Over on his blog William Martell writes about the dire progression of a cool-sounding screenplay by Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris into the pabulum that is Robin Hood.
Martell has the full details, but the gist of it is:
Step 1. Reiff and Voris write Nottingham, a cool retelling of the Robin Hood story in which our protagonist, the Sheriff of Nottingham, uses period forensics to track down a terrorist named Robin Hood.
Step 2. Screenplay is bought, and Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott are attached to the project.
Step 3. Scott vigorously mutilates the story until...
Step 4. A fairly straight retelling of the Robin Hood story, only more boring, hits the theaters.
Again you can read the full story here, along with a discussion of why things like this happen. I actually like the idea of "locking" a screenplay, along Martell's point about how you can tell a Hitchcock or Kurosawa movie simply from the shots and other clear directorial choices.
Al of Londoun ys aflame wyth newes of the grete entertaynment of 'Serpentes on a Shippe,' the which ys perfourmed ech daye by the menne of the gild of beekeeperes (and thus ys ycleped a 'b-movie'). Ich haue just nowe retourned from a trippe to see yt wyth Litel Lowys and Tommy Vske. Whan ich was ther, Tommy founde for me a copye of the romaunce in fyve chapteres on whiche the performaunce ys based, and Ich shal pooste yt heere for yower redyge. (This writer hath a verye good style - ich am reallye jealous. Oon daye, peraventure, ich shalle write sum thyng of Arthur; and yet, the matir of Troye hath alwey ben easier for me.)
Spoyler alert: If ye haue nat yet sene the performaunce of 'Serpentes on a Shippe,' rede nat of the romaunce, for it doth telle of the manye suprises and straunge eventes that happen in the course of the storye, and thus it mayhap shall lessen yower enjoiement of the performaunce yt self.
This week, the 45th annual Congress of Medieval studies in Kalamazoo (it's always in Kalamazoo, which fascinates me to no end) served as the launching point for the blog's eponymous book, which you can buy at Amazon:
I've actually known about this since soon after he started the blog, but was sworn to secrecy.
I think this is awesome, and am going to be buying my own copy of the book (which has an introduction by Terry Jones, who directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail). Brantley has always been good about conveying the compelling essence of what's cool about medieval topics, as well as the fact that people then were, well, people.
The walk-run transition is exactly what it sounds like - the velocity at which we switch from walking to running as we speed up (or vice-versa, of course, as we slow down). As we might imagine, space suits modify the velocity of the walk-run transition. As you may or may not know, this is significant, since a suited individual operating under reduced gravity uses less energy to run rather than walk the same distance, possibly due to "spring" effects of running in a pressurized suit versus the hard work of slogging slowly forward in the same suit.
Carr and McGee modify the usual walk-run transition formula to include an "Apollo" number that factors in the percentage of human-supported to total transported mass. This is significant since a pressurized suit in a vacuum is self-supporting - if you filled a space suit and carefully set it up outside on the moon, it would stand on its own. While this does impart the rigidity that makes walking in a suit so hard, it also means the wearer isn't working to hold the suit's weight up, which in turn modifies the velocity of the walk-run transition.
The practical impact of this is that we now have a formula that is better adjusted to predicting in advance (and presumably manipulating) the walk-run transition velocity for suited individuals...and, as the authors note, "suited" in this sense includes both astronauts in spacesuits and exoskeletons operating on Earth.
Mobile phone microscopy - a brilliant adaptation of existing technology
You're looking at a mobile phone fitted with an adapter that turns it into a microscope capable of light and fluorescent microscopy, able to resolve cells and microbes, that can be used to carry out field evaluations of malaria, TB, and other conditions that would normally require expensive lab equipment that third-world regions may not have access to.
In their article Mobile Phone Based Clinical Microscopy for Global Health Applications, Breslaur et al have leveraged the ubiquity of mobile phones across the world, including the third world, to provide an invaluable health care tool for areas that desperately need it. In this work, they use their mobile-adapting microscope to identify malaria, tuberculosis, and sickle-cell anemia, including the use of automated image processing:
In addition to the capture and transmission of data, the fact that mobile phones are essentially embedded computer systems offers the opportunity for significant post-processing of images. To demonstrate the diagnostic potential of image processing in this application, we carried out automated bacillus counting of the fluorescent TB images.
This is an impressive development that hopefully will be put into production quite rapidly. As comments already present on the article note, this is important as a public health development for much of the world and it promises to be a pretty cool device for biology hobbyists, too.
In a paper published this month in PLoS One, Elise Nowbahari, Alexandra Scohier, Jean-Luc Durand, and Karen L. Hollis reveal some exciting work in an oddly under-studied area - rescue behavior in animals. Humans clearly engage in rescue behavior, often to our own detriment, and we make complex decisions about whom we choose to try and rescue. You'd rescue your own kid. Would you try to rescue a cousin? A neighbor? A total stranger?
In this work, ants of the species Cataglyphis cursor were faced with a series of potential rescue situations, including:
A trapped Cataglyphis cursor from their own colony
A trapped Cataglyphis cursor from another colony
A trapped ant from another species
A trapped prey animal
A trapped Cataglyphis cursor from their colony, chilled into inactivity
No trapped animals
The results were quite specific: The ants only attempt to rescue active members of their own colony. They do this by digging away at surrounding sand, tugging on limbs (but not antennae!), and biting at the nylon snare trapping the ants.
This is fascinating work that brings up even more exciting future directions for research. As the authors conclude:
In sum, our findings establish that, in Cataglyphis cursor, rescue behavior not only is directed exclusively toward nestmates but also the nestmate must be active. Thus, rescue behavior necessarily depends on some form of actively produced eliciting stimulus, already known to be a pheromone in several ant species but one that contains a component unique to each colony.
What is the "help me" signal? Is that snare biting highly specific, or part of a general clearing of foreign matter from the problem area? How complex (versus, say, programmed) is this behavior?
I've also reposted their supporting videos to YouTube under PLoS One's Creative Commons license. They're worth a look: