New NASA Probe Will Study Earth’s Forests in 3-D | NASA
The Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation lidar will reveal the 3-D architecture of forests, as depicted in this artist’s concept. The unprecedented detail of these measurements will provide crucial information about the impact that trees have on the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
News is now not just outside newspapers, it is outside newsrooms. It is impossible for humans to filter efficiently the vast numbers of images, videos, tweets and updates created and shared by humans, bots and devices. By 2020, according to consultants Gartner, there will be 20bn devices connected to the internet, and they will all have something to say for themselves. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp and what’s next are and will continue to be making editorial decisions on our behalf. Costolo taking his first editorial stance is significant because he was public and unapologetic about removing material that he felt did cultural and economic damage to Twitter. The Facebook algorithm, and other sorting processes, are both more opaque and less accountable. The decline of the newspaper, and the subsequent closure or shrinking of newsrooms, not only leaves news unbound, it also removes the culture of editorial filtering. Centuries of human debate over cultural values, expressed in everything from intrusive splashes to grandiose editorials, are disappearing to be replaced by a black box.
Accountability is not part of Silicon Valley’s culture. But surely as news moves beyond paper and publisher, it must become so. For a decade or more, news organisations have been obeisant to the power of corporate technology, nodding and genuflecting at the latest improbably impressive magic. But their editorial processes have something to offer technologists too.
Transparency and accountability have to accompany the vast, important role our key information providers now play in society. It is understandable why platforms such as Facebook strenuously resist being labelled as “publishers”, but it is no longer realistic. It takes very little narrative imagination to grasp the ethical complexities ahead; every policeman wearing a camera, every terror cell with a Twitter feed, every face in a crowd rendered recognisable. — We can’t let tech giants, like Facebook and Twitter, control our news values | Media | The Guardian
Sheepdogs could lose their jobs to robots after scientists learned the secret of their herding ability.
Rounding up sheep successfully is a simple process involving just two basic mathematical rules, a study found.
One causes a sheepdog to close any gaps it sees between dispersing sheep. The other results in sheep being driven forward once the gaps have sufficiently closed.
A computer simulation showed that obeying these two rules alone allowed a single shepherd – or sheepdog – to control a flock of more than 100 animals.
The discovery has implications for human crowd control as well as the development of robots that can gather and herd livestock, the scientists said. […]
To conduct the study, the researchers fitted a flock of sheep and a sheepdog with backpacks containing highly accurate GPS satnavs.
Movement-tracking data from the devices was programmed into computer simulations to develop the mathematical shepherding model.
Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, the researchers concluded: “Our approach should support efficient designs for herding autonomous, interacting agents in a variety of contexts.
"Obvious cases are robot-assisted herding of livestock, and keeping animals away from sensitive areas, but applications range from control of flocking robots, cleaning up of environments and human crowd control." — Sheepdogs could be replaced by robots after scientists crack simple process | UK news | theguardian.com
The Yorkshire Dales family who are designing entire cities in Iraq | Cities | theguardian.com
Something improbable is happening in the Yorkshire Dales. In a converted barn, nestling in the hills high above the market town of Sedbergh, with the fresh smell of cut hay in the air, a small family firm of architects is rebuilding Iraq. Cities ravaged by war and diminished by years of neglect under Saddam Hussein, such as Nasariyah, Kut and Kufa, are being reimagined, virtually, using state of the art 3D-modeling software by specialists in masterplanning nearly 3,000 miles away. […] Over coffee at his workstation, Elliot demonstrates to me how Esri CityEngine enables the quick creation of large-scale 3D city models. “This used to take ages,” he says, finessing the design of a multistorey car park in a 3D visualisation of London. “It used to take ages to change one paramater. Now you can do it at the click of a mouse.” He quickly creates a purportedly Iraqi residential district on his screen, giving projected houses shady courtyards, frontages fringed with date trees and roof-top air cons and water tanks. Then he starts to draw a road on screen. “All the data I’ve put in the rule files means that it will automatically tell me how much it will cost to build that road that way. And then if I get feedback from Iraq saying ‘Move the road slightly to the left’, I can do that easily and at the same time learn what that change will mean in terms of costs and other parameters.” To my eyes, there’s a touch of the pleasure of playing video games to Elliot’s work – certainly it looks like great fun.
When I close my laptop, it goes to sleep. It’s a curiously domestic metaphor but it also implies that sleep in humans and other animals is just a kind of low-power standby mode. (Do computers dream of electric sleep?) Last year, Apple announced a twist on this idea: a new feature for the Mac operating system called “Power Nap”. Using Power Nap, your computer can do important things even while asleep, receiving updates and performing backups.
The name Power Nap comes from the term describing the thrusting executive’s purported ability to catch a restorative forty winks in 20 minutes but the functioning of Apple’s feature symbolically implies a yet more ultra-modern and frankly inhuman aspiration: to be “productive” even while dozing. It is the uncanny technological embodiment of the dream most blatantly sold to us by those work-from-home scams online, which promise that you can “make money even while you sleep”.
Sleep, indeed, is a standing affront to capitalism. That is the argument of Jonathan Crary’s provocative and fascinating essay, which takes “24/7” as a spectral umbrella term for round-the-clock consumption and production in today’s world. The human power nap is a macho response to what Crary notes is the alarming shrinkage of sleep in modernity. “The average North American adult now sleeps approximately six and a half hours a night,” he observes, which is “an erosion from eight hours a generation ago” and “ten hours in the early 20th century”.
Back in 1996, Stanley Coren’s book Sleep Thieves blamed insufficient rest for industrial disasters such as the Chernobyl meltdown. Crary is worried about the encroachment on sleep because it represents one of the last remaining zones of dissidence, of anti-productivity and even of solidarity. Isn’t it quite disgusting that, as he notices, public benches are now deliberately engineered to prevent human beings from sleeping on them?
While Apple-branded machines that take working Power Naps are figured as a more efficient species of people, people themselves are increasingly represented as apparatuses to be acted on by machines. Take the popular internet parlance of getting “eyeballs”, which means reaching an audience. “The term ‘eyeballs’ for the site of control,” Crary writes, “repositions human vision as a motor activity that can be subjected to external direction or stimuli … The eye is dislodged from the realm of optics and made into an intermediary element of a circuit whose end result is always a motor response of the body to electronic solicitation.”
You can’t get more “eyeballs” if the people to whose brains the eyeballs are physically connected are asleep. Hence the interest – currently military; before long surely commercial, too – in removing our need for sleep with drugs or other modifications. Then we would be more like efficient machines, able to “interact” with (or labour among) electronic media all day and all night. (It is strange, once you think about it, that the phrase “He’s a machine” is now supposed to be a compliment in the sporting arena and the workplace.) — "24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep" by Jonathan Crary: Sleep is a standing affront to capitalism | New Statesman
How did the Napa earthquake affect sleep? - Jawbone Blog
The South Napa Earthquake was the strongest to hit Northern California in 25 years. Our data science team wanted to quantify its effect on sleep by looking at the data recorded by UP wearers in the Bay Area who track their sleep patterns. Napa, Sonoma, Vallejo, and Fairfield were less than 15 miles from the epicenter. Almost all (93%) of the UP wearers in these cities suddenly woke up at 3:20AM when the quake struck. Farther from the epicenter, the impact was weaker and more people slept through the shaking. In San Francisco and Oakland, slightly more than half (55%) woke up. As we look even farther, the effect becomes progressively weaker — almost no UP wearers in Modesto and Santa Cruz (and others between 75 and 100 miles from the epicenter) were woken up by the earthquake, according to UP data. Once awaken, it took the residents a long time to go back to sleep, especially in the areas that felt the shaking the strongest. In fact, 45% of UP wearers less than 15 miles from the epicenter stayed up the rest of the night.
BBC News - Wikipedia reveals Google ‘forgotten’ search links
The Wikimedia Foundation has also published its first transparency report - following a similar practice by Google, Twitter and others. It reveals that the organisation received 304 general content removal requests between July 2012 and June 2014, none of which it complied with. They included a takedown request from a photographer who had claimed he owned the copyright to a series of selfies taken by a monkey. Gloucestershire-based David Slater had rotated and cropped the images featured on the site. But the foundation rejected his claim on the grounds that the monkey had taken the photo, and was therefore the real copyright owner.
Original discussion of image on Wikipedia
Holographic politicians could soon become a normal thing in the US | The Verge
Earlier this year, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi was campaigning for reelection and used a rather unusual method for being in many different places at once: he became a hologram. Not biologically, but with the help of a company called NChant3D that broadcast his nearly hour-long speech in 53 different locations. Now a US company called HologramUSA has the rights to use that technology in the US, and has just hired a lobbyist in Washington, DC to push the Democrats and Republicans into using holograms in the upcoming 2016 presidential election, reports Bloomberg BusinessWeek. The result could be long-dead politicians from America’s Founding Fathers, to more recent and beloved party figureheads like Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy. Politicians might also use it to do the same thing as Modi, and be in two places (or more) at once, stretching “in person” appearances on the campaign trail.
We live in the exoskeleton of the Internet. — Michael Mann - Blackhat Comic-Con Panel Recap: First Footage and New Image, via Dan H.
Many of us cannot help looking because of what Susan Sontag has called “the perennial seductiveness of war.” It is a kind of rubbernecking, staring at the bloody aftermath of something that is not an act of God but of man. The effect, as Ms. Sontag pointed out in an essay in The New Yorker in 2002, is anything but certain.
“Making suffering loom larger, by globalizing it, may spur people to feel they ought to ‘care’ more,” she wrote. “It also invites them to feel that the sufferings and misfortunes are too vast, too irrevocable, too epic to be much changed by any local, political intervention.”
So now that war comes to us in real time, do we feel helpless or empowered? Do we care more, or will the ubiquity of images and information desensitize us to the point where human suffering loses meaning when it is part of a scroll that includes a video of your niece twerking? Oh, we say as our index finger navigates to the next item, another one of those.
As war becomes a more remote, mechanized activity, posts and images from the target area have significant value. When a trigger gets pulled or bombs explode, real people are often on the wrong end of it. And bearing witness to the consequences gives meaning to what we see. — At Front Lines, Bearing Witness in Real Time - NYTimes.com