How They Animated ‘The Lego Batman Movie’

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‘The Lego Batman Movie’ uses an impressive style of animation that replicates the look of real lego bricks. These digital bricks abide by all the rules of real Lego bricks, so they cannot bend or move in an impractical way. Mike Seymour breaks down a few of the most remarkable scenes, where numerous complex techniques were used to create a believable image.

 

Source: WIRED

MIT Students Give Us Our First Cinematic Look At Riri Williams, Marvel’s New Iron Man

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The fictional MIT student gets portrayed by real MIT students in a fan film.

Marvel’s Riri Williams—the star of the comic book publisher’s Invincible Iron Man, flying around in her suit of armor since Tony Stark disappeared at the end of the Civil War II crossover event—is one of the more promising characters the company has introduced in recent years. (And with a lineup that includes America Chavez, Miles Morales, and more, that’s no mean feat.) But as great a character as Riri, who fights crime under the superhero name Ironheart, has turned out to be, she’s probably got a while before she replaces Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Still, if you want a glimpse of what the young genius-level engineer would look like in the real world, students at MIT—where the fictional Williams built her suit of Iron Man armor—have given you the chance. In their annual “Pi Day” film, released to remind prospective students that March 14 can also be stylized as 3.14, a current MIT student plays the hero, showing her journey from invention to flight in the university’s labs.

Source: Fast Company

A 2-Hour Marathon Once Seemed Unthinkable. Could Nike’s Radical New Shoe Be The Key?

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Filled with post-EVA foam and a carbon fiber plate, this shoe was designed to increase running efficiency by 6%.

No one has ever run a marathon in less than two hours. In fact, the four fastest marathons in history—all within an 18-second margin—are still about three minutes shy of breaking the barrier. Now, Nike hopes that a crazy-looking pair of shoes will help.

They look something like an early ’80s punk haircut, with a white color fin pointing out the razor-sharp tip of a defiant mohawk. But these kicks are anything but counterculture. The Vaporfly Elite is the result of one of the most advanced R&D projects inside the biggest athletic shoe company in the world—they’re the weapon of choice in Nike’s self-assigned goal of breaking the two-hour marathon.

The Vaporfly lineup includes two consumer products and one concept version. Consumers will be able to buy the Nike Zoom VaporFly 4% ($250) and Nike Zoom Fly ($150), each out in June in limited quantities—they come with the promise of adding 4% average efficiency to your running stride. Meanwhile, a few select pros will get access to a customized alternative that Nike likens to a concept car, the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite. Each Elite is bespoke, shaped specifically to the athlete’s foot, layered with more than an inch of material padding, and carved in an aerodynamic fin shape, all with the goal of adding 6% efficiency to the athlete’s run.

The numbers might sound small, but when you’re talking about shaving just minutes off a multi-hour run, these tiny differences matter. It’s all about conserving the power lost in every footfall, and recapturing it in your next step. According to Nike, every 1% of step efficiency boosts speed measurably enough that a shoe that’s 6% more efficient should shave a marathon time down enough to break the two-hour mark.

A NEW PARADIGM

In 2009, barefoot running took the industry by storm thanks largely to one book, Born to Run, which profiled Mexico’s Tarahumara tribe, a group able to run 100 miles at a time over rough terrain. Why? Author Christopher McDougall believed it had to do with the fact that they didn’t wear shoes, and he traced a 40-year correlation between the rise of athletic shoes and sports injuries.

The Vaporfly unabashedly bucks this trend.

The project was born inside Nike’s research labs in 2015—and with several conversations with Nike-sponsored long distance runners. Originally, Nike believed that a track-spike inspired shoe would make the most sense. It was light, and featured a rigid internal plate that maintained energy.

“What we heard from [athletes] was, don’t put me closer to the ground. Concrete hurts, even if you’re an efficient lightweight runner,” says Bret Schoolmeester, senior director of Nike’s Global Running Footwear. “26 miles of pavement takes its toll. They needed more cushioning.”

Continue onto Fast Company to read more about Nike’s innovative new shoes.

We Have Liftoff: Lego Set Honoring Women Of NASA Will Land On A Shelf Near You

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It’s been a busy week for Katherine Johnson, the NASA mathematician whose story was the center of the critically acclaimed film “Hidden Figures.”

The pioneer presented an award at the Oscars on Sunday alongside the film’s stars. A day later, Lego announced she would be enshrined forever in glossy plastic.

