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Monday, October 31, 2005
viking! samurai [:)]

[:: comment! :]

Thursday, October 27, 2005
the arctic of the future


Iceland; Finland; Japan. I remember reading on Matt's weblog, ages ago (the post is gone now), about the Arctic ice-cap melting and the Northern Passage opening. There would be a new northern culture, connected by open ocean, global warming, and a different kind of aesthetic...

From Sergei Medvedev's 2000 essay, "The_Blank_Space: Glenn Gould, Russia, Finland And The North," the section on the idea of a Northern Europe: A shared periphery, a cooperative psychological setup, and an experience of local networking exempt the North from the traditional territorial discourses based on power, history and identity, placing it in a deterritorialized post-national paradigm in which spaces are increasingly imagined and communicated. The North emerges as one of the so-called 'meso-regions', i.e. less determined by geography than by ideas, symbols, visions or strategic instruments, all aimed at mobilizing resources to solve common problems.

The architecture I saw reflects this. The openness of the government in Estonia, the mobility of Japan and Finland, cheap energy in Iceland, the competing narratives that have filtered up to the north from lower latitudes, the reality of the melting ice: These elements combine to produce an approach which is pragmatic, uncentred, combinatory.

[:: comment! :]

Saturday, October 22, 2005
questions concerning religion

  • Why did the features of human cognition that support religious thought evolve?
  • How did spirituality or religion originate?
  • When did it first arise?
  • Was there a standard sequence of development of various features of extant religions?
  • If religion first arose after the last diaspora from Africa, did it arise independently multiple times or spread through cultural contacts?
  • Is it possible to reconstruct a deep history of religious ideas that is analogous to the deep histories that reconstruct the roots of current languages or the genetic relatedness of populations?
  • What have been the main effects of various kinds of religious ideas on human societies?
  • Which features of religions have been favoured my memetic competition?
  • What benefits do people gain (or think they gain) from religious ideas?
  • Which of these are most important to them?
  • What are the possible effective substitutes for religion in these areas?
why believe god?

Faith in a higher being is as old as humanity itself. But what sparked the Divine Idea? Did our earliest ancestors gain some evolutionary advantage through their shared religious feelings?

[:: comment! :]

Friday, October 21, 2005
gigapixel photos

Graham Flint takes really big pictures. Really, really big pictures. My digital camera captures 4 megapixels - Graham produces digital images that are 1000 times that size - 4 gigapixels. What this means is that Graham can start his talk at Pop!Tech with a distant landscape shot of San Diego, shot from 3 kilometers away. Graham selects one percent of that image and zooms in - there’s no meaningful blurring or distortion. So he zooms in again. Now we’re looking inside a hotel room - from 3 kilometers away - and we can make out the bed, the paintings on the walls, the patterns on the curtains.

Oddly enough, the way to make really huge digital images is to shoot film. Really big film. Why would you make digital images using film? Since each image is shot in as little as 1/200th of a second, the data transfer rate you would need to capture these images would be 38 terabits per second - that’s an amazingly high data rate you’d need to capture - without massively parallel computation, there’s no way to handle that much data in that short a time.

So Flint has build a film camera. (Indeed, it’s a really, really big camera.) It uses film magazines salvaged from U2 spy planes (Flint used to run one of Lockheed Martin’s laser labs, which gave him access to some interesting technologyy.) It shoots 460mm x 230mm film stock using lenses that are anywhere from 200mm to 500mm in length. Those lengths would usually be telephoto lenses - but with film this big, these lenses act like wide angles, letting Flint photograph landscapes from 10-20km away. No commercial lenses are sufficient for this work - he and his team grind their own lenses, made of six different types of glass, and custom fit them to 30 kilogram cameras. The sheer geekery required to build these cameras is astounding - and the geekery to take a shot (laser rangefinders, adjustment screws that are tuneable to a thousandth of a centimeter…) is profound as well. And then scanning and digitizing the picture involves hours, terabytes of storage, and lots and lots of touchups in Photoshop.

So why the heck is he doing this? One is that he wants to create real, compelling virtual reality. To give a hemisphere of visual information (as you might get in an IMAX theater) at 20/20 vision, you need 75 megapixels. Add a 10x zoom in any direction and you need 7.5 gigapixels… and the cameras Flint is building aren’t quite adequate yet.

[...]

There’s some disturbing implications of this technology, though...
disturbing implications
Graham showed evidence of this in his Gigapixel portrait of a California cliff and beach. The image revealed tiny black dots in the distance; when he zoomed in on the dots for us, they were revealed to be naked sunbathers. The information contained in the image far exceeded our ability to “see” it.

