computer science

Science Art: Five of Spades, from Playing Cards: Engineering


This is one of a whole deck of… well, they’re practically a technological tarot, really. They’re playing cards illustrating concepts in engineering. (The two of diamonds is also beautiful, though some might prefer the human figures in cards like the seven of clubs.)

They were originally collected by William Barclay Parsons, the chief engineer of the New York City subway. He was on the library board from 1911 to 1932, when he died. More importantly, he also donated a set of mechanics pla…

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Science Art: Red White Blood Cells, by NCI-Frederick.


The one carries oxygen around, the other keeps the system clean. They’re teeny tiny.

Image from the Electron Microscopy Facility at The National Cancer Institute at Frederick (NCI-Frederick).

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SONG: Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)

SONG: “Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE:Based on “Lasers used to levitate glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum”, Science Daily, 7 Sep 2015, as used in the post “A laser levitating glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum..”

ABSTRACT: I really wanted to use “A laser levitating nanodiamonds in a vacuum” as a lyric, because it’s got such a great rhythm, but no, it didn’t happen.

Musically, things fell together well – I came up with chords on a guitar, and t…

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SONG: One (is the Loneliest Number) (penitential cover)

SONG: “One (Is The Loneliest Number)”.

ARTIST: grant, featuring Sebastian Balfour. (Originally by Harry Nilsson.)

SOURCE: It doesn’t have a research source. It’s a penitential cover of a haunting song by Harry Nilsson that Three Dog Night turned into a prog anthem, which Aimee Mann turned into stunning reclamation project. Nilsson still wins.

ABSTRACT: I’ve been a penitential cover* behind for months and months. I first had the idea of doing this song in something like this way …

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Science Art: To Scale: The Solar System by Wylie Overstreet.

To Scale: The Solar System from Wylie Overstreet on Vimeo.

I like the desert in Nevada already because of the sense of perspective – such wide, flat spaces (wider and flatter even than Florida’s water-level wet prairies), sometimes flanked by mountains just big enough to provide a frame of reference. This is how small you are. This is how far you have to go.

That’s the ideal landscape for this kind of project. How big are we really? How far away is the place next door?

This far away. …

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Science Art: Aequorea Forbesiana by Philip Henry Gosse.

Click to embiggen

This is a jellyfish drawn by Philip Henry Gosse, a naturalist and Creationist (!) who gave us the word “aquarium” as a place to see marine creatures. Before Gosse, an aquarium was a place to water cattle.

He built the very first public one as the “Fish House” of the London Zoo in 1853.

A few years later, he published a book trying to prove that fossils couldn’t disprove Genesis because of course the act of creation would make things appear to be older than they are. …

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Science Art: Beetle (ASIC) by Sven Loechner

22 September 2013 // 0 Comments

The Beetle (ASIC) is a chip designed for the Large Hadron Collider, the giant particle accelerator designed to recreate the Big Bang. It’s part of the quark-detection equipment in an experiment called “Large Hadron Collider beauty.”

Graphene makes *different* computer chips.

4 September 2013 // 0 Comments

University of California, Riverside, researchers have made a very small breakthrough in the way computers work… one that might lead to big changes soon. They’re using atom-thin sheets of carbon to create an entirely new kind of logic circuit: Graphene is a single-atom thick carbon crystal with unique properties beneficial for electronics including extremely high electron mobility and phonon thermal conductivity. However, graphene does not have an energy band gap, which is a specific property of semiconductor materials that separate electrons from holes and allows a transistor implemented with a given material to be completely switched off. … “Most researchers have tried to change graphene to make it more like conventional semiconductors for applications in logic circuits,” [Alexander Balandin, a professor of electrical engineering,] said. “This usually results in degradation of graphene properties. For example, attempts to induce an energy band gap commonly result in decreasing electron mobility while still not leading to sufficiently large […]

SONG: Better angels.

