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Alt-week 8.10.13: The Mini Lisa, going ape and how Google Glass will turn you into an ant


Alt-week takes a look at the best science and alternative tech stories from the last seven days.

Science and art truly meet with the smallest Mona Lisa you'll ever see. Meanwhile, other scientists are taking primatology to the pool. Possibly of more concern, however, is how a game for Google Glass could finally confirm our destiny as mere worker ants in our technological future. This is alt-week.

Altweek 81013

Small art, and groan-inducing science puns finally meet with the emergence of the "Mini Lisa," a replica of da Vinci's famous emotional ambiguity. This isn't any old painting on a grain of rice, either, with the diminutive reproduction measuring just 30 microns wide. Tiny. The image was "painted" using a process called ThermoChemical NanoLithography (TCNL), which uses heat to lighten the surface. The practical applications of the technique include being able to control chemical reactions at a nanoscale level, and best of all with equipment already found in many labs. The "artists" at Georgia Tech even say it could be used to help with the conductivity of that other mystery of the ages, graphene.

Not all science has to take place in a stuffy lab. Why not in the pool, too? That's what the folk at at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, thought it seems. We suppose that makes sense, when your work is looking at how apes prefer to swim. In the wild, swimming chimpanzees are a rare sight, with the reason being pegged on fear about what might lurk in the water. Not an issue for Cooper the chimpanzee and Suryia the orang-utan who were both raised in captivity. So, what happens when our distant relatives take to the water? The answer as you'll see above is an approximation of the breaststroke. The video also shows that chimps don't mind getting fully underwater, too. The stats from Cooper's Garmin, however, aren't available at this time.

Altweek 81013 The Mini Lisa,

Mobile devices, with their host of sensors and media recording tools, blow open the possibilities for immersive MMO style games. Things ratchet up a notch or two when the mobile device is a wearable like Google Glass. Swarm! is a game that proposes to leverage Glass while delivering useful crowdsourced data at the same time. The basic premise is that you take the role of an ant in a colony. Your movements create trails that strengthen when repeated by you or fellow colony members. However, cross the trail of another colony and suffer a small set back. You gain resources for your colony by carrying out simple tasks, which could be snapping geo-tagged photos of locations and landmarks. Or, perhaps mapping out power outlet locations in airports -- this of course could then be put to real world use. The hope is that games like this could help complete other tasks where resources aren't always available -- such as mapping trails in national parks, so wardens can ensure popular walks are well maintained. The idea of such activity tracking will no doubt get some people a little twitchy, but the game's developers are keen to assure that data isn't linkable to individuals directly. Admittedly a tough thing to assure folk of right now.

Seen any other far-out articles that you'd like considered for Alt-week? Working on a project or research that's too cool to keep to yourself? Drop us a line at alt [at] engadget [dot] com.

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