Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Music Media Science

Beer-Coated CDs are Optical Biocomputers 298

commodoresloat writes "A DJ and scientist in Melbourne whose research is in the area of communication through biological cells, serendipitously created an 'optical biocomputer' when he spilled beer on his CDs and left them over night. The resulting fungus that formed distorted the sound of the CDs in interesting and meaningful ways. Here's some of his research, and some media samples which include mp3s of the distorted music." Yes, the term biocomputer is used in the loosest sense.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Beer-Coated CDs are Optical Biocomputers

Comments Filter:
  • by trolman ( 648780 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:14AM (#6940317) Journal
    Jones says that he has yet to damage any of his discs or players with his pioneering work, but warns that the technique does crash CD players on computers because the software cannot cope.

    This is an obvious attempt by RIAA [] blackhats [] to get everyone to buy new CDs while simultaneously destroying computer CD-RW. Time to grep for a good lawyer [].

  • by craigtay ( 638170 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:15AM (#6940319) Journal
    This is another good example of how beer benfits our lives. First I found out if I drink a beer a day it somehow helps my heart, but now... now.. my life is complete.
  • Where does the "art" enter into this? Are you we to assume that the DJs who are varnishing, scratching, and otherwise farking up the media actually know what they will get when they do this, or are they just screwing around and hoping something comes out?

    I realize this is the natural progression from Jimi setting his guitar on fire-- but you won`t catch me at a concert.
    • Re:Music? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by borbyu ( 706599 )
      since when has an artist been required to make art on purpose. Some of the greatest music ever were created by accident... its knowing that your accident is cool is the real talent!
      • Re:Music? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by op00to ( 219949 )
        There's a difference, in mainstream art, between "music" and "a fucked up cd". Yes, you might have some sort of deconstructionist or dadaist who could defend this work as art, but who really listens to them anyhow? I don't know how this could be considered "cool". I didn't hear anything interesting when I listened to the mp3's. It sounded like he hocked a loogie on a CD, wiped it off with sandpaper, and then tossed the CD in a player. Wow. I could do that, just leave a CD on my desk for a few weeks.
    • Re:Music? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Enoch Root ( 57473 )
      Haven't you heard of progress through experimentation? Do you really think ANY musician in the world comes up with a perfect song off the top of their head?

      Consider Jimi Hendrix trying to compose a song... He hits a few chords, and it sounds cool. He created something artistic out of random attempts, by using his artistic mind to discrimate between interesting sounds and uninteresting sounds.

      If THAT doesn't fit in your definition of 'art', then your definition excludes half of Mankind's works of art.
      • Re:Music? (Score:5, Funny)

        by xkenny13 ( 309849 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:37AM (#6940409) Homepage
        Hmmmm ... gives new meaning to the term, "Moldy Oldies".
      • First, nice argument. Comparing an original musician to someone who scratches up cds and calls it something to swoon over...I must remember that one.

        What happens when jimi produces something which doesn't sound like much of anything? He'll probably say "funk dat" and go to something else. This guy, instead, harps on something which is nothing more than a cd that's degraded in quality. It's not like an analog source that can warp -- the digital source just skips and pops. Wow. Groundbreaking stuff, ob
        • Re:Music? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by proj_2501 ( 78149 )
          i don't think he's claiming to be the endpoint of experimentation on this issue.

          you may have heard of thomas brinkmann, who frequently uses the sounds from slices cut into vinyl records in his music. as far as i know, no-one has tried to really manipulate the actual cd media to find what sounds it makes because merely scratching up the surface doesn't produce much.

          now here is a method of modifying cd's without making them unplayable. let's see what can be done with this before we reject it entirely.
    • Re:Music? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by blincoln ( 592401 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @04:44AM (#6940606) Homepage Journal
      Formal music created through random, pseudo-random, or mathematical processes is almost a century old at this point. Check out some Schoenberg or John Cage. It may not be your kind of thing (I'm not really into it myself), but it is an interesting branch of art.
      • Re:Music? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by perreira ( 176114 )
        Actually it is a bit older: Mozart (1756-1791) did a Dice-Sonata: he composed 176 bars of music, of which you choose 16 by playing dice. This gives 11^16 different sonatas!

