Penguins: Spy in the Huddle

Penguins - Spy in the Huddle

PBS premiered a 3-part mini-series called Penguins: Spy in the Huddle on Wednesday night and OH MY GOODNESS IT WAS SO AMUSING! Researchers made animatronic penguin cameras and sent them out to mingle with real penguins to get a better sense of what penguin life is like. Here’s the description of the show from PBS’s website:

For nearly a year, 50 animatronic cameras disguised as realistic life-size penguins, eggs and rocks infiltrate penguin colonies to record the tough challenges penguins face from the moment they emerge from the sea to raising their chicks and finally returning to the water. The intimate, emotional, and sometimes amusing behavior of nature’s most devoted parents bringing up their young against the most extraordinary odds is revealed as never before.

If you missed the first episode, you can stream it online on PBS’s website. The next two parts will be available on PBS over the next two Wednesdays at 8pm.

Spritz: Reading Reimagined

Spritz: Reading Reimagined

As an avid reader and technology enthusiast, it obviously piqued my interest when I heard about a new method of reading, called Spritz, that is faster and easier than traditional reading. It works by showing the words, one at a time, in rapid succession. Since this dramatically reduces eye movement, you should be able to read at a much faster rate (quite a promising prospect when you’re a slow reader like me!).

Obviously, reading comprehension is a concern, but Spritz claims that “retention levels when spritzing are at least as good as with traditional reading and that, with just a little bit of experience, you will retain even more than you did before.”

There are similar speed reading services out there (like Spreeder), but there are some key differences that set Spritz apart. For example, Spritz pauses for punctuation and seems to take word length into consideration when determining how long to display the word. Spritz also keeps the “Optimal Recognition Point” of each word (highlighted in red) in the same spot, rather than merely center aligning every word. These minor differences make Spritz feel much more natural.

While I’m not sure if I would use Spritz for pleasure reading (though I would give it a try), I could definitely see myself using it for news articles, blog posts, websites, and email… and I know I would have loved to have been able to use Spritz when reading textbooks in college! 😉

Learning from Slime Mold

This is an amazing documentary about the research computer scientists are doing on slime mold. They are using the slime mold to solve maze and networking problems and even operate robots.

In one experiment, oat flakes were placed on a dish to represent the major cities around Tokyo and the slime mold was placed in the corresponding location for Tokyo. The mold created a network between the oat flakes that was strikingly similar to Tokyo’s rail system. My complaint about the experiment was that it did not seem to take topography into consideration, but I looked into it and they used light to simulate mountains, water, and other obstacles. Neat!