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10 Notes

Divers’ paradise

A Chinese city, left to ruin after a dam flooded the valley it lay in, has become a paradise for divers.

The ancient city of Shi Cheng, known as the Lion City because it was surrounded by the five Lion Mountains, was founded over 1,300 years ago. It vanished more than half a century ago to make way for a new hydroelectric power station and a man-made lake.

The once bustling city is now between 85 and 131 feet underwater.

An artist's impression of the town as it once was

But Qiu Feng, a local official in charge of tourism, decided to see what remained of the city under the deep waters.

"We were lucky. As soon as we dived into the lake, we found the outside wall of the town and even picked up a brick to prove it"

The town is in remarkable conditions, with wooden beams and stairs still remaining.

Now a film crew has been on site to record the preservation of the lost ruins.

@paulrgn is a regular contributor to Found Things.

1 Notes

Is our universe a simulation?
So this is kinda scary. And amazing. And complicated.
Mathematician Edward Frenkel writes in the New York Times that one fanciful possibility that explains why mathematics seems to permeate our universe is that we live in a computer simulation based on the laws of mathematics - not in what we commonly take to be the real world.
According to this theses, some highly advanced computer programmer of the future has devised a simulation and we are unknowingly part of it.
Thus when we discover a mathematical truth, we are simply discovering aspects of the code that the programmer used.
This may strike you as very unlikely, but physicists have been creating their own computer simulations of the forces of nature for years, just on much smaller scale. They use a three-dimensional grid to model a little chunk of the universe; then they run the program to see what happens.

"Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom has argued that we are more likely to be in such a simulation than not.
"If such simulations are possible in theory, he reasons, then eventually humans will create them - presumably many of them. If this is so, in time there will be many more simulated worlds than nonsimulated ones. Statistically speaking, therefore, we are more likely to be living in a simulated world than the real one."

Yikes.
Is there any way to empirically test this hypothesis? Well, surprisingly, yes.
In a recent paper, “Constraints on the Universe as a Numerical Simulation”, the physicists Silas R. Beane, Zohreh Davoudi and Martin J. Savage outline a possible method for detecting that our world is actually a computer simulation (PDF).
Savage and his colleagues assume that any future simulators would use some of the same techniques current scientists use to run simulations, with the same constraints.
The future simulators, Savage indicated, would map their universe on a mathematical lattice or grid, consisting of points and lines. But computer simulations generate slight but distinctive anomalies - certain kinds of asymmetries and they suggest that a closer look at cosmic rays may reveal similar asymmetries.
If so, this would indicate that we might - just might - all be in someone else’s computer simulation…

Is our universe a simulation?

So this is kinda scary. And amazing. And complicated.

Mathematician Edward Frenkel writes in the New York Times that one fanciful possibility that explains why mathematics seems to permeate our universe is that we live in a computer simulation based on the laws of mathematics - not in what we commonly take to be the real world.

According to this theses, some highly advanced computer programmer of the future has devised a simulation and we are unknowingly part of it.

Thus when we discover a mathematical truth, we are simply discovering aspects of the code that the programmer used.

This may strike you as very unlikely, but physicists have been creating their own computer simulations of the forces of nature for years, just on much smaller scale. They use a three-dimensional grid to model a little chunk of the universe; then they run the program to see what happens.

"Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom has argued that we are more likely to be in such a simulation than not.

"If such simulations are possible in theory, he reasons, then eventually humans will create them - presumably many of them. If this is so, in time there will be many more simulated worlds than nonsimulated ones. Statistically speaking, therefore, we are more likely to be living in a simulated world than the real one."

Yikes.

Is there any way to empirically test this hypothesis? Well, surprisingly, yes.

In a recent paper, “Constraints on the Universe as a Numerical Simulation”, the physicists Silas R. Beane, Zohreh Davoudi and Martin J. Savage outline a possible method for detecting that our world is actually a computer simulation (PDF).

Savage and his colleagues assume that any future simulators would use some of the same techniques current scientists use to run simulations, with the same constraints.

The future simulators, Savage indicated, would map their universe on a mathematical lattice or grid, consisting of points and lines. But computer simulations generate slight but distinctive anomalies - certain kinds of asymmetries and they suggest that a closer look at cosmic rays may reveal similar asymmetries.

If so, this would indicate that we might - just might - all be in someone else’s computer simulation

1 Notes

How do you identify bees?

