Category Archives: Life!

Writings about anything that takes my fancy

Robotic stingray made from rat cells

Robotic Stingray

Robotic Stingray

This is very cool and step in the right direction of mankind playing god. A scientist called Kevin Kit Parker went to an aquarium with his daughter and saw a stingray. Thinking, as I have often thought myself, ‘That’s pretty cool, we should have robots built from gold, silicone, and rat heart-cells that behave and act like that.’ Fortunately Mr Parker was an applied physicist/roboticist/bio-engineerist/very smart man at Harvard and has made is happen.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 3.27.45 PMI won’t go into the science in too much detail because I don’t know what I am talking about. But basically, he got some rat heart cells, some silicone, some gold and has made an artificial creature. There are 200,000 heart cells, the silicone has a precise template that guides everything, and the gold is the skeleton. The stingrays are small – about half an inch –  and are controlled by light thanks to a virus that delivers a gene that affects a switch that- Ok, I am out of my depth.

Find more information here from from a science magazine: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/07/robotic-stingray-powered-light-activated-muscle-cells

Or if you want more information from a less science-y source: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/jul/07/made-of-gold-powered-by-heart-cells-of-rats-meet-the-robo-ray

There is a point to all this beyond just creating something that looks cool. Mr Parker wants to grow a human heart. I know you can grow human organs in pigs these days but if we can make organic body parts, it would be a huge step forward. Especially for the pigs. Here is a video that you should have just watched rather than read any of the above. Sorry about that but I have to make living.

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Tribute to Voyager space program is damn inspiring

Voyager

Voyager

As the Earth seems to be getting progressively more shite, it is worth remembering that we humans are capable of doing pretty incredible things. If we try and think beyond the petty here and now, and set our sights on knowledge, exploration and becoming a greater species I am convinced things could improve. With intolerance on the rise – religious and secular – we should try and better ourselves, not squabble and fight over imaginary beings or who should be allowed into “our” little patch of Earth. When you see our planet from space, the arguing and hatred seems so pointless.

Obviously nothing will change as too many humans are dicks. Happily, not all.

Here is an amazing video made by a talented fellow called Santiago Menghini. It is a tribute to NASA’s Voyager space program and combines real footage, recorded sounds, Voyager images, animation and more, into a very cool little film. Brilliant and truly inspiring. Cheered me right up, it did. Enjoy.

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Charge your phone using the power of plants

Bioo plants than can charge your phone

Bioo plants than can charge your phone

Thanks to science, photosynthesis, soil, our lord the Sun and a clever group of people, you can now charge your phone using plant power. Which is pretty ecological and admirable, if it wasn’t for the fact that most people will then be glued to their phone for most of the day like an anti social zombie.

(If you are reading this on your phone/tablet – I am not referring to you, you are awesome and living life to the max.)

As I was saying. Some smart and eager types from a company called Bioo (www.bioo.tech) have designed a plant pot where the soil, plant, photosynthesis, and magic all lead to a USB that can charge you device. It can charge your device several times a day, assuming the plant is up for it. You need the pot though, you can’t just plug into a handy tree while in a beer garden or whatever. (Do that next Bioo!)

I live in the tropics and frankly there is too much photosynthesis going on and so might as well tap into it. The plants on out balcony having been getting a free ride for too long (although I like the whole carbon dioxide to oxygen thing, so have let them slide).

Shallow remarks aside, I think this sort of thing is superb. Along with advances in using solar power in the news recently – Germany leading the way – places like Portugal running for four days straight on renewable energy, Tesla’s Powerwall and so on, humanity is finally getting its act together. On this particular issue anyway.

Anyway, plants and phones and small scale power. Here is a much more informative and less opinionated clip explaining more about how you can charge your phone using good old green stuff.

 

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Genuine wrinkle cream that really works

Before and very soon after.

Before and very soon after. Wrinkle cream magic.

Anyone who has not seen this site before will now assume that I am a spammer thanks to a headline about wrinkle cream. I’m sure you have all seen those stupid ads at the bottom of websites that claim to clear wrinkles better than botox. They often have a picture with a wrinkled visage being peeled off to reveal what looks suspiciously like a completely different person’s 20 year-old face. Obviously they are huge liars and don’t seem to care that they are making the internet a worse place to live. Pricks.

Anyway, this is not a scam! It is science and magic. MIT and Harvard teamed up and did some science and then a company called Living Proof made the actual magic potion. It is essentially an invisible second skin. It really seems to knock a decade off your age – at least for a while. Have you seen the end of Game of Thrones season 6 episode 1? Melisandre clearly has some of this stuff.

There is a video that shows it all off better than I can explain. It even has science graphics. I want some of this stuff stockpiled for when I need it a couple of decades from now and my awesome looks begin to slip slightly. Until then my testicles will look magnificent. Enjoy.

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Eggstatic – stroboscopic Easter Egg patterns

drik3pounquyrlxz4lf6I just realised it was Easter thanks to Facebook. It’s not that big a holiday out here in South East Asia, possibly it is because it is the hottest part of the year and all chocolate just melts with minutes. But more likely it is because the whole Easter egg/ rabbit thing is pagan and the internet was really crap back then, so no one really got into it.

Which is a shame, as I would have loved a day off designing complicated devices and designs for eggs. These are really cool. I can sum up with: Eggs + computing skills + robot + camera/strobe + imagination = cool Easter eggs. Check out the video below.

Youtube description:

Various patterns are generated in Matlab using mathematical equations similar to ones describing Spirograph (or harmonograph) and Phyllotaxis. The patterns are calculated in such a way that when rotated under a stroboscopic light of suitable frequency or when recorded by a camera, they start to animate. It is kind of zoetrope— early device for animation. Eggs were painted using EggBot (designed by Bruce Shapiro as open hardware and available as a kit from http://www.evilmadscientist.com/). To draw on eggs, we used standard permanent markers and an electro kistka with bee wax followed by dying. Eggs are rotated at a constant speed, special for each pattern, by a brushless motor. No computer graphics tricks are used in the video.

Author: Jiri Zemanek (Czech Technical University in Prague, Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Department of Control Engineering, http://aa4cc.dce.fel.cvut.cz/)

Here is the clip. Happy Easter pagans!

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Our Solar System is a vortex

I'm not a scientist, but there are a few glaring errors in this picture.

I’m not a scientist, but there are a few glaring errors in this picture: orbits, scale, alignment, etc. But it looks pretty.

Apparently the standard animation showing the planets rotating around the sun doesn’t really show the whole picture. This video says the helical model is incorrect and we should embrace the vortex, but I think we can just say it is a different perspective and just get along.

What is true, for me at least, is that although I knew the solar system was flying around the super black hole at the middle of the galaxy (which is itself on the move), I never really envisage that movement. This clip shows that movement thanks to nifty graphics and it turns out to be really cool. Not only is the visual fascinating but it has allowed me to write phrases like ’embrace the vortex’ and ‘super black hole’. Which is always satisfying. Now watch, learn and by inspired by the awesome vortex of gravitational power!

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Temple of Art

templeofartThe Temple of Art is a documentary (and website) about what it is like to be an artist. Although not just an artist, just generally creative. There are lots of writers, musicians, directors and actors, etc, featured, and the end result is damned inspiring.

Although I work as a writer for my day job, it is a non-fiction / journalism type of scribing, not really all that creative. As you can see at the top of your screen however, I am starting to publish some fiction and travel writing. It is surprisingly nerve wracking releasing something you have created out into the big wide world. You open yourself up to criticism and possibly even ridicule.  There has not been a book written that hasn’t got some ass-hat on Amazon giving it a shit review. (Seriously, search any well-known novel.) On the other hand, as Ricky Gervais said on Twitter: “It’s better to create something that others criticise than to create nothing & criticise others. Go create! Have fun :)”

So create stuff and screw everyone.

Temple of Art

templeorartteamHere is the blurb from their website:

“Temple of Art is a documentary that sets out to explore the questions around the people who dedicate their life to art. The film looks at what it means to be an artist, how to fail beautifully, and proceed with courage. Coming 2016.

From Good Bully Collective (Co-creators Allan Amato & Olga Nunes), score by Jason Seigler. Featuring Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Dave McKean, Amanda Palmer, Kevin Smith, Chuck Palahnuik and over forty more artists.”

For more info and to pre-order the documentary, look here: http://templeofart.net/shop/

Here is what got me all inspired in the first place. It is one of many ‘Temple of Art’ trailers and features Ben Folds, Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer, Grant Morrison, Chuck Palahniuk, Kevin Smith, and Billy Bob Thornton.

