Saturday, April 27, 2019
Yours truly loves to read as you, my loyal readers already know. With the net, one can peruse material in ways beyond the kin of man just 20 years ago but with this new found power comes a price, the price of the tactile sense of picking up a book and reading it without the need of power save that of enough light to make it happen.
The great irony, of course, is that I’ve never read more digitally in my life. Each day, I spend hours reading on my iPhone – news articles, blog posts and essays. Short to mid-length content feels indigenous to the size, resolution and use cases of smartphones, and many online publications (such as this very site) display their content with beautiful typography and layouts that render consistently on any computer, tablet or smartphone. Phones also allow us to share articles with minimal effort. The easy romance between our smartphones and short-to-mid-length articles and video is part of the reason why venture capitalists have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into New York publishing upstarts such as Vox, Vice and Buzzfeed. The smartphone coupled with the open web creates a near-perfect container for distributing journalism at a grand scale.
Once bought by a reader, a book moves through a routine. It is read and underlined, dog-eared and scuffed and, most importantly, reread. To read a book once is to know it in passing. To read it over and over is to become confidants. The relationship between a reader and a book is measured not in hours or minutes but, ideally, in months and years.
Seen below is a perfect example of why moving back to physical from digital makes perfect sense when viewing a modern rendition of the 12th century masterpiece The Conference of the Birds complete with elegant text & calligraphy, combined with exquisite paper to create a tactile experience of a different kind.
The object – a dense, felled tree, wrapped in royal blue cloth – requires two hands to hold. The inner volume swooshes from its slipcase. And then the thing opens like some blessed walking path into intricate endpages, heavystock half-titles, and multi-page die-cuts, shepherding you towards the table of contents. Behbehani utilitises all the qualities of print to create a procession. By the time you arrive at chapter one, you are entranced.
Contrast this with opening a Kindle book – there is no procession, and often no cover. You are sometimes thrown into the first chapter, sometimes into the middle of the front matter. Wherein every step of opening The Conference of the Birds fills one with delight – delight at what one is seeing and what one anticipates to come – opening a Kindle book frustrates. Often, you have to swipe or tap back a dozen pages to be sure you haven’t missed anything.
There is a cost to everything as dictated by the two laws of thermodynamics with the first being 24/7 access to the world's literature, courtesy the web, vs. the loss of tactile contained in the essence of reading a well worn physical book. Seen below is The Conference of the Birds 16th century style. :)
Any questions? :)
Friday, April 26, 2019
With climate change accelerating at a pace totally unforeseen by researchers, the possibility of a world without ice could become reality, a condition last seen about 55 million years ago, the period known as the Eocene.
The Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), alternatively "Eocene thermal maximum 1" (ETM1), and formerly known as the "Initial Eocene" or "Late Paleocene Thermal Maximum", was a time period with more than 8 °C warmer global average temperature than today. This climate event began at the time boundary of the Paleogene, between the Paleocene and Eocene geological epochs. The exact age and duration of the event is uncertain but it is estimated to have occurred around 55.5 million years ago.
The associated period of massive carbon injection into the atmosphere has been estimated to have lasted no longer than 20,000 years. The entire warm period lasted for about 200,000 years. Global temperatures increased by 5–8 °C. The carbon dioxide was likely released in two pulses, the first lasting less than 2,000 years. Such a repeated carbon release is in line with current global warming. A main difference is that during the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, the planet was essentially ice-free. However, the amount of released carbon, according to a recent study, suggests a modest 0.2 gigatonnes per year (at peaks 0.58 gigatonnes); humans today add about 10 gigatonnes per year.
With intense effort, this might not happen but seeing how passive world governments are regarding this rather serious situation, the odds of preventing this catastrophic disaster is 50/50 at best.
Note: This just covers rising water levels, never mind the ecological, the weather or the level of CO2 we are injecting into the atmosphere at a rate thousands of time faster than the Eocene.
Note II: The amount of CO2 during the Eocene was estimated to have been 1200+ parts per million, a level that eliminates clouds as a coolant mechanism, thus giving rise to the PETM.
Processes responsible for the cloud deck breaking up around 1,200 ppm CO2 in the model. Temperatures shown in units of kelvins.
