Posts tagged 2019

In short, image-scaling attacks enable an adversary to manipulate images, such that they change their appearance/content after…

ML, image scaling attack, image manipulation, images, 2019

In short, image-scaling attacks enable an adversary to manipulate images, such that they change their appearance/content after downscaling. In particular, the attack generates an image A by slightly perturbing the source image S, such that its scaled version D matches a target image T. 

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Games with Tracery

NaNoGenMo, tracery, 2019



Someone online asked if there was a guide to integrating Tracery with games, so I wrote one.

Tracery is named for the architectural term “tracery”, the curly filigree part of gothic cathedrals. Tracery doesn’t hold up the cathedrals: it’s decorative not structural. If you find yourself trying to do very complex data storage and conditionals with Tracery, you might be trying to build a cathedral with filigree. It is best to use your game code (javascript or Unity, or whatever else you use) itself to perform complex tasks like these. Tracery is best for adding decoration afterwards. But there are some good techniques for adding Tracery to games that I’ve encountered.

Common uses of Tracery

Games often have abstract rule systems at their core (see Joris Dormans work on modelling games abstractly But even for games with identical rule systems, content can create flavor and feelings that go far beyond the meaning of rule systems. Ladykiller in a Bind and Hatoful Boyfriend may have very similar mechanical systems driving them, but what wonderfully different experiences we get from their unique content! From flavortext on Magic: the Gathering cards to story arcs and dialogues of dating sims, or the sprawling poetry of Twine games, content can serve many purposes in a game.

Tracery, and other grammar-based templating languages, are already popular in games to create new content. Dietrich Squinkifer uses it in Interruption Junction for an endless stream of dialogue and in Mr. Darcy’s Dance Challenge uses it for endless insults from Mr. Darcy. Pippin Barr uses it to generate thoughtful frowns and headscratches in It is as if you were playing chess.

Beyond Tracery, there are other templating languages, and many game developers have built their own. Zach Johnson, the creator of Kingdom of Loathing invented a templating language to create game content like combat text and hobo-names (https://youtu.e/X3sqkxedSHQ?t=4m6s). Even the original 1966 ELIZA chatbot used templating in its dialogue generator.

Basic Tracery content in a game

These basic content creation tasks are easy for Tracery! Create a grammar “rpgGrammar” (or several, like “weaponGrammar”, “innNameGrammar” etc if you don’t want to share content between grammars) with your writing. Then call

rpgGrammar.flatten("#innName#") or rpgGrammar.flatten("#NPCName#") or rpgGrammar.flatten("#armorDescription#") or rpgGrammar.flatten("#combatSound#")

to generate whatver content you’ve authored.

Generating parseable data

You may find that you want to generate more complex stuff with a single query, such as generating a sword name and a related description like “General Greenblat’s Blade” “a sword found by General Greenblat while searching for her lost puppy”. In that case, you might have a grammar like

"swordWord": ["blade", "edge", "sword"],

"bowWord": ["aim", "bow", "longbow"],

// This picks out whether we are generating a bow or a sword "setWeaponType": ["[weaponClass:sword][weaponNameType:#swordWord#]","[weaponClass:bow][weaponNameType:#bowWord#]"]

"generateWeaponData": "[character:#name#]#setWeaponType##weaponType# | #character#'s #weaponNameType#" | #character# found this #weaponType# when #doingSomeTask#"]

Expanding “#generateWeaponData#” would generate some data separated by “|” symbols, which you could then split apart with Javascript and use separately in your game.

Generating tagged data

I’ve been working on a hipster chef game, HipChef (for waaayyyy too long). It’s been an exercise in figuring out good tagging practices for using Tracery text in a game while also getting meaning out of that text.

For example, here is a sample of my grammar for generating recipes:

largeFruit : ["kumquat<citrus>", "honeydew<melon>", "bittermelon<melon>", "cherimoya", "peach", "sugar apple", "persimmon", "green apple", "jackfruit", "damson plum", "kiwi", "lime<citrus>", "key lime<citrus>", "meyer lemon<citrus>", "pomegranate", "green apple", "pineapple", "mandarin orange<citrus>", "blood orange<citrus>", "plum", "bosque pear", "fig", "persimmon", "durian", "mango", "lychee"],

preparedMeat : ["duck fat<fowl><game>", "roast duck<fowl><game>", "crispy bacon<pork>", "pancetta<pork>", "salami<pork>", "prosciutto<pork>", "corned beef", "pastrami<beef>", "roast game hen<fowl>", "seared ahi<fish>"],

herb : ["fennel", "cilantro", "mint", "basil", "thyme", "Thai basil", "oregano", "peppermint", "spearmint", "rosemary"],

spice : ["vanilla", "nutmeg", "allspice", "turmeric", "cardamom", "saffron", "cinnamon", "chili powder", "cayenne", "coriander", "black pepper", "white pepper", "ginger", "za’atar"],

"artisanToast": "#bread# with #spice#-spiced #largeFruit# and #meat#"

This might generate some fancy toast descriptions, but in the game, I want to know the game-significant ingredients of this toast. If it has pork and fennel, which are trendy at the moment it scores higher, but if it has duck and melon, which are not, the score is lower. I can search for some ingredients, like “pineapple” by name, but others, like “mint” might be ambiguous. Other queries, like “fowl” or “herb” would need to match many rules.

The fastest way to do this, for me, is to hand-embed these tags inside the content, like kumquat<citrus>. For some content, like herbs and spices, I want to tag all the rules with a single tag. That sounded like work, so I wrote a bit of utility code function autotag(grammar, key, tags) which automatically appends the given tags to all the rules for that key.

Now when the toast generates, it outputs a string like “Ciabatta with turmeric -sprinkled honeydew and roast duck ”. I can strip these tags out with JavaScript, and get and array “spice,melon,fowl,game” (which the game’s rules can use) and a string “Ciabatta with turmeric-sprinkled honeydew and rost duck” which I can display to the player.

You can generate any structure of data this way, even JSON (which you can then use JS’s JSON parser to unpack automatically). In fact, the SVG graphics made with Tracery are an example of this: Tracery generates specially structured text, which a web-page can interpret as image-making commands. But SVG and JSON parsers are just two ways to computationally parse text, you can write your own, as I did with HipChef.

Using world state in Tracery

Your game almost certainly has some world state. For an RPG, this might include the player’s occupation and race, their weapon, their health, a list of skills. Like many games, you might also have a custom name for the player. To use the name in Tracery, you can edit the raw grammar before you use it in Tracery or you can edit the grammar on the fly by pushing new rules to the grammar. This is what Tracery does when you use “[myName:#name#]” in a grammar, but now you’re doing it whenever you want, with whatever data you want.

mygrammar.pushRules(playerName, ["Bobo the Love Clown"]);

mygrammar.pushRules(playerHometown, ["Scranton, NJ"]);

mygrammar.expand("#playerName# left #playerHometown# on an adventure");

A Note: the newest in-progress version of Tracery allows you to pass a world-object to Tracery along with a grammar, so you no longer have to manually update “playerMood”, etc, each time the player’s mood changes and you want to use it in a piece of generated text. But I don’t have an ETA for that.

Seeds: turning commodities into individuals

You’d often want to generate the same content many times in a game. For example, in a text-version of a space game that can generate trillions of planets for you to visit (cough) you might not want to save all the generated tree descriptions, plant descriptions, alien city names, etc. But, if you use some fixed number to set the random seed, you can be certain that Tracery will make the same sequence of “random” choices when picking rules. This will generate the same content, as long as you ask for the content in the same order once you set the seed. For Javascript, I use David Bau’s excellent fix. Conveniently, this requires no changes to Tracery, it just modifies JS’s random number generator.

