Harping on YouTube

Last week, we had wanted to include Emily Hopkins’ “harp with a distortion pedal” in our “Your Friday…” Around the Web vide feature, but YouTube seems to be getting stricter about letting other sites embed their videos so we were not able. (This has become a common occurrence so you will be seeing less embedded video in Around the Web. That may be a good thing.)

Anyway, as it turns out, Ms. Hopkins’ video was removed from YouTube due to its “child endangerment” policy. Wha? Via Boing Boing:

 I'm sorry to say it may be a little while before the Nepenthes distortion on harp video comes back… I'm doing all I can!! Before you ask, I checked the box stating the video was NOT for children when it was uploaded, as I always do with all my demos. It was all original music made by me, no cursing, no unsafe situations, and nothing involving minors, so this is was the result of someone falsely accusing the video of having dangerous content in it.

It appears to be back. Check it out. Emily the Harpist also has a merch site, if you are a fan of harpists—and who isn’t, really?

Come As You Are

Stick to Your Knitting

Cary Sherburne’s next knitting project: a musical keyboard. MIT researchers are working on the latest in smart textiles.

“It’s a musical keyboard made out of yarns that is expressive, soft, and stretchable,” Irmandy Wicaksono, an engineer and designer who is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the MIT Media Lab, told Digital Trends. “It’s all textile-based, which makes it transportable, aesthetically unique, and feel good on the fingers. This is fabricated utilizing machine knitting, allowing us to fully customize the looks or colors, the number of keys and octaves, as well as [the tactile properties such as] squishiness and stretchiness and electrical properties … by computationally programming the knitting pattern and feeding various common and functional yarns.”

The project reportedly started out with the intention of being a wearable, foldable keyboard for the late American jazz musician Lyle Mays to use for composing on the road. In the end, Wicaksono said, “the project became more than that.”

Take this a step further and Rick Wakeman could play his own cape.

Excuses Excuses

Apparel Appeal

Was it a good week for graphene news? It’s always a good week for graphene news! At the recent Tokyo Olympics, elite athletes sported garments featuring graphene-based inks. Says Graphene-Info:

Haydale has announced that, following its announcement of positive prototype testing on 3rd March 2020, its range of advanced wearable technology - integrated into garments for elite athletes - was used in Tokyo by British athletes, including top medal winning athletes.

The garments generate heat using Haydale's printed functionalized graphene ink and incorporate electronic circuitry to produce temperature regulated panels. The plan is to use them at future international competitions, and subsequently to make them available commercially to other professional sports.

Graphene…is there anything it can’t do?

 It’s All About the Branding

The Kids Are Alright

We have written often on Around the Web—and in our Textiles section—about the prevalence of microplastics and how they get into the world’s waterways and can create problems for marine life, and problems for species who are part of a food chain that involves marine life.

Via the BBC, Fionn Ferreira used to roam the beaches of his native south Ireland and began to grow shocked at the amount of plastic he could see in the ocean—and even more shocked at all the microplastic he couldn’t see. Now 20 years old, he’s a chemistry student at Groningen University in the Netherlands and is developed a system for extracting microplastics from water based on something he discovered when he was 12: magnetic fluids. Says the BBC:

"I found some oil spill residue with loads of plastic attached to it," he says. "I realised that oil could be used to attract plastic."

Ferreira mixed vegetable oil with iron oxide powder to create a magnetic liquid, also known as ferrofluid. He then blended in microplastics from a wide range of everyday items, including plastic bottles, paint and car tyres, and water from the washing machine.

After the microplastics attached themselves to the ferrofluid, Ferreira used a magnet to remove the solution and leave behind only water.

Following 5,000 tests, Ferreira's method was 87% effective at extracting microplastics from water.

In 2019, he took his invention to the Google Science Fair, where he won and received an educational scholarship of $50,000.

Ferreira is currently in the process of designing a device which uses the magnetic extraction method to capture microplastics as water flows past it. The device will be small enough to fit inside waterpipes to continuously extract plastic fragments as water flows through them. He has also been working on a system that could be fitted to ships so they can extract plastics on the oceans.

One Step Beyond

Indefinite Article

Shakespeare aficionados have always found something unsettling about Macbeth. Actors were always superstitious about performing in it, or even saying the name Macbeth, preferring to refer to it as “The Scottish Play” (brilliantly parodied in Blackadder the Third). And it’s not just that the play has witches, black magic, walking forests, and ghostly apparitions—oh, and a pretty gruesome regicide and a leading lady who remarks, “who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?” But for others, the creepiness of the play lies not in its characters, plot elements, or specific dialog content, but just the basic language of the play, as One Zero explains:

Actors and critics have long remarked that when you read Macbeth out loud, it feels like your voice and mouth and brain are doing something ever so slightly wrong. There’s something subconsciously off about the sound of the play, and it spooks people. It’s as if Shakespeare somehow wove a tiny bit of creepiness into every single line. The literary scholar George Walton Williams described the “continuous sense of menace” and “horror” that pervades even seemingly innocuous scenes.