Endgame: To tackle this, Schneider and his colleagues flipped things around. They utilized a model that can simulate these clouds in a small patch of atmosphere—given a simplified version of the world around them. Specifically, they simulated a patch of the subtropical ocean with stratocumulus clouds above and a neighboring patch of tropical ocean responding to global warming. They did this for varying concentrations of greenhouse gas equivalent to 400 parts per million of CO2 (similar to today) on up to 1,600 parts per million.
Up to about 1,000 parts per million, there were no major surprises. Things got around 4°C warmer and numbers changed for things like water vapor and cloud altitude. But the cloud deck generally looked familiar.
At about 1,200 parts per million, however, the simulated clouds suddenly dissipated. And without that shade reflecting sunlight, the world warmed another 8°C.
In other words, the PETM.
Thursday, April 25, 2019
10K or the Long Now is, in essence, the building of a clock designed to last 10,000 years, a project finally coming together as seen by the video above. The clock itself is pretty amazing but the most interesting aspect of this enterprise is the time frame of looking 10K into the future using a clock to make it happen. Think about this. What will the world be like? Will man survive,? Will the stars beckon for us to go there? Interesting questions apply here without question. In any event, earth will be around as she doesn't need us and ... 10K is but an eye blink in the multiverse of forever.
Another initiative of the foundation is the Rosetta Project, a global collaboration of language specialists and native speakers working to build a publicly accessible digital library of human languages permanently etched into a disk intended to last for millennia as per the clock of the Long Now.
The Rosetta Disk fits in the palm of your hand, yet it contains over 13,000 pages of information on over 1,500 human languages. The pages are microscopically etched and then electroformed in solid nickel, a process that raises the text very slightly - about 100 nanometers - off of the surface of the disk. Each page is only 400 microns across - about the width of 5 human hairs - and can be read through a microscope at 650X as clearly as you would from print in a book. Individual pages are visible at a much lower magnification of 100X. The outer ring of text reads "Languages of the World" in eight major world languages.
I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Back in the day, yours truly was a graphic designer who worked with letterpress typesetters designing corporate brochures and collateral as needs warrant. Letterpress is the tech Ben Franklin used to print newspapers whereby lead slugs were assembled, in reverse, to generate text and graphics for the publications Franklin produced in Philadelphia. The charm of letterpress was, and is, the tactile quality of the impressions made by the slugs when applying ink to the paper in question.
After letterpress, computerized phototype systems, using film to generate text, became the way we integrated type into mechanicals after speccing the type in question, something completely beyond the kin of young designers today who use InDesign, and other apps, to generate accurate & visual digital design sets to send to printers via PDFs, the universal document format used all over the world. :)
With this being said, the golden age of Hollywood is coming to a close as AI and computer graphics will change how tinseltown creates films forever.
Hollywood, which has mostly avoided the dislocations affecting the rest of the media industry, now faces its own moment of reckoning. Unlike journalism, where technology has decimated profit margins, Tinseltown is still living high on the hog, sustaining an entire ecosystem of agents and middlemen who do nothing, add little value, and get paid incredibly well for their services. That’s why trying to get a movie or TV show made in Hollywood is like watching a salmon swim upstream with a cinderblock hooked onto its dorsal fin. And it’s also why the current brouhaha between the unions and agents puts so much at stake in the industry.
If you don’t live in one of the most expensive ZIP codes in America, here’s a little recap of what’s going on. Last week, the Writers Guild of America required its members to fire agents who would not agree to a new code of conduct regarding the widespread use of packaging fees, wherein agents get paid by studios or networks, rather than taking a standard 10 percent commission tied to writers’ earnings, and thus are able to make more money than the writers themselves. On Wednesday, the union ramped up its battle with the major talent agencies, announcing a lawsuit against the four agencies that dominate Hollywood: WME, CAA, UTA, and ICM. (My colleague Joy Press has a great rundown here.) With numerous writers going without agents, the W.G.A. has created a new online submission system designed to replace some of their functions.
Note: it's just a matter of time regarding actors and directors as well as people really don't care about who makes film X, they care about the narrative. Something to think about in the age of emerging AI, right?
