CLOSE
Original image

14 Great Examples of Geeky Fine Art

Original image

Fine art is alive and well, and artists often incorporate the fun aspects of pop culture—particularly the geek side of the spectrum.

1. Headless Chicken

Internet Week New York asked artists and students if they could draw the internet. The results were quite eclectic, but Barbara Ana Gomez’s submission nailed it on the head in a highly artistic manner.

2. It’s Murray Time

Casey Weldon made these portraits of Bill Murray playing all of Royal Tenenbaums for the “Bad Dads” art show at the Lopo gallery in San Francisco. Prints are available on his website.

3. Wisdom of the Llama

Apparently, Bill Murray is a good subject for geek painters, as evidenced by N.C. Winters' great portrait casting the actor in a religious light. Prints can be purchased at the Gallery 1988 website.

4. In The Garden of Audrey

Allison Sommers painted this renaissance-styled picture of Audrey from the Little Shop of Horrors for Gallery 1988’s “Crazy 4 Cult 5,” their fifth art show dedicated to cult classic films.

5. Da Doo Dionaea

For the same “Crazy 4 Cult 5” show, Scott Scheidly also painted a portrait of Audrey, although his version involved a detailed portrayal of her anatomy.

6. England 932 A.D.

If you’ve ever wondered what Monty Python and The Holy Grail would look like when portrayed in the art style of the time of the film’s setting, then Max Dalton’s contribution to the “Crazy 4 Cult 5” show should answer your question.

7. The First Goonie

This Goonies-inspired pirate piece was Eric Braddock’s submission into the “Crazy 4 Cult 5” show.

8. Hello, Mr. Skeksis

While the Dark Crystal may be one of the lesser-known Jim Henson films, the evil Skeksis are just scary (yet regal) enough to make a perfect subject for a geeky fine art painting. This wonderful creation was made by Leontine Greenberg.

9. Andy Dick

Gallery 1988 doesn’t limit its shows to cult movies. Their “Is This Thing On” show revolved around artist-interpretations of famous comedians. As far as fine art goes, none of the paintings were nearly as upscale as this rendition of Andy Dick as a sad clown by Chet Zar.

10. Prince Holds the Katamari On His Shoulders

Flickr user Everfalling created this cool bronze sculpture for one of his classes at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. It’s a seamless blending of the classic myth of Atlas and the delightfully non sequitur game of Katamari.

11. Ascension of the Kenny

This iconic portrait of Kenny was Beau Stanton’s contribution to the South Park 15th Anniversary Art Exhibition in at the Opera Gallery in New York. Laughing Squid’s Scott Beale has more great photos of the show for those interested.

12. Link

Perhaps one of the more underappreciated classic artistic creations are the gorgeous stained glass masterpieces that adorn the ancient chapels of Europe. In the geek renaissance, these artworks are getting the attention they deserve, thanks to stained glass artists like Lynda Macrae of The Glass House in Canada. Here you can see her beautiful version of the Link from Zelda recreated in stained glass, as designed by Kelli Nelson and photographed by Flickr user SevenCubed.

13. The Scream

To be fair, the last two on this list are not at all like the others. Instead of involving geek-subjects portrayed in fine art, they instead offer a classic fine art reimagined using geeky media.

This first piece shows Bernard Pras, who recreated Edvard Munch‘s classic painting, “The Scream,” through the use of electrical wiring, transistor circuit boards and a variety of recycled junk (including a Scream movie mask).

14. Oreo Cameos

These gorgeous and classical cameos are sculpted from the cream of Oreo cookies by artist Judith G. Klausner. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to eat art so badly.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
arrow
technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

Original image
Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
arrow
science
How Experts Say We Should Stop a 'Zombie' Infection: Kill It With Fire
Original image
Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientists are known for being pretty cautious people. But sometimes, even the most careful of us need to burn some things to the ground. Immunologists have proposed a plan to burn large swaths of parkland in an attempt to wipe out disease, as The New York Times reports. They described the problem in the journal Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a gruesome infection that’s been destroying deer and elk herds across North America. Like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, better known as mad cow disease) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, CWD is caused by damaged, contagious little proteins called prions. Although it's been half a century since CWD was first discovered, scientists are still scratching their heads about how it works, how it spreads, and if, like BSE, it could someday infect humans.

Paper co-author Mark Zabel, of the Prion Research Center at Colorado State University, says animals with CWD fade away slowly at first, losing weight and starting to act kind of spacey. But "they’re not hard to pick out at the end stage," he told The New York Times. "They have a vacant stare, they have a stumbling gait, their heads are drooping, their ears are down, you can see thick saliva dripping from their mouths. It’s like a true zombie disease."

CWD has already been spotted in 24 U.S. states. Some herds are already 50 percent infected, and that number is only growing.

Prion illnesses often travel from one infected individual to another, but CWD’s expansion was so rapid that scientists began to suspect it had more than one way of finding new animals to attack.

Sure enough, it did. As it turns out, the CWD prion doesn’t go down with its host-animal ship. Infected animals shed the prion in their urine, feces, and drool. Long after the sick deer has died, others can still contract CWD from the leaves they eat and the grass in which they stand.

As if that’s not bad enough, CWD has another trick up its sleeve: spontaneous generation. That is, it doesn’t take much damage to twist a healthy prion into a zombifying pathogen. The illness just pops up.

There are some treatments, including immersing infected tissue in an ozone bath. But that won't help when the problem is literally smeared across the landscape. "You cannot treat half of the continental United States with ozone," Zabel said.

And so, to combat this many-pronged assault on our wildlife, Zabel and his colleagues are getting aggressive. They recommend a controlled burn of infected areas of national parks in Colorado and Arkansas—a pilot study to determine if fire will be enough.

"If you eliminate the plants that have prions on the surface, that would be a huge step forward," he said. "I really don’t think it’s that crazy."

[h/t The New York Times]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
arrow
BIG QUESTIONS
SECTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES