You Better Believe It
By Maria Popova
Inspired by the ever-amusing Indexed blog — if you’re not already familiar, we strongly suggest you fix that cultural mistake ASAP.
The horror! The scandal! You know those annoying new “PC Pride” TV spots for Microsoft that attempted to shove the Seinfeld fiasco under the carpet? Well, an overzealous conspiracy theorist decided to look at the EXIF information of the campaign photos sent to the media — that’s the little piece of file information that shows what program the file was created in.
Guess what — those Microsoft ads were made on…gasp…a Mac. And if you think Microsoft and Crispin, their ad agency, have the relationship equivalent of a Catholic priest caught with his pants down at a gay bar, it gets worse. Turns out, Dell’s agency, Enfatico, did the exact same thing with their client’s campaign. Except in their case, those Macs were actually bought on the Dell dollar.
And just when we thought no one could out-whore-out the ever-irreverent Improv Everywhere…who actually revered quite quickly at the sight of corporate bling.
Speaking of Seinfeld, here’s something that sounds like one of Kramer’s ideas but is, in fact, completely real:
One of our heroes, brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking, has just unveiled the world’s strangest clock. Called
Chronophage, which means “time-eater,” the beastly time-keeper cost $2 million and was developed over 5 years in Cambridge’s Corpus Christi College by Dr. John Taylor, a renowned inventor and horologist.
Its shtick: It has no hands — time is displayed by a series of blue LED lights illuminating the 24-carat gold surface through various slits and lenses. The design itself was inspired by the work of legendary innovator John Harrison, who came up with the “grasshopper escapement” mechanism almost 300 years ago.
The clock is only accurate every five minutes, but is wired up to an electric motor that will keep it running for the next 25 years.
We’re fascinated by the idea of a device that captures the relativity of time and how its passage mercilessly eats away at our lives. That, and we like shiny things.
On the cool-LED-stuff note, we’re obsessed with chronophage art collective PIKA PIKA. They make abstract animation using LED flashlights, which “draw” an image by tracing its outline over and over. Their movement is recorded in a series of photographs using long exposures, which are then spliced together into an animated sequence.
In 2005, the team was invited to a conference, where they presented the back-end of how the animation worked. They noticed that the audience of people interested in the concept was incredibly diverse, so they came up with a way to make the animation more interactive and inclusive, recruiting audience members in its production.
Today, PIKA PIKA films are made by that audience: Each person gets a flashlight and becomes a part of the animation. The films have since traveled the world and won various awards across a number of art and film festivals.
So that’s where Sprint stole the idea from.
From one cool audience-made light-employing video to another: After Radiohead’s In Rainbows fan-made video contest, a Goldfrapp fan got inspired to animate the track “Lovely Head” from their first album.
It’s essentially a visualization of the sound data, with the lyrics superimposed, producing the visual equivalent of what we’d imagine goes on in one’s brain when listening to the track on psychedelic drugs.
And since we’re getting into things way over our head, here’s something that blows everything else out of the water. Or, as it just so happens, out of the oil.
Scientists have developed a new strain of that same pant-pooping E. coli bacterium that can make butanediol (BDO), the material used in stuff like spandex, car bumpers and plastic cups, from scratch. Which basically means they can make plastic without using oil or natural gas, taking a huge energy load off the current plastic production methods.
That’s what we call research-grant-justifying progress. (Unlike, say, the one that measured methane emissions from farting cows.)
Now, if they can only get them to make tacos…
Published September 25, 2008