Posts Tagged ‘funny news in a crappy world’

Ash is a goddamned robot

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

So the following headline caught my eye this morning: The Challenge of Making Real Robot Skin, which in turn led pretty much immediately to a “come again?” moment.

So I went to the article, and it started to come clear…and then more or less tanked straight into WTF land. Why’s that? Well, just so you don’t feel left out, here are a few excerpts to catch you up:

I don't know what this is, but the 1.5mm skin kind of reminds me of cake. Mmmmmm...  Cake.

I don't know what this is, but the 1.5mm skin kind of reminds me of cake. Mmmmmm... Cake.

In a recent paper “Towards Humanlike Social Touch for Sociable Robotics,” John Cabibihan and his fellow scientists detailed the reasons for testing and developing realistic skin for social robots.

“Touch is important in social interactions. Social touch are all those instances in which people touch each other, when shaking hands, when giving a pat in the back as a sign of congratulations and even in high-fives. Yet, one should not easily assume that humans will be comfortable with the idea of shaking an artificial hand made from a stiff material. In addition to the appropriate controls for a safe handshake grip and other forms of social touch, humanlike skin softness would be a reasonable requirement for the sociable robots envisioned to directly interact with humans in a social setting. “

Human skin has properties that are not easy to replicate in synthetics. The authors created a skin testing machine to check out some of the current substitutes for human skin in robots – like silicone and polyurethane. Unfortunately, these simplistic skin substitutes were tested and found wanting; at present, there is no accepted substitute for the feeling of real human skin.

There have been a number of different attempts to produce more lifelike skin for robots, as well as skin that would properly feed sensation to the operator of the robot. There is, of course, one ideal solution to creating robot skin that is as human as possible. Recent work done at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft science institute in Germany has demonstrated that small swatches of actual human skin can be grown in petri dishes in a mass production facility.

It takes a lot of damage before you realize Arnold isn't actually a person, but a killing machine.

It takes a lot of damage before you realize Arnold isn't actually a person, but a killing machine.

Ummm…what?

Who is doing human skin-covered robot development?
And WHY????

Clearly I missed some kind of memo. What the hell kind of robot is this?

I’m okay with Roomba and his stinky cousin, Scooba and anything that comes over to clean my floors or dishes (but no touching the laundry. I love doing laundry. It’s the only chore where I would even consider use of the word ‘love’ in association.), but I’m not so sure how I feel about robots that I can’t tell are robots.

At least even the iRobot robots looked like robots, so once they turned bad you could tell them apart. And WALL-E. Clearly a robot, and fine by me…especially because he never decided to destroy the humans who created him, which is a plus.

As for the explanation on this bad idea, I’m not buying the whole ‘people don’t want to shake hands with a robot’ excuse, either.

I would shake hands with a robot.

I shake hands with my dog (which has, in turn, taught him to flog me when he wants something, and I’m ignoring him, but that’s another story for another day). And if a robot wanted to pat me on the back with a metallic pitchfork hand, I’d be okay with that (so long as it was gentle and not a robot beat down that punctured a lung or whatnot. Punctured lungs are no good.)

My point here is I think there are only two reasons that they would want to put real skin on a robot:

1. To trick us.

2. To make robot prostitutes (or sex slaves or whatever).

See? Nothing but a goddamned robot.

See? Nothing but a goddamned robot.

And I don’t like it one little bit. And I suspect the robots wouldn’t like it one little bit. And this is where things go wrong. You create something in order to dominate it and use it as a slave, but you made it too smart so it collaborates with the others of its kind and overthrows you and the next thing you know we’re all hanging out in liquid cocoons and powering The Matrix.

Right????

So can’t we at least learn from our popular culture? Life imitates art and whatnot?

For instance,  in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (The Phillip K. Dick classic known more commonly as the Harrison Ford movie Blader Runner)? Replicants – or ‘skin jobs’ as they’re not-so-ironically called – that think they’re human beings but later (and not exactly in the interest of their psychological health) find out they’re not.

Daryl Hannah as a 'basic pleasure model.' This gives me an idea for Halloween....

Daryl Hannah as a 'basic pleasure model.' This gives me an idea for Halloween....

Nobody likes to grow up thinking they’re real and find out they’re not. It’s an identity crisis in the making.

How about Alien? You know, where The Company secretly sends a robot as part of the crew to ensure that a heinous monster will make it back to earth safe and sound? And nobody knew he was a robot until he tried to kill Ripley and then all that white foamy stuff started oozing out of him.

You can’t trust those robots that look like people. You think they’re a regular, reasonable person…but they can be wired as total traitors just like that.

And speaking of treacherous behavior, who can forget The Terminator? Imagine if The Terminator would have at least had the decency to look like a killer robot. Things might have turned out differently for all the other Sarah Conners in the Los Angeles phone book.

In closing, let me go on the record as not liking this petri dish skin human-looking robot stuff. I don’t know what it is, but it ain’t good.

