I was all set to be snarky about this, but I think Neil did well enough on his own.
Neil deGrasse Tyson’s smash album, "Smooth Cosmos"
Track 1- Your Heavenly Body (My Telescope)
Track 2 - Big Bangin' Theory
How much do I love standardized things? SO MUCH
Four wheels fixed onto an ordinary wood pallet have transformed it into a skateboard of sorts that can slide down tram tracks in Bratislava, Slovakia. The rails in the city happen to be just the right width to fit a standard Europallet perfectly, turning the humble warehouse staple into a personal vehicle.
While the streetcar systems of many cities run on wider ‘broad gauge’ tracks, Bratislava is among those with a one-meter width. Other cities where the pallet tram hack would work include Antwerp, Basel, Belgrade, Bern, Frankfurt, Helsinki and Zurich. Watch it in action at Vimeo.
Slovakian artist Tomas Moravec says of his project, “A new transport vehicle brings change into the spatial perspective of a passenger in motion and generally changes the life of the city, through which the pallet can run, guided by a map of the city lines.”
Where pallets were once used just a couple times and then thrown away, now they’re reclaimed for all sorts of projects, often requiring very little modification. Check out 13 DIY pallet projects for porch swings, home theaters and garden trellises, as well as 19 more clever pallet creations.
A classy alternative to hanging animal parts, this deer head wall lamp started as a design concept, went viral as a prototype and has just been funded for full production via a successful crowdfunding campaign.
This particular popup lighting design is the first in a series of pieces that combine abstracted animals (including an owl and a peacock) and minimalist home lighting design – a sort of modern (and less morbid) take on faux taxidermy.
Chen Bikovski is a Tel Aviv-based designer exploring the relation of light and space. “Since I was a child, I was fascinated by Pop-up books…The excitement before turning a page, a simple pull that uncovers a whole new world. I loved how the story came to life, how the books created a fantasy world that flew off the page. The magic, the excitement, the naiveté…”
Named ‘Promising Young Designer of 2012,’ Chen’s work is presented in prominent galleries and featured in leading design publications. “The idea behind Popup Lighting was to create a permanent light fixture that would bring a magical ambiance to any space. A multi-dimensional light that would inspire the senses and ignite the imagination.”
OpenStreetMap is a massive free map of the world, editable by anyone. Companies like Flickr, Foursquare, and Craigslist all use it in their products. But unlike Google Maps, which rigorously chronicles every address, gas station, and shop on the ground, OpenStreetMap’s perspective on the world is skewed by its contributors. “When data is being contributed to OpenStreetMap, there is a specific bias because people contribute data they are interested in and familiar with. If they’re all male, maybe they forget to put in day care centers,” says Pickle. There are far more male contributors than female contributors to OpenStreetMap, though female contributions have been increasing, according to Pickle, who still works for Boundless in the role of chief revenue officer. “Anecdotally, there’s more info [on OpenStreetMap] on strip clubs than day care centers,” he says.
It could be a federal holiday called Actually Day and the president would give a Mansplanation Proclamation and we’d all get paid 85 cents on the dollar as a special treat.
Image by Willow Brugh.
Over the weekend, I attended HOPE X, the 10th Hackers on Planet Earth conference, organized by 2600 Magazine. HOPE is my favorite hacker conference, and a strong contender for my favorite conference overall, because although content is tech-heavy, it's not really about technology. HOPE is a conference by and for those interested in the hacker ethos of free information, understanding the world, and empowerment to fix what is broken— including keynote speakers Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg. So HOPE is a great place to think about the intersection of technology, journalism, and activism. Throughout the conference, I noticed several recurring themes.
Code Is Not Enough
There was a strong push at HOPE to recognize that creating good technology was much more than just writing code. In Community Infrastructure for FOSS, James Vasile of OpenITP outlined a number of key components of successful software projects, from localization to user support. Quinn Norton called for secure software with user interfaces that are practical for everyone, not just those under NSA surveillance. Garrett Robinson of Mozilla with William Budington and Yan Zhu, both from the EFF, presented the progress they've made on SecureDrop a tool to allow whistleblowers to communicate securely with journalists, with a strong focus on ease of use.
From Hierarchies to Decentralization
Centralized hierarchies have played a huge role in both human society and technology, exemplified by vertically-integrated, multinational corporations. But central authorities have many downsides, and new technology is enabling organization without centralization. Kevin Carter, Peter Valdez, and Kurt Snieckus of #nycmeshnet gave a talk about how they're connecting New York to a global, peer-to-peer, wireless mesh network. Money geek Finn Brunton talked about Hacking Money, contrasting the decentralized nature of crypto-currencies to the historically centralized monetary system. There were two talks on communities creating their own cellular phone networks, one at Burning Man by Willow Brugh and Johnny Diggz of Geeks Without Bounds, and another in rural Mexico by Maka Muñoz and Peter Bloom. A talk on The Repair Movement discussed ways that people are fixing their belongings as an alternative to replacing them with affordable, mass-produced goods. In a conversation with Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg pleaded for everyone to act when they see something wrong, rather than relying on a few, high-profile whistleblowers. Snowden suggested that even those who aren't whistleblowers can work to create environments and tools to make it safer for those who are.
The U.S. Legal System Is Broken
Talk after talk gave examples of laws in the U.S. being stretched and misused. Daniel Ellsberg's keynote centered largely on the Espionage Act's shift from a seldom-used tool to defend against foreign spies, to an increasingly common tool to persecute journalists and whistleblowers. Similarly, Nicholas Merrill of Calyx and Ladar Levison of Lavabit chatted with Declan McCullagh about how laws meant for plain phone lines like CALEA are being used to justify email surveillance, and how ISPs can protect their users. Kevin Ghallagher, Ahmed Ghappour, and Gabriella Coleman told the story of Barrett Brown, a journalist arrested and currently incarcerated for reporting documents others had leaked. In Bless the Cops, and Keep Them Far Away From Us, Alex Muentz gave some practical (and entertaining) advice on how journalists and hackers can avoid legal troubles. The EFF has been fighting abuses of the law in the courts, and gave an update on what they've been up to.
The difficulty of making the tech community more inclusive came up in both the Diversity in Tech Meet-Up and the Hackerspace Community Dynamics Meet-Up. A common challenge was mitigating harmful behavior from members while maintaining an inclusive attitude. In her talk, Quinn Norton pointed out, to much applause, that hackers would have to improve their manners in order to increase adoption of security tools.
The Dangers of Perfectionism
A number of speakers cautioned about the dangers of perfectionism, and pointed out that sometimes a "good enough" solution is better than none, or one that's hard to use. Conversely, there was a large push from the community to start performing better security audits on open source software in order to catch bugs when they exist. Heartbleed was a common example of how the "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow" philosophy is not working well enough, especially for security issues.
Humor and Fun
A lot of the topics at HOPE were pretty heavy. Yan Zhu quipped "We Call the Conference HOPE because there's none in the talks." But it was clear that the community is skillful at using fun and humor to maintain optimism, as well as to engage with others. I asked James Vasile how you can motivate volunteers on a large project when the rewards aren't immediate and the work isn't glorious. He responded that fun is a great motivator. There were talks about artists and satirists raising awareness about surveillance. Jason Scott told the tale of the DeCSS case, a long, grueling legal ordeal, and had the audience laughing the whole way. Playfulness has long been another part of the hacker ethos, and I was glad to see it alive and well.
Of course, the overall theme of the event was that technology can help make the world a better place, and all of the nitty-gritty details of how people are actually doing it. Ellsberg ended his keynote by talking about the hundreds of thousands of lives that have been saved by the whistleblowers from the tobacco industry who revealed the dangers of cigarettes. He reminded us that information activism, and tools that support it, can save even more lives than that.
The GWOBorg descended upon New York City this weekend for H.O.P.E. X, the bi-annual hackers conference organized by the fine folks at 2600 Magazine. H.O.P.E. stands for Hackers On Planet Earth, one of the most creative and diverse hacker events in the world. It’s been happening every other year since 1994.
Willow and Diggz gave a talk called “Building an Open Source Cellular Network at Burning Man” and discussed the challenges of building infrastructure in the middle of nowhere and how that relates to the work that GWOB does in the humanitarian and crisis response space. For the past three years at Burning Man, GWOB has participated with camp Papa Legba. Here’s the video of our talk and the presentation:
Bonus link: GSM for Assgoblins
I DO NOT HAVE AN EATING DISORDER - Page 169
This was honestly so confusing for me. I was standing there next to my girlfriend, looking at her and seeing how much thinner than me she was - then trying on the exact same shirt that was tight on her, and having it baggy on me. My eyes just didn’t work properly. What do you do when you can’t believe what your eyes are telling you?
A veritable NIGHTMARE SCENARIO where HALF THE ADULT POPULATION finds themselves AGONIZED and ENSANGUINATED on a MONTHLY SCHEDULE and is VAGUELY UNCOMFORTABLE for the remaining time! Only the most twisted of minds could have conceived of such horror!
This comic is longer than usual and won’t fit in a photoset! Read in full on Tapastic.
WE DID A THING.
We’re thrilled to announce our first white paper, inspired by the Engine Room’s Responsible Data Forum in Oakland months ago, and with interviews with Heather, Sara, Max, and Lisha!
Responsible Humanitarian And Disaster Response Project Cycles : Embed a “kill date” on your PLATFORM. If people are using that platform, this becomes a part of the community and culture. Alternatively, create a set of stages for the platform. For example, a crisis platform could have the following stages: initial situation awareness, crisis response, early recovery, recovery, and handover. Each of these stages have different information needs and different/progressively more restrictive rules that can be applied. Stages can have expected transition dates relative to each and informed by the unique situation needs. The most important lesson to learn is that there is no easy mandate. Each event will change the needs/time required to complete tasks, and is informed by engaging and communicating with all portions of the community (mappers, in-field deployments, affected populations, etc.).
I LIKE IT
I WOULD BUY LIKE A THOUSAND TICKETS FOR THIS
The funniest thing about this is only one of the actors gets drunk and its a different person each night so it isn’t just everyone struggling its everyone else doing their shit and one person fucking it all up it’s BRILLIANT.
HOW DO I AUDITION
It would be great if my fellow Americans could see the humanity in these children who are trying to find safety and refuge in a country that, until recently, was a reliable beacon of hope for the world.
I have been pissed off at that board member. I have also been that board member.
|popular shared this story from Whatever.|
I noted a couple of years ago that Straight White Male is the lowest difficulty setting in the game called life (in particular the Western civilization variant of it). This annoyed many a straight white male, who didn’t see his life as being particularly “easy.” Noting that “lowest difficulty” is not the same as “easy” did not assuage this agitation. And well, I can understand it: If you genuinely think your life
sucks, it may be hard to imagine that you still get advantages other folks don’t.
So maybe this will help: A 25-year study followed the experience of nearly 800 children in Baltimore, from first grade into adulthood. Half their families were low income, many with parents who had not finished high school; 40% of those low-income kids were white.
A couple of relevant points from the article:
Looking at where these children started in life and where they ended up, the study results are troubling but clear: At 28, hardly any of the children from a disadvantaged background, black or white, had finished college.
But even without the benefit of a college degree, whites, and white men especially, had vastly better employment outcomes. At every age, the white men experienced shorter spells of unemployment, were more likely to be working full-time and earned more.
