Sep 27, 2010

Beautiful Carnivorous Plants

They’re pretty but deadly … if you’re an insect, that is. Dark Roasted Blend has a nice gallery (as always) of some of nature’s most gorgeous carnivorous plants. 

Venus Flytrap - The poster-plant for botanical carnivores has got to be the legendary Venus Flytrap. A resident of swamps and bogs, the flytrap has evolved a dramatic solution to its lack-of-nutrient diet: it catches flies – and pretty much anything big enough to get caught. What's amazing about this plant is its mechanism. Anything that happens to stumble between the two halves of its unique mechanism will find itself in caught in a quickly-snapping-shut botanical bear trap. What's even worse is that after being caught the Venus then fuses those leaves together, turning them into a kind of stomach to digest its prey. What's extra-fascinating is that the trap has two triggers, and that both of them have to be tripped for the leaves to snap shut, to avoid misfires.

The Sundew - Another device carnivorous plants use is to make their prey stick around long enough to be digested. The sundew, for instance, has leaves covered with dozens of tiny stalks, and each stalk is covered with very, very, very sticky stuff. When a bug happens to walk across these leaves it gets – you guessed it – very, very, very stuck. What's more, though, is that the plant then contracts, bringing more and more of those stalks into contact with its prey, completely trapping and then digesting it.

Pitcher plants - These carnivores come in a wide variety of shapes, types, and sizes. Most pitchers feast on bugs and sometimes small lizards - pretty much whatever's unfortunate enough to get seduced by the plant's alluring smells and small enough to fit down its leafy throat.

Cobra Lily - The rare California pitcher plant is also called a cobra lily for its bulbous head, forked tongue, and long tubular pitcher. It grows in mountainous parts of the West Coast and is an oddity among its kind. Although it traps prey in a manner similar to other pitcher plants, its leaves contain no digestive enzymes. Instead, it relies on symbiotic bacteria to turn captured insects into usable nutrients.

The Talking Tree

A 100-year old tree in Belgium is the new star of the internet. The Talking Tree has over 4,000 fans on its Facebook page, over 2,000 following its Twitter feed, and many other people visiting its website.

The tree transmits raw information about particulate matter in the environment and weather conditions to researchers. They analyze what the tree sees and senses, then translate that into updates like “Won’t be doing too much photosynthesis in this cloudy weather,” and “This ozone concentration makes it difficult to do my job.” It also advises people to ride their bikes on days with air pollution.

Incredible Tape Measure Tricks

 The title says it all...

Where's Waldo? On Google Street View

Nothing can escape the prying eyes of Google Street View, including Waldo from the Where’s Waldo? book series. He was seen at 76 Putney High St, Wandsworth, UK by a Google Street View camera car.

Robot Panhandler

'Gimme' is a robot/sculpture designed by Chris Eckert that follows people around the room while relentlessly requesting donations. Sounds like fun!

Smore'der of Operations

This is a perfect tool for teaching kids their algebraic order of operations! Oh, they can do them, but I think this will help them understand the concept better. Find this “s’more formula” on a t-shirt at W00t.

Never Tell Me the Odds Tattoo

Junior Bio major, roller derby girl and Tumblr blogger iheartar got a new and very cool tattoo. Han would be proud!

Sep 26, 2010

Möbius Comic Strip

Artist Jim Woodring made a comic strip on a Möbius strip — a flat surface with only one side. At this link, you can view a video as well as each panel in this repeating story.

A Whopper of a Spelling Mistake

A billboard bragging about the schools in South Bend, Indiana was erected without anyone noticing a certain misspelled word, until Lee MacMillan took a picture and posted it on Facebook. Responsibility for the spelling error has been claimed by the Blue Waters Group - a company that does work for the city of South Bend’s redevelopment commission to promote the city.

“I feel terrible. It’s a mistake we made and we’re guilty of it, and responsible for it - and we take full responsibility for the error,” said Patrick Strickler, president of the Blue Waters Group.

“Four [probable Notre Dame grads] looked at it, eyeballed it and didn’t see the mistake, and those people all work for me,” Strickler explained. “We take responsibility for it. We simply blew it. We did not see the missing “L.”

In case you were wondering, yes, the billboard has been taken down.

