Shared posts

16 Jul 13:28

I found this saved picture again and it’s just the...

I found this saved picture again and it’s just the greatest ad

of all time

18 Jul 15:44

The Matching Myth…

by Tom Mahon

DSC00157.JPG [Pinstripe with un-matching stripe at the shoulder seam- classic Savile Row bespoke.]

This has been the bain of bespoke tailors for generations: the little detail of matching pinstripes or chalk-stripes through the shoulder seam of a bespoke coat.

On a fairly regular basis over the years, I’ve had to wrestle with customers to prove that if you’re tailoring a hand-made coat properly, it’s practically impossible to match the stripes through this seam.

And I know I’ll receive numerous e-mails and comments arguing the opposite, from ready-to-wear and made-to-measure customers alike.

Firstly, to get my point across, we need to to think about the part of the body that we’re trying to fit- in this case, the shoulder.

If you reach and place your hand on your shoulder as you’re reading this, it should require zero medical training to realise that back of your shoulder is convex i.e. it’s full, round and muscular. Whereas the front of your shoulder is more flat, more hollow, more evident bone structure, with less muscle.

So it stands to reason, if you have a shoulder width of for instance, six and one half inches, the material required to cover the longer curvature of the back is going to be greater than it will be at the front.

So how do we poor tailors cope?

The answer, as you shall see from the picture just below, is to cut the back seam from three quarters of an inch, to an inch bigger than the front.

DSC00157.JPG [The forepart and the back of a cutting pattern, meeting at the shoulder seam. Note how the back part- at the bottom of the photo- is longer than the forepart.]

Then with great skill from the tailor, he eases the extra fullness of the back into the shoulder seam, as seen in the photo directly below.

DSC00154.JPG [Back shoulder of a suit, still under construction. Note how the cloth is being eased in.]

This is a great art, perhaps the hardest skill to acquire in the trade. This is because if the fullness is not “eased in” perfectly through the seam, it either looks clumsy and puckered, or if not enough fullness (i.e. extra cloth) is put into the seam, this causes the shoulder to feel tight and cause what we call “kinkus”, which is an awful stretched appearance around the collar bone, that can also feel very uncomfortable for the poor customer.

This skill cannot be taught- it is only developed in the tailor’s fingertips after a large number of years’ practice. Any decent Savile Row tailor will have this art, but it will have taken them an aeon to learn it properly.

Then the fullness in the back shoulder will be shrank away by your tailor through constant pressing with a steam iron, so it looks smooth and perfectly shaped, like the pinstripe photo at the top.

This method is very unlike the Ready-To-Wear and Made-To-Measure world, who only use a maximum of about 3/8th of an inch of extra fullness on the back shoulder- about half what Savile Row uses. Often they’ll use even less.

The reason for this is, the shoulders of their garments are designed to be machined together in a matter of seconds, which often allows the stripes to match. Then with shoulder pad inserted, and other technical movements, they produce a clean, but in my opinion an unnatural shoulder line.

In other words, because of more-or-less equal amounts of fabric in non-bespoke being used on the front and back of the seam, the stripes can more easily be matched. However, this happens at great cost to fit, style and comfort.

So when you want to size someone up at a cocktail party, check the shoulder seam on their pinstripes. It never fails.

18 Jul 13:00

Detail from page 339 of Family Man.

Detail from page 339 of Family Man.

18 Jul 18:58

Curvy: July 19, 2014


Ah, romance. NSFW.

18 Jul 04:39

Hawkguy Forever

15 Jul 16:06

THROUGH THE WOODS now available!

by Emily Carroll

My book THROUGH THE WOODS is out in North America today, at long last! (It's been out in the UK for a little over a week now!) It is a collection of short stories, all new (except for one, His Face All Red, which is also on my website), all scary, fairy tale inspired, the sort of thing I tend to do. If you're in Toronto there is a book launch event tonight where I'll be doing a brief Q&A and signing copies, so if you're in town and are interested, here's more info!
17 Jul 13:54

Professional Opinion

by Christopher Wright
17 Jul 04:00

July 17, 2014


Ah, good ol' simulation. Must have been a pretty good algorithm to get that many iterations in 12 hours.

10 Jul 14:00

DIY Beauty: Whipped Green Tea and Coconut Oil Moisturizer

by Haley Pierson-Cox


henryhappened_whipped_coconut_green_tea_moisturizer_01Give your summertime skin a natural boost with this luxurious whipped green tea and coconut oil moisturizer recipe!

Read more on MAKE

14 Jul 19:10

This chart shows every person killed in the Israel-Palestine conflict since 2000

by Max Fisher

Since 2005, 23 out of every 24 conflict deaths have been palestinian

It's no secret that the death tolls in the Israel-Palestine conflict are lopsided, with Palestinians far more likely to be killed than Israelis. But just how lopsided is driven home by looking at the month-to-month fatality statistics, which the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem has been tracking since September 2000. Those numbers also tell some important stories about the conflict, how it's changed, and maybe where it's going.

Here are the monthly, conflict-related deaths of Israelis and Palestinians since September 2000:


(Click to enlarge)

You'll notice right away that the overwhelming majority of the deaths are Palestinian, and have been for the almost 14 years since B'Tselem began tracking. Overall, the group has recorded 8,166 conflict-related deaths, of which 7,065 are Palestinian and 1,101 Israeli. That means 87 percent of deaths have been Palestinian and only 13 percent Israeli. Put another way, for every 15 people killed in the conflict, 13 are Palestinian and two are Israeli. (Statistics for the past two months are from United Nations Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs.)

the disparity has widened over time

That number is even more staggering when you consider that there are about twice as many Israelis as there are Palestinians. This means, very roughly, that a Palestinian person has been 15 times more likely to be killed by the conflict than an Israeli person. Of course the conflict impacts Palestinians and Israelis far beyond just conflict deaths, but these statistics help show how utterly disproportionate the conflict has become in its toll.

The disparity has widened dramatically over time. Since January 2005, when the conflict began to change dramatically, it has killed 4,006 people, of whom 168 have been Israeli and 3,838 Palestinian. That means that, since January 2005, only four percent of those killed have been Israeli, and 96 percent Palestinian. Since January 2005, in other words, the conflict has killed 23 Palestinians for every one Israeli it claims.

Still, even though Israelis are killed at a far lower rate than are Palestinians, that does not make Israeli deaths any less real or traumatic. Here are just the Israelis killed in the conflict:


(Click to enlarge)

This chart shows just the 1,101 Israeli deaths in the conflict since September 2000. Of those, 744 were civilians and 357 security forces, meaning that an Israeli killed in the conflict is much more likely to be a civilian than uniformed — a legacy of the bus bombings and other terrorist attacks frequent during the early 2000s. But the most striking thing about this chart may be how dramatically the rate of Israeli deaths has declined since the early 2000s, with many months passing with no deaths at all. Here are a few bigger-picture lessons from these two charts.

Deaths on both sides were very high in the Second Intifada of the early 2000s


A 2002 bus bombing in Jerusalem that killed 18 (Getty Images)

B'Tselem began tracking these numbers when the Second Intifada, or second mass Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation, began in September 2000. And you can see that reflected in the numbers of deaths of Israelis as well as Palestinians.

The Second Intifada included riots, large-scale clashes, bus bombings and other acts of terrorism against Israelis, Israeli targeted killings against Palestinians, and perhaps most costly of all large-scale Israeli military assaults. This is when Israeli deaths hit their peak, with 283 killed in a five-month run from February through June of 2002. Even then, though, Palestinian deaths were much higher, with 659 killed over that same period. This is the closest that Israeli and Palestinian deaths have gotten to symmetrical, and still more than twice as many Palestinians were killed than Israelis.

Israeli deaths dropped in 2005 and have stayed low since


A Palestinian woman carries her daughter near the Israeli wall surrounding Bethlehem (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

That is when Israel, fed up with the violence of the Second Intifada, responded in part by dramatically increasing the size and number of walls separating Israeli from Palestinian territory. Israel also withdrew its military and all settlers from Gaza, which is the smaller of the two Palestinian territories.

Both of these actions did a lot to remove Israelis from harm's way, which you can see reflected in the dramatic — and sustained — reduction in Israeli deaths. But they did not end the conflict, especially not for Palestinians, who continued to be killed in large numbers even after the Second Intifada felt like it had ended for most Israelis.

the west bank walls and gaza withdrawal reduce israeli deaths, but perpetuate the conflict

These two Israeli changes — installing more walls and withdrawing from Gaza — have also done their share to perpetuate the conflict. They drastically deepened the physical and metaphorical barriers between Israelis and Palestinians, further raising the pain of occupation for Palestinians and making it easier for Israelis to accept the conflict as status quo, and thus less likely to elect governments that will take risks for a long-term peace deal.

After the withdrawal from Gaza, the terrorist group Hamas took power there and has held it since, using the territory as a base for regular rocket attacks against Israel. While those rocket attacks do not in themselves cause nearly as many deaths as the violence of the Second Intifada, they are part of the conflict between Israel and Gaza-based militant Palestinian groups that occasionally flares up to cause massive numbers of Palestinian deaths, as is happening this week.

Incidents of very numerous Palestinian deaths have increased


Palestinians gather near the rubble of a Gaza City home destroyed by a 2012 Israeli air strike, killing seven family members including four children (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

Since 2005, the conflict has settled into a new pattern: fewer Palestinian deaths during "calm" months with occasional spikes into catastrophic numbers of Palestinians killed.

These spikes, of which the chart shows four since 2005, are all times when Israeli forces attacked Gaza, where Israel was targeting Hamas and other militant groups but also ended up killing large numbers of Palestinians civilians. In mid-2006, form June through November, Israeli forces invaded Gaza as part of Operation Summer Rains, which was sparked by Palestinian rocket fire into Israel and by the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was released five years later.

this approach is sometimes called 'cutting the grass'; it is never-ending by design

In late 2008 and early 2009, Israel again invaded Gaza as part of Operation Cast Lead, which caused only 13 Israeli deaths but ended with well over 1,000 Palestinians killed and devastated the Gaza Strip. Those two months were by far the deadliest for Palestinians since B'Tselem began tracking in 2000.

Israel launched extended bombing campaigns in Gaza in late 2012 and again this month, both of which have killed dozens of Palestinians. While Israeli strikes are targeting Hamas and other militant groups that are firing rockets into Israel, a local UN office estimated on Friday that 77 percent of people killed in Gaza up to that point were civilians, including 30 children. A separate UN agency estimated on Sunday that 70 percent of the killed were civilians, including 27 children.

The conflict is settling into a terrible cycle


A woman walks with her baby past graffiti in Gaza City (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

You can see the pattern of the last several years clearly on the top chart: the conflict remains at a relatively low level until, every couple of years, it flares up with heavy Israeli strikes on Gaza that also cost a large number of Palestinian lives. This status quo, on net, clearly causes a large number of Palestinian lives. But it kills very few Israelis, which is a big part of why Israeli voters and leaders have appeared willing to accept it.

This Israeli strategy is sometimes described as "cutting the grass." In this thinking, Israel never really solves the conflict or even tries; it tolerates a level of violence from Gaza-based militant groups, but every few years bombs and maybe invades Gaza to weaken militants there and destroy their weapons – to cut the grass. It treats the Israel-Palestine conflict, at least as it pertains to Gaza, as something to be managed rather than solved.

It is important to stress that this strategy is not one that ever produces peace or that is designed to lead to a solution. It accepts a low level of Israeli deaths from rocket fire, and occasionally dozens or hundreds of Palestinian deaths from air strikes, as status quo.

Correction: This post initially reported erroneous fatality statistics. I had misread B'Tselem's data tables in a way that significantly under-counted Israeli deaths, as well as some Palestinian deaths. The charts and statistics in this post have been corrected to reflect the accurate count. I regret the error and thank Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner for pointing it out to me.

15 Jul 07:12

When 'Desperate Housewives' meets Tim Burton in a bakery from hell


Team Evil Cake.

Click thru for more images. Some of them are worth it.

Part of complete coverage on

The setting is eerily calm.<!-- -->
</br><!-- -->
</br>A beautiful girl sits on a bench surrounded by remnants of a party, while wild foxes roam and feast on her baked creations. Her gaze is lowered, and there is a mysterious atmosphere, with dark shadows concealing unknown dangers. <!-- -->
</br><!-- -->
</br>If you are unsettled by this scene, this is exactly what the photographer <a href='' target='_blank'>Christine McConnell</a>, pictured above, was trying to achieve. In her images, the Los Angeles-based artist combines the glamor of 1950s pin-ups with Tim Burtone-esque elements of twisted fantasy.

The setting is eerily calm. A beautiful girl sits on a bench surrounded by remnants of a party, while wild foxes roam and feast on her baked creations. Her gaze is lowered, and there is a mysterious atmosphere, with dark shadows concealing unknown dangers. If you are unsettled by this scene, this is exactly what the photographer Christine McConnell, pictured above, was trying to achieve. In her images, the Los Angeles-based artist combines the glamor of 1950s pin-ups with Tim Burtone-esque elements of twisted fantasy.

14 Jul 05:01

better than placebo

by Ian

better than placebo

12 Jul 22:55

Dave Gingery Essay


I want all of the books sold through this publishing company.

Dave Gingery
December 19, 1932-May 3, 2004


By Dave Gingery

When someone asked me for a biographical sketch I was a bit confused and embarrassed so I answered lightly: "Most of my life was spent in trying to figure out how to do a $50.00 project for 50 cents, and the remainder of my time was spent in trying to scrounge up the 50 cents."

No doubt, many of us identify with this statement. Although mildly amusing, it is painfully true. Few of us can produce the ready cash for those projects that may very well mean more to the inner person than does that which we do daily for a living. The result is that we learn to do the impossible by the most improbable and impractical means, but the resulting success is rewarding beyond measure.

That lack of cash that presents itself as an obstacle is really only the medium of exchange for those items of material and equipment we think we need. Actually, a whole list of apparent obstacles holds us back, but the lack of ready cash is the easiest obstacle to recognize and to discuss. As a result there is often too much discussion and too little practical work done. What is really needed is to put the whole matter into perspective so that apparent obstacles can be put aside and we can get on with the business at hand.

You’ll note that I said "we think we need" and "apparent obstacles". It is interesting to note that most of our best ideas meet with opposition in our own minds as quickly as we conceive them. The objections we raise usually seem so reasonable that much of what we might do never gets done. If you don't want to do a project just write down the first dozen or so thoughts that come to your mind and you will have at least a half dozen good excuses. If that doesn't do the trick just toss the idea to the experts and they will usually be happy to kill it for you. If you really want to do it, though, it is most likely that you will find that it does not really cost very much and it is not nearly as technical and dangerous as established experts would have you believe.

Now I don't mean that you should just throw caution to the wind and just light a match or throw a switch and see what happens. There is never a need to proceed foolishly in blind ignorance.

Acquiring knowledge is a relatively straight forward process, and so is the development of manual skill. You can know what others know, and you can do what they do. Your level of performance is determined by a combination of opportunity, energy expended and available resource.

You can provide your own opportunity, and you can decide how diligently you will apply yourself. So, we must deal with the problem of resources which is no small matter if you are the bird with 50 cents who needs $50.00 worth of stuff! Nevertheless, it can be done, so let's get with it while we are yet young and eager.


Reduce the Technology

Since the whole problem is really a matter of determining the difference between what we think we need and what we really need, the first step is to reduce the technology. You will remember from your arithmetic lessons that they tried to teach you to reduce a fraction to its lowest common denominator and to reduce an equation to simple terms. This is much like what must be done to the problem at hand, and it is in itself a delightful exercise. I would urge at this point that you refer to a comprehensive dictionary where you will find that the word "reduce" has at least a dozen distinct definitions and uses. Each of them applies in some way to these matters, so you will be sure to gain from a brief study of them.

Ironically, the reduction of a technology requires a rather full knowledge of it, but you must not let that become an obstacle. Your mind is surely as capable as most, and some have done wonders with even less mental ability. Acquiring the knowledge you need is more of a process of sifting through information than it is learning, so you'll have little trouble unless you try to acquire encyclopedia-like knowledge before you do any work. In this case, it is the excess of useless information that is the real obstacle, so confine your initial study to what is truly basic and fundamental. I'll offer a case in point from my own experience to illustrate the process.

The problem, clearly and simply stated, was to produce metal castings for machinery construction projects in my own shop. A quick look through the library card file turned up a volume entitled "Fundamentals of Metal Casting". Egad! Just what I needed! But, alas, as I took it from the shelf l saw that it was about 650 pages of the finest print I'd ever seen that seemed to have little to say about fundamental principles. Not to be so easily turned aside, I opened it up anyway.

What I needed was there, as it almost always is in any good manual, and most of it was in the first few pages. Of course I needed more information later, but that 650 pages could be reduced to simple terms: a wooden pattern of the desired casting is rammed in moist clay-bonded sand in a two part flask. The flask is opened to withdraw the pattern and then reclosed to pour in the molten metal The result is a duplicate in metal of the wooden pattern.

All else that was written in the book was elaboration of this simple statement. You see how simple it can be when you reduce to the simplest terms possible. This is the result of concentration, and for this you need only your brains, which is the most exotic piece of equipment you will ever own.

By ignoring those excuses that the brain tosses up in order to get out of doing the job, you can quickly sift through the nonsense and focus your thoughts on the first positive idea that comes up.

No matter how high grade your pet idea may be, you should sketch it out in detail, test your reasoning and even make a model of wood or a mock up of poster card. Follow the thought through, and see where it leads. Begin to concentrate on any positive methods that are within your means, and reject all obstacles. You will soon discover a way to use what is at hand or easily obtained to produce some representation of your idea - even if it is only a non-working model in miniature.

This is the beginning upon which you build your entire project. It may take a day, a week, a month or many years, but you will be working at what you want to do without regard for capital, expense, education, equipment or any other fancied obstacle. Later, when you have succeeded, you might look back and wonder at those dangers that might have stopped you, but you were busy at work while others were talking about how tough and costly it would be.

To return to our example, even the most economical equipment to be had at the time would have cost about $500.00. This is a significant obstacle anyone can sink his negative teeth into. At the ratio of 50 cents to $50.00, can you really hope to do the work for just $5.00? Well, I built a foundry in my backyard using scrap wood for the patterns and flasks, a ring of bricks, for a furnace with charcoal for fuel and hair drier for a blower, and a one quart iron sauce pan for a melting pot. This was reduced technology on a reduced budget, and I don't think I blew the whole $5.00. From this simple first step an entire foundry and machine shop have been produced, and it has become a constantly expanding activity.


Important Points to Remember. . . .

Though very convenient, appealing, and doubtlessly worth the price, you can probably produce a practical alternate for most commercial products at a fraction of the going price. Buy exotic equipment if you can, but don't be stopped just because you lack cash to do so.

Practically any machine function can be done manually, though not as quickly as with a machine. Machines are for mass production, but people can produce finished products too.

Knowledge comes from study, and skill is developed by repetition. You can learn what you need to know, and you can practice. Each skill you acquire enhances your overall ability to acquire new skills. (It actually gets easier as you go along!)

The best information is usually found in older manuals because newer texts often assume knowledge of fundamental facts, and they are left out. Even though the new technology was built on the old, it is often beyond the scope of individuals because it requires exotic equipment. Some of it is deliberately disguised, and in most cases worthless for such basic projects as we are concerned with anyway.

You probably already have much of what you need to get started on your project. The rest is merely a matter of concentration and application.

Just in case you think you have it tough, I'd like to point out that it took more work and time to write this column than it did to produce my first casting. Be smart. Let others do the writing while you spend your hours happily busting your knuckles in your shop.

12 Jul 03:16

The Poetic Species: Legendary Sociobiologist E.O. Wilson in Conversation with Poet Laureate Robert Hass on Science and Poetry


I love Ed Wilson. This is indirectly via someone, but I don't remember who now.

“The social drive shaped the uses of imagination. It made it possible for humans to share their invisible inner worlds with each other.”

“Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge,” William Wordsworth wrote in 1798; “it is the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all Science.” And yet, perhaps short of Diane Ackerman’s gorgeous poems for the planets and a few scientific papers published in stanzaic form as a prank, the interplay of science and poetry in the pursuit of human knowledge is far from obvious, let alone celebrated, in today’s culture.

One of the most beautiful celebrations of this invisible mutuality took place on December 6, 2012, when literary nonprofit Poets House and the American Museum of Natural History hosted an unusual and wonderful event exploring the intersection of science and poetry — a dialogue between legendary Harvard sociobiologist and naturalist E.O. Wilson and former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass. Their wide-ranging conversation is now collected in The Poetic Species: A Conversation with Edward O. Wilson and Robert Hass (public library), titled after Wilson’s famous description of Homo sapiens as “the poetic species” on account of how heavily our cognitive infrastructure relies upon metaphor and associative thinking.

Since the conversation took place shortly after Wilson’s controversial — highly acclaimed and highly criticized — book The Social Conquest of Earth, Hass begins with a tongue-in-cheek question about how Wilson manages to get in so much trouble. The celebrated scientist answers with extraordinary elegance, speaking to the crucial role of science in opposing dogmas — a task never met without resistance:

Good scientists, like good innovators of any kind, are entrepreneurial, and they’re the ones that are most likely to get into trouble. And I’ve always enjoyed being in trouble. In science, trouble means progress.

Indeed, one need only look at Galileo’s troubles to appreciate the poignancy of this observation and to be reminded that ignorance, not knowledge, drives science.

One of the most fascinating and timelessly urgent inquiries the two discuss is one of equal concern to science and the humanities — the question of free will. Hass reflects:

On the literary and the philosophical side of things, this debate is about the question of free will, about the relation between human choice and the idea of fate. So many of the old stories are about fate being fulfilled or frustrated. It has always been an intense human fascination, how much freedom we have and whether we have any at all. I remember at a poetry reading in San Francisco once, during the question and answer period, an earnest young woman — she was quite pregnant, I remember—raised her hand and asked if there was such a thing as free will. The old poet Kenneth Rexroth looked at her as if he were a little ashamed of himself for having given the impression that he could answer such a question, and then said, very kindly, “We can’t know, and we have to act as if there is.” I thought that was a good answer.

Responding to Wilson’s assertion that “the deadly violence … seems to be a hallmark of our species” and “it’s our basic nature to be conflicted” — an assertion Stephen Pinker has famously defied — Hass echoes Alan Shlain’s exploration of how the invention of writing usurped female power in society and shares an observation:

For poets it’s always been interesting to notice that the culture that showed up when humans passed over the event horizon of writing was a male warrior culture.

Reflecting on Wilson’s extensive work on the evolution of culture, Hass adds to history’s greatest definitions of art by considering the creative impulse:

One of the interesting things about this idea is that it has so many echoes in art making. Artists almost always start with a kind of play based on elements that are fixed and variable, things that conventions express, set forms in music, set patterns in comedy, fixed rhythms in poetry, on the one hand, and, on the other, departures from those conventions that lead to new ways of seeing and feeling. In a way, it’s the same oscillation, between sensations that make us feel safe, part of the group, and sensations that make us feel free and on our own. The formal imagination in art — the half-conscious shaping that occurs when an artist is at work — is always working on this problem.

Wilson, who has long advocated for the importance of imaginative thinking in science and has previously argued for the cross-pollination of science and the humanities, speaks to the power of art in shaping the evolutionary history of culture:

The humanities, and especially the creative arts, are the natural history of Homo sapiens. The descriptions based on them describe the human condition and human nature in exquisite detail, over and over again in countless situations. When verbal descriptions are novel in style and obedient to the most basic principles of human nature, when they connect old memories, create new images, and stir emotions all together, we call that great literature. The important innovator produces a tableau of relationships in a story that describes not just the particularities of a place in time, but something that is true for humanity as a whole for all time.

Hass considers the social wiring of our brains and how the science of the social imperative, which Wilson has spent decades studying, feeds into the creative heart of our humanity:

The social drive shaped the uses of imagination. It made it possible for humans to share their invisible inner worlds with each other. I often think of this in relation to dreams. Once they could speak, humans could tell each other their dreams. They could find out that everybody has dreams, that there is this parallel world of meaning-making or traveling that goes on in the resting mind.

Wilson agrees, building an elegant bridge back to biology to illuminate the human paradox:

We dream together, and as a result the cultural products of human nature are vastly expanded and enriched. And approaching from the other side of the divide, biology progresses and connects with the humanities. What biology seems to be doing at the moment is to reveal the roots of ambiguity that define human nature. We’ve been talking, for example, about the eternal confliction of the human mind, between self-serving behavior for the individual and for its offspring, versus service to the group. This clash of evolutionary forces can never result in an equilibrium. If it goes too far toward individualism, societies would dissolve. If, on the other hand, it goes too far toward obedience to the group, the group would turn into an ant colony. So, we’re creatively conflicted, moving back and forth between sin and virtue, rebellion and loyalty, love and hate.

He then returns to the reconciliatory power of the humanities, but he echoes Rilke’s famous counsel to live the questions as he adds:

The creative arts are the sharing of our inner desires and humanity’s struggle. The humanities are our way of understanding and managing the conflict between the two levels that created Homo sapiens. The conflict can never be resolved. And we shouldn’t try too hard to reach a resolution. It defines our species and is the fountain of our creativity.

Hass makes a beautiful aside — then again, the entire conversation is a string of asides, which is precisely what makes it so enchanting — about the question of animal consciousness and how it first rattled poets’ belief in human exceptionalism, then enabled an embracing of science as a complementary celebration of the existential mystery:

The idea that every creature has its own reality scared poets at the beginning of the twentieth century, made some of them feel we were groping blindly — it in effect kicked us out of a comfortable anthropocentric community — but it also allowed some modern poets this sense of absolute mystery at the core of existence. It came of knowing that we would never know exactly what a bird’s experience is, or what an ant’s experience is. It has been an unhousing of the imagination, and it was brought on by the thrust of science to be at home in the world by understanding it. It said we move among great powers and mysteries and only glimpse their meanings, the meaning of what it’s like to be another creature, and therefore also the meaning of being a self, a person.

(For more on the history of this inquiry, see Joanna Bourke’s excellent What It Means To Be Human.)

Describing the powerful experience of seeing remarkably accurate 3,000-year-old carvings of birds and fish in the tombs of Cairo, Hass considers once again how science and the arts converge in our quest for meaning and sensemaking:

Science, partly by the kind of patient observation that noticed the hump on the Nile crow’s back and partly by leaps of imagination and by shared testing and dialogue, has made enormous progress in understanding certain things about the world, but the skill of those artists made me feel that we have always been pretty much in the same place with the same kind of knowledge and the same pull back and forth between ways of seeing.

But the sameness of these fundamental ways of seeing is being threatened as these seemingly eternal objects of our fascination — the wild creatures that inspired artists and scientists alike to look closer, to gasp, to wonder — are facing a heartbreaking fate. Wilson addresses this with a naturalist’s cool rigor and a moral philosopher’s passionate conviction:

I am an extremist. I believe in wildernesses. I’ve been there. I’ve studied thousands of species living there, in ecosystems much the same as they were millions of years ago. I believe, I think, in reference to the species that we might still save — and a growing number of them are endangered — that we need parks, big ones, lots more of them. I think we should be thinking about giving a large part of the world’s surface to wild land. To do so is not just being a conservationist — not just saving species — we must hold on to the rest of life… I don’t mean to make a political statement. I’m making a moral statement. We have to develop a new and better ethic to save the rest of life.

And therein, perhaps, lies the great power of poetry as an ally to science — the power to mobilize people’s imagination and open up their hearts for “the rest of life,” for our intricate connection not only with one another but also with all of Earth’s creatures. Hass captures this capacity beautifully:

We have to work at it. Wonder is one place to start. I was asked to go to my granddaughter’s kindergarten class and to talk about poetry. And I didn’t know if I would know how to do it, but I brought the book I had with me—which was the collected Poems by Elizabeth Bishop, and there is a poem of hers called “The Fish,” and it begins, “I caught a tremendous fish.” So I opened the book and said to these little kids, “Just say this poem with me, okay? ‘I caught a tremendous fish,’” and this group of kids all on the floor looked up at me and said, “I caught a tremendous fish.” And — I simplified the imagery a bit — I said, “It was very old and its skin,” and they said, “It was very old and its skin,” and I said, “Looked like roses on old wallpaper.” And they said, “Ooh.”

And I thought, this is a cinch.

Indeed, this is the broader power of art. Riffing off pioneering modernist architect Louis Sullivan’s assertion that art doesn’t fulfill desire but creates it, Hass reflects:

The way in which art creates desire, I guess that’s everywhere. Is there anyone who hasn’t come out of a movie or a play or a concert filled with an unnameable hunger? … To stand in front of one of [Louis Sullivan's] buildings and look up, or in front, say, of the facade of Notre Dame, is both to have a hunger satisfied that you maybe didn’t know you had, and also to have a new hunger awakened in you. I say “unnameable,” but there’s a certain kind of balance achieved in certain works of art that feels like satiety, a place to rest, and there are others that are like a tear in the cosmos, that open up something raw in us, wonder or terror or longing. I suppose that’s why people who write about aesthetics want to distinguish between the beautiful and sublime… Beauty sends out ripples, like a pebble tossed in a pond, and the ripples as they spread seem to evoke among other things a stirring of curiosity. The aesthetic effect of a Vermeer painting is a bit like that. Some paradox of stillness and motion. Desire appeased and awakened.

Wilson sums up with a beautiful — sublime, really — parting thought that captures the heart of the conversation:

Science and art having the same creative wellspring, which I believe can be expressed aphoristically: the ideal scientist thinks like a poet and works like a bookkeeper.

The Poetic Species is a wonderful read in its entirety, short yet infinitely simulating. Complement it with Wilson’s advice to young scientists and Dorion Sagan on why science and philosophy need each other.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

Share on Tumblr
11 Jul 18:00

Hair Highway


Vid showing how they are made, on the click. via Capt Bunker on the tweezer.

Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description

Hair Highway is a contemporary take on the ancient Silk Road which transported not only silk but also technologies, aesthetics and ideas between East and West. Investigating the global hair industry in the Shandong province of China, Studio Swine followed the journey of the material from the people who sell their hair through to the hair merchants, markets and factories. The project documents this journey in a film and a collection of highly decorative objects.

China is both the largest importer of tropical hardwood and the biggest exporter of human hair. By combining hair with a natural resin, Studio Swine has created a composite material that provides a sustainable alternative to the planet’s diminishing natural resources with an aesthetic that evokes the palettes of tortoiseshell and a grain resembling that of polished horn or exotic hardwoods. The result is a unique collection of exquisite objects inspired by the 1930’s Shanghai-deco style.

As the world’s population rises, human hair is one natural resource that is increasing. Asian hair regenerates the fastest, growing 16 times more rapidly than tropical hardwoods; it is also incredibly strong - a single strand can take up to 100 grams. Hair Highway reflects on China’s relationship with the rest of the world, while exploring the idea that trade has the ability to not only transport products but also values and perceptions.


Concept & Design : Alexander Groves & Azusa Murakami

Film : Juriaan Booij

Edit : Sally Cooper

Production support : Danful Yang & Lily Xu

10 Jul 07:36

Robert Fripp & The League of Gentlemen - Dislocated


And while I'm Fripping out...

Thrang Thrang Gozinbulx 1996 Robert Fripp (guitar) Sara Lee (bass) Barry Andrews (organ) Johnny Toobad (drums) Recorded live at El Mocambo, Toronto, 17-18 Ju...
10 Jul 12:44

Chase : Birth

by Jenn Manley Lee

Putting robots in your brain leads to weirdness.


иди к черту. = go to hell.
Я должна сплюнуть. = I need to spit.

10 Jul 20:39

Ode on an orange cat (1 Comment)

by Dylan

Hello my dears!

No new page of Family Man this week…because I’m drawing two weeks of guest strips over at PvP! The storyline is fun and accessible even if you’ve never read the strip; it features a diabolical cat infiltrating the mysteries of…THE DOG PARK. The story will run for another week, so you can start by clicking on the first strip below and follow along!

pvp20140707-1The next page of Family Man is already well underway, so I’ll be back next week with a new page. See you kids then!


10 Jul 22:05

Thoughts on my first programming conference


From a retweet by the Open Science Foundation

I went to SciPy this week. I'd never been to a programming conference before, and they featured a lot of education talks.

I wish I hadn't.

Last night, at the Software Carpentry mixer, a grand total of 5 men shook my husband's hand and ignored mine. My total of new people met is a dismal ten. Compare it to the Evolution meetings, which is 'my' meeting, where I met upwards of 40 new people, had a blast, and was treated by all participants like a member of the community.

I was reminded of a question my friend Steve Young asked me a while back: "What makes some women stick it out and be awesome [in tech]?" I'm going to turn the question around a bit. It's easy to be 'awesome'. Lots of women are doing 'awesome' things. But I could have sat in my office and worked all week, rather than attending this meeting. I could have done far more 'awesome' alone, and I wouldn't have had my face rubbed in the fact that I'm different. I'd feel a lot less alone had I spent the week hanging out alone.

I think the real question is :

What do tech conferences have to offer to diverse participants?

For the record, I hate the term 'diverse participants'. It doesn't make sense, as a term. And I'm not diverse. I'm middle class, educated, straight and white like almost anyone else at the meeting.

As I was crying myself to sleep last night, my husband asked me a very good question: 'Why do you hang out with these people?'. And I don't have an answer for that. I don't really know what I expected. I know tech is really sexist; I've heard all the anecdotes and seen the numbers and figures. But we have such good female participation at UT in our course. I guess I thought I could be different and I could make this be fun and exciting. I'm young and naive and bull-headed and I thought I could break the mold.

And of course I couldn't.

And that's the kicker. I didn't have a good time and I won't be attending future programming conferences, unless they're explicitly for women. I have no incentive to. I didn't feel lonely as a pythonista until this week. I didn't feel like I didn't belong before this week. Before this week, I had a lot of friends who like what I'm doing and think I'm cool. Now I know that's an isolated thing.

When I go to the Evolution meetings, I'm greeted by people like Natalie Cooper, Rich FitzJohn and Tracy Heath who are eager to reach down and help people up. People who make opportunities and build communities.

In programming, I'm greeted by people who don't want to shake my hand.

Note: This year, SciPy had a Code of Conduct, which is great. And there was a women in science luncheon, which was also good, if too short to allow actual networking and conversation. I do think there are some good people working on this issue, and maybe it'll be better in the future. But I have a strong prior against that change being big enough to get me to come back.

09 Jul 16:46

The year of the freedom technologist

by Kerim

[This is an invited post by John Postill. John is a Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow at RMIT University, in Melbourne. He is currently writing a book titled Hacker, Lawyer, Journalist, Spy: Freedom Technologists and Political Change in an Age of Protest. He blogs at media/anthropology.]

Two and a half years ago, TIME magazine declared 2011 to be The Year of the Protester. From the Arab Spring or Spain’s indignados to the Occupy movement, this was undoubtedly a year of political upheaval around the world.

But 2011 was also an important year for a new global vanguard of tech-minded citizens determined to bring about political change, often in connection with national crises. Let us call these citizens, at least for the time being, freedom technologists.

Consider, for instance, the loose network of freedom technologists who spearheaded the Tunisian uprising. On 28 November 2010, after long years of struggle under one of the world’s harshest regimes, the lawyer and blogger Riadh Guerfali created the site TuniLeaks. A WikiLeaks spin-off, this site released US diplomatic cables that were highly embarrassing to Ben Ali’s autocratic regime. These leaks helped to prepare the protest ground. The trigger came through the actions of another freedom technologist, veteran activist Ali Bouazizi, who recorded on his smartphone the self-immolation of his cousin Mohamed, a street vendor. He then shared the video via Facebook, where it was picked up by journalists from Al Jazeera – barred from entering Tunisia – and broadcast to the whole nation (and the rest of the Arab world). Al Jazeera’s freedom technologists relied on blogs and social media to bypass the official restrictions and report on the fast-moving events on the ground. When the government censored Facebook, the transnational online group Anonymous launched Operation Tunisia, carrying attacks against government websites via dial-up connections provided by Tunisian citizens.

In nearby Spain, where I was doing anthropological fieldwork with internet activists when it all kicked off in May 2011, the imprint of freedom technologists on the nascent protests was also strongly in evidence. After Spain’s political class passed an unpopular digital copyright bill under US pressure in early 2011, the digital rights lawyer Carlos Sanchez Almeida and other net freedom fighters responded by creating #NoLesVotes, a new platform that urged Spanish citizens not to vote for any of the major parties. Shortly afterwards, tech-minded activists such as Gala Pin, Simona Levi, Javier Toret and others formed Democracia Real Ya, an umbrella group calling for peaceful marches across Spain on 15 May 2011 to demand ‘real democracy now’. Inspired by the occupation of Tahrir square, a small number of protesters, including the hacker collective Isaac Hacksimov, decided to set up camp at Madrid’s main square, Puerta del Sol. This action was soon replicated across Spain. As in Tunisia, tech-savvy journalists played their part in the fledgling movement. Joseba Elola, a reporter with the centre-left daily El Pais and WikiLeaks admirer, described ‘young people conscious of their civil liberties who have risen to head a protest in search of a great change’. A few months earlier, Elola had secured a place for El Pais in the global release of WikiLeaks’ US diplomatic cables following a secret meeting with Julian Assange in London 1.

A preliminary sketch

The energy and sacrifice of ordinary young protesters is undeniable, especially in the more repressive regimes, but it would be unfair to leave freedom technologists such as Elola, Pin, Bouazizi or Guerfali out of the protest picture. The Tunisian and Spanish experiences – along with those of countries as diverse as Egypt, Iceland, the United States, Malaysia, Mexico, Turkey or Brazil – allow us to draw a first sketch of these new political actors. As my stories suggest, freedom technologists are not the naïve ‘techno-utopians’ found in a certain strand of internet punditry, poor deluded souls who believe there can be technical fixes to complex societal ills 2. Most are, in fact, sophisticated people who are well aware of how difficult it is to translate technological ingenuity into lasting social gains. In other words, they are techno-pragmatists (with a healthy dose of idealism).

Whilst some freedom technologists are techies, others are non-techies – with some rare individuals being both, e.g. news reporters who are also gifted programmers. Among their ranks we find computer geeks and hackers, as well as bloggers, journalists, lawyers, politicians, artists, sociologists, even anthropologists. Many of them couldn’t write a line of code to save their lives.

Contrary to media portrayals of young ‘digital natives’ leading the protests, freedom technologists range widely in age, most of them sitting somewhere along an ample 20-50 age spectrum. Both women and men are well represented, as are people of all ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds (yet with a high proportion of secularists). As in all fields of endeavour, some seek the limelight where others are happy to remain invisible 3.

