EssentialstheDiagonal is a personal blog by Mike Gerra, skeptic, technologist, psychologist, artist, humanist, collector of grand, eclectic ideas.theDiagonal blog connects the dots across multiple disciplines for inquisitive, objective and critical thinkers, exploring the vertices of big science, disruptive innovation, global sustainability, illuminating literature and leftfield art. It is on this diagonal that creativity thrives, big ideas take flight and reason triumphs.
Monthly Archives: July 2012
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Businesses spend “gazillions” on projecting a brand image, with the corporate logo often as the key centerpiece. Some logos are instantly recognizable; a testament to the vast amounts that companies spend on their brands. Many contemporary logos have evolved over time to project an in-the-moment image rather than an outdated one. Check out some very interesting design evolutions below, courtesy of StockLogos:
The original Apple logo dates from 1976, in a design by Ronald Wayne. It features a drawing of Isaac Newton under an apple tree and a quote from William Wordsworth.
The first AT&T logo shown was introduced in 1900. (This is pre-dated by a logo from 1889, which did not feature the AT&T name).
More then-and-now logos after the jump.
Send to Kindle
Monday, July 30, 2012
The last couple of decades has seen some remarkable cases of corporate excess and corruption. The deep-rooted human inclinations toward greed, telling falsehoods and exhibiting questionable ethics can probably be traced to the dawn of bipedalism. However, in more recent times we have seen misdeeds particularly in the business world grow in their daring, scale and impact.
We’ve seen Worldcom overstate its cashflows, Parmalat falsifying accounts, Lehman Brothers (and other investment banks) hiding critical information from investors, Enron cooking all their books, Bernard Madoff marketing his immense Ponzi scheme, Halliburton overcharging government contracts, Tyco executives looting their own company, Wells Fargo and other retail banks robo-signing contracts, investment banks selling questionable products to investors and then betting against them, and now ever more recently, Barclays and other big banks manipulating interest rates....read more
Sunday, July 29, 2012
London’s bright red telephone boxes (booths for our readers in the United States) are as iconic and recognizable as the Queen or Big Ben looming over the Houses of Parliament. Once as ubiquitous as the distinctive London Bobby’s (police officer) helmet, many of these red iron chambers have now been replaced by mobile phones. As a result BT has taken to auctioning some of its telephone boxes for a very good cause — ChildLine’s 25th anniversary. Though not before each is painted or re-imagined by an artist or designer. Check out our five favorites below, and see all of BT’s colorful “Artboxes”, here.
Proud of their London heritage, the ArtBox sports Accessorize’s trademark Union Jack design – customized and embellished in true Accessorize fashion.
Big Ben BT ArtBox
When Mandii first came to London from New Zealand, one of the first sights she wanted to see was Big Ben.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Yayoi Kusama, c1939 Yayoi Kusama, 2000
The art establishment has Yayoi Kusama in its sights, again. Over the last 60 years Kusama has created and evolved a style that is all her own, best seen rather than discussed.
A recent exhibit of Kusama’s work in Brisbane featured “The obliteration room”. This wonderful, interactive exhibit was commissioned specifically for kids aged 1-101 years. The exhibit features a whitewashed room with simple furniture, fixtures and objects all in white. The interactive — and fun — part features sheets of bright and colorful sticky dots given to each visitor. Armed with these dots visitors are encouraged to place them anywhere and everywhere. Results below (including a few, select dots courtesy of theDiagonal’s editor)....read more
Friday, July 27, 2012
Strangely and ironically it takes a satirist to tell the truth, and of course, academics now study the phenomenon.
From Washington Post:
Nation, our so-called universities are in big trouble, and not just because attending one of them leaves you with more debt than the Greek government. No, we’re talking about something even more unsettling: the academic world’s obsession with Stephen Colbert.
Last we checked, Colbert was a mere TV comedian, or a satirist if you want to get fancy about it. (And, of course, being college professors, they do.) He’s a TV star, like Donald Trump, only less of a caricature....read more
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
The Garden of Earthly Delights. Hieronymous Bosch.
The Tilled Field. Joan Miró.
We tend to think of appropriation as a postmodern thing, with artists in all media drawing on, referring to, and mashing up the most influential works of the past. But we forget that this has been happening for centuries — millennia, actually — as Renaissance painters paid tribute to Greek art, ideas circulated within the 19th-century French art scene, and Dada hijacked the course of art history, mocking and inverting everything that came before it. After the jump, we round up some of the best, most famous, and all-around strangest artworks inspired by other artworks. Some are homages, some are parodies, some are responses, and a few seem to function as all three.
Joan Miró’s The Tilled Field, inspired by Hieronymous Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights...read more
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
The death-knell for Western capitalism has yet to sound. However, increasing economic turmoil, continued shenanigans in the financial industry, burgeoning inequity, and acute global political unease, are combining to undermine the appeal of capitalism to a growing number of young people. Welcome to Marxism 2.012.
From the Guardian:
Class conflict once seemed so straightforward. Marx and Engels wrote in the second best-selling book of all time, The Communist Manifesto: “What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.” (The best-selling book of all time, incidentally, is the Bible – it only feels like it’s 50 Shades of Grey.)...read more
Monday, July 23, 2012
Bored of the annual family trip to Disneyland? Tired of staying in a suite hotel that still offers musak in the lobby, floral motifs on the walls, and ashtrays and saccharin packets next to the rickety minibar? Well, leaf through this list of 10 exotic and gorgeous hotels and start planning your next real escape today.
Wadi Rum Desert Lodge – The Valley of the Moon, Jordan.
A Backward Glance, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton’s gem of an autobiography is highbrow beach reading at its very best. In the memoir, she recalls time spent with her bff traveling buddy, Henry James, and quotes his arcadian proclamation, “summer afternoon — summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” Maybe so in the less than industrious heyday of inherited wealth, but in today’s world where most people work all day for a living, those two words just don’t have the same appeal as our two favorite words: summer getaway....read more
Sunday, July 22, 2012
A colorful graphic below shows how corporations use specific colors and color palettes to project a certain brand image or message.
Infographic courtesy of ColumnFive and Marketo.
Send to Kindle
Saturday, July 21, 2012
No, Solar tornadoes are not another manifestation of our slowly warming planet. Rather, these phenomena are believed to explain why the outer reaches of the solar atmosphere are so much hotter than its surface.
From ars technica:
One of the abiding mysteries surrounding our Sun is understanding how the corona gets so hot. The Sun’s surface, which emits almost all the visible light, is about 5800 Kelvins. The surrounding corona rises to over a million K, but the heating process has not been identified. Most solar physicists suspect the process is magnetic, since the strong magnetic fields at the Sun’s surface drive much of the solar weather (including sunspots, coronal loops, prominences, and mass ejections). However, the diffuse solar atmosphere is magnetically too quiet on the large scales. The recent discovery of atmospheric “tornadoes”—swirls of gas over a thousand kilometers in diameter above the Sun’s surface—may provide a possible answer....read more
Friday, July 20, 2012
Apparently, being busy alleviates the human existential threat. So, if your roughly 16 hours, or more, of wakefulness each day is crammed with memos, driving, meetings, widgets, calls, charts, quotas, angry customers, school lunches, deciding, reports, bank statements, kids, budgets, bills, baking, making, fixing, cleaning and mad bosses, then your life must be meaningful, right?
Author Tim Kreider muses below on this chronic state of affairs, and hits close to the nerve when he suggests that, “I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.”
From the New York Times:
Thursday, July 19, 2012
The recent finding in a Spanish cave of a painted “red dot” dating from around 40,800 years ago suggests that our Neanderthal cousins may have beaten our species to claim the prize of “first artist”. Yet, evidence remains scant, and even if this were proven to be the case, we Homo sapiens can certainly lay claim to taking it beyond a “red dot” and making art our very own (and much else too.)
From the Guardian:
Why do Neanderthals so fascinate Homo sapiens? And why are we so keen to exaggerate their virtues?
It is political correctness gone prehistoric. At every opportunity, people rush to attribute “human” virtues to this extinct human-like species. The latest generosity is to credit them with the first true art....read more
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Hailing from Classical Greece of around 2,400 years ago, Plato has given our contemporary world many important intellectual gifts. His broad interests in justice, mathematics, virtue, epistemology, rhetoric and art, laid the foundations for Western philosophy and science. Yet in his quest for deeper and broader knowledge he also had some important things to say about ignorance.
Massimo Pigliucci over at Rationally Speaking gives us his take on Platonic Ignorance. His caution is appropriate: in this age of information overload and extreme politicization it is ever more important for us to realize and acknowledge our own ignorance. Spreading falsehoods and characterizing opinion as fact to others — transferred ignorance — is rightly identified by Plato as a moral failing. In his own words (of course translated), “Ignorance [is] the Root and Stem of All Evil”.
From Rationally Speaking:
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Correlate 2 sets of totally independent statistics and you get to blame Twitter for most, if not all, of the world’s ills. That’s what Tim Cooley has done with this funny and informative #Blame Twitter infographic below.
Of course, even though the numbers are all verified and trusted, causation is entirely another factor. So, while 144,595 people die each day (on average), it is not (yet) as a result of using Twitter, and while our planet loses 1 hectare of forest for every 18,000 tweets, it’s not the endless Twittering that is causing de-forestation.
Infographic courtesy of Tim Cooley.
Send to Kindle
Monday, July 16, 2012
A court in Germany recently banned circumcision at birth for religious reasons. Quite understandably the court saw that this practice violates bodily integrity. Aside from being morally repugnant to many theists and non-believers alike, the practice inflicts pain. So, why do some religions continue to circumcise children?
A German court ruled on Tuesday that parents may not circumcise their sons at birth for religious reasons, because the procedure violates the child’s right to bodily integrity. Both Muslims and Jews circumcise their male children. Why is Christianity the only Abrahamic religion that doesn’t encourage circumcision?...read more
Sunday, July 15, 2012
Cosmologists have found what they believe to be the echoes of a galactic collision some 100 million years ago with our own Milky Way galaxy.
From Symmetry Magazine:
Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is a large spiral galaxy surrounded by dozens of smaller satellite galaxies. Scientists have long theorized that occasionally these satellites will pass through the disk of the Milky Way, perturbing both the satellite and the disk. A team of astronomers from Canada and the United States have discovered what may well be the smoking gun of such an encounter, one that occurred close to our position in the galaxy and relatively recently, at least in the cosmological sense....read more
Saturday, July 14, 2012
A view from Esther Dyson, one of world’s leading digital technology entrepreneurs. She has served as a an early investor in numerous startups, including Flickr, del.icio.us, ZEDO, and Medspace, and is currently focused on startups in medical technology and aviation.
From Project Syndicate:
The most popular stories often seem to end at the beginning. “…and so Juan and Alice got married.” Did they actually live happily ever after? “He was elected President.” But how did the country do under his rule? “The entrepreneur got her startup funding.” But did the company succeed?
Let’s consider that last one. Specifically, what happens to entrepreneurs once they get their money? Everywhere I go – and I have been in Moscow, Libreville (Gabon), and Dublin in the last few weeks – smart people ask how to get companies through the next phase of growth. How can we scale entrepreneurship to the point that it has a measurable and meaningful impact on the economy?...read more
Friday, July 13, 2012
One would believe that the most affluent and open country on the planet would have one of the best, if not the best, education systems. Yet, the United States of America distinguishes itself by being thoroughly mediocre in a ranking of developed nations in science, mathematics and reading. How can we makes amends for our children?
Take the 2009 PISA test, which assessed the knowledge of students from 65 countries and economies—34 of which are members of the development organization the OECD, including the United States—in math, science, and reading. Of the OECD countries, the United States came in 17th place in science literacy; of all countries and economies surveyed, it came in 23rd place. The U.S. score of 502 practically matched the OECD average of 501. That puts us firmly in the middle. Where we don’t want to be....read more
Thursday, July 12, 2012
The debate over the theory of evolution continues into the 21st century particularly in societies with a religious bent, including the United States of America. Yet, while the theory and corresponding evidence comes under continuous attack from mostly religious apologists, we generally do not see scientists themselves persecuted for supporting evolution, or not.
This cannot be said for climate scientists in Western countries, who while not physically abused or tortured or imprisoned do continue to be targets of verbal abuse and threats from corporate interests or dogmatic politicians and their followers. But, as we know persecution of scientists for embodying new, and thus threatening, ideas has been with us since the dawn of the scientific age. In fact, this behavior probably has been with us since our tribal ancestors moved out of Africa.
So, it is useful to remind ourselves how far we have come and of the distance we still have to travel.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
A week ago, on July 4, 2012 researchers at CERN told the world that they had found evidence of a new fundamental particle — the so-called Higgs boson, or something closely similar. If further particle collisions at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider uphold this finding over the coming years, this will rank as significant a discovery as that of the proton or the electro-magnetic force. While practical application of this discovery, in our lifetimes at least, is likely to be scant, it undeniably furthers our quest to understand the underlying mechanism of our existence.
So where might this discovery lead next?
