Shared posts

09 Jan 19:16

Adversarial patches: colorful circles that convince machine-learning vision system to ignore everything else

by Cory Doctorow

Machine learning systems trained for object recognition deploy a bunch of evolved shortcuts to choose which parts of an image are important to their classifiers and which ones can be safely ignored. (more…)

09 Jan 19:09

Watch Hunter S. Thompson on 1967 TV game show "To Tell The Truth"

by David Pescovitz

A year after Hunter S. Thompson published his pioneering gonzo journalism book "Hell's Angels," he appeared on the wonderful TV game show "To Tell The Truth." Bud Collyer hosted with a panel of actors/entertainers Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Barry Nelson, Kitty Carlisle.

On the show, three people claim to be a particularly interesting or notable person described by the host. One is really that person, the other two are imposters. The panelists must ask questions to identify who isn't lying.

09 Jan 19:09

Novelty in science – real necessity or distracting obsession?

by S. Abbas Raza

Jalees Rehman in The Conversation:

ScreenHunter_2929 Jan. 09 19.53In a recent survey of over 1,500 scientists, more than 70 percent of them reported having been unable to reproduce other scientists’ findings at least once. Roughly half of the surveyed scientists ran into problems trying to reproduce their own results. No wonder people are talking about a “reproducibility crisis” in scientific research – an epidemic of studies that don’t hold up when run a second time.

Reproducibility of findings is a core foundation of science. If scientific results only hold true in some labs but not in others, then how can researchers feel confident about their discoveries? How can society put evidence-based policies into place if the evidence is unreliable?

Recognition of this “crisis” has prompted calls for reform. Researchers are feeling their way, experimenting with different practices meant to help distinguish solid science from irreproducible results. Some people are even starting to reevaluate how choices are made about what research actually gets tackled. Breaking innovative new ground is flashier than revisiting already published research. Does prioritizing novelty naturally lead to this point?

More here.

09 Jan 18:19

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a brief history

by David Pescovitz

Is there anybody out there? If we don't listen for the answer, we certainly won't hear it. Over at the Planetary Society, Jason Davis posted an excellent survey of the past, present, and future of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. It begins in 1959 with Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison's historic paper "Searching for Interstellar Communications" and Frank Drake's Project Ozma, the first scientific SETI search:

One year later, the National Academy of Sciences hosted an invitation-only meeting at Green Bank to discuss how to go about conducting further SETI research. The eclectic, interdisciplinary group included Drake, Cocconi, Morrison, the biochemist Melvin Calvin (who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry during the meeting), Bernard Oliver, who was the vice president of research and development at Hewlett-Packard, the young Carl Sagan, and the scientist John Lilly, who had recently published a controversial book arguing dolphins were an intelligent species.

With a nod to Lilly's book, the participants dubbed themselves "The Order of the Dolphin." One product of the meeting was the Drake equation, which attempts to predict the number of advanced civilizations in the Milky Way able to contact Earth. The equation includes variables such as average star formation rate, the number of habitable planets per star, and the number of planets where intelligent life could evolve.

For the rest of the 1960s, SETI research remained mostly dormant, aside from a few searches in the Soviet Union. Starting in 1971, two Project Ozma follow-ups named Ozpa and Ozma II used bigger dishes and listened to more stars.

In 1973, another SETI search began, using a radio telescope called Big Ear at Ohio State University. Big Ear was a flat, aluminum dish three football fields wide, with reflectors at both ends.

On the night of August 15, 1977, Big Ear picked up a signal from the constellation Sagittarius that was 30 times stronger than the cosmic background noise, right at the 1,420 megahertz hydrogen line frequency. No one noticed it for a few days, until a volunteer sifting through the previous week's data circled the signal and wrote "Wow!" in the margin.

Jill Tarter is a legendary SETI scientist. She's the Bernard Oliver Chair for SETI at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and is the inspiration for protagonist Ellie Arroway in Contact, played by Jodie Foster in the film adaptation.

Tarter told me Big Ear's automated search program had no built-in logic to stop and focus on the Wow! signal. Furthermore, there was no confirmation system such as a second telescope located elsewhere, which could help determine whether the signal was local to Earth or truly from the stars.

Despite decades of follow-up searches, the Wow! signal was never heard again. To this day, Tarter favors SETI programs that can process data in real time, rapidly follow-up on detections, and rule out local interference.

I asked her if the Wow! signal still haunts the SETI field. "Well, it haunts me," she said.

Is there anybody out there? (Planetary Society)

09 Jan 18:18

2016 Election Map

I like the idea of cartograms (distorted population maps), but I feel like in practice they often end up being the worst of both worlds—not great for showing geography OR counting people. And on top of that, they have all the problems of a chloro... chorophl... chloropet... map with areas colored in.
09 Jan 18:18

Barbra Streisand Wants the Golden Globes to Acknowledge Female Directors

by Charline Jao

Natalie Portman called out the Golden Globes’ all-male nominees for Best Director last night, a fact that seemed at odds with the night’s efforts to uplift and stop silencing women in the industry. Greta Gerwig, Dee Rees, and Patty Jenkins didn’t receive nominations for their films despite critical acclaim, especially frustrating when you consider Lady Bird won Best Picture as well as Best Actress.

