Is it an ECG monitor? Is it an especially spindly cantilever bridge? Is it one of those weird sea creatures that you can never remember the name of?
Well, no. It's none of the above. This image does in fact depict the heart of a mosquito, magnified 100 times over and aided by fluorescence technology. The shot – taken by Vanderbilt University's Jonas King – was awarded first prize in the 2010 Nikon Small World Photomicography Competition. And a worthy winner it is too.
By looking this closely into the biting beast's insides, King has aided life scientists in the study of malaria. As Nikon puts it, the photo "provides insight into how mosquitoes move blood to all regions of their bodies". So it's not just striking; it could be a lifesaver.
Fancy getting involved in the world of photomicography? Well, beware. Taking pictures of tiny things entails a mighty price-tag. But watch News Stream's segment on the Small World phenomenon, and we're sure you'll be inspired nonetheless.
When I first saw the graphic theme for News Stream, it took about 10 seconds for me to think 'TRON', so it's hardly surprising that the team have been eagerly awaiting the neon-lit cyber-sequel to the 1982 classic. It seems other people shared our sense of anticipation too - 'TRON: Legacy' powered up for a number one box-office opening weekend, pulling in $43.6 million at theaters across the U.S. and Canada.
I'm yet to see the movie myself - it hasn't hit cinema screens in Hong Kong yet - but even from the trailers and the clips I've seen there are plenty of water-cooler moments to talk about: the light-bikes, the killer frisbees...
But the thing that got our geek senses tingling the most: a Hollywood lesson in how to look 28 years younger. The idea of pitting a movie star against their younger self is nothing new, but 'TRON: Legacy' is the first to take the plunge. Thus Flynn, played by Jeff Bridges v.2010, is at war with Clu, played by Jeff Bridges v.1982, a digitally youthful chip off the old block.
Effects like that take a lot of work. According to 'TRON: Legacy' Animation Director Steve Preeg, Jeff Bridges started work with the animation team in mid-2008. They created a cast of his head, and digitally compared his face now with that in the original 1982 'TRON'. On set, Bridges had to shoot his scenes whilst wearing a helmet with four cameras mounted on it, and with hundreds of motion-capture dots attached to his face. As for the Clu you'll see on the silver screen, yes it's Jeff Bridges with a digital face-lift, but from the neck down, it's a younger body double.
Steve Preeg admits that following in the footsteps of 'TRON' was "very frightening".
"The entire industry that I work in owes its creation to 'TRON'", he told News Stream. "They were so cutting edge that they were disqualified from being nominated for Best Special Effects at the Oscars because using as computer was seen as cheating".
Check out more of our interview with Steve Preeg here:
As you might imagine, for some fans 'TRON: Legacy' is a must-see movie, and fans of the original film don't come much more devoted than Jay Maynard, otherwise known as internet sensation 'TRON guy'.
In a review for Wired.com, Maynard calls 'TRON: Legacy' "visually stunning, intellectually engaging, and emotionally exhausting". Apparently, it brought him to tears.
There's already talk of a third 'TRON' movie in the Disney pipeline. Who knows, maybe this one will feature Maynard.
Please put your hand up if you still own a floppy disk. Anyone? Bueller...?
Before today I had no idea that they were still useful. Turns out, people have given this outdated mode of data storage new life in amazing ways.
I was surprised by how much people like the pen holder. I actually made –and then remade– it at my desk (yes, it’s that simple).
There are several different instructions online. If you don't like using a drill then bang out some aggression with a hammer and nail instead. Just do not use any wire stronger than a twist tie to connect them or you'll have trouble getting it tight enough.
But I'll be honest... those are brand new floppy disks you see there. I tore my apartment apart looking for some to recycle and couldn't find a single one.
They weren't easy to locate in stores either. More than one salesperson just laughed when I asked if they carried floppies. I felt the need to justify my inquiry by adding, "They're for an art project."
I think it was worth the small humiliation. That is one sweet pen holder.
What have you made out of floppy disks? Send us pictures if you have any!
And check out all of our geektastic gift ideas:
I consider myself a good cook. But baking is a whole different story. Still, when News Stream needed a “30 second chocolate cake” I jumped at the chance to make it. Cooking and calling it “work” sounded like the perfect day.
I didn’t have the nifty gadget needed to aerate the batter but was going to borrow one at work. I still wanted to try a microwave cake recipe before I got to the office, though. So I found this one from the “Cooking for Geeks” book club blog.
It was super easy. A few packets of hot chocolate, some flour and sugar, plus some oil, water and an egg. It didn’t look like much at first… but three minutes later, it seriously could’ve passed for soufflé.
The “30 second” recipe was a bit trickier. Instead of instant cocoa, I had to melt a dark chocolate bar. No oil or water in this one… but by the time I stirred in the flour, sugar and eggs, my batter was a bit lumpy.
Here’s what I learned: “strain mixture” is not a suggestion. I failed to plan for that step of the recipe and had to settle for what sort-of passed as a strainer, found in the office kitchen cabinet. But my batter still didn’t come out right. In fact, it wouldn’t come out of the whipped cream canister at all!
After much shaking (and swearing) a little dribbled out. I cooked it anyway, just to see what would happen. It's in that little red robot. Definitely not pretty enough for TV. The one in the white ramekin got air time instead.
If you watched News Stream on Thursday then you know what happened next. The beautiful “3 minute" cake had hardened into a brick. I tasted it after the show and it was kind of oily, too. Bummer.
But the “30 second cake” was delicious! It had a silky texture, like a flourless chocolate torte. Please give it a try and tell us how it turns out (recipe after the video). And for some help "hacking" the rest of your holiday feast, check out Kristie's interview with author Jeff Potter.
Jeff kindly let us share his recipe for 30 second chocolate cake. He also sent this bit of advice: Some whippers can only work with cream, so make sure you get one that's suitable for foams, espumas, etc. Not sure which kind I had... but now you know!
4 ounces (113 grams) bittersweet chocolate
4 large eggs
6 tablespoons (80 grans) sugar
3 tablespoons (25 grams) flour
1. Melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Let cool.
2. Whisk in eggs, sugar and flour until smooth.
3. Pass the mixture through a strainer.
4. Transfer to a whipper; pressurize.
5. Spray mixture into a greased, microwave-safe ramekin, leaving at least the top third of the container empty.
6. Microwave until the foam has set, about 30 seconds.
To serve, flip onto a plate and dust with confectioners' sugar.
For better-tasting results: Try adding Nutella or Marshmallow Fluff. Spray a thin layer of cake batter in the container; drop a spoonful of filling into the center. Spray more cake batter on top of and around the filling.
Congratulations to U.S. satirist Stephen Colbert, author of the most retweeted message of the year. In the BP-bating summer of 2010, this was the definitive social media contribution:
Colbert was able to triumph over a plethora of pop stars, including News Stream's guilty obsession Justin Bieber (who had to settle for fourth place). That's not say young Justin didn't feature heavily in the top ten. Both Joe Jonas ("I cry because I love Justin Bieber!!!") and Rihanna ("Justin Bieber just flashed me his abs in the middle of a restaurant! Wow! He actually had a lil 6 pack! Sexy, lol!") offered belieber-themed nuggets that thousands saw fit to forward.
But Colbert is riding high. So influential are his outpourings that he was among the favorites to be named "Time"'s Person of the Year. And not content to lose out on the prize quietly, his thoughts on the actual recipient are now trending highly in America and around the world:
Stephen Colbert has apparently inspired countless skeptics to take to Twitter and vent their feelings on Mr. Facebook. Whether swayed by the less-than-flattering portrayal Zuckerberg received in "The Social Network" or merely objecting to the mighty scale of his cultural phenomenon, it appears Twitter fans aren't the biggest Facebook fans.
Here's a selection of the cleaner offerings:
Yes, the last of these is a lie. But just as we were outraged by Susan Boyle's snub in favor of Ben Bernanke last year, our small team would like to reach out to Mr. Bieber in his hour of isolation. Your "Time" will come, Justin. We, er, beliebe.
Crew members on the International Space Station are getting ready for some company. Three flight engineers are set to blast off from the Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday. Their total travel time, from launch to docking, will be 49 hours and 3 minutes.
It’s a long journey… especially when you consider the ISS is just about 320 kilometers (200 miles) above the Earth. That’s roughly the distance from London to Paris. (It actually only takes several minutes to reach space. It’s catching the ISS that’s the tricky part.)
The three new crew members of the ISS will include Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev, Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency and NASA astronaut Catherine “Cady” Coleman. They’ll spend the next five months there.
But of course, the preparation started long ago. CNN’s John Zarrella has followed Cady Coleman's training for a whole year.
Zarrella will speak to Coleman live from the ISS on Wednesday, December 22.
A comment from Coleman's husband really struck me. He says, "I'm sustained through knowing this is what Cady wants to do. This is what she lives her life to do." Whether we're here on Earth, or hundreds of kilometers above it, that kind of passion is truly admirable.
It's Chinese slang to describe a range of pirated or imitation goods. But with a difference. Shanzhai products include cellphones, cameras, computers and laptops that try their darndest to look like the real deal.
But Chris Chang of MIC Gadget offers a more nuanced definition. He says, "if a device looks like the authentic iPhone at first sight, we call it an iPhone knockoff. If it doesn't, we just call it shanzhai."
In tech markets like Shenzhen's Huaqiangbei you can score shanzhai versions of everything from Sony PSP players to Nokia phones. But Apple's designs are the most copied, as they are the most coveted.
Chang, a 19-year-old student based in Hong Kong, came by the studio armed with a select array of charming and eyebrow-raising shanzhai gifts including the shanzhai iPad. At first glance, you can imediately tell it's smaller than the real thing. It also runs a rival operating system, Google's Android, and lacks a truly multi-touch screen. In fact, you have to use your fingernails to touch it. But the shanzhai version has a handy feature that Apple left out of its tablet - a micro SD card slot. It retails in China for $135.
Next up, the Magic Mouse Phone. It has absolutely no link to the iPhone and looks just like Apple's mouse. It's a $45 GSM-only handset styled after a much-loved peripheral. Consider it a charming nod to Apple's design savvy. Shanzhai as geek tribute.
And then Chang revealed the very buzzy Apple Peel. It's a skin that turns an Apple iPod Touch into a GSM-only iPhone. When fully charged, it provides 4.5 hours of call time and 120 hours of standby time. Price tag? $45.
It may be a clever hack, but you have to extremely clever to put it together. It took Chang more than two hours to assemble at his first go, and that after jailbreaking his iPhone.
And yet Chang is a big fan, as the Apple Peel showcases Made-in-China tech not as a shameless rip-off or even shanzhai tribute... but as a "magical" example of innovation.
But there is one more thing...
The S-J "iDoll" is designed by MIC Gadget. With black turtleneck, glasses, and New Balance sneakers... it is a remakarable likeness. MIC had 300 figures made and, at just under $80 a pop, they quickly sold out. But then Apple told them to stop immediately, for violating Apple's copyrights and trademarks.
A bit ironic, considering the blog's content. It is after all a celebration of all things shamelessly shanzhai.