Illum

Une nouvelle excuse pour vendre un rein ou un enfant : déjà que le Lytro m’avait bien fait fantasmer, voici la version pro avec des spécifications qui font rêver mais surtout un changement radical sur comment construire une image, comment lui donner un sens, raconter une histoire.

A few tweaks here and there and this black brick will be Lytro’s Illum, a brand-new $1,599 camera designed to show professional photographers, and the world, the power of light-field photography. It’s the company’s second camera, the follow-up to its eponymous point-and-shoot that could refocus a photo after it was shot. The Illum does that better, and takes much better and more versatile pictures in general. But for Lytro, the real plan is only beginning to unfold. The company’s job, its mission, is to fundamentally change the way we think about images. To not just provide better, faster cameras that take beautiful pictures, but to reimagine what a picture is in the first place. That part hasn’t changed since the dawn of photography nearly two centuries ago, and Lytro believes it holds the keys to the next phase.

Lytro changed photography. Now can it get anyone to care? | The Verge.

Acheter sans jouer

J’ai une explication : la paternité

I am not ashamed to admit that I have taken advantage of Steam sales and Humble Bundles to amass a library of roughly 150 games for a fraction of the retail price. I am, however, ashamed to admit that I’ve only actually played about one-third of them…>

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Marre du Monopoly?

Voici les 10 meilleurs jeux anti capitalistes.
Second degré et poil à gratter inside.

Image: Molleindustria

Become a revolutionary in the comfort of your own home simply by playing video games. That’s the call to arms from independent Italian video game developer La Molleindustria (‘the soft industry’). Since 2003, Molleindustria has been creating web-based games that critique and satirize the worst tendencies of capitalism. Some of their most interesting offerings include Trademarkville, a game that frustrates the user by asking them to endlessly rename simple objects as more words become trademarked and banned, Phone Story, which puts players in the shoes of exploited Foxconn factory workers, and Unmanned, which invites the player to simulate the everyday life of a US drone pilot.

The games that Molleindustria creates all seem just a little perverse. Some of them are designed to be impossible to win, and force the player to make questionable ethical choices. The McDonald’s Video Game, for instance, allows players to visit every site of McDonald’s production and supply chains, from the slaughterhouses to the front lines of McDonald’s stores, administering the system all the way. Then there are their more bizarre offerings like Queer Power, which allows players to fuck instead of fight as their anatomies and gender identities continually morph, all within a classic Street Fighter setup.

Despite developing video games, however, Molleindustria is not a video game company. Instead, as their 2003 Molleindustria Manifesto states, “Molleindustria is theory and practice of soft conflict—sneaky, viral, guerrillero, subliminal conflict, through and within video games.” To Molleindustria, video games are a tactical tool in the struggle against capital. Their explicit goal with infusing video games with serious and often dark themes is to mount “a call for the radicalization popular culture.”

The mind is a battleground, according to the Manifesto, and one that is constantly “contended by services and commodities.” Their games provide a break from the constant barrage of promotionalism in pop culture.

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Les chaussettes seront sèches 30% plus vite.

C’est pas le tout de réchauffer le climat : l’évaporation de l’eau de toute la planète va être plus importante que prévue.
Une broutille : 30% de l’eau disponible

Drought at Lake Hume. Image: Flickr

Sure, scientists expect the changing climate to bring on more drought. There’s going to be less rainfall in already arid regions, that’s fairly certain. And that alone would be bad news for denizens of the planet’s dry zones—in some places in North Africa, the American Southwest, India, and the Middle East, water shortages could well become an existential threat to civilization. But new research shows that evaporation may be more of a problem than previously thought: Climate change could dry out up to a third of the planet. 

The study, published in the journal Climate Dynamics last month, estimates that climate change will cause reduced rainfall alone to dessicate 12 percent of the Earth’s land by 2100. But if evaporation is factored in, the study’s authors say that it will "increase the percentage of global land area projected to experience at least moderate drying by the end of the 21st century from 12 to 30 percent."

“We know from basic physics that warmer temperatures will help to dry things out,” the study’s lead author, Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist with Columbia University and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in a statement. “Even if precipitation changes in the future are uncertain, there are good reasons to be concerned about water resources.”

Writing in a 2011 literature review in the science journal Nature, the physicist Joe Romm elaborates on how increased heat and evaporation can lead to a vicious cycle: "Precipitation patterns are expected to shift, expanding the dry subtropics. What precipitation there is will probably come in extreme deluges, resulting in runoff rather than drought alleviation. Warming causes greater evaporation and, once the ground is dry, the Sun’s energy goes into baking the soil, leading to a further increase in air temperature."

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Touché coulé

La civilisation les touche puis les tue.

Terena people in Brazil. Image: Wikimedia Commons

It’s a story we all know—Christopher Columbus discovers America, his European buddies follow him, they meet the indigenous people living there, they indigenous people die from smallpox and guns and other unknown diseases, and the Europeans get gold, land, and so on.

