Monday, February 28, 2011

A New Approach to "Cliff Dwelling"

All images via Inhabitat
This return to cave-like cliff dwellings is inspired by Brazil's teeming populations of shanty towns, or favelas. As the current wave of tall and ultra-tall buildings rises and subsides, humans in depressed economies will find it too expensive to afford the maintenance required to keep the buildings functioning. But they may have a use -- providing neo-cavemen rooms with a view.
Inspired by favelas or Brazilian shanty towns, the structures are box-like homes that can be attached onto the facades of other buildings. Reyes’ concept is unique in that it actually enlists able-bodied survivors to assist with the implementation of the shelters – a cool idea, since it empowers them to take action instead of simply sitting around, waiting for help. Reyes envisions that the pre-constructed structures could be airlifted by helicopter to sites where they are needed and then guided into place with the help of survivors. They “clip” onto building facades using leverage.

Each shelter would contain beds, lighting, storage and a skylight and be made of recycled materials from local construction sites. There would also be attachments for solar energy, water purification and organic farming. Finding muse in the famous favela paintings of Rio de Janeiro, Reyes also hopes that survivors will be able to use the walls of their shelters as canvases once they are settled in, using painting as a creative outlet as they begin the process of healing. _Inhabitat

Like cliffside cavemen in the past, the neo-cavemen may find living high above the teeming masses and ground-level predators, to be safer.

Nations with average population IQs below 90 -- and without a market dominant high-IQ minority to run things -- will lose the ability to sustain advanced technologies with the coming anarchy. The high tech infrastructure still remaining after such societies collapse will be scavenged and parasitised as needed, as pockets of humanity across the third world revert to the caves.

Images via Inhabitat

Cross-posted at Al Fin


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Seasteading: Getting Beyond The Celebrity-Seeking Dilettante Phase

More Designs Here

Up to this point, seasteading seems to be more about appearances and fads than about actually building a seastead as an ongoing concern -- as a real alternative to government monopoly. The Seasteading Institute has promoted a number of conferences and a good deal of media coverage, but when it comes to the nitty-gritty of making a life on the ocean, most of the ideas one finds on the site lack heft. The bottom line is that a seastead will have to pay for itself.

It is clear that aesthetics is playing far too great a role -- and economics far too small a role -- in many of the themes and schemes thrown around in popular seasteading circles. After all, there is no need to reinvent the wheel in terms of basic marine structure. Actual commercial enterprises such as the oil & gas industry and marine mining concerns, have made significant engineering advances and continue to do so, in terms of habitable ocean-going vessels which are also commercial platforms.

One exciting material prospect for building working seasteads, is pre-stressed concrete:
Through innovation with precast and prestressed concrete, some latest trends are now focused toward the development and construction of floating ocean platforms used to extract minerals, energy, and other natural resources.

Precast and prestressed concrete platforms have been constructed to support phosphate processing plants, floating liquefied propane gas (LPG) processing and storage facilities, and oil exploration platforms that are transported afloat and grounded for drilling.

For ocean platforms, the size and weight of prestressed and precast concrete construction will provide the greatest dynamic stability due to its large inertial advantage. Long-term durability of concrete construction in an ocean environment has been proven by actual service of existing prestressed precast concrete platforms over the last several decades. _civil-online
By taking advantage of the lessons already learned and earned by offshore industries, seasteaders who are serious about pulling their own weight can find starting opportunities and niches. Just as in a successful marriage, the means of supporting the group comes first, then the details of housing, recreation, etc.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

The World's Largest Family

All Images from DailyMail
This is Ziona Chana and his family. They live comfortably and happily in a multi-story home with 100 rooms. It is said by his sons that Chana marries the poorest women of the village, in order to provide them with a better life.
These are Chana's 39 wives. His youngest wives occupy the rooms closest to his own. His wives provide companionship one by one, according to an orderly scheduled rotation.
The 100 room household is a busy place, with constant cooking, cleaning, childcare, and other typical concerns. Chana is pleased to be the husband of the world's largest family.

The family lives in India, Mizoram state.

Cross-posted to Al Fin

More at DailyMail

Friday, February 11, 2011

Plenty of Room in the Fractalverse

Think of it as a fractal condensation of matter, energy, and space, out of the void. The fractalverse can expand itself as needed, sometimes taking advantage of multiple overlapping dimensions as needs arise.

