Saturday, September 19, 2015

Network Science is the Ur-Science

(for now, that is)

Understanding of complex networks could help unify gravity and quantum mechanics, Sep 2015

"What we can see is that space-time at the quantum-scale might be networked in a very similar way to things we are starting to understand very well like biological networks in cells, our brains and online social networks."

[personally, I always thought this was the case, but since I am not formally trained in any of these disciplines, I just could never find such suggestions...nonetheless, it is one of the great experiences in life to watch the story of Science unfold.]

Animals Are People Too

Everytime I see articles like this, I think to myself, not that maybe animals are just like people, but instead that the things we consider so special, and the things that 'make us human', are not so.

Social insights from whale chatter
BBC News, Sep 2015

[modified from article]
These great beasts live in very tight social networks, chatting amongst each other using a system of clicks like Morse code - patterns of three to 12 or 15 clicks that vary in rhythm and tempo

The researchers have shown how separate clans - perhaps numbering thousands of animals - will use their own particular subtle sequence of noises.

These vocalisations are not innate - they must be learned, and may indicate the whales are behaving in ways that at some level mirror the operation of human cultures.

"In one clan we call the 'regular clan', we heard regularly spaced clicks, but in another vocal clan that we call the 'plus-ones', the coda types they make have an extended pause at the end before the last click."
-PhD student MaurĂ­cio Cantor

Homeopathy Psychopathy Astrology Oh My


Can't make it up, folks!

Homeopathy conference ends in chaos after delegates take hallucinogenic drug - 29 men and women “staggering around, rolling in a meadow, talking gibberish and suffering severe cramps”
The Independent, Sep 2015

Trollers Gonna Troll

Patent trolls basically comb the internet looking for people who are committing (something akin to) copyright infringement, and then rat them out to the property owners, while suggesting that they use their own lawyers to take care of the suit right quick.

Needless to say, this is on a scale from pretty annoying to financially crippling for creative entities, and an obstacle to creativity in general.

Now a trolling company, Soverain, which has no discernible business beyond filing patent lawsuits (making them a legit trolling company) is suing their own lawyers after losing a case against some patents. Ah, the news.

Trolling company schooled by Newegg over “shopping cart” patent sues its own attorneys
Ars Technica, Sep 2015

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

In Honor of Christina Symanski

"Life Support", Christina Symanski, circa 2010

Her's a story that will make you stop thinking. To put one's self in the mind of Christina, and to make her final decision, is impossible.

Christina Symanski was a classmate. I was certainly inspired by her enthusiasm and dedication as a studying art teacher. Years later, when I discovered that she had become paralyzed, it hit me very hard. We had gone through the same program together, and had the same job. I don't know many other art teachers. Although the nature of any accident is that it can happen to anyone, something about it made me acutely aware that this could have been my story instead.

She continued to teach, paralyzed. Art. To be honest, I wasn't surprised at this. She was tenaciously dedicated to her work, and I always had this feeling that she was motivated by a force far beyond my ability to comprehend. Some people can stupefy you in that regard. Not to say that her valiancy wasn't any less potent, only that I had given up trying to understand such a person. What she did next was an act of the human spirit which no person can truly judge. I will not recount it in detail, only to say that she chose to end her life.

The legacy of Christina Symanski lives on in so many ways. But whenever I hear stories about robotic exoskeletons, I like to imagine that she is still with us, and that she is wearing one, and then what would she be doing with her life? It is from daydreams like this we draw our inspiration. And as such advancements build one upon another, and one hundred years from now when paralysis means something very different than it does today, then Christina's story will hold even more power. Forever an instructor, of art and life.  

First paralyzed human treated with stem cells has now regained his upper body movement
Jan 2017, The Hearty Soul

A 39-year-old man who had had been completely paralyzed for four years was able to voluntarily control his leg muscles and take thousands of steps in a "robotic exoskeleton" device
Sep 2015


Foot and Mouth Painting Artists have been helping paralyzed artists make a living for themselves for over fifty years. Their artwork is a truly astonishing feat of the indomitable human spirit.

The book about Christina's life:
Life, Paralyzed