Thursday, 24 December 2009

Ear to the Ground


Natural quiet is a rapidly disappearing resource. According to acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, there are only seven or eight naturally quiet places?????????defined as where the sounds of nature are unbroken for intervals of at least 15 minutes during daylight hours?????????left in the United States. None exist in Europe anymore. But if you travel far enough to remote corners of the Earth, and listen carefully enough, you can still find them.

Acoustic ecology studies were established in the 1960s by naturalist/composer R. Murray Schafer and his colleagues at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia as an attempt to define the relationship between humans and their environment, as mediated through sound. With a focus that spans both science and art, the continuum of acoustic ecology often attracts individuals who are part researcher, part composer, and part adventurer.

Listen ...

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Happy Christmas

Interview With The Perennial One

"I got a gift that I wasn???t expecting, and that gift is to be alive and well at 76. I see all these friends of mine who say, I???m going to be 40, I don???t know what to do, and I say, Wait until another 30 or 40 years and you???re going to feel much better."

A Bit Rich: Calculating the real value to society of different professions

to what extent does what we get paid confer ???worth???? Beyond a narrow notion of productivity, what impact does our work have on the rest of society, and do the financial rewards we receive correspond to this? Do those that get more contribute more to society?

Our report tells the story of six different jobs. We have chosen jobs from across the private and public sectors and deliberately chosen ones that illustrate the problem. Three are low paid ??? a hospital cleaner, a recycling plant worker and a childcare worker. The others are highly paid ??? a City banker, an advertising executive and a tax accountant. We examined the contributions they make to society, and found that, in this case, it was the lower paid jobs which involved more valuable work.

The report goes on to challenge ten of the most enduring myths surrounding pay and work. People who earn more don't necessarily work harder than those who earn less. The private sector is not necessarily more efficient than the public sector. And high salaries don't necessarily reflect talent.

in my experience, the NEF report tells us nothing we didn't intuitively suss out before, only the probability of realizing their result appears to be directly proportional to one's real talent and engagement, and inversely proportional to one's occupational remuneration.

Put another way, could it be people are in fact proportionally paid specifically to overlook this reality?

Monday, 21 December 2009

Telepathy Link Found in Lab Experiments?

???What we have found is that if you place two different people at a distance and put a circular magnetic field around both, and you make sure they are connected to the same computer so they get the same stimulation, then if you flash a light in one person???s eye the person in the other room receiving just the magnetic field will show changes in their brain as if they saw the flash of light. We think that???s tremendous because it may be the first macro demonstration of a quantum connection, or so-called quantum entanglement. If true, then there???s another way of potential communication that may have physical applications, for example, in space travel.???

While Persinger???s experiments could prove groundbreaking, he remains doubtful about his controversial findings reaching his colleagues, ???I think the critical thing about science is to be open-minded. It???s really important to realize that the true subject matter of science is the pursuit of the unknown. Sadly scientists have become extraordinarily group-oriented. Our most typical critics are not are mystic believer types.  They are scientists who have a narrow vision of what the world is like.???

And from the Abstract:

One indication of entanglement between two particles is a change in parity or spin in one when the other is changed in order to maintain constancy of the system. Our experiment was designed to discern if this phenomenon occurred at the macroscopic level between the electroencephalographic activities of brains of pairs of people, separated by about 75 m, with various degrees of ???entanglement???. About 50% of the variance of the "simultaneous" electroencephalographic power was shared between pairs of brains. Pairs of strangers were positively correlated within alpha and gamma bands within the temporal and frontal lobes. However the power levels within the alpha and theta bands were negatively correlated for pairs of people who had a protracted history of interaction. The latter result might be considered support for the hypothesis of macroscopic entanglement.

I knew you were going to say that.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Vegetarian Myth: A book for people who eat.


This was not an easy book to write. For many of you, it won’t be an easy book to read. I know. I was a vegan for almost twenty years. I know the reasons that compelled me to embrace an extreme diet and they are honorable, ennobling even. Reasons like justice, compassion, a desperate and all-encompassing longing to set the world right. To save the planet—the last trees bearing witness to ages, the scraps of wilderness still nurturing fading species, silent in their fur and feathers. To protect the vulnerable, the voiceless. To feed the hungry. At the very least to refrain from participating in the horror of factory farming.

