Autonomous Car Trap 001.

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The Creators Project has an absolutely fascinating interview with James Bridle, whose current project involves the magical science of fucking up autonomous cars. While this is a fun and intriguing project, Bridle brings up a very good point about just how easy it would be to interfere with those wondrous self-driving cars. Pictured above is a salt trap, blending the legendary magic of yore with modern road/driving signals.

Is it a silly prank, a Pagan ritual, or a genius discovery about the next era of mass transit? In a picture posted to Flickr by artist James Bridle—known for coining the term, “New Aesthetic”—a car is sitting in the middle of a parking lot has been surrounded by a magic salt circle. In the language of road markings, the dotted white lines on the outside say, “Come On In,” but the solid white line on the inside says, “Do Not Cross.” To the car’s built-in cameras, these are indomitable laws of magic: Petrificus Totalus for autonomous automobiles.

Captioned simply, “Autonomous Trap 001,” the scene evokes a world of narratives involving the much-hyped technology of self-driving cars. It could be mischievous hackers disrupting a friend’s self-driving ride home; the police seizing a dissident’s getaway vehicle; highway robbers trapping their prey; witches exorcizing a demon from their hatchback.

Self-driving cars aren’t there yet, but the artist-philosopher-programmer’s thought-provoking photo is a reminder that we’ll have to start thinking about these things soon. If a self-driving car is designed to read the road, what happens when the language of the road is abused by those with nefarious intent?

[…]

Now Bridle is trying to build his own self-driving car, and made the sardonic artwork Autonomous Trap 001 in the process. He’s released all the code developed in pursuit of the DIY self-driving car here. We spoke to Bridle to learn more about the circumstances behind this vague photo series and better understand his apprehension and curiosity about the robot chauffeurs of the future.

Creators: What are we looking at here? Can you give me a brief explanation of Autonomous Trap 001?

James Bridle: What you’re looking at is a salt circle, a traditional form of protection—from within or without—in magical practice. In this case it’s being used to arrest an autonomous vehicle—a self-driving car, which relies on machine vision and processing to guide it. By quickly deploying the expected form of road markings—in this case, a No Entry glyph—we can confuse the car’s vision system into believing it’s surrounded by no entry points, and entrap it.

Is this actually an autonomous car, or is it conceptual?

I don’t actually have a self-driving car, unfortunately—I don’t think any have made it to Greece yet, plus the cost issue—but I do have a pretty good understanding of how the things work, having been researching them for a while. And the one in the picture is a research vehicle for building my own. As usual, I’ve got totally carried away in the research, and ended up writing a bunch of my own software, rigging up cameras and building neural networks to reproduce some of the more interesting currents in the field. Like the trap, I wouldn’t entirely trust what I’ve built, but the principles are sound.

Where did you take these pictures?

I made this Trap while training the car on the roads around Mount Parnassus in Central Greece. Parnassus feels like an appropriate location because, as well as being quite spectacular scenery and wonderful to drive and hike around, it’s the home of the Muses in mythology, as well as the site of the Delphic Oracle. The ascent of Mount Parnassus is, in esoteric terms, the journey towards knowledge, and art.

There’s much more at The Creator’s Project!

Mesmerizing?

This well-known photograph was taken (extremely) shortly after the detonation of a nuclear device during Operation Tumbler-Snapper.

This well-known photograph was taken (extremely) shortly after the detonation of a nuclear device during Operation Tumbler-Snapper.

Ars Technica has an article up about recently declassified nuclear tests, which are now being plastered on youtube. I watched two of the videos, and realized I was physically pulled back, half turned away, in cringe mode. Yes, I can see where someone could find these mesmerizing, but I don’t, I just find them terrifying. I find every single thing about it terrifying – that we ever reached this point at all is a terror.

From 1945 until the practice was ended in 1963 with the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the US conducted 210 above-ground nuclear weapons tests. The majority of those took place at the Nevada National Security Site, then on remote Pacific atolls. Obviously, since the purpose of the tests was to understand this powerful new class of weapon, all of the tests were captured with multiple high-speed cameras (running at roughly 2,400 frames per second). And until now, many of those films have languished in classified vaults. But Greg Spriggs and his colleagues at Lawrence Livermore National Labs (LLNL) are rescuing and declassifying many of them, posting them on YouTube in the process.

