Sunday, March 29, 2015

POSTED: Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 10:45 AM
(Left to right) Daniel Lopez, Ashish Vinodkumar, Charles Bacigalupo and Ryan Lanphear design their segment of a Rube Goldberg machine, featuring a toy dinosaur that will activate an electric fan. A total of 16 groups will be building different segments of the machine, aiming to break a world record. (Tom Avril/Staff photo)

Both the brains and brawn of science are up for celebration in Philadelphia this week.

First as The Franklin Institute welcomes its’ latest crop of internationally esteemed “Laureates” to town for demos, a gala award ceremony and this afternoon’s first-ever live streamed “Meet the Scientists” discussion with students local and global. All connecting, as can you, at starting at 1:55 p.m. Questions can be submitted via Twitter at #MTS2014.

Always a high-powered group, this year’s nine honorees include, most visibly, pacemaker pioneer Bill George of Medtronics (also doing a free address at the F.I. Thursday morning at 9), and magnetic recording compression wizards Shunichi Iwasaki and Mark Kryder. The Franklin Institute Awards have been handed out a mere 189 years. Past laureates include the likes of Thomas Edison, Jane Goodall, Albert Einstein and Bill Gates.   

POSTED: Monday, February 17, 2014, 1:37 PM

Hey,  “Wake Up Everybody.” Sony Music Entertainment is about to put another major push behind the classic  “Sound of Philadelphia.”  And the timing couldn’t be better, as the  architects of our   lush  soul, pop,  jazz and disco-fueled mega-music machine  -  Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff -    gear up for their 50th anniversary as a production team.

Sony has  just announced a deal to bring “in house” all the recordings made for Gamble and  Huff’s Philadelphia International Records in the post-1975 era - after PIR broke away from the (now Sony owned) Columbia/Epic family of labels and had its product distributed by rival EMI.

While PIR’s  biggest years with some artists (like the O’Jays,  Billy Paul and The Jacksons)  were then behind it,  the post ’75 era did boast Teddy Pendergrass’ strong “TP” and “It’s Time for Love” albums (the latter including “You’re My Latest, My Greatest Inspiration,”)  Patti LaBelle’s return to the fold with the album “The Spirit’s In it,”  Lou Rawl’s biggest hit ever “You’ll Never Find (Another Love Like Mine)” and McFadden and Whitehead's 1979 smash "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now."

POSTED: Wednesday, January 29, 2014, 6:15 PM
Singer Pete Seeger performs at the 2009 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize special outdoor tribute at Hunts Point Riverside Park on September 3, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

Patriotic protester and family-style folk singer Pete Seeger may have passed from this earthly domain on Monday at age 94. But  the “Power of Song” he espoused as a world-changing force will never die, any more than the songs he wrote and promoted – from  the Civil Rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” to the Biblical re-write “Turn, Turn, Turn” to his buddy Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”  

In fast and appropriate response to his passing, PBS has organized a memorial  broadcast reprise  of the 2008 American Masters series documentary focused on the modest might.  WHYY TV12 will be among  the member stations to air it - “Pete Seeger:  The Power of Song” – Thursday at 10:30 p.m.

Told through the voices of emulators Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen, Natalie Maines, Tom Paxton, Arlo Guthrie and Seeer himself, the  film biography also will be available for streaming  online at beginning Thursday morning.  

POSTED: Wednesday, January 29, 2014, 10:58 AM
A rending of the new video boards that will be installed above the end zones at Lincoln Financial Field. (Courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles)

Not to take away from Sunday’s big game, but the Philadelphia Eagles are claiming a victory of their own today.

Come next season, the team’s home field advantage at Lincoln Financial Field will be enhanced with the highest definition video display boards in the NFL. Panasonic Eco Solutions North America announced this morning it’s partnering with the Birds to provide “a comprehensive LED display solution throughout  the facility” – highlighted by two ultra wide screen, high resolution (10 mm pitch)  end zone boards that measure in at 27 feet tall and 192 feet wide at one end, 27 feet by 160 feet at the other.

