Stories tagged TV


Like a vampire R2D2, really.: That's assuming the original R2D2 was not a vampire itself.
Like a vampire R2D2, really.: That's assuming the original R2D2 was not a vampire itself.Courtesy mechanikat
You know, Buzzketeers, that I only say these things because I care about you. Not all of you, of course—there are a few that I could really take or leave, and you know who you are—but the vast majority of you.

And it’s not that I want to deprive you of your Cake Boss. I know you love your Cake Boss, you little cake eaters, you. Really, I don’t want to deprive you of anything. I want to protect you. From vampires.

Not regular vampires, of course. They’re out there, and there’s very little I can do to help you on that front. In fact, statistics pretty much guarantee that a small portion of you will be killed by vampires (if you aren’t actually turned into one), so it’s really not worth giving the subject too much thought.

But there’s another kind of vampire out there. It lives on Cake Boss and electricity. It’s your set-top digital video recorder. Or cable box, or whatever. So I guess it could live off of shows other than Cake Boss—Ace of Cakes, D.C. Cupcakes, or Last Cake Standing, potentially—but the issue is the same: these devices are huge power sinks.

This is a phenomenon known as “phantom load,” and it’s not unique to DVR devices. Lots of electronic appliances draw a small amount of power while you’re not using them. Not a ton of power but it adds up over the months. According to some anecdotal evidence that I don’t feel like tracking down a valid citation for (so don’t use it in a class assignment, eh?), national phantom load consumes the equivalent of a nuclear power station’s output. According to other folks, phantom load is really just the distracting tip of the iceberg when it comes to our systemic inefficiency in power production and consumption.

In any case, the NYT claims that some DVR devices use more energy than a refrigerator, which is nothing to sneeze at, I guess. They don’t really have to use so much energy, but the industry is not required to make them any more efficient. So they don’t. We could perhaps push for stronger government regulations, or we could try to force them to be more efficient by only purchasing energy-saving models, but the Cake Boss lobby has us by … a sensitive area.

Plus—and tell me if I’m wrong—it seems like most people don’t have much of a choice when it comes to cable boxes and DVRs; they just get what their cable/internet provider has for them. So is this an area where government regulation is worthwhile, if consumers aren’t aware of the problem or given much of an opportunity for choice? Or is this just a distraction from more important issues? (i.e., Cake Boss.)

PS—“Phantom Cakes” is now the name of the cake-based reality show I will be producing, and if any one of you tries to weasel a Phantom Cakes onto TV before I can, I will personally kidnap your pets.


WaveLengths, the award-winning public television program from Arizona Public Media updates viewers on what was once the most talked-about experiment in the world--the Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona.

Biosphere 2: New TV program takes you inside Biosphere 2.
Biosphere 2: New TV program takes you inside Biosphere 2.Courtesy Biosphere 2

"WaveLengths: Planet in a Bottle" revisits the famous life sciences laboratory to learn about the research currently being conducted inside, and exactly how it can help find answers to environmental questions arising in the new millennium. This new episode of WaveLengths includes research and work televised for the very first time.

(See a preview here.)

"WaveLengths: Planet in a Bottle" premieres Monday, January 18 at 6:30pm on PBS-HD Channel 6.

Segments include:
  • Two years and 20 minutes: Jayne Poynter is one of eight "Biospherians" who were sealed inside the artificial environment for a little over two years. Poynter talks about the challenges the team faced as they grew their own food and recycled their air and water within the immense greenhouse. The problems with living extensively in a sealed environment, says Poynter, were not all environment-related.
  • Biosphere 2's future: The management of this unique structure and its surrounding campus was assumed by The University of Arizona in 2007 now scientists from Arizona and around the world use this remarkable facility to find solutions for understanding climate change and other global problems that threaten the planet. WaveLengths Host Dr. Vicki Chandler takes a walk with Biosphere 2 Director Travis Huxman to talk about the relevancy of the new research going on in the largest sealed facility on Earth.
  • High tech rainforest: How are plants and forests responding to the changing environmental conditions on Earth? Dr. Kolbe Jardine is one researcher using a hi-tech chemistry lab in conjunction with Biosphere 2's rainforest biome to learn more about plant interactions.
  • Critical ocean viruses: The invisible life of the ocean--its microbes--is as critical to other ocean life as plants and trees are to the land. The artificial ocean of Biosphere 2 is now helping scientists discover what kind of impact climate change can have on the ocean's microbial life. Researcher Matt Sullivan is focusing on this invisible life to help us better understand the crucial role it plays in ocean productivity, and the overall health of our planet.
  • Climate change and vegetation shifts: Some regions in North America are seeing rapid vegetation transformations because of invasive species. Here in the Southwest, the invasion of the non-native bufflegrass could change our desert landscape forever, and a better understanding of why these changes are taking place in relation to climate change is happening inside Biosphere 2.

An Australian study shows that the more TV you watch, the greater your risk for early death, especially from cancer or heart disease. In fact, every extra hour you spend in front of the tube per day (on average) increases your risk 11%. So, get off the couch and get some exercise!

This TV cried so hard its head exploded.
This TV cried so hard its head exploded.Courtesy Kevin Steele
Remember how TV was going to be totally different way back in February? And it sort of didn't happen, because we all weren't quite ready to have different TV yet? Well, this Friday TV will be changing. For realz this time. On Friday, June 12th, all TV stations are required to switch off their analog transmitters, completing the switch to digital TV.