In the fractalverse, you can make all the real estate you could ever want, as long as you understand the rules.

So if you are concerned that asteroid Apophis may destroy the Earth in the year 2036, consider reserving your own expanding accomodation in the fractalverse. Reservations for trans-dimensional departures are being accepted now.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

International Beauty Contestants of Blended Photographs

Image Source (via iSteve)

What if they gave an international beauty contest and the only ones showing up were blended photographs from each country? Who would win?
Describing someone as average-looking is rarely seen as a compliment. But most of us would be quite happy to look like a computer-generated depiction of the 'average' English woman, Welsh woman, or even the average Burmese. More than 100 women of 41 different nationalities and ethnicities were photographed in cities all over the world in an effort to find common regional features.

The photos were carefully laid over each-other using a computer program to create an individual image for each area - and the biggest surprise is that the 'common' faces are all quite beautiful. There are, of course, regional differences in face shapes, colours and features.
Peruvians and Iranians have bigger mouths, Ethiopians and Samoans have curlier hair, and fringes seem to be big in Latvia and Poland.

South African Photographer Mike Mike - who inspired the images with a web project called The Face of Tomorrow compiling the faces of various cities - explains: 'Blonde hair gets lost pretty quickly when you start averaging. 'You'd need a population 75 per cent blonde to get it visibly remaining. You'd probably have to go to Iceland for that result.' Mike, who lives in Istanbul, travels the world taking photos of the first 100 people he can persuade to pose in each place - noting their nationality every time. _DailyMail
He got the idea for his website while studying at Goldsmiths College, London.

"Sitting on the Underground train, I was intrigued by the sheer diversity of the place - Somalis, Indians, Americans, Zimbabweans, Scandinavians...," he said.

"I thought 'What is this place? What is a Londoner?' The patterns I see are an underlying connectedness between all people," Mike added. _BritainNews

Al Fin is most drawn to the Polish, Puerto Rican, and Peruvian faces, although several of the other blends are startlingly attractive as well. Obviously these blended-photos are not actually representative of most of the countries represented, just as beauty contestants in a beauty meet are not representative of their own home populations.

A lot of lessons on statistics and epidemiology could be taught, using these blended photos. In fact, most male students would prefer such an approach, I believe.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Super Wi-Fi Broadband Covers 50 Mile Radius and More

Super WiFi

A WiFi technology capable of covering an area with a 50 mile radius is likely to revolutionise broadband internet for rural and semi-rural areas. One of the early adopters of the technology is the Yurok American Indian reservation in Northern California, near the Oregon border.
For a glimpse of the wireless future, take a look at the Yurok Indian reservation, an out-of-the-way spot just south of the California-Oregon border at the mouth of the Klamath River. There, among the giant redwoods, stand three new towers built to create a new type of wireless network, known as "super Wi-Fi." If the U.S. Federal Communications Commission gets its way, super Wi-Fi will become a key part of rural America's digital infrastructure.

Most people living on the Yurok's 63,000-acre reservation lack phone service. Almost none have high-speed Internet. The new towers aim to fix both problems. Unlike regular Wi-Fi networks, which are generally limited to beaming high-speed Internet around a house, super Wi-Fi promises to blanket entire neighborhoods with high-speed access.

A Yurok tribal spokesman says the new signals will reach even into the steep-walled valleys that play havoc with most wireless signals.

...Unlike most wireless advances, super Wi-Fi's much-improved range has little to do with better technology. Instead, the dramatic jump comes from the FCC's decision to free up airwaves that have long been reserved exclusively for local TV broadcasts. Those TV airwaves are lower in frequency than standard cellular and Wi-Fi airwaves and thus better able to penetrate buildings and other objects.

...Since rural America has fewer local TV stations, it will have far more of these empty "white spaces" to fill with new wireless signals, points out Alex Besen, who runs an industry consultancy, the Besen Group. In many rural areas, super Wi-Fi will have access to well over 200 megahertz of spectrum, he estimates—more capacity than Verizon and AT&T combined. That huge injection of spectrum could revolutionize the digital infrastructure of rural America, Besen says. _TechnologyReview
Google thinks that Super WiFi will be revolutionary in impact. When you consider what go-anywhere broadband internet could do for global communications, it is hard to disagree.