Adding her voice to the disapproval was Barbra Streisand, who was the first and only woman to win Best Director for Yentl. Streisand tweeted:

It should be noted that only 15 of films with confirmed directors over the next two years have a female director. Considering Streisand was also the first woman to write, produce, direct, and star in a major studio film, it’s embarrassing that so little progress has been made since her historical accomplishment.

(image: MGM/UA Entertainment Company)

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09 Jan 18:15

I used to have a hard time thinking that babies were cute

by Matthew Inman
09 Jan 18:15

Multiplicative Idiocy

by Matthew Inman
Multiplicative Idiocy

An immutable law of design.

09 Jan 18:12

"It’s Never Aliens—until It Is"

by David Pescovitz

In 2017, the big mainstream stories of "near-hits" (aka "near-misses") in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence included episodic dimming of a star caused by possible "alien megastructures," a large object tearing through our solar system, and video captured by a fighter jet of a weird object capable of incredible maneuvers in the sky (video below).


09 Jan 16:57

My Father’s Body, at Rest and in Motion

by Azra Raza

Siddhartha Mukherjee in The New Yorker:

SidThe call came at three in the morning. My mother, in New Delhi, was in tears. My father, she said, had fallen again, and he was speaking nonsense. She turned the handset toward him. He was muttering a slow, meaningless string of words in an unrecognizable high-pitched nasal tone. He kept repeating his nickname, Shibu, and the name of his childhood village, Dehergoti. He sounded as if he were reading his own last rites. “Take him to the hospital,” I urged her, from New York. “I’ll catch the next flight home.” “No, no, just wait,” my mother said. “He might get better on his own.” In her day, buying an international ticket on short notice was an unforgivable act of extravagance, reserved for transcontinental gangsters and film stars. No one that she knew had arrived “early” for a parent’s death. The frugality of her generation had congealed into frank superstition: if I caught a flight now, I might dare the disaster into being. “Just sleep on it,” she said, her anxiety mounting. I put the phone down and e-mailed my travel agent, asking her to put me on the next available Air India flight.

My father, eighty-three, had been declining for several weeks. The late-night phone calls had tightened in frequency and enlarged in amplitude, like waves ahead of a gathering storm: accidents were becoming more common, and their consequences more severe. This was not his first fall that year. A few months earlier, my mother had found him lying on the balcony floor with his arm broken and folded underneath him. She had taken a pair of scissors and cut his shirt off while he had howled in double agony—the pain of having to pull the remnants over his head compounded by the horror of seeing a perfectly intact piece of clothing sliced up before his eyes. It was, I knew, an ancient quarrel: hismother, who had ferried her five boys across a border to Calcutta during Partition and never had enough clothes to split among them, would have found a way to spare that shirt. Then, too, my mother had tried to play it down. “Kicchui na,” she had said: Look, it’s nothing. It was a phrase that she, the family’s stabilizing counterweight, often clung to. “We’ll manage,” she’d said, and I took her word for it. This time, I wasn’t so sure.

Twenty hours after my mother’s phone call, I landed in sweltering, smog-choked Delhi. I went to the family home from the airport, flung my bags across the bed, and took a taxi to the neuro-I.C.U. The unit was arranged in four pods around an atrium. Part of the floor was being repaired—the polished terrazzo had a gash like a busted lip that exposed the building’s pipes and electrical conduits, and pieces of jagged concrete were strewn across the corridor. If you tripped and bashed your head on the floor, I noted, a neurologist would be waiting conveniently for you around the corner. My father was densely sedated. I called his name and, for a moment, I thought he swung his head toward me in recognition. I felt a burst of joy—until I saw him swing his head back and forth again, and realized I was seeing an automatic movement, repetitive, rhythmic, patterned. His brain seemed to be slipping down some evolutionary chain, through a series of phylogenetic trapdoors—thud-thud-thud—toward a primitive, reptilian consciousness. Over time, I began to regard that vacant, circular motion as a semaphore that you might send up from the lower reaches of Hell.

More here.

09 Jan 16:56

Business Design Is a Powerful Tool for Breaking Down Bureaucracy

by Lisa Kay Solomon

Designing the right business model and value proposition is fundamental to the success of any endeavor—yet rarely have governments used these practices.

We caught up with Michael Eales, a business designer and partner at Business Models Inc., a global innovation firm. Based in Brisbane, Australia, Michael has been building bridges between government, industry, and entrepreneurial communities to create new approaches to innovation that benefit the broader ecosystem. Michael and his team recently won the inaugural Design Pioneer Award for their work in democratizing innovation and design-driven strategy tools for all changemakers around the world.

Lisa Kay Solomon: What does it mean to be a business designer?

Michael Eales: A business designer is the fusion between the disciplines of business and design. It’s about being flexible and adaptable to the way we tackle challenges and problems in the world, particularly when there are high degrees of uncertainty. When you overlay a discipline of business planning and an operational approach to sorting out uncertain challenges, you can translate that into executable ways of creating value for customers and broader stakeholders.

LKS: You’ve been doing a lot of work lately with government agencies. What are they coming to you for? What kind of help are they looking to get from you?

ME: We’ve found that today there is an awareness that the problems we’ve been trying to solve for a long time aren’t being solved using the ways that have got us to where we are.

This is particularly true in government, which is good at regulating what is known, not exploring the unknown. We help them approach the problem with a beginner’s mindset—not assuming we have a solution that’s linear from the pathway they’ve been on, but rather embarking on a new approach that will likely feel a bit uncomfortable. It is very helpful to explain to these leaders that, while this process may seem messy, there is a discipline and rigor behind it.

