Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tech Gadgets Revive the Past to Help the Elderly

The wartime hit, I'll Be Home for Christmas. Image Source: Rate Your Music.

Tech gadgets are being used in nursing homes to bring back the past, in order to improve the spirits of the elderly. From Gizmodo: "An old man in a nursing home is described as being depressed, unresponsive and 'un-alive' until he hears music from his era. When his caretaker puts the headphones on him and flips on the iPod, you can see the pure joy on his face. ... He starts listening to music around the 2:15 mark of the video. It's a long video but it's totally worth it, technology tapping into nostalgia." He remembers Cab Calloway and the 1943 popular song, I'll Be Home for Christmas.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Future Plans, Future Dreams

Almost everyone plans for the future - and almost everyone is lousy at it, according to psychologists. I09 is reporting on scholarly research which indicates that we overestimate our ability to get things done in a certain amount of time; we overestimate our willpower and agency in the future; we underestimate unforeseen problems; and we don't really clearly understand what we will have to do in the future anyway:
1) There's the "planning fallacy," which has been written about a lot. As Jennifer Whitson, a professor of Management at University of Texas, Austin explains it, this theory says that "people generally think they can accomplish more in a certain period of time than they actually can." And it's also possible, says Whitson, that the planning fallacy may intensify the further into the future you're planning ahead.

2) But also, some new not-yet-published research by Cornell University's Thomas Gilovich and Erik Helzer shows that the more you think about the future, the less clearly you're likely to be thinking.

In particular, there's the study called "Whatever is willed will be," which shows that people tend to overstate how effective their willpower will be in the future. Helzer and Gilovich did a whopping seven studies to show that people "consider the will to be a more potent determinant of future events than events that happened in the past." ...

3) And then finally, there's Construal Level Theory, which shows that the further away something is (either in space, or in time) the more abstract it appears. So if you're thinking about a goal that's a few years ahead, you can easily fall into woolly thinking, instead of focusing on the concrete steps that will allow you to get there ... .
The article does not talk about the impact of procrastination and of the Internet on attention spans to see if the environment of the past ten years has made it more difficult for people to achieve goals.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Notes from a Geomagnetic Storm

A geomagnetic storm. Image Source: Wiki.

Geomagnetic storms on the scale of 1859's Carrington Event are included among the fears which make up the 2012 Phenomenon. George Heymont recently discussed a short film on HuffPo which allows us to hear an eerie translated audio track, sampled from a geomagnetic storm:
I often wonder if the old saying "Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink!" should be upgraded to "Data, data, everywhere, and not much time to think." A curious black-and-white short ... shows how data can be used to create a powerful piece of art. Filmmakers Ruth Jarman and Joseph Gerhardt used data collected from the CARISMA radio array as a geomagnetic storm occurred in the Earth's upper atmosphere and interpreted it as audio. The film's sound is the tweeting and rumbling caused by incoming solar wind that was captured at a frequency of 20 hertz.
See the video below the jump.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Geospatial Networking in the Roman Empire

Image Source: ORBIS via I09.

I love historical atlases. Online historical atlases are even better. At Stanford, Classics professor Walter Scheidel and digital humanities developer Elijah Meeks, with geographer/Web developer Karl Grossner and Noemi Alvarez have produced a geospatial networking system called ORBIS, which is like a Google Maps of the Roman Empire.

The map allows users to explore the empire via the Romans' famous road system and sea routes, with embedded contemporary travel costs in denarii. The latter aspect was included to provide a historical understanding of how easy or difficult it was to get around and ship food between destinations: "This application facilitates simulation of the structural properties of the network, which are of particular value for our understanding of the historical significance of cost in mediating connectivity within the Roman Empire." The more far-flung the destination, the more expensive it was to get there.

Introductory videos below the jump show how the system works, and reveal that optimal shipping and travel routes changed at different times of year. Land travel offers different modes of transportation, such as rapid military march, horseback, donkey, camel, ox cart, fast carriage or horse relay.

The concern for communications and the cost of networks, while very true to the Roman mentality, of course reflects a Millennial focus as well. The deep integration of historical data into a Google Maps-type online tool for the Roman Empire isn't quite an anachronism, but it is an interesting example of how today's concerns and modes of configuring and analyzing information cause us to revisit history in new ways. I'm not sure how a system like this, with the historical information technically pre-digested and deeply embedded, could be verified by other Classicists as being historically accurate.

