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Posts Tagged ‘MIT

“With a library it is easier to hope for serendipity than to look for a precise answer”*…

 

At first, the new website for the collection of MIT’s influential Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) seems like a straightforward web page. But as it scrolls down, through the introductory text and into randomly selected works from the archive, it becomes clear that the content is warping into three dimensional space, and branching into spiraling trees of related work, organized by creator and medium — an experience designed to evoke the sensation of wandering through the center’s physical archive.

“Someone might be coming in to do research on environmental sculpture, and then they see all these images on, I don’t know, holography, and then they’d say ‘oh, I really want to check that out,’” said Jeremy Grubman, an MIT archivist who spearheaded the project. “So I wanted to find a way to produce that in a digital space, to produce that concept of serendipitous browsing.”

50 years of art across three-dimensional space; as Jon Christian explains, “This MIT archive will be your trippiest scrolling experience today.”

Check it out.

* Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler), When Did You See Her Last?

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As we prepare for pleasant surprises, we might send cartographically-correct birthday greetings to Gerardus Mercator; he was born on this date in 1512.  The most renown cartographer of his time, he created a world map based on a new projection– the Mercator Projection— which represented sailing courses of constant bearing as straight lines, an approach still employed in nautical charts used for navigation.

While he was most esteemed as the foremost geographer of his day, Mercator was also an accomplished engraver, calligrapher and maker of globes and scientific instruments.  And he studied theology, philosophy, history, mathematics, and magnetism.

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Written by LW

March 5, 2018 at 1:01 am

“We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run”*…

 

We are surrounded by hysteria about the future of artificial intelligence and robotics—hysteria about how powerful they will become, how quickly, and what they will do to jobs.

I recently saw a story in ­MarketWatch that said robots will take half of today’s jobs in 10 to 20 years. It even had a graphic to prove the numbers.

The claims are ludicrous. (I try to maintain professional language, but sometimes …) For instance, the story appears to say that we will go from one million grounds and maintenance workers in the U.S. to only 50,000 in 10 to 20 years, because robots will take over those jobs. How many robots are currently operational in those jobs? Zero. How many realistic demonstrations have there been of robots working in this arena? Zero. Similar stories apply to all the other categories where it is suggested that we will see the end of more than 90 percent of jobs that currently require physical presence at some particular site.

Mistaken predictions lead to fears of things that are not going to happen, whether it’s the wide-scale destruction of jobs, the Singularity, or the advent of AI that has values different from ours and might try to destroy us. We need to push back on these mistakes. But why are people making them? I see seven common reasons…

Mistaken extrapolations, limited imagination, and other common mistakes that distract us from thinking more productively about the future: Rodney Brooks on “The Seven Deadly Sins of AI Predictions.”

* Roy Amara, co-founder of The Institute for the Future

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As we sharpen our analyses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1995 that The Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology chronicled the World Wide Web in its A Day in the Life of Cyberspace project.

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the Media Lab had invited submissions for the days leading up to October 10, 1995, on a variety of issues related to technology and the Internet, including privacy, expression, age, wealth, faith, body, place, languages, and the environment.  Then on October 10, a team at MIT collected, edited, and published the contributions to “create a mosaic of life at the dawn of the digital revolution that is transforming our planet.”

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Written by LW

October 10, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die”*…

 

Further to Wednesday’s almanac entry on America’s first independent municipal sewer system

Sometime in mid to late January, researchers from MIT plan to gather around a manhole on Portland Street in East Cambridge, dressed in plastic disposable biohazard coats and gloves. Each hour over the next 24, working in teams of two over four-hour shifts, they’ll sink a tube into the muck and pump one to two liters of sewage water into a plastic container. The container will be put into a cooler and taken to the nearby lab at MIT run by Eric Alm, a computational microbiologist. Alm’s lab will analyze all 24 of these sludgy samples to see what viruses and bacteria they hold; meanwhile, a vial of each sample will be sent to another lab to be analyzed for biomarkers (molecular or cellular flags for things like diseases and drugs, legal and illegal ).

These researchers—who include architects, computational biologists, designers, electrical and mechanical engineers, geneticists, and microbiologists—will be testing an idea that’s attracting interest around the world: namely, that sewage can tell us important things about the people who excrete it. Already, research has shown that sewage can reveal illicit drug usage, the presence of influenza, the poliovirus and other pathogens, and the state of community health. So far, however, none of this has been tested in our local waste systems, other than some proof-of-concept sampling done in Boston. That has led to this first formal effort by scientists and public health officials to get a sewage snapshot of the people of Cambridge…

Get to the bottom at “What does Cambridge sewage say about residents? MIT plans to find out.”

* Mel Brooks

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As we hold our noses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1594 that Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus was first performed (by Sussex’s Men at The Rose).  Titus‘s premiere is the first performance of a Shakespeare play of which there is precise record (though confident deduction dates other plays’ performances earlier); it was recorded in Philip Henslowe‘s diary.  It is also the only Shakespeare play for which a contemporary illustration survives, the work of a drawing master named Henry Peacham.

The Peacham drawing (c.1595)

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Written by LW

January 23, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it”*…

 

It’s straight out of the pages of science fiction: a “wearable” book, which uses temperature controls and lighting to mimic the experiences of a story’s protagonist, has been dreamed up by academics at MIT.

The book, explain the researchers, senses the page a reader is on, and changes ambient lighting and vibrations to “match the mood”. A series of straps form a vest which contains a “heartbeat and shiver simulator”, a body compression system, temperature controls and sound.

“Changes in the protagonist’s emotional or physical state trigger discrete feedback in the wearable [vest], whether by changing the heartbeat rate, creating constriction through air pressure bags, or causing localised temperature fluctuations,” say the academics…

Read more at The Guardian and at the MIT Sensory Fiction project page, then watch this short demo:

email readers click here for video

* C.S. Lewis

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As we feel the protagonist’s pain, we might spare a thought for Hunter S. Thompson; he died, by his own hand, on this date in 2005.  Father of the “Gonzo” school of reportage, in which reporters so involve themselves in the action they’re covering that they become central figures in the stories, HST was a pillar of the New Journalism movement (though he’d surely be horrified to hear it put that way).

The true voice of Thompson is revealed to be that of American moralist … one who often makes himself ugly to expose the ugliness he sees around him

– Hari Kunzru

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Written by LW

February 20, 2014 at 1:01 am

Meetings with Remarkable Men…

The Edgerton Digital Collections project celebrates the spirit of a great pioneer, Harold “Doc” Edgerton, inventor, entrepreneur, explorer and beloved MIT professor– a site for all who share Doc Edgerton’s philosophy of “Work hard. Tell everyone everything you know. Close a deal with a handshake. Have fun!”

The Edgerton Digital Collections are worth a visit for a variety of reasons; Doc Edgerton’s life was remarkable; his work, extraordinarily impactful– and his story, full of resonant lessons. But if for no other reason, readers should click through to see the collection of photographs taken with the strobe technology that Edgerton pioneered; e.g.,

As we marvel at motion stopped, we might curtsy in the general direction of London, as it was on this date in 1559 that, two months after the death of her half-sister, Queen Mary I of England, Elizabeth Tudor, the 25-year-old daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was crowned Queen Elizabeth I at Westminster Abbey in London.   The Virgin Queen presided over the accession of England to primacy as a global power, ruling until her death in 1603.  (As readers may recall, while this is the anniversary of Elizabeth’s coronation, she actually acceded to power two months earlier, on Mary’s death.)

Good Queen Bess

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