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Blue Iceberg

Monday, July 30th, 2018

Cherry Alexander (UK) 1995:
This magnificent blue iceberg was shot from a ship off the South Sandwich Islands in Antarctica. It’s a cathedral of ancient ice, with a little group of Adélie penguins and a prion perfectly positioned overhead. To catch the moment and frame it perfectly reveals skill, in this case, of a photographer in love with ice.

From 50 Years of Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Liesse

Sunday, July 15th, 2018

This is the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

Friday, July 13th, 2018

Things that happen in Silicon Valley and also the Soviet Union

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

Great Twitter thread by Anton Troynikov (@atroyn)

Things that happen in Silicon Valley and also the Soviet Union:

  • waiting years to receive a car you ordered, to find that it’s of poor workmanship and quality
  • promises of colonizing the solar system while you toil in drudgery day in, day out
  • living five adults to a two room apartment
  • being told you are constructing utopia while the system crumbles around you
  • ‘totally not illegal taxi’ taxis by private citizens moonlighting to make ends meet
  • everything slaved to the needs of the military-industrial complex
  • mandatory workplace political education
  • productivity largely falsified to satisfy appearance of sponsoring elites
  • deviation from mainstream narrative carries heavy social and political consequences
  • networked computers exist but they’re really bad
  • Henry Kissinger visits sometimes for some reason
  • elite power struggles result in massive collateral damage, sometimes purges
  • failures are bizarrely upheld as triumphs
  • otherwise extremely intelligent people just turning the crank because it’s the only way to get ahead
  • the plight of the working class is discussed mainly by people who do no work
  • the United States as a whole is depicted as evil by default
  • the currency most people are talking about is fake and worthless
  • the economy is centrally planned, using opaque algorithms not fully understood by their users

YAduFoot

Friday, July 6th, 2018

Les Grands boulevards après la victoire en quart de finale face à l’Uruguay. Deux superbes photos de Dan Lawler (@DanielLawler) :

Welcome to America

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

Planet or Plastic?

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

Pink Floyd Album

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

Which Pink Floyd album is this?

Updated 25/04

There are some clues if could be part of Games for May concert which encore was "Lucifer Sam".

Stormy

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

General Characteristics of Complex Systems

Monday, March 12th, 2018

In an article from march 2000 titled What can we learn from a theory of complexity?, Paul Cilliers enumerates the general characteristics of complex systems:

  1. Complex systems consist of a large number of elements that in themselves can be simple.
  2. The elements interact dynamically by exchanging energy or information. These interactions are rich. Even if specific elements only interact with a few others, the effects of these interactions are propagated throughout the system. The interactions are nonlinear.
  3. There are many direct and indirect feedback loops.
  4. Complex systems are open systems—they exchange energy or information with their environment—and operate at conditions far from equilibrium.
  5. Complex systems have memory, not located at a specific place, but distributed throughout the system. Any complex system thus has a history, and the history is of cardinal importance to the behavior of the system.
  6. The behavior of the system is determined by the nature of the interactions, not by what is contained within the components. Since the interactions are rich, dynamic, fed back, and, above all, nonlinear, the behavior of the system as a whole cannot be predicted from an inspection of its components. The notion of "emergence" is used to describe this aspect. The presence of emergent properties does not provide an argument against causality, only against deterministic forms of prediction.
  7. Complex systems are adaptive. They can (re)organize their internal structure without the intervention of an external agent.

Then he applies these characteristics to social organizations after stating that Complexity theory has important implications for the general framework we use to understand complex organizations, but within that (new) framework we must still be clear, as well as decisive.

  1. Since the nature of a complex organization is determined by the interaction between its members, relationships are fundamental. This does not mean that everybody must be nice to each other; on the contrary. For example, for self-organization to take place, some form of competition is a requirement (Cilliers, 1998: 94-5). The point is merely that things happen during interaction, not in isolation.
  2. Complex organizations are open systems. This means that a great deal of energy and information flows through them, and that a stable state is not desirable. More importantly, it means that the boundaries of the organization are not clearly defined. Statements of "mission" and "vision" are often attempts to define the borders, and may work to the detriment of the organization if taken too literally. A vital organization interacts with the environment and other organizations. This may (or may not) lead to big changes in the way the organization understands itself. In short, no organization can be understood independently of its context.
  3. Along with the context, the history of an organization co-determines its nature. Two similar-looking organizations with different histories are not the same. Such histories do not consist of the recounting of a number of specific, significant events. The history of an organization is contained in all the individual little interactions that take place all the time, distributed throughout the system.
  4. Unpredictable and novel characteristics may emerge from an organization. These may or may not be desirable, but they are not by definition an indication of malfunctioning. For example, a totally unexpected loss of interest in a well-established product may emerge. Management may not understand what caused it, but it should not be surprising that such things are possible. Novel features can, on the other hand, be extremely beneficial. They should not be suppressed because they were not anticipated.
  5. Because of the nonlinearity of the interactions, small causes can have large effects. The reverse is, of course, also true. The point is that the magnitude of the outcome is not only determined by the size of the cause, but also by the context and by the history of the system. This is another way of saying that we should be prepared for the unexpected. It also implies that we have to be very careful. Something we may think to be insignificant (a casual remark, a joke, a tone of voice) may change everything. Conversely, the grand five-year plan, the result of huge effort, may retrospectively turn out to be meaningless. This is not an argument against proper planning; we have to plan. The point is just that we cannot predict the outcome of a certain cause with absolute clarity.
  6. We know that organizations can self-organize, but it appears that complex systems also organize themselves toward a critical state. This not only means that at any given point we can expect the system to respond to external events on all possible scales of magnitude, but also that the system will organize itself to be maximally sensitive to events that are critical to the system’s survival. Think of language as a complex system. If there is a desperate need for new terms to describe important events, the system will organize itself to be critically sensitive to those terms specifically, and not necessarily to other novel terms. The "need" is determined by the context and the history of the system, not by a specific "decision" by some component of the system. Similarly, an organization will self-organize to be critically sensitive to specific issues in the environment that may affect its wellbeing. The implications of self-organized criticality for organizational systems seems to be a subject that demands further investigation.
  7. Complex organizations cannot thrive when there is too much central control. This certainly does not imply that there should be no control, but rather that control should be distributed throughout the system. One should not go overboard with the notions of self-organization and distributed control. This can be an excuse not to accept the responsibility for decisions when firm decisions are demanded by the context. A good example here is the fact that managers are often keen to "distribute" the responsibility when there are unpopular decisions to be made—like retrenchments—but keen to centralize decisions when they are popular.
  8. Complex organizations work best with shallow structures. This does not mean that they should have no structure. This point requires a little elaboration. Complexity and chaos—whether in the technical or the colloquial sense—have little to do with each other. A complex system is not chaotic, it has a rich structure. One would certainly not describe the brain or language, prime examples of complex systems, as "chaotic." I certainly would not put my trust in a chaotic organization. A complex system does have structure, but not a strictly hierarchical structure; perhaps not even a shallow structure. Structure can be shallow, but still extremely hierarchical. Perhaps the best way to think of this would be to say that there should be structure on all scales, and much interaction between different structural components. This is another aspect of complex organizations that could be fleshed out with insights from self-organized criticality.

Trois conseils pour réussir

Sunday, February 18th, 2018

En septembre 2013, la cérémonie de remise de diplômes de l’ENSTA Bretagne coïncidait avec les adieux du directeur de l’école. Ni les fiers parents, dont j’étais, ni les bientôt diplômés n’attendaient grand chose de son discours… et pourtant j’en ai un souvenir marquant, principalement pour les trois conseils en forme de passage de témoin qui en constituaient à la fois la touche finale et le signal d’entrée dans la vie active pour une promotion d’ingénieurs.

Son premier conseil était de ne pas calculer, de ne pas établir un plan de carrière mais, au contraire, de s’orienter vers les domaines d’intérêt véritable.
L’argument étant qu’on est naturellement bien meilleur et mieux capable de progresser quand on fait ce qu’on aime.

Son deuxième conseil traitait de l’ouverture à l’autre, partant du constat qu’un ingénieur moderne travaillera une grande partie de sa vie (physiquement ou à distance) en environnement multi-culturel.

Le troisème conseil se résumait en un mot  "Osez". Osez prendre des risques, osez innover. C’est précisément ce qu’on attend d’un ingénieur, donc la meilleure façon de réussir.

Ces trois points me sont revenus en mémoire en lisant, dans un article du magazine du Monde, les trois conseils que Cédric Villani donne aux jeunes qui l’interrogent le sujet : Un, ne vous mettez pas dans une case. Deux, soyez toujours en mouvement et bougez dès que vous connaissez bien un sujet. Trois, laissez une part importante de hasard dans votre carrière.

Et vous, quels seraient vos trois conseils ?

Austin Brexit

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

The Blockchain Bandwagon

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

Comic by Tom Fishburne (@tomfishburne)

Eleonore

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

Superbe image de la tempête Eleonore prise à Saint-Quay-Portrieux par nico_nilo

We Were All Humans

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

Be Happy

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

Maybe it is as simple as listed by Monica Sheehan… maybe such behavior is necessary but not sufficient. At least worth considering as a "fresh piece of advices" since the usual words (as "success", "fortune", "greatness", etc) don’t read here.

  • Have a sense of wonder
  • Stay inspired
  • Help others
  • Do things you’re good at
  • Read books
  • Limit television
  • Love your work
  • Exercise
  • Face your fears
  • Believe in yourself
  • Stay close to friends and family
  • Let your heart be your guide

Almost everything on computers is perceptually slower than it was in 1983

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

A tweeted argument by @gravislizard on November 6, 2017

Almost everything on computers is perceptually slower than it was in 1983

Amber-screen library computer in 1998: type in two words and hit F3. search results appear instantly.
Now: type in two words, wait for an AJAX popup. get a throbber for five seconds. oops you pressed a key, your results are erased
One of the things that makes me steaming mad is how the entire field of web apps ignores 100% of learned lessons from desktop apps

Data in webpages in 2017 is distressingly fragile. go to google maps and try and find an action that *doesn’t* erase what you’re doing
Drag the map even a pixel? it erases all your results and closes the infobox you were looking at.

You have a list of interesting locations on the screen but you want to figure out how far they are from the center of town? you can’t.
You can open a new tab, do the search there, then flip back and forth manually in the browser. there’s no other way.
That is to say, once the data’s up on the screen, you *can’t add to it*. which is one of the core functions of computers, generally.
One of the primary reasons computers were *created* was to cross reference data. that is nearly impossible in most software now.

Maps are a particularly hot item for this. christ, what about looking at a map ISN’T about cross ref’ing data? it’s the WHOLE POINT
You have a start and a finish and need to integrate that with geography and roads. and gmaps, bing, etc. are all the worst choice for this.
You are, literally, better off taking a screenshot of the map, dropping it in ms paint and manually plotting there.
Gmaps wildly thrashes the map around every time you do anything. Any time you search, almost any time you click on anything it’s a bewildering whirl of colors and shapes that has gotten worse every six months for 15 years and in doing so it has made humans worse and worse and worse at doing things that computers were created to replace and improve
In 1998 if you were planning a trip you might have gotten out a paper road map and put marks on it for interesting locations along the way
With online maps you CAN do that, but the entire process is built assuming you already know everywhere you’re going
It APPEARS to be what you want – you can keep putting in locations and it’ll keep plotting them – but in truth it’s not at all
The process you WANT: pick your start and end. now start searching for places in between. Your start and end are saved.
When you find someplace interesting, add it to your list. Keep doing that, keep searching and adding.
Search far and wide. Search for cities and then click around inside them. Read reviews. Do street view.
When you’re all done, you go back to your plotted trip and start laying out the chosen locations and optimizing your path.
You can do this with a paper map. You can’t do this with gmaps. So you just don’t do it.
You do something halfass and unsatisfying instead, using multiple tabs or a text file you save addresses in or some shit

You don’t even realize why the process is frustrating because it’s just The Way It Is.
And everything on computers is like this. It’s just How It Is now. You can’t fail quickly and iterate.
On the library computer in 1998 I could retry searches over and over and over until I found what I was looking for because it was quick
Now I have to wait for a huge page to load, wait while the page elements shift all over, GOD FORBID i click on anything while its loading
how many times have i typed in a search box, seen what i wanted pop up as i was typing, go to click on it, then have it disappear

I make no secret of hating the mouse. I think it’s a crime. I think it’s stifling humanitys progress, a gimmick we can’t get over.
The mouse is the CueCat except it didn’t get ridiculed and reviled as it should have been. It’s inappropriate for almost everything we do.
There’s no reason for Twitter to use a mouse. There’s nothing mousey about this website, not a damn thing
Mice are for rapidly navigating through a complex and unstructured set of objects, like an app with dozens of options and input types

The coded messenger

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

"Look," I sighed, fidgeting with the rear-view mirror. "Boss says I’ve gotta give this talk to everyone. If you have the gene drive, it’s in your blood. It doesn’t matter if the Ash has started affecting you, if your skin has started to go all white and crumbly or not. It won’t be any better for you on the other side."

"I promise we are not GMs," the dark-haired woman said. "Please. Keep driving."

She winced as we hit a bump, clutching her slung-up arm. Her eyes screamed desperation. She had no right to be looking at me like that. What with the Genome Authority drones flying around projecting her image on rubble all day. A scientist from a bioweapons lab, wasn’t it? Well, money was money. If that little girl with her wasn’t really her daughter, if she wanted to spread some of her knowledge outside the Wall, more power to her.

Ash lashed the windows, for all the world like the snow storms I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. They weren’t dressed for the journey. Not like it was easy to find winter coats nowadays. But you needed something to slog through the last stretch to the breach. No luggage either. Only stacks and stacks of red-covered notebooks. The little girl clutched one like a teddy bear.

"What’s your name?" she asked.

"JJ."

"You gonna escape over the Wall with us, Jayjay?"

I shook my head.

"Why?"

"People out there are afraid of people like me," I said.

"Why?"

"That’s enough honey," the scientist shushed her. "Try to get some sleep now."

My sensor beeped and I jerked the wheel, pulling over to the side of the road. A herd of mammoths passed in the distance. Even through the Ash, I could make out their shaggy forms, the red helix on the backs of their gun-toting riders. The Genome Authority. I remembered when the Wall first went up. Most of us went willingly. After all, we understood that we couldn’t breed with normal humans. It made sense. It made sense, but when they sealed the gates, I couldn’t help but think of Jade, left behind in one of their labs. The mammoths would disintegrate too, I thought. They would turn to Ash that floated like snowflakes on the wind. Like us, it was meant to happen before we reproduced. There was only supposed to be one generation of us.

"We’re going to make it," I said, as if we hadn’t been stop-and-go, pinned by patrols on all sides for hours. "We just have to wait for the Ash to clear. They won’t find us."

We could just see the mass of the Wall on the horizon, so near and so damn far.

"You were a soldier?" the scientist asked.

The girl slept in her lap. I adjusted my sleeve over my white-streaked skin and nodded.

"I’m sorry. You see, I’m one of the people whose research was used to make the technology — that made you what you are."

More free sci-fi stories from Futures

It was the same with all these do-gooders who locked themselves behind the Wall with us and decided they wanted out now. I’d heard it all. It was a war. Our parents made tough choices for us. Better for your super-powered kid to fight and come back than get smashed in the claws of a mech on their first day, at 18. They didn’t know about the Ash. The safeguard disease in our genomes, which would disintegrate us piece by piece if we lived past reproduction age.

"You think I give a damn that you’re sorry?"

"No. I don’t expect to be forgiven. But I want you to know my group has been working on a reverse drive — a cure — these 20 years behind the Wall. In 5 more, we could’ve. But the Genome Authority found us."

She unbuckled her seat belt and grabbed an armful of notebooks.

"The hell are you doing?"

"I’ll tell them it was too dangerous. That I insisted on walking the rest of the way and you turned back. Please. Take care of her. Make sure she gets to the other side."

When the little girl woke, the sun had risen. I bundled her up the best I could in my jacket and carried her outside. We found the scientist like a beacon in the Ash, her notebooks fluttering around her, her hand clutching the already dried bullet wound in her chest. This one dignity would be afforded to her — that she wouldn’t dissolve like the rest of us, at least.

"Jayjay, don’t cry," the little girl said. "It’s going to be okay."

"How can you say that it’s okay?"

The most important part of me had crumbled. I realized that the Genome Authority was crap. My Jade — my daughter — had been gone for a long time now.

"Your mother is dead," I finished.

"No." The little girl shook her head. "Mama is inside of me. Half of her DNA. Her notebooks too. She took out the extra parts of my genome that didn’t mean anything and wrote a message there instead."

"I don’t know what that means!"

She slipped her hand into mine.

"As long as I live, the cure will too," she said. "That’s what Mama told me. The same technology that caused this can be used to make something beautiful too."

I clung to it. Even though I didn’t have any right to, I know. To fill the gaping hole in my chest, both physically and mentally. But I was selfish. I still grasped at it. Because I’d never got a chance to say good-bye to the people who mattered, you know?

"What’s your name?" I asked.

"It’s Hope."


A short piece by Andrea Kriz published in Nature


I got the idea for this story after reading a recent Nature article in which researchers describe encoding a movie into a bacterial genome (Nature 547, 345–349; 2017). Late night in lab, the thought popped into my head — how much information could be encoded in the human genome using similar technology? What kind of state would the world have to be in to make it even remotely acceptable to use genome editing in that way? And what could lead a scientist to use another human, rather than synthetic DNA or bacteria, for this purpose?


Probably everyone who uses CRISPR in their research has thought of a similar slippery slope at one point or another. Gene-editing technology has already been used to correct devastating genetic diseases in embryos. The world is understandably hesitant about taking the next step, making edits to ‘improve’ human traits. But what happens if someone does it first? And, after a few years, if it looks like the kids are okay, even outperforming non-genetically modified children? If one country embraces the technology, others may follow out of fear that their next generation will fall behind if they don’t. Add an on-going world war on top of this, and it becomes an arms race. Eventually, the changes to the genome become so experimental and extreme that it could be disadvantageous to let them spread to the general population. In the United States, a governing authority arises and oversees the implementation of a safeguard (a ‘gene drive’) in the genomes of genetically modified soldiers to prevent this from happening.


Of course the scenario remains firmly science fiction. Currently, many technical issues limit even the theoretical use of genome-editing technology in humans (for example, most human traits are not the result of one gene but incredibly complex gene networks as well as environmental factors). But even if these could somehow be overcome, I don’t think that genome-editing technology should be feared. Instead I believe it should seen for its potential to improve the lives of everyone on Earth — if used in a compassionate and ethical way. Hopefully that’s the story all of us are writing with our research now :)

A Story of Nine Probes

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

The New Scientist (@newscientist) just released a poster of the nine probes that have reached the outer solar system, with their trajectories and current location.

Compete with Intelligence and Agility

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

In a recent article, Justin Bariso (@JustinJBariso) published a mail Elon Musk (@elonmusk) sent to Tesla employees a few years ago.

Subject: Communication Within Tesla

There are two schools of thought about how information should flow within companies. By far the most common way is chain of command, which means that you always flow communication through your manager. The problem with this approach is that, while it serves to enhance the power of the manager, it fails to serve the company.

Instead of a problem getting solved quickly, where a person in one dept talks to a person in another dept and makes the right thing happen, people are forced to talk to their manager who talks to their manager who talks to the manager in the other dept who talks to someone on his team. Then the info has to flow back the other way again. This is incredibly dumb. Any manager who allows this to happen, let alone encourages it, will soon find themselves working at another company. No kidding.

Anyone at Tesla can and should email/talk to anyone else according to what they think is the fastest way to solve a problem for the benefit of the whole company. You can talk to your manager’s manager without his permission, you can talk directly to a VP in another dept, you can talk to me, you can talk to anyone without anyone else’s permission. Moreover, you should consider yourself obligated to do so until the right thing happens. The point here is not random chitchat, but rather ensuring that we execute ultra-fast and well. We obviously cannot compete with the big car companies in size, so we must do so with intelligence and agility.

One final point is that managers should work hard to ensure that they are not creating silos within the company that create an us vs. them mentality or impede communication in any way. This is unfortunately a natural tendency and needs to be actively fought. How can it possibly help Tesla for depts to erect barriers between themselves or see their success as relative within the company instead of collective? We are all in the same boat. Always view yourself as working for the good of the company and never your dept.

Thanks,
Elon


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