24 July 2013 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Better Angels” [Download] (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media,” The Guardian, 17 March 2011, as used in the post “Sock-puppet G-men keeping tabs on the Twitter.” ABSTRACT: If I was a soldier and my assigned weapon was an online persona, I think the wounds I would suffer would be in my personality. Unreal bits working their way into the genuine flesh. Falling for the enemy like all the good double agents do – only this way, it happens again and again and again. Of course, it’s kinda funny, too. Sock puppets always are. So. This took longer than I thought to get together. And once everything was pulled together, my trusty Mackie didn’t want to send a clean signal to the laptop… so all the vocals (which I originally wanted to sort of layer and layer, half-whispered lo-fi shoegazer style) […]

Hipster heat maps and yuppie data visualizations

4 July 2013 // 0 Comments

Slate brings psychogeography a step closer to the mainstream, highlighting software that uses word frequency to show what kinds of people are in what parts of the city: Of all the data goldmines that social media companies have acquired over the past few years, Yelp’s stash of 39 million ratings and reviews of everything from dive bars to hair salons to auto mechanics may be among the most underrated. But this week the company put that information to brilliant use, building what it calls Wordmaps — heat maps that show the geographic density of keywords like hipster, frat, yuppie, and tourist for 14 major cities. …[T]hey also highlight newer and lesser-known pockets of trendiness, like Judah and 45th Street in San Francisco or North Mississippi Avenue in Portland. … And for those new to a city, Yelp’s maps could be the quickest way yet to figure out which neighborhoods to check out—or avoid at all […]

Sock-puppet G-men keeping tabs on the Twitter.

18 June 2013 // 1 Comment

The Guardian reveals a genuine government plot to infiltrate social networks with Fakey McFake IDs: A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an “online persona management service” that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world. … The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as “sock puppets” – could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same. The Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations “without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries”. Centcom spokesman Commander […]

Google brings the internet to Africa. By blimp.

29 May 2013 // 0 Comments

The Telegraph reports on (or, at least, repeats Wired‘s reporting on) the dirigibles spreading the World Wide Web to places no internet has gone before: “To help enable the campaign, Google has been putting together an ecosystem of low-cost smartphones running Android on low-power microprocessors,” Wired said. “Rather than traditional infrastructure, Google’s signal will be carried by high-altitude platforms – balloons and blimps – that can transmit to areas of hundreds of square kilometres.” Google has a growing track record of installing its own networks; in 2010 it experimented with broadcasting data signals in the spaces unused by TV networks, and it has since expanded that programme to Africa. The company is also installing its own superfast fibre broadband network in the Midwest, called Google Fiber.

Computing with light.

14 May 2013 // 0 Comments

Science Daily isn’t talking about fiberoptics. They’re looking at the latest breakthroughs that take the “electrons” out of “electronics” by using photons to process information: Scientists from the Group of Philip Walther from the Faculty of Physics, University of Vienna succeeded in prototyping a new and highly resource efficient model of a quantum computer — the boson sampling computer. … The huge advantage of photons — a particular type of bosons — lies in their high mobility. … “According to the laws of quantum physics, the photons seem to take all possible paths at the same time. This is known as superposition. Amazingly, one can record the outcome of the computation rather trivially: one measures how many photons exit in which output of the network,” explains Philip Walther from the Faculty of Physics. Photon computers can go way, way faster than electronic computers because they can literally be in more places at once. Superposition. Instead […]

Forget chess-playing computers. Here’s a baseball robot.

1 May 2013 // 0 Comments

Wired (via CNN) is sizing up the new guy on the mound – a mechanical brain designed to outsmart pitchers: Researchers at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo and the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology have built a small humanoid robot that plays baseball — or something like it. The bot can hold a fan-like bat and take swings at flying plastic balls, and though it may miss at first, it can learn with each new pitch and adjust its swing accordingly. Eventually, it will make contact. The robot, you see, is also equipped with an artificial brain. Based on an Nvida graphics processor, or GPU, kinda like the one that renders images on your desktop or laptop, this brain mimics the function of about 100,000 neurons, and using a software platform developed by Nvidia, the scientists have programmed these neurons for the task at hand, as they discussed in a recent paper published […]

Military navigator half as big as the engraving on the back of a penny.

12 April 2013 // 0 Comments

And, Wired says, about as thick, too. But this chip can still do everything a GPS can do… without the satellites: At the University of Michigan on Wednesday, researchers for Darpa announced they’d created a very small chip containing a timing and inertial measurement unit, or TIMU, that’s as thick as a couple human hairs. When the satellites we rely on for navigation can’t be reached — whether they’ve been jammed or you’re in a densely packed city — the chip contains everything you’ll need to figure out how to get from place to place. It’s got gyroscopes, accelerometers and a master clock, to calculate orientation, acceleration and time. The TIMU is fabricated from silicon dioxide and contained within a 10 cubic millimeter package — meaning it can just about fit within the Lincoln Memorial rendered on the back of a penny.

