Molten Steel



A few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit a steel mill and this was one of the most impressive things I have seen. In this picture, we see some giant electrodes plunging down a furnace containing nearly 40 tonnes of molten steel, using as much electricity as a medium town when then start the process to bring the pile of scrap metal to 1200 degrees Celsius. A sight to behold.

Cellphone tracking can be beautiful, fascinating and scary at the same time

society, tech

This gorgeous data viz represents the movements of population in Geneva, Switzerland tracked by the cellphone connections to the cell towers. It’s beautiful, fascinating and scary at the same time.

Switzerland had more cell phones than people, around 10 million. During one day Swisscom subscribers in Geneva generate approximately 15 million connections from 2 million phone calls. As most of us know, carrying your phone around without making any calls still leaves a digital record as we get handed off from cell tower to cell tower.

I’ll leave it to you to rate the beauty of the visualization and what it represents, I do however think this is a fantastic urban planning tool. It’s just scary how our every movement is tracked so accurately. I lived in Geneva for over 10 years and can perfectly picture myself going through town from the traces represented there. You could map the coordinates to Google Earth and recreate an entire population’s’ whereabouts.

“Ville Vivante” means “living city” in French, which describes pretty well what this work represents.

via ReadWriteWeb: A Pretty Data Viz From Geneva Switzerland

Leon Theremin: The man and the music machine

art, tech

The Theremin has always fascinated me, probably because it was featured in so many sci-fi movies soundtracks. The BBC celebrates the 90th anniversary of its invention by Leon Theremin, a then young bolshevik who got Lenin’s attention.

Ninety years ago this month a young Russian scientist and inventor, Leon Theremin, was summoned to the Kremlin to meet Lenin. It was the start of an incredible journey that laid the foundations for modern electronic music.

Leon Theremin had just invented the first electronic musical instrument and, by direct consequence, electronic music.

via BBC News – Leon Theremin: The man and the music machine.

Sunflowers inspire improved solar power plant

science, tech

Sunflowers benefit from millions of years of evolution to harvest sunlight. Scientists find out it’s 20% more efficient than the best computer models, so they do the next logical thing: apply the design to a solar plant.

The well-tuned geometry of the florets on the face of the sunflower head has inspired an improved layout for mirrors used to concentrate sunlight and generate electricity, according to new research.

The sunflower-inspired layout could reduce the footprint of concentrating solar power (CSP) plants by about 20 percent, which could be a boon for a technology that’s limited, in part, by its massive land requirements.

“It is very scary that we did all the [numerical optimization] work and then we go back to nature,” Mitsos said.

via   MSNBC – Sunflowers inspire improved solar power plant.

Why History Needs Software Piracy

insightful, links, tech

Cory Doctorow has a good introduction to a very good article that describes the importance of software piracy for data preservation purposes.

A PC World editorial by Benj Edwards recounts the history of “copy protection*” for software, and discusses how the cracks-scene, which busted open these software locks, is the only reason the legacy of old software is available today. There’s a trite story about the persistence of paper and the ephemerality of bits, which goes something like this: “We can still read ancient manuscripts, but we can’t read Letraset Ready, Set, Go! files from the 1980s.”

Software piracy is vital to preservation – Boing Boing.

Software pirates promote data survival through ubiquity and media independence. Like an ant that works as part of a larger system it doesn’t understand, the selfish action of each digital pirate, when taken in aggregate, has created a vast web of redundant data that ensures many digital works will live on.

Or skip to the article directly PCWorld – Why History Needs Software Piracy

Thailand is 20% underwater, and is second-biggest hard drive producer after China. Now do you care about the floods? – Boing Boing

sux, tech

A flood victim cycles through the water using a homemade tall three-wheeler in Bang Phlad district, Bangkok October 30, 2011. Thailand’s worst floods in half a century have killed 381 people since July, wiped out a quarter of the main rice crop in the world’s biggest rice exporter, forced up global prices of computer hard drives and caused delays in global auto production after destroying industrial estates. (REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad)

There may be a shortage of hard drives for the big Christmas retail season because of the catastrophic floods in Thailand. By some estimates the total global output of magnetic hard drives could fall as much as 30% in the final three months of 2011.

Production of laptops and other devices that use these drives may be impacted through early 2012. Second only to China, Thailand is one of the world’s top hard drive producing countries. Western Digital and Seagate now produce about 90% of hard drives, and both have affected plants in Thailand. Western Digital’s factory is literally underwater.

via Thailand is 20% underwater, and is second-biggest hard drive producer after China. Now do you care about the floods? – Boing Boing.

Lytro Launches its Amazing Focus-Free Camera for $399

cool, hardware, links, tech

Lytro camera

I can’t wait to put my hands on one of these, despite the limitations, this is quite a revolution in the world of photography! I wonder what Nikon, Canon, etc. are thinking, while Lytro’s investors are probably wetting themselves at the mere thought of all the licensing opportunities ahead of them.

I’d love to see Lytro’s technology applied to some SLR with a choice of lenses, which would be devoid of focusing elements. This could lead to seriously awesome lenses, a lot smaller in size and much better optical quality and wider apertures. The possibilities are endless.

Remember Lytro, the camera that could care less about focus? The one that captures all the information in its light field, so you can play with the focus after the fact?

Well, it’s no longer just a nice idea. Lytro (the company) just started taking pre-orders for Lytro (the camera) on its website. You won’t be able to get one until early 2012, but you can order one now for $399 (and $499 for a more advanced version).

via MashableLytro Launches: Amazing Focus-Free Camera Will Cost $399.

Lytro’s site