Sunday, December 23, 2012

Spider That Builds Its Own Spider Decoys Discovered

"A spider that builds elaborate, fake spiders and hangs them in its web has been discovered in the Peruvian Amazon.

Believed to be a new species in the genus Cyclosa, the arachnid crafts the larger spider from leaves, debris and dead insects. Though Cyclosa includes other sculpting arachnids, this is the first one observed to build a replica with multiple, spidery legs.

Scientists suspect the fake spiders serve as decoys, part of a defense mechanism meant to confuse or distract predators. “It seems like a really well evolved and very specialized behavior,” said Phil Torres, who described the find in a blog entry written for Rainforest Expeditions. Torres, a biologist and science educator, divides his time between Southern California and Peru, where he’s involved in research and education projects.

“Considering that spiders can already make really impressive geometric designs with their webs, it’s no surprise that they can take that leap to make an impressive design with debris and other things,” he said.

In September, Torres was leading visitors into a floodplain surrounding Peru’s Tambopata Research Center, located near the western edge of the Amazon. From a distance, they saw what resembled a smallish, dead spider in a web. It looked kind of flaky, like the fungus-covered corpse of an arthropod.

But then the flaky spider started moving.

A closer looked revealed the illusion. Above the 1-inch-long decoy sat a much smaller spider. Striped, and less than a quarter-inch long, the spider was shaking the web. It was unlike anything Torres had ever seen. “It blew my mind,” he said.

So Torres got in touch with arachnologist Linda Rayor of Cornell University who confirmed the find was unusual. “The odds are that this [species] is unidentified,” she said, “and even if it has been named, that this behavior hasn’t previously been reported.” Rayor notes that while more observations are necessary to confirm a new species, decoys with legs — and the web-shaking behavior — aren’t common in known Cyclosa. “That’s really kind of cool,” she said.

Afterward, Torres returned to the trails near the research center. Only within a roughly 1-square-mile area near the floodplain did Torres find more spider-building spiders — about 25 of them. “They could be quite locally restricted,” he said. “But for all I know, there’s millions of them in the forest beyond.” The spiders’ webs were crafted around face-height, near the trail, and about the width of a stretched-out hand. Some of the decoys placed in the webs looked rather realistic. Others resembled something more like a cartoon octopus.

“I have never seen a structure just like this,” said William Eberhard, an entomologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and University of Costa Rica who studies spiders and web-building.

Though Cyclosa are known for building decoys, most of the described spiders’ constructions are clumpy, made out of multiple little balls built from egg sacs, debris or prey, rather than something resembling an actual spider. “Known Cyclosa don’t have that spider-with-leg looking thing, which is why we think it’s a new species,” Torres said.

But without a permit to collect any organisms, anatomical confirmation of the new species is on hold. Torres is returning to the site in January, and will be able to collect some spiders then. Eberhard notes that identifying a new species based on the decoy-building behavior alone is probably not possible. “Species are distinguished on the basis of the structure of the male and female genitalia,” he said. “To a lesser extent, on the overall abdomen shape.”"

Read comments here, such as:

"Lonely spider makes porn - porn goes on internet - what else is new?"
"Don't you mean it goes on the......web! *rimshot*"


Earliest voice recording re-created

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Marty Reisman, 82, a Wizard of Table Tennis, Dies

December 7, 2012
Marty Reisman, 82, a Wizard of Table Tennis, Dies
By DOUGLAS MARTIN in the New York Times

"Marty Reisman, a wizard at table tennis, the sport in which he captured national championships, won and lost fortunes on wagers and moved crowds to laughter — sometimes using a frying pan as a paddle — as an opening act for the Harlem Globetrotters, died Friday in Manhattan. He was 82.

The death was announced by Table Tennis Nation, an organization he founded two years ago to make his sport even more fun. Cooper Fallek, its chief operating officer, said the cause was complications of heart and lung ailments.

Known as “the Needle” for his slimness and quick wit, Mr. Reisman traveled the world to hustle movie stars and maharajahs, winning enough to become a three-time millionaire — and losing enough to be a three-time former millionaire. Once, when an 11-year-old asked for a lesson, he suggested a side bet.

“I took on people in the gladiatorial spirit,” he said in an interview with The New York Times in March.

He was good enough to win 22 major table tennis titles from 1946 to 2002, including two United States Opens and a British Open. Many consider him one of the 10 best ever to play the game. In 1997, at 67, he became the oldest player to win a national championship in a racket sport by winning the United States National Hardbat Championship.

In an interview with Forbes magazine in 2005, Sir Harold Evans, the writer and editor, who is a table tennis aficionado, credited Mr. Reisman with “the greatest drop shot ever seen on the face of the earth.”

Mr. Reisman cut a flamboyant figure. He favored Borsalino fedoras and Panama hats and fashionable, bright clothing. Before beginning a game, he habitually removed a $100 bill from his roll to measure the net. He talked fast, forever promoting what he termed “the Reisman myth.” His signature trick was breaking a cigarette in half from across the table. If the bet was large enough, he would play sitting down. If it was very large, he would play blindfolded.

He had a cause bigger than himself, however. After the Japanese player Hiroji Satoh showed up with a new kind of paddle to beat Mr. Reisman at the world championship in 1952 in Mumbai, then known as Bombay, Mr. Reisman crusaded against it. The old kind of paddle, called a hardbat — the one Mr. Reisman liked — was covered with a thin layer of pimpled rubber. The new one had smooth, thicker rubber and no pimples, and propelled the ball at greater speeds. He lost the argument; the new model became the game’s standard.

Not least of his objections was that the newer paddle was relatively soundless; he liked to react to the whack of paddle hitting ball, in the manner of an outfielder running at the crack of the bat.

“Before, there was a dialogue between the two players, wherein a 6-year-old child could understand the difference between offense and defense,” Mr. Reisman told The Times in 1998. “Today a point is made or lost with an imperceptible twist of the wrist.”

Table Tennis Nation promotes a version of the old-fashioned paddle, one covered with sandpaper rather than rubber. The thinking is that sandpaper rackets foster longer volleys. “This racket is the purest reflection of a player’s ability,” Mr. Reisman said.

For 20 years, starting in the late 1950s, Mr. Reisman operated the Riverside Table Tennis Courts at 96th Street and Broadway. It became as famous in its orbit as Stillman’s Gym was in prizefighting. Dustin Hoffman, Kurt Vonnegut, David Mamet and a group of violinists from the Metropolitan Opera were regulars. Bobby Fischer found relief from the rigors of chess there. Freddie the Fence, Herbie the Nuclear Physicist and Betty the Monkey Lady were institutions at Riverside.

Usually lurking in a little back room was Mr. Reisman, hoping for a challenging match with a worthwhile wager. In 1972, The New York Times Magazine described him as “coiling and uncoiling in preparation for the occasional mongoose foolish enough to challenge him.”

Martin Reisman, the son of a cabdriver, was born in Manhattan on Feb. 1, 1930. He told Forbes that he came to the sport after a nervous breakdown when he was 9 years old and found it soothing. He was city junior champion at 13. Soon he was hustling for real money at Lawrence’s Broadway Table Tennis Club at 54th and Broadway, a former speakeasy with bullet holes in the wall. At 16 he was touring England with a three-man exhibition team.

Three years later, he and Doug Cartland became the opening act for the Globetrotters. They played “Mary Had a Little Lamb” with frying pans, and hit balls across the net with the soles of their sneakers.

His betting ways got him in trouble once when he was 15. Participating at the national tournament in Detroit, he had placed a $500 bet on himself with a man he thought was a bookie, dropping five $100 bills into his palm. The man turned out to be the head of the United States Table Tennis Association. Police officers escorted Mr. Reisman from the tournament.

He is survived by his wife, Yoshiko; his daughter, Debbie Reisman; and several grandchildren.

Mr. Reisman once marveled that he had built a career around a game usually played in the basement next to the clothes dryer. “A funny way to spend a life,” he said."

As I wrote about here, Marty was gave me my very first table tennis lesson. I'll miss him.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Watch Old Computer Equipment Play Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’”

By Caroline Stanley on Nov 6, 2012

"Bob Dylan is one of the most frequently covered artists we can think of, and yet we can’t recall ever seeing one of his songs re-imagined quite like this. Using a pile of old photocopiers, modems, scanners, fax machines, and hard drives, director Chris Cairns has created a computer orchestra that can play a surprisingly rousing version of “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” thanks a little programming magic by Isthisgood?. Click through to behold the resulting video, Scrapheap Symphony

Below, a behind-the-scenes clip that reveals how they did it:"

Saturday, November 24, 2012


" I´ve been thinking for a lot of time on doing a personal project where I could get out of the computer for a little bit, and have pleasure doing something handmade. Getting back to the basics.

Inspired by Bob Dylan´s Subterranean Homesick Blues video, where he flips cards with the lyrics as the song plays, I decided to recreate those cards with handmade type. I ended up doing all the lyrics, and not just some of the words, as Dylan did.

There are 66 cards done in one month during my spare time using only pencil, black tint pens and brushes. The challenge was not to use the computer, no retouching was allowed. Getting a letter wrong meant starting the page over.

I had a lot of fun doing this project, researching, practicing and getting deeper on typography.

There are some intentional misspellings and puns on the original song video, so I tried to keep that in a certain way.

You can watch the original movie here

Get in touch with some of my work visiting"

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mile High mystery: UFO sightings in sky over Denver

It's hard to make any assessment without knowing distance, hence size and speed -- but it's an interesting video. My guess would be a very small UAV (Unmanned Ariel Vehicle) from the military. Or, our friends from Tau Ceti 4.

Mars Mystery: Has Curiosity Rover Made Big Discovery?

"NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has apparently made a discovery "for the history books," but we'll have to wait a few weeks to learn what the new Red Planet find may be, media reports suggest.

The discovery was made by Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars instrument, NPR reported today (Nov. 20). SAM is the rover's onboard chemistry lab, and it's capable of identifying organic compounds — the carbon-containing building blocks of life as we know it.

SAM apparently spotted something interesting in a soil sample Curiosity's huge robotic arm delivered to the instrument recently.

"This data is gonna be one for the history books," Curiosity chief scientist John Grotzinger, of Caltech in Pasadena, told NPR. "It's looking really good."

The rover team won't be ready to announce just what SAM found for several weeks, NPR reported, as scientists want to check and double-check the results. Indeed, Grotzinger confirmed to that the news will come out at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union, which takes place Dec. 3-7 in San Francisco.

The $2.5 billion Curiosity rover landed inside Mars' huge Gale Crater on Aug. 5, kicking off a two-year mission to determine if Mars has ever been capable of supporting microbial life.

The car-size robot carries 10 different instruments to aid in its quest, but SAM is the rover's heart, taking up more than half of its science payload by weight.

In addition to analyzing soil samples, SAM also takes the measure of Red Planet air. Many scientists are keen to see if Curiosity detects any methane, which is produced by many lifeforms here on Earth. A SAM analysis of Curiosity's first few sniffs found no definitive trace of the gas in the Martian atmosphere, but the rover will keep looking."

Follow senior writer Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall or @Spacedotcom."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Time-Lapse Map of Every Nuclear Explosion Since 1945 - by Isao Hashimoto

Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto has created a beautiful, undeniably scary time-lapse map of the 2053 nuclear explosions which have taken place between 1945 and 1998, beginning with the Manhattan Project's "Trinity" test near Los Alamos and concluding with Pakistan's nuclear tests in May of 1998. This leaves out North Korea's two alleged nuclear tests in this past decade (the legitimacy of both of which is not 100% clear).

Each nation gets a blip and a flashing dot on the map whenever they detonate a nuclear weapon, with a running tally kept on the top and bottom bars of the screen. Hashimoto, who began the project in 2003, says that he created it with the goal of showing"the fear and folly of nuclear weapons." It starts really slow — if you want to see real action, skip ahead to 1962 or so — but the buildup becomes overwhelming.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Artisanal Signature

A wonderful interview and photos of Maki-e artisan Michifumi Kawaguchi, the creative force behind the 2012 Namiki Limited Edition Fountain Pen, the Namiki Archer on Horseback.

