31 January 2007

Visualising CO2

(this calculation
has been driving me

it started way way back
as a visualisation of breezes
on the worldtree

tagging each cubic inch of air
with a tiny black bubble
just 1/12" wide
representing the 0.03% CO2
in 21st century fresh air

but the question arose:
each time we exhale
don't we add a
more-or-less constant
number of black bubbles
to the atmosphere?

say 1500 calories per day
divided by 20,000 breaths per day
means one calorie's worth of carbon dioxide
every 13.3 breaths

which should be 70,000 bubbles per calorie
5000 per breath

so if you're trapped in an airtight room
(like the jackson twins
in a 1965 comic strip
which was another origin of this inquiry)
say 10' by 10' by 10'
1,728,000 cubic inches
1,728,000 black bubbles of starting CO2

adding 5000 with each breath
will mean 300 breaths to double the bubbles
(21 minutes at 14 breaths per minute)

(this small increase
may melt the icecaps
and flood the coasts
by 2100)

in 40 minutes the room will seem stale
in ten hours you'll have a bad headache
and in a couple of days you're a goner
(or one day if you're twins)


30 January 2007

19-31 January 2007 links

Shell Oil ignores Iran boycott (UkG via Xym)
Melovescookies's new flickrname (flickr)
W's health plan subtly undermines Social Security (dBaker)
Preview of Sarah Silverman Program (Comedy Central) (NYer)
Backgrounder on GgBooks (NYer-longish)
Epidemic-du-jour atop GgMaps? (iGreed-short-no-link)
Ajax recreation of Englebart's hypertext system (blog via mshook)
$20 R Crumb blues book w/cd (aHeritage via Steve)
Bill Gates granted exclusive Smithsonian image rights (AP via Sam)
you can never be too rich or too greedy or too amoral
MemeWatch: 'repressed homosexual' (GgBooks-arcane)
El Niño disease-hotspots for 2007 (iGreed-map w/link)
Java is dead again/still (blog via Gm)
New NYRB (toc)
Hate global warming? Wait three months (oDoffice)
'highchair tyrant' = eg W (dTongue)
Lenat talks Cyc at Google (GgV-75min via mshook)
Eno attempting demo-scene-style* music for Will Wright (cDig via Fim) [*def]
Prairie Home Abomination (Fim-short w/links)
Under-utilised meme: cracksucker (uDict-0hits)
Computer-aided cake-decorator prints error message in frosting (blog w/pic-link via Waxy)
New Archie Graphic Novel Explores Rich Inner Life Of Jughead (Onion-no-pix)
Cheating on job is negotiable (oDoffice)
Social security 'reform' is grand theft safetynet (dBaker)
Socialism works great... among the rich (iSteve-short)

29 January 2007

Rave: Wade's "Before the Dawn"

for anyone interested in human origins
this is a must-read survey of recent literature
with lots of insights i'd missed

most vivid map:
descendants of just 150
african emigrants c50k bc
colonised the entire rest of the world
quickly boating across south asia
then north crosscountry by 30k bc

looking at their shared behaviors
wade suggests the emigrants might have said
'tic' for finger/counting
'ma' for hand

wade argues that territorial wars
had claimed some 10% of each generation
from when we were chimps
to when we finally settled down into villages

he suggests the most dramatic social change
since the chimp days
was human pair bonding
replacing alpha-males-with-harems
(i'd speculate this must have begun
with informal sleeping partners
sharing small temporary shelters
with loyal partners gradually
earning social status)

wade is wrong, i'm sure, in blaming
the degradation of our sense of smell
on agriculture reducing selection pressures
it's too broad to be that recent
(i've placed it with fire 2M years ago
as cooked foods introduced
an entirely new palette of flavors)

he dates long hair to 200k bc
with the critical factor
the ability to keep it groomed
(which stone tools could trim hair?
which could shave skin smooth?)
he imagines ungroomed heads
have been ostracised that long

he makes a plausible case
that proto-indo-european
got its start with agriculture
in turkey-iraq-iran
10,000 years ago
then a second wind
from west european horsemen
4000 years later

some interesting stats from iceland
suggest most family trees quickly go extinct
and average generations there are 30 years
(more for men, less for women)


14M BC: orangutan/gorilla split
7M BC: gorilla/chimp split
6M BC: global cooling, African drought
5M BC: human/chimp split (pop 75k) chimps stay in trees, defending fruit-tree teritories

4.4M BC: bipedal vegetarian australopithecines
2.5M BC: forests retreat; omnivorous tool-maker homo habilis
1.8M BC: homos erectus and neanderthal emigrate during warm interlude
1.7M BC: homo ergaster loses body hair, skin blackens, males shrink, fathers care for infants? tubers cooked?

1.5M BC: chimp/bonobo split
500k BC: homo heidelbergensis
465k BC: human/neanderthal split
350k BC: mousterian toolkit of neanderthals

200k BC: long hair? foxp2 mutation?
195k BC: modern brainsize at kibish
150k BC: mitochondrial Eve?
140k-40k BC: genetic Adam

135k BC: dog/wolf split???
125k BC: first neanderthals, west of Urals
100k BC: global warming, anatomically modern humans
95k-11k BC: homo erectus on flores?

87k-37k BC: M168 mutation on Y chromosome
75k BC: global cooling
74k BC: anomalous shell necklace
70k BC: body lice genetics suggest tailored clothing

65k BC: eurasian eve?
55k-45k BC: U5 mitochondria in europe
pre-50k BC: cannibalism hinted by gene
50k BC: behaviorally modern humans (150 of total 5000 enter asia?) modern language abilities; warm window

50k-10k BC: 10% of each generation KIA
45k-33k BC: neanderthals displaced in europe
44k BC: african cultural revolution; australia occupied
43k BC: europe invaded by modern humans w/aurignacian toolkit

40k BC: dog domesticated in east asia?
40k BC: chatelperronian toolkit (neanderthal anomaly?)
40k-30k BC: gracilisation via pedomorphism
38-33k BC: M173 Y chromosome (aurignacians?)

35k BC: microcephalin brain gene (60k-14k)
30k BC: chauvet cave art
26k-19k BC: gravettians hunt mammoth
23k-18k BC: M170 Y (gravettians?)

20k BC: glaciers depopulate europe, siberia
19k-14.5k BC: solutreans hunt horse, deer
18k-13k BC: Last Glacial Maximum (pop 1M-10M)
17k BC: ice age ends; siberians domesticate dogs

16k-13k BC: M242 Y
16k-9k BC: magdalenians hunt reindeer
16k BC: gravettian mammoth-bone houses
15k BC: egalitarian warlike tribes supplanted by gracile property-respecting villagers; V and H mitochondria dominate europe

13k-10k BC: warming
13k-9.5k BC: natufians harvest wild grains w/sickles
13k BC: dog domesticated?
12k BC: dog bone in germany

10.5k-9k: younger dryas cold snap
10k BC: wild einkorn cultivated
8.5k BC: domesticated einkorn
8.4k BC: domesticated emmer wheat, rye, barley

8k BC: mongoloid skulls in china
8k BC: end of ice age; sheep and goats domesticated; J mitochondria in europe
7k BC: hittite splits from PIE
5k BC: tocharian splits from PIE

5k BC: hybrid wheat in Iran
4k BC: ASPM brain gene
4k BC: european languages diverge from PIE
4k BC: horse domesticated north of black sea

4k-3k BC: funnel beaker culture breeds cattle, drinks lactose
3k BC: lactose tolerance
catal hotuk, M172, LBK pots


24 January 2007

The ESP watch

"Gunther had shown up with a tall blonde beauty named Gretchen, who spoke no English or Spanish and only a few words in her native German, such as 'cocktail' and 'zigarette.'" ---Against the Day, p640

how long will it be
before they can make a wristwatch
that reads your brainwaves
and displays each word
you think or read or hear or say?