The toy company announced the winner of its semiannual Lego Ideas competition this week: a set honoring five women of NASA. The women are computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, mathematician Katherine Johnson, astronaut Sally Ride, astronomer and executive Nancy Grace Roman and astronaut Mae Jemison.

The idea was proposed last year by Maia Weinstock, deputy editor of MIT News.

“Women have played critical roles throughout the history of the U.S. space program … yet in many cases, their contributions are unknown or under-appreciated — especially as women have historically struggled to gain acceptance in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM),” Weinstock wrote in her proposal.

Lego announced the news Monday on Twitter. “We are really excited to be able to introduce Maia’s ‘Women of NASA’ set for its fun and educational value, as well as its classic build-and-play experience.”

Continue onto Huffington Post to read the complete article.

Netflix is bringing back Bill Nye and “The Magic School Bus” to remind us all that science is important (and fun!)

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Not all heroes wear capes. Some wears lab coats and bow ties. Others wear long, mauve dresses emblazoned with planets, rocket ships, and light bulbs.

If, like me, you grew up in the 1990s, you learned a lot about the world from Bill Nye and Ms. Frizzle. I still remember the episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy about matter, and the cheesy, yet informative, “Solid, Liquid, Gas” song set to the tune of The Brady Bunch. I remember, with bizarre clarity, the episode of The Magic School Bus when Ms. Frizzle’s class travels through Ralphie’s body, which to this day remains the basis for what I know about white blood cells, bacteria, and antibodies.

Now more than 20 years since these shows both debuted, Netflix wants to help a new generation of kids learn about science—and have some fun in the process. At a press event in New York City yesterday, the streaming service released the first trailer for its new science talk show starring Nye, Bill Nye Saves the World, and announced that Saturday Night Live‘s Kate McKinnon will voice Ms. Frizzle in a reboot of The Magic School Bus.

Launched on PBS in 1993, Bill Nye the Science Guy immediately became a staple in American science classrooms. The show, and its host, a mechanical engineer by trade, were beloved for their inventive skits and quirky sense of humor. The animated series The Magic School Bus debuted a year later on the same channel and was nominated for seven Daytime Emmys, winning one for actress Lily Tomlin, who voiced the teacher and driver of the bus, Ms. Frizzle.

Continue onto Quartz to read the complete article.

Who Put the BANG in The Big Bang Theory?

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By Brady Rhoades

Imagine: You’re watching The Big Bang Theory and Sheldon confuses photons with protons. Or Leonard works in degrees when he should be working in radians. Or Raj gets refraction angles wrong. It doesn’t happen. And you can thank the show’s fact checkers for that. Among them is science consultant David Saltzberg, a master physicist.

He and others on the crew who make sure the science is right are the story behind the story of The Big Bang Theory. In hockey terms, Saltzberg is the goalie for the show. The last line of defense. Which matters. Because millions of people—including scientists—are watching, and they will know—and get highly annoyed—if a mistake worms its way through. Saltzberg, who says the writers are extremely careful when it comes to facts, has prevented his share, nonetheless.

“The most amusing one was when Sheldon and Leonard’s mother were working on a scientific problem called quantum brain dynamics theory,” said Saltzberg, who teaches at UCLA and has worked on Switzerland’s Large Hadron Collider. “This theory is about how quantum mechanics is important for consciousness in the brain. It’s a highly-disputed theory. But I realized there was nothing we could do because it was so built into the script. I mentioned, ‘There’s probably nothing you can do but this is not a well-accepted theory.’ They fixed it by saying that they were working on disproving quantum brain dynamics theory. They were able to solve it with one word.”

If you’ve seen the show, you know many of the characters—Caltech scientists—are constantly working out their scientific equations on whiteboards. That has spawned a flurry of pitches from real scientists who want their work displayed on the whiteboards. Stephen Hawking, the Einstein of our time, had a whiteboard showing his discovery of gravitational waves, which indicated cosmological inflation, appear in an episode. “That was actually vetted by Hawking himself,” Saltzberg said. “The producers didn’t want to put something on his board that he wouldn’t be comfortable with, so they took what I had suggested and sent a
picture to him. He said he liked it.”

bb6Because of the scientists behind the show’s science, there are no hiccups when it comes to the facts and data presented. Fans are convinced of the show’s credibility. We trust that our children can watch it and not only be entertained but educated. Of course, the actors and writers deserve an immense amount of credit for the veracity of the science presented on the program, as well. Dr. Fowler, played by Mayim Bialik, is a scientist; Bialik earned her Ph.D. from UCLA in 2007, her dissertation being an investigation of hypothalamic activity in patients with Prader–Willi syndrome, titled “Hypothalamic regulation in relation to maladaptive, obsessive-compulsive, affiliative, and satiety behaviors in Prader- Willi syndrome.” Try saying that sentence three times. And she’s Saltzberg’s secret weapon when it comes to certain questions. “She has a Ph.D in neuroscience,” Saltzberg said. “So she has my back on the biology.”

And while the other actors are not scientists, they have learned a thing or two about science after a decade immersed in it. “We once got a correction from Sheldon (actor Jim Parsons),” Saltzberg said. “So, Sheldon knows more science than he lets on.”

The Big Bang Theory is a team, and a winning one at that. The program, which debuted in 2007, centers on the lives of lovable, science-obsessed, socially awkward nerds Sheldon, Leonard, Wolowitz, Raj, Amy Fowler and Bernadette. Then there is Penny, who isn’t a scientist but is a character we care about. For the past six years, The Big Bang Theory is the biggest comedy on television by far, now averaging 20 million viewers per episode. Scientists, science lovers, regular folk and, yes, children, don’t dare miss an episode.

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In the advertiser-coveted adults aged 18 to 49 demographic, The Big Bang Theory scored a 5.7 this season, nearly doubling the 3.3 rating from season 1. That marks the fourth-straight year (fifth overall) the show has been top comedy in the demo. Jim Parsons, who has won four Emmys as the inimitably quirky Sheldon Cooper, is the highest paid male actor on television, earning about $1 million per episode (and a bunch more on a flurry of endorsement deals). Johnny Galecki, who plays Leonard, and Kaley Cuoco, who plays Penny, also earn about $1 million per show. The show’s creators, Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, have struck gold.

The first and second pilots of The Big Bang Theory were directed by James Burrows, who did not continue with the show. The reworked second pilot led to a 13-episode order by CBS on May 14, 2007. Prior to its airing on CBS, the pilot episode was distributed on iTunes free of charge. The show premiered on Sept. 24, 2007 and was picked up for a full 22-episode season on Oct. 19, 2007. The show is filmed in front of a live audience and is produced by Warner Bros. Television and Chuck Lorre Productions.

Google and H&M collaborate on a new ‘Data Dress’

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The hottest designer at the next Fashion Week may well be your smartphone.

H&M Group’s digital fashion house, Ivyrevel, is working on a collaboration with Google called the “Data_Dress.” The project is based around an Android app that learns about a user and designs a personalized garment for them. It’s part of the Coded Couture project by Ivyrevel.

“We’re about to change the fashion industry by bringing the customer’s personality into the design process through data technology,” Aleksandar Subosic, co-founder of Ivyrevel, said in a press release. “The Data_Dress enables women around the world to order a dress made entirely for them that reflects the way they live their lives”.

The Data_Dress app is simple to use. It uses Google’s Snapshot API, which allows an app to passively monitor a user’s daily activity and lifestyle. It collects information such as location, what kind of activity the user is performing—like walking, sitting or running—and the weather in the area.

By simply carrying your phone for a week, the app learns about your lifestyle and designs a unique Ivyrevel dress using Google’s technology. The phone then creates a dress with a unique pattern, personalizing everything from material and silhouette to embroidery details using the story captured by the app. The Data_Dress will then be available via Ivyrevel for purchase.

Continue onto Mashable to see a video of how this dress works!

The author of The Martian is writing a NASA TV pilot for CBS

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Exploring the work and lives of NASA personnel

The Martian was a huge success in both bookstores and movie theaters, and it catapulted author Andy Weir into a rarified atmosphere when it comes to science fiction authors. Now, he’s setting his sights on a new medium: television.

Deadline reported that CBS has given a pilot order for Mission Control, a NASA-themed drama that “revolves around the next generation of NASA astronauts and scientists who juggle their personal and professional lives” during a critical mission.

There’s nothing beyond that, but Weir’s involvement is exciting. The Martian was an intriguing novel because of its studious attention to realism (with some liberties) as astronaut Mark Watney struggled to survive on the surface of Mars. The novel is a love letter to NASA and the work that it does, and Weir is the ideal writer to put together such a project. It’s still very early in the game: the pilot will have to impress the network in order to be greenlit for a series. In the meantime, Weir is hard at work on another hard-science novel, as well as another film with Simon Kinberg and Ridley Scott.

 Continue onto The Verge to read the complete article.

Chevy Brought a Life-Sized Lego Batmobile to the Detroit Auto Show

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Chevrolet brought a lot of cool vehicles to the 2017 North American International Auto Show. The coolest — by far — was their life-sized Lego Batmobile.

Sure, the restyled 2018 Traverse looked sharp. Yes, the Bolt’s 380KM all-electric range is impressive. But the 17-foot-long Speedmobile (which you’ll see in The Lego Batman movie next month) built from a whopping 340,000 Lego bricks stole the show from a geek’s perspective.

17 feet seems a bit longer than life-sized, but it’s par for the course for a Batmobile. Even the comparatively stumpy Tumbler was over 15 feet long. Other cinematic Batmobiles have stretched to 25 or even 33 feet!

Despite Lego Batman’s claim that he only works in black or very, very dark gray, the Speedmobile does have a few colorful accents. There are the red hubs and striping, blue Technic connectors, and the yellow windshield, signals, and Chevrolet badge.

This epic build was assembled by a team of Lego Master Builders at their model shop in Enfield, Connecticut. It took them more than 220 hours to design and over 1800 man hours to actually build it. The finished piece weighs over 1600 pounds, which is supported by a welded aluminum frame.

This isn’t the first Batmobile Chevy has had a hand in building. The one Michael Keaton drove in the 1989 Batman film was built on an Impala chassis, and the one driven by Val Kilmer in Batman Forever was powered by a Chevy V8.

Continue onto GEEK to read the complete article.

Aziz Ansari will be SNL’s first South Asian American host

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Comedian Aziz Ansari will host “Saturday Night Live” on Jan. 21, the NBC show announced Tuesday, and in doing so, he will make history as its first host of South Asian descent.

The gig comes on the heels of a big year for Ansari. The standup comic and television star won his first Emmy (outstanding writing for a comedy series) after earning a total of four nominations for his Netflix series “Master of None.”

His nomination for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series was the first for an Indian American. “I’m very happy but it’s a very specific accomplishment,” he laughingly told USA Today about the historic nod.

More than 90 percent of SNL’s hosts have been white, and only two celebrities of Asian descent — Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu — have hosted the show before, according to IndieWire’s demographic breakdown of all of the show’s hosts (that doesn’t include Fred Armisen and Bruno Mars, who both have some Asian ancestry). Most non-white hosts have been black, IndieWire found.

SNL has faced controversy in recent years over diversity issues. In 2013, the lack of a black female cast member led to executive producer Lorne Michael holding special auditions to hire one. He ended up hiring Sasheer Zamata, as well as Leslie Jones (who was initially brought on as a writer).

Melissa Villaseñor joined SNL this year, becoming the show’s first Latina cast member. Nasim Pedrad, on SNL between 2009 and 2014, was the show’s first female Middle Eastern cast member.

Continue onto the Washington Post to read the complete article.

What Happens When Algorithms Design a Concert Hall? The Stunning Elbphilharmonie

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THE MOST INTERESTING thing about Herzog and De Meuron’s newly opened concert hall, the Elbphilharmonie, isn’t its wave-like facade, which rises above the city of Hamburg, Germany. It’s not the gently curved elevator at the base of the lobby that deposits you into the belly of the Swiss architects’ alien landscape. And it’s not the Escher-esque stairways that guide you from one floor to the next.

Though Hamburg’s $843 million philharmonic is filled with stunning architectural gems, its most interesting feature is the central auditorium, a gleaming ivory cave built from 10,000 unique acoustic panels that line the ceiling, walls, and balustrades. The room looks almost organic—like a rippling, monochromatic coral reef—but bringing it to life was a technological feat.

The auditorium—the largest of three concert halls in the Elbphilharmonie—is a product of parametric design, a process by which designers use algorithms to develop an object’s form. Algorithms have helped design bridges, motorcycle parts, typefaces—even chairs. In the case of the Elbphilharmonie, Herzog and De Meuron used algorithms to generate a unique shape for each of the 10,000 gypsum fiber acoustic panels that line the auditorium’s walls like the interlocking pieces of a giant, undulating puzzle.

Continue onto WIRED to read the complete article.

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