While we could subjectively define “vegetal intelligence” as another facet of multiple intelligences, such a definition does not…

“While we could subjectively define “vegetal intelligence” as another facet of multiple intelligences, such a definition does not further our understanding of either intelligence or plant biology. The question, I posit, should not be whether or not plants are intelligent—it will be ages before we all agree on what that term means; the question should be, “Are plants aware?” and, in fact, they are.”

Chamovitz, Daniel.What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses. New York, NY: Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. (viacarvalhais)

Dark Ecology | Paul Kingsnorth

collapsonomics, dark mountain, ecology, neo-environmentalists, kingsnorth, kareiva, limits to growth

The green movement, which seemed to be carrying all before it in the early 1990s, has plunged into a full-on midlife crisis. Unable to significantly change either the system or the behavior of the public, assailed by a rising movement of “skeptics” and by public boredom with being hectored about carbon and consumption, colonized by a new breed of corporate spivs for whom “sustainability” is just another opportunity for selling things, the greens are seeing a nasty realization dawn: despite all their work, their passion, their commitment and the fact that most of what they have been saying has been broadly right—they are losing. There is no likelihood of the world going their way. In most green circles now, sooner or later, the conversation comes round to the same question: what the hell do we do next?


We need to be aware, of course, that what we refer to as “memory” for people is actually a term that encompasses many distinct…

“We need to be aware, of course, that what we refer to as “memory” for people is actually a term that encompasses many distinct forms of memory, beyond the ones described by Tulving. We have sensory memory, which receives and filters rapid input from the senses (in a blink of an eye); short-term memory, which can hold up to about seven objects in our consciousness for several seconds; and long-term memory, which refers to our ability to store memories for as long as a lifetime. We also have musclemotor memory, a type of procedural memory that is an unconscious process of learning movements such as moving fingers to tie a shoelace; and immune memory, which is when our immune systems remember past infections in order to avoid future ones. All but the last are dependent on brain functions. Immune memory is dependent on the workings of our white blood cells and antibodies.”

Chamovitz, Daniel.What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses. New York, NY: Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. (viacarvalhais)

Two days before the 11th September, Commander Massoud, the most senior war commander and the most credible opponent to the…

julien marie, exploding camera, art

Two days before the 11th September, Commander Massoud, the most senior war commander and the most credible opponent to the Taliban was murdered. Two al-Qaida suicide bombers posing as journalists killed him with an exploding camera at his camp in Afghanistan’s remote Panjshir Valley.

The connection between his assassination and 9/11 is certain, but this act has been almost completely forgotten because of the magnitude of the events a few days later. The fact that the terrorists used a camera made a deep impression on me.
For me, it is as if the destroyed camera used in the attack against Massoud had continued to work and has been filming a war film for the last 6 years.

All of this, as well as the death of the almost mythic figure of Massoud, has lead me to develop the piece ‘the exploding camera’: a kind of destroyed medium able to produce live an experimental historical film reinterpreting the events of the war.

(via http://julienmaire.ideenshop.net/images/ex_installL.jpg)

Why Things Fail: From Tires to Helicopter Blades, Everything Breaks Eventually

design, failure, product failure, simulation, reliability, manufacturing, engineering

Product failure is deceptively difficult to understand. It depends not just on how customers use a product but on the intrinsic properties of each part—what it’s made of and how those materials respond to wildly varying conditions. Estimating a product’s lifespan is an art that even the most sophisticated manufacturers still struggle with. And it’s getting harder. In our Moore’s law-driven age, we expect devices to continuously be getting smaller, lighter, more powerful, and more efficient. This thinking has seeped into our expectations about lots of product categories: Cars must get better gas mileage. Bicycles must get lighter. Washing machines need to get clothes cleaner with less water. Almost every industry is expected to make major advances every year. To do this they are constantly reaching for new materials and design techniques. All this is great for innovation, but it’s terrible for reliability.


Empathy represses analytic thought, and vice versa

brain, physiology, emotion, reason, empathy, cognition

At rest, our brains cycle between the social and analytical networks. But when presented with a task, healthy adults engage the appropriate neural pathway, the researchers found. The study shows for the first time that we have a built-in neural constraint on our ability to be both empathetic and analytic at the same time


On Early Warning Signs

SEED, change, crisis, ecosystems, complexity, interconnection, pattern

Examples of catastrophic and systemic changes have been gathering in a variety of fields, typically in specialized contexts with little cross-connection. Only recently have we begun to look for generic patterns in the web of linked causes and effects that puts disparate events into a common framework—a framework that operates on a sufficiently high level to include geologic climate shifts, epileptic seizures, market and fishery crashes, and rapid shifts from healthy ecosystems to biological deserts. The main themes of this framework are twofold: First, they are all complex systems of interconnected and interdependent parts. Second, they are nonlinear, non-equilibrium systems that can undergo rapid and drastic state changes.