Although their outlook is global, most freedom technologists are ‘rooted cosmopolitans’ 4 who both for practical and emotional reasons will limit themselves to one or two national struggles, usually in their own countries of origin or residence.

We should not think of them as ‘techno-libertarians’5, for ideologically they are highly diverse, too, ranging from radical anarchists through left-liberals to free-market libertarians. Depending on their skills and on the causes they espouse, some will focus on information freedom, others on developing free encryption software for activists, still others on furthering individual freedoms, and so forth. What unites them is a strong anti-authoritarian streak, a profound mistrust of large governments and corporations, and the conviction that the fate of the internet and of human freedom are inextricably entwined 6.

When it comes to their class position, we find less diversity. Predictably, freedom technologists are mostly urban, educated, and middle-class. This explains their perennial search for bridging devices (images, slogans, narratives, apps, web platforms) that will align their techno-political goals with the hopes and aspirations of the general population. Examples of this quest include the broad-appeal narrative created around the Tunisian self-immolation video, the Spanish chant ‘We are not commodities in the hands of politicians and bankers’, or the global Occupy slogan ‘We are the 99%’.

New blog series

But perhaps I am giving freedom technologists too much credit. What exactly have they contributed to the new protest movements? With what consequences, if any, for real political change? What can we expect from them in future global and national crises? More importantly, what can the rest of us do to help? These are precisely the questions I will be asking in a new series of 42 blog posts over at my research blog, media/anthropology. This public scholarship marathon will run for a year, each post symbolically standing for one kilometre.

To reach the finishing line I will require a great amount of stamina, as well as a steady supply of feedback from readers via the blog, email, or some other channel. Please feel free to subscribe to the blog or to follow me on Twitter for regular updates on the series.


  1. This first section draws from parts of Postill, J. in press. Freedom technologists and the new protest movements: a theory of protest formulas. Special issue of Convergence journal, “New Media, Global Activism and Politics” Vol. 20, no. 3 (2014). 
  2. See, for example, Morozov, E. (2013). To save everything, click here: The folly of technological solutionism. New York: Public Affairs. 
  3. Boler, M., A. Macdonald, C. Nitsou and A. Harris in press. Connective labor and social media: women’s key roles in the “leaderless” movement of Occupy Wall Street. Special issue of Convergence journal, “New Media, Global Activism and Politics” Vol. 20, no. 3 (2014). 
  4. Ganesh, S., & Stohl, C. (2010). Qualifying engagement: a study of information and communication technology and the global social justice movement in Aotearoa New Zealand. Communication Monographs, 77(1), 51-74. 
  5. In an earlier piece I used the term ‘techno-libertarians’ rather than ‘freedom technologists’. I am grateful to Gabriella Coleman for querying (via Twitter) my use of this notion, presumably on account of the considerable baggage of the term ‘libertarian’, especially in an American context. After exploring various alternatives (e.g. liberation technologists, liberation techies), I finally settled for freedom technologists as a more neutral term that captures the shared concern with freedom (free culture, information freedom, individual freedom, etc.) of an otherwise culturally and ideologically highly diverse universe of political agents. 
  6. See Brooke, H. (2011), The Revolution Will Be Digitised: Dispatches from the Information War, London: William Heinemann, page 23. 
07 Jul 17:07

Hobby Lobby: A Win for Ethnophysiology

by Dick Powis

A post illustrating why often anthropologists get on people's nerves.

An example of a good argument against the Hobby Lobby ruling.
An example of a good argument against the Hobby Lobby ruling.

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby; they are free to deny the insurance coverage of certain contraceptives for their employees. Blogs have written about how this is a loss for women’s rights and a victory for women’s rights, a win for religious freedom and a loss for the religious, a win for corporate personhood, a loss for the LGBTQIA community, and a loss for conservatives. Whichever the case may be, Hobby Lobby is at the very least a win for ethnophysiology.

In 2012, David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby, wrote a column for USA Today in which he explains his company’s decision to file a lawsuit. He writes,

 A new government health care mandate says that our family business must provide what I believe are abortion-causing drugs as part of our health insurance. Being Christians, we don’t pay for drugs that might cause abortions. Which means that we don’t cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill. We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs.

The Supreme Court’s opinion (PDF), issued a week ago, bears this out (p. 2):

The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients. If the owners comply with the [Health and Human Services] mandate, they believe they will be facilitating abortions. . .

If the wording in Alito’s opinion doesn’t distinguish between their religious beliefs and the federal government (i.e. Health and Human Services), a footnote on page nine drives home the point:

The owners of the companies involved in these cases and other who believe life begins at conception regard these four methods [Plan B, ella, Mirena, and ParaGuard] as causing abortions, but federal regulations, which define pregnancy as beginning at implantation, see, e.g. 62 Fed. Reg. 8611 (1997); 45 CFR §46.202(f) (2013), do not so classify them.

Ethnophysiology (or ethno-a&p, as I verbalize it) is the way in which the human body and its functions are understood in a cultural context. Clearly, Christianity’s understanding of reproductive physiology – that life begins at conception, and therefore preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg is tantamount to abortion – is ethnophysiology. Following this, it’s no wonder that so many science bloggers and memes have targeted the Court and Hobby Lobby (Mother Jones, for example) for “disregarding the science.” As Jay Michaelson wrote, responding to the Court’s statement (above) concerning abortifacients, “That should be a statement of fact, not faith.  Either these pills cause abortions, or they don’t. Yet Justice Alito—himself a devout Catholic—says that this fact may be determined based on ‘religious beliefs.’” Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN, goes one step further, resisting the urge to dismiss the plaintiffs beliefs out-of-hand, as she illustrates that the four contraceptives in question don’t even cause abortions by Christian definitions.

Well, not exactly. Ethnophysiology, like most things culturally constructed, is malleable and often times, you don’t get to decide to what extent. In fact, as many postcolonial STS scholars argue (see Harding 2011), neither the monolithic body of knowledge that we call “science,” nor the process of knowledge production by the same name, are the authority of human knowledge. The reproductive physiology which we refer to as “science” is, itself, an ethnophysiology (and by extension, “facts” are ethnophilosophy). The flaw is in adding the ethno- prefix to something in order to Other it. This isn’t to say that the Court’s ruling is tolerable – women’s health and its direct effects on the nation’s social and economic well-being should trump all – but there are much better arguments to be had. Call David Green, five-ninths of the Supreme Court, and the Christian understanding of human reproduction misogynistic if you want, but to say that they eschew intelligence, logic, and reason because they use the word “abortion” differently is just ethnocentric.

(Bonus Question: Is corporate personhood a form of animism?)

Harding, Sandra G. 2011. The postcolonial science and technology studies reader. Durham: Duke University Press.

Further Reading:

Brewis, Alexandra. 1993. Reproductive ethnophysiology and contraceptive use in a rural Micronesian population. Providence, R.I.: Population Studies and Training Center, Brown University. 

De Bessa, Gina Hunter. 2006. “Ethnophysiology and contraceptive use among low-income women in urban Brazil”. Health Care for Women International. 26 (6): 428-452. 

Rashid, S. 2001. “Indigenous Understanding of the Workings of the Body and Contraceptive Use amongst Rural Women in Bangladesh”. South Asian Anthropologist. 1: 57-70.

10 Jul 07:22

Brian Eno - Baby's on Fire [HQ]


Fripp's solo here is just tremendous.

"Baby's on Fire" is the third track from Brian Eno's 1973 debut solo album, 'Here Come the Warm Jets.' Featuring the very, very incendiary guitar work of Rob...
09 Jul 15:33

The Immerse or Die Report

by Christopher Wright

An amusing book review method, of a friend's book.

