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Friday, February 9, 2001
saw public intellectual and baptist minister michael eric dyson and elaine pagels speak at the field museum a while ago. he's really great to listen to. here's some stuff -- books, interviews, reviews and articles and such :

slajov zizek on posthumanism (via arts7etters)

(The Real is Lacan's term for that which resists being incorporated symbolically into our universe of meaning. The Real is thus not raw reality, which we encounter at its purest in phenomena like disgust, but, rather, the stuff of traumatic encounters: experiences of violence or excessively intense pleasure. Whether fantasized or part of reality, they are "too much" for our cognitive apparatus.)

um, i didn't get too much. "too much" for my cognitive apparatus :) kinda interesting tho about "trauma" being the universal condition of "becoming human" and i think he's onto something with the process of looking awry.

margaret wertheim on the hole in the universe (via omnivore)

robert matthews on three roads to quantum gravity (via scitech)

Thursday, February 8, 2001
two informative articles from the telegraph on the reverend bayes and some of the present day applications of his formula. (via arts7etters)

  1. chance would be a fine thing
    Mike Lynch is leading the very 21st-century race to make computers think for themselves. But the formula he's using is 250 years old, the brainchild of a clergyman who died in obscurity.
  2. the great health hoax
    Many scientific 'breakthroughs' are nothing but mirages based on flawed research. They result in wasted taxes, false claims for drugs and damaging health scares.

there was a link from the first article to this page on bayesian inference for the physical sciences. and from there a couple papers on maximum entropy and a replacement technique for assigning the prior(?) -- massive inference.

  1. bayesian inductive inference and maximum entropy
  2. massive inference and maximum entropy

which are way beyond my ken, but doesn't stop me from linking to a couple more maximum entropy and bayesian methods websites :)

  1. albany maxent page
  2. maxent 2000

cosma shalizi, btw, has issues with probability as "degree-of-rational-belief." the debate rages on!

Wednesday, February 7, 2001
alex sacui illustrations (via sensible erection)

  • 9B

  • 9B5

  • 9b2

  • bigbak

  • bigbear

  • bill6

  • car1

  • cat1

  • i2c

  • i2d

  • i2dd

  • i2e

  • i30

  • j1a

  • j5 (yellow!)

  • mon0

  • more2

  • sir

  • sj1

  • sj2

  • mark newbold's java stuff (via howard bloom)

  • hyperspace star polytope slicer

  • animated necker cube

  • stereoscopic animated hypercube

  • a 3-dimensional analogy to hyperspace polytope slicing

  • dog and cat

  • free 3D glasses!
  • cat power karaoke (via plastic)

  • all day and all of the night

  • the real slim shady
  • hatten är din!! (via carey :)

    Tuesday, February 6, 2001
    getlost on writing

    jade goes to metreon

    looking the city in the eye

    how i snuck into the super bowl

    Monday, February 5, 2001
    game theory
    (slow going at first, but it gets really good at 5. semiotic freedom and fitness ambiguity!)

    [I]ncreasing semiotic freedom will tend to push the influence of selective forces to higher levels: the more there is of inter-species semiotic interaction the more will the ‘selective aspect’ of evolution be loosened at that level, and the more dominating will be the ‘play aspect’. This is because a rich semiotic interaction pattern produce fitness ambiguity. When organisms are bound up in a web of complex semiotic relations any newly developed property or behaviour can potentially be counteracted or integrated in many ways. The number of possible solutions for selection to scrutinise, and the subtlety of the communicational interactions, will tend to produce a no-win situation. As a result selection cannot really ‘measure’ the stakes of single players (individuals, demes, or species) in the game, but it could still influence the choice of the game itself. Plays, not players, are selected for.

    so this ask slashdot question came up last week about close-ended vs. open-ended games and zerone submitted a couple articles illustrating an altruistic model of cooperative behaviour that undergirds the mindset of many open-ended games. i thought it was pretty awesome because the delineation between close-ended and open-ended games often comes in terms of the systems of rules they employ. closed-ended games are codified in limits and bounds and the determination of a pre-defined solution, while open-ended games are more concerned with the process of play, sometimes even to the extent that the rules themselves can be modified during the course of the game.

    i guess what struck me was that closed-ended and open-ended games are not so much differentiated by the rules they employ as they are by the attitude with which they are approached. like any given game, no matter what the "rules," cannot on the face of it be distinguished as either closed- or open-ended. rather, each and every game is uniquely characterized by its players.

    for example :) the other day i was playing chess with chris and after a little while we both kind of agreed that we were both pretty happy with the positions we had established. but of course chess isn't played to create interesting formations on the board that agree with ostensible competitors. it is a battle for submission and subjugation, to bend, beat and conquer the will of another and thus lay claim to superior intellect… again, within the context of "chess." it’s almost like entering into a contractual obligation or something.

    yet, while the game ends in check or stalemate, there is nothing that says you can't deploy your pieces in a non-threatening manner and then just leave them there if you like them that way. more to the point, you avoid that beady sweat of concentration!

    i dunno, you can sort of see where i'm going. it's not about winning or losing, it's how you play the game blah blah. which was brought out in the ask slashdot thread. you know it's like why a pick-up basketball game or football in the park can be more satisfying and rewarding than professional sports or whatever. all that effort to play at the peak of what? and although trite aphorisms about maintaining a good attitude are small consolation, say on the steppes of 13th century central asia or to pitting gladiators in imperial rome (where's [whither?] the geneva conventions, international criminal court?), they mean a great deal in the eternal semiotical question: just what is at stake?