“We’re seeing an absolute step change in the way many governments are now talking about policy design.”

One essential part of this new approach is to put the citizen at the center of the challenge—to actually have staff from government agencies watch citizens in the field experience their services. This often prompts some foundational questioning of the bureaucratic barriers maintaining the status quo.

We’re seeing an absolute step change in the way many governments are now talking about policy design. And when we look at the role of a department of government, you’re seeing now the leaders in these areas giving themselves permission to experiment, to fail, and in many ways, that’s a significant mindset shift.

LKS: That seems pretty revolutionary, having government agencies spend time with the citizens trying to understand their needs. Can you give us an example of an experience?

ME: We did some exciting work with the Department of Industry in Australia. Significant budget pressures were forcing two areas of the department to merge into a single unit. One area was the funding arm that focused on financing businesses in Australia. The other group, known as the enterprise connect group, was helping business grow and thrive.

The cultural differences between them were vast.

One area of this department was very much focused on saying yes to helping business, while the other one was often saying no because of the money constraints. Bringing these two teams together, we saw the front-line service mindset of the enterprise connect team was about unpacking and understanding the problems of the business. If you’re providing funding to a business, you’ve got to actually go a lot deeper into understanding the mechanics of that business.

In a pivotal moment, we brought the teams together to hear the needs of business owners through their own personal stories.

It was an opportunity for both sides to hear about the pressures and obstacles business owners experience when they have to jump through one set of hoops to secure funding, while, at the same time, also trying to secure success by leveraging the other resources and networks across the government agency. This became a particularly enlightening exercise when we did some role-playing with the government staff as well.

In the end, this particular department decided to emphasize providing a service to business before they talk about funding. Now, in Australia, a large program called the Entrepreneur’s Infrastructure Programme talks about this concept of infrastructure as an enabler through a service delivery model. It’s the “one-stop shop” version of government services.

The grants and various contribution schemes in Australia now offer a service delivery model as a first point of contact. We’re seeing the funding being almost a secondary conversation to understanding the business value.

LKS: It sounds like these groups started off competing, with many barriers to engagement. But by putting them together, by exposing them to the actual customers—the small businesses—and hearing their stories about getting funding and support from the government, it created a breakthrough moment.

ME: Yes, absolutely. Bringing together 200 public offices to have a conversation about the common purpose behind their mandate helped break through the complexity to reach a shared vision of how to serve the Australian business community in a much bolder and unified way.

Image Credit: Peshkova /

05 Dec 21:12

Geological Mosaic Map

by Jonathan Crowe
York Museum Gardens

The York Museum Gardens’ Geological Mosaic Map is a four-metre-square pebble mosaic that depicts the Yorkshire part of William Smith’s 1815 geological map of Great Britain—a copy of which is held at the adjacent Yorkshire Museum. The mosaic was commissioned in 2015 and created by mosaic artist Janette Ireland, who “used many imaginative devices—including fossils, both real and formed from pebbles, discarded stone from the minster and tiny millstones made of millstone grit—to represent the ideas which Smith was demonstrating in his map. […] The pebbles in the mosaic reflect the colours Smith used in his map, but genuine Yorkshire rocks are displayed in the flower beds on either side of the mosaic, alongside strips of the pebbles used to represent them.” Photo gallery. [WMS]

21 Nov 21:17

FCC chairman lays out plan to kill net neutrality

by Danette Chavez

Well, after months of increasingly less veiled threats against the free and open internet, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai revealed his plan for repealing net neutrality today.


21 Nov 21:16

Review: The Breadwinner Is Exactly the Kind of Female-Led and Created Story We Need Right Now - 4.5 out of 5 stars.

by Teresa Jusino

The Breadwinner movie poster

In the flurry of news about all the world’s terribleness, let’s not forget that there are still examples of beauty and love to be enjoyed. One such example is a gorgeous animated film called The Breadwinner, directed by Nora Twomey and executive produced by Angelina Jolie, based on the children’s novel by Deborah Ellis.

The Breadwinner tells the story of an 11 year old girl named Parvana, who lives in Kabul, Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban. When her father Nurullah is unjustly arrested, Parvana and her mother Fattema go to the prison to petition for his release, and Fattema is beaten. Fattema falls into a deep depression, leaving Parvana, her older sister Soraya, and her baby brother to fend for the family themselves.

Under the Taliban, women are forbidden from traveling without men, and so with no one to earn money or escort them out of the house, the food quickly gets used up and the family is at risk of starvation. Parvana decides to cut her hair and dress up as a boy to go out and provide for her family, doing so by selling goods at market and providing reading and writing services the way her father did.

Since Nurullah is a storyteller, and Parvana seems to have inherited that gift, the film goes back and forth between the real world, and the world of a story Parvana is telling to entertain her baby brother each night; the story of a young man’s quest to go to the top of a mountain and retrieve his village’s harvest from a monster that’s stolen it.

Much of the beauty in the film is in the way the animation changes between the painterly style of Parvana’s real life, and the colorful, more textured look of the world of the story she’s telling. Twomey deftly balances the harshness of Parvana’s life with brilliant moments of humor to take the pressure off of Parvana’s harrowing circumstances. The story also serves to punctuate one of the many themes in the story: that one child can fight monsters and win.

What’s lovely about the story, too, is how feminine it is, and the characters that we’re rooting for, whose perspectives we’re following are all women and girls, each of whom are nuanced, complicated characters.