This type of online project hints at a coming revolution in tertiary humanities education. It won't be long before the humanities are taught in interactive virtual environments. I have blogged before about ground-breaking online historical teaching environments, such as this one, on the Golden Age of the Dutch Empire.

"A cost distribution map, with the geography of the Mediterranean world maintained but the sites colored by the cost (via all modes) of shipping grain from that site to Rome." Image Source: ORBIS.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Private Spaceflight Watch: SpaceX Launches New Space Era

History has been made in the past few minutes. The launch of the commercially-made SpaceX Falcon 9 with the unmanned Dragon Capsule was successful. You can see a live feed (at the time of this posting) at the bottom of my post, here. See the Youtube video of the launch below the jump.

Welcome to the new era of private space exploration. Kate Sherrod has already written a sonnet to commemorate history being made tonight, here. Tweets and blogs cheered SpaceX on: see Stepto's blog here. Wil Wheaton tweeted: "Dear Humanity: You can do amazing things when you work hard, and you work together. Love, Wil." This is what it means to live at the turn of the Millennium: poetry written and circulated worldwide, at the very moment history turns.

2464 Dream (2010) © Chris Reccardi. Image Source: Boing Boing.

Marking Time

Image (2008) copy; Rivane Neuenschwander, Um dia como outro qualquer [A day like any other]. Image Source: Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.

Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art is now featuring an exhibition of artists from Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and the United States who are exploring time and its passing (29 March 2012 - 3 June 2012). The exhibition, Marking Time, according to the Web site of one of the participating artists, Rivane Neuenschwander, is described as follows:
Explore the ways in which artists visualise time and its passing in 'Marking Time'. Featuring major works by eleven Australian and international artists, you'll see the concept and representation of time - past, present and future - reinterpreted and revealed across such diverse media as drawing, watercolour, sculpture, installation, sound and light.

Discover meaning in unexpected subjects as the past and present collide in Edgar Arcenaux's ambitious large-scale drawings; consider the concept of universal time through Tatsuo Miyajima's video and photography; see how Lindy Lee harnesses the power of fire and water in her weather paintings. In Rivane Neuenschwender's poetic flip-clocks and calendars, witness time become elastic and open-ended; while Elisa Sighicelli literally rewinds time through the medium of film - watch as exploded fireworks contract to pin-points against the night sky, as ends return to beginnings.

Accompany Katie Paterson and Gulumbu Yunupingu as they turn their gazes upwards depicting ancient cosmic phenomena and celestial formations through confetti, moonlight and upon bark panels and hollowed memorial (Larrakitj) poles.

Examine the connections between real time and digital artifice in John Gerrard's epic, slow moving animations of American mid-western scenes and see time pass before your eyes in Jim Campbell's flickering, ever-changing scenes inspired by family albums and events and created using computer-programmed light. Study the relationship of geo-political dates throughout history in Tom Nicholson's vast wall drawing and become transfixed by Daniel Crooks' mesmeric videos as he stretches and reconfigures time into abstract bands of colour.

Some pieces come to life only at night, such as Jim Campbell's monumental installation Scattered Light illuminating the Museum's front lawn, and others develop and change through the course of the exhibition, amplifying the effects of time.
Image (2011) © Edgar Arceneaux, Blind Pig # 5. Image Source: Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.

Image (2008) © KatiePaterson, Light Bulb to Simulate Moonlight. Image Source: Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.

Monday, May 21, 2012

History of Forbidden Colours

Click on the image to enlarge. Cover one segment, and stare intently at the division within the red-green or the blue-yellow segment until the boundary between the two colours disappears. Image Source: Life's Little Mysteries.

I have some posts pointing to online histories of different colours (see here for Haint Blue, and here for Red). Life's Little Mysteries has recently discussed the history of two colours outside the range of human vision. In the 1983, Hewitt Crane and Thomas Piantanida published a paper in Science, entitled, "On Seeing Reddish Green and Yellowish Blue."  They argued that an optical illusion allows us to perceive colours that exist beyond the physical capabilities of our retinas (Hat tip: Free Will Astrology).

