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Recently, I enjoyed the opportunity to solve and implement a simple web interface problem. The result would not be considered profound or unique by Internet professionals, but nonetheless, it certainly is a powerful application of basic web technologies that allow the seamless flow of information making each of our lives richer and more efficient. Most importantly, I started from scratch and figured out how to do it.
Now, I will emphasize, once again, that this project was not revolutionary or particularly complex. However, for my personal skills it was an exciting project to learn techniques and scripting technologies that I have not yet had the opportunity to experiment with before. So, for me, it was new. It was interesting.
The development process did not follow a simple trajectory from starting point A to ending point B. Rather, it was a swirling mess of discovery, error-checking, problem solving, more discovery, more problem solving, and even more problem solving. I fell deep into a pool of experimentation and testing without a clear map of what route to follow. I did not know for certain that I would be able to solve the problem within a reasonable time frame or without a more experienced coder handing me the solution. So, my personal morale sank a bit, yet, I tried to stay focused and dedicated to solving the problem on my own.
Then, in a near sudden moment of clarity or luck — or something — my head reached above the surface of the pool and I discovered the one particular bit of code that would solve the problem. It was a rather satisfying moment.
This rather sloppy process which I experienced is not uncommon in the community of research scientists, both professional and amateur, although not necessarily frequently admitted nor acknowledged. It is a process that can be quite debilitating to many, with constant discouragement and setbacks that might cause one to question their own worthiness to be employed in a scientific field. However, it might be this unnerving and irrational path toward discovery that is the very essence of what is required to stumble upon something new in Nature. Recently, Uri Alon of the Weizmann Institute of Science presented an inspiring talk for TED that links the realization of new ideas to the stumbling through a messy path of discovery that he terms “the cloud.”
While one is fumbling around inside this “cloud” of research, the key element is to remain positive and creative. Prof. Alon takes his own experiences from improvisational theatre and music and connects performance tools from these creative arts directly to the creative processes that occurs inside the research cloud. As Dynamic Patterns Research is a proponent of and an active participant in the mixing of science research, education and outreach with the creative arts, the Alon approach of creative cloud scientific research is quite inspiring to our own interests. Even with the simple coding project of creating the Airport Status interface, this experience was a creative opportunity. Here, the developing of the underlying code resulted in a presentation of interactive art: a creative process that other people can play with and respond.
Taking a random walk through any creative process, from science research, code development, performance art to the written word or the integration of all of these expressions — and having the confidence to do so — should not be a scary or disappointing approach to progress, but one that is embraced, encouraged, and even required for discovery.
Through a global grass-roots effort that started in 2012, March 1 is becoming an international holiday event known as Future Day. This is a special day where the world does not focus on the events of the past or individual people — as is the case with all other holidays — but one that celebrates the future and all of the wonders that it holds. The goal of Future Day is to bring people together around the world to direct their energy and thoughts toward creating a radically better future.
The Future Day Mission:
To bias the odds of a beneficial future for everyone.
The Future Day Philosophy:
A future is something we all have, lets work towards making it better.
The Future Day Personal Benefit:
Networks of people with similar interests about the future.
“Future Day is designed to center the impossible in the public mind once a year as a temptation too delicious to resist.” — Howard Bloom via FutureDay.org
John Smart is a futurist and scholar of accelerating change, and is the founder and president of the Acceleration Studies Foundation. This organization does “outreach, education, research, and advocacy with respect to issues of accelerating change.” Listen to his interview with Adam Ford of FutureDay.org for his thoughts on the Future Day holiday and several great recommendations for new traditions and rituals to begin:
Events around the planet included a Google Hangout with Sydney, Australia Futurists, a conference of speakers in Melbourne, Australia, gatherings in Edmonton, Canada, a luncheon in Utah, USA of the Mormon Transhumanist Association with casual conversation about a future of radical flourishing in compassion and creation through technology and religion, a celebration at the BIL Conference in San Francisco, USA, a 24-hour discussion about the future hosted online by the The Millennium Project, the International Future Day Conference in India from the India Future Society, and more gatherings in Hong Kong, Columbia, Paris, Seattle, Stockholm Sweden, and a pizza and beer gathering in São Paulo, Brazil.
Dynamic Patterns Research hosted a small gathering of friends for a dinner party to celebrate Future Day in Central Illinois. We met to socialize and enjoy our network of friends, and also discussed our personal thoughts on what we envision the future might bring. A few questions that we brainstormed included ‘What do you think will be different in 2050 than it is now?’, ‘What will stay the same?’, ‘What would you like to be different?’ and ‘What would you like to stay the same?’
