Videodreaming With the Oculus Rift

23 June 2013

“Right now we’re on the precipice of a new wave of video games.” Game-makers are embracing the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and using it to create an entirely new kind of gaming experience. They are also changing the idea of what a game can be. [more]

Learn to Shake Your Tail

23 June 2013

We can quickly learn to control an avatar in the form of an animal if our movements are mapped onto its digital representation. Tails area start but VR can replace the entire body. [more]

How Facebook is Like the Early Railways

17 June 2013

“Historically, it’s the way all these things go. Think about railway transport in the Nineteenth Century. The train companies invent terms and conditions that say, ‘If we kill you, tough.’ And people put up with that because it’s more useful having the trains than having to walk … That’s kind of the trajectory that we’re seeing with Facebook.” [more]

Emerging Consciousness Glimpsed in Babies

21 April 2013

“We have learned a lot about consciousness in people who can talk about it, but very little in those who cannot.” Electrical brain signals that reflect an awareness of surroundings have been recorded for the first time in the infants. [more]

Mapping the Internet Makes it Stronger

14 April 2013

“After 15 years nobody can show you a map of the internet,” says Paul Barford. But he’s changing that. The most comprehensive maps yet of the the internet’s infrastructure could help shore it up against disasters and sabotage. [more]

Lost in the Cloud

14 April 2013

In the digital age, your files and memories are not truly yours any more. They belong to the cloud. “This is about internet users and the future of internet usage,” says Corynne McSherry of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. [more]

New Scientist / 6 April

10 April 2013

This week’s picks > Google doodle celebrates pioneering scientific illustrator and entomologist, DNA transistors pave the way for living computers. [more]

New Scientist / 30 March

31 March 2013

This week’s picks > Synthetic biology’s IKEA moment, a knifeless gastric bypass, and a brand new fish. [more]

Coding’s Cultural Bias

25 March 2013

Disappointed by the heavy reliance on English for programming, computer scientist and designer Ramsey Nasser created a new coding language in Arabic. “Every coding language I have ever learned was in English. I wanted to start a dialogue about our dependence on English in modern programming.” [more]

New Scientist / 16 March

17 March 2013

This week’s picks > Pluripotent stem cells more common than we thought? Dark Knight shooter judge permits use of truth serum. Have humans had heart disease for 1000s of years? [more]

Bog Oaks and Lucky Shirts

15 March 2013

Mike Baillie is constantly on the look out for old wood. Sometimes he gets lucky. I went along to Ideas in the Bath? Serendipity, Chance, and Science, a panel discussion on the role of luck in science hosted by the British Library and part of the Inspiring Science season. [more]

New Scientist / 9 March

10 March 2013

This week’s picks > First brain-to-brain communication brings possibility of brain-net, and a new signature of consciousness could mean better monitoring of patients under general anaesthesia. [more]

Virtual You

28 February 2013

A digital body double that gets ill so you don’t have to. I visited UCL’s Centre for Computational Science to see an example of the computer technology that is building the cells, tissues, and organs of a virtual human part by part. This is the future of medicine. [more]

Used MP3, one careful owner

23 February 2013

Amazon granted patent for marketplace for second-hand MP3s and e-books. A new market for second-hand digital downloads could let us hold virtual yard sales of our ever-growing piles of intangible possessions. [more]

New Scientist / 23 February

23 February 2013

This week’s picks > Flowers get electrified by visiting bees (buzz buzz buzz, I wonder how they does). What to expect from Sony’s PS4. And a fine artist who takes portraits of weird seeds with her flatbed scanner. [more]

New Scientist / 16 February

16 February 2013

This week’s picks > Recovering the sounds of languages lost for generations, false memories prime immune system for future attack. [more]

New Scientist / 9 February

9 February 2013

This week’s picks > Watch a baby fish thinking about its food and an AI assistant to help you brush your teeth. [more]

New Scientist / 2 February

2 February 2013

This week’s picks > Computer models and Canada both support minimum pricing policy on alcohol. Ford’s open-source dev kit brings in era of smart car apps. [more]

AI Game Designer’s Festive Platformer

14 December 2012

A festive platformer, called A Puzzling Present, is the latest creation of ANGELINA, an AI system that designs its own video games – released with a little help from its creator-cum-collaborator Michael Cook at Imperial College London. [more]

Computers Need a Sense of Context

3 July 2012

When communicating, context is key. I spoke to Michael Frank and Noah Goodman, cognitive scientists at Stanford University, who have built the first mathematical model of shared context between speakers. They want to make computers better at small talk. [more]

Relatively Speaking

3 July 2012

Do the words we use determine the world we perceive? If I say to-mah-toe and you say to-may-toe, to call the whole thing off would be rash. But if I say tomato and you say la tomate, we might be living in subtly different worlds. Do your tomatoes have something in common with cars and houses and the Moon that mine do not? [more]

Bananas, Barcodes and Carbon

5 June 2012

Most of us are used to food coming with a breakdown of dietary information, so why not add a carbon cost to the list? That’s the question that led UCL software engineer David Stefan to team up with students from Chelsea College of Art & Design in a canny carbon-awareness campaign. [more]