     This book is written to further those passions, that hunger.

The mark of a good journalist is an endless stream of connected details that compels you to go that one more paragraph on before putting it down; the mark of a good writer is not being able to find one small part better than the others to cite in a blog post to give you the gist of what they are saying -- even if you steadfastly won't read the book, even if you don't trust the sources over your own, read just this one teaser page, the opening of Chapter One, the overview of the background, the motives, the situation, the vision of change and proposition of a solution, and if that alone doesn't leave you wanting to know more about the food you eat, all of the food you eat, vegan and otherwise, then move along folks, there's nothing more to see here.

But if it does, then by all means tune in to Lierre Keith, radical feminist on a planet-saving mission ...


“The Vegetarian Myth is one of the most important books people, masses of them, can read, as we try with all our might, intelligence, skill, hope, dream and memory, to turn the disastrous course the planet is on. Or rather that we are on because of our abuse of the planet. It’s a wonderful book, full of thoughtful, soulful teachings, and appropriate rage. My admiration for Lierre’s sharing of life experience and knowledge is complete. Thank you.” (Alice Walker)


Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The Science of Success: When Bad Genes Turn Good

This new model suggests that it???s a mistake to understand these ???risk??? genes only as liabilities. Yes, this new thinking goes, these bad genes can create dysfunction in unfavorable contexts???but they can also enhance function in favorable contexts. The genetic sensitivities to negative experience that the vulnerability hypothesis has identified, it follows, are just the downside of a bigger phenomenon: a heightened genetic sensitivity to all experience.

The evidence for this view is mounting. Much of it has existed for years, in fact, but the focus on dysfunction in behavioral genetics has led most researchers to overlook it. This tunnel vision is easy to explain, according to Jay Belsky, a child-development psychologist at Birkbeck, University of London. ???Most work in behavioral genetics has been done by mental-illness researchers who focus on vulnerability,??? he told me recently. ???They don???t see the upside, because they don???t look for it. It???s like dropping a dollar bill beneath a table. You look under the table, you see the dollar bill, and you grab it. But you completely miss the five that???s just beyond your feet.???

Though this hypothesis is new to modern biological psychiatry, it can be found in folk wisdom, as the University of Arizona developmental psychologist Bruce Ellis and the University of British Columbia developmental pediatrician W. Thomas Boyce pointed out last year in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science. The Swedes, Ellis and Boyce noted in an essay titled ???Biological Sensitivity to Context,??? have long spoken of ???dandelion??? children. These dandelion children???equivalent to our ???normal??? or ???healthy??? children, with ???resilient??? genes???do pretty well almost anywhere, whether raised in the equivalent of a sidewalk crack or a well-tended garden. Ellis and Boyce offer that there are also ???orchid??? children, who will wilt if ignored or maltreated but bloom spectacularly with greenhouse care.

At first glance, this idea, which I???ll call the orchid hypothesis, may seem a simple amendment to the vulnerability hypothesis. It merely adds that environment and experience can steer a person up instead of down. Yet it???s actually a completely new way to think about genetics and human behavior. Risk becomes possibility; vulnerability becomes plasticity and responsiveness.

Curiously, almost verbatim, a good astrologer would tell you precisely the same thing: "The planets IMPELL, they do not COMPELL" and then the whole picture taken to balance the disparities and salve the anomalies to achieve that whole-system balance which contains all the elements. Is psychology finally catching up?

About twenty some years ago I had a conversation with an officer of a BC psychiatric org; at that time the darling of psychiatry was a notion called Dynamic Personality, an 'innovative' idea that proposed an extension to Piaget's levels of human development through to the adult years, postulating a growth to the human psyche. It was very novel. I pointed out that Shakespeare's Ages of a man speech had already outlined this idea, and what's more, any competent astrologer would be able to not only map the progress for specific people, but also, unlike psychiatry, the astrologer could make a prognosis as to when the condition would change, often an important motivator for people in trouble. Notice that change doesn't imply better or worse, only that the scene changes; what one then does with this 'genetic' program is still largely personal free-will, and just as with the 'interventions' in this article, one can augment one's free-will with information from the greater whole-system view.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Celebrating 90 Years of Udo Kasemets

Udo Kasemets has written many pieces of music during his 90 years on the planet, including ambitious translations into sound of the works of eminent poets and scientists. But he says he is still looking for the answer to the most basic question about his art: What is music?

“I don't really want to be considered an accomplished composer, or something like that, because I'm still learning," he says, during an interview between rehearsals for his fraCtal fibONaCciERTO, which New Music Concerts is performing at the Betty Oliphant Theatre Sunday. “I still haven't got my answer, as to what music really is, and this is probably why I've had this long life."

“I thought it was important for a conductor to know what music is from the inside out, to know how it is made and put together," he said. “And that meant learning composition."

Kasemets walks with a cane, his speech is slow and his hair is snow white, but his capacity for wonder is that of a small child. “Fascinating" is one of his favourite words.

If anyone is able to take in the show today at the Betty Oliphant in Toronto, please do send on my regards and birthday wishes, and prepare yourself for a musical experience like no other. John Cage said that he only learned to play chess so he could hang out with Marcel Duchamp; truth be told, I only learned to create computer gear so I could hang out with Udo, which was every bit like hanging out with all three of them at once! :)

Friday, 11 December 2009

Natural Selection? Guess again ...

The researchers then compared four models of speciation to determine which best accounted for the rate of speciation actually found. The Red Queen hypothesis, of species arising as a result of an accumulation of small changes, fitted only eight percent of the evolutionary trees. A model in which species arise from single rare events fitted eighty percent of the trees.

Dr Pagel said that the research shows speciation is the result of rare events in the environment, such as , a shift in , or a mountain range rising up. Over the long term new species are formed at a constant rate, rather than the variable rate Pagel's team expected, but the constant rates are different for different groups of species.

The work suggests that may not be the cause of speciation, which Pagel said "really goes against the grain" for scientists who have a Darwinian view of evolution. The model that provided the best fit for the data is surprisingly incompatible with the idea that speciation is a result of many small small events, Pagel said.

The paper is published in the journal Nature.

More information: Venditti, C., Meade, A. & Pagel, M. Nature advance online publication (2009); doi:10.1038/nature08630

It still doesn't satisfactorily explain how bird wings could come to be out of land-dwellers when generations upon generations would have to endure useless not-arms/not-wings until the first flight-ready version emerged (or where they all penguin-like first?) but this does explain why we don't see a continuum of unfit species on the egress everywhere we look, at least not until some cataclysm (like man) befalls them.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The World Question Center 2009

The Edge Annual Question 2009

Through science we create technology and in using our new tools we recreate ourselves. But until very recently in our history, no democratic populace, no legislative body, ever indicated by choice, by vote, how this process should play out.

Nobody ever voted for printing. Nobody ever voted for electricity. Nobody ever voted for radio, the telephone, the automobile, the airplane, television. Nobody ever voted for penicillin, antibiotics, the pill. Nobody ever voted for space travel, massively parallel computing, nuclear power, the personal computer, the Internet, email, cell phones, the Web, Google, cloning, sequencing the entire human genome. We are moving towards the redefinition of life, to the edge of creating life itself. While science may or may not be the only news, it is the news that stays news.

And our politicians, our governments? Always years behind, the best they can do is play catch up.

This year's EDGE question for WHAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING? is out and while I haven't read them all, spot-checking a dozen or so I'm finding this to be the most despondent and depressing list of expert resignations they've yet put out. When asked "What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?" we find Susan Blackmore expecting to be pushed off the planet, Brian Eno witnessing the mass-disheartening of humanity, Richard Dawkins expects chimps cross-bred with humans and even Alan Alda chimes in a prediction that we always do the worst with what we get and we'll just blow ourselves up anyway.

I notice they did not ask Rob Brezny, but nonetheless I find this year's report to be extremely encouraging, because it means all these 'great' minds have boxed themselves into a corner, pressed themselves against the Limiting Edge and who knows, with a bit of luck, maybe one or two of them will fall off that edge entirely and discover something wonderful.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Christmas Curtain Raiser


Traditional carol mash-up by Sinfonia alumnus Ross Hasting, "Christmas Curtain Raiser" (Alfred Publ 1971) rendered here by the Heritage High School Concert Band (aka the Marching Mountaineers)

Augmenting reality in Japanese shopping malls

Augmented reality systems appearing in Japanese shopping malls

AR systems present a real field of view of a physical environment augmented by computer-generated imagery (CGI), thus combining the real world with the virtual. They are often interactive in real time and sometimes the images are three-dimensional. In Japan AR technologies are finding their way into digital signage applications and store windows, showcasing products and giving shoppers additional information on products.

One example is Toppan Printing Co. Ltd., which has been testing a terminal resembling a in three Ito-Yokada supermarkets. In this system potential shoppers register on the Toppan website and receive a QR (Quick Reference) code. (The QR code is a relative of the barcode but consists of a pixilated rectangle rather than stripes.) The shopper presents the code to a camera on one of the terminals in the store, and then receives a sample product. When the sample product is held in front of the camera the terminal displays an image of the product with the description superimposed upon it.

Furutanisangyou Co. Ltd. is using a non-real-time AR technology in a "Magical Mirror" system that allows shoppers to see how outfits would look on them without needing to try them on. A similar system, the "Virtual Mirror," was demonstrated in the CEATEC 2009 trade show in Tokyo by Germany's Fraunhofer Institute.

The Magical Mirror has a number of cameras, one of which captures an image of the shopper, which is then displayed on a LCD. Images of selected clothes are then superimposed on the image of the person, with the system processing the digital images to make them fit the person's image.

The clothes shown in the composite image are available for sale in stores in the underground shopping mall where the system is located, and the image includes information on where the clothes can be purchased and what sizes are available. The Magical Mirror allows a shopper to "try on" up to six different items of clothing at the same time, even if they are sold at different locations, and this allows the shopper to see how combinations of clothes would look together before buying any of the items.

Augmented reality systems appearing in Japanese shopping malls

"Magical Mirror." Image: TechOn

Another AR experience is being provided for shoppers in Shinjuku Ward in Tokyo at the children's department of an Isetan department store. This AR system is being exhibited until December 25 this year and was developed by Sky & Road Co. Ltd. and Sony Music Communications Inc (SMC), in conjunction with Total Immersion, a French software company that provided the AR development kit.

In this system, one or more people stand in front of a display screen and camera. An image of the people is then displayed on the screen with a virtual image superimposed on it, placing them in a virtual "wonderland," such as a winter snow scene or a magical fantasy land.

via TechOn
?? 2009

here is an essential difference between Japanese and Canadian research. When I was working in AR at the University of Toronto ETC Lab's ARGOS project we were funded by DCIEM and MRCO, and focussed exclusively on exotic gundam-scale futurist industrial applications such as remote-mining and tele-medicine, and star-wars military uses like remote piloting and bomb-disposal robots. In Japan, however, they are using the same gear, the same math and the same algorithms to engage commercial interest by employing pretty models in solving the everyday problems of buying consumer goods.

Guess who gets the better funding :)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Lion, Tiger and Bear (Oh My!)

Tiger, lion and bear form unusual friendship

Rescued eight years ago during a police drugs raid in Atlanta, Georgia, the three friends were only cubs at the time and barely two months old.

Delivered to the Noah's Ark animal rescue centre in Locust Grove, Georgia, the decision was made to keep the youngsters together.

"We could have separated them, but since they came as a kind of family, the zoo decided to keep them together," said Diane Smith, assistant director of the Noah's Ark zoo.

"To our knowledge, this is the only place where you'll find this combination of animals together, they are our BLT, (bear, lion and tiger).

"They are totally oblivious to the fact that in any other circumstance they would not be friends."