In particular, we introduced the idea of the Singularity and what sort of exciting and scary results this event might reveal. We also brainstormed on a variety of advancements, including cataract injections using nanobots, as suggested by our member ophthalmologist. We also considered what might be one of the most important ideas we’ve heard of in all our reading and following of literature about the future, which was an answer to the final question of ‘what would you like to stay the same?’…
After discussing how the notion of family might change in the future, we also expressed our hope that the relationships and sense of love and meaning that human beings experience through our family and our interpersonal experiences will not change in the future, even if the Singularity or other technological revolutions become reality.
“On Future Day we celebrate all the great things to come. It is a day to rejoice over all the thrilling discoveries yet to be made, all the beauty yet to be found and to reflect on the full extent of Humanity’s unlimited potential.” — Rod Furlan, Singularity University via FutureDay.org
To learn more about this new global holiday, visit FutureDay.org, and be sure to mark your calendars to celebrate the next Future Day with your friends, colleagues, and family on March 1, 2015!
Neuron News from DPR has highlighted some interesting activity from DARPA in the past (read more) with its involvement in neurological research and technology developments. With the “Grand Challenge” introduced in April 2013 by the Obama administration called the BRAIN Initiative (“Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies”), we clearly noticed that half of the dedicated $100 million in funds were to be delegated to future work out of DARPA. Now, months later, the military research branch has finally released two open calls for grant applications to spread around some of these monies to more organizations.
The first program call is for a project called SUBNETS (“Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies”), which is searching for new technologies that will allow near real-time quantitative measurements of brain activity to then control implanted neural stimulation devices. Out of context, this might sound like an attempt at developing controllable cyborgs, but the focus of this specific proposal is to create a health care advancement that will support the recovery and repair of U.S. service members who have experienced neurological injuries and neuropsychological illness from war-time activities. According to the proposal, ten percent of veterans today are receiving mental health care or substance abuse counseling from the VA. With implantable devices controlled by real-time recording and analysis as proposed by SUBNETS, neuropsychiatry will take a major leap beyond lying on the couch and talking it out with a trained professional with a notepad.
The second call from DARPA is called RAM (“Restoring Active Memory”) and continues in the vein of supporting veterans with brain injuries. Here, the goal is to develop innovative neurotechnologies that utilize an understanding of the neural encoding of memories — something that is not yet even remotely understood — to recover memory after brain injury. The anticipation is to have an implantable device that clicks on to recover the lost memories.
RAM seems to carry a rather far-reaching goal that could only be successful with a complete understanding of the structural and functional neural correlations of a human being’s memory. The added difficulty is that if it is assumed that memories are directly encoded in the specific architecture of neuron connections and the resulting functional relationships, then a traumatic brain injury could be defined as an event that directly destroys these connections. So to recover lost memories, one might expect that a digital “brain dump” would be necessary to be stored (securely in the cloud?) before a soldier heads off to battle.
With both the SUBNETS and RAM programs, exciting new technologies and advancements might be possible. However, in the descriptions above there are a plethora of ethical, security, and privacy issues left unmentioned only for the reader to speculate upon. To address these sorts of issues that always exist on the leading edge of technological developments, DARPA has also established an Ethical, Legal and Social Implications Panel composed of academics, medical ethicists, clinicians and researchers to advise and guide the new programs as well as provide some form of independent oversight during their progress.
One of the primary efforts at Dynamic Patterns Research is bringing to our readers interesting information and articles related to citizen science and amateur research through our DPR Journal as well as the latest in neurotechnology with Neuron News. These journals are considered to be news and original commentary logs, but are largely based on the curation of content from other sources.
Direct attribution is always provided in articles published by DPR either via direct linking to an article or by other descriptive hyperlink reference to an individual, organization, or program. Formal attribution systems for literary and scientific works in publications already exist, but there has been no clear, universal method to recognize and reference source materials of published articles (either professional or amateur) that are based on “discovery through the web.”
One of today’s top web curators, Maria Popova of Brain Pickings, recently helped to develop a new system to make attribution consistent and codified, while respecting those who expand upon others’ creative and intellectual work. This simple “Curator’s Code” system features two Unicode symbols to represent the class of attribution used by authors. The sideways ‘s’ symbol, ᔥ, or “via” corresponds to a direct re-posting or reference to content discovered through another source and shared with an audience with minimal modification or amplification. The second symbol, a curving arrow, ↬, or “hat tip” represents an indirect discovery from another source of an idea, but with significant elaboration when shared with an audience.
