Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Robot With a Rat Brain

Major Kusanagi, a cyborg from anime Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell is one of my favorite anime series. I have always been impressed with the awesome futuristic and complex sociological themes present in its plot, but what intrigues me the most is how the "fiction" in science fiction is becoming less fiction and more real. Remember when helicopters and submarines used to be considered science fiction? Okay, so you weren't born hundreds of years ago—but after seeing a robot controlled by a rat brain, I think we may very well see cyborgs in our lifetime.

This past year, scientists in the UK have successfully created a machine controlled completely with biological material—from the brain of a rat.

The "brain" of this robot is comprised of some 300,000 neurons collected from rat fetuses, which are stimulated to establish connections to each other in a sterile petri dish, similar to the way the neurons in our brain makes connections as we develop and learn. The brain connected to a computer was then used to wirelessly control a robot. As a result, this robot is able to avoid objects and learn from outside stimuli.

Our advances in science and technologies in recent years has been pretty inspiring. I think it's amazing how quickly and well new knowledge is being implemented. How close do you think we are to creating useful biological machines? Do you think Masamune Shirow will be pleased or horrified? :)

Here are two cool links on a similar subject:
video of bugs controlled by electric impulses
HAL robot from Cyberdine (Thanks Sterling!)

Related links

Monday, December 29, 2008

Inspiration from Light Years Away

NASA's achievements in exploring the cosmos serves as an inspiration to all of us. The colorful images inspire painters, the concept of light-speed travel inspires physicists, and the possibility of exploring the unknown inspires authors, designers, and engineers. For more than a decade, NASA has posted one picture each day featuring our universe with a brief explanation. Embedded here are just a few select pictures from APOD.

What I find more impressive than NASA's thousands of gorgeous images taken with billion-dollar telescopes are the photographs taken by amateur astronomer Professor Greg Parker, who took pictures using his backyard 11-inch telescope. He was able to produce an image of a star-like quasar that was almost 12 billion light years away-- the hypothesized age of the entire universe.

Photo by Greg Parker; Barcroft Media

Now, before anyone reading this thinks they can just go out and take pictures of these magnificent nebulae and galaxies, keep in mind that each picture is comprised of several hundred to thousands of exposures that lasted 1 to 20 minutes each, and a digital camera mounted to the telescope had to be specially cooled down for such long exposures. For a single composite image, there's over 40 hours of exposures each! With the help of an expert astrophotographer, Professor Parker was then able to put together these thousands of exposures into images like the one above, comparable to what has been taken on the Hubble telescope.

Like many of us, Professor Parker's fascination with astronomy stems from his childhood. His dream, no matter how far-fetched they seemed at the time, eventually led him to taking these gorgeous deep-sky images from his own back yard. What are some of your childhood aspirations? Do these images inspire you?

Related links

Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday Wreaths [Merry X-mas!]

make-your-own-wreath from Sunset
I hope everyone (who celebrates Christmas) had a wonderful Christmas this year. I am having a fabulous holiday with my boyfriend and his family, who actually celebrates it with a real tree, stockings, and eggnog, something you don't often see in an asian household. One of the decorations they have hanging from their window is a festive wreath of colorful lit bulbs resembling chili and jalapeño peppers, which reflects the colorful culture of their home town.

Traditionally, winter wreaths are made of evergreens to symbolize the strength of life, since these plants are able survive harsh weather and conditions. In this post, I would like to celebrate all of the creative non-traditional wreaths I have seen lately. The wreaths in this post are some of my favorites, and they are selected for their use of unconventional materials. I especially applaud the beautiful DIY wreath below from VintageGlam for their creative recycling of dry cleaner bags.

DIY wreath using recycled bags from VintageGlam

peacock wreath from Jayson Home & Garden

pine cone wreath from Jayson Home & Garden

brussel sprouts wreath from Blomsterverkstad

eco-friendly living succulent wreath from VivaTerra

I found the brussel sprouts wreath the most eye-catching and comical, but I think my favorite is the living wreath. I am a plant lover, and I can see how this wreath would please those who love both designing and gardening. Instead of drying out and dying, this wreath would continue to stay green and grow for months or even years if properly taken care of. Although it may not retain its original shape and texture, these plants are actively giving back to the earth.

Here's another cool wreath project (thanks Amal!)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Joshua Callaghan's Utility Boxes

One of the reasons why urban art is a great inspiration for me is because a good artist will effectively use the urban environment to express him or herself.

Joshua Callaghan responded to an advert asking for the unsightly utility boxes around city streets to be painted. He was commissioned and created an urban camouflage coating using either photographs surrounding the utility boxes or an idealized image of what he thinks could have displaced them.

By using photographs of what is exactly behind these boxes, Joshua creates an illusion of an uninterrupted view, blending the boxes directly into the background. His work here is inspired by the photorealistic trompe-l'œil style, using perspective illusions to trick the unsuspecting passer-by.

Although a lot of urban art is created to criticize or to make political statements, I think this project is a great example how urban art can elicit a non-negative and almost comical response from the public. Looking at these photographs, I can see how easily these boxes blend into their environment, especially if it's located at a busy location. It would be interesting to see people's reactions to first recognizing that something is not quite what it seems, and then actually getting up close to identify what the beautiful photographs were covering up.

Joshua's work can be seen on the streets of Los Angeles or at his website.

Related Links

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

First Post

Hi and welcome to Inspirimint, 2draw.net's new blog!

This blog is intended as a source of inspiration for artists. We want to open your eyes to creative content found across the web and tidbits from real life.

2draw.net is an online drawing community that provides free high-quality digital drawing tools to create, collaborate, and critique art online. So be sure to check it out!

What inspires your creations?