"It is wonderful and magical to see a giant American Black Bear put his arm around a Bengal tiger and then to see the tiger nuzzle up to the bear like a domestic cat. When Leo wakes up the three of them mess around for most of the day before they settle down to some food."

"You just have to remember who you're dealing with when you are with them though.

"It's when you forget that these fellows are wild animals that you get yourself in trouble."

NEPTUNE Canada: Go-live Webcast

NEPTUNE Canada has completed deployment of 800km of fiber on thePacific Ocean floor powering 5 undersea observatory nodes at keyresearch locations with over 200 instruments and sensors connected tocomputing and data storage facilities at University of Victoria. Inmany ways this project represents the epitome of cyber-infrastructruelinking remote instruments to computers and scientists around theworld."NEPTUNE Canada offers a unique and exciting approach to oceanscience. Traditionally, ocean scientists have relied on infrequentship cruises or space-based satellites to carry out their research.But NEPTUNE Canada will change this. They are building the world???sfirst regional-scale underwater ocean observatory that plugs directlyinto the Internet. People everywhere will be able to ???surf theseafloor,??? and ocean scientists will be able to run deep-waterexperiments from labs and universities anywhere around the world.

Tuesday Dec 8 at 10am PST, the Neptune Library will kick off with the webcat.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Porgy and Bess Complete (1952)


On the Guild Historical label, a live recording of the complete staging of George Gershwin's Porgy & Bess featuring Leontyne Price and William Warfield, featuring Cab Calloway as Sportin' Life

Download: Porgy_and_Bess_Complete_1952.rar

In 1952, when the first virtually complete recording of the work was made for American Columbia (CBS) the US State Department subvented a world tour which lasted over three years and which brough the opera to many countries including Britain, Italy, South Africa and many countries in South America. It was this world tour that first alerted audiences to the mastery and vocal beauty of soprano Leontyne Price, and this recording comes from a broadcast by the company in Berlin, September 21, 1952

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Escaping the Blame Game

via ??? Viral case of the blame game comes news of a paper to be published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology on the infectious power of thinking the worst:
When people blame others for their mistakes, they learn less and perform worse. This problem is magnified when blame becomes embedded in the shared culture of groups and organizations. Yet, little is known about whether???and, if so, how???the propensity to blame spreads from one person to another. Four experiments addressed this issue, demonstrating that blame is socially contagious: observing an individual make a blame attribution increased the likelihood that people would make subsequent blame attributions for their own, unrelated, failures (Experiments 1, 2, and 4). Results also indicated that this ???blame contagion??? is due to the transmission of goals. Blame exposure led to the inference and adoption of a self-image protection goal (Experiment 3), and blame contagion was eliminated when observers had the opportunity to alleviate this self-image protection goal via self-affirmation (Experiment 4). Implications for research on causal attributions, social contagion, and cultural transmission are discussed.
the complete paper can be found at the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology : Blame contagion: The automatic transmission of self-serving attributions; for the impatient, a summary from World-Science:
In one ex??pe??ri??ment, half the par??ti??ci??pants were asked to read a news??pa??per ar??ti??cle about state Gov. Arn??old Schwarze??neg??ger blaming spe??cial in??ter??est groups for a con??tro??ver??sial spe??cial elec??tion that failed in 2005, cost??ing Ca??l??i??f??ornia $250 mil??lion. A sec??ond group read an ar??ti??cle in which the gov??er??nor took full re??spon??si??bil??ity for the fail??ure. Those who read the first piece were found more likely to blame oth??ers for their own, un??re??lat??ed short??com??ings.

An??oth??er ex??pe??ri??ment found that self-af??firm??a??t??ion in??oc??u??lat??ed par??ti??ci??pants from blame. The ten??den??cy for blame to spread van??ished in a group of par??ti??ci??pants who had the op??por??tun??ity to af??firm their self-worth. ???By giv??ing par??ti??ci??pants the chance to bol??ster their self-worth we re??moved their need to self-pro??tect though sub??se??quent blam??ing,??? said Fast.

read the rest at Blame game "contagious", and remember, it's never too late to pit yourself against the 21-day detox challenge at A Complaint-Free World.