From the New Scientist:
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
While pop culture columnists, behavioral psychologists and literary gadflies debate the pros and cons of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, we look at some more notable, though perhaps no-less controversial works, in their time. Notable in the sense that ideas from any of these books — whether you are in agreement with them or not — have had a profound influence of our cultural, political, economic and scientific evolution....read more
Monday, July 9, 2012
An appropriate infographic for the back-to-work Monday blues.
Infographic courtesy of Humanresources MBA.
Send to Kindle
Sunday, July 8, 2012
In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore made a prediction about computing that has held true to this day. Moore’s law, as it came to be known, forecasted that the number of transistors we’d be able to cram onto a circuit—and thereby, the effective processing speed of our computers—would double roughly every two years. Remarkably enough, this rule has been accurate for nearly 50 years, but most experts now predict that this growth will slow by the end of the decade.
Someday, though, a radical new approach to creating silicon semiconductors might enable this rate to continue—and could even accelerate it. As detailed in a study published in this month’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers from the University of California at Santa Barbara and elsewhere have harnessed the process of evolution to produce enzymes that create novel semiconductor structures....read more
Saturday, July 7, 2012
From Scientific American:
When a friend hits her thumb with a hammer, you don’t have to put much effort into imagining how this feels. You know it immediately. You will probably tense up, your “Ouch!” may arise even quicker than your friend’s, and chances are that you will feel a little pain yourself. Of course, you will then thoughtfully offer consolation and bandages, but your initial reaction seems just about automatic. Why?
Neuroscience now offers you an answer: A recent line of research has demonstrated that seeing other people being touched activates primary sensory areas of your brain, much like experiencing the same touch yourself would do. What these findings suggest is beautiful in its simplicity—that you literally “feel with” others....read more
Friday, July 6, 2012
The age of the rambunctious and megalomaniacal newspaper baron has passed, excepting, of course, Rupert Murdoch. Though while the colorful personalities of the late-19th and early 20th centuries have mostly disappeared, the 21st century has replaced these aging white men with faceless international corporations, all of which are, of course, run by aging white men.
The infographic below puts the current media landscape in clear perspective; one statistic is clear: more and more people are consuming news and entertainment from fewer and fewer sources.
Infographic courtesy of Frugal Dad.
Send to Kindle
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Joi Ito Director of the MIT Media Lab muses on the subject of innovation in this article excerpted from the Edge.
From the Edge:
I grew up in Japan part of my life, and we were surrounded by Buddhists. If you read some of the interesting books from the Dalai Lama talking about happiness, there’s definitely a difference in the way that Buddhists think about happiness, the world and how it works, versus the West. I think that a lot of science and technology has this somewhat Western view, which is how do you control nature, how do you triumph over nature? Even if you look at the gardens in Europe, a lot of it is about look at what we made this hedge do....read more
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Pessimists can take heart from Oliver Burkeman’s latest book “The Antidote”. His research shows that there are valid alternatives to the commonly held belief that positive thinking and goal visualization lead inevitably to happiness. He shows that there is “a long tradition in philosophical and spiritual thought which embraces negativity and bathes in insecurity and failure.” Glass half-full types, you may have been right all along.
Send to Kindle
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Legislators in North Carolina recently went one better than King C’Nut (Canute). The king of Denmark, England, Norway and parts of Sweden during various periods between 1018 and 1035, famously and unsuccessfully tried to hold back the incoming tide. The now mythic story tells of Canute’s arrogance. Not to be outdone, North Carolina’s state legislature recently passed a law that bans state agencies from reporting that sea-level rise is accelerating.
The bill From North Carolina states:
“… rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be limited to the time period following the year 1900. Rates of sea-level rise may be extrapolated linearly to estimate future rates of rise but shall not include scenarios of accelerated rates of sea-level rise.”...read more
Monday, July 2, 2012
A fascinating article by Nick Lane a leading researcher into the origins of life. Lane is a Research Fellow at University College London.
He suggests that it would be surprising if simple, bacterial-like, life were not common throughout the universe. However, the acquisition of one cell by another — an event that led to all higher organisms on planet Earth, is an altogether much rarer occurrence. So are we alone in the universe?
From the New Scientist:
UNDER the intense stare of the Kepler space telescope, more and more planets similar to our own are revealing themselves to us. We haven’t found one exactly like Earth yet, but so many are being discovered that it appears the galaxy must be teeming with habitable planets....read more