Parvana, voiced beautifully by Saara Chaudry, is an amazing and imperfect heroine you will instantly fall in love with in this film (if you haven’t already read the books). Fattema (Laara Sadiq) starts the film literally immobilized by her circumstances, but in the story’s climax finds a fierceness in standing up not just for herself, or her daughters, but in a way, for all Afghan women. Parvana’s sister Soraya (Shaista Latif) walks the fine line between making-do with what she has, and finding ways in which to rebel, mostly in helping Parvana when she needs it.

image; GKids A scene from "The Breadwinner"

And then there’s Parvana’s awesome bestie, Shauzia (voiced with melancholy earnestness by Soma Bhatia). She, like Parvana, is dressing like a boy to provide for her family, and so the girls team up to take on odd jobs together. However, unlike Parvana, Shauzia does not come from a happy home. It’s insinuated that her father is abusive, and she dreams of saving up enough money to be able to live somewhere near the ocean, which she has never seen.

The way the girls share this dream, but ultimately have to diverge in their priorities is a heartbreaking but accurate portrayal of female friendship that is treated with respect and love.

Initially, I was concerned by the fact that this film was an adaptation of a white Canadian woman’s book…by a white Irish woman. However, while the source material wasn’t created by Afghan women, both Ellis when writing her books and Twomey when making her film did everything they could to incorporate the participation and perspectives of Afghan women.

When writing The Breadwinner (and subsequent books in the series), Ellis traveled to Pakistan to interview refugees at an Afghan refugee camp. It was there that she met a mother and daughter whose story she fictionalized through Parvana.

For the film, Twomey made sure to cast all-Asian/Arab folks for the voice cast, and the composers worked with Afghan musicians to make sure the film had Afghan input from every angle. The fact that Afghanistan’s first lady has spoken highly of the film makes me think that it manages to be as authentic as it can possibly be without having been written/created by an Afghan woman.

The Breadwinner is a thoroughly engaging, beautifully-told story that will appeal to children and adults alike, and will be a wonderful conversation starter between parents and children about the way other children live around the world, and what can be done to help those in trouble. I would highly recommend seeing it this week if you not only want to see a great film, but also want to send the message that this is the type of filmmaking you’d like to support and see.

The Breadwinner is in theaters NOW.  

(image: GKids)

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07 Nov 20:49

Valkyrie: The Comic History of the Breakout Star of 'Thor: Ragnarok'

by Graeme McMillan
Her only constant is that she's always evolving.
07 Nov 20:45

When you think of freedom, remember the Charter of the Forest, not the Magna Carta

by Cory Doctorow

800 years ago today, on Nov 6, 1217, the Charter of the Forest was sealed by King Henry III, making it "the first environmental charter forced on any government" in which were asserted "the rights of the property-less, of the commoners, and of the commons." (more…)

07 Nov 20:44

Nnedi Okorafor Delivers an Awesome TedTalk on Afrofuturism

by Princess Weekes

Nnedi Okorafor is one of science fiction’s smartest voices. The Nebula and Hugo award-winning author has published multiple novels and short stories about futuristic African societies and fantastical ones as well. In this TedTalk, Okorafor speaks on Afrofuturism and how her work Binti is an exploration of a future where Africa and African roots are part of a textual framework:

“I can best explain the difference between classic science fiction and Afrofuturism if I used the octopus analogy. Like humans, octopuses are some of the most intelligent creatures on earth. However, octopus intelligence evolved from a different evolutionary line, separate from that of human beings, so the foundation is different. The same can be said about the foundations of various forms of science fiction.

So much of science fiction speculates about technologies, societies, social issues, what’s beyond our planet, what’s within our planet. Science fiction is one of the greatest and most effective forms of political writing. It’s all about the question, “What if?” Still, not all science fiction has the same ancestral bloodline, that line being Western-rooted science fiction, which is mostly white and male. We’re talking Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, George Orwell, Robert Heinlein, etc.

So what if a Nigerian-American wrote science fiction?”

If you haven’t read Okorafor’s work, I would recommend you check out her novella Binti for an idea of her writing style. Her novel, Who Fears Death is in production with HBO and as an upcoming series. Her newest young adult novel, Akata Warrior, is the long-awaited sequel to Akata Witch is out now and it is amazing. She is excellent in every way, not only because she is an Aries like me, but because her work is creative, interesting, and unapologetically African. It is worth exploring for anyone who enjoys the genre and amazing writing.


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07 Nov 20:44

Stern Pinball’s CEO tells us how a pinball machine gets made

by Baraka Kaseko and Marah Eakin

Gary Stern, owner and president of Chicagoland’s Stern Pinball, has been a key member of the arcade gaming industry for over three decades. While at the helm, he’s helped create hundreds of pinball machines, all of which are designed and manufactured in America. In the video above, Stern explains how a pinball machine…