"Late in the movie Margin Call, Jeremy Irons’ reptilian financial shark schools his team of predators in his business paradigm: “There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first, be smarter, or cheat.” Being first and getting away with cheating often involves a fair degree of luck to and this is something an avowed traditionalist firm like the Namiki Manufacturing Company did without in 1918. Indeed, founder Ryosuke Namiki famously wanted to succeed purely on the merits of his product and the hard work of everyone at the company. To this end, he reportedly opened one of his factories deliberately on the most inauspicious day of the year so that no one could credit the company’s success to luck."

Read the article here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mission to the edge of space

Although high winds cancelled the attempt on October 9th, there's a chance he'll go today. In any case, the jump will be streamed live when he goes.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Most Incredible Volcano Video of ALL Time

From the description on YouTube:

"The Most Incredible Volcano Video ever shot ! Geoff Mackley, Bradley Ambrose, Nathan Berg, after an epic struggle with the weather for 35 days, we became the first people ever to get this close to Marum Volcano's famed lava lake on Ambrym Island, Vanuatu. Coming within 30 metres of the lava lake down a watercourse, it was possible to stand the heat for only 6 seconds. With Fire Brigade breathing apparatus and heat proof proximity suit it was possible to stand on the very edge and view the incredible show for over 40 minutes.

For those of you "upset" with the use of a watermark on this video it may pay to consider for a moment that my expeditions are funded by the sale of such footage.
This expedition took nearly 2 months and cost many tens of thousands of dollars, not to mention the dangers involved.

As has been seen time and time again, there are many media organizations out there who think nothing of downloading peoples footage, re uploading to their own websites with adverts etc while others pay for the legitimate use of it. Its straight out theft.
Thanks to the viewers who understand why I have to deface such a good video with a watermark."

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Yes, your assumption is correct. The entire area was named after me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

From Bob Dylan's upcoming 'Tempest' album

The real Dylan, doing the only pre-released song Early Roman Kings, which is used on the soundtrack for the new season of Strike Back.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

From Bob Dylan's upcoming 'Tempest' album

Bob Dylan's Titanic by Tim Heidecker from Tim Heidecker on Vimeo.

Can't wait until the real Dylan sings his real song on the Titanic! The album comes out on September 11th.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Justin Warner wins 'Food Network Star'

My cousin Justin Warner won the competition to become the newest Food Network Star, and will have his own program in the fall.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tanishq Abraham is a typical 8-year-old. He likes singing in boys' choir, toy helicopters and quantum physics. OK, maybe not so typical. This child prodigy takes college science classes.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

For Young Olympic Hopefuls, Table Tennis Is All Business

"In Friday’s editions of The New York Times, Somini Sengupta told the story of an unlikely incubator of Olympic talent: a nondescript warehouse in Milpitas, Calif., known as the India Community Center Table Tennis Center.

Built by Indian immigrants who found success in Silicon Valley, the center has become a powerhouse of amateur table tennis. This year, three of the four players who will represent the United States in the London Olympics train at the I.C.C.: Lily Zhang, 15; Timothy Wang, 20; and Ariel Hsing, 16.

In 2010, a video production company called California Is a Place profiled the center. The video, which features Hsing, offers an intimate glimpse into the training habits of the teenage and child athletes there — a place that is fun and games for some, and all business for others."

Is Honesty the best policy?

Maybe not, if you hold dear your privacy!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Exceptional Kodachrome photographs from 1940-43

June 1942. Lockheed Vega aircraft plant at Burbank, California. “Hollywood missed a good bet when they overlooked this attractive aircraft worker, who is shown checking electrical sub-assemblies.” 4×5 Kodachrome transparency by David Bransby for the Office of War Information.

From a friend's email I received tonight:

"This is a rare and fabulous series of pictures shot on Kodachrome sheet film (4x5 inches) and is of exceptional quality shot in 1942. It also captures a slice of life we will never see again...when an entire country was behind a war effort.

I also had no idea that Kodachrome was ever available in any size other than 35mm film due to the complex processing process it required. It makes this series all the more significant. Note that all the images are still-lifes where no motion was taking place due to the very slow speed of the film at that time. What made K-chrome so good was that the film itself had no color dyes embedded in it; the dyes (yellow, magenta & cyan) were added during film processing making for an exceptional fine grain film.

I never knew that Kodachrome was once available in 4" x 5" format, but Wikipedia did confirm this. WONDERFUL photos!  These were scanned from 4x5 Kodachrome."

See the photos here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


When I purchased my Honda Accord, I thought I'd be given one of these too...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A terrific video from Sailor pens about the creation of a 'Tales of Genji' maki-e fountain pen. It's almost 25 minutes long, so grab a cup of coffee, sit back and relax.

Friday, June 08, 2012

The Perfection of the Paper Clip

"The paper clip is something of a fetish object in design circles. Its spare, machined aesthetic and its inexpensive ubiquity landed it a spot in MoMA’s 2004 show Humble Masterpieces. This was a pedestal too high for design critic Michael Bierut, who responded with an essay called “To Hell with the Simple Paper Clip.” He argued that designers praise supposedly unauthored objects like the paper clip because they’re loath to choose between giving publicity to a competitor and egotistically touting their own designs. Bierut might be right about his colleagues’ motives, but he’s wrong about the paper clip: It’s not all that simple."

Click here to read a really fascinating article from Slate magazine on the history and design of the paperclip (I know, I need to get out more).

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bob Dylan receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

Bob Dylan, John Glenn, et al, received the highest civilian honor awarded by the United States today from President Obama.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

SpaceX Dragon docks with the International Space Station

This is one action-packed video!!!!!!


A very important milestone though.

Why are fountain pen sales rising?

"You might expect that email and the ballpoint pen had killed the fountain pen. But sales are rising, so is the fountain pen a curious example of an old-fashioned object surviving the winds of change?
For many people, fountain pens bring back memories of school days full of inky fingers, smudged exercise books and piles of pink blotting paper.