Jefferson Smith is an Indie author and blogger who has hit upon what I think is an amazingly great conceit for a book review series: he's started exercising, and he uses a treadmill. Each time he exercises, he starts reading a book. Will the book keep him interested through the entire 40-minute workout? If it does, he explains why. If it doesn't, he explains why not. He calls this the Immerse or Die Report, and I think it's brilliant.

(Full disclosure time: yesterday he featured Pay Me, Bug! on this report, and it went the full 40 minutes. So, let's be completely honest here, I might just be a little biased.)

16 Jun 15:16

GPS – a quick guide

by Nicholas Duggan

Seems like no images in feed, but still good post.

Hey all, just found this on & it is a great read, hope you find it useful!

GPS Accuracy and Limitations

GPS is proven to be a very valuable tool for the purposes of Surveying and Navigation however its users must be aware of its characteristics and cautious of its limitations.

Common Factors affecting the accuracy of GPS:

  • GPS Technique employed (i.e.: Autonomous, WADGPS, DGPS, RTK, etc.)
  • Surrounding conditions (satellite visibility and multipath)
  • Number of satellites in view
  • Satellite Geometry (HDOP, GDOP, PDOP etc.)
  • Distance from Reference Receiver(s) (non-autonomous GPS ie: WADGPS, DGPS, RTK)
  • Ionospheric conditions
  • Quality of GPS receiver

Precision and Accuracy

Although precision and accuracy are often assumed to be the same thing, technically they are slightly different. Precision refers to the closeness to the mean of observations and accuracy refers to the closeness to truth.

Care must be taken particularly when using differential GPS to the accuracy of the results (closeness to truth) as reference points used can and often are inconsistent with truth.

The precision or accuracy quoted by many GPS manufacturers is often done using a statistic known as CEP (Circular Error Probable) and are usually tested under ideal conditions.

sp = standard deviation of latitude
sl = standard deviation of longitude

CEP = 0.59[sp + sl]

CEP is the radius of the circle that will contain approximately 50 percent of the horizontal position measurements reported by the GPS receiver. This also means that 50% of the positions reported by your GPS will be outside of this circle.

Another common measure of accuracy is 2DRMS (Distance Root Mean Squared).

2DRMS = 2*sqrt(sp*sp + sl*sl)

2DRMS is the 95-98% probability that the position will be within the stated 2 dimensional accuracy. The probability varies between 95-98% because the standard deviation of latitude and longitude may not always match.

Two plots are shown below (data courtesy Satloc)

Each has been created using 24 hours of data taken at 20 second intervals in the south western USA.

Figure 1:

GPS Corrected with WAAS

Figure 2:

Autonomous GPS

There are 4 techniques commonly used for GPS Navigation: Autonomous, WADGPS and RTK. Surveying applications usually require the use of RTK or Post Processing.

When used properly under ideal conditions, the CEP precisions for each method will depend on the quality of the GPS equipment in use and is approximated below:

Autonomous <10m
WADGPS 0.3-2m
RTK 0.05 – 0.5 m
Post Processed 0.02 – 0.25 m

Accuracy (closeness to truth) of differential systems is relative to the accuracy of the reference points used.

When used in less than ideal conditions, the accuracy and precision of any GPS system can be degraded significantly.

Ideal Conditions

Ideal conditions for GPS Surveying or Navigation are a clear view of the sky with no obstructions from about 5 degrees elevation and up.

Any obstructions in the area of the GPS antenna can cause a very significant reduction in accuracy. Examples of interfering obstructions include: buildings, trees, fences, cables etc. Obstructions may have the following effects thereby reducing accuracy:

  • Reduced number of satellites seen by the receiver
  • Reduced strength of satellite geometry (Dilution of Precision (DOP) values)
  • Satellite signal multipath
  • Corruption of GPS measurements

Multipath is caused by GPS signals being reflected from surfaces near the GPS antenna that can either interfere with or be mistaken for the signal that follows the straight line path from the satellite. In order to get an accurate measurement from a GPS satellite, it is necessary that the signal from the GPS satellite travels directly from the satellite to the GPS antenna. If the signal has been reflected off of another surface prior to being received at the antenna, its length will be greater than was anticipated and will result in positioning error. Multipath is difficult to detect and sometimes hard to avoid.

Figure 3

Other Sources of Error in GPS

  • Signal Delay caused by the Ionosphere
  • Signal Delay caused by the Troposphere
  • Orbit Errors (GPS satellite position inaccuracy)
  • Receiver Noise

Common GPS Surveying and Navigation Techniques and Associated Errors

Autonomous or Stand Alone

The method involves using a GPS on its own with no additional correction information other that what is broadcast by the GPS system. Prior to May 2, 2000 accuracies obtained using this method weren’t usually much better than 100m due to a US Department of Defense induced error called Selective Availability (SA). On May 2 SA was turned off and now accuracies are usually better than 10m.

Autonomous receivers will attempt to correct the Ionospheric and Tropospheric errors bases on mathematical models which are very limited in their accuracy. They have no way of correcting for orbit errors, multipath or receiver noise.

Wide Area Differential GPS (WADGPS)

Examples of Systems that use WADGPS include:

These systems receive an additional satellite signal that contains more accurate information about GPS Ionosphere and Orbit errors allowing the GPS receiver to determine a more accurate position. These systems have no way of correcting for multipath or receiver noise. Accuracies of WADGPS are often better than 2-3 meters. Although multipath can cause very large errors as is the case in the Autonomous positioning. A solar maximum of a an 11 year solar cycle occurred near the year 2000 which can also have dramatic and unpredictable effects on the accuracy of WADGPS systems.

Real-Time Kinematic (RTK)

Many GPS receiver manufacturers provide a system that employs a technique known as RTK. RTK implements the use of much more complex GPS data processing than other techniques, although RTK can eliminate many errors characteristic of other systems. RTK has additional limitations.

When using RTK, a reference receiver (Base) must be placed on a known reference point. This reference receiver then transmits measurement or correction information over a radio link to the roving receiver (Remote) that will be used for positioning or navigation.

This technique can result in accuracies as good as 0.05 m – 0.10 m if used properly and in ideal conditions.

The limitations of an RTK system include the following:

• Initialization – The receiver must be initialized in good GPS conditions for up to 15 minutes before achieving sub-meter accuracy. If the receiver sees less than 4 satellites at any given time after being initialized, the receiver must re-initialize before again achieving sub-meter accuracy.

• Baseline Length – As the distance between the Base and Remote receivers grows larger, the errors observed between the GPS receivers becomes less and less common degrading accuracy at the remote. Good accuracies can normally be achieved with baselines (line between base and remote) in the order of 10 – 15 km. Baseline lengths can be reduced considerably when strong ionospheric conditions exist.

• Radio Transmission – The base and remote must maintain communications at all times in order to maintain good accuracy. Terrain, distance and interference all have effects on the distance in which the base and remote are able to maintain communications.

• Visibility and Multipath – Usually at least 5 satellites must be available in order to achieve good results. Although less susceptible to multipath after initialization compared to other techniques, RTK results can seriously be degraded by obstructions such as trees, fences and buildings.

• Accuracy of Reference Point – The absolute accuracy of the position reported by the Remote receiver is only as accurate in an absolute sense as is the position of the base station coordinates.

Post Processing

This technique of GPS is used mostly used for Surveying and is not used for navigation. It is similar to RTK in that a base station must be placed at a known reference point and a rover is used for gathering new positions. Instead of obtaining accurate results in real-time, accurate coordinates are generated by taking data stored from the receivers and processing them using special software on a computer. Extremely accurate results in the order of a few centimeters can be obtained if done properly and the conditions are good but post-processing is subject to many of the same limitations as RTK.


All GPS navigation and surveying techniques have limitations that may not permit desired accuracies in a given environment. The cause for poor accuracy is not always obvious but is usually attributable to one of the following source of error:

  • Multipath / signal corruption
  • Low number of satellites / poor satellite geometry
  • Erratic Ionospheric activity

These errors can lead to position errors as large as several of meters or more.

01 Jul 14:57

Hobby Lobby Ain’t A Church, It’s a For Profit Business.

by lorenzo

I always hear his posts in his voice.

"Religious Freedom" Run Amok: How The U.S Supreme Court Believes Corporations Are People, Yet Treats Women Inhumanely

A 5-4 majority of the U.S. Supreme Court (comprised of all men) delivered a stunning set-back for women’s reproductive rights in the Hobby Lobby case yesterday. The conservative majority ruled that a crafts chain store (here, one with over 500 outlets) whose owners espouse “sincere religious beliefs” can refuse to provide insurance covering contraception to its female employees.

read more

26 Feb 07:00

TREES By Warren Ellis & Jason Howard, From Image Comics

by Warren Ellis

This puts me in mind of a Simak novel.

Launching this May, a new science fiction comics serial by myself and Jason Howard, entitled TREES, will be published by Image Comics.


(If longtime readers were wondering what happened to the SCATTERLANDS experiment?  We got involved with this instead.  Basically, we had so much fun doing SCATTERLANDS that we wondered what a full series together would look like, and then it took over.)

I’m working on the end of issue 4 right now, while Jason has just wrapped issue 3.  We expect to have six issues in the can by the end of May, when issue 1 is published.  Final order cut-off for comics stores on issue 1 is May 5. 

All contact and PR is being handled through Image Comics at this time.  Here’s their contacts page.

Below, the solicitation text for issue 1.

Ten years after they landed. All over the world. And they did nothing, standing on the surface of the Earth like trees, exerting their silent pressure on the world, as if there were no-one here and nothing under foot. Ten years since we learned that there is intelligent life in the universe, but that they did not recognise us as intelligent or alive. Beginning a new science fiction graphic novel by Warren Ellis & Jason Howard.

25 Jun 16:27

A Brief History of Unusual Objects Designed to Kill People from Far Away, Part 1a: The Mongol Bow


The bow to go with.


The hard part about killing people is that sometimes they kill you back. (Just ask Prince Oberyn.) So at some point, some primitive pugilist concluded it would be better if one was not within arm's reach of the person one was trying to kill.

One way you can do this is to kill your opponent with kindness. But this can take an unsatisfyingly long time. A more immediate way to kill someone from afar is with a ranged weapon.

Spears and slings were relatively simple to make, but no civilization could gain an enduring military advantage with such basic and duplicable weapons. The earliest example of an object that required both design and manufacturing know-how, and which led to a tremendously decisive advantage, was probably the 13th Century Mongol bow.


Bows and arrows have been around for tens of thousands of years—depending on who you listen to, we may have had them 64,000 freaking years ago—but the Mongol bow was a standout. First off, it was made out of something like the carbon fiber of that era, a complicated-to-make sandwich of horn, wood or bamboo, and strands of animal sinew all laminated together with animal glue. The horn provided the rigidity, the wood or bamboo provided the flex, and the elastic sinew laminated to the wood helped store potential energy as the string was drawn.

The traditional problem with composite bows was that they tended to delaminate when wet, as water dissolved the animal glue holding them together. Since the Mongols didn't like the idea that they would have to surrender if it was raining out, and throwing arrows by hand didn't seem terribly practical, they either developed or stole the technology to produce a waterproof lacquer. By coating their bows with this stuff, they effectively made them all-weather. And the results were simply devastating.

25 Jun 19:23

A Brief History of Unusual Objects Designed to Kill People from Far Away, Part 1b: Mongolian Thumb Rings


So, this is pretty neat.


[Images by Fiddler49]

By mastering the assembly of compound materials, the Mongols had created an incredibly powerful bow, as we saw in the previous entry. But the way that they used it, which differed from the European method, necessitated a secondary support object that was the result of early ergonomic observation.


The Europeans used what is known as the "Mediterranean draw" to pull their bowstrings back. This uses the first three fingers of the hand. However, the Mongols used their thumbs to pull the string back, and curled their index and middle fingers over the thumb to support it. This, they reckoned, was stronger and allowed for a cleaner release. Whether you're an archer or not, if you use your own hand to mimic the release of either pull, you can clearly see it's easier to instantly spread your thumb, forefinger and middle finger than it is to release the first three fingers of your hand; that's because the thumb and fingers oppose, and thus balance, each other.

But concentrating over 100 pounds of force against the thumb would damage that thumb. So to protect them, the Mongols had to create yet another object: The thumb ring. This hand-carved object could be made from wood, bone, horn or antler. Here's a shot of a modern-day one owned by this Hong-Kong-based archery enthusiast:


26 Jun 12:18

Material ConneXion's New Book Series Offers a Handy Guide to the Latest and Greatest Material Innovations for Architects & Designers


Perhaps of interest to Captain Bunker.

MaterialInnovation-ProductDesign-COMP.jpgClockwise from top left: Glider, Kammok; Curface composite panels, Adam Fairweather; Microbial Home Probe, Phillips Design; Bogobrush, photo by Mike Glinski

While the Internet is a seemingly limitless resource when it comes to research or reference, sometimes it's nice to peruse the information in print. Short of actually including samples of ABS, flyknit, etc., Material ConneXion's new book series serves as a handy guide to what's new and what's next in materials for architects and designers (the samples, of course, are available at their materials libraries). Written with an audience of design students and professionals in mind, the first two volumes, on Architecture and Product Design, were published by Thames & Hudson just last week. (The latter, pictured above, includes a preface by our own Allan Chochinov.)

From cutting-edge technological advances to novel applications of tried-and-true methodologies, co-authors Andrew Dent, Ph.D, and Leslie Sherr present a well-curated selection of materials in an impressive series of highly visual, broadly informative compendia. According to the press release, the books also "include a Materials Directory that provides insight on additional materials that are part of the Material ConneXion library and that can be used as substitutes for the projects featured." We had a chance to speak to Dent on the occasion of the launch.

Core77: How did you determine which projects to include in this book? Did you make a conscious effort to include a diverse range of projects in each of the six sections?

Andrew Dent: Diversity was essential to demonstrate our thesis, that the material trends we see are independent of product type. The decision about which projects to feature was determined by a group at Material ConneXion along with my co-author Leslie Sherr. Though we looked at predominantly very recent projects, where an slightly older project could exemplify an arc in a material type's trajectory, it was included. Clear presentation of material innovation was essential, though it should not detract from the overall value of design.

The inclusion of Iron Man 2 body armor, in particular, points to noncommercial (or at least non-traditional) applications of new technologies, yet it also suggests a potential use case for 3D printing, while student projects, concepts and prototypes depict possibilities that may be years away from becoming a reality. As a resource and reference, do you have the sense that the Material Innovation series may shape the future of design (i.e. by introducing designers to new or alternative materials) as much as it documents it in the present?

Our hope is that the series opens designers' eyes to the value of material innovation and the range of material possibilities that exist beyond what they currently know (the "unknown unknowns"). We also hope that it can show how materials can jump product type, from say consumer electronics to automotive, or from sports equipment to home appliances. This cross-pollination gives designers greater freedom to design, and offers the potential to stretch existing beliefs about how a product should be.

30 Jun 22:33

Thirsty Man Prevented from Enjoying Bottle of Beer by Self-Targeting Auto-Firing Paintball Sentry Gun


The person in this video is a glutton for punishment.


While TrackingPoint released their self-aiming PGF rifle just last year, a slightly similar, if less deadly, consumer-level technology has been available for quite some time. For years, paintball enthusiasts have been hacking together self-targeting paintball sentry guns, which not only track targets, but light them up without you needing to bother to pull the trigger. In this video from several years ago, a nice, frosty bottle of beer is placed on a table. Joe is across the yard and he's thirsty. The only thing standing between Joe and the beer is a paintball gun in Auto Sentry mode:

Of course, the real question on everyone's mind is if this system can stop an intruder using multiple trampolines in your backyard: