Author Archive

Tesla’s Model S Get Over-Air Autopilot Update – Driving Becomes More Stressful Than Before

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Tesla Model S just got an update…

An update that now lets the car take the wheel while you clench every fiber in your being and level up your blood pressure to new levels when it does.

Tesla’s Model S just received an over-air update that allows the car to drive autonomously…well…sort of…

As long as the Tesla can detect the cars around it and the painted lines on the road everything’s great. It’s almost like “The Future is HERE!” great.


Still unable to read stop signs and light signals, the autonomous update appropriately called “Autopilot Mode” still has a long way to go before we can truly trust computer to fully take the wheel. Moving along in a crowd of cars, the Tesla will do everything for you including changing lanes. Once the car is the first car at an intersection, however, it’s up to the driver for a few minutes until the car is moving again.

Elon Musk, in the statement about the update, can’t be explicit enough about relinquishing control to an automated system that’s not anywhere near where it needs to be to just let go of the wheel and start episode-binging on Netflix.

“It’s almost to the point where you can take your hands off…but we’re very clearly saying this is not a case of abdicating responsibility. The hardware and software are not yet at the point where a driver can abdicate responsibility. [The system] requires drivers to remain engaged and aware when Autosteer is enabled. Drivers must keep their hands on the steering wheel.”

Because there’s nothing more jarring than being yanked out of an intense Netflix movie to suddenly avoid dying in a collision.


Computer Sings Interpretations of Human Ballads – Will Probably Sing Robot Overlords Into Battle

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

Created by artist Martin Backes, this installation of a lone “robot” singing 90s power ballads is almost hypnotizing in a quietly terrifying way.

Fittingly created with SuperCollider, a freeware audio program that synthesizes audio using algorithms, “What do machines sing of?” is an art project where the machine attempts to mimic human sentiment in an extremely haunting way:

“What do machines sing of?“ is a fully automated machine, which endlessly sings number-one ballads from the 1990s. As the computer program performs these emotionally loaded songs, it attempts to apply the appropriate human sentiments. This behavior of the device seems to reflect a desire, on the part of the machine, to become sophisticated enough to have its very own personality.”

Let’s hope the behavior of this device doesn’t reflect a desire, on the part of the machine, to become sophisticated enough begin giving motivational speeches to robots within earshot on how to overthrow the human race.


New Cousin to the Velociraptor Discovered in China

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Liaoning Province in China is known for the substantial amount of dinosaur fossils that’ve turned up in the dirt there. Over the years everything from insects to fish to plants have been discovered in such detail that even skin textures have been left behind in the rock.

Now it appears that a new feathered dinosaur that is cousin to the Velociraptor can be added to the long list of discoveries there.

The new dinosaur with a ridiculous name to try and pronounce, Zhenyuanlong suni, stood at about 5 feet tall, had wings too short to allow them to fly and some of the most complex feathers seen on a dinosaur up to this point. The feathers’ complexity is clearly visible on the rock that the near-complete skeleton has been found in and resemble the feathers of today’s eagles.

Professor Junchang Lü from the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences’ Institute of Geology:

“The first feathered dinosaurs were found here and now our discovery of Zhenyuanlong suni indicates that there is an even higher diversity of feathered dinosaurs than we thought. It’s amazing that new feathered dinosaurs are still being found.”

It’s also hugely terrifying to think of these semi-flying, feathered 5 foot dinosaurs tracking you down to feed their young.


18th Century Shipwreck Accidentally Discovered – 100 Miles Off the Coast of North Carolina

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

Marine scientists that had set out on an expedition to explore seepage of methane gas along the eastern coastline as well as looking for their mooring from previous visits to the area were surprised when they caught of sight something they did NOT expect…

An old, aged chain running along the bottom of the ocean about 100 miles from the coast of North Carolina and one mile from the surface.

Using submersibles and sonar, scientists were excited to discover it was attached to a boat…

A very old boat.

Several artifacts including bottles, jars, the ship’s compass and sextant have been photographed just lying on the ocean floor around the wreckage.

Located well beyond an area known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” researchers believe that the ship was used in trading. Research and dating will be carried out by NOAA to determine just how old the boat is and its importance, if any, to history.

