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GADGETS
Lightsaber Battle in Time Square

Anyone venturing through Manhattan this week could have used an outlet for all of that holiday aggression. 34th Street and Time Square were even more packed than usual, swarmed with last minute shoppers, sales seekers, and tourists. Anticipating the rush, Electronic Arts celebrated the official launch of BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic by letting people duke it out at the center of it all. Time Square became home to a lightsaber duel this Tuesday, which was part performance, part battle, and part elementary school freeze tag.

The game involved some stellar flashmob participants dressed up in costume at the game’s launch. Armed with lightsabers, the groups were divided into Jedis and Siths. Something odd, however, soon struck. The moment the two groups went at each other with blows, they froze mid-motion. Immediately plain clothed, seemingly regular bystanders, whipped out their own lightsabers and joined the fray. These enemies too froze in dramatic poses at the battle’s start, making for a startling and cool scene. Since Time Square moves so quickly, the flashmob was able to surprise different crows a few times. Every half an hour from 4 to 6 p.m. a new battle would begin and both Jedi and Sith alike would dissappear as mysteriously as they showed up.

ART
National Geographic’s Best Photos of 2011

As the year is coming to a close, magazines and sites are wrapping up with a celebration of the best 2011 had to offer. National Geographic, known for collecting the most rare and extraordinary shots of nature all over the world, has recently gathered together the best photos of the year all in one spot. Shots of people, places, and nature were carefully chosen by editors and viewers as the best of National Geographic’s photo contests this year.

The winner this year’s Places category is a beautifully composed shot of a rainbow over the Philippines' Onuk Island after a storm, taken by photographer George Tapan. However, even the runners up match its beauty. From Florida to Nepal, the Places category captures fantastic moments from all around the world. The People category is home to photos that tell entire stories in brief moments. Its winner, The Fjellman Family, taken by Izabelle Nordfjell, raises more questions than it answers. A father points a shotgun toward something offscreen as a child covers his ears, turned away from a car window. It’s as ominous as a movie moment, before a monster strikes. An ordinary moment, which was a simple hunting trip, is turned into something curious and extraordinary by the photographer. The Nature category, in contrast, captures what has always been around us in extraordinary ways. Its winning photographer, Shikhei Goh, looks toward the tiny and creates a larger than life photo. “Splashing” is a photo of a dragonfly struggling to hold onto a twig at the sudden onset of rain. The lighting makes the rain look like sparks, and highlights the creature’s translucent wings.

WEIRD SCIENCE
Facebook for Robots

Facebook hasn’t exactly been a helping hand in keeping people smart on the internet. Status updates, game invites, and being tagged in embarrassing pictures doesn’t do much for the learning process. Robots given their own social network, however, can apparently learn a lot, according to Carlos Asmat, the project coordinator for MyRobots.com. The project aims to see what different types of robots or even household objects can learn or effectively communicate to one another and their owners by updating their statuses.

GADGETS
Urban Flipper: The Interactive Pinball Projection

One of the few real staples at bars and arcades was the pinball machine. While times have changed and arcades are slowly disappearing, the love of the old machine carries on in many of our hearts. The pinball machine is part challenge, part luck, and all lights and sound. It appeals to all the senses and worms its way into a nostalgic part of our hearts. While thousands of different kinds of pinball games and spin-offs have been created, France’s Festival of Lights takes things to a whole new level.



For the Festival of Lights, which is celebrated every year in Lyon, Carol Martin and Thibaut Berbezier, who together form CTLight decided to create something fresh and interactive. They did not think big, but huge. What they created was a pinball game so large it took on an entire building’s facade. Their creation is an interactive projected game of pinball, whose maze outlines the windows and borders of the Celestine Theater. On the ground, one person controls a regular game of pinball while a stunned crowd looks on to the building’s facade. The bright lights flash as the projected ball hits the game’s borders and corners. It’s true to the spirit of pinball larger than life all at once.

ART
The World Tree of Hope

It’s down to the wire for those that celebrate the holiday.With a week until Christmas, last minute shoppers are just making their way out of hibernation. In the flurry of travel, cooking, and last minute gift hunting, it’s easy to miss all of the beautiful things created for the season. In San Francisco stands one of the most beautiful trees of the year. Its branches look as though they’re made of delicate gold and white leaves from afar and its glow is enough to inspire hope, because that is, quite literally, what this tree is made of.

The Tree of Hope has stood proudly in San Francisco’s City Hall since 2006. It stands apart from its red and green siblings with its soft white glow because it houses no ordinary kind of decoration. The Tree of Hope houses thousands of origami cranes, each one a unique creation housing a unique wish. Anyone can send a wish to the tree’s creators, the Rainbow World Fund, and inscribe their crane with their own wish for the future. From world leaders down to the smallest child, the Tree of Hope brings together the wishes of so many. Every year, people all over the world send a crane, hoping that wish will come true.

WEBSITES
The SOPA Rundown

News about SOPA has been making its way across the internet in the last few weeks, with good reason. The passing of SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, would change the very face of the internet. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in October in an attempt to expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement and copyright holders to fight online trafficking of copyrighted intellectual property. While protecting copyrighted material seems fair, the act itself will allow federal law enforcement to seek court orders forcing ISPs and search engines to filter domain names and block websites accused of copyright infringement. This is dangerous territory because it not only makes censorship very easy to seek as a result, but something that could be widespread across the internet.

ART
Li Wei’s Gravity Defying Photography

Creating a crisp, beautiful picture without the editing aid of Photoshop is usually something to brag about in photography circles. Capturing a man flying without the aid of Photoshop--that’s a different sort of bragging right. Li Wei, a photographer from Beijing, captures the impossible all the time. They are part performance art and part photography. His subjects fly, float, and free fall.

ART
Soft Guerrilla and Harmless Weapons

Bean’s clean style once again makes an appearance as he turns weapons into something rather inviting. A feather becomes a knife, Jell-O becomes a grenade, toast becomes a pair of brass knuckles, while ice cream pops become a bomb and candles become ammunition. The pictures are meant to evoke the danger in activities like yarn bombing, which is covering unexpected things in yarn creations, like lamp posts, trees, bicycles, store fronts and just about anything tickling the imagination. Yarn, which evokes soft images of mittens, lumpy sweaters, and kittens worthy of a motivational poster from the 80s, is obviously not usually seen as a tool of rebellion. Gardening, too, is mostly seen as a relaxing activity or chore. Bean’s work evokes the guerrilla aspect of these new trends while holding on the very ordinary and harmless. It’s a really cool, and sometimes really appetizing balance.

Below is a gallery featuring Bean's Soft Guerrilla pieces!

GREEN$H!T
Taiwan’s Floating Garden

Design competitions are all about finding the most innovative, beautiful, and sometimes most environmentally friendly concepts to shape the way we look at structures. Design affects entire cities, states, and countries for years to come. Phases like the Art Deco movement survive years after its creation because of its beauty and historical significance. The Taiwan Tower Internation Competition painstakingly went through hundreds of entries recently and chose a design by Tokyo-based architect Sou Fujimoto entitled The Oasis to build at the Taichung Gateway Park.