MonthSeptember 2012

Occupy And The Politics Of Trash

Occupy Oakland, before and after

These images may seem exhaustive, even redundant. But that is the point: across the world, from New York to Paris to Melbourne, designating entire encampments as trash was a common tactic of municipal governments and their police forces. The ability to designate, and then forcibly treat, another group’s possessions as trash is a show of power, and is particularly ideological in nature.This is just not a case of clearing areas as efficiently as possible. Even objects of obvious worth, such as libraries, laptops, backpacks, and kitchen supplies, were indiscriminately trashed.

Full Story: Discard Studies: Tactics of Waste, Dirt and Discard in the Occupy Movement: A Photo Essay

(via Metafilter)

And remember:

XKCD Creator Randall Munroe On Making Physics Fun

XKCD creator Randall Munroe on his work, including his new What If? series.

First things first: Why did you create What If?

It actually started with a class. MIT has a weekend program where volunteers can teach classes to groups of high school students on any subject you want. I had a friend who was doing it, and it sounded really cool — so I signed up to teach a class about energy, which I always thought was interesting, but which is a slippery idea to define. I was really getting into the nuts and bolts of what energy is, and it was a lot of fun — but when I started to get into the normal lecture part of the class, it felt kind of dry, and I could tell the kids weren’t super into it. And then we got to a part where I brought up an example — I think it was Yoda in Star Wars. And they got really excited about that. And then they started throwing out more questions about different movies — like, “When the Eye of Sauron exploded at the end of The Lord of the Rings, and knocked people over from this far away, can we tell how big a blast that was?” They got really excited about that — and I had a lot more fun doing it than I did just teaching the regular material.

So I spent the second half of the class just solving problems like that in front of them. And then I was like, “That was really fun. I want to keep doing it.”

Full Story: The Atlantic: A Conversation With Randall Munroe, the Creator of XKCD

3D Printed Exoskeleton Give A Little Girl Use Of Her Limbs

3D printed exoskeletin

Instead of going off the shelf, doctors turned to a 3D printer from Stratasys to create custom molded parts and a lightweight vest for Emma. The result: the two-year-old who once could not lift her arms is now able to play, color and feed herself. Printing the parts also solves another major issue — Emma is growing… quickly. The adorable tot has already outgrown her first vest, but her mother just calls the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children and has a new one made. The same goes for replacement parts. Should a hinge or brace break, it need only be a matter of hours (not days or weeks) before a new one is delivered.

Engadget: 3D printed ‘Magic Arms’ give a little girl use of her limbs

It reminds me of this DIY project for building prosthetic fingers

Resilient Disobedience: Guerrilla Grafting

urban tree grafting

Today, Hui is the force behind Guerrilla Grafters, a renegade band of idealistic produce lovers who attach fruit-growing branches to public trees in Bay Area cities (they are loath to specify exactly where for fear of reprisal).

Their handiwork currently is getting recognition in the 13th International Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy, as part of the U.S. exhibit called “Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good.” Closer to home, however, municipal officials have denounced the group’s efforts.

Even the urban agriculture movement is torn when it comes to the secretive splicers, outliers in a nascent push to bring orchards to America’s inner cities. While many applaud their civil disobedience, others fear a backlash against community farming efforts. And few believe their work will ever fill a fruit bowl.

LA Times: In San Francisco, a secret project bears fruit

(via John Robb)

Researchers Propose A Way To Build The First Space-Time Crystal

Imagine a clock that will keep perfect time forever, even after the heat-death of the universe. This is the “wow” factor behind a device known as a “space-time crystal,” a four-dimensional crystal that has periodic structure in time as well as space. However, there are also practical and important scientific reasons for constructing a space-time crystal. With such a 4D crystal, scientists would have a new and more effective means by which to study how complex physical properties and behaviors emerge from the collective interactions of large numbers of individual particles, the so-called many-body problem of physics. A space-time crystal could also be used to study phenomena in the quantum world, such as entanglement, in which an action on one particle impacts another particle even if the two particles are separated by vast distances.

A space-time crystal, however, has only existed as a concept in the minds of theoretical scientists with no serious idea as to how to actually build one – until now.

ECN: A clock that will last forever

(Thanks Bill)

Buddhist ‘Iron Man’ Found By Nazis Is From Space

Yes, that’s as linkbaity a headline as they come, but it’s actually fairly accurate:

A Buddhist statue brought to Germany from Tibet by a Nazi-backed expedition has been confirmed as having an extraterrestrial origin.

Known as the ‘iron man’, the 24-cm high sculpture may represent the god Vai?rava?a and was likely created from a piece of the Chinga meteorite that was strewn across the border region between Russia and Mongolia between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago, according to Elmar Buchner of the University of Stuttgart, and his colleagues.

Nature: Buddhist ‘Iron Man’ found by Nazis is from space

The paper is here, behind a paywall.

Is This The End Of Self-Publishing Comic Books, Or The Beginning?

Print on demand and digital publishing have reduced much of the cost of self-publishing practically anything, including comics. So in many ways I’ve been thinking that comics self-publishing is just getting started.

But Kim Thompson of Fantagraphics, in an open letter to Dave Sim had this to say:

The dynamics of the marketplace have changed so fundamentally that something that made (relative) sense 20 years ago doesn’t necessarily make sense today. The market has turned decisively against pamphlets and against self-publishers, and that’s just a reality. The battlefield is littered with the corpses of self-publishers. A sensible person adapts to reality.

