Saturday, December 22, 2012

juggling notation

posted on

"The BBC News' Laura Gray reports on a juggling notation system developed in the 80's called Siteswap (aka Quantum Juggling and Cambridge Notation) and how it has helped jugglers discover and share thousands of new tricks. Frustrated that there was no way to write down juggling moves, mathematician Colin Wright and others helped devised Siteswap, which uses sequences of numbers to encode the number of beats of each throw, which is related to their height and the hand to which the throw is made. 'Siteswap has allowed jugglers to share tricks with each other without having to meet in person or film themselves,' says James Grime, juggling enthusiast and math instructor for Cambridge University. Still unclear on the concept? Spend some time playing around with Paul Klimek's most-excellent Quantum Juggling simulator, and you too can be a Flying Karamazov Brother!"

This is pretty cool:
Quantum Juggling simulator

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Aphrodite's Child - 666

A friend heard this on the local college radio station, commemorating the upcoming Mayan apocalypse on 12/21/12.

from wiki:

Aphrodite's Child was a Greek progressive rock band formed in 1967, by Vangelis Papathanassiou (keyboards), Demis Roussos (bass guitar and vocals), Loukas Sideras (drums and vocals), and Anargyros "Silver" Koulouris (guitar).[1] Their band's name was derived from the title of a track from another Mercury act, Dick Campbell, from his Sings Where It's At album. Papathanassiou and Roussos had already been successful in Greece (playing in the bands Formynx and Idols respectively) while they got together with Sideras and Koulouris to form a new band. Their first recording as a band was for George Romanos' album In Concert and in Studio where they played on four songs and were credited as 'Vangelis and his Orchestra'. In the same year they recorded a two song demo and submitted it to Philips Records.

The band began to record their next outpouring late in 1970: a musical adaptation of the biblical Book of Revelation, entitled 666.[1] Koulouris, having finished his Greek army duty rejoined the band. However, relations between all the band members were not good at the time, and continued to worsen during the album's creation.
Essentially, 666 was Vangelis' concept, created with an outside lyricist, Costas Ferris. The music that Vangelis was creating for 666 was much more psychedelic and progressive rock oriented than anything the band had done before.[citation needed] This did not sit well with the other band members, who wished to continue in the pop direction that had brought them success.[citation needed] Furthermore, Roussos was being groomed for a solo career, and recorded his first solo single We Shall Dance (with Sideras on drums), and his first solo album On the Greek Side of My Mind, whereas Vangelis recorded the score for L'Apocalypse des animaux and worked on a single with his girlfriend Vilma Ladopoulou, performing with Koulouris using the pseudonym 'Alpha Beta'.

The Four Horsemen

Full album part 1

Full album part 2

Pixels replaced by vectors in 5 years

Researchers launching a new vector-based video codec are claiming their work will lead to the death of the pixel within the next five years.

The team behind the project, consisting of the University, Root6 Technology, Smoke & Mirrors and Ovation Data Services – are now looking for industry buy-in to the research to expand its potential applications. The codec was launched at the CVMP 9th European Conference on Visual Media Production held at Vue Cinema in Leicester Square, London.

Digital pictures are built from a rectangular grid of coloured cells, or pixels. The smaller and closer the pixels are together, the better the quality of the image. So pixel-based movies need  huge amounts of data and have to be compressed, losing visual quality. They are also difficult to process.

The alternative, a vector-based format, presents the image using contoured colours. Until now there has not been a way to fill in between the colours at the quality needed for professional use. The Bath team has finally solved this problem.

A codec is a computer programme capable of encoding or decoding a digital video stream. The researchers at Bath have developed a new, highly sophisticated codec, which is able to fill between the contours, overcoming the problems previously preventing their widespread use. The result is a resolution-independent form of movie and image, capable of the highest visual quality but without a pixel in sight.

Professor Phil Willis, from the University’s Department of Computer Science, said: “This is a significant breakthrough which will revolutionise the way visual media is produced.

“However, to accelerate this project we’ll need companies from around the world to get involved. At the moment we’re focusing on applications in post-production and we’re working directly with leading companies in this area, however there are clear applications in web, tablets and mobile which we haven’t explored in detail yet.

“Involvement from a greater variety of companies with different interests will extend the project in a variety of ways and increase the potential applications of this game-changing research.”
To learn more about the project and to see the video demonstration given at CVMP visit:

Other article posted on


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Naked Eyes - Promises, Promises

I recalled the song 'Promises, Promises' after mulling over the question of whether to use the phrase 'getting started' vs. 'quick start' for a help screen. I voted 'quick start' because it suggests immediate help whereas 'getting started' suggests promises you may eventually get to after expending energy going through tutorials.

I awoke at 2:30 or 3 in the morning with these thoughts and sent this email response:

"Users will reach to launchpad in their periphery - 'quick start' might be more direct and less demanding, whereas 'getting started' is passive (future passive) and feels like a request to invest time in learning / reading in order to get to results.