with a wireless link
back to a printer
that feeds out
a continuous paper tape

one inch every ten seconds
printing every word
in your stream of consciousness

thoughts in purple
speech in blue
heard words in green
reading in red

so one of Leopold Bloom's
hourlong internal monologs
would occupy thirty feet of tape

his full day and night
720 feet

consider all six billion earthlings
each generating 720 feet of tape per day

illiterates lacking any red printing
(reading-addicts heavily red)
recluses lacking green and blue
(garrulous people heavily blue)
and pynchon's gretchen mostly lacking purple
(shakespeare's cassius dangerously otherwise)

now flatten earth's surface

keeping it full-scale for once
and flip it sideways
so all 6,000,000,000 tapes
stream towards the left
all at the same six inches per minute
50 miles per year
1000 miles per generation
4000 miles per lifespan (earth's radius)

and if we could reconstruct the tapes
of generations past
inching all the way to the moon
5000 years ago
when written language (red) began

and ten times farther than the moon
for our genetic eve and adam
(the likely startingpoint
of complex bluegreen spoken language)

ten times more
(as close as venus comes)
for our divergence from neanderthals

and less than four times that
to the sun
and the likely conquest of fire
1.8 million years back
93 million miles of 'tape'


20 January 2007

Mirror Neurons: an (allegorical) teen comedy

(don't look for mirror neurons
in the allegory itself

they come after)

the highschool quarterback's girlfriend
is a classic stuckup mean teen queen
who fancies herself a great dancer
and wishes her boyfriend would learn how
but he won't unless the whole team does

and one day she's busted
for teasing some poor nerds
and her punishment is a choice of
community-service tasks
one of which is
training some school group
for the year-end talent show

so she proposes to teach the football team to dance
but the judge substitutes 'av club' for 'football team'
to stick her with the type of nerds she'd insulted

they're hopeless at dancing
so she keeps lowering her sights
finally bottoming out
with the loathed macarena
which they still screw up
until one nerd writes a computer program
that breaks the steps down

and of course they finally triumph
dancing like devo
standing ovations
girls going wild

but that's just the first half-hour

the allegory kicks in
when a few of the nerds
head off to science summer camp
at a nearby university

and in the afterglow of their triumph
they opt to work with an anthropology professor
applying their dance software
to a fortuitous local festival of world dance

and in a zippy montage we see
first the graceful world performers
then the blocky computer breakdown
and finally the nerds' clumsy imitations

(sneaking in some side criticism
with videos of madonna or britney spears
doing their own by-the-numbers routines)

and for comic effect
they also apply the program to non-dance activities
like football and sex

but the second climax comes
when the mean teen queen re-appears
and drags them off to a concert
by a grateful-dead/phish-type band
secretly dosing their pepsi
with lsd

and now they're overwhelmed by the
absolutely freeform dance

no 'steps' their program can enumerate

but they begin instead to explore
the kinematics of each of their limbs
how many different ways
they can set them swinging
breaking down their habitual rigidities

and the imagined computer versions
transition from blockiness
off the scale in all directions
(think 'peanuts' tv-special dance-party times infinity)

and the resolution presumably requires
some little anti-drug cop-out
plus the roaring financial success
of the improved dance software

with the nerds dancing like deadheads
under the final credits

now the allegory
strange to say
is to academic 'psychology'
(the awkward nerds)
vs novelists' fictions
(the deadheads)

and a lively current example
is the excitement over
'mirror neurons'

where psychologists are trying
to showhorn the new insight
into their old paradigms
thereby unintentionally making vivid
the poverty of those paradigms

mirror-neurons seem to compare
inner- and outer- viewpoints
on similar phenomena

reconstructing which specific preconditions
explain why an actor
viewed from outside
might have chosen those actions
when viewed from inside

but novelists know too
that one compares actions' effectiveness
trying to imitate more-effective strategies

perhaps to re-train others
if they're less effective

perhaps to sneer at their clumsiness
dismiss their successes

perhaps to beat oneself up
over one's own perceived clumsiness

perhaps to turn a blind eye
and fool yourself
that your performance is best
(optimism as ego)

perhaps comparing actions' virtue
criticising (or not)
their (or your) selfishness

honoring (or not)
their (or your) selflessness

motes and beams in the appropriate eyes
learning to see yourself
as others see you

perhaps comparing trustworthiness
is this actor conning me?

perhaps seeking the best for others
(perhaps the worst)

assigning each of these categories
a color on the worldtree

few or none of these
yet imagined by the psych nerds


17 January 2007

Creativity on the worldtree

one of the most valuable
biographical mad-libs is

but for some reason
biographical detail is scant on
each creative work
was created

in the near future
word processors
music software
video software
will retain a
creative timeline
of each work's composition

and we can
(imaginatively) map
such timelines onto a worldtree

but efficiently colorising these maps
requires first
interesting from uninteresting
compositional steps

and also a classification of ways
any step can be
interesting or uninteresting

red for redhot inspiration
purple for deeply-felt emotion
grey for writers' block
puce for faking it

and these all point
outside the software
to biographical gossip

relationship problems
money problems
ego problems
sociopolitical problems

brain chemistry
(spontaneous or altered)

sometimes unambiguously
(more often ambigously)
linked to creative details

(i'm switching from 'tree of life'
to 'worldtree'
because the former includes linnaean species-trees
and kabbalist hocum
while the latter suggests a foundational worldmap)


12 January 2007

02-18 January 2007 links

Little boy in stroller: I'm bringing sexy back!
Ze Frank sells out? (NyObs-3pg via Fim)
'burqini' = burqa + bikini (Oz w/pic via dTongue)
World GDP... per square kilometer (map via iSteve)
Parenting tip (dYeti-friv)
America's most popular charts (Onion-arcane)
Hilarious subtitled French 'Penguins' promo (yTube-1min via eAard)
Pix of 200-calories-worth of many foods (1pg-phat via infsthtcs)
MemeWatch: Cyber-chivalry (GgW-27hits)
Rape fad in sAfrica (BBC via dTongue)
'nodder' = yes-man (dTongue)
Americans r dum (yTube-9min via rCellar)
Silly winter comic (Sinfest)
More neocons rewriting pre-Iraq history (AmCon via gRm)
Beaufort-to-the-eighth = k$$$ (iGreed-vvshort)
Ed McBain doesn't know from padded dialog (oDoffice)
Google may pony up $100k/month for live stockquotes (iGreed)
RollercoasterTycoon massacre (yTube-2min-friv via iJunk)
Running-from-camera selfportraits (blog w/pix via iJunk)
350 hits for "*pedia" (Onelook)
Gentle NYer cover (pigeon pov) (cBank)
Roomba - vacuum = $229 robot (rGossip w/pic)
Bratz vignette (oDinny)
Creepy re-posings of childhood pix (2pg via infsthtcs)
Overdesigned 'periodic table' of visualisation methods (ajax via infsthtcs)
MLA in old english (gChaucer-arcane)
'hosing the doris' = paparazzi on full-auto (dTongue)
iPhone for real (Apple via Waxy)
300 books that use HumptyDumpty meanings-quote (GgBks-clichewatch)
Creepy anime'd Simpsons cast (pic via Waxy) [cf]
How Jewish publishers of WaPo and NyT caved to Zionists (mWeiss)
Corporados pillaging Iraqi oil (UkInd via eAard)
Cokie Roberts must die (dBaker)
Dodgy "Mason and Dixon" etext (GgCache w/links)
Surgeons' nicknames for unwanted fat (SC-list via dTongue)
Game theory briefly debunked (Forbes via dy)
Andromeda vs Moon apparent size (Barista w/pic, link)
Testing GgPages for Pynchon-annotations searchengine (1st draft)
Two updates from Riverbend (bBurning)
Cheapest cost-of-living countries (iSteve-list)
"Where's Waldo?" a controversial book (oDinny)

05 January 2007

Composite Wikipedia Mad-Libs Microformats

imagine analysing
all wikipedia biographies
to determine
what sorts of facts
(birthplace, creative output)
are mentioned most often

now compose
the 100 most common of these
into a generic
biography template
for no-man/everyman

like the game of mad-libs)

now repeat this process 1000 times
for the 1000 most common
classes of article
(countries, cities, animals, historical events)

so we have 1000 article-templates
with 1000 fact-madlibs each

approximating the million most useful
kinds of facts

now pick any arbitrary webpage
and look for examples of those million facts

and assign metadata to that page
telling which article templates were used
which fact madlibs
and what madlib-fillers

(how big a chunk
this will take
out of the semantic-web problem
depends on how many pages
fall outside those 1000 article-types)


Autobiographical showtunes

bingeing on pynchon
it occurs to me
that complex autobiographical situations
can be effectively simplified
by picturing characters
singing-it-out as a showtune

foregrounding a minimalist emotional skeleton

even if your goal is
something far more serious
reclothing that 'showtune skeleton'
in more conventional prose

(a completely different heuristic:
how has each character
internalised the myth/con of original sin?
what chinks in their self-confidence
led them to sacrifice which freedoms?)


04 January 2007

XML is not for documents

i've been reading
goldfarb's xml handbook
(4th edition, 2002)

and i'm appalled to see
that even goldfarb
makes device-independent display
a cornerstone of his rationalisations

which i still find
disingenuously inside-out
so i'll retell the xml-story here
outside out, imho:

every computer user
maintains dozen of databases
(buddy lists, email archives, etc)
and sometimes chooses to share
some of that data
with others

or may want to merge
others' data
into their own

databases traditionally demand
rectangular arrays of labeled rows and columns

and the traditional way to share data
was to declare in advance
(as metadata)
how many rows and how many columns
the message contains
and what each row and column means

and then send all the cells in sequence
separated by tabs or commas

xml instead
uses labeled tags as separators
eliminating the requirement for rectangular arrays
(a 'row' can contain
any number of cells
of any type)

and permitting some of the required metadata
to be included in the message itself

thus inching towards
full automation
of data sharing

since human-to-human messages
are conventionally
prose documents (not database dumps)
yet often contain
the identical text-strings
we'd want in the databases
(calendar events, book citations)

the possibility was mooted
of embedding tags
within ordinary prose formatted as xml
so that comparably automatic merging
of these prose substrings
into the relevant databases
might be possible

in effect
document authors would now be addressing
not just humans
but also their machines
and tags would be added
(and phrasings tweaked)
so the machines could understand too

(if AI were far enough advanced
this would be unnecessary
because the machines could equally understand
the raw, untagged prose)

no some prose substrings
like titles and subheadings
will have characteristic formatting
(larger/smaller, bold, italic)
chosen by the author

and the designers of xml
(and before xml, goldfarb's 1969-1986 sgml)
suggested that every such formatting change
should be signalled with an xml tag
even if their likelihood
of ever being useful in data exchange
was doubtful
(simple italics, paragraph breaks)

somehow, horribly
was elevated to the status of revelation
(call it goldfarb's conjecture)

and the insupportable additional claim was made
that 'cleansing' documents
of all formatting markup
and replacing it with 'structural' tags
would be a significant advance
towards an entirely different goal:
creating a single master file
that can be efficiently viewed
on any random device
(big monitor, small monitor,
printer, speech-synthesizer)

with the reductio-ad-absurdam
that 'EM' and 'STRONG'
were better than 'I' or 'B'
(for italic and bold)
because speech synthesizers would find
'I' more baffling than 'EM'

and taken now to the absurder extreme
that before
can render an xml document
it has to refer to a
custom-built stylesheet
that translates the xml tags
back into comprehensible styling instructions

thus making more work
both for the machine
and for the author

if the goal is device-independence
what's needed instead
is a vast shared 'namespace'
of document structures
each with a pre-agreed default rendering
on every class of device

that authors can override
(if the care to be bothered)
but that default to

these structures to include
plain old styles like italic
for unregenerate reactionaries (like me)

and the fascinating web-page structures
xmlers have never gotten around to

but the ideal of mixing these
'style structures'
with semantic tags
seems unpromising to me

(if you mention the same person
ten times in an article
do you embed that person's metadata
ten separate times?)

i'd rather see
machine-readable footnotes
than monstrous human-machine hybrids

xml was never a good fit for documents