Monday, 29 June 2009

Free data broadcaster & gauge kit.

After much procrastination, I am getting around to publicising my latest development, a data broadcaster and receiving device, to be used for whatever projects it may benefit.

I am making these implements free -- both free-of-charge, and freely-modifiable -- in the hopes that they may further the progress of science and industry in Caledon and like-minded communities.

A link to the kit is found at the end of this posting.


This kit contains two items: a prim scripted to transmit an integer (in degrees, 0-360) on a certain channel, and a receiver contained in a circular gauge. The gauge prim has its texture offset changed such that it indicates the value received (normalised to percentage, in this case).

The scripts and texture are released free of charge, and as open-source. Please improve and extend upon it.

Figure 1. Data transmitter in the path of a mushroom-eating juvenile plesiosaur (Cryptoclidus sp.).


Users will wish to replace the data transmitter script with something appropriate to their own work. Out of the box, the transmitter when touched generates a random number representing degrees, converts the floating point result into a string, and broadcasts that string (via llSay) on a channel defined in the script. The script in the receiver (the dial itself, actually) listens on the defined channel for a string. The string is then converted to a floating point value, and the texture offset is changed by value/360 (again, representing degrees).

Must one use degrees? Of course not. The texture offset parameter is a 0.0 to 1.0 range, so a decimal approach is actually simpler than the degree business. (Actually, the texture offset is -1.0 to +1.0; that is, 0 to 1 in both 'forward' and 'backward' directions.)

Why, then, degrees? A reasonable question. The project included the notion of not just changing the texture offset, but actually rotating the dial prim around its Z axis, as an actual dial would do in Real Life. In that case, the state of the dial in degrees (think compass on a ship's binnacle) would be the ideal currency for transmitting. Unfortunately, as your writer did not read maths or physics at university, all that work involving rotations and Euler representations of quaternions had to give way to the more expedient -- and graceful -- method of simply shifting the texture around.

Figure 2. Scientist at leisure outside a public house, viewing transmitted data on the receiving device.


The list here is fairly large, limited only by imagination (and the whims of LSL). In short, any programmed system involving multiple objects can use this system to transmit and display numeric data in an analogue fashion. The initially-intended audience consists of steampunk builders, mad scientists, tinkerers, and anyone wishing to dabble in an old-fashioned method of data display.

The current broadcasting method, llSay, has its own caveats. The LSL wiki page on the function is recommended reading. (


The author will be happy to hear any suggestions, critiques, and constructive criticism related to this system. Users are asked not to keep their derivative creations hidden under their hats, but rather, to share them with the community. These scripts were not created by an expert, so any formative feedback will be taken in the manner in which it was given.

Figure 3. The location of the items in the offices of the Royal Society.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Movement of objects between virtual worlds.

In another forum I recently commented upon my success in moving objects from SecondLife into an OpenSim environment, namely, the one on a second machine in my home. For those readers who wish to experience some of this excitement themselves, I offer this recipe.

1. Build something in SL. Go in to 'edit mode', select all the prims in the object, right-click 'take'. Give the resulting inventory item a name.

2. Log out of SL.

3. Download an alternate viewer which allows for object import and export. I used the Meerkat Viewer. Install the new viewer.

4. Log back in to SL. Go to 'edit mode' again, and then rez the object from step no.1 above. Right-click, 'more', 'more', and then select 'export'. Save to your desktop or whereever; an .XML file will be created.

5. Be patient; the viewer will now download the object's description, and each of the textures associated with the object. A progress message will appear; "23 textures remaining..." or somesuch.

6. Once completed, log out of SL.

7. Now, restart the Meerkat viewer, and log in to the alternate grid of your choice. Or, as I did, log in to your very own OpenSim enviroment at home. N.b.: the installation and configuration of one's own OpenSim system is well-beyond the scope of this writing. I encourage interested parties to read the OpenSim documentation at least twice, possibly with a cuppa to aid in concentration.

8. Now that you are logged in to the alternative grid, simply choose 'import' from the 'file' menu, et voilà! You have imported the build from SL to OpenSim.

1. Meerkat only transfers prims and their textures. No scripts are copied over! Those must be copied-and-pasted by hand.
2. The viewer respects permissions, and will only allow the export of items for which you have 'transfer' permission. This is not copybot!
3. Be patient with the import speed. Despite the horrid performance of the LL servers of late, OpenSim does not yet boast any speed records for asset server function, even on a dedicated single machine.