07 Nov 20:43

A Board Game Cafe To Balance Out King’s Bierhaus in a Shady Acres Strip Center

by Dan Singer

Houston’s first board-game-themed cafe and bar is set to move into the long-mostly-vacant strip center near the White Oak hike-and-bike trail off T.C. Jester just east of Ella Blvd. next February. King’s Bierhaus (pictured above) took up residence last year on the opposite end of the same center (which is behind Restaurant Depot and SSQQ) — on the other side of the iCycle Bike Shop. The photo at top shows 2 businesses that have since left the strip; Tea & Victory and its lending library of 500 board games will go into the 3,300 sq.-ft. space formerly occupied by City Nails and Skincare. A first storefront for cake and cupcake vendor AshleyCakes will be moving in next to the game cafe. $5 will cover an all-access pass for customers to play as many games as they want, including the ones shown in this photo snapped at a Tea & Victory pop-up event in May: “Game Wardens” will be on hand to recommend board games and offer training for new players. Tea & Victory [Facebook] Success of King’s BierHaus brings area new tenants [The Leader] Photos: Loopnet (center); JJ J. (King’s Bierhaus); Tea & Victory (games) … Read More
07 Nov 20:38

The Male Sensitivity Reader©


The Male Sensitivity Reader helps women compose social media posts in a way that won’t offend, threaten, trigger, or cause discomfort to male readers. Offering critique, explanation, and editing services, The Male Sensitivity Reader is available to assist you in all your Male Sensitivity needs.

Examples of The Male Sensitivity Reader at work:

Offending Post:
“Men: Please stop trying to help women reverse into parking spaces. It’s patronizing.”

This is offensive because I myself members of our staff have helped women reverse and would certainly help a man if the occasion ever arose. We mustn’t presume anything negative about men who do this or their motivations.

Post Male Sensitivity Reader Edit:
“Men: Thank you for helping both women and men reverse into parking spaces. As for those who only help women, I realize that you’re acting from a sense of chivalry. Thank you as well.”

- - -

Offending Post:
“I can’t even look at this photo. A bunch of men signing legislation so that they can control our bodies. I feel sick.”

You have missed the real injustice here, which is that in this room full of legislators, a woman was present. This photo has been mendaciously framed so that the woman doesn’t appear, thus giving a false impression about an unequal power structure.

Post Male Sensitivity Reader Edit:
“Here is a photograph of wise men faithfully doing their jobs. It must be difficult to carry the weight of so many big decisions on their shoulders. They really haven’t gotten enough credit. This photo makes me feel buoyant.”

- - -

Offending Post:
“I just read this puff piece about a 75-year-old man marrying a 24-year-old woman. My daughter turns seventeen tomorrow and we’re thinking we should move to a lesbian commune LOL”

This post is ageist and homophobic. Aside from the bigoted comments you make about lesbian women and how they’re different from everyone else, you have gravely injured the dignity of older human beings. A mature man might very well have the wit, intelligence and vigor to be the perfect partner for a marginally younger woman. This is a failure of imagination and you’re also judging people you have never met, which exposes your own bias.

Post Male Sensitivity Reader Edit:
“Oh, the mysteries of true love!”

- - -

Offending Post:
“Is everyone aware that white conservative males are twice as likely to deny climate change? Just sayin’”

You’re making generalizations based on race and gender and everyone knows it’s wrong to be a racist and a sexist.

Post Male Sensitivity Reader Edit:
“While some climate scientists believe that human beings and carbon emissions have caused the earth’s temperature to increase, we can’t really trust them because of their liberal bias and because scientific theory is just that — a theory. No one can know what will happen in the future, so let’s make good decisions based on what that scientist who got his funding from Exxon says.”

- - -

Offending Post:
“I can’t believe this fucking pussy grabber POS is president”

By cursing, you expose yourself as hysterical. Also, by neglecting to mention Bill Clinton, and more importantly, by failing to call out Hillary Clinton for enabling her husband’s sexism, for victimizing his girlfriends, and for being the architect of Harvey Weinstein’s shocking behavior, you have done a disservice to all women. I’m not sure the feminist movement can recover from attacks such as this one. You’ve done grave damage.

Post Male Sensitivity Reader Edit:
“Hillary Clinton is the greatest threat to women and to democracy.”

- - -

Offending Post:
“If one more dude mansplains to me today, I will rip his head off.”

This seems like a threat that I take personally will likely get you into legal trouble and also might hinder your chances of getting married.

Post Male Sensitivity Reader Edit:
“Women: It’s best to listen politely when men speak because they have many interesting and enlightening things to say. I learn so much from men and I hope that you too, dear woman reader of this post, will honor men by paying close attention to their words, heeding their advice, and obeying their unsolicited social media critiques. Thank you.”

- - -

Devorah Blachor’s humor parenting book, The Feminist’s Guide to Raising a Little Princess comes out this week. She’s looking forward to receiving helpful comments about the book from sensitive males.

07 Nov 20:37

Dig Thor’s New Hair in Thor: Ragnarok? You Have Kevin Smith to Thank!

by Teresa Jusino

image: Marvel  Chris Hemsworth as Thor in "Thor: Ragnarok"

I, like much of America, saw Thor: Ragnarok this weekend and had a great time. It’s literally the only time I’ve cared this much about Thor as a character. Also, I’m a much bigger fan of the closely-cropped hair than I ever was of Thor’s longer, shaggier do. As it turns out, we have Kevin Smith and his nerdy ranting to thank for the change!

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, talked about how desperate he was for a change after having played Thor basically the same way through several MCU films, saying he was “frustrated and bored,” and having told Marvel’s Kevin Feige “I feel like I’m dying here. I feel like I have handcuffs on.”

Thankfully, he listened to a Kevin Smith podcast where Smith spent it trash-talking the Thor franchise. It was that trash-talking that inspired Hemsworth to pursue changes to the character with director, Taika Waititi. Hemsworth said, “Hearing someone like Smith, who represents the fanboy world, was such a kick in the ass to change gears. We sort of had nothing to lose. People didn’t expect what we did with it this time around.”

