MonthDecember 2009

Dune: Arenaceous Anti-Desertification Architecture

Dune: Arenaceous Anti-Desertification Architecture

Dune: Arenaceous Anti-Desertification Architecture

For an ambitious landscape design project, Magnus Larsson, a student at the Architectural Association in London, has proposed a 6,000km-long wall of artificially solidified sandstone architecture that would span the Sahara Desert, east to west, offering a combination of refugee housing and a “green wall” against the future spread of the desert.

bldgblog: Sand/Stone

Crowd sourced package delivery concept

I have mental picture of millions of people driving back and forth to work (and other places) over and over again. It’s almost like Brownian motion. Even if people rarely took long trips, there would be plenty of this routine, back and forth motion to ship all the packages we could possibly want, if only there were a service that gave a percentage of these drivers the right incentives, information, and infrastructure to hand off the packages at the proper moment. USExpress could be that service.

To make this more concrete, I’ll use my father as an example. His commute is about 120 miles, round trip, five days a week. That means he drives 600 miles a week, just going back and forth to work. Suppose that my Dad picked up 5 packages somewhere near home, dropped them off somewhere near work, and then reversed the process on the way back. Let’s say he did that just once per week, forty-five weeks out of one year. By making a few extra stops he will have driven 60 miles with 5 packages 90 times. That’s 27,000 package miles, which I have to think is a lot more package-miles than my parents actually send out every year via existing shipping services.

ram them down: UsExpress, a business idea

(via Global Guerillas)

Dealing with data of the damned

There’s an interesting article in Wired about how scientists deal with data that conflicts with their expectations and whether biases in how the brain deals with contradictory information might influence scientific reasoning.

The piece is based on the work of Kevin Dunbar who combines the sociology of science with the cognitive neuroscience of scientific reasoning.

In other words, he’s trying to understand what scientists actually do to make their discoveries (rather than what they say they do, or what they say they should do) and whether there are specific features of the way the brain handles reasoning that might encourage these practices.

One of his main findings is that when experimental results appear that can’t be explained, they’re often discounted as being useless. The researchers might say that the experiment was designed badly, the equipment faulty, and so on.

Mind Hacks: Dealing with data of the damned

The Wired article in question is also worth reading.

Arrow Trucking Strands Drivers During Layoff

Layoffs are a fact of life in this economy, but there are humane ways to do it. Then there’s the Arrow Trucking Arrow Trucking method.

The Tulsa, Okla., trucking company stopped payment on the gas cards of its drivers, leaving some of them stranded Tuesday around the United States, miles from home. No explanation on the website. No one at the company answering phones.

The 200 or so employees at Arrow Trucking’s headquarters were told to pack up their belongings and go home Tuesday morning, according to the Tulsa World.

The only acknowledgement was a brief recorded message on the company’s main phone number, asking drivers of its Freightliner and Kenworth trucks to turn their rigs in to the nearest dealer and to call a special hotline to arrange for a bus ticket home. Drivers of the company’s Navistar trucks were told to call back for more information.

ABC News: Arrow Trucking Strands Drivers During Layoff

3D maps of the brain

3d maps of neuron connections

Van Wedeen, a Harvard radiology professor, is awestruck: “We’ve never really seen the brain – it’s been hiding in plain sight.” Conventional scanning has offered us a crude glimpse, but scientists such as Wedeen aim to produce the first ever three-dimensional map of all its neurons. They call this circuit diagram the “connectome”, and it could help us better understand everything from imagination and language to the miswirings that cause mental illness. But with 100 billion neurons hooked together by more connections than there are stars in the MilkyWay, the brain is a challenge that represents petabyte-level data.

Wired: Revealing the brain’s hidden connections

Investors see farms as way to grow Detroit

Acres of vacant land are eyed for urban agriculture under an ambitious plan that aims to turn the struggling Rust Belt city into a green mecca.

Reporting from Detroit – On the city’s east side, where auto workers once assembled cars by the millions, nature is taking back the land.

Cottonwood trees grow through the collapsed roofs of homes stripped clean for scrap metal. Wild grasses carpet the rusty shells of empty factories, now home to pheasants and wild turkeys.

This green veil is proof of how far this city has fallen from its industrial heyday and, to a small group of investors, a clear sign. Detroit, they say, needs to get back to what it was before Henry Ford moved to town: farmland. […]

It is the size and scope of Hantz Farms that makes the project unique. Although company officials declined to pinpoint how many acres they might use, they have been quoted as saying that they plan to farm up to 5,000 acres within the Motor City’s limits in the coming years, raising organic lettuces, trees for biofuel and a variety of other things.

LA Times: Investors see farms as way to grow Detroit

(via Brainsturbator)

West Memphis 3 update

There was a time that Pamela Hobbs believed justice had been served for her young son’s murder.

But 16 years after the mutilations and killings of three 8-year-old Cub Scouts, including her son, she has more doubts than ever. […]

Her public change of heart has been supported by new evidence presented by the defense over the past few years. In 2007, DNA and forensic evidence tests revealed no physical evidence at the crime scene that linked the three teens to murders. The evidence was presented to the state.

Furthermore, DNA that might belong to two other men was found in the knot used to tie Christopher.

One of the men is Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of Stevie, the defense says. In 1993, such advanced DNA testing had not been available, attorneys said.

CNN: Victims’ parents remain divided over West Memphis 3 case

(via Religion News)

See also: What’s the harm in fearing satanic ritual abuse? (via Trevor)

Stage play about The People’s Temple

While reading an exposé about San Francisco preacher and cult leader Jim Jones in 1977, Ken White was surprised to see mention of an old friend from Modesto.

Michael Prokes, who had attended Davis High School with White, was a spokesman for Jones’ People’s Temple and praised its work with the poor.

On Nov. 18, 1978, more than 900 followers of Jones died in a mass suicide in their compound in the South American country of Guyana. Prokes, who wasn’t there at the time, killed himself a few months after that in a news conference at a Modesto motel. He was 31.

White, who lives in Modesto, never forgot the story and has turned it into a play, “My Father’s House,” which he hopes to stage locally next fall. Set in Modesto, the drama focuses on the last days of Prokes’ life.

Modbee: Jonestown Revisited: Evolving play looks at how Modestan turned to cult, suicide

(via Religion News Blog)

Research Shows the Importance of Imagination in Children’s Cognitive Development

Is the Tooth Fairy real? How about the garbage man? Those questions may seem trivial, but how young children answer them is an important indicator of cognitive development.

For years, imagination was thought of as a way for children to escape from reality, and once they reached a certain age, it was believed they would push fantasy aside and deal with the real world. But, increasingly, child-development experts are recognizing the importance of imagination and the role it plays in understanding reality. Imagination is necessary for learning about people and events we don’t directly experience, such as history or events on the other side of the world. For young kids, it allows them to ponder the future, such as what they want to do when they grow up.

Wall Street Journal: The Power of Magical Thinking

(Thanks Bill!)

Federal Aviation Administration: in the event of a UFO, call Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies

According to the last order by Federal Aviation Administration—issued on December 10—BAASS is now the organization to contact if you are a pilot or an air traffic controller who gets close to an Unidentified Flying Object:

“Persons wanting to report UFO/unexplained phenomena activity should contact a UFO/ unex­ plained phenomena reporting data collection center, such as Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS) (voice: 1-877-979-7444 or e-mail:”

Gizmodo: Federal Aviation Administration Officially Says Who to Call After UFO Contact

(via Brainsturbator)

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