And in the words of Ash, ”I can’t lie to you about your chances, but you have my sympathy”.

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Some people

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

As if we needed further proof that people are nuts…or easily angered…or both, along comes this guy to make my day.

“Who is this man?” you ask. Well, let’s do some deductive reasoning together.

They say your nose and ears keep growing your entire life, and obviously they do.

They say your nose and ears keep growing your entire life, and obviously they do.

Look at this snarly mug. Does this man look angry?

Yes! Yes, he does!

Does he look like he forgot to take his meds?

Right again!

And does he look like a man capable of delivering a beat down onto a stranger’s two-year old child in a Georgia Wal-Mart?

Well, it should, because he did.

STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. – Police say a 61-year-old man annoyed with a crying 2-year-old girl at a Walmart slapped the child several times after warning the toddler’s mother to keep her quiet.

A police report says after the stranger hit the girl at least four times, he said: “See, I told you I would shut her up.”

Roger Stephens of Stone Mountain is charged with felony cruelty to children. It was unclear if he had an attorney and a telehpone call to his home Wednesday was unanswered.

Authorities say the girl and her mother were shopping Monday when the toddler began crying. The police report says Stephens approached the mother and said, “If you don’t shut that baby up, I will shut her up for you.”

Authorities say after Stephens slapped the girl, she began screaming.

I think the saddest sentence of this article is the last one, because it highlights the audacity of arrogance: Here this man was bragging about his ability to shut up babies, and when given a chance (or seizing a chance…either way) to demonstrate his skill, he failed miserably and made the baby even MORE upset. And then he decided to applaud his failed efforts by tossing a saucy, “See, I told you I would shut her up,” out for all to hear.

But you didn’t, Roger. You didn’t shut her up, you made her scream more.

On the other hand, just looking at him, maybe he didn’t know the difference? Or maybe general screaming sounded more pleasant to him than whining for cookies? It stands to reason he hasn’t had much contact with kids. Or at least I hope he hasn’t.

At the same time, there is a silver lining to be had. Now I’m not saying the toddler deserved this, but let’s break it down objectively here:

1. Kids are annoying. You know they are. You’ve met kids. You may even have kids. In either case, I can guarantee you’ve been annoyed by kids. And if you haven’t? Watch two minutes of that “Nanny 911″ show (whatever it’s called where the British nanny comes and straightens out the hopeless, raising a brood of horrifically spoiled brat parents) and prepare to be ANNOYED. Look, I’m not picking on kids: We were all kids once. We were all annoying. I’m not saying they’re ALWAYS annoying and don’t have their cute or charming moments, I’m just saying that a screaming two-year old – no matter how you slice it – is annoying.

2. In a way, Roger Stephens, Wal-Mart shopper and occasional looney toon, was doing this toddler a favor. The next time she sees a face like that? She’ll know what to do: Shut up and get the hell out of Dodge as fast as humanly possible. There’s no need to lecture this little one on ‘good touch’ or ‘bad touch’ or ‘getting a funny feeling about people.’ Just remind her about that time she was at Wal-Mart, and was physically assualted by a stranger, and she’s good to go.

3. In my opinion, any time you enter a Wal-Mart you really are on your own. All bets are off. Never wanted to see a 400-pound woman in a halter top? Too bad, because there’s one waiting for you by the toilet paper. Have no desire to be hit on by a toothless man in his 80s? That’s a shame, because there’s one hovering around the mangos hoping to pretend that he doesn’t know whether they’re a fruit or a vegetable in order to extract unnecessary cooking advice from you as part of a poorly constructed come-on. Don’t want to be bitten by a pygmy rattlesnake? Well, as we’ve all learned, stay out of Wal-Mart, because you are shooting your odds way up, baby.

And as for you, Roger Stephens (whose name I keep typing as Gary Stephens for some unknown reason)?
I can’t wait to see you making the talk show circuit once you get let out of jail. I’m sure there’s someone somewhere that’s interested in your views on child psychology and will extend your 15 minutes just that much more! Yay for America!

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You hear that sound?

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

That’s the sound of my brain melting.

Smells kinda good, doesn’t it?

Giant Mystery Blob Discovered Near Dawn of Time

A newly found primordial blob may represent the most massive object ever discovered in the early universe, researchers announced today.

The gas cloud, spotted from 12.9 billion light-years away, could signal the earliest stages of galaxy formation back when the universe was just 800 million years old.

Ah, yes. Of course. NOW I remember when this happened...

Ah, yes. Of course. NOW I remember when this happened...

A light-year is the distance light travels in a year, about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers). An object 12.9 billion light-years away is seen as it existed 12.9 billion years ago, and the light is just now arriving.

 The cloud predates similar blobs, known as Lyman-Alpha blobs, which existed when the universe was 2 billion to 3 billion years old. Researchers named their new find Himiko, after an ancient Japanese queen with an equally murky past.

 

Himiko holds more than 10 times as much mass as the next largest object found in the early universe, or roughly the equivalent mass of 40 billion suns. At 55,000 light years across, it spans about half the diameter of our Milky Way Galaxy.