But for others, a fat Montblanc or a silver-plated Parker is a treasured item. Prominently displayed, they are associated with long, sinuous lines of cursive script.

Sales figures are on the up. Parker, which has manufactured fountain pens since 1888, claims a worldwide "resurgence" in the past five years, and rival Lamy says turnover increased by more than 5% in 2011.

Online retailer Amazon says sales so far this year have doubled compared with the same period in 2011. They are four times higher than 2010."

This is a very interesting article, with hundreds of reader comments, as well as English author Neil Gaiman explains why he writes his novels with fountain pens.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Scientist at Work: Don’t Feed Wild Dolphins (Even if They Beg)

Human feeding of wild dolphins brings them into contact with anglers and their gear, and leads to increases in serious dolphin injuries and deaths.

"The Sarasota Bay dolphins saved the best for last, and our final focal follow of the week turned out to be our smoothest. We attached the DTAG tracking devices to the dolphins around 2 p.m. and followed them from a safe distance to collect behavioral data while the DTAGs recorded their whistles. These dolphins were particularly cooperative, swimming synchronously and at a moderate pace, making them easy to track. Their tags came off around 4:30 p.m., which was exactly when we had programmed the electronics to release them. It felt great that we didn’t lose any dolphins or DTAGs today. "


Scientist at Work: Whistle Recognition in Bottlenose Dolphins

"Thursday, May 10
I took a break from focal follows on the Nai’a boat today to hop over to Flip, the veterinary examination boat on which veterinarians perform dolphin health assessments. I had a great time asking the vets on board about their duties as we searched for animals in the morning.

The vets spend their field days obtaining a variety of samples and measurements of the dolphins. Because they’ve been doing health assessments since 1987, they now have a comprehensive suite of Sarasota Bay dolphin health information that serves as benchmark data for comparisons with other dolphin populations around the world. This is particularly handy in the wake of environmental disasters; scientists used data from the Sarasota dolphins to understand how other coastal dolphin communities might have been affected by oil and contaminants from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill."


Scientist at Work: Searching for a Pair of Dolphins in the Gulf

"Patience is key when it comes to tracking dolphins in the wild. If we lose sight of them or if our tracking devices — the DTAGs — fall off prematurely, like they did on Monday, it takes hours and hours into the evening until we find them again. It’s important that we find the DTAGs. They took 13 years to develop and cost thousands of dollars each. But losing sight of the dolphins is also difficult to deal with and that’s what happened to us today.

Around 2 p.m., our focal animals — two male dolphins named F276 and F142 — decided to venture out of Sarasota Bay into the Gulf of Mexico portion of their range. Sarasota Bay is an estuary, so its waters are partly enclosed and therefore relatively calm even at high tide, which makes tracking easier for us than if we were in the open ocean. But we felt an immediate difference when the dolphins left the bay and entered the Gulf of Mexico portion of their range. Though the Nai’a, our tracking boat, is sturdy, it was not designed for rough waters. It jerked violently up and down with the choppy waters of the gulf, and we soon lost sight of both F276 and F142."


Scientist at Work: Playing Tag With Dolphins

Tara Thean, a biology major at Princeton University, writes from Sarasota Bay in Florida, where she is studying signature whistle development in wild bottlenose dolphins.

Monday, May 7
I saw my first dolphins at 8 a.m. on an overcast Monday morning in Sarasota Bay, Fla., just seven minutes after leaving the boat ramp near Mote Marine Laboratory. The dolphins, muscular creatures about two and a half meters long, were a mother-calf pair named Boxer and Box 1. They powered smoothly through the water with their sleek blue-gray bodies, staying close together as we watched from 50 meters away.
Few animals have had their life stories so closely documented as the dolphins in Sarasota Bay. There are people out here who could tell you about a particular dolphin’s date of birth, list the sex of each of its calves and describe its behavioral ups and downs simply by looking at the nicks and notches on its fin. From time to time, a team of veterinarians and scientists from around the world work with the Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program to conduct health assessments and photo-identification surveys of the Sarasota dolphin community, gathering biological, behavioral, ecological and health data for use by field biologists, conservationists and veterinarians.

I am fortunate to be part of one such team this spring. I will write a senior thesis that focuses on bottlenose dolphins under the supervision of Laela Sayigh, a research specialist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Laela has kindly allowed me to take part in this trip to help with data collection and to get some hands-on experience with the animals I will be thinking and writing about for the rest of my undergraduate career.


Where Shoes Listen and Coins Kill

In 1953, after the early successes of Soviet espionage demonstrated just how difficult and dangerous the cold war would become, the Central Intelligence Agency began a top-secret program called MKUltra. It included exotic projects that decades later provided much critical fodder for commentators and comedians: exploding cigars, poison-laced toothpaste, hallucinogenic serums. And as we learn in a video interview with professional spies at the exhibition “Spy: The Secret World of Espionage,” opening on Friday at Discovery Times Square, it even included the hiring of a magician, John Mulholland, as a C.I.A. consultant


Table Tennis Beside a Bank, and Other Contests Intended to ‘Reclaim’ Midtown

An unorthodox table-tennis tournament played against the Bank of America building in Manhattan on Friday was part of a project by the artist Zefrey Throwell.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Real-world beaming: The risk of avatar and robot crime

"First it was the telephone, then web cameras and Skype, now remote "presence" is about to take another big step forward - raising some urgent legal and ethical questions."

Read an interesting article, and see a video, on the latest in telepresence here

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Bob Dylan to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

"Nearly 50 years after he sounded “Chimes of Freedom” on one of his earliest folk-rock albums, Bob Dylan, the mercurial pop troubadour, will be rewarded with a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor given by the United States, alongside such noteworthy figures as Toni Morrison, Madeleine Albright, John Glenn and John Paul Stevens.