Here is the result, seen in a snapshot from my local OpenSim recreation of Winterfell Eventide, before I had to give it up in the Great Void Sim Debacle of 2008. The entire structure was imported in a single maneuvre. Still in edit mode, I moved the collection of objects to the appropriate coordinates, then left edit mode. I will need to find trees to replace the wonderful Heart Garden Centre birch trees in SL, and bring over my Tunguska stumps &c. to finish the look. But the proof of concept is sound.

Here are some views of Eventide before my exile:

Winterfell Eventide

Winterfell Views

Winterfell Eventide_001

Winterfell Eventide_002

Anyone wishing additional details may contact me at their convenience.



Thursday, 30 April 2009

From the *real* Proceedings: Dangers of Being a Female Spider.

Occasionally, one finds an article outside of one's field of interest, yet requiring attention. This is one of those articles:

Řezáč M. The spider Harpactea sadistica: co-evolution of traumatic insemination and complex female genital morphology in spiders. Proc. R. Soc. B. Published online before print. April 29, 2009, doi:10.1098/rspb.2009.0104

Abstract available here.

This comes via Proceedings "B", the biological sciences journal of the Royal Society in London. (Not to be confused with the Caledonian institution of a similar name.)

Readers with reasonable short-term memory may recall a similar story regarding the mating practices of giant squids, referred to in a prior posting ("Rough sex at 40,000 leagues under the sea.")

Once again, allow me to state my great joy in being a mammal.


More available from the BBC: "Spider sex violent but effective."

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Good news for catgirls and evil tiny kitties alike.

In a recently-published article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison show that cats' central nervous system can repair itself, restoring function lost to neurological disease.

Duncan ID, Brower A, Kondo Y, Curlee JF Jr, Schultz RD.
Extensive remyelination of the CNS leads to functional recovery.
Proc Nat Acad Sci 2009; published online before print April 2, 2009.
doi:10.1073/pnas.0812500106. (link goes to the abstract; full text available to subscribers)

A less-weighty discussion of the paper is found at Science Daily:

This, to me, is brilliant news, especially for the felines among us.

Catgirls: have you noted a decrease in your mental faculties after long sessions of dancing and catnip exposure?

Evil Tiny Kitties: have you longed for a way to reverse the effects of all those neurotoxin experiments gone terribly wrong?

I'm happy to post any anecdotal results to add to the literature.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

The Hapmouche Event: Unexplained phenomena in Caledon-on-Sea.

(Editor's note: a particular confluence of second- and first-life projects and deadlines have left me a bit behind on keeping up with scientific goings-on. My apologies to readers who have been left adrift without new reading material from the Proceedings. Fortunately, the event described below forced me to again pay proper attention to current happenings.)

Mr Ray Hapmouche forwarded me a curious note earlier this week:

Dear Dr. Nicholas,

I am writing you on the advice of Sir Edward Pearce. It was his opinion the the Royal Society would be best suited to investigate what has occured at my home in Caledon on Sea. Sometime on the 21st of March a flying vehicle of some sort crashed into my beloved home "Portobello". There is very little left of my home or belongings, but there is quite a lot left of the mysterious craft.
Sir Edward, Christine McAllister, and myself were unable to identify the origins of the craft. I am asking the Society to investigate in the name of science and also to ascertain if this vehicle is a threat to Caledon's security.
My home is located in Caledon-on-Sea, 216, 73, 23.

Thank You for Your Time,

MrRay Hapmouche

A most disturbing event, to be sure. No time to waste, then, in investigating the scene of destruction. Unfortunately, Lady Eva seems to be preternaturally preoccupied with decorating her new castle, and Prof. Krogstad obliquely mentioned being deep in preparation for the World Beard and Moustache Championships.

Therefore, I can only present some initial findings; a fuller investigation will have to wait for the return of my sous-scientists.

1 Synoptic view of the destruction.
Hapmouche event no. 1

Clearly a goodly amount of energy expended in the craft's crash - enough to destroy most of Mr Hapmouche's beloved home.

2 The bisected craft. Note lack of charring around crater site.
Hapmouche event no. 2

An interesting find, this: no evidence of thermal (or similar) destruction around the crater. Definite displacement of the soil from the impact, though. Odd red glow from inside the craft.