Temple Of Art: Permission from Olga Nunes on Vimeo.

 

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The Solar System to scale

This picture is wrong

This picture is wrong

I saw this video about recreating the solar system to scale and it’s really well done. My thoughts were provoked. So I thought I would share. To quote Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

This video puts things in perspective. If you feel insignificant now, just wait till you have seen this. Enjoy.

 

 

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Apple phone controls ants!

This clip has been doing the rounds recently, so I thought share in case you got too excited or impressed. It is basically supposed proof that Apple phones scramble your brains. When the phone receives a call, the ants circle it as if worshipping it in a primitive ant-like way. And if you have seen Ant Man you will know that ants are pretty smart. It’s a bit like the opening of an Apple store in fact. Here you go:

If you watch this full screen in HD you can see something even more incredible. In the top right hand corner, you can actually see ants disappearing from existence! So either this an even more terrifying threat than I thought, or some dick has wasted everyone’s time and used CGI. I suspect the latter. Which I why I cautioned against getting too excited. Sorry about that.
 

China to build Mega City One, Jing-jin-ji

Mega City One from Judge Dredd - around 100 years from now on east coast of US

Mega City One from Judge Dredd – around 100 years from now on east coast of US

China is going to build a real-life Mega City One. As I am sure you are aware, Mega City One, according to 2000AD, is due to exist around a 15-20 years from now stretching from Washington to New York and, after a few decades, from Florida to Canada. But that is just awesome fiction, whereas China’s Mega City is about to become a reality. (I will stop capitalising it now it is a real concept, rather than a name.)

China’s idea is to build a mega-city called Jing-jin-ji that encompasses the nine major conurbations that surround the Pearl River delta. There is no hyperbole when I state that this plan is going to be absolutely fucking uber huge. 132 million people in a place twice the size of Wales huge. (According to the Guardian).

Guangzhou, one of the cities in the plan in the smog.

Guangzhou, one of the cities in the plan in the smog.

China has been talking about Jing-jin-ji for a while but the plans seem to be more in place in the last week or so, and it finally has a name. I have spent around 20 years in Hong Kong, 20 years in London and am now living in Bangkok where I have spent over 3 years, so I clearly love a megalopolis. I suspect the problem with Jing-jin-ji will be that it will be impossible to breathe. Pollution in China is legendary and even when I lived and grew up in Hong Kong, the air that drifted over the border was a problem. Combining colossal cities in China makes my lungs quiver in fear.

While I love a major city, even mega-city, I am not 100% sold on this. Cities are supposed to grow and have character and develop a personality. When they are merged or artificially created, they can be weird. I have been to New York and Mumbai and whatever their faults, they are more charming than, say, Canberra (sorry but apart from the weed laws I hated it as a 21 year old in the early 90s). A combination might be better than a new city, but China’s air is godawful. As mega-cities go, I will have to wait for mega-city two.

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Free Eyesight Test

I seem to be posting a lot of things about being observant and weird visual effects recently.   I am just following internet trends and it is all the fault of that accursed burgundy and Magrathean lilac coloured dress.

This is not an illusion but different people will see different things. This is because people have varying ocular prescriptions. Or to put it another way – some people need better glasses. I am basically giving you a free eyesight test. Have a look at this:

Einstein or Monroe?

Einstein or Monroe?

Who do you see in the picture? Albert Einstein or Marilyn Monroe? If Monroe, then you’d better pop to the opticians. There is some quite cool science behind this but it basically boils down to how we recognise faces. The picture is a hybrid image that fuses a detailed picture of Einstein with a blurred picture of Monroe. If you vision is a bit blurred, your brain goes with the overall shape of what is can see – which is Monroe. If you see Einstein, then step further away from your screen, or squint, and you might see him turn into Monroe.

You’re not allowed to just say, “I see dead people.”

I spent thousands of pounds on eye laser surgery and can see Einstein from up to a mile away. I hope you fare as well. This free eyesight test is on the house.

Here is a short video explaining this much better than I am:

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How observant are you?

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 6.54.22 pmI thought I was fairly observant but after watching this video, I realised I wasn’t as Sherlock Holmes-like as I thought.

