- Reconstructing Visual Experiences (PDF) — early visual areas represent the information in movies. To demonstrate the power of our approach, we also constructed a Bayesian decoder by combining estimated encoding models with a sampled natural movie prior. The decoder provides remarkable reconstructions of the viewed movies. These results demonstrate that dynamic brain activity measured under naturalistic conditions can be decoded using current fMRI technology.
- Earth Engine — satellite imagery and API for coding against it, to do things like detecting deforestation, classifying land cover, estimating forest biomass and carbon, and mapping the world’s roadless areas.
- Microlives — 30m of your life expectancy. Here are some things that would, on average, cost a 30-year-old man 1 microlife: Smoking 2 cigarettes; Drinking 7 units of alcohol (eg 2 pints of strong beer); Each day of being 5 Kg overweight. A chest X-ray will set a middle-aged person back around 2 microlives, while a whole body CT-scan would weigh in at around 180 microlives.
- Autistics Need Opportunities More Than Treatment — Laurent gave a powerful talk at Sci Foo: if the autistic brain is better at pattern matching, find jobs where that’s useful. Like, say, science. The autistic woman who was delivering mail became a research assistant in his lab, now has papers galore to her name for original research.
Reading Minds, Satellites in the Cloud, Units for Risk, and Valuing Autism
Julien Smith on the realities of modern safety and our misfiring flinch reflexes.
Julien Smith believes I won’t let him die.
The subject came up during our interview at Foo Camp 2012 — part of our ongoing foo interview series — in which Smith argued that our brains and innate responses don’t always map to the safety of our modern world:
“We’re in a place where it’s fundamentally almost impossible to die. I could literally — there’s a table in front of me made of glass — I could throw myself onto the table. I could attempt to even cut myself in the face or the throat, and before I did that, all these things would stop me. You would find a way to stop me. It’s impossible for me to die.”
[Discussed at the 5:16 mark in the associated video interview.]
Smith didn’t test his theory, but he makes a good point. The way we respond to the world often doesn’t correspond with the world’s true state. And he’s right about that not-letting-him-die thing; myself and the other people in the room would have jumped in had he crashed through a pane of glass. He would have then gone to an emergency room where the doctors and nurses would usher him through a life-saving process. The whole thing is set up to keep him among the living.
Acknowledging the safety of an environment isn’t something most people do by default. Perhaps we don’t want to tempt fate. Or maybe we’re wired to identify threats even when they’re not present. This disconnect between our ancient physical responses and our modern environments is one of the things Smith explores in his book The Flinch.
Statistical Fallacies, Sensors via Microphone, Peak Plastic, and Go Web Framework
- Common Statistical Fallacies (Flowing Data) — once you know to look for them, you see them everywhere. Or is that confirmation bias?
- Project Hijack — Hijacking power and bandwidth from the mobile phone’s audio interface.
Creating a cubic-inch peripheral sensor ecosystem for the mobile phone.
- Peak Plastic — Deb Chachra points out that if we’re running out of oil, that also means that we’re running out of plastic. Compared to fuel and agriculture, plastic is small potatoes. Even though plastics are made on a massive industrial scale, they still account for less than 10% of the world’s oil consumption. So recycling plastic saves plastic and reduces its impact on the environment, but it certainly isn’t going to save us from the end of oil. Peak oil means peak plastic. And that means that much of the physical world around us will have to change. I hadn’t pondered plastics in medicine before. (via BoingBoing)
- web.go (GitHub) — web framework for the Go programming language.
Google Maps alternatives, inside Dart, and the upside of offline.
This week on O'Reilly: StreetEasy's Sebastian Delmont explained why his team left Google Maps behind, we looked at the ins and outs of the Dart programming platform, and Jim Stogdill considered the alternatives to always-on living.
Turning off, opting out, and disconnecting to save my brain for the things I really want to use it for.
Jim Stogdill is tired of running on the info treadmill, so he's changing his media habits. His new approach: "Where I can, adapt to my surroundings, where I can't, adapt my surroundings to me."
Human Labour, Kinect in Laptops, Web Fonts, and Brain Boosting
- Improvisation and Forgiveness (JP Rangaswami) — what makes us human is not repetitive action. Human occupations should require human intellect, and there’s no more human activity than making a judgement call when processes have failed a customer.
- Kinect Tech in Laptop Prototypes — “waving your hands around at your laptop” will be the new “bellowing into your walkie-talkie phone”. (via Greg Linden)
- Beautiful Web Type — demo page for the best from Google’s web fonts directory. Source on GitHub.
- Ethics of Brain Boosting, Discussion (Hacker News) — this comment in particular: in my initial reckless period of self-experimentation, I managed to induce phosphenes by accident — blue white flashes in the entire visual field, blanking out everything else. Both contacts were in the supraorbital region. I ceased my experiments for a while and returned to the literature. And you thought that typo where you accidentally took the database offline was bad ….
Free Service Isn't Sustainable, Big Data, Crowdsourced Historic Science, and Cognitive Biases
- Don’t Be a Free User (Maciej Ceglowski) — pay for your free services, else they’ll go away.
- Katta — Lucene for massive data sets in the cloud. (via Pete Warden)
- Old Weather — crowdsourced transcription of old nautical journals to yield historical information for climate researchers. (via National Digital Forum)
- Siddhartha Mukherjee Talks About Cancer (Guardian) — fascinating profile of the author of a “biography of cancer”. Touches on the cognitive biases we’re all prone to, and their damaging effects on patients. Mukherjee cites a study which found that women with breast cancer recalled eating a high-fat diet, whereas women without cancer did not. But the very same study had asked both sets of women about their diets long before any of them developed cancer, and the diet of those who now had breast cancer had been no more fatty than the rest (via Courtney Johnston)
Dispel Your Illusions, Simple Mac OS X Apps, Assisted Translation, and AutoTagging
- How to Dispel Your Illusions (NY Review of Books) — Freeman Dyson writing about Daniel Kahneman’s latest book. Only by understanding our cognitive illusions can we hope to transcend them.
- Appify-UI (github) — Create the simplest possible Mac OS X apps. Uses HTML5 for the UI. Supports scripting with anything and everything. (via Hacker News)
- Translation Memory (Etsy) — using Lucene/SOLR to help automate the translation of their UI. (via Twitter)
- Automatically Tagging Entities with Descriptive Phrases (PDF) — Microsoft Research paper on automated tagging. Under the hood it uses Map/Reduce and the Microsoft Dryad framework. (via Ben Lorica)
MIND CONTROL COPTERS!, Better Security, Ratings Systems, and Lightweight Reference
- Continuous Three-Dimensional Control of a Virtual Helicopter Using a Motor Imagery Based Brain-Computer Interface (PLOSone) — direct brain control is becoming a reality, tiny step by tiny step. Also: HELICOPTERS!
- Forward Secrecy for HTTPS — Google contributed a better HTTPS cipher suite to OpenSSL, one that doesn’t share keys between conversations. Yay the Goog for giving back.
- Ratings Systems (Quora) — very good answer from the VP of Engineering at Netflix about the purposes and effects of different ratings and feedback systems. Full of pithy and true guidelines like: Your users have a certain mental budget they will invest in your rating system. The more work you make each decision, the fewer decisions you will get. This is true in many contexts other than rating systems as well. You can’t randomly throw feedback mechanisms into your app, you must design them as deliberately and thoughtfully as the rest of your site.
- InstaCSS — very simple very useful reference site. Grod like simplicity.