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Being "always on" is being always off, to something.

Evolution of Adaptive Behaviour in Robots by Means of Darwinian Selection
Topic: Science 7:53 am EST, Feb  1, 2010

Dario Floreano and Laurent Keller:

Darwin suggested that adaptation and complexity could evolve by natural selection acting successively on numerous small, heritable modifications. But is this enough? Here, we describe selected studies of experimental evolution with robots to illustrate how the process of natural selection can lead to the evolution of complex traits such as adaptive behaviours. Just a few hundred generations of selection are sufficient to allow robots to evolve collision-free movement, homing, sophisticated predator versus prey strategies, coadaptation of brains and bodies, cooperation, and even altruism. In all cases this occurred via selection in robots controlled by a simple neural network, which mutated randomly.

Kacie Kinzer:

I wondered: could a human-like object traverse sidewalks and streets along with us, and in so doing, create a narrative about our relationship to space and our willingness to interact with what we find in it?

More importantly, how could our actions be seen within a larger context of human connection that emerges from the complexity of the city itself?

To answer these questions, I built robots.

Jay Keasling:

We have got to the point in human history where we simply do not have to accept what nature has given us.

Evolution of Adaptive Behaviour in Robots by Means of Darwinian Selection

How To Safely Store A Password
Topic: Technology 7:53 am EST, Feb  1, 2010

Coda Hale:

Use bcrypt. Use bcrypt. Use bcrypt. Use bcrypt. Use bcrypt. Use bcrypt. Use bcrypt. Use bcrypt. Use bcrypt.

How To Safely Store A Password

Commuting in a polycentric city
Topic: Society 7:53 am EST, Feb  1, 2010

Camille Roth, Soong Moon Kang, Michael Batty, and Marc Barthelemy:

The spatial arrangement of urban hubs and centers and how individuals interact with these centers is a crucial problem with many applications ranging from urban planning to epidemiology. We utilize here in an unprecedented manner the large scale, real-time 'Oyster' card database of individual person movements in the London subway to reveal the structure and organization of the city. We show that patterns of intraurban movement are strongly heterogeneous in terms of volume, but not in distance, and that there is a polycentric structure composed of simple flow patterns organized around a limited number of activity centers arranged in a hierarchical way. This new understanding can shed light on the impact of new urban projects on the evolution of the polycentric configuration of a city and provides an initial approach to modeling flows in an urban system.

An exchange, circa 2008:

Charlie Rose: Don't you think we've milked this for about as much as we can, Richard?

Richard Florida: I hope not, Charlie. I hope not.


The Voluntary Milking System (VMS) allows cows to decide when to be milked, and gives dairy farmers a more independent lifestyle, free from regular milkings.

Sterling Hayden:

Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?

Nate Silver:

Perhaps the only good thing about losing your job is that you no longer have to endure the drive to work.

Commuting in a polycentric city

Davos Dispatch
Topic: Society 7:53 am EST, Feb  1, 2010

Jonathan Harris:

It was a bit like standing on a cliff above an ocean cove carpeted with nesting squawking sea gulls, but these sea gulls were wearing blazers and instead of squawking and shitting out guano they were making deals.

They say that people do a year of business in three days here, assuming you do the kind of business that can be done in three days and helped by men in suits, which, unfortunately, I don't.

There is a lot of public snow building up, and nobody knows when it might start sliding.

When the danger of an avalanche is getting high, it's good to install a snow fence, which will protect you for a while. But it's even better to find or make a landscape where the mountains and the valleys don't have such a giant gulf between them.

Turkeys Voting for Christmas:

In contemporary politics, if you can fake sincerity, you have got it made.

Clive Thompson:

There's value in obscurity.

C.S. Lewis:

It is tiring and unhealthy to lose your Saturday afternoons: but to have them free because you don't matter, that is much worse.

Davos Dispatch

Self-described wolf woman severed lost dog's head
Topic: Science 7:53 am EST, Feb  1, 2010

Sarah Rodriguez, also known as Wolfie Blackheart:

I severed the head, boiled the head. People make the mistake of hacking the spine, which will fracture the skull.

You also have to put (the head) outside for the brains to leak out.

Lisa Rodriguez, Wolfie's mom:

I say, 'Don't sever heads in front of me.'

She usually does it in the woods.

Nathan Myhrvold:

I was describing this to a friend over lunch in Palo Alto. As I was describing this the waiter came up behind me to take our order. I was in the middle of saying "it's very hard to enter the rectum, but once you do things move much faster", only to hear the waiter gasp. Whoops. I tried to explain saying "well, this is about" but with a horrified look he said "I do NOT want to know what this is about! Some people are just not interested in natural history, I guess.

Joi Ito:

The map is as complex as reality, so why not just live in reality?

Jack Handey:

If you saw two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you think liked dolphins the most? I'd say Flippy, wouldn't you? You'd be wrong, though. It's Hambone.

Self-described wolf woman severed lost dog's head

The Chess Master and the Computer
Topic: Games 8:18 am EST, Jan 26, 2010

Garry Kasparov:

In 1996 I narrowly defeated the supercomputer Deep Blue in a match. Then, in 1997, IBM redoubled its efforts -- and doubled Deep Blue's processing power -- and I lost the rematch in an event that made headlines around the world. The result was met with astonishment and grief by those who took it as a symbol of mankind's submission before the almighty computer. Others shrugged their shoulders, surprised that humans could still compete at all against the enormous calculating power that, by 1997, sat on just about every desk in the first world.

It was the specialists -- the chess players and the programmers and the artificial intelligence enthusiasts -- who had a more nuanced appreciation of the result.

Although we still require a strong measure of intuition and logic to play well, humans today are starting to play more like computers.

From The World in 2009:

Someone once accused Craig Venter of playing God.

His reply was, "We're not playing."

Nicholas Carr:

Over the past few years I've had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn't going -- so far as I can tell -- but it's changing. I'm not thinking the way I used to think.

Freeman Dyson:

When children start to play with real genes, evolution as we know it will change forever.


Like so much else in our technology-rich and innovation-poor modern world, chess computing has fallen prey to incrementalism and the demands of the market. Brute-force programs play the best chess, so why bother with anything else? Why waste time and money experimenting with new and innovative ideas when we already know what works? Such thinking should horrify anyone worthy of the name of scientist, but it seems, tragically, to be the norm. Our best minds have gone into financial engineering instead of real engineering, with catastrophic results for both sectors.

David Golumbia:

For at least one hundred years and probably much longer, modern societies have been built on the assumption that more rationality and more techne (and more capital) are precisely the solutions to the extremely serious problems that beset our world and our human societies. Yet the evidence that this is not the right solution can be found everywhere.

Greenspan and Waxman:

"In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working," Mr. Waxman said. "Absolutely, precisely," Mr. Greenspan replied.

Alan Kay:

If the children are being instructed in the pink plane, can we teach them to think in the blue plane and live in a pink-plane society?

The Chess Master and the Computer

Kid Goth
Topic: Arts 8:18 am EST, Jan 26, 2010

Dana Goodyear on Neil Gaiman:

He wears black: black socks, black jeans, black T-shirts, black boots, and black jackets whose pockets are loaded with small black notebooks and pots of fountain-pen ink in shades like raven.


I've gotten old enough that I now understand why adults seek to escape reality. Paradoxically, I think I was better at escaping reality when I was younger.

One young fish to another:

What the hell is water?


The building blocks were either true or fictional lies, which feel like they're true. I thought, I'm going to tell it in my voice and use actual things that happened and talk about what it is to be three and be a child who has no power. It's a children's book for adults.

"Leonard Nimoy":

It's all lies. But they're entertaining lies. And in the end, isn't that the real truth?

The answer ... is No.


Writing comics afforded Gaiman his great opportunity to invent a cosmology.

Michiru Hoshino:

Oh! I feel it. I feel the cosmos!

Gaiman, at a "sushi party" with teenagers:

"Do you lot have names?" he said brightly.

"Nooooooo!" they called, in unison.

Bush, at a birthday party:

"You can't talk sense to them," he said, referring to terrorists.

"Nooooo!" the audience roared.

Kid Goth

A world of hits
Topic: Arts 8:01 am EST, Jan 21, 2010

The Economist:

Audiences are at once fragmenting into niches and consolidating around blockbusters. The stuff that people used to watch or listen to largely because there was little else on is increasingly being ignored.

What people love, it turns out, are hits.

A lot of the people who read a bestselling novel, for example, do not read much other fiction. By contrast, the audience for an obscure novel is largely composed of people who read a lot. That means the least popular books are judged by people who have the highest standards, while the most popular are judged by people who literally do not know any better.

Jonathan Franzen, on Shanghai:

It was as if the gods of world history had asked, 'Does somebody want to get into some really unprecedentedly deep shit?' and this place had raised its hands and said 'Yeah!'"

Scott Sandage:

Nobody is born to lose, and yet failure embodies our worst fears. The Loser is our national bogeyman, and his history over the past two hundred years reveals the dark side of success, how economic striving reshaped the self and soul of America.

John Maynard Keynes:

We have reached the third degree, where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be. And there are some, I believe, who practice the fourth, fifth and higher degrees.

William Gibson:

The business of popular music, today, is now, in some peculiarly new way, entirely about promotion.

David Hajdu:

Guitar Hero and Rock Band involve musicianship in the same sense that chess involves military service. Rocking, like rooking, is the thematic action; but the content is the form, the rules.

Mark Twain:

When an entirely new and untried political project is sprung upon the people, they are startled, anxious, timid, and for a time they are mute, reserved, noncommittal. The great majority of them are not studying the new doctrine and making up their minds about it, they are waiting to see which is going to be the popular side.

Choire Sicha:

One joke that never gets old is saying "I see you" to people, a la Avatar. It is the greatest, especially when they're mad at you. Like at the deli, when they're tired of waiting for you to find change. "I SEE YOU."

Brian Eno:

It couldn't last, and now it's running out. I don't particularly care that it is and like the way things are going. The record age was just a blip. It was a bit like if you had a source of whale blubber in the 1840s and it could be used as fuel. Before gas came along, if you traded in whale blubber, you were the richest man on Earth. Then gas came along and you'd be stuck with your whale blubber. Sorry mate -- history's moving along. Recorded music equals whale blubber.


Real anxiety comes not with influence, but with the imperative to transcend it.

Jean-Luc Godard:

It's not where you take things from -- it's where you take them to.

A world of hits

Where happiness lies
Topic: Health and Wellness 8:01 am EST, Jan 21, 2010

Julian Baggini:

Despite its prominence, the contemporary, science-backed pursuit of happiness nevertheless raises serious questions about our value system. If all that matters is that we feel good, then what about other ideals we hold for the good life? In particular, if truth and happiness conflict, which one should prevail: blissful ignorance or painful knowledge?

From last year's best-of:

What if I want something more than the pale facsimile of fulfillment brought by a parade of ever-fancier toys? To spend my life restlessly producing instead of sedately consuming? Is there an app for that?

As long as you can look fearlessly at the sky, you'll know that you're pure within and will find happiness once more.

They thought that if they had a bigger mortgage they could get a bigger house. They thought if they had a bigger house, they would be happy. It's pathetic. I've got four houses and I'm not happy.

Happiness exists just around the corner, it's just a matter of figuring out how to get there.

Is there a formula -- some mix of love, work, and psychological adaptation -- for a good life?

You can't be happy all the time, but you can pretty much focus all the time. That's about as good as it gets.


As might be expected from a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank, this is a solid but arid assessment ...

From this week's Economist:

"Let's be honest," said Rahm Emanuel, Mr Obama's chief of staff: "The goal isn't to see whether I can pass this through the executive board of the Brookings Institution. I'm passing it through the United States Congress with people who represent constituents." That attitude, shot back Bill Galston, one of the slighted think-tank's senior fellows, all but guaranteed that Congress would duck the hard issues.


It seems that uncertainty, change, and the perception that there is a gravy train others are riding but you're not, conspire against the gains of economic growth.


Paul Graham asks what living in your city tells you. Living in the north Perimeter area for 6 odd years now has told me that everybody makes way, way more money than I do. It's not inspiring so much as it makes you sympathize with class warfare.


The issue, according to Barbara Ehrenreich, is whether we start with the facts or with our attitudes.

Have you seen "Doubt"?

Father Brendan Flynn: You haven't the slightest proof of anything!
Sister Aloysius Beauvier: But I have my certainty!

Where happiness lies

Auto-appendectomy in the Antarctic: case report
Topic: Health and Wellness 8:01 am EST, Jan 21, 2010

Vladislav Rogozov in BMJ:

As a surgeon Rogozov had no difficulty diagnosing acute appendicitis. In this situation, however, it was a cruel trick of fate. He knew that if he was to survive he had to undergo an operation. But he was in the frontier conditions of a newly founded Antarctic colony on the brink of the polar night. Transportation was impossible. Flying was out of the question, because of the snowstorms. And there was one further problem: he was the only physician on the base.

Hugh MacLeod:

The best way to get approval is not to need it.

Vladislav Gerbovich:

When Rogozov had made the incision and was manipulating his own innards as he removed the appendix, his intestine gurgled, which was highly unpleasant for us; it made one want to turn away, flee, not look -- but I kept my head and stayed.

From Haiti:

"We're using ketamine as pain relief during amputations. Ketamine is going like water."

Auto-appendectomy in the Antarctic: case report

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