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Where Have I Been (for the past 2 years)? January 30, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in Books, Brilliant words.
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Busy, that’s where. A huge list of Things I Did or Thangs Wot Happen’d would allow Google/Facebook/CIA/NSA/FBI/The Illuminati/Mom to know everything I’m up to, so that’s not happening. Instead, I want to talk about my audiobook adventures.

I had some; I’m going to add a few here in list form and expand them as Words Come To Mind, but don’t hold your breath. As always, this space is usually filled with musings which crystallize during my lunch hour and find their way to you by the miracle of a series of tubes, to almost quote an abysmally ignorant Senator[0]. Given that my lunch hour must also accommodate actual lunch and a walk, this may take a while.

The latest book in my head is the second in the Sleepless series by Nancy Kress. Beggars and Choosers is  better even than the first novel, Beggars in Spain, following the frightening changes to law, society and humanity after genetic engineering of humans  results in a two-class[1] society.  The first book is pretty good, too, but this one has better character development and an edge of terror the first book lacked. Available at Amazon and sfpl.org. I wonder if she has a third book in this series (the ending doesn’t seem to suggest that).

EXCITING UPDATE: there seems to be an additional book: Beggar’s Ride.  I must hunt it down and hear it.

Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman is another mythology-related audiobook, this one hewing more closely to the original stories than American Gods (I’ll review this another time; I’ve been busy, damn it). It’s his take on the various Norse myths and charmingly read by him in his wry sort of way. I admit I know nothing about my own heritage in this regard whatsoever, so it was a fun commute for a while.  I recommend this one highly.

I also listened to Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, also read by him.[2] That one is even more strange, and wonderful in its complexity and texture. The estranged sons of Anansi (a trickster god) meet up when Anansi dies (?), and one ruins the life of the other hilariously and tragically. Also highly recommended.

More later. I did just lose my draft of this blog post, plus my notes on all the books I read in the last two years, so there will be a little bit of time before I can finish this up…if ever.

I am currently listening to The Themis Files (apparently also a trilogy) by Sylvain Neuval and enjoying them very much.  Told in the style of interview transcripts, it’s the story of alien robots left scattered around the world millennia ago, and the trials and tribulations of finding and using them..and, of course, what to use them for. The audiobooks are specially nice since the characters are pretty well drawn and their reactions to their parts in the story are largely, uh, memorable.  Yeah, memorable; I’m going with that.

There is some screaming as well. Well acted by a bunch of different voice actors, they seemed to have lost one between book two and book three (Puerto Rican girl replaced by New York Puerto Rican girl). The author is listed as one of the voices, and there is a suspiciously Quebecois guy who is trying really hard to pretend he isn’t the author, so that must be him.  Good books for all that.

Some other titles to be fleshed out (all enjoyable enough to finish listening to):  Defy the Worlds, Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray[3] (this series culminates with Defy the Fates eventually), Crossing Over by Anna Kendall, everything by William Gibson (I think that’s somewhere north of twenty novels…I drive a lot), [edit: nearly] everything by Scott Westerfeld[4], Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky, some Brandon Sanderson stuff (“Alcatraz versus” several novels, but these were not audiobooks except Perfect State), Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente, I am Princess X, by Cherie Priest, All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders, Noir, a Novel, by Christopher Moore, Bellwether by Connie Willis[5], Head On by John Scalzi, The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, Brainwave by Poul Anderson, Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon stuff, The Gospel of Loki, by Joanne M. Harris, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy, and others I have completely forgotten[6].

[0] Christ, where do they find these guys?

[1] Well three, but one of them seems pretty much outside of society for reasons which should be very clear at the end of the book [edit: series].

[2] I do feel that an author ought to be able to read the books they write with the delivery they intend in the writing, but I understand that not every writer is a good reader…mores the pity.

[3] featuring the line ’and stop smelling the robot boy’ delivered breathlessly by the narratrix

[4] see also “I drive a lot”, above–also, I found out I haven’t yet read everything of his.  Oh, boy.

[5] featuring the most evil character in all of English-language literature, Flip

[6] Two years is a long time, even for your nearly immortal correspondent.

