May 22nd, 2016

Spooky Tesla Spirit Radio

From Aetherforce:

“Tesla’s Spirit Radio uses a simple crystal radio circuit connected to a computer sound-in jack to generate spooky sounds from all kinds of electromagnetic sources. As you will see, it creeped the hell out of Tesla himself.”

“My first observations positively terrified me as there was present in them something mysterious, not to say supernatural, and I was alone in my laboratory at night.”
– Nikola Tesla 1901

“The sounds I am listening to every night at first appear to be human voices conversing back and forth in a language I cannot understand. I find it difficult to imagine that I am actually hearing real voices from people not of this planet. There must be a more simple explanation that has so far eluded me.”
– Nikola Tesla 1918

April 28th, 2013

war of the radiowaves

From radio fax in 1938 to Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast, also in 1938. Here’s some excellent footage of Welles responding to the press after the broadcast.

April 27th, 2013

radio facsimile


I’m in love with this invention and the appearance of this prototype… It’s an elegant idea, probably too much before its time to really catch on. And now it’s pretty much obsolete as a concept. A newspaper delivered by radio as you sleep, printed in your home. And in 1938!

This invention of a wireless fax, as it were, was credited to W.G. H. Finch and used radio spectrum that was otherwise unused during the late-night hours when most Americans were sleeping. The FCC granted a special license for these transmissions to occur between midnight and 6am, though it would seem that a noisy printing device in your house cranking away in the middle of the night might have been the fatal flaw in their system. It wasn’t exactly a fast delivery either, as the article notes that it takes “a few hours” for the machine to produce your wireless fax newspaper.

The Smithsonian’s online magazine has a nice write-up on the invention here. And here’s a video of it in action (you need Quicktime to view it).

February 23rd, 2011


The radio show This American Life presents a fun, journalistic exploration of the history of Coke’s “secret recipe” and the process of making it. They find an old recipe for Coke and try their best to recreate it for a taste test.

They also put the recipe they found online with instructions if you want to try it yourself. Snip:

For a home recipe, you can get an eyedropper and count drops the old-fashioned way, but if you want to be more precise, Steve Warth at Sovereign Flavors says he estimated each drop was .025 grams, which means you want 0.5 grams of Orange Oil, 0.75 of Lemon Oil, 0.25 grams of Nutmeg Oil, 0.125 grams of Coriander Oil, 0.25 grams of Neroli Oil, 0.25 grams of Cinnamon Oil (historian Mark Pendergrast says the original Coke recipe was made with a kind of cinnamon called Cassia).

Combine those with 8 ounces of food grade alcohol. This ingredient, we’ll be frank, will be kind of a pain in the ass to find. Important: Do NOT use Ethyl Rubbing Alcohol or Rubbing Alcohol or Denatured Ethyl Alcohol. These will make you sick. You need food grade ethyl alcohol. Sometimes people swap Everclear or other neutral grain spirits for this, and our beverage guys suggest this as an easy, cheap substitute.

Recipe. Listen online.

I want to try Coke’s predecessor: French Wine Coca, a wine, caffeine and cocaine drink. Sounds too weird not to try. From Wikipedia:

French Wine Coca was marketed mostly to upper class intellectuals, afflicted with diseases believed to have been brought on by urbanization and Atlanta’s increasingly competitive business environment. In an 1885 interview with the Atlanta Journal, Pemberton claimed the drink would benefit “scientists, scholars, poets, divines, lawyers, physicians, and others devoted to extreme mental exertion.”

French Wine Coca at Wikipedia.

September 11th, 2010

dawkins and attenborough in symbiosis

David Attenborough and Richard Dawkins. Photo: Alistair Thain

The Guardian has a sort of double-whammy interview; 17 minutes of Richard Dawkins and David Attenborough chewing the fat on whatever comes to mind.

The clip rounds up unexpectedly with Attenborough’s impersonation of Ernst Mayr, which is simultaneously unnerving and endearing. Listen here.