It was a thrilling demonstration but also fraught with all sorts of questions about privacy issues. When that particular image was displayed in a museum, they were forced to blur out the faces of the sunbathers because none of them had any idea that they were being photographed. Graham also told the audience that he took a photograph of a baseball game perfectly capturing the faces of 15,000-20,000 baseball fans in the stands. “How do I get permission to photograph all of these people?” he posited to the audience. What kind of privacy rights do we have when a gigapixel image is able to capture a cityscape, a streetscape, a home, a window and a face, all at the same time?

Graham was talking to some of the conference attendees after his demonstration and many people asked him how science and art would meld together in this project. A photographer’s eye is special because it organizes an overwhelming amount of information and uses that organizing method to create meaning. What would an artist make of a camera that allows for so little ability to organize; for an image that captures more information than the human eye?

[:: comment! :]

Thursday, October 20, 2005
rockets [via]


Our launch waiver from the FAA reopened for night launches. Creative rockets with strobe lights and various blinking contraptions glittered like alien ships at they drifted down on parachutes in the perfectly clear star sprinkled sky.
smoke [cf.]

This one missile was so impressive, it wasn't until a few hours later that I started to think about kilotons and overpressures and Circular Errors Probable, and the intended purpose of these missiles, and what it would be like to look up and see dozens of these crazy squiggly multicolored pulsing ribbons extending into the night sky in the first few minutes of a large scale nuclear exchange, and not know what it was for sure, but have a pretty good hunch. I used to think about that sort of stuff a lot in the 80s. I think lots of kids did.

[:: comment! :]

Wednesday, October 19, 2005
modelrr [cf.]

minimiam [cf.]

[:: comment! :]

Tuesday, October 18, 2005
evolution & human endurance

The rapid recovery after what we consider now to be an extreme endurance exercise may throw some light on the true capabilities of the human body acquired during human evolution. For the largest part, namely for the 5 million years of the hunter-gatherer age, mankind had to perform daily a regimen of 10 up to 30 km of walking and running for survival. This would correspond to up to 4-h daily exercise time and a WNET [weekly net exercise time] of 28 h. Our "well-trained" athletes achieved only between 20% and 60% of this duration of training, which demonstrates the change of perspective that occurred with the beginning of the industrial age.
persistent bases in CoV
One of the most intriguing aspects is its base-building gameplay. Essentially, a "supergroup" (a group of player characters that belong to an in-game organization, much like a "guild" in other online games) can consolidate its funds and purchase an in-game headquarters building. At launch, you'll be able to build bases that are only one story tall, though Cryptic may consider adding multistory bases at a later time. Fortunately, those who purchase and install City of Villains in addition to their City of Heroes account will also be able to build supergroup bases for their virtuous do-gooders in Paragon City.

[:: comment! :]

Monday, October 17, 2005
infinite crisis begins today

"I honestly don't understand why people love Transmetropolitan so much."

things to keep in mind

"Only add glossiness for objects which have a shiny property in real life."

[:: comment! :]

Sunday, October 16, 2005
the intelligent design of jenny chow

The theater, though not usually associated with the cutting edge of technology, often reveals useful insights about the culture's attitudes towards technology. Rolin Jones addresses a panoply of quintessential American tech fears in his new play 'The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow'. Not only does he skillfully negotiate philosophical questions regarding artificial intelligence and humanity, he also examines culture and even nationalism as forces that define our "humanness."

It's a harbinger for the cultural zeitgeist when ambitious theater writers no longer delve the inner psyche for family secrets and shames (a la Eugene O'Neill). Today's young writers, working across a variety of aesthetics, are asking questions that transcend the limited boundaries of twentieth-century "psychology." There is far richer terrain investigating what is "real" as opposed to what is "psychological realism."

geoff ryman wins sunburst for AIR

The Sunburst Award for Best Canadian Science Fiction Book has been awarded to my fellow UK-residing expat Geoff Ryman for his novel Air. Geoff's written many fantastic novels, such as The Child Garden (about a world where curing cancer restricts cellular division and reduces the average lifespan to 30) and WAS, the World Fantasy Award winning mean and dreamlike retelling of the Wizard of Oz from the point of view of the abused and downtrodden little girl in Kansas whom L Frank Baum used as his model for Dorothy.

" 'Mae lived in the last village in the world to go online. After that, everyone else went on Air.' So begins Geoff Ryman's AIR, a moving novel about change, tradition, information, power and transformation. Ryman brings us to a remote Asian village one heartbeat in the future, introduces characters who live on the page and linger in the mind, and, in graceful, powerful prose, explores the challenges of negotiating both technological change and everyday life in the human community."

