Friday, May 28, 2010

God's Goiter is Michelangelo's Brain

Artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were distinguished by their detailed understanding of anatomy; knowledge declared heretical by the Roman Catholic Church and therefore something that necessarily had to be acquired as a clandestine activity. Michelangelo even destroyed most of his anatomical sketches and notes. But not entirely. It seems that he hid some of them in plain sight of the Pope—on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Looking up and under at God's goiterous throat

Art historians have long been puzzled by certain subpar anatomical irregularities in Michelangelo’s work, e.g., the panel depicting The Separation of Light from Darkness shows a goiterous formation in God’s neck. Twenty years ago, it was suggested that the region belonging to God Creating Adam, in a central panel of the ceiling, was actually the human brain in cross section. Now, a paper in the May issue of Neurosurgery, identifies the "irregularity" in the Separation panel as an anatomically accurate depiction of the human brain, viz., spinal cord, brain stem, eyes and optic nerves.

Accounting for R&D

People who choose a career in science and technology — where work is hard and poorly paid, the nights are long and lonely — tend to be on the lower side of social skills. Therefore, research institutions have always had a certain level of dysfunction.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wake Up and Smell the UV

From the This-Actually-Got-Funded department comes, fruit-fly larvae that have been genetically engineered to smell light.
"...given their successful mapping of these larvae olfactory neurons, the researchers next hope to make adult fruit flies go bananas."

Monday, May 24, 2010

In living color

Light produced using the chemical process of bioluminescence spans the entire range of the visible spectrum. Bioluminescence has evolved independently several times in the tree of life. However, the majority of bioluminescent organisms reside in the open ocean, where their bioluminescence helps species in over 700 genera evade predators, attract mates, and find food. In Science Volume 328, Number 5979, Issue of 07 May 2010 (p. 704–708), Dr. Edie Widder reviews recent advances in understanding the evolution and distribution of bioluminescence in marine systems.

Photostomias guernei, 470 nm

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mrs. Nonaka's garden

Mrs. Nonaka's garden — which she prefers to call her backyard — is a quiet shady oasis in Silicon Valley. Her book club enjoys it for her food and the Chardonnay … and to discuss books; while entrepreneurs like to congregate there for the nonchalant atmosphere and the fusion cuisine served from the grill. Under the trees, the garden is surrounded by rhododendron in various degrees of insolation, so there almost always are some in bloom.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mrs. Stine's garden

Some 25 years ago, when I was exploring my new homeland, I came across Mrs. Isabel Stine's garden on highway 9. Mrs. Stine — often referred to as Mrs. Oliver Stine — is better known as the patron behind Gaetano Merola, the founder of the San Francisco Opera. In fact, Puccini's Madama Butterfly (the most-performed opera in the U.S.) had its West Coast premiere in Mrs. Stine's garden. Oliver and Isabel Stine also financed the construction of the Palace of Fine Arts for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A neat example of color break up (blue-yellow)

Color break up happens for example when color components of an image to be displayed are presented in a time sequential manner. How would you demonstrate 'color break up' in a coltrolled way? Micheal Bach published a visual illusion in which the observer is asked to focus on a particular point in the image and moves the test object. In addition, once in a while the test disk changes color for an instant and you can watch what happens (just click on this link:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Saving an investment

Almost every time I step out and encounter a former colleague in my age group, I hear the story of the wasted brains of Silicon Valley. Although, the official unemployment rate (seasonally adjusted) for California is 12.6%, the news media has variously estimated the number of older unemployed or underemployed R&D people here to be rather slightly above 50%.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ball Lightning Hallucination—Balls!

This illustration depicts the rare phenomenon of ball lightning. It appears on p. 55 of Wonders of Science Simplified (Metro Publications, New York, 1949) and shows a lightning ball erratically ricocheting around and, having descended the chimney, traverses the interior of a farmhouse and finally explodes.

When I was eight years old, my much older neighbor gave me his copy of this book—presumably because he recognized my interest in science was more intense than his own. I still have it and although I remember this picture well, I never thought I would see such a thing. I was wrong.

Years later, as a young teenager, my father and I were looking out of my bedroom window at the "fireworks" on display during a severe electrical storm. Like the illustration, my bedroom was on the second story of our house so, we had quite a panoramic view.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Why <img>? How <img>?

The teaser posting of a Deep Dive into HTML5 includes an interesting section on the question: Why <img> for HTML?

The <img> tag is of course the HTML tag for an image.

Which is such a simple question given the possible alternatives at the time, such as <icon> and <include>. It's a good read. As is the observation that "shipping code wins".

Avoiding a re-posting of the seven principles that drove a competing vision for HTML (and a lengthy digression on color standards), the only unique contribution of this post is how to create a Blogger post about a tag.

Do not use the greater than and less than signs directly - instead use the & l t ; and & g t ; (with the spaces removed) otherwise the title field will try to interpret the tag directly. Which means it will disappear. Instead use something like this:

Ironically I used a hand-written <img> to embed the above image into this post. Of course getting the post title right doesn't necessarily mean that search engines will but at least your tagophilic readers might appreciate the effort.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Red is the New Black

For those of you that haven't forwarded it to us already, yes we know that that xkcd has conducted a color naming survey and has posted some analysis of their color survey results. Fun stuff, with interesting similarities (and differences) with some of the work we've done over the years relating to color naming. To maintain parity, we offer the following cartoon response to their survey.

And yes, the comic sans font was used purely for it's inflamtory powers.

SSH-2 bites

We all have to deal with constant massive attacks on our servers, so we have to zip them up very tight and communicate with them using the secure shell protocol SSH-2. The first set of problem arises when we have to propagate our private keys in our zoo of machines. Submit this problem to Google and you will be served a gazillion war stories. The fundamental reason is that SSH-2 does not specify a file format and each utility has its own incompatible format; on top of this, add the different end-of-line conventions used by the various operating systems.

I have done this so many times that I thought I can do this in my sleep, but today I got bitten very badly because a GUI hid from me an error message that was revealed only when I finally used the terminal. As a pro memoria, let me recapitulate the procedure.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

28 Colors with 1 Impression

A short video on Pantone, including some footage of the production press used and an iPad-based "swatchbook" (via Tim via Sharon).

The beamer

Here in the US, 'beamer' is known as Till Tantau's LaTeX class for creating fancy presentations with very little effort. However, on the other side of the big pond, 'beamer' refers to a digital overhead projector, and this is where Till got the name for his class. Similarly, few people know the beamer's historical origins.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Location, location, location

Today, many conglomerates are not run by visionaries but by gnomes toting spreadsheets. The key factor for success is then the objective function being optimized by the model. More often than not, the objective function is cost minimization.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Funnel vision: Waveguides in your retina

The light-sensitive rods and the color-perceiving cones are at the back (posterior to the pupil) of the 10-layer retina. Why is all that junk in front of the sensors? New research indicates that the intervening layers contain glial cells (called Müller fibers), like the white matter in your brain, which act as waveguides to improve photoreceptor efficiency.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The performance of JPEG implementations


JPEG compression is a method consisting of the following steps:

  1. Transform the color coordinates to an opponent color system
  2. Subsample the chromatic coordinates, for which the human visual system's (HVS) MTF is about half
  3. Decorrelation: perform a discrete cosine transformation (DCT) to de-correlate the spatial
  4. Quantization: truncate the coordinates to exclude spatial information invisible to the HVS
  5. Entropy coding: compress the data using run-length encoding followed by Huffman encoding