This is a Skoda Fabia car advert but it is a good one. Saying anything more would be a spoiler. So just give it a watch, it’s pretty well done:

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The danger of reporting next to burning drugs

reporter

This genuinely made me laugh out loud. A journalist shows the danger of reporting next to burning drugs – and the joy of it.

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Star Wars Christmas Lights

christmasYoda

Star Wars Christmas Lights. Good they are.

If you like Star Wars and you like Christmas, then you will like this. Some crazed fan of Christmas, Star Wars, John Williams, and Christmas Lights has gone all out. It is brilliantly done – although if you are a neighbour your views may differ.

If you get bored, skip ahead a bit as a medley it is. Personally, I think the guy (just a guess) could have used more Star Wars themed lights, but I guess this way he can keep his partner happy with some actual Christmas songs too.

Enjoy Star Wars Christmas Lights you might.

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LLSB – Long Live Southbank

Even without everything going on Southbank is a nice spot

Even without everything going on Southbank is a nice spot

This is primarily about the LLSB, Long Live Southbank campaign but it also rambles charmingly on about London in general. So if you aren’t a Londoner but one day hope to visit, consider this an incentive. Alternatively, if you are into skateboarding, check out the video at the end.

southbank human statueOne of the joys of being a Londoner is just the sheer amount of stuff that is going on all the time. Truly if you are bored of London, you are a boring bastard indeed. There is not just so much going on that you feel guilty every time you browse an issue of Time Out, there is also a ridiculous variety of things all around. I love all the book readings by famous authors, comedy nights, world famous bands playing live, the greatest selection of theatres on the planet, the markets, the pubs, parks, and random events like boat races/fireworks/pageants/random art happenings/street performances, etc. There are also things I don’t really give a shit about – opera, human statues, invigorating swims outside in the winter, performance art, vegetarian restaurants, chessboxing, religion, skateboarding, and so on.

But just because I don’t give a shit about these latter examples doesn’t mean I don’t want them around. They add something to the city.

Southbank-bookstallFor example, a place I love is the Southbank. This stretch on the south side of the Thames holds pretty much everything I have mentioned in both lists (not sure about chessboxing but I wouldn’t be surprised). It has Shakespeare’s Globe theatre (which must be experienced), the British Film Institute, the London Eye, Tate Modern, second hand books stalls, bars, restaurants, theatres and art galleries. It even has a beach!

It has also a place for skateboarders which has been there since I was a kid. As I said, I don’t really care much about skateboarding but the Southbank skateboard park is something I would be very sad to see disappear. It adds to London’s diversity. It seems a fun place for all the young youth-types to hang around. It’s always a laugh watching someone trying to show off and falling flat on their face. Besides, the area has been dedicated to the skateboarders for 40 years. Everyone likes it, including tourists.

LFA-south-bank-skateboarding_jpg_573x380_crop_q85The problem, no matter what the council’s argument claims to be, is that the skateboarders don’t make any money for Lambeth whereas a Starbucks/Wagamamas/Nandos/whatever will.

If the Southbank skateboard park is shut and replaced with chain shops/restaurants, it can only be a bad thing for a city trying to stay one of the top places for art,creativity, and diversity. I think it will be a massive shame to lose this. So do lots of others. Consequently, the LLSB or Long Live Southbank was set up.

I wrote most of this because they have now made a short video that they want to try and go viral. It’s actually really interesting, even if you aren’t into skateboarding. (Their website is here and is worth a look: http://www.llsb.com/)

At least watch the video and make your mind up. I learned some new things.

 

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Rising seas interactive map

A friend just posted this on Facebook. It’s basically a map that shows what will happen if the sea levels rise due to all the ice melting. I have a house in Essex, live in London and will probably end up living in Bangkok at some point. According to this map, I should practice swimming. I found it interesting and thought I would share. There is a link below this picture of a damper than usual Europe.

RS_Web_EU_8M_v3

Rising Seas Interactive Map link

Thanks National Geographic.

 

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The Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense

This comes courtesy of Richard Dawkins – a man who loathes anyone who believes in anything that is provably bollocks. Which is a hell of a lot of stuff. If you believe in any of the below then fair play to you. Just don’t look into it too hard. Like testing things under controlled conditions or really doing research into the topic or anything like that.

