Archive for February, 2007|Monthly archive page

FLIP – the flipping ship


FLIP (or, Floating Instrument Platform) is an amazing ship – technically it isn’t a ship, but more like a buoy since it doesn’t have its own propulsion and has to be towed around – but I bet you though no other sea vessels in the world can do what it can – intentionally “capsizing” so that it can turn 90 degrees, and turn from “ship-mode” to a “platform mode” by flooding its tail:

During the flip, everyone stands on the outside decks. As FLIP flips, these decks slowly become bulkheads. (This is the name sailors use for walls.) The crew step onto decks that were, only moments before, bulkheads. Inside, decks have become bulkheads; bulkheads have become decks or overheads (ceilings).
Some of FLIP’s furnishings are built so they can rotate to a new position as FLIP flips. Other equipment must be unbolted and moved. Some things, like tables in the galley (kitchen) and sinks in the washroom, are built twice so one is always in the correct position.

The reason for the flip is the stability required to perform the scientific experiments that this vessel was designed for – measuring effects on the environment caused by long range sound propagation, research in geophysics, meteorology, physical oceanography, non-acoustic anti-submarine warfare, and in laser propagation experiments – having this design would enable FLIP to be towed to the desired location for the research while still having superior stability (which affects the precision and accuracy of readings) over conventional ships.

The video of the transformation:

I wonder how it turns back to the ship mode though – does it have to expel water from its ballast against the deep sea’s water pressure? Would that be too much? Then again, virtually all submarines do that with no problem…perhaps I’ve just answered my own question.

And their homepage: FLIP


Crop Circle Font

Cropcircle fonts

When crop circles were first created, many speculated supernatural origins of these complex patterns that seem to magically find themselves in vast fields. With the open admission of some of the original crop circle creators, however, it has taken on a different light. Some take it as a pure art form, challenging themselves to create more and more elaborate patterns, often based on sacred geometries, fractals and mathematical proportions. It didn’t take long till crop circles  were first imbued with commercial values (Google Earth sure help to motivate that!) – for instance, the Firefox crop circle that I blogged about some months back.

The above picture actually shows the development of a font inspired by the artform of crop-circles – what with the chain of circles of increasing radii, etc. – and it’s commissioned by the grand daddy of the artworks’ canvas: Quaker Oats. Pretty interesting I’d say – reminds me of a Flash-based game that became popular recently too – Flow.

The creators of the font here (scroll down a little).

12 Best Games, in year 2010

Total Kungfu

Omega 1

Someone has compiled a top-twelve list of the best games – the catch though, is that these games are not published, nor even being scheduled for publishing (as far as I know anyway). They simply represent the dreams/desires of gamers – and I must say that they are really imaginative gamers – because the suggestions that they came up with definitely appealed to me (I’d really want to jump in and play some of these suggestions) even though it was just a simple paragraph explaining how an example game scenario would work in each of those games.

The first picture is for the imaginary game Total Kungfu – where you’d fight animated opponents using the Wiimote, leaving you frantically waving and flailing ala Dance Dance Revolution gone havoc. The next picture, showing a war scene, is simply a Massively Multiplayer Single Scene War – hear ye:

    This is the Combined Arms Simulator PC gamers have been dreaming about from the first time a shot was fired in anger over a modem. A sprawling world war, a Battlefield 2 but with one gargantuan, persistent map that everybody plays on.

There’ll be AI units to do grunt jobs like holding positions and supply lines. There’ll be RPG elements like statistics, character growth, and chain of command “guilds.” And Normandy-sized invasions with five thousand players.

Wow, that’s pretty cool aye! Some of the others have pretty cool concepts too! Like “Hard Cell”, whereby the protagonist you control need not want to follow your orders – he does not particularly want to follow your orders, especially if you have betrayed his trust and sent him down hell holes. Your task is then to shepherd and guide him past various obstacles and challenges in the game – fail to look after him, and things gets ugly… COOL isn’t it?

(Am I just fanatical here or something?)

Anyway, here’s the complete list – go look at them yourself and see if these games move you! Game publishers, take note too! And with some luck, some of these would DO indeed come to life.

Philips Light Painting

Philips seems to be quite keen on bringing mood/ornamental lighting (as opposed to illuminative) into everyday life – from their Ambilight Television sets to the Lumalive textiles, it does seem as though their chief has been to one too many musical fountains or something.

Shown above is a rather amazing application of light quite literally as paint. A glowing wand first dips into a pot of colored-light, and the child can then begin to draw on the wall. Painting with light – isn’t that some sort of childhood fantasy coming through?

Here is a press-release site of some of the other items that were shown in the Philips Simplicity Event last October, featuring many other similarly intuitive and yet imaginative applications of lights and colors.

Hook Box – Luca Nichetto

Hook Box - Luca Nichetto

Aha! A simple and beautifully integrated combination of a hook and storage space. I like the simple execution, that it’s made of ceramic rather than cheap plastic, and the dash of color within that accents the product and gives it life.

Design by Luca Nichetto

Upcoming Star Wars Game Physics Engine

This is pretty amazing – yet another step in the holy grail for realism in game and game designs – the materials and AI that reacts in real time to random actual instances around them and acts accordingly. Quite a mouthful, but you’d get what I mean when you watch the video.

The physics engine is called Euphoria – and would be used for the upcoming Star Wars movie (I suspect this video is part of the sneak-preview buzz campaign).

Slimming Michelin Man

Michelin Man Evolution

The Michelin Man, aka Bibendum, has just been recently overhauled to give a refreshed image to the company – according to Thierry Rudolph, Michelin’s head of Marketing:

We’ve refreshed him because he’s a key asset for us. We’ve slimmed him down because it shows the evolution of people and is a way of keeping up with changes in society. He demonstrates the evolution of society but also the evolution of the brand and the world we live in.

That statement is rather interesting in its irony: while the society’s definitely getting more obese by all indicators, the ideals and aspiration of the society heads the opposite direction – a healthier, slimmer one. In the same vein of irony lies products like MacDonald’s, Diet Coke etc: while they continue to feed the growing trend of obesity, the power of marketing concocts the bluff that these products help to reach the consumer’s ideal of being slim and healthy. And that’s where Michelin heading too – mirroring the society’s aspiration rather than reality.

It’s also pretty interesting to see the evolution of the Michelin Man, which has continuously evolved, mirroring the changing landscapes of the society. Starting off as a proud, cigar-smoking, leather-boots wearing persona, the Michelin Man then was one of aristocrat – only the richest could afford wheels, even if it’s just bicycle wheels. The same persona continues even as cars were developed – the tyre on his bodies are still slim (reflecting the tyre dimensions then).

As automobile develops to become a mass-market item rather than luxury, the Bibendum was toned down to be much friendlier, as it put on massive weight around its tummy to mirror the girth of the tyres. And now it needs to slim down and cut out its flab due to the society’s health concerns. I wonder what’d be next – for example, if the airless tyres (known as tweels, incidentally developed by Michelin) were popularised – will he be left to just bones?

[see more of the Bibendum’s history here]

**** Addendum ****

KFC logo comparison

In response to Hann’s comment about KFC’s Colonel Sanders losing weight – well they’ve just introduced their new logo (to my dislike), and it does seem like some of the changes are similar in spirit to Michelin’s:

Colonel Sanders has discarded his clean white suit for a more blue-collared apron (Apron! Sensitive New Age Guy we have here?) outfit – now he resembles the person serving your fried chicken rather than a rich wealthy white colonial master or something. He’s definitely gotten his Botox jab, looking a lot younger now. Yup, and like Michelin Man, he’s definitely slimmer now.

Sony Design

Sure, Sony seems like a pale shadow of its former self – it is no longer the defacto category leader in most of its audio/visual business, the brand value is falling, Blu-ray seems destined a premature exit, et al. Yesterday though I was flipping through a book called Digital Dreams – The Work of Sony Design Center, and I must say that I am still rather impressed by some of its concepts/designs.



Sony Earphone Concept 1996

The amazing thing about the concept products in these pictures is that they’re all designed eons ago (relative to the digital age anyway). The first two are Walkman concepts by Joe Wada, done in 1989. The last one is a Street-style earphone, designed by Hiroshi Yasutomi in 1996 (which has sinced evolved into the mass-production version of the category-defining MDR-G61 StreetStyle. While the technology has moved on, the design to me is still very classic and dare I say, avantgarde even in 2007. The design principles and rationale behind them are still very relevant and inspiring.

And did you know that the Sony VAIO logo (VAIO – acronym for Video Audio Integrated Operations – the sub-brand in Sony that handles items using consumer audio/video) is supposed to represent the transition from analog to digital? The letters V and A forms a analog sine wave, while IO looks like the binary inputs of the digital age – and in fact, the people over at Sony is geeky in some ways – the startup melody made by VAIO products is actually the equivalent to the sound of punching V-A-I-O into a dial tone telephone.

Cool stuff – do check out the book if you have the chance – it’s a great read on the philosophy and legacy of the (once-great, and hopefully will revive to its former glory someday) Sony.

What’s Special About this Number?

A mathematical fanatic, a certain Professor Friedman, either had too much time on his hand, or perhaps he was actually tenured to do this – anyway, he has created a list explaining what is special about the numbers from 1 – 9999, just so you’d know that 31 is a Mersenne Prime, and that 143 is the smallest quasi-Carmichael number in base 8, or that 9862 is the number of Knight’s Tours on a 6×6 chessboard.

If the properties of each number doesn’t fascinate you, well, maybe the sheer effort to find out what’s special about each of the 9999 numbers would, like how teachers would tell each kid that they’re special (what happens when everyone’s special?) Though there are definitely plain kids too – when even teachers fail to distinguish any special talent or ability in the child – as is the case for numbers like 8930 – 8939.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Year of the Pig

It’s the Chinese New Year soon – the Year of the Pig. I’d be back to my hometown, so you won’t see much updates for the next 4-5 days. Happy Chinese New Year, for those of you who celebrate this!