It’s still happening today in Brazil, where 238 indigenous tribes have been contacted in the last several decades, and where between 23 and 70 uncontacted tribes are still living. A just-published report that takes a look at what happens after the modern world comes into contact with indigenous peoples isn’t pretty: Of those contacted, three quarters went extinct. Those that survived saw mortality rates up over 80 percent. This is grim stuff.

Image: Scientific Reports

“Our analysis dramatically quantifies the devastating effects of European colonization on indigenous Amazonians. Not only did ~75 percent of indigenous societies in the Brazilian Amazon become extinct, but of the survivors, all show evidence of catastrophic population declines, the vast majority with mortality rates over 80 percent,” writes Marcus Hamilton of the University of New Mexico in a paper published in Scientific Reports. 

Those numbers shouldn’t be surprising—like I said, this isn’t much different from what has happened time and time again to the Native Americans, to the Incas, to the Mayans, and to hundreds of other small tribes throughout North and South America.

Sure, people don’t go in and kill entire tribes directly, they offer indigenous people the chance to assimilate into modern culture. But, as Hamilton notes, the trappings of modern society—access to better healthcare, technology, and education—haven’t improved tribes’ overall outcomes.

“We tested to see whether absolute year of contact (a proxy of the technological evolution of medicines), and other proxies of access to medicine including distance to major roads and distance to closest town had substantial effects on post-crash population growth rates. None of the effects were significant and so are not reported here,” Hamilton wrote.

It’s important that someone qualitatively took a look at the effect—it’s one thing to say “modern civilization killed the indigenous people,” another to have the cold, hard facts to back it up. 

But Hamilton also highlights the good news, which I’d argue is a little bit misguided. He notes that, after the initial “crash,” indigenous populations are often able to recover, and some of the communities have some of the highest growth rates in the world. I’m not calling Hamilton out here—if that’s what the data shows, it’s what it shows. And it’s better that the population "rebounds" rather than dies out completely. But that doesn’t excuse the crash in the first place.

I don’t know that we should be talking about these people’s deaths and their communities’ subsequent recovery as if we’re looking at our stock portfolio. Hamilton notes that “despite the catastrophic mortality of indigenous Amazonians over the 500+ year contact period, the surviving populations are remarkably resilient and remain demographically viable.”

That’s probably what’s running through these people’s minds when they watch their loved ones die: The demographic viability of their community as a whole, as if their imminent “recovery” isn’t one that’s plagued with a forced change in lifestyle, a loss of culture, the utter destruction and pollution of the land that they’ve lived in for lord knows how many years. Their numbers might recover in some cases, but what about what they lost in the process?

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Lentement et à l’envers

TOKYO REVERSE from Simon Bouisson on Vimeo.

Ready for Wut? Ready for war

L’arbre cache la forêt (radioactive)

Les arbres de la région de Tchernobyl ne se décompose pas. Ajoutez un temps sec, une allumette et on repart comme en 86

Image: Henri Sivonen

As if the Ukraine didn’t have enough to worry about these days with Russia invading Crimea, recent scientific research points to the very real threat of a nuclear forest fire. Great heavy metal band name aside, the forests around Chernobyl—the nuclear power plant that exploded 28 years ago—are not decaying properly and should it all catch fire, radioactive material would spread beyond Chernobyl’s Zone of Alienation, the off-limits 1000 square-miles around the decommissioned facility located 68 miles north of Kiev.

This Zone of Alienation has given environmental scientists much to study, with insects choosing to not live there and the birds that do live there developing abnormalities like deformed beaks, odd tail feather lengths, and smaller brains. The trees too, have been shady.  

Image: Inside Pripyat, one of Chernobyl’s evacuated cities/Eero Nevaluoto

Scientists who have been studying the environment inside the Zone of Alienation since 1991 noticed something about these trees, specifically what they described as “a significant accumulation of litter over time” in a study published recently in Oecologia. And by “significant,” they mean the trees are not decomposing and their leaves are just sitting there on the ground, not decomposing either. This is especially so in the Red Forest, an area of woodland around Chernobyl named thusly because the trees turned a ginger color and died due to the worst radiation poisoning in the area. In an interview with Smithsonian magazine, lead author of the study and biologist at the University of South Carolina Timothy Mousseau called all this non-decayed organic matter “striking, given that in the forests where I live, a fallen tree is mostly sawdust after a decade of lying on the ground.”

The reason for this lack of decay around Chernobyl is that microbes, bacteria, fungi, worms, insects, and other living organisms known as decomposers (because they feed on dead organisms) are just not there and not doing their jobs. Mousseau and his team discovered this after leaving 600 bags of leaves around Chernobyl in 2007. When they collected the bags in 2008, they found that the bags filled with leaves placed in areas with no radiation had decomposed by 70 to 90 percent, but the leaves in areas with radiation? They only decomposed about 40 percent. “There is growing concern that there could be a catastrophic fire in the coming years,” Mousseau told Smithsonian.

Besides getting rid of what is basically tinder for wildfires, decomposers are essential when it comes to plant growth because they put nutrients back into the soil, and back into the environment generally. The lack of decomposers could also explain why the trees that are alive around Chernobyl are growing very slowly. These Chernobyl trees cover about 660 square miles of the Zone of Alienation and have been absorbing radionuclides like strontium 90 (causes bone cancer) and cesium 137 (effects range from nausea to death) for almost three decades. If these trees are burned, these radionuclides would be released into the atmosphere as “as inhalable aerosols” reported Scientific American last year, citing a 2011 study. Besides inhaling cancer-causing particles in the air traveling hundreds of miles away, the biggest threat would be to food like milk and meat “produced as far as 90 miles from the fire.”

In fact, the threat of a Zone of Alienation wildfire spewing radioactive particles has been a concern among environmental scientists since 1992. The threat has only gotten worse due to the longer, drier summers attributed to climate change.  

There are firefighters stationed around the Zone of Alienation specifically for preventing a forest fire inside, but they’re “obviously not prepared for a major wildfire situation” says SA, with hardly any “professional training, protective suits or breathing apparatuses.” Firefighters currently scout for fires by climbing six watch towers a day, along with the help of one helicopter that is “occasionally available.” They do have a Soviet tank that has been retrofitted with a 20-foot-blade though, to chop down and crush the dead trees that refuse to decay currently littering the roadways. 

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Lammily : la Barbie aux mensurations normales bientôt sur le marché

L’année dernière, Nickolay Lamm avait montré à quoi ressemblerait une Barbie si elle était dotée de mensurations humaines réalistes. Afin de pouvoir commercialiser sa poupée basée sur le prototype en 3D, il a lancé une campagne appelée “Average is Beautiful” (“Dans la moyenne, c’est beau”) sur KickStarter. Alors qu’il reste quelques jours à la campagne, le […]

The post Lammily : la Barbie aux mensurations normales bientôt sur le marché appeared first on Konbini.

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Math et révolutions

Je savais que j’aurais dû plus bosser les maths à l’école : je verrais plus loin. Prévoir la meteo ou la bourse pourquoi pas, mais prévoir les révolutions, ça a plus de gueule

Aftermath of Ukraine’s uprising. Image: Sasha Maksymenko/Flickr

It’s happening in Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand, Bosnia, Syria, and beyond. Revolutions, unrest, and riots are sweeping the globe. The near-simultaneous eruption of violent protest can seem random and chaotic; inevitable symptoms of an unstable world. But there’s at least one common thread between the disparate nations, cultures, and people in conflict, one element that has demonstrably proven to make these uprisings more likely: high global food prices. 

Just over a year ago, complex systems theorists at the New England Complex Systems Institute warned us that if food prices continued to climb, so too would the likelihood that there would be riots across the globe. Sure enough, we’re seeing them now. The paper’s author, Yaneer Bar-Yam, charted the rise in the FAO food price index—a measure the UN uses to map the cost of food over time—and found that whenever it rose above 210, riots broke out worldwide. It happened in 2008 after the economic collapse, and again in 2011, when a Tunisian street vendor who could no longer feed his family set himself on fire in protest. 

Bar-Yam built a model with the data, which then predicted that something like the Arab Spring would ensue just weeks before it did. Four days before Mohammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation helped ignite the revolution that would spread across the region, NECSI submitted a government report that highlighted the risk that rising food prices posed to global stability. Now, the model has once again proven prescient—2013 saw the third-highest food prices on record, and that’s when the seeds for the conflicts across the world were sewn.

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Here’s the list of the countries Bar-Yam has cited as suffering from unrest related to the rise in the cost of eating:

  • South Africa
  • Haiti
  • Argentina
  • Egypt
  • Tunisia
  • Brazil
  • Turkey
  • Colombia
  • Libya
  • Sweden (yes, Sweden
  • India
  • China
  • Bulgaria
  • Chile
  • Syria
  • Thailand
  • Bangladesh
  • Bahrain
  • Ukraine
  • Venezuela
  • Bosnia

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Cyberfleurs

L’Internet des objets, c’est ringard. Voici l’Internet des plantes.

The internet of things. Cybernetics. The quantified self. Brain-computer interfaces. We’re wiring more and more of the physical world and the human body. But should we really extend the technification of the 21st century to the Earth’s vegetation?

For better or worse, it’s happening. Italian researchers are building a network of connected "cyborg" plants (plantborgs? cyplants? cyberflora?) to use as organic biosensors. The plants are embedded with a tiny electronic device to monitor things like pollution levels, overuse of chemicals, temperature, parasites, acid rain, and communicate the data through a wireless network back to the lab.

The project is called PLEASED, for PLants Employed As SEnsing Devices. It’s slated to finish in May, and lead researcher Andrea Vitaletti, a computer engineer at W-LAB of the University of Rome, spoke to the EU media group youris.com about the process last week. (Hat tip to Wired for digging it up.)

Uber hypster music

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Forgotify | Short Sonata second part by Michael Boriskin

Forgotify | Short Sonata second part by Michael Boriskin.