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YouTube // Damien Henry

Take a Trippy Journey in This Machine-Generated Video

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YouTube // Damien Henry

Coder Damien Henry created a 56-minute film based on one starting image and a machine learning algorithm. He trained the machine using video shot from the window of a moving train. Then he handed off that first frame and had the algorithm generate what it thought might be a "next" frame. That process repeated serially for the entire film, resulting in this beautiful, abstract train ride:

The soundtrack is Steve Reich's classic "Music for 18 Musicians," and the pairing helps create a mesmerizing atmosphere. Watching the video, you see smears of light and dark eventually form into landscapes (drawing on the algorithm's knowledge of landscapes), but those landscapes are often messy and surreal, looking like blobs in a lava lamp or perhaps a robot's low-fi idea of what a landscape might look like. Because the film includes zero editing, it is purely a product of that first frame and the machine's training. It's beautiful.

In the YouTube description, Henry wrote (in part):

The results are low resolution, blurry, and not realistic most of the time. But it resonates with the feeling I have when I travel in a train. It means that the algorithm learned the patterns needed to create this feeling. Unlike classical computer generated content, these patterns are not chosen or written by a software engineer.

In this video, nobody made explicit that the foreground should move faster than the background: thanks to Machine Learning, the algorithm figured that itself. The algorithm can find patterns that a software engineer may haven’t noticed, and is able to reproduce them in a way that would be difficult or impossible to code.

He also notes that the algorithm learns during the video's creation, which accounts for the increase in realism as the video goes on. He notes that the algorithm's learning system is updated every 20 seconds.

For a bit more from Henry on the project, check out his Twitter feed.

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Chris Radburn—WPA Pool/Getty Images
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politics
The Secret Procedure for the Queen's Death
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Chris Radburn—WPA Pool/Getty Images

The queen's private secretary will start an urgent phone tree. Parliament will call an emergency session. Commercial radio stations will watch special blue lights flash, then switch to pre-prepared playlists of somber music. As a new video from Half As Interesting relates, the British media and government have been preparing for decades for the death of Queen Elizabeth II—a procedure codenamed "London Bridge is Down."

There's plenty at stake when a British monarch dies. And as the Guardian explains, royal deaths haven't always gone smoothly. When the Queen Mother passed away in 2002, the blue "obit lights" installed at commercial radio stations didn’t come on because someone failed to depress the button fully. That's why it's worth it to practice: As Half as Interesting notes, experts have already signed contracts agreeing to be interviewed upon the queen's death, and several stations have done run-throughs substituting "Mrs. Robinson" for the queen's name.

You can learn more about "London Bridge is Down" by watching the video below—or read the Guardian piece for even more detail, including the plans for her funeral and burial. ("There may be corgis," they note.)

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video
How to Shuck an Oyster
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Shucking oysters doesn't have to be intimidating. Chef Dave Seigal of Cull & Pistol Oyster Bar teaches Mental Floss the proper technique for safe and easy oyster shucking. 

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