        These kind of musical dice-plays where in fashion in Mozarts time, the oldest known is from 1757: "Johann Philipp Kirnberger: Der allezeit fertige Polonoisen- und Menuettencomponist, Winter. Berlin 1757.".

        You can find more info (in german) on this page []. There is quite a list of pieces and books...
      • Re:Music? (Score:2, Funny)

        by mmol_6453 ( 231450 )
        cat /vmlinuz > /dev/dsp

        The sound of Linux. :P
    • Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't know what comes out of the scratching. I recommend Kid Koala [] as a DJ who knows what he's doing - he even does storytelling on turntables, and he's also a great live performer. He's not the most skilled turntablist, though.

      And what's wrong with just screwing around and hoping something comes out? Intentionalism is for romantics and sad losers. You're not hearing what the composers and musicians mean you to hear anyway.
    • "Regretssshhh....I've hadda few. But thenna gain, too few to menshun...(hic)"

      I know alcohol helps me as an artist (well, karaoke singer).

  • ...the submitters are using beer for other things besides ruining their CDs. Such as drinking it and forgetting that this story already was on the main page.
  • Whew. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    As long as the fungus is on the cd and not actually ON Britney Spears, I'm fine with it. I need my baby to be tip-top for her man.
  • Warning (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:19AM (#6940333)
    Coating CDs in beer, wine, whiskey, or any other hard or malt liquor/liquer is a violation of the DMCA.

    Allowable liquids:

    Pepsi (One, Blue, Vanilla)
  • by xkenny13 ( 309849 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:19AM (#6940334) Homepage
    Beer, is there anything it can't do?
  • Apt (Score:4, Funny)

    by samj ( 115984 ) * <> on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:19AM (#6940335) Homepage
    It's precisely beer o'clock down under (17:18 Friday), so while this article is otherwise a complete waste of 1's and 0's, at least it's aptly timed.
    • Re:Apt (Score:2, Funny)

      by modme2 ( 630194 )
      this was on a couple of days ago, i was going to submit it, but then i thought who on slashdot would be interested in a story about beer and cd's? ;)

  • Trust us Aussies (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sjwt ( 161428 )
    It would have to be an Australian
    to mix beer and CDs..

    Now finaly we can prove which
    beer is the best musicly..!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:20AM (#6940339)
    Aussies don't have any beverages that could be regarded at beer.

    As the Monty Python Joke goes:

    What is the difference between making love in a canoe and Austrailian Beer?

    Nothing. They are both fucking close to water!

  • Beer--the cause of and solution to all of life's little problems.
  • by Solo-Malee ( 618168 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:23AM (#6940355)
    ...I've had Beer on my AOL coasters for 10 years now.
  • No visuals? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ( 629916 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:25AM (#6940366) Homepage
    "...he spilled beer on his CDs and left them over night. The resulting fungus..."

    I was expecting to see what the fungus looks like, and whether it could survive the high-speed spin in the CDROM drive, however all I found was a lame stock photo.

    • Re:No visuals? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by robbyjo ( 315601 )

      There IS visuals... See the paper here [] (see page 5). It's a 9 MB PDF file. That paper also mentions that the fungus DID impact the error correcting part of the CD. And it mentions on page 7:

      To begin with, each computation was started by placing one disc into a stand-alone CD or DVD player and pressing play. In all cases so far, placing treated discs into computer-based, CD, CD-RW and DVD players has caused the computer or laptop to crash. For this reason, this study focused only on CD and DVD players tha

      • Before people condemn the paper as lame, read the paper at the parent post. Probably the most important results to us are that the author suggests:

        • It smooth the audio partition, so it's ideal for audio mixing. (see pp 11 & 12)
        • It has a "natural" error code in the sense that the fungus improve the error code robustness over time.

        I may be wrong, but read the paper yourself.

  • by jlemmerer ( 242376 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {321mocx}> on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:27AM (#6940375) Homepage
    the more interesting question would be:
    can you influence the fungus that it does something useful and not only distort the data randomly...
    might be useful for encryption if you could find a way to restore the original data with a secure "key"/method/anti-fungus-spray/whatever.
    • I'm looking at the owners manual for the olsen twins CD I just bought...

