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Saturday, November 10, 2012

In the long history of love songs the attention of a beautiful...

In the long history of love songs the attention of a beautiful...:

In the long history of love songs the attention of a beautiful woman has been compared to many things – but perhaps only in Pakistan’s tribal belt would it be likened to the deadly missile strike of a remotely controlled US drone.
In a sign of how the routine hunting down and killing of militants by unmanned CIA planes has leached into the popular imagination, drones have been given a starring role in a new romantic song.
In most respects the track, which is proving popular in the largely Pashtun city of Peshawar, is faithful to standard themes of the genre. The lyrics mention rosebuds and wine. o blaring music it celebrates the allures of a temptress with “sweet lips” and a “smile fresh as early dew” which “ensnares lovers with amorous pangs”.
Then the repeated chorus: “My gaze is as fatal as a drone attack”.
Pakistan drone attack love song racks up YouTube hits - The Guardian
za kaom pa stargo stargo drone hamla - Da Khkulo Badshahi Da Film Song - Dua Qureshi (by tungtakordotcom)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rolling Jubilee: Occupy raising money to buy up, and wipe out, debts

[Huh. I've been a bit cautious about buying into the Rolling Jubilee thing even though it sounds like an awesome idea. I've been worried, for one thing, that it might legally qualify as a pyramid scheme. But this collection of folks lends the idea at least a bit of legitimacy. I certainly hope the idea works out. -Egg]

Rolling Jubilee: Occupy raising money to buy up, and wipe out, debts:

David "How to Sharpen Pencils" Rees describes the Rolling Jubilee, a project from Occupy Wall Street to buy up, and zero out, other peoples' debts:

Now OWS is launching the ROLLING JUBILEE, a program that has been in development for months. OWS is going to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT. (If you’re a debt broker, once you own someone’s debt you can do whatever you want with it — traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect. We’re playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.)

This is a simple, powerful way to help folks in need — to free them from heavy debt loads so they can focus on being productive, happy and healthy. As you can see from our test run, the return on investment approaches 30:1. That’s a crazy bargain!

Now, after many consultations with attorneys, the IRS, and our moles in the debt-brokerage world, we are ready to take the Rolling Jubilee program LIVE and NATIONWIDE, buying debt in communities that have been struggling during the recession.

We’re kicking things off with a show called THE PEOPLE’S BAILOUT at Le Poisson Rouge on Thursday, November 15. It will also stream online, like a good ol’-fashioned telethon!

I just put in $100, which will erase $3000 worth of someone's debt.

The People’s Bailout

You want to launch a satellite, right? Right? Well within kickstarter territory, pricewise....-egg

DIY Satellite Platforms:

You can send a do-it-yourself satellite into space, one that piggybacks on a commercial rocket. This pico-satellite must conform to a set of dimensions about the size of a soda can. The minimum price of a launch is $12,000 and dropping. All the other rules, constraints, and questions you’ll need to build are covered in this very basic intro. Author Sandy Antunes is writing a master guide one small booklet at a time so check out his other titles in this series.
-- KK
DIY Satellite Platforms

Sandy Antunes


2012, 86 pages
Available from Amazon
Sample Excerpts:

Sample excerpts:

Size and weight build model for a tubesat-type 1kg limit picosatellite

First: where will your picosatellite go? It’s nearly a given that your picosatellite will go to low earth orbit (LEO), a broad band ranging from about 150km up to perhaps 600km.

