Shared posts

15 Apr 16:47

Anti-municipal broadband group tries to silence a critic

by Jon Brodkin

An organization that tries to convince state legislatures to impose limits on municipal broadband sent a cease-and-desist letter to one of its critics that is refusing to stay quiet.

The fight is happening between the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Credo Action. ALEC opposes municipal broadband projects and writes model legislation that limits the authority of cities and towns to build their own telecommunications networks. About 20 states have passed such laws.

Credo Action is the advocacy arm of cellular phone company Credo Mobile, whose revenue funds its advocacy. Credo lobbied the Federal Communications Commission to preempt state laws that limit municipal broadband, criticizing ALEC along the way.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

14 Apr 17:00

The Fault in Our Sentences

by Roxie Pell

Hit young adult novels may spread like wildfire, but they don’t grow on trees. The Times profiles Julie Strauss-Gabel, a YA editor known for whipping her writers into shape:

The last thing you want is an author saying, ‘That’s what’s selling right now, so that’s what I’m going to write.’ That’s the point at which a trend gets icky.

Related Posts:

31 Mar 15:36

A new way to navigate the streets of Google Maps

by Lat Long

Over the years, we’ve updated Google Maps to make it more accurate, comprehensive and useful.
From imagery of the coffee shop down the road to the Taj Mahal, or turn-by-turn navigation that helps you get to your first date on time or find your way to a famous landmark...we’ve worked hard to give people the best possible experience of the world around them. And today we’re introducing our most ambitious update yet: PAC-Maps.

With local place information and Street View, it’s easier than ever before to find where you’re going but there’s never been anything to let you know where *not* to go. With this update, we’ve added imagery of dangerous virtual beings, starting with Pinky, Blinky, Inky and Clyde. When navigating fruit-filled streets, determine at a glance which turns to pass to evade ghosts and get where you’re going safely. When you’re feeling a bit peckish, you can simply gobble up a few pac-dots or a cherry and keep on nommin'. PAC-Maps makes navigating around select locations as simple as left, right, up or down.

Experience all the benefits of #PACMaps on desktop and on the latest version of Google Maps on Android and iOS. This is just the beginning, so stay tuned for more Maps fun such as zombie incident alerts and intergalactic Street View. Oh, and be sure to check out what our friends at Ingress are up to. It looks like PAC-MAN chomped his way over to the real-world!

Posted by Michelle Luo, Product Manager
10 Apr 08:17

Do Marine Animal Lineages Evolve Toward Larger Body Size Over Time

by (Suvrat Kher)
aka Cope's Rule-

I like these big questions about the history of life and I am fascinated and very impressed when palaeontologists take up such questions. It is incredibly laborious and time consuming work, to go through archival data on fossils and often generate new data from museum specimens and older compilations describing fossil taxa.

A recent study in Science Magazine:

Cope’s rule in the evolution of marine animals - Noel A. Heim, Matthew L. Knope1, Ellen K. Schaal, Steve C. Wang, Jonathan L. Payne

Cope’s rule proposes that animal lineages evolve toward larger body size over time. To test this hypothesis across all marine animals, we compiled a data set of body sizes for 17,208 genera of marine animals spanning the past 542 million years. Mean biovolume across genera has increased by a factor of 150 since the Cambrian, whereas minimum biovolume has decreased by less than a factor of 10, and maximum biovolume has increased by more than a factor of 100,000. Neutral drift from a small initial value cannot explain this pattern. Instead, most of the size increase reflects differential diversification across classes, indicating that the pattern does not reflect a simple scaling-up of widespread and persistent selection for larger size within populations.

What that means is that the size increase is not due to a uniform increase across all animal groups. Rather, groups that were larger very early in animal evolution have diversified disproportionally more than smaller sized groups. Why should that happen? The authors suggest that there may be advantages to being larger, such as, ability to move faster, to capture larger prey and to burrow deeper for protection and exploiting additional food resources.

That would seem to make larger animals more resilient to background extinction and make larger sized lineages longer lived. But why would that make larger animals more speciose? i.e. why would larger sized animals species split into more new species than smaller sized animal species? ..because that is what is the claim, that throughout the history of animal evolution larger sized species gave rise to more new species than smaller sized ones (differential diversification). In fact, one could make arguments favoring higher rates of speciation in smaller sized organisms, such as, their ability to disperse over greater geographic area resulting in greater chances of populations getting reproductively isolated resulting in new species, their ability to survive better during environmental crises (survivor fauna after mass extinctions tend to be smaller bodied, mass extinctions seems to kill of larger bodied species disproportionately). If mass extinctions differentially kill off larger bodied species, then is the observed trend really a series of trends, each reset at the aftermath of the crises, resulting in small pioneer /survivor fauna evolving towards larger size. There could be a physical limit to how small one could become and the only direction for size to vary (either through drift or natural selection) would be towards a larger size. I am just speculating without even reading the paper, the authors do mention that drift from a small initial size does not explain their findings, but it would interesting to know what role mass extinctions might be playing in disruption or amplifying trends.

So although a trend is apparent, the answers are not all clear cut. It would also be interesting to group the trends according to life habits, i.e. planktonic versus benthic, sessile versus mobile  and see if any of these life styles particularly favors evolution towards larger size.

Eurekalert has a summary of the study

04 Mar 15:15

Newswire: Bryan Singer to adapt a Robert A. Heinlein novel for Fox

by William Hughes

Classic science fiction novels are having an odd little cultural renaissance: Syfy has been steadily working on its miniseries adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Childhood’s End since last fall, while Paramount is toying with the idea of filming The Stars My Destination. And now there’s word, via The Hollywood Reporter, that X-Men director Bryan Singer has been tapped to put together a film version of Robert A. Heinlein’s 1966 classic The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. (Suggestions that the pick-up was inspired by the recent cultural obsession with Fifty Shades Of Grey are too puerile to dignify here.)

