I think the Banksy thing is pretty badass but never forget that in 1998 Chris Burden installed a battering ram connected to the…

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Word of the day: “defaunation” - the loss of animal populations & species across all forms of disappearance; from extinction to…

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Hey friends, I need some good book recommendations. Something engrossing and preferably written by a woman. Examples: - Gone…

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The earthquake and tsunami caused an immense damage in Palu, Indonesia. But few people have seen or really understand the…

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To suffix things "-punk" now guarantees them a cozy sub-genre status, thereby protecting the status quo from whatever genuine…

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China’s building a rain-making network three times the size of Spain


This news has been way under the radar. This observation from Climate Home News:

Geoengineering, or manipulating the weather, is one of the most contentious topics in the fight against climate change. So it’s a bit of a jaw-dropper that China is carrying out a large-scale experiment to boost rainfall over the Tibetan plateau, with no apparent international oversight. The system involves a network of cloud-seeding burners over an area three times the size of Spain.

A map of of the Tibetan Plateau. Note that several really important and fundamentally “life-giving” rivers are sourced in the Plateau:


China is testing cutting-edge defence technology to develop a powerful yet relatively low-cost weather modification system to bring substantially more rain to the Tibetan plateau, Asia’s biggest freshwater reserve.

The system, which involves an enormous network of fuel-burning chambers installed high up on the Tibetan mountains, could increase rainfall in the region by up to 10 billion cubic metres a year – about 7 per cent of China’s total water consumption – according to researchers involved in the project.

Tens of thousands of chambers will be built at selected locations across the Tibetan plateau to produce rainfall over a total area of about 1.6 million square kilometres (620,000 square miles), or three times the size of Spain. It will be the world’s biggest such project.

The chambers burn solid fuel to produce silver iodide, a cloud-seeding agent with a crystalline structure much like ice. The chambers stand on steep mountain ridges facing the moist monsoon from south Asia. As wind hits the mountain, it produces an upward draft and sweeps the particles into the clouds to induce rain and snow.

Each of the chambers looks like this:

“[So far,] more than 500 burners have been deployed on alpine slopes in Tibet, Xinjiang and other areas for experimental use. The data we have collected show very promising results,” a researcher working on the system told the South China Morning Post.

The ground-based network will also employ other cloud-seeding methods using planes, drones and artillery to maximise the effect of the weather modification system. 

The ground-based network also comes at a relatively low price – each burning unit costs about 50,000 yuan (US$8,000) to build and install. Costs are likely to drop further due to mass production. 

This infographic gives us a rough idea how it works:

China’s building a rain-making network three times the size of Spain

Small, modular wind farms Professor John Dabiri and his team have been conducting research for over 8 years on the potential of…


Small, modular wind farms

Professor John Dabiri and his team have been conducting research for over 8 years on the potential of small vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs) for wind farms. According to their data, by using the wind wakes that so drastically inflate the size of wind farms using horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWTs) constructively, rather than destructively, a VAWT farm could produce the same amount of power in 1/10th the land area, using turbines that are around 1/8th as tall. This has huge potential for industrial power production, as Dabiri et al rightfully point out, but I see an equal potential in a smaller niche: energy independence

Keep reading

“In Greek mythology, Erebus /ˈɛrɪbəs, -əb-/, also Erebos (Ancient Greek: Ἔρεβος, Érebos, “deep darkness, shadow” or “covered”),…

chaos, erebus, mythology, greek mythology, classics, darkness, geneology, wikipedia

“In Greek mythology, Erebus /ˈɛrɪbəs, -əb-/, also Erebos (Ancient Greek: Ἔρεβος, Érebos, “deep darkness, shadow” or “covered”), was often conceived as a primordial deity, representing the personification of darkness; for instance, Hesiod’s Theogony identifies him as one of the first five beings in existence, born of Chaos.“


Brett Kavanaugh and the Information Terrorists Trying to Reshape America


Last month, the attorney of Christine Blasey Ford, the California professor who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault at a long-ago high school party, revealed that Blasey Ford and her family were in hiding and had hired private security after Blasey Ford received death threats over email and social media. Among those cheering on the hate-trollers were many familiar faces from the sewers of the modern far-right disinformation metropolis: dandified Republican rogue (and likely Mueller investigee) Roger Stone, his alt-media protégés Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec, anarchist turned Kremlin propaganda employee turned Bernie backer turned Trump backer Cassandra Fairbanks, and breathless Infowars conspiracist-in-chief Alex Jones. And not surprisingly, alt-right super-troll and white nationalist fund-raiser Chuck Johnson had his own connection to players in the scandal.