Above the ionosphere, the space environment can be hostile because of solar activity. Below it, the radiation risks are much lower. This is why the ISS is kept in LEO. LEO is, at heart, about as safe as space can get. It’s also where your picosatellite is likely to live.
Your orbit is entirely determined by what your rocket provider has sold you. At the hobbyist level, you’re going to most likely get a standard 250km or so nearly circular orbit, either equatorial or polar. Such an orbit lasts (because of drag by the tenuous ionosphere) from 3 to 16 weeks before the satellite will suffer a fiery reentry.
At picosatellite masses, this means your satellite will go up and not return. You have less than three months to gather data. The picosatellite will then, essentially, vaporize neatly upon reentry (no space junk risk!)
Let’s close with the idea of flight spares. The idea here is twofold. First, it is good to have a second satellite ready in case a mishap occurs to the first. Mishaps can range from rocket blew up all the way down to a mundane dropped it while carrying it to the truck.
Conceptually and more important, you want to build two or three satellites simultaneously for two reasons. First, you may make a construction mistake with one. Having a spare means you can continue to work without having to wait for new parts or fabrication.
Second, you will build one better than the other. Statistically, one of your builds will have better performance than the other. This better one is the one you will fly. By creating multiple builds, you give yourself and your skills a chance to practice, hone, and ultimately create a better picosatellite.
So build two and fly the one that does best in tests.
The lowest fixed-price offering out there is InterOrbital Systems offering 1kg TubeSat launches for $8,000 (including a TubeSat kit) or a 1kg 1U CubeSat launch for $12,500. The company is still building toward its first launch, however.
InterOrbital Systems CPM mobile launch rail (image Copyright InterOrbital Systems 1996-2011)

Charlie Stross' take on 2512

Usually when I speculate about the future, I stick to two areas; either the really near future (within the next couple of decades), or the really far future (so far out that signs of continental drift should be glaringly obvious). But what about the medium term?
Parameters: I'm going to assume no alien invasions or total collapses of technological civilization or significant asteroid impacts, because all three of these are rare in the historical record.

I'm also going to ignore space colonization, because I want to focus on this planet.

I'm going to assume that we are sufficiently short-sighted and stupid that we keep burning fossil fuels. We're going to add at least 1000 GT of fossil carbon to the atmosphere, and while I don't expect us to binge all the way through the remaining 4000 GT of accessible reserves, we may get through another 1000 GT. So the climate is going to be rather ... different.

Sea levels will have risen by at least one, and possibly more than ten metres worldwide. Large chunks of sub-Saharan Africa, China, India, Brazil, and the US midwest and south are going to be uninhabitably hot — that is, too hot for non-GM plants and organisms to survive in during heat spikes, and with heat spikes over 44 celsius at night lasting at least two weeks every year (sufficient to kill off anyone without air conditioning). As 80% of today's human population live within 200Km of a coast, there will have been mass migrations and resettlements: many of today's great cities will be lost. London, New York, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Mumbai — they're all going to be submerged, or protected by heroic water defenses and at comparable risk to today's Venice and New Orleans (both of which will be long-since lost).

Energy and technology: I think there's a high probability (approaching certainty) that we'll be running on a de-carbonized energy cycle by then. Fusion: will be in widespread use, or proven to be economically non-viable. Fission: will be in widespread safe use or completely taboo. Solar, wind, tidal, OTEC: mature technologies, durable and optimally deployed for hundreds of years. The more variable environmental power sources will be used to generate hydrogen, and from there via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis to produce storable hydrocarbons from water and air: or they'll be used to compress air into exhausted underground gas deposits, to be released slowly for energy balancing. More likely, we'll have either "wet" nanotechnology — advanced biotech, in effect — giving us highly efficient algae-analogs that can continue to photosynthesize in the high temperature zones and produce useful energy-storing materials. Or we'll have full-on Drexlerian diamond/vacuum phase nanotechnology and paving the Sahara in self-organizing and self-wiring solar cell factories will be a high school project.

Political/demographic change ...

Five hundred years is a nearly unimaginable gulf from today's perspective. Five centuries ago, the Portuguese conquistadores were beginning their rampage through South America; Martin Luther was finishing his doctorate in theology and thinking about sin: the huge sequence of civil wars that racked Japan for over a century were raging: the Great Powers were still the Chinese empire and the Caliphate (although the latter was undergoing a shift in center of gravity towards Istanbul and the Ottoman empire). The great powers in Europe were Spain and Venice; the English speaking world was a few million barbarians occupying a handful of damp islands on the outer fringes of Europe. It's more than twice the historical existence of the USA to this date. Of our social institutions, very few survive from that long ago: the Catholic Church (and various orders and sub-groups within it), the Japanese Monarchy, and so on. A handful of universities, banks, and other institutions. The half-life of a public corporation today is about 30 years: ten half-lives out — 300 years hence — we may expect only one in a million to survive.