The first 64 declassified films were uploaded this week, with footage from Operations Upshot-Knothole, Castle, Teapot, Plumbbob, Hardtack I, Hardtack II, and Dominic. And they’re utterly mesmerizing. In fact, they’re truly awesome, in the literal sense of the word.

No, I don’t find them awesome, either. They don’t fill me with awe, they fill me with dread. I find them disgraceful, discouraging, darkly dystopian, and we are now tottering on the edge of actual deployments, not tests. What I find even more dismal is that there will be too many people who will shout “oh cool, look at that, destroyed!” or some such, like cheering on destruction in a video game, rather than enough people who will take these for the warning they should be. And yes, I know there is a fascination to watching shock waves intersect and all, but these make me want to hide in a cave. Not that it would help.

Via Ars Technica.

Until I Die.

Photo: Miha Fras. Image via.

Photo: Miha Fras. Image via.

Photo: Miha Fras. Image via.

Photo: Miha Fras. Image via.

Four-and-a-half liters of blood, slowly collected over eight months into a unique type of battery, powers this sound installation from Russian-based artist ::vtol::, a.k.a., Dmitry Morozov. The piece, called Until I Die, was on show at the Kapelica gallery, Ljubljana in December 2016, with documentation recently released online.

The artwork uses Morozov’s blood to generate electricity, using electrolyte liquid and metals (copper and aluminum) with varying oxidation rates as power sources. This powers an electronic synth module, creating generative sound compositions which play from a speaker.

The installation features five “blood” batteries which are made up of 11 containers of the artist’s blood diluted with distilled water—and preservatives added—to make seven liters in total.

On his website ::vtol:: notes that the installation, both in visual aesthetics and its methodology, nods to the electrochemical experiments of the 18th and 19th century, particularly scientists Luigi Galvani, discoverer of animal electricity, and Alessandro Volta, inventor of the electrical battery.

“Two mutually reinforcing concepts form the central premise of the project. The first one is my desire to create a technobiological hybrid device after several years of fruitful but exhausting work. This device would be something that is in all but name me, that uses my vitality to create electronic sounds,” explains Morozov on his website. He continues: “Another crucial component of the installation is the generation of electricity: this is the cornerstone of my creative work. The fact that my body’s most important fluid can animate a device designed as an extension of myself beyond my body is also very significant.”

You can see more images at The Creators Project. A visually stunning project, to say the least, with significant and profound observations about humanity.

76 Scientists On A Glacier.

The women of Homeward Bound. CREDIT: Anne Christianson.

The women of Homeward Bound. CREDIT: Anne Christianson.

…Seltzer’s colleagues were more knowledgeable than your average gaggle of tourists. The travelers on her trip were all scientists, and several of them focus specifically on climate change. What’s more, her 75 companions on the three-week trip were all women, bound together on the largest-ever, all-female expedition to Antarctica. The trip was the focal point of a year-long leadership development program called Homeward Bound, which aims to groom 1,000 women with science backgrounds over the next ten years to influence public policy and dialogue.

While women made up more than 50 percent of the US workforce in 2016, they represented only 24 percent of workers in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math. Representation in public policy is even worse: Women hold less than 23 percent of parliamentary positions worldwide, and less than 20 percent of Congress is female. The founder of Homeward Bound told Reuters that inspiration came from the trip from hearing two scientists joke that a beard was a requirement to land an Antarctic research leadership role.

[…]

Steltzer echoed similar experiences. “At one point in time, women were present in equal measures to myself at a peer level,” she said. “But now that I’m in my early 40s, an associate professor, in many environments I’m in there are fewer women. There are ways we can do better.”

[…]

For Anne Christianson, a younger Homeward Bounder, the trip took on special importance for her work. Christianson is completing a Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, and her dissertation focuses on how climate change disproportionately affects women in developing countries. She points out that, while it was easy to see the consequences of climate change watching glaciers in Antarctica, it’s important to keep in mind how climate change threatens women around the globe.