To be honest, I would quite like a lot of these to be true. Finding Bigfoot or being able to levitate or seeing a ghost (when you haven’t coincidentally just woken up) would be amazing and make the world much more interesting. In my superb opinion – if they make you feel good then go for it. I honestly don’t care what you believe. Just please, I beg you, don’t try and talk others into your point of view.

Anyway, prepare to have your cynicism levels seriously boosted.

 

The Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense

The Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense

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Telekinetic Powers in a Coffee Shop

This is pretty damned funny. I can only assume the people involved were brought up to speed afterward or they will now be gibbering wrecks curled up under their beds.

It was all done to promote the new Carrie film where a girl gets some stuff spilt on her and then massively overreacts. So it’s like a mini trailer. Enjoy.

How often should you blog?

Write more!

Write more!

This has been a question that has been bugging me for literally 10-15 minutes. Maybe even slightly longer.

I consulted the all-knowing internet and discovered to my horror that opinions were divided on the matter. Some said several short posts a day, others a longer post once a week or two. The divergence ended there thankfully, this wasn’t a youtube comments section or anything.

I have read a few blogs that has one plucky blogger posting several times a day and it ends up feeling like a fairly dull diary or even worse – a twitter feed by a bored narcissist. Blogging is pretty narcissistic as it is (I also work as a journalist so my opinions count more, it’s official) so I wanted to avoid that.

On the other hand, anything more than a 10 day gap between entries ends up with a noticeable dip in readership.

As you probably know if you read this fantastic site regularly I tend to write slightly longer blog entries every five to ten days or so. This is mostly because I am busy with other stupid jobs/life commitments/exciting social events but also because I am lazy and overly verbose without an editor. Plus, this has always been a hobby.

One thing that most bloggers do seem to agree on is that inconsistency is bad. My website has slowly climbed to about 5000 hits a day over a period of years. Which is ok but not great. I want great. So I have decided to take the whole thing a lot more seriously and will henceforth try and be more regular. I am going to aim for twice a week. I will let you know how that affects things re readership in case you are a fellow blogger and are curious about this sort of thing. Which, if you are reading this, you probably are. (Apologies to everyone else, this may have been dull.)

This bound-to-be life changing decision will take effect in the middle of October. I am currently on holiday in Germany drinking litres of beer in preparation. You can’t blog during Octoberfest my friends.

 

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Kids toys are crazy

Stick and a hoop. Classic.

Stick and a hoop. Classic.

I have been working a lot recently, which is a shame as work is officially bad for you (probably). It’s certainly detrimental to your brain when you work in the TV industry and have to work on kids’ TV channels for twelve hours in a row. This mental stress is increased still further when you get to the adverts and see what kind of bat-shit craziness passes for toys these days.

If you have kids/sticky little humans of your own, you may already be aware of some of these products. I don’t. Consequently their toys are new to me and frankly, they are just fucking bizarre. I won’t even be mentioning little girls’ dolls that pee and crap themselves as I find them genuinely scary. I’m just looking at the odd here. It baffles me how someone thought these would be good fun, how they got the funding, how they persuaded shops to sell them, who would buy them for their kids, and so on. Ok, you will see what I mean. I just picked four, but there are tons of these things.

Silly Moo Action Game

Are your kids fascinated by farming? In particular milking cows? Are they worried about the whole milk vs cowshit problems endemic with the business? If yes, then check out the Silly Moo Action Game! Milk a cow and win when milk comes out or lose when it shits itself! The game ends when the cow’s eyes pop out. Brilliant.

Ned’s Head

In this game, a dismembered head is placed on a table and kiddywinks reach in through the ears/mouth/whatever and try to pull out aliens or brains or rats or – if you freeze right at the end around 00:13 and look beneath the rat on the right hand side – what looks like a shit-stained diaper. Fun!

Gooey Louie

Sticking with the ‘head on a table’ theme, we now have Gooey Louie. In this one, the head sneezes and the aim is to pull out his snot. If you pull the wrong snot, then his brains explode out of his head! Seriously. That’s the game.

Doggie Doo

Finally we come to doggie doo. A genius mash-up of some of the above ideas. You feed the plastic dog, squeeze a pump, and then catch a dog-shit on a shovel. The end. Look how happy they all are!

Imagine 12 hours of this and you will see why have another job.

 

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