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Short Film Clip of a Snowball Fight from 1897

Wednesday 14th October 2020

This is a short clip from 1897 of a snowball fight filmed by cinema pioneers the Lumière brothers in Lyon, France. This lovely little film has resurfaced recently after a retouched, motion-stabilized, upsampled, and colorized version was posted to Twitter. This doctored version was created using AI-powered software DeOldify. The colorized video does look strikingly modern, but it feels overclocked, overheated. I prefer the original version without all of the guesswork; as I wrote recently, I’ve grow weary of these AI-mediated films.

Tags: Lumiere brothers   video
Categories: Bloggers

Wild World: a Hand-Drawn Geographic Map of the Earth

Wednesday 14th October 2020

You may remember Anton Thomas from the huge hand-drawn map of North America that took him about 5 years to finish. His next effort, already well underway, is Wild World, a geographic map of the Earth.

Commenced in mid-2020, this is a brand new map of the world. Rather than the endless skylines and cultural features of North America: Portrait of a Continent, I wanted the wild character of Earth to shine.

While you won’t find cities or borders on this map, you will find geographic labels. This is important. From mountain ranges to deserts, rivers to rainforests, the labels here offer a detailed, accurate outline of Earth’s natural geography.

He’s aiming to complete the map by mid-2021.

Tags: Anton Thomas   art   Earth   geography   maps
Categories: Bloggers

“Your Civilisation Is Killing Life on Earth”

Tuesday 13th October 2020

Nemonte Nenquimo, leader of the Waorani people in Ecuador: This is my message to the western world — your civilisation is killing life on Earth.

My name is Nemonte Nenquimo. I am a Waorani woman, a mother, and a leader of my people. The Amazon rainforest is my home. I am writing you this letter because the fires are raging still. Because the corporations are spilling oil in our rivers. Because the miners are stealing gold (as they have been for 500 years), and leaving behind open pits and toxins. Because the land grabbers are cutting down primary forest so that the cattle can graze, plantations can be grown and the white man can eat. Because our elders are dying from coronavirus, while you are planning your next moves to cut up our lands to stimulate an economy that has never benefited us. Because, as Indigenous peoples, we are fighting to protect what we love — our way of life, our rivers, the animals, our forests, life on Earth — and it’s time that you listened to us.

This is a great letter because it contains the force of truth. Nenquimo is a cofounder of the Ceibo Alliance, an indigenous-led organization working to defend indigenous territory and develop “viable solutions-based alternatives to rainforest destruction”, and was honored as one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2020 (Leonardo DiCaprio penned her bio).

Tags: global warming   Nemonte Nenquimo   video
Categories: Bloggers

Vaccines May Help End the Pandemic. But Realistically, It’s Not Even Halftime Yet.

Tuesday 13th October 2020

We’re all so goddamned tired of this fucking pandemic and so people are looking at the development and distribution of a vaccine as the thing that’s going to get us out of this (and quick). But realistically, that’s not what’s going to happen. Carl Zimmer wrote about some of the challenges with Covid-19 vaccines.

The first vaccines may provide only moderate protection, low enough to make it prudent to keep wearing a mask. By next spring or summer, there may be several of these so-so vaccines, without a clear sense of how to choose from among them. Because of this array of options, makers of a superior vaccine in early stages of development may struggle to finish clinical testing. And some vaccines may be abruptly withdrawn from the market because they turn out not to be safe.

“It has not yet dawned on hardly anybody the amount of complexity and chaos and confusion that will happen in a few short months,” said Dr. Gregory Poland, the director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic.

See also Dr. Fauci’s belief that our best case scenario for returning to something close to normal life in the US is late 2021.

On Twitter, Zimmer also commented on something that I hadn’t really thought about: that all of these vaccines in development in the US are only for adults:

I wrote last month that no trials for kids had started. Update: still no US trials for kids. The goal of having shots ready for them by fall 2021 may be slipping further away.

From Zimmer’s article on the development of a kids’ vaccine:

Only if researchers discovered no serious side effects would they start testing them in children, often beginning with teenagers, then working their way down to younger ages. Vaccine developers are keenly aware that children are not simply miniature adults. Their biology is different in ways that may affect the way vaccines work. Because their airways are smaller, for example, they can be vulnerable to low levels of inflammation that might be harmless to an adult.

These trials allow vaccine developers to adjust the dose to achieve the best immune protection with the lowest risk of side effects. The doses that adults and children need are sometimes different — children get smaller doses of hepatitis B vaccines, for example, but bigger doses for pertussis.

You probably hate reading these kinds of articles; I know I do. But facing up to the reality of our situation, particularly here in the US where our political leadership has utterly failed in protecting us from this virus, is much better than burying our heads in the sand — that’s just not mentally healthy.

Tags: Carl Zimmer   COVID-19   medicine   science   USA   vaccines
Categories: Bloggers

Winning Images from the 2020 Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition

Tuesday 13th October 2020

Nikon has announced the winners of its Small World Photomicrography competition for 2020. From top to bottom above, the development of a clownfish embryo by Daniel Knop, crystals by Justin Zoll, and a bogong moth by Ahmad Fauzan. You can check out the competition winners from past years, all the way back to 1975. (via @dnabeck)

Tags: best of   best of 2020   photography
Categories: Bloggers

Jackson Bird’s Transition Timeline

Tuesday 13th October 2020

Jackson Bird, who kottke.org readers may know as the host of Kottke Ride Home, recently made a video showing his lifelong transition from the assignment he was given at birth to “the man I am today”.

Instead of photos, I used thirty years worth of home videos to share my story. I called this my Five Years On Testosterone video, but it could more accurately be called Thirty Years In Transition. This is three decades worth of what it looks like to be a transgender person. From childhood tomboy days to confusion and questioning to denial and finally coming out, starting hormones, changing my name, getting top surgery, and all of the moments in between. Not all of our stories are the same, far from it, but this is one story — my story. The story of how I became the man I am today.

What a great video and fantastic storytelling. Undertaking a journey in public like this cannot be easy; thanks for sharing this with us, Jackson. If you’d like to know more about his story, check out his memoir: Sorted: Growing Up, Coming Out, and Finding My Place.

Tags: crying at work   Jackson Bird   LGBT   video
Categories: Bloggers

Darren Aronofsky & His Cast Reunite for the 20th Anniversary of Requiem for a Dream

Monday 12th October 2020

To mark the 20th anniversary of the debut of Requiem for a Dream, MoMA organized a virtual reunion of director Darren Aronofsky and the four principle cast members (Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, and Marlon Wayans) to talk about “the film and its impact on cinema and culture”. Would have loved to hear from cinematographer Matthew Libatique and Clint Mansell (who did the fantastic music for the film) as well, but even six-person online panels are a little unwieldy. (via open culture)

Tags: Darren Aronofsky   movies   Requiem for a Dream   video
Categories: Bloggers

A Scientific Portrait of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus

Monday 12th October 2020

This is a great piece from Carl Zimmer about how much scientists have learned about SARS-CoV-2 through imaging, including how the virus works and prospects for treatment and a vaccine.

Thanks to the work of scientists like Dr. Li, the new coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2, is no longer a cipher. They have come to know it in intimate, atomic detail. They’ve discovered how it uses some of its proteins to slip into cells and how its intimately twisted genes commandeer our biochemistry. They’ve observed how some viral proteins throw wrenches into our cellular factories, while others build nurseries for making new viruses. And some researchers are using supercomputers to create complete, virtual viruses that they hope to use to understand how the real viruses have spread with such devastating ease.

I’ve been watching the lectures for MIT’s online Covid-19 class and the thing that has struck me most is just how much scientists have learned about the SARS-CoV-2 virus in such a short amount of time. To be clear, there are many things that they still do not understand about it (and viruses in general), but scientists know this thing upside down and backwards. The depth and breadth of their knowledge is so impressive and I wish more people were aware of it.

Tags: Carl Zimmer   COVID-19   medicine   science
Categories: Bloggers

Winter Is Coming. Is It Safe to Socialize Indoors?

Monday 12th October 2020

In an article that The Atlantic classifies as “politics” rather than “science” or “medicine”, Olga Khazan explores why, more than 8 months into the pandemic, Americans still have little idea about the safety of gathering with others indoors.

For months now, Americans have been told that if we want to socialize, the safest way to do it is outdoors, the better to disperse the droplets that spew from our mouths whenever we do anything but silently purchase grapefruit. But in many parts of the country, this is the last month that the weather will allow people to spend more than a few minutes outside comfortably. And next month, America will celebrate a holiday that is marked by being inside together and eating while talking loudly to old people.

In a nutshell, the lack of federal support/guidance/action is the main reason why people are still so confused about what safety measures to take to reduce their Covid risk:

Still, Ranney says, this [Covid risk] app is the kind of thing the federal government really should have developed by now. It’s odd that in a wealthy, industrialized country, a random researcher is the one designing a tool to keep citizens safe from public-health threats, using data she scraped from a newspaper.

One thing that Khazan doesn’t really get into is the whole aerosols thing, which in my mind is something that most people are still not familiar with, many local & state governments are not taking into account w/r/t recommended safety measures, and requires different risk guidance about the safety of the indoors than if we were just dealing with fomites & droplets. Again, from the excellent Time magazine piece by aerosol chemist Jose-Luis Jimenez:

When it comes to COVID-19, the evidence overwhelmingly supports aerosol transmission, and there are no strong arguments against it. For example, contact tracing has found that much COVID-19 transmission occurs in close proximity, but that many people who share the same home with an infected person do not get the disease. To understand why, it is useful to use cigarette or vaping smoke (which is also an aerosol) as an analog. Imagine sharing a home with a smoker: if you stood close to the smoker while talking, you would inhale a great deal of smoke. Replace the smoke with virus-containing aerosols, which behave very similarly, and the impact is similar: the closer you are to someone releasing virus-carrying aerosols, the more likely you are to breathe in larger amounts of virus. We know from detailed, rigorous studies that when individuals talk in close proximity, aerosols dominate transmission and droplets are nearly negligible.

If you are standing on the other side of the room, you would inhale significantly less smoke. But in a poorly ventilated room, the smoke will accumulate, and people in the room may end up inhaling a lot of smoke over time. Talking, and especially singing and shouting increase aerosol exhalation by factors of 10 and 50, respectively. Indeed, we are finding that outbreaks often occur when people gather in crowded, insufficiently ventilated indoor spaces, such as singing at karaoke parties, cheering at clubs, having conversations in bars, and exercising in gyms. Superspreading events, where one person infects many, occur almost exclusively in indoor locations and are driving the pandemic. These observations are easily explained by aerosols, and are very difficult or impossible to explain by droplets or fomites.

The science is there — it’s the lack of connection between scientists, public health experts & officials, and the government that continues to be a problem.

Tags: COVID-19   Jose-Luis Jimenez   Olga Khazan   politics   science
Categories: Bloggers

Podcast Recommendation: You’re Wrong About

Monday 12th October 2020

My favorite podcast right now is You’re Wrong About, hosted by journalists Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes. So I was pleased to see Rachel Syme’s profile of the show in the New Yorker this morning.

Marshall and Hobbes are endlessly curious about their own blind spots, which they hunt down like truffle pigs set loose in a damp forest. Each brings a unique view and tone to the show; Marshall is more world-weary and sardonic, with a gravelly voice that sounds not unlike the caustic cartoon character Daria Morgendorffer. Hobbes is excitable and buzzing, often so eager to rattle off information that he speaks in full paragraphs. Together, they make up a kind of millennial Statler and Waldorf, heckling the shoddy journalism of the past. But even their response to the media is one of amusement, or droll resignation-they stay far away from the outrage that has become the pattern of public life. (Indignation would imply certainty, and certainty would cut against the core of their project.) In one episode, the hosts discuss the Y2K-bug scare, in which people feared that the year 2000 would cause computer systems — and society at large — to crash. Hobbes tells Marshall that people often use the subject as a bludgeon. “When we’re talking about climate change, people will bring up, like, Oh, we were worried about Y2K, too, and that turned out to be a hoax,” he says. “And somebody else will respond to that by saying, No, Y2K is an example of us coming together and fixing a problem.” After he’s done, Marshall playfully clears her throat. Then she says, “And, since we have now had two years of doing this show, I am able to extrapolate that perhaps the answer is no one is right.”

If you haven’t listened to the show before and your interest is piqued after reading that, I’ll give you some of my favorite episodes:

  • Their still-ongoing series about The OJ Simpson Trial is simply fantastic. My only criticism of the excellent OJ: Made in America documentary was that they didn’t spend enough time on violence against women and You’re Wrong About is very persuasive in arguing that it was a central issue in this case.
  • The four-part DC Snipers series is just as good as the OJ series. At the time, this was painted as radical Islamic terrorism but the actual motivations of the killers had much more to do with toxic masculinity than religion.
  • Why Didn’t Anyone Go to Prison for the Financial Crisis? This episode is noteworthy in that they don’t actually talk that much about the circumstances of the 2008 financial crisis, but after listening you totally know the answer to the title’s question. I could have listened to an expanded 2-3 part series of this one.
  • More recently, the two-part Tuskegee Syphilis Study is worth a listen.

But I’ve only been listening to the show for a little over a year and haven’t gone back into the archive that much. Other episodes that have gotten a lot of love from fans include Tonya Harding, Kitty Genovese, and Terri Schiavo. So much more to explore!

Tags: Michael Hobbes   podcasts   Rachel Syme   Sarah Marshall   You’re Wrong About
Categories: Bloggers

Bicycle Ballet

Friday 09th October 2020

Watch as artistic cyclist Viola Brand does all sorts of seemingly impossible bike tricks that look like ballet, all while dodging a massive chandelier inside an ornate European castle.

See also bicycle acrobat Lilly Yokoi performing some similar tricks back in 1965.

Tags: biking   sports   video   Viola Brand
Categories: Bloggers

The Spell Checkers Agenda

Friday 09th October 2020

The piece above is part of a series called Pluralism by artist Deborah Roberts — it’s a collage of dozens of Black names marked as misspelled by Microsoft Word’s built-in spell checker. I don’t know about you, but this makes me think about the neutrality of technology, how software is built, who builds it, and for whom it is designed.

I found this via Seeing Black Futures by Jenna Wortham and Kimberly Drew, which is adapted from their forthcoming book, Black Futures. You can check out more of Roberts’ work on her website or on Instagram.

Tags: art   Deborah Roberts   Jenna Wortham   Kimberly Drew   racism
Categories: Bloggers

Edward Tufte’s New Book: Seeing with Fresh Eyes

Friday 09th October 2020

Data visualization pioneer Edward Tufte has published four books on the art and science of displaying information, including the seminal The Visual Display of Quantitative Information in 1983. To that set, he now adds a fifth book: Seeing with Fresh Eyes: Meaning, Space, Data, Truth. I couldn’t find a description of the book, but the website lists the table of contents and shows a few of the page layouts.

His previous four books are some of my favorites about design. You can only order Seeing with Fresh Eyes direct from his site, which says the book is shipping in mid-October. (thx, dewayne)

Tags: books   design   Edward Tufte   infoviz   Seeing with Fresh Eyes
Categories: Bloggers

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