And so, they “cut his hair” and “destroy[ed] the hammer.” And created one of the most fun and grounded iterations of Thor ever. I’m just grateful that Kevin Smith’s nerdery is so influential.

(via, image: Marvel)

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16 Oct 16:36

Python easy earth globe

by Prof. Christopher L. Liner
You can make a stunning earth globe, including topography and bathymetry, with just a few lines of python. Just now, I am interested in New Zealand, so we can put it in the middle. Here is the code:

from mpl_toolkits.basemap import Basemap
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import numpy as np
map = Basemap(projection='ortho', lat_0=-30, lon_0=170, resolution='l')

Below is the result, not bad for 9 lines of code!

16 Oct 16:34

A History of Canada in Ten Maps

by Jonathan Crowe

The odd thing about A History of Canada in Ten Maps, the new book by Adam Shoalts out today from Allen Lane, is that it’s almost entirely uncontaminated by maps. It’s not just because the electronic review copy I received (via Netgalley) contained no images of the maps being referred to in the text: I expect that will be rectified in the published version; if nothing else I was able to find an online version of each map (a gallery follows below). It’s that in the text itself the maps are quite literally an afterthought.

It turns out that A History of Canada in Ten Maps isn’t really a book about maps, or mapmaking, but exploration. For Shoalts, the maps are the evidentiary traces of the stories he really wants to tell. In nine of the ten cases, those are stories of Canada’s exploration; in the tenth, a key battle of the War of 1812. Combined, those stories form a mosaic tale of nation-building, one that supports the kind of national mythmaking that the previous government in Canada was particularly fond of.

Each story, from the Vikings’ earliest explorations of North America, through the journeys of the inland explorers of the fur trade to the Franklin expedition, is engagingly told. Shoalts does know how to spin a tale. Drawing on contemporary accounts, explorers’ journals and letters, he recounts fairly traditional narratives of the various expeditions that are nonetheless vivid and bracing: we feel the starvation, the privation, the threat, the cold. But from an historiographical perspective this book neither breaks new ground nor adds anything to our understanding. In terms of method it’s a bit of a throwback: it centres significant historical figures who are hardly unknown to Canadians: Champlain, Radisson, Hearne, Mackenzie, Thompson and so forth. It could have been published a half-century ago without raising any eyebrows.

Readers expecting something about maps will be disappointed. Despite the title, this is not the Canadian version of Jerry Brotton’s History of the World in Twelve Maps. In most chapters the maps get only the briefest of mentions, sometimes less than a paragraph; and sometimes their connection to the enterprise being described is somewhat tenuous or after the fact. As a narrative conceit, shaping the history of the exploration of Canada around a set of maps is not a bad one, but Shoalts fails to meet the expectations he himself has raised. In the end, I think he ended up being led by his primary sources, telling the stories they wanted to tell rather than the story his own structure demanded.

A History of Canada in Ten Maps is available in hardcover in Canada and as an ebook in both Canada and the United States (Kindle, iBooks).

(Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

16 Oct 16:29

Mapping: In Praise Of The Triangle

by (Suvrat Kher)
Jerry Brotton in his book A History Of The World In 12 Maps writes about France's National Map Project. Begun around the 1670's upon the establishment of the Academie de Sciences and the Paris Observatory and headed by the astronomer Cassini I, it first attempted to create an accurate geodetic survey of France using the latest surveying instruments. At the heart of the survey was the calculation of distances and directions using the method of triangulation. Latitude was calculated using a quadrant that measured the altitude of celestial bodies. Then, using a measuring stick, a baseline of a known length was established. A third point on the landscape was sighted. The angles between the three control points were measured. Using trigonometric tables the lengths of the remaining two sides of the triangle could be calculated.

I liked this passage:

In 1744 the survey was finally completed. Its geometers had completed an extraordinary 800 principal triangles and nineteen base lines. Cassini III had always envisaged printing regional maps as they were produced, and by 1744 the map was published in eighteen sheets. Its new map of France, on an approximately small scale of 1: 1,800,000, shows the country represented as a network of triangles, with virtually no expression of the land's physical contours,and with large areas such as the Pyrenees, the Jura and the Alps left blank. It was a geometrical skeleton,a series of points,lines and triangles following coasts, valleys and plains in connecting key locations from which observations were carried out. Over it all lay the triangle, the new immutable symbol of rational, verifiable scientific method. On Cassini III's map the triangle almost takes on its own physical reality, a sign of the triumph of the immutable laws of geometry and mathematics over the vast, messy chaos of the terrestrial world. The Babylonians and the Greeks had revered the circle, the Chinese celebrated the square, the French now showed that it was the application of the triangle that would ultimately conquer the earth.

Cassini III was the grandson of Giovanni Domenico Cassini (Cassini I). The directorship of the Paris Observatory remained in the Cassini family over four generations.

This surveying method was quickly adopted and adapted by others. The Ordnance Survey began mapping the British Isles using this method in the late 1700's.  William Lambton took the Ordnance Survey's acquired expertise and began the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India in the year 1800, a feat that took nearly 50 years to complete. John Keay's book The Great Arc details that mammoth effort.

16 Oct 16:29

The Bay Of Bengal Once Touched Sikkim

by (Suvrat Kher)
See this satellite imagery of the Himalaya.  The Indian State of Sikkim occupies the region just east of Darjeeling.

