Yearly Archives: 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
The Globe and Mail:
The iconic writer reveals the shape of things to come, with 45 tips for survival and a matching glossary of the new words you’ll need to talk about your messed-up future.
1) It’s going to get worse
No silver linings and no lemonade. The elevator only goes down. The bright note is that the elevator will, at some point, stop.
2) The future isn’t going to feel futuristic
It’s simply going to feel weird and out-of-control-ish, the way it does now, because too many things are changing too quickly. The reason the future feels odd is because of its unpredictability. If the future didn’t feel weirdly unexpected, then something would be wrong.
3) The future is going to happen no matter what we do. The future will feel even faster than it does now...read more
Posted in Idea Soup
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
More from theSource here.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
WikiLeaks’ series of exposés is causing a very different news and informational landscape to emerge. Whilst acknowledging the structural leakiness of networked organisations, Felix Stalder finds deeper reasons for the crisis of information security and the new distribution of investigative journalism....read more
Sunday, November 28, 2010
From Frank Jacobs / BigThink:
What if the world were rearranged so that the inhabitants of the country with the largest population would move to the country with the largest area? And the second-largest population would migrate to the second-largest country, and so on?
The result would be this disconcerting, disorienting map. In the world described by it, the differences in population density between countries would be less extreme than they are today. The world’s most densely populated country currently is Monaco, with 43,830 inhabitants/mi² (16,923 per km²) (1). On the other end of the scale is Mongolia, which is less densely populated by a factor of almost exactly 10,000, with a mere 4.4 inhabitants/mi² (1.7 per km²)....read more
Friday, November 26, 2010
Natural selection acts by winnowing the individuals of each generation, sometimes clumsily, as old parts and genes are co-opted for new roles. As a result, all species inhabit bodies imperfect for the lives they live. Our own bodies are worse off than most simply because of the many differences between the wilderness in which we evolved and the modern world in which we live. We feel the consequences every day. Here are ten....read more
Posted in BigBang
Monday, November 22, 2010
By Robert Pinsky for Slate:
Denunciation abounds, in its many forms: snark (was that word invented or fostered in a poem, Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark“?), ranking-out, calling-out, bringing-down, blowing-up, flaming, scorching, trashing, negative campaigning, skepticism, exposure, nailing, shafting, finishing, diminishing, down-blogging. Aggressive moral denunciation—performed with varying degrees of justice and skill in life, in print, on the Web, in politics, on television and radio, in book-reviewing, in sports, in courtrooms and committee meetings—generates dismay and glee in its audience. Sometimes, for many of us, dismay and glee simultaneously, in an uneasy combination.
A basic form of denunciation is indicated by the slightly archaic but useful expression giving the lie....read more
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
It’s hard to believe that internet based search engines have been in the mainstream consciousness for around twenty years now. It seems not too long ago that we were all playing Pong and searching index cards at the local library. Infographics Labs puts the last twenty years of search in summary for us below.
Infographic: Search Engine History by Infographiclabs
Friday, October 15, 2010
Nobel laureate explains why the carbon sheets deserved to win this year’s prize.
This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics went to the discoverers of the one-atom-thick sheets of carbon known as graphene. Andre Geim of the University of Manchester, UK, who shared the award with his colleague Konstantin Novoselov, tells Nature why graphene deserves the prize, and why he hasn’t patented it.
In one sentence, what is graphene?
Graphene is a single plane of graphite that has to be pulled out of bulk graphite to show its amazing properties.
What are these properties? ...read more
Monday, October 11, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
The lengthy corridors of art history over the last five hundred years are decorated with numerous bold and monumental works. Just to name a handful of memorable favorites you’ll see a pattern emerge: Guernica (Pablo Picasso), The Persistence of Memory (Salvador Dali), The Dance (Henri Matisse), The Garden of Earthly Delights (Heironymous Bosch). Yes, these works are bold. They’re bold in the sense that they represented a fundamental shift from the artistic sensibilities and ideas of their times. These works stirred the salons and caused commotion among the “cognosenti” and the chattering classes. They implored (or decried) the establishment to take notice of new forms, new messages, new perspectives....read more
Thursday, September 23, 2010
What is it good for? A passing fad! It makes you stupid! Today’s technology critique is tomorrow’s embarrassing error of judgement, as Katrin Passig shows. Her suggestion: one should try to avoid repeating the most commonplace critiques, particularly in public.
In a 1969 study on colour designations in different cultures, anthropologist Brent Berlin and linguist Paul Kay described how the sequence of levels of observed progression was always the same. Cultures with only two colour concepts distinguish between “light” and “dark” shades. If the culture recognizes three colours, the third will be red. If the language differentiates further, first come green and/or yellow, then blue. All languages with six colour designations distinguish between black, white, red, green, blue and yellow. The next level is brown, then, in varying sequences, orange, pink, purple and/or grey, with light blue appearing last of all....read more
Monday, September 20, 2010
By Robert Pinsky for Slate:
Here is a pair of poems more familiar than many I’ve presented here in the monthly “Classic Poem” feature—familiar, maybe, yet with an unsettling quality that seems inexhaustible. As in much of William Blake’s writing, what I may think I know, he manages to make me wonder if I really do know.