[:: comment! :]

Saturday, October 15, 2005
super-cannes

"Intimacy and neighborliness were not features of everyday life at Eden-Olympia. An invisible infrastructure took the place of traditional civic virtues. At Eden-Olympia there were no parking problems, no fears of burglars or purse-snatchers, no rapes or muggings. The top-drawer professionals no longer needed to devote a moment's thought to each other, and had dispensed with the checks and balances of community life. There were no town councils or magistrates' courts, not citizens' advice bureaux. Civility and polity were designed into Eden-Olympia, in the same way that mathematics, aesthetics and an entire geopolitical world-view were designed into the Parthenon and the Boeing 747. Representative democracy had been replaced by the surveillance camera and the private police force."

any number

"Some worries: A lot of laws are about behaviour, what about them? Also, this system would turn legal protection into a luxury that many would chose to risk doing without. I like that there can be many different tax systems, all addressing an appropriate threshold in the flow, but what is a good threshold for local amenities?"

[:: comment! :]

Friday, October 14, 2005
glocalization and web 2.0

During the boom, there was a rush to get everything and everyone online. It was about creating a global village. Yet, packing everyone into the town square is utter chaos. People have different needs, different goals. People manipulate given structures to meet their desires. We are faced with a digital environment that has collective values. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in search. For example, is there a best result to the query "breasts"? It's all about context, right? I might be looking for information on cancer, what are you looking for?

A global village assumes heterogeneous context and a hierarchical search assumes universals. Both are poor approximations of people's practices. We keep creating technological solutions to improve this situation. Reputation systems, folksonomy, recommendations. But these are all partial derivatives, not the equation itself. This is not to dismiss them though because they are important; they allow us to build on the variables and approximate the path of the equation with greater accuracy. But what is the equation we're trying to solve?

feedback and analysis

The example was a six-layered column in the neocortex connected to a 14x14-pixel patch of the retina. There are, Olshausen said, about 100,000 neurons in that chunk of neocortex. That sounds like a lot of circuitry for a few pixels, and it is, but we actually have no idea how much circuitry it is.

[...]

We are, however, starting to sort out the higher-level architecture of these cortical columns. And it's fascinating. At each layer, signals propagate up the stack, but there's also a return path for feedback. Focusing on the structure that's connected directly to the 14x14 retinal patch, Olshausen pointed out that the amount of data fed to that structure by the retina, and passed up the column to the next layer, is dwarfed by the amount of feedback coming down from that next layer. In other words, your primary visual processor is receiving the vast majority of its input from the brain, not from the world.

[:: comment! :]

Thursday, October 13, 2005
"how we remember, and why we forget"

"misremembering can be as revealing as misreading."

[:: comment! :]

Wednesday, October 12, 2005
attenuation

Any time you have to make a choice about anything is a time when you need to attenuate, and maybe you could externalise that method of choice into the system itself; any time there's too much complexity to be understood immediately is a time when time-based attenuation can help (sometimes we call this "teaching"). Maps are a wonderful form of attenuation, for pre-existing information. Another is the taking of a position in a landscape of information flow: You place yourself where peer- or authority-selected information will come by--we do this by choosing to read such-and-such a newspaper instead of a different one. Being concerned with attenuation is being concerned with the algorithms, the co-production of the algorithms with the people who sit in the information flows, the design factors (so that some information flows automatically hit your brain at a higher interrupt level)... It's a big topic.

There's a ton of information coming in via our senses. Not just perceptions of light and sound, but patterning, memory, associations, possibilities, more. The mechanisms to whittle that down to the very few packets that reach conscious perception (and just below that) are impressive indeed, and solve a real problem: Given limited processing capacity, and even more limited capacity for action, what should be processed? The feeling of the brain allocating processing time to something is what we call attention. There are automatic routines to push information up to be attended to, to pre-allocate attention--and to de-allocate it. There are ways to deliberately ignore colours, shape and movement, and your brain will help out by ignoring things it guesses you want ignored, too.
autism
If you met The Squirrelly in person, this is not something you'd likely see. As you entered the room he might glance briefly in your direction, but would then return to whatever he was doing before and probably ignore you thereafter. Any effort you made to catch his eye would almost certainly be in vain.

The technical name for this behavior is "gaze avoidance," and it is one of the symptoms of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). The Squirrelly was diagnosed with ASD two weeks ago.

[:: comment! :]

Tuesday, October 11, 2005
oh hey, forgot to mention i saw grizzly man and a history of violence sunday :D they're both pretty great!

that is all :D cheers!

[:: comment! :]

Monday, October 10, 2005
hey! i was traveling the last few weeks :D went to seattle (and saw an exciting playoff game in vancouver! -- here's the agonising conclusion, while i was away, chris' last game :) then shanghai, suzhou and hangzhou, flew out to beijing and then to qingdao, and finally hung out for a few days in LA, while the glow from the red tide faded :D i started getting "camera eye," i took like almost 2000 pix!

anyway, ftrain has a new book out; pick it up! and this is prolly the most impressive quote i've read all year :D "I just finished reading The Road to Reality, by Roger Penrose."

[:: comment! :]

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