Looking forward 500 years requires us to make some assumptions. In the absence of breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, mind uploading, or longevity research (which it would be foolhardy to dismiss on this kind of timescale) none of us are going to be around in any form to observe it. We appear to be living close to the peak of a demographic bubble that will see our population max out or be in decline by 2100. Longevity breakthroughs (as in: a cure for the aging process, and all diseases that currently prevent us from reaching our maximum age) might smear out the descent, but unless old people suddenly start to have more children, it's not going to change it. Longevity breakthroughs would slow down the rate of change of demographic groups, but only in the medium term. 500 years is close to the human mean life expectancy if all medical causes of death are abolished: eventually an accident or violence will get you. So, demographically, the world of 2512 isn't going to resemble our world very closely at all, although it's anyone's guess at this stage as to who will prosper.

(It's fairly obvious at this point that some idiot is going to start shrieking about the teeming, breeding hordes of [people not like them]. It's also likely that we'll find a bigot or two in the comments, nattering about "Eurabia" or sha'ria law. I'd just like to point out that 500 years ago our ancestors mostly believed in the geocentric model of the universe, and witchcraft, and torturing heretics. We're descended from people who were arguably rather less enlightened than the Taliban in Afghanistan. 500 years is a long time, and today's ignorant fanatics are tomorrow's effete decadent intellectuals. And vice versa.)

One key issue is that during the age of cheap oil (i.e. right now) a whole lot of cultural mixing is going on, on an unprecedented, planetary scale. We have become an urban species, and I see no high probability of that state changing and the bulk of humanity reverting to a low-density agricultural (much less hunter-gatherer) lifestyle. Over the next century we're going to be doing a lot more cultural remixing; many niche languages are becoming endangered while 3-5 major languages are becoming global lingua francas — English, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic (although Arabic is balkanized), Spanish, Portuguese. Whatever culture looks like in 2512, it's unlikely to be broken up and diversified geographically (except in practical terms — igloos don't belong in central Africa, and so on), although there may be many subcultures distributed in balkanized linguistic and informational bubbles.

The age of the Westphalian nation state is ... well, it's less than 500 years old. And that model comes with huge contradictions and paradoxes if you consider the extent of travel and communication today. A model that evolved to handle territorial boundaries in an age when it took two days to cover 100Km is bizarrely inappropriate in an age when it takes two days to span the antipodes (which at that time were about 2-3 years apart — if you survived the adventure).

I'd like to believe in Steven Pinker's pacification hypothesis — that the history of humanity shows a continual progression towards peaceful means of social mediation, and a decline in violence, because we are developing better tools for dispute resolution and selecting at an individual and cultural level for less-violent people and belief systems. But even if he's right in the long term, there are regressions along the way. The 20th century was the most peaceful century in human history, in terms of probability of an individual dying violently (either in war or through murder): but it still sucked mightily if you were a conscript during the Battle of the Somme, or a Jew in a ghetto the SS had just cordoned off.

I suspect the hypothetical no-collapse-of-civilization world of 2512 will harbor a myriad of conflicts, but they'll be played out in ways incomprehensible or invisible to us. We're already living into an age when developed nations prefer to send drones instead of human soldiers where possible: and where information war is an actual thing, not just a bullshit marketing proposition. Go forward 500 years and extrapolate from today's Predator drone, analogizing it to a 1500s arquebus ... it's not pretty.

