Archive for ‘Random Stuff’

February 7, 2014

Cubes: A Virtual Reality Experience

by Lucas Wilkins

I’ve been developing virtual reality software for a science communication project, but as a side-line I have made “Cubes”: a dreamlike virtual space inhabited by melodic, self-organising and responsive cubes where you fly around and interact by just looking (and a the two mouse buttons to slow down or reset the scene). There is also a version that does not require a virtual reality headset – it’s not a cool, but still kind of fun.

I’m going to submit this to Oculus-Share, but for now you can download both the Oculus and Non-Oculus version here.

February 6, 2014

GPU fun: bifurcation plots

by James Thorniley

So it’s quite easy to make hi-res plots of map functions with a GPU. The result is cool and science fictiony:


(click image for higher res)

October 1, 2013

3D printed bee colour spaces

by Lucas Wilkins

Think3DPrint3D has generously donated 3D printer time and plastic filament to the unusual task of rendering the usually intangible concept of honeybee colour spaces into real, physical, matter!

Both Spaces

The Spaces

The first two spaces we printed were chosen by me, in part because I think they are theoretically interesting, and in other part, because unlike some other colour spaces they are finite sized, 3D objects.

November 29, 2012

Cybernetic music

by Nathaniel Virgo

Is it okay to post art on a science blog? Well this is kind of science, so I guess it’s kind of okay.

Here is a litte piece of computer-generated music that I created yesterday:

As Twitter user @DanieleTatti noted, it sounds like a sort of Scottish raga. But what I wanted to post about was the algorithm used to generate that ever changing sequence of pitches and warbles. It’s quite a simple idea – simple enough in fact that the whole piece is generated by the following 140 characters of SuperCollider code:


January 12, 2012

An easy synchronisation experiment

by James Thorniley

Imagine a circuit that causes a little light to flash on and off. Imagine that the frequency of that flashing is itself dependent on the light at a particular sensor. Imagine that such a circuit is placed next to another identical circuit, such that the light from each circuit is directed at the sensor on the other circuit. What do you expect to see? Find out after the break…

December 22, 2011

Another example of a computer…

by Lucas Wilkins

Calculation of greatest common divisors is a quite complex problem for a digital computer, but not for pendulums:

The pendulums line up at the edge with frequencies given by the common divisors of their individual frequencies. For example, here is diagram of a 6Hz and a 4Hz signal, you can see that they line up with a frequency of 2Hz:

The algorithm it solves it is thought to be NP (it gets slow pretty quickly). Even though the problem it solves is difficult in the usual sense, the python code to calculate it is actually quite short (though I have deliberately made it so here):

def gcd(a,b):
    return a if b == 0 else gcd(b, a%b)
December 7, 2011

Example of a computer

by James Thorniley

I bought a cool toy. It cleverly computes the trajectory of a cute wagging tail without using a universal Turing machine, or anything similar.

December 3, 2011

Poll: What does a significant result mean?

by Lucas Wilkins
December 2, 2011

What isn’t a computer!?!

by Lucas Wilkins

Carrying on the great jellymatter tradition of expressing a similar opinion under a contrary title, here’s my response to James’ post about brains and computers.


Before I begin, here’s the etymology of the word computer from

1640s, “one who calculates,” agent noun from compute. Meaning “calculating machine” (of any type) is from 1897; in modern use, “programmable digital electronic computer” (1945; theoretical from 1937, as Turing machine). ENIAC (1946) usually is considered the first. Computer literacy is recorded from 1970; an attempt to establish computerate (adj., on model of literate) in this sense in the early 1980s didn’t catch on. Computerese “the jargon of programmers” is from 1960, as are computerize and computerization.

November 22, 2011

What is a computer?

by James Thorniley

I’ve been trying to work out what is and isn’t a computer. There are some different ideas about this, and I’m not totally sure myself. So here’s some thoughts I’ve been thinking for a while and felt like jotting down, in case anyone feels like criticising. It’s the kind of question that might seem abstract or trivial (I mean, everyone knows what a computer is, right?) But I want to know when it’s fair to call something a computer or not. I’m not talking about the differences between iPads and desktop PCs and laptops and smartphones – they are obviously all computers. I mean questions like is your brain a computer.


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