The Siwaliks (green arrows) appear as a forested linear band forming the southernmost hilly terrain of the Himalaya. The hills abut against broad alluvial plains. Rivers traversing the Himalaya carrying enormous sediment load encounter a gentler gradient upon exiting the hilly terrain. A loss of stream power results in sediment being dumped in the channel, so much so, that rivers get chocked on their own sediment. As a result, channels split and bifurcate forming a braided river system. These rivers  also suddenly change course, abandoning their channel and carving out new ones. Such course changes may occur during floods or by tilting of the land by structural movements.  Over time, the deposits of these ever changing rivers coalesce to form cone shape aprons of sediments known as alluvial fans. These rivers like the Kosi and the Tista, which flow transverse to the mountain range, meet an axial river like the Ganga and the Brahmaputra flowing parallel to the mountain front. The axial river flows into the Bay of Bengal.

The Siwalik hills were once these type of alluvial fans.  Just as today, during Miocene and Pliocene times, sediment was being deposited in front of the rising Himalayan mountains. Beginning about half a million years ago or so, these ancient alluvial fans were crumpled up and uplifted to form the Siwalik ranges. Active alluvial fan formation shifted southwards to its present locus. This process continues. In a few million years, the present day alluvial fans deposited by rivers like the Kosi and the Teesta will be deformed into a newer mountain range south of the Siwaliks. The Himalaya are growing southwards.

How do we know that the Siwaliks were once alluvial fans? Geologists rely on analogy, comparing the Siwalik sediments with what is accumulating in the present day alluvial fans. They find a striking similarity. Siwaliks are made up of alternations of coarse gravel layers and finer sand and silt layers with characteristic bed orientations and structures like cross beds and rippled sand. The gravel layers are inferred to be the river channel deposits while the finer sand and silt layers are the river bank, levee and floodplain deposits. An important finding made throughout the length of the Siwalik ranges has been the paleo-current directions preserved in the rocks.  Geologists have measured the orientation of bedding and ripple marks and found out that rivers were flowing south and south east i.e. perpendicular to the mountain chain. There is no evidence of an axial river like the Ganga in these Siwalik sediments. The thinking is that such an axial river must have flowed much to the south of the region of deposition of Siwalik sediments.

And what about evidence of a delta? Where did these Miocene and Pliocene rivers meet the sea? The logical geographic place to look for a coast would be towards the east. And in fact, that evidence has come from the Siwalik sediments of West Bengal and Sikkim. In a really interesting paper published recently in Current Science, Suchana Taral, Nandini Kar and Tapan Chakraborty describe sedimentary structures and marine trace fossils from Middle Siwalik sediments exposed along the Gish River and its tributaries in the Tista Valley. Siwalik rocks in the central and western part of the Himalaya show current structures that indicate south flowing rivers. In this easterly location however, the sediments show evidence of being deposited in a wave influenced environment. Sedimentary structures like wave ripple laminations and hummocky-swaley stratification indicate deposition in wave dominated marine bay.  Paleo-current indicators like ripple marks preserved on sandstone surfaces show a south as well as north directed current. This suggests an environment influenced by tides and north directed waves. Associated sediments show indicators of different delta environments like distributary channels, delta mouth bar and delta flood plain deposits.

Apart from current direction indicators, the sediments contain plant fossils indicative of mangrove vegetation and brackish water environments. They also contain trace fossils i.e. impressions and burrows made by creatures moving and disturbing the sediment surface. Cylindrichnus, Chondrites, Rosselia, Taenidium, Skolithos, Planolites are some of trace fossils reported in this study. The assemblage of trace fossils is similar to those reported from marine settings.

All this suggests that during the time of deposition of these Middle Siwalik sediments in Late Miocene-Pliocene times, about 5-10 million years ago, a branch of the Bay of Bengal had invaded as far north as present day Sikkim. Rivers carrying sediment from the Himalaya were debouching them in a delta and a shallow marine bay. The Sikkim Middle Siwalik strata are ancient deformed delta and marine deposits.  

A paleo-geographic reconstruction of this eastern part of these Siwalik depositional environments in shown below.

 Source: Suchana Taral, Nandini Kar and Tapan Chakraborty 2017

The  upper graphic shows the reconstructed delta and marine depositional environment. The lower graphic shows the regional paleo-geography. The pin shows the environmental location of the study area. The yellow rose diagram shows the paleocurrent directions measured in the Siwalik sediments.

Interestingly, some earlier work by geologists has shown that in Late Miocene times the Brahmaputra was flowing along a much more easterly route towards the Bay of Bengal. They used sand thickness and sand/shale ratios from wells drilled in the delta and found lobate sand bodies, which they inferred were brought in by a large river flowing from a ENE source. Their interpretation is shown in the graphic to the left (Uddin A. and Lundberg N. 1998). At the time the Shillong Plateau did not exist. The river flowed into the Bay of Bengal from the Upper Assam valley and through the Sylhet depression in to the Bengal Basin. The uplift of the Shillong Plateau in Pleistocene times forced the Brahmaputra to turn west and wrap itself around the newly emerging uplands.

Since Pliocene times, the tremendous amount of sediment being delivered by Himalayan rivers, coupled with Pleistocene sea level fall, has caused a retreat of this arm of the Bay of Bengal southwards.