Speaking of regressions: racism and race politics as they exist today are largely a side-effect of the perceived need to find a moral basis from which to defend the African slave trade, followed by rationalisms based on a half-assed reading of evolution. Older strains of racism and intolerance hinge on religious absolutism. Sexism emerges from the defense of patriarchal status. I see none of these constructs as inevitable, and the status of women in particular is drastically affected by the demographic transition phenomenon, which seems in turn to be a side-effect of improved maternal childbirth survival rates and improved neonatal survival. Which is to say that, short of a complete collapse of civilization and the loss of key knowledge about hygiene, feminism (in the sense of, at a minimum, the end of patriarchy and the systematic subjugation of women as a class by men as a class) may be as much of a one-way shift as the transition from hunter-gatherer to settled agricultural lifestyles at the beginning of the neolithic.

The biosphere on 2512 Earth isn't going to look much like ours. That we're living through a great extinction event is obvious, and the level of climate change we can expect in five centuries means this will have run mostly to completion. On the other hand, it's almost a certainty that if we're still around in five centuries, we'll have extensive experience in synthetic biology, and not just at the single-celled level. Tools we're going to need include a better photosynthesis pathway (one that operates efficiently above 40 celsius, rather than shutting down), a more efficient mitochondrion, modified ribosomes that can assemble polypeptides using non-standard aminoacids (presumably coded for using four-base codons), lots of new and improved heat shock proteins, and some metaprogramming systems for handling epigenetic modification and cellular differentiation.

I'd expect to see lots of — to our eyes — odd vegetation. Freeman Dyson's suggestion of GM mangroves that can grow in salinated intertidal zones and synthesize gasoline, shipping it out via their root networks, is one option. Variant food crops that can grow in 50 celsius climates and still make stuff we can eat would be a bonus. Modified animal or bird pest species, re-purposed as agricultural stoop labour? It might be easier to work with the intelligences that nature's dropped all around us rather than trying to design artificial ones from scratch. (Think racoons. Think racoons programmed to come out at night to harvest and wash fruit because we've invented racoon Heroin™ and trained them to take their fix in payment for crop-picking. Or something like that.)

I'm unsure whether the non-urban environment is going to be curated, re-wilded wilderness. Or whether it's going to resemble a vast, robotized, semi-sentient farm, with every individual plant tagged with an RFID chip to monitor its growth and coordinate its nurture. But either way, it's going to look rather alien to our eyes.

Other neck-sticking-out projections?

I doubt the United States of America will exist in 2512. I doubt the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will exist in 2512. I doubt that the Peoples Republic of China will exist in 2512. (The Japanese monarchy ... maybe, if they haven't been inundated.) Our existing geopolitical boundaries are going to take a shoeing from rising sea levels and changing demographics. And our existing political arbitration mechanisms are already taking a shoeing from communication and data mining technologies. The legal, economic, and cultural frameworks of 2512 are going to be rather different, as are the dominant sociopolitical groups. Possibly South Africa (or some political grouping in that part of the continent) will be the dominant superpower. Or maybe it'll be Poland.

I don't expect off-planet trade to amount to much. There may be useful accessible sources of rare earth elements. And there may be bulk platinum or iron deposits on small asteroids that we can dump in the ocean without causing too much harm. But there's a hard floor under the energy cost of getting a canned ape into orbit — namely the mass constraint imposed by canned ape plus life support, and the reaction mass and energy needed to shove it up to around 7.5km/s — and we really don't want to be using excessively high energy power sources in a biosphere we have to live in. Even if we iron out the bugs in our space elevator designs, and work around the obstacles, a ticket into orbit isn't going to be significantly cheaper than a first-class subsonic airliner ticket to the opposite side of the planet, today. Which is cheap enough for emigration, but not necessarily for bulk trade: we might be exporting brains and importing insanely high-grade permanent magnets, but we won't be exporting water and importing corn.

Anyway, that's my blogging keystroke quota exceeded (I have a novel to write). Over to you ...

Frequentists vs. Bayesians

Frequentists vs. Bayesians: 'Detector! What would the Bayesian statistician say if I asked him whether the--' [roll] 'I AM A NEUTRINO DETECTOR, NOT A LABYRINTH GUARD. SERIOUSLY, DID YOUR BRAIN FALL OUT?' [roll] '... yes.'

