27th June 2008

We All Can Learn from the Knockoff Puffy E.T. Stickers

Puffy E.T. stickers
Puffy E.T. stickers

Okay, these cracked up my proverbial shit. Over at I Love This World, René got these knockoff puffy E.T The Extra Terrestrial stickers for just $2 on eBay. $2! That’s what I call value. I mean, let’s take a look at these for a moment:

It all starts off as you might expect, with E.T. bopping merrily along in his glowy spaceship, apparently rocking out to some groovy tuneage on his totally boss headphones (with two antennae!).

Then, we learn that E.T. is a lefty, as he veges out in front of his favorite video game, with his unused right hand to his lips in pensive thought. But he doesn’t have the look of your standard tensed-up, video game-obsessed teen… no, his look is almost wistful, as if this game reminds him of a summer spent on the far side of his home planet… and he’s inspired to softly whistle a merry tune. I like this softer side of E.T.

Why, here’s another side of E.T. I like! It’s Get-Down Disco E.T.! He has got all the moves, and he wants you to come shake it with him! Come on, there’s a party in E.T.’s bathroom, and you’re invited! It’s BYOBathrobe, baby!

Whew! That’s quite a sweat we worked up, so now it’s time to get tidy. E.T. knows that all the good little boys & girls & whatevers need to scrub down, especially under their armpits.

Awwww… E.T. wants to show you his favorite panda. Hello, E.T.’s favorite panda! What a lucky panda you are to have such a friend.

HOLY CRAP. I’m sorry, I did not see this coming. The knockoff puffy sticker people killed E.T.! Or, at least hooked him up to some serious Muppet Labs-caliber equipment, so you know the best case scenario is that his head is going to explode.

Poor E.T. Such a fun-loving guy. Why couldn’t we just let him be? Why must we humans always kill what we do not understand? Thank you, knockoff puffy stickers, for showing me that sometimes an alien can be the better human. I am changed.

And now, I’m really, really wishing that I still had my E.T. latchwork pillow kit from when I was 8. Why-oh-why didn’t I find the wherewithal to finish it? I could be an eBay HUNDREDAIRE!

posted in Art, Design, Science!, Video Games | 5 Comments

14th November 2007

Stupid iPod Tricks: Give Your iPod Onion Breath

I don’t think I’ll be dong this any time soon…

How to Charge an iPod using electrolytes and an onion, from Household Hacker

… I’m more of an electric pickle girl, myself. How long ’til we see it on MythBusters? My money’s on Busted.

[via TUAW]

posted in Science!, Tech | 4 Comments

29th March 2007

Online Life-sized Whale

This website features a life-sized image of a whale. Of course, even if you have an extremely large monitor you’ll still need to scroll the photo to see it all.

Life Size Whale
The little red rectangle represents the area of part of the image that fits on my laptop’s monitor

[via John Nack]

posted in Art, Science! | 1 Comment

28th March 2007

The Alluring Chicken Dance of the Jungle

And you thought the aracuan was a nutty bird:

A tropical bird’s mating dance, from Planet Earth

We saw this freaky little bird shake his groove thing this past Sunday, while we were watching the start of Discovery’s new series, Planet Earth. The 11-part series is pretty much a commercial for their Discovery HD channel, but dang if it isn’t effective — about halfway through, we were almost ready to succumb to their siren song. Almost. Thanks largely to Hanford’s line of work, we’re knee-deep in various electronic equipment as it is; we’re a little loath to add one more box to the pile.

However, the series has some truly stunning footage, both in terms of beauty and in uniqueness, and it felt like a disservice to not be watching it in HD. I wouldn’t have guessed that there was so much room for improvement in the old nature television game, but this new series is truly breathtaking — it’s a world away from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Hell, it’s a world away from Shark Week. It was like a really good IMAX film in our living room.

There’s more at the Planet Earth website (you’ll have to enable pop-ups, I’m afraid). The first three parts aired this past Sunday, and the remaining parts will be aired over the next few Sundays.

posted in Science!, Television | Comments Off

19th March 2007

Protein Folding on the Sony PlayStation 3

Unless you’re playing Half-Life 2 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, your computer has times when it’s sitting partially or totally unused. That’s a shame, because there are some really worthwhile projects that could use some extra computing power. For years, there have been distributed computing projects that let you donate your unused computer time to various causes: SETI@Home was the real pioneer, and I ran that for some time, but in recent years, I’ve run software for protein folding.

