Halloween never disapoints. Enjoy.
Sunday, October 31, 2021
It's all about the money. This time, McKinsey and their blue chip polluter clientele.
As world leaders prepare to meet in Glasgow next week to address the devastating impact of wildfires, floods and extreme weather caused by rising greenhouse gases, a revolt has been brewing inside the world’s most influential consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, over its support of the planet’s biggest polluters.
More than 1,100 employees and counting have signed an open letter to the firm’s top partners, urging them to disclose how much carbon their clients spew into the atmosphere. “The climate crisis is the defining issue of our generation,” wrote the letter’s authors, nearly a dozen McKinsey consultants. “Our positive impact in other realms will mean nothing if we do not act as our clients alter the earth irrevocably.”
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Exxon knew about global warming back in 1977, a fact known by many but what isn't known is the fact big oil knew about the relationship of fossil fuel burning and the greenhouse effect almost 20 years earlier.
At an old gunpowder factory in Delaware—now a museum and archive—I found a transcript of a petroleum conference from 1959 called the “Energy and Man” symposium, held at Columbia University in New York. As I flipped through, I saw a speech from a famous scientist, Edward Teller (who helped invent the hydrogen bomb), warning industry executives and others assembled of global warming.
“Whenever you burn conventional fuel,” Teller explained, “you create carbon dioxide. . . . Its presence in the atmosphere causes a greenhouse effect.” If the world kept using fossil fuels, the ice caps would begin to melt, raising sea levels. Eventually, “all the coastal cities would be covered,” he warned.
1959 was before the moon landing, before the Beatles’ first single, before Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, before the first modern aluminum can was ever made. It was decades before I was born. What else was out there?
We were betrayed.
Back in 1979, Exxon had privately studied options for avoiding global warming. It found that with immediate action, if the industry moved away from fossil fuels and instead focused on renewable energy, fossil fuel pollution could start to decline in the 1990s and a major climate crisis could be avoided.
But the industry didn’t pursue that path. Instead, colleagues and I recently found that in the late 1980s, Exxon and other oil companies coordinated a global effort to dispute climate science, block fossil fuel controls, and keep their products flowing.
Factoid ... 1977 was the actual date regarding Exxon.
Exxon was aware of climate change, as early as 1977, 11 years before it became a public issue, according to a recent investigation from InsideClimate News. This knowledge did not prevent the company (now ExxonMobil and the world’s largest oil and gas company) from spending decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and even promoting climate misinformation—an approach many have likened to the lies spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking. Both industries were conscious that their products wouldn’t stay profitable once the world understood the risks, so much so that they used the same consultants to develop strategies on how to communicate with the public.
Friday, October 29, 2021
Wednesday, October 27, 2021
Deep fakes are everywhere. Just go to any site and see nonsense, usually on the right hand side of a site page or on the bottom, purporting to say something ridiculous regarding some celebrity, news event or "scientific" fact along with a doctored graphic showing said tidbit to be "true" One of the usuals is a huge beast found on a beach near you. Seems Adobe and significant others, using metadata as the weapon of choice, is enabling us rubes to put out stuff that's legit without question.
However, deepfake code's everywhere, even in Adobe.
In the photo, Beyoncé looks beatific, with a closed-lip Mona Lisa smile. But it’s easy enough to give her a toothy grin. Just dial up her “Happiness” to the maximum level using Adobe Photoshop’s Smart Portrait tool, and her face gets a Cheshire cat-like smile, white teeth appearing out of thin air.
Smart Portrait, released in beta last year, is one of Adobe’s AI-powered “neural filters,” which can age faces, change expressions, and alter the background of a photo so it appears to have been taken at a different time of year. These tools may seem innocuous, but they provide increasingly powerful ways to manipulate photos in an era when altered media spreads across social media in dangerous ways.
But what Adobe giveth, Adobe also can use this tech to insure any image generated from us is truly real.
Rao, who now leads the company’s AI ethics committee, teamed up with Gavin Miller, the head of Adobe Research, to find a technical solution. Initially, they pursued ways to identify when one of Adobe’s AI tools had been used on an image, but they soon realized that these kinds of detection algorithms would never be able to catch up with the latest manipulation technologies. Instead, they sought out a way to show when and where images were taken—and turn editing history into metadata that could be attached to images.
The result is the new Content Credentials feature, which went into public beta this October. Users can turn on the feature and embed their images with their identification information and a simplified record of edits that notes which of the company’s tools have been used. Once an image is exported out of Photoshop, it maintains this metadata, all of which can be viewed by anyone online through a new Adobe website called Verify. Simply upload any JPEG, and if it’s been edited with Content Credentials turned on, Verify will show you its metadata and editing history, as well as before-and-after images.
Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Insect populations are crashing due to the devastating impact of man on planet earth. With this in mind, consider the impact this ongoing loss will have on mankind. Chilling without question.
