Filtering by Category: Weird

Taxonomy, ambiguities, redundancies, and deficiencies

"These ambiguities, redundancies, and deficiencies recall those attributed by Dr. Franz Kuhn to a certain Chinese encyclopedia called the Heavenly Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge. In its distant pages it is written that animals are divided into: (a) those that belong to the emperor; (b) embalmed ones; (c) those that are trained; (d) suckling pigs; (e) mermaids; (f) fabulous ones; (g) stray dogs; (h) those that are included in this classification; (i) those that tremble as if they were mad; (j) innumerable ones; (k) those drawn with a very fine camel’s hair brush; (l) etcetera; (m) those that have just broken the flower vase; (n) those that from a long way off look like flies."

Jorge Luis Borges, “The Analytical Language of John WilkinsWhy do I blog this? Simply because it's a fascinating quote for a Sunday afternoon. Working on a course about qualitative analysis, it's intriguing to have such example of taxonomy.

Mushroom meme circulation: physical digital physical

MushroomThe real-world, a classic mushroom encountered in the mountains in the French Alps.

A digital representation in Super Mario Bros by Nintendo.

sf_mushies Back to the physical world with mario-like mushrooms spotted in San Francisco, next to Union Square.

Why do I blog this? sorting out some pictures of Flickr lead me to wonder about how meme circulate from the physical to the digital and the return to the physical.

Flea market electrogear

Electrogear Seen at the flea market last week end in Geneva. It's fascinating to see how such electro-devices are more and more common in this kind of place. Electronic gear used to be common but I see a surge recently in second-hands shops. Why is that intriguing to be blogged? simply because the prominence of electronic artifacts is so important that it starts leaking into more and more places. And the fact that they're not covered with this gloomy black boxes makes it even more curious.

Sensors in condoms

Found here, a new vector in ubiquitous computing:

"A musical condom designed to play louder and faster as lovers reach a climax is to go on sale in Ukraine. Grigoriy Chausovsky, from Zaporozhye, said his condoms came fitted with a special sensor that registers when the condom is put on. It transmits a signal to a miniature speaker in the base of the condom which play a melody.

He told local media: "As the sex becomes more passionate, it registers the increased speed of the movements and plays the melody faster and louder.""

Why do I blog this? Wacky ideas are always weird, yet they often mean something. In this case, it's maybe not the proposed use of sensors that is important, nor the fact that you can use the condom context (but who knows?).

It's rather that it attests that sensors are so small and cheap they can be integrated in very thin membranes. It's a bit like the challenged that Violet wanted to achieve. Violet is the french company which does the wifi rabbit Nabaztag: their point was that "if you can connect a rabbit to the Internet, you can connect anything". So maybe here it's more relevant for people who want to develop health applications or disposable devices.

Using Nokia model # as terrorist messages

Some of the curious codes used by terrorists are described in the Washington Post (in an article by Craig Whitlock):

"In September 2005, a British court convicted Andrew Rowe, a Jamaican convert to Islam, on terrorism charges after authorities found a secret code book in which he gave double meanings to the brand numbers of Nokia phones. Pretending to be a traveling cellphone salesman, Rowe would use "Nokia 3310" to refer to money, "Nokia 3410" to signal potential trouble from the police and "Nokia 3610" as code for weapons. Rowe received a 15-year prison sentence, even though prosecutors and police said his precise plans remained a mystery."

Why do I blog this? curiosity towards random facts about codes used by terrorists. A new usage of Nokia phone model names.

Kid book about why owning a server

Via, I payed close attention to the screenshot capture of thisincredible book by Microsoft called "Mommy, Why is There a Server in the House? helping understand the Stay-At-Home Server". The book basically describes how a server "is a funny looking-box" who "makes friend with computers" which are generally in "boring offices" but sometimes can go to your house ("some servers aren't boring, they don't go in offices, they go in houses"), especially when "a mommy and a daddy loves each other very much the daddy wants to give the mommy a special gift". In essence, it describes the advantage of owning a server: sharing content, accessing it remotely, being regarded as a nerd, looking at blinking lights

Why do I blog this? ...