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Totally Bizarre Experimental Video Explores Slit Scanning

Totally Bizarre Experimental Video Explores Slit Scanning:
Totally Bizarre Experimental Video Explores Slit Scanning video art slit scanning
Whooooooooaa wait what? Welcome to the bizarre world of slit scan photography, a special effect created mechanically or digitally that results in warped and wobbly images. How does it work? Here’s my armchair filmmaker explanation: while regular photos and film give you a full frame image of a single moment in time, slit-scan photos and films capture the world just one line at a time. This results in a two dimensional image where one dimension is continuously (but still chronologically) displaced. Or something. This is by no means a new invention, slit scanning has been experimented with for decades and was even used extensively by Douglas Trumbull in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey back in 1968.
In this video by French filmmakers Adrien M / Claire B, two subjects engage in a surreal but highly entertaining dance through the warped fabric of space and time, made all the more wonderful with music from Beirut. (via the curious brain)


Math: As of this writing, the only thing that's 'razor-thin' or 'too close to call' is the gap between the consensus poll forecast and the result.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hardcase Survival Pinto Bean Sludge

Hardcase Survival Pinto Bean Sludge:

In 1973, whilst compiling the book, "John Keats's Porridge: Favorite Recipes of American Poets," Victoria McCabe asked the author and poet Edward Abbey to contribute his favourite recipe to the project. Thankfully, he agreed, and soon responded with the following — a recipe for "Hardcase Survival Pinto Bean Sludge," a potful of which could "feed one poet for two full weeks at a cost of about $11.45."

(Source: Postcards from Ed, via Brenda Curin; Image: Edward Abbey, via warp & woof.)

19 May 1973

Dear Victoria,

Herewith my bit for your cookbook. This recipe is not original but a variation on an old (perhaps ancient) Southwestern dish. It has also been a favorite of mine and was for many years the staple, the sole staple, of my personal nutritional program. (I am six feet three and weigh 190 pounds, sober.)

I call it Hardcase Survival Pinto Bean Sludge.

1. Take one fifty-pound sack Colorado pinto beans. Remove stones, cockleburs, horseshit, ants, lizards, etc. Wash in clear cold crick water. Soak for twenty-four hours in iron kettle or earthenware cooking pot. (DO NOT USE TEFLON, ALUMINUM OR PYREX CONTAINER. THIS WARNING CANNOT BE OVERSTRESSED.)

2. Place kettle or pot with entire fifty lbs. of pinto beans on low fire and simmer for twenty-four hours. (DO NOT POUR OFF WATER IN WHICH BEANS HAVE BEEN IMMERSED. THIS IS IMPORTANT.) Fire must be of juniper, pinyon pine, mesquite or ironwood; other fuels tend to modify the subtle flavor and delicate aroma of Pinto Bean Sludge.



5. After simmering on low fire for twenty-four hours, add one gallon green chile peppers. Stir vigorously. Add one quart natural (non-iodized) pure sea salt. Add black pepper. Stir some more and throw in additional flavoring materials, as desired, such as old bacon rinds, corncobs, salt pork, hog jowls, kidney stones, ham hocks, sowbelly, saddle blankets, jungle boots, worn-out tennis shoes, cinch straps, whatnot, use your own judgment. Simmer an additional twenty-four hours.

6. Now ladle as many servings as desired from pot but do not remove pot from fire. Allow to simmer continuously for hours, days or weeks if necessary, until all contents have been thoroughly consumed. Continue to stir vigorously, whenever in vicinity or whenever you think of it.

7. Serve Pinto Bean Sludge on large flat stones or on any convenient fairly level surface. Garnish liberally with parsley flakes. Slather generously with raw ketchup. Sprinkle with endive, anchovy crumbs and boiled cruets and eat hearty.

8. One potful Pinto Bean Sludge, as above specified, will feed one poet for two full weeks at a cost of about $11.45 at current prices. Annual costs less than $300.

9. The philosopher Pythagoras found flatulence incompatible with meditation and therefore urged his followers not to eat beans. I have found, however, that custom and thorough cooking will alleviate this problem.

Yrs, Edward Abbey—Tucson

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