The Rise of the New Groupthink

solitude, work, groupthink, introversion, extroversion, creativity, collaboration

And yet. The New Groupthink has overtaken our workplaces, our schools and our religious institutions. Anyone who has ever needed noise-canceling headphones in her own office or marked an online calendar with a fake meeting in order to escape yet another real one knows what I’m talking about. Virtually all American workers now spend time on teams and some 70 percent inhabit open-plan offices, in which no one has “a room of one’s own.” During the last decades, the average amount of space allotted to each employee shrank 300 square feet, from 500 square feet in the 1970s to 200 square feet in 2010.

Zerocoin: making Bitcoin anonymous

zerocoin, bitcoin, cryptocurrency, economics, cryptoanarchy, anonymity, crypto

The key idea in Zerocoin is that each coin commits to (read: encrypts) a random serial number. These coins are easy to create – all you need to do is pick the serial number and run a fast commitment algorithm to wrap this up in a coin. The commitment works like encryption, in that the resulting coin completely hides the serial number . At the same time this coin ‘binds’ you to the number you’ve chosen. The serial number is secret, and it stays with you.

Postcards From Google Earth

Clement Valla, postcards from google earth, glitch, art, new aesthetic, topology, error, category er

I collect Google Earth images. I discovered strange moments where the illusion of a seamless representation of the Earth’s surface seems to break down. At first, I thought they were glitches, or errors in the algorithm, but looking closer I realized the situation was actually more interesting — these images are not glitches. They are the absolute logical result of the system. They are an edge condition—an anomaly within the system, a nonstandard, an outlier, even, but not an error. These jarring moments expose how Google Earth works, focusing our attention on the software. They reveal a new model of representation: not through indexical photographs but through automated data collection from a myriad of different sources constantly updated and endlessly combined to create a seamless illusion; Google Earth is a database disguised as a photographic representation. These uncanny images focus our attention on that process itself, and the network of algorithms, computers, storage systems, automated cameras, maps, pilots, engineers, photographers, surveyors and map-makers that generate them.

SKYbrary - Accidents and Incidents

eurocontrol, air traffic, accident reports, incident reports, human factors, mistakes

This Category contains several hundred articles on particular Accidents and Incidents. Almost all are events which have been classified by the investigating agency as requiring an investigation under the national version of the generic procedures described in ICAO Annex 13. The information contained in the summary articles on individual accidents/incidents is derived from the Official Investigation Reports which may in each case be found on the SKYbrary bookshelf. All articles in the SKYbrary A&I database are listed below.

The Locust Economy

locust, economics, p2p, long tail, resilience, politics, 99%, 1%, eviscerated middle

What’s really going on is that software-enabled human locust swarms are eating everything they can access. Which generally means small business front-end layers wrapped around larger platforms. The locust swarms cannot actually take on true Big Industry unaided, for the most part. When Big Industry owns its own last mile (think McDonald’s) it is rarely stupid enough to offer up lunch for locusts.

You’re Eye-to-Eye With a Whale in the Ocean.

vision, biology, optics, whales, eyes

In general, mammals don’t have the best color vision. In part, that’s because our ancestors developed trying to see in the dark, not out in the bright sunlight. “There was a time where to be a mammal was to be a small, nocturnal, rodent-like mammal,” said Duke’s Sonke Johnsen, author of the book, The Optics of Life. Both humans and whales retain the marks of that evolutionary path. “Our color vision is kind of a kluge,” Johnsen continued. “If you look at the color vision of birds and reptiles and fish. It’s very well put together, nicely optimized. You look at our trichromatic vision, it’s really kind of pieced together.”

I have found a lot of odd things at flea markets. I think the most bizarre thing I ever brought home was a baby’s umbilical cord…

“I have found a lot of odd things at flea markets. I think the most bizarre thing I ever brought home was a baby’s umbilical cord that was taped into a scrapbook. I find myself asking the same questions over and over, “Why did someone make this and how did it end up at a flea market?” Objects that have no answers for why they exist are the best.”

Mark Mulroney (viaicpbardmfa)

Supersonic Stereo

sound, supersonic, audio

The sonic boom would be the first thing the target would hear. It would be followed by several sounds played over one another, including both reversed music (rising slightly in pitch as it fades out) and forward-playing music (which would play at half speed and an octave too low), followed by the crash of a stereo demolishing your neighbor’s shed.

The Dead-Curious Cat and the Joyless Immortal

curiosity, venkat, evolution, desire, genetics, perception

Curiosity does not seem to be a fundamental drive, unlike what I am told are the three basic biological drives (seeking pleasure, avoiding pain and conserving energy), so it is probably derived. Curiosity requires a certain energy surplus, since its visible signature is a restless dissipation of energy, but it does not seem directly motivated by energy conservation concerns. So is it derived from pleasure-seeking or pain-avoidance or some mix of the two? Does that make a difference?

inconsistent with recent terrestrial contamination.

fossil, astrobiology, polonnaruwa meteorite, arxiv

Results of X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) analysis, Triple Oxygen Isotope analysis and Scanning Electron Microscopic (SEM) studies are presented for stone fragments recovered from the North Central Province of Sri Lanka following a witnessed fireball event on 29 December 2012. The existence of numerous nitrogen depleted highly carbonaceous fossilized biological structures fused into the rock matrix is inconsistent with recent terrestrial contamination. Oxygen isotope results compare well with those of CI and CI-like chondrites but are inconsistent with the fulgurite hypothesis.