3D-Printed Flexible Piezoelectric Element January 24, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Awesome, Science, Video.
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Mechanical engineers develop process to 3D print piezoelectric materials

New methods to 3D print piezoelectric materials that can be custom-designed to convert movement, impact and stress from any directions to electrical energy have been published in Nature Materials.  The materials can also be activated — providing the next generation of intelligent infrastructures and smart materials for tactile sensing, impact and vibration monitoring, energy harvesting, and other applications. Unlike conventional piezoelectrics, where electric charge movements are prescribed by the intrinsic crystals, the new method allows users to prescribe and program voltage responses to be magnified, reversed or suppressed in any direction.

A factor in current piezoelectric fabrication is the natural crystal used. At the atomic level, the orientation of atoms are fixed. The researchers produced a substitute that mimics the crystal but allows the lattice orientation to be altered by design.

“We have synthesized a class of highly sensitive piezoelectric inks that can be sculpted into complex three-dimensional features with ultraviolet light. The inks contain highly concentrated piezoelectric nanocrystals bonded with UV-sensitive gels, which form a solution — a milky mixture like melted crystal — that we print with a high-resolution digital light 3D printer”.

The material has sensitivities 5-fold higher than flexible piezoelectric polymers. The stiffness and shape of the material can be tuned and produced as a thin sheet resembling a strip of gauze, or as a stiff block. “We have a team making them into wearable devices, like rings, insoles, and fitting them into a boxing glove where we will be able to record impact forces and monitor the health of the user,” said the chief investigator Zheng.

The team has printed and demonstrated smart materials wrapped around curved surfaces, worn on hands and fingers to convert motion, and harvest the mechanical energy, but the applications go well beyond wearables and consumer electronics.

“Traditionally, if you wanted to monitor the internal strength of a structure, you would need to have a lot of individual sensors placed all over the structure, each with a number of leads and connectors,” said Huachen Cui, a doctoral student of Zheng’s and the first author of the Nature Materials paper. “Here, the structure itself is the sensor — it can monitor itself.”

Homework: Huachen Cui, Ryan Hensleigh, Desheng Yao, Deepam Maurya, Prashant Kumar, Min Gyu Kang, Shashank Priya, Xiaoyu Zheng. Three-dimensional printing of piezoelectric materials with designed anisotropy and directional responseNature Materials, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41563-018-0268-1

AI Detects Rare Syndromes From Images January 9, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Photography, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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Rare disorders often present with patterned discoloration of the epidermis, distortion of features and other visibly-detectable aberrations in appearance. Marfan’s syndrome presents with long, flexible body type. Noonan syndrome may present wide-set eyes, and Down’s syndrome is well-known to nearly everyone. Now, researchers have developed a facial analysis framework, DeepGestalt, using computer vision and deep learning algorithms, that quantifies similarities to hundreds of genetic syndromes based on unconstrained 2D images. DeepGestalt is currently trained with over 26,000 patient cases from a rapidly growing phenotype-genotype database, consisting of tens of thousands of validated clinical cases, curated through a community-driven platform. DeepGestalt currently achieves 91% top-10-accuracy in identifying over 215 different genetic syndromes and has outperformed clinical experts in three separate experiments.

In results published in Nature Medicine, DeepGestalt  outperformed doctors in diagnosing patients with Angelman syndrome and Cornelia de Lange syndrome versus other disorders, and in separating patients with different genetic subtypes of Noonan syndrome.

It’s a neat study in that it controls for a bunch of conditions including ethnicity and gender, so it’s a bit more robust than previous studies.


Homework: [PDF] https://arxiv.org/abs/1801.07637

3D Models Through Multiple Primitives January 7, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Applications, Toys.
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Sometime the 3D scanner can’t model complex interiors. Geeks to the rescue:
The authors of a nifty paper describe how their software creates solid models based on a kind of successive approximation using a library of primitive shapes.  They claim success in over one hundred complex models (see video, above).

Barbie pagoda fungus (Podoserpula miranda) January 3, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Mushrooms, Photography.
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Image shamefully stolen from Reddit.com