Saturday, August 23, 2008

All about ATLAS

What with the LHC preparing to open up and kill us all with its supermassive micro black holes of doom and destruction, finding the ATLAS channel on YouTube is a blessing. Aside from letting me enjoy some Holst, they've got plenty of extremely informative videos about how the ATLAS detector will work, and I highly recommend watching. Here, I'll make it easy to get started:

And as an added bonus, I couldn't help but notice some PROOF that ATLAS is evil and will destroy the planet. Here's a screenshot taken from their Episode 2 video. It's a slice of the detector:

Look familiar? I believe it does, and I believe it's so unmistakable that this can be considered official proof that dark forces are at work here, consciously plotting thee destruction of this entire planet.

Monday, August 18, 2008

More Visual Goodness

While I'm on the subject of great advancements in visual technologies, here's another project (also out of the University of Washington!) that's quite amazing, although this one can potentially lead to much more dire consequences.

The idea behind this paper and accompanying video is that by combining video with a few photographs of the filmed area, you can enhance or change the video in very convincing ways. Enhancement can include increasing film resolution, HDR, and outright film manipulation on the order of removing objects or completely replacing pieces with alternate content. Watch the video for a good idea of what this is all about.

Using Photographs to Enhance Videos of a Static Scene from pro on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Remember Photosynth?

That might be a strange question, but I'm just going to assume that everyone else has also been drooling over this Microsoft research/University of Washington project. And in case you haven't, it's basically a tool that takes in a large volume of photographs of any given environment, figures out how they are stitched together, and thereby creates a three dimensional environment in which you can walk around. All from flat, 2D images! Well it would appear that the technology has made it into a future product called Photo Tourism. My guess is that they intentionally chose the most boring name possible to increase the surprise and awe that will be experienced upon using the product. Success is when such extreme surprise causes at least one fatal heart attack.

Anyway, what in the world am I talking about? Here, watch the video.

Aside from the terribly unattractive UI (which is temporary, no doubt), the video shows off a bundle of features that are new to me and make the virtual 3D world much more friendly to navigate. I can't wait to play with this, and I really can't wait to see how useful it might be.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Weight Loss Miracle Tea

Loose oolong tea leaves. By Minato.

Surely you've heard of this tea, a "celebrity secret" and magical fat melter. Extremely aggressive advertising has made it difficult to ignore.

Bombarded with nine tea ads for every ten on facebook, I eventually started to wonder - just what are these guys actually selling people?

Turns out that this miracle draught is oolong tea. The same oolong tea you can buy at your grocer for 2-3$ a box.

Loose leaf oolong tea has a gentle flavour and contains polyphenols (the magical ingredient). Polyphenols are a group of plant molecules that may or may not have health benefits. (The science is inconclusive.) Polyphenols can be found in a large variety of food sources, including fruits, vegetables, beer, chocolate and other teas. [Wikipedia]

Despite the claims of fat melting properties, the only way anyone is going to loose weight drinking oolong tea is if they drink so much of it that it becomes a replacement for high calorie drinks, like pop and coffee with cream.

Not that my readers are likely tea-dieters, I'm just annoyed by the scamming.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Neat Lightning

I've been watching this thing all day long. Might as well put it in a nice easy-to-find location so I can view it from anywhere.

Lightning! In slow motion! It turns out that the dancing sparks are called leaders, discharges originating in the negatively charged thundercloud and following ionized air, eventually drilling down to a positive charge (the ground) and creates a discharge path that we see as the big bright blinding and really really awesome bolt of lightning. I must harness this power.

For all the beautiful thunderstorms I've seen growing up in Texas, I've apparently never seen the mechanics of lightning before. Fascinating stuff.

From Today's Big Thing.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tachikomas are Real?

The Hexapod Robot is is the closest thing I've seen to a real life Tachikoma. Not just because of its insect-like limbs, every aspect of its movement comes off as inquisitive, which gives a really impressive effect. It reacts to humans in a number of interesting ways. He follows your movement. Get too close and he'll lean back, looking a bit frightened or cautious. Apparently if you stay staring at him for a while, he'll take your picture and upload it somewhere. Neat project!

Via Technovelgy by way of io9.

