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A human harp, terrifying sinkholes and more in this week’s Staff Picks

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Andrew CoutsAndrew Couts: Trolling Congress

Global warming is real, and is caused or exacerbated by the inconceivable amount of crap we’ve pumped into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. Don’t take my word for it, take NASA’s. “The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years,” writes the U.S. space agency on its website. Despite the overwhelming evidence in support the phenomena of global warming, a shocking number of people in Congress – the people with power to curb some of the destruction – deny that we humans have anything to do with the spike in the Earth’s temperature.

Which is why the latest campaign from environmental group is so freakin’ brilliant. Dubbed “The Climate Name Change,” the campaign seeks to name hurricanes after “climate change deniers,” like House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) or Republican Minnesota Representative Michele “Crazy Eyes” Bachmann. The video the group produced to exemplify its idea is pro-level trolling. Even if you don’t “believe in” global warming, you have to admit that the new naming scheme is hilarious. So sign the petition – support it for the lulz.

amir iliafarAmir Iliaifar: One way to ruin a party

What you see here is not a summer sci-fi blockbuster filmed on hand-held camera. No, it’s Mechnikovo beach, near Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea.

It appears these sunray-seeking Ruskies were busy enjoying their day out when a 500-ton Zubr-class military hovercraft landed on the beach, unloaded a cadre of Russian troops, and promptly asked people to scram- crapping in everyone’s proverbial cereal.

I mean, how would you feel if a massive hovercraft capable of carrying 400 armed troops, missile launchers, and God only knows what else, stormed the beach while you were in your speedo and asked you to split? And you know they would be the revealing kind because hey – it’s Europe!

Apparently, Russian authorities were more than a little surprised that the hovercraft incident pissed off so many people. According to the Russian authorities, Mechnikovo beach is government property and the Zubr landing was merely a tactical exercise. And, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry, people shouldn’t have been on the beach to begin with.

But you wanna know what I think, comrade? Somehow Miley Cyrus snuck aboard and couldn’t stop twerking and sticking out her tongue, forcing an emergency landing and everyone to GTFO. Yeah, that must have been it.

Les ShuLes Shu: When the Earth opens up and swallows you whole

You know what has been freaking me out lately? Sinkholes. What we assume to be solid ground suddenly collapses in and bringing down whatever was sitting on top of it. We’re not talking about a couple of feet either, but thousands. Sinkholes happen when cavities beneath the surface are created from things like broken water mains, erosion, or even a collapsed mine (those aren’t natural and aren’t classified as a sinkhole, but whatever, semantics).

Because a sinkhole can occur out of nowhere, we don’t often get to see one actually happening, just the scary aftermath. But the Assumption Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness in Louisiana was aware of one developing in Bayou Corne, a town that’s being swallowed by the ground due to collapsing mines caused by the operations of a chemical opearation. The Office shot a clip of trees being pulled right into the ground. For photos, check out this gallery from The Atlantic.

caleb-denisonCaleb Denison: Somebody get Don Draper in here, stat!

Today’s tech ads are terrible. If it isn’t one company taking pot shots at its rival, it’s a barrage of banality disguised as something warm and fuzzy. Why is it that ad agencies can make deodorant ads so freakin’ hilarious, but we can’t get anything better than “your phone sucks” out of Samsung? (To be fair, Samsung does have some pretty funny ads prepped for its Smart TV’s, but they’re still nauseatingly formulaic from a marketing standpoint. Anyway…)

Apparently, the jesters over at College Humor feel my pain. This parody on every tech ad ever produced in this century kind of nails it on the head.

jennifer-bergenJen Bergen: The Human Harp turns bridges into instruments

Google Glass, the latest in wearable tech, has everyone talking. But another kind of wearable tech is here, and it comes in the form of the Human Harp. Created by sound artist Di Mainstone, the Human Harp allows users to strap on a harness and create music with their movement. Mainstone first got the idea after walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and fantasizing about what kind of sound installation she could make on it.

The Human Harp, a “kind of parasitic instrument,” as Mainstone calls it, magnetically attaches to the braids of the bridge, allowing users to play music with the bridge itself. “Essentially the bridge is a giant instrument with these kind of steel cables under stress and tension in the same way as a violin…” Mainstone explains in the video below. According to The Creator’s Project, the body holster “has custom made modules with digital sensors that detect and measure the vibrations of the suspension cables, harvesting the sounds so people can remix them through movement.” 

The whole thing is pretty cool, and Mainstone plans to take the installation to bridges all over the world. Check out the video below to see the Human Harp in action

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Burning Man, TV pranks and twerks gone horribly awry in this week’s Staff Picks
burning man tv pranks and twerks gone horribly awry in this weeks staff picks pics 09 07 2013 main

Andrew Couts: World's best twerk
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how the Mylie Cyrus twerkocalypse changed me as a man … in a bad way. Since Cyrus' fateful VMA performance, twerking has fully saturated our culture. The Oxford English Dictionary added "twerk" to its roster of words (in the online-only ODS, not the sanctified print version, thank God). And Americans everywhere are twerking it up all over the place – including this girl. She had the good sense to record herself having a full-blown twerk-fest in her apartment when things went gloriously, gloriously wrong. You might ask yourself why someone would flip themselves upside down on the front door while doing a stupid dance. You might ask why she has a bottle of high-proof liquor sitting next to an open flame on her glass table. You might even ask yourself why this poor soul would record this in the first place. But all of those questions are irrelevant in the face of the perfectly amazing outcome. You're welcome. Update: Just as you probably guessed, this video was faked (by Jimmy Kimmel).

Caleb Denison: So realistic it’s scary
Last week, I whined and moaned over how lame tech-related advertisements have gotten. This week, I wanted to point to a case of successful viral marketing that I think should serve as a model for what televised ads could become; even if it is completely staged.
For the past few months, LG has published a series of hilarious prank videos that suggest its IPS monitors and Ultra HD televisions look so real, they can scare the crap out of people. LG started with a video showing riders in an elevator freaking out at what they think is an emergency failure. A follow-up video had guys in a bathroom thinking they were getting spied on by sexy ladies. But this most recent video featuring LG’s 84-inch Ultra HD television may be the most entertaining of all.
The video below quickly went viral, picking up over 3 million views in three days. Based on the comments of several Chilean YouTubers, the terrified prank victims are all known actors in the country, suggesting the whole thing is staged. And while that may be true (and a little disappointing, we know…sorry!) it doesn’t take away from the fact that people everywhere love it. So why not take this approach and adapt it for television? It would be way better than this boring lifestyle drivel.

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Perfect coffee through science, emoji mosaics and more in this week’s Staff Picks
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Molly McHugh: Game of Hoops
Obviously you like Games of Thrones, because you are reading this and that means you're a human with an Internet connection. So again, obviously you like Games of Thrones. And if you don't we can't be friends anymore.
But since you obviously like Games of Thrones, your favorite character is obviously Tyrion Lannister. OBVIOUSLY. He is everyone's favorite character and if he's not then again, we can't be friends anymore.
Well turns out our favorite character - er, the actor Peter Dinklage who plays him - partook in some fun extracurriculars, i.e. hula hoop dancing at a gay bar. And not just any hula hoop, an electric one! I'd venture to say that if anything in your life is going wrong, one look at this and you'll feel many times better.
Dear reader, it only gets better: There's video.
In these dark times, this is what we need more of.

Caleb Denison: Please don’t judge me
Every week I’m tasked with the responsibility of finding something cool on the Internet, then writing up some sort of witty blurb introducing it for this, our Staff Picks column. It sounds like the easiest thing ever, doesn’t it? And maybe it should be. But it turns out that I’ve gotten really good at taking what should be the easiest part of my week and making it extremely difficult. I will sometimes spend an hour searching for something I really like because – and I realize this is a major hang-up – I have this crazy idea in my head that what I pick says something about me, and I just can’t have the Internet thinking I’m a dork.
Dammit, I’m too late, aren’t I?
Well, then, since I’m pretty sure the six of you who read this already think I’m a goob or just really don’t care, I’m rolling with a comedian doing Diva impressions to a tune made famous in the 1980’s (oh, he’s an old dork! Nice!) by Bonnie Tyler called “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Yes. My middle-aged nerd status is now complete. Check out Christina Bianco doing some impressive impressions of Divas young and old, including Adelle, Cher, Christina Aguilera (my personal favorite) and, of course, Barbara Streisand. She’s pretty damn good at it.

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The perks of delinquency, 80s dashboards and more in this week’s Staff Picks
the perks of delinquency 80s dashboards and more in this weeks staff picks 08 17 2013 header

Jeff Van Camp: Stephen Colbert confronts the ‘Gay Mafia’
I cover iPhones and Galaxy phones all day long, but when I get home from work, I usually unwind with some Daily Show or Colbert. This is one of the best segments I've seen on the show. Apparently there are parts of the south where a small town can have an openly gay mayor and pass an ordinance banning discrimination of those in the LGBT community. Colbert is, naturally, extremely disappointed in the progress of this "Gay Mafia."
Hopefully we're getting to the point where more people around the country think like this, finally.

Andrew Couts: Everything that's wrong with YouTube
It has been a long time since I last went on a YouTube binge. For whatever reason, my habit of clicking through an endless array of videos, each more odd and obscure than the next, seems to have dwindled away with my fondness for MySpace. In other words, I'm now just busy and old.
Fortunately, YouTube user JelloApocalypse, a self-described "writer and voice actor," has released a brilliant new animated video that makes me appreciate all the time I've not wasted on the world's largest video-sharing site. From the poor design to the wretched comments, the video (above) gives you a sense of all that's wrong with YouTube. The damning summation almost makes it seem as though Google, YouTube's parent company, has given up on improving one of its most popular properties, just to screw with us. Perhaps YouTube's saving grace is that this video is itself hosted on YouTube.

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