Sam Droege is the head of the USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Program in Maryland, an organisation that monitors the health and habitat of bees in the U.S. as well as creating archival reference catalogs that aid researchers in the identification of bee species in North America.

The project is no small task as there are literally thousands of bee species in the U.S., many of which vary in only the most minute of ways.

To aid in the identification process the USGS Bee Inventory relies on extremely high resolution photography, an initiative led by Droege that has been ongoing since 2010.

Droege’s macro photos of bees are so clear and well executed that they practically pass as works of art in their own right.

He shares with Flickr -

“When we started looking at these pictures, I just wanted to gaze at these shots for long periods of time.

”I had seen these insects for many years, but the level of detail was incredible. The fact that everything was focused, the beauty and the arrangement of the insects themselves - the ratios of the eyes, the golden means, the french curves of the body, and the colours that would slide very naturally from one shade to another were just beautiful!

"It was the kind of thing that we could not achieve at the highest level of art.”

You can see much more on Flickr.

Notes

The other side of London

On the outskirts of London, there is a world in which no lead guided tours and on which most of our citizens and suspects. Today, the author, together with a local guide will show you the “Capital Of Great Britan” on the negative side.

Grim and hilarious. A Russian review of London, through Google translate.
Via @abovedave.

The other side of London

On the outskirts of London, there is a world in which no lead guided tours and on which most of our citizens and suspects. Today, the author, together with a local guide will show you the “Capital Of Great Britan” on the negative side.

Grim and hilarious. A Russian review of London, through Google translate.

Via @abovedave.

1 Notes

42 reflections on the meaning of life, the universe and everything
Simply stunning: if you only read one thing today, make it this.

42 reflections on the meaning of life, the universe and everything

Simply stunning: if you only read one thing today, make it this.

2 Notes

A quite phenomenal photograph capturing the power of nature
The train tracks of the “Riviera Line” are washed away in Dawlish, amidst evacuations and the declaration of a major incident by Devon and Cornwall police.
According to Network Rail 30 metres of sea wall under the railway at Dawlish Station have been washed away.
Via @Andrew_SW.

A quite phenomenal photograph capturing the power of nature

The train tracks of the “Riviera Line” are washed away in Dawlish, amidst evacuations and the declaration of a major incident by Devon and Cornwall police.

According to Network Rail 30 metres of sea wall under the railway at Dawlish Station have been washed away.

Via @Andrew_SW.

2 Notes

How shoes can tell the plight of refugees in South Sudan
Jensen sat there thinking, “what, this isn’t serious enough for you? Aid workers described it as an emergency within an emergency within an emergency”.
She went through her photos again, looking for ways to make them more effective.
That’s when she noticed the shoes.
About half the displaced people, she noted, didn’t have any shoes at all. And those that did had footwear with stories to tell.
Full story on PRI.
@ColonyClive is a regular contributor to Found Things.

How shoes can tell the plight of refugees in South Sudan

Jensen sat there thinking, “what, this isn’t serious enough for you? Aid workers described it as an emergency within an emergency within an emergency.

She went through her photos again, looking for ways to make them more effective.

That’s when she noticed the shoes.

About half the displaced people, she noted, didn’t have any shoes at all. And those that did had footwear with stories to tell.

Full story on PRI.

@ColonyClive is a regular contributor to Found Things.

1 Notes

Real life sci-fi: when ice attacks

This is just freaky. The video above shot at Izatys Resort at Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota, shows an “ice shove”, where currents, winds, or temperature differences push chunks of lake ice onto land like a drifting iceberg.

@ColonyClive is a regular contributor to Found Things.

2 Notes

Memory loss? Older minds may just be fuller of information
The idea that the brain slows with age is one of the strongest in all of psychology, but a new paper suggests that older adults’ performance on cognitive tests reflects the predictable consequences of learning on information-processing, and not cognitive decline.
A team of linguistic researchers from the University of Tübingen in Germany used advanced learning models to search enormous databases of words and phrases. Since educated older people generally know more words than younger people, simply by virtue of having been around longer, the experiment simulates what an older brain has to do to retrieve a word.
When the researchers incorporated that difference into the models, the ageing ‘deficits’ largely disappeared.
The larger the library you have in your head, the longer it usually takes to find a particular word.

"What shocked me, to be honest, is that for the first half of the time we were doing this project, I totally bought into the idea of age-related cognitive decline in healthy adults
"the simulations fit so well to human data that it slowly forced me to entertain this idea that I didn’t need to invoke decline at all."
- Michael Ramscar

Scientists who study thinking and memory often make a broad distinction between ‘fluid’ and ‘crystallized’ intelligence. Fluid intelligence includes short-term memory - holding a phone number in mind, analytical reasoning, the ability to tune out distractions - while crystallized intelligence covers accumulated knowledge, vocabulary and expertise.
In essence, what Ramscar’s group is arguing is that an increase in crystallized intelligence can account for a decrease in fluid intelligence.
In the meantime the new digital-era challenge to ‘cognitive decline’ can serve as a ready-made explanation for blank moments, whether senior or otherwise (PDF).
It’s not that you’re slow. It’s that you know so much.
Full story on the New York Times. You can download the paper here (PDF).

Memory loss? Older minds may just be fuller of information

The idea that the brain slows with age is one of the strongest in all of psychology, but a new paper suggests that older adults’ performance on cognitive tests reflects the predictable consequences of learning on information-processing, and not cognitive decline.

A team of linguistic researchers from the University of Tübingen in Germany used advanced learning models to search enormous databases of words and phrases. Since educated older people generally know more words than younger people, simply by virtue of having been around longer, the experiment simulates what an older brain has to do to retrieve a word.

When the researchers incorporated that difference into the models, the ageing ‘deficits’ largely disappeared.

The larger the library you have in your head, the longer it usually takes to find a particular word.

"What shocked me, to be honest, is that for the first half of the time we were doing this project, I totally bought into the idea of age-related cognitive decline in healthy adults

"the simulations fit so well to human data that it slowly forced me to entertain this idea that I didn’t need to invoke decline at all."

- Michael Ramscar

Scientists who study thinking and memory often make a broad distinction between ‘fluid’ and ‘crystallized’ intelligence. Fluid intelligence includes short-term memory - holding a phone number in mind, analytical reasoning, the ability to tune out distractions - while crystallized intelligence covers accumulated knowledge, vocabulary and expertise.

In essence, what Ramscar’s group is arguing is that an increase in crystallized intelligence can account for a decrease in fluid intelligence.

In the meantime the new digital-era challenge to ‘cognitive decline’ can serve as a ready-made explanation for blank moments, whether senior or otherwise (PDF).

It’s not that you’re slow. It’s that you know so much.

Full story on the New York Times. You can download the paper here (PDF).

3 Notes

Random red swings

What started as a fun experiment in Austin, Texas has turned into a grassroots project to hang this common playground fixture in surprising places all around the world.

Walk under a bridge in Austin, Texas, past a temple in India, or down a street in Thailand, and you’ll find a charming red swing (assuming it hasn’t been taken down by city officials).

Each is one of more than 200 swings that volunteers have hung around the world as part of the Red Swing Project.

The project started in 2007 when an architecture student in Austin was asked to design an urban intervention for a class.

"My idea was just to put out swings - like graffiti, just go out at night and see what would happen

"It was always meant to be this grassroots, anonymous initiative… magically discovering the swing and not knowing who put it there is part of the experience."

- Andrew Danziger

He started with five swings in different parts of the city.

Right away, it was clear that each swing would lead a different life. While trying to hang one by the university campus, Danziger was stopped by police, who reluctantly let him continue. The next day, the swing was cut down.

But across town, in a vacant lot next to a bus stop in a lower income neighbourhood, a swing that he hung the same night stayed up for five years.

What a lovely idea.

@paulrgn is a regular contributor to Found Things.

19 Notes

Terrifying volcanic lightning

Photographer Martin Rietze recently traveled to Japan where he had the incredible opportunity - or near grave misfortune?! - of photographing the Sakurajima Valcano in southern Kyushu as it spewed forth smoke, fire and lava bombs.

If that wasn’t enough the hellish volcano also triggered a lightning show that lasted long enough for Rietze to take these stunning photographs.

You can see many more images on the photographers site.

1 Notes

Bill Gates predicts there will be almost no poor countries by 2035
In their foundation’s just-released annual letter, Bill and Melinda Gates attempt to debunk three pervasive myths in development economics -
Poor countries are doomed to stay poor
Foreign aid is a big waste
Saving lives leads to overpopulation
From the letter’s introduction -

"We hear these myths raised at international conferences and at social gatherings. We get asked about them by politicians, reporters, students, and CEOs. All three reflect a dim view of the future, one that says the world isn’t improving but staying poor and sick, and getting overcrowded.
"We’re going to make the opposite case, that the world is getting better, and that in two decades it will be better still."