The same year that Wilson published his article in Scientific American, a group of insect fanciers installed what are known as malaise traps in several nature reserves in Germany. Malaise traps look like tents that have blown over on their sides, and they’re designed to capture virtually anything that flies into them. The group, the Krefeld Entomological Society, was interested in how insects were faring in different types of parks and protected areas. Every summer from then on, society members set out new traps, usually in different preserves. In 2013, they resampled some of the sites they’d originally sampled back in 1989. The contents of the traps were a fraction of what they’d been the first time around.
Over the next three summers, the group members resampled more sites. The results were similar. In 2017, with the help of some outside experts, they published a paper documenting a seventy-five-per-cent decline in “total flying insect biomass” in the areas surveyed. These areas were exactly the sort of habitat fragments that, according to Wilson’s theory, were destined to lose species. Nevertheless, the findings were shocking. In 2019, a second group of researchers published a more rigorous and extensive study, and its findings were even more dire. In the course of just the previous decade, grasslands in Germany had, on average, lost a third of their arthropod species and two-thirds of their arthropod biomass. (Terrestrial arthropods include spiders and centipedes in addition to insects.) In woodlands, the number of arthropod species had dropped by more than a third, and biomass by forty per cent. “This is frightening” is how one of the paper’s authors, Wolfgang Weisser, a biologist at the Technical University of Munich, put it.
Insects are, of course, also vital. They’re by far the largest class of animals on Earth, with roughly a million named species and probably four times that many awaiting identification. (Robert May, an Australian scientist who helped develop the field of theoretical ecology, once noted, “To a first approximation, all species are insects.”) They support most terrestrial food chains, serve as the planet’s chief pollinators, and act as crucial decomposers. Goulson quotes Wilson’s observation: “If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed 10,000 years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”
Merging quantum with relativity has been a 100 year slog as one describes the subatomic while the other describes the universe but there may be a chance to finally unify the two using a clock equipped with unimaginable precision.
Relativity describes a space-time in which objects have well-defined properties and move predictably from one location to another. In quantum theory, by contrast, an object can be in a “superposition” of many properties at once, or it can suddenly jump into a particular location. These two descriptions match their respective realms of reality well, but they’re incongruous when taken together.
Take the case where a massive object is put into a superposition of two possible locations at the same time. General relativity says that any object with mass should bend the fabric of space-time. But what if that object is in a superposition? Is the geometry of space-time also in a superposition?
In order to study such questions, physicists are always looking for systems where both gravity and quantum mechanics are important. “Clocks are for sure one of the most promising systems to test these types of features,” said Flaminia Giacomini, a theoretical physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada. Clocks naturally straddle the line between quantum mechanics and relativity. They tell time, which is an inherently relativistic concept. They’re also fundamentally quantum: The way the electrons move from one energy level to another is by passing through a superposition of being in both levels.
It's all about "noise".
Decoherence is responsible for the transition from the weird world of quantum mechanics to the ordinary world of everyday experience. Each time the environment interacts with a quantum system, it can be seen as a tiny measurement made on the system — a way for the environment to learn something about the quantum system and destroy its “quantumness.” Physicists have gotten very good at shielding their quantum experiments from anything in the environment that would disturb them. But they can’t shield them from gravity.
The end game???
As the atoms in Ye’s clock move up and down in the cloud, experiencing a variation in the flow of time, gravity will alter the way they interact with each other and cause an observable change in their dynamics. It still won’t be quantum gravity per se, where gravity is quantized into fundamental particles called gravitons. But it would be a valuable instance of quantum mechanics and gravity interweaving to cause a new phenomenon.
Monday, October 25, 2021
Porn's been around forever as man's fascination with sex has been around since the beginning of time. It's only the advent of the net when porn become big business.
Almighty God, Lord of all life, we praise You for the advancements in computerized communications that we enjoy in our time. Sadly, however, there are those who are littering this information superhighway with obscene, indecent, and destructive pornography.”
It was June 14, 1995, inside the Senate chamber in Washington, D.C., and Jim Exon, a 74-year-old Democrat from Nebraska with silver hair and glasses, had begun his address to his colleagues with a prayer written for this occasion by the Senate chaplin. He was there to urge his fellow senators to pass his and Indiana senator Dan Coats’ amendment to the Communications Decency Act, or CDA, which would extend the existing indecency and anti-obscenity laws to the “interactive computer services” of the burgeoning internet age. “Now, guide the senators,” Exon continued his prayer, “when they consider ways of controlling the pollution of computer communications and how to preserve one of our greatest resources: The minds of our children and the future and moral strength of our Nation. Amen.”
As the stone-faced senators watched, Exon held up a blue binder that, he warned, was filled with the sort of “perverted pornography” that was “just a few clicks away” online. “I cannot and would not show these pictures to the Senate, I would not want our cameras to pick them up,” he said, but “I hope that all of my colleagues, if they are interested, will come by my desk and take a look at this disgusting material.”