Cindy Van Dover, director of the expedition:

“This is an exciting find, and a vivid reminder that even with major advances in our ability to access and explore the ocean, the deep sea holds its secrets close.”

[Washington Post]

First FAA-Approved Drone Delivery Isn’t Amazon – It’s a Medical Supply Delivery to People in Need

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

Drone delivery services have faced a LOT of set backs, legal issues and red tape.

But now all of that seems to be slowly melting away and all the starting parameters and legislation should be ironed out with in the year.

Recently the FAA has allowed testing of drone delivery in Wise County, Virginia where poverty is quickly taking hold as the coal-mining community loses handfuls of jobs and, in turn businesses, because of new energy alternatives.

What’s more exciting than the delivery is just how ready the community, which seems kinda old-school, is to embrace this new technology and become a testing ground for more drone-based experiments and missions in the hopes of getting their local economy back on track.

[NBC News]

Hitchhiking “Robot” Begins Epic US Adventure

Saturday, July 18th, 2015

It’s traveled from one side of Canada to the other. It’s also traveled extensively all over Europe.

Now it’s about to travel from Salem, Massachusetts to San Fransisco, California…

Depending completely on the the kindness of strangers because it can’t move without them…

Because it’s an extremely low-tech, immobile, hitchhiking robot called HitchBot.

As the creators of this adorable little “robot” put it:

“We want to see what people do with this kind of technology when we leave it up to them. It’s an art project in the wild — it invites people to participate. It has a really low-tech look to it, something we dubbed the ‘yard-sale aesthetic”. The head is actually an acrylic cake-saver. We want to create something that has a bit of narrative to it, a sense of adventure. We don’t really know what’s going to happen.”

Hitch started its journey across the US on July 17th. Equipped with a disarmingly charming LED smiley face, a GPS and a camera that posts photos every 20 minutes to its Twitter account, Hitch is embarking on a completely unpredictable journey that many of us only dream of or think about doing “one day”…

And its just a little yard-sale-built robot reaching out to the world and hoping it’ll reach back.

Maybe “robots” have something to teach us after all.

Shoot us a photo and your story if you decide to help HitchBot get across the US at any point!


Don’t Have Cash for Transylvanian Music Festival? It’s Cool – They’re Accepting Blood

Saturday, July 18th, 2015

You know how it is…

There’s a 3-5 day music fest like Bonnaroo or Coachella coming up and you just can’t swing the cash because your grind is barely helping you pay the rent.

But what if there was another way to attend a music fest…you know something like bitcoin…or dogecoin…

Or your personal life-juice…


If you’re a fan of the electronic music festival “The Untold” that takes place in Romania at the end of July you’re totally in luck.

Romanian blood donations and supply are at a low point so promoters, in an area known for the famous blood-sucking icon, Dracula, came up with a winning solution for everyone.

By donating blood (particularly rare blood types) and participating locations, blood-givers could get 30% off their tickets or even free tickets to the 4-day music fest.

Everyone wins!

Until we learn the real secret behind it all…

And Wesley Snipes comes rolling in to put a stop to it all.

[The Guardian]

Space Object Plays Chicken with the ISS – Astronauts Forced to Hunker Down in Capsule

Saturday, July 18th, 2015

Early this morning the ISS and a piece of debris from an old Russian weather satellite almost gave one another a bro-like chest bump.

Astronauts had an hour and a half to secure as many of the ISS’s individual modules and get themselves hunkered down into their escape pod (the Soyuz capsule attached to the ISS) and nervously wait to see how it would play out.

While that’s the official word there are a lot of humans on the ground declaring that that’s what NASA wants you to believe and that the “space object” was actually a UFO doing a drive-by of the ISS.

Thankfully the debris or whatever it was went by without incident. NASA gave the astronauts the all-clear a few minutes later.

While safe it’s still a terrifying scenario because orbit is pretty is pretty predictable once things are in it…

But there’s that old saying…

What goes around comes around.

Let’s just hope that’s all it is…an old saying…

Or just a UFO flying by.


