Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

Ants repelling elephants

In Read on January 17, 2011 at 7:27 am

Researchers in Africa have determined that after everything people have tried to keep elephants away from their crops, ants may be the best plant defenders:

Researchers Todd Palmer at the University of Florida and Jacob Goheen at the University of Wyoming observed the eating patterns of elephants on Kenyan savannas and stumbled upon an incredible anomaly: the lumbering mammals plowed through everything that they encountered, save for one type of tree (Acacia drepanolobium) that was covered in ants.

“We found that the elephants like to eat the ant-plants just as much as they like to eat their favorite tree species, and that when either tree species had ants on them, the elephants avoided those trees like a kid avoids broccoli,” Palmer explained to Discovery News.

Follow the link to read about how they do it.

Ants may be the best elephant repellants.  Photo by Zahra Hirji.

Ants may be the best elephant repellants. Photo by Zahra Hirji.

Once again, ants playing a surprising role in the larger world around them.

“These tiny ants are actually major ecosystem players, capable of regulating woody plant biomass accumulation in a savanna, and stabilizing the tree population against catastrophic damage by elephants,” Palmer said.


Herbie Hancock on Sesame Street

In Watch on January 14, 2011 at 7:16 am

Make: Online unearthed this classic clip of legendary pianist Herbie Hancock demoing a Fairlight CMI electric synthesizer on Sesame Street in the early 1980s:

The little girl whose voice he samples at 1:30 is Tatyana Ali, who went on to play the role of Ashley Banks in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Micro pencil sculptures

In View on January 13, 2011 at 7:24 am

Dalton Ghetti is a carpenter in Connecticut who creates extremely small sculptures on the tips of pencils:


A Dalton Ghetti pencil sculpture.
A Dalton Ghetti pencil sculpture.

Dalton uses a razor blade, sewing needle, a sculpting knife, a steady hand and lots of patience to meticulously carve the graphite which can take anywhere between a few months to a few years.

He’s been practicing this craft for over 25 years, and has a “cemetery collection” of broken works in progress.  There are maybe 15 pictures at the link above.  My favorites are the interlocking ones, like the key or the hearts.

Via: Flavorwire

Collision saves driver’s life

In Read on January 12, 2011 at 7:34 am

Bill Pace, shown on the left below, had passed out while driving his car on the highway in Seattle.  Duane Innes was in another vehicle and engineered a crash that saved Bill’s life.


Bill Pace, left, and Duane Innes.

Bill Pace, left, and Duane Innes.

“Basic physics: If I could get in front of him and let him hit me, the delta difference in speed would just be a few miles an hour, and we could slow down together,” Innes explained.

So he pulled in front of the pickup, allowed it to rear-end his minivan and brought both vehicles safely to a stop in the pull-off lane.

The plan is straightforward enough, but the quick generation and execution are remarkable.

Via: Neatorama

Molecular chef

In View on January 11, 2011 at 7:14 am

Alex Stupak is the chef at New York’s wd-50, and he uses unconventional tools and techniques to come up with new and interesting culinary creations:

Stupak starts with a traditional dish, then designs something new–such as balsamic vinegar encapsulated in vanilla ice-cream nuggets–using high-end food additives and unusual equipment. The flavor combinations and textures are intriguing, and the food tastes great–which is what Stupak and his customers really care about.

Alex Stupak, Molecular Chef

Alex Stupak, Molecular Chef

Click through for an interactive version of the graphic.

Ants using pesticides

In Read on January 10, 2011 at 7:19 am

These ants use antibiotics to kill off unwanted germs in their food supply:

Research led by Dr. Matt Hutchings and published today in the journal BMC Biology shows that ants use the antibiotics to inhibit the growth of unwanted fungi and bacteria in their fungus cultures which they use to feed their larvae and queen.

These antibiotics are produced by actinomycete bacteria that live on the ants in a mutual symbiosis.

Although these ants have been studied for more than 100 years this is the first demonstration that a single ant colony uses multiple antibiotics and is reminiscent of the use of multidrug therapy to treat infections in humans.

So a pest using pesticides.  Also, it turns out the antibiotic they use might be useful for people as well.

World’s Most Expensive Car Wash

In Read, Watch on January 7, 2011 at 7:21 am

Gurcharn Sahota runs Elite Detailing, where he has perfected the art of the car wash:

“What we actually do is a higher form of cleaning.”

SWNS has the original story here, including a description of his cleaning lab (in his parents’ garage):

He built a Formula 1-style pit for scrubbing the underneath of cars and layered the entire workshop floor and walls with specialist tiles imported from Italy which help reflect flecks of dirt on the cars.

Sahota’s services can run as high as £7,200, or $11,000.  Sounds expensive, but consider that he will spend as much as 250 hours with your car and will use wax that costs $13,000 per tub.

Via: Gizmodo

The 10 Best Dancers

In Watch on January 6, 2011 at 7:23 am

In August The Guardian published a list of the world’s 10 best dancers.  Flavorwire then did us all a favor and compiled video clips here.

And here, since Flavorwire’s Fred Astaire clip is now broken, is “Puttin’ on the Ritz”:

Boom! The History of Madden NFL

In Read, Watch on January 5, 2011 at 7:34 am

The Madden NFL franchise is one of the best-selling video games of all time.  ESPN’s Outside the Lines took an in-depth look at the history of the game, including the early development of the concept:

The biggest pain was conceptual: What was a football simulation supposed to look like? How should it play? “Football” on the Atari 2600 console featured three-man teams composed of players who resembled and moved like ambulatory kitchen appliances. Everything was new: play-calling boxes; an “oomph” (read: turbo) button. Ybarra tried a TV-style camera angle. Finding holes at the line of scrimmage proved impossible. He switched to the god’s-eye, end zone perspective still used in today’s games. The game played better, but it still looked like bleeding Lego blocks.

Not really Jocks vs. Nerds.  Instead, it’s Jocks + Nerds = $3 billion.

I can’t find video of the original 1989 version, but here’s the difference 20 years makes, with gameplay footage from 1992 and 2011:

Live 8-bit Synthesizer

In Watch on January 4, 2011 at 7:07 am

Linus Akesson built an 8-bit synthesizer into an old electric organ:

All the original tone-generating parts have been disconnected, and the keys, pedals, knobs and switches rerouted to a microcontroller which transforms them into MIDI signals. Those are then parsed by a second microcontroller, which acts as a synthesizer.

Here’s Linus running through some of the features of his “Chipophone”:

His presentation video above lasts over seven minutes, but he gets right to the point at 0:24, demonstrating exactly why this DIY project is so great.  (Also: Tetris at 2:22, Commando at 3:34, and MegaMan 2 at 5:30)

Via: Make:Online

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