If my hair was on fire I might prefer 'quick start' vs. 'getting started' - evocative of 'now' vs. 'eventually'."

...then I thought of this song - how these things stay with us - I didn't even know who the band was, though I know one of their other hits (but didn't know that both songs were by the same band).

They apparently had four hits and then disbanded by choice. One of the musicians died at age 42 following colon surgery:

Promises, Promises

 What In the Name of Love

When the Lights Go Out

Always Something There

Naked Eyes 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Altered Immune Cells Beat Leukemia

PHILIPSBURG, Pa. — Emma Whitehead has been bounding around the house lately, practicing somersaults and rugby-style tumbles that make her parents wince.

It is hard to believe, but last spring Emma, then 6, was near death from leukemia. She had relapsed twice after chemotherapy, and doctors had run out of options. 

Desperate to save her, her parents sought an experimental treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, one that had never before been tried in a child, or in anyone with the type of leukemia Emma had. The experiment, in April, used a disabled form of the virus that causes AIDS to reprogram Emma’s immune system genetically to kill cancer cells.

The treatment very nearly killed her. But she emerged from it cancer-free, and about seven months later is still in complete remission. She is the first child and one of the first humans ever in whom new techniques have achieved a long-sought goal — giving a patient’s own immune system the lasting ability to fight cancer. 

Emma had been ill with acute lymphoblastic leukemia since 2010, when she was 5, said her parents, Kari and Tom. She is their only child. 

She is among just a dozen patients with advanced leukemia to have received the experimental treatment, which was developed at the University of Pennsylvania. Similar approaches are also being tried at other centers, including the National Cancer Institute and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. 

“Our goal is to have a cure, but we can’t say that word,” said Dr. Carl June, who leads the research team at the University of Pennsylvania. He hopes the new treatment will eventually replace bone-marrow transplantation, an even more arduous, risky and expensive procedure that is now the last hope when other treatments fail in leukemia and related diseases. 

Three adults with chronic leukemia treated at the University of Pennsylvania have also had complete remissions, with no signs of disease; two of them have been well for more than two years, said Dr. David Porter. Four adults improved but did not have full remissions, and one was treated too recently to evaluate. A child improved and then relapsed. In two adults, the treatment did not work at all. The Pennsylvania researchers were presenting their results on Sunday and Monday in Atlanta at a meeting of the American Society of Hematology

Despite the mixed results, cancer experts not involved with the research say it has tremendous promise, because even in this early phase of testing it has worked in seemingly hopeless cases. “I think this is a major breakthrough,” said Dr. Ivan Borrello, a cancer expert and associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. 

Dr. John Wagner, the director of pediatric blood and marrow transplantation at the University of Minnesota, called the Pennsylvania results “phenomenal” and said they were “what we’ve all been working and hoping for but not seeing to this extent.” 

A major drug company, Novartis, is betting on the Pennsylvania team and has committed $20 million to building a research center on the university’s campus to bring the treatment to market.
HervĂ© Hoppenot, the president of Novartis Oncology, called the research “fantastic” and said it had the potential — if the early results held up — to revolutionize the treatment of leukemia and related blood cancers. Researchers say the same approach, reprogramming the patient’s immune system, may also eventually be used against tumors like breast and prostate cancer.
To perform the treatment, doctors remove millions of the patient’s T-cells — a type of white blood cell — and insert new genes that enable the T-cells to kill cancer cells. The technique employs a disabled form of H.I.V. because it is very good at carrying genetic material into T-cells. The new genes program the T-cells to attack B-cells, a normal part of the immune system that turn malignant in leukemia. 

The altered T-cells — called chimeric antigen receptor cells — are then dripped back into the patient’s veins, and if all goes well they multiply and start destroying the cancer.
The T-cells home in on a protein called CD-19 that is found on the surface of most B-cells, whether they are healthy or malignant.
A sign that the treatment is working is that the patient becomes terribly ill, with raging fevers and chills — a reaction that oncologists call “shake and bake,” Dr. June said. Its medical name is cytokine-release syndrome, or cytokine storm, referring to the natural chemicals that pour out of cells in the immune system as they are being activated, causing fevers and other symptoms. The storm can also flood the lungs and cause perilous drops in blood pressure — effects that nearly killed Emma.
Steroids sometimes ease the reaction, but they did not help Emma. Her temperature hit 105. She wound up on a ventilator, unconscious and swollen almost beyond recognition, surrounded by friends and family who had come to say goodbye. 

But at the 11th hour, a battery of blood tests gave the researchers a clue as to what might help save Emma: her level of one of the cytokines, interleukin-6 or IL-6, had shot up a thousandfold. Doctors had never seen such a spike before and thought it might be what was making her so sick.
Dr. June knew that a drug could lower IL-6 — his daughter takes it for rheumatoid arthritis. It had never been used for a crisis like Emma’s, but there was little to lose. Her oncologist, Dr. Stephan A. Grupp, ordered the drug. The response, he said, was “amazing.” 

Within hours, Emma began to stabilize. She woke up a week later, on May 2, the day she turned 7; the intensive-care staff sang “Happy Birthday.” 