Real money. Virtual currency. Hard rules.

2 April 2013 // 0 Comments

New Scientist adds up the arguments over bitcoins, the computer-generated form of money. We’re now seeing plans to regulate the imaginary currency: Virtual currencies are to be regulated by the US Treasury after the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) moved to clarify their status under anti-money-laundering laws. The move comes as Bitcoins doubled in value in just a few weeks to hit a record high of more than $70 each, possibly fuelled by the banking crisis in Cyprus and the rest of Europe. … Bitcoin “miners”, who run software to create Bitcoins, might also have to register if they sell the newly minted currency for its real equivalent. Interesting to see how the currency survives this.

Lockheed Martin’s quantum computer steps into the limelight.

25 March 2013 // 0 Comments

New York Times has a pretty good profile of what could be the next big breakthrough in computing – the chips that understand “maybe”: [A] powerful new type of computer that is about to be commercially deployed by a major American military contractor is taking computing into the strange, subatomic realm of quantum mechanics. In that infinitesimal neighborhood, common sense logic no longer seems to apply. A one can be a one, or it can be a one and a zero and everything in between — all at the same time. It sounds preposterous, particularly to those familiar with the yes/no world of conventional computing. But academic researchers and scientists at companies like Microsoft, I.B.M. and Hewlett-Packard have been working to develop quantum computers. Now, Lockheed Martin — which bought an early version of such a computer from the Canadian company D-Wave Systems two years ago — is confident enough in the technology to upgrade […]

SONG: Spirit of the Words

23 February 2013 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Spirit of the Words” [Download] (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on Computer program roots out ancestors of modern tongues”, Nature, 11 Feb 2013, as used in the post “’Bituqen’ is Proto-Polynesian for ‘star.’ A computer figured that out.” ABSTRACT: I kinda knew I wanted to write a song about this story as soon as I read it; had no idea it would wind up being this song. I think given a little more time, I’d have worked the lyrics into more of a narrative – as it is, they’re mostly just fragments. The idea I had was that language is a hallmark of personhood, so a computer that is rebuilding dead languages – giving them new life – seems, in some way, to be a good way toward being a kind of “alive” itself. So, here’s this. Trapped in the box, bringing life to things, kind of half-alive […]

“Bituqen” is Proto-Polynesian for “star.” A computer figured that out.

12 February 2013 // 1 Comment

Nature reports on the algorithm researchers have devised to find (or recreate) the ancestors of modern languages: Statistician Alexandre Bouchard-Côté of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and his co-workers say that by making the reconstruction of ancestral languages much simpler, their method should facilitate the testing of hypotheses about how languages evolve. … Bouchard-Côté and colleagues’ method can factor in a large number of languages to improve the quality of reconstruction, and it uses rules that handle possible sound changes in flexible, probabilistic ways. The program requires researchers to input a list of words in each language, together with their meanings, and a phylogenetic ‘language tree’ showing how each language is related to the others. Linguists routinely construct such trees using techniques borrowed from evolutionary biology. … The algorithm can automatically identify cognate words (ones with the same root) in the languages. It then applies rules known to govern sound changes to […]

The guy who invented virtual reality – he thinks there’s something wrong with the internet.

9 January 2013 // 0 Comments

Smithsonian magazine is comparing computer pioneer Jaron Lanier – one of the people who, indirectly, made what you’re reading (and the way you’re reading it) possible – to a Cold War double agent. Because he’s turned against the web he helped create: The colorful, prodigy-like persona of Jaron Lanier—he was in his early 20s when he helped make virtual reality a reality—was born among a small circle of first-generation Silicon Valley utopians and artificial-intelligence visionaries. Many of them gathered in, as Lanier recalls, “some run-down bungalows [I rented] by a stream in Palo Alto” in the mid-’80s, where, using capital he made from inventing the early video game hit Moondust, he’d started building virtual-reality machines. In his often provocative and astute dissenting book You Are Not a Gadget, he recalls one of the participants in those early mind-melds describing it as like being “in the most interesting room in the world.” Together, these digital futurists […]

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