Brain Pickings Icon
Brain Pickings

Page 1354

Geek Mondays: LEGO Time

How to relive childhood geekdom without the bullies, from the safety of your own computer.


Nathan Sawaya: Yellow ManWe’ve decided to start a little something called Geek Mondays, where we explore the coolest, most fascinating, most diverse facets of geekdom.

So, fittingly, we start out with a wired version of a geek stand-by: LEGO, only digital design edition.

LEGO Digital Designer is a nifty little piece of free desktop software that lets you build 3D LEGO models right on your computer. We’re talking serious stuff — you can even go all Nathan Sawaya on it…except, of course, you’d have to eventually shell out some cash for the pieces. Which is actually another neat LDD feature: You can buy the pieces with the click of a mouse directly from the LEGO store once your model is complete, so you can start laying it out on your dining room floor, to your girlfriend’s utter horror.

So download this bad boy and find yourself a new favorite timesuck that puts your Second-Life-and-Digg diet to shame.


Banksy’s Pet Project

Street art, sausage and social commentary.


We’re known here for our love/hate relationship with Banksy. (That, and our sometimes-excessive-always-obsessive hyphenation.) We’ve followed the legendary guerrilla artist through his greatest feats, his most questionable street-cred-dampening moves, and his alleged outing.

But today, we find him in the limbo between all these things, on his first official show in NYC — a part-pet-shop, part-meat-store Frankenstein.

The Village Petstore and Charcoal Grill offers anything from pet supplies to packaged meats to animatronic foodstuffs to monkeys watching primate porn on the Discovery Channel.

We suspect the intentionally paradoxical project is intended as critical commentary on humanity’s extreme egocentricity and our toxic tendency to use the rest of the natural world as props in the grand production of our vanity-driven civilization.

Or, you know, it’s just for shits and giggles.

The most compelling piece in the show has to be the stunningly convincing jaguar napping lazily in the storefront window, swinging its tail oh-so-drowsily. But when the camera turns the corner, it reveals the “jaguar” is actually a fur coat lined with blood-red silk, its “tail” nothing more than a coat belt.

If you find yourself in the Village sometime between now and October 31, stop by 89 Seventh Avenue for an existential reality check or, you know, some monkey porn.

>>> via Creativity


The Mother of All Music Visualization

What global warming has to do with the formative role of music in 20th-century culture.

Two of our most popular recent stories, the fan-made Goldfrapp music video and the brilliant new album by David Byrne and Brian Eno, meet today in the mother of all music visualization.

After observing how reactive traditional music videos are, with their meticulous film direction, legendary motion graphics designer and ex-DJ Jakob Tröllback began an experimental animation project. He took David Byrne and Brian Eno’s 25-year-old track Moonlight in Glory and completely removed the human producer/director element, letting the music itself be the voice that the animation follows.

The result is a stunning visualization that makes the music, as well as its message, all the more impactful — and we’re particularly mesmerized by it because it tackles the rather timely, pressing issue of environmental apocalypse.

The Rest Is NoiseWatch Jacob Tröllback’s full (and by full we mean 4-minute) TED talk about it.

Meanwhile, enrich yourself with New Yorker music critic Alex Ross’ freshly released book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century.

If there ever was a grand revelation of music’s formative role in social psychology and cultural anthropology, that would be the one.


LED The Way

How to stop global warming and hackers with the flip of a light switch.


LED lights have spent some time in the spotlight lately — be it as eco alternatives to Christmas lights or as cool little sidekicks in wow-projects like the Chronophage Clock. Turns out, however, that they could be the springboard for the next big leap in wireless technology.

Engineers at Boston University have just launched Smart Lighting, a program using low-power LED’s to develop the next generation of data communications and network technology — basically, making LED light the equivalent of a WiFi hot spot. And it would all be done over existing power lines with low power consumption, high reliability and no electromagnetic interference.

This technology would enable you to come home, flip a light switch, and have your iPod, thermostat, TiVo, Sirius and Wii instantly start communicating with you. No wires, no plugs, no routers.

The project is taking advantage of our inevitable switch from incandescent to CFL to LED light bulbs over the next few years as we try to, you know, not drown in the melting ice caps. Once enough LED’s are in place, they’d provide the infrastructure for this next-generation communication infrastructure.

Plus, since white light can’t penetrate opaque surfaces like walls, the technology would be much more secure than today’s radio-frequency-based WiFi — this means no “eavesdroppers,” no hackers, no pesky neighbors leeching onto your already feeble open wireless.

The technology relies on LED’s ability to be rapidly switched on and off with no detection by the human eye. Because data transmission comes down to patterns of 1’s and 0’s, flickering an LED light in such patterns won’t cause any noticeable change in room lighting.

We’re anxious to see where all this goes — with today’s increasing fragmentation of technology, it seems like more is invested in developing things to mediate the effects of other things (like your $300 noise-cancellation earphones to silence your roommate’s $1,000 Bose, which he uses to unwind after 15 hours in front of his $2,500 MacBook Pro), so we’re glad to see technology that focuses on cross-functionality and efficiency, utilizing what’s already there to minimize peripherals and maximize data communication.

You go, geeks.

(Thanks, @jowyang.)


View Full Site

Brain Pickings participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. In more human terms, this means that whenever you buy a book on Amazon from a link on here, I receive a small percentage of its price. Privacy policy.