The Null Device


The Independent has a list of what it claims are the 50 best jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe:

"I told the ambulance men the wrong blood type for my ex, so he knows what rejection feels like" – Pippa Evans
"The Scots invented hypnosis, chloroform and the hypodermic syringe. Wouldn't it just be easier to talk to a woman?" – Stephen Brown
"'What's a couple?' I asked my mum. She said, 'Two or three'. Which probably explains why her marriage collapsed" – Josie Long
"If Britons were left to tax themselves, there would be no schools, no hospitals, just a 500-mile-high statue of Diana, Princess of Wales" – Andy Zaltzman
"My granny was recently beaten to death by my granddad. Not as in, with a stick – he just died first" – Alex Horne

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A few interesting presentations from this year's SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference:

Firstly, a team of researchers has developed a way of enhancing video using still photographs. Consumer-grade video is notoriously poor in quality, while consumer-grade photographs are considerably better. So what they do is essentially build a map of points in the scene from the video and map detail from the photographs onto it, and, presto, instant high-quality video. What's more, if they process the photographs beforehand (i.e., by making HDR images from multiple exposures, or applying Photoshop filters), the effects are automatically propagated into the video. The technique can also be used to interpolate the background behind inconveniently located objects, removing them from the scene. Anyway, watch the video on the page; it is quite impressive.

Meanwhile, an Israeli team has developed a tool for automatically beautifying images of human faces; it does this by finding ratios between points on the faces, comparing them to ratios with higher attractiveness ratings, and warping the image to improve attractiveness (which, as one Slashdot commenter wrote, often comes down to "add symmetry and make thinner"). Interestingly, they promise a to make a demo program (presumably for Windows) available soon; I wonder whether its handiwork will soon start making its way onto dating websites and Facebook profiles.

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The latest salvo from the culture war: Canada's conservative government has scrapped a programme to help Canadian musicians and artists abroad because it was going to "fringe art groups that were unrepresentative or offensive", with one example being the electronica outfit Holy Fuck.

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A few weeks ago, a man by the name of Clark Rockefeller entered the news, after having abducted his daughter who was visiting him in Boston. Not much was mentioned about him, except that he was not believed to be related to the famous oil family. Gradually, an increasingly bizarre story emerged. "Clark Rockefeller", it seemed, was a German man named Christian Gerhartsreiter, who left for America at the age of 17 in 1978 to seek his fortune. Along the way, he tried (unsuccessfully) to get into acting in Hollywood, before discovering that his true talent lay in fashioning new identities and stories for himself, always coming up with a new one when his inevitably grandiose and narcissistic claims (or, in one case, quite possibly murdering his landlord) compromised his current one. He became Christopher Chichester, a British aristocrat who was moving his castle to America, then Christopher Crowe, a Wall Street stockbroker, and finally Clark Rockefeller, brilliant mathematician/physicist and scion of fabulous old money; along the way, a family he was renting from in California disappeared (unidentified remains were found under their house a decade later), and later, "Christopher Crowe" tried to sell their old truck, making a hasty exit to rescue his parents who had been kidapped in South America before the police could question him. Not to mention thad he lost his stockbroking job after using the social security number of the Son of Sam serial killer on his licence application.

Anyway, Gerhartsreiter is now in custody and has been identified as such. I imagine he'll have a much harder time getting away this time.

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