Still, no one could ever quite pinpoint just what it was about the language of Macbeth that is so unsettling. Until a 2014 data analysis of the language of Macbeth by scholars Jonathan Hope and Michael Witmore ferreted it out, and it comes down to the way that Shakespeare uses one particular word. What word could be unsettling? Well, we think the most terrifying words in the English language are “upgrade” and “basecamp” (and together it’s even more unsettling), but Shakespeare didn’t use either of these words. So what word did he use that has everyone spooked?


Huh? No, “the.” For example:

They began to notice a pattern. Consider this example below; it's Lady Macbeth speaking. The Macbeths are getting all jittery and nervous, and they're startled by some noises in the night. Lady Macbeth explains the noises thusly …

“It was the owl that shriek'd, the fatal bellman, Which gives the stern’st good-night.”

Now, that’s a weird way to talk about that owl. Imagine you and I were walking through the woods and we suddenly heard a hoot. I’d probably say, “oh — it’s an owl!” An owl. Not the owl. If you say “the owl,” you’re referring to a specific owl that you, and everyone around, you is already familiar with.

By saying “it was the owl that shriek’d”, Lady Macbeth is — in a quite deliciously creepy way — implying that everyone already knows what owl she’s talking about.

… This curious use of “the” is all over the play. Shakespeare just kept on doing it. Here’s Lady Macbeth again, when she’s counseling Macbeth on how to lie …

“To beguile the time, Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye, Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower, But be the serpent under’t.

Same thing here with “serpent”! Normally you’d say, “be a serpent” — but “be the serpent” sounds so much more specific and freaky.

The article (and original paper) has much more detail about the word analysis methodology. Still, it’s not the final answer on why it’s such a creepy play.  

Hive Minds


Modesty forbade us from bringing this up during this week’s webinar on AR/VR and interactive print, but a new research report from Juniper Research, Digital Adult Content, “provides a comprehensive evaluation of the digital adult content market, including an in-depth analysis of existing and emerging monetisation models available to stakeholders.”

One of the key features of the report is:

Emerging Technologies Evaluation: A highly exhaustive [we bet!] analysis of the nascent technologies within the digital adult content industry, including AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) adult content, and what their future impacts will be.

What, no QR codes?

Signs of the Times: Blue EMC of Death

Nature Green in Tooth and Claw

There is something cool yet creepy about carnivorous plants. The Venus flytrap is the emblematic example, perhaps closely followed by the pitcher plant. All told, there are 630 known species of carnivorous plants. Well, make that 631. Says Gizmodo:

In the boglands of the northwestern United States and Canada, an unassuming plant has been trapping and eating insects, totally unbeknownst to science. Today, researchers report that Triantha occidentalis is now the 12th known independent evolution of carnivory—the consumption of animal flesh—in the plant kingdom.

The plant has very small, sticky hairs on its leg that trap insects and then consumes them. But T. occidentalis is a clever chap, and knows which side its bread is buttered on:

The hairs strike a balance in stickiness that helps them catch prey without compromising other essential survival tasks. “We believe that Triantha occidentalis is able to do this because its glandular hairs are not very sticky, and can only entrap midges and other small insects, so that the much larger and stronger bees and butterflies that act as its pollinators are not captured”.

By the way, if you are looking for a good science-fiction novel about a future Earth where plants evolved to become giant omnivorous terrors (and, well, who isn’t?), we highly recommend Brian Aldiss’ 1962 Hugo-winning Hothouse. You’ll never look at spider plant the same way again.

AI-Yi-Yi: Plant Edition

If Brian Aldiss had had an AI program, who knows what other terrifying future Earth plants he would have come up. But Jonathan Whitaker used AI to come up with 300 species of plants (that don’t actually exist) and then hand-illustrated them in the style of old watercolor notebook drawings.

Internal Affairs

Crate Expectations

You’ve heard of artificial intelligence? Of greater danger is real stupidity. Case in point: this week’s bizarre “milk crate challenge.” Says The Guardian:

In the milk crate challenge, which recently started on TikTok, participants take on a set of milk crates precariously stacked in the shape of a pyramid, attempt to climb to the top and then back down again without toppling over.

Two questions immediately spring to mind: 1) who has that many milk crates lying around?, and b) WT actual F?

As videos of people falling painfully go viral on social media and rack up millions of views, doctors across the US are coming out to warn people of the dangerous injuries that can occur.