The novel details a lunar colony’s attempts to forcibly emancipate itself from the governments of Earth, so as to better adhere to principles of self-determination, libertarianism, and, because this is a Bob Heinlein novel, polyamory. Singer, whose next film project is the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse, will produce the ...

04 Mar 13:48

Inheritance of Anger

by Azra Raza

Robert Minto in Open Letters Monthly:

MarioMario Vargas Llosa’s father was a cruel man who abandoned Mario and his mother for ten years and then returned to tyrannize them. Vargas Llosa became a writer in order to annoy him. In his memoir A Fish in the Water he writes,

It is probable that without my progenitor’s contempt for literature I would never have pursued so obstinately what at the time was a game, but was gradually to turn into an obsessive and pressing need: a vocation.

But is the struggle of a son with his father an honorable source of direction for life? Or does Vargas Llosa’s origin story undermine his whole life’s work by identifying it with childish rebellion? In his new book The Discreet Hero, he seems to be wrestling with this problem. The Discreet Hero is two stories told in alternating chapters which intersect only in seemingly unimportant ways but really serve the purpose of commenting on shared themes. In Letters to a Young Novelist, he calls this structure by the odd term “communicating vessels.” He names it one of just three or four of the “primary techniques” of novel writing: a clue to any reader of his own novels about just how seriously he takes the doubled narrative. The other clue is that fact that he’s used the technique over and over again, even in his autobiography (which splices the story of his boyhood together with the story of his campaign to become President of Peru).

...In The Discreet Hero, the very tool Vargas Llosa uses for the analysis of power is turned on his own power by examining what is for him the foundational struggle of the vocation for literature. Would the healthy outcome for him have been, back when he first began to write, to confess to his father that it was all a lie, and never to write again, like Fonchito and Edilberto Torres? This is the kind of earnest reflection a literary mind conducts at the age of 79. It is a reason to read The Discreet Hero on its own account and — especially — as self-reflection on the origins of a great artist. I, for one, am glad Mario hated his father.

More here.

04 Mar 16:00

What’s Wrong With Online Education—and How to Fix It

by Kunal Chawla
There are many things right with online education—like the plethora of free and easily accessible content developed by Udacity, Coursera and others. In particular, online education excels at teaching while using... read more
25 Feb 22:00

These Game Of Thrones Plushes Have All Grown Up

by James Whitbrook

When Factory released their first Direwolf Puppy plushes , we were wounded innocents still in a post Red Wedding haze. But we've grown up, as has Game of Thrones - and thus, so must the plushie merchandise.


26 Feb 00:57

M.T. Anderson, sci-fi author, accidental prophet and nice guy

by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

In 2002, M.T. Anderson wrote the novel Feed, which featured a future in which humans are all hardwired with computer chips (the eponymous Feeds) so they can shop. Constantly. Back then it was a comment on consumerism. Now, 13 years later, I was curious if he was sick of telling us all "I told you so."

Read the rest
15 Feb 23:15

Emily Garfield's Map Art

by Jonathan Crowe

Emily Garfield: Branching Networks (Cityspace #178)

Emily Garfield's art is a pen-and-watercolour exercise in the cartography of imaginary places. Her drawings "are inspired by the visual language of maps, as well as the fractal similarity that cities share with biological processes such as the patterns of cells and neurons." Above: "Branching Networks (Cityspace #178)."

26 Feb 18:00

Hear This: INXS gave melodramatic lovers an anthem in “Never Tear Us Apart”

by Sean O'Neal

In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, we’re talking about songs we loved from our first favorite bands.

INXS, “Never Tear Us Apart” (1988)

Everyone who came of age when music videos were still in heavy rotation on MTV has a story of some band they fell in love with on first sight. My story is the opposite: I was totally put off by INXS the first time I ever saw the clip for “Need You Tonight,” in which Michael Hutchence—at the zenith of his ’80s Jim Morrison magnetism—works the camera bare-chested under a leather jacket, a giant “SEX” pin on his lapel. I was all of 10 years old the first time I saw that video, and while I’d recently experienced some confusing stirrings around Elisabeth Shue in Cocktail, sex was not especially on my ...

16 Feb 19:54

Let data (science) speak

by Laurent Duval
The Doctoral College at IFPEN organizes seminars for PhD students. The next one on 30 March 2015 is about Data Science: "Faire parler les mesures, de la capture (acquisition) aux premiers mots (apprentissage) : la science des données, une discipline émergente" or "Let the data speak: from its capture (acquisition) to its  first words (learning): data science, an emerging discipline". 

The invitees are Igor Carron (Nuit Blanche), Laurent Daudet (Institut Langevin) and Stéphane Mallat (École normale supérieure). Abstracts follow.

Laurent Duval, Aurélie Pirayre, IFPEN

*Titre : introduction

*Résumé : La science des données (ou dédoménologie) est une discipline émergente : le terme "data science" apparaît en 2001 et désigne un ensemble de techniques empruntant aux sciences de l'information, aux mathématiques, aux statistiques, à l'informatique, à la visualisation, à l'apprentissage automatique. Elle vise à extraire de la connaissance de données expérimentales, potentiellement complexes, volumineuses ou hétérogènes, en révélant des motifs ou structures peu explicites. Ce domaine est notamment tiré par le GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon), et joue un rôle croissant en biologie, en médecine, en sciences sociales, en astronomie ainsi qu'en physique.

Les exposés illustrent quelques facettes de cette discipline : comment exploiter une forme de hasard dans les mesures, comment voir à travers la peinture, comment apprendre à classifier par la non-linéarité ?

Data science appeared in 2001 as an emerging discipline. It designates a corpus of techniques derived from information sciences, mathematics, statistics, computer science, visualization, machine learning. It aims at extracting knowledge from (experimental) data, potentially complex, huge or heterogeneous, by unravelling weakly explicit patterns. This field is partly driven by GAFA companies (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon), and plays an increasing role in biology, medicine, social sciences, astronomy or physics.

The different talks shed a light on some aspects of this discipline : how to exploit randomness in measurements, how to see though the paint, how to learn to classify with non-linearities?

Igor Carron

*Title: "Ca va être compliqué": Islands of knowledge, Mathematician-Pirates and the Great Convergence

*Abstract: In this talk, we will survey the different techniques that have led to recent changes in the way we do sensing and how to make sense of that information. In particular, we will talk about problem complexity and attendant algorithms, compressive sensing, advanced matrix factorization, sensing hardware and machine learning and how all these seemingly unrelated issues are of importance to the practising engineer. In particular, we'll draw some parallel between some of the techniques currently used in machine learning as used by internet companies and the upcoming convergence that will occur in many fields of Engineering and Science as a result.

Laurent Daudet, Institut Langevin, Ondes et images

*Title: Compressed Sensing Imaging through multiply scattering materials (Un imageur compressé utilisant les milieux multiplement diffusants)

*Abstract: The recent theory of compressive sensing leverages upon the structure of signals to acquire them with much fewer measurements than was previously thought necessary, and certainly well below the traditional Nyquist-Shannon sampling rate. However, most implementations developed to take advantage of this framework revolve around controlling the measurements with carefully engineered material or acquisition sequences. Instead, we use the natural randomness of wave propagation through multiply scattering media as an optimal and instantaneous compressive imaging mechanism. Waves reflected from an object are detected after propagation through a well-characterized complex medium. Each local measurement thus contains global information about the object, yielding a purely analog compressive sensing method. We experimentally demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed approach for optical imaging by using a 300-micrometer thick layer of white paint as the compressive imaging device. Scattering media are thus promising candidates for designing efficient and compact compressive imagers.
(joint work with I. Carron, G. Chardon, A. Drémeau, S. Gigan, O. Katz, F. Krzakala, G. Lerosey, A. Liutkus, D. Martina, S. Popoff)

Stéphane Mallat, École Normale Supérieure

*Title: Learning Signals, Images and Physics with Deep Neural Networks

*Abstract: Big data, huge memory and computational capacity are opening a scientific world which did not seem reachable just few years ago. Besides brute-force computational power, algorithms are evolving quickly. In particular, deep neural networks provide impressive classification results for many types of signals, images and data sets. It is thus time to wonder what type of information is extracted by these network architectures, and why they work so well.

Learning does not seem to be the key element of this story. Multirate filter banks together with non-linearities can compute multiscale invariants, which appear to provide stable representations of complex geometric structures and random processes.  This will be illustrated through audio and image classification problems. We also show that such architectures can learn complex physical functionals, such as quantum chemistry energies.

25 Feb 11:56

The Weird World of Standard Reference Materials, From Peanut Butter to Whale Blubber

Get the full the story behind a $761 jar of peanut butter and other exorbitantly priced everyday objects used by scientists

Source: Smithsonian - Discipline: Chemistry
20 Feb 10:01

Rigged: The Slow Decline Of India's National Oil Company

by (Suvrat Kher)
This article came out last year but I came across it today via twitter. In Caravan magazine Krishn Kaushik  writes about India's flagship oil  company the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited and its failure over the years to live up to its mission of finding and producing fuel for the country.

This failure has many causes as Kaushik explores- institutional inertia is one important one, government interference in company functioning is another. But there are also a host of private interests trying to exploit the company's wealth. Reliance comes under particular criticism for its alleged manipulation of the bidding process.

Here is one example:

Things only got better for Reliance with the introduction of the New Exploration Licensing Policy. The former ONGC director told me that during his tenure under the NELP regime, both the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons and the petroleum ministry—then headed by VK Sibal and the Congressman Murli Deora, respectively—made at least three unconventional decisions that disadvantaged ONGC and awarded contracts to Mukesh Ambani.

Bids for oil and gas blocks are given points according to various criteria, he explained. One of these is meterage, the depth of the wells a company offers to drill. In principle, the deeper the better—but every hydrocarbon field has a natural “basement,” based on its geological ability to retain hydrocarbon fuels, beyond which it doesn’t make sense to go. In the Cambay Basin, the director said, “everybody knows that the depth cannot be more than 3,500 metres.” But Reliance “bid 5,000 metres stroke basement”—whichever came first. “They got marks for 5,000, whereas ONGC couldn’t write more than 3,500 because we knew we would hit the basement below that.”

There are also points for how much territory a contractor will explore with three-dimensional seismic surveys. In another NELP round, Reliance offered to survey more than the total area of the block on offer, the director claimed. “So they got marks on that.”

There are also allegations that Reliance is  sucking out natural gas from adjacent blocks under ONGC control in the Krishna Godavari offshore basin. ONGC has taken the government to court over this! .. and the list goes on..