[T]he consequences have been especially dire for African-Americans. As young adults, African-American men had fared much worse than whites in the job market, even though they and their white counterparts had about the same levels of education and the whites reported higher rates of marijuana and heavy drug use and binge drinking…
Indeed, throughout the course of our study, it was clear that African- Americans face greater barriers to employment. Having an arrest record or failing to complete high school were less consequential for white men than for African-American men: 84% of whites without a high school degree were employed at 22; among African Americans, just 40% were.
And this is the point of the lowest difficulty setting metaphor. It isn’t that folks who are straight, and white, and male, can’t or don’t find themselves on the bottom rungs of the socio-economic ladder. They can and do, and there’s no doubt that it sucks. But even then, they can catch some breaks that others — in this particular study, black men — don’t (or don’t catch as often).
Which is to say: Even as much as your life blows, straight white dude, the black dude in exactly the same situation is likely to have it worse. And not because of anything he (or you) did. Just because it’s the way things are.
This study applies specifically to Baltimore, it appears, and factors in Baltimore’s own history of racial and cultural biases. But I would not in the least be surprised if other studies in other major cities across the US (at least) cropped up similar data. Baltimore is not exactly unique in terms of its racial dynamics. Nor does it seem that the authors of the study would be surprised; the sales copy of the book the above article is based upon notes: “[Baltimore's] struggles with deindustrialization, white flight, and concentrated poverty were characteristic of most East Coast and Midwest manufacturing cities. The experience of Baltimore’s children who came of age during this era is mirrored in the experiences of urban children across the nation.”
Now, bear in mind that when I said “maybe this will help,” that I don’t actually expect the sort of straight white man who fervently believes that is life is harder than anyone else’s, harder than anyone else can possibly imagine, and that society is even now feasting upon his set-upon bones, will pause to consider the data above. For that sort of dude, mere data are not nearly enough in the face of certain belief. For everyone else, including the straight white males who aren’t already conflating their own personal unhappiness with society squishing straight white men in general like bugs, this might be useful.
(Here’s another take on the data, at Science Daily (but largely written, it appears, by Johns Hopkins’ PR folks). There’s more in the study than just the one aspect I’m highlighting here, all of which are pretty interesting.)
An Infinite List of Favorite Collections - Elie Saab S/S 2014 Haute Couture [3/3]
YES. AND THEN I REALIZED I ALSO NEED TO KNOW HOW TO TALK TO THE REST OF HUMANITY.
Data created by people that can be used by people like them. HOORAY.
Using a mapping algorithm coupled with citizen reviews of sights and scenery, a team of researchers has developed a way to choose paths through cities based on beauty, quiet and happiness rather than simply the shortest distance between two points.
The project employed Google Street View and Geograph as well as Flickr images and their metadata to build out an initial estimation of probable best paths, then solicited human feedback (to check and enhance the results) from a group of participants on the website UrbanGems (shown above).
The study, published by Cornell University’s arXiv, came up with a number of route suggestions in Boston and London and contains a number of interesting findings. For starters, the ‘beautiful’ routes were only slightly longer than the shortest routes, and significantly shorter than typical tourist-oriented directions and guided-tour paths. As the algorithm improves, it is increasingly able to generate paths through new cities via metadata alone, reducing reliance on input from people.
The project’s creators included Daniele Quercia and Luca Maria Aiello of Yahoo Labs in Barcelona and Rossano Schifanella of the University of Torino, Italy. From their abstract: “When providing directions to a place, web and mobile mapping services are all able to suggest the shortest route. The goal of this work is to automatically suggest routes that are not only short but also emotionally pleasant.
The assessments are not simply qualitative value judgments, but a hybrid of human and machine input: “Based on a quantitative validation, we find that, compared to the shortest routes, the recommended ones add just a few extra walking minutes and are indeed perceived to be more beautiful, quiet, and happy.”
