in the age of algorithmic desires, art becomes geology. it is not memory or computation. it becomes an identity with no…

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Today I used Wikipedia’s OAbot to add a link to an #OA version of an article cited on the “Greenland shark” page. The OAbot…

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My essay ‘The Algorithmic Writing of Stones: A Cybernetics of Geology’, published in SubStance Journal, is now online:…

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Computer vision to see around corners; LHC detects Higgs boson decay; dark matter debate heats up anew, and more. Cocktail Party…

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It’s oddly reminding me of robotics, which is getting much richer control loops. "Well, we assumed X…we got Y…can we…

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Civilization: a stage of evolution that begins when a species first makes a pocket out of some kind of dough, stuffs it with…

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For the first time, all the international bubbles of @_foam are coming together for a single open studio event, with guest…

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Answers to FAQs: 1) Yes, the sun’s output varies slightly 2) Yes, the climate has changed before 3) Yes, we’ve considered that…

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A political compass for weird theory Twitter: UPWING H 🚀⏭ l 👽🤖 A U 🌐🌆 l 🐌🌀 N M ————— T A 🦉🍖 l 🍄🐙 I N 🌾🌱 l 🌲🌋 - …

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’Kalashnikov has been looking to take its brand in different directions and recently launched a clothing line and a catalogue of…

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This is Australia’s climate barcode 1910–2017. The darkest blue is the coldest year, the darkest red the warmest. If there was…

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Right up until the 1980s there was a British Atomic Gardening society, who would expose seeds to radiation to generate amazing…

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Members of Special Forces Cavalry—one of them with a snake around his neck—walk in front of Paraguay’s new president during a…

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The next @_foam/@edenproject Invisible Worlds residency begins 2 Sept: ’…and then we see if we will be friends’ by Katharina…

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A space ship landed. An alien emerged. “Greetings,” it said, “do you have a leader?” “We have many.” “Then I will wait.” "For…

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All imagined futures lacking recognition of anthropogenic climate-change will increasingly seem absurdly shortsighted. Virtually…

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“if just one unorganized voting segment, the 60 million bird-watchers of America, sent a unified political message this fall,…

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Treat yourself with the gift of #boredom! In this week’s #BrainMatters in @TheNationalUAE, I discuss recent research in…

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So. We’re now in the Jewish month of Elul, the month leading up to Rosh Hashana. It’s a time to traditionally do a deep…

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You can experience my audiowalk+book “It Must Have Been Dark By Then” currently on at #elo2018 in Montreal and will be at…

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Text to Image Latest web-based project from Cristóbal Valenzuela is a simple online text to image generator using neural…

video link


Text to Image

Latest web-based project from Cristóbal Valenzuela is a simple online text to image generator using neural networks to render a visual from what you type in.

It is very simple but generates very abstract results (as you can see in the video above), and you may generate several variations from the same inputted text.

Try it out for yourself here

Trees Are Migrating West to Escape Climate Change



An individual tree has roots and, of course, it doesn’t move. But trees, as a species, do move over time. They migrate in response to environmental challenges, especially climate change. Surprisingly, they don’t all go to the Poles, where it is cooler. As it turns out, more of them head west, where it is getting wetter.

Sure, some species, such as evergreens, are heading to the Poles to escape the heat. But others, like certain oaks and maple, are going west in search of rain. For the most part, “tree migrations are moisture related,” said Songlin Fei, associate professor at Purdue’s University’s department of forestry and natural resources, who has studied this phenomenon in recent years. “Precipitation has a stronger near-term impact on species shift than temperature.”

Both trends are a consequence of climate change, which is producing more heat and heavier rainfall, fueling deforestation. This is worrisome, as forests soak up carbon from the atmosphere, and recent evidence suggests that soil is exhaling carbon dioxide faster than trees can take in. The migration of trees may help preserve individual species, but also threatens to destabilize forest ecosystems.

Fei analyzed the movement of 86 tree species from across the Eastern United States between 1980 and 2015 using using field data from obtained from the U.S. Forest Service. He found that 73 percent of tree species shifted to the west, while 62 percent moved poleward.

“The majority of the species move westward are broadleaf species that can better handle flood and drought, and have a large seed mass, which improves the seedling’s ability to survive,” he said. “One example of westward shift species is Scarlet Oak. Miss Scarlett ‘gone with the wind,’ but Scarlet Oak is ‘gone with the rain.’”