Between all these shenanigans is a bizarre episode of how Russian geologists helped discover Mumbai High,  India's biggest off shore oil field-

Discussing its aleatory nature, Sunjoy Joshi, the director of the Observer Research Foundation, a Reliance-funded think tank, told me a story he heard from Subir Raha, a former chairman and managing director of ONGC. “I don’t know if there is any record of this story,” Joshi said, before relating how Raha, who died in 2010, used to say that the Russians had been engaged to do the surveys far out to sea, “where geologists thought there was better possibility of finding oil and gas. But they had to justify coming to the shore more and more often, to screw all the girls in Kamathipura,” Mumbai’s oldest and largest red-light district. Moving their operations closer to land, they eventually found India’s most prolific oil field to date. “The discovery of Mumbai High,” Joshi continued, chuckling, “owes a lot to those poor women.”

Its a long read but well worth it.

25 Feb 12:06

A different cluetrain

by Charlie Stross

Right now, I'm chewing over the final edits on a rather political book. And I think, as it's a near future setting, I should jot down some axioms about politics ...

  1. We're living in an era of increasing automation. And it's trivially clear that the adoption of automation privileges capital over labour (because capital can be substituted for labour, and the profit from its deployment thereby accrues to capital rather than being shared evenly across society).

  2. A side-effect of the rise of capital is the financialization of everything—capital flows towards profit centres and if there aren't enough of them profits accrue to whoever can invent some more (even if the products or the items they're guaranteed against are essentially imaginary: futures, derivatives, CDOs, student loans).

  3. Since the collapse of the USSR and the rise of post-Tiananmen China it has become glaringly obvious that capitalism does not require democracy. Or even benefit from it. Capitalism as a system may well work best in the absence of democracy.

  4. The iron law of bureaucracy states that for all organizations, most of their activity will be devoted to the perpetuation of the organization, not to the pursuit of its ostensible objective. (This emerges organically from the needs of the organization's employees.)

  5. Governments are organizations.

  6. We observe the increasing militarization of police forces and the priviliging of intelligence agencies all around the world. And in the media, a permanent drumbeat of fear, doubt and paranoia directed at "terrorists" (a paper tiger threat that kills fewer than 0.1% of the number who die in road traffic accidents).

  7. Money can buy you cooperation from people in government, even when it's not supposed to.

  8. The internet disintermediates supply chains.

  9. Political legitimacy in a democracy is a finite resource, so supplies are constrained.

  10. The purpose of democracy is to provide a formal mechanism for transfer of power without violence, when the faction in power has lost legitimacy.

  11. Our mechanisms for democratic power transfer date to the 18th century. They are inherently slower to respond to change than the internet and our contemporary news media.

  12. A side-effect of (7) is the financialization of government services (2).

  13. Security services are obeying the iron law of bureaucracy (4) when they metastasize, citing terrorism (6) as a justification for their expansion.

  14. The expansion of the security state is seen as desirable by the government not because of the terrorist threat (which is largely manufactured) but because of (11): the legitimacy of government (9) is becoming increasingly hard to assert in the context of (2), (12) is broadly unpopular with the electorate, but (3) means that the interests of the public (labour) are ignored by states increasingly dominated by capital (because of (1)) unless there's a threat of civil disorder. So states are tooling up for large-scale civil unrest.

  15. The term "failed state" carries a freight of implicit baggage: failed at what, exactly? The unspoken implication is, "failed to conform to the requirements of global capital" (not democracy—see (3)) by failing to adequately facilitate (2).

  16. I submit that a real failed state is one that does not serve the best interests of its citizens (insofar as those best interests do not lead to direct conflict with other states).

  17. In future, inter-state pressure may be brought to bear on states that fail to meet the criteria in (15) even when they are not failed states by the standard of point (16). See also: Greece.

  18. As human beings, our role in this picture is as units of Labour (unless we're eye-wateringly rich, and thereby rare).

  19. So, going by (17) and (18), we're on the receiving end of a war fought for control of our societies by opposing forces that are increasingly more powerful than we are.

Have a nice century!


a) Student loans are loans against an imaginary product—something that may or may not exist inside someone's head and which may or may not enable them to accumulate more capital if they are able to use it in the expected manner and it remains useful for a 20-30 year period. I have a CS degree from 1990. It's about as much use as an aerospace engineering degree from 1927 ...

b) Some folks (especially Americans) seem to think that their AR-15s are a guarantor that they can resist tyranny. But guns are an 18th century response to 18th century threats to democracy. Capital doesn't need to point a gun at you to remove your democratic rights: it just needs more cameras, more cops, and a legal system that is fair and just and bankrupts you if you are ever charged with public disorder and don't plead guilty.

c) (sethg reminded me of this): A very important piece of the puzzle is that while capital can move freely between the developed and underdeveloped world, labour cannot. So capital migrates to seek the cheapest labour, thereby reaping greater profits. Remember this next time you hear someone complaining about "immigrants coming here and taking our jobs". Or go google for "investors visa" if you can cope with a sudden attack of rage.

20 Feb 14:59

Your City Is Going To Be Able To Build Its Own Broadband And Blow Evil Cable Companies Away

by Jessica Leber

Cities are interested in building Internet services that could compete Verizon, Time Warner, and Comcast—and the legal barriers standing in their way are coming down.

Comcast, Verizon, AT&T: Watch out. In order to increase competition and expand high-speed Internet access to areas without, the Federal Communications Commission is set to vote next week to support the rights of cities to create their own fiber networks.

Read Full Story

23 Feb 16:46

Ancient and Modern People Followed Same Mathematical Rule To Build Cities

by samzenpus
An anonymous reader writes with news of a study that shows similarities in how cities are built throughout time. "A study of archeological data from ancient Mexican settlements reveals remarkable similarities between pre-Colombian cities and modern ones, lending support to the idea that urban spaces are shaped by universal social behaviors. Sure, each city has its own local quirks, architecture, language and cuisine. But recently, some theoretical scientists have started to find there are universal laws that shape all urban spaces. And a new study suggests the same mathematical rules might apply to ancient settlements, too. Using archaeological data from the ruins of Tenochtitlan and thousands of other sites around it in Mexico, researchers found that private houses and public monuments were built in predictable ways."

