Child’s Play: Gamers Give Back

Those of us who love video games or webcomics are already familiar with Penny Arcade, the comic that’s centered around two gamers who riff on every new release and their old favorites. Created by Mike "Gabe" Krahulik and Jerry "Tycho" Holkins, the comic stars slightly exaggerated versions of themselves and their dynamic has kept readers laughing three times a week, for ten years. The webcomic is such a hit that it has spawned hundreds of imitators and helped shape the way people view online comics as a medium.

The Zombie Research Society

It’s a little known fact that May is Zombie Awareness Month. Thanks to the people at the Zombie Research Society, however, awareness is going to spread like wildfire. The non-profit group is dedicated to teaching people what they’ll need to know in the event of a Zombie takeover. They are dedicated to researching and spreading the news about Zombies and how to handle them, and they’re real.

The Zombie Research Society is actually a clever site for those who are big fans of sci-fi and all things zombie. Their blog section keeps readers up to date on the latest events, shows, movies, comics, and anything involving zombies. Zombie movies and books actually have a rich and long history, dating back to the days of black and white film. The site is dedicated to covering it and paying tribute to the greats that made it possible. Listed under their Advisory Board is George A. Romero, creator of 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, and famed neuroscientists Bradley Voytek, Mike Harris, and Timothy Vertynen—all of which have held a strong zombie fascination and published work based on their keen interest. It’s a diverse group, and their inclusion lends weight to an otherwise tongue-in-cheek page.

Rapture Prank: Successful!

The May 21st Rapture deadline has come and gone, thankfully in peace. For those keeping tabs, Joonbug recently reported on a prank planned online, largely backed by Gizmodo. The idea was to get as many people as possible to make it look like they had ascended in the Rapture and take as many creative photos as possible. The results would then be posted online for the pranksters to share.

The Rapture Bombing prank was a huge success, so much so that even a few celebrities couldn’t resist getting in on the action. Tony Hawk kick flipped straight into the clouds, leaving behind his trademark gear. Even David Copperfield couldn’t help but get in on the disappearing act, to the surprise of no one but his audience.

That Can Be My Next Tweet!

Twitter, for better or worse, has tried to teach us to send concise messages to one another. One quick browse through the trending sidebar, though, and it’s easy to see that some ideas get lost in translation in hilarious ways. Well, now you’ve got a chance to make your own mess of words with That Can Be My Next Tweet.

The site scrambles several of your old tweets into a completely different one. The results are usually hilarious, gibberish, or oddly poetic. It’s a simple time waster that provides mindless fun, but users have taken a real shine to site. It has inspired writing, artwork, and a simple Google search will reveal plenty of forums and social sites that post their favorite and funniest.

Google eBooks Translator

Once upon a time speech-to-text programs were rudimentary and could rarely pump out a fully correct sentence. The same could be said of online language translators. We were warned not to use them in high school because their too literal translations of sentences yielded gibberish or poorly metered baby talk in the goal language. It was also cheating, but that’s neither here nor there.

However, these programs have come a long way, and while not perfect, they’ve left their predecessors in the dust. Google may be onto a plan that could break down speech barriers as we know them with their new eBook feature. This feature allows for instant translation of any body of text selected. Translation is, no doubt, not perfect, but much better than one would expect from a seemingly minor feature. The news comes with quite a bit of excitement because automatic translation is an ever-evolving technology. It would be no surprise if a few years down the line Google sported a near perfect translator, which could be applied beyond literature—socially.

Punking the Rapture

For those of you who have missed the news, some select groups claim that the end of the world will come bright and early tomorrow. It’s one of many predictions, all of which have been false so far. It’s also a year earlier than the more famed prediction of the Apocalypse coming in 2012. We’ve lived through a handful of Judgment Days.

The justifiably large group of cynics and skeptics across the internet have turned the ominous omen into something fun. It’s called Rapture Bombing. Memetically spread across social groups like Facebook and Tumblr, Rapture Bombing is a silly prank that requires no special material. Just artfully arrange some old clothes in public places as though a person was once wearing them and you’re done.

The Oxygen Bubble Dress

New York University student Hana Newman has designed a dress to combat pollutants in the air. The “8” dress is a seemingly strange transparent bubble dress that filters the air for the user. It is also an art piece and a statement.

Of Newman’s creation, she comments:

“8 challenges inverted quarantine and the response to perceived toxic environments by exposing it's folly and highlighting the next trend in the green movement with an elegant dress.

8 exposes the wearer while closing her off. It glorifies the oxygen tank and is a constant reminder to the user that she is breathing clean air and to the audience that they are not. It is a catalyst for a larger conversation questioning how what we do individually influences the way we collectively solve problems and raises airwareness.”

Photoshop Time Travel to World War II

If these pictures seem familiar, it’s with good reason! Russian photographer Sergey Larenkov created the first part of this set over a year ago and they quickly became famous in the photography community and across the internet. His concept is simple and elegant. Larenkov takes old images of the war-torn areas of World War II and contrasts them with their modern day counterparts.

Larenkov traveled to Berlin, Prague and Vienna to capture his modern scenes. He then blended these images seamlessly into one with found pictures or illustrations of the area during turbulent times. The result is a stark juxtaposition of the comfort of modern day living against the crumbling destruction of war. Many of these landmarks have been reconstructed, but still merge perfectly with the portion of old photography. This is because Larenkov studies the old photographs very carefully and tries to take his new photos from the exact same location the photographers of the originals may have taken theirs.

Balloon Ear Buds

Small inner-ear ear buds are the most commonly used listening devices around. They’re cheap, portable, and replaceable. They seem like a great choice because they fit inside the ear for some supposedly great sound. However, the body isn’t used to sound being projected so closely to the ear drum. We have a natural defense mechanism that tenses the ear muscles, causing sound to be dampened by about 50 decibels on its way to the cochlea.

Stephen Ambrose made this discovery while researching the ear in order to work out kinks in his in-ear monitor, a device used by musicians and sound engineers to choreograph vocals and stage instrumentation for performances and recordings. Not only did he find that a defense mechanism was triggered for close-range sound, but blockage to the ear canal while transferring sound is damaging. Small and snug devices such as ear buds trigger the sound muffling stiffening of ear muscle reflex repeatedly, causing strain or hearing fatigue. This is why so many people crank up their iPods to such high and damaging levels, especially on crowded public transportation, where music is competing with other noise.

Playstation Network “Welcome Back” Freebies

Those of us with Playstation 3 systems can rejoice. After 22 days of downtime, the Playstation Network is back online across the United States and Europe. This downtime, caused by an alleged cyber attack, has been the longest in Playstation Network history. This breach in security also made it necessary for every user to reset their passwords and download the latest firmware.

Sony, in an effort to win back players they may have lost, has outlined a “welcome back” offer to users across the globe. Soon players will be able to claim four free games for the PS3 and the PSP—two from each device.