March 5, 2015

Gamma Wave

Matthieu Ricard

Neural oscillation is rhythmic or repetitive neural activity in the central nervous system. For example Delta waves (0-4 Hz on an EEG) is the lowest frequency neural oscillation and is associated with deep sleep. Gamma waves are the highest frequency pattern at 25-100 Hz (though 40 Hz is typical), and according to a popular theory, they may be related to subjective awareness.

Gamma waves were initially ignored before the development of digital electroencephalography as analog electroencephalography is restricted to recording and measuring rhythms that are usually less than 25 Hz. One of the earliest reports on them was in 1964 using recordings of the electrical activity of electrodes implanted in the visual cortex of awake monkeys. Continue reading

March 3, 2015

Alebrije

pavorreal mediano

Alebrijes [ah-lay-bree-hay] are brightly colored Oaxacan folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures. The first alebrijes, along with use of the term, originated with Mexican artisan Pedro Linares (1906 – 1992). Linares specialized in making piñatas, carnival masks, and ‘Judas’ figures from papier-mâché. In the 1930s, he fell ill and dreamt of a strange place resembling a forest. There, he saw clouds that transformed into strange, brightly colored animals. He saw a donkey with butterfly wings, a rooster with bull horns, a lion with an eagle head, and all of them were shouting the nonsensical word, ‘Alebrijes.’ Upon recovery, he began recreating the creatures he saw in cardboard and paper mache and called them Alebrijes.

His work caught the attention of a gallery owner in Cuernavaca, in the south of Mexico and later, of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. In the 1980s, British Filmmaker, Judith Bronowski, arranged an itinerant Mexican art craft demonstration workshop in the US featuring Linares, Manuel Jiménez, and a textile artisan Maria Sabina. Linares demonstrated his designs on family visits and which were adapted to the carving of a local wood called copal. The paper mache-to-wood carving adaptation was pioneered by Jiménez. This version of the craft has since spread to a number of other towns, most notably San Martín Tilcajete and La Unión Tejalapan, and become a major source of income for the area, especially for Tilcajete. The success of the craft, however, has led to the depletion of the native copal trees.

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March 2, 2015

Brotherhood of Eternal Love

orange sunshine

The Brotherhood of Eternal Love was an organization of drug users and distributors that operated from the mid-1960s through the late 1970s in Orange County, California; they were dubbed the ‘Hippie Mafia.’ They produced and distributed drugs in hopes of starting a ‘psychedelic revolution’ in the US. The organization was started by spiritual guru John Griggs as a commune but by 1969 had turned to the manufacture of LSD and the importing of hashish. The group was known for it’s particular brand of highly potent acid dubbed ‘Orange Sunshine.’

In 1970, the Brotherhood hired the radical left organization the Weather Underground for a fee of $25,000 to help Harvard psychologist and LSD evangelist Timothy Leary make his way to Algeria after he escaped from prison, while serving a 5-year sentence for possession of marijuana. Their activities came to an end on August 5, 1972 in a drug raid where dozens of group members in California, Oregon, and Hawaii were arrested, though all of them were released within months; some who had escaped the raid continued underground or fled abroad. More members were arrested in 1994 and 1996, and the last of them in 2009.

March 1, 2015

Train Pulling into a Station

lumiere

L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat (‘The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station,’ known in the UK as ‘Train Pulling into a Station’) is an 1895 French short black-and-white silent documentary film directed and produced by filmmaking pioneers Auguste and Louis Lumière. Contrary to myth, it was not shown at the Lumières’ first public film screening on December 28th, 1895 in Paris (the first public showing took place in January 1896). The train moving directly towards the camera was said to have terrified spectators at the first screening, a claim that has been called an urban legend.

This 50-second silent film shows the entry of a train pulled by a steam locomotive into a train station in the French coastal town of La Ciotat. Like most of the early Lumière films it consists of a single, unedited view illustrating an aspect of everyday life. There is no apparent intentional camera movement, and the film consists of one continuous real-time shot. This 50-second movie was filmed by means of the Cinématographe, an all-in-one camera, which also serves as a printer and film projector. As with all early Lumière movies, this film was made in a 35 mm format with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Continue reading

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February 25, 2015

Homo Reciprocans

Reciprocity

Homo reciprocans [ri-sip-ruh-kahns], or reciprocal human, is the concept in some economic theories of humans as cooperative actors who are motivated by improving their environment. This concept stands in contrast to the idea of ‘homo economicus,’ which states the opposite theory that human beings are exclusively motivated by self-interest.

Russian polymath Peter Kropotkin wrote about the concept of ‘mutual aid’ in the early part of the 20th century. The homo reciprocans concept states that human being players interact with a propensity to cooperate. They will compromise in order to achieve a balance between what is best for them and what is best for the environment they are a part of. Continue reading

February 24, 2015

Comedy of the Commons

wikipedia

The Comedy of the Commons is an economic concept, developed as an opposite model to the tragedy of the commons (where individuals acting in their own self interest cooperatively deplete a shared resource, to the detriment of the group). In the ‘comedy’ individuals contribute knowledge and content for the good of the community rather than extracting resources for their own personal gain. Examples of this are free and open source software and Wikipedia. This phenomenon is linked to ‘viral’ effects and increases in prominence as individuals contribute altruistically and for social gain. The term appears to have originated in any essay by Yale law professor Carol M. Rose in 1986.

This outcome is more likely when the cost of the contribution is much less than its value over time. Information has this property. For example, it costs very little for a Wikipedia contributor to enter knowledge from their experience into Wikipedia’s servers, and very little for Wikipedia to serve that information over and over again to readers, generating great value over time. Unlike the pasture of a physical commons, information isn’t degraded by use. Thus the value of Wikipedia increases over time, attracting more readers of whom some become contributors, forming a virtuous cycle.

February 23, 2015

Aniconism

iconoclasm

Charlie Hebdo

Aniconism [an-ahy-kuh-niz-uhm] is the practice of or belief in the avoiding or shunning of images of divine beings, prophets or other respected religious figures, or in different manifestations, any human beings or living creatures. The term ‘aniconic’ may be used to describe the absence of graphic representations in a particular belief system, regardless of whether an injunction against them exists.

An avoidance and repugnance of holy representations is called ‘iconophobia,’ its antonymic reaction being that of an ‘iconodule’ (one who is in favor of religious images or icons and their veneration). Aniconism can lead to iconoclasm, the destruction of sacred images as heretical. Aniconism can also lead to censorship, which takes place after a representation was already produced, but before, or shortly after, it is made public. Continue reading

February 22, 2015

Marketplace of Ideas

mill

The ‘marketplace of ideas’ is a rationale for freedom of expression based on an analogy to the economic concept of a free market. The ‘marketplace of ideas’ belief holds that the truth will emerge from the competition of ideas in free, transparent public discourse. This concept is often applied to discussions of patent law as well as freedom of the press and the responsibilities of the media in a liberal democracy.

The general idea is that free speech should be tolerated because it will lead toward the truth. English poet John Milton suggested that restricting speech was not necessary because ‘in a free and open encounter,’ truth would prevail. President Thomas Jefferson argued that it is safe to tolerate ‘error of opinion … where reason is left free to combat it.’ Journalism professor Fredrick Siebert echoed the idea that free expression is self-correcting in ‘Four Theories of the Press': ‘Let all with something to say be free to express themselves. The true and sound will survive. The false and unsound will be vanquished. Government should keep out of the battle and not weigh the odds in favor of one side or the other.’  Continue reading

February 21, 2015

Cloaca

cloaca by wim delvoye

Wim Delvoye (b. 1965 ) is a Belgian neo-conceptual artist known for his inventive and often shocking projects. Much of his work is focused on the body, and he is perhaps best known for his digestive machine, Cloaca, which he unveiled at the Museum voor Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp, after eight years of consultation with experts in fields ranging from plumbing to gastroenterology. In a comment on the Belgians’ love of fine dining, Cloaca is a large installation that turns food into feces, allowing Delvoye to explore the digestive process. The food begins at a long, transparent mouth, travels through a number of enzyme filled, machine-like assembly stations, and ends in hard matter which is separated from liquid through a cylinder. Delvoye collects and sells the realistically smelling output, suspended in small jars of resin at his Ghent studio.

When asked about his inspiration, Delvoye stated that everything in modern life is pointless. The most useless object he could create was a machine that serves no purpose at all, besides the reduction of food to waste. Previously, Delvoye claimed that he would never sell a Cloaca machine to a museum as he could never trust that the curator would maintain the installation properly. However after two years of discussion with David Walsh, Delvoye agreed to construct a custom Cloaca built specifically for the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart, Tasmania. The new installation is suspended from the museum ceiling in a room custom-built for it.

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February 17, 2015

Cyberspace

true names

Cyberspace is ‘the notional environment in which communication over computer networks occurs.’ The word became popular in the 1990s when the uses of the internet, networking, and digital communication were all growing dramatically. The parent term is ‘cybernetics,’ derived from an Ancient Greek word meaning ‘steersman,’ ‘governor,’ ‘pilot,’ or ‘rudder’ (coined by American mathematician Norbert Wiener for his pioneering work in electronic communication and control science).

According to programmer Chip Morningstar and game developer F. Randall Farmer, cyberspace is defined more by the social interactions involved rather than its technical implementation. In their view, the computational medium in cyberspace is an augmentation of the communication channel between real people; the core characteristic of cyberspace is that it offers an environment that consists of many participants with the ability to affect and influence each other. They derive this concept from the observation that people seek richness, complexity, and depth within a virtual world. Continue reading

February 15, 2015

Spiewak

spiewak

I. Spiewak & Sons, Inc., commonly known simply as Spiewak, is a New York-based apparel manufacturer founded in 1904. Spiewak currently manufactures high-visibility safety apparel, EMS protective gear, and other uniforms for private businesses (including American Airlines and Avis) and government agencies (including the FBI, ATF, Secret Service, and Postal Service). During WWI, Spiewak produced wool coats and breeches for the US Army and Navy, including pea coats, which are still made by the company today. During WWII parkas, flight jackets, flight suits, and field jackets were produced for the US military. Spiewak also offers a line of consumer outerwear constructed with ‘workwear’ values.

Isaac Spiewak grew up in Warsaw, Poland and fled to Brooklyn, NY in 1903. He started a small family business, making sheepskin vests by hand and selling them on the docks of Williamsburg in 1904. By 1906, Isaac’s vests were in sufficient demand around New York for him to establish a small manufacturing space, calling it ‘House of the Golden Fleece.’ As his brothers entered into various facets of the outerwear business, the Spiewaks developed different, and sometimes competing, lines and companies to capitalize on prevailing trends and emerging market segments. Their family of brands including Bronco Manufacturing, Ram Manufacturing, United Sheeplined Clothing Company, Spiewak Brothers, Swiss Blouse, Excalibur, Frost King, Pan-Jac, Trappings, Prince Jason, and Flight Deck USA.

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February 14, 2015

Winter Storm Naming

nemo

Winter storm naming in the United States has been used by The Weather Channel (TWC) since 2011, when the cable network informally used the previously-coined name ‘Snowtober’ for a 2011 Halloween nor’easter. In November 2012, TWC began systematically naming winter storms, starting with the November 2012 nor’easter it named ‘Winter Storm Athena.’ TWC compiled a list of winter storm names for the 2012–13 winter season. It would only name those storms that are ‘disruptive’ to people, said Bryan Norcross, a TWC senior director. TWC’s decision was met with criticism from other weather forecasters, who called the practice self-serving and potentially confusing to the public.

The U.S. government-operated National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (a division of which–the National Hurricane Center–has named hurricanes for many years) and its main division–the National Weather Service (NWS)–did not acknowledge TWC’s winter storm names and asked its forecast offices to refrain from using them. The NWS spokesperson Susan Buchanan stated, ‘The National Weather Service does not name winter storms because a winter storm’s impact can vary from one location to another, and storms can weaken and redevelop, making it difficult to define where one ends and another begins.’

February 13, 2015

Black Mirror

national anthem

brb

Black Mirror is a British television anthology series created by English broadcaster Charlie Brooker that features speculative fiction with dark and sometimes satirical themes that examine modern society, particularly with regard to the unanticipated consequences of new technologies. Regarding the program’s content and structure, Brooker noted, ‘each episode has a different cast, a different setting, even a different reality. But they’re all about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy.’

He explained the series’ title to ‘The Guardian,’ noting: ‘If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side-effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where ‘Black Mirror,’ my new drama series, is set. The ‘black mirror’ of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.’ The first series has been acclaimed as being innovative and shocking with twists-in-the-tale reminiscent of ‘The Twilight Zone.’ ‘The Daily Telegraph’ described the first episode as ‘a shocking but ballsy, blackly comic study of the modern media. A reporter from ‘The Beijing News’ thought the show was ‘an apocalypse of modern world,’ ‘desperate but profound.’

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February 12, 2015

Escalation of Commitment

lbj by Bill Mauldin

Escalation of commitment was first described by business professor Barry M. Staw in his 1976 paper, ‘Knee deep in the big muddy: A study of escalating commitment to a chosen course of action.’ More recently the term ‘sunk cost fallacy’ has been used to describe the phenomenon where people justify increased investment in a decision, based on the cumulative prior investment, despite new evidence suggesting that the cost, starting today, of continuing the decision outweighs the expected benefit. Such investment may include money, time, or even — in the case of military strategy— human lives (the term has been used to describe the US commitment to military conflicts including Vietnam and Iraq).

The phenomenon and the sentiment underlying it are reflected in such proverbial images as ‘Throwing good money after bad,’ ‘In for a dime, in for a dollar,’ or ‘In for a penny, in for a pound.’ A common example irrational escalation is a bidding war; the bidders can end up paying much more than the object is worth to justify the initial expenses associated with bidding (such as research), as well as part of a competitive instinct. The main drivers of the tendency to invest in losing propositions are: Social (peer pressure), Psychological (gambling), Project (past commitments), and Structural (cultural and environmental factors). After a heated bidding war, Canadian financier Robert Campeau ended up buying Bloomingdale’s for an estimated $600 million more than it was worth. The ‘Wall Street Journal’ noted that ‘we’re not dealing in price anymore but egos.’ Campeau was forced to declare bankruptcy soon afterwards.

February 11, 2015

Transcendental Meditation

Maharishi

Transcendental [tran-sen-den-tl] Meditation (TM) refers to a specific form of mantra meditation (consciousness training aided by inner chanting) first introduced in India in the mid-1950s by Hindu spiritual teacher Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918–2008). The Maharishi taught thousands of people during a series of world tours from 1958 to 1965, expressing his teachings in spiritual and religious terms.

TM became more popular in the 1960s and 1970s, as he shifted to a more technical presentation and his meditation technique was practiced by celebrities (notably the Beatles). At this time, he began training TM teachers and created specialized organizations to present TM to specific segments of the population such as business people and students. By the late 2000s, TM had been taught to millions of people, and the worldwide TM organization had grown to include educational programs, health products, and related services. Continue reading

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