The White House said in a statement that President Obama had named 13 recipients of the medal, which is granted to “individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
Mr. Dylan, a former winner of the National Medal of Arts, was praised in the White House’s statement as being among “the most influential American musicians of the 20th century,” for “his rich and poetic lyrics” and for work that has “had considerable influence on the civil rights movement of the 1960s and has had significant impact on American culture over the past five decade.”

NY Times

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A gorgeous horror movie about a pen trying to murder the letter "D"

"This is D, a truly bizarre vignette from the Venezuelan studio Chiguire Animation and Closed Eye Visuals. In this wonderful little animation, a pen with sinister inclinations wants to connect a dot labeled with the letter "D." The letter has no desire to be stabbed by ink, so it attempts to escape off the page."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Lakshmi Pratury on letter-writing

"Lakshmi Pratury remembers the lost art of letter-writing and shares a series of notes her father wrote to her before he died. Her short but heartfelt talk may inspire you to set pen to paper, too."

Friday, April 20, 2012

Early Dick Clark

With Dick Clark's recent passing, here he is with a 15 year old Bobby Fischer!

Linda Schurman -- astrologer

My old friend Linda Schurman is on the 'Coast-to-CoastAM' radio program this morning, from 2-3 AM EST. Linda has been a professional astrologer for close to forty years (although she still looks like she's in her 30's -- how did that happen?) and the only errant prediction she's had is that I would turn out 'ok'. :-)

She always does a great job on Coast!

Linda's website can be accessed here.

In response to Levon’s passing

"He was my bosom buddy friend to the end, one of the last true great spirits of my or any other generation. This is just so sad to talk about. I still can remember the first day I met him and the last day I saw him. We go back pretty far and had been through some trials together. I'm going to miss him, as I'm sure a whole lot of others will too."
 Bob Dylan

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

9 Chains (Buckminster Fuller in Philadelphia)

"9 Chains (Buckminster Fuller in Philadelphia) is a film with live music directed and composed by Gene Coleman with cinematography and editing by Nick Lerman. This work will have its premiere on April 28th, 2012 at International House Philadelphia, with subsequent presentations in the USA and Europe later this year and in 2013. We have had considerable success with support for this project (see below) and now we turn to you to help us fully realize our goal! We need to raise an additional $8,000 to cover the final film production costs, plus travel and accommodations costs for our international guest musicians.
Buckminster Fuller was an inventor, architect and "futurist" who made a very large impact on American culture and technology in the 20th century. The first in a series of works by Gene Coleman about Fuller, “9 Chains” explores his presence in the city of Philadelphia between 1973-1980. Moving between documentary style presentation of the facts and pure abstraction, this work focuses on two projects Fuller worked on while in Philadelphia: the lecture series "Everything I Know" and the development of the World Game Institute. In both cases, Coleman uses the concepts behind these endeavors to create a work that moves fluidly from documentary to abstraction, weaving together the past, present and future."

You can contribute to the Kickstarter project here.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Food Network Star -- Justin Warner

I now have a reason to watch a reality TV show! My cousin Justin Warner is a 'Food Network Star' finalist! If he ever loses interest in the restaurant business, he has a career as a rapper!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Scale of the Universe

A terrific website that allows you to move up and down the scale of the Universe.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Vote for His Nibs blog

Although you'll have to sign up for a free account, if you've enjoyed this blog over the years, I'd appreciate your vote. Thanks! It's under 'Business & Technology'.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Visconti Titanic LE Fountain Pen

I wrote about an earlier version of this pen about 7 years ago, at the beginning of a blog entry here.

Friday, March 09, 2012

A Throwback Player, With a Wardrobe to Match

Published: March 8, 2012
With his vintage clothes and classic paddle, Marty Reisman is a relic from a bolder era of New York table tennis.
Marty Reisman wears vintage Borsalino fedoras because no one makes a good hat anymore.

Richard Perry/The New York Times
Marty Reisman studies a portrait of himself at SPiN on East 23rd Street.

Carl T. Gossett/The New York Times
Marty Reisman at the Riverside Table Tennis Courts, at 96th Street and Broadway, in 1960.
He is known to measure the height of table tennis nets with $100 bills because, sure, a $1 bill is just as long, but why be “chintzy” about it? 

He likes the city’s trendy new Ping-Pong parlors just fine, particularly if some hot rapscallion has the gall to challenge him. 

But Mr. Reisman misses his friends, those relics from the underbelly of a postwar New York that loved a good showman, winked at a friendly — or not so friendly — wager and supported these habits with a series of underground money matches among the game’s best. 

“I took on people in the gladiatorial spirit,” Mr. Reisman, 82, said. “Never backed down from a bet.”
But with the death last month of Mr. Reisman’s friend and rival, 94-year-old Sol Schiff, the man known as “Mr. Table Tennis,” the game’s departure from a bygone city era has perhaps never been starker. Mr. Schiff’s tutelage came at the 92nd Street Y, which no longer has a working table tennis court on site. In a sport that once counted Americans among the world’s best, the United States has not earned a medal since the game was certified for the 1988 Olympics. (China has won 20 of 24 golds.) 

While Mr. Schiff did not seek out money games as Mr. Reisman did, they and other table tennis luminaries were once treated as kings at their haunts, like Lawrence’s in Midtown Manhattan, where the walls were dotted with bullet holes and other badges of its speakeasy past, or Mr. Reisman’s eponymous parlor on 96th Street near Broadway. 

Today, New York’s best-known table tennis personality may be the actress Susan Sarandon, who, as co-owner of the “Ping-Pong social club” SPiN on East 23rd Street, helped guide the game’s unlikely recasting as a chic staple of urban night life. 

Mr. Reisman, if photo archives are any indication, may have been the first player to reach the intersection of champion table tennis and immutable style. This week, during a trip to the site of his old parlor on the occasion of Mr. Schiff’s recent death, he wore a dark brown Borsalino, tinted glasses and a red turtleneck.
Before owning the shop, Mr. Reisman starred as the halftime act for the Harlem Globetrotters in Europe and competed for prizes as lofty as world championships and as lowly as a $50 war bond in Columbus, Ohio. After owning the shop, he invested in a chain of Chinese restaurants. The former national and international champion is a three-time millionaire, he said, and a three-time former millionaire.

