Of Shattered Illusions And Classified Births

Believe me when I say that my admission into the inner halls of Coilhouse has been rife with surprises. Between discovering that Nadya had a wooden leg (lost to Latvian leg thieves, apparently, although I have a feeling this is a lie) and finding that the Panda bone office furniture was an elaborate lie to entice me to relocate to the catacombs, my illusions have been shattered. Still, sitting here at my plain, pressed wood desk, nary an Ursine skull or femur in sight, I can say that these pale in comparison to the true nature of Meredith Yayanos. Revealing it here will no doubt put a swift end to my employment and, unfortunately, mean that I will be on the run for some time; for this is no tiny secret, dear reader. Many have died so that Mer’s true nature would remain known to only a small circle of powerful insiders. But I can’t think about that. My life is nothing in comparison to my service to humanity. The world has to know!

Ethical Futurist Jamais Cascio: Hacking the Earth

Writer, speaker and techno-progressive guru Jamais Cascio is one of the most inspiring people I know. Guess what his day job is? Basically, it’s Trying To Save The World. (I mean, I doubt that’s on his business card, or how he introduces himself at dinner parties, but it’d be a pretty accurate title.)

“Pessimism is a luxury in good times… In difficult times, pessimism is a self-fulfilling, self-inflicted death sentence.” –Evelin Linder (as quoted by Jamais Cascio during his 2006 talk at the TED conference)

On any given day, Jamais keeps busy wrangling with a wide variety of ideas that may help keep our “hellbound handbasket” from going down in flames. He speaks and writes frequently on the use of future studies as a tool for anticipating, combating or averting all manner of crises, be they related to environmental change, exponential technological growth, natural and man-made catastrophes, or global development. We’re talking Serious Business.

He’s a Fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. He’s a Global Futures Strategist for the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology. He’s a Research Affiliate at the Institute for the Future. Jeez a loo. You guys impressed yet?! (If not, don’t come anywhere near me. I don’t truck with zombies.)

Jamais has recently written a book called Hacking the Earth: Understanding the Consequences of Geoengineering. Here’s the gist:

What do we do if our best efforts to limit the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere fall short? According to a growing number of environmental scientists, we may be forced to try an experiment in global climate management: geoengineering. Geoengineering would be risky, likely to provoke international tension, and certain to have unexpected consequences. It may also be inevitable. Environmental futurist Jamais Cascio explores the implications of geoengineering in this collection of thought-provoking essays. Is our civilization ready to take on the task of re-engineering the planet?

Pay attention to the nice futurist. He’s here to help. Buy the book.

Be a Cog in the Machine

Inside your Issue 2 of Coilhouse Magazine you’ll find a love letter to Los Angeles that talks about some of my favorite places in this Angel City Desert. Near the top of the list is The Machine Project– a modern-day salon dedicated to zapping life into this city, one lecture/field trip/class/performance at a time. Art space, home of Dorkbot SoCal [another one coming up this Saturday!], miniature lecture hall and experimental kitchen, this place has hosted some of the best events in town. Visitors enjoy a friendly atmosphere and beer as the boundaries between art and science melt away.

Hekla Dögg Jónsdóttir at Machine Project. Original here.

Places like this are indispensable, especially here in big bad disjointed Los Angeles. They cultivate community, learning and provide outlets to brilliant outsiders rarely seen elsewhere. You want Alt Culture? Here it is. The Machine Project mission statement, from the Epic FAQ:

Machine Project exists to encourage heroic experiments of the gracefully over-ambitious. We provide educational resources to people working with technology, we collaborate with artists to produce site-specific works, and we promote conversations between scientists, poets, technicians, performers, and the community of Los Angeles as a whole.

Tabla workshop at Machine Project. Original here.

I’ve been an occasional attendee for years now, but this is changed today, when I become an official Member. You see, I received some sad news in my inbox recently. It seems the economy is kicking my beloved Machine square in its mechanical nuts! This wonderful place need help, and it needs help now. Fortunately, helping such an awesome organization is easy and fun. Here are the ways you can be part of The Machine Project:

Ernst Haeckel’s Secret Origins Revealed


New research has uncovered the origins of Earnst Haeckel, the turn-of-the-century German biologist/artist revered to this day by both scientists and designers alike for his awe-inspiring biological engravings (if you’re unfamiliar with Haeckel, click here immediately). His surprising origin: greeting card designer! Historian John Holbo elaborates:

Ernst Haeckel’s 1904 “Kunstformen der Natur” [Artforms of Nature] is a classic of biological illustration. What is less generally known is that the artist started as a Christmas card designer. The book was originally simply an album of holiday designs.

“All the sweet things that the Squiddies/Twittering in the dewy spray/Wish each other in the springtime/I wish you this happy day.”

During the Victorian era Christmas was indeed regarded as a ‘happy’ day, but one of uncanny terror; accordingly, cards and ornamentation featured strange creatures with too many tentacles. But then Santa Claus became popular, and many of these older designs ‘fell out of fashion’.

Commercially marooned, unable to draw anything except tentacles and congeries of pustules/bubbles, Haeckel wandered into natural ‘science’ – almost as an afterthought – when he discovered that the stuff he had been drawing actually existed, give or take a tentacle. Isn’t that interesting?

It also turns out that Ada Byron Lovelace was his mom. History is awesome! You can see the Haeckel greeting cards Holbo’s Flickr stream, and purchase reproductions here.