In a nutshell, they don’t establish the samples they examined were actually meteorites. They don’t establish they were from the claimed meteor event over Sri Lanka in December 2012. And perhaps most telling, they don’t eliminate the possibility of contamination; that is, diatoms got into the samples because those rocks were sitting on the Earth where diatoms are everywhere.

“Paleofantasy”: Stone Age delusions

paleodiet, paleofantasy, evolution, physiology, diet, exercise, history

Although she writes, “I would not dream of denying the evolutionary heritage present in our bodies,” Zuk briskly dismisses as simply “wrong” many common notions about that heritage. These errors fall into two large categories: misunderstandings about how evolution works and unfounded assumptions about how paleolithic humans lived. The first area is her speciality, and “Paleofantasy” offers a lively, lucid illustration of the intricacies of this all-important natural process. When it comes to the latter category, the anthropological aspect of the problem, Zuk treads more gingerly. Not only is this not her own field, but, as she observes, it is “ground often marked by acrimony and rancor” among the specialists themselves.

Debt: The first five thousand years - David Graeber

debt, money, credit, coinage, religion, history, economics

However tawdry their origins, the creation of new media of exchange – coinage appeared almost simultaneously in Greece, India, and China – appears to have had profound intellectual effects. Some have even gone so far as to argue that Greek philosophy was itself made possible by conceptual innovations introduced by coinage. The most remarkable pattern, though, is the emergence, in almost the exact times and places where one also sees the early spread of coinage, of what were to become modern world religions: prophetic Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Confucianism, Taoism, and eventually, Islam. While the precise links are yet to be fully explored, in certain ways, these religions appear to have arisen in direct reaction to the logic of the market. To put the matter somewhat crudely: if one relegates a certain social space simply to the selfish acquisition of material things, it is almost inevitable that soon someone else will come to set aside another domain in which to preach that, from the perspective of ultimate values, material things are unimportant, and selfishness – or even the self – illusory.–08–20-graeber-en.html

I have something of an obsession with the image above, considering it the “canonical” image of a drone. It’s the first Google…


I have something of an obsession with the image above, considering it the “canonical” image of a drone.

It’s the first Google image result for “drone” and as such is reproduced endlessly elsewhere. The warping effects of Google Image results on public understanding of complex subjects are a discussion for another time, but it’s worth noting that the image is frequently captioned as a Predator (General Atomics MQ-1) drone, when it is in fact a Reaper (GA MQ-9) - including in such contexts as activist reports on Drone warfare. An artist’s impression that would appear to be based on this image graces the box of the Revell 1:48 MQ-9 ModelIt’s the avatar for Dronestagram.

It took a while to track down the markings, but this aircraft bears the insignia of the 138th Attack Squadron, part of the 174th Attack Wing (174 ATW), a unit of the New York Air National Guard, stationed at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse, New York. This image at Wikipedia shows another 174 ATW aircraft, registration 09-4066 (this serial number does not appear in Joe Baugher’s listing of2009 USAF serials, although there is a record of a Reaper aircraft numbered 09-4056 whichcrashed in California in 2010).

There are no drones visible in either Bing or GEarth historical imagery of Hancock Field to add to the Watchers project, or at Wheeler Sack AAF which the 174 ATW uses for launch and recovery, and where the latter photo was shot on on 14 Feb 2012.

I had some suspicions about the Canon Drone, and research bears these out.

At first, the feeling was just unease. Staring at it for some time, seeing it endlessly reproduced across the web and in print, it began to seem unreal, a fiction, too smooth, too perfect. But that’s an effect of drones: they always appear otherworldly. (See, for example, this image of a Global Hawk at Waddington Air Show in 2010. The beluga-like Hawk seems impossible, smoothly rendered into the perambulating crowd.)

Of course, it’s not just that. The Canon Drone is indeed entirely unreal. A close inspection, and comparison with other Reaper images, including 09-4066, bears this out almost immediately. The level of detail is too low: missing hatches on the cockpit and tail, the shape of the air intake, the greebling on the fins and body. That ‘NY’ on the tail: it’s not aligned properly, it’s a photoshop. Finally, the Canon Drone’s serial, partly obscured, appears to be 85-566. The first two numbers of USAF serials refer to the year an aircraft entered service: there were no Reapers back in 1985 (development didn’t even begin until 2001).

The Canon Drone does not exist, it never has. It is computer generated rendering of a drone, a fiction. It flies over an abstracted landscape - although perhaps the same one as another canonical image, thisPredator in flight, which, while unmarked, at least appears worn enough to be believable.

Where does the image originate? As the default drone photo, it is endlessly reproduced without attribution. It appears in Google Image searches for 2009, but not for 2008 - although I’m unsure how reliable this dating is. I’ve hit a wall in finding out more.

I think: the Canon Drone is emblematic of the liminal, self-obfuscating essence of the UAV, and all of our noumenal infrastructures. The most widely reproduced image of this most illegible of our contemporary technologies is itself a dream.

The Universal laws behind growth patterns, or what Tetris can teach us about coffee stains

coffee, diffusion, KPZ, universality, tetris, bacteria, burning paper

Now, if you think about it, there’s something deeply puzzling here. Bacterial colonies, travelling flames, and coffee particles are all totally different systems, and there’s no reason to expect that they should obey the same mathematical laws of growth. So what’s behind this mysterious universality? Why do such different beasts play by the same rules?–2837