Saturday, April 25, 2009

Machine with Wishbone

"Caught in a symbiotic relationship, both the wishbone and the machine are unable to manifest fully without the other. We drag our pasts with us and move according to unseen forces. More and more, we interface with the world through our mental and technological creations."

View more of Arthur Ganson's kinetic sculptures on his YouTube channel.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Kurzweil Reading Machine

Huh, I never knew this: according to a profile of Ray Kurzweil in Wired, the LexisNexis database-- now an enormous resource with extensive corporate, legal, and academic use-- grew out of a late 70's venture using Kurzweil's recently-developed character-recognition algorithms to scan legal documents and news articles.

Said character-recognition algorithms are a part of a text-to-speech tool Kurzweil continues to refine; its current incarnation is a software package for Nokia phones which will read aloud to you when held above a page.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Wason Selection Task

The Wason Selection Task, a fun little test of logical reasoning commonly used in experimental psychology.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Amen Break

Okay okay, I couldn't resist grabbing this as well-- again via the Worldwide Cultural Gonzo Squad, an oddly captivating video on the Amen Break, a six-second-long drum loop from the b-side of a 1969 single which was taken up by early sample-based music and is now the basis for entire musical subgenres, as well as every advertisement soundtrack ever. Also interesting for its discussion of copyright law, and the fact that it's narrated by a surprisingly realistic electronic voice.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sound to Pixels

Found a nifty article about a piece of digital music software called Photosounder, posted on a blog called Create Digital Music. Photosounder is an image-sound editing program-- that is, music creation is done visually, by drawing and editing the sound's spectrogram. The videos in the CDM article show some of the ways in which this software is being used; it's pretty impressive stuff. I also found this plugin for winamp which produces a simple spectrogram of your music as a visualization, if you're just curious to see what the music you're listening to would look like.

The spectrogram is actually a good representation of how sound is coded in the brain-- the cochlea in your ear breaks down sound input into narrow frequency bands, just as we see on the X axis of the spectrogram, and cells in each frequency band fire in proportion with the intensity of sound at that frequency (so, you have a physical structure in your ear which performs a Fourier transform-- how cool is that?) As seen in this video, a single sound object usually consists of several harmonics, and a full spectrogram can be quite complex-- and yet our brain can easily segment that spectrogram to identify different instruments, even when there's a lot of frequency overlap. We are even able to focus our attention on one specific instrument, which means selectively responding to one particular batch of signals as they move up and down across frequency channels/cell populations. Brains are pretty awesome, guys.

(And on another note: as you can see in the aforelinked video, one of the easiest ways to pick out one instrument from a spectrogram is to look for elements which "move together" in time/across the spectrum-- this notion drives a lot of work in both auditory processing and the corresponding problem of object recognition in computer vision.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mayang's Free Texture Library

Mayang's Free Texture Library is a great source of high-res textures and some object stock. A lot of the images in the man-made, metal, and nature sections make nice texture overlays to add some depth and, um, texture to digital artwork.

See this page for one method for applying these images as texture overlays in photoshop.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Please Say Something

Please Say Something - Full Length from David OReilly on Vimeo.

A troubled relationship between a Cat and Mouse set in the distant Future. Winner of the Golden Bear for best short film at the 2009 Berlinale. (Click the link for full view.) His other stuff is pretty cool too, like When You're Smiling and the video he did for Venetian Snares.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Supernumerary Phantom Limbs

People with amputated limbs sometimes experience the presence of a phantom limb which continues to exist where their old limb was-- they can perceive pain or temperature changes in the missing limb, and have a sense of its orientation. It seems like this is probably caused by lingering activity in the parts of the brain which previously processed such sensory data coming from the limb.

Well, it turns out that it's also possible to experience a supernumerary phantom limb: for instance, one Swiss woman reported feeling the presence of a pale, translucent third arm following a stroke. Researchers have found that this woman's brain treats the arm just as it would a real one-- when she uses it to perform a task like scratching an itch, an MRI of her brain shows activity in regions corresponding to her sense of touch, as well as activity in the visual cortex from where she perceives the arm's presence. And it relieves the itch where she'd scratched it, too.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Color Palettes

Two beautiful color resources for artists:

Color Scheme Designer lets you play around with a color wheel to generate color palettes based around single colors or sets of complimentary colors, and includes a tool to preview websites designed with your generated color schemes. is a site where users can post and rank color swatches, palettes, and patterns.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Investigators with Infowar Monitor have recently exposed a vast spy system dubbed GhostNet which has been gathering intelligence information from over 1200 government, military, and NGO computers across 103 countries, mostly in South and Southeast Asia. The system is based almost entirely in China, but it is yet unclear whether it is the work of the Chinese government, independent Chinese citizens, or some outside organization.

A recent New York Times article on the system is full of spooky facts, such as evidence of the system's use against the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan rights movement, and descriptions of its capacities including the ability to activate infected computers' audio and visual recording equipment to covertly eavesdrop on their surroundings.

View the 53-page report detailing the GhostNet investigation here.