Man Made

31 May 2012

We live in a man-made world. There is a good chance that everything within your sight right now has been manufactured, except – though perhaps only for now – the people. Machines for every purpose, buildings filled with clutter, paved and plastic surfaces, commodities of all kinds, dogs, clothes, and haircuts. Artefacts, every one. [more]

Dear Edge Magazine

31 May 2012

I wrote this grumpy letter to Edge two years ago, annoyed about Sony’s removal of OtherOS from the PS3. It was letter of the month in August 2010 and bagged me a DSi XL. It’s the first piece of writing I got published and remains, word for word, the highest earning. [more]


30 May 2012
Still life with cat food

I have been eating luxury cat food for several weeks now, subsisting on it. Lily’s Kitchen, Natures Menu (sic), Applaws Natural Cat Food, Almo Nature (“recipes contain ingredients fit for human consumption, but not intended for human use for commercial reasons”, the website says). Here’s what’s written on a typical tin … [more]

Indieskies / In Disguise

24 May 2012

Indieskies is a fledgling game studio, just eight months old, that has already released four games. But at the end of the summer the eleven members of Indieskies will be going back to university to finish their degrees. [more]

Planarians are Cute (and May Never Die)

15 May 2012

Contrary to popular legend, it turns out the Fountain of Youth is a sewage outlet behind the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham. “Strangely, the water quality’s actually very good,” says Aziz Aboobaker of the University of Nottingham as he scrabbles around under stones, looking for planarian worms. [more]

Incubated Science

15 May 2012

Profile of I, Science written with Nicky Guttridge for Scientific American‘s Incubator blog. This student-run science magazine of Imperial College London has been a successful springboard for new science writers since its launch seven years ago. [more]

Science From Scratch: Algorithms

14 May 2012

Written for Reporter magazine’s Science from Scratch column. An algorithm is a recipe. When following a recipe for a chocolate fudge cake, for example, we carry out an ordered series of actions that takes a set of ingredients – flour, sugar, eggs, chocolate – and produces a cake. [more]

Positivist Discrimination

3 April 2012

“Oh, God,” Dawkins could be heard to mutter as he fumbled for the full title of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. In promoting the discovery-by-Ipsos-MORI that most Christians in this country are not in fact Christian, is the Dawkins road-show is out of touch with its positivist roots? [more]

Alone in the Dark

2 April 2012

Book review: Blindsight by Peter Watts. In February 2082, 70 years from now, 65,536 objects enter our atmosphere simultaneously, blanket the Earth in a precise latitudinal / longitudinal grid, emit radio signals for just over a minute, then burn up. This is first contact, this is Firefall. [more]

Engineering Life

29 March 2012

For Tom Ellis of Imperial College London, biological science and biotechnology are turning into an information science. “Think of the human genome as a vast amount of data”, he says. “Now we’re sequencing the genome of a new organism almost every day.” [more]

See Your Favourite Acts, Discover New Ones

17 March 2012

“There will be no ghettos here: just amazing, unexpected conversations.” An interview with TEDxImperialCollege host Gareth Mitchell. [more]

Polydactyl Kittens with Multiple Mittens

3 March 2012

Not all cats are created equal. Polydactyly is an anatomical anomaly in which a hand or foot (or paw) has more than the usual number of digits – which is of course five for humans, but five on the front feet, including the dewclaw, and only four on the back for cats. Occasionally, the extra digits can form an entire sub-paw. [more]

Hello Game World

25 January 2012

I spoke to Mike Cook, from the Computational Creativity group at Imperial College London – which “investigates processes we call creative when we see humans do them and tries to simulate them in AI” – about a future he’s bringing about in which games are designed by machines. [more]

Lanier vs Zuckerberg

25 January 2012

Jaron Lanier is a technological visionary who witnessed the web explode from being the bespoke tool of a niche community into the multi-purpose platform on which everybody does everything. But he believes that “the internet has gone sour”. His book is a manifesto for engineering. [more]

Uncontacted Tribes?

25 January 2012

In 2006, two Indian fishermen were killed by indigenous tribesmen when their boat drifted too close to North Sentinel Island. Keen to know more about these isolated islanders, I contacted Michael Stewart, an anthropologist at UCL. “It’s all fantasy, the idea of an uncontacted tribe!” he interrupts, when I broach the subject. [more]

Five Ways to Measure the Speed of Light

25 January 2012

The speed of light is as much a part of popular culture as Chewbacca or Mr Spock. The scandalous suggestion last September that neutrinos had exceeded the universal speed limit captured the popular imagination. But how on earth do you measure the speed of light in the first place? [more]

Around the World in Eight Punk Bands

6 January 2012

From 15 October-8 December 2011 I wrote a weekly column called Punk Planet. I wanted to focus on the do-it-yourself ethic integral to punk scenes worldwide. The common theme is that these are bands of ordinary people who wanted to make music and understood there was nothing to stop them. Read, listen, and then start a band. [more]

What the Papers Say Scientists Say About Video Games

16 November 2011

Are the tabloids more keen to vilify video games than other papers? Many scare stories originate in science stories reporting findings about the social effects of video games. To get a rough idea how science stories about video games are reported in the UK, I looked at the content of nine UK newspapers over the last year. [more]

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