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November 2006 Archives

November 2, 2006

Picture Perfect

While the PhotoPlus Expo is going on here in New York City, I am reminded of an incredible website called Cambridge In Colour. With all of the gadgets that we own that can take photos, the end product leaves something to be desired.  Photoshop is amazing, but understanding really what you are working with is quite difficult. Cambride In Color hosts a beautiful collection of photographs but more to the point it has some of the best photgraphic tutorials and techniques out there. While the site is focused more on high-end photography it still has many lessons that apply to the simple snapshot.

See The Sound

aircraft_sidecopy.jpgGary Settles sees things that most people can only hear or imagine. Operating out of Penn State's Gas Dynamics Lab, Dr. Settles has taken the art of Schlieren (or "streak") photography to new heights. The astounding stop-motion technique captures shock waves, heat and density fluctuations. Settles is applying these new video technologies to scientifically examine homeland security threats but this work is as much "art" as it is "science." Heir to the visual legacy carved out by "Doc" Edgerton, MIT's legendary inventor of the strobe, Settles research is astonishing and beautiful.

November 7, 2006

Are These Pants Warm Enough?

I would never have felt safe if I didn't have the Ambient Orb constantly glowing out the Homeland Security threat color all these years. Our friends at Ambient Devices strive to create simple and useful intuitive interfaces to the constantly changing world around us. The devices use built in radios to obtain near-realtime information which is then displayed in a clean, uncluttered fashion.  Folks who attended this years Gadgetoff  have been raving about the WeatherWizard which was in their goody bags. The device shows 5 days of weather, but my children use the current day's forecast to pick out their clothes and dress themselves. So simple, we wish we had thought of it ourselves.

November 8, 2006

Pimp My Sleep

Night Light

When my son wanted an overhead light in his bunk bed to ease him to sleep at night we wanted to do something fun that matched the decor. His room has a mural of earth seen from the surface of the moon so we decided that the bed was the lunar lander. I remember my reading light as a child getting dangerously hot and melting the fixture so I wanted something safe. I bought some electroluminescent (EL) wire and created a meandering space pattern above his head.  EL Wire consumes very little power and runs cool making it fire safe for a child's bed. The glow is bright enough to make him happy, but not too bright to keep him awake. My motto of "complex solutions to simple problems" has made my son very happy.

There are many places that sell EL Wire, simply Google or go to Live Wire

November 10, 2006

My Creature Is Alive!

Huge, lumbering creatures patrol the beaches of Holland powered only by wind. Each generation sees them evolve into larger, more capable, impressive animals. Few people would look at common electrical conduit and see sculpture, even fewer would see the building blocks of life. This is the art and science of Theo Jansen.

Theo started with a simple walking leg assembled from discarded plastic tubing. He then used genetic algorithms to continuously refine his creations - the joints became more efficient, the gait became longer, the first generation animals emerged. The creatures are still evolving and now use pneumatics (consisting of the same materials!) to demonstrate increasingly complex behavior. One "beest" even walks around the beach and forms sand dunes!

His work is incredible and can be viewed at Strandbeest

November 15, 2006

Blue Man Group On Steroids

I hate being constantly marketed to, but I was blown away by a Sony advertisement shown by Richard Saul Wurman at the Council on Competitiveness event he recently hosted in Washington D.C.  Everything about the ad - the creativity, technical brilliance, execution are inspirational. Blue Man Group pioneered the first creative use of paint flying all over the place, this ad bumps it up a few orders of magnitude.  Check it out.

November 17, 2006

Welcome to the Grand Illusion

Grand IllusionsTim Rowett has assembled one of the most fascinating websites in hyperspace. Our motto is "Bringing the Smart and the Useless Together" and Grand Illusions accomplishes the goal better than anyone. There are visually disturbing optical illusions, articles on creative experimentation and a quirky and fun mix of old and new toys. The curatorial skill make the site well worth visiting, but the little video demonstrations, done in a serious, dead-pan British style makes this one of my favorite sites. Check out the "Endless Spring" video and the Julain Beever drawings.

Much of what is on the site is simply an incredible labor of love and not for sale, luckily, some of the items are available - which makes this year's holiday shopping a breeze.

Hot Airship: Dan Nachbar's Personal Blimp

Dan Nachbar's Airship AlbertoDan Nachbar doesn't follow the herd: he thrives by running against it. When he was a student at UC Berkeley, his advisor told him, "Go East, Young Man!"   So  Dan ended up bringing his computer skills to Bell Labs on the East Coast when nearly everyone else in his field headed West to Silicon Valley.  After years toiling in the high tech business, Dan decided, in the height of the Internet boom, to get into a field everyone else was getting out of: aviation.  But Dan had a simple, wonderful vision: to create a highly maneuverable hot-air dirigible.

Before Dan Nachbar's work, the balloon world was split between two camps: huge helium blimps (that were hard to maneuver) and smaller hot-air balloons (that were even harder to maneuver.)  In a  peaceful, wooded haven outside Amherst, Mass., Dan Nachbar decided to build a revolutionary prototype: the SkYacht, a "personal" hot-air balloon that could turn on a dime. 

It's hard to keep something as big as this 205,000 cubic foot blimp under wraps, but Dan worked quietly and a few days ago let the world see his high-flying masterpiece.  Dan and Friends on the Airship AlbertoThough this first prototype, the airship Alberto,  only seats two, it could easily hold more as it hovers gently above the treetops. Nachbar has also designed easily transportable manned or unmanned versions of these rigid-ribbed hot-air crafts.  Inexpensive, safe, and easily controlled, Nachbar's new airships will change how eco-tourists glide above the rain-forest canopy; how companies will advertise above sporting events; and how companies will survey the ground below.

 Dan, please save a seat up there for me!

November 22, 2006

Strange Attractor


I always thought of writing software as part science and part art. Jared Tarbell has followed this ideal and created beautiful works of art through software. Jared uses relatively simple algorithms to "paint" an electronic canvas in styles ranging from abstract to surreal.  Even though the images are completely computer generated, they exude warmth and texture that belie their origin.

His artwork is hosted on Complexification - The Gallery of Computation. Enticing names like "city.traveler", "guts", "strange.attractor" and "happy.place" each different, stunning and thought provoking.  

Most people are familiar with fractals, specifically the Mandelbrot Set - a mathematically generated world of infinite depth and beauty. Jared's work feels warmer to me, more attuned with nature.

Complexification shows more than images - there are interactive Flash versions that run on your browser and source code is available for the intellectually curious who want to experiment on their own.  

What can I say, I guess I'm strangely attracted to Complexification.


For more computer generated art take a look at the exhibitions on Process.org.

About November 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Gadgetoff - Things We Like in November 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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