Several of the sounds on display in the Museum, including a floppy drive, a Gameboy, a pay phone, and the Microsoft Encarta Mindmaze game.
The hissing of an empty audio cassette, the wee beeps of the Tamagotchi, the soothing song of Tetris on a Gameboy: These are sounds you don’t hear anymore. But just because technology’s moved on doesn’t mean we can’t use that technology to preserve the audio of the past. That’s what Brendan Chilchutt has done, with his online Museum of Endangered Sounds.
Today’s personal devices, which receive regular software updates from the powers that be and sport as few moving pieces as possible, have little in common with their clankily physical forebears. And to Chilchutt, a world populated by such quiet objects is, if not dystopian, at least at a far remove from the world of his youth. In his rationale for the site, he writes:
Imagine a world where we never again hear the symphonic startup of a Windows 95 machine. Imagine generations of children unacquainted with the chattering of angels lodged deep within the recesses of an old cathode ray tube TV. And when the entire world has adopted devices with sleek, silent touch interfaces, where will we turn for the sound of fingers striking QWERTY keypads? Tell me that. And tell me: Who will play my GameBoy when I’m gone?
The intersection of art and science can be a bit on the weird side (tiny jackets made of stem cells, anyone?). But if this new art project works as advertised, it’s pretty neat.
This piece of retainer-like jewelry is the creation of Aisen Chacin, a student at Parsons School of Design in New York. It differs in one very important way from the standard rapper’s grill: it includes a motor hooked up to the headphone jack of an iPod that lies flush against the wearer’s palate. To play your tunes, you manipulate the iPod’s controls with your tongue, and, thanks to the pulsing of the motor against your teeth, you can hear the music.
That’s thanks to a phenomenon called bone conduction, which allows sound to be transmitted to your hearing apparatus by the vibration of bones rather than the vibration of air hitting your ear drum. It’s why your voice on a recording sounds different than the voice you hear when you speak, and it’s the basis of certain hearing aids, as well as some headsets worn by divers so they can receive messages from people out of the water. In fact, it was Hugo Gernsback, renowned editor of pulp science fiction magazines and namesake of the Hugo Awards, who, in 1923, came up with the idea of a bone-conducting hearing aid. You can see drawings of it here.
When bacteria attack a host, they aren’t a conversation about whether to go after a particular cell; they’re doing something called quorum sensing, which means that just by sensing what others around it are doing, an individual starts doing a certain thing. Social insects use a similar technique to pick out a new nesting site.
Now, thanks to some elegant nature-inspired programming by MIT researchers, a pack of bipedal robots are using quorum sensing to execute a complex behavior that human groups have tried—and, by and large, failed—to perform for decades: The robots can do the Thriller dance in unison—and, what’s even more impressive, if one misses a few steps, it can rejoin the other dancers without a hitch.
This sort of technological synchrony, Technology Review’s arXiv blog points out, could make such robots invaluable in construction or manufacturing tasks that require high levels of cooperation. That would be well and good, but after seeing those moves, we’re just wondering what other dances they might know—and whether they do bar mitzvahs.
The new Tumblelog Context Free Patent Art confirms what we always thought: there is a lot of weird stuff lurking in archives of the patent office. And sometimes, you just don’t need/want an explanation.
Here are some of our favorites. Take your best guess at the context for these images—or at least some legitimate excuse/explanation—in the comments!
If you thought the Kinect was just for things like controlling flying quadrocopters and getting in touch with your inner Han Solo, get ready to stick your tongue out. That’s right, scientists in Japan have created a Kinect game for your tongue. You wiggle it around to shoot at circles.
You’re not running out of your house to buy the game right this second? Well, you probably weren’t the target audience anyway. Japanese researchers created the game to help in diagnosis and treatment of oral motor disorders. People who have trouble speaking or swallowing could play the game to train their tongues. For the rest of us, how about a game that teaches French kissing?
The Principality of Sealand and data haven?
Seven miles off the English coast and just 24 feet above the roiling waves of the North Sea is the Principality of Sealand. The nation’s total area amounts to just 120 x 50 feet, but its occupier and “ruler” since 1966, Major Paddy Royal Bates, has had outsized dreams for his former military platform out in the sea. Once, it was the home of HavenCo, that company that billed itself as a “data haven,” the Switzerland of data centers.
HavenCo was supposedly to be the home of businesses who didn’t want governments minding their business: porn, anonymous currencies, governments in exile. When Fox News reported that WikiLeaks was moving its servers to Sealand, it certainly seemed fitting but, alas, turned out to be just speculation. That led us to Ars Technica, where law professor James Grimmelmann has written what is probably the definitive history of Sealand and HavenCo, and it is a thrilling read. A few snippets from nation’s short history include a pirate radio broadcaster hurling Molotov cocktails, press wars over “marooned children,” and coup led by a former diamond dealer (possibly staged).
Who hasn’t suffered a fool who won’t shut up? Suffer no more—Japanese scientists have invented a portable SpeechJammer that they say can get someone to stop talking mid-sentence.
The device described in a paper on arXiv is nothin’ fancy. It’s basically a speaker and a mic that work together to exploit a neat psychological trick: if your speech is played back with a slight delay, it becomes really hard to keep talking. The SpeechJammer works with a delay of 0.2 seconds but anything up to 1.4 seconds (pdf) also works. Because your brain relies on auditory feedback when you speak, the slight, very unnatural delayed feedback screws with the cognitive process.
One is a father of the Internet. The other is the father of psychoanalysis. They both rocked shiny-bald heads, classy three-piece gray suits, and full, lovingly manicured, white-gray beards. They were born nearly a century apart, but the similarities are simply too striking to overlook.
Clearly, Sigmund Freud and Vint Cerf were created in a cloning lab, in what may well have been an experiment run by the Nobel-bestowing Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to create super-smart scientists with a penchant for fine haberdashery. Is it not obvious to everyone upon looking at photographic evidence?
If you have any leads about other scientists, engineers, or doctors who were separated in the cloning lab, let us know in the comments, @DiscoverMag, or at azeeberg <at> discovermagazine <dot> com.
As North America enjoys a startlingly balmy winter, Europe is in the midst of a cripplingly frigid cold snap, with snow in Rome that damaged the Colosseum and hundreds dead from the cold. In Hungary, charities are getting heating fuel from the government…in the form of piles of money.
The moolah—Hungarian forints—that people feed into their stoves is paper currency so tattered and worn that is has to be retired from circulation. To make it truly burnable, the authorities tatter it even more, in special factories where old forint bills are shredded and then pressed with fragments of wood into combustible bricks, by workers who must wear special clothes with no pockets.