Gonna be hard to miss a bad call with those big impressions.

POSTED: Monday, November 18, 2013, 12:20 PM
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Some moaning and groaning at Philadelphia cultural institutions is guaranteed this week – hopefully lighthearted -  as the new  board game “Philly-Opoly”  makes its’ debut, timed for holiday gift giving.

  Taking a lead from the vintage game celebrating Atlantic City, some of Philly’s most famous properties are going for dirt-cheap prices – the Betsy Ross House and  Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts for a mere $80 each, the Academy of Natural Sciences and even the spanking new Barnes Foundation for a piddling $120. Ouch!

What’s the Park Place of Philly? Wells Fargo Center rates a  lofty $330 in silly Philly money, the Liberty Bell $430. (Judging from the hordes of tourists landing at the Bell on Independence Mall, the latter is certainly a good investment .)

POSTED: Thursday, November 14, 2013, 7:14 PM
At the Kimmel Center, these two cars are crashing at a glacial pace. (Photo via livestream)

At first sight  online or  in person, the “Slow and Inevitable Death of American Muscle”  may seem as exciting as watching paint dry. The new installation in the Kimmel Center lobby features two American muscle cars moving in very slow motion, nose to nose – three-quarters of an inch per day.

But return to this Kimmel Center  attraction in-person  or via live web camera tracking on your computer. The decay will eventually be extreme and dramatic, vows creator Jonathan Schipper, as his specially constructed  gear pushes the two cars into contact and compression, eventually reduced to a pile of crushed steel and shattered glass. A telling  commentary on how American  heavy industry  has largely been undone – not in big steps, but one bad day after another?

The happening marks the transformation of the Kimmel into an emerging art exhibit  featuring works from the West Collection – steered by SEI chairman and CEO Alfred P. West, Jr. – and celebration of the Kimmel’s rejuvenated SEI Innovation Studio.  On Thursday, the  performing arts center also unveiled a new entrance for the studio space featuring a massive 20 by 30 foot painted glass panel (switchable) and a square Column of Light tube in the Kimmel’s Commonwealth Plaza that descends into the lower level  where the Innovation Studio holds forth.

POSTED: Monday, November 11, 2013, 4:12 PM

Apple’s long rumored plans to introduce a super-smart, game-changing  TV set have been put on hold again, reported market research firm Display Search today.

 Based on reports from “TV supply chain sources,”  Display Search  had previously predicted Apple would introduce two or three large screen sizes of pricey, Ultra High Definition smart TVs next year.  Now the plugged-in industry tracker says Apple  will step back from the project “possibly to be replaced by a rollout of wearable devices.”

  The hangup “has always been the content” noted a Display Search post. With the replacement cycle for TVs running much slower (7-8 years) than it does for phones and tablets (2-3 years), Apple would need a “unique point of differentiation to capture market share from leading TV manufacturers such as Samsung and Vizio, while at the same time being able to sell the products for a high enough price to deliver typically high Apple margins.”

POSTED: Monday, November 4, 2013, 12:00 PM
YouTube Music Video Awards' host Jason Schwartzman.

Tuning (webbing?) into last night’s first YouTube Music Video Awards,  on-line viewers got another warning  that streaming internet video is not ready for primetime, let alone ready to take over the world.  

Though funded by Google, with access to its'  immense server “backbone” and pulling at most 200,000 viewers (according to an  on-screen counter) the live stream repeatedly  froze up and required a “re-start,”  at least on Gizmo Guy’s home computers  (a Windows 7 laptop connecting via Internet Explorer, a Mac running Safari.)   And the expensively mounted event wasn’t viewable at all on Smart TVs loaded with a YouTube app.

Ironically – the YouTube award is a simple block decorated with a “play” arrow.

About this blog
Jonathan Takiff covers all manner of high tech gadgets – and the entertaining stuff you play on them – for the Philadelphia Daily News, and the McClatchy Tribune News Service. Reach Jonathan at

Jonathan Takiff Daily News Columnist
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