“We have these cascading impacts [of climate change] on women that simply aren’t seen in men,” Christianson said. “Women generally don’t have enough capital to build our own resilience to climate change.”

Rising temperatures are melting Antarctica. CREDIT: Anne Christianson.

Rising temperatures are melting Antarctica. CREDIT: Anne Christianson.

For Westerners, it’s easy to see climate change as a threat to poor and rural women in distant, impoverished countries. But climate change isn’t just melting glaciers in Antarctica and flooding cities in Bangladesh. It’s already imperiling women within the United States, and the threat is getting more dire. Over 83 percent of poor single mothers in New Orleans were displaced in the post-Hurricane Katrina housing crisis — a statistic that bodes ominously for future climate disasters.

“We’ve already had our own climate refugees in the Gulf and in Alaska,” Christianson said. “The majority of people in poverty in this country are women who will be less able to adapt to what’s coming with climate change. Having more resources allows you to move away from sea-level rise and heat waves, to switch jobs, to find alternate sources of food and fuel.”

Even for progressives in the United States, the link between climate and gender can be hard to grasp. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) attempted to start a conversation on the issue in 2015 in by proposing a resolution to recognize “the disparate impact of climate change on women and the efforts of women globally to address climate change.” The bill moved nowhere fast in Congress and became a target for right-wing media, as outlets like Breitbart, The Daily Caller, and Fox News mocked a line in the bill that linked climate-induced food insecurity to prostitution.

[…]

Both Christianson and Steltzer say the female perspective in science is more important now than ever.

“There is a certain understanding that women scientists have of how hard it is to be heard, and right now all scientists are understanding what women scientists have experienced,” Christianson said.

“We’ve been in this state before, but a lot of our male colleagues haven’t,” Christianson said. “Because we’ve had to fight so hard for our personal rights, now that we’re trying to make our voices heard in our field of interests, and now that men are joining us for the first time, really, we can have more of a leadership role in how to make our voices heard.”

According to Hayhoe, that’s already happening. Female leadership in climate at the international level as playing a role in shifting the climate conversation.

Excellent reading, highly recommended. Full story here.

More good reading: Women are leading the way in HIV research.

Norway’s Storebrand Goes NoDAPL.

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© C. Ford. All rights reserved.

More and more efforts are directed at divestment, and Norway’s largest private investor has decided to go No DAPL.

The largest private investor in Norway has pulled out of three companies connected to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) because of the conflict at Standing Rock.

Storebrand, an Oslo-based financial-services company that specializes in sustainable, socially conscious investing, has sold off nearly $35 million worth of shares in Phillips 66, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, and Enbridge, the company announced on March 1.

“Storebrand has made the decision to withdraw all investments from the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, including positions in the North American companies Marathon Petroleum Corporation, Enbridge Inc. and Phillips 66,” said Storebrand in a statement on March 1.

“Our conclusion is that these are poor long-term investments, both for our pension customer and from a sustainability point of view,” the company said.

Storebrand had investments of $11.5 million in Philips 66, $7 million in Marathon Petroleum Corp. and $16.2 million in Enbridge Inc., for a total of $34.8 million, said the company. According to its website, it has been in operation since 1767 and was managing pension funds since 1917, pre-dating Norway’s social security system by 50 years.

“There is too much uncertainty, for us as an investor, as to whether there has been a good process that ensures the rights of all parties in the conflict,” said Matthew Smith, Head of Sustainable Investments. “There has been involvement by the United Nations, by President Obama, and President Trump. Caught in the middle are the people directly impacted by the pipeline.”

[…]

Storebrand tried numerous tactics to enact change, Smith said in the statement, but none of them worked.

“Generally, it is our belief that we can have a more positive effect on companies and situations by using our position as an owner to effect change. We have successfully done so on many occasions, but it doesn’t always work,” Smith said. “Storebrand has been in direct contact with the companies, and has worked with international groups of investors. Our most recent initiative is an investor letter, representing 137 investors with $653 billion assets under management, that encourages involved banks that have lent money to the project to use their position and influence to engender positive change and a reconsideration the routing of the pipeline.”

Storebrand was forced to conclude that “active ownership is not going to deliver a better outcome,” he said. “We do hope that this can give a final indication to the involved companies to reconsider the routing of the pipeline.”

The investor joins a growing number of companies and entities that have pulled funds from Wells Fargo and other banks that are financing DAPL, ranging from the City of Seattle to individual account holders. Others, such as New York City, have put DAPL banks on notice.

The decision was not easy, Smith told The Guardian.

“Divestment is a last resort,” he said. “When you divest from companies, you give up your possibility to influence companies to come to a better solution.”

Full story at ICMN.

Noether’s Theorem: Visualized Music.

This is one of the coolest things ever. The Creators Project has an in-depth story, and stills from the video.

Noether’s Theorem concerns itself with symmetry in physical systems. “Symmetry is the idea that one aspect of a system can change while another remains constant,” Cooper explains in the video’s description. “The idea of natural laws themselves rely on the forms of symmetry that mean the same forces will apply to you as they do to me, independently of our position in space or time… The principle is also responsible for music, in that our enjoyment of tonality, melody, harmony and rhythm comes from our subconscious appreciation of different types of patterns (i.e. symmetries) in sound waves.”

McLoughlin, whose experimental films have showed us what a Googol looks like, an extra-dimensional portrait of his dad, and sleep deprivation distilled into visual style, applies the mathematical theorem to a spiraling universe of flat circles. “The law of symmetry struck a chord with me in a huge way,” McLoughlin tells Creators. “There’s just something so divine about that law, it’s just so primal and insanely complicated. Almost like the soul of everything. It just feels spiritual to me.”

If you’re into math stuff, learn more about Noether’s Theorem here. If you’re rather feel it than read about it, watch Kevin McLoughlin’s video for Max Cooper’s “Symmetry”.

Conservation Lab: Glass Preservation.

Glass

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Pitcher from the Roman Empire, before and after restoration.

The small city of Corning, New York, population 11,068, counts more works of art than people. The world’s largest collection of glass art is harbored here, at the Corning Museum of Glass, which cares for over 50,000 objects spanning 3,500 years of history. Across the Chemung River, a short walk away, lie the headquarters of Corning Incorporated—the glass and ceramics manufacturing giant responsible for the creation of brands like CorningWare and Pyrex. The company founded the museum in 1951, as a “gift to the world” to mark its 100th anniversary. The museum’s facilities have grown tremendously since then: In addition to gallery spaces, they include a research library, glassmaking studios, and an amphitheater for live demonstrations.

Fragile Legacy: The Marine Invertebrate Glass Models of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka.

There’s much more to read and see at The Creators Project. For more information about conservation at the Corning Museum of Glass, go here. Videos of the conservation team at work are available here.

Back to the 1970s.

Burning Discarded Automobile Batteries, 07/1972.

Burning Discarded Automobile Batteries, 07/1972.

Trash and Old Tires Litter the Shore at the Middle Branch of Baltimore Harbor, 01/1973.

Trash and Old Tires Litter the Shore at the Middle Branch of Baltimore Harbor, 01/1973.

Clark Avenue and Clark Avenue Bridge. Looking East from West 13th Street, Are Obscured by Smoke from Heavy Industry, 07/1973.

Clark Avenue and Clark Avenue Bridge. Looking East from West 13th Street, Are Obscured by Smoke from Heavy Industry, 07/1973.

Something else people had to protest about, and fight tooth and nail to implement change – the utter disregard and damage being done, not only to our environments, but to all life. People fought like hell for change, and it took time, but change was effected. The photos? Life pre-EPA. It was wasn’t pretty. It was a choking stink. It was piles of garbage everywhere. Now the EPA has been gutted, and the Tiny Tyrant has been busy rolling back every single bit of fucking progress made in this area. A lot of people reading this weren’t born yet in the early ’70s. Unfortunately, you’re going to get a right taste of what it was like, and not in a good way.

More photos? See here. Feel like a bit of reading? See here.

Water, What Is It Good For?

Oh, who needs clean water, I mean that stuff isn’t good for anything at all, right? It’s not as if life is dependent on it or anything, after all, we can adapt to drinking toxic sludge.

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign a measure on Wednesday aimed at rescinding a major Obama administration water regulation and direct an end to the government’s defense of the rule, a Trump official briefed on the plan said on Friday.

Trump is expected to direct the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which expands the number of waterways that are federally protected under the Clean Water Act.

The rule was finalized by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May 2015, and was blocked by a federal appeals court pending further court challenges.

The rule has faced intense opposition from Republicans in Congress, farmers and energy companies.

Critics contend the rule vastly expands the federal government’s authority and could apply to ditches and small isolated bodies of water. The EPA under President Barack Obama said the rule protects waters that are next to rivers and lakes and their tributaries “because science shows that they impact downstream waters.”

Full story here.

The Trump Regime is also busy attempting to hasten the death of everything in every way possible. Here’s reading:

Former member of Trump’s EPA transition team suggests air pollution doesn’t kill people. 4.2 million people died prematurely from air pollution in 2015.

Trump’s EPA policies risk more Alzheimer’s cases, doctors warn. Two new studies support findings that polluted air causes dementia.

Trump’s allies have some of the worst environmental voting records in Congress.

There’s much more here.

This Is Our Land.

Water Protectors Leave Oceti Sakowin Reluctantly.

‘Absolutely False’: No Contact From Trump Administration, Archambault Says.

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NODAPL; The Last Stand © Marty Two Bulls.
 
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No DAPL; Beware the Early Thaw © Marty Two Bulls.

Transported to Summer.

Summer

© C. Ford.

With added bonus of play time, courtesy of Marcus, who sends the best goodies ever. Hydrophilic polymer beads, orange oil, water, and really excellent glassware! I don’t know if the sun will cooperate, it’s sunny and remarkably warm today, but it’s supposed to be snowing by Odin’s day. Oh, where’s the virtue in patience? Off to play!

Killing Ourselves Harshly.

CREDIT: Pexels

CREDIT: Pexels.

We are in a hell of a lot of trouble in regard to climate change, and all the denials are simply going to push us over the cliff, so to speak. If a concerted effort is not made, right now, we will have successfully condemned our species, and many others, too. Other species are already suffering for our disregard, and we are now feeling the effects ourselves, and yet the denial continues. America’s role in climate denial looms large, with the current regime obstinately fixated on denial. I don’t care much that those peddling denial don’t care for the term denier, it fits, and I’ll keep using it until the denial stops, although I won’t be holding my breath on that score. It doesn’t surprise me when older people take a nosedive into denial. What does surprise me is all those who have children and deny, deny, deny. I’d think they might care at least a little bit, about their descendants. Here’s the Oh Fuck roundup:

Two years ago this month, in a well-publicized and much lampooned political stunt, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) brought a snowball to the Senate floor to highlight the “unseasonable” cold and cast doubt on climate change.

The Republican lawmaker would have been hard-pressed to find a snowball anywhere in his home state this past weekend.

Oklahoma just endured a spell of exceptionally hot weather. Mangum, Oklahoma saw temperatures close to 100º F, setting a state record. The average February high in Mangum is 56º F.

It is extremely unusual to see such sweltering temperatures in the dead of winter, but climate change is loading the dice for record-breaking heat. Here, the human fingerprint is clear. Carbon pollution traps heat, warming the planet. This, in turn, shifts the entire distribution of temperatures.

[…]

Many people may welcome a temperate day in February, but warm weather in normally cold months disrupts ecosystems. Trees may bloom after an unseasonably balmy spell — and then suffer frost damage when cold weather returns. Flowers may blossom and shed their petals before bees arrive to pollinate them. These minor destabilizations have a ripple effect, impacting flora, fauna, and the industries built around them.

Full story here.

A crack in Antarctics’s Larsen C ice shelf has grown sharply in recent months. CREDIT: NASA.

A crack in Antarctics’s Larsen C ice shelf has grown sharply in recent months. CREDIT: NASA.

The Arctic and Antarctic are seeing an accelerated collapse of both sea and land ice.

When you add in Trump’s aggressive agenda to undo both domestic and global climate action, we are facing the worst-case scenario for climate change — and one new study finds that the worst case is “societal collapse.”

The unprecedented drop in global sea ice we reported on last month has continued. Arctic sea ice reached a new record low, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) reports.

Full story here.