Category: Art and Science
A murmuration of starlings is a system that’s ready to be almost instantly and completely transformed, like metals becoming magnetized or liquid turning to gas. Each starling is connected to every other. When they turns in unison, it’s a phase transition (def. – when a substance changes from a solid, liquid, or gas state to a different state. Every element and substance can transition from one phase to another at a specific combination of temperature and pressure.)
At the individual level, the rules guiding this are relatively simple. When your neighbor moves, so do you. Depending on the flock’s size, speed and individual flight physiologies, the large-scale pattern changes. But we don’t know yet what physiological mechanisms allow this to happen almost simultaneously with two birds separated by hundreds of feet and hundreds of other birds.
The implications extend beyond birds. Starlings may be the most visible and beautiful example of a biological transition that operates in proteins and neurons, hinting at universal principles yet to be understood.
More about Murmuration (via Wired)
A comic about a Repo Lady I worked on years ago with Dean Esmay (he wrote it, I did the sketches)
NASA is taking a multistep approach to its ultimate goal of putting boots on Mars.
The journey begins in low Earth orbit aboard the International Space Station (ISS), which has hosted rotating crews continuously since November 2000. During this time, NASA and its ISS partners have been learning more and more about how to support astronauts on space missions.
This effort took a big step forward this past March, when NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko wrapped up an unprecedented 11-month mission aboard the orbiting lab that gave researchers new data about the physiological and psychological effects of long-duration spaceflight. (A Mars mission will be long-duration; it takes six to nine months to get to the Red Planet using currently available propulsion technology.)
In the next 10 years, NASA plans to extend the reach of human spaceflight out near the moon, to test spaceflight gear — such as the Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket and Orion crew capsule, both of which are in development — in a “proving ground” in deep space. For example, in the mid-2020s, the agency plans to send astronauts out to lunar orbit, to visit an asteroid boulder dragged there by a robotic spacecraft. (The boulder-snagging first part of this Asteroid Redirect Mission is scheduled to launch in the early 2020s.)
After the proving ground comes the journey to Mars itself. Current plans call for sending astronauts to Mars orbit in the early 2030s, with trips to the surface coming sometime after that. NASA officials have said they hope to eventually set up a small outpost on the Red Planet, where astronauts would search for signs of Mars life and perform other research.
What will we live in?
It’s long been suggested that Europa has an ocean underneath all of its ice. If there is water sprouting onto its surface, that could mean that not only is there an ocean, but also that the ocean could be far more accessible for measurements and scientific study than previously thought.
Why? Because the ice on Europa is 10 to 15 miles, or 15 to 25 kilometers, thick — a very long way for a drill or submersible to have to go. And who knows what’s waiting down there once they arrive! So catching these plumes of water on a flyby mission could be a far more feasible operation.
Plumes would provide a far easier way to detect the composition of this buried ocean, as well as to discover any signs of life. It’s much the same as with exoplanets, where space folks are used to learning a lot from a little in reading the signatures of these worlds.
Now, all we need is a mission to these plumes to see if we can change universal history!
Had to try this – my favorites:
I’ve still got my GoPro2, and despite the many times I’ve nearly crushed and/or drowned it, it’s still working. But this looks like a nice replacement
The Hero5 now incorporates the best features of both of those cameras. It captures 4K footage at up to 30 frames per second like the Black, while also incorporating the Hero4 Silver’s touchscreen, which allows you to frame shots without the use of a wirelessly-connected smartphone, and makes it much easier to tweak settings and options. Perhaps most shockingly, the action super camera comes with a dramatic drop in price, to just $399. It seems GoPro’s feeling the heat from the competition.
“The half heart glacier lying inside is a really massive glacier, which is not impacted by the seasonal changes. It probably formed when the basin formed, and will remain there in the future,” Bertrand said. “However, it probably flows and retracts over a few hundreds of kilometers (like a heart beating) with time, eroding and shaping the mountains surrounding it.”
By watching Pluto over decades to see if the model’s predictions come true, the researchers will either confirm the model or figure out ways to adjust it. It’s possible we’ll discover a more volatile world than we expected.
(the clothing company, not the place)
In 1957, frustrated by the expense and unremovability of European pitons, the spikes one pounds into the wall to secure a rope, Chouinard bought a used forge, an anvil, and some hammers and tongs and taught himself how to be a blacksmith. He began making his own, reusable pitons, out of chrome steel, and before long he was selling them to friends and strangers, at a dollar-fifty a pop.
Eventually, he borrowed eight hundred and twenty-five dollars from his parents and had Alcoa build him a drop forging die, with which he began to produce carabiners that, like his pitons, were superior to anything then available. He set up shop in the chicken coop behind his parents’ house in Burbank, but he often travelled with his equipment, so he could surf and blacksmith his way up and down the coast during the winter, return to Yosemite in the spring, and then, in late summer and fall, go on climbing trips to Canada, the Shawangunks, and the Alps.
They were lean years: dumpster diving, cat food, “porcupines assassinated à la Trotsky with an ice axe.” Home was an Army-surplus sleeping bag. (He claims not to have owned a tent until he was almost forty.) At one point, he and a climbing companion spent eighteen days in jail in Arizona; the charge was wandering around “with no visible means of support” and “without any lawful business.”
Drafted in 1962, he was sent to South Korea for more than a year. He was not what you might call Army material, but he cadged enough free time to bag a slew of first ascents with a cohort of Koreans, in the mountains around Seoul. An honorable discharge returned him to Yosemite, where, with the big-wall pioneers, Royal Robbins, Tom Frost, and Chuck Pratt, he completed a celebrated first ascent of the North American Wall on El Capitan, after nine nights on the face. Here now was fame, of a kind. He and his peers, colonizing the infamous Camp Four, called themselves the Valley Cong.
In 1966, he moved his blacksmith shop to Ventura, to a tin shed behind an abandoned slaughterhouse. He and his partners, Tom Frost, who was an engineer, and Frost’s wife, Dorene, called the business Chouinard Equipment, and, in due course, their hardware became the industry standard. (Their 1969 bamboo ice axe is now in the Museum of Modern Art.) Concerned about the degradation of rock, they stopped making pitons and instead came out with aluminum chocks that you could wedge into and remove from cracks without leaving any gear or scars behind. Their first catalogue, in 1972, opened with a clean-climbing manifesto, a rockhead’s version of leave-no-trace. A gambit for better gear had begun to extend into an argument for a better world.
By then, Chouinard had taken up with Malinda Pennoyer, an art and home-economics student, and Yosemite lodge maid. “We were hanging out in Camp Four one day when a car full of tough girls drove up and the driver threw out a beer can,” he recalled in his book. “Malinda ran over and told them to pick it up. They gave her the finger, so with her bare hands Malinda ripped off their license plate and turned them in to the rangers. I was smitten.”
In the early seventies, they started selling apparel. During a climbing trip in England, Chouinard came across a mill that made vintage corduroy, which he fashioned into heavy-duty shorts and knickers. Later, in Scotland, he found a rugby shirt that was also suitable for climbing. These caught on with climbers, and soon the Chouinards and their band of friends and metalworkers had turned the old slaughterhouse into a retail store that sold bivy sacks, wool gloves, and other workaday gear. They began sewing garments upstairs and adding new products: sweaters, rain gear, so-called standup shorts of stiff canvas.
As sales of such soft goods began to outpace those of the hard, it was determined that the concern needed a name of its own. Chouinard suggested Patagonia.
That’s how Lou Reed’s career went. He was never happy; there was always something to attack. Humanity brought out the worst in him, and he returned the favor. His peremptory demands, imperious and selfish nature, abruptly withdrawn support or mentorship, inconsistent vision, and overall inability to play well with others made his life a checkered history of failed alliances and artistic misfires. Few personalities — particularly as one as protean and occasionally as brilliant as Reed’s — can be summed up in two syllables. But if you were to do a word cloud of memories of Reed in the various volumes that have been published on his life, the word asshole would turn up in surprisingly large type.
Yet it was still wrenching to hear of his death, of liver cancer, three years ago this October. He’d found some peace in his long, late-in-life relationship with Laurie Anderson, a welcome note of resolution and union to a decidedly discordant career. Since then, we’ve seen two biographies, with two more expected in 2017. And besides that, what must have been a heroic bit of corporate rightsmanship has produced a comprehensive remastered box-set collection of his seminal work, everything from his groundbreaking RCA early solo years (Berlin, Transformer, etc.) to his slightly more audience-friendly Arista releases that stretched into the mid-’80s (ending with Mistrial, in 1986).
For all the gems in his work, his biographers, delving through the tumultuous events in his life, can’t cover up their subject’s flaws. One is by Howard Sounes; titled Notes From the Velvet Underground, it displays the benefits of no-nonsense shoe-leather reporting, as did Down the Highway, his clear-eyed exposition of Bob Dylan’s life and career. (Sounes was the first to get the names of Dylan’s children correct.) Surprisingly, though, the keeper is Dirty Blvd., by Aidan Levy, a writer with a forceful, poetic bent and cultural antennae that quiver ecstatically at the signifiers in Reed’s aesthetics and those of the complex culture around him. As you read it you notice, again and again, a modest reportorial zeal that uncovers key mysteries of Reed’s life. It loses its momentum (as Reed’s career did) in the last 20 years of his life, but all in all it’s a virtuoso rock biography.
Both books hide in plain sight a cautionary tale for all readers, and also the authors of two other in-progress biographies on Reed due out next year. How to balance the antics, often cruel, senseless, and self-destructive, of their subject, against the work? Some people have no problem with this dichotomy; it’s easy, they say, to separate the person from the art.
Did Reed know that he was being a jerk? It’s hard to self-diagnose
So how to tell if you’re actually a jerk? “Isn’t that one of those questions where if you have to ask, the answer is yes?” one of my colleagues wrote in Slack this morning. But as it turns out, the opposite is true — if you’re concerned about being terrible toward other people, it means you’re probably self-aware enough to avoid any truly egregious missteps.
But introspection, Schwitzgebel wrote, will only get you so far. A jerk, after all, doesn’t exist in a vacuum; jerkiness asserts itself in relation to other people, meaning it may be more informative to your gaze outward:
Are you surrounded by fools and non-entities, by people with bad taste and silly desires, by boring people undeserving of your attention, by people who can be understood quickly by applying a broad and negative brush?
If this is how the world regularly looks to you, then I have bad news. Likely, you are the jerk. This is not how the world looks to most people, and it is not how the world actually is … You are not seeing the individuality and potential of the people around you.
When everyone looks like a jerk, in other words, chances are it’s because you’re seeing them through jerk-tinted glasses.
That’s why it’s good to separate the person from the art – their art makes the world a better place, and the number of people who have to interact with the artist’s bad side is relatively small when compared to the number whose lives are enriched by their work.