In other consumer electronics technology news, the tablet computer field will receive some new entries at the 14 Feb 2011 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
The stage is set for a battle among new tablet PCs at the Mobile World Congress which will kick off in Barcelona on Feb. 14. Major companies including Samsung, LG, Motorola and HTC are expected to show off their new devices running on the Honeycomb version of Google's Android OS at the show. Honeycomb is better suited to the larger screens of tablets rather than smartphones and supports 3D Google maps and video chat.

...While the iPad will likely stick with its 9.7-inch screen, Samsung is trying to reach a more broad spectrum of customers by targeting different segments with products of different sizes, industry experts say. Samsung's new tablets are equipped with two CPUs and include a high-definition 8-megapixel camera.

LG Electronics is set to release its 8.9-inch Optimus Pad that it revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month, while Motorola Mobility is launching its flagship 10-inch Xoom tablet, which was highly acclaimed at CES.

Meanwhile, Apple is expected to unveil the successor to the iPad in March or April in San Francisco._Chosun


Saturday, February 05, 2011

Modifying Staple Crops to Raise Intelligence of Third World People

Golden Rice

One of the many problems contributing to low intelligence and low productivity of billions of impoverished third world people, is their dependency on staple food crops which lack key nutrients. Staple crops often grow well in local soils and climates, but are lacking in nutritional components which the human body requires for optimal development and functioning.
On a per acreage basis, corn yield exceeds that of the other two major crops, wheat and soybean, by 2- to 3-fold. However, the nutritional quality of corn protein in these high yielding hybrids remains relatively poor due to its deficiency in essential amino acids, such as lysine. The focus of corn breeding on yield, which has resulted in a shift in grain composition from protein to starch1, has compounded this nutritional deficiency. As a major food and feed staple crop, corn is a poor protein source in both quality and quantity. Advancements in agricultural biotechnology may help improve the nutritional quality of corn protein, starting with lysine enhancement.
Understand that the promotion of yield most often occurs through selective breeding by indigenous farmers, and has resulted in the ability to support more people from the same amount of land. But if protein quality is diminished through indigenous farming practises, persons who are dependent upon such staples will not reach their peak levels of development or performance.

Besides maize, other staples being genetically modified include cassava:
Although cassava is a major source of carbohydrates for 700 million people, mostly in Africa, it normally contains only small amounts of protein. Claude Fauquet of the Danforth Plant Science Center in St Louis, Missouri, and his team bumped up the protein content to 12.5 per cent by adding bean and maize genes to make a protein called zeolin. They were surprised to find that the plant used its natural supply of cyanide to provide the building blocks of the new protein. "Cyanide is a source of nitrogen within the plant," explains Fauquet.

While non-modified cassava supplies just one-fifth of daily protein requirements, the extra protein is enough to supply the needs of infants on a typical cassava-based diet (PLoS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016256). Fauquet says his root could save 1 in 4 African children from a potentially fatal condition called protein-energy malnutrition. _NS
PLoSONE article with details on cassava modification

Another staple starch crop being modified to produce more protein, is the "protato."
A team of Indian scientists have grown for the first time, a genetically modified spud called ‘protato’ that makes up to 60 per cent more protein per gram than ordinary potatoes.

Apart from that, the new crop created by Subra Chakraborty and colleagues at India's Central Potato Research Institute in Shimla also yielded more potato per hectare, reports New Scientist.

The team gave the potatoes a gene from the grain amaranth, a South American plant widely eaten across the tropics, including India. It was linked to a DNA code that turns on production of the storage protein in tubers. _IndianExpress
There is no question that such modifications hold one of the keys to successful colonisation of low-gravity space and other planets such as Mars or Luna. The ability to engineer a hardy staple crop which grows in moon gravel or air (aeroponics), and provides virtually all the nutrients and fiber persons need -- including children and pregnant females -- would clearly simplify the food aspect of adaptation to life off Earth.

One of the more famous GM modifications of a staple crop is "golden rice" -- a form of rice engineered to produce high levels of Beta Carotene. In populations suffering chronic Vitamin A deficiencies, such a crop could make a significant improvement in quality of life throughout the human life cycle. Publications detailing the Golden Rice project

Clearly the crop scientists creating the genetically modified foods mentioned above are attempting to create staple crops which the indigenous people will recognise and accept as familiar. But for true pioneers -- such as space colonists -- who are willing to put up with a bit of unfamiliarity initially, a far more radical GM food creation will be required.

