Archive for February 15th, 2012

February 15, 2012

Tree Bog

A tree bog is a form of outside toilet which has willows, nettles and other nutrient-hungry flora planted around it. ‘Bog’ is a British English slang word for ‘toilet,’ not to be confused with its other meaning of ‘swampland.’ The feces are held in a chamber open to the air which allows it to decompose rapidly, feeding the trees around it. Unlike a conventional compost toilet, a tree bog should never need emptying. Effectively, it is a system for converting human waste to biomass.

The tree bog was invented in 1995 by Jay Abrahams of Biologic Design in the UK after he observed that the trees around the place where feces were deposited were particularly vigorous. Tree bogs can be considered examples of permaculture design (which seeks to develop sustainable human settlements). The tree bog is a simple method of composting wastes, and since its introduction over 500 have been built in Britain. They have been on sites ranging from fruit farms and pick-your-own enterprises, campsites, and an angling lake, to annual festival sites, remote/low impact dwellings, holiday cottages, and churches.

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February 15, 2012



An exocortex is a theoretical artificial external information processing system that would augment a brain’s biological high-level cognitive processes. An individual’s exocortex would be composed of external memory modules, processors, IO devices and software systems that would interact with, and augment, a person’s biological brain. Typically this interaction is described as being conducted through a direct brain-computer interface, making these extensions functionally part of the individual’s mind. Individuals with significant exocortices could be classified as cyborgs or transhumans.

Cortex (Latin: bark) is used in neuroscience for the outer bark-like layer of the brain that is the site of most sophisticated cognitive information processing. It was coined in allusion to the neocortex (literally ‘new bark’), the newest part of the mammalian brain (in evolutionary history), believed to be responsible for the highest human cognitive abilities including conscious thought, spatial reasoning, and sensory perception. Thus the terminology suggests a progression from reptilian thought (the older parts of the brain) through human (neocortex) to high-level human or even supra-human cognitive processing capabilities (exocortex).

February 15, 2012


ai takeover

Robopocalypse is a science fiction book by Daniel H. Wilson published in 2011. The author has a PhD in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, and many of the robots in the novel were inspired by real-world robotics research. The setting of the novel is the near future, where an increasingly robot-reliant society faces extinction after a computer scientist accidentally unleashes a sentient artificial intelligence named Archos.

After failed attempts at AI, Archos becomes self aware and immediately takes steps to stop his destruction. By infecting all devices that are chip controlled (cars, elevators, robots, etc.), Archos begins a systematic attack on mankind. Small bands of survivors find ways to circumvent the eradication. This is a story of those survivors in the months and days leading up to and following Archos’ self-awareness. Steven Spielberg has committed to direct a film based on the novel.

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February 15, 2012



Robonaut is a humanoid robotic development project conducted by the Dextrous Robotics Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. Robonaut differs from other current space-faring robots (such as robotic arms, cranes and exploration rovers), which are designed to move large objects; Robonaut’s tasks require more dexterity. The core idea behind the Robonaut series is to have a humanoid machine work alongside astronauts. Its form factor and dexterity are designed such that Robonaut can use space tools and work in similar environments suited to astronauts.

The latest Robonaut version, R2, the first US-built robot on the ISS, delivered by the Space Shuttle in 2011, is a robotic torso designed to assist with crew EVA’s. However, Robonaut 2 does not have adequate protection needed to exist outside the space station and enhancements and modifications would be required to allow it to move around the station’s interior.

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February 15, 2012



Justin is a humanoid robot developed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) controlable through telepresence. Justin will be mounted on its own satellite and will be able to maneuver in orbit and fix other satellites.

The European Space Agency (ESA) plans to have astronauts aboard the International Space Station teleoperate Justin while he is on Earth.

February 15, 2012

Juan Francisco Casas


Juan Francisco Casas (b. 1976) is a Spanish artist who paints large size oil canvases and blue ballpen drawings where he reproduces images he takes with his camera.

In 2010 he participated, along with artists such as Edward Hopper, Édouard Manet, Chuck Close, and Andreas Gursky, in the impressive display ‘Realismus. Das Abenteuer der Wirklichkeit’ (‘Realism The Adventure of Reality’) in the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung Museum, Munich. He lives and works in Paris and Madrid.

February 15, 2012

Cool Japan

cool japan

The concept of Cool Japan, along with that of ‘Gross National Cool,’ was coined in 2002 as an expression of Japan’s emergent status as a cultural superpower. Gaining broad exposure in the media and academia, the brand of ‘Cool Japan’ has been adopted by the Japanese government as well as trade bodies seeking to exploit the commercial capital of the country’s culture industry. It has been described as a form of soft power, ‘the ability to indirectly influence behaviour or interests through cultural or ideological means.’

In a 2002 article in ‘Foreign Policy’ entitled ‘Japan’s Gross National Cool,’ Douglas McGray wrote of Japan ‘reinventing superpower’ as its cultural influence expanded internationally despite the economic and political problems of the ‘lost decade.’ Surveying youth culture and the role of manga, anime, fashion, film, consumer electronics, architecture, cuisine, J-pop, and phenomena of cuteness such as Hello Kitty, McGray highlighted Japan’s considerable soft power, posing the question of what message the country might project. He also argued that Japan’s recession may even have boosted its national cool, due to the partial discrediting of erstwhile rigid social hierarchies and big-business career paths.

February 15, 2012

Lost Decade

lost decade by S Kambayashi

The Lost Decade is the time after the Japanese asset price bubble’s collapse within the Japanese economy, which occurred gradually rather than catastrophically. The term originally referred to the years 1991 to 2000, but recently the decade from 2001 to 2010 is also sometimes included, so that the whole period of the 1990s and 2000s is referred to as the Lost Decades or the Lost Years.

The strong economic growth of the 1980s ended abruptly at the start of the 1990s. In the late 1980s, abnormalities within the Japanese economic system had fueled a massive wave of speculation by Japanese companies, banks and securities companies. A combination of exceptionally high land values and exceptionally low interest rates briefly led to a position in which credit was both easily available and extremely cheap. This led to massive borrowing, the proceeds of which were invested mostly in domestic and foreign stocks and securities.

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