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Lithophones - Instruments Made of Fossils, Floor Tiles, and More

Musician, artist, and "edutainer" Tom Kaufmann makes unique instruments called lithophones, which are similar to xylophones, but created from various stones. Here's how Kaufmann describes them:

Another happy coincidence led me to my current fascination with constructing lithophones. I was tossing around some scrap pieces of granite countertop that I’d gotten for one of my Upright Furniture projects, and as one of the chunks landed, it rang as clear as a bell.

I’d been looking for stone suitable for building lithophones for a while, but never suspected I would find a source of such readily available and inexpensive material.

Litho is Greek for stone, and phone is sound, so a lithophone is a musical instrument made from stone. They are one of the most ancient instruments, and in China the sound of stone is as elemental as metal or wood. In Viet Nam a stone instrument called a “dan da” was found that is believed to be over 9,000 years old. Western civilization didn’t use stone for music until the 1840’s. There are links to some great sources of information about lithophones at the bottom of this page.

Here's Kaufmann playing the "Flintstones" theme on a lithophone made from Michigan's State Stone: Petoskey Stone (fossilized coral that lived 350 million years ago). By the way, did you know Michigan had a State Stone? Enjoy:

Floor Tiles & Wrenches

Not all lithophones are made of such exotic materials. This video shows a series of lithophones made from floor tiles, then a toolbox glockenspiel (made from wrenches and bolts, complete with some mild tuning problems):

Limestone

Here's Kaufmann playing his "park bench lithophone," made from scrap limestone. Yes, he plays the "Flintstones" theme again:

Granite

This lithophone is made of granite. From Kaufmann's website:

Here’s a video of my newest lithophone, built for the Children’s Garden at the Charlevoix Public Library, in Charlevoix, Michigan. This one octave diatonic instrument, made of granite and mounted on a powder coated steel base with stainless steel bolts, is tuned to the key of C, A=440

For more on Kaufmann and his work, check out Tinkertunes Music Studios. You can find some more lithophone videoes on the Instruments page.

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Courtesy Umbrellium
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Design
These LED Crosswalks Adapt to Whoever Is Crossing
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Courtesy Umbrellium

Crosswalks are an often-neglected part of urban design; they’re usually just white stripes on dark asphalt. But recently, they’re getting more exciting—and safer—makeovers. In the Netherlands, there is a glow-in-the-dark crosswalk. In western India, there is a 3D crosswalk. And now, in London, there’s an interactive LED crosswalk that changes its configuration based on the situation, as Fast Company reports.

Created by the London-based design studio Umbrellium, the Starling Crossing (short for the much more tongue-twisting STigmergic Adaptive Responsive LearnING Crossing) changes its layout, size, configuration, and other design factors based on who’s waiting to cross and where they’re going.

“The Starling Crossing is a pedestrian crossing, built on today’s technology, that puts people first, enabling them to cross safely the way they want to cross, rather than one that tells them they can only cross in one place or a fixed way,” the company writes. That means that the system—which relies on cameras and artificial intelligence to monitor both pedestrian and vehicle traffic—adapts based on road conditions and where it thinks a pedestrian is going to go.

Starling Crossing - overview from Umbrellium on Vimeo.

If a bike is coming down the street, for example, it will project a place for the cyclist to wait for the light in the crosswalk. If the person is veering left like they’re going to cross diagonally, it will move the light-up crosswalk that way. During rush hour, when there are more pedestrians trying to get across the street, it will widen to accommodate them. It can also detect wet or dark conditions, making the crosswalk path wider to give pedestrians more of a buffer zone. Though the neural network can calculate people’s trajectories and velocity, it can also trigger a pattern of warning lights to alert people that they’re about to walk right into an oncoming bike or other unexpected hazard.

All this is to say that the system adapts to the reality of the road and traffic patterns, rather than forcing pedestrians to stay within the confines of a crosswalk system that was designed for car traffic.

The prototype is currently installed on a TV studio set in London, not a real road, and it still has plenty of safety testing to go through before it will appear on a road near you. But hopefully this is the kind of road infrastructure we’ll soon be able to see out in the real world.

[h/t Fast Company]

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iStock
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Live Smarter
How to Make Sure Your Cell Phone Receives Emergency Alerts
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iStock

Thanks to smartphones, we’re more plugged into the world than ever before. Some of us receive notifications for everything from Amber Alerts to trending news stories, so it makes sense that we’d also depend on our phones to alert us to emergencies in our neighborhoods. But as The Daily Dot reports, relying on your cell phone alone for such news might leave you in a dangerous situation.

Unlike Amber Alerts, local notifications for natural disasters like wildfires don’t operate on a broad alert system. If counties were to contact every single resident every time a specific area was threatened, it would lead to traffic jams and unnecessary panic, putting more lives at risk. So instead, the police only contact people in their database that live in the affected location.

The Reverse 911 law allows law enforcement to contact you at your home in case of emergencies. If you have a landline you can expect to get the call there, but because the law was enacted before the age of cell phones, receiving a call anywhere else isn’t guaranteed. To make sure your county knows to contact you on your cell phone, you need to reach out to them and ask for that number to be listed as your primary mode of contact. Just over half of all households in the country use cell phones for all personal phone communications, which means that most Americans need to opt in to receive life-saving emergency notifications.

Fortunately, getting your cell number into your county’s database isn’t hard. You can starting by searching your county’s name and “emergency alert” online. There’s no uniform system across the U.S., but on Los Angeles County’s emergency alert page, for example, residents are asked to indicate their name, address, phone number, and the type of alerts they wish to receive. This information can be updated at any time—so if you get a new phone number, make sure your local police department is one of the first to know.

[h/t The Daily Dot]

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