What is needed is foods with minimal roots and stems, and maximum edible food. The crop's environment can be structured around its genetic requirements, by design. The food could not have a repellent taste or odour -- probably better for it to have a mild, minimal taste. Space chefs can season the staple to taste like just about anything, as long as the texture and appearance was acceptable.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Wikimedia's Role in Dumbing Down the Idiocracy?


Several areas of commerce, enterprise, and science remain the province of mainly-male participation. Physics, mathematics, advanced computer science, technical engineering, math-intensive sciences, aircraft test pilots and combat pilots, commercial sea captains, and so on. Most informed people understand that research is dominated by males, but few people realise that technical information intensive areas -- such as highly demanding reference information providers -- are also dominated by males. A lot of politically involved feminists would like to change that situation, but is there a danger in moving too forcefully from the top down when changes may adversely affect critically important services?
...surveys suggest that less than 15 percent of [Wikipedia's] hundreds of thousands of contributors are women.

About a year ago, the Wikimedia Foundation, the organization that runs Wikipedia, collaborated on a study of Wikipedia’s contributor base and discovered that it was barely 13 percent women; the average age of a contributor was in the mid-20s, according to the study by a joint center of the United Nations University and Maastricht University.

...The notion that a collaborative, written project open to all is so skewed to men may be surprising. After all, there is no male-dominated executive team favoring men over women, as there can be in the corporate world; Wikipedia is not a software project, but more a writing experiment — an “exquisite corpse,” or game where each player adds to a larger work.

...The public is increasingly going to Wikipedia as a research source: According to a recent Pew survey, the percentage of all American adults who use the site to look for information increased to 42 percent in May 2010, from 25 percent in February 2007. This translates to 53 percent of adults who regularly use the Internet.

Jane Margolis, co-author of a book on sexism in computer science, “Unlocking the Clubhouse,” argues that Wikipedia is experiencing the same problems of the offline world, where women are less willing to assert their opinions in public. “In almost every space, who are the authorities, the politicians, writers for op-ed pages?” said Ms. Margolis, a senior researcher at the Institute for Democracy, Education and Access at the University of California, Los Angeles.

...Ms. Gardner said that for now she was trying to use subtle persuasion and outreach through her foundation to welcome all newcomers to Wikipedia, rather than advocate for women-specific remedies like recruitment or quotas.

“Gender is a huge hot-button issue for lots of people who feel strongly about it,” she said. “I am not interested in triggering those strong feelings.”

Kat Walsh, a policy analyst and longtime Wikipedia contributor who was elected to the Wikimedia board, agreed that indirect initiatives would cause less unease in the Wikipedia community than more overt efforts.

But she acknowledged the hurdles: “The big problem is that the current Wikipedia community is what came about by letting things develop naturally — trying to influence it in another direction is no longer the easiest path, and requires conscious effort to change.” _NYT
The Wikipedia world is indeed a rough and tumble world of competitive edits and re-writes. If a person cannot withstand criticism and competition, they will not likely last long in that world.

The male hormone testosterone shapes the human brain in multiple ways not yet fully comprehended by science or society at large. Much of what science has learned about the influence of hormones such as testosterone on the gender differences so prevalent in society, is considered not politically correct -- and thus essentially unmentionable in left-leaning tabloids such as the New York Times, quoted above. Testosterone makes males more interested in objects than people, more competitive, have generally superior spatial and higher math skills, physically larger and stronger with greater stamina, tending to greater independence, and generally more logically determined and less emotional in the face of distractions.

Charles Murray's fascinating book, Human Accomplishment, provides a historical reflection of the phenomenon that Wikimedia's executives and critics are struggling with. Males have tended to achieve the lion's share of discoveries, inventions, and masterpieces of art, music, and literature as far back as history can tell.

A population shrinkage is occurring among the more intelligent people of the world -- Europeans and Northeast Asians -- while an explosive growth of population is occurring among the less intelligent people of the world. The average intelligence of the human population is inexorably dropping from near 90 points of IQ, downward -- close to the mid-80s and below. That qualifies as an Idiocracy.

In order to dumb down the Idiocracy, one must institute foolish rules of arbitrary and counter-productive governance, while educating the populace to accept dumbed-down groupthink rather than to think for themselves. It is easier than you might think. What Wikimedia is contemplating -- and what many western governments have done, and called affirmative action -- is an excellent example.

Also published at Al Fin and Al Fin, the Next Level

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