RealClimate: The new IPCC climate report

IPCC, UN, climate, climate change, policy, politics, interesting graphs

The time has come: the new IPCC report is here! After several years of work by over 800 scientists from around the world, and after days of extensive discussion at the IPCC plenary meeting in Stockholm, the Summary for Policymakers was formally adopted at 5 o’clock this morning. Congratulations to all the colleagues who were there and worked night shifts. The full text of the report will be available online beginning of next week. Realclimate summarizes the key findings and shows the most interesting graphs.

The Archdruid Report: Which Way To Heaven?

religion, ecology, progress, ascension, economics, imagination, collective memory

I don’t know of a better example of the way the collective imagination of the modern world shifted gears when Sputnik I broke free of the atmosphere and opened the Space Age. Until then, the top of the atmosphere might as well have been a sheet of iron, as the Egyptians thought it was. (Their logic was impeccable: polished iron is blue, and so is the sky; iron is strong and heatproof, and the sky would need to be both to deal in order to support the boat named Millions of Years on which Ra the sun god does his daily commute; besides, the only iron they knew came from meteorites, which they sensibly interpreted as stray chunks of sky that had fallen to earth. Many of our theories about nature will likely seem much less reasonable from the perspective of the far future.)

Institutions and Organizations

institutions, organistions, economics, society, notes, cosmo shalizi, references

Institutional economics (old-style à la Commons; neo-institutional à la Douglass North; new institutional à la Williamson). Empirical studies of different sorts of economic institutions. Industrial organization and market structure (institutions beyond the bounds of any one formal organization). Organization theory. Theories of institutional change, formation. Difference between institutions which are products of policy and those which are products of custom. (Intermediate cases abound naturally.) Evolutionary economics. Memes. Institutional design. Centralized vs. decentralized institutions. Corruption. Distribution of power vs. formal organization. History of bureaucracy and other sorts of formal organization. (Did Europeans take civil service exams from China? How did they evolve in China?) Game-theoretic approaches. Simulations. Spontaneous formation of institutions. How, exactly, do “institutions matter” in economic development and growth?


FDA, transgenics, food chain design, aesthetics, zaretsky, food science, genomic gastronomy

We should not be overly worried about somatic cell nuclear transfer as a Food Science edible technique. The abnormalities that can be expected might be delicious. Our worries stem from the fact that a large percentage of breeders may not have had the Art Historical schooling that most Academic students of Aesthetics might have had. Right now, the only type of ‘taste’ we can see embedded in cloned livestock is based on ramping up meat production and maybe designing and cloning industrial beings born with zero percent transfat. If we are spending millions of taxpayer dollars on making copies of sires whose profitability is based on 4-H tropes of beauty alone, then we are missing much of what contemporary art can lend to contemporary breeding of gastronomic novelty–0573-EC370-Attach–1.pdf

Tannosomes and the trickle-around effect: a new cell organelle is discovered

tannosome, plants, tea, wine, ginkgo, tannins

After untold hours in the lab experimenting with different transmission electron microscopy (TEM) imaging methods, the team found a new organelle inside the plant cell: the tannosome. It’s responsible for churning out tannins, the naturally occurring molecules belonging to the polyphenols class of organic chemicals.

Art continually escapes definition. It is promiscuous; it absorbs every kind of philosophy, embraces every ideology, exploits…

“Art continually escapes definition. It is promiscuous; it absorbs every kind of philosophy, embraces every ideology, exploits every technology available. It uses every kind of material, from bodies to metal to paint, from sounds to abstract ideas. Every justification for it has a counter-justification. Every rule, every attempt to legislate it, only generates exception.”

 Alison Croggon.Why Art?

Why art? Alison Croggon

overland, australia, arts, cultural funding, economics, politics, culture

In 2011, cultural industries directly employed 531 000 people, and indirectly generated a further 3.7 million jobs. Copyright industries were worth $93.2 billion to the Australian economy in 2007, with exports worth more than $500 million.2 According to its own figures, the mining industry is worth $121 billion a year to the Australian economy, only around 25 per cent more than the cultural industries. Mining employs significantly fewer people than the cultural sector: 187  400 directly, and a further 599 680 in support industries.3 The industry receives government assistance – to the tune of $700 million in the last financial year.4 In 2011–12, Australian industry as a whole – including agriculture, food manufacturing and service industries – was given an estimated $17.3 billion in combined assistance (a mixture of direct subsidies, tax breaks, tariffs and regulatory assistance).5 This doesn’t count a further $9.4 billion invested in research and development by the Australian government in the same financial year.6 In contrast, it’s probably safe to say that, when discussing arts funding, we’re talking about around $500 million annually, out of a total tax revenue in 2011–12 of $390 billion7 – that is, about 0.1 per cent of total government expenditure. (Assistance to industry, including research and development, is around 7 per cent.) The Australia Council, the major arts funding body, has a budget this year of $220 million.–212/feature-alison-croggon/

Paleoclimate: The End of the Holocene

climate, global temperature, holocence, data

Recently a group of researchers from Harvard and Oregon State University has published the first global temperature reconstruction for the last 11,000 years – that’s the whole Holocene (Marcott et al. 2013). The results are striking and worthy of further discussion, after the authors have already commented on their results in this blog.

piddock [psychogeophysics]

piddock, mollusc, boring mollucs, martin howse, bioluminescence, gastronomy, shellfish

With a small sample of Piddocks, wrapped in seaweed and chilled to preserve them, we began to investigate the luminiscent properties of the Pholas Dactylus. The eyes must first become accustomed to total darkness for a few minutes and then the dull greenish blue glow of the opened mollusk becomes apparent. The glow is quite strong, clearly illuminating a glass of water and surroundings, and can last perhaps one day. The blue light offers a window into the world of the Piddock, a creature which spends its whole life in darkness, shunning daylight. Hands glow blue after touching the moist body of the Piddock, and if the raw Piddock is placed in the mouth the tongue and breath also glow blue, as indicated by Pliny in ancient Roman writings about the mollusk. The taste of the raw Piddock is equally as indescribable as this strange luminescence; an extreme chemical taste, perhaps stony or mineral, deep and prehistoric, very far from the usually mild seafood experience. All forms of cooking destroy the luminescence, though the raw Piddock can be preserved by freezing.

Necessary and Proportionate

dymaxion, politics, surveillance, law enforcement, intel, civil society, Privicy International

In asking all states to confine themselves to only surveil as a law enforcement tactic, and to in effect do no international intelligence work (for intelligence can clearly not operate within these bound), the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communication Surveillance ask for nothing less than the end of the Westphalian compromise and the creation of a new fundamental theory of geopolitical power and the monopoly on violence.

Necessary and Proportionate

International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, human ri

As technologies that facilitate State surveillance of communications advance, States are failing to ensure that laws and regulations related to communications surveillance adhere to international human rights and adequately protect the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. This document attempts to explain how international human rights law applies in the current digital environment, particularly in light of the increase in and changes to communications surveillance technologies and techniques. These principles can provide civil society groups, industry, States and others with a framework to evaluate whether current or proposed surveillance laws and practices are consistent with human rights.

Statement on the Brisbane Drone Shadow

booktwo, James Bridle, drone, QLD, brisbane, Arts Queensland, censorship, ineptitude

I was commissioned by the Brisbane Writers Festival 2013 to undertake an installation at the Queensland State Library. Ultimately, it was impossible for me to complete this work, and in the interest of full disclosure and the public record, the following is an account of what has occurred, to the best of my understanding.

Soylent 1973 vs Soylent 2013

food, soylent, soylent green, sci fi, eating, sensuality, georgina voss

Soylent Green (1973) explores the political dimensions of food substitution, industrialised food production and rapidly growing populations in a way that the coverage of Soylent (2013) has not. Soylent’s invention was borne of Rhinehart’s desire not to have to clean his dishes after he had eaten, and this desire - of a young, employed male in California who finds no pleasure in the purchase, preparation or consumption of food - is not necessarily the desire (or need) of other populations. Abstracting the culture of food into the nutritional qualities of fuel is not just an efficiency process; it imposes a version of reality where eating is no longer a satisfying, social, even sensual activity to be shared with friends and loved ones.

A Scalable Heuristic for Viral Marketing Under the Tipping Model

networks, social network, viral marketing, distribution

In a “tipping” model, each node in a social network, representing an individual, adopts a property or behavior if a certain number of his incoming neighbors currently exhibit the same. In viral marketing, a key problem is to select an initial “seed” set from the network such that the entire network adopts any behavior given to the seed. Here we introduce a method for quickly finding seed sets that scales to very large networks. Our approach finds a set of nodes that guarantees spreading to the entire network under the tipping model. After experimentally evaluating 31 real-world networks, we found that our approach often finds seed sets that are several orders of magnitude smaller than the population size and outperform nodal centrality measures in most cases.