When it comes to poor countries’ prospects for escaping poverty, Bill Gates, who wrote the section addressing the first myth, is particularly positive -

"By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world. Almost all countries will be what we now call lower-middle income or richer. Countries will learn from their most productive neighbours and benefit from innovations like new vaccines, better seeds, and the digital revolution. Their labor forces, buoyed by expanded education, will attract new investments."

I’m optimistic by nature. I believe that 2013 was the best year in human history. But for this to happen, 36 countries will have to raise their gross antional income per capita above $1,035.
For many this means a per capita increase of a factor of five.

"It will be a remarkable achievement. When I was born, most countries in the world were poor. In the next two decades, desperately poor countries will become the exception rather than the rule. Billions of people will have been lifted out of extreme poverty. The idea that this will happen within my lifetime is simply amazing to me."

I hope Bill’s right.

Bill Gates predicts there will be almost no poor countries by 2035

In their foundation’s just-released annual letter, Bill and Melinda Gates attempt to debunk three pervasive myths in development economics -

  1. Poor countries are doomed to stay poor
  2. Foreign aid is a big waste
  3. Saving lives leads to overpopulation

From the letter’s introduction -

"We hear these myths raised at international conferences and at social gatherings. We get asked about them by politicians, reporters, students, and CEOs. All three reflect a dim view of the future, one that says the world isn’t improving but staying poor and sick, and getting overcrowded.

"We’re going to make the opposite case, that the world is getting better, and that in two decades it will be better still."

When it comes to poor countries’ prospects for escaping poverty, Bill Gates, who wrote the section addressing the first myth, is particularly positive -

"By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world. Almost all countries will be what we now call lower-middle income or richer. Countries will learn from their most productive neighbours and benefit from innovations like new vaccines, better seeds, and the digital revolution. Their labor forces, buoyed by expanded education, will attract new investments."

I’m optimistic by nature. I believe that 2013 was the best year in human history. But for this to happen, 36 countries will have to raise their gross antional income per capita above $1,035.

For many this means a per capita increase of a factor of five.

"It will be a remarkable achievement. When I was born, most countries in the world were poor. In the next two decades, desperately poor countries will become the exception rather than the rule. Billions of people will have been lifted out of extreme poverty. The idea that this will happen within my lifetime is simply amazing to me."

I hope Bill’s right.

7 Notes

A method to find balance
Despite the insipid title of this post, work-life balance is a bit of a myth.
Sure, we work too much, don’t have time for all the other things we want to do, are always tired, eat convenience food or comfort food rather than nutritious or nourishing food, never have time for solitude… but that’s the life we want, right?
OK, maybe it needs a bit of readjusting. Work and life and learning and relationships and health are all really the same thing, and so “balance” is perhaps the wrong word. But adjusting our lives to our aspired priorities is not a bad thing.
A friend recently asked me how I balance my personal lives and all my projects, and it made me pause and think. And that pause, and the thinking, is really the key to it all, I discovered.
So here’s the method I use -
Pause regularly. In our lives, we are so busy and caught up in what we’re doing that we have no space for thinking. I build regular pauses into my life, so that I have some space for thought. What kind of pauses? I use morning meditation, drinking coffee in the morning with my notebook, my morning shower, a walk alone, tea or a run or other meeting with my wife or a friend, as space for thinking about my life. Pause regularly to create space.
Zoom out. When you take a pause, zoom out from the close-up view, so you can look at the big picture. What are you doing with your life? What kind of person do you want to be? Are you making decisions in the aggregate? What are your priorities? And are you living those priorities? You don’t need to think about all of these things during each pause, but use the pauses for this kind of thinking.
Readjust. When you notice that you’ve been spending too much time on the computer, and too little with your kids or other loved ones, make a note of it. When you notice that some important projects are being neglected, or you don’t have time for exercise, or your diet has gone to hell and settled in there, make a note. Think about what adjustments you can make.
Now actually block off time. Making a note and mental adjustment is great, but it’s meaningless without action. What kind of action can you take to adjust how you actually spend your time? Make a commitment, on your calendar. Not one that you’ll skip when the time comes and you’re browsing your favourite sites. A commitment you’ll keep. For example, if you want to work out more, make a regular date with a friend to go for a run or do a bodyweight workout in the park or go to yoga class or go to the gym you signed up for 11 months ago and never use. Make a regular date. If you want to work on a project, make an appointment to go to a tea house or library for 3-4 hours just to work on that project. Or commit to a whole week of working on your novel. Tell somebody about it, and better yet commit to getting them the work by the end of the week (or whatever period you choose). Make the time, solidly.
That’s the method. Four steps, done regularly.
Life is a constant readjustment. It’s whether you readjust consciously that makes all the difference.
Article by Leo Babauta.

