Sunday, November 22, 2015

Calling botanists and farmers

Watermelons with white inner
rinds (top--lower right)?
According to a story by John Allen in On Wisconsin, the alumni mag of the Univ of Wisc, horticultural professor James Niehuis, PhD, uses paintings to show how fruits and veggies have changed over the centuries. Check out the watermelons in Giovanni Stanchi's painting.

He and his students in his World Vegetable Crops class go a a nearby museum to look a Renaissance still lifes to see how carious aspects of plants have been bred in or out over the centuries.

With grains, he says, archeologists can look at actual samples--but the more moist plants don't last.

He calls fruits and vegetables "art you can eat."

Hmmm...What else could we tell from paintings? Maybe that people are taller now. Breeds of dogs we don't have now? Certainly trends in fashion. Weapons?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Jumping Jiminy--it's a robot

Johns Hopkins engineering students and their professor spent more than 8 months studying the hopping and landing skills of spider crickets, the kind often found in basements.

Emily Palmer and...muse.
They are not just cricket lovers--but robot builders--and they want one that can jump around.

The researchers think non-human creatures are the best models.

So they trained high-speed video cameras on the insects to find out how the wingless bugs can leap 60 times their body length. A human--to do this--would have to jump the length of a football field.

The crickets use their limbs (legs and antennae) to stabilize them.  They saw--in slow motion--that this process was sort of like a dance. Beautiful and intricate. On the way "up," they pulled in their limbs to counter air resistance.

We have robots that crawl into small spaces, drones that sail overhead, creepy humanoid ones that lift old people into why not little jumpy ones?

Check out the video:

Saturday, September 19, 2015

LEGOS bursting into the executive suites

This company needs new offices and a chopper.
You know LEGOS--those colorful blocks that hurt so much when you step on them with barefeet?

At our house--we used to call it "toy foot."

But, now, thinkers far more serious than I are using these little menaces to study "play"--even in adults.

"It's an engine...a language...a technique without content," enthuses one executive.

This from an article by Jenn  Choi in Nextgov Magazine, Sept 17. 2105.

Sometimes these executives will say, "Name one challenge that is preventing growth in your company and answer with LEGOS--you have four minutes."

This is called out of the box--out of the LEGOS box, apparently.

"The subconscious rules us," another executive says. This means, I guess, that translating the mental into the physical (the LEGOS) uncovers things you didn't know you knew.

This is now called LEGOS Serious Play--LSP.

For example, one challenge was to describe the difference between a manager and a leader--using LEGOS.

One participant built a wall between him and his colleagues--was he the manager or leader, though? I didn't get it.

Show me in LEGOS...oh, wait, you did.

I think sitting around, getting to know each other, laughing and building "things," is a good way to get some creative juices--and maybe even some corporate solutions--going.

So let's hear it for the Danish blocks! Just wear shoes, is my advice.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The book of life

Drinking bad water causes millions of deaths around the world each year. But now some creative types have invented The Drinkable Book.

Each page is impregnated with anti-bacterial silver and copper nanoparticles with killing capabilities--killing of bad flora and fauna, not people.

They tested it at the Univ of Virginia on simulated "bad water" and then on "real" contaminated water in Africa.

Even with the worst contamination, the "pages" of the book, with their silver and copper-nanoparticle paper, filtered out 99.9% of the dangerous stuff.

Each page of the book is printed with water safety instructions, both in English and in the target country's language.

A page cleans 26 gallons--and the whole book would last an individual 4 years.

Cool, huh?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Spooky guilt-provoking

Have you ever parked in a handicapped space?

For shame!

Or maybe you just thought about it...

Now you won't even do that--if this little wrinkle spreads beyond Russia.

This system checks your car for a disabled sticker--if you don't have one, a hologram of a disabled person appears in the space. The image is thrown on a thin, water mist screen.

As the image appears, a voice says, "STOP..don't pretend I don't exist."

Well, you sort of don't exist. Kidding, kidding--this is weird but interesting.

For more

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Biomimicry robot

The insect-vision stalker robot.
Do we want robots who can "track" the way insects stalk their prey? Too late--we're getting them!

In a paper published in the J of the Royal Society Interface, researchers at the Univ of Adelaide describe how things learned from both humans and insects can be applied to make an artificial intelligence system "pursue" an object.

Detecting and tracking small objects against complex backgrounds is challenging, they say--but bugs can do it.

Especially good at it are dragonflies, who can chase prey or mates even in a swarm of bees.

They can catch prey flying up to 60 mph--and do it 97% of the time. Their brain is only the size of a grain of rice, though. Nevertheless, the researchers could track how it worked.

Roughly explained, the scientists developed an algorithm that locks onto the background and lets the target move against it.

So far, they have put this concept into a robot quite a bit larger than a dragonfly--perfect for going after larger prey? I mean, goals?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Seeds of knowledge

Tree Book Tree is a book made of recycle materials and studded with seeds. When a child finishes it--an Argentinian child--he or she plants it in the ground and it grows back into a jacaranda tree.


In Argentina, 6 million books are pubished each month--45 million pages a day--that's a lot of trees!

As it is, areas of forest are being lost!

Of course, these are twee books, custom written, hand stitched.

But once the idea is there--and I have seen paper cups and greeting cards like this---it can be refined.

Try that with a Kindle!

Actually--you can try it yourself--get seed-implanted paper (Google) and write a booklet for a gift for a child.