UFO – Right Place, Right Time


Even if the photo itself is probably carefully timed and staged, I couldn’t help but admire the vision of the original graffiti artist who plopped that UFO into that very spot – it certainly shows an eye for seeing and visualizing what isn’t immediately obvious – and with a great sense of humor too!

[Unknown origin]

Biggest Drawing in the World


Erik Nordenankar had an interesting idea – to draw the biggest drawing in the world using nothing but a suitcase of GPS tracking device and the ever reliable DHL:

[On] the 17th of March 2008, I sent away a briefcase containing a GPS device with the express transportation company DHL. I gave them exact travel instructions, where to go and in what order. 55 days later the briefcase returned to Stockholm. The GPS automatically recorded the briefcases’s journey around the world. The  information  was downloaded to my computer and gave me my drawing. Due to the GPS drawing technique and the magnitude of the drawing, the self portrait had to be made in only one stroke. That giant stroke passed through 6 continents and 62 countries, thus becoming 110664km long.

And here’s the device he sent on voyage:


Can’t make it look more like a ticking briefcase bomb, can you?

Paying Employees to Quit


Stumbled upon this discovery on Harvard Business Publishing mentioning how Zappos, an internet shoe retailer (on course to exceed $1billion in annual revenues), has a very unique method of retaining committed staff – they pay their newly-hired staff $1000 to quit:

After a week or so in this immersive experience, though, it’s time for what Zappos calls “The Offer.” The fast-growing company, which works hard to recruit people to join, says to its newest employees: “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you’ve worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus.” Zappos actually bribes its new employees to quit!

Why? Because if you’re willing to take the company up on the offer, you obviously don’t have the sense of commitment they are looking for. It’s hard to describe the level of energy in the Zappos culture—which means, by definition, it’s not for everybody. Zappos wants to learn if there’s a bad fit between what makes the organization tick and what makes individual employees tick—and it’s willing to pay to learn sooner rather than later. (About ten percent of new call-center employees take the money and run.)

Wow. I’ve not dealt with Zappos personally – never bought or returned any shoes from them. But apparently the customer service are legendary. I guess this eccentric strategy (does eccentric have to be opposite of logical? Because if the numbers are balanced, this strategy seems really logical too) was one of the factors that helped them achieve this level of service.

I guess if it’s not already in every business case study textbook, it’d soon be!

Using Photoshop as Measuring Tool

We all know how powerful and you can say essential Photoshop is to a designer – It’s virtually the bedrock program for any designers. From touching up photos to creating montages to making posters, Photoshop has embedded itself firmly into the toolbox of virtually any designer.

But what else can Photoshop do besides arts/design related stuff? For instance, can it do math and scientific measurements? Jacks of Science finds that there are some functions in Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended that you can take advantage of – in particular the ‘Analysis’ menu – to go about some research problems that could otherwise be much more tedious:

Can you determine the phase of each moon based on this picture?


Turns out you can approximate very accurately – by using the Magic Wand to select a single instance of the moon, and then ‘Record Observations’ under the ‘Analysis’ menu, you get a rich panel of information, including “Circularity” (Circularity measures how circular something is. A value of 1.00 indicates a perfect sphere). By combining the moon’s circularity with the knowledge that there are 30 days between each full moon, you can estimate at which phase your moon is in!

Now, for those of you who like a challenge: how do you know how many green M&Ms are there in this picture?

Answer, and quite a few more of such examples, over at Jacks of Science.

Alphabet Book

This simply amazing book by book and graphic designer Marion Bataille floored me – it’s really delightful to watch how those 3D alphabets pop up, morph into the next, etc. – it’s like watching a live magic show:

From the lenticular cover that changes with the angle of your hands, all the way to the Z, ABC3D is as much a work of art as it is a pop-up book. Each of the 26 dimensional letters move and change before your eyes. C turns into D with a snap. M stands at attention. X becomes Y with a flick of the wrist. And then there’s U… Boldly conceived and brilliantly executed with a striking black, red, and white palette, this is a book that readers and art lovers of all ages will treasure for years to come.

You can order it on Amazon here – it’s only $19.95! On my wish list it goes!

Home Virtual Reality Display

Check this out! Jonny Lee, a PhD candidate in Carnegie-Mellon turned a standard flat-screen television into an immersive 3D environment not unlike those you see in the 3D cinemas or those dorky ‘immersive-reality’ goggles, all by cleverly hacking readily available Wii parts and custom software. This seems to be a proof-of-concept, showing that it is indeed not too difficult to create an immersive environment at home. The advantage of this over the traditional visor-like implementation is of course, not having to encumber the user (and the product package) to have to wear a screen on the head. This could mean it’s much lighter, easier, comfortable and certainly cheaper – all that needs to change is pretty much just the software (the hardware is almost insignificant in terms of part costs).

You can already think of the gaming possibilities (I’d drool at a first-person-shooter game with something like this…). This would definitely be a breakthrough – in breaking the fourth wall. Imagine a Playstation 4 with impeccable graphics and this motion-sensing, immersive, spatial reality.

Of course there are some limitations as well – with this configuration the virtual reality can only work for 1 person. It is also somewhat different from the traditional VR-goggle implementation in terms of experience, I think. With the goggles, you can turn your head around and the virtual world follows through. With this hack, if you turn your head, the TV still remains at where it is (though the screen changes) – so chances are you’d be staring at your TV rack or speakers, and this would jolt you out of your virtual world. In other words, the former can accommodate rotation, while the latter is more apt for translation-in-space motions (with your eyes still constantly oriented towards the screen).

For more information, head here.

Insane Street Football

Sometime back, the director/comedian Stephen Chow made a movie called Shaolin Soccer –  in which crazily exaggerated football skills were derived from Shaolin Kungfu. Well, it turns out that it may not really be that far from reality – judging from what this clip shows. Amazingly acrobatic moves in capoeira paired with street football – these people are insane!