As urgent as the situation seemed to the senators, however, such concerns over pornography and emerging technology were far from new. John Tierney, a fellow at Columbia University who studied the cultural impact of technology, traced what he called the “erotic technological impulse” back at least 27,000 years—among the first clay-fired figures uncovered from that time were women with large breasts and behinds. “Sometimes the erotic has been a force driving technological innovation,” Tierney wrote in The New York Times in 1994, “virtually always, from Stone Age sculpture to computer bulletin boards, it has been one of the first uses for a new medium.”
Such depictions emerged, predictably, with every new technological advent. With cave art, there came sketches of reclining female nudes on walls of the La Magdelaine caves from 15,000 BC. When Sumerians discovered how to write cuneiform on clay tablets, they filled them with sonnets to vulvas. Among the early books printed on a Gutenberg press was a 16th-century collection of sex positions based on the sonnets of the man considered the first pornographer, Aretino—a book banned by the pope. Each new medium followed a similar pattern of innovation, porn, and outrage. One of the first films shown commercially was The Kiss in 1900, distributed by Thomas Edison, which depicted 18 seconds of a couple nuzzling.
There's gold in them thar hills :)
A stripper named Danni Ashe read a book on HTML programming and launched her own fan site. She started charging $15 a month for access, and before long, Ashe was making $2.5 million a year and reportedly using more bandwidth than all of Central America.
Sunday, October 24, 2021
Sumptuous, great cast, wonderful cg, Apple's Foundation, "very" loosely based on Issac Asimov's masterwork, has unfortunately entered Star Wars territory by introducing a planet killer named Invictus. The problem with this nonsense is there is no planet killer in Foundation as Asimov's series talks of decay and renewal with emphasis on mathematics and politics to enable the writer to pen a space opera for the ages.
The premise of the stories is that, in the waning days of a future Galactic Empire, the mathematician Hari Seldon spends his life developing a theory of psychohistory, a new and effective mathematical sociology. Using statistical laws of mass action, it can predict the future of large populations. Seldon foresees the imminent fall of the Empire, which encompasses the entire Milky Way, and a Dark Age lasting 30,000 years before a second empire arises. Although the inertia of the Empire's fall is too great to stop, Seldon devises a plan by which "the onrushing mass of events must be deflected just a little" to eventually limit this interregnum to just one thousand years. To implement his plan, Seldon creates the Foundations—two groups of scientists and engineers settled at opposite ends of the galaxy—to preserve the spirit of science and civilization, and thus become the cornerstones of the new galactic empire.
One key feature of Seldon's theory, which has proved influential in real-world social science, is the uncertainty principle of sociology: if a population gains knowledge of its predicted behavior, its self-aware collective actions become unpredictable.
Psychohistory is based on group trends and cannot predict with sufficient accuracy the effects of extraordinary, unforeseeable individuals, and as originally presented, the Second Foundation's purpose was to counter this flaw. Later novels would identify the Plan's uncertainties that remained at Seldon's death as the primary reason for the existence of the Second Foundation, which (unlike the First) had retained the capacity to research and further develop psychohistory.
Chaos theory anyone?
The eyes were no more than sense organs. The brain was no more than a central switchboard, encased in bone and removed from the working surface of the body. It was the hands that were the working surface, the hands that felt and manipulated the Universe.
Taking something profound and turning it into Star Wars is questionable at best and it's a shame as the production values of Apple's Foundation is sound, the deviation from Asimov's vision is not.
Seems yours truly's not alone on why Apple's direction is incredibly wrong.
Isaac Asimov’s Foundation books aren’t Star Wars, or at least they’re not supposed to be. They’re not filled with burgeoning heroes, foreboding villains, laser swords, funky aliens, or even much action and adventure, really. They’re about math and science and a 1,000-year attempt to save and rebuild civilization after its collapse. That is why Foundation has so often been referred to as unfilmable, and apparently why Apple’s Foundation TV series has completely stopped trying.
Cue John Williams ...
Because that’s what Foundation has suddenly introduced, really. A giant warship so powerful it will let the Anachreons defeat everything the Galactic Empire can throw at it. It’s a sci-fi mega-weapon, just like the Death Star, Starkiller Base, or those dumb Star Destroyers with Death Star cannons attached from Rise of Skywalker. Foundation’s version is called the Invictus, which is literally the name of the Imperial Shuttle Han, Luke, and Leia used to sneak past the second Death Star into Endor in Return of the Jedi. There’s no Invictus in Asmiov’s books. There’s no mega-weapon of any sort, barely any space battles and, in fact, almost no action whatsoever, because that’s not the damn point. The thing threatening the galaxy isn’t an army of bad guys with guns, it's social corruption and decay. The Foundation doesn’t conquer its foes with starships, it does so through politics and economics.
It's going to be hard to continue to watch a series veering off course into Star Wars territory, a mashup of Dune, Lawrence of Arabia and King Arthur ...