Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Encyclopedia of Life goes LIVE

via BBC News:

--> Encyclopedia of Life

I've been following this project for the past year; it officially launched today. Imagine being out in the wild with an iPhone-like device and being able to dial up all known scientific information on a lifeform. The goal is to have indexed 1.8 million species by 2017. Truly amazing!

"The first 30,000 pages have been unveiled of a vast encyclopedia which aims to catalogue every one of our planet's 1.8 million species. The immense online resource is designed to greatly enhance our understanding of the world's diminishing biodiversity. The creators of the database say it could have an impact on human knowledge comparable to that which followed the microscope's invention in the 1600s. It is designed to be used by everyone from scientists to lay readers...'If someone were to sit down and start writing, from scratch, an encyclopedia of life, it would take them about 100 years to complete. But we think we'll be able to do it in one-tenth of that time,' explained Dr Edwards."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Where the Wild Things Are

via NY Mag:

"Is Spike Jonze about to get fired from Where the Wild Things Are? Rampant speculation on the Web suggests things might be getting tense at Warner Bros. owing to the adaptation of Maurice Sendak's book Jonze wrote with Dave Eggers. According to /Film, recent test screenings of the film yielded poor responses, and Cinematic Happening Under Development reports that Warner Bros. is panicking because the $75 million production looks "uncommercial," and wants to completely reshoot the film."

Watch the leaked clip ----> here. It looks...amazing :)

There is some speculation about whether or not it's fake. The audio doesn't sound final. It'd be a pity if it got yanked by Warner for feeling "uncommercial."

Saturday, February 16, 2008

14 Grand Engineering Challenges of the 21st Century

via Wired Science

18 engineers, technologists and futurists recently compiled a list of the challenges and goals that we face in the 21st century. Committee chair, William J. Perry, states "we chose engineering challenges that we feel can, through creativity and commitment, be realistically met, most of them early in this century." Here's the list:

  • Make solar energy affordable.
  • Provide energy from fusion.
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods.
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle.
  • Provide access to clean water.
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructure.
  • Advance health informatics.
  • Engineer better medicines.
  • Reverse-engineer the brain.
  • Prevent nuclear terror.
  • Secure cyberspace.
  • Enhance virtual reality.
  • Advance personalized learning.
  • Engineer the tools for scientific discovery.

While they are certainly all admirable and important, I noticed one towards the bottom that's up for grabs :)

Here is the page that specifically discusses personalized learning. A must read for all FableVisionaries!

Throughout the educational system, teaching has traditionally followed a one-size-fits-all approach to learning, with a single set of instructions provided identically to everybody in a given class, regardless of differences in aptitude or interest. Similar inflexibility has persisted in adult education programs that ignore differences in age, cultural background, occupation, and level of motivation.

In recent years, a growing appreciation of individual preferences and aptitudes has led toward more “personalized learning,” in which instruction is tailored to a student’s individual needs. Personal learning approaches range from modules that students can master at their own pace to computer programs designed to match the way it presents content with a learner’s personality.

Sound familiar?? For those interested, here's the official website: www.engineerchallenges.org

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Brief History of Flash

via Cold Hard Flash:

"The year was 1993, and Charlie Jackson, Jonathan Gay, and Michelle Welsh had established FutureWave Software, and with an initial investment of $500,000 they set their sights on the emerging market of pen computing. From their little office on Vickers Street in San Diego, the team hoped to make drawing on the computer easier than drawing on paper.

Their first release was called SmartSketch, and in late 1994, Gay posted to a Usenet board that “experienced computer artists will find that the flexibility of SmartSketch’s free form approach to drawing makes it an excellent companion to their high-end drawing application.” Due to some market shifts, the software didn’t sell very well, but after listening to the marketplace, they decided to incorporate animation into the product. By the summer of 1996, the team was ready to ship a new version, which they called FutureSplash Animator."

If you read the article/interview, you'll see that Macromedia eventually bought them out and released Flash in 1997. The funny thing is that I remember being 15 or so and seeing a half hour informercial on TV for a program called SmartSketch. At the time, I only had Clarisworks Paint on my Macintosh Performa, hated drawing with a mouse, and hated how it looked pixelated. Seeing someone draw with a pen that translated to a computer screen and created a smooth line absolutely amazed me. I wanted it!

So it was fun for me to learn that Flash and SmartSketch are actually one in the same. And one final note...you hear so many people complain to the contrary...it turns out Flash was intended to be used for animation after all.

Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge?

Susan Jacoby, author of "The Age of American Unreason," is genuinely concerned about a wave of anti-intellectualism she feels has taken hold of a certain segment of our country. A movement which she defines as an attitude that "too much learning can be a dangerous thing." In this article on NYTimes.com, she lays blame on a failing educational system:

"Although people are going to school more and more years, there’s no evidence that they know more."

She is also quick to attack an overwhelming national obsession with popular culture--that it has replaced the thirst for knowledge as a national conversation. Others in the article claim that the American pursuit of happiness (which they claim breeds ignorance) could "well lead to a sudden extinction of the creative impulse." This is a pretty broad attack, and they're obviously not the first to offer this critique. But I thought I'd toss it out there, as we so often strive to be the guardians of education. What can we do to reverse this sentiment? Are we doing enough, how can we do more?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


What's wrong with this picture? Wired has an interesting article about how Google got its logo, and how it ended up being so minimalistic and colorful. As always, it's great to see process and how many iterations it can sometimes take to nail something down.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Flash Special Effects Tutorial

Collideascope Animation Studios has written a very informative blog about creating special effects in Flash.
Check it out!