Big programming, small programming

programming, PLT, glow, scale, computing

Programming is complicated. Different programs have different abstraction levels, domains, platforms, longevity, team sizes, etc ad infinitum. There is something fundamentally different between the detailed instructions that goes into, say, computing a checksum and the abstractions when defining the flow of data in any medium-sized system. I think that the divide between coding the details and describing the flow of a program is so large that a programming language could benefit immensely from keeping them conceptually separate. This belief has led me to design a new programming language - Glow - that has this separation at its core.

Why two spaces after a period isn’t wrong (or, the lies typographers tell about history)

typography, spacing, s p a c in g, punctuation, readability, history

Typographers seem eager to dismiss wider spaces as some sort of fad, either something ugly that originated with typewriters, or some sort of Victorian excess that lasted for a few brief decades and quickly petered out. But this is simply not the case. As we will explore presently, the large space following a period was an established convention for English-language publishers (and many others in Europe) in the 1700s, if not before, and it did not truly begin to fade completely until around 1950.

Kafka, Kerouac, and Wozniak had one advantage over us: they worked on machines that did not readily do more than one thing at a…

“Kafka, Kerouac, and Wozniak had one advantage over us: they worked on machines that did not readily do more than one thing at a time, easily yielding to our conflicting desires. And, while distraction was surely available—say, by reading the newspaper, or chatting with friends—there was a crucial difference. Today’s machines don’t just allow distraction; they promote it. The Web calls us constantly, like a carnival barker, and the machines, instead of keeping us on task, make it easy to get drawn in—and even add their own distractions to the mix. In short: we have built a generation of “distraction machines” that make great feats of concentrated effort harder instead of easier.”

The Problem With Multitasking : The New Yorker (viaphotographsonthebrain)

Our Newfound Fear of Risk

Schneier, risk, security, reductionism, perception

Some of this fear results from imperfect risk perception. We’re bad at accurately assessing risk; we tend to exaggerate spectacular, strange, and rare events, and downplay ordinary, familiar, and common ones. This leads us to believe that violence against police, school shootings, and terrorist attacks are more common and more deadly than they actually are – and that the costs, dangers, and risks of a militarized police, a school system without flexibility, and a surveillance state without privacy are less than they really are.


relearn, constant, OSP, workshop, pedagogy, pattern, free software, design

By and large, graphic design students bring a laptop to school, and create their work using digital software tools. This hard- and software represent a technological and cultural heritage that is seldomly questioned, and a potential that goes unexploited. Using free and open source software and engaging in its culture provides an alternative by making a design practice possible with a more intimate and experimental relation to its toolbox. Beyond the implications for design practice, the culture of free and open source software challenges traditional education paradigms because knowledge is exchanged outside institutional borders, and participants move between roles easily (teacher, student, developer, user). Following from their series of workshops and Print Parties, OSP proposes a summer school experiment. A first try to move across the conventional school model towards a space where the relationship to learning is mediated by graphical software.

Does it Scale?

Adrian Hon, scale, occupy, 2011, politics, business, media

We’ve treated ’scale’ like an unalloyed good for so long that it seems peculiar to question it. There are plenty of reasons for wanting to scale businesses and services up to make more things for more people in more areas; perhaps the strongest is that things usually get cheaper and quicker to provide. The problem is that scale has a cost, and that’s being unable to respond to the wants and needs of unique individuals. Theoretically, that’s not a problem in a free market, but of course, we don’t have a free market, and we certainly don’t have a free market when it comes to politics and media.

Radical Buddhism and the Paradox of Acceptance

Buddhism, Zizek, critique, mindfulness, Marx

Although his critique of Buddhism is somewhat uninformed, Zizek does offer, in his own way, a good insight into the danger of misunderstanding Buddhist practice and the techniques of mindfulness altogether. What fascinates me is that his critique parallels – in the language of cultural theory – the personal wariness that most beginning meditators have about the practice of meditation, especially regarding 1) how mindfulness actually works, 2) what acceptance really means, and 3) how genuine transformation comes about.

Agamben Notes

Agamben, human, animal, ecology, anthropocence

Agamben argues that the boundary which separates the human and the animal is at best a tenuous one. As such, what he means by ‘the open’ is that moment during which the human is reconciled with the animal in the state of what Heidegger terms ‘profound boredom’. Against the backdrop of the ‘anthropological machine’ that produces an anthropocentric history of being, Agamben advances the thesis that the human and the animal are essentially indistinguishable, despite the discursive production of these figures as distinct entities. As a result, the discursive production of the human becomes politicised (what Agamben refers to as ‘bios’, the political life of the human or ‘qualified life’) and it is set in contrast to the anthropocentric definition of nonhuman life as worthless and disposable (as ‘zoe’ or ‘bare-life’)