Trees Are Migrating West to Escape Climate Change

Everything you need to know about clouds


Varying levels of illumination and thickness of asperitas clouds can lead to dramatic visual effects. (Photo: WikiRigaou/Wikimedia Commons)


We stare at clouds all the time, whether trying to figure out what they look like or if they’re bringing rain. Yet most of us know very little about clouds, let alone how to identify them.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) keeps a cloud atlas that divides clouds into genera, species and varieties. Some clouds have multiple “varieties” and some have “accessory” clouds that appear with or merge with bigger clouds. Specific conditions can even create special clouds of their own.

In short, clouds are a rich tapestry in the sky that changes every day.

Cloud genera

These are the 10 most typical forms clouds take. The WMO notes that the definitions don’t encompass all possible cloud permutations, but they do outline the essential traits to differentiate one cloud genus from another, especially those having similar appearances.

Everything you need to know about clouds

“Putting aside my cynicism for the moment, I wondered: What if we take these companies at their word? What if it is truly…


“Putting aside my cynicism for the moment, I wondered: What if we take these companies at their word? What if it is truly impossible to get a handle on the entirety of a supply chain? The thing that still confused me is how reliable supply chains are, or seem to be. The world is unpredictable—you’ve got earthquakes, labor strikes, mudslides, every conceivable tragedy—and yet as a consumer I can pretty much count on getting what I want whenever I want it. How can it be possible to predict a package’s arrival down to the hour, yet know almost nothing about the conditions of its manufacture?”

See No Evil

Heatsick: the computer processor is coerced into attempting to match its own temperature to the temperature recorded at high…

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Solar System 10 Things: Spitzer Space Telescope


Our Spitzer Space Telescope is celebrating 15 years since its launch on August 25, 2003. This remarkable spacecraft has made discoveries its designers never even imagined, including some of the seven Earth-size planets of TRAPPIST-1. Here are some key facts about Spitzer:

1. Spitzer is one of our Great Observatories.

Our Great Observatory Program aimed to explore the universe with four large space telescopes, each specialized in viewing the universe in different wavelengths of light. The other Great Observatories are our Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory. By combining data from different kinds of telescopes, scientists can paint a fuller picture of our universe.

2. Spitzer operates in infrared light.

Infrared wavelengths of light, which primarily come from heat radiation, are too long to be seen with human eyes, but are important for exploring space — especially when it comes to getting information about something extremely far away. From turbulent clouds where stars are born to small asteroids close to Earth’s orbit, a wide range of phenomena can be studied in infrared light. Objects too faint or distant for optical telescopes to detect, hidden by dense clouds of space dust, can often be seen with Spitzer. In this way, Spitzer acts as an extension of human vision to explore the universe, near and far.

What’s more, Spitzer doesn’t have to contend with Earth’s atmosphere, daily temperature variations or day-night cycles, unlike ground-based telescopes. With a mirror less than 1 meter in diameter, Spitzer in space is more sensitive than even a 10-meter-diameter telescope on Earth.

3. Spitzer was the first spacecraft to fly in an Earth-trailing orbit.

Rather than circling Earth, as Hubble does, Spitzer orbits the Sun on almost the same path as Earth. But Spitzer moves slower than Earth, so the spacecraft drifts farther away from our planet each year.

This “Earth-trailing orbit” has many advantages. Being farther from Earth than a satellite, it receives less heat from our planet and enjoys a naturally cooler environment. Spitzer also benefits from a wider view of the sky by orbiting the Sun. While its field of view changes throughout the year, at any given time it can see about one-third of the sky. Our Kepler space telescope, famous for finding thousands of exoplanets – planets outside our solar system – also settled in an Earth-trailing orbit six years after Spitzer.

4. Spitzer began in a “cold mission.”

Spitzer has far outlived its initial requirement of 2.5 years. The Spitzer team calls the first 5.5 years “the cold mission” because the spacecraft’s instruments were deliberately cooled down during that time. Liquid helium coolant kept Spitzer’s instruments just a few degrees above absolute zero (which is minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 273 degrees Celsius) in this first part of the mission.

5. The “warm mission” was still pretty cold.

Spitzer entered what was called the “warm mission” when the 360 liters of liquid helium coolant that was chilling its instruments ran out in May 2009.

At the “warm” temperature of minus 405 Fahrenheit, two of Spitzer’s instruments – the Infrared Spectrograph (IRS) and Multiband Imaging Photometer (MIPS) – stopped working. But two of the four detector arrays in the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) persisted. These “channels” of the camera have driven Spitzer’s explorations since then.

6. Spitzer wasn’t designed to study exoplanets, but made huge strides in this area.

Exoplanet science was in its infancy in 2003 when Spitzer launched, so the mission’s first scientists and engineers had no idea it could observe planets beyond our solar system. But the telescope’s accurate star-targeting system and the ability to control unwanted changes in temperature have made it a useful tool for studying exoplanets. During the Spitzer mission, engineers have learned how to control the spacecraft’s pointing more precisely to find and characterize exoplanets, too.

