GoPro is Literally Listening to Customers

gopro5

I’ve still got my GoPro2, and despite the many times I’ve nearly crushed and/or drowned it, it’s still working. But this looks like a nice replacement

The Hero5 now incorporates the best features of both of those cameras. It captures 4K footage at up to 30 frames per second like the Black, while also incorporating the Hero4 Silver’s touchscreen, which allows you to frame shots without the use of a wirelessly-connected smartphone, and makes it much easier to tweak settings and options. Perhaps most shockingly, the action super camera comes with a dramatic drop in price, to just $399. It seems GoPro’s feeling the heat from the competition.

Pluto’s Heart May Be Beating

We Finally Know What Made the Huge Heart on Pluto

pluto_heart

“The half heart glacier lying inside is a really massive glacier, which is not impacted by the seasonal changes. It probably formed when the basin formed, and will remain there in the future,” Bertrand said. “However, it probably flows and retracts over a few hundreds of kilometers (like a heart beating) with time, eroding and shaping the mountains surrounding it.”

By watching Pluto over decades to see if the model’s predictions come true, the researchers will either confirm the model or figure out ways to adjust it. It’s possible we’ll discover a more volatile world than we expected.

The history of Patagonia

(the clothing company, not the place)

How Yvon Chouinard turned his eco-conscious, anti-corporate ideals into the credo of a successful clothing company.

In 1957, frustrated by the expense and unremovability of European pitons, the spikes one pounds into the wall to secure a rope, Chouinard bought a used forge, an anvil, and some hammers and tongs and taught himself how to be a blacksmith. He began making his own, reusable pitons, out of chrome steel, and before long he was selling them to friends and strangers, at a dollar-fifty a pop.

Eventually, he borrowed eight hundred and twenty-five dollars from his parents and had Alcoa build him a drop forging die, with which he began to produce carabiners that, like his pitons, were superior to anything then available. He set up shop in the chicken coop behind his parents’ house in Burbank, but he often travelled with his equipment, so he could surf and blacksmith his way up and down the coast during the winter, return to Yosemite in the spring, and then, in late summer and fall, go on climbing trips to Canada, the Shawangunks, and the Alps.

They were lean years: dumpster diving, cat food, “porcupines assassinated à la Trotsky with an ice axe.” Home was an Army-surplus sleeping bag. (He claims not to have owned a tent until he was almost forty.) At one point, he and a climbing companion spent eighteen days in jail in Arizona; the charge was wandering around “with no visible means of support” and “without any lawful business.”

Drafted in 1962, he was sent to South Korea for more than a year. He was not what you might call Army material, but he cadged enough free time to bag a slew of first ascents with a cohort of Koreans, in the mountains around Seoul. An honorable discharge returned him to Yosemite, where, with the big-wall pioneers, Royal Robbins, Tom Frost, and Chuck Pratt, he completed a celebrated first ascent of the North American Wall on El Capitan, after nine nights on the face. Here now was fame, of a kind. He and his peers, colonizing the infamous Camp Four, called themselves the Valley Cong.

In 1966, he moved his blacksmith shop to Ventura, to a tin shed behind an abandoned slaughterhouse. He and his partners, Tom Frost, who was an engineer, and Frost’s wife, Dorene, called the business Chouinard Equipment, and, in due course, their hardware became the industry standard. (Their 1969 bamboo ice axe is now in the Museum of Modern Art.) Concerned about the degradation of rock, they stopped making pitons and instead came out with aluminum chocks that you could wedge into and remove from cracks without leaving any gear or scars behind. Their first catalogue, in 1972, opened with a clean-climbing manifesto, a rockhead’s version of leave-no-trace. A gambit for better gear had begun to extend into an argument for a better world.

By then, Chouinard had taken up with Malinda Pennoyer, an art and home-economics student, and Yosemite lodge maid. “We were hanging out in Camp Four one day when a car full of tough girls drove up and the driver threw out a beer can,” he recalled in his book. “Malinda ran over and told them to pick it up. They gave her the finger, so with her bare hands Malinda ripped off their license plate and turned them in to the rangers. I was smitten.”

In the early seventies, they started selling apparel. During a climbing trip in England, Chouinard came across a mill that made vintage corduroy, which he fashioned into heavy-duty shorts and knickers. Later, in Scotland, he found a rugby shirt that was also suitable for climbing. These caught on with climbers, and soon the Chouinards and their band of friends and metalworkers had turned the old slaughterhouse into a retail store that sold bivy sacks, wool gloves, and other workaday gear. They began sewing garments upstairs and adding new products: sweaters, rain gear, so-called standup shorts of stiff canvas.

As sales of such soft goods began to outpace those of the hard, it was determined that the concern needed a name of its own. Chouinard suggested Patagonia.

According to biographers, Lou Reed was a great artist, but he was kind of a jerk

lou_reed

Lou Reed, Untransformed

That’s how Lou Reed’s career went. He was never happy; there was always something to attack. Humanity brought out the worst in him, and he returned the favor. His peremptory demands, imperious and selfish nature, abruptly withdrawn support or mentorship, inconsistent vision, and overall inability to play well with others made his life a checkered history of failed alliances and artistic misfires. Few personalities — particularly as one as protean and occasionally as brilliant as Reed’s — can be summed up in two syllables. But if you were to do a word cloud of memories of Reed in the various volumes that have been published on his life, the word asshole would turn up in surprisingly large type.

Yet it was still wrenching to hear of his death, of liver cancer, three years ago this October. He’d found some peace in his long, late-in-life relationship with Laurie Anderson, a welcome note of resolution and union to a decidedly discordant career. Since then, we’ve seen two biographies, with two more expected in 2017. And besides that, what must have been a heroic bit of corporate rightsmanship has produced a comprehensive remastered box-set collection of his seminal work, everything from his groundbreaking RCA early solo years (Berlin, Transformer, etc.) to his slightly more audience-friendly Arista releases that stretched into the mid-’80s (ending with Mistrial, in 1986).

For all the gems in his work, his biographers, delving through the tumultuous events in his life, can’t cover up their subject’s flaws. One is by Howard Sounes; titled Notes From the Velvet Underground, it displays the benefits of no-nonsense shoe-leather reporting, as did Down the Highway, his clear-eyed exposition of Bob Dylan’s life and career. (Sounes was the first to get the names of Dylan’s children correct.) Surprisingly, though, the keeper is Dirty Blvd., by Aidan Levy, a writer with a forceful, poetic bent and cultural antennae that quiver ecstatically at the signifiers in Reed’s aesthetics and those of the complex culture around him. As you read it you notice, again and again, a modest reportorial zeal that uncovers key mysteries of Reed’s life. It loses its momentum (as Reed’s career did) in the last 20 years of his life, but all in all it’s a virtuoso rock biography.

Both books hide in plain sight a cautionary tale for all readers, and also the authors of two other in-progress biographies on Reed due out next year. How to balance the antics, often cruel, senseless, and self-destructive, of their subject, against the work? Some people have no problem with this dichotomy; it’s easy, they say, to separate the person from the art.

Did Reed know that he was being a jerk? It’s hard to self-diagnose

So how to tell if you’re actually a jerk? “Isn’t that one of those questions where if you have to ask, the answer is yes?” one of my colleagues wrote in Slack this morning. But as it turns out, the opposite is true — if you’re concerned about being terrible toward other people, it means you’re probably self-aware enough to avoid any truly egregious missteps.

But introspection, Schwitzgebel wrote, will only get you so far. A jerk, after all, doesn’t exist in a vacuum; jerkiness asserts itself in relation to other people, meaning it may be more informative to your gaze outward:

****
Are you surrounded by fools and non-entities, by people with bad taste and silly desires, by boring people undeserving of your attention, by people who can be understood quickly by applying a broad and negative brush?

If this is how the world regularly looks to you, then I have bad news. Likely, you are the jerk. This is not how the world looks to most people, and it is not how the world actually is … You are not seeing the individuality and potential of the people around you.

****

When everyone looks like a jerk, in other words, chances are it’s because you’re seeing them through jerk-tinted glasses.

That’s why it’s good to separate the person from the art – their art makes the world a better place, and the number of people who have to interact with the artist’s bad side is relatively small when compared to the number whose lives are enriched by their work.

Tags :

Remembering David Bowie

The Second Volume of 47 – 16: Short Fiction and Poetry Inspired by David Bowie is here!

Writers, poets, and artists share their memories of Bowie. My short story, The Meditation Center at the Corner of the Dark Dao Universe, about accepting and/or cheating death – is included.

All proceeds from the sale of this book in print and digital are being donated to Cancer Research and Cancer Care.

Many thanks to writer/editor Chris Thompson for putting this awesome idea together!

Tags : , ,

Using a Sponge to Generate Steam

sponge_heat
sponge_heat
Bubble wrap, combined with a selective absorber, keeps heat from escaping the surface of the sponge. Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

How do you boil water? Eschewing the traditional kettle and flame, MIT engineers have invented a bubble-wrapped, sponge-like device that soaks up natural sunlight and heats water to boiling temperatures, generating steam through its pores.

The design, which the researchers call a “solar vapor generator,” requires no expensive mirrors or lenses to concentrate the sunlight, but instead relies on a combination of relatively low-tech materials to capture ambient sunlight and concentrate it as heat. The heat is then directed toward the pores of the sponge, which draw water up and release it as steam.

From their experiments—including one in which they simply placed the solar sponge on the roof of MIT’s Building 3—the researchers found the structure heated water to its boiling temperature of 100 degrees Celsius, even on relatively cool, overcast days. The sponge also converted 20 percent of the incoming sunlight to steam.