“Blake’s poetry has the unpleasantness of great poetry,” says T.S. Eliot (who has a way of parodying himself even while making wise observations). The truth in Eliot’s remark, for me, has to do not simply with Blake’s indictment of conventional churches, governments, artists but with his general, metaphysical defiance toward customary ways of understanding the universe....read more
Monday, September 6, 2010
From The New York Times:
“I ACTUALLY think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions,” said the search giant’s chief executive, Eric Schmidt, in a recent and controversial interview. “They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.” Do we really desire Google to tell us what we should be doing next? I believe that we do, though with some rather complicated qualifiers.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
There is much going on in the world on internet and web standards, including the gradual roll-out of IPv6 and HTML5. HTML5 is a much more functional markup language than its predecessors and is better suited for developing richer user interfaces and interactions. Major highlights of HTML from the infographic below.
More from theSource here.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Several evenings a week, after a day’s work at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, Sergey Brin drives up the road to a local pool. There, he changes into swim trunks, steps out on a 3-meter springboard, looks at the water below, and dives.
Brin is competent at all four types of springboard diving—forward, back, reverse, and inward. Recently, he’s been working on his twists, which have been something of a struggle. But overall, he’s not bad; in 2006 he competed in the master’s division world championships. (He’s quick to point out he placed sixth out of six in his event.)
The diving is the sort of challenge that Brin, who has also dabbled in yoga, gymnastics, and acrobatics, is drawn to: equal parts physical and mental exertion. “The dive itself is brief but intense,” he says. “You push off really hard and then have to twist right away. It does get your heart rate going.”...read more
Friday, June 25, 2010
From Scientific American:
Editor’s Note: We are republishing this article by Paul Dirac from the May 1963 issue of Scientific American, as it might be of interest to listeners to the June 24, 2010, and June 25, 2010 Science Talk podcasts, featuring award-winning writer and physicist Graham Farmelo discussing The Strangest Man, his biography of the Nobel Prize-winning British theoretical physicist.
In this article I should like to discuss the development of general physical theory: how it developed in the past and how one may expect it to develop in the future. One can look on this continual development as a process of evolution, a process that has been going on for several centuries....read more
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
From The New York Times:
“Toured the Burj in this U.A.E. city. They say it’s the tallest tower in the world; looked over the ledge and lost my lunch.”
This is the quintessential sort of clue you hear on the TV game show “Jeopardy!” It’s witty (the clue’s category is “Postcards From the Edge”), demands a large store of trivia and requires contestants to make confident, split-second decisions. This particular clue appeared in a mock version of the game in December, held in Hawthorne, N.Y. at one of I.B.M.’s research labs. Two contestants — Dorothy Gilmartin, a health teacher with her hair tied back in a ponytail, and Alison Kolani, a copy editor — furrowed their brows in concentration. Who would be the first to answer?
Neither, as it turned out. Both were beaten to the buzzer by the third combatant: Watson, a supercomputer....read more
Thursday, June 17, 2010
NEW forms of media have always caused moral panics: the printing press, newspapers, paperbacks and television were all once denounced as threats to their consumers’ brainpower and moral fiber.
So too with electronic technologies. PowerPoint, we’re told, is reducing discourse to bullet points. Search engines lower our intelligence, encouraging us to skim on the surface of knowledge rather than dive to its depths. Twitter is shrinking our attention spans.
But such panics often fail basic reality checks. When comic books were accused of turning juveniles into delinquents in the 1950s, crime was falling to record lows, just as the denunciations of video games in the 1990s coincided with the great American crime decline. The decades of television, transistor radios and rock videos were also decades in which I.Q. scores rose continuously....read more
Monday, May 31, 2010
By Robert Pinsky for Slate:
The quality of wit, like the Hindu god Shiva, both creates and destroys—sometimes, both at once: The flash of understanding negates a trite or complacent way of thinking, and that stroke of obliteration at the same time creates a new form of insight and a laugh of recognition.
Also like Shiva, wit dances. Leaping gracefully, balancing speed and poise, it can re-embody and refresh old material. Negation itself, for example—verbal play with words like nothing and nobody: In one of the oldest jokes in literature, when the menacing Polyphemus asks Odysseus for his name, Odysseus tricks the monster by giving his name as the Greek equivalent of Nobody....read more
Thursday, May 20, 2010
For the first time, scientists have created life from scratch – well, sort of. Craig Venter‘s team at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, and San Diego, California, has made a bacterial genome from smaller DNA subunits and then transplanted the whole thing into another cell. So what exactly is the science behind the first synthetic cell, and what is its broader significance?
