St. Andrews Face Transformer

http://www.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~morph

Upload your own photo into this face transformer and you can change your age, race, or sex, or see yourself as a Modigliani, Botticelli, or El Greco, or even as manga. (This Mona Lisa is half chimpanzee.)

The software was developed by Bernard Tiddeman and David Perrett of Scotland’s University of St. Andrews. Earlier this month they estimated how Elvis Presley might have looked on his 70th birthday, and they’ve also rendered John Lennon at 64 and morphing videos of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe.

Tiddeman says, “This technology was designed to help psychologists understand how our brains interpret faces, an immensely important social function, helping us to recognize friends, choose a mate, or read people’s emotions.” They’re also using it to plan facial surgery and to help find wanted and missing persons.

Why do we recognize each other by the fronts of our heads? Because hair and clothing change too much, and because people’s hands are too similar. Studies involving prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize faces, imply that there may be a specific face perception system in the brain.

Even stranger is Capgras delusion, in which you recognize the faces but lose the emotional response to them, which makes it seem as though your friends and family are being replaced by impostors. Creepy.

Dead or Alive?

Dead or Alive settles bar bets and morbid curiosity. Brooke Astor is still alive at 102, and Richie Valens was only 17 when his plane went down.

The data seem pretty accurate, overall, even the strange cases. Jimmy Hoffa is listed as “missing”; Deep Throat and D.B. Cooper are “unknown.” Fifty-seven people have died in the last six months. How on earth do they keep this thing up to date?

Churchill Anecdote #7

In 1931, George Bernard Shaw wired Winston Churchill: “Am reserving two tickets for you on opening night of my new play. Come bring a friend — if you have one.”

Churchill wired back: “Impossible for me to attend first performance. Would like to attend second night — if there is one.”

Creature Physics

“The upshot of all this is that Mothra is going to have to add a lot of tracheal tubes to maintain a sufficient oxygen supply. Of course, the more of its volume that is tracheal tubes, the less is biomass that needs oxygen, but this implies that although Mothra may be heavy (because it’s big), its density is going to be very low — about the same as your average cotton ball.”

Zoologist Michael LaBarbera deconstructs classic monster movies at The Biology of B-Movie Monsters.

Historical Cats

Cats and their owners:

  • Hodge: Samuel Johnson, British writer and lexicographer
  • Selima: Horace Walpole, British writer and historian
  • Langbourne: Jeremy Bentham, British writer, reformer, and philosopher
  • Old Foss: Edward Lear, British poet and humorist
  • Siam: Rutherford B. Hayes, American president
  • Appolinaris, Beelzebub, Blatherskaite, Buffalo Bill: Mark Twain, American author
  • Bismarck: Florence Nightingale, British nurse
  • Cobby: Thomas Hardy, British writer
  • Chess, Checkmate: Alexander Alekhine, Russian-French chess player
  • Taki: Raymond Chandler, American novelist
  • Jellylorum, George Pushdragon: T.S. Eliot, American-born British critic and writer
  • Blackie, Jock, Nelson, Tango: Winston Churchill, British politician and writer
  • Beppo: Jorge Luis Borges, Argentinian writer
  • Gujarat: John Kenneth Galbraith, Canadian-born American economist, writer, and diplomat
  • Fuckchop: Trent Reznor, leader, Nine Inch Nails

Fanciful Units of Measure

Little-used measurements:

  • 1.2096 seconds ≅ 1 microfortnight
  • π seconds ≅ 1 nanocentury
  • 3.085 centimeters ≅ 1 attoparsec
  • 2 mm square ≅ 1 nanoacre
  • 2.263348517438173216473 millimeters ≅ 1 potrzebie (the thickness of MAD magazine issue 23)
  • 20 terabytes ≅ 1 Library of Congress

After Jurassic Park came out, some paleontologists started measuring Tyrannosaurus rex food consumption in lawyers. If the average attorney weighs 150 pounds, they figure, a warm-blooded T. rex would eat 292 lawyers a year. A cold-blooded one would eat 73. I guess that means they were cold-blooded; there’s certainly no shortage of lawyers today.

Group Hug

“I once was waiting for an elevator and when the doors opened, there was a baby there on the floor of the elevator in the car seat. Instead of taking the baby out, I instead waited for the doors to close and take the baby to another floor.”

Group Hug lists 167,394 anonymous confessions.