Ada Lovelace: Founder of Scientific Computing

Happy birthday to Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, patron saint of computer programmers. “The Enchantress of Numbers” was born this day in 1815, in London, the only legitimate (tch, what an insulting term that is!) child of Lord Byron. Her mother, Isabelle –a math whiz in her own right nicknamed “The Princess of Parallelograms” by P.M. Benjamin Disraeli– separated from Byron shortly after Ada’s birth, and raised her to be unlike her eccentric poet father, emphasizing tutelage in music and math. (Ada never met Lord Byron, who died in Greece, aged 36.)

Ada Lovelace is best known for her work describing the Analytical Engine, an early mechanical general-purpose computer conceived by mathematician/inventor/philosopher Charles Babbage. Today, she’s recognized as the “first programmer” for her work on the computing machine that Babbage hadn’t even built yet. Unlike Babbage or anyone else, she had the foresight to recognize the potential for computers to evolve past simple calculations and number-crunching. Her voluminous notes included predictions for future developments as far-out as computer-generated music! She accomplished this in an era where, to put it gently, noblewomen were not encouraged to engage in such rigorous intellectual pursuits.

Like her father, Lovelace was headstrong, prone to fits of melodrama, and she died young. Her family buried her next to Lord Byron in the yard of the Church of St Mary Magdalene in 1852.

Related items of interest:

The First Olympic Cyborg?

This summer South African runner Oscar Pistorius, after much controversy, will have a shot at competing in the Olympics. Why the controversy? Pistorius, known as “blade runner” (a name he rejects as “boring stuff”) was born without fibula. He has not had flesh, blood and bone below his knees since he was 11 months old.


In January, the International Association of Athletic Federations ruled that his state of the art prosthetics were superior to human legs, and would thus give him an unfair advantage. Last month, that judgement was overturned. If he can cut his best times down by less than a second, Olympic competition will see its first cyborg. The future has arrived.


Most NSFW Creature Ever


Move over, Sea Cucumber; your title as “most obscene specimen of marine life” has just been usurped. Enter The Pigbutt Worm! In addition to its official name, this newly-discovered species is also sometimes called The Flying Buttocks. Its Latin name, Chaetopterus pugaporcinus, translates to “resembling a pig’s rump.” These marble-sized creatures float below oxygen minimum zone and appear to catch food inside a small cloud of mucus that surrounds their mouth. Yum!

So Coilhouse is supposed to be on this crazy deadline moratorium but when I saw this picture, for some reason it made me think of all of you, and I just had to share. Enjoy!

Many thanks to (what other pervert could have submitted this?) Paul Komoda.

World’s most powerful laser unveiled in Michigan

Believe it! The mad scientists of Michigan University give us HERCULES.

Pumping 300 terawatts of power, sildenafil this laser is one bad mother. Beaming with promise of scientific and medical benefits, HERCULES has taken over several rooms at UM. Indeed, this tiny shaft of power is “a 1.3-micron speck about 100th the diameter of a human hair” and is the most intense laser in the known universe. Just check out these stats: “The record-setting beam measures 20 billion trillion watts per square centimeter. It contains 300 terawatts of power. That’s 300 times the capacity of the entire U.S. electricity grid”. Unf.

Jessica Joslin’s Delightful Wunderkammer Creatures

Enzo & Donato (detail), 6″ x 6x 6″ each (12″ x 18″ x 10″-Mounted), 2004
Brass, bone, fur, cast/painted plastic, glass eyes

You may have already heard tell of Jessica Joslin‘s enchanted bestiary via the esteemed Wurzeltod, Brass Goggles or Boing Boing. If not, it’s a joy and an honor to introduce you to her work. In Jessica’s loving hands, delicate one-of-a-kind creatures are born of brass and bone, buttons and leather, glass eyes, mother of pearl, filigree, taxidermy, antique mechanical flotsam, scientific process, nostalgia and GENIUS!

From the Lisa Sette Gallery Newsletter:

Jessica Joslins’s odd menagerie begins with her penchant for collecting: “I find things anywhere that I find myself…in obscure junk shops, flea markets, attics, taxidermy supply houses, specialty hardware distributors… or walking through the woods.” Joslin seeks out and puts to use those bright odds and ends that might catch one’s eye in a box full of orphaned fixtures, or glinting up from the sidewalk. While each piece she employs in her eerie animal reliquary is delicately beautiful, it is also the detritus of human engineering and design: old brass buttons and gold braid, glass beads, clockwork cogs and velvet ribbon. Such items are reminiscent of the whimsical technology of a century past, one’s grandparents’ house, the dark interiors of old fashioned movie theatres – and as such they have an intriguing, wistful quality. In other words, Joslin collects the things that all of us secretly want to, the shiny pieces that we might comb through, handle and admire, but ultimately force ourselves to put down; what would we do with such things?

Flora, 4″ x 2″ x 3″, 2006
Brass, bone, sterling, painted wood, grommets, cast pewter, glass eyes

Jessica, who lives in Chicago with her commensurately brilliant husband, painter Jared Joslin, recently took time out of her busy schedule to answer several questions for the upcoming Coilhouse print magazine. You can read excerpts from this interview and meet a few more of her creatures under the cut. Also, anyone who happens to be in LA through the 23rd can take a closer look some of her work at the Los Angeles Art Show in Santa Monica.

Superblack! Scientists discover world’s darkest.. thing

Researchers in a US laboratory created the darkest ever substance, said to absorb light ‘perfectly’ from every angle and reflect nothing. In fact, scientists claim that it’s so fucking black that it’s 30 times blacker than the current benchmark of blackness. That’s right, there’s a benchmark for blackness. You heard it here first.

According to the Houston Chronicle, it “reflects 0.045 percent light, making it 100 times darker than a black-painted Corvette.”

Here is an exclusive preview of the darkest matter in the universe:


Scientist expect that this discovery will be applied in the fields of electricity, solar energy and next season’s Lip Service collection.