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Who’s Up For A Good Old Fashioned Thunderstorm In The Living Room?

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cloudI love a good thunderstorm. Of course, camping during a thunderstorm is generally not super awesome (next time I think I’ll try this treehouse tent), but there’s nothing quite like sitting in a cabin or on a covered porch listening to the rain and thunder, and appreciating being dry. Now, there’s a totally new and unique way to experience a thunderstorm — by triggering it, or at least the lightning and thunder part of it, from inside your own home via a hanging cloud.

cloud

Visual artist and designer Richard Clarkson combines art and technology in furniture and lighting work he does in studios based in New York City and New Zealand. One of his most recent and most impressive pieces is Cloud, a light shaped like a storm cloud that simulates the light and sound of a thunderstorm. Cloud has a light and sound system, but unlike a real storm, it’s interactive and controllable with a wireless remote. Its motion sensors respond to the presence of a human and respond with thunder and lightning, which run via an Arduino. And if the thunder gets a bit old, you can use a Bluetooth device to stream music to the cloud. I guess Garth Brooks is an obvious choice, but I think a storm cloud spewing electronica would be better.

clouds

The cloud can change its color, too, as well as its brightness, or even just double as a nightlight — or rather, “a new discourse for what a nightlight could be.” Clarkson has a few different varieties of clouds in his store. The smart cloud retails for $3,360, but if you only want it to serve as a lamp it’s $960. Satellite clouds can be added on for $240. The cloud itself is comprised of hypoallergenic fibers sewn into a sponge casing, which provides enough structure to contain the speakers and other components.

Clarkson has fully immersed himself in the realm of smart art, and believes that such projects, as well as the components and technology that makes such projects possible, are important both to the future of electronics, as well as the future of interactive art. To that end, he’s made the code for Cloud available for free, so other artists and tech geeks can adapt and improve upon it however they want — like to create hurricanes in the bathroom.

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Forget Renovating—Get This Integrated Smart Lighting And Sound System

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lightaudio systemMy boyfriend calls it “the look.” It’s when we’re relaxing, watching TV or reading, or simply enjoying our apartment, and I’ll start looking around and eventually get a faraway look in my eye. Now he cuts to the chase and asks, “Okay, what do you want to change?” because he knows that, as much as I love our place, I’m cooking up some decorating changes pretty much all the time. The vast majority of those involve lighting. While furniture and wall colors can affect the feel of a room, I find that plants, lighting, and music have the biggest atmospheric effect. We’ve got speaker wires running to every room, with all tunes controllable via smartphone or iTunes, and I’m all about dimmer switches, rope lighting, and colored lightbulbs — anything to avoid the dreaded overhead lights. Given how much work it’s taken to put all these elements in place, I’m kind of surprised it took this long for someone to invent an integrated smart lighting and audio system for the home.

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Harvard Professor Turns The Sound Of A Supernova Into Song

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SupernovaWhile we might think of space as a vast and silent expanse, that’s not necessarily true. Space has plenty of noise, like these dense plasma sounds captured by Voyager 1 as it headed into interstellar space. Space also has musical stylings of Chris Hadfield. Now, Harvard astronomy professor Alicia Soderberg has found a way to turn a supernova into songs. Eat your heart out, Oasis.

Soderberg specializes in a star’s last gasps, which are violent, dramatic explosions. It’s tough to capture one in real time, though, so she often conducts what’s called a stellar autopsy, examining the remnants of the event. She gathers up all the information she can find, including x-rays, light, and radio waves. Then she and her team set about analyzing and synthesizing the data, which is about as easy as trying to put all the pieces together of an explosion here on Earth.

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The Creepy Sounds Of Interstellar Space

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The Voyager 1 spacecraft is the first man-made craft ever to leave the solar system and journey into interstellar space. It’s been exploring the cosmos for some 36 years, and is now venturing into far-out territory. Scientists monitoring the craft know that it’s moving through interstellar plasma, which is far denser than solar plasma. No one knows exactly what’s out there, but one thing we’d all probably suspect is that space is dark, cold, and eerily quiet.

We might have two out of three right, but apparently interstellar space isn’t the soundless expanse we’d expect. It does have a sound — and a really creepy one at that. It reminds me a bit of the screech of Babylon 5‘s Shadow vessels.

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Shh! This Robot Uses Your Noise As Its Disguise

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robotThe Human Advantage going into the unavoidable future war with the robots is well on its way to extinction, thanks to all those silly humans who call themselves scientists that are just building a bravado-soaked house of cards, where one-upsmanship will act as the catalyst in our inevitable downfall. Oh, dammit, while I was loudly doomsaying, a swarm of robots got in here and murdered everyone else.

I’ve lowered my voice to a monotonous whisper for the rest of the story, since Australians Matthew Dunbabin and Ashley Tews, of the CSIRO Autonomous Systems Laboratory in Brisbane, have created a robot that functions mostly by using sound detection to assure its actions go unheard. The as-yet-unnamed four-wheeled robot is fitted with a camera, laser scanner, laptop, and a sound pressure meter. And when these powers combine, you have Solid Snake-bot that uses sounds and background noise to cover its tracks, predicting how long and how often the sounds will occur, and sneaking around when it knows it won’t be heard.

If you’re in a silent room having a cell phone conversation with your mother, and you have pissed off the Robot Army enough that they’re sending someone to “take care of” you, that robot can foresee your side of the conversation by guessing the frequency and length of your responses, and only creeps up behind your back during those times. The robot also knows its own noises, and can gauge how they change as it goes faster or slower, and when turning around corners. It can tell how its sound is perceived from 150 ft. away, and adjusts itself accordingly. The laser scanner allows it to find and utilize shadows or other quality vantage points as it advances upon its prey. So quit hogging the conversation the next time you talk to your mother, let her get a word out or two every now and then.