Things 38: Cat Lift, 999 transcripts, Atheist Paradox

(Originally sent January 2009)

A Video
Whenever people talk about not being able to keep a cat because they live in a flat with no ground floor access, the same idea always pops into my head. Here’s a video of someone actually doing that idea:

A link
Transcripts and audio of incredible 999 calls:

A quote, or rather, a Latin saying
“de gustibus et coloribus non est disputandum”

– “There’s no arguing about tastes and colours.”

A puzzle
Last week I asked about the Paradox of Value. Wikipedia covers it rather well:

This week, it’s time for another Paradox:

The Atheist’s Paradox
1) DNA is not merely a molecule with a pattern; it is a code, a language, and an information storage mechanism.
2) All codes are created by a conscious mind; there is no natural process known to science that creates coded information.
3) Therefore DNA was designed by a mind.

It’s supposed to be a paradox in the sense that an Atheist is unable to refute the logic but also unable to accept that DNA was designed. My question is of course: what is wrong with this argument?

A picture
Although it’s a bit against the spirit I intended for Things, I am forced to link to the same site as last week, since the Big Picture has a marvellous satellite shot of this week’s big inauguration:


Things 86: Better Train Journey, AI vs Car Insurance, Underwater Sculpture

I see quite a few videos of ‘what the future will look like’, and most of the time I find them to be unconvincing. However, this view of how a simple train journey could be improved with some simple interface / screen / disposable printing ideas  seems much more sensible:

Steven Steinberg has some really excellent musings on the plausible future of weak AI – including its effect on the car insurance industry, which is much more interesting than it sounds. Long, but well worth preloading on your smartphone to read on the tube, or however you fit long-form content into your life these days.

I was doing a bit of ego searching when I came across a quote from me two years in the past, which I had completely forgotten and perhaps unsurprisingly found very appealing. Under this photo I had uploaded to Flickr:

I respond to a comment and made this irrational leap of logic:

“It is in all artists’ best interests to work in the field of robotics.”

I remember reading about these underwater sculptures a long time ago. Placed in 2006, this 2009 gallery shows how the ocean has made some really great aesthetic enhancements.

Last Week’s Puzzle
Last week I asked about some very strange sequential spikes in searches for numbers on Google Trends. Richard worked out that it must be people search for the latest fansubbed episodes of the anime series Bleach, which is pretty much confirmed by checking the search terms associated with these numbers over on Google Insights for Search.

Another mystery solved!


Things 82: Mad Science, Storytelling Verve, Solar Lighting

Time for a Things Picture Special: 10 Pictures Lacking Context.

Here’s some proper Mad Science: setting up a feedback loop such that a fly sees what a robot sees, and its attempts to fly around the obstacles it sees through the robot’s eyes are translated into movements by the robot. Yikes.

More details on the experiment can be found over at IEEE.

Do not be put off by the artistic style here – this is some serious storytelling verve.

I recently read about some new solar powered floodlights, which is a pretty incredible thing since it means you can have off-grid public lighting. This begs the question: even when we couldn’t tap enough sunlight in a day to power a streetlight for a night, why weren’t all street lights at least partially solar powered?


Things Special: 10 Pictures Lacking Context

I was browsing my collection of internet images and noticed an interesting sub-category: Pictures Lacking Context.

Photos that beg the question”What is going on here?”, and sometimes also “How did this image come about?”

In many cases I wilfully excluded the original source of the image from the filename when I saved it just to preserve the mystery, since I rather like them in their unexplained form.

1) Press Button To Operate Donkeys.
A very clear and straightforward sign. Wait, what?

2) Competitive Whaling?

3) Bridge Out Ahead. Use Alternative Routes.
Even if this may seem relatively straightforward, you still have to ask – where is the photo being taken from?

4) Hitler Photoshop
Clearly. But why bother? What does it meeeeeeeeeeeean?

5) Ritual Raccoon Throwing
The weirdest thing is everyone is acting as if this is expected behaviour. Even the raccoon.

6) Man Chases Ducks. Also, Walks On Water.
Look at this man. Now look at yourself. You are sitting at a computer. He is running on water after ducks. Consider everything else you could be doing instead of this.

7) Performance Mining
Not only can we mine an incredible hole in the middle of a lake, we also build roads all around it for no reason. Aliens viewing this must think we are trying to communicate something.

8) We Made This
Or stopped it? Or found it perhaps? They do seem somehow proud of themselves. This is the only clue.

9) The Law of Attraction
If you collect enough chairs in one space, more chairs will inevitably be drawn there. Right?

10) The Original
The image that defined the genre. Of course, it’s actually clear what has happened in this case.