Since then, the research team has used the same drug, tocilizumab, in several other patients.
In patients with lasting remissions after the treatment, the altered T-cells persist in the bloodstream, though in smaller numbers than when they were fighting the disease. Some patients have had the cells for years. 

Dr. Michel Sadelain, who conducts similar studies at the Sloan-Kettering Institute, said: “These T-cells are living drugs. With a pill, you take it, it’s eliminated from your body and you have to take it again.” But T-cells, he said, “could potentially be given only once, maybe only once or twice or three times.” 

The Pennsylvania researchers said they were surprised to find any big drug company interested in their work, because a new batch of T-cells must be created for each patient — a far cry from the familiar commercial strategy of developing products like Viagra or cholesterol medicines, in which millions of people take the same drug. 

But Mr. Hoppenot said Novartis was taking a different path with cancer drugs, looking for treatments that would have a big, unmistakable impact on a small number of patients. Such home-run drugs can be approved more quickly and efficiently, he said, with smaller studies than are needed for drugs with less obvious benefits. 

“The economic model is totally acceptable,” Mr. Hoppenot said. 

But such drugs tend to be extremely expensive. A prime example is the Novartis drug Gleevec, which won rapid approval in 2001 for use against certain types of leukemia and gastrointestinal tumors. It can cost more than $5,000 a month, depending on the dosage. 

Dr. June said that producing engineered T-cells costs about $20,000 per patient — far less than the cost of a bone-marrow transplant. Scaling up the procedure should make it even less expensive, he said, but he added, “Our costs do not include any profit margin, facility depreciation costs or other clinical care costs, and other research costs.” 

The research is still in its early stages, and many questions remain. The researchers are not entirely sure why the treatment works, or why it sometimes fails. One patient had a remission after being treated only twice, and even then the reaction was so delayed that it took the researchers by surprise. For the patients who had no response whatsoever, the team suspects a flawed batch of T-cells. The child who had a temporary remission apparently relapsed because not all of her leukemic cells had the marker that was targeted by the altered T-cells. 

It is not clear whether a patient’s body needs the altered T-cells forever. The cells do have a drawback: they destroy healthy B-cells as well as cancerous ones, leaving patients vulnerable to certain types of infections, so Emma and the other patients need regular treatments with immune globulins to prevent illness. 

So far, her parents say, Emma seems to have taken it all in stride. She went back to school this year with her second-grade classmates, and though her grades are high and she reads about 50 books a month, she insists impishly that her favorite subjects are lunch and recess. 

“It’s time for her to be a kid again and get her childhood back,” Mr. Whitehead said.

Chavez names Nicolas Maduro successor

Maduro? Maduros?

Well, not quite just-plain-bananas. Fried plantains.
 But, upon Google image-searching 'maduros',
I encountered other...disturbing...
not-safe-for-work analogous imagery.
Hugo, is this some kind of sick, machismo psyop?
And, why this insistence upon the mustache with these guys?

Not that far of a buh-beuh-buh-beuh reach, was it? 


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Staples To Offer 3D Printing Services

In a blockbuster announcement, Mcor, the makers of the IRIS color 3D printing system based on plain old paper, say they've struck a huge deal with print services giant Staples to supply 3D printing equipment for their numerous print and copy centers. 
This will obviously take a while to implement, so Staples Printing Division is starting the process by rolling it out in Belgium and the Netherlands in Q1 2013 and then "will be rolled out quickly to other countries" according to Staples. 
How does it work? Those with printable 3D models can merely upload them to Staples' web site, where they will be transformed into full color 3D objects with Mcor's new IRIS paper-based 3D printers. Printed models will be sent to your local Staples or directly to your address. It's not entirely clear from the announcement, but we suspect the 3D printers will not be located initially in all Staples print shops, but instead centralized in some efficient fashion. Nevertheless, we also suspect the long-term intention is indeed to equip every Staples print center with this 3D printing equipment. 
The implications of this move are truly enormous, as it will go a very long way to opening up 3D printing for all. Staples is a massive brand with an astonishing capacity for advertising compared to any 3D printing company. Soon people will receive newspaper flyers explaining the new 3D print service. Perhaps we'll even see discount starter promotions. In any case, many more people will know about 3D printing as a result of this deal. 
One issue facing Staples will be the influx of customers attempting to 3D print models that are in fact, unprintable. Staples and MCOR should develop some process or filter that ensures the success rate of printing is high, otherwise the service could be in jeopardy.
Why Staples? It's obvious when you think about it: the MCOR IRIS is a PAPER device. Staples Printing Division is a PAPER company. It's a totally natural fit. Staples staff are already very familiar with paper handling, which is really how you operate an IRIS. In fact, we strongly suspect Staples receives a decent volume discount on their paper purchases, making the production of 3D objects from paper even more economical. 
We've all had previous thoughts or written about the "Kinko's" model of 3D printing. This is exactly that. Except it's not Kinko's.
It's Staples. And it's now.