The low-tech design may provide inexpensive alternatives for applications ranging from desalination and residential water heating, to wastewater treatment and medical tool sterilization.

The team has published its results today in the journal Nature Energy…

… In their new design, the researchers settled on a spectrally-selective absorber—a thin, blue, metallic-like film that is commonly used in solar water heaters and possesses unique absorptive properties. The material absorbs radiation in the visible range of the electromagnetic spectrum, but it does not radiate in the infrared range, meaning that it both absorbs sunlight and traps heat, minimizing heat loss.

The researchers obtained a thin sheet of copper, chosen for its heat-conducting abilities and coated with the spectrally-selective absorber. They then mounted the structure on a thermally-insulating piece of floating foam. However, they found that even though the structure did not radiate much heat back out to the environment, heat was still escaping through convection, in which moving air molecules such as wind would naturally cool the surface.

A solution to this problem came from an unlikely source: Chen’s 16-year-old daughter, who at the time was working on a science fair project in which she constructed a makeshift greenhouse from simple materials, including bubble wrap.

“She was able to heat it to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, in winter!” Chen says. “It was very effective.”
Chen proposed the packing material to Ni, as a cost-effective way to prevent heat loss by convection. This approach would let sunlight in through the material’s transparent wrapping, while trapping air in its insulating bubbles.

“I was very skeptical of the idea at first,” Ni recalls. “I thought it was not a high-performance material. But we tried the clearer bubble wrap with bigger bubbles for more air trapping effect, and it turns out, it works. Now because of this bubble wrap, we don’t need mirrors to concentrate the sun.”

The bubble wrap, combined with the selective absorber, kept heat from escaping the surface of the sponge.

Read more at: Phys.org

Tags : , ,

Scientists Built a Robot Octopus

But, really, it’s a good thing…

“The struggle has always been in replacing rigid components like batteries and electronic controls with analogous soft systems and then putting it all together,” explained Wood in the Harvard news release. “This research demonstrates that we can easily manufacture the key components of a simple, entirely soft robot, which lays the foundation for more complex designs.”
The robot is mostly 3D printed, and afterwards its body is inlaid with channels that both power and govern its movement. That movement is pneumatic, powered by gas derived from hydrogen peroxide, the robot’s fuel. It pushes fluid through the limbs, inflating them — and if it were only that, it would still be impressive.

But the key bit here is that the microfluidic network is cleverly designed to feed back on itself, shutting down the inflation of one limb and starting the inflation of another in a predetermined sequence. It does its thing (such as it is) on its own, without any need for the researchers or environment to provide power or guidance.

Read more of Harvard’s Octobot is the first autonomous machine to be made with all soft robotics

Tags : , ,

Earth 2 – Far but so Close

Could Proxima Centauri be our Interstellar Gateway?

[R]umor has it that there’s a possible “Earth 2.0” orbiting Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf star that’s right on our cosmic doorstep. Located only 4.25 light-years away, Proxima is believed to be gravitationally bound to the binary star system Alpha Centauri, a system that has also undergone much scrutiny for its exoplanet potential.

To have an exoplanet with any Earth-like qualities so close to the solar system would be an incredible stroke of luck, considering that the most Earth-like exoplanet discovered so far is Kepler-452b, which was announced last year to much fanfare. The kicker is that this alien world is 1,400 light-years away. Barring any huge science fiction-esque strides in interstellar propulsion, it’s highly unlikely that such a distant world will get a whiff of humanity any time soon.

But a hypothetical planet orbiting a star only 4.25 light-years away? That doesn’t sound so bad.

What’s more, if (and that’s a big IF) there is an exoplanet with a few Earth-like qualities orbiting Proxima Centauri, its existence could transform the way we look at the stars. We might start to see interstellar space as a challenge we can aspire to physically explore rather than the impenetrable void it currently is.

Moon before Mars before Proxima?

What Would Teddy Do?

teddy_roosevelt_charge
What Would Teddy Do?

Brooklyn hipsters meet the living dead – my short story won Honorable Mention in Liberty Island’s “Summer of Love” contest!

Dawn was naked and sweating, trying to hold an Amazon warrior pose. I was sketching her, my pencil like a wisp of wind following the curls of her hair, the gold light dancing on her round belly, the curve of her toes. This was all I’d ever need, a beauty that blocked out the rude noises of the real world.

“Peter!” she shouted.

I jumped. My eraser bounced across my lap, followed by my pencils. I tried to grab them but instead smeared the drawing. Ruined.

“You really don’t hear a thing I say!”

I was about to get mad, but then my bones started to ache. I could feel when she was going to cry the way an old mariner senses rain. If I said anything contrary, the tears would pour down.

“I just told you I quit my job!”

“Oh, heck.” I said, gathering up my pencils “Why’d you do that?” If it wasn’t for her job slinging Kombucha at Cafe Bliss, we’d never make the rent…

Read more What Would Teddy Do?

Tags : , ,