Great white shark's predatory behavior captured by underwater drone video
A team of marine biologists discovered that great white sharks ambush prey from the ocean's dark depths, as they attacked drones recording their movements
February 12, 2016
Sleeping in the Sky: The Glass Pods in Peru's Sacred Valley
From The Guardian: "It's when my 'indestructible' stainless steel water bottle launches out of my daypack like a rocket and smashes on the riverbed below that I realize just how perilous my situation has become."
"I'm halfway up a cliff in the Sacred Valley of Peru, about an hour and a half north-west of Cuzco, and the only thing stopping me from joining my smashed bottle below is a harness and a clip. I know it's enough to keep me safely tethered to the wall but the sight of my water bottle gives me a sudden swirl of vertigo."
"In front of me is a sheer rock face decked out with 400 iron rungs, part of a two-hour-long via ferrata climbing route that begins at an unmarked turn-off on Avenida Ferrocarril nine miles west of Urubamba. Via ferrata, Italian for 'iron road,' is a climbing style that originated in the Alps that allows everyday climbers to navigate tough routes with the aid of rungs and a steel cable that's fixed to the rock at strategic intervals."
"This particular via ferrata includes what's known as a 'hanging bridge.' It looms up ahead as the latest challenge in what the Indian newlyweds who are climbing just ahead of me have described as an 'adult obstacle course.' The hanging bridge is nothing more than two parallel cords — one for feet, the other for hands — and it requires a leap of faith into a vertical position before shimmying over an abyss."
"Fears conquered and bridge crossed, I monkey up the mountain for another half an hour under the watchful eye of my guide Americo Serrano. The higher we climb, the more the valley walls open up and reveal their treasures, including a smattering of crumbling Inca ruins hidden among the shrubs. We stop occasionally to admire the rare Andean orchids above or the increasingly miniaturized adobe village below before the strangest sight of all comes into view."
"Nestled 400 meters up the cliff face like three translucent condor eggs is our destination for the evening: the Skylodge Adventure Suites. Dubbed 'the world’s first hanging lodge,' Skylodge has become a fixture on Pinterest travel boards and dream destination listicles since its debut in June 2013 — and it's not hard to see why. It's an audacious project located en route to one of the planet's most visited man-made wonders: Machu Picchu."
"The train to Machu Picchu comes choo-chooing along its tracks in the valley below just as I'm discovering my fishbowl in the sky — the 'adventure suite' has 300-degree views over hills carved into sharp angles by the Urubamba river.
"Each of Skylodge's three octagonal capsules are made of aerospace aluminium and weather-resistant polycarbonate. Inside are four retractable tables, four solar-powered lights and plush beds (two singles and one double covered in mint green sheets and cloud-like duvets). There are also five windows that regulate the temperature and mitigate the funk of a day spent climbing."
"I find the loo in a space separated from the rest of the capsule by a thick canvas wall with a zip-up door. Inside is a washbasin with running water, a urinal, and a dry toilet (a normal porcelain bowl with an abnormal plastic bag and chute system). There's no shower, but it's about as luxurious as you can get given the improbable locale."
"Serrano tells me over dinner (quinoa salad, roast chicken, and a chocolate cake that he carted up in his backpack, reheated and paired with a bottle of palatable Peruvian wine) that Skylodge is a one-of-a-kind project that could only exist in a country like Peru. That's because permissions and permits came long after the capsules were assembled and fastened to the valley wall with 12 anchors apiece. It's not that the capsules are unsafe — engineers have inspected all of the installations and they're regularly evaluated by staff — but project manager Ario Ferri wasn’t going to let bureaucracy ruin his dream."
"Ferri is a master welder who designed each of these capsules himself in his shop in Urubamba," says Serrano, who was part of the team that spent two months lugging the three-part capsules up the mountain. 'The goal was to take the concept of a hanging 'portaledge' tent from the mountaineering world and turn it into something anyone could enjoy.'"
"Serrano climbs the ladder out of my capsule after dinner and shimmies over to his own pod for the evening. We'll remain in contact by radio, but the night is mine to enjoy."
"The roaring winds that whip through the Sacred Valley each afternoon have died down. No longer rattling, nor threatening to tumble down the hill, the capsule becomes a haven of tranquillity and a window to the night sky. Hundreds of twinkling stars, including those of the Southern Cross, appear so close on the far side of the transparent wall I feel as though I could reach out and pinch them."
"Sleep, while suspended like a cloud in the sky, comes easier than imagined. And I need the rest. I've got seven hair-raising zip-lines to navigate before I touch down on solid ground tomorrow afternoon."
If you've got vertigo you'd best pass on the video (below).
Wait a sec... what's that music I'm hearing?
February 11, 2016
But not cloyingly so.
February 10, 2016
NASA'S New Space Tourism Posters
Ah, to be alive in 2080, about the soonest these ventures (particularly the latter two) will happen.
No matter: we can dream.
All 14 posters here.
[via The Verge]
February 9, 2016
Shouting vase holds your anger — "Stress relief jug toy"
From the website:
"Turn your loudest, most urgent frustrations into mere whispers with the Shouting Vase."
"The plastic jug is designed to fit over the contours of your mouth and absorb your screams and shouts, 'storing' them in the vase and emitting a softer version of your angry cries through the tiny hole at the base."
"The shouting vase was first featured on NHK's 'Good Morning Japan' and has since appeared on several other television shows, making this terracotta pottery-inspired item a hit product."
"Ideal for when you feel like shouting, but know that speaking softly is more likely to do the trick."
"The perfect gift for the loud one in your life."
Features and Details:
• Weight: 7.4 oz.
• Material: ABS resin
• Size: 4.9" x 4.9" x 7.3"
• Instructions: Japanese (but easy to use)
February 8, 2016
Mount Rushmore before it was carved
Gutzon Borglum and 400 workers began sculpting the 60-foot-high carvings in 1927 and finished in 1941.
February 7, 2016
Chain Mail Cast Iron Cleaner
From Cool Tools:
"A small net of interlocking steel rings, [chain mail] works as well as steel wool but doesn't scratch or mar the cast iron cure."
More: "It's a bit pricey but I expect I'll only ever have to buy one, and if you use cast iron cookware every day, it's well worth it."
February 6, 2016
Through Google Glass: Two deer out back this morning at 7:03 a.m., apparently comfortable at 27°
My YouTube caption: "I muse during this video about how it is that deer spend the entire winter outside with not very much insulation against the cold, yet they seem perfectly comfortable."
I only realized after watching the video on YouTube that 1) The deer are tiny as seen through Google Glass from inside my house, and 2) My white t-shirt is reflected in the glass of the patio door window, making deer visibility even more problematic.
Hey, I went to U.C.L.A. medical school, not film school — I'm doing the best I can with what I've got left.
What is it?
Answer here this time tomorrow.
Hint: fits inside a bread box.
Another: has no place in the baking space.
A third: not intended for nor usable in combat.
February 5, 2016
From threadbase: "We washed, dried, measured, and weighed 800 of the most popular men's t-shirts available online. The shirts included a wide variety of price points ($5-$50), sizes (XXS up to 6XL) and fits ('slim,' 'tall,' 'relaxed,' etc.). We thought we'd share some of the data that has surfaced from our project so far."
Caption for the figure above:
T-Shirts Widen and Shorten Over Time
T-Shirts change in consistent ways over time. Each time a T-shirt is washed it shrinks, and each time it is worn it expands. The expansion in the chest is almost 2x more than the expansion in the length and most of that expansion happens in the first two hours of wear.
What surprised us was that over the course of many wash cycles, the chest and waist will drift wider and the length will drift shorter. The figure above shows the evolution of 10 different t-shirts over 16 washes, averaged to one line.
Caption for the figure above:
It's the Dryer, Not the Washer, That Shrinks T-Shirts
One thing you hear everywhere is that washing clothes in hot water will cause them to shrink. While hot water may cause shrinkage in wool garments, for cotton and polyester T-shirts the washer settings don't make a big difference. The biggest determinant of shrinkage is whether the shirt went in the dryer or not. (We wash and dry all t-shirts using a warm wash and normal/warm dry cycle).
The threadbase website is a treasure trove of T-shirt information and facts you won't find anywhere else.
Fair warning: There goes the day.
February 4, 2016
Mt. Fuji Highball Tumbler
This is perhaps the most "Japanese" glass you could imagine.
Handmade by Tajima Glass, the award-winning Edo Glass Mt. Fuji Tumbler has attracted so much media attention that there is currently a long wait for orders.
But it's definitely worth it.
Just pour a drink into the glass and instantly see Mt Fuji appear in the base "lit" up in a reflection of the liquid.
Of course, depending on the drink the color of Mt. Fuji changes.
Try with orange juice, wine, tea, beer, tomato juice, and more.
And as Fuji is famously symmetrical the results are always nothing less than spectacular.
Each glass is prepared individually by the Tajima workshop in east Tokyo using special Edo Glass.
Features and Details:
• Size: 3.0" x 5.9" (7.6cm x 15cm)
• 12.8 fl. oz. (380ml) capacity
• Wooden gift box
• Made to order: please allow around one month for delivery
February 3, 2016
Shark v Drone — Video of the Ultimate Battle
From The Guardian:
Great white sharks appear to use darkness and depth to ambush prey, marine biologists have learned, thanks to unprecedented footage by an undersea drone that was attacked nine times by four sharks.
In the 13 hours of footage, the sharks cruise low above the sand, swim up to the robotic vehicle and inspect it from all sides, bump it curiously, and burst out of the blue to seize the drone in their jaws.
In research published last December in the Journal of Fish Biology, the scientists described the first great white predatory behavior filmed from under the surface.
"Most of what we know from white sharks is from electronic tagging, or from what we see at the surface," Greg Skomal, a biologist and lead author told the Guardian. "But when these sharks disappear, what they're actually doing at depth, where they spend their time — we don't have a sense of that."
He said automated unmanned vehicles (AUVs) like his team's let humans observe marine life in comprehensive detail, rather than what scientists can see in the fleeting shark breaches, or their encounters at the surface or through electronic tracking.
From the waters off Guadalupe, an island off Mexico where Pacific white sharks congregate, the scientists observed 10 different individuals, including the 20-foot female named Deep Blue and a local shark nicknamed Bubba.
Skomal said that the behavior captured by the drone cameras supports the idea that white sharks dive down as far as 200 meters in order to use light to their advantage.
"If the shark hangs down at a great depth, in the darkness, then its prey swims above it silhouetted and the shark reduces its own likelihood of detection," Skomal said.
"The remarkable new observations indicate that [my colleagues'] hypothesis is correct, and the sharks ambush from the darkness."
Most surprising to the researchers, Skomal said, was that "the hunter would become the hunted — the AUV was viewed by the shark as potential prey and aggressively attacked."
Some sharks did not bite but rather bumped the drone, nudging the vehicle with their snout in what the researchers call an "agonistic" behavior — an aggressive or even defensive thump, but not anything like a committed attack.
At other times the sharks simply approached the drone to look at it, before moving on along their way.
February 2, 2016
It's out of Japan (why are we not surprised?).
But I digress.
From The Verge:
... sake-flavored KitKat will be available in Japan beginning February 1.
NariNari says the new bar will mix "chocolate with the mellow body and smooth aftertaste of sake."
While Americans have to survive with generic KitKats, KitKat White, and KitKat Miniatures, Japan enjoys a seemingly endless bounty of new flavors.
Strawberry, Purple Sweet Potato, Pear, Edamame, Bean Cake, Cinnamon Cookie, European Cheese, Matcha-Green Tea, and others, including region-specific flavors like Exotic Sakura.
But why is this particular chocolate bar so popular in Japan?
Time Out Tokyo takes a guess: "It could have something to do with the fact that it's seen as a good luck charm, because 'Kit-Kat' sounds similar to 'kitto katsu,' which means 'you will surely win.'"
February 1, 2016
Video of 1820 jewel-studded mechanical robot caterpiller
From BoingBoing: "Swiss watchmaker Henri Maillardet created the 'Ethiopian caterpillar' in 1820 (or thereabouts) for a wealthy Chinese collector. It's covered in gold and encrusted in jewels and pearls. It was sold at Sotheby's in 2015 for $262,000."
From the Oddment Emporium:
When the automaton movement is engaged, the caterpillar crawls realistically, its body moving up and down simulating the undulations of a caterpillar by means of a set of gilt-metal knurled wheels. The automata work is composed of a barrel, cam, and two levers all working together to create the motion.
January 31, 2016
Dog commandeers toboggan
A real hoverboard, at long last
Good news bad news.
Good news: this one actually does what it says.
Bad news: It'll cost you $19,900 (an ultra-fast charger that tops up the batteries in 35 minutes instead of the six hours it would otherwise take is an additional $4,500).
From The Economist:
Ever since Marty McFly arrived in 2015 in "Back to the Future Part II" and discovered a levitating skateboard, people have tried to make one for real.
But the film's prediction, made in 1989, never quite came true.
Although so-called hoverboards have created quite a public splash this Christmas they do not really count.
They use a wheel (or wheels) to do their "hovering," with fancy electronics and stabilizers keeping them upright.
A few boards that really do hover, employing magnets for the task, have been demonstrated—but these work only over appropriate metal surfaces.
Various lash-ups, including one powered by four leaf-blowers that seems more hovercraft than hoverboard, have also appeared.
Film of hoverboarders gliding across a car park in Los Angeles turned out to be an elaborate YouTube hoax.
As 2015 turns into 2016, however, something resembling the real thing is going on sale.
The ArcaBoard (pictured above) does, admittedly, look like a giant iPhone case rather than a skateboard.
But it truly does hover.
It is 57 inches wide x 30 inches across (145cm x 76cm), is built from composite materials, and contains 36 high-powered electric ducted fans of the type used to fly model jet airplanes.
The fans are run by a pack of 72 lithium-polymer batteries, which provide just over 200 kilowatts of power.
That, the manufacturers claim, is sufficient to lift and carry someone weighing 180 lbs. (82kg).
In the ArcaBoard's current configuration it can do this for six minutes.
A beefed-up version is able to lift heavier people, but its flight duration drops to three minutes.
The ArcaBoard has been developed by ARCA Space, a Romanian aerospace company founded in 1999 that recently moved its headquarters to Las Cruces, New Mexico.
The firm has built a number of rockets and high-altitude drones, and has worked with the European Space Agency.
The hoverboard arose from a discussion among the firm's engineers about whether such a machine was possible, says Dragos Muresan, one of ARCA Space’s vice-presidents.
They built a prototype and successfully rode on it.
As enthusiasm for the idea grew, the company decided to put the device into production.
The first hoverboards should be delivered in April.
The rider steers the board by shifting his body weight to provide yaw, but a built-in stabilization system makes things easier.
This uses a gyroscope and an accelerometer, connected to a computer, to keep the board level.
It adjusts the thrust of individual fans in order to control the other degrees of freedom of movement, pitch, and roll.
A proximity sensor on the board's underside ensures it stays 11.8 inches (30cm) above the ground and a speed-limiter keeps its rate of progress below 12 mph (20kph).
Before adding such a hoverboard to next Christmas's wish-list, however, you will want to consider the price: $19,900, plus an extra $4,500 for a fast-charger that can top up the batteries in 35 minutes rather than the six hours it would otherwise take.
The gold-plated tag is hardly surprising, considering the hoverboard is made by rocket scientists using what they readily admit is pricey aerospace technology.
Nevertheless, they hope to get the price down.
The first mobile phones, after all, began as clunky, costly devices with limited performance.
Now they are cheap enough for billions to own one.
Imagine if (genuine) hoverboards went the same way.