ballin’ out of control

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[T]hough air travel is safer than it has ever been, the intervening time has not provided an enormous upgrade of our ability to track aircraft far from land-based radar. […]

[O]ver international waters, air traffic controllers have no real-time knowledge of where planes are—they rely on flight plans, radio contact with pilots, and a system called ACARS that provides what is effectively text-message communication between planes and ground stations. […]

In 2010, the FAA mandated that all US aircraft would need to use a system called ADS-B, which means “Automatic Dependent Surveillance—Broadcast.” Essentially, by 2020, aircraft are required to broadcast their location, derived from GPS, each second. […]

However, ground receivers need to be within about 172 miles (277 km) of the aircraft to collect ADS-B signals. Out over the ocean, there’s still a knowledge gap between the planes and the air traffic controllers they can’t reach. […]

The solution: more satellites.

Specifically, Aireon has installed payloads on 75 Iridium satellites that have been launched over the past two years, with the final installment reaching orbit in a SpaceX rocket on Jan. 11. These payloads are designed to detect ADS-B signals wherever they are broadcast, whether over the open ocean or a mountain range, finally providing continuous tracking of aircraft anywhere on Earth. The satellites are already processing more than 13 billion ADS-B messages each month. […]

For airlines themselves, the benefits will include using that real-time traffic management to fly faster, in part because they will be able to fly more closely to other planes, which will cut fuel costs (and emissions).

{ Quartz | Continue reading }

etching { Damien Hirst, Cinchonidine, 2004 }

‘In its essence, technology is something that man does not control.’ –Heidegger

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AI-generated videos that show a person’s face on another’s body are called “deepfakes.” […]

Airbrushing and Photoshop long ago opened photos to easy manipulation. Now, videos are becoming just as vulnerable to fakes that look deceptively real. Supercharged by powerful and widely available artificial-intelligence software developed by Google, these lifelike “deepfake” videos have quickly multiplied across the Internet, blurring the line between truth and lie. […] A growing number of deepfakes target women far from the public eye, with anonymous users on deepfakes discussion boards and private chats calling them co-workers, classmates and friends. Several users who make videos by request said there’s even a going rate: about $20 per fake. […]

Deepfake creators often compile vast bundles of facial images, called “facesets,” and sex-scene videos of women they call “donor bodies.” Some creators use software to automatically extract a woman’s face from her videos and social-media posts. Others have experimented with voice-cloning software to generate potentially convincing audio. […]

The requester of the video with the woman’s face atop the body with the pink off-the-shoulder top had included 491 photos of her face, many taken from her Facebook account. […] One creator on the discussion board 8chan made an explicit four-minute deepfake featuring the face of a young German blogger who posts videos about makeup; thousands of images of her face had been extracted from a hair tutorial she had recorded in 2014. […]

The victims of deepfakes have few tools to fight back. Legal experts say deepfakes are often too untraceable to investigate and exist in a legal gray area: Built on public photos, they are effectively new creations, meaning they could be protected as free speech. […]

Many of the deepfake tools, built on Google’s artificial-intelligence library, are publicly available and free to use. […] Google representatives said the company takes its ethical responsibility seriously, but that restrictions on its AI tools could end up limiting developers pushing the technology in a positive way. […]

“If a biologist said, ‘Here’s a really cool virus; let’s see what happens when the public gets their hands on it,’ that would not be acceptable. And yet it’s what Silicon Valley does all the time,” he said.

{ Washington Post | Continue reading }

Technical experts and online trackers say they are developing tools that could automatically spot these “deepfakes” by using the software’s skills against it, deploying image-recognition algorithms that could help detect the ways their imagery bends belief.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon’s high-tech research arm known as DARPA, is funding researchers with hopes of designing an automated system that could identify the kinds of fakes that could be used in propaganda campaigns or political blackmail. Military officials have advertised the contracts — code-named “MediFor,” for “media forensics” — by saying they want “to level the digital imagery playing field, which currently favors the manipulator.”

The photo-verification start-up Truepic checks for manipulations in videos and saves the originals into a digital vault so other viewers — insurance agencies, online shoppers, anti-fraud investigators — can confirm for themselves. […]

However, the rise of fake-spotting has spurred a technical blitz of detection, pursuit and escape, in which digital con artists work to refine and craft evermore deceptive fakes. In some recent pornographic deepfakes, the altered faces appear to blink naturally — a sign that creators have already conquered one of the telltale indicators of early fakes, in which the actors never closed their eyes. […] “The counterattacks have just gotten worse over time, and deepfakes are the accumulation of that,” McGregor said. “It will probably forever be a cat-and-mouse game.”

{ Washington Post | Continue reading }

Killin’ anything that moves 1-2, 1-2, 1-2

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The vast majority of life on Earth depends, either directly or indirectly, on photosynthesis for its energy. And photosynthesis depends on an enzyme called RuBisCO, which uses carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to build sugars. So, by extension, RuBisCO may be the most important catalyst on the planet.

Unfortunately, RuBisCO is, well, terrible at its job. It might not be obvious based on the plant growth around us, but the enzyme is not especially efficient at catalyzing the carbon dioxide reaction. And, worse still, it often uses oxygen instead. This produces a useless byproduct that, if allowed to build up, will eventually shut down photosynthesis entirely. It’s estimated that crops such as wheat and rice lose anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of their growth potential due to this byproduct.

While plants have evolved ways of dealing with this byproduct, they’re not especially efficient. So a group of researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana decided to step in and engineer a better way. The result? In field tests, the engineered plants grew up to 40 percent more mass than ones that relied on the normal pathways.

{ Ars Technica | Continue reading }

photo { Joel Meyerowitz, Florida, 1970 }

Making the right choice does not always lead to a good outcome—sometimes there are only bad outcomes to choose from

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Albania is a country in the Balkans that has a long history of patriarchal traditions. Albania is traditionally a patricentric society, so having sons in the family is very important. When a family does not have sons, or loses their sons, then a sworn virgin can be a suitable replacement.

A sworn virgin is a woman who, either at birth, or by her own choice, decides to take on male gender roles. The sworn virgin makes a vow of chastity, does traditionally male labor, and usually wears male styled clothing. The vow of becoming a sworn virgin means that the woman no longer has marital obligations, the woman can become the head of her own household and would then have rights to inheritance. One of the main causes that make taking the vow necessary for Albanian families is the power of the Kanun. The Kanun is a medieval code of rules that are the foundation of Albanian culture. Many of the rules focus on honor and regulate the community life.

The Kanun regulates all aspects of Albanian life. The Kanun focuses on aspects of familial honor. A major part of this idea results in “blood feuds.” Blood feuds are deadly feuds between families. A blood feud can start from an insult or theft; they serve the purpose of righting a perceived wrong, honor being more important that a human life. When families become enemies “the enemy family’s honor can only be repaired with more blood. Any male member of the…family tall enough to lift a rifle is a legitimate target.” If a woman is murdered, according to the code, her death can be avenged by killing a woman in the enemy family of killing their dog.

The Kanun has specific rules for the role of women in Albania, perpetuating male dominance in a patriarchal society. Albania has roots as a peasant society where gender roles are very significant. The man is the head of the family, the owner and over seer of the land and the main decision maker. The importance of gender roles and the man’s position of power breed the desire for a passive and compliant woman. According to the article by Arsovska, the Kanun states, “a man has the right to beat and publicly humiliate his wife if she disobeys him. He is also allowed to cut her hair, strip her nude, expel her from the house and drive her with a whip through the village. The Kanun specifies that a man may kill his wife for two reasons: infidelity and betrayal of hospitality.” Further, a woman is considered half of a man, equivalent to a dog and always subservient to her husband or father before she is married.

[…]

In a situation where all the male family members are killed during a blood feud, the family would be destitute, or an unmarried daughter can take the vow to be a sworn virgin. The sworn virgin would then be the head of the household, have rights to the inheritance and be in charge of retaliation of the blood feud. Women are also forbidden from being an active participant in their engagements and marriages. If the woman does not want to marry the man she is arranged to be married to and runs away, her family would bring her back to the man with a single bullet. The meaning of the bullet is if the wife tries to leave again the husband can kill her with the bullet. Some women receive a locket with a bullet inside on their wedding day, the bullet being the bullet she would be killed with if she were to be unfaithful or try to leave her husband. The only honorable way for a woman to avoid an unwanted arranged marriage would be to take the vow. If a woman refuses an arranged marriage it could incite a blood feud between the two houses. Another reason some women take the vow to become a sworn virgin is if their parents do not produce a son. It is considered shameful if a family has no male offspring and some girls will be raised as boys from birth. All cases of a female becoming a sworn virgin have to do with familial honor.

The vow to become a sworn virgin is not to be taken lightly. The vow is considered sacred and is meant for life. The woman making the vow goes before twelve elders of the community and makes a vow of chastity. The traditional punishment for breaking the vow is death. If a sworn virgin is found to break her vow of celibacy she would traditionally be burned alive, although it is unrecorded how often this punishment gets carried out.

[…]

A sworn virgin is able to enjoy the status of being a man, they are able to interact freely with men, smoke cigarettes, carry guns and leave their houses without a male escort.

[…]

The role of the sworn virgin should not be considered lesbianism, as the traditional role of sexual intercourse in Albania is strictly for procreation. Homosexuality was illegal for men in Albania until 1995, and lesbians have never been mentioned in the Kanun or by the state, which would imply that it is a completely foreign or non existent concept to traditional Albanians.

[…]

Even as a sworn virgin, there are times when they are still discriminated against by men and still treated as less than a man. One sworn virgin was not able to become a member of a marksmen club, and another example is of a sworn virgin who, after their death, was buried as a man but did not receive the traditional mourning that men usually receive.

[…]

It is unknown how many sworn virgins are still in existence today, as the post communist Albanian government does not recognize tradition rules from the Kanun. A ‘cultural revolution’ took place in Albania in 1974, declaring all traditional customs as non-existent, so there is no new official records kept of women that take the vow.

{ Elizabeth Rush, The Cultural Role and Identity of Albanian Sworn Virgins | Continue reading }

oil on canvas { Picasso, Femme en bleu, 1944 }

quote { The lesser of two evils: Explaining a bad choice by revealing the choice set }

Newman and I are reversing the peepholes on our door so you can see in

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An electronic synapse that fires millions of times faster than the ones in your brain could be used to build artificial neural networks.

[…]

A clinical trial of drugs called mTOR inhibitors found that they boosted elderly people’s immune systems, potentially extending their life spans. Another trial in progress is testing senolytics, drugs that eliminate the senescent cells that make aging bodies break down.
[…]

A team that built a brain-to-brain communication device in 2015 has now expanded it to three people, paving the way for larger groups to transmit thoughts directly to one another.

[…]

An ordinary smartphone can be used to track people on the other side of a solid wall by detecting how their movements distort the signals from any Wi-Fi transmitters in the area.

{ Technology Review | Continue reading }

image { Google hires camel for desert Street View, 2014 }

P.P., don’t carry that weight

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Active, polymorphic material (“Utility Fog”) can be designed as a conglomeration of 100-micron robotic cells (‘foglets’). Such robots could be built with the techniques of molecular nanotechnology […] The Fog acts as a continuous bridge between actual physical reality and virtual reality.

{ NASA | Continue reading }

photo { Joel Meyerowitz, Times Square, New York City, 1963 }

Can I tell them that I never really had a gun?

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From 1427 to 1435, Gilles de Rais (1405 – 1440) served as a commander in the Royal Army, and fought alongside Joan of Arc against the English and their Burgundian allies during the Hundred Years’ War.

In 1434/1435, he retired from military life, depleted his wealth by staging an extravagant theatrical spectacle of his own composition, and was accused of dabbling in the occult.

After 1432, he was accused of engaging in a series of child murders, with victims possibly numbering in the hundreds. The killings came to an end in 1440, when a violent dispute with a clergyman led to an ecclesiastical investigation which brought the crimes to light, and attributed them to Gilles. He was condemned to death and hanged at Nantes on 26 October 1440.

Gilles de Rais is believed to be the inspiration for the 1697 fairy tale “Bluebeard” (”Barbe bleue”) by Charles Perrault.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading | Watch: Georges Méliès, Barbe Bleue, 1901 }

Where does the white go when the snow melts?

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Salmon sushi was introduced to Japan by the Norwegians in 1986

[…]

You are 44% more likely to die if you have surgery on a Friday (1.44% chance) compared to a Monday (1.00% chance). The likelihood of death jumps 82% compared to Monday if you have surgery on the weekend.

[…]

The State of Wyoming Has 2 Escalators

[…]

When women are ovulating, they are (unknowingly) much less likely to call their dads, and when their dads call them, they end the conversation more quickly. However, they’re more likely to call their moms, and the phone conversations last longer.

[…]

Recent seminal works on human mobility have shown that individuals constantly exploit a small set of repeatedly visited locations. The number of familiar locations an individual visits at any point is a conserved quantity with a typical size of ~25.

[…]

The surface area of human lungs is as big as a tennis court […]

You can say “ding dong” but not “dong ding,” “zig zag” but not “zag zig,” and “flip flop” but not “flop flip.” The same strict word order applies to tick tock, riff raff, ping pong, King Kong, wishy washy, etc. This is the rule of ablaut reduplication: if there are two words, the first is i and the second is either a or o. If there are three words, then the order is i, a, o.

{ 52 Things I Learned in 2018 | Continue reading }

image { a performance/installation Warhol did for the now-defunct Finch College Museum of Art, in New York in February of 1972. The project consisted of Warhol vacuuming the gallery rug and then displaying the vacuum and its signed dust bag in the gallery that he’d cleaned. | Blake Gopnik }

Every day, the same, again

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Spiders Can Fly Hundreds of Miles Using Electricity

Swiss hotel chain offers a ‘social media sitter’ to handle your Instagram while you relax

How and when taking pictures undermines the enjoyment of experiences [Related: How the Intention to Share Can Undermine Enjoyment | PDF and How Taking Photos Increases Enjoyment of Experiences | PDF]

Delivery robot spontaneously bursts into flames

Do you believe that people’s eyes emit an invisible beam of force? According to a rather fun paper in PNAS, you probably do.

Person evaluation is strongly influenced by untrustworthy gossip

picking the ‘wrong’ name can make a huge difference to your sales figures (drug-naming study)

Forgetting in order to Remember Better (we find that the interference of informations limits the capacity of human memory, which is the “magic number seven”.)

Physics explains why time passes faster as you age

A musician had an operation in South Africa to remove most of a brain tumor—and played the guitar while it was happening.

There is now a mental health clinic inside a Walmart Supercenter

Executing Someone Who Does Not Remember the Crime [Argument Session, US Supreme Court | audio]

Can a Corpse Give Birth? Why a dead woman was kept on life support against her wishes. [NY Times]

American suicides are now at their highest point in 50 years. It’s the second-leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 35.

A teenage girl is more at risk of developing mental health problems if her father has experienced post-natal depression, according to research

Google Has a Plan to Eliminate Mosquitoes Worldwide

Self-exciting Risk Modeling for Predicting Next Locations of Serial Crimes

A 30-Year Plan to Transform the Courts [audio] More: The Federalist Society has reached an unprecedented peak of power and influence. Having allies on the highest court of the land is just the top layer of the Federalist Society’s expanding sway. The next most important segment of the judiciary — the federal appeals courts — is also filling up with Federalist Society members: Twenty-five of the 30 appeals court judges Trump has appointed are or were members of the society. [Washington Post]

The choice of information structures must be subject to some limits, otherwise, of course, each agent would simply observe the entire state of the world. The Cost of Information

“Financial markets have significantly evolved over the past decade, driven by new technologies, and the market itself is becoming more difficult to anticipate as traditional participants are imperceptibly replaced by computerised models.” Hedge Funds Have Lost Their Rhythm

The Economic Limits of Bitcoin and the Blockchain

The bar graph was first invented in 1786 and little has changed in its format. Here, a replacement for the bar graph, called a hat graph, is proposed.

Clarence King—who was a renowned explorer, the first director of the United States Geological Survey, and one of the most famous Americans of the nineteenth century—conducted a secret double life in which he passed for black. [The Best Facts I Learned from Books in 2018 ]

The artist targeted five prominent New York museums that have rejected his work—the Metropolitan, Guggenheim, Museum of Modern art, New Museum, and Whitney—arguing that they are part of a cabal to eliminate competition in the art market.

back! more soon!


‘It is only as an aesthetic phenomenon that life and existence are eternally justified.’ —Nietzsche

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Given that the fictional narratives found in novels, movies, and television shows enjoy wide public consumption, memorably convey information, minimize counter-arguing, and often emphasize politically-relevant themes, we argue that greater scholarly attention must be paid to theorizing and measuring how fiction affects political attitudes.

We argue for a genre-based approach for studying fiction effects, and apply it to the popular dystopian genre.

Results across three experiments are striking: we find consistent evidence that dystopian narratives enhance the willingness to justify radical—especially violent—forms of political action. […]

Our research not only reinforces past work showing that people often fail to distinguish between fact and fiction in learning about the world, but also illustrates that the lessons of fiction may not be what they seem. […] Rather than creating political cynicism in readers and viewers or showing them that girls can be powerful too—both lessons that are at this point probably amply supplied by the American news media and lived experience—dystopian fiction seems to be teaching them a more subtle and perhaps more concerning message: that violence and illegal activities may be both legitimate and necessary to pursue justice. Dystopian fiction appears to subtly expand the political imagination of viewers and readers to encompass a range of scenarios outside the normal realm of democratic politics, and what people then consider reasonable and thinkable appears to expand accordingly.

These results should also highlight the peril for political scientists in assuming that fiction is just entertainment. The stories we tell ourselves have profound implications for how we think about political ethics and political possibilities, and as scholars of politics, we can and should do more to map out the effects of politically-inflected fiction and entertainment.

{ Cambridge Core | Continue reading }

still { Harriet Andersson in Ingmar Bergman’s Summer with Monika, 1953 }

‘A happy memory is perhaps on this earth truer than happiness itself.’ –Alfred de Musset

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This research examined eroticism and nurturance among individuals in polyamorous and monogamous relationships.

As expected, polyamorous participants experienced less eroticism but more nurturance in their relationships with their primary partner compared to secondary.

Furthermore, people in polyamorous relationships reported more nurturance with primary partners and eroticism with secondary partners compared to people in monogamous relationships.

{ PsyArXiv | Continue reading }

Rolls-Royce radiator mascot { Charles Sykes, Spirit of Ecstasy, 1910 }