Finally, the 21st Century arrives…

February 23, 2009

Robots are awesome, and for this reason alone Honda have pumped millions into developing a bipedal robot over the last twenty years.

Today their latest, called Asimo, came to visit us at work so we could see him in action:

dsc00110

dsc00111

As well as serving drinks he did some running, kicked a football (gently) and was able to be led around by the hand. The last was particularly impressive as that wasn’t ‘preprogrammed’ as such, it would respond to the direction it was moved in.

A cliche to say, but it’s amazing how wired we are to respond to humanoid shapes, imparting them with human emotion and intention. (Funnily enough, this was undemined somewhat by the child-like sound of it’s computer generated voice. It wasn’t the right voice for the job)

It’s certainly come along way since their first robot ‘EO’ in 1986:

1765_04

Will we really have one in the home of the future as the presenter claimed? Maybe – at least it seems a little more plausible that those imagined in the 1950s…

Advertisements

Oscillating with joy

February 19, 2009

The People: So, what did you do on Valentine’s Day?
Oli: I went to Warwick South Services on the M40. at 9:30am to meet a  man I met on the Internet.
The People: Hmm.
Oli: To collect the oscilloscope I bought off him off Ebay!
The People: D’oh, you tease.

Was worried it wasn’t working to begin with, not having ever used one before, but with a bit of advice from Gabriel Oscilloscope Vendor, it all turned out ok.

It’s for a video I want to make to accompany a piece of music submitted to the GeekPop Festival, whcih you can just about hear tinkling away in the background.

Yes, I could have used a digital oscilloscope on the Mac, and which I do have several flavours of, but like analogue synths there’s something much more satisfying about knowing that there is a real stream of electrons being deflected by the audio signal, and that it’s really flourescing the crt display. It looks great actually, not done any justice by crappy Youtube compression.

Not only that, but this oscilloscope is so old it actually have valves in it – gawd knows what it does to my electricity bill when I switch it on!


Oscillating with joy

February 19, 2009

The People: So, what did you do on Valentine’s Day?
Oli: I went to Warwick South Services on the M40. at 9:30am to meet a  man I met on the Internet.
The People: Hmm.
Oli: To collect the oscilloscope I bought off him off Ebay!
The People: D’oh, you tease.

Was worried it wasn’t working to begin with, not having ever used one before, but with a bit of advice from Gabriel Oscilloscope Vendor, it all turned out ok.

It’s for a video I want to make to accompany a piece of music submitted to the GeekPop Festival, whcih you can just about hear tinkling away in the background.

Yes, I could have used a digital oscilloscope on the Mac, and which I do have several flavours of, but like analogue synths there’s something much more satisfying about knowing that there is a real stream of electrons being deflected by the audio signal, and that it’s really flourescing the crt display. It looks great actually, not done any justice by crappy Youtube compression. 

Not only that, but this oscilloscope is so old it actually have valves in it – gawd knows what it does to my electricity bill when I switch it on!


Bryawn Appleyawn: writes a controversial article ‘shock’

February 17, 2009

“THE question nobody can really answer is: outside science, what difference did Darwin make? It is reasonable to answer: none whatsoever.” – Bryan Appleyard, The Sunday Times

Bryan Appleyard is a bore. He bored me for years as a teenager reading the household Sunday Times, and even now he’s being boringly provocative with his articles which challenge convention and put a cat amongst the pigeons in the world of science.

“We were descended not just from monkeys but also, ultimately, from the same ancestor as bacteria, flowers and slugs. It was and is, for many, a grim vision.” -Byan Appleyard, The Sunday Times

Maybe he doesn’t really believe what he writes and is just a ratings chaser; an identifier of hot topics that are guaranteed to provoke reaction. A successful strategy of a great deal of journalism these days.

“Science itself is divided” – Bryan Appleyard, The Sunday Times

Or, perhaps the Great Commentator believes this stuff and thinks he’s geniunely getting to the nub of things or revealing that the current scientific zeitgeist is flawed and the people must be told!

“What has Charles Darwin done for you? Do you feel better or worse for the news that a gibbon is your close cousin? Do you even believe it, deep down?” – Bryan Appleyard, The Sunday Times.

I wouldn’t normally mind. If I worried about every anti-science sentiment on the web I wouldn’t get anything else done, but when this kind of posturing is presented by someone who clearly thinks himself an intellectual heavyweight and publishes ponderously stupid articles in a supposed non-tabloid newspaper– well, sometimes I have to scratch that itch.

“What has Bryan Appleyard done for you? Do you feel better or worse for having read his articles? Has he truly uplifted your soul and amazed you with his descriptions of science and the beauty of the natural world?…nah, didn’t think so.” – Oli, beneficiary of 3.5 billion years of evolution, whose ancestors include – but are not limited to – gibbons*, bacteria, flowers and slugs.

*Or at least Australopithicus, one of the earliest known common ancestors of modern humans and other primates.


Das Newton Spiegelteleskop

February 12, 2009

The Newton Reflecting Telescopee – in cardboard!

Picked up this lovely cardboard kit telescope at Astrofest last weekend. It maybe cardboard, but it has a proper silvered glass reflector and two different eyepieces with different magnifications, 15x and 30x. It’s about the same strength as the one Newton invented and does a very good job of showing the moon and craters, and shadows and all that splendid stuff.

telescope

(get your own here: http://astromedia.de/)

Before the reflecting telescope was invented, early telescopes used lenses, which have the problem of chromatic aberration – the fact that light bends differently at different points on the lens causing the rays to diverge. This appears as a haze of colour round a point source, like a star, and is very unhelpful for accurate astronomy.

So Newton invented a telescope with a curved mirror that avoided that problem, clever  chap.

Astrofest itself was also super cool. Lots of lectures about sunspots, great red spot of Jupiter, Thomas Harriot, the anthropic principle and Reg Hunt speculating about whether there might be water present on the moon (to which Sir Patrick tactfully interupted with the comment “pure bunk”)

Incidently, Astrofest was organised by my lecturer Iain Nicholson who I studied with when I did a year of an Astronomy degree way back when.

astrofest

You do know that 2009 is the 400th anniversary of the invention of the telescope don’t you?


Snow Dear

February 2, 2009

This sign on the railway platform says ‘I hereby give Oli permission to stay at home and throw snowballs’ (Not really Lee, that report is nearly ready!)

snow-dear

Of course, Chopper would be quite clear about the UK’s namby pamby attitude towards a tiny sprinkling of snow…


Subliminal message to boost sales.

February 1, 2009

Saw this on the way home last night on Jamaica Road. Needed to be recorded photographically!

img_0265b