      1. remove CD from protective sleeve
      2. open included DCD concentrate and delute in 3oz water
      3. add 1g authenticated signed substance, mix until fully dissolved
      4. submerge CD in ASS solution for 30 seconds
      5. remove CD from solution, allow 3 to 5 minutes to dry
      6. enjoy your music ...sucker
  • Is this where our research dollars are going? :)
  • Somehow, just somehow, I knew that the biocomputing was coming. And that the person who brought it to us would be a drunk DJ/Scientist who accidentally spilled his beer on a cd.

    Yes, the key to biocomputing has been unlocked,

    and it is beer.

    All behold and bow down before the oncoming might of the free (as in beer) biocomputing technology.

  • by Advocadus Diaboli ( 323784 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @03:42AM (#6940428)
    ... it is a sin to spill beer. Beer is a basic food and people should drink it and not spill it. This separates the tourists from the real bavarian men at the Octoberfest.

    Caution: Be aware that beer contains a lot of female hormons. If you drink too much you start takling nonsense and you're unable to drive a car.

  • I felt a disturbence in the music. Allmost as if a million yeast cells cried out in pain and then were silenced as they were lasered to death.

    So now we know why skynet wants to whipe out the human race.

  • The MP3 samples of the audio cds dont sound that weird, just like a 486/33 trying to play a 44.1Khz 128Bit MP3.
  • I downloaded the mp3 of the distorted Chili Peppers Song on their website. I wasn't impressed. As far as I could tell, I would get the same effect by lightly scraping sandpaper over my cd.

  • Reminds me of the discovery of the Infinite Improbability Drive. About the same probability that this could result in anything actually worthwhile. Though it is said that people used to pour beer down the back of bar pianos to "improve the sound".
  • by the bluebrain ( 443451 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @04:12AM (#6940530)
    The only "maningful" change results from the error correction logic in the CD drive.
    • [...] the way fungus and bacteria [grow] can shape the sound in weird ways.
    Tosh. It's flipping some of the bits in a bitstream which represents audio encoded with an arbitrary codec. Dude - there are more interesting ways of flipping bits, and ones that might just tell you a bit more about bacteria, fungi, music, life, the universe, and everything.
    What's this guy on? I want some.

    /beer, you say? Good. I can do that.
  • by AaronStJ ( 182845 ) <> on Friday September 12, 2003 @04:17AM (#6940543) Homepage
    Ok, so this sounds a lot like a troll, but...

    I don't see that this is terribly impressive. I mean, he's done a fair bit of research, wrote several papers, and uses big words like "nanoscale chemical filter" and "Boolean string re-arrangements," but in the end, all he seems to have done is pour chemicals on CDs and make them skip. I could do the same with a brillo pad. Why is that impressive? He makes a lot of noise about computing, but is any usefull computing actually going on? What are the practical applications of this "technology"?

    Taking a look at the media samples, it doesn't strike me that he's stumbled on a cool new artistic technique at all (it should be mentioned that the artist Oval [] has been scratching up CDs in the name of art with much better results for years). This is the same thing anyone has gotten when they accidently scratched up a CD or DVD. There's no art to it, and frankly it sounds terrible.

    I can understand why this would be important if his techniques yielded predictable, useful results, such as achieve a specific, desired audio or visual effect. But basically all that he gets in a broken file. The same could be done by randomly flipping an arbitrary number of bits inside a mp3. Nothing usefull is being computed or done at all. So why is this important, or even relevant?
    • by zakezuke ( 229119 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @05:52AM (#6940759)
      I too read this expecting some insight into how fractical geometery distortions would affect digital streems. Part of the argument why vinyl sounds better then CD to some people is in part due to fuzzy non-quanitative reasons such as warmth or feel aka noise and distortion, and research into so-called noise I feel is important to out understanding of the perception of sound. Let's face it, sound it self is not only vibration but it's reverberation off the ambient enviroment.

      I heard garbled CDs, nothing more then garbled CDs. I see it being useful to create random distortions which in turn can be converted into software to achieve the same effect, and one day perhaps you can get something to sound neet and weird, but that seems to be the only redeeming value to these experiments.

