Saturday, October 30, 2010

Disney Research Zurich Wins Award

Disney Research Zurich has won the Tell Award for most significant Swiss Technology and Innovation Investment in 2009, the Walt Disney Company, ETH Zurich and the Greater Zurich Area AG jointly announced. Receiving the Tell Award is a mark of recognition to the Los Angeles-based company for successfully launching operations of its Disney Research Centre in the Greater Zurich Area in collaboration with ETH Zurich. The Tell Award is an annual celebration of Switzerland's most significant inward investment projects. Disney Research Zurich (DRZ) is the only research lab that Disney operates in Europe.

Click here for the full story

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Seven Things to do with a New Palm Pre Plus

The new Palm Pre Plus is here. Yeeha! Time to make a list of seven things to do with a new Palm Pre Plus, and yes at least one of the items is color related.

1. Learn How to Take Screenshots

This has been covered elsewhere but without a photo of which buttons to press. For visual reference, here's an image of which buttons to press to take a screenshot:

This capability should not be used to perform a related screenshot prank.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Nurse Uniform Colors: Preference vs Anxiety

From a recent 2010 Sigma Theta Tau International conference comes a presentation abstract: "Is There an Association Between Nurses' Uniform Color and Feelings/Emotions in School-Age Children Receiving Hospital or Ambulatory Healthcare?" by N.M. Albert and co-authors.

The conclusions that while blue, pink or patterned yellow might have positive emotional associations, when it comes to negative emotional associations "uniform color does not matter".

Which is to say white is probably OK.

And from a previous publication with N.M. Albert as the primary researcher, white might also be perceived as being more professional. All of which perhaps contribute to the question: "Should White Uniforms Be Standard for Hospital-Based RNs?"

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Violin Bow - with Color Interface

From the Cal Arts blog 24700 comes a post about students experimenting with instrumental interfaces as part of an exchange program. The description of the violin caught my eye:

"Haraldsdottir, a violist, and myself, a violinist, worked on building interfaces that incorporated an accelerometer and buttons with our bows. Haraldsdottir’s controls allowed for live looping and various audio effects, and my controls consisted of real-time alteration of filter effects and varied response of color intensity in RGB LEDs (lights)."

One wonders what they could have done with a gyroscope on the violin bow...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chicken Broth + Streptomyces Spores = Blue

How cool is that, PLoS Biology has posted an article by L.K. Charkoudian, J.T. Fitzgerald, C. Khosla and A. Champlin entitled "In Living Color: Bacterial Pigments as an Untapped Resource in the Classroom and Beyond".

Turns out with some chicken broth (and some agar) you can use soil bacteria, like Streptomyces coelicolor, as a biopigment for all your educational and/or artistic projects.

For other research on biopigments, see "Biopigments from Monascus: strains selection, citrinin production and color stability" by J. Cesar de CarvalhoI, B.O. OishiI, A. PandeyII and C.R. Socco for color from fungi.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gotthard pierced again

After 11 years of drilling, yesterday at 2:17 PM the third Gotthard tunnel was pierced. 300 trains per day will travel in the 57 kilometre-long Gotthard base tunnel at 250 km/h. Freight trains will be able to carry twice the weight compared to the old tunnel.

Friday, October 15, 2010

R.I.P. Benoît Mandelbrot (20 Nov 1924 - Oct 15, 2010)

Click on the image to find out more

President Obama Honors Nation's Top Scientists and Innovators

The White House just announced the winners of the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. The press release can be found at

We are particularly delighted the inventors of the microprocessor are being recognized. In particular, Dr. Federico Faggin was also coinventor of the artificial retina and cofounder of Foveon. Congratulations, Federico!

Federico Faggin, president of Zilog

The color of water

You may say "water is transparent," but this is not necessarily true. Color is not a physical phenomenon, it is an illusion happening in our mind. The color of water depends on the context. For example, little air bubbles make water appear white, reflecting sky makes water appear blue, etc.

the colors for aqua used by computers, printers, and crowds

The Latin word for water is aqua. In the X11 window system this term was introduced to designate the color with RGB coordinates (0, 255, 255), or #00FFFF in hexadecimal. In the print industry the color term corresponding to this RGB value is cyan, thus in the context of computers aqua is a synonym of cyan.

We have to explicitly mention the context, because the term aqua is used also in the printing industry, where it does not refer to cyan but is short for aquamarine. Aquamarine, in turn, does not refer to sea water but to the gemstone of the same name. Its color is more greenish than cyan, in X11 exactly RGB (127, 255, 212) or #7FFFD4 in hexadecimal.

Finally, we can ask the on-line color thesaurus what crowds think aqua looks like. Crowds converge on the RGB value (66, 218, 211) or #42DAD3 in hexadecimal. This is a quite different color.

Returning to the Latin word for water, it remains in the Italian acqua, the Japanese アクア and the German aqua. A propos German, let us look up aqua in the German thesaurus:

Quell des Lebens (umgangssprachlich); blaues Gold; Wasser; das nasse Element (umgangssprachlich); kostbares Nass (umgangssprachlich); H2O (fachsprachlich); Nass

Indeed, wet it is, but it also is precious like gold, it is the blue gold, and it is the source of life.

Water, transparent but of so many different colors. And so precious.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Xray-CT Imaging of a Very Old Lump

Not exactly the Antikythera, but something a little less remote in time: a barnacle-encrusted pocket watch recovered from a 17th century shipwreck [1]. The wreck is thought to be that of The Swan—a small warship from the English Civil War that went down off the west coast of Scotland during a violent gale on September 13, 1653.

The Egyptian pillars, that can be seen in both the slides and 3D fly-through, were first used around 1640. Thus, I'm left wondering if Newton, like Dirac 300 years later, also covertly owned a special pocket watch [2, p.10].

[1] The pocket watch was a very novel device in C17. Robert Hooke had a lot to do with developing the coiled spring, which improved both miniaturization and accuracy.
[2] J. Van Vleck, "Travels with Dirac in the Rockies," in A. Salam and. E. P. Wigner, eds., Aspects of Quantum Theory, Cambridge U. Press, 1972.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Collective Intelligence of Groups

Caveat: this is about ad hoc groups, not well honed teams nor aggregations of individual contributors happening to work in adjacent cubicles.

Bee hivePeople who are good at solving one type of brainteaser tend to excel at a variety of mental calisthenics—support, many psychologists say, for the concept of general intelligence. A study published online this week in Science extends this concept to groups of people, arguing that groups have a "collective intelligence" that predicts their performance on a range of collaborative tasks.

The researchers, led by Anita Woolley, an organizational psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University, reached this conclusion after studying 699 people working in small groups. They also investigated why some groups appear to be smarter than others. Surprisingly, the average intelligence of the individuals in the group was not the best predictor of a group's performance. The degree to which group members were attuned to social cues and their willingness to take turns speaking were more important, as was the proportion of women in the group.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The dark side of color

Next year's session on the dark side of color in the Color Imaging XVI conference at EI has attracted what the French call la crème de la crème in color imaging:

Monday, October 11, 2010

color arithmetic

X-mas is coming up and it is time to shop for gifts. While tycoons of the financial industry like to splurge in Swiss tourbillons for $400,000 a piece, here in the Silicon Valley the Christmas bonuses are a little more modest. We were looking at the Leica M9 Neiman Marcus Edition Camera, his and hers just $35,000 for the pair. Nathan suggested that the cost might be in hand carving those 18 million pixels, but I think matching ostrich leather trim to the ostrich leather strap might be a larger cost factor.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

World Wide Gamma: Data & Technical Report

A while back, the World Wide Gamma tool was posted to the blog. This is an attempt to estimate an overall display Optical-Electronic Conversion Function or 'gamma' using a method of adjustment experiment. The results have been accepted for publication and presentation at the 18th IS&T/SID Color Imaging Conference. The corresponding technical report has been completed. In addition this post includes the raw observer data so that, if you are so motivated, you can try your own fit to the data.

The technical report is available here.

The raw data used in the report is available here. There were multiple requests for the data when the experiment was first posted so it has been posted here for general usage.

The result is about 2.36, which is quite close to the sRGB specification.

In some ways the result is perhaps not that unexpected. One of the anonymous manuscript reviewers pointed out that we have "just confirmed what we already know which is that most display manufacturers design their devices to have an sRGB gamma to fit into pre-existing workflows." Fair enough. But hopefully a rigorous and systematic confirmation of this common knowledge is useful nonetheless. Likewise it would also appear that most display users are presumably using some sort of sRGB workflow, at least when they surf the web.


42 = 2 + 8 + 32

or in binary

10 + 1000 + 10000 = 101010

So, according to the Christian calendar, the answer is Today. But, the riddle remains: what is Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Love of ink

When I was a pupil in elementary school, there were several big steps through which we progressed, as from writing vertical bars to writing letters. The biggest step, though, was graduating from the pencil to ink. Our school tables had ink wells, carefully refilled every morning by the teacher. The writing implement was a pen with a delicate nib (later adding the redis nib for titles).

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Giving Optical Kids a Brake

Would you stop for this child?

The Automobile Association of British Columbia is betting that you would.

What they might not have appreciated fully is that, depending on the contrast with the road surface and ambient lighting, checking against the Color Thesaurus could be a good idea.