Protein folding on the PS3
Protein folding on the PS3

Now comes another really cool advance in distributed computing: the use of video game consoles! The latest generation of video game consoles couple some pretty impressive computing power with an internet connection… that makes it a perfect resource to tap into. Stanford’s Folding@Home project has announced a client for the new Sony PlayStation 3. Since the PS3 has such great graphics capabilities, that means you can also watch Folding@Home in action in real time, and can see the 3D dimensions of the protein being folded. [via Kotaku]

After the jump, I’ll offer up my grossly oversimplified explanation of why protein folding is so important. Read on, if you’d like to know more…

Read the rest of this entry »

posted in Science!, Tech, Video Games | 1 Comment

10th March 2007

DNA Twister: One of the Dorkier Things I’ve Done

ISB faculty playing DNA Twister
ISB faculty playing DNA Twister

I was working at the Institute for Systems Biology when the 50th anniversary of Watson & Crick‘s discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA rolled around. I had the great luck of working right next to Rich Bonneau, a brilliant scientist who made sure to interject into every — every — talk or meeting that we should really be focusing more on putting kangaroo tails on humans. Rich was, and I assume still is, all kinds of awesome.

DNA Twister mat
DNA Twister mat

Anyway, to mark the 50th anniversary of the discovery of DNA’s structure, Rich and I got a Twister mat and marked each of the four colors on it as one of the four bases that make up the structure of DNA: Adenine, Cytosine, Guanine and Thymine. We used the spinner to assign which hand or foot was in play, but we used an actual bit of DNA to tell the players where to stick it. I don’t remember what the DNA sequence was from — I think it was one of the genes on human chromosome 14. The ISB faculty joined in, and it was so! funny! when we hit a repeat sequence! HA HA HA HA! HA HA HA HA!

I guess you had to be there.

posted in Science! | 4 Comments

10th March 2007

Man In Space

Man in Space

The wonderful Disney Blog 2719 Hyperion has a great piece on the Man In Space episode of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World Of Color, (the episode turned 52 just a few days ago). The episode is a peek into what the 1950s envisioned the future of space travel to be like. It features both live action lectures by Disney animator Ward Kimball and rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, as well as some animated futurist visuals that are not to be missed. 2719 Hyperion does a better job than I do at really coveying the impact of this midcentury science film:

Perhaps the most interesting footnote about Man in Space is the largely unnoticed impact it had on the development of the U.S. space program. President Eisenhower was so impressed with the program, he requested a print of the film to screen for high-ranking Pentagon officials, which was evidently instrumental in kick starting the country’s space initiatives.

Tomorrowland DVD

Check out 2719 Hyperion’s post on Man In Space. If you’re nuts about it like I am, be sure to pick up the Tomorrowland DVD, which contains Man In Space along with a few other not-to-be-missed Space Age edutainment shorts from Disney’s timeless TV show.

posted in Animation, Disney, Midcentury, Science!, Space Age, Television | 1 Comment

9th March 2007

Tripping the Pickle Fantastic

Electric Pickle demonstration from Duchamp on YouTube

I got this from Penn & Teller’s very fun 1992 book, “How to Play With Your Food“. I picked up all kinds of neat tricks from that book, but this is far and away my favorite: the glowing pickle trick. I’ve done this dozens of times. It’s pretty simple really: you just plug a pickle into the wall. You’re probably saying to yourself “that sounds dangerous,” and you’re right — it is. As a matter of fact, Penn & Teller’s book doesn’t actually tell you how to do it — they just point out that it’s possible, without giving instructions. I like you better than Pell & Teller do, though, so I’m going to tell you the particulars. But still — this involves exposed wires, which makes it dangerous, so don’t do it. Now that I have that disclaimer out of the way, here’s how to do it:

Read the rest of this entry »

posted in Crafts, Food, Science! | Comments Off

5th March 2007

A Molecular Happening

Protein Synthesis: an Epic on the Cellular Level, 1971

“Protein Synthesis: an Epic on the Cellular Level” is a short film created in 1971 at Stanford University. The intro features Dr. Paul Berg, who would go on 9 years later to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. As much as I enjoy Dr. Berg’s intro, things really start to get running a bit past minute 3, when the hippies show up, demonstrating protein synthesis “using the dance idiom.” And balloons. And smoke. And a drum circle. It’s actually a very good demonstration of how protein synthesis works, and apparently it’s still shown in classrooms today. I first saw this film a bit over a decade ago, when I was working at ZymoGenetics.

posted in Midcentury, Science!, Space Age | 3 Comments