The Looxcie

My wife's been waiting for this - for the longest time, she's wanted a camera that can take pictures through your contact lenses instantly, with the power of your mind. We may not be there yet, but here's the next best thing - a camera that records everything you see. Loop the Looxcie over your ear and go about your day. If you see anything you think may be worth saving, hit the button and the previous 30 seconds are saved, and can be uploaded to your selected social networking site to be instantly shared. (Or, you can watch and edit the video first if you prefer.) And it stores up to five hours of video.

Mario Push-Pin Mosaic

There are over 17,000 push-pins on this board, and the work was done entirely by students, from the University of the Fraser Valley (in Canada). The board is currently in the Student Computing Center.
This is the third revision of the project - from the first pin to the last took about two and a half semesters, though the final version was completed entirely within the first two months of Fall 2008.

Are You Positive?

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to feature some of my favorite t-shirt the one above from SnorgTees. BTW - they've got some hilarious stuff!

Hippie Gorilla Contemplates the Meaning of Life

National Geographic photographer Ian Nichols captured this image of a seemingly contemplative Silverback gorilla. Needing fuel for his efforts, the silverback soaks in a swamp for hours, methodically stripping and rinsing dirt from herb roots before munching.

Jed I. Knight

A long time ago, in a yearbook far far away…there was a little boy by the name of Knight whose parents  were really big Star Wars fans.

Sep 25, 2010

Flower Grenades

Check out these Flower Grenades from SuckUK. Each grenade is filled with wildflower seeds, and the idea is to inspire guerilla gardening. All you have to do is toss one of these biodegradable grenades into a field or near a sidewalk, and within a year a burst of wildflowers should explode from the patch. Pretty awesome! Check out SuckUK's online shop for more smartly-designed products.

Shiny Ponyta Found! LIVE!!

After 25,968 encounters (133 hours and 15 minutes) playing 3 consoles at once, #1 Pokemon Uber Fan Abenzio (age 15) finally found the elusive Shiny Ponyta. (I really thought he was going to have a stroke at 40 seconds in.)

Sep 22, 2010

New York At Night

Jason Hawkes likes to see the world from a different perspective - from above. In college, all he wanted to be was a studio photographer, but all that changed after a flight in a small aircraft. "I realized that, with a little attitude, you see all these amazing patterns - even mundane things look intriguing," said Hawkes.

The British photographer spent 15 weeks using state of the art technology to create these dramatic shots for his new book, New York At Night.
"The images of New York were shot on Nikons latest camera, the D3S, using three gyro stabilizing mounts and flown using twin star helicopters. We flew from heights of just over 500 ft up to 2,500-ft with no doors on, it was very very cold."

Sep 21, 2010

Dinah the Dachshund

Dinah the Dachshund replaced Fifi the Peke as Pluto's girlfriend in the later Disney cartoons, though she sometimes dates Butch the Bulldog as well. She first appeared in The Sleepwalker.

In an episode titled Canine Casanova, she appears again with Pluto, who tries to woo her love and get to know her a little more. When she winds up in the dog pound Pluto saves the day, becomes Dinah's hero and the two start dating.

The episode In Dutch, set in the Netherlands, shows Pluto falling for Dinah as she becomes very attracted to him. In a lovely scene, Dinah gives Pluto a passionate kiss, which makes him feel great and causes him to want to rush the relationship. Instead, the two of them end up saving the day together when the water of the dam becomes unprotected and it almost engulfs the Netherlands. Her fur color is also a noticeably lighter brown in this episode.

In a romantic episode called Pluto's Heart Throb, Pluto falls for Dinah but is surprised to find out that she has two male dogs that she's splitting her affections with. It becomes obvious that Dinah is interested in Pluto because she loves him more, but Butch the Bulldog will not give her up. Butch demands a kiss from her, then pushes her into a swimming pool. Pluto hears her calls for help and comes to the rescue. When Dinah is saved, she makes her decision and dumps Butch.

In the final episode, titled Wonder Dog, Pluto is rejected by Dinah when she sees the poster of a handsome circus pup named Prince. Pluto believes that he can prove to Dinah that he’s better than Prince and challenges Butch to a talent contest. Dinah is so entertained by Pluto that she falls back in love with him.

