Shared posts

20 Jun 14:18

Maybe Birds Can Have It All: Dazzling Colors and Pretty Songs, Too

by victoria

colorful tanagers

By Hugh Powell

A study of one of the world’s largest and most colorful bird families has dispelled a long-held notion, first proposed by Charles Darwin, that animals are limited in their options to evolve showiness. The study—the largest of its kind yet attempted—was published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The natural world is full of showstoppers—birds with brilliant colors, exaggerated crests and tails, intricate dance routines, or virtuosic singing. But it’s long been thought that these abilities are the result of trade-offs. For a species to excel in one area, it must give up its edge in another. For example, male Northern Cardinals are a dazzling scarlet but sing a fairly simple whistle, whereas the dull brown House Wren sings one of the most complicated songs in nature.

CardinalWren350

Naturalists have long noticed that bright, showy birds like the Northern Cardinal often sing simple songs, while plainer birds like the House Wren often sing complex songs. Photos by Judy Howle/Cornell Lab (cardinal) and Gary Mueller/Cornell Lab (wren).

Compare the two songs:
Northern Cardinal:

House Wren:

Animals have limited resources, and they have to spend those in order to develop showy plumage or precision singing that help them attract mates and defend territories,” said Nick Mason, the paper’s lead author.  “So it seems to make sense that you can’t have both. But our study took a more detailed look and suggests that actually, some species can.” Mason did the research as a master’s student at San Diego State University. He is now a Ph.D. student at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Mason and his colleagues tested the idea of trade-offs by looking at a very large family of songbirds from Central and South America, the tanagers. This group consists of 371 species—nearly 10 percent of all songbirds. It includes some of the most spectacularly colorful birds in the world (such as the Paradise Tanager) as well as more drab birds (like the Black-bellied Seedeater). The group also includes both accomplished and weak songsters alike.

ParadiseSeedeater350

The study compared plumage and song complexity in the tanager family, which has showy species like the Paradise Tanager and more drab birds like the Black-bellied Seedeater. Photos by Joao Quental.

Compare the two songs:
Paradise Tanager:
Black-bellied Seedeater:

The research team examined museum specimens of 303 tanager species, using a spectrophotometer to measure nine aspects of plumage coloration, such as brilliance and contrast. They took a similar approach to the birds’ songs, analyzing more than 2,700 recordings to measure 20 song variables including length, bandwidth, and number of syllables. (By the end of the project, Mason had earned the distinction of being the largest-ever single user of the Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library sound archives.) Finally, the team compared how plumage and song complexity varied at each of the branches along a recently completed evolutionary tree of the tanager family.

“If there were going to be any group of birds at all that would show this trade-off, the tanagers would be a very good candidate, because there’s all this variation in song and plumage complexity,” Mason said, noting that the group’s large size lends confidence to the statistical analysis. “But when we dive into it and do some rigorous statistics, it turns out that there is no overall trend. Tanagers can be drab and plain-sounding, or colorful and musical, or anything in between.”

Blue-winged_Mountain_Tanager350

The Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager was ranked #4 in plumage complexity. But it and its close relatives also have complicated songs, contributing to the study’s finding that there is no evolutionary trade-off between plumage and song complexity. Photo by Keith Bowers.

Hear the song:

As a byproduct of the analyses, Mason was able to put together top-10 lists of tanagers with the most colorful plumage and the most complex songs. Those lists help illustrate the overall lack of a trade-off between singing and plumage. For example, a single genus of mountain-tanagers had members on both lists. The Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager ranked #8 among the most complex songs, while the Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager had the fourth most complex plumage of all 303 species examined.

The study puts a significant dent in the idea of evolutionary trade-offs between plumage and song. It’s still possible that trade-offs take place at the level of genus, Mason said, or that they influence species relatively fleetingly as evolutionary pressures appear and disappear. But as a broad effect on an entire family of birds, a voice–plumage trade-off doesn’t seem to exist. One possibility is that the resources needed to develop fancy plumage are different from the ones required for complex songs, freeing tanagers to invest in both forms of showiness simultaneously.

In addition to Mason, the study’s authors include Allison Shultz and Kevin Burns, both of San Diego State University. The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society.

(Sounds via Macaulay Library: Northern Cardinal by Gerrit Vyn; House Wren by Geoffrey Keller and Thomas Sander; Paradise Tanager and Black-bellied Seedeater by Theodore Parker III, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager by Mark Robbins. Top images via Neotropical Birds. Clockwise from upper left: Golden Tanager by Peter W. Wendelken, Swallow Tanager by Frank Shufelt, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager by Keith Bowers, Red-necked Tanager by Vivek Tiwari, Beryl-spangled Tanager by Priscilla Burcher.)

13 Jun 16:27

San Francisco’s (In)Visible Class War

by zephoria
Jess

Fuck San Francisco.

In 2003, I was living in San Francisco and working at a startup when I overheard a colleague of mine — a self-identified libertarian — spout off about “the homeless problem.” I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I’m sure it fit into a well-trodden frame about no-good lazy leeches. I marched right over to him and asked if he’d ever talked to someone who was homeless. He looked at me with shock and his cheeks flushed, so I said, “Let’s go!” Unwilling to admit discomfort, he followed.

>We drove down to 6th Street, and I nodded to a group of men sitting on the sidewalk and told him to ask them about their lives. Then I watched as he nervously approached one guy and stumbled through a conversation. I was pleasantly surprised that he ended up talking for longer than I expected before coming back to me.

“So?”
“He’s a vet.”
“Uh-huh.”
“And he said the government got him addicted and he can’t shake the habit.”
“Uh-huh.”
“And he doesn’t know what he should do to get a job because no one will ever talk to him.”
“Uh-huh.”
“I didn’t think…. He’s not doing so well…”

I let him trail off as we got back into the car and drove back to the office in silence.

