Chris Higgins is the author of The Blogger Abides and writes for This American Life, The Atlantic, Breakfast on Mars, and The Magazine. You can follow him at chrishiggins.com.
The Mythbusters are officially crazy. Using "Leonardo 2.0," a custom paintbull gun (actually an array of guns), they managed to paint a rough version of Mona Lisa in 80 milliseconds. "Leonardo" consists of:
• 1 mile of vinyl tubing
• 600 pounds of aluminum
• 1,100 paintballs
• 2,100 gallons of air (pressure: 150 pounds per square inch)
Here's a video of the paint robot in action. First they use "Leonardo 1.0" with a single gun to paint a smiley face (starts around 2... READ ON
In 1971, John Francis witnessed a terrible oil spill. Seeing the destruction caused by the oil industry, Francis stopped traveling in motorized vehicles. Instead, he walked. In 1973, he stopped talking. Instead, he listened. While he was walking, and while he was silent, Francis traveled on foot across the entire continental US, walked to South America, and even earned a Ph.D. in Land Management. He remained out of motorized vehicles for 22 years, and silent for 17.
Now Francis is talking. What... READ ON
Remember Life Magazine? I sure don't. Well, I recognize the name, but I don't think I ever read an issue. Despite my ignorance, since 1883, Life has been published in various forms, with most of its twentieth-century existence focusing on photojournalism. Life's last incarnation -- a newspaper supplement -- ceased publication last year. Now, Google and Life have teamed up to host the entire magazine's entire photo archive online. And this isn't just some publicity snaps -- when they're finished... READ ON
Today's crazy science video: a Science Channel documentary in which scientists pour 10 tons of concrete down a massive anthill, let it harden for a month, then carefully excavate it to demonstrate the internal structure of the colony. It took three days of pumping to fill the colony with concrete.
The sad thing about this is that the colony was alive at the time. And it's a heck of a big colony -- the ants excavated an estimated 40 tons of dirt in its construction.
You may find the narration... READ ON
The song "Tonight You Belong to Me" was written in 1926 by Billy Rose and Lee David. Gene Austin made the song a hit a year later, and it was brought back to prominence in the 1950's by various acts (Frankie Laine and The Lennon Sisters among them). At just over two minutes, it's short and sweet -- and surprisingly easy to sing. Most of us know it today because of a famous rendition from the movie The Jerk, which features Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters performing the song on a beach. (Peters rocks... READ ON
so_many_a_second is a simple online applet that helps you visualize statistics. Most notably, it takes statistics in the form "x items used worldwide per second" and illustrates those items falling down a screen. So for example, 150 trees are cut per second according to Worldometers, and so_many_a_second visualizes that process... READ ON
In 1970, mathematician John Horton Conway invented a game called Life. Conway was intrigued by John von Neumann's theories about self-replicating automata: simple mathematical formulae representing virtual "life forms" that could be depicted in a virtual world. Of course, in von Neumann's day the "virtual world" was a piece of graph paper with some squares filled in (squares being the life forms), but still, it was a pretty cool idea. Conway took von Neumann's ideas a step further, creating a computer... READ ON
Design magazine Core77 sent the intrepid Glen Jackson Taylor inside NASA, to learn how the organization handles industrial design -- the process of designing the usable and beautiful devices. But when Taylor arrived, he found a surprise: "There isn't really a place for industrial designers at NASA," he wrote. "Here the engineers are considered the designers, and the team has only been able to exist under the guise of human factors, a quantifiable soft science that is acknowledged as necessary." So how... READ ON
Following up on yesterday's Mars Phoenix Lander post, let's continue with the NASA theme. This past May, Jet Propulsion Lab Director Charles Elachi gave a speech about JPL, full of historic and contemporary photos -- including a surprising amount of goofing around.
Elachi shows us the fun side of JPL, the serious side of JPL, and a bunch of cool stuff about the Mars Rovers (including some of the best Mars photos I've seen). The satellite imagery of Mars is beautiful and engaging. On the downside,... READ ON
Yesterday, NASA announced that the Mars Phoenix Lander has died. Okay, they said that the lander had "ceased communications" and that the lander had "finish[ed] successful work," both of which are merely euphemisms for its tragic death after five months of lonely toil on Mars.
The Mars Phoenix Lander's death is not unexpected. It landed in a polar region of Mars, because that's where the ice is. But it's also where it gets real darn cold during the Martian winter, and at this point, Phoenix (and its... READ ON
A polar bear can smell a seal that's 20 miles away.