Mr. Reisman said he operated the parlor, in what is now the back of a cellphone store, from 1958 until the late 1970s. He installed a closed-circuit television on the sidewalk, so pedestrians and passing drivers could watch the matches. 

“It looked like a hustler’s paradise,” said Tim Boggan, the historian for USA Table Tennis, the game’s national association. 

Mr. Reisman reached a new audience in 2008 when, during a surprise cameo on the “Late Show,” he tried his signature parlor trick: breaking a cigarette in half from across the table. 

“Look, the shoes match the shirt,” the host, David Letterman, noted, pointing to his bright red sneakers.
It is in this capacity — as the throwback magician, with outfits to match — that the city’s young talents know Mr. Reisman. 

On Tuesday, Mr. Reisman hoped to find some of them, traveling to SPiN with two paddles in his bag. Each was covered in sandpaper. He prefers that he and any opponents use these classic paddles, not the spongy material that has come to dominate the game. 

“The modern game is played with fraud, deceit and deception,” he said. “This racket is the purest reflection of a player’s ability.” 

The below-ground club, at least, seems to know its history. Mr. Reisman’s likeness appears in no fewer than three places, including one portrait in which he wears leopard-print pants. In the painting beside it, a female player in a black bikini top holds her racket in a belt loop of her cutoff jeans, her hands raised behind her head. 

“You look fantastic up there!” a young blond employee said after Mr. Reisman entered, referring to a photograph in the upstairs lobby. 

“You look fantastic down here,” he said, shuffling toward the courts. 

Once he got there, he trained his eyes on a player, Mark Croitoroo, 20, practicing a serve that concealed the ball with his body until the moment of contact. Mr. Reisman does not care for such ploys. 

He asked if Mr. Croitoroo would mind hitting a few with the sandpaper racket. Mr. Croitoroo obliged. And so they began exchanging strokes, the older man pursing his lips with each forehand, the younger appearing to grow restless with the rally. 

Suddenly, Mr. Reisman began to turn his shoulders, tucking his right arm against his body. He flicked a backhand with a quick jolt of the wrist, dooming Mr. Croitoroo to a wayward return on his own backhand side. 

Mr. Reisman smiled. Mr. Croitoroo smirked, complimenting the shot. He said he should probably return to his practice. Mr. Reisman thanked him. 

“He’s a hustler,” Mr. Croitoroo said later, as he watched the legend try another trick. 

Mr. Reisman looked across a table at a man with a camera. 

Did anyone, the old paddler asked, doubt that he could hit the lens with his serve? 

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: March 9, 2012

An earlier version of a headline on a video accompanying this article had an incorrect age for Marty Reisman. He is 82.

Follow the link below to see some video of Marty in action:

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Handwriting in the 21st Century?

Handwriting in the 21st Century? An Educational Summit

On January 23, 2012, 150 researchers and education thought leaders convened for Handwriting in the 21st Century? An Educational Summit to discuss the role of handwriting instruction in the 21st century classroom. Presenters shared cross-disciplinary handwriting research and attendees voiced their opinions about whether—and how—this skill should be taught. A white paper summarizing the research presented at the Summit, published by Saperstein Associates, Inc., is now available for download.

Ariel Hsing -- Rising U.S. table tennis talent

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Earth at night seen from space ISS

Dolphins deserve same rights as humans, say scientists

"Recognising the rights of dolphins would end whaling and their captivity
Dolphins should be treated as non-human "persons", with their rights to life and liberty respected, scientists meeting in Canada have been told. 

Experts in philosophy, conservation and animal behaviour want support for a Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans.

They believe dolphins and whales are sufficiently intelligent to justify the same ethical considerations as humans.

Recognising their rights would mean an end to whaling and their captivity, or their use in entertainment.

"Science has shown that individuality - consciousness, self-awareness - is no longer a unique human property. That poses all kinds of challenges.” Ethics Professor Tom White Loyola Marymount University of Los Angeles
The move was made at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Vancouver, Canada, the world's biggest science conference.

It is based on years of research that has shown dolphins and whales have large, complex brains and a human-like level of self-awareness.

This has led the experts to conclude that although non-human, dolphins and whales are "people" in a philosophical sense, which has far-reaching implications.

Ethics expert Prof Tom White, from Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, author of In Defence of Dolphins: The New Moral Frontier, said dolphins were "non-human persons".

"A person needs to be an individual. If individuals count, then the deliberate killing of individuals of this sort is ethically the equivalent of deliberately killing a human being.

Intelligent cetacean behaviour

  • A member of a group of orcas, or killer whales, in Patagonia had a damaged jaw and could not feed. The elderly whale was fed and kept alive by its companions.
  • Dolphins taking part in an experiment had to press one of two levers to distinguish between sounds, some of which were very similar. By pressing a third lever, they were able to tell the researchers they wanted to "pass" on a particular test because it was too hard. "When you place dolphins in a situation like that they respond in exactly the same way humans do," said Dr Lori Marino. "They are accessing their own minds and thinking their own thoughts."
  • A number of captive dolphins were rewarded with fish in return for tidying up their tank. One of them ripped up a large paper bag, hid away the pieces, and presented them one at a time to get multiple rewards.
  • In Iceland, killer whales and fishermen have been known to work together. The whales show the fishermen where to lay their nets, and in return are allowed to feed on part of the catch. Then they lead the fleet to the next fishing ground.
"They can look in a mirror and say, 'Hey, that's me'” Dr Lori Marino Psychologist
The declaration, originally agreed in May 2010, contains the statements "every individual cetacean has the right to life", "no cetacean should be held in captivity or servitude, be subject to cruel treatment, or be removed from their natural environment", and "no cetacean is the property of any state, corporation, human group or individual". 

It adds: "The rights, freedoms and norms set forth in this declaration should be protected under international and domestic law."

Psychologist Dr Lori Marino, from Emory University in Atlanta, told how scientific advances had changed the view of the cetacean brain.