Donald Duck's Family Tree

Sep 16, 2010

False Dawn: The Zodiacal Pyramid of Light

The gorgeous pyramid of light above is called the zodiacal light. Andrew Fazekas of the National Geographic News explains the elusive celestial phenomenon:

"Unlike the stars and gases of the Milky Way, which stretch away from Earth for light-years, the source of the zodiacal light lies between the inner planets of our solar system. There, billions of dust grains orbit the sun in a flattened disk spread out along the ecliptic, the plane of the solar system, which also contains the paths of the 12 constellations of the zodiac."

The dusty disk, also called the zodiacal cloud, radiates from near the sun out beyond the orbit of Mars, toward Jupiter. The dust reflects and scatters sunlight in such a way that it creates a visible glow for observers on Earth.

"Because the dust in the solar system is concentrated along the ecliptic plane, the zodiacal light is likewise concentrated," said Geza Gyuk, an astronomer with the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

Until recently, astronomers had thought most of the space debris in the zodiacal cloud came from asteroid collisions. But a study released in April suggests that the dust is instead shed by comets that swing close to Jupiter's orbit. The gas giant planet's strong gravitational pull scatters dust off these comets, according to the study. This dust then falls into orbit around the sun, continuously replenishing the zodiacal cloud.

The triangular tower of light is easiest to spot around the spring and fall equinoxes. Look for it over the eastern horizon about an hour before sunrise in the fall, and over the western horizon just after sunset in the spring.

Nintendo Bed

Instructables user rpaxon made a bedding set that makes a bed look like a Nintendo console. He’s made it for his brother, who’s wanted one since the sixth grade. You can view more photos at the link.

Wine Filling Station

Bring your own resealable bottles, milk jugs, jerrycans, whatever. Or you can get one at the store. Select your grade (red, white, or rosé). Pump. Print receipt.

Astrid Terzian introduced this concept that hearkens back to a bygone era when wine would arrive in Paris shops in tonneaux and consumers would bring their own flagons to fill. But today, Terzian says, she started this scheme in the fall of 2008 to fill a niche, tapping into two key themes, environmental awareness and the economy. The elimination of packaging mass means that the wine can be shipped much more efficiently from a cost and carbon perspective.

The cost-savings are passed on to the consumer in the form of low prices (about $2/liter). She installed her first machine in June 2009 at the Cora supermarket in Dunkirk and now has them installed in eight supermarkets in France.

As to customer reaction, Terzian says customers are taken aback at first, but then warm up to the idea, especially after a taste. They come back often, she says.

My only question about the pump wine (aka Chateau La Pompe) is if it comes to New Jersey and Oregon, will they require full serve as they do for gas?!

Dice Mosaic

More than 14,000 dice were used to make this 8 ft by 5ft  mosaic of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe:

Sep 15, 2010

A Geographical Nesting Doll

The above map shows the border between the United Arab Emirates (yellow) and Oman (green). Inside the UAE is a tiny enclave of Omanese territory called Madha. It consists of about 29 square miles. Inside that enclave is another enclave of UAE territory called Nahwa, which is under a square mile in area.

The Egg-Bot

The diabolical folks at Evil Mad Scientists Laboratories developed a machine that will draw precise patterns on an egg. The Eggbot has a rigid but adjustable chassis that allows you to mount spherical or egg-shaped objects of various sizes, and rotate them about their axis of symmetry using a stepping motor under computer control. A second stepping motor moves a pen about an axis perpendicular to that “egg” axis, and a small servo motor raises or lowers the pen above the egg surface. The results are stunning:
The objects shown below include golf balls, eggs, Christmas ornaments, and light bulbs. The basic operation is much like that of a printer driver: you import or make a drawing in Inkscape, and use the extensions to plot your drawing onto whatever object you've mounted into the Eggbot. It's all handled through a graphical user interface, and works cleanly on Mac, Windows and Linux.

Nintendo Coffee Table

Flickr user mattcyborgelt created a coffee table shaped like a NES console. It opens up to reveal a functional controller scaled to size, as well as ports to use for computer and gaming peripherals. Click on the link to check out the whole Flickr photo set.

Cat Labeled 'Cat'

Garry and Joan Marsh of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, England adopted a ten-week-old kitten from the local animal shelter and named her Polly.

Three days later, as they admired their new pet’s coloring, they noticed the word “cat” on her left flank.