3 Aft view of the craft. Derby in foreground for scale.
Hapmouche event no. 3

The craft split amidships; unclear if this was the intended opening method (if the craft should open at all), or the result of the excess structural loading at impact.

4 Closest photo attempted. Unusual plaque on hull.
Hapmouche event no. 4

And here is the most interesting bit: an engraved plaque on the hull. Clearly sturdy enough to survive what appears to be an impromptu landing. Symbol-based message; heiroglyphs, or an attempt at meta-language communication?

5 Obvious combustion now visible from Mt Caledon vantage.
Hapmouche event no. 5

Another interesting development. My initial approach to the site was tentative, as there was nothing aflame... yet. Perhaps a non-combustion propulsion system (and with what side-effects to the human body?). But upon my heading back towards Tamrannoch, a wash of heat behind me, and the craft was on fire. This view was from Mt Caledon, with a large safety margin between myself and the conflagration.

Once my wayward comrades return from their own pass-times, we shall be able to put in honest efforts with what I have labeled as the Hapmouche Event.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

200+ years ago in the real Proceedings

The Royal Society (the scientific academy of the UK, not the Second Life organisation of a similar name) have been publishing scientific findings since 1665. That its journals have hosted an astounding array of seminal discoveries is praise enough, but there is new reason to laud on the Society.

The publishing section (curiously named "Royal Society Publishing") announced that until the end of March 2009, all content (even back to 1665) is open to the public, to celebrate their move to a new content-delivery system.

All content free for another month: I shall pause for a moment to allow my readership to catch its collective breath.

Their understated list "Featured Articles" has a few entries from Isaac Newton, Edmund Halley, Alexander Volta, Edward Jenner, and J. Clerk Maxwell.

Naturally, I dove in to catch up on some back-reading.

In doing so, I came across several entries that seemed apropos given the recent increase in interest in minerals and metallurgy across the Commonwealth associated with the East Avaria Company goings-on.

John Hawkins
Account of the Discovery of Silver in Herland Copper Mine.
Proc. R. Soc. Lond. January 1, 1800 1:42-43.

Of a Peculiar Lead-Ore of Germany, and the Use Thereof.
Phil. Trans. January 1, 1665 1:10-11.

Charles Hatchett
An Analysis of a Mineral Substance from North America,
Containing a Metal Hitherto Unknown.
Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. January 1, 1802 92:49-66.
(open the image for a better view, or follow this link to the full-text PDF)
I suspect now I must comb all the back issues for information on what one can do with mushrooms, as well.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Neanderthal music, heard 30,000 years too late.

As part of the exhibition 'Origins of Early Wales', the National Museum Wales (Amgueddfa Cymru) commissioned an extraordinary composition: music of the Neanderthals. Musician Simon Thorne produced a 75-minute work of what he reckoned Neanderthal vocal and instrumental music sounded like.

Granted, we shall never truly know exactly what the Neanderthals sounded like*, but Mr Thorne has given us an intriguing reconstruction. His work is bolstered by findings in a couple of recent books concerning the topic (admittedly, a niche topic).
The Singing Neanderthals
The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body
Steven Mithen, Harvard University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-674-02192-1

The Mind in The Cave
Consciousness and the Origins of Art
David Lewis-Williams, Thames & Hudson, 2004. ISBN 0-500-28465-2
Results from the ongoing sequencing of the Neanderthal genome suggest that they share a conserved version of the FOXP2 gene, first speculated to spread through the Homo genus before the divergence of the species. The FOXP2 gene is thought to be closely associated with speech, and interested readers should read the linked references for further information. In short, FOXP2 confers some part of the vocal phenotype we humans enjoy.

As an amateur linguist, I found it thrilling to imagine the story of Beowulf being told around Anglo-Saxon hearths circa 500 A.D., and am even further intrigued by the concept of reconstructions of a Proto-Indo-European language, the language spoken 5 to 10 thousand years ago which gave birth to a majority of extant world languages today.

Imagine, then, my excitement at the possibility of hearing -- even just for 'show' -- singing from 30,000 years ago. The mind boggles, and I shall require a moment to recuperate afterwards.

* I have often accused my dear sister Sophie of sounding like a cavewoman when she would sing in the shower, but I suspect that's just a bit of sibling rivalry at work.
Neanderthal picture attribution is here.