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Flingbot: A Robotic Artist That Flings Paint

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 22, 2021

Artist & engineer JBV has built a robot artist called Flingbot that works by throwing paint at a canvas according to a number of randomized parameters, e.g. fling strength, scoop shape, paint color, and throwing angles:

The next parameters are the starting and ending fling angles. Randomly chosen by the code, the trajectory and point it hits the canvas is variable creating another factor of uniqueness. This is all controlled by a servo under the base of the catapult, which also happens to be the motor that allows Flingbot to position itself under the paint reservoirs.

This means that every painting Flingbot creates is effectively unique.

All in all, accounting for all the different parameters, there are almost 3 trillion paintings that Flingbot can make. The number is likely even higher than this because there are even more variables to consider that are out of Flingbots control. These include the consistency of the paint, the angle of the canvas, the temperature in the room…the list goes on. It’s safe to say that each one of Flingbot’s painting is truly one of a kind.

(via the morning news)

Producer Butch Vig Breaks Down Iconic Nirvana Songs

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 21, 2021

In these tantalizingly short videos, legendary producer Butch Vig details how the songs on Nirvana’s 1991 breakthrough album Nevermind came together. About Smells Like Teen Spirit, Vig says:

Here comes the guitar solo. He basically copied the vocal melody instead of trying to come up with something punky or frantic or strangled guitar like he usually did. He just copied the exact vocal melody and it works really well.

You can find the breakdowns for Teen Spirit and Drain You embedded above and here are Something In The Way, In Bloom, and Polly. Bonus: Vig describes hearing Smells Like Teen Spirit in person for the first time. (via open culture)

The Unchosen One

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 21, 2021

The latest installment in the excellent Almost Famous series from the NY Times and Ben Proudfoot is about Devon Michael, who as a young actor was almost chosen to play Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

Growing up, Michael had small roles in commercials, television shows and movies. At 9 years old, he understood that an opportunity like “Star Wars” could change his life. From 3,000, the producers narrowed it down to three, and soon Michael was at Skywalker Ranch doing a test screen with George Lucas and Natalie Portman.

It’s pretty poignant listening to Michael talk about the disappointment and disillusionment that followed his not getting chosen, as well as a different kind of hardship for Jake Lloyd, who was picked for the role.

How Radiohead Wrote the Perfect Bond Theme

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2021

For his YouTube channel Listening In, Barnaby Martin analyzed the theme that Radiohead wrote for the 2015 Bond film Spectre, a song that he calls “one of the greatest Bond themes ever written”. Somewhat notoriously (at least around these parts), the producers rejected this theme in favor of a lukewarm by Sam Smith.

After watching Martin’s video, you should watch the Spectre opening credits sequence with the Radiohead theme — it’s so much better than the theme they used in the film.

Trailer for Season Two of The Great

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2021

Oh, I’m excited for this one. I’m not saying The Great was the best show I’ve seen over the past couple of years, but it’s definitely one of the most fun and enjoyable. A synopsis:

The Great is a satirical, comedic drama about the rise of Catherine the Great from outsider to the longest reigning female ruler in Russia’s history. A fictionalized, fun and anachronistic story of an idealistic, romantic young girl, who arrives in Russia for an arranged marriage to the mercurial Emperor Peter. Hoping for love and sunshine, she finds instead a dangerous, depraved, backward world that she resolves to change. All she has to do is kill her husband, beat the church, baffle the military and get the court onside.

The Great was created by Tony McNamara, who co-wrote The Favourite — both have the same punchy, ribald dialogue. You can catch up on season one on Hulu while we wait for the season two premiere on Nov 19.

The Sounds from Mars

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2021

For the last nine months, NASA’s Perseverance rover has been rolling around on Mars taking photos and doing science. It’s also been recording audio of its environment with a pair of microphones and in this video, a pair of NASA scientists share some of those recordings and what we might learn about Mars from them.

This is one of my absolute favorite sounds. This is the sound of a helicopter flying on Mars. We used this sound to actually understand the propagation of sound in general through the Martian atmosphere, and it turns out that we were totally wrong with our models. The Martian atmosphere can propagate sound a lot further than we thought it could.

And surprisingly for me, that’s my friend Nina in the video! (We eclipse-chased together in 2017.) I knew she was working on the rovers but didn’t know she was going to pop up in this video I found on Twitter this morning. Fun!

Captain Kirk Goes to Space: “It’s Indescribable”

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 18, 2021

Last week, William Shatner finally got a chance to boldly go where he hadn’t actually been before: into space. And upon returning from the 11-minute flight, the 90-year-old TV spaceship captain had come down with more than a touch of the Overview Effect. From the transcript of his post-flight remarks:

If…. Everybody in the world needs to do this…

Everybody in the world needs to see the…” (begins to cry) “…It was unbelievable, unbelievable. I mean, you know the little things… weightlessness… to see the blue color just.. go WHIP by!!! And now you’re staring into blackness. That’s the thing… the covering of blue… this sheet, this blanket, this comforter of blue that we have around us. We think, ‘Oh, that’s blue the sky!’

And then suddenly you shoot up through it all of the sudden… as if you whip off the sheet off you when you are asleep and you’re looking into blackness. Into BLACK UGLINESS… And you look down and there’s the blue down there… and the black up there and it’s… it’s just… there is Mother Earth… and comfort… and there is ….is there death? I don’t know! Is that death? Is that the way death is?? WOOP, and it’s gone! Jesus…

It was so moving to me… this experience …it’s something unbelievable. You see it… yeah, you know… weightlessness… my stomach went up and I thought, ‘God, this is so weird…’ but not as weird as the covering of blue… this is what I never expected. Oh, it’s one thing to say, ‘Oh… the sky and the thing and the… gradual…’ It’s all true… but what isn’t true… what is unknown until you do it is… is this pillow.. There’s this soft blue… look at the the beauty of that color! And it’s so THIN! And you’re through it in an instant…

He continued:

I don’t know, I can’t even begin to express what I …what I would love to do is to communicate as much as possible … the jeopardy… the the the moment you see how… The vulnerability of everything, it’s so… small. This AIR which is keeping us alive is thinner than your skin! It’s… it’s a… it’s a sliver! It’s immeasurably small when you think in terms of the Universe! It’s negligible! This air… Mars doesn’t have it! No… nothing… I mean, this…

They should have sent a poet. Jokes aside, I’m sure that if I’d just returned from a flight into space, I’d would be equally flummoxed and unable to articulate what I’d just experienced. Hell, I couldn’t even talk after seeing a solar eclipse.

The Slow Moving Coup

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 18, 2021

Others (like Timothy Snyder) have been saying this for months and years, but in a succinct 8-minute monologue, Bill Maher1 lays out what’s going to happen over the next three years that will pave the way for Donald Trump and the Republicans to take back the White House and set up the biggest political crisis in the United States since the Civil War.

A document came to light a few weeks ago called the Eastman Memo, which was basically a blueprint prepared for Trump on how he could steal the election after he lost it in November 2020. It outlined a plan for overturning the election by claiming that seven states actually had competing state slates of electors, which while not even remotely true, would have given Mike Pence the excuse to throw out those states and thus hand the election to Trump.

But of course the plan required election officials in those states to go along. Trump thought the ones who were Republican would. Most did not. And that’s what he’s been working on fixing ever since.

  1. You might have strong feelings about Bill Maher. Ok, fine. But he’s right about this.

An HD Walking Tour of the Giza Pyramids

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2021

If you, like me, haven’t had the opportunity to visit the Giza Pyramid Complex outside of Cairo, Egypt, this 2-hour HD walking tour is probably the next best thing — it feels like walking around about as much as a video can. Strap on those headphones for the full immersive experience. (via open culture)

Eight Hours of Floating in Space

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2021

This is 8 hours of an astronaut floating in a colorful galactic sea accompanied by ambient music, i.e. the sort of thing you would have experienced in the chill-out room at a rave in the 90s but is now selling for $70K even though it’s free? Anyway, it’s relaxing and mesmerizing. See also Hours and Hours of Relaxing & Meditative Videos. (via moss & fog)

Trans Dudes From History

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2021

In a two-part video series called Trans Dudes From History, Jackson Bird tells us about some historical people who were probably transgender or transmasculine.

Trans people have always existed, even if they didn’t have the same language we do now and even if most history books won’t tell you about them. In this first volume of my Trans Dudes From History series, I give an introduction to talking about people from history who maybe could’ve been trans and share the profiles of three people — a Spanish conquistador, a stagecoach driver, and a bronco buster — who all transgressed gender in some way.

The introduction in the first video (embedded above) — about history and how we even know people were trans before the language around that was even invented — is really interesting. Part two of Trans Dudes From History is right here.

The Most Important Device in the Universe

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2021

You’ve probably seen it: a dual-tubed generator console that’s appeared in movies and TV shows like Star Trek (all of them, pretty much), Knight Rider, V, Austin Powers, The Last Starfighter, and even Airplane II. This prop was originally built in the 70s and in the decades since has been placed in scenes requiring an impressive piece of high-tech equipment. The video above is a compilation of scenes in which the console has appeared (parts two & three of the compilation).

Reimagining Dinosaurs

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2021

The fossil record has provided us with so much information about plants, animals, and organisms that lived hundreds, thousands, millions, and even billions of years ago. But we are actually only seeing evidence of a tiny fraction of the species that lived then and even for those we do know about, there’s often much we still don’t know. Traditionally, dinosaurs have been depicted as drab and often terrible lizards but recent finds of soft tissues (skin, feathers, etc.) and an increased sense of imagination based on our current vibrant biodiversity has people thinking differently about how they looked and behaved.

The Trailer for The Beatles: Get Back

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2021

If you’re even just a little bit interested in The Beatles, popular music, or making creative work, The Beatles: Get Back looks really good. Directed by Peter Jackson and utilizing dozens of hours of footage shot in 1969, this six-hour series documents the Beatles recording Let It Be, their final studio album release, and playing their infamous rooftop concert. The series premieres on Disney+ on November 25 and an accompanying book is out now.

Previously: a six-minute preview of the series introduced by Jackson.

Fuzzy Moths Taking Flight in Super Slow Motion

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2021

In trying to explain what you’re about to see here, I cannot improve upon the Dr. Adrian Smith’s narration at the beginning of this video:

But sometimes I think the most useful thing I can do as a scientist is to point the fancy science cameras at some moths flapping their wings in front of a purple backdrop. I mean, whose day isn’t going to be better after watching a pink and purple rosy maple moth flying in super slow motion? This is a polyphemus moth, a gigantic species of silk moth. What you are seeing, like all the rest of the clips in this video, was filmed at 6,000 frames per second.

Most of the moths in the video are delightfully fuzzy and chonky — if these moths were birds, they’d be birbs. Shall we call them mopfs?

The rest of Smith’s AntLab videos are worth looking through — I’ve previously posted about his slow motion videos here. (via aeon)

Is the 3-Pointer Breaking Basketball?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2021

The three-point shot has become the focus of the offensive strategy of every successful NBA team. But is it also making the game boring?

The math states that scoring one-third of your shots from behind the 3-point line is as good as scoring half your shots from inside the line. In other words: Shooting as many 3s as possible will likely lead to a higher score.

The league took notice, and teams and players followed suit. 3s have become so prevalent in recent years that fans are criticizing the league for being oversaturated with them. Critics worry that the game is on the verge of becoming boring because everyone is trying to do the same thing. And that’s led some to wonder if the NBA should move the 3-point line back.

Check out the “additional reading” in the YouTube description, like The NBA is at a breaking point with three-point shooting and Is It Time to Move the NBA 3-Point Line Back? (2014).

The Walk of Life Hypothesis

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2021

The Walk of Life Project has set out to prove a simple hypothesis: Walk of Life by Dire Straits is the perfect song to end any movie. Like There Will Be Blood:

Or Dr. Strangelove:

Or Terminator 2:

Case closed, I think! (via fave 5)

Flat Earth FC

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2021

From 2019 to 2021, a small Spanish football team was renamed Flat Earth FC, both as a publicity stunt and because club president Javi Poves couldn’t understand how water “curves”.

“Football is the most popular sport and has the most impact worldwide, so creating a club dedicated to the flat earth movement is the best way to have a constant presence in the media,” said Poves earlier this year. “Flat Earth FC is the first football club whose followers are united by the most important thing, which is an idea.”

The club’s crest is now a circular image of the earth, pressed flat on to all kits, and fans are encouraged to spark regular conversations in their pursuit of answers from the powers that be. The team mascot? An astronaut. It’s a radical move, but the club is bringing in supporters from afar. “It’s really amazing to be part of this amazing movement,” says Flat Earth player Mario Cardete. “I think it’s more than a club.”

During the pandemic, the club also became anti-mask and anti-vax — because conspiracy theories come in price-saving 3-packs, I guess? Poves resigned in late 2020 and the club was renamed and then purchased by a larger club to become their reserve team. The Earth remains round.

Hall & Oates × Nine Inch Nails

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 07, 2021

A mashup of I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) by Hall & Oates and Closer by Nine Inch Nails. It’s perfect, absolutely perfect, like dipping french fries into a Frosty or rolling in the snow after the sauna. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

I want to fuck you like an animal
(I can’t go for that)
I want to feel you from the inside
(No can do)

I got this from Dave Pell at Nextdraft — he said simply “trust me” and I’m glad I did.

See also Taylor Swift × Nine Inch Nails and Carly Rae Jepsen × Nine Inch Nails, both of which are better than they should be.

The Crane That Fell in Love With Her Human Keeper

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 07, 2021

Walnut is a white-naped crane that lives in a Virginia endangered species breeding facility. She’s 23 years-old, was raised by humans, and developed a reputation for murdering potential mates. But Walnut eventually found a good match in bird keeper Chris Crowe, a 42 year-old human who she has bonded with. Crowe, as part of his duties at the zoo, has embraced his role as Walnut’s mate in order to inseminate her with semen from a male crane.

That summer, however, Crowe noticed that Walnut seemed interested in, well, him. When Crowe stopped by her yard, she would bow her head and raise her wings — motions that Crowe now recognizes as the first moves of a mating dance. “At first, I thought that she was just excited to see me,” Crowe says. “But then I’d see the other pairs doing the same things, and it kind of dawned on me.” Crowe accepted Walnut’s invitation to dance. Though he felt a little silly, he bobbed his head when Walnut bobbed hers, and raised and lowered his arms like wings. The two circled each other, and sometimes Walnut would make a loud, trumpeting call — the beginning of the white-naped crane love duet. If no one was around, Crowe would try to do the male part of the song — making a Homer Simpson-like “woo-hoo” — but Walnut never found his efforts satisfactory.

As the weather cooled, so did Walnut’s ardor. But in the spring, Walnut began greeting her keeper with bows again. This gave Crowe an idea: If Walnut thought he was her mate, maybe Crowe could make that year’s artificial insemination less stressful for both of them. “If we could get her able to do it without catching her, there’s no stress, no risk of injury,” Crowe says. “It’s much better for us and for the crane.” Lynch agreed. “As far as we knew, it had never been done before, but it seemed like a good thing to try,” he recalls.

Walnut no longer needs to be inseminated to help save her species but since cranes mate for life, her relationship with Crowe continues.

Like an old couple, Crowe and Walnut have fallen into a comfortable routine. After “mating” with Crowe, Walnut will often lay unfertilized eggs. Crowe replaces them with fake ones; the real ones would rot and get eaten by crows, which would prompt Walnut to lay more. The bird then spends long hours sitting on the dummy eggs, so Crowe helps her out whenever he gets the chance. “I go over and stand near the nest and I say, ‘You take a break.’ And she’ll wander off. She’ll go down into the creek and take a bath. Then she walks back after 15 or 20 minutes, and she’s ready to sit back on the nest again.”

Though he does his best to not be a deadbeat dad, Crowe knows he falls short of crane standards. These are creatures that, once paired up, rarely lose sight of their partner; Crowe, in contrast, disappears every weekend. But despite Crowe’s shortcomings, Walnut loves him unconditionally. In fact, this 12-pound bird’s capacity for boundless affection sets a standard that we all could learn from, Crowe says. “The ideal partner doesn’t exist. You have to accept certain things that people can’t change,” he explains. “I mean, she puts up with me even though I can’t dance or sing.”

Ancient Pre-Viking Skis Discovered in Norway

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 06, 2021

A pair of 1300-year-old skis has been discovered in an ice field in Norway. They are believed to be the best-preserved ancient skis ever found — even the bindings are mostly intact. The first of the pair was found back in 2014 and its mate was recently retrieved, an expedition you can witness in the video above.

It has been seven years since the discovery of the first ski at the Digervarden ice patch. We have patiently monitored the melt of the ice patch, in case the second ski of the pair should melt out. We were back in 2016 for a general survey of the ice patch, but the ice had not retreated much then. This year, we could see on satellite imagery that the ice patch had retreated compared to 2014. We decided to send out an archaeologist to check it.

One of the things they were hoping to find is how the skier was able to maintain forward motion with the skis, especially uphill. Modern cross-country skis rely on a texture (or wax) on the bottom of the ski to grip the snow while downhill skiers can apply skins to their skis to climb uphill. More than a thousand years ago, the choice was texture or animal fur:

One of the questions raised by the ski found in 2014 was if it originally had fur on the underside. This has major implications for the use of the ski. There were no nail holes along the sides of the 2014 ski which would have been a clear sign of the fastening of the fur. However, fur can also be glued to the underside, so we could not rule it out.

A furrow on the underside along the length of the ski, as you find on other prehistoric skis (and on modern cross-country skis), would solve the question. Such a furrow would have no function with an underside covered by fur. The 2014 ski did not show a furrow, but the new and better preserved ski does! So, probably no fur-lining.

(thx, meg)

Straight Outta Compton, Polka Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 06, 2021

From a YouTube channel called There I Ruined It, this is NWA’s Straight Outta Compton reimagined as a Bavarian polka. You’re….welcome? (via digg)

Time Lapse Map of Covid-19’s Spread Across the US, 2/2020 to 9/2021

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 05, 2021

Using data from Johns Hopkins, this time lapse video shows the spread of Covid-19 across the US from Feb 2020 to Sept 2021. This looks so much like small fires exploding into raging infernos and then dying down before flaring up all over again. Indeed, forest fire metaphors seem to be particularly useful in describing pandemics like this.

Think of COVID-19 as a fire burning in a forest. All of us are trees. The R0 is the wind speed. The higher it is, the faster the fire tears through the forest. But just like a forest fire, COVID-19 needs fuel to keep going. We’re the fuel.

In other forest fire metaphorical scenarios, people are ‘kindling’, ‘sparks being thrown off’ (when infecting others) and ‘fuel’ (when becoming infected). In these cases, fire metaphors convey the dangers posed by people being in close proximity to one another, but without directly attributing blame: people are described as inanimate entities (trees, kindling, fuel) that are consumed by the fire they contribute to spread.

See also A Time Lapse World Map of Every Covid-19 Death (from July 2020).

A Rubens Masterpiece? Or a Fake?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 05, 2021

This is Samson and Delilah, a painting attributed to the Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens that hangs in the National Gallery in Britain.

a painting of Samson and Delilah attributed to the Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens

Since the late 90s, there’s been some doubt cast upon the painting’s authorship, summarized in this short video:

From a recent piece in the Guardian about an AI art-analysis algorithm that declared Samson and Delilah is not a Rubens painting:

Critics have long argued that it is only a copy of a Rubens original that is known to have been painted between 1608 and 1609 for his Antwerp patron Nicolaas Rockox which then disappeared after his death in 1640.

They argue that the National Gallery picture is a different painting, one that only surfaced in 1929, declared a Rubens by Ludwig Burchard, an expert who, after his death in 1960, was found to have misattributed paintings by giving out certificates of authenticity for commercial gain.

The picture’s critics dismiss its colours as uncharacteristic of Rubens’s palette and its composition as awkward. They question why, for example, it differs from two contemporary copies made from Rubens’s original. The toes of Samson’s outstretched right foot, for example, are cropped in the National Gallery version, while they are shown in an engraving by Jacob Matham and a painting that depicts the Samson and Delilah hanging in Rockox’s home by Frans Francken the Younger.

The Short Horror Film Hidden in Spider-Man 2

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 04, 2021

I love Evan Puschak’s short analysis of a two-and-a-half minute scene from Sam Raimi’s 2004 film, Spider-Man 2. Raimi, a horror movie veteran, basically snuck a tight horror sequence into a PG-13 superhero movie — it’s a little cheesy, bloodless, and terrifying.

The Simple Physics Trick That Helps Trains Stay on Their Tracks

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 04, 2021

Train wheels do not sit completely flat on the tracks — they’re designed with a slight taper that increases the stability of the train and allows the train to go around curves without any of the wheels skidding. In this short video, Tadashi Tokieda explains how those conical wheels keep trains on track.

See also Richard Feynman’s explanation of this and this science project at Scientific American. (via the prepared)

Nomad Architecture: Pitching a Yurt in the Arctic Winter

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 30, 2021

Every few days, Nenet reindeer herders in the Siberian Arctic break camp and erect their tents (called chums) in a new location. This video documents how they do it.

The Nenet reindeer herders need to move their tent every few days throughout most of the year. Every time they migrate they must pack the whole tent away, drag it across the tundra on sledges, and erect it again in a fresh place, sometimes in temperatures of minus thirty degrees. Survival depends on working together as a team.

After staying in the wooded taiga for two months they start to migrate north following the ancient paths of migrating reindeer (caribou). In four months they will travel up to 1200km and must pack and move every three to five days to keep up with their herd. They must reach their summer quarters before the snows melt and flood great rivers with icy waters too cold and deep for the calves, born along the way, to cross.

See also How to Build an Igloo. (via the kid should see this)

Continuous Sidewalks

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 29, 2021

This video highlights one of the ways in which the Netherlands makes their streets safer for pedestrians: continuous sidewalks. Instead of sidewalks ending at the curb and picking up on the other side of the street, many sidewalks in Dutch cities continue across roadways, at the same height and using different surface materials, forcing cars to slow and signaling to drivers to be alert for pedestrians.

It’s hard to describe how much nicer it is to walk in an environment like this. It feels like the people walking are in control and that drivers are a guest in their environment, not the other way around.

(via @davidfg)

HERMITS: Mechanical Shells for Reconfigurable Robots

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 29, 2021

HERMITS are tiny experimental robots developed by researchers at MIT’s Media Lab that can move between different “shells” to gain new capabilities.

Inspired by hermit crabs, we designed a modular system for table-top wheeled robots to dock to passive attachment modules, defined as “mechanical shells.” Different types of mechanical shells can uniquely extend and convert the motion of robots with embedded mechanisms, so that, as a whole architecture, the system can offer a variety of interactive functionality by self-reconfiguration.

(via fast company)

Frenchie’s Castle of Iron

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 29, 2021

In 1976, Santos “Frenchie” Ramos opened a gym in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Every day of his life from that point forward was dedicated to that gym and to his members. In the gym’s 43-year history, Frenchie only missed two weeks of work; now that’s dedication.