On the Effectiveness of Aluminium Foil Helmets

Enrico pointed me to this curious empirical study of the effectiveness of aluminium foil helmets conducted by MIT people (Ali Rahimi, Ben Recht, Jason Taylor, Noah Vawter). Their point was to examine the efficacy of different aluminum helmets often employed by paranoids who want to protect themselves against invasive radio signals. They actually examined 3 configuration using a $250,000 network analyser.

Here are the results:

"we find that although on average all helmets attenuate invasive radio frequencies in either directions (either emanating from an outside source, or emanating from the cranium of the subject), certain frequencies are in fact greatly amplified. These amplified frequencies coincide with radio bands reserved for government use according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Statistical evidence suggests the use of helmets may in fact enhance the government's invasive abilities. We speculate that the government may in fact have started the helmet craze for this reason. (...) The helmets amplify frequency bands that coincide with those allocated to the US government between 1.2 Ghz and 1.4 Ghz. According to the FCC, These bands are supposedly reserved for ''radio location'' (ie, GPS), and other communications with satellites. The 2.6 Ghz band coincides with mobile phone technology. Though not affiliated by government, these bands are at the hands of multinational corporations. It requires no stretch of the imagination to conclude that the current helmet craze is likely to have been propagated by the Government, possibly with the involvement of the FCC. We hope this report will encourage the paranoid community to develop improved helmet designs to avoid falling prey to these shortcomings."

Why do I blog this? found the project weird enough to be spotted, especially as it shows the irrationality of the aluminum craze.

New departure with Pierre la Police

As a tribute to my first blogpost 4 years ago, let's get back to real things with some Pierre la Police stuff (a french cartoonist that I like):

Taken from an exhibit with Marthes Bathori, pierre la police - "sans titre" - 2003 gouache sur papier marouflé sur bois - 46 x 34 cm

Perhaps an interview of the author will be more helpful to grasp his attitude towards "the future":

"It occured that I brought some drawings I made in my dreams back into the real world. But never made it a guiding line for my work. Surrealism is the artistic expression of something that exists anyway and that is part of each of us. I wasn’t particularly interested in it. I think a walnut is more surrealistic than I am.

What are your other influences (writers, science fiction, music, cinema...) ? A tuna tin, gunshots, dog clothes, certain types of dust bags, the phenomenon of steam, microwaves..."

Why do I blog this? as with the interview of William Gibson the other day, I often find interesting to know how people write about the future. Pierre la Police is very relevant for that matter... revealing how a tuna tin and dog clothes, as small details, are important to show new avenues.

Left pair of shoes

Left shoes (as well as other kind of clothes) are usual suspects in cities, it's very often that you can encounter them. Gloves are perfect condidates too but it's less intriguing to understand what happen after a person lost his/her gloves than the shoes. What is even more curious is when you have the pair of shoes nicely dropped at certain places, as shown on the pictures here.

Who does this? Why? Apart from smiling, what happen when you see this?

Anyway, unnoticed by lots of people, this sort of street artifact is part of the cultural life of cities, always refreshing to run across. The peculair ways they are positioned (especially when you have a pair) a good trigger to imagine what could have happened in these situations. To some extent, it forces the observer to try inferring the history of that place.

(First picture spotted yesterday in Amsterdam, second picture three years ago in Zürich)



"The most obvious way to create a mise-en-scène to support communication is to gather objects in a space, such a room, where they are simultaneously visible, and where not only the objects themselves but also the spatial relationships among them can assume significance. (...) It operates at an architectural scale when centrality asserts the importance of a building or an entrance relative to others, or a corner office suggests the status of its occupant"

Bill Mitchell, chapter 1 of "Placing Words: Symbols, Space, and the City Why do I blog this? reading this excerpt of Mitchell's book, I just thought it fits with this picture I took this week-end.

