Giant Amoebas Ooze Through Texas

This is both fascinating and terrifying news: an organism that can break down into self-sufficient parts only to re-constitute itself as a massive Blob-like mega-entity. A prime candidate, evolution-wise, to usurp us genetically-varied individualists:

Scientists say the discovery is much more than a mere curiosity, because the colony consists of what are known as social amoebas. Only an apparent oxymoron, social amoebas are able to gather in organized groups and behave cooperatively, some even committing suicide to help fellow amoebas reproduce. The discovery of such a huge colony of genetically identical amoebas provides insight into how such cooperation and sociality might have evolved and may help to explain why microbes are being found to show social behaviors more often than was expected.

“It is of significant scientific interest,” said Kevin Foster, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University who was not involved with the study. Though amoebas would seem unlikely to coordinate interactions with one another over much more than microscopic distances, the discovery of such a massive clonal colony, he said, “raises the possibility that cells might evolve to organize on much larger spatial scales.” (nytimes.com)

Via Angel Station

Translating Media

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TRANSLATING MEDIA is a Graduate Student Conference co-hosted by the Department of Critical Studies and the Media Arts and Practice PhD (iMAP) Program at the School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California. The event is co-sponsored by the USC Graduate and Professional Students Senate (GPSS) and the Association of English Graduate Students (AEGS). I did a little organizational work for this conference, and I recommend it to anyone who happens to be in the Los Angeles area on April 3 and 4, 2009. Of particular interest is the Friday night keynote address by Julia Meltzer and David Thorne, whose video, photographic and installation work tackles heavy stuff like faith, geopolitics and the way that the future gets imagined.

Photo: Epic, 2008. Video installation by Julia Meltzer and David Thorne with Rami Farah

Deadmau5 iPhone app

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I think the albums-as-applications concept will probably go a lot further than just a simple track-mixing app like this one by electronica artist Deadmau5, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Deadmau5’s iPhone app ($3 on iTunes) lets you load any of 10 quantized Deadmau5 tracks into its dual-track playback engine, which works pretty much like professional DJ software while being easy enough for anyone to experiment with.

You can change BPM, control up to four concurrent effects, skip to the next phrase or back to the last one, loop a phrase, and cross fade between the two tracks, or from one to the next. When some albums cost $18 on CD, a $3 album that includes the ability to remix it each time you listen seems like a pretty good deal. And since the tool is so easy to use, it lets anyone DJ a dance party by plugging their iPhone or iPod Touch into a stereo and letting ‘er rip. (wired epicenter)

(See RIAA, it’s all going to be all right… just a little less linear and with a lot less packaging to throw away.)

Adrian Hon: Turning the Whole World into Disneyland

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Adrian Hon’s company, Six to Start, won Best in Show at this week’s SXSW Web Awards for their project, Telling Stories. In an interview with Marshall Kirkpatrick, Hon talks up the nascent potential of ubicomp storytelling:

“Soon people will realize that there is no ‘mobile internet’ – there is only the Internet,” he says. “And stories are everywhere.” Hon says web content today is like the early days of TV, when all anyone could think to do was broadcast actors from the theater in the new medium. But new types of media enable fundamentally new types of content and experiences.

For example, we’re just beginning to learn how to leverage the web’s social connections, Hon says. He points to the first iteration of “urban games” as something rudimentary that won’t last: groups of people organizing online to meet in person dressed, let’s say, as Pac-man characters, running through city streets and posting videos of their adventures on YouTube. “Those games ask people to get up and do something they don’t really want to do,” Hon says.

Instead, he believes that the future of interactive story telling will be pervasive – it will be available throughout your typical day. Walking to work, even while at work.

“I have no idea what we can produce in this medium,” he said, “but I think it’s going to be like turning the whole world into Disney Land.” (readwriteweb)

Echoes of Spook Country

H/T Scott Fisher

Pachube

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I’ve been researching network-connected buildings and data services for my location-based storytelling project. Along the way, I discovered Pachube, a web service that enables the tagging, linking and sharing of sensor data from real-world objects and environments:

The key aim is to facilitate interaction between remote environments, both physical and virtual. Apart from enabling direct connections between any two environments, it can also be used to facilitate many-to-many connections: just like a physical “patch bay” (or telephone switchboard) Pachube enables any participating project to “plug-in” to any other participating project in real time so that, for example, buildings, interactive installations or blogs can “talk” and “respond” to each other.

Pachube is a little like YouTube, except that, rather than sharing videos, Pachube enables people to monitor and share real time environmental data from sensors that are connected to the internet. Pachube acts between environments, able both to capture input data (from remote sensors) and serve output data (to remote actuators). Connections can be made between any two environments, facilitating even spontaneous or previously unplanned connections. Apart from being used in physical environments, it also enables people to embed this data in web-pages, in effect to “blog” sensor data. (pachube.com)