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Announcing the Big Winner!
The PopSci staff and our contributing troubadour, Jonathan Coulton, have spent today combing through the remarkable array of "I Feel Fantastic" videos sent in by loyal readers and podcast fans. After much deliberation and humming of that annoyingly catchy refrain that just won't get out of our heads, we arrived at a winner. This stick-figure animation, by YouTube member AnnieKate76 made us laugh our collective butts off. Says JoCo himself, "I like AnnieKate's video because it's got this very simple visual
look, but it's deep, man. I keep noticing new stuff every time I watch it, all these quick cuts to funny things. It's like an episode of Lost, but funny, and with stick figures." Right, what he said. So without further ado:
For her hard work and hilarity, AnnieKate76 will receive the grand prize of one 80 GB iPod, custom-engraved with Jonathan Coulton's autograph. Congrats!
But there were so many excellent entries that we decided to name five honorable mentions who put tons of work into creating really excellent animations, machinima and live-action music videos. Each of the five co-winners listed below will receive a free subscription to Popular Science. Great job, everyone!
First runner-up goes to YouTube member Demetrius3d, using Lightwave 3D animation:
Second runner-up goes to YouTube member ThrowingBricks, using The Sims 2 machinima:
Third runner-up goes to YouTube member theshirtevent, using Flash:
Fourth runner-up goes to YouTube member Zeedoos, using World of Warcraft machinima:
And fifth runner-up goes to YouTube member team blackcatbonafide, for their live-action music video:
Many thanks to everyone who submitted a video! If you're one of the winners mentioned here, please contact us again via YouTube with your name and address, so we can send you prizes. Look for more PopSci contests in coming months (hint: if you like making stuff, you'll want to check out our "green tech" challenge beginning July 10. —The PopSci Editors
Announcing: The PopSci Podcast/Jonathan Coulton "I Feel Fantastic" Video Contest
If you've already tuned in to Jonathan's latest podcast episode, you may be wondering what the contest he mentioned is all about. As he said right before the Lunar Base One lockdown was complete, we're giving away a brand-spanking-new 80-gigabyte iPod complete with a laser-engraved JoCo autograph on the back to the fan who cranks out the coolest music video to accompany “I Feel Fantastic,” the smashing power-pop number about how a future life might be better with a handful of specialized performance-enhancing pills. It's just one of five great songs Coulton wrote to accompany PopSci's Future of the Body issue.
So crank up the webcam and karaoke your heart out. Or throw together a touching Ken Burnsian photomontage. Or make a flip book and film it. We'll take anything. The most fantastic entry will bag the iPod (bear in mind, this isn't some lame-o Apple-engraved message—we'll be taking this down to Brooklyn to have Mr. Coulton's official mark engraved on Phil and Limor's Epilog laser cutter. In short, it's going to look awesome).
To enter, download the track here. Then submit your video to YouTube and send it as a video message via YouTube to “Popscivideo” (our YouTube user name). Please include “Coulton Contest” in the subject line and—if you don't want us to contact you through YouTube if you win—your e-mail address. We'll be taking entries until the contest closes on June 18, so get cracking!
Check out some classic Coulton fan videos after the jump for inspiration (as well as some good ol' legalese) —John Mahoney
Yes, I know, it's been a long time since I posted a podcast. I've been very busy here on the moon doing...important things. Let's not discuss it anymore.
PopSci editor Nicole Dyer is obsessed with paint, in particular the new Aura paint from Benjamin Moore. Not only does it cover most colors with only one coat (no need for primer), but it's low in smog-producing VOC's, dries quickly and doesn't stink. Nicole was so excited about it, and her excitement was so infectious, that we both forgot to even talk about the breakthrough chemistry that makes it possible - new and improved surfactants that bond better with pigment molecules. That's how exciting this story about paint is.
I also asked her for an update on the "Red Rain" story from an earlier podcast, but as you'll see, the paint insanity seems to have distracted her from more important things (like aliens)—Jonathan Coulton
I personally have never been in a fight, so I can't say for sure what my fighting style would look like. But I can speculate. It would probably involve me taking a single girly swing at my opponent, jamming up a knuckle, and then starting to cry. The good news is that it might not be my fault I'm such a sissy. According to Harvard neuroscientist Edward Kravitz, there may be a genetic explanation. Or at least there would be if I were a fruit fly. Male and female fruit flies use very different fighting techniques, and Kravitz has discovered that by manipulating a single gene, he can transfer these gender-specific moves into the opposite sex.
I never know whether or not these scientists and I are going to agree on what's funny about their research. I certainly wouldn't blame them if they didn't find it funny at all—I mean, it is their job and everything. But let's face it, a fruit-fly Thunderdome is pretty hilarious, especially when you think about those poor little male fruit flies head-butting each other like a bunch of girls. Luckily, Edward Kravitz was very tolerant of my slightly goofy interview
approach. I could tell even before we got to the story about
accidental head-crushing. —Jonathan
Remember when electric cars only went 20 mph and ran out of juice after ten minutes of uphill driving? Those were the days. Steve Schneider is the CEO of a California company called ZAP that sells electric vehicles - not hybrids mind you, real honest-to-goodness electric cars - and it sounds like they might actually be useful for say, driving from one place to another. Even the tiny weird-looking ones are kind of sexy, and the prototype electric SUV he describes may be the perfect vehicle for both road-rage crazed soccer moms and tree-hugging hippies.