This is an operational unit of information terrorists helping to transform the way Americans consume news in the age of Trump—some of the central nodes that give order to the information deluge and around which bot armies and human amplification networks can be organized, wiped out, reconstituted, and armed for attack.

These people are so fucking dangerous.

Brett Kavanaugh and the Information Terrorists Trying to Reshape America

Humans delayed the onset of the Sahara desert by 500 years


Humans did not accelerate the decline of the ‘Green Sahara’ and may have managed to hold back the onset of the Sahara desert by around 500 years, according to new research led by UCL.

The study by a team of geographers and archaeologists from UCL and King’s College London, published in Nature Communications, suggests that early pastoralists in North Africa combined detailed knowledge of the environment with newly domesticated species to deal with the long-term drying trend.

It is thought that early pastoralists in North Africa developed intricate ways to efficiently manage sparse vegetation and relatively dry and low fertility soils.

Dr. Chris Brierley (UCL Geography), lead author, said: “The possibility that humans could have had a stabilizing influence on the environment has significant implications. We contest the common narrative that past human-environment interactions must always be one of over-exploitation and degradation. Read more.

Elysia chlorotica is a sea slug that can capture energy directly from light, as most plants do, through the process of…

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The work of care in the Anthropocene is a struggle with scale and scope and sentience. What does care for a dying forest look…

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If your thing can’t provide at least half the value when half-assed, (or worse: actually makes things worse if applied with less…

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Inside Slab City, a Squatters’ Paradise in Southern California


I’ve been to Slab City four times, and during and after each visit, I’m impressed with the ingenuity in reforming junk into shelters and “art,” but also wondering if the whole thing is just one giant Disney-esque tourist trap. I dunno. The residents are off-the-grid (allegedly) and appear to be pure libertarians, but how much of that is show? Again dunno. The people I’ve chatted with who live there are just like most of us, with one big exception: they are truly squatters, but they all have regular people problems: health, spats with spouses or lovers, kids that run away, how to afford the tricycle, food, the air stinks and is polluted, and so on.

“Slab City: Dispatches from the Last Free Place” is a new book that explores a one-square-mile patch of desert in Imperial County, California, that once served as a military base. Seen here is a sentry box that once guarded Camp Dunlap’s southwest perimeter. (Donovan Wiley)

Ha! I’m with a group that visited Slab City for photography purposes back in April 2018.


On a map, Slab City looks like Anytown, U.S.A. Streets intersect in a grid-like fashion and have names like Dully’s Lane, Tank Road and Fred Road. But it’s not until you have “boots on the ground” that the reality of this squatters’ paradise in the desert sinks in.

Situated on 640 acres of public land located about 50 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border in Imperial County, California, Slab City sits on the site of Camp Dunlap, a former U.S. Marine Corps base. During its peak in the 1940s, the camp housed a laboratory for testing how well concrete survived in the harsh climate of the Sonoran Desert, but by the end of World War II, the government shut down operations. Noticing an opportunity, squatters soon staked their claim on the area, building a hodgepodge of residences using the concrete slabs that remained coupled with whatever materials they could find.

Intrigued, author and architect Charlie Hailey and photographer Donovan Wylie set out to delve deeper and explore what has come to be known as the country’s “last free place.” The result is their new book Slab City: Dispatches from the Last Free Place.

Under the unforgiving sun of southern California’s Colorado Desert lies Slab City, a community of squatters, artists, snowbirds, migrants, survivalists, and homeless people. Called by some “the last free place” and by others “an enclave of anarchy,” Slab City is also the end of the road for many. Without official electricity, running water, sewers, or trash pickup, Slab City dwellers also live without law enforcement, taxation, or administration. Built on the concrete slabs of Camp Dunlap, an abandoned Marine training base, the settlement maintains its off-grid aspirations within the site’s residual military perimeters and gridded street layout; off-grid is really in-grid. In this book, architect Charlie Hailey and photographer Donovan Wylie explore the contradictions of Slab City.

Inside Slab City, a Squatters’ Paradise in Southern California

Imaginary worlds dreamed by BigGAN


These are some of the most amazing generated images I’ve ever seen. Introducing BigGAN, a neural network that generates high-resolution, sometimes photorealistic, imitations of photos it’s seen. None of the images below are real - they’re all generated by BigGAN.


The BigGAN paper is still in review so we don’t know who the authors are, but as part of the review process a preprint and some data were posted online. It’s been causing a buzz in the machine learning community. For generated images, their 512x512 pixel resolution is high, and they scored impressively well on a standard benchmark known as Inception. They were able to scale up to huge processing power (512 TPUv3′s), and they’ve also introduced some strategies that help them achieve both photorealism and variety. (They also told us what *didn’t* work, which was nice of them.) Some of the images are so good that the researchers had to check the original ImageNet dataset to make sure it hadn’t simply copied one of its training images - it hadn’t.

Now, the images above were selected for the paper because they’re especially impressive. BigGAN does well on common objects like dogs and simple landscapes where the pose is pretty consistent, and less well on rarer, more-varied things like crowds. But the researchers also posted a huge set of example BigGAN images and some of the less photorealistic ones are the most interesting.


I’m pretty sure this is how clocks look in my dreams. BigGAN’s writing generally looks like this, maybe an attempt to reconcile the variety of alphabets and characters in its dataset. And Generative Adversarial Networks (and BigGAN is no exception) have trouble counting things. So clocks end up with too many hands, spiders and frogs end up with too many eyes and legs, and the occasional train has two ends.


And its humans… the problem is that we’re really attuned to look for things that are slightly “off” in the faces and bodies of other humans. Even though BigGAN did a comparatively “good job” with these, we are so deep in the uncanny valley that the effect is utterly distressing.


So let’s quickly scroll past BigGAN’s humans and look at some of its other generated images, many of which I find strangely, gloriously beautiful.

Its landscapes and cityscapes, for example, often follow rules of composition and lighting that it learned from the dataset, and the result is both familiar and deeply weird.


Its attempts to reproduce human devices (washing machines? furnaces?) often result in an aesthetic I find very compelling. I would totally watch a movie that looked like this.


It even manages to imitate macro-like soft focus. I don’t know what these tiny objects are, and they’re possibly haunted, but I want them.


Even the most ordinary of objects become interesting and otherworldly. These are a shopping cart, a spiderweb, and socks.


Some of these pictures are definitely beautiful, or haunting, or weirdly appealing. Is this art? BigGAN isn’t creating these with any sort of intent - it’s just imitating the data it sees. And although some artists curate their own datasets so that they can produce GANs with carefully designed artistic results, BigGAN’s training dataset was simply ImageNet, a huge all-purpose utilitarian dataset used to train all kinds of image-handling algorithms.

But the human endeavor of going through BigGAN’s output and looking for compelling images, or collecting them to tell a story or send a message - like I’ve done here - that’s definitely an artistic act. You could illustrate a story this way, or make a hauntingly beautiful movie set. It all depends on the dataset you collect, and the outputs you choose. And that, I think, is where algorithms like BigGAN are going to change human art - not by replacing human artists, but by becoming a powerful new collaborative tool.

The BigGAN authors have posted over 1GB of these images, and it’s so fun to go through them. I’ve collected a few more of my favorites - you can read them (and optionally get bonus material every time I post) by entering your email here.

Episode 24 - Your attention is sovereign 1 You personally, get to decide where you put your attention 2 By acknowledging this…

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Trump administration sees a 7-degree rise in global temperatures by 2100


The trump people are telling us that we are going to be totally fucked by the consequences of climate change and global warming, so we might as well keep on burning gasoline in our vehicles without further limitations because the additional carbon spewed into the atmosphere won’t make any difference. That is the sad policy of the trump administration: have fun now, while you can, and let the oil companies make tons of money, because your little car that runs on electricity or sips gasoline won’t make any difference. Make no mistake about how pervasive this attitude is: the republicans are solidly behind this “fiddle while Rome burns” attitude and approach.


Last month, deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement, the Trump administration made a startling assumption: On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous 7 degrees by the end of this century.

A rise of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 4 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels would be catastrophic, according to scientists. Many coral reefs would dissolve in increasingly acidic oceans. Parts of Manhattan and Miami would be underwater without costly coastal defenses. Extreme heat waves would routinely smother large parts of the globe.

But the administration did not offer this dire forecast, premised on the idea that the world will fail to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, as part of an argument to combat climate change. Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed.

The draft statement, issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), was written to justify President Trump’s decision to freeze federal fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020. While the proposal would increase greenhouse gas emissions, the impact statement says, that policy would add just a very small drop to a very big, hot bucket.

“The amazing thing they’re saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it,” said Michael MacCracken, who served as a senior scientist at the U.S. Global Change Research Program from 1993 to 2002.

The world would have to make deep cuts in carbon emissions to avoid this drastic warming, the analysis states. And that “would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today’s levels and would require the economy and the vehicle fleet to move away from the use of fossil fuels, which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible.”

David Pettit, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council who testified against Trump’s freeze of car mileage standard Monday in Fresno, Calif., said his organization is prepared to use the administration’s own numbers to challenge their regulatory rollbacks. He noted that NHTSA document projects that if the world takes no action to curb emissions, current atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide would rise from 410 parts per million to 789 ppm by 2100.

Trump administration sees a 7-degree rise in global temperatures by 2100

Next, we’ll delve into the mythic & sensual dimensions of panpsychism with a lecture-performance by @_foam co-founders Maja…

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“Almost every country has a vessel monitoring system, and usually it’s totally top secret. Indonesia has decided to give all…

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join us (@zzkt & @deziluzija) tonight (2018–09–27) for "an evening about digital culture and imagining future worlds and…

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We still tune the dead channel. Every morning, the nuclear imaging gamma camera is tested, by imaging a flat, homogeneous source…

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An ancient banyan tree spread over 3 acres near Takht Hazara (between the villages Abal and Mori wal) in the Punjab. Said to…

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We are sorry we have kept you waiting! MINERVA-II1 consists of two rovers, 1a & 1b. Both rovers are confirmed to have landed on…

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Linguistic approaches to language learning: link roundup



I suppose it’s okay to admit after three years of linguistics blogging that I actually am one of those linguists who speaks quite a few languages, and I’ve studied even more at various levels. Here are some of my favourite posts about language learning:

Tips for learning another language

How second language acquisition works

Learning Indigenous languages

Languages and linguistics

Bonus fun links: Now You’re Just A Language That I Used To Know (parody of that Gotye song) and Language Gothic.

Revised and updated with more links! 

How Philosopher Paul Virilio (1932–2018) Spoke to an Age of Acceleration and Total War. McKenzie Wark pays tribute to the…

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Strange and Modern Biology is taught by @jeffvandermeer The Practicum in Geology Love is from @metaleptic, with @botaleptic and…

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College courses of the future, courtesy of a neural network


There are a lot of strange courses that make it into a college course catalog. What would artificial intelligence make of them?

I train machine learning programs called neural networks to try to imitate human things - human things they are absolutely are not prepared to understand. I’ve trained them to generate paint colors (Shy Bather or Stanky Bean, anyone?) and cat names (Mr. Tinkles is very affectionate) and even pie (please have a slice of Cromberry Yas). Could it have similar “success” at inventing new college courses?

UC San Diego’s Triton alumni magazine gave me UCSD’s entire course catalog, from “A Glimpse into Acting” to “Zionism and Post Zionism”, a few of which I recognized from when I was a grad student at UCSD. (Apparently I totally missed my opportunity to take “What the *#!?: An uncensored introduction to language”) I gave the course catalog to a neural network framework called textgenrnn which took a look at all the existing courses and tried its best to figure out how to make more like them.


It did come up with some intriguing courses. I’m not sure what these are, but I would at least read the course description.

Strange and Modern Biology
Marine Writing
General Almosts of Anthropology
Deathchip Study
Advanced Smiling Equations
Genies and Engineering
Language of Circus Processing
Practicum Geology-Love
Electronics of Faces
Marine Structures
Psychology of Pictures in Archaeology
Melodic Studies in Collegine Mathematics

These next ones definitely sound as if they were written by a computer. Since this algorithm learns by example, any phrase, word, or even part of word that it sees repeatedly is likely to become one of its favorites. It knows that “istics” and “ing” both go at the end of words. But it doesn’t know which words, since it doesn’t know what words actually mean. It’s hard to tell if it’s trying to invent new college courses, or trying to make fun of them.

Advanced Computational Collegy
The Papering II
The Special Research
Introduction to Oceanies
Biologrative Studies
Professional Professional Pattering II
Every Methods
Introduction study to the Advanced Practices
Computer Programmic Mathematics of Paths
Paperistics Media I
Full Sciences
Chemistry of Chemistry
Internship to the Great
The Sciences of Prettyniss
Secrets Health
Introduction to Economic Projects and Advanced Care and Station Amazies
Geophing and Braining
Marine Computational Secretites

It’s anyone’s guess what these next courses are, though, or what their prerequisites could possibly be. At least when you’re out looking for a job, you’ll be the only one with experience in programpineerstance.

Ancient Anthlographychology
Design and Equilitistry
The Boplecters
Numbling Hiss I
Advanced Indeptics and Techniques
Introduction in the Nano Care Practice of Planetical Stories
Ethemishing Health Analysis in Several Special Computer Plantinary III
Field Complexity in Computational Electrical Marketineering and Biology
Applechology: Media
The Conseminacy
The Sun Programpineerstance and Development
Egglish Computational Human Analysis
Advanced A World Globbilian Applications
Ethrography in Topics in the Chin Seminar
Seminar and Contemporary & Archase Acoa-Bloop African Computational for Project
Laboration and Market for Plun: Oceanography

Remember, artificial intelligence is the future! And without a strong background in Globbilian Applications, you’ll be left totally behind.

Just to see what would happen, I also did an experiment where I trained the neural net both on UCSD courses and on Dungeons and Dragons spells. The result was indeed quite weird. To read that set of courses (as well as optionally to get bonus material every time I post), enter your email here.

The radiosynthesizing Cryptococcus neoformans. Microbiologist ’Ekaterina Dadachova suggested such fungi could serve as a food…

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airetreat -All human forms of consciousnesses (uploads etc tbd) -Angels -Demons -Djinn -Corporations -Mycelial Networks…

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‘The dinosaurs never die outright, and the new age of abundance never quite gains its inviolable foothold. The future just keeps…

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“En 1942, l’océanographe et géophysicien Athelstan Frederick Spilhaus d’origine sud-africaine, réalise une carte fascinante….

maps, cartography, sea, ocean, world ocean, Athelstan Frederick Spilhaus, 1942

“En 1942, l'océanographe et géophysicien Athelstan Frederick Spilhaus d'origine sud-africaine, réalise une carte fascinante. Les régions marines sont représentées au centre du monde. Une immense mer intérieure (un peu plus de 70% de la surface de la Terre) apparait sous nos yeux. Rappelons tout de même que l'Océan mondial génère plus de 60% des services écosystémiques qui nous permettent de vivre, à commencer par la production de la majeure partie de l'oxygène que nous respirons. Cette carte est ainsi toute symbolique de l'importance des mers. Afin de réaliser celle-ci l'auteur utilise les principes des deux projections suivantes. La projection de Ernst Hammer et celle d’August Heinrich Petermann (co-auteur avec Hermann Berghaus et Carl Vogel de l'Atlas Stieler). Le résultat est une projection interrompue dans laquelle les océans forment une unité. C'est à la fois génial et totalement déroutant. La déformation est telle que le continent américain et asiatique sont completement écartelés. L'Europe, l'Afrique et l'Asie du Sud-Est concervent en revanche une forme cohérente.“


RT @bruces: *Tomorrow’s future-shock is not that we’re swanning around all posthuman. It’s that the planet’s ecosystems are…

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what is an object? Philosophers are always saying, “Well, just take a chair for example.” The moment they say that, you know…

Feynman, objects, physics, philopsophy, OOO, aproximation, idealization, 1963

“what is an object? Philosophers are always saying, “Well, just take a chair for example.” The moment they say that, you know that they do not know what they are talking about any more. What is a chair? Well, a chair is a certain thing over there … certain?, how certain? The atoms are evaporating from it from time to time—not many atoms, but a few—dirt falls on it and gets dissolved in the paint; so to define a chair precisely, to say exactly which atoms are chair, and which atoms are air, or which atoms are dirt, or which atoms are paint that belongs to the chair is impossible. So the mass of a chair can be defined only approximately. In the same way, to define the mass of a single object is impossible, because there are not any single, left-alone objects in the world—every object is a mixture of a lot of things, so we can deal with it only as a series of approximations and idealizations.”

Richard Feynman,The Feynman Lectures on Physics Vol. I Ch. 12

if you could accurately predict fMRI activity for a given image+person, maybe you could synthesize images that induce a specific…

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One of the world’s leading plasma physicists, Anthony Peratt, not too long ago declassified his discovery that he could…

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One of the world’s most haunting ruined places is the ghost town of Kolmanskop, in the desert of Southern Namibia. Once a…

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My central preoccupation has always been coping. How do sentient beings cope and how could they cope better? That’s led me to an…

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Fluid dynamics often play out on a scale that’s difficult to appreciate from our earthbound perspective, but fortunately, we…


Fluid dynamics often play out on a scale that’s difficult to appreciate from our earthbound perspective, but fortunately, we have tools to aid us. This natural-color satellite image shows Rupert Bay in Quebec, where fresh water stained with sediments and organic matter (right) flows into the saltier water of James Bay (left). White filaments at the edges of these mixing regions are likely foam floating atop the water. The turbulence caused at the intersection of the two bodies of water whips up organic films to form bubbles. The white on the far left of the image is ice chunks still floating in James Bay when the image was taken in early June. Click through to admire the high-resolution version. (Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey; via NASA Earth Observatory)

The water in your body is just visiting. It was a thunderstorm a week ago. It will be the ocean soon enough. Most of your cells…

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Your blood is red because of the iron you inherited from the Earth. You need the iron to help bind the oxygen you receive from…

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Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia oscillates between a strange theory-fiction exploring oil as a sentient entity and ‘lubricant’…

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