September 1st, 2010

someone special is watching you

NPR has an interesting little segment on the evolutionary advantages of religious beliefs. It speculates on the psychological relationship between religion, individual behaviour, group cooperation and government. Listen here.

March 20th, 2010

charlie kaufman @ the red book dialogues


The Red Book Dialogues:

In the spirit of RMA’s recent exhibition The Red Book of C.G. Jung, in 32 sessions from October 19, 2009 to February 10, 2010, personalities from many different walks of life were paired on stage with a psychoanalyst and invited to respond to and interpret a folio from Jung’s Red Book as a starting point for a wide-ranging conversation.

In the following discussion, screenwriter/director Charlie Kaufman and Jungian analyst John Beebe interpret one of the images from Jung’s red book as part of a rather protracted but often intriguing musing on Jung’s ideas.

Audio from wnyc culture.

Other celebrity artists such as David Byrne and Billy Corgan participated in the event alongside academics and specialists in the field. See the agenda at the Rubin Museum of Art.

November 22nd, 2009

rules and restrictions yield potential and creativity

Ben Schott of Schott’s Vocab has a feature on BBC Radio 4 about the Oulipo:

Founded in France in the 1960s, Oulipo – Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle (“The Workshop of Potential Literature”) – is a literary movement dedicated to exploring new possibilities in writing through the use of playful (but strict) rules, for example: avoiding the use of a vowel, or replacing every noun with the seventh noun following it in a dictionary. These rules are designed both to test the mettle of the writers and to demonstrate that creativity can be inspired by constraint.

To learn more, listen to the feature online here. It’s a fascinating group even if its president sounds like a pretentious burke!

October 17th, 2009

Janacek’s Love Letters

From NPR:

At age 63, Czech composer Leos Janacek began his most unusual writing project — a constant stream of more than 700 love letters written to a married woman 37 years his junior. It’s remarkable, considering that the young woman, named Kamila, expressed little feeling for Janacek or his music.

Even so, Janacek filled his letters with passion. At an age when most people slow down, Janacek, fueled by his own unrequited love, went into high gear. He composed some of his best music, including the String Quartet No. 2 — called, appropriately, Intimate Letters.

Commentator Rob Kapilow pinpoints a section from the third movement of the quartet which he says reveals much about Janacek’s unique sound-world. The passage is actually a musical portrait of Kamila, one that Janacek described to her in a letter: “It will be very cheerful, and then dissolve into a vision of your image, transparent, as if in the mist.”

You can hear Janacek’s String Quartet No. 2, Moderato, and read more from this article, on the NPR website.

Incidentally, the latest avant garde project compilation includes some Janacek — Mladi.

August 30th, 2009

Coronal Mass Ejections

The latest Material World podcast discusses the apocalyptic reality of “Coronal Mass Ejections” — massive solar flares, one of which we are apparently long overdue! They describe in beautiful detail what it may have been like to witness the last recorded solar storm, The Great Solar Storm of 1859.

August 29th, 2009

podcast culture & the strand

I’ve been glutting on the BBC podcasts page today. Lots of generally highly produced podcasts, lots of variety in terms of content. I’m liking The Strand, BBC’s Global Arts and Entertainment program.

It fills the void left in my heart by Newsnight Review, which doesn’t seem to be on TV at the moment (or at least not this week). It was one of the few TV shows I enjoyed on a regular basis, when I still had TV, and I was looking forward to watching it whilst staying at my parents’ house…

This week The Strand has, amongst other cultural news, an interesting piece on a trend in children’s literature which according to them has seen a shift towards realism and depressing topics of death and misery.

Edit — I like these too:

Best of Natural History Radio
60 Second Idea to Improve the World
Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Reviews
The Film Programme
World Book Club
Gardeners’ Question Time
Natural World
Arts and Ideas

Posted in Radio | No Comments »
August 29th, 2009

Attenborough’s Life Stories


Above: Coelacanth preserved in the Natural History Museum, London. Pic from wikipedia.

Ooh, David Attenborough has a natural history show on Radio 4 — Life Stories — and you can listen to it online here. On the latest show David talks about the ancient Coelacanth.

More radio: Natural History Radio

June 4th, 2009

this person

This is old but good! Miranda July reads one of the short stories from her book No One Belongs Here More Than You, “this person”. (via WNYC)

I’ve posted about Miranda July before: Pretty Cool People.

May 22nd, 2009

neuroplasticity and religion

The more you focus on something — whether that’s math or auto racing or football or God — the more that becomes your reality, the more it becomes written into the neural connections of your brain. (Andrew Newberg, neuroscientist)

Apparently religious focus (such as Christian prayer or Buddhist meditation) can shape our brains in a particular way. Our brains become attuned to activities such as concentration and feelings such as compassion.

Baime is a doctor at the University of Pennsylvania and a Tibetan Buddhist who has meditated at least an hour a day for the past 40 years. During a peak meditative experience, Baime says, he feels oneness with the universe, and time slips away.

“It’s as if the present moment expands to fill all of eternity,” he explains, “that there has never been anything but this eternal now.”

When Baime meditated in Newberg’s brain scanner, his brain mirrored those feelings. As expected, his frontal lobes lit up on the screen: Meditation is sheer concentration, after all. But what fascinated Newberg was that Baime’s parietal lobes went dark.

“This is an area that normally takes our sensory information, tries to create for us a sense of ourselves and orient that self in the world,” he explains. “When people lose their sense of self, feel a sense of oneness, a blurring of the boundary between self and other, we have found decreases in activity in that area.”

Newberg found that result not only with Baime, but also with other monks he scanned. It was the same when he imaged the brains of Franciscan nuns praying and Sikhs chanting. They all felt the same oneness with the universe. When it comes to the brain, Newberg says, spiritual experience is spiritual experience.

“There is no Christian, there is no Jewish, there is no Muslim, it’s just all one,” Newberg says.

Read/listen to more at NPR.

May 11th, 2009

listen in to american police, fire, ems radio

Aengus of Sredkistrasse brought my attention to this very novel site (hours of fun I say):

Back when I was in school, I’d have to wait an hour or so before being collected by one of my parents on the way home from work. In this time, I’d usually spend the time hanging about with what friends would loiter a bit longer after school, but occasionally I’d go find an empty classroom and get some work done.

There was one chap, a right arsehole if truth be told, who’d come around occasionally, listening to the cops and other emergency services on his radio scanner. I’d always wanted to get one, but they were prohibitively expensive, and, anyhow, at the time I lived in the middle of nowhere, so it wouldn’t have served much use.

Now, thanks to the wonders of the internet, I can finally live out these past dreams. On you can listen in on the emergency services in some counties of some states.

Sredkistrasse | scanamerica

Posted in Ha!, Radio, Site | No Comments »
April 7th, 2009

horatio? a chump fo’ ril

This American Life goes into a prison where the prisoners are performing Hamlet. Brilliant!

Posted in Radio | No Comments »
February 21st, 2009

the evolution of consciousness

These days, some Darwin skeptics are focusing on the human brain. They say a higher power must be involved; otherwise, how could a bunch of cells produce such complicated mental processes as consciousness or subjective experiences? How could something like free will be the result of evolution?

While Darwin skeptics have homed in on this mind-brain problem, most brain scientists say there’s plenty of evidence that mental actions such as consciousness have evolved along with the brain.

More via NPR

Related: Whistling Orangutan Impresses Zoo Researchers

February 1st, 2009

reading as virtual reality

Here’s a short radio segment on NPR in which it is suggested that reading creates simulations in the mind of what is described in the text. Interesting that we seem to interpret the information practically, so that we’re learning about physical operations without even carrying them out. This ability must have some evolutionary benefit in teaching and learning.

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