“It’s perhaps even worse than falling from a ladder,” said Shawn Anthony, an orthopedic surgeon at Mount Sinai hospital in New York, to the Washington Post. “It’s very difficult to brace yourself from the falls I’ve seen in these videos. They’re putting their joints at an even higher risk for injury,” he added.

This is not a great time to get injured, if one can avoid it:

With many hospitals across the US already overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients and running short on space and staff, health departments are urging people to reconsider their choices before taking on the challenge.

What’s in a Name?

Round and Round

Do you like jigsaw puzzles? Cylinders? The third dimension? If yes to all three, good news! Via Laughing Squid, woodworker Ray Whitby demonstrates how to use woodturning techniques combined with 3D printing to create beautiful cylindrical jigsaw puzzles.


Square Meals

In today’s technological world, it’s hard to tell what’s parody and what’s real (i.e., anything associated with the Internet of Things), but even an experienced technology writer at The Verge is baffled by whether a new start-up called SquarEat is for real or not. He writes:

Slap bang in the middle of a Venn diagram with two circles labelled “sincere tech startups” and “dystopian satires that are a little on the nose” you will find SquarEat: a company that you would swear is a joke if you weren’t already familiar with how the simulation we’re all living in likes to collide fact and fiction. SquarEat was apparently born of a simple idea: what if you could eat squares?

And, indeed, that is exactly what they set out to produce: squares.

The company claims to have “created a new concept of food” (squares) which it makes by blitzing ingredients and compressing them into “ready-to-eat” 50 gram packages (squares). You can buy your squares in packs of four or six and have them delivered to your house. They can be eaten hot or cold, heated in a microwave or a frying pan, and come in a dazzling array of flavors including chicken, beef, asparagus, peanut, seabass, and salmon.

Looking at that image you can’t help but think they missed a real opportunity by going with the whole square thing. What do you get if you rotate a square 45 degrees? Food Diamonds! Much more appealing than squares.

Once in Every Lifetime…

Those who were of a certain age in the 1980s have fond memories of the British comedy series The Young Ones, which aired in the US on MTV. Described by artist and toymaker Mike Strict as “Monty Python for the Punk generation,” the decidedly unfab four (well, three of them—what, no love for Mike?) are back as 12cm resin figures.

Says Boing Boing: “Strict sold the limited handmade figurines at a toy convention and, unsurprisingly, they went quickly. However, he does accept commissions.” Uncool and heavy, man.

R.I.P. Sean Lock

R.I.P. Charlie Watts

This Week in Printing, Publishing, and Media History

1946: English drummer, songwriter, and producer Keith Moon born.

1966: Lunar Orbiter 1 takes the first photograph of Earth from orbit around the Moon (not Keith).

1973: A bank robbery gone wrong in Stockholm, Sweden, turns into a hostage crisis; over the next five days the hostages begin to sympathize with their captors, leading to the term “Stockholm syndrome.” (Some trade shows are like that.)

1991: The World Wide Web is opened to the public.

August 24

1456: The printing of the Gutenberg Bible is completed.

1891: Thomas Edison patents the motion picture camera.

1995: Microsoft Windows 95 is released to the public in North America.

1998: First radio-frequency identification (RFID) human implantation is tested in the United Kingdom.

August 25

1609: Galileo Galilei demonstrates his first telescope to Venetian lawmakers.

1835: The first Great Moon Hoax article is published in The New York Sun, announcing the discovery of life and civilization on the Moon. (No one would ever fall for something like that today.)

1867: English physicist and chemist Michael Faraday dies (b. 1791).

1900: German philologist, philosopher, and critic Friedrich Nietzsche dies (b. 1844).

1954: English singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer Elvis Costello ( Declan MacManus) born.

1991: Linus Torvalds announces the first version of what will become Linux.

2012: Voyager 1 spacecraft enters interstellar space becoming the first man-made object to do so.

August 26

1740: French inventor (hot air balloon) Joseph-Michel Montgolfier born.

1873: American engineer and academic and inventor the Audion tube Lee de Forest born.

1952: American journalist and puzzle creator Will Shortz born.

August 27

1770: German philosopher and academic Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel born.

1871: American novelist and journalist Theodore Dreiser born.

1933: The first Afrikaans Bible is introduced during a Bible Festival in Bloemfontein.

1953: Canadian singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer Alex Lifeson ( Alexandar Zivojinovich) born.

1971: American publisher, co-founded Random House Bennett Cerf dies (b. 1898).

August 28

1749: German novelist, poet, playwright, and diplomat Johann Wolfgang von Goethe born.

1845: The first issue of Scientific American magazine is published.

1898: Caleb Bradham’s beverage “Brad's Drink” is renamed “Pepsi-Cola.”

August 29

1831: Michael Faraday discovers electromagnetic induction.

1997: Netflix is launched as an internet DVD rental service.