Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Distribution of Progress

The Spirit of Truth

In 2006, the internet becomes public access tv on steroids with the dawn of YouTube. In case you forgot:

The Spirit of Truth

Ten years later...

In India, many see fake news on YouTube thanks to cheap data plans
Mar 2018, NBC

In India, a country holding 1/3 the world's people, the internet has finally taken hold. And by that we mean they're watching YouTube and getting infected by fake viruses and engineered memes.

And it looks a lot different than the same moment in other parts of the developed world about ten years ago. It's good to remember comparisons like this, because this is how progress really works.

When we imagine the future, we see it through the eyes of our own culture. But the world is a big place, and not everyone is traveling at the same speed at the same time.

Uploading our brains to the datasphere and Christopher Columbusing Mars will not happen next year. If the whole world was made of South Korea and NASA, then yes, that might be the case. But as a whole, we are worlds apart. And the speed of progress is not distributed equally across the planet.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Selfie Face Syndrome

Distortive effects of short distance photographs on nasal appearance: The selfie effect
Mar 2018,

From the Rutgers Department of Otolaryngology (facial plastic and reconstructive surgery) - not only are some people crazy about taking pictures of themselves, but the distortive effects of current camera lenses are making those same people want reconstructive surgery to fix their faces, when in fact they need to fix their cameras.

The Rutgers-Stanford model, published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, shows that an average selfie, taken about 12 inches from the face, makes the nasal base appear approximately 30 percent wider and the nasal tip 7 percent wider than if the photograph had been taken at 5 feet, a standard portrait distance that provides a more proportional representation of facial features.

Who cares? It's a public health issue, says the researcher, because people's self-image is a public health issue.

Read further:
JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery (2018). DOI: 10.1001/jamafacial.2018.0009 

Monday, March 5, 2018

News These Days

Sometimes it's just too hard to keep up:

Walking crystals may lead to new field of crystal robotics
Feb 2018,

Researchers have demonstrated that tiny micrometer-sized crystals—just barely visible to the human eye—can "walk" inchworm-style across the slide of a microscope.

Other crystals are capable of different modes of locomotion such as rolling, flipping, bending, twisting, and jumping. In the future, these moving crystals may open the doors to the development of crystal-based robots.

Scientists observe a new quantum particle with properties of ball lightning
Mar 2018,

"It is remarkable that we could create the synthetic electromagnetic knot, that is, quantum ball lightning..."

Want more efficient simulators? Store time in a quantum superposition
Mar 2018,

Want more efficient simulators? Store time in a quantum superposition.

[Really not following this one, but quantum time simulators? Yes.]

Graphene material strengthens nerve signaling in the brain
Mar 2018,

Just when you thought we were done talking about graphene for a while...

Not only can you grow brain cells on a sheet of graphene, but it also enhances signaling of those brain cells, AND, no surprise that all this comes as a complete surprise to the researchers (this happens a lot with graphene).

Friday, March 2, 2018

Our Terran Heritage

Just for personal archival purposes; somehow, as a scifi reader of 20 years, I've only recently come across this word enough times to make me look it up.

It's the word "Terran" and it refers to Earth-things, or particularly people from Earth. This would be used in contexts where the story takes place somewhere beyond our planet, to the point where we would need a name bigger than Chinese, Arabic, Congolese, or Midwesterner. ("Human" doesn't fit the same purpose, for some reason.)

Science fiction is a literature of neologisms - in fact, making up words is the favorite pastime of a scifi writer. It's also necessary in a genre where the point is to write about things that haven't happened yet. The fact that any word has become a de facto term is exceptional.

And yet, here it is: "Terran" was in heavy use in the 60's, and traces its origin back to the scifi magazines of the late 40's. I can't stop, however, until I see where Asimov fits into this.

Isaac Asimov used the term “Terrapolis” in his 1940 story Homo Sol:

Tan Porus stared thoughtfully out the window. Terrapolis, capital city of Earth, sprawled beneath him to the very edge of the horizon.

As with anything scifi, it's a safe bet to say Asimov is the origin.

Post Script

In a story taking place beyond our solar system, we might be called Solarians, and in fact we were, in the Asimov story mentioned above.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Heads Up

Milan Fashion Week: Models carry fake heads on Gucci catwalk
Feb 2018, BBC

On a scene designed as an operating room, fashion pinnacle Gucci sends its models down the runway holding their own heads in their hands. These heads look exactly like the people holding them.

Quick reminder - there was an artist a few years ago, biohacker Dewey-Hagborg, who made the paper because of her accurate 3D replicas of your head, off DNA you left in public, like on a straw or a coffee cup, or her favorite - cigarette butts.

There's only so many genes that code for face shape (5?). But she also puts the found genome against a real-human genome database, and pieces together other data like family history.
Together all this info gives her a general idea of what that DNA would look like if it were to make a face, and she designs and prints that face.

But why does this image creep me the f out? Recent headlines like these:

Friday, February 23, 2018

Dirty Datavores

As a non-partisan entity, I still can't help but think this is the hardest dig I've ever read about one of the two sides.

The best dis is one that was never meant to be, as seen here while a researcher describes the events of the past couple years in the US regarding mass psychological manipulation, i.e., fake news and Russian bots etc.; she really doesn't mean to throw the shade, but she does:

Twitter bot purge prompts backlash
Feb 2018, BBC

"Our work indicates a lot of the more conservative Americans were consuming more junk news," she explained.

"Filter bubbles and echo chambers are more dominant on the right compared to on the left.

"So, I don't necessarily think it's an attack on the right, it's just a reflection about the different ways different kinds of people consume information."


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Hype and Wonder

Alex Pardee made this picture, but not with graphene.

Scientists create patterned graphene onto food, paper, cloth, cardboard
Feb 2018,

If you're gonna tell me that we can make graphene at room temperature, and on bread of all things, I'm gonna wonder when we get to see graphene art.

I'm also looking for blowdryer painting on canvas seen through infrared lenses; can't tell if I made it up or saw it somewhere.