Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

Kicking off the World Cup with an exoskeleton

Thursday, 12 June, 2014 0 Comments

This evening in Sao Paulo, a paralyzed teenager wearing an exoskeleton will walk onto a football field and kick a ball to ceremonially mark the beginning of the World Cup. The technology has been developed the Walk Again project, which is run by a group of scientists and engineers drawn from research institutes throughout the world — the Duke University Center for Neuroengineering, the Technical University of Munich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, the University of California, Davis, the University of Kentucky, and the Duke immersive Virtual Environment — and led by the Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis.

The goal is a brain-machine interface controlled by a person’s thoughts. The vision is of a world without wheelchairs in which the quality of life for the disabled would grow dramatically. Let the World Cup begin!

World Cup kick off

Gli Azzurri and Il Canto degli Italiani

Wednesday, 11 June, 2014 0 Comments

Marco Verratti, Andrea Pirlo, Mario Balotelli, Gigi Buffon, Lorenzo Insigne… Italy fans work the national squad into the lyrics of the country’s national anthem: Il Canto degli Italiani. Next stop: The Arena da Amazonia in Manaus.

The algorithm and the Three Lions

Tuesday, 10 June, 2014 0 Comments

FiveThirtyEight has launched an interactive thingy that calculates every team’s chances of advancing past the group stage in the World Cup and eventually winning the trophy. The forecasts are based on the Soccer Power Index (SPI), an algorithm Nate Silver developed in conjunction with ESPN. For England, SPI predicts unrosy tournament prospects:

“Betting markets see England, Italy and Uruguay as about equally likely to advance while Costa Rica is in a distant fourth place. SPI, by contrast, has England and Uruguay ahead of Italy and views the group as middling enough that Costa Rica could pull off a huge upset…

…It also might not matter much in the end. England, Italy and Uruguay are the sort of teams that might be able to entertain championship dreams in a World Cup with more parity, but not in one where they would have to overcome Brazil, Argentina, Germany or Spain at some point.”

Group D

The World Cup of Everything Else

Monday, 9 June, 2014 0 Comments

Most Nobel Prizes Per Capita: Switzerland. Biggest Drinkers: Russia. Most Women in Government: Costa Rica. Most Protestants: Ghana. The World Cup of Everything Else created by the Wall Street Journal is excellent pre-tournament data journalism.

The World Cup of Everything Else

Carpe diem

Sunday, 8 June, 2014 0 Comments

Ever get the feeling that life is passing you by? If you sense that you might be living “like a field mouse / Not shaking the grass”, Ezra Pound offers five lines of timeless advice about what’s to be done.

And the days are not full enough

And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass

Ezra Pound (1885 — 1972)

Follow the bouncing ball

Saturday, 7 June, 2014 0 Comments

The World Cup kicks off next week so now’s the time to get into the mood. We’re getting an assist today from Guillaume Blanchet, a French filmmaker based in Montreal.

Benedict Cumberbatch reads the news from D-Day

Friday, 6 June, 2014 0 Comments

Seventy years ago today, 160,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy. D-Day was one of the most superbly planned and conducted invasions in military history and Europe owes a huge debt to the unique generation of British, Canadians and Americans who gave so much for the freedom that we enjoy today. Listen now to Benedict Cumberbatch reading the 8am BBC news from D-Day.

Robots running and walking and driving

Thursday, 5 June, 2014 0 Comments

Superb reporting by Will Knight for Technology Review on how Boston Dynamics is building robots that walk and run like living creatures. The article is enhanced with some cool web effects. Snippet:

“DARPA’s vision is for rescue robots to operate this way, with humans providing guidance and assistance but the robots functioning autonomously when needed, such as when a communications link fails. But if robots are ever to perform the kinds of tasks that some envision — such as helping the elderly in the home — they will need to have the ability to work with even greater autonomy.”

Meanwhile, SoftBank is reported to be developing human-like robots which it will use to staff its cellphone stores. All of these developments are signs from the near future.

Signs from the near future

Tank Man on Tiananmen Square

Wednesday, 4 June, 2014 0 Comments

Twenty-five years after the massacre of pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, nothing recalls the horror of it all better than the photo of the incredibly brave Tank Man by Associated Press photographer Jeff Widener. Today, China is seeking to suppress all discussion of the massacre by arresting, charging or harassing dissidents, artists, scholars, lawyers, bloggers and relatives of the victims.

Tank Man on Tiananmen Square

The King of Spain says farewell

Tuesday, 3 June, 2014 0 Comments

The news of the abdication of King Juan Carlos sparked a memory of royalty in motion as described by by Ernest Hemingway in A Farewell to Arms:

“There were small gray motor-cars that passed going very fast; usually there was an officer on the seat with the driver and more officers in the back seat. They splashed more mud than the camions even and if one of the officers in the back was very small and sitting between two generals, he himself so small that you could not see his face but only the top of his cap and his narrow back, and if the car went especially fast it was probably the King. He lived in Udine and came out in this way nearly every day to see how things were going, and things went very badly.”

Hemingway is unbeatable.

The unsavoury World Cup runneth over

Monday, 2 June, 2014 0 Comments

The ongoing debate about the holding of the World Cup in Brazil, a country challenged by poverty, inequality and crime, has moved to the back pages following the weekend’s revelations about the costs of staging the event in Qatar in 2022. These costs are not just measured in infrastructural expenditures, but in lives lost and destroyed and rampant sleaze in the run-up to the awarding of the tournament to the emirate. The alleged corruption is breathtaking:

“The Sunday Times said it had obtained a cache of hundreds of millions of documents and emails, which detailed conversations about payments and money transfers from accounts controlled by Bin Hammam, his family and Doha-based businesses. Among many other alleged payments to mid-ranking football officials and figures including the former footballer of the year George Weah, Bin Hammam paid a total of $1.6m to the disgraced former Fifa vice-president, Jack Warner, including $450,000 before the vote. Warner has always denied any wrongdoing.”

For the past four years, the world has been looking forward to a football festival in Brazil. It could still turn out to be a marvellous spectacle but there’s an uneasy feeling abroad that the game has sold its soul.