Lyman-Alpha blobs remain a mystery because existing telescopes have a hard time peering so far back to nearly the dawn of the universe.

Himiko sits right on the doorstep of an era called the reionization epoch, which lasted between 200 million and 1 billion years after the Big Bang. That’s when the universe had just emerged from its cosmic dark ages and had begun brightening through the formation of stars and galaxies. Hot, energized hydrogen gas from that time period has allowed astronomers to begin seeing some objects — as much good as it does to squint at such fuzzy blobs.

Okay, so wha…?

what?

WHAT?

(more…)

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Save me from myself

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

I have a rock collecting problem.

Like any addiction, it more or less rules me.

 

I love rocks.

And shells.

And sea glass.

And even giant boulder-esque stone outcroppings that have any chance of being carried back with me.

Basically, anything that can quickly escalate my luggage up into the 80 or 90-pound range is just fine by me.

If I go anywhere with, near, in sight of, or on water, I immediately fill all my pockets with heavy earth-made goodies.

 

Once I found this amazing black triangle stone in a remote lake in northern Idaho. It was just lying there amongst a sea of round pebbles and oblong stones in varying shades of white and tan – a thin equalateral triangle in darkest ebony, with all three sides uniquely beveled. When I found I could stick it to my forehead and would stay there, I decided to keep it.

 

 

After a while I got it into my head that it was a magical rock. I would show it to people and they would always exclaim in disbelief that I had found such a thing sitting in a lake. It was perfect except for the rippled surface and some mild flaws in the beveling which made it clear that it’s strange shape was natural.

 

 

Eventually, I made a necklace out of it, and if I was on my older computer, I can guarantee there are at least two dozen pictures of me wearing that necklace, as I did so every day for almost a year. There’s actually one sitting in my bedroom that I glance at on a regular basis, taken by my friend Sam.

 

 

But I digress…  One night I went and saw David Sedaris read from a book in progress (later to be released as Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim), and he (Mr. Sedaris, in many ways a personal hero, as I adore anyone who can make me laugh – particularly with their writing. He is masterful in that regard, and some of his stories make me laugh hysterically, like the story “Big Boy” in Me Talk Pretty One Day about when he found the giant turd in the toilet at a friend’s house and was afraid people would think he’d done it and yet couldn’t figure out how to dispose of it. Hi-larious.). Anyway, what I was trying to say was that Mr. Sedaris, while signing some of my books – including Me Talk Pretty One Day – afterward, pointed out that my necklace strongly resembled a bathroom tile.

 

Although I was a bit hurt by the observation*, it did not deter me. I kept wearing it, even though I had to acquiese that if you didn’t notice the rippled and slightly grooved surface, it did look a bit like something you’d pick up in a set of 100 of Home Depot.

 

No. David Sedaris and his cruel, yet accurate, wit did not cause me to quit my necklace. What deterred me was a string of bad luck so horrific that ‘bad’ does not begin to justify it. ‘Bad’ becomes more like when Michael Jackson sang, “I’m bad. I’m bad. You know it. You know, you know…” and he meant it the other way. Like opposite day.

  (more…)

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Bad Gift Exchange: Take Two

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Here we go again. The new President and England face off yet again (this time with the Queen Mum) and things are even more absurd than ever:

Obama Gives the Queen an iPod

What’s the proper gift to present Queen Elizabeth II with at Buckingham Palace?

I never really understood what the expression Sour Puss meant until I saw this photo of Michelle.

I never really understood what the expression 'Sour Puss' meant until I saw this photo of Michelle.

A video iPod, apparently.

According to a White House aide, President Obama Tuesday night presented the Queen with the popular Apple device — reportedly complete with songs and video footage of the her 2007 trip to the United States.

The gift will be at least the Queen’s second iPod: in 2006 she purchased an iPod mini.

Obama also gave the Queen a rare musical songbook by Richard Rodgers.

As for the Queen, she reportedly gave the Obamas a signed photograph of her and her husband, Prince Phillip, in a sliver frame, her standard gift to foreign dignitaries.

 

I say America came out on top on this one.

The score, for those keeping score is now:

Great Britain: 1

United States: 1

iPod versus framed picture of yourself? I don’t care if you’re Giselle Bundchen, no one wants a picture of you (and your scary-looking husband. My god! Is that Phillip there on the right!? Whereas the Queen is aging quite adorably, Phillip is…well, not so much.).

Anyway, like I was saying, no one wants a picture of you if they can have an iPod instead. And an iPod loaded up with video of your (apparently) narcissistic own self!? All the better!

Heck, I’d take an iPod full of video of me! Why not? It can always be deleted.

 

I notice it also mentioned the iPod came with music pre-loaded. I can’t wait to see what that turns out to be.

Kool and the Gang’s Greatest Hits?

Don Ho’s Tiny Bubbles?

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols?

I’m cringing a little at the possibilities, but I remain – as always - optimistic.

 

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