San Francisco is in the middle of a class war. It’s not the first or last city to have heart-wrenching inequality tear at its fabric, challenge its values, test its support structures. But what’s jaw-dropping to me is how openly, defensively, and critically technology folks demean those who are struggling. The tech industry has a sickening obsession with meritocracy. Far too many geeks and entrepreneurs worship at the altar of zeros and ones, believing that outputs can be boiled down to a simple equation based on inputs. In a modern-day version of the Protestant ethic, there’s a sense that success is a guaranteed outcome of hard work, skills, and intelligence. Thus, anyone who is struggling can be blamed for their own circumstances.

This attitude is front and center when it comes to people who are visibly homeless on the streets of San Francisco, a mere fraction of the total homeless population in that city.

I wish that more people working in the tech sector would take a moment to talk to these men and women. Listening to their stories is humbling. Vets who fought for our country, under the banner of “freedom,” only to be cognitively imprisoned by addiction and mental illness. Abused runaways trying to find someone who will treat them with respect. People who were working hard and getting by until an accident struck and they lost their job and ended up in medical debt. Immigrants who came looking for the American Dream only to find themselves trapped. These aren’t no-good lazy leeches. They’re people. People whose lives have been a hell of a lot harder than most of us can even fathom. People who struggle on a daily basis to find food and shelter. People who we’ve systematically disenfranchised and failed to support. People who the bulk of tech workers ignore, shun, resent, and demonize.

A city without a safety net cannot be a healthy society. And nothing exacerbates this worse than condescension, resentment, and dismissal. We can talk about the tech buses and the lack of affordable housing, but it all starts with appreciating those who are struggling. Only a mere fraction of San Francisco’s homeless population are visible, but those who are reveal the starkness of what’s unfolding. And, as with many things, there’s more of a desire to make the visible invisible than there is to grapple with dynamics of poverty, mental illness, addiction, abuse, and misfortune. Too many people think that they’re invincible.

If you’re living in the Bay Area and working in tech, take a moment to do what I asked my colleague to do a decade ago. Walk around the Tenderloin and talk with someone whose poverty is written on their body. Respectfully ask about their life. Where did they come from? How did they get here? Where do they want to go? Ask about their hopes and dreams, struggles and challenges. Get a sense for their story. Connect as people. Then think about what meritocracy in tech really means.

(Photo by Darryl Harris.)

Two great local organizations: Delancey Street Foundation and Homeless Children’s Network.

(This entry was first posted on May 13, 2014 at Medium under the title “San Francisco’s (In)Visible Class War” as part of The Message.)

05 Jun 15:23

Will my grandchildren learn to drive? I expect not

by zephoria
Jess

After over 10 years without one, I'm about to become a car owner again, reluctantly. This sentence breaks my heart: "And since our government is incapable of working together to invest in infrastructural investments, thereby undermining any hopes of public transit in huge parts of the country, what we’re effectively doing is laying the groundwork for autonomous vehicles." I don't wanna give up the dream of functional public transit! Not yet!

I rarely drive these days, and when I do, it’s bloody terrifying. Even though I grew up driving and drove every day for fifteen years, my lack of practice is palpable as I grip the steering wheel. Every time I get behind the wheel, in order to silence my own fears about all of the ways in which I might crash, I ruminate over the anxieties that people have about teenagers and driving. I try not to get distracted in my own driving by looking to see if other drivers are texting while driving, but I can’t help but muse about these things. And while I was driving down the 101 in California last week, it hit me: driving is about to become obsolete.

The history of cars in America is tied up with what it means to be American in the first place. American history —with its ups and downs — can be understood through the automobile industry. In fact, it can be summed up with one word: Detroit. Once a booming metropolis, this one-industry town iconically highlights the issues that surround globalization, class inequality, and labor identities. But entwined with the very real economic factors surrounding the automobile industry is an American obsession with freedom.

It used to be that getting access to a car was the ultimate marker of freedom. As a teenager in the nineties, I longed for my sixteenth birthday and all that was represented by a driver’s license. Today, this sentiment is not echoed by the teens that I meet. Some still desperately want a car, but it doesn’t have the same symbolic feeling that it once did. When I ask teens about driving, what they share with me reveals the burdens imposed by this supposed tool of freedom. They talk about the costs — especially the cost of gas. They talk about the rules — especially the rules that limit them from driving with other teens in the car. And they talk about the risks — regurgitating back countless PSAs on drinking or texting while driving. While plenty of teens still drive, the very notion of driving doesn’t prompt the twinkle in their eyes that I knew from my classmates.

Driving used to be hard work. Before there was power steering and automatic transmission, maneuvering a car took effort. Driving used to be a gateway for learning. Before there were computers in every part of a car, curious youth could easily tear apart their cars and tinker with their innards. Learning to drive and manipulate a car used to be admired. Driving also used to be fun. Although speed limits and safety belts have saved many lives, I still remember the ways in which we would experiment with the boundaries of a car by testing its limits in parking lots on winter days. And I will never forget my first cross-country road trip, when I embraced the openness of the road and pushed my car to the limits and felt the wind on my face. Freedom, I felt freedom.

Today, what I feel is boredom, if not misery. The actual mechanisms of driving are easy, fooling me into a lull when I get into a car. Even with stimuli all around me, all I get to do is pump the gas, hit the brakes, and steer the wheel no more than ten degrees. My body is bored and my brain turns off. By contrast, I totally get the allure of the phone—or anything that would be more interesting than trying to navigate the road while changing the radio station to avoid the incessant chatter from not-very-entertaining DJs.

It’s rare that I hear many adults talk about driving with much joy. Some still get giddy about their cars; I hear this most often from my privileged friends when they get access to a car that changes their relationship to driving, such as an electric car or a hybrid or a Tesla. But even in those cases, I hear enthusiasm for a month before people go back to moaning about traffic and parking and surveillance. Outside of my friends, I hear people lament gas prices and tolls and this, that, or the other regulation. And when I listen to parents, they’re always complaining about having to drive their kids here, there, and everywhere. Not surprisingly, the teens that I meet rarely hear people talk joyously about cars. They hear it as a hassle.

So where does this end up? Data from both the CDC and AAA suggests that fewer and fewer American teens are bothering to even get their driver’s license. There’s so much handwringing about driving dangers, so much effort towards passing new laws and restrictions targeting teens in particular, and so much anxiety about distracted driving. Not surprisingly, more and more teens are throwing their hands in the air and giving up, demanding their parents drive them because there’s no other way. This, in turn, means that parents hate driving even more. And since our government is incapable of working together to invest in infrastructural investments, thereby undermining any hopes of public transit in huge parts of the country, what we’re effectively doing is laying the groundwork for autonomous vehicles. It’s been 75 years since General Motors exhibited an autonomous car at the 1939 World’s Fair, but we’ve now created the cultural conditions for this innovation to fit into American society.

We’re going to see a decade of people flipping out over fear that autonomous vehicles are dangerous, even though I expect them to be a lot less dangerous that sleepy drivers, drunken drivers, distracted drivers, and inexperienced drivers. Older populations that still associate driving with freedom are going to be resistant to the very idea of autonomous vehicles, but both parents and teenagers will start to see them as more freeing than driving. We’re still a long way from autonomous vehicles being meaningfully accessible to the general population. But we’re going to get there. We’ve spent the last thirty years ratcheting up fears and safety measures around cars, and we’ve successfully undermined the cultural appeal of driving. This is what will open the doors to a new form of transportation. And the opportunities for innovation here are only just beginning.

(This entry was first posted on May 5, 2014 at Medium under the title “Will my grandchildren learn to drive? I expect not” as part of The Message.)

17 Jul 21:39

The Forest Man of India

by Jason Kottke
Jess

I guess not all humans are terrible.

Since 1979, Jadav Payeng has planted every single tree in a forest that covers some 1360 acres of an island in the Jorhat district of India. The forest helps prevent the erosion of the island and is now home to elephants, rhinos, tigers, and other animals. Forest Man is a short documentary film on how this forest came to be.

(via @AdmiralTwombly)

Tags: Jadav Payeng   video
03 Jul 10:00

DS128.4 (alternate 1)

by Josh M.
Jess

Library activism is so hard core.

Josh MacPhee DS128.4 (alternate 1) $30 This is an variation on a print I created for the Librarians and Archivists with Palestine Box Set produced with Booklyn (more info HERE). From the notes of that project:
The librarians at Birzeit University use the Library of Congress classification system even though it does not always appropriately or adequately express subjects in Palestinian history, geography, or culture—because there is no viable alternative. The librarians discussed the struggle to challenge LOC conventions when they petitioned to create a new call number, DS128.4, for the First Intifada, which would represent this period in history. In spite of their efforts, the Library of Congress in the U.S. started using a different call number than the one used at Birzeit. The background pattern is one of many MacPhee drew while on the delegation, inspired by the textures and ornamentation found across Palestine.
For a larger image, click HERE. Printed by Kevin Caplicki at Bushwick Print Lab. 2 color screenprint offwhite acid free stock signed and numbered edition of 5 04ds128A_400.jpg
04 Jun 17:53

Maya Lin Unveils Newest Sculpture in Her Last Memorial

by victoria
Jess

I like everything about this except that so many animals are extinct or endangered.

MayaLin-blog

By Pat Leonard

If an in-person visit to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, is on your itinerary this summer, be sure to swivel your eyes to the right as you walk into the observatory from the main entrance. You’ll see a large graceful oval made of American walnut reclining against the wall, as if left there temporarily. But there’s more to this simple sculpture than meets the eye. The Lab’s new “Sound Ring” is a unique speaker system created by world-renowned artist Maya Lin. The Ring is the latest installment in Lin’s What Is Missing? memorial to extinct, endangered, or threatened species and habitats, designed as a gift to the Lab for its conservation efforts around the world.

“Viewers are drawn closer by the intriguing echoes of a huge singing ring,” said John W. Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Woodcocks twitter as they fly from east to west, Common Nighthawks ‘peent’ from overhead, and Olive-sided Flycatchers ring out ‘quick, three-beers!’ from distant limbs off to the south. Haunting wails of a lonely loon carry us to a moonlit Adirondack lake. Then, hearing a chorus of clarinet-like notes overhead, we are standing beneath a family group of Indri lemurs in a Madagascar rainforest. The sounds surround us with stories of beauty, fragility, vulnerability, and loss. They cry to us for help, lest they disappear forever.”

“To me, memorials represent a stepping-off point,” said Lin during the May 30 unveiling of the Sound Ring. “We can’t do anything about what has already been lost, but can we learn enough from the past to rethink a different and better future?”

The Sound Ring

Hidden speakers in the Sound Ring project the sounds of extinct and endangered species and habitats. It is made of sustainably harvested American walnut. Photo by Jason Koski, Cornell University Photography.

The Sound Ring joins other sculptures and videos by Maya Lin plus permanent and traveling exhibits that are part of the “What is Missing?” memorial— the last memorial Lin says she will create. Binding it all together is the What Is Missing? website which highlights loss, connects to conservation groups around the world working to protect species and habitats (including the Lab of Ornithology), and will envision how we could live sustainably with the planet. The website engages individuals to help build a global memorial to the planet. You can visit What Is Missing? to add a memory about something you have witnessed diminish or disappear from the natural world or add a story about conservation or recovery.

“As an artist, I want to get people to think outside the box and give them hope that there is something they can do as individuals,” explained Lin. “The loss of species and habitats is all about land use and resource consumption. We have to make species protection through habitat conservation a huge priority because what we’re doing right now is spending our kids’ and our grandkids’ future.”

The Lab’s Macaulay Library archive played an important role in Lin’s creation, providing the recordings used in the Sound Ring to reproduce habitat soundscapes, including the North American forest, the Indian Ocean, and an Amazon rainforest. Individual species include everything from frogs to gibbons, Humpback whales to jaguars—and of course, birds. Additional sounds and soundscapes will be added over time, controlled by an iPad in the visitor center. There’s no one “sweet spot” for visitors to stand—the sounds have a depth and range that works no matter where you’re positioned in relation to the Sound Ring. Lin says her intent was to create a “spatial acoustic experience.”