From UrbanGems: “Buildings and neighbourhoods speak. They speak of egalitarianism or elitism, beauty or ugliness, acceptance or arrogance. The aim of UrbanGems is to identify the visual cues that are generally associated with concepts difficult to define such beauty, happiness, quietness, or even deprivation. The difficult task of deciding what makes a building beautiful, or what is sought after in a quiet location is outsourced to the users of this site using comparisons of pictures. With a comprehensive list of aesthetic virtues at hand, we would be more likely to systematically understand and re-create the environments we intuitively love.”
These are the kinds of rings i need
New York University, Visual Culture: Costume Studies
Every now and then a scholarly journal retracts an article because of errors or outright fraud. In academic circles, and sometimes beyond, each retraction is a big deal.
Now comes word of a journal retracting 60 articles at once.
The reason for the mass retraction is mind-blowing: A “peer review and citation ring” was apparently rigging the review process to get articles published.
You’ve heard of prostitution rings, gambling rings and extortion rings. Now there’s a “peer review ring.”
The publication is the Journal of Vibration and Control (JVC). It publishes papers with names like “Hydraulic engine mounts: a survey” and “Reduction of wheel force variations with magnetorheological devices.”
The field of acoustics covered by the journal is highly technical:
Analytical, computational and experimental studies of vibration phenomena and their control. The scope encompasses all linear and nonlinear vibration phenomena and covers topics such as: vibration and control of structures and machinery, signal analysis, aeroelasticity, neural networks, structural control and acoustics, noise and noise control, waves in solids and fluids and shock waves.
JVC is part of the SAGE group of academic publications.
Here’s how it describes its peer review process:
[The journal] operates under a conventional single-blind reviewing policy in which the reviewer’s name is always concealed from the submitting author.
All manuscripts are reviewed initially by one of the Editors and only those papers that meet the scientific and editorial standards of the journal, and fit within the aims and scope of the journal, will be sent for peer review. Generally, reviews from two independent referees are required.
An announcement from SAGE published July 8 explained what happened, albeit somewhat opaquely.
In 2013, the editor of JVC, Ali H. Nayfeh, became aware of people using “fabricated identities” to manipulate an online system called SAGE Track by which scholars review the work of other scholars prior to publication.
Attention focused on a researcher named Peter Chen of the National Pingtung University of Education (NPUE) in Taiwan and “possibly other authors at this institution.”
After a 14-month investigation, JVC determined the ring involved “aliases” and fake e-mail addresses of reviewers — up to 130 of them — in an apparently successful effort to get friendly reviews of submissions and as many articles published as possible by Chen and his friends. “On at least one occasion, the author Peter Chen reviewed his own paper under one of the aliases he created,” according to the SAGE announcement.
The statement does not explain how something like this happens. Did the ring invent names and say they were scholars? Did they use real names and pretend to be other scholars? Doesn’t anyone check on these things by, say, picking up the phone and calling the reviewer?
In any case, SAGE and Nayfeh confronted Chen to give him an “opportunity to address the accusations of misconduct,” the statement said, but were not satisfied with his responses.
In May, “NPUE informed SAGE and JVC that Peter Chen had resigned from his post on 2 February 2014.”
Each of the 60 retracted articles had at least one author and/or one reviewer “who has been implicated in the peer review” ring, said a separate notice issued by JVC.
Efforts by The Washington Post to locate and contact Chen for comment were unsuccessful.
The whole story is described in a publication called “Retraction Watch” under the headline: “SAGE Publications busts ‘peer review and citation ring.’”
“This one,” it said, “deserves a ‘wow.’”
Update: Some additional information from the SAGE statement: “As the SAGE investigation drew to a close, in May 2014 Professor Nayfeh’s retirement was announced and he resigned his position as Editor-in-Chief of JVC….Three senior editors and an additional 27 associate editors with expertise and prestige in the field have been appointed to assist with the day-to-day running of the JVC peer review process. Following Professor Nayfeh’s retirement announcement, the external senior editorial team will be responsible for independent editorial control for JVC.”
Note to readers: Thanks for pointing out my grammatical error. No excuses.