Space Robo-Chimp! An Actual Thing, Not a Syfy Movie

Friday, May 1, 2015 at 11:24 am


Giant steps are what you take, walking on the moon. It's good to be a robot ape, walking on the moon.

A German research center has determined that for unmanned lunar missions, the optimum robot shape would be that of a chimp, which can walk on both two legs and all fours. So they went and made one, with a fully articulated spine. It can carry some weight, and choose based on terrain whether, as George Orwell put it, four legs good, two legs better in any given situation.

So I'm not entirely clear why their next models are going to be a mantis and a scorpion, except maybe that someone in Germany is basing space travel science on their personal collection of Zoids.

More >>

You Think You Know Them? Microsoft's New Browser Is Called "Edge."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 11:32 am


That certainly won't create any brand confusion at all.

Oh, but per the announcement video below, it will "blur the edge between consumption and creation." Because that's something we have a real shortage of in the United States, apparently, according to somebody who knows nothing about the world (this sentence typed by your editor whose avatar was created with a Terminator Salvation movie promo app).

You know what would sell me on a new browser? Name it "Microsoft Not-Gonna-Make-Shockwave-Crash." I and many others would adopt that immediately.

More >>

Human Ancestors Had Tentacles, so I Guess Cthulhu Made Us After All

Friday, April 24, 2015 at 11:03 am

Thumbnail image for tentacles.jpg

A very jargon-heavy article at a very legit science news site says that Russian scientists believe this is so. Not the Cthulhu part - science's job isn't to prove or disprove the Elder Gods' existence - but the tentacle part.

Our study shows that there is a group of the Lophophore animals among the Bilateria -- Lophotrochozoa taxon, which includes the largest variety of types of animals, -- Elena Temereva says, -- The lophophore is a special organ that carries tentacles. Phoronids, brachiopods and bryozoans (ectoprocts) have collectively been called lophophorate, because they have the lophophore. However, multiple molecular phylogenetics data shows that there is no united group of the Lophophore animals
You can read the whole thing, but the entire article's like that. I'll sum it up for you: every animal that is bilaterally symmetrical (i.e. that could be divided in more or less equal halves if sliced down the middle) comes from an early sea creature that had tentacles, some 600 million years ago.

So when you see tentacle sex in anime, it's really just a throwback to some very ancient impulses.

(h/t Bradley J. Fikes)

The 9 Worst, Most Exploitative Nerdy Crowdfunding Campaigns

Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 5:00 am


Crowdfunding is a huge breakthrough for the arts and technology worlds. Done correctly, it enables artists to make something that would not otherwise exist. Creating is hard work, and making stuff for free with the hope that somewhere down the road you'll be able to use it to do fun shit like "eat" or "pay rent" was an obstacle that left thousands of projects dead at the idea phase. Crowdfunding makes art into an entirely new experience for fans, too - it lets people get in early on the creative process and gives them a sense of ownership over that material, a beaming, proud sense of responsibility for the existence of that art. Crowdfunding is unquestionably a great tool and a benefit to the art and technology worlds.

Unfortunately, it's also created an entirely new way to abuse customers. Kickstarter, Patreon, Indiegogo and the like have enabled an entirely new world of online grift: crowdfunding somebody's whims, making money on both ends of a project, or in some cases, outright theft. Crowdfunding abuse typically falls into one of three categories: rich people who have the money to do what they're asking people to fund, but run a Kickstarter to try and get someone else to cover their costs for the hell of it; campaigns with no forethought whatsoever, projects so ridiculous or so half-assed that they would have been laughed out of the room had their creators' names not rhymed with seal nephenson; and corporations trying to figure out a way to make a profit off of the production phase of a project. Here are eight of the most egregious, most nerdsploitative crowdfunding campaigns.

More >>

iPhone Controlled BB-8 Force Awakens Toys Will Be out by Christmas

Monday, April 20, 2015 at 1:12 pm


This is interesting: you probably know by now that BB-8 was a practical effect on set, but it turns out he was puppeteered. The fully functioning, remote-controlled BB-8 that came out onstage at Star Wars Celebration was far beyond what the original prop had been, technologically, thanks to Disney's Bob Iger becoming obsessed with another ball-shaped toy called Sphero.

And now Sphero will be making the official remote-controlled BB-8, but they're keeping it a secret for now exactly how the head stays on the body. Sadly, it won't be full-sized, but about the size of a large apple.

Show of hands, please: how long after it goes on sale is someone going to try to turn the poor ball-droid into a sex toy?

An Octopus Named Rambo Has Learned How to Take Photos

Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 8:00 am


If you're a sushi fan, just call her Tako Supreme.

This project was far harder than any of us imagined it would be. Rambo got her name because the first few times we put the rig in the water she wanted to fight it. You could say she drew first blood. Despite the reports that it only took three tries [to learn the process], Rambo and Mark worked their way through 10 rigs and nearly as many cameras.
And she wasn't even taking pictures of Sean Penn. But with eight arms, she might be able to get a solitary snap of my cat in a great position - certainly two appendages are not sufficient for that task.

Check out Rambo in action below...

More >>

Ask Luke's Mother-in-Law: The Addams Family Cacti

Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 6:30 am


[Note: Martha Boyd is on vacation this week. Last week's questions - and this week's - will be answered in the next column]

Hey de ho all. Another week has come and gone. God. they go fast when you get old. This week you all get a couple of pics of Miss LoveBug. Caught her being oh so comfortable in the chair at my husband's desk. The kids spend a good part of the day in the office when I am also in the office. At night we all move to the living room to watch TV.

It is me and my five little shadows.

More >>

Most Major Star Wars Celebration Panels Will Stream Live Online

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at 1:52 pm


This is an interesting wrinkle. I have a press pass and all, but the fan convention just made it all-but-irrelevant to be there in person, with the announcement that Thursday morning's big trailer reveal, as well as panels featuring most of the big-name talents in attendance, will be viewable simultaneously to anyone with a computer.

Assuming the Internet holds up, of course, which is no sure thing at giant conventions. But it certainly makes you think that Comic-Con, ostensibly a non-profit, could head that direction as well, though again, since SDCC basically knocks the entire city of San Diego's Internet access on its ass, some things may not be technologically possible.

Do this and put the trailers and/or clips online right afterward, and a lot of hurt feelings could be salvaged. But is it bad business, or is the added value of seeing a star in person still something folks will pay premiums for?

Stephen Hawking Sings Monty Python (Yes, It's Really Him)

Monday, April 13, 2015 at 10:00 am


"Singing" is perhaps a loose word, though if James Cagney can say that's what he was doing in Yankee Doodle Dandy, this counts too. The speech box hasn't, as far as I can tell, been auto-tuned - just timed efficiently to the tune of "The Galaxy Song" from The Meaning of Life.

And in less than three minutes, Hawking himself has now given us more entertainment value than anything in that boring-ass movie about his life that won the Oscar. Maybe he should have played himself.

More >>

The Hatbox Ghost Is Finally Coming Back to Disneyland's Haunted Mansion

Friday, April 10, 2015 at 1:30 pm


For those not up on their Disney theme-park lore, the Hatbox Ghost was an effect for the Haunted Mansion ride that failed to work as planned, and was quickly removed from the attraction. The idea was that, using lighting effects, the ghost's head would disappear, and reappear inside the hat box he was holding. Though the animatronic figure was removed, a picture of him still hangs on the wall.

But in honor of the 60th anniversary of Disneyland, theme-park blog Inside the Magic reports that they're bringing him back, with today's technology having presumably long since caught up to what was originally intended. And the anniversary may not be the only thing they had in mind - Guillermo del Toro's long-gestating Haunted Mansion movie finally seems to be moving forward with Ryan Gosling in the lead - and the director previously announced, several Comic-Cons ago, that the Hatbox Ghost would be the focus.

Is it possible they held off on the movie until the character could be brought back "in person"? I wouldn't put it past the undisputed masters of corporate synergy.