Quantcast
Latest Stories
Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse with Teller

When Teller (of Penn & Teller fame) isn't performing his show in Las Vegas, he's working on a ton of other projects, one of which is this delightful web series--& Teller--that was co-written and co-directed by our friends Frank Ippolito and and Zeke Zabrowski. The series is about the aftermath of a zombie epidemic in Las Vegas, and Teller's attempts to survive it with his friends in the magic community. The fifth episode was just released, and I've compiled them in a playlist here. Totally worth watching, and appropriate for today's festivities. Happy Halloween, everyone! Stay safe and see you next week!

In Brief: How to Photograph an Atomic Explosion

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently interviewed film archivist (and early ILM visual effects artist) Peter Kuran, who literally wrote the book about How to Photograph an Atomic Bomb. Kuran, who also directed a 1995 documentary about nuclear weapons testing, runs a website and YouTube channel dedicated to restoring and archiving films from American atomic history. Kuran talks about the current digitization efforts of nuclear research film, and what scientists and historians can learn from re-examining the footage. The HD video that Kuran and his team archive are also a resource Hollywood filmmakers tap into when needing to show footage of atomic explosions--like in this year's Godzilla.

Norman 1
Worldbuilding and Storytelling in Disney's Big Hero 6

Norm visits Disney Animation Studios to get a preview of Big Hero 6, the upcoming film that is Disney's first animated feature based on a Marvel comics property. We interview the directors of Big Hero 6 to learn about the worldbuilding that went into creating this film, and what storytelling lessons have been learned under the guidance of John Lasseter.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 vs. Nvidia Tegra K1: The Value of 64-bit on Android

Odds are good that if you buy a high-end Android device in the next few months, it's going to be packing either the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 or Nvidia Tegra K1 SoC. We're at a pivotal moment in Android hardware as OEMs begin gearing up for the switch to 64-bit architectures, but only one of these chips has a 64-bit option. Let's take a look at where Nvidia and Qualcomm are going with their respective platforms, and whether or not you should hold out for a 64-bit device.

ARM, but not from ARM

The overwhelming majority of computing hardware in Android devices is ARM-based. Intel has successfully muscled its way into the market with updated x86 Atom parts. Android supports x86 and a few OEMs make tablets with Atom, but it's nowhere near as popular as ARM. All throughout the recent history of mobile devices, ARM has been the core architecture, but not all ARM chips are created equal.

When we're talking about ARM SoCs (systems-on-a-chip), we're actually talking about more than the CPU component. There's also the GPU, memory controller, digital signal processor, and more. We'll get to that later--the first point of distinction between the Snapdragon 805 and the Tegra K1 is in the way they implement the ARM architecture.

Chip makers have the option of licensing ARM's Cortex cores and building a chip around them. That's what Samsung and many smaller firms do. Qualcomm has for a long time licensed the ARM instruction set, which is ARMv7 for 32-bit and ARMv8 for 64-bit. These licenses are considerably more expensive than just getting a stock ARM core, but it allows Qualcomm to design its own custom CPU core for SoCs, and that's just what it's been doing ever since its Scorpion core for the original Snapdragon SoC in late 2008.

What a Blaster Bolt Would Look Like in Real Life

Physicists at the Laser Centre of the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Faulty of Physics, University of Warsaw (phiew!) used a photography trick to composite a video of a ultrashort laser pulse traveling down a hallway. They're calling it an approximation of what a science-fiction blaster bolt would look like in real life. While each bolt takes a few femtoseconds to traverse the hallway, the researchers were able to photograph multiple bolts at a framerate of 10fps, syncing the recording with the pulses to give the illusion that you're just seeing one pulse. There's more detail in the YouTube video's description as well. (h/t Cnet)

In Brief: Microsoft Announces $200 Fitness Tracking Band

Microsoft's answer to Apple's watch isn't a watch at all. It's a $200 fitness tracker dubbed the Microsoft Band, and was announced today as part of Microsoft's new cloud-based Health Platform. The band, which looks more like a Nike Fuelband or Jawbone Up than watch, has a thin rectangular display with Microsoft-style tiles that show information like step counts, notifications, and the time. 10 sensors on it track heart rate, calorie burn, and sleep quality--it's something Microsoft wants users to wear all day. It'll work with Android and iOS devices, but Windows Phone users will get access to Cortana integration for voice queries. Microsoft strongly emphasized that this is not a smartwatch, so it's not going to buzz constantly like the Pebble of Android Wear watches. The Microsoft Band is available now, and Microsoft Health will soon have an SDK and support for cross-platform applications.

Norman 4
Adam Savage's Ghostbusters Costume

To celebrate both Halloween this week and the 30th anniversary of the release of Ghostbusters, Adam shares his own Ghostbusters uniform and prop replicas that he has made and assembled over the years. We geek out over fond memories of the film and its contributions to cosplay culture. This is a costume that anybody can make!

The Challenges of Hybrid Vehicle Design

My recent article on the OverDrive flying car design, triggered some debate about the practicality of hybrid designs. The comments were primarily focused on flying cars and floating cars, but all aspects of modern civilization teem with examples of hybrids. It seems an inescapable human desire to combine two good things in an effort to make one great thing. Some amalgams have achieved stellar results, perhaps even becoming a defining cultural element (think cameraphones). Others fade into a purgatory of ridicule and obscurity.

The OverDrive concept hybrid car.

The conversation made me question why some hybrid ideas flourish when others fail, even if the base components are individually successful. It is not something that I had ever given much thought to, but I began to wonder if there is a common link between the failed hybrid attempts. Today, I want to compare a handful of successful and failed hybrid concepts and attempt to determine why their relative outcomes were so varied.

What is a Hybrid?

The first question to be answered is how to define a hybrid, and there are many meanings. In its simplest form, a hybrid can be two or more widgets combined into a single unit. Perhaps each part is still intended to perform tasks independent of the other parts (ex. Swiss Army knife), or maybe the parts work in unison (ex. eraser-tipped pencil). Either way, it is the combining of these otherwise discrete tools that creates the selling point of the item.

In examining these types of hybrids, I think it is important to differentiate whether an aspect of a design is a fundamental element or just a feature. For example, most cars have clocks. We don’t call them clock-cars simply because the clock is a feature rather than a core facet of the design. It’s just a car, not a hybrid…unless it also has wings, or a hull, or two types of engines.

Another form of hybrid is the combination of two different tools that are used for similar jobs. The point is to utilize the best attributes from each tool to improve some aspect of the end item’s overall performance, such as efficiency, power output, reliability, or dependability. In this column we find things such as the diesel-electric locomotive and turboprop engine. We could even include mules (yes, the animals) and genetically-engineered seeds.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that hybrids of all types saturate our world. For the purposes of this examination (and at the risk of excluding pertinent data), I will focus on nuts and bolts machines. More specifically, I will stick to legacy military hardware, since such items tend to have well-documented requirements as well as performance data.