It’s illegal for Uber & Lyft to pickup at SFO’s arrivals level, so they pickup at departures. This has made congestion so bad,…

IFTTT, Twitter, BJanosch


What Is Plant-Thinking?: Botany’s Copernican Revolution

botany, plant-thinking, Michael-Marder, philosophy, plants, LARB, 2018

The intelligence of plants is not merely a shadow of human knowing, and their behavior is not a rudimentary form of human conduct. After all, unlike animal and humans, for whom behavior is most often associated with physical movement, plants behave by changing their states, both morphologically and physiologically. An honest approach to the capacities of plants thus requires a simultaneous acknowledgement of the similarities and differences between them and other living beings. In scientific circles, there is certainly no consensus on the implications of new research data drawn from the behavior of plant cells, tissues, and communities. On the one hand, the opponents of the Copernican Revolution in botany claim that the data do nothing but exemplify what has been known all along about plant plasticity and adaptability. This is the position expressed in the open letter to the journal Trends in Plant Science, signed in 2007 by 36 plant scientists who deemed the extrapolations of plant neurobiology “questionable.” On the other hand, we have the investigations of kin recognition in plants by Richard Karban and Kaori Shiojiri; of plant intelligence by Anthony Trewavas; of plant bioacoustics by Stefano Mancuso and Monica Gagliano; of the sensitivity of root apices as brain-like “command centers” by František Baluška and Dieter Volkmann; of plant learning and communication by Ariel Novoplansky; and of plant senses by Daniel Chamowitz, among many others. Their peer-reviewed research findings no longer fit within the scientific framework where plants are studied as objects, rather than living organisms. Leaving aside the provocative analogies they suggest between plants and animals, doesn’t the drastic change in approach (from plants as objects to plants as subjects) amount to a veritable Copernican Revolution, or Kuhnian paradigm shift, in botany?


"The Kyushu Seidokai has expanded into Tokyo, setting up several front companies, and joined forces with Tadamasa Goto, a former…

IFTTT, Twitter, Gabriel050111


Interestingly the plants in this pic are technically also introduced invasive species, brought to the UK along with wheat…

IFTTT, Twitter, Botanygeek


Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth

climate, diet, environment, vegan, Agriculture, deforestation, meat, dairy, food, 2018

Avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet, according to the scientists behind the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet. The new research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world. Loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife. The new analysis shows that while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses the vast majority – 83% – of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. Other recent research shows 86% of all land mammals are now livestock or humans. The scientists also found that even the very lowest impact meat and dairy products still cause much more environmental harm than the least sustainable vegetable and cereal growing.


RT @DBarriosONeill: Earth’s…

RT @DBarriosONeill: Earth’s biomass: 🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱 🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱 🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱 🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱 🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱 🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱 🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱 🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱 🌱🌱🔬🔬🔬🔬🔬🔬🔬…


Vivid blue water fills an open-pit mine near the town of Battle Mountain in Lander County, Nevada. Founded in 1861, Lander…


Vivid blue water fills an open-pit mine near the town of Battle Mountain in Lander County, Nevada. Founded in 1861, Lander County made its way onto the map as copper and gold mining boomed there throughout the late 19th century. Today, fewer than 6,000 people live in the 5,500-square-mile county.


40°20'17.4"N, 117°12'08.7"W

Source imagery: DigitalGlobe

Google Removes ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Clause From Its Code of Conduct

google, alphabet, code-of-conduct, dont-be-evil, evil, Corporatism, 2018

Google’s unofficial motto has long been the simple phrase “don’t be evil.” But that’s over, according to the code of conduct that Google distributes to its employees. The phrase was removed sometime in late April or early May, archives hosted by the Wayback Machine show. “Don’t be evil” has been part of the company’s corporate code of conduct since 2000. When Google was reorganized under a new parent company, Alphabet, in 2015, Alphabet assumed a slightly adjusted version of the motto, “do the right thing.” However, Google retained its original “don’t be evil” language until the past several weeks. The phrase has been deeply incorporated into Google’s company culture—so much so that a version of the phrase has served as the wifi password on the shuttles that Google uses to ferry its employees to its Mountain View headquarters, sources told Gizmodo.


Crossing Horizons : Follow this vertical panoramic view from horizon to horizon and your gaze will sweep through the zenith of a…


Crossing Horizons : Follow this vertical panoramic view from horizon to horizon and your gaze will sweep through the zenith of a dark night sky over Pic du Midi mountaintop observatory. To make the journey above a sea of clouds, 19 single exposures were taken near the end of night on October 31 and assembled in a mercator projection that renders the two horizons flat. Begin at the top and you’re looking east toward the upsidedown dome of the observatory’s 1 meter telescope. It’s easy to follow the plane of our Milky Way galaxy as it appears to emerge from the dome and angle down toward the far horizon. Just to its right, the sky holds a remarkable diffuse glow of zodiacal light along our Solar System’s ecliptic plane. Zodiacal light and Milky Way with star clusters, cosmic dust clouds and faint nebulae, cross near the zenith. Both continue down toward the airglow in the west. They disappear near the western horizon at the bottom, beyond more Pic du Midi observatory domes and a tall communications relay antenna. via NASA

Ampli: A construction set for medical diagnostics



Jose Gomez-Marquez

Our team of researchers at MIT’s Little Devices Lab have developed a pocket sized laboratory for biology that allows anyone to invent and deploy rapid diagnostics to detect diseases like Zika and Dengue, as well as everyday biomarkers like cholesterol. Using plug and play reaction blocks, it can be as easy as snapping Legos together. The current approach to developing diagnostic tools involves shipping out samples to faraway labs for the development of tests that take too long and cost too much - but what would happen if everyone could have the tools they needed to design and make diagnostics? If the ability to diagnose disease was directly in the hands of those who most needed it?


In the last 10 years, one of the most promising tools in global and personalized health has fallen far short of its potential—rapid diagnostics. When it comes to at-home diagnostics, your local pharmacy may not have anything more interesting than a glucose, pregnancy or   drug test, despite the fact that paper tests can easily be made to perform off-the-shelf. At the peak of the ebola crisis, after several million dollars in research funding to companies and academic institutions in America and Europe, only a single diagnostic test was advertised as a available —at around $25 a test. Meanwhile, the populations at the heart of the outbreak live on less than $2 a day.   Ironically, although these tests are developed in labs thousands of miles away, the raw source material is often the blood of those same patients, and the equipment needed to create them is widely available; it’s just the manufacturing process that results in these expensive tests.

The Rise of Mom and Pop Labs

In our travels we were inspired by the availability of “mom-and-pop labs” in global settings—small, neighborhood clinical labs with modest resources but talented technicians who already have the dexterity to design and assemble biological instruments locally. In the same way that breadboards and Arduinos can be used by laymen to dream up robots, smart mailboxes, and DIY drones, anyone can use the easily manipulable and modular Ampli blocks to design, tweak and create diagnostic tests.   The average person doesn’t make their own resistors or capacitors from scratch - they use ones that already exist in order to dream up new circuits. We can do the same thing for antibodies, nanoparticles, and color changing chemical reactions that tell us about our health and environment. Each Ampli block contains a singular chemical reaction that can be combined with other blocks in a way that allows for complex chain reactions. Together, these blocks can make diagnostics for Zika, ebola, dengue, glucose, gluten, and countless other diseases.

Creating a Global Biology Construction Set

There are thousands of published articles on paper based detection devices, but the methods are usually difficult to understand. Our team worked on matching those assays to a library of plug and play blocks that replicate the assays without using a laboratory. Want to use the 1970 Arkansas Test for detecting TB drugs?

Good luck interpreting:

KSCN + C7H7ClNO2S·Na (3H2O) → CNCl + C₅H₄N → [Intermediate] → Barbituric Acid → Polymethine blue dye

A little bit easier? Place 4 Ampli blocks in a row with the right color combinations - you’ll get the same result. Take a picture of them, and someone else on the other side of the world can replicate your experiment, including the millions of mom and pop labs around the world. This doesn’t just mean that it’s easier to create diagnostic tools quickly for new diseases, or that it’s cheaper to create them where they are needed instead of waiting for someone else several countries away to develop and produce them - with such easily replicable experiments, tests can also be quickly and efficiently improved and tailored, increasing their efficacy. Add in the fact that the blocks are reusable, and we have on our hands an entirely new and streamlined process for diagnostic development

Our hope is that in the next outbreak of disease, when foreign scientists come flying in with expensive rapid diagnostics, hawking them for $25, a local scientist will pull an Ampli out of their pocket and tell them they’ve already created exactly what they need, for less than $2.

Profiles of flat earthers: report from the front lines of weaponized media literacy


Tom Usher went to a flat earth conference in Birmingham, England; he met an array of people who believe that the Earth is flat, because they believe that powerful people have conspired to control the information they receive in order to secure benefits for the elite, and this belief (which has a wealth of evidence to support it!) has been weaponized by crackpots and cynical manipulators to convince them the world is flat (despite the wealth of evidence against this!).

Usher’s brief interviews with the attendees are perfect examples of the weaponized media literacy identified by danah boyd: using the idea that you should consider the incentives of a speaker when evaluating the truthfulness of their speech to push denialist messages about climate change and guns, but also flouride and the flat earth.

To get a sense of what this looks like in depth, check out Ross and Carrie’s interview with flat earther Mark Sargent, which is some of the most chilling audio I’ve heard in the past year.

“Weddings are the bread and butter of the rental-relative business, perhaps because traditions that dictate the number of guests…


“Weddings are the bread and butter of the rental-relative business, perhaps because traditions that dictate the number of guests haven’t changed to reflect increasing urbanization and migration, shrinking families, and decreased job security. Laid-off grooms rent replacements for co-workers and supervisors. People who changed schools a lot rent childhood friends. The newly affianced, reluctant to trouble one another with family problems, may rent substitutes for parents who are divorced, incarcerated, or mentally ill. One Hagemashi-tai client simply didn’t want to tell his fiancée that his parents were dead, so he rented replacements.”

— Elif Batuman, “Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry”

A.I. scream for ice cream


Or, the time a class of middle schoolers kicked my butt at neural network ice cream naming.


The other day I got an email from Anita Johnson, who teaches coding classes at Kealing Middle School in Austin, Texas. She explained that her students had been reading the neural network experiments on my blog and had decided to do their own.

The middle schoolers (about 11-14 years old) had downloaded textgenrnn and had generated some new flavors that they wanted to share with me. Did I want to see them?

As it turns out, I had just trained textgenrnn on ice cream flavors myself. But there were some problems with my attempt:

1. I only had a dataset of 200 flavors (that I had a dataset at all is thanks to Salli Wason of Rosanna’s Ice Cream in Portland).
2. textgenrnn allows transfer learning, meaning that it remembers some of what it learned from its previous dataset.
3. My previous dataset had been metal bands.

So the flavors I had generated were not, shall we say, appealing.


Silence Cherry
Strawberry Cream Disease
Chocolate Sin
Bloody Coffee
Sock Caramel
Chocolate Raven
Moan Chocolate
Chocolate Chocolate Blood
Colon Bane

The 11-14 year olds, however, had collected nearly 1,600 flavors, due in part to their coding skills, and in part to sheer numbers, time, and motivation. Their results were  significantly better than mine.

Lots of the flavors they produced were sweet and fun. The kind you might find  at a trendy ice cream or yogurt shop near you.

It’s Sunday
Cherry Poet
Brittle Cheesecake
Honey Vanilla Happy
Bubble Bun
Triple Bun
Holy Lemon Monster
Cookies & Red Hot Lover
Vanilla Nettle
Sundana Rainbow
Team Cherry
Cherry Cherry Cherry
Chocolate Breath
Pig Nut
Bumble Cookie
Oh and Cinnamon

Other flavors sounded a bit weirder. Approach with caution.

Chocolate Finger
Caramel Book
Cupsie Core
Washing Chocolate
Peanut Cinnamon Budge
the United Bacon de Vanilla
Texas Boy Nut
Key de Smoke
Crackberry Pretzel
Salted Pie Breekberry Sundae
Texas Charlie Covered Stunt
Seat Strawberry
Butter Sweep
Bunny Out
Strawberry Moons
Pretzel Egg

Others: a quite worrisome level of ambiguity

Nuts with Mattery
Brown Crunch
Sticky Crumple
Cookies and Green
Sea Cheesecake
Mango Cats
Lemon Cream Grassplay


Whereas these are almost certainly bad news.

Pumpkin Trash Break
Peanut Butter Slime
Walnut Dirt
Peanut Skin Tuesday
Gravy Cashew
Ants-Almond Cheesecake
Chocolate Gingerbread Bum
Strawberry Turfle
Cake Pitt
Caramel Livers
Elk Peanut Southe
Sand & Cream
Toffee Frog
Snake Vanilla Cream Cheesecake


The 6th graders (the 11-12 year olds) tended to favor the very weird flavors.

Garamel Phankie Cookies & Peach
Cark Nutty Banana Croced Banana & Crazz
Vervette’s Caramel Borfle
Oatleak with Ninterbise
Barming French Cambarcot
Chocolate Blackbumple
Herbetures with The Chillin
Pie Lime Mint Thrippine
Praline Pelletral Liver
Banana Cookies & Jarange Core
Peach Peacket Marsh Blue

The 13-14 year olds, though? They preferred my first attempt, actually. And added a few of their own to the list.

Orange Chocolate Killa
Blood Chip
Explosion Stick
Die White Pistachio
Funge Ecide

For the complete list of the coding class’s ice cream flavors, as well as a few PG-13 flavors that weren’t quite appropriate for the main blog, enter your email here.

“While the apparatus is granted a special position in media art, the art machine cannot exist without the artist. Even if art…


“While the apparatus is granted a special position in media art, the art machine cannot exist without the artist. Even if art can be produced without the artist’s physical engagement, this can only happen according to the algorithms or the poetry that the artist has equipped it with and under the circumstances it is installed. This further implies that in media art artisanal skill is often superseded by intellectual ability, with the idea as a centrepiece of the work, illustrating its kinship to conceptual art.”

Wagner, Sophie-Carolin. Poietry: Challenging Solitude and the Improbability of Communication. Trans. Benedek, Daniel. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2017.

Loktak Lake is the largest freshwater lake in northeast India, covering 111 square miles (287 sq km) in Manipur state. The lake…


Loktak Lake is the largest freshwater lake in northeast India, covering 111 square miles (287 sq km) in Manipur state. The lake is famous for its phumdis — floating masses of vegetation, soil and organic matter that are unique to its waters. The largest of the phumdis is 15 square miles (40 sq km) in size and contains Keibul Lamjao National Park, the world’s only floating national park.


24°32'56.9"N, 93°50'28.4"E

Source imagery: DigitalGlobe