She said: "We went from seeing the dolphin/whale brain as being a giant amorphous blob that doesn't carry a lot of intelligence and complexity to not only being an enormous brain but an enormous brain with an enormous amount of complexity, and a complexity that rivals our own."

Dolphins had a sense of self which could be tested by the way they recognise themselves in mirrors, she added.

"When you get up in the morning and look in the mirror and know that's you, you have a sense of 'you'," said Dr Marino.

"They have a similar sense. They can look in a mirror and say, 'Hey, that's me'.""

Friday, February 10, 2012

Incredibly Realistic Bic-Pen Drawings of Animals

"You don’t need special materials to make breathtaking, realistic art. At least, you don’t if you’re as talented as French photographer and illustrator Sarah Esteje, who often uses nothing more than a Bic pen to create stunning work."

See more here.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Giants win Superbowl -- again

There's so much I could say about my beloved Giants -- but this quote from our 'talent scout' was pretty terrific:

"On the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, a few moments after the Lombardi Trophy had been given back to the Giants, Jerry Reese said, “Don’t ever be fooled by our quarterback. Ever. He is a baby-faced assassin.”"

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Skydiver to Attempt Record-Breaking Supersonic Space Jump

"One man's quest to make a record-breaking leap from near the edge of space is nearing make-or-break time.

Sponsored by energy drink Red Bull, Austrian extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner, 41, plans to skydive from a balloon in the stratosphere at an altitude of 120,000 feet (36,576 meters).
If he can do it, he'll become the first person to break the sound barrier outside of an aircraft. He'll also break a trio of other records that have stood for more than 50 years: Baumgartner's plunge would mark the highest skydive, the highest manned balloon flight and the longest free fall, at about 5 minutes and 30 seconds."

Read more here.

12 Fantastic Tree Houses From Across The World

"Yellow Tree House
Fantastic in every detail, the Yellow Tree House by Pacific Environment Architects embraces a 40 meter high redwood tree growing north of Auckland, New Zealand. Displaying a structure made out of plantation poplar slats, the naturally ventilated restaurant was built in only four months and aimed at promoting the New Zealand Yellow Pages.

Click here to see the other nine!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

BUCKMINSTER FULLER segment on CBS Sunday Morning show

Attending a weekend symposium with Bucky at the Harvard Science Center when I was 20 or 21, is still one of my life's highlights.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Anti-matter atoms to address anti-gravity question

"The question of whether normal matter's shadowy counterpart anti-matter exerts a kind of "anti-gravity" is set to be answered, according to a new report. 

Normal matter attracts all other matter in the Universe, but it remains unclear if anti-matter attracts or repels it.
A team reporting in Physics Review Letters says it has prepared stable pairs of electrons and their anti-matter particles, positrons.

A beam of these pairs can be used to finally solve the anti-gravity puzzle."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Why Does Our Universe Have Three Dimensions?

"Why does our universe look the way it does? In particular, why do we only experience three spatial dimensions in our universe, when superstring theory, for instance, claims that there are ten dimensions -- nine spatial dimensions and a tenth dimension of time?

Japanese scientists think they may have an explanation for how a three-dimensional universe emerged from the original nine dimensions of space. They describe their new supercomputer calculations simulating the birth of our universe in a forthcoming paper in Physical Review Letters."

Read more here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Gorgeous Ink Portraits Drawn on the Backs of Old Envelopes

"Mark Powell, whose work we discovered over at Colossal, draws incredibly detailed, sumptuous portraits on the backs of vintage envelopes with nothing but a regular old Bic Biro pen. These portraits, often of the elderly subjects, are drawn on the backs of vintage envelopes, and Powell subtly incorporates remnant text, stamps, or just the lines of folding into his work. The result is an extremely compelling series that makes us reconsider the lost art of letter writing — and makes us want to call our grandparents."

See more here.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

The Discovery of Dolphin Language


We Are Not Alone

The Discovery of Dolphin Language

For immediate release—November 2011

Key words: Dolphin, Cetacean, Echolocation, Cymatics, Holography, Language, CymaScope.
Researchers in the United States and Great Britain have made a significant breakthrough in deciphering dolphin language in which a series of eight objects have been sonically identified by dolphins. Team leader, Jack Kassewitz of, ‘spoke’ to dolphins with the dolphin’s own sound picture words. Dolphins in two separate research centers understood the words, presenting convincing evidence that dolphins employ a universal “sono-pictorial” language of communication.
The team was able to teach the dolphins simple and complex sentences involving nouns and verbs, revealing that dolphins comprehend elements of human language, as well as having a complex visual language of their own. Kassewitz commented, “We are beginning to understand the visual aspects of their language, for example in the identification of eight dolphin visual sounds for nouns, recorded by hydrophone as the dolphins echolocated on a range of submersed plastic objects.”
The British member of the research team, John Stuart Reid, used a CymaScope instrument, a device that makes sound visible, to gain a better understanding of how dolphins see with sound. He imaged a series of the test objects as sono-pictorially created by one of the research dolphins.

In his bid to “speak dolphin” Jack Kassewitz of, based in Miami, Florida, designed an experiment in which he recorded dolphin echolocation sounds as they reflected off a range of eight submersed objects, including a plastic cube, a toy duck and a flowerpot. He discovered that the reflected sounds actually contain sound pictures and when replayed to the dolphin in the form of a game, the dolphin was able to identify the objects with 86% accuracy, providing evidence that dolphins understand echolocation sounds as pictures. Kassewitz then drove to a different facility and replayed the sound pictures to a dolphin that had not previously experienced them. The second dolphin identified the objects with a similar high success rate, confirming that dolphins possess a sono-pictorial form of communication. It has been suspected by some researchers that dolphins employ a sono-visual sense to ‘photograph’ (in sound) a predator approaching their family pod, in order to beam the picture to other members of their pod, alerting them of danger. In this scenario it is assumed that the picture of the predator will be perceived in the mind’s eye of the other dolphins.
When Reid imaged the reflected echolocation sounds on the CymaScope it became possible for the first time to see the sono-pictorial images that the dolphin created. The resulting pictures resemble typical ultrasound images seen in hospitals. Reid explained: “When a dolphin scans an object with its high frequency sound beam, emitted in the form of short clicks, each click captures a still image, similar to a camera taking photographs. Each dolphin click is a pulse of pure sound that becomes modulated by the shape of the object. In other words, the pulse of reflected sound contains a semi-holographic representation of the object. A portion of the reflected sound is collected by the dolphin’s lower jaw, its mandible, where it travels through twin fat-filled ‘acoustic horns’ to the dolphin’s inner ears to create the sono-pictorial image.”
The precise mechanism concerning how the sonic image is ‘read’ by the cochleae is still unknown but the team’s present hypothesis is that each click-pulse causes the image to momentarily manifest on the basilar and tectorial membranes, thin sheets of tissue situated in the heart of each cochlea. Microscopic cilia connect with the tectorial membrane and ‘read’ the shape of the imprint, creating a composite electrical signal representing the object’s shape. This electrical signal travels to the brain via the cochlea nerve and is interpreted as an image. (The example in the graphic shows a flowerpot.) The team postulates that dolphins are able to perceive stereoscopically with their sound imaging sense. Since the dolphin emits long trains of click-pulses it is believed that it has persistence of sono-pictorial perception, analogous to video playback in which a series of still frames are viewed as moving images.
Reid said, “The CymaScope imaging technique substitutes a circular water membrane for the dolphin's tectorial, gel-like membrane and a camera for the dolphin's brain. We image the sono-picture as it imprints on the surface tension of water, a technique we call ‘bio-cymatic imaging,’ capturing the picture before it expands to the boundary. We think that something similar happens in the dolphin’s cochleae where the sonic image, contained in the reflected click-pulse, travels as a surface acoustic wave along the basilar and tectorial membranes and imprints in an area that relates to the carrier frequency of the click-pulse. With our biocymatic imaging technique we believe we see a similar image to that which the dolphin sees when it scans an object with sound. In the flowerpot image the hand of the person holding it can even be seen. The images are rather fuzzy at present but we hope to enhance the technique in future.”
Dr Horace Dobbs is Director of International Dolphin Watch and a leading authority on dolphin-assisted therapy. “I find the dolphin mechanism for sonic imaging proposed by Jack Kassewitz and John Stuart Reid plausible from a scientific standpoint. I have long maintained that dolphins have a sono-visual language so I am naturally gratified that this latest research has produced a rational explanation and experimental data to verify my conjectures. As early as 1994, in a book I wrote for children, Dilo and the Call of the Deep, I referred to Dilo's ‘Magic Sound’ as the method by which Dilo and his mother pass information between each other using sonic imaging, not just of external visual appearances, but also of internal structures and organs.”
As a result of Reid’s bio-cymatic imaging technique Kassewitz, in collaboration with research intern Christopher Brown, of the University of Central Florida, is beginning to develop a new model of dolphin language that they are calling Sono-Pictorial Exo-holographic Language, (SPEL). Kassewitz explained, “The ‘exo-holographic’ part of the acronym derives from the fact that the dolphin pictorial language is actually propagated all around the dolphin whenever one or more dolphins in the pod send or receive sono-pictures. John Stuart Reid has found that any small part of the dolphin’s reflected echolocation beam contains all the data needed to recreate the image cymatically in the laboratory or, he postulates, in the dolphin’s brain. Our new model of dolphin language is one in which dolphins can not only send and receive pictures of objects around them but can create entirely new sono-pictures simply by imagining what they want to communicate. It is perhaps challenging for us as humans to step outside our symbolic thought processes to truly appreciate the dolphin’s world in which, we believe, pictorial rather than symbolic thoughts are king. Our personal biases, beliefs, ideologies, and memories penetrate and encompass all of our communication, including our description and understanding of something devoid of symbols, such as SPEL. Dolphins appear to have leap-frogged human symbolic language and instead have evolved a form of communication outside the human evolutionary path. In a sense we now have a ‘Rosetta Stone’ that will allow us to tap into their world in a way we could not have even conceived just a year ago. The old adage, ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.”
David M. Cole, founder of the The AquaThought Foundation, a research organization that studied human-dolphin interaction for more than a decade said, “Kassewitz and Reid have contributed a novel model for dolphins' sonic perception, which almost certainly evolved out of the creature's need to perceive its underwater world when vision was inhibited. Several conventional linguistic approaches to understanding dolphin communication have dead-ended in the last 20 years so it is refreshing to see this new and highly-nuanced paradigm being explored.”
The human capacity for language involves the acquisition and use of a complex system of vocal sounds to which we attribute specific meanings. Language, the relationship between sounds and meanings evolved differently for each tribe of humans and for each nation. It is generally believed that the human language faculty is fundamentally different from that of other species and of a much higher complexity. The development of vocal language is believed to have coincided with an increase in brain volume. Many researchers have wondered why dolphins have brains comparable in size with those of humans, considering that Nature creates organs according to need. The Kassewitz team’s findings suggest the large dolphin brain is necessary for the acquisition and utilization of a sono-pictorial language that requires significant brain mass.
Dolphins enjoy constant auditory and visual stimulation throughout their lives, a fact that may contribute to their hemispheric brain coordination. The dolphin’s auditory neocortical fields extend far into the midbrain, influencing the motor areas in such a way as to allow the smooth regulation of sound-induced motor activity as well as sophisticated phonation needed for production of signature whistles and sonopictures. These advantages are powered not only by a brain that is comparable in size to that of a human but also by a brain stem transmission time that is considerably faster than the human brain.
Kassewitz said, “Our research has provided an answer to an age-old question highlighted by Dr Jill Tarter of the SETI Institute, ‘Are we alone?’ We can now unequivocally answer, ‘no.’ SETI’s search for non-human intelligence in outer space has been found right here on earth in the graceful form of dolphins.”

Full results of this research are available on request from Jack Kassewitz.

Jack Kassewitz:
305-807-5812 - Miami, Florida
John Stuart Reid:

We Are Not Alone