Over the course of his or her life, a typical member of a modern affluent society will own several million artefacts – from cars…

“Over the course of his or her life, a typical member of a modern affluent society will own several million artefacts – from cars and houses to disposable nappies and milk cartons. There’s hardly an activity, a belief, or even an emotion that is not mediated by objects of our own devising.”

Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. 2015. (viacarvalhais)

Skellig Michael is an island located roughly seven miles west of the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. Between the 6th…


Skellig Michael is an island located roughly seven miles west of the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. Between the 6th and 8th century a Celtic Christian monastery was established here and was occupied until the 12th century. You may also recognize it as the secret island from the seventh Star Wars movie where Luke Skywalker hides out.
51.771130, -10.539963
Instagram: http://bit.ly/2qjkSnh
Source imagery: DigitalGlobe

An early set of notes proposed a “service equipped to advise on all problems of design”, addressing the needs of “the State,…

“An early set of notes proposed a “service equipped to advise on all problems of design”, addressing the needs of “the State, Municipal Authorities, Industry or Commerce.” They anticipated a post-war demand for technical expertise and a need for “the reconditioning and re-designing public utility services” recommending “contact… with the railway companies, motor coach lines and so on.“”

Design Research Unit - Wikipedia (viaiamdanw)

A huge payoff from the longevity of the LRO mission is the repeat coverage obtained by the LROC Wide Angle Camera (WAC). The…

moon, LRO, NASA

video link

A huge payoff from the longevity of the LRO mission is the repeat coverage obtained by the LROC Wide Angle Camera (WAC). The WAC has a very wide field-of-view (FOV), 90° in monochrome mode and 60° in multispectral mode, hence its name. On the one hand, the wide FOV enables orbit-to-orbit stereo, which allowed LROC team members at the DLR to create the unprecedented 100 meter scale near-global (0° to 360° longitude and 80°S to 80°N latitude) topographic map of the Moon (the GLD100)!


Mika Vainio’s quiet influence on electronic music was deafening

Mika-Vainio, panasonic, sound, music, noise, 2017, eulogy

Vainio’s influence on ambient and industrial electronic music was somewhat unspoken in his lifetime. He was not a figurehead of a scene, but pretty much all booming palettes of mechanical sound being made today nod in some way to Vainio and his work with Pan Sonic […] Vainio’s beats weren’t beats at all, they were the sound and feeling of a black hole opening up in the centre of your chest.[…] like “flares, vapour trails, LEDs, neon tubes close to death, heart murmurs, apertures opening and closing in cement walls, tiny mechanised guillotines snipping the heads from tin soldiers, sheets of led unfurling in underground car parks”.

via https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2017/apr/18/mika-vainios-quiet-influence-on-electronic-music-was-deafening

Estonia: The Little Spycatcher Who Could

espionage, politics, Estonia, KAPO, SVR, NATO

Estonia is Europe’s leading catcher of Vladimir Putin’s spies as well as Europe’s leading unmasker of his manifold agents of influence. It is uncharacteristically unafraid to advertise its own national security threats by naming and shaming its yearly haul of enemy operatives, at least in comparison to other Western NATO democracies, which tend to hush up such bilateral embarrassments, preferring the discreet expulsion of spooks or “PNGing” of diplomats who glad-hand by day and engage in dead-letter drops by night.

via http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/04/15/estonia-the-little-spycatcher-who-could.html

The workshops also highlighted a major blind spot in thinking about AI. Auto­nomous systems are already deployed in our most…

The workshops also highlighted a major blind spot in thinking about AI. Auto­nomous systems are already deployed in our most crucial social institutions, from hospitals to courtrooms. Yet there are no agreed methods to assess the sustained effects of such applications on human populations.

Recent years have brought extraordinary advances in the technical domains of AI. Alongside such efforts, designers and researchers from a range of disciplines need to conduct what we call social-systems analyses of AI. They need to assess the impact of technologies on their social, cultural and political settings.