Who is hurt by the Google+ “real names” policy?

real names, nymwars, 2011, google+, identity, online, enclosure, corporatism

I think it’s time to get back to basics. More and more of my friends are leaving or being forced out of Google+. Some refused to submit a driver’s license just to prove that their legal name was real. Many cannot safely socialize under their real names. Some just value their privacy. Let’s ask this basic question again. Who is harmed by Google’s “real name” policy?


Particle Decelerator: Sea Above, Sky Below

Sea above, sky below. The phrase is seemingly a contradiction and a mental paradox. Yet recent research into cosmology, astronomy and oceanography suggests that this riddle is perhaps not as irreconcilable as what it may first appear. Recalling Milton’s evocation of the empty heavens as a kind of ocean, the inversion of sea and sky is taking place all around us, in physics and in oceanography.


Robots at Work and Play

robotics, images, robots

Advancements in robotics are continually taking place in the fields of space exploration, health care, public safety, entertainment, defense, and more. These machines – some fully autonomous, some requiring human input – extend our grasp, enhance our capabilities, and travel as our surrogates to places too dangerous for us to go. NASA currently has dozens of robotic missions underway, with satellites now in orbit around our moon and four planets – and two more on the way to Ceres and Pluto. Gathered here are recent images of robotic technology at the beginning of the 21st century.



light, plants, animals, circadian rhythm, magnetic fields, photoreceptor

Cryptochromes (from the Greek κρυπτό χρώμα, hidden colour) are a class of blue light-sensitive flavoproteins found in plants and animals. Cryptochromes are involved in the circadian rhythms of plants and animals, and in the sensing of magnetic fields in a number of species. The name Cryptochrome was proposed as a pun combining the cryptic nature of the photoreceptor, and the cryptogamic organisms on which many blue light studies were carried out.


‘A great silence is spreading over the natural world’

environment, sound, silence, ecology, ambient

“A great silence is spreading over the natural world even as the sound of man is becoming deafening,” he writes in a new book, The Great Animal Orchestra. “Little by little the vast orchestra of life, the chorus of the natural world, is in the process of being quietened. There has been a massive decrease in the density and diversity of key vocal creatures, both large and small. The sense of desolation extends beyond mere silence.


Bronze Age collapse

greece, history, broze age, dark ages, collapse, 1150 BCE

The Bronze Age collapse is a transition in the Aegean Region, Southwestern Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age that historians such as M. Liverani, S. Richard, Robert Drews, Frank J. Yurco, Amos Nur, Leonard R. Palmer, and others believe was violent, sudden and culturally disruptive. The palace economy of the Aegean Region and Anatolia which characterised the Late Bronze Age was replaced, after a hiatus, by the isolated village cultures of the Greek Dark Ages.


They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside | Danger Room | Wired.com

history, europe, secret society, sight, enlightenment, cipher, code, cryptanalysis

It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic “sight-restoring” ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least that’s what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.


How Videogames Blind Us With Science

science, scientific method, games, gaming, reason, reasoning, children, education

More than half the gamers used “systems-based reasoning” – analyzing the game as a complex, dynamic system. And one-tenth actually constructed specific models to explain the behavior of a monster or situation; they would often use their model to generate predictions. Meanwhile, one-quarter of the commentors would build on someone else’s previous argument, and another quarter would issue rebuttals of previous arguments and models.


Changing the past in open systems

programming, live coding, retroactive update, self adjusting computation, liminal, time, counterfact

One important step towards a more systematic approach to online update is to make the dimension of interaction explicit. This is one of the things I’ve focused on in my own research, which I call interactive programming, although that term has probably already been laid claim to. I allow the user to step sideways in time, into a “counterfactual” execution where it is “as though” the program had been written differently from the outset. Inspired by Demaine etal‘s retroactive data structures, which are imperative data structures which permit modifications to the historical sequence of operations performed on them, I’ll refer to this notion of online update as retroactive update. Retroactive update allows the “computational past” to be changed. Self-adjusting computation (SAC) is another system based on retroactive update. SAC explores another crucial aspect of online update: efficient update, via an algorithm called change propagation. SAC’s commitment to retroactivity appears in the correctness of change propagation, which is defined as consistency with a from-scratch run under the modified code.



API, programming, dynamic programming, adhoc, interface, sutchwon

While building rules.io we found ourselves connecting to lots of APIs. We also found ourselves building user interfaces that we knew would eventually connect to an API of our users’ choosing – but we wouldn’t know which API until runtime. Working with APIs in this very dynamic way led us to build some interesting technology, and gave us some fresh perspectives on how best to use API-based services from web and mobile applications.


Self-explaining computation

computation, liminal, explodable, GUI, interface, self adjusting computation, live coding, liveness

Behind every value lies a computation struggling to get out. That’s the idea behind what I call the explodable user interface. (Forget wearable. Explodable.) By “explodable” what I have in mind is the ability to pick any part of an application’s GUI that you happen to be interested in and interactively “unpack” it into a story that explains how it was computed. It should be as though code lurks behind everything you can see, all the way back to the data sources your application works with. In Lisp you can explode an atom into its constituent characters, but the relationship between a Lisp atom and its characters has no computational content to speak of. In a typical application, the relationship between a value and its parts is non-trivial. If it were otherwise, you wouldn’t call it an “application”: you’d call it “a bunch of data”. Whenever this non-trivial structure is present, you should be able to browse into it in order to understand it or change it.


Conway’s Game of Life for Curved Surfaces

life, conway, surfaces, topology, smoothlife, meshlife, programming

Last time, we talked about an interesting generalization of Conway’s Game of Life and walked through the details of how it was derived, and investigated some strategies for discretizing it. Today, let’s go even further and finally come to the subject discussed in the title: Conway’s Game of Life for curved surfaces


Rebuilding the Web We Lost

anil dash, web, web2.0, enclosure, public psace, private space, privacy

Right now, all of the places we can assemble on the web in any kind of numbers are privately owned. And privately-owned public spaces aren’t real public spaces. They don’t allow for the play and the chaos and the creativity and brilliance that only arise in spaces that don’t exist purely to generate profit. And they’re susceptible to being gradually gaslighted by the companies that own them.



review, russel davies, objects, magic, play, book

“The meditations on objects I offer here will indeed often suggest that they can be seen as what in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Europe would have been called ‘emblems’, allegories of human life, implying pocket homilies on love, time, hope, error, striving and death. As such, they give us work to do as well as being merely available for us to work on. And yet, their power comes entirely from us.”


Time’s Inverted Index (Ftrain.com)

time, history, digital, archives, mairix, search, stories, context

I was biasing the results by using full-text search to explore my email. I would look for the things I found interesting that day—searching on terms like “Google” or “literature” or “e-reader”—and see a chronological list of exactly what I said about those very terms. The pattern-seeking engine in my brain would fire on all cylinders and make a story of the searches, creating an unintentional email-chrestomathy, a greatest-hits collection of ideas I’d had around a single word or phrase. The results seemed weirdly definitive. I thought I was doing history in a mirror, but because the emails were pure matches for key terms, devoid of all but a little context, I fell for the historical fallacy


The human microbiome: Me, myself, us

microbiome, health, bacteria, human, biology, personal ecosystem, human ecosystem

A healthy adult human harbours some 100 trillion bacteria in his gut alone. That is ten times as many bacterial cells as he has cells descended from the sperm and egg of his parents. These bugs, moreover, are diverse. Egg and sperm provide about 23,000 different genes. The microbiome, as the body’s commensal bacteria are collectively known, is reckoned to have around 3m. Admittedly, many of those millions are variations on common themes, but equally many are not, and even the number of those that are adds something to the body’s genetic mix.


Book Review: Against Security

book, review, security, security theatre, fear, perception, schneier

A lot of psychological research has tried to make sense out of security, fear, risk, and safety. But however fascinating the academic literature is, it often misses the broader social dynamics. New York University’s Harvey Molotch helpfully brings a sociologist’s perspective to the subject in his new book Against Security.


Algorithmic book writing

algorothms, books, publishing, online, long tail, compiling, scale, book machine

Philip M. Parker, Professor of Marketing at INSEAD Business School, has had a side project for over 10 years. He’s created a computer system that can write books about specific subjects in about 20 minutes. The patented algorithm has so far generated hundreds of thousands of books. In fact, Amazon lists over 100,000 books attributed to Parker, and over 700,000 works listed for his company, ICON Group International, Inc. This doesn’t include the private works, such as internal reports, created for companies or licensing of the system itself through a separate entity called EdgeMaven Media.


Review: Dark Mountain, Issue 3

dark mountain, review, book, dougald hine, paul kingsnorth, ecocentrism

Importantly, this is not simply a theoretical argument: it’s a debate that has divided the green movement cleanly in two. On the one hand are what Doug Tomkins, founder of The North Face and Esprit, calls “the tech-optimists” – those who believe, in the words of the Dark Mountian manifesto, that “the converging crises of our times can be reduced to a set of ‘problems’ in need of technological or political ‘solutions’”. And, on the other, those who see wholesale systems collapse as a necessary step on the path of change. Tomkins, who, along with his wife Kris, abandoned his career in business and dedicated his life to buying up and protecting wild land across Latin America, describes wind turbines, for example, as “the icon of techno-industrial culture”. He goes on to observe: “The way of thinking that would create those windmills is the way of thinking that caused climate change in the first place.”



degrowth, economics, ecology, entropy, critisism, consumerism

Degrowth (in French: décroissance, in Spanish: decrecimiento, in Italian: decrescita) is a political, economic, and social movement based on ecological economics, anti-consumerist and anti-capitalist ideas. Degrowth thinkers and activists advocate for the downscaling of production and consumption—the contraction of economies—as overconsumption lies at the root of long term environmental issues and social inequalities. Key to the concept of degrowth is that reducing consumption does not require individual martyring and a decrease in well-being. Rather, ‘degrowthists’ aim to maximize happiness and well-being through non-consumptive means—sharing work, consuming less, while devoting more time to art, music, family, culture and community


Photography’s Third Act

photography, dustin curtis, communication, experimentation, art, documentation, photos, treehouse, n

When personal photography was first becoming popular, it was mostly used for experimentation and artistic expression, like portraiture. Over time, as costs decreased and fidelity increased, photos gained a second function: they became a system for people to store their memories. And only very recently have we begun to experience the third major function of photography, and I think it’s far more important than the other two: photos for individual communication.


What Turned Jaron Lanier Against the Web?

Jaron Lanier, lynch mob, digital maoism, facebook, google, VR

And so it is with Jaron Lanier and the ideology he helped create, Web 2.0 futurism, digital utopianism, which he now calls “digital Maoism,” indicting “internet intellectuals,” accusing giants like Facebook and Google of being “spy agencies.” Lanier was one of the creators of our current digital reality and now he wants to subvert the “hive mind,” as the web world’s been called, before it engulfs us all, destroys political discourse, economic stability, the dignity of personhood and leads to “social catastrophe.”



IPCC, UN, COP18, climate change, fail, antipatterns, negotiations, multilaterism, UNFCC, kyoto proto

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, took place from 26 November to 8 December 2012. It included the eighteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 18) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the eighth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 8). The conference also included meetings by five subsidiary bodies: the thirty-seventh sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 37) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 37), the second part of the seventeenth session of the Ad hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP 17), the second part of the fifteenth session of the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the UNFCCC (AWG-LCA 15) and the second part of the Ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP 1).


The “Drinking Coffee and Stealing Wifi” 2012 World Tour

design fiction, design, curating, collection, cooper hewitt, design museum, aaronland, artisinal int

We think the War of Terror has not only reshaped our very notion of service design methodologies but also pioneered new and challenging experience design paradigms. We have been in extensive negotiations with the United States government to secure the necessary rights to create rich and engaging user experiences in the museum to support this most important of contemporary design interventions. Okay, not really. But as design fictions go it’s a great way to explain to people why I chose to come at work at a design museum.


Automated Trading Championship 2012

trading, aglorithmic trading, forex, bots, contest, automated trading, 2012

13 weeks of persistent and exciting struggle in the Automated Trading Championship 2012 are over and the winners already can celebrate their victory! All Expert Advisors have been stopped and it is time to announce the final results. For many weeks, we have covered the course of the competition events publishing interesting articles, statistical reports and exciting interviews with the most successful developers in “News” section. Someone has managed to earn fame among thousands of traders, while someone has ended in a fiasco but received invaluable experience and knowledge. We congratulate everyone on the completion of the ATC 2012 and honor the winners!


