Monetizing Your Attention: Introducing Persona Attention Bonds

Medium, attention, monetization, markets, capitalism, economics

Recently, I’ve been thinking of ways to collect some different form of value, besides money or just another token. One of the more interesting ideas is that in age of abundance, our time and thus attention is the most valuable asset. Maciej Olpinksi has written about the attention economy in relation to blockchain tech and similarly inspired me to think about ways to monetize that.


Speed vs. Accuracy: When is Correlation Enough? When Do You Need Causation?

Medium, speed, accuracy, correlation, risk, causality, heuristics, uncertainty

Often, we need fast answers with limited resources. We have to make judgements in a world full of uncertainty. We can’t measure everything. We can’t run all the experiments we’d like. You may not have the resources to model a product or the impact of a decision. How do you find a balance between finding fast answers and finding correct answers? How do you minimize uncertainty with limited resources?


Vote of a Lifetime: Alaskan Town Decides Whether to Stay or Go in Face of Climate Change


Nine villages, mostly in western Alaska, have been identified by the Army Corps of Engineers to be at imminent risk because of erosion and rising seas, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

All have been recommended to relocate.

Between 200 and 300 villages will be at similar risk in the coming decades, according to the Corps.

The native village of Newtok, 370 miles south of Shishmaref, is the first to have agreed to move to a new location. The move will be funded by state and federal funds, according to Maria Gonoa, a spokesperson for HUD. A complete overwash of Newtok is predicted to hit as early as next year, Gonoa added.

As threatening as the climate impacts are, the cultural impact of leaving the village was also hard to think about, Eningowuk said.

“At my age, I hope to not relocate from here,” Eningowuk said.

Eningowuk said their lifestyle—dependent on the sea—would have to change if they went to the mainland.

Vote of a Lifetime: Alaskan Town Decides Whether to Stay or Go in Face of Climate Change

What is customarily called ‘reality’ has no more consistency than a montage. Starting from this observation, one may view…

“What is customarily called ‘reality’ has no more consistency than a montage. Starting from this observation, one may view artistic practice as a kind of software permitting action to be performed on communal reality in order to produce alternative versions of the same. That is, contemporary art post-produces social reality: by formal means, it illuminates the montages constituting it – which are formal, too. Thus, one of the essential elements of contemporary art’s political programme is that of bringing the world into a precarious state – in other words, constantly affirming the transitory and circumstantial nature of the institutions that structure social life, the rules governing individual and collective behaviour. After all, the ideological apparatuses of capitalism proclaim the very opposite. They declare the political and economic framework in which we are living to be immutable and definitive: a scenario in which the décor and props undergo perpetual (and superficial) transformation – but nothing else changes. The central political task of contemporary art does not involve denouncing any current ‘political’ fact in particular. Instead, the point is to bring precarity to mind: to keep the notion alive that intervention in the world is possible, to propagate the creative potential of human existence in all its forms. It is because social reality constitutes an artifact through and through that we can imagine changing it. Art exposes the world’s non-definitive character. It dislocates, disassembles and hands things over to disorder and poetry. By producing representations and counter-models that underscore the intrinsic fragility of the standing order, art bears the standard of a political project that is much more efficient (in the sense of generating concrete effects) and much more ambitious (inasmuch as it concerns all aspects of political reality) than it would be if it simply relayed a watchword or ideology.”

From The Exform by Nicolas Bourriaud (Verso 2016). (viajuhavantzelfde)

Kilns for firing and making bricks are scattered across the landscape in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Almost all bricks in the country are…


Kilns for firing and making bricks are scattered across the landscape in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Almost all bricks in the country are made using a 150-year-old process where soil is mixed with water, formed into bricks using wooden molds, left to dry in the sun, and then burned in these orange, traditional kilns. As the widespread use of old kilns has hampered air quality in the country, local groups and the government have been working hard to increase the use of “clean” brick kilns with more sustainable technology.

23.7675749, 90.318299


Flip of a single molecular switch makes an old brain young The flip of a single molecular switch helps create the mature…



Flip of a single molecular switch makes an old brain young

The flip of a single molecular switch helps create the mature neuronal connections that allow the brain to bridge the gap between adolescent impressionability and adult stability. Now Yale School of Medicine researchers have reversed the process, recreating a youthful brain that facilitated both learning and healing in the adult mouse.

Scientists have long known that the young and old brains are very different. Adolescent brains are more malleable or plastic, which allows them to learn languages more quickly than adults and speeds recovery from brain injuries. The comparative rigidity of the adult brain results in part from the function of a single gene that slows the rapid change in synaptic connections between neurons.

By monitoring the synapses in living mice over weeks and months, Yale researchers have identified the key genetic switch for brain maturation a study released March 6 in the journal Neuron. The Nogo Receptor 1 gene is required to suppress high levels of plasticity in the adolescent brain and create the relatively quiescent levels of plasticity in adulthood.  In mice without this gene, juvenile levels of brain plasticity persist throughout adulthood. When researchers blocked the function of this gene in old mice, they reset the old brain to adolescent levels of plasticity.

“These are the molecules the brain needs for the transition from adolescence to adulthood,” said Dr. Stephen Strittmatter. Vincent Coates Professor of Neurology, Professor of Neurobiology and senior author of the paper. “It suggests we can turn back the clock in the adult brain and recover from trauma the way kids recover.”

Rehabilitation after brain injuries like strokes requires that patients re-learn tasks such as moving a hand. Researchers found that adult mice lacking Nogo Receptor recovered from injury as quickly as adolescent mice and mastered new, complex motor tasks more quickly than adults with the receptor.

“This raises the potential that manipulating Nogo Receptor in humans might accelerate and magnify rehabilitation after brain injuries like strokes,” said Feras Akbik, Yale doctoral student who is first author of the study.

Researchers also showed that Nogo Receptor slows loss of memories.  Mice without Nogo receptor lost stressful memories more quickly, suggesting that manipulating the receptor could help treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

“We know a lot about the early development of the brain,” Strittmatter said, “But we know amazingly little about what happens in the brain during late adolescence.”

There are at least 7,102 known languages alive in the world today. Twenty-three of these languages are a mother tongue for more…

language, infographic, rosetta, Alberto Lucas López

There are at least 7,102 known languages alive in the world today. Twenty-three of these languages are a mother tongue for more than 50 million people. The 23 languages make up the native tongue of 4.1 billion people. We represent each language within black borders and then provide the numbers of native speakers (in millions) by country. The colour of these countries shows how languages have taken root in many different regions

The Terrifying JFK Airport Shooting That Wasn’t

terror, panic, confusion, hysteria, crowd-control, JFK, airport, mob, fear, stampede

There was no “they.” There was not even a “he,” no armed person turning on a crowd. But what happened at JFK last night was, in every respect but the violence, a mass shooting. The fact that there was no attack at the center of it was both the weirdest and the scariest part — that an institution whose size and location and budget should make it a fortress, in a country that has spent 15 years focused compulsively on securing its airports, in a city with a terrifyingly competent anti-terror police unit, could be transformed into a scene of utter bedlam, stretching out from all eight terminals across the tarmac and onto the adjacent highways, by the whisper of a threat. Within minutes, the whole apparatus of the airport and its crowd-control mechanisms had collapsed into total disarray. When the thousands of us who had been racing away from shooters finally managed to catch our breath, long after midnight, the idea that the airport could ever manage a crowd, let alone a hysterical one, looked ridiculous. The fact that there had been, actually, nothing to panic about was an enormous relief, of course. But it made things all the more eerie the next morning, when we woke up feeling like survivors of a ghost trauma, a minor local-news story. For several hours, we were in the flood of panic and chaos of an ongoing act of terror. There’s no other way to describe it. That it was an overreaction almost doesn’t matter; in fact, that is how terrorism works.


Hacker ‘Phineas Fisher’ Speaks on Camera for the First Time—Through a Puppet

FinFisher, Hacking-Team, Phineas-Fisher, surveillance, hacks, interview, puppet

just a few weeks after his hack, I asked him if he wanted to do an interview with some colleagues from VICE Canada, who were working on a documentary on the growing market of cyber mercenaries, companies that sell hacking and spying tools to police and intelligence agencies all over the world. After some back and forth, Phineas Fisher agreed—with one strange condition. “I’ll do a video interview if you get kermit the frog (or a homemade non-trademark violating puppet) and a voice actor to read lines I type in chat,” Phineas Fisher told me. And so, our friends in Canada got a homemade puppet and chatted with Phineas Fisher in his first-ever extended interview.


Registering the Unseen: The Weird Science of A. Vaino

nooscope, science, bureaucracy, Russia, invention

The piece about “nooscope” — whoever wrote it — has nothing to do with science, says Kirill Martynov, a philosophy professor at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. “It is not even clear to which area of expertise we can attribute it. Basically, it’s nonsense. In terms of Russian language, the words in it make sense, but in terms of science — they don’t,” Martynov told The Moscow Times.

The article lacks many of the formal characteristics of a piece of scientific work: like coherence, connectivity and the facts being attributed to sources. “Instead, the article uses semi-mystical terms and facts that cannot be verified or proved,” the philosophy professor says. “For example, it says that ’nooscope’ has 50 patents, but there is no attribution to any of them.”

This falls into a trend called “aboriginal science,” according to Martynov. “In aboriginal science people imitate scientific activity, using platforms that have nothing to do with international science, but are convenient for achieving their goals,” he says.

So far, at least, there has been no explanation.

Earlier on Monday BBC Russia reached out to one of Vaino’s co-authors, Viktor Sarayev, and asked about the “nooscope.”

“[Isaac] Newton invented the telescope, [Antonie van] Leeuwenhoek invented the microscope, and we invented the nooscope — a device of the material Internet that scans transactions between people, things and money,” Sarayev wrote back to the BBC. He declined to give more details about the device.


Full of complicated terms, schemes and graphs, the article reveals a “nooscope,” a device designed in Russia five years ago,…

Vaino, nooscope, biosphere, Russia, academia, bureaucracy

Full of complicated terms, schemes and graphs, the article reveals a “nooscope,” a device designed in Russia five years ago, that will help “study the collective conscience of mankind” and “register, among other things, [things that] can’t be seen.” The device apparently consists of a network of “spatial scanners,” designated to monitor and register changes in the “biosphere.”

“[Isaac] Newton invented the telescope, [Antonie van] Leeuwenhoek invented the microscope, and we invented the nooscope — a device of the material Internet that scans transactions between people, things and money,” Sarayev declined to give more details about the device.

On ‘heterodox’ macroeconomics

Medium, economics, macroeconomics, hetrodox economics

The term ‘heterodox economics’ is a difficult one. I dislike it and resisted adopting it for some time: I would much rather be ‘an economist’ than ‘a heterodox economist’. But it is clear that unless you accept — pretty much without criticism — the assumptions and methodology of the mainstream, you will not be accepted as ‘an economist’. This was not the case when Joan Robinson debated with Solow and Samuelson, or Kaldor debated with Hayek. But it is the case today.


The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority

Medium, complexity, preference, intolerance, contagion, dispersal, Taleb

The best example I know that gives insights into the functioning of a complex system is with the following situation. It suffices for an intransigent minority –a certain type of intransigent minorities –to reach a minutely small level, say three or four percent of the total population, for the entire population to have to submit to their preferences. Further, an optical illusion comes with the dominance of the minority: a naive observer would be under the impression that the choices and preferences are those of the majority.


400-year-old Greenland shark is oldest vertebrate animal

shark, greenland, arctic, biology, longevity

Grey, plump and growing to lengths of around five metres, the Greenland shark is one of the world’s largest carnivores. With a reported growth rate of less than one centimetre a year, they were already thought to be long-lived creatures, but just how long they lived for was something of a mystery. “Fish biologists have tried to determine the age and longevity of Greenland sharks for decades, but without success.” said Steven Campana, a shark expert from the University of Iceland. “Given that this shark is the apex predator (king of the food chain) in Arctic waters, it is almost unbelievable that we didn’t know whether the shark lives for 20 years, or for 1000 years.”


Making another, perhaps more important observation, buildings, and even whole cities, have become infrastructural technologies….

“Making another, perhaps more important observation, buildings, and even whole cities, have become infrastructural technologies. From the fields of repeatable suburban houses and traffic-engineered highways of the mid 20th century to the malls, resorts, golf courses and big-box stores of contemporary culture, repeatable formulas make most of the space in the world. These buildings are not singularly crafted enclosures, but reproducible products — spatial products. The discipline of architecture is only responsible for a trickle of the world’s spaces while a fire hose blasts out the rest. A familiar confetti of brightly coloured boxes nestled in black asphalt and bright green grass tells elaborate stories about Starbucks coffee, Beard Papa cream puffs and Arnold Palmer golf communities. This all too visible cartoon of abstract logics shapes most of the space in which we are swimming. Now not only small communities and resorts but also entire world cities are constructed according to a formula, usually a formula that replicates Shenzhen or Dubai anywhere in the world.”

Keller Easterling, The Action is the Form, Victor Hugo’s TED Talk (viainthenoosphere)

InsideClimate News: In Corporate March to Clean Energy, Utilities Not Required


Some of the companies purchasing renewable energy directly include Google, WalMart, Amazon, 3M, Microsoft, Home Depot, Procter and Gamble, Yahoo, Equinix, IKEA and Bloomberg. GM has recently entered the direct purchase parade.


A curious thing happened while U.S. utilities were focusing on cheap fracked gas, expensive nuclear power, what to do about coal, and how to fight  renewable energy models that threatened their bottom line.

Some of the nation’s largest corporations decided not to wait for utilities and took their interest in renewable energy into their own hands. They bought their own clean power. And they bought it directly from the companies that produced it. No utility middleman needed.

This clean power revolt, led by some of the biggest corporate energy consumers, is the latest threat to the power purchase and delivery system that’s been in place since Thomas Edison invented it.

Could this be what gets utilities’ attention and forces them to consider clean energy as the future instead of the enemy? Will it ultimately lead to the greening of all of America’s power?

InsideClimate News: In Corporate March to Clean Energy, Utilities Not Required

PSY 607: Everything is fucked: The syllabus

academia, research, science, everything-is-fucked, EIFAWAGTD

What does it mean, in science, for something to be fucked? Fucked needs to mean more than that something is complicated or must be undertaken with thought and care, as that would be trivially true of everything in science. In this class we will go a step further and say that something is fucked if it presents hard conceptual challenges to which implementable, real-world solutions for working scientists are either not available or routinely ignored in practice.