A social-systems approach could investigate, for instance, how the app AiCure — which tracks patients’ adherence to taking prescribed medication and transmits records to physicians — is changing the doctor–patient relationship. Such an approach could also explore whether the use of historical data to predict where crimes will happen is driving overpolicing of marginalized communities. Or it could investigate why high-rolling investors are given the right to understand the financial decisions made on their behalf by humans and algorithms, whereas low-income loan seekers are often left to wonder why their requests have been rejected.

“People worry that computers will get too smart and take over the world, but the real problem is that they’re too stupid and they’ve already taken over the world.” This is how computer scientist Pedro Domingos sums up the issue in his 2015 book The Master Algorithm1. Even the many researchers who reject the prospect of a ‘technological singularity’ — saying the field is too young — support the introduction of relatively untested AI systems into social institutions.

There is a blind spot in AI research : Nature News& Comment (vianewdarkage)

Seeing that I cannot choose any subject of great utility or pleasure, because my predecessors have already taken as their own…

“Seeing that I cannot choose any subject of great utility or pleasure, because my predecessors have already taken as their own all useful and necessary themes, I will do like one who, because of his poverty, is the last to arrive at the fair, and not being able otherwise to provide for himself, chooses all the things which others have already looked over and not taken, but refused as being of little value. With these despised and rejected wares — the leavings of many buyers — I will load my modest pack, and therewith take my course, distributing, not indeed amid the great cities, but among the mean hamlets, and taking such reward as befits the things I offer.”

Da Vinci, Codice Atlantico 119 v. a, in The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, Edward MacCurdy (trans.), Vol 1, Oxford: Jonathan Cape, 1945, p. 61 (viadearyesno)

Beaches today are where we turn our backs not just on the world at large but also on our inland selves. They are a sanctuary,…

Beaches, sea, the ocean, time, futures, inland selves, NYT

“Beaches today are where we turn our backs not just on the world at large but also on our inland selves. They are a sanctuary, groomed to remove all distractions, sometimes including the other creatures that once made them their home. Beaches are thought of as a place where time stands still, devoid of a troubling past but also of an ever pressing future.”

John R. Gillis, Life and Death of the Beach, New York Times (June 30, 2012)

Understanding United 3411

Medium, united airlines, USA, authoritarianism, law, United 3411, civil law, criminal law, aviation law, air travel, post 911

Once you’re boarded, united may not take your seat for overbooking reasons. You are not obligated to follow any unreasonable or illegal crewmember instruction. The police should not enforce civil contracts without a court order, and they took United’s side when clearly they were in the wrong. Aviation is a special case in many ways, but we don’t abdicate our rights or reason when we decide to fly. Everyone at united — from the CEO on down — has demonstrated a marked lack of thought, compassion and contrition. They deserve the maximum punishment that is possible.

via https://medium.com/@gzicherm/understanding-united–3411–51f196c2276b

Chernobyl could soon find a second life as a giant solar farm


The Ukrainian government has announced a plan to turn the area surrounding Chernobyl - the site of one of the worst nuclear meltdowns in history - into a solar energy farm, by constructing a series of solar panels inside the exclusion zone.

Not only would this plan - which is currently seeking investment - allow the country to use a giant chunk of radioactive land that’s unfit for human settlement, it would also provide a cheaper source of reusable energy that might decrease the country’s reliance on Russia.

“The Chernobyl site has really good potential for renewable energy,” Ukraine’s environment minister Ostap Semerak said in an interview in London. “We already have high-voltage transmission lines that were previously used for the nuclear stations, the land is very cheap and we have many people trained to work at power plants.”

Continue Reading.

Chernobyl could soon find a second life as a giant solar farm

This is a pretty good summary of what’s happening with DRM at the W3C


 From my Github post:

I confess to being mystified by the argument – promulgated by DRM advocates – that standardization at W3C doesn’t matter to the viability of DRM on the web. 

On the one hand, we have lots of urgent talk about the user harms arising from the difficulty of implementing DRM in the HTML5 world where NDAPI and its like have been abolished, leaving browser vendors and publishers to strike expensive, difficult-to-sustain deals as a series of one-offs to synchronize proprietary components at both ends that would create technical problems for users that cause them to reject the publishers’ products. 

On the other hand, we have the argument that DRM on the web is inevitable and actually a fait accompli, entirely separate from the outcome of the W3C process, such that the decision not to publish EME as a W3C standard would make no “difference” (“difference” being the thing that we must seemingly enumerate in order to advance this debate). 

But if DRM will happen regardless of W3C standardization, with no “difference,” then there will be no “difference” if the W3C doesn’t publish it, or requires members to agree to a nonaggression covenant as a condition of ng so. 

DRM’s “difference” and inevitability is thus posed as simultaneously maximum and minimum, totally irrelevant and utterly salient. I believe the technical term for this in SDOs is “having one’s cake and eating it too.“ 

Thrown into this mix is the asserted inevitability of the web itself being sidelined in favor of apps and walled gardens if DRM doesn’t become part of HTML5, but this is usually uttered in the same breath as a blank assertion that DRM is coming to HTML5 no matter what the W3C does. Only one of these things can be true. 

A note on accessibility: DRM laws make any accessibility features built into the spec the ceiling, not the floor, on accessibility. Notably, the current spec excludes any kind of third-party automated bulk or realtime processing, such as feeding cleartexts into a machine-learning system to spot and interdict seizure-causing strobes; to shift color-gamuts for color-blind people, or to add subtitles/descriptive tracks. 

The oft-repeated assertion that humans could manually add these features to EME-locked videos is obviously deficient. UC Berkeley just killed 20,000 hours of instructional videos because they couldn’t adequately subtitle them – the fact that an army of humans who produced a set of subtitles could then add them to the video is nice, but in the absence of such an army, and in the presence of ever-better machine subtitling tools, it’s utterly, blatantly obvious that EME will stand in the way of the future of legitimate, powerful accessibility adaptation. 

Is there anyone who believes that in the future the majority of accessibility adaptation for any media will be done by humans, working by hand? Here’s what I think: 

DRM-protecting laws mean that making DRM easier to implement on the web makes the web intrinsically less open, less safe, and less accessible 

  • Standardization matters and makes technology more viable 
  • EME is unfinished and will require future versions (this was the argument for pursuing a W3C policy interest group that couldn’t affect EME – it would affect the inevitable future versions), so the W3C walking away from EME would have material effect on its viability 
  • This means that DRM standardization advocates need the W3C process to continue, and must work with people who want to safeguard open web equities in the Consortium if they are to make progress 
  • The EME process – and the W3C’s credibility – are now at a crossroads because DRM advocates literally refused any further discussion of this, 13 months ago, at an AC meeting in Cambridge 
  • As a result, we are now in a situation where a large plurality of W3C members do not want to see EME published until a covenant is arrived at, but having done nothing on that front for more than a year, we have a lopsided world where the technology is asserted to be ready for launch and the policy component is still on the drawing board

Whether a refusal to discuss this issue was a deliberate calculation or a tragic misjudgment, it was a terrible mistake. Because of a leadership decision to steamroller the opposition rather than compromise with it (or even continue talks with it), the W3C has, for the very first time in its history, arrived at the moment of publication with no consensus in sight, and no path to consensus in sight either.  

Publication at this point would mark not one, but THREE sea-changes in the W3C’s nature: 

  1. The W3C is now the kind of body that makes standards to allow browser vendors to restrict how users can use the data they receive 
  2. The W3C is now the kind of body that allows members’ IPRs to control who may interoperate with its standards 
  3. The W3C is now the kind of body where deeply divisive issues are settled by allowing one group to simply declare the other group to be out-of-bounds, out-of-touch, out-of-scope or out-of-order and to thus publish things that large numbers of its members have deep moral, technical and legal objections to, rather than deliberating and compromising to resolve these divisions.

DRM opponents at the W3C extended a significant compromise to DRM advocates: a covenant that would allow DRM users to enforce copyright, torts and trade secrecy (and every other right they have in law), while making DRM. 

The members who want DRM insisted they would only proceed if DRM could also be a tool for asserting rights that no legislature ever granted them. That is what brought us to this juncture: an unwillingness on one side to make any compromise whatsoever. 

That is not in the spirit of multistakeholder processes or the history of the W3C. Any future progress on EME at the W3C will require compromise on both sides, not blithe assertions that no "difference” is to be found in going down one path or the other. 


How can you search for time travellers?

time-travel, party, paradox, Time

In 2009, the British physicist Stephen Hawking performed a variation of this experiment, holding a party for time travellers, but sending out the invitations after the event had taken place, so that only visitors from the future could possibly attend. But nobody came. Dr Hawking said this constituted “experimental evidence that time travel is not possible”.

via http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/01/economist-explains–6?fsrc=scn/tw/te/bl/ed/howcanyousearchfortimetravellers

How Yugoslavia was Syrianized 25 years ago

Yugoslavia, NAM, NATO, USA, USSR, EU, proxy-wars, Syria, Atlantic-Brigade, KLA, crisis-capitalism

united nation of Yugoslavia was not easy prey for imperialist intentions like we see taking place today. It is a fact, that after World War II, socialist Yugoslavia became something of a European success story. Between 1960 and 1980 the country had one of the most vigorous growth rates in the world: a decent standard of living, free medical care and education, a guaranteed right to a job, one-month vacation with pay, a literacy rate of over 90 percent, and a life expectancy of 72 years. To my knowledge, not one of the Balkans states that were created can claim half this prosperity.

via http://moderndiplomacy.eu/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1257%3Ahow-yugoslavia-was-syrianized–25-years-ago&Itemid=132#.WPA-g8tSCVU.twitter

New materials allow 2.8l/day of solar-powered desert water-vapor extraction



UC Berkeley’s Omar Yaghi invented MOFs (“porous crystals that form continuous 3D networks”) in the 1990s, and more than 20,000 MOFs have been synthesized since; each one binds to a different type of gas.

The zirconium-based MOF-801, introduced in the paper, binds to water vapor even in extreme low-humidity environments. Run continuously, it “pulls” 2.8l of water out of desert air per 24-hour cycle.

At $150/kg, zirconium is too expensive to use for a mass-produced product intended to be distributed to people living in arid environments, but Yaghi proposes further work that would swap in aluminum, which costs 1% of the cost of zirconium.


Can’t wait till i can be a real moisture farmer like Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen.

Eija-Liisa Ahtila Makes Art With the Attention Span of a Bird THE DAILY PIC (#1773): This image shows two of the four screens,…


Eija-Liisa Ahtila Makes Art With the Attention Span of a Bird

THE DAILY PIC (#1773): This image shows two of the four screens, on the four walls of a room, that make up Eija-Liisa Ahtila’s fascinating “Studies on the Ecology of Drama,” now on view at Marian Goodman Gallery in New York.

It is impossible to see all four screens at once, so by changing what she projects on each one Ahtila can keep total control over our attention. She pulls us now one way, now another as we try to build a total picture of her piece. And that is precisely the unsteady state Ahtila needs to keep us in, since her piece is all about the unsteady nature of attention, and perception, and how different creatures build different pictures of the world. She dwells for a while on the common swift, a bird that flies at absurd speeds and doesn’t alight for years at a time. Footage of a flying gymnast has him standing as a kind of human surrogate for such a creature—and maybe we viewers do too, as our attention flits bird-like about the room.

Ahtila also considers the lives of butterflies and their caterpillar “parents.” Humans perched on branches in green sleeping bags stand in for those larvae. You feel jealous of their peace as your attention shifts endlessly from screen to screen—like a butterfly? (Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery)

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

The superpower of interactive datavis? A micro-macro view!

Medium, statsitics, data, infoviz, micro-macro

What I mean by micro-macro is trying to get a better understanding of the world by accessing it on two levels: for one, there’s the micro-level of anecdotes where we get the good feeling of looking at actual, concrete aspects of the world instead of abstract mathematical descriptions. But we combine this with the macro-level to understand how these relatable anecdotes fit into the whole. This dual approach enables us to estimate if a given example represents normalcy (a stand-in for how things “usually” are) or is an outlier and does not allow conclusions for all cases.

via https://medium.com/@dominikus/the-superpower-of-interactive-datavis-a-micro-macro-view–4d027e3bdc71

Data, Fairness, Algorithms, Consequences

Medium, danah boyd, data, privacy, algorithms, bias, discrimination, transparency, responsibility

When we open up data, are we empowering people to come together? Or to come apart? Who defines the values that we should be working towards? Who checks to make sure that our data projects are moving us towards those values? If we aren’t clear about what we want and the trade-offs that are involved, simply opening up data can — and often does — reify existing inequities and structural problems in society. Is that really what we’re aiming to do?

via https://points.datasociety.net/toward-accountability–6096e38878f0

A growing number of people think their job is useless. Time to rethink the meaning of work

Medium, work, post-work, bullshit jobs, capitalism, WEF, automation

So, will there still be enough jobs for everyone a few decades from now? Anybody who fears mass unemployment underestimates capitalism’s extraordinary ability to generate new bullshit jobs. If we want to really reap the rewards of the huge technological advances made in recent decades (and of the advancing robots), then we need to radically rethink our definition of “work.”

via https://medium.com/world-economic-forum/a-growing-number-of-people-think-their-job-is-useless-time-to-rethink-the-meaning-of-work–5f0b11f08d57

California Reaches Solar Milestone, Electricity Prices Turn Negative



Solar power met roughly half of California’s electricity demand for the first time on March 11, according to new estimates from the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA).

EIA estimated that almost 40 percent of electricity on the grid between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. came from California’s large-scale solar plants, with smaller solar installations on homes and businesses supplying the rest. When factored with other sources of clean energy in the state, renewable energy accounted for more than 55 percent of power on the grid on March 11.

The abundant supply of solar in California this winter and spring has driven wholesale prices near zero or into the negative during certain hours.

“In March, during the hours of 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., system average hourly prices were frequently at or below $0 per megawatthour (MWh),” the EIA said in its report.

“In contrast, average hourly prices in March 2013–15 during this time of day ranged from $14/MWh to $45/MWh. Negative prices usually result when generators with high shut-down or restart costs must compete with other generators to avoid operating below equipment minimum ratings or shutting down completely.

California Reaches Solar Milestone, Electricity Prices Turn Negative

A crucial climate mystery is just under our feet


Interesting story, but it’s complicated. Complicated in reading and understanding, so, take your time and read and think as if the pop quiz follows tomorrow in school. Basically, with soil and carbon, how can we entire plants to feed more people and, at the same time, not release carbon into the atmosphere but store it in the soil? Another version of “have your cake and eat it too.”

Excerpt, but the excerpt is just a taste:

Janzen has the rare ability to explain complicated things with such clarity that, when talking to him, you may catch yourself struck with wonder at an utterly new glimpse of how the world works. Plants, he explained, perform a kind of alchemy. They combine air, water, and the sun’s fire to make food. And this alchemical combination that we call food is, in fact, a battery — a molecular trap for the sun’s energy made of broken-down CO2 and H2O (you know, air and water).

Sugars are the simplest batteries. And sugars are also the building blocks for fat and fiber, which are just bigger, more complicated batteries. Ferns, trees, and reeds are the sum of those parts. Bury these batteries for thousands of years under conditions of immense heat and pressure, and they transform again — still carrying the sun’s energy — into coal, oil, and gas.

To feed our growing population, we keep extracting more and more carbon from farms to deliver solar energy to our bodies. Janzen pointed out that we’ve bred crops to grow bigger seeds (the parts we eat) and smaller roots and stems (the parts that stay on the farm). All of this diverts carbon to our bellies that would otherwise go into the ground. This leads to what Janzen dubbed the soil carbon dilemma: Can we both increase soil carbon and increase harvests? Or do we have to pick one at the expense of the other?

A crucial climate mystery is just under our feet

While this photograph of a seemingly regular house may look unassuming to you, located twenty-six feet beneath this modest…



While this photograph of a seemingly regular house may look unassuming to you, located twenty-six feet beneath this modest two-story suburban house in Las Vegas, Nevada lies a 5,000 square foot doomsday bunker.


It comes complete with a four-hole golf course, a sauna, a jacuzzi, a barbecue, and a swimming pool, and was designed to be able to withstand a nuclear explosion.


The bunker was commissioned by businessman Girard B. Henderson in the 1970s, who feared attack from the Soviets.


It was purchased by a mysterious group called the Society for the Preservation of Near Extinct Species for $1.15 million in March 2014.