Creative creativity

In “you-can’t-make-this-up-but-we-did” news, first dates could become much less stressful and awkward thanks to an emotion detector that could tell if a person has the hots for you. If such a thing existed. Which it doesn’t.

The new device features an earpiece which measures body functions (top), and a sort of combination electric fan/death ray that attaches to the the bottom of your cellphone (below).  Neither actually do anything.


However, the plausibly real device is at this stage still pure fiction, and while not creating it has inspired imaginative use of the word “plausible”, it has been not built to convey a serious message.

The device is inspired by the Voight-Kampff machine (created by designers Jon Voight and Mine Kampff) featured in the film Blade Runner. And the new machine bears notable similarities to that machine, such as being fictional. Also, as in the movie, the prototype device causes thick billows of smoke to emanate from the wearer’s head (below), which reduces the awkwardness of first dates by giving the couple something to talk about. “Hi, Harrison, I’m Callista. It’s very nice to meet you. Why is your head on fire?”


The design team — which includes the Centre for Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London (UCL) — insists it has been (not) built created to convey a serious message.

“How many times are we going to have to keep saying this? We (not) built created this device to convey a serious message!  We know there’s an extra ‘A’ in the acronym CASA. It’s not like there’s even one A in our acronym before the S. But when we used our original acronym CSA, oversensitive campus radicals kept confusing us with Confederates for Spatial Analysis, and claimed that their hurt feelings were causing global warming. Rather than mock them mercilessly, we decided to change the acronym and leave the mockery to others.  And yes, I did say ‘built created’!”  (The design team was granted anonymity in case they ever wanted to get real jobs.)

Neat, bright, compact and totally fictional, the detector clips onto a smartphone or tablet, according to neat, bright, compact and occasionally fictional scientist Natalie Portman (below, right).


(Disclaimer: The picture above shows Ms. Portman being bright, compact, and fictional. Her appearance is also surprisingly neat, given how hard it’s raining.)

The nonexistent device comes in flaming screaming bright yellow, making it nicely inconspicuous on first dates when worn by everyone from Minions to Moe (pictured below).


Team leader Professor Paul Coulton, Lancaster University’s design fiction expert, hailed the potential of the imaginary device, which he says is attracting a lot of attention. “Not as much attention as my cancer-curing cold fusion time machine, but close. Maybe if we picked a color that wasn’t so inconspicuous.”

Design fiction is, in broad terms, a combination of Powerpoint slides and outright fraud which heralds what might come about in a future world where research grants can be generated by wishing really hard.  In narrow terms, it’s just making stuff up.

“The factor that differentiates and distinguishes design fiction from other approaches is the word ‘fiction’. By making our products 100% reality-free, we cut down on development costs and product defects.  Plus, our fantasy process is entirely eco-friendly.  Well, mostly. There’s still a lot of smoke coming from Harrison Ford’s head.”

“But this is actually a tool for creating some pretty serious discussions around the dorms at 2:30 in the morning, once we’ve decided who would win in a fight: Tris from Blade Runner or Cameron from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” (below)

The research team presented a paper in San Jose at CHI, the world’s leading conference on Completely Hallucinatory Inventions.

Click here to read the amazing untrue story.

Editor’s Note: University College London did not respond to our queries about why the Centre for Spatial Analysis employs a design fiction expert, or what emotion detectors have to do with spatial analysis in the first place.  We hope their silence is because they’re too busy analyzing space.

Arbor dog

In misplaced priorities news, multiple first responders showed up because of something a dog did.

On Saturday morning at 10:30AM (9:30 Central time), owner Wes McGuirk says when he and his friends returned home from a deserted ghost town in Omaha, he found his pet Great Dane Kora on a tree limb about 20 feet up .*

“Zoinks!  Like, I would never have thought it was possible,” said McGuirk between bites of an extremely large sandwich.  “Like, not this close to that spooky old mansion down the street, man!”

McGuirk attempted to lure the dog out of the tree using what he called “Kora Snacks”, unidentifiable pinkish-brown blobs of matter. When that failed, he called for help from firefighters.

“While we were responding, we were admittedly somewhat skeptical,” said Plattsmouth Volunteer Fire Department officials, all at once, before picking one official to speak for the group.  “After all, it’s a dog in a tree. We didn’t volunteer for this!”

Several crews from Cass County responded, including the K-9 handler from the sheriff’s office, leaving more than 25,000 citizens defenseless against the possibility of roaming bands of arsonists terrorizing the greater Omaha area.

When the owner inexplicably asked the dog what she was doing in the tree, Kora (above) barked, “Ri raw a rirate rhost!” McGuirk, who speaks great Danish, explained to emergency personnel that little Timmy from down the block had fallen into a well. The firefighters sped away, sirens blaring, hoping that at least the well was on fire, so they’d get to use their new fire hoses.

The initial plan was to get a harness on the dog and see if he would follow a friend of the owner back down the tree, so he called for help from his friends, who had arrived in a van with him a few minutes earlier. “Jinkies!” said one young woman, who requested anonymity because she had lost her glasses and couldn’t see who she was talking to.

McGuirk’s friends also included a guy in a white shirt who provided constant exposition, and a pretty redhead who was there also.

McGuirk says his pet probably ran up the tree to escape some sort of spectral buccaneer she encountered while exploring the haunted amusement park next door.

It was finally revealed a half-hour later that the dog had been chased into the tree by Tom Jenkins, the K-9 handler from the sheriff’s department, who was the only other person mentioned in the story.  Jenkins, an old man, had buried pirate’s gold under the Tilt-a-Whirl at the haunted amusement park, but Kora kept digging it up.

The youngsters were last seen in their van, heading in the direction of a spooky old abandoned mine near the 7-Eleven in Plattsmouth.

A report on whether those meddling kids prevented him from getting away with it is expected later this summer.

Click here for the barely credible true story.

*McGuirk’s nosy environmentalist neighbors from across the street told anyone who would listen that their mathematical models predict that by the year 2000, all Great Danes would be forced to live in trees due to deforestation.  Mathematical model Natalie Portman (below) said that the environmentalists had forgotten to carry the 2, and instead predicted that by 2004, noise pollution would force all Great Danes live in beakers full of water.

natalie harvard

In vantablackest night

In dark arts and sciences news, a group of researchers in England have created the coolest and most unnecessarily dark substance ever.

The material, known as Vantablack (Very Amazing New and Totally Awesome black), was described by patrons at the Optics Express kiosk at the mall as “really blackety-black”.  It works by taking really thin carbon drinking straws and gluing them to aluminum foil.  Light gets stuck between the tiny straws and is absorbed.*

Vantablack is so dark that the human eye cannot understand what it is seeing, and wanders off in search of simpler colors to look at, like periwinkle and burnt sienna.  It absorbs 99.965% of the light that hits it, setting a new world record for the blackest thing.  The previous record was set by Jack Black and Black Manta at a Clint Black/Black Eyed Peas concert in Blacksburg, Virginia in 2002.

Continue reading