Better incentives, Better science

Medium, science, publishing, academia, OSF, replication, replicability

Science takes place in a Madisonian system, where competing forces push us from all directions. The good guys don’t always win. The powerful guys push hard. The direction science moves depends on the sum of the forces on it. A well meaning push in the right direction doesn’t always end up moving science that way. The reliability project and the open science foundation have recently come into a bit of power and public influence. So far, they’ve pushed for greater reliability and more careful methods. But they’ve yet to ask “Why are scientists using poor methods?”, “What are the forces that drive reliability down?”, and “Why were past methods more reliable?” The surge in retraction is relatively new. There wasn’t an OSF in 1957, and yet, somehow my grandfather was able to publish a reliable effect.


Is the Oil Industry Dying?

Medium, energy, peak-oil, oil, economics, climate

Talking about “peak oil” can feel very last decade. In fact, the question is still current. Petroleum markets are so glutted and prices are so low that most industry commenters think any worry about future oil supplies is pointless. The glut and price dip, however, are hardly indications of a healthy industry; instead, they are symptoms of an increasing inability to match production cost, supply, and demand in a way that’s profitable for producers but affordable for society. Is this what peak oil looks like?


Forget Skynet: AI is already making things terrible for people who aren’t rich white dudes


Kate Crawford (previously) takes to the New York Times’s editorial page to ask why rich white guys act like the big risk of machine-learning systems is that they’ll evolve into Skynet-like apex-predators that subjugate the human race, when there are already rampant problems with machine learning:algorithmic racist sentencing, algorithmic, racist and sexist discrimination,algorithmic harassment, algorithmic hiring bias, algorithmic terrorist watchlisting, algorithmic racist policing, and a host of other algorithmic cruelties and nonsense, each one imbued with unassailable objectivity thanks to its mathematical underpinnings.

Focusing our energies on hypothetical science fiction disasters from machine learning means taking the spotlight off of the real-world, here-and-now ways that software isn’t just eating the world – it’s also shitting all over it.

Introducing Quil: A Practical Quantum Instruction Set Architecture

Medium, computing, quil, programming

In our work developing and understanding these near term applications we’ve developed a framework to help us work with the algorithms concretely. Today the Software and Applications team at Rigetti is excited to share the description of this work in our whitepaper [A Practical Quantum Instruction Set Architecture]. We have focused on a simple model that is compatible with the types of devices that are likely to be available first.


2,000-Year-Old Scrolls Inscribed With Ancient Curses Uncovered in Serbia

archeology, religion, text, languages, curses, gods, demons, Baal, Yahweh, Thobarabau, Seneseilam, S

Archaeologists working in Serbia have discovered tiny parchments of gold and silver inscribed with what appears to be a series of ancient curses. The curse tablets were found alongside human skeletons at an excavation site at the foot of a coal-fired power station in Kostolac in northeastern Serbia. Archaeologists led by Miomir Korać are currently scouring the area in preparation for further construction at the site, which was once home to the ancient Roman city of Viminacium. One of the newly discovered scrolls contains text written in ancient Aramaic, and not Greek. That presents a mystery to the scientists, but it’s also an important clue. The researchers have identified several demons associated with the territory of what is today Syria, including Baal, Yahweh, Thobarabau, Seneseilam, and Sesengenfaranges. Invoking the powers of both Baal and Yahweh on a single tablet is unprecedented.


The Root of Thought: What Do Glial Cells Do?

neuroscience, neurology, consciousness, creativity, thought, glia, astrocytes

LEHRER: You suggest that glia and their calcium waves might play a role in creativity. Could you explain? KOOB: This idea stems from dreams, sensory deprivation and day dreaming. Without input from our senses through neurons, how is it that we have such vivid thoughts? How is it that when we are deep in thought we seemingly shut off everything in the environment around us? In this theory, neurons are tied to our muscular action and external senses. We know astrocytes monitor neurons for this information. Similarly, they can induce neurons to fire. Therefore, astrocytes modulate neuron behavior. This could mean that calcium waves in astrocytes are our thinking mind. Neuronal activity without astrocyte processing is a simple reflex; anything more complicated might require astrocyte processing. The fact that humans have the most abundant and largest astrocytes of any animal and we are capable of creativity and imagination also lends credence to this speculation. Calcium is also released randomly and without stimulation from astrocytes’ internal stores in small bursts called ‘puffs.’ These random puffs can lead to waves. It is possible that the seemingly random thoughts during dreams and sensory deprivation experience could be calcium puffs becoming waves in our astrocytes. Basically, it is obvious that astrocytes are involved in brain processing in the cortex, but the main questions are, do our thoughts and imagination stem from astrocytes working together with neurons, or are our thoughts and imagination solely the domain of astrocytes? Maybe the role of neurons is to support astrocytes.


Now is a really good time to buy a helicopter

helicopters, economics, drones, markets, commodities

A slump in oil, gas and other commodity prices over the past two years has left lower helicopter prices in its wake. In economies like Brazil’s, which are heavily reliant on volatile commodities prices, demand for corporate use copters has grown soft. And while companies that extract natural resources often rely on choppers to survey prospective mines and oilfields, they’ve recently been warming to drones, which can be less expensive. “The civil and parapublic [helicopter] market still looks pretty awful,” Thomas Enders, chief executive of Airbus Group, said during an earnings call last month. Airbus produces about a quarter of the world’s rotorcrafts, according to Forecast International, an aerospace-market research firm. Helicopters generally hold their value much better than cars. The latest downturn is notable because rotorcraft production has declined—an important gauge of demand, since producers often have buyers lined up when the parts come together on the factory floor. Global rotorcraft production will likely total just 1,050 in 2016, which would be the fewest in at least a decade, according to Forecast International.


As social media centralized, blogging’s core infrastructure has withered


When “social media” meant “blogs,” there were many tools, services and protocols that comprised an infrastructure for federated, open, loosely joined interaction: the rise of the social giants has killed off much of this infrastructure, all but erasing it from our memories.

Anil Dash compares the services and tools available in the new centralized web, and the new advantages of centralization, and also the lost functionality that disappeared with independent blogging. It must be said that some of these tools were already in critical condition as centralization took off, killed by the spam and other parasitic infestations that are endemic to complex, open ecosystems.

How an internet mapping glitch turned a random Kansas farm into a digital hell

geography, GPS, mapping, MR, VR, AR, kansas, US, glitch, GIS, bugs, design

For the last decade, Taylor and her renters have been visited by all kinds of mysterious trouble. They’ve been accused of being identity thieves, spammers, scammers and fraudsters. They’ve gotten visited by FBI agents, federal marshals, IRS collectors, ambulances searching for suicidal veterans, and police officers searching for runaway children. They’ve found people scrounging around in their barn. The renters have been doxxed, their names and addresses posted on the internet by vigilantes. Once, someone left a broken toilet in the driveway as a strange, indefinite threat. As any geography nerd knows, the precise center of the United States is in northern Kansas, near the Nebraska border. Technically, the latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of the center spot are 39°50′N 98°35′W. In digital maps, that number is an ugly one: 39.8333333,-98.585522. So back in 2002, when MaxMind was first choosing the default point on its digital map for the center of the U.S., it decided to clean up the measurements and go with a simpler, nearby latitude and longitude: 38°N 97°W or 38.0000,-97.0000. As a result, for the last 14 years, every time MaxMind’s database has been queried about the location of an IP address in the United States it can’t identify, it has spit out the default location of a spot two hours away from the geographic center of the country. This happens a lot: 5,000 companies rely on MaxMind’s IP mapping information, and in all, there are now over 600 million IP addresses associated with that default coordinate. If any of those IP addresses are used by a scammer, or a computer thief, or a suicidal person contacting a help line, MaxMind’s database places them at the same spot: 38.0000,-97.0000. Which happens to be in the front yard of Joyce Taylor’s house.


The Ethereum fork: emergence of a social framework for consensus.

Ethereum, ETH, blockchain, consensus, politics, governance

The [Ethereum] hard fork has provided an example of social consensus overriding machine consensus. This effectively places machine consensus, and therefore immutability (in it’s technical sense) as subordinate to social consensus. Whilst this has been cited by some as an about-turn from all that blockchain stands for, I see it as the opposite, an evolution beyond fundamental ideals toward a more pragmatic understanding of reality in which we recognise and leverage all the value blockchain architecture can offer, but retain (as do all blockchain communities) a measure of power over the underlying ‘hard rules’.


The Nauru files: cache of 2,000 leaked reports reveal scale of abuse of children in Australian offshore detention

Australia, asylum, immigration, detention, inhumanity, solutionism, Nauru, 2016, UDHR, UNHCR, stop-t

The Nauru files set out as never before the assaults, sexual abuse, self-harm attempts, child abuse and living conditions endured by asylum seekers held by the Australian government, painting a picture of routine dysfunction and cruelty. The Guardian’s analysis of the files reveal that children are vastly over-represented in the reports. More than half of the 2,116 reports – a total of 1,086 incidents, or 51.3% – involve children, although children made up only about 18% of those in detention on Nauru during the time covered by the reports, May 2013 to October 2015. The findings come just weeks after the brutal treatment of young people in juvenile detention in the Northern Territory was exposed, leading to the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, announcing a wide-ranging public inquiry. The files raise stark questions about how information is reported on Nauru, one of Australia’s two offshore detention centres for asylum seekers who arrive by boat. They highlight serious concerns about the ongoing risks to children and adults held on the island. They show how the Australian government has failed to respond to warning signs and reveal sexual assault allegations – many involving children – that have never been previously disclosed. The most damning evidence emerges from the words of the staff working in the detention centre themselves – the people who compile the reports. These caseworkers, guards, teachers and medical officers have been charged with caring for hundreds of asylum seekers on the island.


Check Out This Unbelievable Photo of the Southern California Wildfire

fire, climate change, new normal, weather, USA


Photo of smoke from the Sand Fire from the Santa Monica Pier. Photo by Rob Dionne.

Here’s Jason Mark, the editor of Sierra, describing his reaction to this photo. The Sand Fire and the Soberanes fires are probably still smoldering, but when this photo was taken and Jason Mark saw it, the fires were raging. So keep that in mind as you read Jason’s short piece.

Hieronymus Beach. That’s what popped into my mind when I saw Rob Dionne’s unnerving photograph, captured last weekend as he stood on the Santa Monica Pier. The sky choked with a cloud of brown smoke, the babel-like crowds in the foreground, the broodiness of the whole scene—all of it recalled the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, the 16th-century Dutch artist who is best remembered for the dark allegories he created on canvas.

The sun-dampening smoke cloud came from the Sand Fire, a blaze in the Santa Clarita Hills north of Los Angeles that, since it broke out a week ago today, has scorched roughly 38,000 acres, destroyed 18 homes, and forced the evacuation of some 20,000 people. And that’s the less dangerous of the two wildfires currently tearing through California right now. In Big Sur, the Soberanes fire is barely contained as firefighters contend with the rugged landscape of the Los Padres National Forest. Earlier this week, a bulldozer operator died in the course of fire-containment operations there.

Fire ecologists are increasingly confident in their predictions that global warming is fueling wildfires in the American West as earlier springs, hotter summers, and drought combine to make fires more frequent and more intense. The “fire season”—an annual apocalypse once limited to the summer months—is now a year-round affair in some parts of the West.

That’s worth keeping in mind as you take in this amazing pic. What you’re seeing isn’t some glimpse of dystopia to come. Rather, the smoke eclipse over Santa Monica is part of the new normal, an all-too-ordinary scene of life on this smoldering planet.  

Check Out This Unbelievable Photo of the Southern California Wildfire

The third culture creates new tools faster than new theories, because tools lead to novel discoveries quicker than theories do….

“The third culture creates new tools faster than new theories, because tools lead to novel discoveries quicker than theories do. The third culture has little respect for scientific credentials because while credentials may imply greater understanding, they don’t imply greater innovation. The third culture will favor the irrational if it brings options and possibilities, because new experiences trump rational proof.”

Kevin Kelly (viainthenoosphere)

Are the Aliens Trying to Extinguish an Entire Star?

Motherboard, SETI, engineering, alien, civilisation, astrophysics, spacetime-fjord

Most reasonable scientists flocked to a theory put forth by Penn State astronomer Jason Wright: alien megastructures. As it turns out, the unusual dimming is almost certainly the result of a massive collection of solar panels known as a Dyson swarm. While SETI observations of the star found no unusual radio or laser signals that might indicate a technologically hyper-advanced civilization, most astrophysicists accept some version of the theory that the aliens are either harvesting solar energy from the past via a n-d timebridge, or, somewhat less likely, from the security of a half-dimensional “spacetime fjord.” Unfortunately, confirming either possibility will have to wait until the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018.


Backreaction: The LHC “nightmare scenario” has come true.

Physics, nature, LHC, experiment, theory, aesthetics

For the last ten years you’ve been told that the LHC must see some new physics besides the Higgs because otherwise nature isn’t “natural” – a technical term invented to describe the degree of numerical coincidence of a theory. I’ve been laughed at when I explained that I don’t buy into naturalness because it’s a philosophical criterion, not a scientific one. But on that matter I got the last laugh: Nature, it turns out, doesn’t like to be told what’s presumably natural. Now that the diphoton bump is gone, we’ve entered what has become known as the “nightmare scenario” for the LHC: The Higgs and nothing else. Many particle physicists thought of this as the worst possible outcome. It has left them without guidance, lost in a thicket of rapidly multiplying models. Without some new physics, they have nothing to work with that they haven’t already had for 50 years, no new input that can tell them in which direction to look for the ultimate goal of unification and/or quantum gravity. That the LHC hasn’t seen evidence for new physics is to me a clear signal that we’ve been doing something wrong, that our experience from constructing the standard model is no longer a promising direction to continue. We’ve maneuvered ourselves into a dead end by relying on aesthetic guidance to decide which experiments are the most promising. I hope that this latest null result will send a clear message that you can’t trust the judgement of scientists whose future funding depends on their continued optimism. Things can only get better.


Madlove: A Designer Asylum, a mental health space designed by patients in the U.K.

design, psychiatry, asylum, hospitals, UCD, UK, redesigning-madness

Convinced that psychiatric wards’ bland, bad design directly affects patients like himself, Leadbitter and collaborator Hannah Hull spent months conducting workshops around the U.K. to crowdsource ideas from more than 300 patients, psychiatrists, architects, and designers on how to build visually appealing, patient-centered spaces in place of grim and institutional settings. Leadbitter told me in an email that the feedback was wide-ranging, including one memorable comment from a young man in Birmingham, England, who said: “All I want is a room with Fabergé eggs and a hammer.”


The New Fantastic: The Carnival of the World

fantastic, economics, politics, literature

Politically the fantastic would give voice to the oppressed, the excluded, the marginal – to all those who were deemed outside the sublime world of economic security, the illusory world of the powerful, the rich, the visible. The poor and outcast of society had become invisible and it was the power of the fantasist to make visible what was now invisible in the social body, what had been rejected and left to fend for itself in the darkness of societies morbid, and obscene slums and decaying systems of crime and punishment. One can see this in many of the stories of Dostoevsky, Gogol, Kafka, Lovecraft, Machen, and on through those such as Borges, Bioyes, and later authors too numerous to name here. Against the realism of society one will discover in the fantastic terms such as the impossible, the unreal, the nameless, formless, shapeless, unknown, invisible. As H.P. Lovecraft famously noted, “the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is the fear of the unknown.”


Toward a Non-Conceptual Fantastic


unlike science fiction, it has little interest in ideas. Instead, it moves into, or opens up, a space of possibilities without / outside the cultural or symbolic order. It strips us of our anchors in either secular of religious systems of meaning, allows the unknown to shock us into new forms of awareness and modes of being. Distortion, deformation, the disintegration of our normal modes of apprehension and reasoning release and trigger the darkness in objects, things, and entities to reveal itself through anamorphic displays of disgust, grotesque, and macabre formlessness and namelessness. Unlike marvelous secondary worlds, which construct alternative realities, or the uncanny psychological realms of repetition and death, the shady worlds of the fantastic construct nothing and leave us in the abyss of uncertainty in-between the marvelous and uncanny unable to choose one or the other. They are empty, emptying, dissolving. Their emptiness vitiates a full, rounded, three-dimensional visible world, by tracing in absences, shadows without objects. Far from fulfilling desire, these spaces perpetuate desire by insisting upon absence, lack, the non-seen, the unseeable.


investigations, experiments, theories of colour and light, abstract displays of light-images — as yet far too fragmentary and…

experiments, abstract, photography, design, László Moholy-Nagy

“investigations, experiments, theories of colour and light, abstract displays of light-images — as yet far too fragmentary and isolated — point towards the future, though they cannot as yet provide a precise picture of anything like the future’s scope.”

László Moholy-Nagy, Telehor.

Do Oil Companies Really Need $4 Billion Per Year of Taxpayers’ Money?



In a new report for the Council on Foreign Relations, Gilbert Metcalf, a professor of economics at Tufts University, concluded that eliminating the three major federal subsidies for the production of oil and gas would have a very limited impact on the production and consumption of these fossil fuels.

Mr. Metcalf’s analysis is the most sophisticated yet on the impact of government supports, worth roughly $4 billion a year. Extrapolating from the observed reaction of energy companies to fluctuations in the price of oil and gas, he models how a loss of subsidies might curtail drilling and thus affect production, prices and consumer demand.

Cutting oil drilling subsidies might reduce domestic oil production by 5 percent in the year 2030.

As a result, he thinks, the worldwide price of oil would inch up by only 1 percent. He assumes it will hardly be affected because other countries would increase production as the flow of American crude slowed. Demand would hardly budge, as the price of gasoline at the pump would rise by at most 2 cents a gallon.

Natural gas is a slightly different story. It is not as much a global commodity. A decline of 3 to 4 percent in American production would raise prices by as much as 10 percent. In response, demand for natural gas would most likely fall 3 to 4 percent. At most, the average household’s monthly electricity bill would rise by $7.

Do Oil Companies Really Need $4 Billion Per Year of Taxpayers’ Money?

image_by_image ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Dear Ivan, ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Yet again in a lone hotel room on my travels. Glad they exist of course, but…


Dear Ivan,
Yet again in a lone hotel room on my travels. Glad they exist of course, but sometimes one longs for a little change.
I started The Blue Skies Project to try and understand. I went to Auschwitz four years ago, trying to comprehend what my grandfather would have faced if he wouldn’t have escaped the SS raiding his house that night. There in Oświęcim that winter morning between the camp barracks, the snow barely covering the earth below, a thin veil not hiding, a thin cloak not sheltering, I looked up at a cold blue sky.
Many must have looked up at that same sky, without hope. But what if the perished were still up there. What if I photographed that sky, full of them, what would the chance be that I’d have literally photographed every single victim? Impossible, of course. Yet I already felt their presence.
Since then, I’ve been traveling. Experiencing the reality down here, the memorials, the houses, the streets, the fields, the forests. 1075 camps. The life that goes on below. And every time I look up, standing on that very ground, and look directly at every victim. Tiptoeing and reaching does not bring me closer, yet I catch myself doing it, every time. Days of silence.
We have the benefit of hindsight, of course. That’s why the film “Son of Saul” is so gripping to me. Choosing that particular camera point of view, over-the-shoulder, extremely narrow, exactly as it was for the deported: nobody could understand the broader context of what was happening. László Nemes powerfully makes that clear to us, forces us to look and understand as the victims did. Without hope.
I bought a chair yesterday. A chair to take with me, so that when I see a place with a distance I can stop, sit, and stare into it. Sitting and staring into the distance once in a while, is a good thing to do. I think I’d like to sit and stare into one of your sunflower fields someday.
/// #image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers @ivansigal and @antonkusters ///

No but seriously, Fuck Minimalism

minimalism, nuance




Minimalism lied to you. 

Minimalism told you that the past was monochrome. That the height of ancient fashion was a plain white robe, that the Enlightenment was the most important art movement of the eighteenth century, that Victorians wore nothing but plain black, white and brown. It told you that Japanese art was its inspiration but stripped away every beautiful detail.

Minimalism told you that the functional must be unadorned. That simplicity is elegance. That plainness is clean. It told you that ornament is clutter. That trim is only used to hide mistakes. It tells you that beautiful things collect dust, that intricacy is dirty. 

Minimalism told you your cultural heritage is tacky. It told you vibrant African prints clash. It told you intricate Islamic tiling is fussy. It told you beautiful European embroidery is quaint and old fashioned. 

Minimalism told you to limit your vocabulary. It called clever wordplay purple prose. It told you clarity was in short, dull sentences. 

Minimalism told you that masculinity is expressed in dull simplicity. It gendered the ornate. 

Minimalism told you that nature is only expressed in simple lines. That certain colours shouldn’t appear together. 

The truth is, minimalism lied. It’s an ugly 20th century fad that has long overstayed its welcome. It endures for two reasons. 1: It’s easy to mass produce. Flat pack furniture is cheap and easy. Tailoring printed fabrics and adding well-placed trim takes effort. Designing architecture that’s more than just boxes takes time. 2: It allows boring white men to erase the importance of POC, women, and their own heritage in the history of art and design. It keeps influence in the hands of the few and devalues the work of thousands of skilled people.

So fuck minimalism. Embrace ornament. Wear as many accessories as you want. Decorate the space you inhabit. Perform theatre in beautiful places, not in dark boxes. Support artisans and craftspeople. Use the words you found in thesauruses and old literature. Celebrate real history. Make the most of modern synthetic dyes and use colour in everything you can. Enjoy beautiful things. 

Less was never more.

The best, pithy argument against minimalism I’ve seen. 

cc two recent longer-form pieces from Twitter friend Kyle Chayka:

Like ‘Fuck Nuance’, there’s a rhetorical irony in saying “Fuck Minimalism”. Not least because there are clearly multiple minimalisms - this takes aim at a certain contemporary aesthetic that is minimalist, but does not represent the full potential of ‘minimalism’. 

Hence for me the important qualifier: “It told you that Japanese art was its inspiration but stripped away every beautiful detail”. I’m no expert on ‘authentic’ Japanese aesthetics, but there are certain ideas about simplicity, impermanence and, crucially, imperfection that derive from Buddhist thought and which I tend to associate positively with (Zen) ‘minimalism’  - though that’s not to say that I think either term is properly represented in popular Western culture. Minimalism contains multitudes.

The Chayka NYT article, and to a lesser extent the Verge one, left me a bit unsure as to whether ‘minimalism’ itself was being critiqued, or the misapplication of it. (A complexity acknowledged by a detour into art history) In a sense, I think this is correct, or has the potential to be correct: 

“These minimalist-arrivistes present it as a logical end to lifestyle, culture and even morality: If we attain only the right things, the perfect things, and forsake all else, then we will be free from the tyranny of our desires.”

The obvious criticism is that the emphasis on “right” and “perfect” fuels consumerist desires, and minimalism turns out to be no such thing - creating waste, excess, and status-seeking. But then where is the idea that some form of ‘minimalism’ - or ‘reductionism’, perhaps - is necessary to manage the transition to a more egalitarian and sustainable economy? (Again, this is more in the form of ideal than practice.) Aesthetically, such minimalism need not be as restrictive or ‘clean’, or as hostile to non-whiteness. Minimalism should be a form of critique, of consumption as well as function:

“There’s an arrogance to today’s minimalism that presumes it provides an answer rather than, as originally intended, a question: What other perspectives are possible when you look at the world in a different way? The fetishized austerity and performative asceticism of minimalism is a kind of ongoing cultural sickness.”

“Performative asceticism” is bad, clearly, when it ignores material and lived realities. But true asceticism is equally performative, in the sense that ascesisis an ‘exercise’ in restriction and denial, a reduction to the essence of necessity -or a reconstruction of that necessity anew.