technology

‘I like a woman with a head on her shoulders. I hate necks.’ —Steve Martin

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It’s called “beauty work.” It’s a digital procedure of sorts, in which a handful of skilled artists use highly specialized software in the final stages of post-production to slim, de-age and enhance actors’ faces and bodies. […]

Under strict non-disclosure agreements, Hollywood A-listers have been quietly slipping in and out of a few bland office buildings around town, many to sit in on days-long retouching sessions, directing the artists to make every frame suitable. […]

Hips are narrowed, calves slimmed, turkey-necks tucked. Pores are tightened. Eye-bags reduced (often, entire hangovers are erased). Hair is thickened, teeth whitened. Underarm-skin is de-jiggled. Belly fat obliterated, abs raised.

{ Mashable | Continue reading }

The urb it orbs

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According to a study released this week by Brown University’s Department of Modern Culture and Media, it now takes only four minutes for a new cultural touchstone to transform from an amusing novelty into an intensely annoying thing people never want to see or hear again. […]

“We project that by 2018, the gap between liking something new and wishing yourself dead rather than hearing it again will be down to 60 seconds,” Levinson said. “And by 2023, enjoyment and abhorrence will occur simultaneously, the two emotions effectively canceling each other out and leaving one feeling nothing whatsoever.”

{ The Onion | Continue reading | via Nathan Jurgenson }

‘Knock, knock! Who’s there?’ —Shakespeare

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The malware, called “Regin”, is probably run by a western intelligence agency and in some respects is more advanced in engineering terms than Stuxnet. […]

Symantec said it was not yet clear how Regin infected systems but it had been deployed against internet service providers and telecoms companies mainly in Russia and Saudi Arabia as well as Mexico, Ireland and Iran. […]

“Nothing else comes close to this . . . nothing else we look at compares,” said Orla Cox, director of security response at Symantec, who described Regin as one of the most “extraordinary” pieces of hacking software developed, and probably “months or years in the making”. […] “Sometimes there is virtually nothing left behind – no clues. Sometimes an infection can disappear completely almost as soon as you start looking at it, it’s gone. That shows you what you are dealing with.”

{ FT | Continue reading }

Spineless swines, cemented minds

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Researchers at the MIT are testing out their version of a system that lets them see and analyze what autonomous robots, including flying drones, are “thinking.” […]

The system is a “spin on conventional virtual reality that’s designed to visualize a robot’s ‘perceptions and understanding of the world,’” Ali-akbar Agha-mohammadi, a post-doctoral associate at MIT’s Aerospace Controls Laboratory, said in a statement.

{ LiveScience | Continue reading | via gettingsome }

image { Lygia Clark }

‘Society is not a disease, it is a disaster.’ –Cioran

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On Facebook, people frequently express emotions, which are later seen by their friends via Facebook’s “News Feed” product. Because people’s friends frequently produce much more content than one person can view, the News Feed filters posts, stories, and activities undertaken by friends. News Feed is the primary manner by which people see content that friends share. Which content is shown or omitted in the News Feed is determined via a ranking algorithm that Facebook continually develops and tests in the interest of showing viewers the content they will find most relevant and engaging. One such test is reported in this study: A test of whether posts with emotional content are more engaging. […]

For people who had positive content reduced in their News Feed, a larger percentage of words in people’s status updates were negative and a smaller percentage were positive. When negativity was reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results suggest that the emotions expressed by friends, via online social networks, influence our own moods, constituting, to our knowledge, the first experimental evidence for massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks, and providing support for previously contested claims that emotions spread via contagion through a network.

{ PNAS | Continue reading }

polaroid prints { Barbara Allen photographed by Andy Warhol, 1977 }

‘You forget that the kingdom of heaven suffers violence: and the kingdom of heaven is like a woman.’ —James Joyce

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Fifty-eight adolescent girls and 60 young adult women viewed a Facebook profile with either a sexualized profile photo or a nonsexualized profile photo and then evaluated the profile owner.

Results indicated that the sexualized profile owner was considered less physically attractive, less socially attractive, and less competent to complete tasks.

{ APA/PsycNET | Continue reading }

photo { Dirk Braeckman }

‘Divide each difficulty into as many parts as is feasible and necessary to resolve it.’ –Descartes

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Everybody knows that real blurry photos can’t be made sharp after the fact. But that’s exactly the premise of the new Illum camera from a startup called Lytro.

Instead of snapping a solitary image, the Illum captures a whole moment—known as the light field—so you can change focus and shift perspective after you’ve taken the shot.

Just by clicking around a screen, the viewer can focus on a birthday cake candle, the person blowing it out, or partygoers in the background.

{ WSJ | Continue reading }

art { Gerhard Richter, Frau Niepenberg, 1965 }

‘All stable processes we shall predict. All unstable processes we shall control.’ —Von Neumann

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Few human possessions are so universally owned as mobile phones. There are almost as many mobile phones as there are humans on the planet. More people worldwide own mobile phones than have access to working toilets. These devices not only help individuals share information with each other, they are increasingly being used to help individuals gather information about themselves. Smartphones — mobile phones with built in applications and internet access — have rapidly become one of the world’s most sophisticated self-tracking tools. Self-trackers and those engaged in the “quantified self” movement are using smartphones to collect large volumes of data about their health, their environment, and the interaction between the two. Continuous tracking is now obtainable for personal health indicators including physical activity, brain activity, mood dynamics, numerous physiologic metrics and demographic data. Similarly, smartphones are empowering individuals to measure and map, at a relatively low cost, environmental data on air quality, water quality, temperature, humidity, noise levels, and more.

Mobile phones can provide another source of information to their owners: sample data on their personal microbiome. The personal microbiome, here defined as the collection of microbes associated with an individual’s personal effects (i.e., possessions regularly worn or carried on one’s person), likely varies uniquely from person to person. Research has shown there can be significant interpersonal variation in human microbiota, including for those microbes found on the skin. We hypothesize that this variation can be detected not just in the human microbiome, but also on the phone microbiome.

{ Meadow/Altrichter/Green | Continue reading }

Million ways to cry

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{ CYNK, a ”social networking” startup that has no assets, no revenue, no members, and one employee, is worth $4.75 billion }

art { Paul Klee }

Time to put the O back in Cuntry

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Haberman wanted grocery stores to embrace the 12-digit Universal Product Code—better known as the barcode—to create a standardized system for tracking inventory and speeding checkout. He took his fellow execs to a nice dinner. Then, as was the fashion at the time, they went to see Deep Throat. […]

Without the barcode, FedEx couldn’t guarantee overnight delivery. […] Nearly all babies born today in U.S. hospitals get barcode bracelets as soon as they’re swaddled.

{ Wired | Continue reading }

art { Cy Twombly, Untitled, 1968 }

‘If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.’ –Anton Chekhov

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I no longer look at somebody’s CV to determine if we will interview them or not,” declares Teri Morse, who oversees the recruitment of 30,000 people each year at Xerox Services. Instead, her team analyses personal data to determine the fate of job candidates.

She is not alone. “Big data” and complex algorithms are increasingly taking decisions out of the hands of individual interviewers – a trend that has far-reaching consequences for job seekers and recruiters alike. […]

Employees who are members of one or two social networks were found to stay in their job for longer than those who belonged to four or more social networks (Xerox recruitment drives at gaming conventions were subsequently cancelled). Some findings, however, were much more fundamental: prior work experience in a similar role was not found to be a predictor of success.

“It actually opens up doors for people who would never have gotten to interview based on their CV,” says Ms Morse.

{ FT | Continue reading }

related { Big Data hopes to liberate us from the work of self-construction—and justify mass surveillance in the process }

It was Me, L Boogs and Yan Yan, YG, Lucky ride down Rosecrans

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Commercial drone flights are set to become a widespread reality in the United States, starting next year, under a 2012 law passed by Congress. […]

Military drones have slammed into homes, farms, runways, highways, waterways and, in one case, an Air Force C-130 Hercules transport plane in midair. […]

Several military drones have simply disappeared while at cruising altitudes, never to be seen again. […]

The documents describe a multitude of costly mistakes by remote-control pilots. A $3.8 million Predator carrying a Hellfire missile cratered near Kandahar in January 2010 because the pilot did not realize she had been flying the aircraft upside-down.

{ Washington Post | Continue reading }