Ignore the GPS. That Ocean Is Not a Road.

GPS, navigation, trust, technology, algoritmics, determinism, travel

Faith is a concept that often enters the accounts of GPS-induced mishaps. “It kept saying it would navigate us a road,” said a Japanese tourist in Australia who, while attempting to reach North Stradbroke Island, drove into the Pacific Ocean. A man in West Yorkshire, England, who took his BMW off-road and nearly over a cliff, told authorities that his GPS “kept insisting the path was a road.” In perhaps the most infamous incident, a woman in Belgium asked GPS to take her to a destination less than two hours away. Two days later, she turned up in Croatia.


The Burning of Library.nu

libraries, academia, academic publishing, copyright, Elsevier, science, knowledge, open access

on February 2012, one of the largest library on Earth burned, and no “mainstream” media, no politician denounced it. The reason for this silence is that the library was “illegal” and that it wasn’t a physical one. Library.nu was by far the biggest public library on the internet, with a catalogue of about 400,000 to 1,000,000 books. And, as Christopher Kelty said, it contained “not just any books – not romance novels or the latest best-sellers – but scholarly books: textbooks, secondary treatises, obscure monographs, biographical analyses, technical manuals, collections of cutting edge research in engineering, mathematics, biology, social science and humanities. The texts ranges from so-called “orphan works” (out-of-print, but still copyrighted) to recent issues; from poorly scanned to expertly ripped; from English to German to French to Spanish to Russian, with the occasional Japanese or Chinese text. It was a remarquable effort of collective connoisseurship.”


Researcher illegally shares millions of science papers free online to spread knowledge

research, publishing, Elsevier, academia, academic publishing, open access, OA

A researcher in Russia has made more than 48 million journal articles - almost every single peer-reviewed paper every published - freely available online. And she’s now refusing to shut the site down, despite a court injunction and a lawsuit from Elsevier, one of the world’s biggest publishers. For those of you who aren’t already using it, the site in question is Sci-Hub, and it’s sort of like a Pirate Bay of the science world. It was established in 2011 by neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan, who was frustrated that she couldn’t afford to access the articles needed for her research, and it’s since gone viral, with hundreds of thousands of papers being downloaded daily. But at the end of last year, the site was ordered to be taken down by a New York district court - a ruling that Elbakyan has decided to fight, triggering a debate over who really owns science.


The salvaged cargo ship Modern Express is reflected in the still water of the port of Bilbao, northern Spain, February 4th 2016….


The salvaged cargo ship Modern Express is reflected in the still water of the port of Bilbao, northern Spain, February 4th 2016. The 164-metre vessel, which was transporting 3,600 tonnes of wood along with construction machinery when it ran into difficulty, was towed to the port on Wednesday after six days, abandoned, listing and dangerously adrift in the Bay of Biscay. Credit: Reuters/Vincent West

In terms of things we photograph the most, the moon probably ranks pretty high, especially when it floats in the cosmos as a…


In terms of things we photograph the most, the moon probably ranks pretty high, especially when it floats in the cosmos as a full-bodied orb. According to photographer Penelope Umbrico, 1.1 million images of the full moon existed on the photo-sharing website Flickr alone last November. A sample of those are on view in her solo exhibition, Silvery Light at Bruce Silverstein, which fills the gallery with such lunar photographs, of which not a single one she originally captured. Compiled from Flickr, with some color manipulated slightly by Umbrico, the different moons represent the efforts of photographers around the world — amateur and professional alike — brought together as an archive that contemplates why we continue to produce images of the same things and how we consume their digital representations.

Mining Flickr for 1 Million Moons

It’s Been 20 Years Since This Man Declared Cyberspace Independence

cyberspace, internet, John Perry Barlow, Wired, EFF, surveilllance, sovereignty

In the modern era of global NSA surveillance, China’s Great Firewall, and FBI agents trawling the dark Web, it’s easy to write off Barlow’s declaration as early dotcom-era hubris. But on his document’s 20th anniversary, Barlow himself wants to be clear: He stands by his words just as much today as he did when he clicked “send” in 1996. “The main thing I was declaring was that cyberspace is naturally immune to sovereignty and always would be,” Barlow, now 68, said in an interview over the weekend with WIRED. “I believed that was true then, and I believe it’s true now.”


gravitational waves

physics, gravity, gravitational waves, LIGO

For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed. The gravitational waves were detected on September 14, 2015 at 5:51 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (9:51 a.m. UTC) by both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, USA.


The Eye of the Space Dragon


I’ve been reading about TrES-2b – an inexplicably dark planet circling one of the stars in the Draco constellation. It’s a gas giant with an atmosphere of vaporized Na, K, TiO2, and other chemicals that absorb light rather than reflect it. It’s also very, very hot (with temperatures approaching 1,800° Fahrenheit). Too hot for the kind of reflective clouds that enshroud, say, Jupiter. But even this doesn’t fully account for why so little sunlight – less than 1% – reflects off its surface. It’s a mystery. And so the planet vibrates, in my mind, at the interface between science and myth: A galactic anomaly of albedo; the space dragon’s dilated pupil.

As the hours, the days, the weeks, the seasons slip by, you detach yourself from everything. You discover, with something that…

“As the hours, the days, the weeks, the seasons slip by, you detach yourself from everything. You discover, with something that sometimes almost resembles exhilaration, that you are free. That nothing is weighing you down, nothing pleases or displeases you. You find, in this life exempt from wear and tear and with no thrill in it other than these suspended moments, in almost perfect happiness, fascinating, occasionally swollen by new emotions. You are living in a blessed parenthesis, in a vacuum full of promise, and from which you expect nothing. You are invisible, limpid, transparent. You no longer exist. Across the passing hours, the succession of days, the procession of the seasons, the flow of time, you survive without joy and without sadness. Without a future and without a past. Just like that: simply, self evidently, like a drop of water forming on a drinking tap on a landing.”

Georges Perec, Things: A Story of the Sixties; A Man Asleep (viacities)

Snowden’s Chronicler Reveals Her Own Life Under Surveillance

Laura Poitras, surveilllance, USA, Art, tor

In the end, Poitras has not only escaped the arrest or indictment she feared, but has become a kind of privacy folk hero: Her work has helped to noticeably shift the world’s view of government spying, led to legislation, and won both a Pulitzer and an Academy Award. But if her ultimate fear was to “become the story,” her latest revelations show that’s a fate she can no longer escape–and one she’s come to accept.


David Fathi - Wolfgang

Photography, Wolfgang Pauli, David Fathi, physics, Cern, history

Science isn’t fiction, science is weirder than fiction. Teleportation, ubiquity, levitation, spontaneous appearance. Inconceivable on a human scale, but totally logical on the scale of elementary particles. Working in the field of quantum mechanics is a wild ride, and even though the mythical Pauli Effect was a private joke among highly scientific minds, some of them were nonetheless superstitious enough to ban Wolfgang Pauli from even entering their lab. In quantum physics as well as in photography, the act of observing is not a neutral act. It participates in the outcome of a scene. These photos are sometimes real, sometimes completely fabricated. The observer is actor in fixing what is science and what is myth.


Bucket-wheel excavators run on tracks at the Tagebau Hambach open-pit mine in Niederzier and Elsdorf, Germany. These massive…


Bucket-wheel excavators run on tracks at the Tagebau Hambach open-pit mine in Niederzier and Elsdorf, Germany. These massive machines (up to 315 feet tall and 730 feet long) continuously scoop materials from the surface in order to extract lignite. Lignite, often referred to as “brown coal”, is a soft combustible sedimentary rock that is formed from naturally compressed peat and is used as a fuel for steam-electric power generation.

50°54′39″N 6°30′10″E


Has the Internet Made Air Travel Irrelevant?

The New Yorker, Nathan Heller, Airlines, air travel, history, interconnection, commerce, nostalgia

Writers and travellers alike do their best work when they don’t know what they’re looking for; disorientation requires problem-solving, and a new landscape holds secrets still. These days, I never totally unpack my suitcase. I buy only folding toothbrushes. I leave, often, on short notice—my record is three and a half hours before takeoff, for a transatlantic trip—and I like my mind best when it’s on the move. To land somewhere unfamiliar is to force yourself into alertness, to redraw whatever maps you have, to set the stage for creativity more than mere pattern-matching productivity.


Kansai International Airport is located on an artificial island in the middle of Osaka Bay, Japan. To create the island, a 30…


Kansai International Airport is located on an artificial island in the middle of Osaka Bay, Japan. To create the island, a 30 meter (98-foot) layer of earth was created on top of the seafloor with 21 million cubic meters of landfill. The material was excavated from three separate mountains. As of 2008, the total cost of Kansai Airport was $20 billion USD, including land reclamation that has been necessary to prevent its continued sinkage (7.1 centimeters per year as of 2008) into the bay.

4·433168°, 135·239150°


THE DAILY PIC (#1479): My normal rule for this column is that I have to have seen each day’s artwork with my own eyes before…


THE DAILY PIC (#1479): My normal rule for this column is that I have to have seen each day’s artwork with my own eyes before writing, but I’m breaking it today because I have it on good authority that, in the flesh, this 1956 Rothko is really very gorgeous and profound. After all, the great connoisseur Ernst Beyeler once called it “sublime,” while a seasoned collector, Domenico De Sole, saw and admired it at the late, great Knoedler Gallery in New York and then actually shelled out more than $8 million for it – something he’d hardly have done if he didn’t think it was pretty fine. So what if, in a Manhattan courtroom on Wednesday, he demanded that Knoedler pay him $25 million in damages because the painting has now proven to be a very recent fake? – that doesn’t cancel out his earlier admiration. If anything, the scale of the damages De Sole is seeking somehow seems to argue for the gap between how he once felt about the piece and how he now does, calling it “worthless”. If the Rothko hadn’t seemed a wonderful thing when he first bought it, I doubt he’d price his later disappointment in the millions.

What De Sole’s lawsuit really proves is that the art market, and most of our culture, doesn’t care about works of art for any inherent virtues they have, or for the creative minds they bear witness to; it cares about them as sacred relics of a sainted maker, touched by his or her hand and only valuable because they have been.

I’ve argued all this before, in a much longer essay in praise of forgery, and the art historian Alexander Nagel has done a nice job fleshing out the link to sacred relics. The current lawsuit does add one interesting note to the discussion, however, because it is all about a painting where the presence of the artist’s hand, slathering on his emotions in paint, is central to the work’s original justification – Abstract Expressionism was built around the live, unrepeatable actions of its artists. Even though the forgery from Knoedler has clearly captured and reproduced the look of those actions, almost as though Rothko had had his hand wrapped around the forger’s fist as he painted, it still doesn’t seem to satisfy. Could it be that AbEx itself, born at a moment of vast growth in New York’s gallery scene, was meant to foster the market-friendly mania for authenticity we are witnessing in that Manhattan courtroom this week?

The Daily Pic also appears at Artnet News. For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

4 people are living in an isolated habitat for 30 days. Why? Science!


This 30 day mission will help our researchers learn how isolation and close quarters affect individual and group behavior. This study at our Johnson Space Center prepares us for long duration space missions, like a trip to an asteroid or even to Mars.


The Human Research Exploration Analog (HERA) that the crew members will be living in is one compact, science-making house. But unlike in a normal house, these inhabitants won’t go outside for 30 days. Their communication with the rest of planet Earth will also be very limited, and they won’t have any access to internet. So no checking social media kids!

The only people they will talk with regularly are mission control and each other.


The crew member selection process is based on a number of criteria, including the same criteria for astronaut selection.

What will they be doing?

Because this mission simulates a 715-day journey to a Near-Earth asteroid, the four crew members will complete activities similar to what would happen during an outbound transit, on location at the asteroid, and the return transit phases of a mission (just in a bit of an accelerated timeframe). This simulation means that even when communicating with mission control, there will be a delay on all communications ranging from 1 to 10 minutes each way. The crew will also perform virtual spacewalk missions once they reach their destination, where they will inspect the asteroid and collect samples from it. 

A few other details:

  • The crew follows a timeline that is similar to one used for the ISS crew.
  • They work 16 hours a day, Monday through Friday. This includes time for daily planning, conferences, meals and exercises.  
  • They will be growing and taking care of plants and brine shrimp, which they will analyze and document.

But beware! While we do all we can to avoid crises during missions, crews need to be able to respond in the event of an emergency. The HERA crew will conduct a couple of emergency scenario simulations, including one that will require them to maneuver through a debris field during the Earth-bound phase of the mission. 


Throughout the mission, researchers will gather information about cohabitation, teamwork, team cohesion, mood, performance and overall well-being. The crew members will be tracked by numerous devices that each capture different types of data.


Past HERA crew members wore a sensor that recorded heart rate, distance, motion and sound intensity. When crew members were working together, the sensor would also record their proximity as well, helping investigators learn about team cohesion.

Researchers also learned about how crew members react to stress by recording and analyzing verbal interactions and by analyzing “markers” in blood and saliva samples.


In total, this mission will include 19 individual investigations across key human research elements. From psychological to physiological experiments, the crew members will help prepare us for future missions.

Want a full, 360 look at HERA? You can check out the inside of the habitat in our new Facebook display: [LINK TBD]

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

Last year a church from the 16th century that had been buried underwater for the last 50 years made an unexpected appearance due…

Last year a church from the 16th century that had been buried underwater for the last 50 years made an unexpected appearance due to a drought. Sadly the waters have risen close to their original level, and only a tiny piece of the church is currently visible. It is expected to soon return to its underwater sleep for the foreseeable future. Found and photographed by @todseelie. #submergedchurch #atlasobscura #urbex #hidden #curiousity #explore #adventure #amazing #wanderlust #neverstopexploring #photooftheday #picoftheday #travel #wonder by atlasobscura (via https://www.instagram.com/p/BBGc_mlKfQE/)

It’s easy to forget that all of us have built-in tools for chemical analysis. Before biting into a filet of fish, your nose…


It’s easy to forget that all of us have built-in tools for chemical analysis. Before biting into a filet of fish, your nose tells you if it is rotten with microbes that will make you sick. And if your nose fails, hopefully your taste buds warn you before swallowing. Today we use our senses of smell and taste for eating, but before the invention of pH meters and microscopes, physicians relied on their noses and mouths to diagnose diseases.

What substance could doctors use that contained information about the health of a patient’s entire body? It would have to be the dumping ground for chemicals in the digestive system, blood stream, and endocrine system. That’s right; doctors once tasted urine to diagnose their patients’ sicknesses. They used charts like this one from 1506 to match illnesses with the colors, tastes, and smells of different types of urine. In fact, physicians didn’t even have to meet their patients to diagnose them as long as they had a sample of their pee and a “urine wheel.”

Urine could be salty, sticky, thick like molasses, or cloudy and white, which possibly indicated pregnancy. One disease that was easy to distinguish was diabetes. Because diabetes prevents the body from absorbing sugar, all of that sweetness ends up filtered out of the bloodstream and into the urine. However appetizing that sounds, I wouldn’t recommend trying uroscopy at home.

In the latest issue of Distillations magazine, we wrote about the painful history of diabetes and why CHF has a wooden box containing slides of a dead dog’s pancreas.

Image: A urine wheel from the 1506 book Epiphanie Medicorum by Ullrich Pinder. (The Royal Library, Copenhagen)

Equation shows that large-scale conspiracies would quickly reveal themselves



blockquote> Dr Grimes then looked at four alleged plots, estimating the maximum number of people required to be in on the conspiracy, in order to see how viable these conspiracies could be. These include: the theory that the US moon landings were a hoax (411,000 people); that Climate Change is a fraud (405,000 people); that unsafe vaccinations are being covered up (22,000 people assuming that only the World Health Organisation and the US Centers for Disease Control are conspirators and that others involved in advocating, producing, distributing and using vaccines are dupes. 736,000 people if, as would be more likely, pharmaceutical companies were included); that the cure for Cancer is being supressed by the world’s leading pharmaceutical firms (714,000 people).

Using the equation, Dr Grimes calculated that hoax moon landings would have been revealed in 3 years 8 months, a climate change fraud in 3 years 9 months, a vaccination conspiracy in 3 years 2 months, and a suppressed Cancer cure in 3 years 3 months. In simple terms, any one of the four conspiracies would have been exposed long before now.

He then looked at the maximum number of people who could take part in an intrigue in order to maintain it. For a plot to last five years, the maximum was 2521 people. To keep a scheme operating undetected for more than a decade, fewer than 1000 people can be involved. A century-long deception should ideally include fewer than 125 collaborators. Even a straightforward cover-up of a single event, requiring no more complex machinations than everyone keeping their mouth shut, is likely to be blown if more than 650 people are accomplices.



Equation shows that large-scale conspiracies would quickly reveal themselves