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Read more of this story at Slashdot.

11 Feb 18:55

“They’re in the kernel!” Add /dev/gibson to Your Linux Machine

by Tony DiCola

If you’re looking for something fun, check out the /dev/gibson kernel module which creates a device on your Linux machine that prints out the script to the classic 1995 film Hackers.  Although it’s funny to look back at early internet & cyberpunk films of the 90’s, this kernel module actually has some practical use.  If you’re learning about how to write a kernel module something as simple as /dev/gibson can be a great resource to see how a basic device and module are created.  Hack the planet!

/dev/gibson on Github

10 Feb 20:43

Yes, It Matters If The Science In Your Science Fiction Story Is Accurate

by Charlie Jane Anders

There's been a lot of debate lately over whether science fiction needs accurate science — or whether it's even worth discussing the accuracy of science in science fiction. Why not just have fun with it? What kind of person expects a science textbook instead of just a fun romp. But as a new essay points out, this is really a matter of suspension of disbelief.


06 Feb 14:31

What is gravitational lensing? (w/ Video)

Everyone here is familiar with the practical applications of gravity. If not just from exposure to Loony Tunes, with an abundance of scenes with an anthropomorphized coyote being hurled at the ground from gravitational acceleration, giant rocks plummeting to a spot inevitably marked with an X, previously occupied by a member of the "accelerati incredibilus" family and soon to be a big squish mark containing the bodily remains of the previously mentioned Wile E. Coyote.
06 Feb 14:27

The strange voice of Edgar Allan Poe

by Morgan Meis

32a64c66-ac64-11e4_1127205hMarjorie Perloff at the Times Literary Supplement:

Aldous Huxley, who wrote one of the funniest pastiches, assumed, as did many of his Modernist contemporaries, that Poe’s French admirers praised his work largely because they had no ear for English and thus couldn’t hear what Harold Bloom, in a scathing indictment, calls “Poe’s palpable vulgarity”. But wrong as Bloom may be about “French Poe”, his essay “Inescapable Poe”, which was first published in the New York Review of Books as a review of the Library of America two-volumeCollected Edition of Poe’s poetry and prose, is perhaps the most vigorous version of the argument against the poetry that McGann’s book is designed to dispel, even though he unaccountably makes no reference to it. The authority of “French Poe”, Bloom declares, “vanishes utterly when confronted by what Poe actually wrote”. And he begins by citing four lines from “For Annie”: “Sadly I know I am shorn of my strength, / And no muscle I move / As I lie at full length – / But no matter! – I feel I am better at length”. Bloom concludes, “These dreadful lines are by no means unrepresentative of Poe’s verse”. Taken out of context and exhibited without comment, the lines may well seem weak, but as the argument unfolds, what really worries Bloom is less Poe’s diction or rhythm than the notion that his entire oeuvre is a “hymn to negativity”: “Poe, seeking to avoid Emersonianism, ends with only one fact, and it is more a wish than a fact: ‘I will to be the Abyss.’ This metaphysical despair . . . cannot be refuted, because it is myth, and Poe backed the myth with his life as well as his work”. Indeed, so murky is Poe’s vision that there were at least eleven nineteenth-century American poets (not counting Emily Dickinson and Whitman) who were better than Poe: in chronological order – Willian Cullen Bryant, Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Jones Very, Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, Henry Timrod and Frederick Goddard Tuckerman. “Poe scrambles for twelfth place with Sidney Lanier”. This is an eccentric judgement and Bloom knows it, turning it slightly on its side at the end of his essay when he acknowledges that Poe, or at least the myth of Poe, is “central to the American canon”: Hart Crane, for example, places Poe squarely in “The Tunnel” section of The Bridge, where the descent into the “interborough fissures of the mind” of the subway symbolizes the loss of the Emersonian vision of Self-Reliance.

more here.

06 Feb 13:29

Monty Python for Millennials
 by River Clegg

CUSTOMER: This content is dead.

SHOPKEEPER: No it’s not, it’s resting.

CUSTOMER: Resting? Now look here, I clicked on this content not two minutes ago and was assured by your headline that I would receive, and I quote, “6 Reasons Why Topanga from Boy Meets Word Will Always Be Your Biggest TV Crush.”

SHOPKEEPER: Lovely headline.

CUSTOMER: Lovely it may be. But having secured my click, your article, far from delivering any thoughtful or humorous insights into Ms. Topanga’s unique appeal, simply put forth a few lines of predictable drivel about how attractive the actress is. I won’t stand for this claptrap!

SHOPKEEPER: Well she is pretty.

CUSTOMER: Of course she’s pretty—any 19-year-old blogger could tell me that! The observation that she’s good-looking does not itself constitute “content.” This article has passed on! It has ceased to be! It’s lifeless, intelligence-insulting, tenth-rate clickbait of the lowest order! This is ex-content!

SHOPKEEPER: I’ll have to replace it then. How does “4 Cats in Sweaters” sound?

- - -

KING ARTHUR: Who are you?

KNIGHT: We are the Knights Who Say… TWEE!

ALL KNIGHTS: Twee! Twee! Twee!

KING ARTHUR: No, not the Knights Who Say Twee!

KNIGHT: The same. We are the keepers of the sacred word Twee, as well as every Wes Anderson film. We also enjoy Zooey Deschanel and the Juno soundtrack, and sometimes we ride around on those cute Dutch bicycles.

ALL KNIGHTS: Twee! Twee! Bicycles! Twee!

KING ARTHUR: Oh knights, we are but simple travelers who wish to pass through this neighborhood to the coffee shop that lies beyond it.

KNIGHT: The Knights Who Say TWEE demand a sacrifice.

KING ARTHUR: What is it you want?

KNIGHT: We want… a shrubbery!

ALL KNIGHTS: Twee! Twee! Shrubbery! Twee! Jason Schwartzman!

KING ARTHUR: A shrubbery? Like the ones at the florist across the street, between the Trader Joe’s and the co-op art gallery?

KNIGHT: Those will do.

- - -

CUSTOMER: Hello, I want to have a Facebook debate. Is this the right room?

EMPLOYEE: I’ve told you once.

CUSTOMER: Sorry, I’m afraid you haven’t.

EMPLOYEE: Yes I have.

CUSTOMER: No you haven’t.

EMPLOYEE: Yes I have.

CUSTOMER: Wait, you’re just contradicting me!

EMPLOYEE: No I’m not.

CUSTOMER: Yes you are! A Facebook debate isn’t just contradiction. It’s a series of increasingly impassioned, poorly informed statements — bolstered by the occasional article which may or may not have any relevance at all — that rapidly lose sight of the initial topic and instead devolve into heated personal attacks.

EMPLOYEE: No it isn’t.

- - -

[MAN does a “silly walk” along sidewalk.]

PASSERBY: Why are you walking in such a silly way?

MAN: I enjoy iPhones and interacting with my favorite brands!

- - -

CUSTOMER: I’d like to buy some cheese.

SHOPKEEPER: Wonderful. What would you like, sir?

CUSTOMER: Four ounces of organic bleu, please.

SHOPKEEPER: I’m afraid we’re out of the organic variety, sir.

CUSTOMER: Pity. How are you on farm-to-table mozzarella?

SHOPKEEPER: Sorry, we only have the factory farm kind left.

CUSTOMER: No matter. In that case, I’ll take a quarter-wedge of goat cheese, from a goat that has never been administered artificial hormones or experienced pain of any kind.

SHOPKEEPER: Normally we’d have that. Today the hybrid van broke down.

- - -

MAN: I didn’t expect a sort of Spanish Inquisition.

[Three cardinals burst in the door.]

CARDINAL #1: Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is fear. Fear and surprise. Our two chief weapons are fear and surprise, and a wide social media footprint on which to share each confession we obtain. Three weapons! Fear, surprise, a wide social media footprint on which to share each confession we obtain, and intense nostalgia for the Ninja Turtles—I’ll come in again.

[The cardinals leave.]

MAN: I didn’t expect a sort of Spanish Inquisition.

[The cardinals burst back in.]

CARDINAL #1: Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Amongst our weaponry are such various elements as fear, surprise, a wide social media footprint on which to share each confession we obtain, the word “amazeballs”—oh damn! I was so close… Cardinal, you have to say it.

CARDINAL #2: What?

CARDINAL #1: You have to say the part about what our weapons are.

CARDINAL #2: No, I couldn’t possibly—

CARDINAL #1: You have to.

[The cardinals leave.]

MAN: … I didn’t expect a sort of Spanish Inquisition.

[The cardinals burst back in.]

CARDINAL #2: Nobody, uh, nobody expects the, um, Spanish Inquisition. In fact those who do expect the—

CARDINAL #1 (whispering): Our chief weapons are…

CARDINAL #2: Our chief weapons, eh, you see, are fear, uh, surprise, and, um, a somewhat large following on Twitter, Twitter being an important tool that we, uh—

CARDINAL #1: Oh that’s enough! Cardinal, read the charges.

CARDINAL #3: You are hereby charged with not owning any mason jars.

MAN: Beg your pardon, is that a crime?

CARDINALS (diabolically): Ha! Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!

CARDINAL #1: Yes. Get some or we’ll torture you. For realsies.

09 Feb 14:20

What is anisotropy?

by Matt Hall

Geophysicists often assume that the earth is isotropic. This word comes from 'iso', meaning same, and 'tropikos', meaning something to do with turning. The idea is that isotropic materials look the same in all directions — they have no orientation, and we can make measurements in any direction and get the same result. Note that this is different from homogeneous, which is the quality of uniformity of composition. You can think of anisotropy as a directional (not just spatial) variation in homogeneity. 

In the illustration, I may have cheated a bit. The lower-left image shows a material that is homogeneous but anisotropic. The thin lines are supposed to indicate microfractures, say, or the alignment of clay flakes, or even just stress. So although the material has uniform composition, at least at this scale, it has an orientation.

The recognition of the earth's anisotropy is a dominant theme among papers in our forthcoming 52 Things book on rock physics. It's not exactly a new thing — it was an emerging trend 10 years ago when Larry Lines at U of C reviewed Milo Backus's famous 'challenges' (Lines 2005). And even then, the spread of anisotropic processing and analysis had been underway for almost 20 years since Leon Thomsen's classic 1986 paper, Weak elastic anisotropy. This paper introduced three parameters that we need—alongside the usual \(V_\text{P}\), \(V_\text{S}\), and \(\rho\)—to describe anisotropy. They are \(\delta\) (delta), \(\epsilon\) (epsilon), and \(\gamma\) (gamma), collectively referred to as Thomsen's parameters

  • \(\delta\) or delta — the short offset effect — captures the relationship between the velocity required to flatten gathers (the NMO velocity) and the zero-offset average velocity as recorded by checkshots. It's easy to measure, but perhaps hard to understand in physical terms.
  • \(\epsilon\) or epsilon — the long offset effect — is, according to Thomsen himself:  "the fractional difference between vertical and horizontal P velocities; i.e., it is the parameter usually referred to as 'the' anisotropy of a rock". Unfortunately, the horizontal velocity is rather hard to measure. 
  • \(\gamma\) or gamma — the shear wave effect — relates, as rock physics meister Colin Sayers put it on Twitter, a horizontal shear wave with horizontal polarization to a vertical shear wave. He added, "\(\gamma\) can be determined in a single well using sonic. So the correlation with \(\epsilon\) and \(\delta\) is of great interest."