The Spectacular Thefts of Apollo Robbins, Pickpocket

magic, adam green, Apollo Robbins, pickpocket, theatre, improv, entertainment, theft, perception

Robbins, who is thirty-eight and lives in Las Vegas, is a peculiar variety-arts hybrid, known in the trade as a theatrical pickpocket. Among his peers, he is widely considered the best in the world at what he does, which is taking things from people’s jackets, pants, purses, wrists, fingers, and necks, then returning them in amusing and mind-boggling ways. Robbins works smoothly and invisibly, with a diffident charm that belies his talent for larceny.


Another flash crash happened 2 days ago – 20/12/12. Aggressive algo to blame. From Nanex:


Another flash crash happened 2 days ago - 20/12/12. Aggressive algo to blame. From Nanex:

“On December 20, 2012, there was an Event in the EMini futures at 20:18:40 ET. The data exhibits many hallmarks of a HFT (High Frequency Trader) market maker absorbing sell orders up to their limit, and then turning around and dumping those contracts as fast as possible. Exactly what happened in the Flash Crash on May 6, 2010… Only in this case, the original seller appears to be much more aggressive than Waddell & Reed’s algorithm. The drop came in 2 seconds, and halted trading for 10 seconds. The flash crash halted eMini trading for just 5 seconds.”

Worker, Interrupted: The Cost of Task Switching

interruption, work, stress, multitasking, focus, flow, creativity

I argue that when people are switching contexts every 10 and half minutes they can’t possibly be thinking deeply. There’s no way people can achieve flow. When I write a research article, it takes me a couple of hours before I can even begin to think creatively. If I was switching every 10 and half minutes, there’s just no way I’d be able to think deeply about what I’m doing. This is really bad for innovation. When you’re on the treadmill like this, it’s just not possible to achieve flow.


State of the World 2013 - Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky

bruce sterling, sterling, 2012, 2013, Jon Lebkowsky, The WELL, year in review, state of the world, t

Welcome to the 2013 edition of the Bruce Sterling/Jon Lebkowsky State of the World conversation/rantfest. Bruce and Jon, old friends and rambunctious digerati, have made this annual mess every year of the 21st century; this year’s model should be particularly interesting, given the current hyperactive state of the world and the abundance of available conceptual lenses.


The Lord of Misrule and the Feast of Fools


The Lord of Misrule and the Feast of Fools

In medieval England, the Lord of Misrule was an officer appointed by lot at Christmas to preside over the Feast of Fools - a riotous banquet where the central idea seems always to have been a brief social revolution in which power, dignity and impunity is briefly conferred on those in a subordinate position. The Lord of Misrule was generally a peasant appointed to oversee these Christmas revelries, which often included drunkenness, wild partying and general licentiousness.

The appointment of a Lord of Misrule comes from antiquity. In ancient Rome a Lord of Misrule was appointed for the feast of Saturnalia, in the guise of the god Saturn. During this time the ordinary rules of life were subverted as masters served their slaves, and the offices of state were held by slaves. The Lord of Misrule presided over all of this, and had the power to command anyone to do anything during the holiday period. 

In the medieval version young people chose from among their own number a mock pope, archbishop, bishop, abbot to reign as Lord of Misrule. Participants would then “consecrate” him with many ridiculous ceremonies in the chief church of the place, and give themselves such names as Archbishop of Dolts, Abbot of Unreason, Boy Bishop, or Pope of Fools.

The parody often tipped dangerously towards the profane, the ceremonies mocking the performance of the highest offices of the church, while other persons, dressed in different kinds of masks and disguises, engaged in songs and dances and practised all manner of revelry within the church building. As a result, the Feast and the almost blasphemous extravagances were constantly the object of condemnations of the medieval Church, until it was finally forbidden under the very severest penalties by the Council of Basel in 1431.

[Image Source: Pieter Bruegel, The Fight Between Carnival and Lent (1559)]

Advent Calendar of Oddments 2012: December 22nd

Edelweiss Pirates

The first Edelweißpiraten appeared in the late 1930s in western Germany, comprising mostly young people between 14 and 18. Individual groups were closely associated with different regions but identifiable by a common style of dress with their own edelweiss badge and by their opposition to what they saw as the paramilitary nature of the Hitler Youth.[1] Subgroups of the Edelweißpiraten included the Navajos, centred on Cologne, the Kittelbach Pirates of Oberhausen and Düsseldorf, and the Roving Dudes of Essen.[2] According to one Nazi official in 1941, “Every child knows who the Kittelbach Pirates are. They are everywhere; there are more of them than there are Hitler Youth… They beat up the patrols… They never take no for an answer.”