And if you can’t make it to the Cornell Lab, listen to these sample clips from the Sound Ring. Close your eyes and immerse yourself in the sounds. Then visit the What Is Missing? project website to explore how your personal actions can make a difference for endangered wildlife and threatened landscapes.

Here’s a few species included in the Sound Ring:

Common Loon

Humpback whale

Weddell seal

Indri

The Sound Ring was designed by the Maya Lin Studio and fabricated at the Walla Walla Foundry in Missouri out of sustainably harvested American walnut. Arup Associates created the sound design.

Read more about Maya Lin and her collaboration with the Cornell Lab:

(Photos by Jason Koski, Cornell University Photography)

16 Jul 14:14

The polar flip

by Jason Kottke
Jess

Woah. "Still, there is no evidence that a weakened magnetic field would result in a doomsday for Earth. During past polarity flips there were no mass extinctions or evidence of radiation damage. Researchers think power grids and communication systems would be most at risk." Yeah, no problem. We don't need those things.

Earth Magnetic Field

According to data collected by a European satellite array, the Earth's magnetic field is shifting and weakening at a greater pace than previously thought. One of the reasons for the shift might be that the magnetic North and South poles are swapping positions.

Scientists already know that magnetic north shifts. Once every few hundred thousand years the magnetic poles flip so that a compass would point south instead of north. While changes in magnetic field strength are part of this normal flipping cycle, data from Swarm have shown the field is starting to weaken faster than in the past. Previously, researchers estimated the field was weakening about 5 percent per century, but the new data revealed the field is actually weakening at 5 percent per decade, or 10 times faster than thought. As such, rather than the full flip occurring in about 2,000 years, as was predicted, the new data suggest it could happen sooner.

You can read up on geomagnetic reversals on Wikipedia. A short sampling:

These periods [of polarity] are called chrons. The time spans of chrons are randomly distributed with most being between 0.1 and 1 million years with an average of 450,000 years. Most reversals are estimated to take between 1,000 and 10,000 years. The latest one, the Brunhes-Matuyama reversal, occurred 780,000 years ago. A brief complete reversal, known as the Laschamp event, occurred only 41,000 years ago during the last glacial period. That reversal lasted only about 440 years with the actual change of polarity lasting around 250 years. During this change the strength of the magnetic field dropped to 5% of its present strength.

Tags: Earth   physics   science
15 Jul 18:26

A Disappearing Planet

by Jason Kottke
Jess

NIGHTMARE FOLDER. Also TOTALLY DEPRESSING REAL THING THAT IS HAPPENING ON OUR PLANET FOLDER, which maybe I should rename to WAKING NIGHTMARE FOLDER?

From ProPublica, an alarming series of graphs and charts on animal extinction: A Disappearing Planet.

Animal species are going extinct anywhere from 100 to 1,000 times the rates that would be expected under natural conditions. According to Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction and other recent studies, the increase results from a variety of human-caused effects including climate change, habitat destruction, and species displacement. Today's extinction rates rival those during the mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

(via @SrikarDR)

Tags: biology
14 Jul 14:12

Mobility on demand

by Jason Kottke
Jess

Sometimes I wish Finland would do something really heinous so I would love it less and feel less jealous that I don't live there.

Helsinki has announced plans to integrate all transportation within the Finnish city into a single system with a single payment structure and run it as a public utility.

Helsinki aims to transcend conventional public transport by allowing people to purchase mobility in real time, straight from their smartphones. The hope is to furnish riders with an array of options so cheap, flexible and well-coordinated that it becomes competitive with private car ownership not merely on cost, but on convenience and ease of use.

Subscribers would specify an origin and a destination, and perhaps a few preferences. The app would then function as both journey planner and universal payment platform, knitting everything from driverless cars and nimble little buses to shared bikes and ferries into a single, supple mesh of mobility. Imagine the popular transit planner Citymapper fused to a cycle hire service and a taxi app such as Hailo or Uber, with only one payment required, and the whole thing run as a public utility, and you begin to understand the scale of ambition here.

As the Helsinki Times' headline reads, the future resident of Helsinki will not own a car.

Tags: Finland
12 Jul 18:12

EZ Swatching

by materialsciknits
Jess

I basically *only* knit hats because I'm so lazy about swatching.

Like most knitters (I think), I don’t especially love to swatch. When I start a new project, I always go back and forth as to whether I really *need* to swatch, and if I do, how small of a swatch can I get away with.

And on nearly every skimpy-swatching occassion, I end up with a garment that doesn’t fit very well. Argh.

So, I’m starting a new sweater project (a KAL with the lovely Espino) and here I go again debating if and how much I should swatch. The Devil on my shoulder says, “oh just make a little square, back and forth, it’s close enough.” The Angel on the other shoulder says “you better make your swatch in the round or you *know* it won’t be accurate!” And then Elizabeth Zimmerman walks up behind me, swats the Devil/Angel off my shoulders, and says “why not knit a swatch cap?” Oh you wise and wonderful woman.

I’m not sure why – but the swatch cap doesn’t *feel* like a swatch. It’s a hat! I’m not knitting for calibration (which really isn’t a bad reason to be knitting), I’m knitting a future finished object that will have a practical-wearing use. And, I’ve also learned the hard way, if you don’t block your swatch, then why on earth did you even bother knitting a swatch?? The swatch cap is a perfect little blocking garment too (dries fast).

So, I’m half way through my Merle/BT Loft swatch cap and I’m so glad I listened to EZ. Granted, I’m going to take a little longer to get to the sweater (sorry, Espino, I’m knitting as fast as I can), but I’m confident that this sweater is going to fit me (and not the poor person I gift it to because I can’t bear to see this beautiful sweater just sitting in my closet).

IMG_1021


08 Jul 14:32

Urban Giants

by Jason Kottke
Jess

Oh, I'm definitely watching this later.

In the early 1930s, Western Union and AT&T built two new buildings in lower Manhattan to house their telecommunications infrastructure. Here's a short film about their construction and ongoing use as hubs for contemporary telecom and internet communications.

Amazing that those buildings are still being used for the same use all these years later...they just run newer and newer technology through the same old conduits.

Tags: architecture   NYC   video
07 Jul 15:18

Animals as the Answer to Recycling Food waste

by kris de decker
Jess

Cooperation!

Mountains of food scraps end up in landfills every day. While northern countries glorify attempts to facilitate this trash-to-treasure process using state-of-the-art technologies, Bobbili, a town in Northeast India, adopts a tech-free solution – a park using animals for solid waste management.

animals recycling food waste

Livestock at waste management park in Bobbili, India

Lowly as it may seem, Bobbili prides itself on its zero-waste zone with a comprehensive recycling system that ensures nothing goes to the landfill. Their unique solution involves door-to-door collection of household waste strictly separated as dry and wet, and the 2010 ban on plastic. The spotlight of the scheme is the Municipal Solid Waste Park – a 8.5-acre site comprising a bio-compost yard handling 2.5 to 3 tonnes of organic waste a day. The most innovative part is the utilisation of livestock.

A 2012 report by India’s Regional Centre for Urban and Environmental Studies states that “animals are the part of the solution, not the problem. The livestock’s potential contribution in solving environmental problems is equally large. The livestock contribute to tackle our environmental degradation by a variety of ways.”

By 2012 the park kept 4 chickens, 21 ducks, 6 pigs and other animals for different functions. Chickens are benefited from the insects in the waste, whilst pigs would gulp the food waste collected from hotels. Ducks take care of the leftovers collected from the fish market. Dogs are in charge of domestic leftovers. The ‘park farm’ is probably the first in the world to implement animal feed on a municipal level.

solid waste management park

Solid Waste Management Park in Bobbili, India

The animal farm takes its inspiration from the history of feeding animals with organic waste. Dogs, especially domesticated ones, are effective in taking care of meat scraps. As a common practice in traditional pig farming, pigs often consume the leftovers, rather than energy and cost-intensive crops. Ducks and chickens respectively favour kitchen scraps and milling by-products. Given the extraordinary effectiveness of earthworms to decompose vegetable and food wastes, vermicompost is another key of this living waste management system.

ren wanBesides the fact that landfill relief means avoided methane emission, animal waste can be a sustainable source of natural fertiliser whose cost and carbon footprint are way lower than artificial ones. More importantly, because the system doesn’t involve complex technologies, it can be easilly implemented – though in a smaller scale – on household levels. Just by keeping dogs and resuming the tradition of backyard chicken, we can easily reduce kitchen scraps and contribute to a significant cut in food waste.

This is a guest post by Ren Wan, a writer and sustainability advocate who is based in Hong Kong. She runs JupYeah, an online swapping platform, is a managing editor for WestEast Magazine, and blogs at Loccomama. Ren previously wrote about Furoshiki, a square cloth that with different wrapping techniques can basically transport anything.

02 Jul 14:10

Better living through motivational passwords

by Jason Kottke

When faced with a mandatory monthly password change, Mauricio Estrella decided to use it as an opportunity to improve his life.

My password became the indicator. My password reminded me that I shouldn't let myself be victim of my recent break up, and that I'm strong enough to do something about it.

My password became: "Forgive@h3r"

I had to type this statement several times a day. Each time my computer would lock. Each time my screensaver with her photo would appear. Each time I would come back from eating lunch alone.

In my mind, I went with the mantra that I didn't type a password. In my mind, I wrote "Forgive her" everyday, for one month.

I think this strategy might even work with the world's worst password requirements.

Tags: Mauricio Estrella   security
23 Jun 04:00

The Dailies (No Comments)

by Dakota

The Dailies

26 Jun 16:25

Paper to pixels

by Jason Kottke
Jess

Julia!

Nice little video essay on information theory and Claude Shannon, "the most important man you've probably never heard of".

Tags: Claude Shannon   video
25 Jun 18:49

21 years a family

by Jason Kottke
Jess

I love the mom's outfits in this one. The Goldberg family portraits are also great: http://zonezero.com/open/158-the-arrow-of-time

Beginning in 1991, Zed Nelson took a photo of the same family (father, mother, and son) in front of the same backdrop every year for 21 years. Here's the first photo:

Zed Nelson Family 01

And the most recent one:

Zed Nelson Family 02

There are many more such projects, including the Goldberg family's annual portraits, Nicholas Nixon's annual portraits of The Brown Sisters, and Noah Kalina's Everyday.

Tags: photography   time   Zed Nelson
24 Jun 22:34

Extreme caving

by Jason Kottke
Jess

I cannot bring myself to read the full article, I'm just sharing to nominate this one for the NIGHTMARE FOLDER BECAUSE OMG.

Burkhard Bilger writes for the New Yorker about extreme cavers and their effort to explore what may be the deepest cave in the world.

When the call to base camp was over, Gala hiked to the edge of the pool with his partner, the British cave diver Phil Short, and they put on their scuba rebreathers, masks, and fins. They'd spent the past two days on a platform suspended above another sump, rebuilding their gear. Many of the parts had been cracked or contaminated on the way down, so the two men took their time, cleaning each piece and cannibalizing components from an extra kit, knowing that they'd soon have no time to spare. The water here was between fifty and sixty degrees -- cold enough to chill you within minutes -- and Gala had no idea where the pool would lead. It might offer swift passage to the next shaft or lead into an endless, mud-dimmed labyrinth.

The rebreathers were good for four hours underwater, longer in a pinch. They removed carbon dioxide from a diver's breath by passing it through cannisters of soda lime, then recirculating it back to the mouthpiece with a fresh puff of oxygen. Gala and Short were expert at managing dive time, but in the background another clock was always ticking. The team had arrived in February, three months before the rainy season. It was only mid-March now, but the weather wasn't always predictable. In 2009, a flash flood had trapped two of Gala's teammates in these tunnels for five days, unsure if the water would ever recede.

Gala had seen traces of its passage on the way down: old ropes shredded to fibre, phone lines stripped of insulation. When the heavy rain began to fall, it would flood this cave completely, trickling down from all over the mountain, gathering in ever-widening branches, dislodging boulders and carving new tunnels till it poured from the mountain into the Santo Domingo River. "You don't want to be there when that happens," Stone said. "There is no rescue, period." To climb straight back to the surface, without stopping to rig ropes and phone wire, would take them four days. It took three days to get back from the moon.

Bilger writes about this sort of thing so well...glad I didn't miss this one.

Tags: Burkhard Bilger   caving   sports
18 Jun 15:45

Cheese charts

by Jason Kottke
Jess

Takeaway: Everything delicious is round and sliced into triangles.

Camembert chart

In France, pie charts are called "le camembert" after the cheese. Or sometimes "un diagramme en fromage" (cheese diagram). In Brazil, they are pizza charts. (via numberphile & reddit)

Tags: cheese   food   France   language   mathematics
17 Jun 17:55

Trending: insider trading

by Jason Kottke
Jess

Oh, the system is rigged, you say? Really? How surprising.

A new study finds that insider trading is much worse than commonly thought: a quarter of all public company deals may involve some kind of insider trading. From the NY Times:

The professors examined stock option movements -- when an investor buys an option to acquire a stock in the future at a set price -- as a way of determining whether unusual activity took place in the 30 days before a deal's announcement.

The results are persuasive and disturbing, suggesting that law enforcement is woefully behind -- or perhaps is so overwhelmed that it simply looks for the most egregious examples of insider trading, or for prominent targets who can attract headlines.

The professors are so confident in their findings of pervasive insider trading that they determined statistically that the odds of the trading "arising out of chance" were "about three in a trillion." (It's easier, in other words, to hit the lottery.)

Only about 5% of the deals are ever litigated by the SEC. (via mr)

Tags: business   crime   finance   legal
12 Jun 04:00

The Dailies (No Comments)

by Dakota

The Dailies

13 Jun 21:33

The scoop on kitty litter

by Jason Kottke
Jess

Duh, Kottke, if there weren't kitty litter, we'd be waaaay less prone to come into contact with Toxplasma gondii, so it's not an either/or question of causation.

Paul Ford writes about the connection between kitty litter and internet culture. In short, kitty litter led to house cats which led to cat memes.

Certainly Ed Lowe in 1947 could never have predicted the memes and clickbait that would follow, but he figured out a fundamental rule that applies today as well as it did back then. If you want to change the world, fill a bag with dirt and give it a name. The world will come running.

Last year, Kevin Slavin argued that the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii is engineering people to create online cat memes. Well, which is it fellas? Is kitty litter responsible for Nyan Cat or is Toxoplasma gondii to blame?

Tags: Kevin Slavin   Paul Ford
08 Jun 15:33

Turing Test passed for the first time

by Jason Kottke
Jess

Really interesting to note that Turing's actual "pass/fail" criteria correlates with how alien/non-human a person of the opposite sex is: "It’s widely quoted that a machine must fool the interrogator only 30% of the time in order to pass, but Turing himself never set a pass rate. He just said that the test would be passed if 'the interrogator decide[s] wrongly as often when the game is played [between a computer and a human] as he does when the game is played between a man and a woman.'"

Has this changed over time?

A supercomputer running a program simulating a 13-year-old boy named Eugene has passed the Turing Test at an event held at London's Royal Society.

The Turing Test is based on 20th century mathematician and code-breaker Turing's 1950 famous question and answer game, 'Can Machines Think?'. The experiment investigates whether people can detect if they are talking to machines or humans. The event is particularly poignant as it took place on the 60th anniversary of Turing's death, nearly six months after he was given a posthumous royal pardon.

If a computer is mistaken for a human more than 30% of the time during a series of five minute keyboard conversations it passes the test. No computer has ever achieved this, until now. Eugene managed to convince 33% of the human judges that it was human.

I'm sure there will be some debate as members of the AI and computing communities weigh in over the next few days, but at first blush, it seems like a significant result. The very first Long Bet concerned the Turing Test, with Mitch Kapor stating:

By 2029 no computer -- or "machine intelligence" -- will have passed the Turing Test.

and Ray Kurzweil opposing. The stakes are $20,000, but the terms are quite detailed, so who knows if Kurzweil has won.

Update: Kelly Oakes of Buzzfeed dumps some cold water on this result.

Of course the Turing Test hasn't been passed. I think its a great shame it has been reported that way, because it reduces the worth of serious AI research. We are still a very long way from achieving human-level AI, and it trivialises Turing's thought experiment (which is fraught with problems anyway) to suggest otherwise.

Tags: Alan Turing   computing   Mitch Kapor   Ray Kurzweil
05 Jun 14:30

John Waters hitchhikes in New York City

by Tim Carmody
Jess

"John Waters Storytime" isn't on everyone's bucket list already?

National treasure John Waters, who wrote a book about hitchhiking from Baltimore to San Francisco at the age of 66, recently tried to catch a ride with a reporter from Greenwich Village to the Frick Collection at 70th St and Fifth Avenue.

The only place in the country Waters has never yet succeeded hitching is Manhattan, which is why he's intent on trying again today. "I used to stand in front of the Holland Tunnel tollbooth in the '60s, and no one would ever pick me up," he says. Before he embarked cross-country, Waters wrote the first two sections of Carsick--one envisioning good rides, the other bad rides. In both cases, the fiction is far more eventful than the true-life bits. On the real trip, there were no sexual encounters, twisted or otherwise. "It's very different hitchhiking when you're 16 and when you're 66," says Waters. "I didn't have any rabid gerontophiliacs pick me up." He imagines what could go most wrong on our trip uptown. "The worst case scenario would be someone that didn't speak the language, so we couldn't really tell what they were doing," Waters says. "But immediately the locks go down. And it smells. We ride one block, and they turn around and blow both our heads off."

Why the Frick? "When Pink Flamingos first came out," Waters says, "whoever ran the Frick wrote me a note about how much they liked it. My mother was really impressed." Man, now I just want to hang out with John Waters and have him tell me stories.

Tags: hitchhiking   John Waters   New York City
05 Jun 00:47

Paul Otlet and the birth of networked information

by Jason Kottke
Jess

What's cool about Otlet's idea is that it isn't a gigantic telescopic shopping cart.

Alex Wright previously wrote about Paul Otlet (and many other things) in his 2007 book Glut (my post about the book is here). Otlet imagined something like personal computing and the internet back in the 1930s.

Here, the workspace is no longer cluttered with any books. In their place, a screen and a telephone within reach. Over there, in an immense edifice, are all the books and information. From there, the page to be read, in order to know the answer to the question asked by telephone, is made to appear on the screen. The screen could be divided in half, by four, or even ten if multiple texts and documents had to be consulted simultaneously. There would be a loudspeaker if the image had to be complemented by oral data and this improvement could continue to the automating the call for onscreen data. Cinema, phonographs, radio, television: these instruments, taken as substitutes for the book, will in fact become the new book, the most powerful works for the diffusion of human thought. This will be the radiated library and the televised book.

Wright is back with a new book called Cataloging the World in which Otlet takes center stage.

In Cataloging the World, Alex Wright introduces us to a figure who stands out in the long line of thinkers and idealists who devoted themselves to the task. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, Paul Otlet, a librarian by training, worked at expanding the potential of the catalog card, the world's first information chip. From there followed universal libraries and museums, connecting his native Belgium to the world by means of a vast intellectual enterprise that attempted to organize and code everything ever published. Forty years before the first personal computer and fifty years before the first browser, Otlet envisioned a network of "electric telescopes" that would allow people everywhere to search through books, newspapers, photographs, and recordings, all linked together in what he termed, in 1934, a reseau mondial--essentially, a worldwide web.

Tags: Alex Wright   books   Cataloging the World   Glut   Paul Otlet
04 Jun 19:00

The need not to know yourself

by Tim Carmody
Jess

"Winnicott says somewhere that health is much more difficult to deal with than disease. And he's right, I think, in the sense that everybody is dealing with how much of their own aliveness they can bear and how much they need to anesthetize themselves."

aka, Why Jess Eats Too Many Sweets

Adam Phillips is a writer and psychoanalyst, working on (among other things) a digressive, deflationary biography of Freud. He recently gave an "Art of Nonfiction" interview to The Paris Review which is one of those great Paris Review interviews about writing and life and approaching the universe.

PHILLIPS: Analysis should do two things that are linked together. It should be about the recovery of appetite, and the need not to know yourself. And these two things--

INTERVIEWER: The need not to know yourself?

PHILLIPS: The need not to know yourself. Symptoms are forms of self-knowledge. When you think, I'm agoraphobic, I'm a shy person, whatever it may be, these are forms of self-knowledge. What psychoanalysis, at its best, does is cure you of your self-knowledge. And of your wish to know yourself in that coherent, narrative way...

I was a child psychotherapist for most of my professional life. One of the things that is interesting about children is how much appetite they have. How much appetite they have--but also how conflicted they can be about their appetites. Anybody who's got young children, or has had them, or was once a young child, will remember that children are incredibly picky about their food. They can go through periods where they will only have an orange peeled in a certain way. Or milk in a certain cup.

INTERVIEWER: And what does that mean?

PHILLIPS: Well, it means different things for different children. One of the things it means is there's something very frightening about one's appetite. So that one is trying to contain a voraciousness in a very specific, limiting, narrowed way. It's as though, were the child not to have the milk in that cup, it would be a catastrophe. And the child is right. It would be a catastrophe, because that specific way, that habit, contains what is felt to be a very fearful appetite. An appetite is fearful because it connects you with the world in very unpredictable ways. Winnicott says somewhere that health is much more difficult to deal with than disease. And he's right, I think, in the sense that everybody is dealing with how much of their own aliveness they can bear and how much they need to anesthetize themselves.

We all have self-cures for strong feeling. Then the self-cure becomes a problem, in the obvious sense that the problem of the alcoholic is not alcohol but sobriety. Drinking becomes a problem, but actually the problem is what's being cured by the alcohol. By the time we're adults, we've all become alcoholics. That's to say, we've all evolved ways of deadening certain feelings and thoughts. One of the reasons we admire or like art, if we do, is that it reopens us in some sense--as Kafka wrote in a letter, art breaks the sea that's frozen inside us. It reminds us of sensitivities that we might have lost at some cost.

Tags: Adam Phillips   interviews   literature   Paris Review   psychoanalysis
03 Jun 16:24

One-Tap Quest

by Jason Kottke
Jess

Well, I feel like a winner because I cleared the game at all, even though my high score was only 14400.

You only get a single move in One-Tap Quest, so you had better make it a good one. This game has no right to be fun, but somehow it is. My top score so far is 15,800...the best score I've seen is 21,400. (via @mrgan)

Tags: video games
02 Jun 16:42

You're using the wrong dictionary

by Jason Kottke
Jess

Bring back the poets!

James Somers says that we're probably using the wrong dictionary and that most modern dictionaries are "where all the words live and the writing's no good".

The New Oxford American dictionary, by the way, is not like singularly bad. Google's dictionary, the modern Merriam-Webster, the dictionary at dictionary.com: they're all like this. They're all a chore to read. There's no play, no delight in the language. The definitions are these desiccated little husks of technocratic meaningese, as if a word were no more than its coordinates in semantic space.

As a counterpoint, Somers offers John McPhee's secret weapon, Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, the bulk of which was the work of one man and was last revised in 1913.

Take a simple word, like "flash." In all the dictionaries I've ever known, I would have never looked up that word. I'd've had no reason to -- I already knew what it meant. But go look up "flash" in Webster's (the edition I'm using is the 1913). The first thing you'll notice is that the example sentences don't sound like they came out of a DMV training manual ("the lights started flashing") -- they come from Milton and Shakespeare and Tennyson ("A thought flashed through me, which I clothed in act").