This is especially fun if you have some huge number represting an in-game commodity, like the population of your city. You can use the index as your seed: “look at citizen #31992” will set the seed to “31992” and each time, the citizen will be “Margarie Tomlinson, age 45, afraid of spiders”.


This may not be as much as your game needs. You may want internal conditionals controlling the grammar’s expansion, or more direct tagging control, such as “give me a conversation tagged ‘aggressive’ and ‘evasive’”. James Ryan’s Expressionist work can do tag-directed generation management to satisfy constraints, and I’ve heard Emily Short is working on something Tracery-like with tags.

I’m also working to include tags and conditionals in the new Tracery, but we’ll see when that ships. Until then, you may get mileage out of the techniques above.

Using Tracery In Larger Systems

Well, this write-up would have come in handy for NaNoGenMo!

I used some variants of a couple of these for my NaNoGenMo project. For my island description generator, I had rules with tags like:

“<+feature do_not_repeat></+><+feature size=small></+>There were two islands there. The distance from one to the other was about one mile. The small island <feature cliffs>rose very abruptly</+> many hundred feet above the sea. At the top was <+feature landmark>a rock with a conical form, which eternally seems on the point of rolling down with a tremendous crash into the sea</+>. The other island was larger, if less remarkable.”


“The #inhabitants# use #a_kind_of# <+feature condiment>#condiment#</+> in their cooking.“ 

This produced descriptions like:

They saw The Blue Violet Isle of Eurynome directly ahead, rising like a deep blue cloud out of the sea.

It is a very flat place, made up of several low-lying coral atolls.

The pirates were eager to hunt the mole, which they had great expectations for. Whenever they visit this island, sailors will conduct a kind of ritual, which they claim symbolizes deceit. Around the principle harbor, there were a great many papercrete buildings, forming a small town.

The cuisine of that island is known for something that resembles fresh dijon ketchup.

And the text generator had an additional constraint of only allowing new sentences to be added if they matched the already chosen tags. (Some were complementary, while others were mutually exclusive.) The tags surrounded bits of the text, which were added to the information about the island, so a landmark or kind of cuisine could be referred to by other generators.

Like the character description generator:

“Gull” Sao’s favorite food is fresh dijon ketchup from The Blue Violet Isle of Eurynome. She was dressed in a rusty black suit and wore seafoam green yarn stockings and shoes with brass buckles. She wore a red sash tied around her waist, and, as she pushed back her coat, you might glimpse the glitter of a pistol butt.

Having written this stuff once, I immediately see ways in which Kate’s suggestions above would have improved things. I look forward to other people finding new and better ways to apply Tracery to generating more things.

…our nervous systems, our realities, and the evolving forms of media that inevitably insert themselves between the two. A…

negativland, destroying anything, cutup, social media, post truth, true, false, 2019

video link

…our nervous systems, our realities, and the evolving forms of media that inevitably insert themselves between the two. A series of seemingly random topics are slowly woven together: shootings, bees, the right’s rules for radicals, climate control, dogs pretending to be children, the oil we eat, and the right of every American to believe whatever they want to believe — your brain’s ear lets nothing remain entirely random. It’s not the content, it’s the edit that shows us what we all know to be true, and it’s the things that one is most tempted to enjoy as harmless entertainment that often turn out to be living animals. Splicing together Occupy mic checks with US militia rallies, FOX news hosts with ecoterrorists, and your own sanity with the home viewing habits of Negativland’s lead vocalist, the Weatherman, when you put the word True next to the word False, a broader reality reveals itself.

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During the Cold War, the United States nuked the Marshall Islands 67 times. After it finished nuking the islands, the Pentagon…

Runit Island, The Tomb, nuclear waste, cold war, south pacific, US, long now, preservation architecture, 2019

During the Cold War, the United States nuked the Marshall Islands 67 times. After it finished nuking the islands, the Pentagon dropped biological weapons on the islands. Once the U.S. was finished, it scooped the irradiated and ruined soil from the islands, poured it into a crater left behind from a nuclear detonation, mixed it all with concrete, and covered the whole thing in a concrete dome. They called it “The Tomb.” According to a report from The Los Angeles Times, climate change is breaking that dome open. Rising sea levels and temperatures are cracking open The Tomb, threatening to spill nuclear waste into the Pacific Ocean.

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And so while it may seem strange and even naïve to look to mythology for tools to understand the earth’s six mass extinctions,…

Adam Nocek, mythology, extinction, ambiguity, philosophy, 2019

“And so while it may seem strange and even naïve to look to mythology for tools to understand the earth’s six mass extinctions, we think that in an era dominated by technocratic solutionism (which leaves little room for paradox, ambiguity, and non-modern ways of relating to the world) it is naïve to think that we could rely on the styles of thought and reasoning that brought about the problem in the first place. In this way our project, as well as our work as a collective, calls upon humans to harness the powers of mythical fabulation in order to address our relation to an earth future that we will bring into being (it is a product of human design), but which completely escapes our human capacities for understanding.”

Adam Nocek 

Where Are They?

poetry, life, questions, fermi paradox, wikipedia, found poetry, list, 2019

  7.1 Extraterrestrial life is rare or non-existent
  7.2 No other intelligent species have arisen
  7.3 Intelligent alien species lack advanced technology
  7.4 Water world hypothesis<br/>  7.5 It is the nature of intelligent life to destroy itself
  7.6 It is the nature of intelligent life to destroy others
  7.7 Periodic extinction by natural events
  7.8 Intelligent civilizations are too far apart in space or time
  7.9 Lack of resources to spread physically throughout the galaxy
  7.10 Lack of desire to live on planets
  7.11 It is cheaper to transfer information for exploration
  7.12 Human beings have not existed long enough
  7.13 We are not listening properly
  7.14 Civilizations broadcast detectable radio signals only for a brief period of time
  7.15 They tend to isolate themselves
  7.16 Colonization is not the norm
  7.17 Outcomes between all and nothing
  7.18 They are too alien
  7.19 Everyone is listening but no one is transmitting
  7.20 Earth is deliberately not contacted
  7.21 Earth is purposely isolated (planetarium hypothesis)
  7.22 It is dangerous to communicate
  7.23 They are here unacknowledged

( Found poetry via Fermi’s Paradox and WIkipedia)

To celebrate halloween we trained a net that creates endless vignettes about murdering humans, torture, necrophilia—kinda funny…

dadabots, death, extinction, cannibal corpse, RNN, BigGAN, AI, death metal, livestream, 2019

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To celebrate halloween we trained a net that creates endless vignettes about murdering humans, torture, necrophilia—kinda funny and campy like Evil Dead—using one of the greatest datasets ever— cannibal corpse lyrics


Neural network generating death metal, via livestream 24/7.

Audio / lyrics / visuals are all generative.

Powered by DADABOTS 

🤖Audio generated with modified SampleRNN trained on Cannibal Corpse
🤖Lyrics generated with pretrained 117M GPT2 fine-tuned on Cannibal Corpse
🤖Meat images generated with BigGAN interpolations in the #butchershop latent space
🤖You can generate all kinds of gross stuff on artbreeder…
🤖Vocals separated using Wave-U-Net (yup it separates death growls)
🤖Read more about our scientific research into eliminating humans from music

Australian water rats have learned how to kill cane toads, eat their hearts and carve out their organs with “surgical…

cane toad, water rats, rakali, predation, ecology, au, 2019

Australian water rats have learned how to kill cane toads, eat their hearts and carve out their organs with “surgical precision”. In only two years, highly intelligent native rakali in the Kimberly region of Western Australia discovered how to safely destroy the deadly toad – by removing its gallbladder and feasting on the heart.The rats even targeted the biggest, most poisonous toads they could find, leaving their bodies strewn by the riverside, according to research published in Australian Mammalogy.

The researchers hypothesise that the rats either learned from scratch – by figuring out which parts of the toad made them sick – or already had previous experience from eating Australian native toxic frogs.

Other animals, like crows and kites, have been observed turning cane toads inside out to avoid the toxic skin and only eat non-poisonous organs, the report said. The rats face threats from pollution of waterways, can be caught in fishing line and discarded balloons, and hunted by stray cats, foxes and dogs.

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An Alienist is a person who fights economic cultural totalitarianism with unconventional weapons, using unconventional methods….

alienist, menifesto, alienation, methods, praxis, futures, 2017, 2019, appropriation

An Alienist is a person who fights economic cultural totalitarianism with unconventional weapons, using unconventional methods. The Alienist must be a good tactician, to compensate for the fact that the forces ranged in defence of economic cultural totalitarianism are vastly asymmetrical in nature. The Alienist’s weapons may appear inferior to the enemy’s, but from the semantic point of view the Alienist has an undeniable superiority.

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“Nine of the 10 hottest Julys have occurred since 2005—with the last five years ranking as the five hottest. Last month was…

NOAA, climate, global warming, climate change, July, hot, 2019

“Nine of the 10 hottest Julys have occurred since 2005—with the last five years ranking as the five hottest. Last month was also the 43rd consecutive July and 415th consecutive month with above-average global temperatures.”

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The experiences of the Umbrella Movement and recent clashes with police have taught protesters what equipment they need at the…

sign language, Hong Kong, protest, communication, be water, 2019

The experiences of the Umbrella Movement and recent clashes with police have taught protesters what equipment they need at the front lines. To ensure new supplies can reach the front lines quickly, Hong Kong’s protesters have developed a unique system of hand signals, to send messages through the crowd about what equipment is required. 

A sign is passed onwards through the crowd back to the supply depots where goods have been transported near to the protest site, and the requested items are then passed through the crowd along a human chain back to where they are needed. These human supply chains have stretched as far as a kilometre in length, and are an impressive sight to behold. 

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Ok is the first glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years, all our glaciers are expected to follow the…

Okjökull, Ok Glacier, iceland, glacier, Jón Gnarr, Cymene Howe, Dominic Boyer., climate change, global warming, 2019, 2200

Ok is the first glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years, all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.

Ágúst 2019, 415ppm CO2

Okjökull, or Ok Glacier, was the subject of a 2018 documentary called Not Ok, made by Rice anthropologists Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer. Narrated by former Reykjavík mayor and comedian Jón Gnarr, Not Ok tells how in 2014, Ok became the first glacier in Iceland to melt and thereby “lose its title” as a glacier. Scientists credit Ok’s melting to global warming. According to the filmmakers, scientists fear that all of Iceland’s 400-plus glaciers will be gone by 2200.

“By marking Ok’s passing, we hope to draw attention to what is being lost as Earth’s glaciers expire,” Cymene remarked in the press release. “These bodies of ice are the largest freshwater reserves on the planet and frozen within them are histories of the atmosphere. They are also often important cultural forms that are full of significance.” The monument is said to be the first of its kind in the world.

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Tobias Revell - Five Problems with Speculative Design (Pensee, Germinal, 227)

Tobias-Revell, SCD, design, speculative-design, futures, climate-change, 2019

We don’t have a good speculative design for planetary-change. The operating model of the business-design pipeline is exploiting the planet at one end and users at the other. The idea that these might in fact be the same thing would mean admitting that an operational focus on individual users and discrete time windows was ineffective design. And large sprawling change over massive time windows and shifting human/non-human interactions does not conform to the way in which revenue is reported. Again, this isn’t the fault of speculative design; designers need to eat. But, under these conditions we can’t to look at it as a catch-all solution for planetary collapse.


We Have to Save the Planet. So I’m Donating $1 Billion

NYT, Hansjörg-Wyss, climate, environment, philanthropy, 2019

Every one of us — citizens, philanthropists, business and government leaders — should be troubled by the enormous gap between how little of our natural world is currently protected and how much should be protected. It is a gap that we must urgently narrow, before our human footprint consumes the earth’s remaining wild places. For my part, I have decided to donate $1 billion over the next decade to help accelerate land and ocean conservation efforts around the world, with the goal of protecting 30 percent of the planet’s surface by 2030. This money will support locally led conservation efforts around the world, push for increased global targets for land and ocean protection, seek to raise public awareness about the importance of this effort, and fund scientific studies to identify the best strategies to reach our target. I believe this ambitious goal is achievable because I’ve seen what can be accomplished.


"From the funding of anti-media, ultra-media NGOs to aggressive lobbying strategies on European standards, such as the…

Meat, France, Vegan, substituts à la viande, EU, antispécistes, la viande cellulaire, lab grown meat, conspiracy, meat lobby, 2019

“From the funding of anti-media, ultra-media NGOs to aggressive lobbying strategies on European standards, such as the Zootechnical Directive, these companies often linked to Anglo-Saxon investment funds or billionaires seem to have made the penetration of French market a priority by partnering with mass retailers. The Observatory of Food Innovation will attempt to decipher this strategy of encirclement, but also its consequences for the French economy.”

“La cartographie ci-dessous présente les liens de financement et d’influence entre les investisseurs anglo-saxons, les start-up du marché de la viande cellulaire et les mouvements antispécistes. Le financement, de 1,1 millions d’euros en 2017, entre L214 et la fondation américaine « Open Philanthropy Project » est révélé par le rapport des commissaires aux comptes pour l’exercice 2017 de l’association.“

Black hole named ‘Powehi’ by Hawaiian professor

Powehi, M87, blackhole, Hawaii, names, 2019

University of Hawaii-Hilo Hawaiian Professor Larry Kimura has given a Hawaiian name — Powehi — to the black hole depicted in an image produced in a landmark experiment. “Powehi” means “the adorned fathomless dark creation” or “embellished dark source of unending creation” and comes from the Kumulipo, an 18th-century Hawaiian creation chant. “Po” is a profound dark source of unending creation, while “wehi,” honored with embellishments, is one of the chant’s descriptions of po, the newspaper reported. “To have the privilege of giving a Hawaiian name to the very first scientific confirmation of a black hole is very meaningful to me and my Hawaiian lineage that comes from po,” Kimura said in a news release. A Hawaiian name was justified because the project included two Hawaii telescopes, astronomers said. “As soon as he said it, I nearly fell off my chair,” said Jessica Dempsey, deputy director of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Mauna Kea.


Bacterial and fungal communities associated with the International Space Station

ISS, microbiome, space, bacteria, fungi, closed-system, space-travel, 2019

The International Space Station (ISS) is a closed system inhabited by microorganisms originating from life support systems, cargo, and crew that are exposed to unique selective pressures such as microgravity. To date, mandatory microbial monitoring and observational studies of spacecraft and space stations have been conducted by traditional culture methods, although it is known that many microbes cannot be cultured with standard techniques. To fully appreciate the true number and diversity of microbes that survive in the ISS, molecular and culture-based methods were used to assess microbial communities on ISS surfaces. Samples were taken at eight pre-defined locations during three flight missions spanning 14 months and analyzed upon return to Earth. The results reveal a diverse population of bacteria and fungi on ISS environmental surfaces that changed over time but remained similar between locations. The dominant organisms are associated with the human microbiome and may include opportunistic pathogens. This study provides the first comprehensive catalog of both total and intact/viable bacteria and fungi found on surfaces in closed space systems and can be used to help develop safety measures that meet NASA requirements for deep space human habitation. The results of this study can have significant impact on our understanding of other confined built environments on the Earth such as clean rooms used in the pharmaceutical and medical industries.


Key indicators of Arctic climate change: 1971–2017

arctic, climate-change, climate, science, tipping-point, AMAP, IPCC, 1971, 2017, 2019

Key observational indicators of climate change in the Arctic, most spanning a 47 year period (1971–2017) demonstrate fundamental changes among nine key elements of the Arctic system. We find that, coherent with increasing air temperature, there is an intensification of the hydrological cycle, evident from increases in humidity, precipitation, river discharge, glacier equilibrium line altitude and land ice wastage. Downward trends continue in sea ice thickness (and extent) and spring snow cover extent and duration, while near-surface permafrost continues to warm. Several of the climate indicators exhibit a significant statistical correlation with air temperature or precipitation, reinforcing the notion that increasing air temperatures and precipitation are drivers of major changes in various components of the Arctic system. […] The Arctic biophysical system is now clearly trending away from its 20th Century state and into an unprecedented state, with implications not only within but beyond the Arctic.


Uri Geller calls on Britons to help telepathically stop Brexit

brexit, telepathy, Uri-Geller, 2019

The illusionist Uri Geller has called on the British people to help him in his efforts to telepathically stop Brexit by sending their own telepathic messages to Theresa May’s mind, compelling her to revoke article 50. Geller wrote an open letter to the prime minister on Friday warning her he will use the powers of his mind to stop her from leading Britain into Brexit. He plans to transmit his psychic energy into May’s brain at the “very mystical time” of 11.11 in the morning and evening every day from a secret location near his home in Israel.


What went wrong with the Boeing 737 Max 8

boeing, 737, 737Max8, failure, risk, 2019

As airlines and safety regulators worldwide scramble to understand why two Boeing 737 Max 8 jets crashed in chillingly similar accidents, more indications are pointing to how an automated anti-stalling system may be linked to the model’s unusually deadly debut. The safety feature—the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS)—appears to have sent both planes into their fatal dives as pilots struggled to keep aloft. The 737 Max 8 and 9 were grounded by regulators around the world last week. Here are key details that have been reported—most significantly by the Seattle Times—about a series of engineering, regulatory, and political missteps that preceded software being installed on a widely used plane without pilots apparently fully understanding its risks.


History of the AFP

AFP, Australia, protest, eggboy, politics, history, 1917, 2019

On 29 November 1917 while campaigning to introduce military conscription, Hughes was the target of eggs thrown by protestors when he arrived at Warwick Railway Station in southern Queensland. Prime Minister Hughes was incensed that the attending Queensland Police would not arrest the offenders under federal law, so when he returned to Parliament he set about drafting legislation to create the Commonwealth Police Force (CPF). The ‘Warwick Incident’ was the last straw for the Prime Minister who was engaged in a range of jurisdictional struggles with the Queensland Government at the time.


A Programmers Take on “Six Memos for the Next Millennium”

calvino, writing, programming, six-memos, Six-Memos-for-the-Next-Millennium, 2019

The reason why I’m writing about [Six Memos for the Next Millennium] is that while I think that they are great memos about writing, the more I think about them, the more they apply to programming. Which is a weird coincidence, because they were supposed to be memos for writers in the next millennium, and programming is kind of a new form of writing that’s becoming more important in this millennium. Being a game developer, I also can’t help but apply these to game design. So I will occasionally talk about games in here, but I’ll try to keep it mostly about programming.


“This final panorama embodies what made our Opportunity rover such a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery,” said…

NASA, Mars, Opportunity, panorama, photography, 2019

“This final panorama embodies what made our Opportunity rover such a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery,” said Opportunity project manager John Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “To the right of center you can see the rim of Endeavor Crater rising in the distance. Just to the left of that, rover tracks begin their descent from over the horizon and weave their way down to geologic features that our scientists wanted to examine up close. And to the far right and left are the bottom of Perseverance Valley and the floor of Endeavour crater, pristine and unexplored, waiting for visits from future explorers.”

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A gut feeling for mental health

health, microbiome, depression, KUL, VIB, gut-flora, 2019

The first population-level study on the link between gut bacteria and mental health identifies specific gut bacteria linked to depression and provides evidence that a wide range of gut bacteria can produce neuroactive compounds. Jeroen Raes (VIB-KU Leuven) and his team published these results today in the scientific journal Nature Microbiology. In their manuscript entitled ‘The neuroactive potential of the human gut microbiota in quality of life and depression’ Jeroen Raes and his team studied the relation between gut bacteria and quality of life and depression. The authors combined faecal microbiome data with general practitioner diagnoses of depression from 1,054 individuals enrolled in the Flemish Gut Flora Project. They identified specific groups of microorganisms that positively or negatively correlated with mental health. The authors found that two bacterial genera, Coprococcus and Dialister, were consistently depleted in individuals with depression, regardless of antidepressant treatment. The results were validated in an independent cohort of 1,063 individuals from the Dutch LifeLinesDEEP cohort and in a cohort of clinically depressed patients at the University Hospitals Leuven, Belgium.


Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers

insects, climate-change, biodiversity, 2019, ecology, science, extinction

Biodiversity of insects is threatened worldwide. Here, we present a comprehensive review of 73 historical reports of insect declines from across the globe, and systematically assess the underlying drivers. Our work reveals dramatic rates of decline that may lead to the extinction of 40% of the world’s insect species over the next few decades. […] The main drivers of species declines appear to be in order of importance: i) habitat loss and conversion to intensive agriculture and urbanisation; ii) pollution, mainly that by synthetic pesticides and fertilisers; iii) biological factors, including pathogens and introduced species; and iv) climate change


Better Language Models and Their Implications

gpt2, ML, AI, text, text-generation, generative, OpenAI, 2019

GPT-2 displays a broad set of capabilities, including the ability to generate conditional synthetic text samples of unprecedented quality, where we prime the model with an input and have it generate a lengthy continuation. In addition, GPT-2 outperforms other language models trained on specific domains (like Wikipedia, news, or books) without needing to use these domain-specific training datasets. On language tasks like question answering, reading comprehension, summarization, and translation, GPT-2 begins to learn these tasks from the raw text, using no task-specific training data. While scores on these downstream tasks are far from state-of-the-art, they suggest that the tasks can benefit from unsupervised techniques, given sufficient (unlabeled) data and compute.


State-of-the-art climate model shows how we can solve crisis

climate, mitigation, LDF, IPCC, UTS, SR15, energy, 2019

We are already seeing the devastating consequences of global warming, with ever-rising sea levels, extreme storms, prolonged droughts and intensified bushfires. Now, after two years of research and modelling, scientists have come up with a groundbreaking new framework for achieving – and even beating – the target of limiting warming to 1.5°C. The research by leading scientists at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), the German Aerospace Center and the University of Melbourne, has been funded by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) as part of its new One Earth initiative. This model is the first to achieve the required negative emissions through natural climate solutions, including the restoration of degraded forests and other lands, along with a transition to 100% renewable energy by mid-century.


Japan’s robot hotel lays off half the robots after they created more work for humans

Japan, Robots, hotel, 2019, strange, labour, employment

It turns out that even robots are having a tough time holding down a job. Japan’s Henn-na “Strange” Hotel has laid off half its 243 robots after they created more problems than they could solve […] One of the layoffs included a doll-shaped assistant in each hotel room called Churi. Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa can answer questions about local businesses’ opening and closing times, but Churi couldn’t. When hotel guests asked Churi “What time does the theme park open?” it didn’t have a good answer. That was a problem because Churi was supposed to help ameliorate the Strange Hotel’s staff shortage by substituting in for human workers.