(via Metafilter)

This is at least partially a bit of trolling on Thompson’s part. Actually, it might be 100% trolling. But I can see the point.

In the print world, at least from my perspective, trade paperbacks are winning (though I’ve read they’re not yet ready to replace the income generated by producing “singles,” at least for major publishers). Book store distribution is key and while you can do this as a self-publisher, publishing companies, even small ones, are at an advantage.

And for digital comics, there remain advantages to being part of a publisher there as well. From a Prism Comics article on comics being rejected by the Apple App Store:

Even if a creator happened to have the technical proficiency to write her own comics app, going from iBooks to a boutique comics app is hardly ideal for a small publisher or self-published creator. You have no opportunity to reach readers unless they specifically look for comic books; you don’t benefit from the browsing and search traffic on the larger store and your books won’t appear in searches.

There are various ways self-publishers can get into comics-centric apps for the iPad and other mobile devices, but being published by a Marvel or a Dark Horse seems like a bigger advantage than ever — in a comic store, there’s more of a chance of someone who normally buys only form the big two serendipitously discovering a self-published comic. But if they only have the Marvel and DC apps on their iPad, that’s all they’re going to see.

This is all on my mind because I’ve been thinking for some time now about publishing online comics through Technoccult. Not my own work (though if I ever thought I had anything good enough, then maybe), but works by others looking for an audience. But I’m not sure if the world needs yet another online comics publisher. With the plethora of creator-owned publishers out there (Image et al), and the boom in digital publishing, how many people who should be published are still not being published? I’m wondering if there mightn’t be some other way I could contribute to comics publishing, such as syndicating other works.

U.S. Military Funding Research On “Spidey Sense”

The Office of Naval research wants to fund more research on intuition:

esearch in human pattern recognition and decision-making suggest that there is a “sixth sense” through which humans can detect and act on unique patterns without consciously and intentionally analyzing them. Evidence is accumulating that this capability, known as intuition or intuitive decision making, enables the rapid detection of patterns in ambiguous, uncertain and time restricted information contexts, that it informs the decision making process and, most importantly, that it may not require domain expertise to be effective. These properties make intuition a strong candidate for further exploration as the basis for developing a new set of decision support training technologies. The proposed topic will lead to new insights into intuitive decision making, and develop new approaches for enhancing this process.


(via Adam Flynn)

See also: The Weaponizatoin Of Neuroscience and DARPA combines human brains and 120-megapixel cameras to create the ultimate military threat detection system

“I Am So Goth, I Was Born Black”

Nadya writes at Coilhouse about the growing number of multicultural goth fashion blogs:

While there’s still never been a black model on the cover of Gothic Beauty Magazine (in fact, having looked the past twelve years of covers up close, it’s clear that even models with brown eyes appear to be a rarity among the blue- and green-eyed cover ladies), and while most spooky fashion designers still prefer white models for their branding, a host of blogs dedicated to multicultural dark fashion are bringing greater visibility to the people that these venues ignore. Just on Tumblr, there’s Darque & LovelyDarkSKIN (subtitled “I was so goth, I was born black”), and Black Sheep Goths. On Facebook, groups such as Black/African American Goths foster lively discussion.

Full Story: Coilhouse: “I am so goth, I was born black”

Long 3 Part Interview With William Gibson At Wired

Wired has a long interview up with William Gibson on mechanical watches, Twitter, punk rock and Gungdam Style (he also refuses to talk about the Neuromancer movie, saying only that it does seem to be progressing):

The watch thing, fortunately, was kind of a self-limiting experiment…. I felt when I started doing that, that I’d never really been able to have a hobby in an adult sense, a hobby that was completely divorced from anything else I do in life, and a hobby that required an impossibly steep, insane learning curve. I actually did that.

I just learned stuff about old watches for maybe four or five years…. I got to the point where I could pass for semi-informed in the company of really world-class authorities, but by the time I got there, I realized that it had nothing to do with accumulating examples of one particular kind of thing — which I always found kind of creepy about collecting.

Anyway, I never wanted to be a collector of anything; I just wanted to pointlessly know really a lot about one thing. I did it with that, but there was sort of an end to the curve. I guess the end to the curve was realizing that what it had been about was the sheer pointless pleasure of learning this vast, useless body of knowledge. And then I was done [laughs]. I haven’t had to do that for ages. And I’ve never gotten another one of those; that may have been my one experience with that. But it was totally fun — I met some extraordinarily strange people over the course of doing that.

None of that would have been possible, but for the internet. In the old days, if you wanted to become insanely knowledgeable about something like that, you basically had to be insane — you had to travel around the world, finding other people who were sufficiently crazy to know everything there was to know about that. That would have been so hard to do, dependent on sheer luck, that it kept the numbers of those people down.

But now you can be a kid in a town in the backwoods of Brazil, and you can wake up one morning and say, “I want to know everything about stainless steel sports watches from the 1950s,” and if you really applied yourself, to the internet, at the end of the year you would have the equivalent of a master’s degree in this tiny pointless field. I’ve totally met lots of people who have the equivalent of that degree.

Probably Twitter would be the thing, the thing that took over the time slot from that. For the most part.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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