Dynamic Patterns Research will begin implementing this new system for curation attribution in future published articles as we strongly believe clear reference to the creative and intellectual efforts of others must be obvious in our published writings. However, the additional commentary, information, and original content provided by DPR should also be separated in a similarly clear and obvious way, and the Curator’s Code system simultaneously offers these needs in a straightforward way.
Learn more about the Curator’s Code and let us know what you think about the new system in the comments below.
Comet ISON joins us this year from the Oort-cloud and is barreling toward the Sun for the very first time. The formal designation of the comet is C/2012 S1 representing a non-periodic (“C”) object discovered in “2012” in the second-half of September (“S”) and was the first comet discovered during that half-month (“1″). To help the name roll off the tongue a bit more smoothly, ISON represents where the discovery is officially attributed at the Russia-based International Scientific Optical Network.
Discovered last year during a series of observations between December 28, 2011 and into 2012 until its official announcement on September 24, 2012, Comet ISON has been watched closely since first being spotted between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn. NASA’s many tools on active duty have had their go at Comet ISON including Deep Impact, Swift, Hubble, Spitzer, the Mars team, STEREO, Juno, MESSENGER, SOHO, as well as many ground-based observatories and amateur astronomers.
What will be ISON’s Fate?
Earlier in the year, Comet ISON was anticipated to be the comet of the century, but as it approaches closer to the Sun’s radiation, its fate is up for grabs. While many of us in the United States are filling our bellies with a bounty of goodness, November 28, 2013 will be the day that decides Comet ISON’s future. It might dwindle away to oblivion under the Sun’s forces — as is just now being reported at Spaceweather.com that astronomers in Spain are observing a change in the composition of the comet nucleus, possibly indicating that it is already breaking apart (read more). It might also break up into bits of comet as its nucleus becomes increasingly unstable, or — and what so many are hoping for — it will survive the fly by of the Sun and will emerge so bright that it will be observable on Earth during the daytime.
If Comet ISON does survive, then the month of December will offer many opportunities before dawn to make your own observations in the Northern Hemisphere looking toward the East. The animated infographic below provides a visual daily map to help you point your binoculars in the right direction and witness a comet making its first pass through our solar system.
For more information, videos, and images check out NASA’s Comet ISON Watch
UPDATE: November 28, 2013 @ 11:58 pm CST
During many Thanksgiving Feasts today, and some of the ensuing surges of shopping around the country, Comet ISON completed its spin around the Sun. The initial reports and visuals appeared to suggest that the nucleus broke up and the out-gassing tail fizzed away. The following SOHO time-lapse image shows an incredible pass of Comet ISON and a definite reduction in the intensity of the tail:
However, the fate of Comet ISON might not be settled just yet. Scientists are frantically reviewing data to determine what is going on — apparently with the media breathing down their necks! — because there is a hint of a re-ignition for Comet ISON or some other celestial surprise that will certainly offer new insight and data into the amazing functioning of our Universe. New science is happening right now, sloshing through leftover turkey and microwaved mashed potatoes and gravy.
Dynamic Patterns Research admittedly is not much of a follower of the art forms of hip-hop and rap, so we cannot express any expertise in the artists who work in this genre and their songwriting. However, one of the early hip-hop stars, GZA, or “The Genius,” a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan is currently marketing his latest album Dark Matter being released in early 2014… this album is apparently inspired by science as it makes an exploration of the cosmos through rap.
Now, our efforts here through Dynamic Patterns Research focus primarily on reaching out to a broad public to bring a greater appreciation for our Universe, and we have already experimented with merging physics and live theatrical entertainment through our first “Science at the Theatre” series production from Dynamic Patterns Theatre of QED: A Play, which had successful showings in Springfield, Jacksonville, and Decatur, Illinois.
But here, at a national level, GZA boldly brings physics appreciation to the genre of hip-hop, which we are extremely excited to see as an unexpected approach. Although hip-hop is out of our skill set, it provides a wonderful example of how mixing informal science education (no matter how informal it might be) with popular cultural artistic forms is an exciting and effective method to increase understanding and appreciation of science to our citizens.
“A Rapper Finds His Muse in the Stars” :: Wall Street Journal Online :: May 30, 2012 [ READ ]
On November 15, 2013, GZA visited a lecture hall at the University of Toronto to provide a sneak peek of his new album. It is a rather unique marketing technique for a hip-hop artist, but one that is entirely appropriate for his latest work of art. Watch this amazing clip … and be inspired:
This just might be an album that Dynamic Patterns Research will have to invest in not only for our archives… but for our own inspiration. It is so refreshing to see informal physics appreciation spread further into the arts. This will help excite more people into considering a little more about how our world works, which will only result in better decision makers, smarter consumers, and more knowledgeable voters.
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