The two colours are red-green (not a brown mixture, but a colour that is both red and green at the same time) and yellow-blue (again, a colour that is both yellow and blue simultaneously). These colours do not have names because they are not usually perceived. Having successfully seen the red-green colour in the chart above, the word I would use to describe it is 'Apple.' The blue-yellow was more difficult, but I caught sight of something I would call, a 'Sunlit Sky.'

Chromoscape 116-Yellow Blue Sky © by Beki Borman.

Shutterstock Stock Photo, Yellow Meadow under a Blue Sky with Clouds © Andrey Tiyk.

Seeing these colours is somewhat analagous to one focus of this blog, namely, how the invisible intangibilities of virtual reality are brought to bear on real life. By means of a simple illusion, one's mind allows one to see what one normally cannot physically see. We do something beyond ourselves; it is a little act, which pushes back the boundaries of perception and ability. The photos above show approximations of these colours, and let us know that they do indeed exist. But until this test was devised, their true tones existed outside our ken.

The results of this experiment reflect a 'third-eye' problem common with many Millennial ideas, mysteries and riddles, especially in the west. At the turn of the Millennium, there are all sorts of attempts, conscious or not, to overcome Cartesian dualism. Whether through technical ghost-hunting, or through particle collider searches for the God Particle or Dark Matter there is a strange Millennial literal-mindedness to these experiments. While the Postmodernism of the 20th century assumed that the third configuration was undefinable and unattainable, Millennial Post-Postmodernism adamantly and yet casually insists that we can and will get there. Life's Little Mysteries:
[E]ven though th[e]se colors exist, you've probably never seen them. Red-green and yellow-blue are the so-called "forbidden colors." Composed of pairs of hues whose light frequencies automatically cancel each other out in the human eye, they're supposed to be impossible to see simultaneously.

The limitation results from the way we perceive color in the first place. Cells in the retina called "opponent neurons" fire when stimulated by incoming red light, and this flurry of activity tells the brain we're looking at something red. Those same opponent neurons are inhibited by green light, and the absence of activity tells the brain we're seeing green. Similarly, yellow light excites another set of opponent neurons, but blue light damps them. While most colors induce a mixture of effects in both sets of neurons, which our brains can decode to identify the component parts, red light exactly cancels the effect of green light (and yellow exactly cancels blue), so we can never perceive those colors coming from the same place. ...  
The color revolution started in 1983, when a startling paper by Hewitt Crane, a leading visual scientist, and his colleague Thomas Piantanida appeared in the journal Science. Titled "On Seeing Reddish Green and Yellowish Blue," it argued that forbidden colors can be perceived. The researchers had created images in which red and green stripes (and, in separate images, blue and yellow stripes) ran adjacent to each other. They showed the images to dozens of volunteers, using an eye tracker to hold the images fixed relative to the viewers' eyes. This ensured that light from each color stripe always entered the same retinal cells; for example, some cells always received yellow light, while other cells simultaneously received only blue light. ...  
The observers of this unusual visual stimulus reported seeing the borders between the stripes gradually disappear, and the colors seem to flood into each other. Amazingly, the image seemed to override their eyes' opponency mechanism, and they said they perceived colors they'd never seen before.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Prometheus Viral

"I think we can assume that this happens in the film. There’s being up the creek without a paddle, and then there’s being without a boat. And then there’s being up the creek without a boat with aliens in the water." Image Source: Bleeding Cool.

More Prometheus viral videos have been released to promote the Ridley Scott film, which is opening in the first week of June. One in particular, Viral #4, shows lead actress Noomi Rapace in her role as archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw contacting Peter Weyland, founder of Weyland Corp., which becomes known as 'The Company' in the Alien film franchise. I have posted the virals and a slowed trailer, below the jump. More than hinting at the film's content, Viral #4 shows that Scott is cleverly using marketing for this movie to make a statement about the endgame of our current technology.

Look Skyward: Ring of Fire Eclipse over the Ring of Fire

Image Source: What's On Xiamen.

Today, a rare annular solar eclipse will occur over China, Japan, the Pacific Ring of Fire seismic zone and most of North America. It is the first central eclipse over the North American continent in the 21st century. It is called a 'ring of fire' eclipse because the moon will not quite block out the sun, creating the appearance of a burning ring in the sky. It starts on May 21st in Asia, then crosses the International Date Line and loses a day.