    um, which brings me to this new[?-1997] synthesis that jesper hoffmeyer is attempting called biosemiotics :)

    if i may dabble in a little heresy, there is nothing inherently wrong with holding an individual or group of individuals in contempt for the beliefs, culture or even ethnicity they share… as long as one holds a particular conception as true, namely a "might makes right" idea or some such formulation of, i guess, social darwinism, it's fine! objecting on moral grounds i think misses the point, because when it's a matter of SURVIVAL on the one hand and strenuous disapproval on the other you're off on altogether different wavelengths.

    or like i learned in high school history where some native american tribes' idea of going to battle just meant touching "the enemy" on the other side as a show of bravery (is this true?) which was devastating to them as a population when they came across those of european extraction who often not only saw themselves as racially superior but invested with divine right. such "meetings of the mind" when opponents played by different rules usually led to the decimation of one or another. as hoffmeyer says, "plays, not players, are selected for." to take it to the animal level, what exactly is wrong with killer bees invading north america?

    if you ask someone what motivates them to excellence (i never do) i imagine the responses would vary as the question is loaded. in economics it would be posed as maximum utility. in biology i think it would be something like evolutionary fitness. appropriately, it's never explained what they mean. to give economists credit :) they never passed it on, simply saying it's subject to individual (wants, desires, needs, tastes) preference. hoffmeyer, though, attacks the biological presupposition of natural selection.

    While it is understandable that biology as a profession prefers to base its understanding of basic life processes on a concept of information having been developed in the safe world of physics, this way of saving the life sciences from the muddy waters of interpretative processes nevertheless seems increasingly illusory the more we learn about the true subtleties of those processes.

    indeed :) later he asserts, "biology is a meeting place between physics and the humanities." biologists, he argues, aren't natural scientists and natural selection is no more "lawlike" than a supreme court decision! just kidding :) anyway, this is his basis for a new synthesis in biology.

    there is a concept that i found really intriguing – maximum entropy. hoffmeyer admits that imposing signification on biological systems leads to dualism, which i guess is unsatisfying (aesthetically?) somehow. [see triangle below :] but he suggests an end around through the physical law of maximum entropy! – which implies that :

    ‘progressive evolutionary ordering entails the production of increasingly higher ordered states - higher order symmetries of the world itself in its own becoming - and perception-action is the physics at these levels' (Swenson and Turvey 1991, my italics): [sic]: 'the world is in the order production business, including the business of producing living things and their perception and action capacities, because order produces entropy faster than disorder.’

    again, i dunno, but like i said – intriguing! cosma shalizi has also discussed maximum entropy (as an assumption, tho) in statistical mechanics and its relation to the physics of computation and information. i'd also like to point out that said's orientalism, anderson's imagined communities, shalizi's narrative communities and gardner's shaper character in grendel would all make nice candidates for the right leg of hoffmeyer's triangle, i think. and maybe sociobiology and its ilk (wolframic hubris!) on the left?

    for further reading folks:

    maximum entropy
    http://www.csicop.org/si/2000-09/laws.html
    http://www.santafe.edu/~shalizi/notebooks/physics-computation-information.html

    biosemiotics
    http://www.gypsymoth.ento.vt.edu/~sharov/biosem/welcome.html
    http://www.molbio.ku.dk/MolBioPages/abk/PersonalPages/Jesper/ Hoffmeyer.html

    i wouldn't normally ever buy an academic journal or nuthin' but this looks so awesome, tempting. http://www.degruyter.de/journals/semiotica/sem12714.html

    intentionality
    http://www.molbio.ku.dk/molbiopages/abk/personalpages/Jesper/ Intentionality.html

    btw, the cogweb site is really cool, too.

    Friday, February 2, 2001
    zerone posts on slashdot!

    1. ot?
    2. infotsunami vs megacorporate mergermania
    3. a better way to distribute ownership: chaorganize

    also, what makes us human (via missingmatter :)

    Understanding the mental processes of others -- mentalizing -- is the basis of our socialization and what makes us human. It gives rise to our capacity to feel empathy, sympathy, understand humor and when others are being ironic, sarcastic or even deceptive. It's a "theory of mind" that has been associated with the frontal lobes, but until now scientists have had difficulty demonstrating this ability to specific regions of the brain.

    remember that perfectly nice guy who survived a railroad spike through his brain but became an amoral criminal psychopath in the process? i guess it took out his right prefrontal cortex.

    mike the headless chicken has his own site! (via favabean :)

    Thursday, February 1, 2001
    hey, there's a new bran van 3000 album coming out soon, discosis, dunno when exactly. you can download astounded, the single from the album. it's disco-y.

    carey discovers the wonders of LA and drops the phil hendrie show on me. here's what carey says:

    This guy, Phil Hendrie, has an hour-long radio show here in LA. He fucks with callers so hard it's ridiculous, but not in the ways you might expect. He's like some kind of genius of characterization and impression or something. Here's one that's sort of apparent and should give you an idea, but it's pretty long. Back story would make it funnier:

    listen everyday!

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