Acme Rocket Boots

You know who would love YouTube? Wile E. Coyote would love YouTube.


Take a look at the rocket boots in this video. Life imitates art. What are the odds that the Acme Company makes those little turbines? And there’s something very Coyote-like about the fact that he’s using hot water bottles for his fuel tanks.

In truth, I suppose that the coyote’s adventures are already pretty well documented on YouTube. Maybe he was the original BASE jumper.

My box folding video

After the busy December holiday season, I wanted to get back in the blogging saddle last week. But as I was sitting down to write late last Thursday night, a pipe burst in our house (we were in the middle of a nasty New England cold snap). It could have been much worse: my wife heard it right away and we were able to shut off the water main less than a minute after it happened. No major damage, but now we’re going to have to re-route the plumbing in the upstairs bathroom. Oy! Interesting aside: it was the hot water pipe, and the plumber who came the next day said that it’s usually the hot water pipe that goes. Why do you suppose?

Anyway, to get this week started I have a video which, for once, is a creation of mine. Years ago I was pondering a tiled floor and a question popped into my head: How many ways can you fold six contiguous squares into a cube? This video, done with MATLAB, is the answer to that question.

Flying in the bird suit

Despite the long line of disappointed, broken, and more or less dead people who have tried to fly like a bird, it seems reasonably likely that eventually someone will succeed. They will do this not so much by flying like a bird as by safely landing like a bird. What defines flying like a bird is a matter of a pinion (sorry), but Rick sent me this NY Times video about a guy who’s making a pretty good case. He’s got a black bird suit that lets him drop from an airplane rather less like a rock and rather more like a flying squirrel. It’s a start. He still lands with the help of a parachute, but at some point he plans to dispense with that. I wish him luck. And I wonder how much his health insurance costs.

It turns out he’s not the only one perfecting a bird suit. Via tingilinde I came across this great video of someone who specializes in zipping down mountainsides, BASE jump style, in his bird suit.

Stick a cape on that man and call him a super hero. That’s got to be a serious rush.

Soccer vs. Rugby

I like soccer, and I don’t know much about rugby, but this is a funny video.

The slow-motion drama queen falls, the poor-me childlike appeals to mommy—I mean the referee—it all starts to make you wonder. If soccer players are so tough (which I don’t dispute), why do they come off like such babies?

It occurs to me that soccer happens much closer to the “edge”. The dividing line between sporting and unsporting play is very narrow. Good play means you’re almost always on the verge of a dangerous foul. The action is around your feet, so you’re more likely to be tripped than in rugby or American football. Tripping has a particularly cruel look to it. Since the resulting penalties are often severe and game-changing, the temptation to put on a show for the referee is irresistible. Soccer is a dance at the edge of a plateau. Rugby is much closer to the ground.

The video closes with the words “Forget about soccer. Leave them to cry.” You can bet that they don’t do the haka before any soccer matches.

[seen on]

Earth, Moon, and Sun

Did you know that the Japanese have a space ship orbiting the Moon right now? Known variously as SELENE or Kaguya, it is, as we speak, floating around the Moon, taking gorgeous high definition video. So much of our mental imagery of the lunar landscape is based on Apollo video from the early 1970s, grainy snowy pictures from another world. But video technology, happily, has gotten much much better in the intervening 25 years. And we all get to profit from Japan’s exploration.

This particular video is only YouTube quality, but it’s still mesmerizing. A tiny blue and white Earth rises over the lunar horizon at about a minute and a half into it. You may be impatient to get to the “good part”, but I beg you to press play and let it go at its own speed. There’s no soundtrack, there’s no artificial speed-up. It’s just what you would see out your window, silent as death, endlessly rolling. When our little home comes quietly calling, it is lovely to behold.

Stick around for the whole show, because at around six minutes, you see the Earth (larger this time) sink into the darkness astern your moonship.

When you’ve tired of Earth and Moon, follow this APOD link to look at the video of a massive solar flare. It makes our pale planet seem all the more fragile. I look at these astronomical videos and I have to keep telling myself: these are real. There are no special effects involved. No special effects beyond, you know, flinging delicate camera equipment into the frozen nameless void and whispering the pictures back to our breakfast tables. I guess that’s special.

Burning Man Time Lapse Video

Time lapse videos are always fun. Here is the entire 2007 Burning Man event compressed into approximately ten minutes.

What’s fun about this video is not just seeing the blinky lights and blinding sandstorms, but also the fact that you get to see the Man burn not once but twice. When there are just under seven minutes left in the video, you see a brief fire followed by a quick hose down, after which the night time scene is illuminated by floodlights. The show must go on, so they quickly rebuild the Man in order to burn him by the end of the event.

This episode brings into sharp focus the paradox of stage-managing anarchists and choreographing chaos. What sort of a church did Dionysus really preside over?

Shortly after the Civil War began in 1861, the legislators of the Confederate States of America were charged with writing a constitution for their new country. They faced a crucial question: should the right to secede, which they had so proudly exercised the month before, be guaranteed by their new constitution? Answer: no. Secession is a fine thing, but only in moderation, please. We splitters must hang together.

We all crave a little madness, but only after the curtain goes up and before it goes down. In the battle between directors and destructors, order wins every time. The force that builds the Man is stronger than the force that burns him down. That’s exactly what’s being celebrated.

[Spotted at O’Reilly Radar]

Truck ads: good and bad

It makes sense to me that big pickup trucks are advertised during football games. That’s probably as concentrated a demographic as you can hope for when it comes to potential truck-buyers. And I should probably also say that I personally am not in the market for a pickup truck. Even so, I find almost all the football-game ads for big American pickup trucks intensely irritating, because it seems all they can do is wave the flag, show some dirt-throwin’ four-wheeling in a meaty American landscape, and recite some terse, muscular copy that implies a relationship between horsepower and patriotism. I don’t even object to this in principle. It’s just dull and sad when you see it done over and over and over. Don’t those marketers have just a little more faith in the imagination of the American consumer?

Because of all this, I was so happy to see this great ad for a pickup truck that is completely set in World of Warcraft (“Did you see me lay down the law?! I am the lawgiver!”).

At last, a truck marketer with some imagination! And… it’s for a Toyota Tundra. If I were in the market for a truck, this ad would make me want to buy Japanese. Please please please Detroit, let us out of the tiny box you think we’re in.

(also spotted on metacool)

Another unstoppable video: Bunny vs. Predator

I was away for a week of vacation, so my apologies for the comments getting untidy. My vacation was an extended family beach trip, and as one or two of the people there read my blog from time to time, I did some market research. This is what I learned: the things I blog about that tend to get remembered are the YouTube video clips. I’ve also noticed that even without prompting I’m linking to more of these videos over time. That’s a self-feeding cycle that applies to many bloggers. Video content on the web is sure to accelerate and ad-sponsored television will suffer correspondingly. I know that’s not news, but I sure see it happening in my back yard. Maybe Google wasn’t crazy to spend all that money on YouTube.

With that in mind, here is a domestic version of the great water buffalo showdown. Standing in for the poor baby water buffalo is a three-foot snake. Playing the part of marauding lion is a bunny rabbit.

We’ll not risk another frontal assault. That rabbit’s DYNAMITE.

[Spotted on the Todoist blog]

2D to 3D: an impressive video

Only a couple of posts ago I was pointing to a short video demonstration of Photosynth. Now here’s a nifty video from (which maps to The Supertour stuff that you see on the website doesn’t impress me so much… QuickTime VR was there years ago, but the video is a nice piece of work. This video, combined with Photosynth at Microsoft, is enough to convince me that the photos-to-3D application has tipped and is on its way to the consumer market. If they can make it dead easy, it should be fun stuff to play with. I like the idea of building a 3-D photo album of my house.

Here’s the video. Dig that crazy Gauguin painting. Now that’s what I’m talking about.

[spotted at O’Reilly Radar]