Using what’s called the “transit method,” Spitzer can stare at a star and detect periodic dips in brightness that happen when a planet crosses a star’s face. In one of its most remarkable achievements, Spitzer discovered three of the TRAPPIST-1 planets and confirmed that the system has seven Earth-sized planets orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star. Spitzer data also helped scientists determine that all seven planets are rocky, and made these the best-understood exoplanets to date.

Spitzer can also use a technique called microlensing to find planets closer to the center of our galaxy. When a star passes in front of another star, the gravity of the first star can act as a lens, making the light from the more distant star appear brighter. Scientists are using microlensing to look for a blip in that brightening, which could mean that the foreground star has a planet orbiting it. Microlensing could not have been done early in the mission when Spitzer was closer to Earth, but now that the spacecraft is farther away, it has a better chance of measuring these events.

7. Spitzer is a window into the distant past.

The spacecraft has observed and helped discover some of the most distant objects in the universe, helping scientists understand where we came from. Originally, Spitzer’s camera designers had hoped the spacecraft would detect galaxies about 12 billion light-years away. In fact, Spitzer has surpassed that, and can see even farther back in time – almost to the beginning of the universe. In collaboration with Hubble, Spitzer helped characterize the galaxy GN-z11 about 13.4 billion light-years away, whose light has been traveling since 400 million years after the big bang. It is the farthest galaxy known.

8. Spitzer discovered Saturn’s largest ring.

Everyone knows Saturn has distinctive rings, but did you know its largest ring was only discovered in 2009, thanks to Spitzer? Because this outer ring doesn’t reflect much visible light, Earth-based telescopes would have a hard time seeing it. But Spitzer saw the infrared glow from the cool dust in the ring. It begins 3.7 million miles (6 million kilometers) from Saturn and extends about 7.4 million miles (12 million kilometers) beyond that.

9. The “Beyond Phase” pushes Spitzer to new limits.

In 2016, Spitzer entered its “Beyond phase,” with a name reflecting how the spacecraft operates beyond its original scope.

As Spitzer floats away from Earth, its increasing distance presents communication challenges. Engineers must point Spitzer’s antenna at higher angles toward the Sun in order to talk to our planet, which exposes the spacecraft to more heat. At the same time, the spacecraft’s solar panels receive less sunlight because they point away from the Sun, putting more stress on the battery.

The team decided to override some autonomous safety systems so Spitzer could continue to operate in this riskier mode. But so far, the Beyond phase is going smoothly.

10. Spitzer paves the way for future infrared telescopes.

Spitzer has identified areas of further study for our upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, planned to launch in 2021. Webb will also explore the universe in infrared light, picking up where Spitzer eventually will leave off. With its enhanced ability to probe planetary atmospheres, Webb may reveal striking new details about exoplanets that Spitzer found. Distant galaxies unveiled by Spitzer together with other telescopes will also be observed in further detail by Webb. The space telescope we are planning after that, WFIRST, will also investigate long-standing mysteries by looking at infrared light. Scientists planning studies with future infrared telescopes will naturally build upon the pioneering legacy of Spitzer.

Read the web version of this week’s “Solar System: 10 Things to Know” article HERE

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: 

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Masterlist of pop linguistics books and lingfic



Looking for pop linguistics books or linguistics-related fiction to read, find in a library, ask for as a gift, or give to a language nerd in your life? Here’s an extensive list of books you might be interested in. 

Recent general books 

Older general books 

(Most of these I read when I was getting into linguistics so I can vouch for them being interesting enough when I read them such that they’ve stuck in my mind many years later, but I’m not sure how they’d stack up on re-reading. Just so you know.)

Specific Topics

Beginner-friendly textbooks

Comprehensive but more friendly than actual textbooks: 

Actual textbooks, still at an introductory level:


Fiction that contains a significant linguistic element, enjoyable for both practising linguists and language enthusiasts: 

Anyone else have pop linguistics books (or #lingfic) to recommend, or reviews to link to? I’ll try to keep this list updated as I hear of and review other books, old and new, so make sure to check out the source post and my books tag if you’re viewing it as a reblog. There are some great additions in the extensive reblogs by Stan Carey and Superlinguo.


I’m also writing a pop linguistics book about internet language for Penguin! It’s not out till 2019, but you can see more information here and sign up for email updates if you want to know when it’s available

Keep reading

Revised and updated to add recent book livetweets! 

The genes of sweet potatoes reveal that there was contact between Australasia & The Americas at least 500 years before Columbus….

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