Jim Lillie

Jim Lillie

Jim began writing for newspapers and designing for publishing companies at a time when both industries were just beginning to make the switch from manual to digital platforms. Jim lives in Boulder, Colorado with his teenage son.

It's enough of a challenge to contemplate what life will be like once everyone is forced in one way or another to interact with robots. Devices currently on the market have gradually begun sounding more like actual humans. And since part of the idea of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is to be able to anticipate a person's needs and choices, while also adjusting to changes in plans, it's a safe bet that robots will soon sound so human-like -- because who really wants to hold a conversation with a machine? -- that it might be difficult to tell robots and humans apart.

Enter the special earpiece, a prototype device, somewhat resembling a behind-the-ear hearing aid, that can sense synthesized voice patterns and then, via a thermoelectric plate, send a chilly shiver down the wearer's backbone.

Saturday, 15 July 2017 00:00

Re-Making the Los Angeles River

What does a city do with a river running through it that seems to be more in the way of downtown life than an integral part of it -- especially when that river is a concrete culvert, not a meandering waterway with vegetated banks and overhanging trees?

Start a project, called the LA River Downtown Design Dialogue as a way of generating achievable ideas for transforming portions of the river into attractively designed urban oases, that's what.

The project, according to its web site, "celebrates the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the City's Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan by envisioning ways to implement the goals of the Plan while responding to the current context of public and private investment in the Downtown LA River corridor."

To that end, seven design firms were asked to each take a specific downtown segment of the river and come up with design treatments.

Sunday, 09 July 2017 00:00

Attack of the Giant Slugs

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) reports that coastal waters off the shore of Oregon have been filled recently with millions of translucent, slug-like creatures that measure from an inch to more than 2 feet in length.

Called pyrosomes and shaped like giant pickles, the organisms first showed up along Oregon's coast in 2015. In recent months, however, their numbers have soared into the millions, according to NOAA.

What's perhaps even more odd is that the creatures typically reside in tropical waters -- not the usually chilly waters of the Pacific Northwest.

Recently, researchers conducted a five-minute midwater tow off the Columbia River and managed to snare about 60,000 pyrosomes -- without wanting to. The researchers were hoping to find a different, rare fish and were forced to wade through the pyrosomes until they reached their goal.

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