If you don't have a digital television or a converter box yet, brace yourself for a new, television-free life. It's going to feel like dying. If you are all sorts of prepared, maybe spend some extra time with old fashioned TV this week, because when it goes away, it's going to feel for you like a long-lived pet is dying. Like a parrot, or a turtle. Or a chimp.

You can learn more about the digital switch and the related sciencey stuff at Buzz's Digital Television feature.


Not Annie: I tried this on my own eyes, bu they were too gross.
Not Annie: I tried this on my own eyes, bu they were too gross.Courtesy tryingmyhardest
Oh, my goodness. What did I just write?

What I meant was “TVs on contacts, popped directly into eyes.” Except that I would never write “popped” and “eyes” in the same sentence.

Anyway, it’s looking like the future is still a bright place to live. Especially if the TVs stuck to your eyeballs are malfunctioning. See, Ian Pearson, a British “futurologist” (that means that he’s a guy who thinks about living in the future, even though he actually lives in Britain), has gotten some press lately regarding his prediction that we’ll have contact lens TVs/computer monitors within the next ten years. Displays integrated into contact lenses would superimpose images over what we see of the real world (or, as I like to call it, the “real” world), and, potentially, could be powered by our own body heat.

The technology such products would be based on already exists, according to Pearson. It’s just a matter of shrinking it down to size, and sticking it on your eyes. Contact lenses with non-functioning circuits and lights have already been tested on rabbits, which, after 20 minutes of exposure, had no particular complaints.

While the lens TVs might add a slight tint to your eyes, other people (or, as I like to call them, other “people”) would not be able tell what you were watching. So, while everybody might assume that the guy with the glowy eyes is stumbling around watching something very naughty indeed, I’d actually be watching the video of my sixth grade play, Annie. The joke is on you! (Although I suppose it depends where I have to insert the VHS tape—the joke might also be on me.)

Pearson also declared that we all could also have “digital tattoos” in the near future. Aside from letting the world know what you thought was cool the day you got the tattoo, this digital ink could potentially “pick up on the emotions portrayed by actors in TV shows and create impulses allowing us to feel the same emotions.”

I’m really into this digital tattoo thing, and I’ll tell you why. First of all, I have always really wanted to feel what it looks like Will Smith feels like (I’m guessing “sassy” but it’s hard to say at this point.) Also, I’ve found that my favorite emotions are the ones I feel in my skin. Emotions like “humiliation,” and “second degree burn”. Yeah, those are about two of my favorite emotions (so naturally “Home Alone” will be viewed frequently), and I think I’m not the only one. This one is going to take off. Zoom!

Now, it turns out that this report on the future was commissioned by the British electronics retailer Comet. I don’t think that this fact should affect our reception of the predictions in any way (Comet, after all, probably just wants to know what they’ll be selling in a couple years, so it’s in their interest to have an honest report), but I am a little sore that Pearson is getting paid for this sort of thing, and I’m not. Come on, now! I’m always coming up with great ideas for the future.

Instant cat whiskers

Instant cat whiskers… for girls!

TVs on bullets

The last meal you’ll ever eat (trademarked)

Playstation 5

TVs on teeth

Laser-powered lasers

Better spaceships

Hinged money (for folding)

TVs on money (regular money, not the hinged kind)

Non-functional t-800 model robots

Electronic smile cream

The technology exists, people, it’s just a matter of time and engineering. So where’s my freaking check, Comet?


Do you often find yourself watching those prime-time crime dramas on TV asking yourself, "Wow! I didn't know they could figure out whom the killer is based on a single carpet fiber sample found on the sidewalk outside of a crime scene! Can they really do that?!?" Well, some of the processes we see on TV may not be quick as quick and easy, or even possible compared to real life crime investigation.

Lisa Smith, of the University of Leicester School of Psychology, is doing some research to see how these portrayals of forensics on TV are affecting how jurors view forensic evidence in actual court cases. Jurors make their decisions based upon their knowledge, perceived understanding, and beliefs regarding forensic evidence. So the next time you are watching some evening television or even hear a news story regarding some forensic evidence, think twice about the validity of what you see!

Oh, and if you like, there is an online questionnaire for the study!


Were you a fan of the Mentos and Diet Coke fountains that EepyBird created? If so, you might tune in to "Samurai Girl" tonight (7pm, ABC) to see EepyBird's experiments with more than 250,000 sticky notes. You can also check out an extended version of the video, complete with how-tos, at

Here's a sneak peek, but definitely check the EepyBird site tonight for more.

Professor Julius Sumner Miller educated and entertained generations of Australians on television with his TV series called "Why is it so?"
Now you too can watch some "enchanting experiments" with the good professor! Both dialup or broadband connections available (click the link above for dozens of episodes).

The PBS TV show "Design Squad" is doing a casting call. You have to be 18-19, passionate about engineering, and excited to spend the months of June through August in Boston (and traveling) tackling design challenges and competing for the $10,000 prize. The program's goal is to get viewers excited about engineering and the design process. Apply by Friday, April 11.

The Wired Science crew: Evidentially the lighting is really poor in the future.
The Wired Science crew: Evidentially the lighting is really poor in the future.
Wired Magazine, who bring us monthly nerdy technology news with a pop culture ilk, are embarking on a PBS TV show about science, Wired Science. This is an interesting set of leaps and I hope the funky graphic design, future forward thinking, and nerdy yet populist approach of the magazine translates to a new medium and topic area.