Mr Marsh, a teacher, said: ‘We were commenting on how symmetrical her tabby patterns seemed when Joan suddenly noticed the letters. ‘Once somebody points it out, it is obvious – the word stands out a mile.’

Giant Octopus Cake

Karen Portaleo of Highland Bakery does some impressive cake work, such as this 200-pound octopus cake. Though I have to admit, I would be afraid to eat it.

Largest Living Organism...A Fungus in Eastern Oregon!

People have known about the "honey mushroom" for some time, but were not aware of how large and invasive this species of fungus could be. The fungus was investigated more closely by researchers when they realized that it was responsible for killing large groves of evergreen trees. When foresters cut into an infected tree they would find spreading white filaments, mycelia, which draw water and carbohydrates from the tree to feed the fungus. Researchers collected samples of the fungus from a widespread area and analyzed the DNA. A large sample of the specimens they collected turned out to be from a single organism.

Until August of 2000 it was thought that the largest living organism was a fungus of the same species (Armillaria ostoyae) that covered 1,500 acres (600 hectares) found living in the state of Washington. But then mycology experts surmised that if an Armillaria that large could be found in Washington, then perhaps one just as large could be responsible for the trees dying in the Malheur National Forest in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon. Researchers were astonished at the sheer magnitude of the find. This most recent find was estimated to cover over 2,200 acres (890 hectares) and be at least 2,400 years old, possibly older.

How is it possible for a single fungus to get so big? Scientists who study this species of funges have postulated that the huge size may be a function of the dry climate in eastern Oregon. Spores have a hard time establishing new organisms, making room for the old-timers to spread. Without competition from other specimens this enormous Armillaria has been able to grow and spread unchecked.

To go into the forest where this giant makes its home you would not look at it and see a huge, looming mushroom. Armillaria grows and spreads primarily underground and the sheer bulk of this organism lies in the earth, out of sight. Occasionally, during the fall season, this specimen will send up golden-colored "honey mushrooms" that are the visible evidence of its hulking mass beneath. 
And yes, the honey mushrooms are supposedly edible, but apparently not very tasty.   

Star Wars Real Mask Magnets

A long time ago, on a refrigerator far, far away … Why have boring fridge magnets when you can have these awesomely detailed Star Wars Real Mask Magnets from the NeatoShop, featuring your favorite Star Wars characters? From Luke Skywalker to Darth Vader and a bevy of Bounty Hunters, they’ve got ‘em:

Sep 14, 2010

Altoid Sours BBQ Grill

This link provides full instructions for creatively recycling your empty Altoids tins. I’d need to have a dozen of these fired up in order to make a meal but it might be fine if I craved a tiny meaty snack. It's powered by a standard-sized charcoal briquette and is capable of cooking a full-size hot dog (cut down to size) or smaller hamburger patties with ease. It gets mighty hot after it’s fired up so use plenty of caution and keep a large glass of water handy.

Fast Food

Perry Watkins, an inventor from Buckinghamshire, England, is thought to have set a world record for the fastest piece of furniture after driving his dining table down a racetrack at more than 113mph. The 47-year-old piloted the Queen Anne table, set for a silver service dinner, twice down a 500m track at Santa Pod, Nottinghamshire, last weekend.

The table, named "Fast Food", reached a top speed of 130mph and averaged 113.8mph, comfortably eclipsing the 92mph set by a sofa in 2007. Mr Watkins expects to become the official world record holder for the fastest piece of furniture when his time is accepted by Guinness. A 1994 Reliant Scimitar Sabre underneath the table, boosted by a nitrous oxide kit, provides the thrust for the makeshift vehicle.

More Julian Beever Sidewalk Art

Julian Beever continues to blow me away. I previously posted some of my favorites of his, and here's some fresher stuff:

More 3D Street Art

Kurt Wenner paints epic, spiritual and inspiring 3D canvases on humble street pavement, which fit perfectly in European cities, among Gothic cathedrals and gorgeous architecture:

German artist Edgar Mueller may have been inspired by Julian Beever, but his work is independent and astonishing:

 Nikolaj Arndt, an artist in Germany, made this 3D rendering of a tiger on a sidewalk in the city of Geldern. It was apparently done for a local street art competition: