From Japan, where humanoid robots are cool, comes the Vocaloid: a virtual singing idol whose voice is, well, all her own.
Using a software engine produced by Yamaha, Crypton Future Media has released at least three "Vocaloid" idols (Hatsune Miku, Kagamine Rin/Len, and Megurine Luka). Each uses software to synthesize speech (or at least singing, if not spoken words) in an incredibly realistic way. Gone are the days of the "computer-speech" that sounded as if a monotone were being filtered through the blades of a fan; these idols' voices are heavenly. Well, maybe not that good, but very passable as human speech. (Listen to samples at http://www.crypton.co.jp/mp/pages/prod/vocaloid, or look up the names of the characters for other samples.)
As near as I can tell, Crypton provides the character software--images and the vocal library, plus the engine--and anybody who buys it can create songs using the idol's voice. I'm not quite sure what the licensing/copyright arrangement is, but loads of people have bought the software and are creating not only songs, but music videos.
These idols are very popular in Japan, especially Hatsune Miku and Megurine Luka.
All day today (3/3/09) has been Square Root Day--the day times the month equals the last two digits of the year. There are nine such days in a century, and the next one will be 4/4/16.
Despite all the joy to be wrought from such interesting math musements, a thought nags me: Can't one really come up with something of mathematical import/interest from just about any day of any year? Some are easy, such as when the day and month add to the last two digits of the year, or subtract or divide to same, but some may be exponentially related (2/3/08, for instance), or perhaps together solve an equation (3/4/05--the sum of the squares of the first two equal the square of the last).
Of course, I immediately fall flat on the day after Square Root Day--3/4/09. Ah, well.
BlipFact--1) hearkening to the Blipverts of Max Headroom's era, a short, digestible fact; a factoid. Esp. as seen on the Net, where ephemerality is the way of things. Blipfacts in their purest form morph from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. Example: "The pound sterling is worth $1.43."
Impurity, however, beckons, as in the following:
According to researchers at the University of Edinburgh, at least 361 intelligent civilizations have formed in the Milky Way galaxy since its formation, or possibly as many as 38,000.--www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/space/02/25/galaxy.planets.kepler/index.html
These kinds of estimates are always changing--I remember working through an equation in Carl Sagan's Cosmos (the Drake equation), happily trying different values for life-bearing planets and, sometimes more pessimistically, numbers of civilizations that didn't blow themselves up before we could get to know them. The Drake equation is hardly based on firm numbers, but it tends to result in low numbers of civilizations (I think one more recent estimate is 2 or 2.3, if you can have a third of a civilization).
Of course, saying how many civs there are right now as opposed to "at some time since the galaxy formed" is very different, but my gut feeling is that our guesses are becoming 1) based on slightly more solid foundations and 2) more optimistic, as we have already discovered hundreds of planets outside our solar system, even using fairly limited means. One estimate in the same CNN article was for 100 billion habitable (Earth-like) planets--and that's not counting life that has evolved for conditions very unlike Earth's.
It looks a little bit more like science fiction every day ...
Well ... you'll just have to have a nose round, won't you?
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