Leno's Steam Power

I've known that Jay Leno has an impressive garage, but I had no idea he had steam-powered cars! I'm developing a minor obsession with steam power (but where to build my own in the city?), so seeing this video just makes me salivate.

Leno takes us through a typical day in the life of a turn of the century car owner, including the half-hour start-up process, getting yourself nearly blown up, and enjoying the one-gear wonder that is your steam-powered auto-mobile. Enjoy!

Via The Steampunk Workshop.

Update! Here's another Leno video showing off a later, much more refined, steam car.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Dinoflagellate Bloom in Halifax

red_tide, originally uploaded by Laura Urquhart.
Been to the Halifax waterfront recently? You may have seen something like this.

From Red water a puzzler, NS Chronicle Herald:

It looks like weeks of dry weather followed by heavy rains may have brought a phenomenon known as red tide to Halifax Harbour.

The water behind the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic had a rosy hue on Monday. Mayor Peter Kelly said the federal Fisheries Department had taken samples but wasn’t able to process them because of the Natal Day holiday.

He said the department’s guess is the discoloration was caused by red algae.

Marlon Lewis, a professor of oceanography at Dalhousie University, said algae levels in the area around the harbour are the highest he’s seen in two years.

"It’s not a very big (red tide), I wouldn’t say," Mr. Lewis said over the phone Monday. "Not compared to the others I’ve seen where the water turns a kind of brick red."

Mr. Lewis said the algae levels are high, but nothing abnormal for Halifax. He said it probably won’t hurt anything.

When algae die, their decomposition eats up oxygen. Mr. Lewis said in years past the algae levels in the Bedford Basin have been so high that the lack of oxygen has actually killed fish. He said he’s seen lobsters crawl out onto the beach to get away from the choking water.

The recent weather has been great for algae growth, he said.

"We had a big amount of rain a couple weeks ago after a very, very long dry spell," explained Mr. Lewis.

"It was like a big pulse of nutrients coming in."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Cynara cardunculus - The Globe Artichoke

Blooming Artichoke, originally uploaded by RemyOmar.

Favourite foods can take us by surprise when viewed in an unfamiliar context.

Artichokes - a favourite of mine - are actually the heads of a large (1.5-2 m tall), immature thistle. If left unharvested, they will bloom.

A Mediterranean native, Cynara cardunculus is considered invasive in the southern United States. Efforts are being made to eradicate the alien and replace it with native species.

Alien Invasion, originally uploaded by acastellano.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Swirling Tail: SEM of a Dinoflagellate

The "Montauk Monster" is a little nasty looking. This SEM photograph is much nicer.

dinoflagellate, originally uploaded by sconartist.

I showed this image to introductory biology students, and some were able to identify the single-celled algae right away. The give away is the spiral-like flagellum resting in the central groove. (If you don't know what a flagellum is you can think of it as a tail that propels a single cell.)

The spiral-like tail causes the cell to spin as it moves through the water - thus it's name. "Dino" means spinning, and "flagellate" refers to the cell's tail.

The "Montauk Monster" - Identified!

I first caught news of the "Montauk Monster" via Gawker last Tuesday.

Along with many others, I've been biting my lips in anticipation - just what the hell is this thing? (And why do we want to know so badly?)

Finding out is a matter of patience, and counting on the omniscience of the internet. I told my partner, "It's probably not a hoax, and eventually a savvy biologist will surface and tell us exactly what this thing is and what happened to it."

That biologist is Darren Naish of Tetrapod Zoology.

He's written an excellent article with new photographs, skull comparisons and decayed details photoshopped in.

Check him out to discover the true identify of the Montauk Monster!

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Big Picture: Large Hadron Collider nearly ready

I know that you all added The Big Picture to your RSS feeds when Daniel linked them back in June pointing out the Cassini and Chaiten Volcano collections. That's why you've already seen these amazing images of the LHC - right?

Image Caption:
View of the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) experiment Tracker Outer Barrel(TOB) in the cleaning room. The CMS is one of two general-purpose LHCexperiments designed to explore the physics of the Terascale, theenergy region where physicists believe they will find answers to thecentral questions at the heart of 21st-century particle physics. (Maximilien Brice, © CERN)

Or - if you're like me, you neglected to add TBP, have been missing out, and needed a friend to remind you of what you've been missing out on!