Sidenote to aspiring authors: Thomsen's seminal paper, which has been cited over 2800 times, is barely 13 pages long. Three and a half of those pages are taken up by... data! A huge table containing the elastic parameters of almost 60 samples. And this is from a corporate scientist at Amoco. So no more excuses: publish you data! </rant>

Vertical transverse what now?

The other bit of jargon you will come across is the concept of transverse isotropy, which is a slightly perverse (to me) way of expressing the orientation of the anisotropy effect. In vertical transverse isotropy, the horizontal velocity is different from the vertical velocity. Think of flat-lying shales with gravity dominating the stress field. Usually, the velocity is faster along the beds than it is across the beds. This manifests as nonhyperbolic moveout in the far offsets, in particular a pull-up or 'hockey stick' effect in the gathers — the arrivals are unexpectedly early at long offsets. Clearly, this will also affect AVO analysis

There's more jargon. If the rocks are dipping, we call it tilted transverse isotropy, or TTI. But if the anisotropies, so to speak, are oriented vertically — as with fractures, for example, or simply horizontal stress — then it's horizontal transverse isotropy, or HTI. This causes azimuthal (compass directional) travel-time variations. We can even venture into situations where we encounter orthorhombic anisotropy, as in the combined VTI/HTI model shown above. It's easy to imagine how these effects, if not accounted for in processing, can (and do!) result in suboptimal seismic images. Accounting for them is not easy though, and trying can do more harm than good.

If you have handy rules of thumb of ways of conceptualizing anisotropy, I'd love to hear about them. Some time soon I want to write about thin-layer anisotropy, which is where this post was going until I got sidetracked...


Lines, L (2005). Addressing Milo's challenges with 25 years of seismic advances. The Leading Edge 24 (1), 32–35. DOI 10.1190/1.2112389.

Thomsen, L (1986). Weak elastic anisotropy. Geophysics 51 (10), 1954–1966. DOI 10.1190/1.1442051.

07 Feb 11:14

Ending exemptions for vaccines

by Charles Kuffner

Hear, hear.

A Texas Republican is taking aim at a provision in state law that allows parents with personal or religious objections to vaccines to opt their children out of school immunization requirements.

State Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, said Friday he will soon propose legislation to eliminate what are called “conscientious exemptions” because of the reemergence of diseases like measles and whooping cough attributed to growing numbers of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children.

“We are just saying, ‘Look, if you are going to send your children to public schools, they need to be vaccinated,'” he said. “We are going to ask that you keep other children safe.”

The measure, which Villalba said he would file next week, comes as several other states are reevaluating their immunization laws as they battle a measles outbreak linked with exposure to an unvaccinated woman in a California amusement park.

Texas is among 20 states that waive school vaccine requirements because of personal beliefs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. All but two states — Mississippi and West Virginia — grant exemptions from school immunization requirements on religious grounds.

Under Villalba’s proposal, Texas would not allow an exemption for either of those reasons. Students would still be able to receive medical waivers, which doctors grant in cases where an allergic reaction or a weakened immune system could cause health complications.

As you know, I’m down with this. Texas’ overall rate of getting exemptions isn’t that high, but in some places it is. That’s an outbreak waiting to happen, so I hope the rest of the Lege falls in behind Rep. Villalba’s bill when it is filed. On that score, the Senate may be a challenge.

Even with a measles outbreak dominating headlines, don’t expect an avalanche of immediate support for a high-profile idea to cut down on the ability of Texas parents to opt their children out of school immunization requirements.

Two state Senate committee chairmen told the Houston Chronicle they have hesitations about a bill that state Rep. Jason Villalba said Friday he plans to introduce to eliminate religious and philosophical exemptions to the requirements.

State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, who leads the Health and Human Services Committee, said through a spokesman that while he views vaccines as a “critical component of protecting the public health…(he) would prefer to increase education about the safety of these vaccines rather than imposing new mandates that would ask Texas parents to act against their own conscience or their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

The chairman of the Senate education committee, Republican Larry Taylor of Friendswood, offered a more moderate response but noted that in Texas, “there is also a long standing tradition of giving parents the right to make decisions regarding their children’s healthcare.”

“I stand ready to hear parents’ and legislators’ opinions on this very serious issue,” Taylor said.

I hope he’s also ready to hear doctors’ opinions, too. California’s legislature is taking similar action, as are legislatures in several other states. Hopefully, at least one good thing will come out of the Disneyland measles epidemic of 2015.

08 Feb 11:56

TRS-80 Model 100, a sportswriter weeps for @radioshack #radioshackretrospective #radioshack

by adafruit

Radio Shack Trs-80 Model 100

A sportswriter weeps for old friend Radio Shack | Patrick+ |

…the world changed in 1983, when the TRS-80 Model 100 portable was released for sale. TRS stood for Tandy Radio Shack … the developer and the outlets where you could buy one.

Everyone called it the “Trash 80.’’ They were so reasonably priced that we could buy them ourselves if the newspaper balked. They weighed 3.1 pounds and could run for hours with four AA batteries.