Monday, April 22, 2019
Sunday, April 21, 2019
Saturday, April 20, 2019
Friday, April 19, 2019
My loyal readers know my opinion of Trump so that bonafide is not an issue but there is an issue regarding the Russians, the DNC and the hacking of the election is as the "Russian Hack" was the start point for Mueller's investigation, something rather important when it comes to what exactly went down in 2016 with the involved parties. With this in mind, a detailed article from Consortium News brings up the lack of due diligence on Mueller's part as to why he never talked to Assange nor to high end intel pros to make sure his findings were technically correct prior to releasing his report to the nation.
MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: The Fly in the Mueller Ointment
April 16, 2019
The song has ended but the melody lingers on. The release Thursday of the redacted text of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election” nudged the American people a tad closer to the truth on so-called “Russiagate.”
But the Mueller report left unscathed the central-but-unproven allegation that the Russian government hacked into the DNC and Podesta emails, gave them to WikiLeaks to publish, and helped you win the election. The thrust will be the same; namely, even if there is a lack of evidence that you colluded with Russian President Vladimir Putin, you have him to thank for becoming president. And that melody will linger on for the rest of your presidency, unless you seize the moment.
Mueller has accepted that central-but-unproven allegation as gospel truth, apparently in the lack of any disinterested, independent forensic work. Following the odd example of his erstwhile colleague, former FBI Director James Comey, Mueller apparently has relied for forensics on a discredited, DNC-hired firm named CrowdStrike, whose credibility is on a par with “pee-tape dossier” compiler Christopher Steele. Like Steele, CrowdStrike was hired and paid by the DNC (through a cutout).
We brought the lack of independent forensics to the attention of Attorney General William Barr on March 13 in a Memorandum entitled “Mueller’s Forensic-Free Findings”, but received no reply or acknowledgement. In that Memorandum we described the results of our own independent, agenda-free forensic investigation led by two former Technical Directors of the NSA, who avoid squishy “assessments,” preferring to base their findings on fundamental principles of science and the scientific method. Our findings remain unchallenged; they reveal gaping holes in CrowdStrike’s conclusions.
We do not know if Barr shared our March 13 Memorandum with you. As for taking a public position on the forensics issue, we suspect he is being circumspect in choosing his battles carefully, perhaps deferring until later a rigorous examination of the dubious technical work upon which Mueller seems to have relied.
Read the Consortium News report in it's entirety to see why this "fly in the ointment" is such a big deal IMHO.
Thursday, April 18, 2019
A must see to see why, in the pursuit of money, tragedy can result, especially in terms of systems that fly.
But there’s a much deeper and scandal-ridden story about how this plane got to market, and it starts with Boeing’s fierce rivalry with Airbus — and their race to put a new engine in their planes.
The video above shows how those business problems led to technical ones — and, eventually, two terrible tragedies.
Any questions and ... thanks Alex & Richard for turning me onto this.
Being shagged by a kakapo is a life changing event, right? :)
Researchers who work with the birds notice they each have their own personality. Many are curious and enjoy interacting with humans. In one BBC special, a hand-raised kakapo named Sirocco gained international fame after trying to mate with zoologist Mark Carwardine's head. Sirocco is now the spokes-bird for New Zealand conservation. Although Carwardine maybe didn't think so at the time, the video is incredibly entertaining:
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
The first image of a black hole, from the galaxy Messier 87. CreditCreditEvent Horizon Telescope Collaboration, via National Science Foundation
Black holes rule and ... they exist big time. To whit.
“We have seen what we thought was unseeable,” said Shep Doeleman, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and director of the effort to capture the image, during a Wednesday news conference in Washington, D.C.
The image, of a lopsided ring of light surrounding a dark circle deep in the heart of the galaxy known as Messier 87, some 55 million light-years away from Earth, resembled the Eye of Sauron, a reminder yet again of the implacable power of nature. It is a smoke ring framing a one-way portal to eternity.
The network of telescopes was sensitive enough to observe daily variations in the bright ring around the M87 black hole.
Just the beginning ... of a new era in astronomy is at hand. Stellar without question.
EKCD yet again. :)
Makes one feel small doesn't it?
538's take on how they did this is truly astounding. Excellent to a fault. :)
Just one more thing ... :) The pix below shows the Messier 87 black hole in context
via the Chandra X-ray observatory.
via the Chandra X-ray observatory.
The Core of M87: Chandra Captures X-rays in Coordination with EHTScientists have used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to obtain data of Messier 87 during the April 2017 observations by the Event Horizon Telescope.
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Creativity and innovation go hand in hand, especially when it involves science and the solving of a wicket problem: to whit, do primordial black holes give rise to dark matter? If so, how do you find said entities? The answer, microlensing.
Gravitational microlensing relies on chance events where from our viewpoint, one star (or a black hole - ed) passes in front of another star. The farther star is usually a bright star, and the near one is normally one we couldn't ordinarily see from Earth. When it passes in front of the farther star, however, its gravity causes the light from the farther star to bend and the star is magnified from our point of view.
The answer, thus far, no.
The latest bit of emptiness was published this week, and it seemingly puts an end to one of the possible remaining explanations for dark matter: black holes that formed shortly after the Big Bang and have been structuring the Universe ever since. While earlier studies have seemingly ruled out larger versions of these primordial black holes, the new study closes the window on anything more massive than a large asteroid. And it was all accomplished with just a single night of telescope time.
Wicked problem No. 2 ... Could smaller primordial black holes give rise to dark matter?
If primordial black holes were common, they'd create plenty of these smaller microlensing events, and we should be able to spot them. But dedicated searches for them came up with very few of the events, as did the Kepler planet-hunting telescope, which stared at a large field of stars on and off for several years. Combined, these suggested that any primordial black holes would have to be extremely odd, weighing less than our Sun.
But these small, primordial black holes couldn't be ruled out on theoretical grounds. This led a group of Japanese researchers to try to rule them out on observational grounds.
To find out, innovation and persistence comes into play.
Enabled by some new telescope hardware, the Japanese researchers decided to go bigger. The hardware is something called the Hyper Suprime-Cam, an 870 megapixel monster attached to an 8 meter telescope. Configured properly, it could capture the entire Andromeda galaxy in a single frame, and it can do so about every 90 seconds. That's fast enough that even a light black hole can be captured multiple times during the microlensing. To make sure they could capture as many events as possible, the researchers were given an entire night with the telescope all to themselves, with seven hours of total observation time.
End result ...
Although the Hyper Suprime-Cam has a lot of pixels, Andromeda has even more stars. To detect individual lensing events, the team used software that compared consecutive images and highlighted any pixels that showed changes between them. After a night of observations, there were over 15,500 events that had to be sorted through. But these included things like variable stars, stellar flares, and eclipses in binary star systems. Focusing on short-term changes cut the number to about 12,000, while searching for symmetric "bumps" in which the light intensity goes up and drops down again left the researchers with a total of 66 possible microlensing events.
At this point, they simply examined each event manually. Most of them were simply imaging artifacts caused by bright stars shifting near pixel boundaries; at least one was an asteroid. By the time all of them had been examined, there was only one candidate that could possibly be a microlensing event. It wasn't a great match, but there were no other obvious explanations for it.
Innovation & persistence indeed. :)
Saturday, April 06, 2019
Web comics like the truly excellent XKCD & Dinosaur Comics have been around for years, chronicling the web and society in ways both funny and touching at the same time. Well, the Verge came out with a wonderful piece Web Comics: An Oral History where web comic creators discuss how they, and the web, have changed over the last 20+ years. Worth a read without question.
It can be hard to remember how primitive the internet landscape was in the late ‘90s, the era when webcomics came of age. The only way to share things was through email and instant message, and a seconds-long video clip could crash email servers if too many people sent it around. Something Awful was still a “weblog.” We went to websites — plural — to check for updates every day.
Webcomics creators often went online after being rejected by newspaper syndicates, gatekeeper conglomerates that grew increasingly conservative in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The best ones grew into beloved phenomenons, and the nascent funny T-shirt industry allowed many artists to make a living on daily cartoons throughout the 2000s.
Social media and a glut of internet merchandise have shifted the economics. Artists increasingly rely on Patreon, book sales, and other sources of revenue, while new webcomics often pop up exclusively on Instagram, foregoing the expense of a dedicated site. But in those early days, webcomics were some of the most influential pieces of the early-ish internet — vibrant and weird. They formed followings, which became communities, which became culture.
Jon Rosenberg, Goats and Scenes from a Multiverse: I started putting my comics online in April 1997 when I got 5MB of server space with my dial-up account. There wasn’t anything on the internet. Even if your comics were complete shit — which mine were — there was an expectation that people would look at them. What else were you going to look at?
It was also a way to get around newspaper syndicates. Most of the packets I sent to them got rejected out of hand, but I got one letter back from a big editor, Jay Kennedy [of King Features Syndicate]. I’ve got it up on my wall. He said mixing animals and humans in the cast was confusing.
All of the comics that inspired me to become a cartoonist mixed humans and animals. It just revealed to me what bullshit it all was, that syndication wasn’t something I needed or wanted to pursue.
Excellent to a fault. :)
Friday, April 05, 2019
AlgorithmicGovernance, a BRT blurb connecting to yet another NYTimes piece dealing with surveillance 24/7 shows how 1984 meets digital in ways Orwell would understand without question. With Orwell in mind, the blowback on people under this kind of oppressive tech eerily resembles 1984 in ways all too familiar to anyone who has read his masterpiece after it was published in 1949.
The police sometimes take Uighurs's phones and check to make sure they have installed compulsory software that monitors calls and messages.
But she remembers the searches: "They don't care if it's morning or night, they would come in every time they want."
Winston Smith is everywhere ...
Wednesday, April 03, 2019
It’s difficult to ascertain how the “chilling effect” of dragnet spying has changed society in the post 9/11 world.
However, many insiders in the intelligence community understood the dangers of these programs from the beginning.
Edward Snowden is celebrated as a hero for bringing proof of NSA’s mass spying and bulk collection to the world.
But years prior, Bill Binney had blown the whistle on this very same program. A 36-year NSA veteran, Bill Binney was the technical director, responsible for developing and overseeing the agency’s spying technology.
He even developed Thin Thread, the data monitoring program that was later hijacked by the Bush administration to implement widespread warrantless surveillance.
Mounting pressure caused Obama to pass the USA Freedom Act in 2015, which only outsourced it’s bulk acquisition to telecom companies, using the secretive FISA court as an intermediary.
And nearly 20 years after 9/11 these unaccountable agencies are using new fears, like of Russian cyber-warfare, to grow their power and operations.
I caught up with Binney in Vancouver, at the University of British Columbia, where he received the Allard Prize for International Integrity, to talk to him about blowing the whistle and the fight against the surveillance state today.
This is why this guy matters.
Climate change is a slow moving beast, something that sneaks up on you like fog, not seeming to be there until it is, something readily seen in an interactive map showing what the climate will feel like in 60 years, courtesy the University of Maryland.
What will climate where you live feel like in 60 years?
Over the next few decades, global climate is expected to undergo a dramatic transformation in an ongoing response to greenhouse gas emissions. What do we expect future climate to feel like and how might this change if we reduce emissions?
We answer these questions by finding the present-day location that has a climate most similar to that expected by the 2080’s in each of 540 cities (shown as purple dots on the map). We do this for different rates of emissions and a variety of climate models.
We used 12 different measures to describe climate, including minimum and maximum temperature and total precipitation for winter, spring, summer and fall. We considered two emissions scenarios – one that assumes high current emissions continue and one that assumes emissions peak mid-century and then decline. We also considered numerous future climate forecasts as generated by 27 different climate models.
An interesting, but not necessarily surprising finding is that there are no perfect matches. In other words, for no city did we find a present-day climate that is identical to a city's climate in 2080. In fact, because of the magnitude of expected climate change, for many cities the “best” match is not all that similar. This means that many cities could experience a future climate unlike anything present in North America today, especially if rates of greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced.
Check out this amazing map as CC's impact on man is accelerating as we mover closer to 2080.
NYC's climate = Jonesboro Arkansas' 60 years hence. Interesting is it not?