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June 8, 2011

How to see around corners: Computational photography

Like so many things once thought impossible (invisibility cloaks, anyone?), digital imaging now promises yet another seeming miracle.

Long story short, from an article in the March 10, 2011 Economist: "An unusual new type of camera analyzes the reflections of a laser pulse to do the seemingly impossible."

Up top, MIT's Ramesh Raskar talks about computational photography.

Excerpts from the Economist piece follow.

Photography can perform many tricks. Until now, though, looking around corners has not been one of them. Ramesh Raskar of MIT [has] developed a camera that can see what other cameras cannot.

In standard flash photography a burst of light strikes a subject, and some of it bounces back to the camera to create an image. Dr Raskar’s device is similar, but with one crucial difference. Instead of recording light reflected directly, it records light that has been reflected several times on the way back.

The trick is what the camera does with the incoming light. A computer identifies which incoming rays came back early because they bounced off the person, and which came back later because they bounced off the walls behind the person. A geometric reconstruction of where the various light rays have been then creates an image of what could not ordinarily be seen.

Because the flash must survive multiple reflections without being absorbed or becoming too weak, not just any light can be used. It must be a laser. Dr Raskar and his students are working with one that fires its pulse in a thousand billionth of a second. This ensures that reflections from different places are easier to tell apart, because they do not blur into one another.

At the moment the camera can produce only low-quality images, and cannot cope with objects that have several sorts of surface material. But Dr Raskar reckons that his technique will eventually open a range of applications, from studying inaccessible nooks and crannies of the human body to looking into burning buildings.

June 8, 2011 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

PockeTweez — "Don't get stuck without it"


Catchy, what?


[via Make Magazine, issue 26]

June 8, 2011 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Best picture of the day: Caption Contest is ON


The winner, to be chosen by a touch of Gray Cat's paw, will be announced at this time tomorrow.

And there will be a prize.

"For a change, eh, joe?"

You, go to your room.

The picture appears in at least one of today's papers, if that's any help.

June 8, 2011 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Limited-Edition HoD Mirrored Breakers


"I'll make no more than 49 of these broken-mirror breakers, each one to order."

"I don't vouch for visibility, but isn't it better to be seen than to see?"

A profound question indeed, far above my philosophical pay grade — but not yours.


June 8, 2011 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Taylor Swift and Shania Twain as Thelma and Louise 2011

Their sketch opens tonight's CMT Music Awards (CMT at 8 p.m. ET).

But wait, there's more!

The segment also features Chord Overstreet from "Glee," Kid Rock and Donald Trump but according to CMT "the details remain under lock and key" until tonight's broadcast.

The excitement here is palpable.

Let's hope they didn't put those details in one of Al Gore's lock boxes 'cause they'll never be able to find — much less open — it.

June 8, 2011 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pocket Pencil


Is that a pencil in your pocket






June 8, 2011 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Cicada ice cream? You can get some at Sparky's Homemade — in the year 2024


Long story short from today's USA Today: "A public health official in Missouri has asked an ice cream shop to stop selling its cicada ice cream [above], even though customers love it."

"Sparky's Homemade Ice Cream [above and below]


in Columbia sold out its only batch of the insect-filled dessert within two hours of its June 1 debut. Employees collected the cicadas in their backyards, cleaned them and put them in ice cream."

"Gerry Worley, an environmental health official with the Columbia/Boone County health department, said he has advised against their use as an ingredient."

Worley needs to take a road trip to Mexico City and sample the street food before he presumes to opine on the subject of cicadas and their edibility.

"Edibility" — is that a word?

It is now.

But I digress.


From last Thursday's (June 2) Columbia Missourian story by Melissa Klauda:

Insect-filled cicada ice cream [top] never had a chance to be placed in the display case at Sparky's Homemade Ice Cream before it was all gone.

Surprising the employees at Sparky's, the new flavor was so popular that it sold out Wednesday night before it was set to be out for display on Thursday.

"When we opened, Tony was just bombarded," Christian Losciale, an employee at Sparky's, said about the rush of customers looking for cicada ice cream Thursday morning. Sparky's employee Tony Layson was the first in the shop when it opened on Thursday.

The ice cream was supposed to make its debut Thursday, but as Columbians got word of the new flavor on Wednesday, curious customers went in early to see if they could try a scoop or two.

"Before we could put it out front we were selling it out of the back,"said Augustine Accurso, an employee at Sparky's about the sales Wednesday night.

"I didn't expect many people to try it," Accurso said. "We just made half of a batch as a fun, experimental batch." Accurso, Losciale and manager Ashley Nagel made the batch together.

The owner of Sparky's, Scott Southwick, had similar thoughts on how popular the new flavor would be.

"We thought we'd make a small batch and it would last forever," Southwick said.

Excerpts from Ms. Klauda's follow-up story in yesterday's Missourian follow.

"The food code doesn't directly address cicadas," [Columbia/Boone County environmental health manager Gerry] Worley said. "We advised against it."

When making the first half batch of ice cream, the cicadas were boiled and fully cooked through, Sparky's manager Ashley Nagel said. Food code does not address how cicadas should be cooked.

"The food code tells us how high the temperature should be," Worley said of normally cooked foods such as fish, chicken and beef. The department does not have that information for cicadas.

Second from top, the sign on the front door that greeted Sparky's customers  last Thursday morning.

Sparky's has informed its customers that the next batch won't arrive until 2024, when the cicadas return for the next go-round of their 13-year cycle.

Lots of good times on Sparky's Facebook page.

Fair warning: there go the next 13 years.

[via Fat City]


Note added 10:02 a.m. today: NPR's Eyder Peralta's all over this story.



a 13-year cicada that evaded the eager ice cream makers.


Note added at 4:04 p.m. today: Melissa Klauda, who originally reported the story about Sparky's cicada ice cream for the Columbia Missourian, emailed me at 2:30:42 p.m. this afternoon as follows:

Hi there, I am the original reporter of this story at the Columbia Missourian, and your headline is incorrect. The information copied onto your site directly from my story is correct, but Sparky's was not forced to stop making the ice cream. They sought advice from the health department and made a decision on their own. I do understand that the Associated Press version of the story mischaracterized my information. Here is a link to my original story.

Constant readers will know that nothing — nothing! — makes me happier than getting it right.

So Ms. Klauda's email was greeted here at boj World Headquarters®™© with great excitement and joy.

The only reason it didn't appear here earlier today is that at the time it came in, I was sitting in a chair in the office of Dr. Robert E. Grover, the world's best endodontist, while he tidied up tooth #18, which over the 13 years since it became the very first (of seven) of my remaining 28 teeth to have a root canal — followed by a nice gold crown — has succumbed to the ravages of time.

Long story short: the border between the crown and the remaining tooth eroded on the buccal side, allowing bacteria to enter and take up unwanted (by me: I'm sure the bacteria were quite content there) residence, resulting in swelling, redness, pain and discharge.

Dr. Grover cleaned things up and saved the crown and tooth.

But I digress from cicada ice cream.

Anyway, the debate going on here is about whether or not to change the original headline to reflect the facts.

After consulting with Gray Cat, always a cool head in times like this, it has been decided that if the New York Times feels free to change its online headlines on the fly to reflect changing circumstances, joeheads deserve no less.

Thus, the original headline — "Cicada Ice Cream — Sparky's Homemade in Columbia, Missouri forced to shut it down — is, as they say in Washington, D.C., no longer operative.

And let's all give a big boj welcome to Melissa Klauda, who's just finding out as she reads these words that she's now a member of my crack research team.

Welcome, camper.


Note added at 4:41 p.m. today to the story that just won't stop: my crack research team just unearthed a third story about Sparky's cicada ice cream by ace reporter Melissa Klauda, this one the first in terms of temporal sequence: it appeared in the Columbia Missourian last Wednesday, June 1, and excerpts follow.

When Christian Losciale began his first day of work at Sparky's Homemade Ice Cream on Wednesday, he did not expect to volunteer to de-wing cicadas for a new batch of ice cream.

After doing some research and discussion, Sparky's employees got the green light from their boss to incorporate the buzzing insects into their ice cream.

"We always try to push the limit," Sparky's Manager Ashley Nagel said about their flavors.

The manager said the new flavor will be easy to spot.

"Most of the wings are off but the top layer has wings so that people know what they are getting into," Nagel said.

To make the ice cream, Sparky's employees collected cicadas from their backyards and brought them in to work on Wednesday. The cicadas are fully cooked through boiling, then covered in brown sugar and milk chocolate. The base ice cream is a brown sugar and butter flavor.

Sparky's patrons Joan Masters and her son Jack Masters, 5, took one look at the ice cream and said they would not try it.

"One landed on me at lunch, and I just screamed," Joan Masters said.

"Cicada itself is purely a texture, and the flavor is like a peanut," Losciale said. "It's not that strange because we coated them in so much sugar. It's worth trying."

While the strange looking pests are abundant, the dessert might not be found so easily elsewhere.

"You probably won't find any other ice cream shop in the surrounding states doing this," Losciale said.

I won't argue.

At least he didn't say cicadas taste like chicken.

One last thing: the least we can do to show our gratitude for Ms. Klauda's investigative reporting is follow her on Twitter.

Let's make her bigger than Lady Gaga.

OK, maybe not that big.

June 8, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Reusable Tea-Bag Shaped Tea Infuser


Think matryoshka.

A 2010 design by Claus Jensen and Henrik Holbaek.

Stainless steel with a wire and silicone base and tag.

2.75"H x 2"W x 1.25"D.

$30 (tea not included).

[via LikeCool]

June 8, 2011 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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