achieved an overall authentication accuracy of 95.3 percent... Across all environments and all kinds of attacks, the overall (spoof) success rate was less than 10 percent, though attacks that used the third method—a recording of the user's Doppler profile—did succeed nearly 20 percent of the time under controlled, laboratory conditions.

"Lip Reading-Based User Authentication Through Acoustic Sensing on Smartphones" (IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking) Read the rest

Luke Skywalker on how to write a cover letter

Of course don't forget to personalize it.

(via r/StarWars)

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Syringe-pill injects you on the inside

Biomedical engineers prototyped a pill that integrates a syringe to inject insulin into the floor of the stomach. From Science News:

The shape is designed to guide the device to rest, cap down, on the floor of the stomach. There, it sticks a needle tip composed almost entirely of insulin a few millimeters into the mucus membrane lining the stomach. Once the insulin needle tip dissolves, the device passes through the rest of the digestive system.

Thanks to the dearth of sharp pain receptors inside the stomach, the tiny injection “is unlikely to cause any discomfort,” says study coauthor Giovanni Traverso, a gastroenterologist and biomedical engineer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and MIT.

"An ingestible self-orienting system for oral delivery of macromolecules" (Science) Read the rest

White chocolate is technically not chocolate

Chocolate contains cocoa solids, except when it is white.

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Cat frozen outside like a snowball was dethawed and is just fine

Fluffy the cat's human caretakers found her frozen and unresponsive last week in a Kalispell, Montana snowbank. From CNN:

"She was essentially frozen," said Andrea Dutter, director of the Animal Clinic of Kalispell.

When she got to the clinic, her temperature was below 90°F, said Dr. Jevon Clark.

"They used a few different methods to raise her body temperature: warm water, hair dryers, heated towels that were rotated out," Dutter said. "And finally, we put her in heated kennel."

Fluffy spent one night in the ER before returning home with her owners.

Read the rest

Fantastic Rube Goldberg-esque dog-petting machine

"Humans have massage chairs so why shouldn’t our pets have petting machines. I gave it a Rube Goldberg style flare to make it interesting to watch."

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New documentary about Adnan Syed from the "Serial" podcast

This spring, HBO will air a new documentary about Adnan Syed, the subject of the first season of the Serial podcast. The four-part series is directed by Amy Berg ("Deliver Us from Evil"). From the Baltimore Sun:

Syed, the subject of the wildly popular “Serial” podcast, was convicted in 2000 of killing his former girlfriend and Woodlawn High School classmate. But “Serial” raised questions about why his attorney, M. Cristina Gutierrez, did not call a potential alibi witness. The attorney died in 2004.

Syed’s conviction was vacated in June 2016 by a Baltimore circuit judge, and the Court of Special Appeals upheld the decision, prompting the state to bring its case for reinstating the conviction before Maryland’s highest court in November.

The HBO trailer prominently features Syed’s family friend, Rabia Chaudry, who brought the case to “Serial” host and former Baltimore Sun reporter Sarah Koenig. The documentary, directed by Academy Award nominee Amy Berg, promises “a piece of evidence that nobody even realized existed for all these years.”

It’s unclear when the Court of Appeals, Maryland’s highest court, will make a decision. Chaudry said in November that Syed’s family expects a ruling by August.

Read the rest

Watch the Private Life of a Cat

Back in 1947, decades before cat memes became a way of life, experimental documentary filmmakers Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid gave us a lovely glimpse of the "Private Life of a Cat." From Archive.org:

RECORDS FEMALE CAT & HER 5 KITTENS AS MOTHER CAT APPROACHES LABOR, KITTENS ARE BORN & OBTAIN MILK & MOTHER CAT THEN CARES FOR THEM IN LEARNING & GROWING PROCESS, IN WHICH TOM CAT OCCASIONALLY PARTICIPATES.

(via r/ObscureMedia)

Previously: Maya Deren's Sights and sounds of Haitian vodou Read the rest

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