In the satellite image below, based on the location of the Sikkim Siwalik deposits and other work on the Bengal Basin paleogeography, I have drawn in brown the coastline as it would have existed 5-10 million years ago. The ancient drainage systems are shown in blue. South directed arrows shows the extent of the growth of the Bengal/Bangladesh alluvial plains and delta and the retreat of the sea since then to its present location.

Pretty amazing finding.

16 Oct 16:28

Ralph Steadman’s Hellish Illustrations for Ray Bradbury’s Classic Dystopian Novel, Fahrenheit 451

by Colin Marshall

Hunter S. Thompson and Ray Bradbury would at first seem to have little in common, other than having made their livings by the pen. Or rather, both of them having developed as writers in the mid-20th century, by the typewriter--though Thompson famously shot his and a young Bradbury once had to rent one for ten cents per hour at UCLA's library. In one nine-day rental in the early 1950s, Bradbury typed up Fahrenheit 451, still his best-known work and one whose central idea, that of a future society that methodically destroys all books, has stayed compelling almost 65 years after its first publication.

Thompson's best-known work, 1971's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, deals in different kinds of frightening visions, some of them brought to illustrated life by the English artist Ralph Steadman. Thirty years later years later and with his name long since made by his collaboration with Thompson, Steadman would bring his talents to Bradbury's dystopia. Brain Pickings' Maria Popova quotes him describing the theme of Fahrenheit 451 as "vitally important." According to Dangerous Minds' Paul Gallagher, when Bradbury saw Steadman's illustrations, commissioned for a limited edition of the book around its fiftieth anniversary, he said to the artist, "You’ve brought my book into the 21st century."

Steadman repaid the compliment when he said that he considers Fahrenheit 451 "as important as 1984 and Animal Farm as real powerful social comment," and he should know, having previously poured his artistic energies into a 1995 edition of George Orwell's deceptively simple allegory of the Russian Revolution and its consequences. More than a few of us would no doubt love to see what Steadman could do with 1984 here in the 21st century, a time when we've hardly extinguished the societal dangers of which Orwell, or Bradbury, or indeed Thompson, tried, each in his distinctive literary way, to warn us. Book-burning may remain a fringe pursuit, but the fight against thought control in its infinite forms demands constant vigilance — and no small amount of imagination.

You can see more illustrations of Fahrenheit 451 at Brain Pickings and Dangerous Minds. Also, you can purchase used copies of the limited print edition online, though they seem quite rare at this point. Editions can be found on AbeBooks--for example here and here.

Related Content:

Ray Bradbury Reveals the True Meaning of Fahrenheit 451: It’s Not About Censorship, But People “Being Turned Into Morons by TV”

To Read This Experimental Edition of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, You’ll Need to Add Heat to the Pages

Gonzo Illustrator Ralph Steadman Draws the American Presidents, from Nixon to Trump

Ralph Steadman’s Surrealist Illustrations of George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1995)

How Hunter S. Thompson — and Psilocybin — Influenced the Art of Ralph Steadman, Creating the “Gonzo” Style

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Ralph Steadman’s Hellish Illustrations for Ray Bradbury’s Classic Dystopian Novel, <i>Fahrenheit 451</i> is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

16 Oct 16:28

After Trump lies about the Iran deal, John Oliver says "We got him!," forgets that nothing matters any more

by Dennis Perkins

A running gag on Last Week Tonight With John Oliver points up the fact that, in a world where the president lies about easily verifiable, globally vital facts at least once a day (and that just on Twitter), the old rules about accountability and acceptable fucking behavior just don’t apply. Several times now, Oliver…


16 Oct 16:27

Gravitational waves: Why the fuss?

Great excitement rippled through the physics world Monday at news of the first-ever detection of two ultra-dense neutron stars converging in a violent smashup.
29 Aug 19:28

All these Harvey hoaxes are another reminder of how hard it is to fight fake news

by Cale Guthrie Weissman

You may have heard that there was a shark swimming around in a flooded highway in Houston. Well, that’s wrong, but it went viral anyway thanks to a hoax tweet. Similarly, an airport in Houston is not underwater, despite false pictures showing planes under water. And Obama is not on the ground in Houston feeding meals to … Continue reading “All these Harvey hoaxes are another reminder of how hard it is to fight fake news”

You may have heard that there was a shark swimming around in a flooded highway in Houston. Well, that’s wrong, but it went viral anyway thanks to a hoax tweet. Similarly, an airport in Houston is not underwater, despite false pictures showing planes under water. And Obama is not on the ground in Houston feeding meals to evacuees, despite false reports.

Read Full Story

29 Aug 19:28

You're gonna like the Heckuva Job

by jeffrey
It's gonna be the best, biggest, most beautiful Heckuva Job. You're gonna love it. Believe me. But later.
President Donald Trump said Harvey's destruction and flooding was a disaster "of epic proportions" as he visited Corpus Christi, Texas, on Tuesday (Aug. 29).

"This was of epic proportions. No one has ever seen anything like this," the president said as he received a briefing from Texas state and local officials.

Trump also said his administration wants to handle the recovery "better than ever before."

"We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as this is the way to do it," Trump said speaking to reporters. Addressing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Trump said now is not the time to say congratulations.

"We won't say congratulations. We don't wanna do that," the president said, "we'll congratulate each other when it's all finished."
We  want to say Heckuva Job. We can't wait to say Heckuva Job. But we'll wait until it will be less infuriating.