I came across a site tonight that hits on a lot of my interests. It’s got a nice mixture of art, technology, with just a hint of psychology.
I’ve been interested in pareidolia since I first learned about it years ago. It is, as wikipedia defines it, “the tendency for incorrect perception of a stimulus as an object, pattern or meaning known to the observer, such as seeing shapes in clouds, seeing faces in inanimate objects or abstract patterns, or hearing hidden messages in music.”
In this particular case, the objects are grains of sand and the incorrect perception is that they look like faces.
In the artwork Pareidolia* facial detection is applied to grains of sand. A fully automated robot search engine examines the grains of sand in situ. When the machine finds a face in one of the grains, the portrait is photographed and displayed on a large screen.
In December, the United States announced a new branch of the military, The Space Force. Today they released the logo for the new service and a lot of people are talking about how it looks like the logo from StarFleet.
Before the holidays, NASA put out an announcement for plans to go back to the moon. The plan is pretty extensive:
With the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024, using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before. We will collaborate with our commercial and international partners and establish sustainable exploration by 2028. Then, we will use what we learn on and around the Moon to take the next giant leap — sending astronauts to Mars.
Instead of the way previous missions were completed, with one rocket taking up a single lander, NASA plans to setup infrastructure in the form of a small space station orbiting the Moon which can dock with incoming ships and guide them a gentle landing just about anywhere on the surface. This will make travelling to the moon much cheaper and sets the stage for how it will be done if (when?) mankind starts going to Mars. More details about the Artemis Mission on NASA’s website.
French inventor Franky Zapata has crossed the English Channel on a kerosene-powered hoverboard. The 40-year-old is the first person in history to complete the flight following a failed attempt last week. He landed 35 km away on the White Cliffs of Dover after just 23 minutes of flight following takeoff at Sangatte, France.
With today being the 50th Anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s historic walk on the moon, I bring you this little classic reverse speech from the first words spoken on the surface of the moon which, when reversed, sound like “man will spacewalk”.
I highly recommend The Waking Up podcast, and particularly episode #71, in which the host, Sam Harris, holds a conversation with Tristan Harris an ethicist for design. If you’ve ever gone to Facebook to look up something quickly and then wondered how you found yourself caught in a vortex of wasted time, this conversation will surely enlighten you. Recommended listening for everyone that uses technology and especially those that build it.
From Tristan’s bio page:
Called the “closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience,” by The Atlantic magazine, Tristan Harris was previously a Design Ethicist at Google and left the company to lead Time Well Spent, a non-profit movement to align technology with our humanity. Time Well Spent aims to transform the race for attention by revealing how technology hijacks our minds, and to demonstrate how better incentives and design practices will create a world that helps us spend our time well.
Tristan is an avid researcher of what persuades our minds, drawing on insights from sleight of hand magic, linguistics, persuasive technology, cult psychology and behavioral economics. Currently he is developing a framework for ethical persuasion, especially as it relates to the moral responsibility of technology companies.
His work has been featured on 60 Minutes, PBS NewsHour, The Atlantic Magazine, ReCode, TED, 1843 Economist Magazine, Wired, NYTimes, Der Spiegel, NY Review of Books, Rue89 and more.
Previously, Tristan was CEO of Apture, which Google acquired in 2011. Apture enabled millions of users to get instant, on-the-fly explanations across a vast publisher network.
Listen to the conversation as Sam and Tristan talk about the arms race for human attention, the ethics of persuasion, the consequences of having an ad-based economy, the dynamics of regret, and other topics.
It’s the end of an era as the the Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off for its last flight this morning. Watching Atlantis lift off gave me a great shot of nostalgia from the early days of the shuttle program when I was a kid. Here are some screen shots I took from NASA’s broadcast this morning.
One of my good friends, David Logue, was on this week’s episode of Quirks and Quarks.
The interview is about cricket songs. We tested the H that aggressive signals mitigate the costs of fighting by muting and looking at a population that had lost its song. Turns out they fight like crazy if they can’t signal.
When crickets fight, there’s a lot of noise. Not just the clashing of mandibles and the clicking of legs, but the cricket equivalent of “trash talking” as well. Dr. David Logue, a biologist at the University of Puerto Rico and his colleagues from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, were interested in what would happen when the crickets couldn’t make the sounds associated with their fights. What they saw was mayhem. Crickets, who were either naturally silent or had their noisemakers removed, fought viciously, longer, and more violently than those full of sound and fury. Apparently, these insects use bluster not to provoke, but to avoid violence.
I understand this happens because salt contains sodium ions which, when in contact with the cells, change the electrical potential within each cell. This change is the ‘signal’ for the muscles to contract. Energy is stored in the muscles in the form of ATP (Adenosine-5′-triphosphate) and the twitching stops when the ATP runs out.
Apparently this is more likely to happen with cold blooded animals (like frogs) because they do not take on rigor mortis as quickly as warm-blooded animals (chicken, for example).