First life externality

street machine A dish washer that has been trashed with clothes still inside. One of the critical externalities of the our techno-material world... one hour later in the night the device has been removed... soon to be hijacked by silent and tech-savy wizards who operate at the heart of our cities.

Pay attention to these artifacts on the street... In this case the engine might very well be used soon for quite different purposes (like those people ripping off steal/metal parts and selling them).

Entomological typography.

Research about insects and typography seems to be very curious, look at this description by Dexter Sear of how certain cultures (Egyptian and Mayan culture) incorporated many insects as characters of alphabets throughout history:

Photographer, Kjell Sandved summed up the motivation behind his life's work when he said, "It is written on the wings of butterflies." After over 25 years of field photography and scouring through museum insect collections, Kjell Sandved succeeded in finding all characters of our current alphabet within the astoundingly beautiful and varied wing pattern designs of butterflies and moths. Although our understanding of the biological purpose behind such elaborate beautification might focus on behavioral tactics, Kjell's achievement in producing "The Butterfly Alphabet" is a great example of cultural entomology.

Inflatable simulated targets in the form of tanks/aircrafts

Military Decoy is a company that sell huge military-like inflatable objects such as tanks, aircraft and trucks:

Founded in 1992, Shape International, Inc is a world leader in the research, development and manufacture of simulated military target equipment for the industry. We specialize in inflatable simulated targets satisfying the needs of legitimate defense clients worldwide. Utilizing cutting edge camouflage technology, Shape provides its customers with beyond state-of-art simulated target equipment. Innovative development allows Shape to achieve unprecedented unprecedented and extraordinarily realistic camouflage and target simulation for a variety of strategic defense applications.

Why do I blog this? because I am crazy of inflatable stuff. Those objects are terrific and there could be very intriguing use for them. In the last issue of Carhartt's Rugged magazine, some folks explain that it can be deployed for keeping your spot on a parking lot.

RepRap: cheaper 3D printing

RepRap seems to be a Bruce Sterling -esque tool that may allow the existence of spimes. What's curious here is that it will be cheaper, based on an open source model and available on various computer platforms.

RepRap is short for Replicating Rapid-prototyper. It is a practical self-copying 3D printer.

RepRap will make plastic, ceramic, or metal parts, and is itself made from plastic parts, so it will be able to make copies of itself. It is a three-axis robot that moves several material extruders. These extruders produce fine filaments of their working material with a paste-like consistency. If RepRap were making a plastic cone, it would use its plastic extruder to lay down a quickly-hardening 0.5mm filament of molten plastic, drawing a filled-in disc. It would then raise the plastic extrusion head and draw the next layer (a smaller filled disc) on top of the first, repeating the process until it completed the cone. To make an inverted cone it would also lay down a support material under the overhanging parts. The support would be removed when the cone was complete. Conductors can be intermixed with the plastic to form circuits - in 3D even!

The RepRap build cost will be less than $400 US for the bought-in materials, all of which have been selected to be as widely available everywhere in the world as possible. Also, the RepRap software will work on all computer platforms for free. Complete open-source instructions and plans are published on this website for zero cost and available to everyone so, if you want to make one yourself, you can.

Barcode Jesus

Scott Blake is an artist who plays with barcode; maybe one of his bets piece is this Jesus portrait made out of barcodes. In Scott's words:

This is the Bar Code Jesus that I created using my first refined bar code halftone program. The bar code images used look like regular bar codes, but they go beyond the normal density allowed by the bar code technolgy. I created a bar code signature, in the lower left corner using the bar code from a Pepsi 2-Liter.

Why do I blog this? Using barcodes as patterns à la Roy Lichtenstein dots to create new structures seems to be curious. With all those folks trying to find the face of whoever in whatever, it's strikingly curious to see artists taking it the other-way around: employing non self-revealing pieces like barcodes to create the face of Jesus. What's next? This is about using everyday artifacts to creat higher-level representations.