Hopefully this is another one of those cases where the environmentally
friendly option doubles as the smart business decision. A few days after I interviewed Steve I actually saw a striped Xebra electric in the wild, so I know he's sold at least one. Fingers crossed—Jonathan Coulton
Spore.Spore, I said! Ever since that video of Will Wright's demo of this game appeared on the internet, I've been camping on the sidewalk in front of my local Best Buy waiting for its release date. As I lie here at night shivering in my sleeping bag, I can almost taste that succulent, procedurally-generated content, which is good because I am all out of food.
As you must know by now, Will Wright is the super genius behind a whole bucketload of games like The Sims, Sim City, and of course Sim [Insert Any Word Here]. He's currently working on Spore, a game he describes as "Sim Everything," in which you control the destiny of a species as it evolves from a single-celled organism into a race of interstellar travelers. One of the game's most exciting design elements is the use of procedurally generated content - you use the in-game editors to modify your species, and the game determines how it behaves based on your design. I spoke to Chaim Gingold, the game designer who created these editors, about the challenge of creating tools that are flexible enough to be powerful and still somehow smart enough to be fun—Jonathan Coulton
Of course you hope it never happens, but if you're going to escape from an exploding rocket just in time, you might as well have a good time doing it. NASA is looking at a few different options for how to get astronauts out of future spacecraft in an emergency, from roller coasters to slippery tubes, and most of them seem like pretty enjoyable rides.
The whole time I read this article in the magazine I was thinking space shuttle - boring! But I totally forgot about Project Constellation, the post-shuttle program to create a fleet of next-generation space craft for all sorts of crazy space missions. I spoke with Kelly Humphries at the Johnson Space Center about NASA's plans for the "Emergency Egress System," and he gave me the lowdown on some of the other features of the Constellation program. I was particularly jazzed about his description of the new and improved moon mission strategy. Believe me, when you actually live on the moon it's easy to get a little jaded about this stuff. But multiple space modules docking in Earth's orbit and then blasting out to the moon? Now I'm all excited about space again. Go space!
I read this piece in the magazine a couple of times to make sure I wasn't missing anything before I made the call. Let me get this straight: you put garbage into the machine—any kind of garbage, it doesn't matter—and this thing breaks it down to its component elements, generating only steam, a few harmless byproducts, and a synthetic gas that can be further refined into useful fuels like hydrogen, natural gas and ethanol? And the whole process generates enough energy to keep itself running plus a little extra that you can sell back to the grid? Come on! It sounds way too good to be true—also I'd like one in my kitchen, please. (I have a really big, garbagey kitchen.)
Joseph Longo, whose company, Startech, makes the device, appears to be yet another charming, humble supergenius who's changing the world. What's with these guys? I keep waiting to talk to someone who's doing great things but has a really bad attitude. But no evil genius here. Longo immediately won me over with his story about furry olives, and kept the hits coming with various philosophical musings about the nature of technological change.
Another detail you won't want to miss: the plasma conversion process uses manmade lightning three times hotter than the surface of the sun. Awesome!
Inventor Damian Renzello has been making portable skating rinks and related accessories for years, so it's not surprising that it's come to this: a homemade super zamboni that blows snow, shaves ice, and looks totally awesome. I love projects like this - the false starts, the dangerous accidents, the madness - I think those are the three ingredients that make up what they call "Yankee Ingenuity." I was a little disappointed to find out this wasn't a meaningless, self-destructive quest for a personal homemade zamboni, and instead the latest invention from a genuine entrepreneur. I should have known from the photo—it's far too well built to have been cobbled together by a crazy person.
Speaking of crazy people, I was surprised to learn from Damian that the zamboni was actually invented by a guy named Zamboni. I think I always thought that zamboni was an Italian word for "ice shaver" or something like that (you know, those Italians: crazy for hockey!). You learn something new every day—or in my case, once a week.
If you'd like your own Bambini Revolution, or if you want to set up a portable backyard skating rink (I know I do), you can find Damian's products at www.portarinxandbambini.com.
Deep brain stimulation is like a pacemaker for your brain: it can stop tremors, wake you from a coma, and maybe even make you smarter. All these miraculous results, but nobody knows exactly how it works. Maybe I'm crazy, but I always find it reassuring when I talk to a scientist and find out that they don't know what's going on either.
For this episode I spoke with Dr. Michele Tagliati, a neurologist at Mt. Sinai, and a leader in the field of DBS. He's approaching the question from a clinician's perspective: tweaking parameters and discovering which techniques work best for patients suffering from Parkinsons and other movement disorders. I didn't have enough time to include it in the podcast, but we also talked about the researchers who are coming from the other direction, using computer models of brain circuitry to try and predict how certain kinds of electrical stimulation will affect actual brains. The idea is that these two lines of research will eventually meet somewhere in the middle: if we can understand enough about how it works, we may be able to apply this technique to all sorts of neurological disorders. I might even be able to do the Sunday Times Crossword without making up words.
He didn't ask, but my theory is that it has something to do with electricity. In your brain.