You'll find a sense of the word that is somehow more evocative than any you've seen. "2. To convey as by a flash... as, to flash a message along the wires; to flash conviction on the mind." In the juxtaposition of those two examples -- a message transmitted by wires; a feeling that comes suddenly to mind -- is a beautiful analogy, worth dwelling on, and savoring. Listen to that phrase: "to flash conviction on the mind." This is in a dictionary, for God's sake.

And, toward the bottom of the entry, as McPhee promised, is a usage note, explaining the fine differences in meaning between words in the penumbra of "flash":

"... Flashing differs from exploding or disploding in not being accompanied with a loud report. To glisten, or glister, is to shine with a soft and fitful luster, as eyes suffused with tears, or flowers wet with dew."

Did you see that last clause? "To shine with a soft and fitful luster, as eyes suffused with tears, or flowers wet with dew." I'm not sure why you won't find writing like that in dictionaries these days, but you won't. Here is the modern equivalent of that sentence in the latest edition of the Merriam-Webster: "glisten applies to the soft sparkle from a wet or oily surface ."

Who decided that the American public couldn't handle "a soft and fitful luster"? I can't help but think something has been lost. "A soft sparkle from a wet or oily surface" doesn't just sound worse, it actually describes the phenomenon with less precision. In particular it misses the shimmeriness, the micro movement and action, "the fitful luster," of, for example, an eye full of tears -- which is by the way far more intense and interesting an image than "a wet sidewalk."

It's as if someone decided that dictionaries these days had to sound like they were written by a Xerox machine, not a person, certainly not a person with a poet's ear, a man capable of high and mighty English, who set out to write the secular American equivalent of the King James Bible and pulled it off.

Don't miss the end of the piece, where Somers shows how to replace the tin-eared dictionaries on your Mac, iPhone, and Kindle with the Webster's 1913. (via @satishev)

Update: In the same vein, Kevin Kelly recommends using The Synonym Finder as a thesaurus.

Just look up a word, any word, and it proceeds to overwhelm you with alternative choices (a total of 1.5 million synonyms are presented in 1,361 pages), including short phrases and only mildly related words. Rather than being a problem of imprecision, the Finder's broad inclusiveness prods your imagination and prompts your recall.

Tags: books   James Somers   John McPhee   language
30 May 19:47

The ghost in the machine

by Jason Kottke

In racing video games, a ghost is a car representing your best score that races with you around the track. This story of a son discovering and racing against his deceased father's ghost car in an Xbox racing game will hit you right in the feels.

Ghost dad

Update: This story was originally shared in the comments of a YouTube video about gaming as a spiritual experience. (via dpstyles & @ryankjohnson)

Update: See also this story about rediscovering a loved one's presence (and presents) in Animal Crossing. (via @shauninman)

Tags: crying at work   parenting   video games   Xbox
12 May 14:27

Denver Zoo's Second Malayan Tapir Birth Goes Smoothly

by Andrew Bleiman
Jess

The Baku spirit that this baby tapir is named for eats dreams! http://hyakumonogatari.com/2012/10/20/baku-the-dream-eater/

1 tapir

Denver Zoo is celebrating the birth of an endangered Malayan Tapir calf! The male calf, named Baku (Bah-koo), was born to mother, Rinny, and father, Benny, late in the evening on April 29. He the second offspring of this pair, and only the second birth of his species at the zoo.

Fortunately, his delivery was much easier than the first. The first calf, Dumadi, was born in September 2012. While his birth was normal, the events immediately following were difficult. After Rinny unsuccessfully attempted to free Dumadi from his amniotic sac, two staff members raced in to free the newborn from the sac, providing mouth-to-snout rescue breaths and manually stimulating the newborn for regular breathing in order to expel liquid from his lungs. After a few minutes of rescue efforts, Dumadi successfully began to breathe on his own.

2 tapir

5 tapirPhoto credit: Denver Zoo

Fortunately, Baku's delivery went smoothly, and the newborn calf is healthy. He will remain behind the scenes in Toyota Elephant Passage while being cared for by his mother until they are comfortable enough to venture outdoors. Until then, visitors can see live, closed-circuit video of Baku on monitors inside Toyota Elephant Passage.

'Baku' is the Japanese word for tapir. Baku are also supernatural spirits in Chinese and Japanese folklore that take children’s nightmares away and protect against evil. They are often depicted as having some tapir-like physical characteristics.

Malayan Tapirs are the only tapir native to Asia. Once found throughout Southeast Asia, they now inhabit only the rainforests of the Indochinese peninsula and Sumatra. With a wild population of less than 2,000 individuals they are classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to habitat loss and hunting.

See and read more after the fold.

3 tapir

4 tapir

Rinny was born at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo in 2007 and came to Denver Zoo from there in 2010. Benny was born at the City of Belfast Zoo in Ireland in 2006 and arrived at Denver Zoo from there in 2007. The two were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. 

Though they are most closely related to horses and rhinos, tapirs are similar in build to pigs, but significantly larger. Malayan Tapirs have a large, barrel-shaped body ideal for crashing through dense forest vegetation. Their noses and upper lips are extended to form a long prehensile snout similar to a stubby version of an elephant’s trunk. 

Malayan Tapirs are the largest of the four tapir species. They stand more than 3 feet (.9 m) tall and can stretch from between 6 to 8 feet (1.83 to 2.4 m) long. On average they weigh between 700 and 900 pounds (317.5 to 408 kg). They are also excellent swimmers and spend much of their time in water. They can even use their flexible noses as snorkels!

As adults, Malayan Tapirs have a distinctive color pattern that some people say resembles an Oreo cookie, with black front and back parts separated by a white or gray midsection. This provides excellent camouflage that breaks up the tapir’s outline in the shadows of the forest. By contrast, young tapirs have color patterns that more resemble brown watermelons with spots and stripes which help them blend into the dappled sunlight and leaf shadows of the forest and protect them from predators.

23 May 04:00

The Dailies (No Comments)

by Dakota
Jess

LET'S GO OUTSIDE WHILE WE STILL CAN!

The Dailies