Archive for August, 2014

August 30, 2014


wim hof

Human echolocation

A superhuman is a person with extraordinary and unusual capabilities enabling feats beyond anything a layperson could conceivably achieve, even through extensive training. Superhuman can mean an improved human, for example, by genetic modification, cybernetic implants, nanotechnology, or natural evolution. Occasionally, it could mean an otherwise ‘normal’ human with purported super-abilities, such as psychic/psionic powers, levitation or flight, herculean strength, or unique proficiency at some task.

Superhuman can also mean something that is not human, but considered to be ‘superior’ to humans in some ways. This might include a robot that easily passed the Turing test (an indicator of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior) that possessed greater than human strength, which is already common in robots today. A very intelligent or strong alien could be considered superhuman. In its most basic sense it means anything beyond (typical) human capabilities, e.g. a tiger may be described as having ‘superhuman strength.’

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August 29, 2014

The True Believer

eric hoffer

The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements is a 1951 social psychology book by American moral philosopher Eric Hoffer that discusses the psychological causes of fanaticism. The book analyzes and attempts to explain the motives of the various types of personalities that give rise to mass movements; why and how mass movements start, progress and end; and the similarities between them, whether religious, political, radical or reactionary.

Hoffer argues that even when their stated goals or values differ mass movements are interchangeable, that adherents will often flip from one movement to another, and that the motivations for mass movements are interchangeable. Thus, religious, nationalist, and social movements, whether radical or reactionary, tend to attract the same type of followers, behave in the same way and use the same tactics and rhetorical tools. As examples, the book often refers to Communism, Fascism, National Socialism, Christianity, Protestantism, and Islam.

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August 27, 2014



The term artistamp (a portmanteau of the words ‘artist’ and ‘stamp’) or artist’s stamp refers to a postage stamp-like art form used to depict or commemorate any subject its creator chooses. Artistamps are a form of ‘Cinderella stamp’ (unofficial stamps, not valid for postage), but they differ from forgeries or bogus Illegal stamps in that typically the creator has no intent to defraud postal authorities or stamp collectors.

Artistamp creators often include their work on legitimate mail, alongside valid postage stamps, in order to decorate the envelope with their art. In many countries this practice is legal, provided the artistamp isn’t passed-off as or likely to be mistaken for a genuine postage stamp. When so combined (and sometimes, less strictly speaking, even when not so) the artistamp may be considered part of the ‘mail art’ genre (a populist artistic movement centered around sending small scale works through the postal service, initially developed out of the Fluxus movement in the 1950s and 60s).

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August 26, 2014

The Congress

Futurological Congress

The Congress is a 2013 French-Israeli live-action/animation science fiction drama film written and directed by Ari Folman. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Independent film distributor Drafthouse Films announced, along with Films We Like In Toronto, their co-acquisition of the North American rights to the film and a US theatrical and VOD/digital release planned for 2014.

Robin Wright plays an aging actress with a reputation for being fickle and unreliable, so much so that nobody is willing to offer her roles anymore. She agrees to sell the film rights to her digital image to Miramount Studios (a portmanteau of Miramax and Paramount) in exchange for a hefty sum and the promise to never act again. After her body is digitally scanned, the studio will be able to make films starring her using only computer-generated characters.

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August 23, 2014

Ten Percent Brain Myth


The 10% of brain myth is the widely perpetuated urban legend that the average human can only make use of 10% (or some other small percentage) of their brain. It has been misattributed to many people, including Albert Einstein. By association, it is suggested that a person may harness this unused potential and increase intelligence by spiritual, chemical, or technological means.

Though factors of intelligence can increase with training, the popular notion that large parts of the brain remain unused, and could subsequently be ‘activated,’ rests more in popular folklore than scientific theory. Though mysteries regarding brain function remain—e.g. memory, consciousness—the physiology of brain mapping suggests that all areas of the brain have a function.

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August 22, 2014

Home Sign


Home sign (or kitchen sign) is a gestural communication system developed by deaf children who lack input from a language model in the family, such as those with hearing parents who are isolated from a sign language community.

While not developing into a complete language (as linguists understand the term), home sign systems show some of the same characteristics of sign and oral languages, and are quite distinguishable from the gestures that accompany speech. Words and simple sentences are formed, often in similar patterns despite different home sign systems being developed in isolation from each other. Comparisons can be made between home sign and pidgins (a simplified language that develops between two or more groups that do not have a common tongue).

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August 21, 2014

Human Universals

blank slate

Human Universals‘ is a 1991 nonfiction book by Donald Brown, an American professor of anthropology (emeritus) at UC, Santa Barbara. Brown says human universals, ‘comprise those features of culture, society, language, behavior, and psyche for which there are no known exception.’

Universals include: age-grading, athletic sports, bodily adornment, calendar, cleanliness training, community organization, cooking, cooperative labor, cosmology, courtship, dancing, decorative art, divination, division of labor, dream interpretation, education, eschatology, ethics, ethno-botany, etiquette, faith healing, family feasting, fire-making, folklore, food taboos, funeral rites, games, gestures, gift-giving, government, greetings, hair styles, hospitality, housing, hygiene, incest taboos, inheritance rules, joking, kin groups, kinship nomenclature, language, law, luck superstitions, magic, marriage, mealtimes, medicine, obstetrics, penal sanctions, personal names, population policy, postnatal care, pregnancy usages, property rights, propitiation of supernatural beings, puberty customs, religious ritual, residence rules, sexual restrictions, soul concepts, status differentiation, surgery, tool-making, trade, visiting, weather control, weaving.

August 20, 2014


dancing cockatoo

Snowball (hatched c. 1996) is a male Eleonora Cockatoo, noted as being the first non-human animal conclusively demonstrated to be capable of beat induction— perceiving music and synchronizing body movements to the beat (i.e., dancing).

Snowball’s abilities first became apparent after being acquired from a bird show at the age of six by his previous owner. He was observed bobbing his head in time to the Backstreet Boys song, ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).’ The owner and his children encouraged this behavior and observed him developing rhythmic foot-lifting gestures, perhaps in imitation of his human companions’ arm-lifting gestures.

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August 20, 2014

Biomusicological Entrainment


Entrainment [en-treyn-muhnt] in the biomusicological [bahy-oh-myoo-zi-kol-loj-i-kuhl] sense refers to the synchronization of organisms to an external rhythm, usually produced by other organisms with whom they interact socially. Examples include firefly flashing, mosquito wing clapping, as well as human music and dance such as foot tapping.

Beat induction is the process in which a regular isochronous pulse is activated while one listens to music (i.e. the beat to which one would tap one’s foot). It was thought that the cognitive mechanism that allows us to infer a beat from a sound pattern, and to synchronize or dance to it, was uniquely human. No other primate can dance or collaboratively clap to the beat of the music. Humans know when to start, when to stop, when to speed up or to slow down, in synchronizing with their fellow dancers or musicians. Although apes do not appear to display beat induction, some parrots do. The most famous example, Snowball was shown to display genuine dance, including changing his movements to a change in tempo in a 2009 study.

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August 20, 2014


music for monkeys by Himi Kozue

Zoomusicology [zoh-uh-myoo-zi-kol-uh-jee] is a field of musicology and zoology or more specifically, zoosemiotics (animal communication). It is the study of the music of non-human animals, or rather the musical aspects of sound or communication produced and received by animals, and is related to ethnomusicology (the study of human music). Italian musicologist and semiotician Dario Martinelli describes the subject of as the ‘aesthetic use of sound communication among animals.’

Musicologist Marcello Sorce Keller attributes musical qualities to animal sounds, specifically whales’ and birds’ songs, by stating that regional variations can be found that resemble cultural traits in human music. He advocates for a combined study of zoomusicology and ethnomusicology with the remark that he ‘would like to suggest that musical scholarship excluding non-human animals cannot ultimately describe ‘how musical is man.”

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August 20, 2014

Soundscape Conservation

the great animal orchestra

Soundscape ecology is the study of sound within a landscape and its effect on organisms. The discipline of conservation biology has traditionally been concerned with the preservation of biodiversity and the habitats that organisms are dependent upon. However, soundscape ecology encourages biologists to consider natural soundscapes as resources worthy of conservation efforts. Unaltered soundscapes have value for wildlife as demonstrated by the numerous negative effects of anthropogenic (human created) noise on various species.

Organisms that use acoustic cues generated by their prey may be particularly impacted by human-altered soundscapes. In this situation, the (unintentional) senders of the acoustic signals will have no incentive to compensate for masking imposed by anthropogenic sound. In addition, natural soundscapes can have benefits for human wellbeing and may help generate a distinct sense of place, connecting people to the environment and providing unique aesthetic experiences. Because of the various values inherent in natural soundscapes, they may be considered ecosystem services that are provisioned by intact, functioning ecosystems.

August 19, 2014


Notes on the Synthesis of Form

Cartesian transformations of crabs by DW Thompson

In evolutionary biology, carcinisation [kar-sin-i-say-shun] is a hypothesised process whereby a crustacean evolves into a crab-like form from a non-crab-like form. The term was introduced by 20th century English zoologist L. A. Borradaile, who described it as ‘one of the many attempts of Nature to evolve a crab.’ Many animals that are called crabs – such as hermit crabs, king crabs, porcelain crabs, horseshoe crabs, and crab lice – are not true crabs (infraorder Brachyura).

Carcinisation is believed to have occurred independently in at least five groups of decapod (ten-footed) crustaceans, most notably king crabs, which most scientists believe evolved from hermit crab ancestors. Most hermit crabs are asymmetrical, so that they fit well into spiral snail shells; the abdomens of king crabs, even though they do not use snail shells for shelter, are also asymmetrical. An exceptional form of carcinisation, termed ‘hypercarcinisation,’ is seen in the porcelain crab (Allopetrolisthes spinifrons). In addition to the shortened body form, it also developed sexual dimorphism that matches true crabs, where males have a reduced pleon (abdomen) compared to females. Porcelain crabs likely evolved from squat lobsters