A method to find balance

Despite the insipid title of this post, work-life balance is a bit of a myth.

Sure, we work too much, don’t have time for all the other things we want to do, are always tired, eat convenience food or comfort food rather than nutritious or nourishing food, never have time for solitude… but that’s the life we want, right?

OK, maybe it needs a bit of readjusting. Work and life and learning and relationships and health are all really the same thing, and so “balance” is perhaps the wrong word. But adjusting our lives to our aspired priorities is not a bad thing.

A friend recently asked me how I balance my personal lives and all my projects, and it made me pause and think. And that pause, and the thinking, is really the key to it all, I discovered.

So here’s the method I use -

  1. Pause regularly. In our lives, we are so busy and caught up in what we’re doing that we have no space for thinking. I build regular pauses into my life, so that I have some space for thought. What kind of pauses? I use morning meditation, drinking coffee in the morning with my notebook, my morning shower, a walk alone, tea or a run or other meeting with my wife or a friend, as space for thinking about my life. Pause regularly to create space.
  2. Zoom out. When you take a pause, zoom out from the close-up view, so you can look at the big picture. What are you doing with your life? What kind of person do you want to be? Are you making decisions in the aggregate? What are your priorities? And are you living those priorities? You don’t need to think about all of these things during each pause, but use the pauses for this kind of thinking.
  3. Readjust. When you notice that you’ve been spending too much time on the computer, and too little with your kids or other loved ones, make a note of it. When you notice that some important projects are being neglected, or you don’t have time for exercise, or your diet has gone to hell and settled in there, make a note. Think about what adjustments you can make.
  4. Now actually block off time. Making a note and mental adjustment is great, but it’s meaningless without action. What kind of action can you take to adjust how you actually spend your time? Make a commitment, on your calendar. Not one that you’ll skip when the time comes and you’re browsing your favourite sites. A commitment you’ll keep. For example, if you want to work out more, make a regular date with a friend to go for a run or do a bodyweight workout in the park or go to yoga class or go to the gym you signed up for 11 months ago and never use. Make a regular date. If you want to work on a project, make an appointment to go to a tea house or library for 3-4 hours just to work on that project. Or commit to a whole week of working on your novel. Tell somebody about it, and better yet commit to getting them the work by the end of the week (or whatever period you choose). Make the time, solidly.

That’s the method. Four steps, done regularly.

Life is a constant readjustment. It’s whether you readjust consciously that makes all the difference.

Article by Leo Babauta.

1 Notes

A rubbish idea

Instagram is known for injecting a little warmth or interest to even the dullest of compositions, but Jeff Kirscher hopes it can, quite literally, brighten up the world with pictures fit for the bin.

His San Francisco-based project, Litterati, encourages people to photograph trash, give it a hastag and then dispose of it properly – and over 30,000 people have posted images of everything from plastic forks to stuffed monkeys.

Apart from the immediate impact of a social campaign to engage the public to tidy up after itself, Kirscher also hopes the data collected by the initiative can help cities by, for example, identifying litter hotspots and advising on bin placement. Or simply shaming them into action.

More details, including a surprisingly engaging pile of digital landfill, at the Litterati website.

@paulrgn is a regular contributor to Found Things.

77 Notes

Hong-Kongs human battery hens

We talk a about the “power of the still image” - about how photography can impact people; trigger emotion; inspire change. There’s also a lot of power in the photograph’s ability simply to document - to arrest a scene or a moment (or both) so that it can be looked at for years to come.

That’s what I thought about as I looked at this piece about crowding in Hong Kong on the - deep breath - Daily Mail’s website from early last year. Using still images shot from an extreme overhead position, the story offers a glimpse into “urban slums” of the Chinese city.

Compelling stuff. Reminds me of the work of Jacob Riis documenting urban poverty in New York City during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.