When we listen to an mp3—or a CD track, a mix tape, a record, even a wax cylinder—we’re conjuring up the sound of a past performance. Now there’s a new computer program that does the reverse, sort of: It takes an audio file and creates a piano-playing cartoon, using sound (or related bits of information) to animate a performance anew.
The fingers of an expert pianist look relaxed as they tickle the ivories, never seeming overexerted or out of place. The computer program is designed to work on the same principle: It “listens to” a midi file and decides how the cartoon should finger each chord in order to put out the least possible effort. In addition to telling the active fingers which keys to press down, it also decides what to do with the idle fingers so that they are optimally relaxed and poised to play their next notes. Looking this at ease is a lot of work.
How does a sperm swim? While microscopes have captured the images of plenty of sperm before, it’s tough to track the motion of these wriggling cells in three dimensions. So scientists devised a new imaging method. They hit a sample of about 1,500 sperm with two different colored light sources oriented at a 45-degree angle. The different colors cast different shadows when they hit the cells, which allowed the researchers to reconstruct each sperm’s motion.
Scientists have been hankering after that in vitro burger for at least five years, and what they have is a tardy order for a patty expected to cost over $300,000. Now, biotech company Modern Meadows is focusing on another lab-grown cow product: leather. Tanned hide should be technologically simpler to manufacture in the lab than medium-rare muscle, the company hopes, as well as more appealing to consumers. Read More
The folks at Backyard Brains, a DIY-neurobiology project, made these pigment-producing cells in a dead squid pulse to the base beats of Cypress Hill’s “Insane in the Brain.” Go watch that thing right now.
Done? Wowed? Prepare to be more wowed: They did it by exploiting the fact that electrical current is key to both the actions of cells and the playing of mp3s. These pigmented cells, called chromatophores, are surrounded by muscle cells, and it’s by flexing these muscles that the squid reveals its colorful spots. By hooked up the nerve that sends the flexing orders to the wire of a set of earbuds, they got these amazing results.
Someone’s prepared for an interrogation
Can someone peer into your head to see what you’re thinking? Veritas Scientific wants to. But don’t start making a tin foil hat quite yet—the electroencephalogram (EEG) helmet that Veritas is developing won’t actually read your mind. It only detects the brain signals that indicate recognition. The instrument , as large as a motorcycle helmet, blocks out distractions as images flash on the inside of the visor. Meanwhile, metal brushes map the scalp’s electrical activity to detect the subject’s reaction to each one of those images. In particular, a characteristic response called P300 occurs when the brain recognizes an object. This could come in handy for lie detection: If police are interrogating a suspect who claims to know nothing, but he recognizes images of an accomplice, victim, or even crime scene, the helmet would catch his lie. Veritas even suggests that the right slideshow images and questions could help identify an enemy combatant pretending to be an innocent.
“To create a robot we are more likely to accept, life-like expressions are vital.” That’s the motivation that led scientists to build this robot, according to the New Scientist write up.
It’s an odd statement not only because it makes you wonder why life-like expressions is so crucial—are we planning to emotionally manipulate the ignorant masses using robotic faces?—but also because of how far they still have to go, judging from how difficult blinking looks. Ouch. And there’s also the, uh, sound effects.
Long, long ago, and far, far away—specifically, in the early 90s in Switzerland—computer scientists at CERN were test-driving a little something called the World Wide Web. And when the time came to test the thing’s capabilities with photographs, guess what happened to be on hand?
A Photoshop job of a group of CERN administrative assistants and significant others who sang physics-themed doo-wop. Sample lyric:
You never spend your nights with me
You don’t go out with other girls either
You only love your collider
The ultimate nerdy crime scene
In the modern workplace, you’ve got to be prepared for disappointment. Make no mistake: Whether you’re a journalist or an entrepreneur or a scientist, your pet projects will sometimes be killed. But what if you were working on an awesome project that got canceled, and you had the time, money, and daring to sneak into the office to finish it anyway?
That’s the story of Ron Avitzur, an Apple programmer who was working on a graphing calculator that was to be loaded on a new generation of computers. Mental Floss has an engaging short feature explaining what happened when the project was canceled:
The young programmer knew the project had merit. Everyone he mentioned it to exclaimed, “I wish I’d had that in school!” If he could just get the program preinstalled on the new computer, teachers across the country could use the tool as an animated blackboard, providing visuals for abstract concepts. The program could simultaneously showcase the speed of the new machine and revolutionize math class. All he needed was access to Apple’s machines and some time.
Another day, another secure facility to infiltrate. Life as a commando is tough—especially when you get stuck with your back up against a wall. Your jet pack’s at the cleaners, you left your grappling hook in your other pants, radioactive spiders are hibernating this time of year…as you run through your wall-scaling options, you’re about to give up, until you remember your handy “vertical ascender” pack! Powerful enough to carry 300 pounds, the device uses vacuum suction to turn a human into a wall-crawler.
In fact, you’re not sure how you forgot you were carrying it in the first place: it’s bulky, heavy, and makes a racket like a vacuum cleaner.
A moonpie sliced with a water jet cutter: Not a crumb out of place.
There are many wonders of engineering, confined to the labs and warehouses of industry, that we laypeople never get to see. That’s the case with the water jet cutter, which fires out a thin stream of water through a diamond nozzle at nearly the speed of sound and can slice through everything from peaches to linoleum with the greatest of ease.
It’s been around in some form since the 1950s, but if you’re not in the business of cutting things into ever-smaller pieces, you may not have come across it.
Here is a cutter made by Paprima going through beets like a knife through butter: