Wonderful pictures like this one above makes one smile, something we all need after experiencing the year of our lord 2021. In any event, seen below are two more gems from Treehugger, a site yours truly checks out almost every day for all topics related to science, nature and the environment. Enjoy.
Thursday, December 30, 2021
“If only once I could see a preview and come home feeling satisfied,” Garbo said.Photograph by Edward Steichen © 2021 The Estate of Edward Steichen / ARS, courtesy the George Eastman Museum
Mysterious and forever distant, Garbo lives ...
Fame is so powerful that renouncing it can seem like the supreme power move. Celebrities who retreat from the public eye (Howard Hughes, J. D. Salinger, Prince) will always be legends, no matter what else they may be. Rumored comebacks tantalize. Paparazzi circle. The mystery deepens. In 1941, at the age of thirty-six, Greta Garbo, one of the biggest box-office draws in the world, stopped acting and, though she lived for half a century more, never made another film. For a star who, more than any other, “invaded the subconscious of the audience,” as Robert Gottlieb writes in his new biography, “Garbo” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), this was an abdication, a privilege of monarchical proportions. But it was also a decision made by one particular, peculiar person who had never been temperamentally suited to celebrity in the first place. There was a reason, beyond the exertions of the Hollywood publicity machine, that a single line she uttered in one movie—“I want to be alone”—became so fused with her image. What can look like a strategy for keeping the public interested can also be a sincere and committed desire to keep it at bay.
The question to ask here is ...
Did Garbo have a rich inner life to sustain her for all those years? There isn’t much evidence of it. She was not a remarkable or notably confiding letter writer, journal keeper, or conversationalist; she does not seem to have had a surfeit of intellectual curiosity. In the movies, she had always been able to convey a sense of hidden depths, of memories and emotions lighting room after interior room, never quite surfacing to be articulated. Were those feelings complex, interesting? We were persuaded they must be. The relationship to fame that she enacted in the last decades of her life was something similar: it looked profound, perhaps even spiritual—a renunciation of celebrity’s blessings as well as its scourges. But who knows? Maybe she was just tired of making faces. ♦
This composite of the supremes says it all though Alito and Thomas are not included in this pix depicting justices not worthy of being called supremes in this writer's opinion. It seems Linda Greenhouse, a superb documentarian on the court, agrees.
When I left the daily Supreme Court beat back in 2008, the Week in Review, as The Times’s Sunday Review section was then called, invited me to offer some reflections on nearly 30 years of writing about the court, its cases and its members. The long essay ran under the headline “2,691 Decisions,” a number based on an editor’s calculation of how many decisions the court had issued during my time on the beat. I ended it with an observation about the “vital dialogue” between the court and the country. This was my conclusion:
“The court is in Americans’ collective hands. We shape it; it reflects us. At any given time, we may not have the Supreme Court we want. We may not have the court we need. But we have, most likely, the Supreme Court we deserve.”
Thank W and Trump for the SC we don't deserve.
One might suppose that the supercharged conservative majority might proceed with some caution, if not humility, before projecting its agenda on a wary country that never signed up for it. After all, of the six Republican-appointed justices, only three were named by a president who won a majority of the popular vote — Justice Clarence Thomas by George H.W. Bush, and Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Alito by George W. Bush in his second term. And given the small-state, red-state tilt of the Senate, it’s not surprising that the senators whose votes provided the narrow margins for confirming the three Trump-chosen justices represent less than half the country’s population.
Yet what we see from the court is not humility but, to put it politely, a lack of situational awareness. Polls consistently show that a majority of Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, something the court has given every indication that it will do within the next six months. Three-quarters of respondents in one recent poll said the abortion decision should be left to women and their doctors. (That was also the view of a majority of the public in a Gallup poll released in the summer of 1972, shortly before the court issued its decision in Roe.)
When reading Greenhouse's excellent analysis, callousness and incompetency come to mind regarding W and Trump as both exhibited these traits in spades with W's excellent adventure Weapons of Mass Destruction fiasco and Trump's mishandling of Covid along with his Jan 6th coup attempt to remain president of the good ole USA. We are in desperate trouble and the succession of mediocrities in the White House, after Eisenhower and Kennedy, have led us to an existential crisis as to whether this country will continue to remain a viable nation as we move further into the 21st century.
Tuesday, December 28, 2021
Glass & plastic lenses will slowly be replaced by metamaterials able to replicate the same image quality in form factors not able to be imagined until now.
The ultracompact camera we propose uses metasurface optics at the size of a coarse salt grain and can produce crisp, full-color images on par with a conventional compound camera lens 500,000 times larger in volume.
Siemens Resolution Star captures compared to heuristic designs by Colburn et al. and a refractive compound lens. Computational reconstruction with our neural nano-optic imager recovers spatial resolution in broadband almost matching the performance of a refractive compound lens. See Supplemental Material for USAF 1951 chart comparisons.
It's just the beginning ...
Monday, December 27, 2021
Just as you cannot petition the lord with prayer as per Jim Morrison of the Doors, one cannot predict the future thanks, in part, to quantum mechanics and the vicissitudes of mankind even though man has tried since the beginning of time.
In addition to quantum mechanics, think Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, Godel's Incompleteness Theorem and Chaos Theory's law of initial conditions as inconvertible proof the discipline of accurately predicting the future will forever remain a guesstimate at best.
Rulers from Mesopotamia to Manhattan have sought knowledge of the future in order to obtain strategic advantages—but time and again, they have failed to interpret it correctly, or they have failed to grasp either the political motives or the speculative limitations of those who proffer it. More often than not, they have also chosen to ignore futures that force them to face uncomfortable truths. Even the technological innovations of the 21st century have failed to change these basic problems—the results of computer programs are, after all, only as accurate as their data input.
There is an assumption that the more scientific the approach to predictions, the more accurate forecasts will be. But this belief causes more problems than it solves, not least because it often either ignores or excludes the lived diversity of human experience. Despite the promise of more accurate and intelligent technology, there is little reason to think the increased deployment of AI in forecasting will make prognostication any more useful than it has been throughout human history.
Reality bites ...
Interesting to say the least.
Just four countries—the U.S., China, Japan, and Germany—make up over half of the world’s economic output by gross domestic product (GDP) in nominal terms. In fact, the GDP of the U.S. alone is greater than the combined GDP of 170 countries.
GDP serves as a broad indicator for a country’s economic output. It measures the total market value of final goods and services produced in a country in a specific timeframe, such as a quarter or year. In addition, GDP also takes into consideration the output of services provided by the government, such as money spent on defense, healthcare, or education.
VC's expanded version.
War Porn, kinda along the lines of the flesh variety but in this case, tech, combined with lethality to the max, looks and sounds awesome, something readily seen in the clip above, complete with martial music as appropriate add-on.
In the USNI article, Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, the deputy commandant for combat development and integration for the Marine Corps, talked about a weapon system with a “15 to 20 times greater range” than a tank gun. He’s almost certainly talking about Spike Non-Line of Sight (NLOS), a tactical missile from Israeli defense contractor Rafael that’s designed to be fired from a ground tripod, light armored vehicle, helicopter, or even ship.
Spike NLOS is a guided weapon with an electro-optical seeker—that is, an infrared camera system capable of picking out targets during the day, at night, and in bad weather. The missile uses a wireless data link to send back real-time video of the target back to the gunner.
The gunner can see through the seeker as the missile streaks toward the target, change targets if he or she spots something new, or even abort the attack. Spike NLOS soars over the battlefield, allowing the gunner to see targets like a column of tanks hidden behind a hill.
The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) will probably be a Marine Corps workhorse for the foreseeable future and would be a prime launch platform for a precision-guided weapon. Delil Souleiman/Getty Images
War Porn/rev L ... without question
Sunday, December 26, 2021
The Matrix augurs a dark future controlled by AI-driven machines devastating planet earth to such an extent that machine-raised humans must supply power in order for said hardware to survive. This dark heart behind the franchise is something often not discussed in an otherwise most provocative take on tech, truth and the art of deception practiced by systems of truly immense computational power. Quantum computing anyone?
Of all the questions posed by The Matrix, perhaps the most interesting revolves around the red and blue pills and their relationship to the concept of truth. Neo readily accepts the red pill and the reality that comes with it, but not everyone in the human resistance agrees.
Cypher (Joe Pantoliano) is the antithesis of everything Keanu Reeves’ Chosen One hero stands for. Shortly after Neo enters the real world, Cypher says, “I know what you're thinking, 'cause right now I'm thinking the same thing. Actually, I've been thinking it ever since I got here. Why oh why didn't I take the blue pill?” Later, he agrees to betray his friends while savoring a virtual steak in the Matrix far more delicious than the gruel they slurp down in reality.
Friday, December 24, 2021
This masterpiece is as funny as the 1970 epic known as The Exploding Whale. ROTFL :)
Thursday, December 23, 2021
Here's hoping the Webb makes it. Complex launch sequence doesn't even begin to explain just how difficult a process it will be to get this system up and running.
Tuesday, December 21, 2021
Oh Oh ...
Monday, December 20, 2021
Sunday, December 19, 2021
This amazing shot of an Egyptian Vulture gives one pause as said bird is thriving while global warming, environmental degradation and resource depletion ravage the world 24/7. Nature can come back if we let it and the time to let this happen is now if man is to survive as a viable species on planet earth.
The birds’ appetite for rich human cast-offs isn’t the only sign of their intelligence. They’re also one of the few bird species that have been observed using tools, dropping rocks on eggs belonging to other large birds in an effort to score a tasty, fresh meal. The specific targets of these assaults—the eggs of ostriches, pelicans, and flamingoes among them—depends on the location within the vultures’ considerable range, which stretches across three continents. Egyptian vultures also gather wool by winding it with sticks to fluff up their reeking nests, which may include fish bones, animal skins, and human feces among their branchy tangle.
Researchers R.F. Porter and Ahmed Saeed Suleiman suggest that Socotra’s anomalously healthy population may have benefited from a lack of feral dogs and pesticides in local farming, and the absence of diclofenac on the island, as well as abundant caves and sheltered ledges among the cliffs, rock outcrops, and mountains for nesting. Perhaps most important, according to a study published in 2013 by biologist Laura Gangoso and colleagues, is that a reciprocal relationship still exists between people and vultures here, helping make the population one of the densest in the world. Their abundance on the island probably first arose from settlers’ introduction of large livestock some 3,000 years ago, and even now, the birds play an outsized role in local waste disposal, eliminating between 16.6 and 22.4 percent of decaying organic waste produced on the island each year, from carcasses to feces. The Socotri teach their children to respect the birds, tell stories and jokes in which they feature, and refer to them lovingly as soeydu—literally, “garbage bin.”
Adaptation indeed. :)
Saturday, December 18, 2021
Thanks to Agent Orange, and significant others, (W, the repugs, the Real Owners) the US has dropped big time in terms of being a viable democracy over the past 10+ years.
The US has fallen to a new low in a global ranking of political rights and civil liberties, a drop fueled by unequal treatment of minority groups, damaging influence of money in politics, and increased polarization, according to a new report by Freedom House, a democracy watchdog group.
The US earned 83 out of 100 possible points this year in Freedom House’s annual rankings of freedoms around the world, an 11-point drop from its ranking of 94 a decade ago. The US’s new ranking places it on par with countries like Panama, Romania and Croatia and behind countries such as Argentina and Mongolia. It lagged far behind countries like the United Kingdom (93), Chile (93), Costa Rica (91) and Slovakia (90).
Wikipedia's a treasure. A self governing, user driven dictionary, it's impact on the net, and to yours truly, cannot be understated, something needing protection, this time regarding China and its recent push to control all things relating to unfettered information as espoused by entities such as Wikipedia.
This past July, before he was banned from Wikipedia, Techyan was one of dozens of volunteers preparing to speak at the free-knowledge movement’s annual conference, Wikimania. Born in China’s northeast, Techyan, as he’s known in the Wikipedia community, had been editing Chinese Wikipedia since his early teens. As one of its three dozen elected administrators, he hoped his presentation would put a more positive spin on what, lately, had become Wikipedia’s ugliest battlefield.
Rather than the edit wars and personal threats that had come to define some of its hot-button political topics like Hong Kong and Taiwan, Techyan planned to talk about how his three-year-old user group, the Wikipedians of Mainland China, or WMC, had thrived. It had done so in spite of government restrictions, and without official acknowledgment from the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that hosts the site in over 300 languages and hands out millions in grants.
The art of the lie ...
According to a September statement by Maggie Dennis, the Foundation’s VP of trust and safety, Techyan and six other high-level users were actually involved in “an infiltration” of the Chinese Wikipedia. In an interview, Dennis said a monthlong investigation found that the veteran editors were “coordinating to bias the encyclopedia and bias positions of authority” around a pro-Beijing viewpoint, in part by meddling in administrator elections and threatening, and even physically assaulting, other volunteers. In all, the Foundation banned seven editors and temporarily demoted a dozen others over the abuses, which Dennis called “unprecedented in scope and nature.”
The rhetoric and threats obscured a more sobering warning. At 20 years old, the encyclopedia that anyone can edit is now the improbable backbone of our information ecosystem, a place to rely on and get lost in, built on top of a similarly impressive volunteer-run infrastructure. Bottom-up and consensus-based, Wikipedia’s framework has proved remarkably resilient to vandalism and disinformation. But it can also be surprisingly brittle, weakened by a litany of problems from within, including harassment and bias. (Much of this stems from the stubborn fact that most Wikipedia editors are English-speaking men in Western countries.) The site’s weaknesses, meanwhile, leave it more vulnerable to manipulation by governments and non-state adversaries, who threaten not only its vision but also the safety of its volunteers.
You gotta speak the language.
Dennis acknowledged the Foundation had fallen short in its ability to address its human rights impacts and to communicate with Chinese users. At the time of its investigation, for instance, Wikimedia didn’t have a fluent Chinese speaker on its trust-and-safety staff. (Elise Flick, a Foundation spokesperson, said in an email that the Foundation “has added in-house Chinese language engagement support as of mid-October.”) In her September statement, Dennis apologized to the Chinese community. “You have not had the service you’ve deserved,” she wrote.
Situational awareness applies. Think OODA when dealing with Xi