      I would be more interested to hear the effect on your standard issue sin waves rather then "this is not a love song". Atleast that way I can actually have some measure of understanding of the actual effect.

    • The impressive part is not the research he's produced, but the fact that he's been able to secure a position as a scientist where spilling his beer on things is considerd research. Just think how many kids today would get into science if they knew you could do research on being a drunk DJ.

      For instance I've found no documented research on the effect of various alcohols on programmer efficiency. Call For Papers anyone??
  • by PimpNinjaWannaBee ( 513315 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @04:35AM (#6940587) Homepage
    "A student and teenager in Australia whose research is in the area of communication
    through pick-up-lines, serendipitously created an 'optical biocomputer' when he spilled
    beer on down his throat and left it there for a couple of hours. The resulting drunkeness
    that formed distorted the sound of his voice in interesting and meaningful ways. Here's
    some of his research [], media samples which include mp3s of the distorted "music" coming soon."
    Yes, the term biocomputer is used in the loosest sense.
  • I've created an olfactory biocomputer in my shoes, but you don't see me bragging about it.
  • Ruined Disc (Score:2, Funny)

    by Potor ( 658520 )
    The following week, he put on a CD by Nine Inch Nails and found that it would not play properly because fungus had grown on it. But the fungus had not ruined the disc.
    Indeed, I think NIN ruined the disk.

    Seriously, though, I cannot be alone in having stumbled upon these effects by accident myself.

    Although it was interesting to learn the difference in growth patterns between fungus and bacteria, I can in no way see what is "pioneering," or even interesting, about this.

  • This isn't news, it's bullshit. The examples given are just ordinary degraded media, there's nothing surprising in the result. So what's this meant to be about? We have to worship entropy now, do we?

    Slashdot editors should not feel obliged to post this kind of intellectual jerk-off just because it got high score on the keyword-o-meter. Try reading the stuff first dammit, see if there's any value in it.
  • A computer, bio or not, is a system that takes input, performs specific and predictable calculation, and produces output.

    An artist, DJ or otherwise, is a person who through talent and skill creates deliberate and specific sensory effects that stimulate the audience in interesting ways.

    What we have here is neither art not science, and the article sounds like something from April 1st. Allow me to translate the text again:

    A bus driver and part-time juggler in Milton Keynes whose research is in the area of communication through flaming torches, serendipitously created an 'golden pussycat' when he spilled beer on his shirt and left it over night. The resulting fungus that formed distorted the shape of the shirt in interesting and meaningful ways. Here's some of his research, and some t-shirt samples which include opinions of psychotics of the distorted garments."

    "Interesting and meaningful" to whom exactly?
  • by Matrix2110 ( 190829 ) * on Friday September 12, 2003 @06:45AM (#6940916) Journal
    Losing Karma. Oh well, that is what it is for. (At least I get to sleep easy at night because I speak up for what I believe in.){=Original and not a bad sig.

    Two issues with this story, one is the fact that if you indeed get the 'perfect' mold grown on your disk it is very difficult to freeze the err, data in a static way.

    The number two thing is why are people researching this 'Fungus-effect' rather than say, rubbing crayons onto cds with a far more reproducable effect?

    Bio-cds perhaps?

    Not to mention the health hazards are also greatly reduced with crayons. Of course you will still have to deal with the issue of the foreign matter of your choice clogging up your CD drive.

    Also the offbalancing in that 100x drive you picked up at costco for twenty bucks. is going to cost you a trip to the return line.

    It's your hardware, please do as you wish. (Just let us know what happens) Visions of mold based prior art dance through my head sorta like the SCO executives.

    Personally I vote to wait and see what the community will come up with the 'New Mold sound' and then start a fund to blast it from afar into BG's compound.

    The Karma Killer: This was indeed posted on a day ago. To be fair. Fark takes great pains to acknowledge any scoops from /.

    They even show the /. logo.

    It kinda ticks me off that we can't even acknowledge a odd story news gathering site with a tech bias. Fark is zero threat to /. so why not some Quid Pro Quo?

    Slashdot is depth. Fark is popcorn.

    Sometimes popcorn needs to be chewed in depth.

    And sometimes depth has to be chewed by popcorn.

    Thank you for reading my semi-off topic rant that I am sure to pay for in the morning.

    The last possible shield for my slim castle of karma: I showed this article to a fellow co-worker when we were both under a very tight deadline (He moonlights as a DJ, Biggest cd collection I have ever seen. 5000+ collection)

    He just started laughing and laughing. I know that is sorta creepy but it was a relief sort of laugh, not one of those ones in the very scary under-reported storys thread.

    That kind of stuff is hard to refute.

    I work in the Media and that thread gave me great pause.

    One nice thing I really like about Slashdot is the fact that I might take a verbal tongue lashing from the literati, I don't usually get my lug nuts pried of my car because I think different. I am using a metaphor for having my car stereo ripped off a long time ago. What I learned was don't keep expensive stuff in your car. (Basic knowledge 101)

  • FTA:
    A DJ [...] whose research is in the area of communication through biological cells

    Yeeah. Right.
    Translation: he jerks off in public.
  • Place a CD in a microwave for just a few seconds. You probably won't get a biocomputer, but it puts on a good light show. And to make sure this isn't off-topic...try it while drinking a beer!
  • by lessthan0 ( 176618 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @07:12AM (#6940986)
    Any professor with Nine Inch Nails in their music collection is worth supporting.

    Maybe we can get him to spill other beverages and mixed drinks onto CDs and record the results.

    A government grant should also be in the works.
  • beer-related science. Since 1908, Aussies have been doing groundbreaking work in this field [].
  • Is it just me, or does this remind anyone else of Sir Isaac Newton's famous apple?
  • ...the sounds and images of a University webserver slowing being Slashdotted to death....
  • I wonder if one could hack a CD-player to act like a microscope? The key would be to turn off any error correction/fault detection stuff and watch the raw bit pattern. When those bits are reconstructed into tracks, we would get a 1-bit image of the surface.

    OK, there's a ton of tiny details that prevent this from working -- mostly due to the fact that modern CD players are unhackable blackboxes with all the magic inaccessibly embedded into a few inscrutable ASICs. It also does not help that the image p
  • by techstar25 ( 556988 ) <> on Friday September 12, 2003 @08:03AM (#6941158) Journal
    Did anyone else picture Yahoo Serious [] doing this as they read the summary?
  • I have listened to every mp3 and watched a pair of videos... but it's really obvious that what you get is a random inability of the error correcting code of the sound/image interpreter. It's all because of the pseudorandom distribution af data on the surface for error correction purposes!

    If the guy tried something on a vinyl it should be much more interesting because the sound is not digitally treated and is perfectly sequential...

    Yes... but the result of course would be a low frequency filter and a destr
  • I'd like to complain on the quality of the MP3s that were linked to. They skipped like an old record, and sounded like they were from a 386.

    Although this is better quality than most of the songs that I download from Kazaa, I'd like to get better rips.

    BTW, do you log everyone who takes these MP3s? Or is it "anonymous"?

  • by dysprosia ( 661648 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @09:05AM (#6941535)
    If you spill beer on a copy protected CD (you know, the kind with induced errors on it), does the fungus distort the errors so they disappear?

    If so, will the fungus be sued under the DMCA?
  • This guy not only spills beer on his CDs but leaves them that way for so long that they grow fungus. I can only imagine what his bathroom must look like, or his personal hygiene. God knows where else he has fungus growing, *ugh*.
  • And I always thought it meant having your taste in women dangerously affected by your intake of alcohol.
  • by Gallowglass ( 22346 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @10:35AM (#6942268)
    Didn't we have story a year or so ago about some Aussie boffins researching the physics of the "fall" of bubbles in Guinness? (Do the bubbles go up or do they go down?)

    I'm beginning there might be some connection between Australian scientists and foamy malt beverages. But, YMMV.
  • by gorjusborg ( 603799 ) on Friday September 12, 2003 @11:05AM (#6942601) Journal
    "Examples are given for both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cellular interference with optically stored data. Differences in cellular parameters such as organelle density, refractivity, and gross morphology (branching versus aggregation) are shown to impact on error correction using the Cross Interleaved Reed-Solomon Code."

    Holy crap. You could have just said, "Hey, when I grow shit on my CD's it sounds funny."

Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.