Researcher Wires Four Rats’ Brains Together – Creates Bizarre Organic “Brainet”

Saturday, July 11th, 2015

At Duke University a researcher who’s pioneering brain-computer interfaces has circuited four rats’ together via their brains and created a gooey and organic “Brainet”.

Miguel Nicolelis, the neurobiologist pioneering this neuroengineering at Duke University has spent 30 years doing similar experiments in hopes of uncovering the secrets of the human mind.

Earlier, in 2011, Nicolelis connected the brain of individual monkeys in order to get them to work a virtual monkey arm and grab virtual objects with it using only their mind. It didn’t take long for the each monkey to grasp the process mentally and move their extra invisible monkey hand.

Nicolelis then wondered if it were possible to string together several brains and have the work together to perform particular tasks. He used four rats to test the idea.

In order to get a drink of water the rats would have to learn to work together mentally to get a drink. In a short amount of time the rats were drinking regularly as normal.

Currently the rats have Frankenstein-like electrodes embedded in their heads. That will change as the technology progresses until it’s completely non-invasive.

What can we gain from a “brainet” as humans? Will we eventually become Borg-like? Is it smart to move toward a hive-mind? Who knows.

Downside? Enough people are connected via their brains and someone hacks the “brainet” to make the world bow before them. Upside? Natural disaster takes place and we use the “brainet” to locate those in need of help and almost telepathically send the information needed to medically aid those people even though the person at the receiving end might not be trained in life-saving techniques.

The entire idea is still in its infancy as to the possible applications but as Nicolelis points out:

“These computers will not do word processing or numerical calculation or internet searches, they will be tailored for very specific tasks like what animals are tailored for. It’s a totally different kind of vision for computation that we’re not used to.”

The whole process is intriguingly involved and fascinating….and somewhat terrifying.

Imagine waking up and being hooked to someone else’s brain?

Or imagine that this is slowly becoming a reality….


Record Made with Conductive Paint to Create “Music” – Sounds More Like Angry, Drunk R2D2

Friday, July 10th, 2015

Two researchers at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design recently decided to make a record utilizing conductive paint.

Conductive paint is awesome…just think of it as paintable wiring.

Sounds great, right?

It is…unless you decided to make a record utilizing conductive paint.

“Conductive paint and resistive graphite were used to draw functioning circuits on paper disks. When the synthesizer completes the circuit its pitch is changed by the varying resistance of the graphite strips.”

The “varying resistance” ends up sounding like a very angry, very drunk R2D2 with an ear-piercingly bad motivator.


Someone Stitched Together 400,000 Space Photos – You’ll Be Glad People Have This Kind of Time

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

YouTube user Daveachuk has created a late-night, where-do-I-fit-in-the-universe, pondering-life-late-at-night video from over 400,000 photos as well as data taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope.

The resulting video is almost mesmerizing and a gentle reminder of just how tiny we all are…

It’s also a reminder of this…


Charon Photobombs New Horizon Photo of Pluto

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

Back in 2006 the New Horizon space probe left Earth on mission to visit Pluto.

On July 14th of this year, New Horizon will finally reach its destination and give us a closer look at the piece of rock that was once on the a-list of planets in our neighborhood.

In January New Horizon was brought out of hibernation in preparation for its approach to Pluto.

As photos began coming back showing Pluto in more detail than we’ve ever seen, scientists were a little bummed they weren’t seeing much of Pluto’s little moon-buddy, Charon. That all changed as scientists merged photos from the RALPH and LORRI cameras onboard the probe.

Suddenly they could plainly see the photobombing moon of Charon in the background of the Pluto photos they already had.

New Horizon’s mission includes mapping Pluto (and possibly Charon) and gathering as much info as possible about Pluto. Once it heads away from Pluto it will try to collect information about any object it can come across in the Kuiper Belt before moving into who-knows-where.


Man’s Wife Gets Beaten by Evil Demon Poltergeist – Hires Pro Demon Slayer to do Battle

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Tracey and Kerion Fry have marriage problems.

And not in the normal domestic disturbance kind of way, either.

According to the Frys, an evil, seriously pissed-off poltergeist is plaguing their marriage and their home.

Before calling upon help, the couple have allegedly been dealing with an entity that beats Mrs. Fry and leaves marks of its attack. With attacks becoming more intense, Kerion decided to call in a professional slayer of demons to stop his wife Tracey from getting beaten.

“We are being molested by demons. My wife goes to bed fine, doesn’t feel anything in the night but when she wakes up she’s in agony. I wake up the next day and said: ‘I didn’t do that’. I would never beat my wife. It’s getting worse and worse and there’s nothing we can do.”

In the name of love, Kerion sought out the help of Robert Amour who beats the crap out of demons for a living.

Amour entered the home and determined that it wasn’t just a single demon, but a group of demons. In a battle where love and a marriage were at stake, Amour says he slayed two of the evil spirits:

“As soon as I arrived at the home I could sense there was negative energy. The incubus was brought via a ouija board – they are an absolute danger and can bring through anything. This particular one was reluctant to go. I always speak to their residents first about exactly what they can see. I listen and deal with it from there. I can normally see the demons straight away. I then focus on it and move it on to a heavenly state.
‘I don’t send it back where it came from. It takes a while for things to calm down as you have to allow the negative energy to return to positive energy.”

Amour says that there were three demons and he single-handedly laid waste to two of them using nothing more than a bible and a crucifix.

Unfortunately Amour states that he was not able to cleanse the house of the third, most powerful demon and that, after his exhaustive battle with the lesser two, he wishes the Frys well in the future.

Always reassuring to hear from a professional demon slayer.

Currently the Frys are still dealing with an evil nightmare demon from hell…

And armed only with love.

[Express UK]

Ancient Lodging Discovery Rewrites Icelandic Local Settlement History

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of what appears to be an ancient lodging almost 20 feet wide and 65 feet long in central Reykjavík. A government-sponsored team stumbled across the remains of the building and believes it predates another, similar lodge discovered in 2001.

While dating information and analysis aren’t yet finished, the researchers firmly believe that this discovery will rewrite local history regarding the settlement of that area of Iceland.

Another great example that illustrates that we really don’t have a full grasp of the planet’s history with each new discovery…

And a reminder that somewhere…under layers of dirt…

The ancient ones are probably waiting for us to find them.

[Icelandic Review]

Jaguar Shows Off New Experimental Auto Tech – Turns Range Rover into Smartphone-Driven RC Car

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

A long time ago on the WeirdThings podcast, because we’re always ahead of the curve when it comes to hypotheticals about how new tech might be used in ridiculous scenarios, we pondered how someone might use smart-car tech to commit manslaughter by hacking a vehicle and driving it into a squishy human being.

Jaguar is pushing that possibility into becoming a very real scenario.

Currently the vehicle has severe limitations on speed (it tops out at 4mph) and the distance that the phone is from the vehicle (the car stops when the phone is too far or too close).

It’s still early in development and still early to really understand how an average user might need this kind of control over their car with autonomous vehicles rolling into the public traffic and becoming part of our every day lives.

Sure….it all sounds safe…

But like the curious primates we are…

It’s only a matter of time before curiosity…and an unmanned Range Rover with a driver on smartphone miles away…kills the cat that’s crossing the road.

[Posted in Car, Robot, self driving car, smartphone, Technology | Comments Off on Jaguar Shows Off New Experimental Auto Tech – Turns Range Rover into Smartphone-Driven RC Car

Our Childhood Dreams Are About to Come True: Two Huge Robots About to Throw Down!

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Since the very idea of giant robots the thought of giant robots beating the paneling off of one another has also existed.

Japanese movies, Rock’em Sock’em Robots, Voltron, Robot Jox, Shogun Warriors, Pacific Rim, Real Steel and a massive list of things with fighting robots have whet our appetites for something we all secretly want to be a real thing…

Wish no more!

It’s happening.

Recently the creators of the MK. II came out of nowhere with a video taunt aimed at Japan’s million dollar Kuratas. The creators of Kuratas responded with a snarkingly condescending video asking MK. II to put down its ridiculous cannon-ball launching and missile-firing weaponary and fight like a big metal man.

The guantlet has been thrown.

Now all we’re waiting for is a time and place.

A time and place where two giant metal warriors are going to bring our secret dreams into reality…

One crushingly loud, satisfying blow at a time.