LinksYou guys are sending me a ton of interesting links, so here goes another links post.
Kevin Mosley sent me a link to Futility Closet, which I can only describe as full of information about the obscure and forgotten. The historical bent, plus the fascinating nature of the stories, makes it well worth reading.
Brett Kugler sent a link to an NPR story about software development. As always, it has the thoughtful NPR treatment, and you can listen to the show here.
Julian Dasgupta wrote the second installment of a multi-part article on political attempts to control gaming content in Germany. It's over at the always excellent Gamers With Jobs, and you can read it here.
Geoff Engelstein sent a link to videos of a robotic salamander. Here's why:
Salamanders and other similar creatures (like Lampreys) have two distinct modes of locomotion -- walking and swimming -- and their bodies move differently during each. The swimming mode is a simple undulation (like an eel) and is controlled by oscillators located along the spine, governed by a master 'control signal' at a certain frequency. By doing neurological research into muscle response, these scientists in France developed a theory that the leg motion was controlled by the same type of oscillators in the legs, but with a slower frequency. As the master control frequency increases, the legs and body move faster, until eventually the legs can't go any faster and stop moving, causing the transition between walking and swimming. The different motions are caused by the interaction between the two oscillations of the legs and spine -- the leg oscillation is stronger and dominates until it drops out.
The cool part is that they designed and built a robot salamander to test the theory. You can see the movies of both the robot and an actual salamander on the link above. Notice how the body moves differently and slower on land than in the water in both creatures.
This is also an example of how evolution can work -- You can have something like an eel, and with a relatively simple addition -- legs that move at a slower frequency than the body -- the animal can use the same movement controls and switch between walking and swimming.
The videos are remarkable, and you can find them here.
Sirius sent in this next link, and don't be eating lunch when you look at these photos of a rare skin condition called Lewandowsky-Lutz. Here's an excerpt from the story:
A friend of mine has a relative who is a missionary in Eastern Europe. He recently shared photographs and the story of a man he is caring for, who has an extremely bizarre skin condition. The man has keratin-like matter growing out of the skin on hands and feet, which started when he was young, and very slowly continues to spread and grow.
If you're feeling brave, take a look here. Argghhh!