There was no longer a class structure in the press box. The Portabubbles were gone (except for a few holdouts such as Roe). The Silent Writers were sent crashing to a well-earned graveyard.

We all were carrying Trash 80s. The question among the former underclass in the press box went from, “Hey, do you have an extra roll of paper for this piece of bleep?’’ to “Hey, do you have any extra batteries for our little buddy here?’’

There were drawbacks. Only eight short lines of copy were visible. The screen wasn’t backlit; it had a liquid crystal display. If you wound up in a poorly lighted press box, say an auxiliary location at a big baseball game, it was hard even for young eyes to see the screen.

Also, in the first days, you had to carry couplers that would be plugged into the machine. The connection between those couplers and the telephone in sending copy was maybe 80 percent (which beat 50 percent with the TI Silent Writer).

And then a couple of years later, here came the TRS-80 Model 200. It weighed 4.25 pounds, but that extra pound was well worth it: a pop-up screen and display of 16 short lines of copy.

By then, we were using cables to transmit copy to the office computer, and it was a 95 percent success rate. I stuck with the Model 200 as long as possible, until the Internet was fully upon us and the bosses wanted us carrying laptops with more sophistication.

I had three or four Models 200s in my basement for a few years. Occasionally, when my laptop was balking, I would break one out and take it on a road trip.
The Tandy Radio Shack-80 Model 200 was the greatest machine in the history of the press box. I weep for all those Radio Shack outlets that were such friends to sportswriters, where you could get AA batteries in bulk at a good price and new cables when you accidentally left the last set in a press box in Atlanta.

Read more & previous coverage. We’ll be posting up a few things in our “RadioShack Retrospective series.

09 Feb 09:00

Rare Interview: Tim Curry Discusses The Rocky Horror Picture Show, During the Week of Its Release (1975)

by Ayun Halliday

A defining role can be both blessing and curse. In August of 1975, the week the The Rocky Horror Picture Show opened, its 29-year-old star, Tim Curry gave an interview to STOIC, the Student Television Of Imperial College.

In between clips of Curry’s Frank-n-Furter sashaying through such destined-to-become cult favorites as “Sweet Transvestite” and “The Time Warp,” in fishnets, merry widow, and maquillage designed by David Bowie’s personal makeup artist, the actor entertained questions…in luscious black and white!

Kudos to the young interviewer, Mark Caldwell, for never interrupting or trying to elbow his way into the spotlight with jokey asides or double entendres. The reward is a serious consideration of the filmmaking process and the actor’s craft.

(Bear in mind that it would be at least a year until midnight audiences at New York’s Waverly Theater started throwing toast, rice, and toilet paper at the screen, thus initiating an entire script’s worth of audience participation.)

Having originated the role on the London stage (he auditioned with Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti”) and reprised it in L.A., Curry was clearly ready to put some space between himself and his iconic creation, announcing—correctly, as it turns out—that any sequels would have to proceed without him.

Then he clammed up for three decades, refusing to discuss his most iconic role until 2005, when he broke the silence during an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air .

It’s clear that Curry saw the making of the film as a serious business, but Rocky Horror fans will find plenty of juicy morsels to feed their obsession. Even virgins will enjoy the story of Frank’s evolving accent —from middle European to “Belgravia Hostess with the Mostest.”

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Rare Interview: Tim Curry Discusses The Rocky Horror Picture Show, During the Week of Its Release (1975) 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.

The post Rare Interview: Tim Curry Discusses The Rocky Horror Picture Show, During the Week of Its Release (1975) appeared first on Open Culture.

09 Feb 14:00

Keep me safe

by Simon St. Laurent

Locks image: CC BY 2.0 Mike Baird  via Flickr

We want to share. We want to buy. We want help. We want to talk.

At the end of the day, though, we want to be able to go to sleep without worrying that all of those great conversations on the open web will endanger the rest of what we do.

Making the web work has always been a balancing act between enabling and forbidding, remembering and forgetting, and public and private. Managing identity, security, and privacy has always been complicated, both because of the challenges in each of those pieces and the tensions among them.

Complicating things further, the web has succeeded in large part because people — myself included — have been willing to lock their paranoias away so long as nothing too terrible happened.

I talked for years about expecting that the NSA was reading all my correspondence, but finding out that yes, indeed they were filtering pretty much everything, opened the door to a whole new set of conversations and concerns about what happens to my information. I made my home address readily available in an IETF RFC document years ago​. In an age of doxxing and SWATting, I wonder whether I was smart to do that. As the costs move from my imagination to reality, it’s harder to keep the door to my paranoia closed. (more…)

09 Feb 13:35

Geek Physics: The Dot Physics Book

by Rhett Allain
Geek Physics: The Dot Physics Book

Here is a quick review of my soon to be released book, Geek Physics.

The post Geek Physics: The Dot Physics Book appeared first on WIRED.

06 Feb 18:30

The Anti-Vaccine Movement Should Be Ridiculed, Because Shame Works

by Matt Novak

The Anti-Vaccine Movement Should Be Ridiculed, Because Shame Works

The best way to win a debate is to present your facts in a clear, respectful way. When that doesn't work, another option is incessant ridicule. Here's why we have to use shame if we want to stop the anti-vaccine movement.


04 Feb 11:25

Dear RadioShack, This Is Why We Adored You. Love, WIRED

by Wired Opinion
Dear RadioShack, This Is Why We Adored You. Love, WIRED

The time is near to bid farewell to that old security blanket, RadioShack. When the remote control broke, it was there. When we needed a cable or 20, it was there. But soon, it won’t be.

The post Dear RadioShack, This Is Why We Adored You. Love, WIRED appeared first on WIRED.