What did Venter’s team do?
The cell was created by stitching together the genome of a goat pathogen called Mycoplasma mycoides from smaller stretches of DNA synthesised in the lab, and inserting the genome into the empty cytoplasm of a related bacterium. The transplanted genome booted up in its host cell, and then divided over and over to make billions of M. mycoides cells....read more
Monday, April 26, 2010
Edward M. Marcotte is looking for drugs that can kill tumors by stopping blood vessel growth, and he and his colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin recently found some good targets — five human genes that are essential for that growth. Now they’re hunting for drugs that can stop those genes from working. Strangely, though, Dr. Marcotte did not discover the new genes in the human genome, nor in lab mice or even fruit flies. He and his colleagues found the genes in yeast.
“On the face of it, it’s just crazy,” Dr. Marcotte said. After all, these single-cell fungi don’t make blood vessels. They don’t even make blood. In yeast, it turns out, these five genes work together on a completely unrelated task: fixing cell walls.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
The qualities that set a great athlete apart from the rest of us lie not just in the muscles and the lungs but also between the ears. That’s because athletes need to make complicated decisions in a flash. One of the most spectacular examples of the athletic brain operating at top speed came in 2001, when the Yankees were in an American League playoff game with the Oakland Athletics. Shortstop Derek Jeter managed to grab an errant throw coming in from right field and then gently tossed the ball to catcher Jorge Posada, who tagged the base runner at home plate. Jeter’s quick decision saved the game—and the series—for the Yankees. To make the play, Jeter had to master both conscious decisions, such as whether to intercept the throw, and unconscious ones. These are the kinds of unthinking thoughts he must make in every second of every game: how much weight to put on a foot, how fast to rotate his wrist as he releases a ball, and so on....read more
Monday, April 5, 2010
From The Guardian:
Enjoy eating goulash? Fed up with needing three pieces of cutlery? It could be that I have a solution for you – and not just for you but for picnickers who like a bit of bread with their soup, too. Or indeed for anyone who has dreamed of seeing the spoon and the knife incorporated into one, easy to use, albeit potentially dangerous instrument. Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to the Knoon.
The Knoon came to me in a dream – I had a vision of a soup spoon with a knife stuck to its top, blade pointing upwards. Given the potential for lacerating your mouth on the Knoon’s sharp edge, maybe my dream should have stayed just that. But thanks to a technological leap that is revolutionising manufacturing and, some hope, may even change the nature of our consumer society, I now have a Knoon sitting right in front of me. I had the idea, I drew it up and then I printed my cutlery out.
Friday, March 19, 2010
More from theSource here.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Artist Caleb Larsen seems to have the right idea. Rather than relying on the subjective wants and needs of galleries and the dubious nature of the secondary art market (and some equally dubious auctioneers) his art sells itself.
His work, entitled “A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter”, is an 8-inch opaque, black acrylic cube. But while the exterior may be simplicity itself, the interior holds a fascinating premise. The cube is connected to the internet. In fact, it’s connected to eBay, where through some hidden hardware and custom programming it constantly auctions itself.
As Caleb Larsen describes,
Combining Robert Morris’ Box With the Sound of Its Own Making with Baudrillard’s writing on the art auction this sculpture exists in eternal transactional flux. It is a physical sculpture that is perptually attempting to auction itself on eBay.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
People all have their own ideas of what a time machine would look like. If you are a fan of the 1960 movie version of H. G. Wells’s classic novel, it would be a steampunk sled with a red velvet chair, flashing lights, and a giant spinning wheel on the back. For those whose notions of time travel were formed in the 1980s, it would be a souped-up stainless steel sports car. Details of operation vary from model to model, but they all have one thing in common: When someone actually travels through time, the machine ostentatiously dematerializes, only to reappear many years in the past or future. And most people could tell you that such a time machine would never work, even if it looked like a DeLorean....read more
Monday, March 1, 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
The guests were chic, the bordeaux was sipped with elegant restraint and the hostess was suitably glamorous in a canary yellow cocktail dress. To an outside observer who made it past the soirée privée sign on the door of the Anne de Villepoix gallery on Thursday night, it would have seemed the quintessential Parisian art viewing.
Yet that would been leaving one crucial factor out of the equation: the man whose creations the crowd had come to see. In his black cowboy hat and pressed white collar, Ion Barladeanu looked every inch the established artist as he showed guests around the exhibition. But until 2007 no one had ever seen his work, and until mid-2008 he was living in the rubbish tip of a Bucharest tower block.
Today, in the culmination of a dream for a Romanian who grew up adoring Gallic film stars and treasures a miniature Eiffel Tower he once found in a bin, Barladeanu will see his first French exhibition open to the general public....read more