"On the other hand, because my basic image of the planet is of a household rather than a spaceship, I have some confidence in a…

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ͦͦ͢͢͡ ͢ ͦͦ͢T@ ͡↑ͦͦ͡…ͦͦ ͦT͡ tͦ🐘ͦͦͦͦͦͦ͢͢͡Tͦ͢͡a  ͦ͢͢͡͡ hͦ͡ ͡͡@ @͢Tͦs͢͢ ͦͦͦͦͦͦͦ͢͢͡͡͡ ͦͦ🎤͢͡s͡x͡ ͢͢͡͡͡…

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We’re Landing a Rover on Mars in 2020…But How Do We Decide Where?


In 2020, we will launch our next Mars rover. It will journey more than 33 million miles to the Red Planet where it will land, explore and search for signs of ancient microbial life. But how do we pinpoint the perfect location to complete this science…when we’re a million miles away on Earth?


We utilize data sent to us by spacecraft on and orbiting Mars. That includes spacecraft that have recorded data in the past.

This week, hundreds of scientists and Mars enthusiasts are gathering to deliberate the four remaining options for where we’re going to land the Mars 2020 rover on the Red Planet.


The landing site for Mars 2020 is of great interest to the planetary community because, among the rover’s new science gear for surface exploration, it carries a sample system that will collect rock and soil samples and set them aside in a “cache” on the surface of Mars. A future mission could potentially return these samples to Earth. The next Mars landing, after Mars 2020, could very well be a vehicle which would retrieve these Mars 2020 samples.

Here’s an overview of the potential landing sites for our Mars 2020 rover…

Northeast Syrtis


This area was once warmed by volcanic activity. Underground heat sources made hot springs flow and surface ice melt. Microbes could have flourished here in liquid water that was in contact with minerals. The layered terrain there holds a rich record of interactions between water and minerals over successive periods of early Mars history.

Jezero Crater


This area tells a story of the on-again, off-again nature of the wet past of Mars. Water filled and drained away from the crater on at least two occasions. More than 3.5 billion years ago, river channels spilled over the crater wall and created a lake. Scientists see evidence that water carried clay minerals from the surrounding area into the crater after the lake dried up. Conceivably, microbial life could have lived in Jezero during one or more of these wet times. If so, signs of their remains might be found in lakebed sediments.

Columbia Hills


At this site, mineral springs once bubbled up from the rocks. The discovery that hot springs flowed here was a major achievement of the Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit. The rover’s discovery was an especially welcome surprise because Spirit had not found signs of water anywhere else in the 100-mile-wide Gusev Crater. After the rover stopped working in 2010, studies of its older data records showed evidence that past floods may have formed a shallow lake in Gusev.



Candidate landing sites Jezero and Northeast Syrtis are approximately 37 km apart…which is close enough for regional geologic similarities to be present, but probably too far for the Mars 2020 rover to travel. This midway point allows exploration of areas of both landing sites.


How Will We Select a Site?

The team is gathered this week for the fourth time to discuss these locations. It’ll be the final workshop in a series designed to ensure we receive the best and most diverse range of information and opinion from the scientific community before deciding where to send our newest rover.

The Mars 2020 mission is tasked with not only seeking signs of ancient habitable conditions on Mars, but also searching for signs of past microbial life itself. So how do we choose a landing site that will optimize these goals? Since InSight is stationary and needs a flat surface to deploy its instruments, we’re basically looking for a flat, parking lot area on Mars to land the spacecraft.


The first workshop started with about 30 candidate landing sites and was narrowed down to eight locations to evaluate further. At the end of the third workshop in February 2017, there were only three sites on the radar as potential landing locations…

…but in the ensuing months, a proposal came forward for a landing site that is in between Jezero and Northeast Syrtis – The Midway site. Since our goal is to get to the right site that provides the maximum science, this fourth site was viewed as worthy of being included in the discussions.

Now, with four sites remaining, champions for each option will take their turn at the podium, presenting and defending their favorite spot on the Red Planet.


On the final day, after all presentations have concluded, workshop participants will weigh the pros and cons of each site. The results of these deliberations will be provided to the Mars 2020 Team, which will incorporate them into a recommendation to NASA Headquarters. A final selection will be made and will likely be announced by the end of the year.

To get more information about the workshop, visit: https://marsnext.jpl.nasa.gov/workshops/wkshp_2018_10.cfm

Learn more about our Mars 2020 rover HERE.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

I, for one - have great hope in the future because a complete ecological collapse is the closest we’ll get to an alien invasion;…

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“At the center of the Anthropocene lies what the PNAS scientists refer to as the “present dominant socioeconomic system.”…


“At the center of the Anthropocene lies what the PNAS scientists refer to as the “present dominant socioeconomic system.” Capitalism as we know it has not simply steered the global human ecological niche off course; it has driven us completely into a ditch. “High-carbon economic growth” and “exploitative resource use” are constitutive of this system, not incidental to it. And this resource exploitation is not limited to fossil fuels and rare-earth metals. Everything from the augmented mental health regimes of white-collar workers in the Global North to increasingly destabilized and dispossessed farmers and fishermen in the Global South are part of its extractive circuit. Its causal tendrils snake back through the history of colonization, of coal and oil, of geopolitics, and, of course, profit.”

It’s Already Here | Online Only | n+1

This Hurricane Season, Puerto Ricans Are Imagining a Sustainable Future


“When Puerto Rico experienced the effects of Maria,” Resilient Power Puerto Rico, a grassroots relief effort that began hours after Maria hit the island, promotes energy democracy in post-Maria Puerto Rico by distributing solar-powered generators to remote parts of the island. The Just Transition Alliance, Climate Justice Alliance, and Greenpeace have also sent brigades to install solar panels across the island.

Solar energy reduces the carbon emissions that fueled Maria’s intensity and makes Puerto Rico more resilient against the next climate-charged storm. A decentralized, renewable energy grid—which allows solar users to plug into or remain independent of the larger grid as necessary—combats Puerto Rico’s dependence on mainland fossil fuels. It also democratizes Puerto Rico’s energy supply, placing power (literally and metaphorically) in the hands of Puerto Ricans rather than fossil-fuel corporations.

This Hurricane Season, Puerto Ricans Are Imagining a Sustainable Future

The poet and soldier Guillaume Apollinaire (1880–1918) was fascinated by the magical beliefs and practices he witnessed in the…

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Yehudi Menuhin’s marked-up copy of Bach’s Solo Violin Sonata No. 2 - Royal Academy of Music Foyle Menuhin Archive The advent of…

music, notation, composition, technlogy

Yehudi Menuhin’s marked-up copy of Bach’s Solo Violin Sonata No. 2 - Royal Academy of Music Foyle Menuhin Archive

The advent of the mass-produced graphite pencil in the second half of the 19th century coincided with profound changes in the way a performer engaged with a musical text. The generation of musicians who benefited from the new tool — capable of making durable, but erasable, markings that didn’t harm paper — were, he wrote, “the first where practice was aimed at perfection of execution, and not developing the skills for real-time extemporization on the material in front of them, or improvisation ‘off book.’

What changes does the new digital technology reflect or enable? Conversations with some of classical music’s most passionate advocates of the gadgets and with developers like forScore and Tonara that write applications for them reveal a number of developments. The traditional top-down structure of teaching has been shaken loose. The line between scholarly and practical spheres of influence is becoming blurred. And the very notion of a definitive text is quickly losing traction — and with it, the ideal of that “perfection of execution.”

(via https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/arts/music/when-classical-musicians-go-digital.html )

The Ethics of Adaptation to Global Warming


Thought-provoking essay, which asks each of us five questions.


New York proposes a $20 billion project of floodwalls, levees, and bulkheads to protect the city from storms. Rotterdam announces its “Rotterdam Climate Proof” plan to make the city “fully” resilient to climate-change impacts by 2025, a plan that includes floating bubble-pavilions. More than a hundred US cities now have climate adaptation plans in place, and who can count the special commissions, committees, agency teams, and experts charged with figuring out how their own homes and industries will weather the storms? Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, reassures a world alarmed by warnings of global warming: “As a species…we have spent our entire existence adapting, so we will adapt to this.”

I am not reassured. I want to call attention to the danger that the same moral failings that characterize climate change itself are being replicated and amplified in many of the plans to adapt to it—as if storm and extinction had taught us nothing about justice or reverence for life. In the end, I will suggest that we can armor shorelines, modify the genetics of trout, build giant dams, and in countless ways change the Earth, but effective and honorable adaptation will begin to take place only when we change ourselves.

As global warming forces a fundamental re-imagining of how we live on Earth, we have the chance to choose adaptive strategies that create justice and honor life, and refuse those that protect and perpetuate injustice and destruction. To that end, I offer five essentially moral questions that I believe we should ask of every plan for adaptation to climate change:

1. Does the adaptation effort take urgency or resources away from the immediate, overriding moral necessity of stopping the fossil fuel-based destabilization of the climate? If so, it doesn’t pencil out on any utilitarian calculus. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is especially true when what’s being prevented is irretrievable damage to the natural systems that support life.

2. Does the adaptation plan impose unjustified costs on future generations?Dikes, floodwalls, floating convention centers—the infrastructure of adaptation will have enormous carbon costs. Unless we’re careful, adaptation will foist onto future generations, not only the costs of our profligate use of fossil fuels, but the additional costs of our hapless efforts to adapt to the global warming that results.

3. Does the adaptation effort privilege the wealthy and powerful, at unjustified cost to the poor and dispossessed?  When Rex Tillerson says, “we will adapt,” is he referring to Somali children on failing farms? Northern people on melting ice? Or is he thinking of himself and the society he lives in?

4. Does the adaptation effort protect and honor species other than human? What shall we say when adaptation projects protect humans and human industry, but actively damage or fail to protect the abundance and variety of other lives? Plants and animals are challenged to adapt not only to climate change itself, but now to the bulwarks and dams and diversions humans are erecting to protect themselves.

5. What does Earth ask of us? Many adaptation plans draw up blueprints to change the Earth and the built environment, so that humans do not have to change.

The Ethics of Adaptation to Global Warming

At the heart of many galaxies, including our own, lies a supermassive black hole millions of times the mass of our sun….


At the heart of many galaxies, including our own, lies a supermassive black hole millions of times the mass of our sun. Scientists have yet to observe the merger of two such black holes, but using simulations, they are trying to learn what such collisions might look like. Simulations like the one shown here require combining relativity, electromagnetism, and, yes, fluid dynamics to capture what happens during the in-spiral. 

Supermassive black holes like these are surrounded by gas disks that flow around them. Magnetic and gravitational forces heat the gas, causing it to emit UV light and, at times, high energy X-rays, both of which may be observable.

Gravitational wave detectors, similar to LIGO, may also measure evidence of supermassive black hole mergers, but physicists expect that will require a next-generation observatory, like the space-based LISA to be launched in the 2030s.   (Image and video credit: NASA Goddard; research credit: S. d’Ascoli et al.; submitted by @lh7)  

“Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland), the Inuit people are known for carving portable maps out of driftwood to be used while navigating…

mapping, counter mapping, history, culture, place, Greenland, Kalaallit Nunaat, Sermiligaaq, Kangertittivatsiaq, wood

“Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland), the Inuit people are known for carving portable maps out of driftwood to be used while navigating coastal waters. These pieces, which are small enough to be carried in a mitten, represent coastlines in a continuous line, up one side of the wood and down the other. The maps are compact, buoyant, and can be read in the dark.

These three wooden maps show the journey from Sermiligaaq to Kangertittivatsiaq, on Greenland’s East Coast. The map to the right shows the islands along the coast, while the map in the middle shows the mainland and is read from one side of the block around to the other. The map to the left shows the peninsula between the Sermiligaaq and Kangertivartikajik fjords.”

(via https://decolonialatlas.wordpress.com/2016/04/12/inuit-cartography/ )

“We spent an entire Saturday choreographing [this] one shot,” said creator and executive producer David Holstein. “We brought…

behind the scenes, kidding, Michel Gondry, filmmaking, production, David Holstein, 2018

video link

“We spent an entire Saturday choreographing [this] one shot,” said creator and executive producer David Holstein. “We brought it down from three minutes to a minute and 42 seconds. It involved 50 crew members, a special built set with walls that flipped, and it’s just this continuous shot of a woman over five years going from drug addict to better person.”


“A plastic washing-up bottle that is at least 47 years old has been found washed up on a beach in the UK with its lettering and…

plastic, ocean plastics, UK, pollution, history, plastic bottle, 2018

“A plastic washing-up bottle that is at least 47 years old has been found washed up on a beach in the UK with its lettering and messaging still clear, prompting warnings about the enduring problem of plastic waste.“


SEEKING: Story (books, movies, tv) recommendations in xeno-anthropology. Anything to do with anthropologists encountering…

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The @IPCC_CH report on #GlobalWarming of 1.5°C is one of the most important #climatechange reports ever published. Limiting…


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Things don’t mean anything. Birds don’t mean anything. Trees don’t mean anything. Words mean something, yes. Because they point…

alan watts, signs, signifiers, trees, meaning, climbing signposts, fingers pointing at the moon, words

“Things don’t mean anything. Birds don’t mean anything. Trees don’t mean anything. Words mean something, yes. Because they point to something beyond themselves. They’re signs. But if you take words too seriously, you’re like a person who climbs a signpost instead of going where it points.”

Alan Watts (viainthenoosphere)

You can see it as an opportunity for unprecedented global innovation, or protect the pensions of a few old guys so they can golf…

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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

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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! 

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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.

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