Turkish-Romanian-Bulgarian-Jamaican rap heist

A large part of the credit for this post belongs to Christina Xu, who did most of the background research while I was in class looking at Google Images results for “giorgio moroder mustache.”

I was introduced to Türkpop darling Serdar Ortaç by an eccentric Turkish-Brooklyner-Turkish waiter at a restaurant adjoining a budget hotel in Istanbul.  I buy a lot of music when I travel, and I often try to get suggestions from locals I meet.  The waiter seemed like a good person to ask, since – judging from his habit of publicly announcing the latest developments in his sex life to the restaurant guests at breakfast each morning – I assumed we were on pretty familiar terms.  After faking my way through a few painful minutes of Yankees-Red Sox banter, I got directions to the nearest record shop and the names of his favorite Turkish artists.  One of his suggestions was the guy pictured below, posing with his… uh, I guess that’s a domesticated panther.

Serdar Ortaç with Unreasonably Large Domestic Cat

Serdar Ortaç with unreasonably large domestic cat. The next person to make a "pussy" joke about this album cover is getting a pointy stick in the eye.

I left the store with Ortaç’s latest album Kara Kedi (“black cat” in Turkish, whence the…) and an album of remixes from a couple years ago.  I find that remix albums are a solid bet when buying music by an artist I’ve never actually heard, because if I end up hating the artist, I can still usually find a palatable remix.

Strictly as a matter of personal taste, I’m not really a fan of Ortaç’s singing.  Türkpop gravitates strongly in the direction of nasally belted lyric ballads, which ain’t really my thing.  His instrumentals are well off the hook, though – wacky strings and funked-out noodling brass all over some intense thudding bass.  Accordingly, I decided to do some chopping.  I took two tracks from Kara Kedi, extracted just the bits where Ortaç isn’t singing, and shuffled them all back together.  The resulting track is after the jump, at the bottom of the post. Continue reading

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Pictures in pictures!

Tonight I was pulling files off of a hard drive I’d used back in high school, and I unearthed a whole bunch of my old fractal art.  A few of the images are below; you can view the complete gallery here.

None of these involved any drawing or what would traditionally be considered technical artistry.  It’s all just math.

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CircEat: Edible Solder

Prototyping circuits on breadboards is always frustrating for me.  I’ve never been a master of fine motor control, and I have a hard time getting tiny pins and wires into the right row of minuscule holes.  I thought it would be easier if I had some kind of putty, like Play-Doh, but conductive: then I could just take a lump of the stuff and stick everything that I wanted wired together into the lump, without straining my eyes and fingers.  There are thermal putties and conductive adhesives that could probably be adapted for this purpose, but after looking around for some options, I decided it would be easiest just to make it for myself, and so I started searching out Play-Doh recipes.

Ultimately, the easiest one to make turned out to be ItsYourDime’s edible peanut butter play dough recipe on Instructables.  Soon, however, I realized that this recipe actually presented a challenge: I love peanut butter, and if that’s what my putty was going to be made of, I wanted to be able to eat it at the end.  That meant that I was going to have to make it conductive without making it gross or poisonous.  I needed a conductive but edible ingredient to blend into the peanut butter.  The solution, of course, was graphite powder.  Graphite is flavorless and it’s just carbon, so eating it shouldn’t have any harmful side effects; after checking the materials safety data sheet to make sure, I set to work.  The recipe is after the jump.

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VeraciT, the Lie Detector Shirt

Your friends never believe the things you say, and you want to prove once and for all that you’re for real.  The solution?  Obviously you should build a lie detector into your shirt.  Allow me to introduce VeraciT: the t-shirt that’s also a lie detector.

Okay, so it’s not really a full-on polygraph, since all it measures is galvanic skin response, and in any case polygraphs can’t actually detect lies.  But at least it looks kinda cool, if I may say so myself.

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Music By Any Means Necessary

I recently completed a long-standing goal: I shelled out for an Arduino Duemilanove, got my hands on some components, and built some stuff.  Toy Project #1 was the Photoflexophone, perhaps the least practical musical instrument ever invented.  Have a look:

The button on the breadboard selects between the photoflexophone’s three modes: light, flex, and off.  The off mode is the most important, since the thing makes infuriating noises if you leave it on.  The other two modes allow you to produce different pitches either by shining varying amounts of light on the photocell or by bending the flex sensor.  If you change the flex sensor out for a thermistor, you can also play it by altering the ambient temperature in the room.  If there’s ever been an instrument controlled by anything less practical than ambient temperature, I’d desperately love to hear about it.

At the moment it plays notes in the A minor harmonic scale, but it can play in any mode or just a continuous range of pitches.  The sound all comes from a piezo, though, so it’s pretty terrible.

Ingredients: Arduino, breadboard, flex sensor, light-sensitive resistor, push button, piezo element, a few ordinary resistors, and a whole bunch of jumper cables.

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Awesome Foundation London kickoff!

Tonight was the kickoff event for the London chapter of Tim’s brainchild #179833492, the Awesome Foundation.  The Awesome Foundation started last year when Tim and nine homies decided to get together each month and collectively donate $1000 to a project they thought was really cool.  Since then, it’s spawned chapters in six (!) cities: Boston (the orig), New York, San Francisco, Ottawa, Providence, and now London.  Each of the chapters operates in the same way: every month, they give a $1000 to fund a cool project, except in London, where they give £1000.  Never mind that in London £1000 buys about two servings of fish and chips and a used teabag – you should see what some of these artists and inventors can do with a cod fillet!

The party celebrating the first grant by the London chapter was held upstairs at The Griffin pub near Old Street.  It was a lot of fun, but it was kind of suspenseful.  The five finalists for the £1000 grant had to give pitches to the ten AF London trustees, after which the trustees went downstairs to the bar to deliberate before coming back up and announcing the winner.  Here are the finalists, along with brief, highly inadequate descriptions of their projects, in the order they presented: Continue reading

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Bounding Chi: Cliques and Suboptimal Coloring (or, Why My Mom Took Away My Crayons)

My first experience with suboptimal coloring was when I was about two years old.  My mom got me one of those books with blank pictures of cartoon characters and I just scribbled all over the pages with red crayon.  That’s pretty much what my latest paper is about.  Here’s a PDF. The introduction is below, and continues after the jump.  Some stuff in the paper is probably wrong, so let me know if you catch any mistakes.

Computational Methods for Bounding Chromatic Numbers of Graphs

1 Introduction
Many central problems in graph theory involve the process of graph coloring. A coloring of a graph is an assignment of a label, or “color,” to each vertex, such that no two connected vertices have the same color. Perhaps the most famous example is the problem of map coloring: a map determines a graph by assigning a node to each country, with an edge between two nodes whenever the corresponding countries share a border. A coloring of the graph then corresponds to a coloring of the map in which neighboring countries never share a color. Appel and Haken famously proved that for maps, there is always a coloring with no more than four colors [1]. Continue reading

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