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, December 18, 2010

Computer Virus used as Ersatz Military Strike

Bushehr Nuclear Facility, Iran (2002). Image Source: Keep It Trill.

Ars Technica is reporting (here) via the Jerusalem Post (here) that Iranian nuclear development has been set back by at least two years by a targeted virus attack.
Damage from the Stuxnet virus has apparently set back the Iranian nuclear program by as much as two years, according to a German security expert talking to the Jerusalem Post. This makes the virus as effective as a military strike—but without loss of life or risk of full-blown war.

This comes amid claims that the virus is continuing to infect Iranian systems and disrupt the Iranian nuclear effort, and the news from IAEA last month that Iran had suspended work at its nuclear production facilities, likely as a result of the virus.

Speaking to the Post, an expert identifed only as "Langer" (we believe the Post likely means Stuxnet expert Ralph Langner, but have not had confirmation at the time of writing) said that due to poor Iranian IT security expertise, the only effective way the country would be able to rid itself of the virus would be through discarding all infected machines. He said that, further, centrifuges would need to be replaced at Iran's Natanz facility, as might a turbine at Bushehr. Centrifuges operating at between 807Hz and 1210Hz were believed to be a specific target of the virus.
Ars Technica later confirmed that the source was Langner. For Ralph Langner's blog, go here. There is another report on Stuxnet malware here.

The Cultural Genome

Google Books Ngram Viewer: prevalence of the word 'apocalypse' from 1500 to 2000.

More weird Google Books news has come to light.  The Chronicle for Higher Education and the Harvard Gazette are reporting that Google Books and Harvard researchers are using computer algorithms to assess the rise and fall of certain words and ideas in our culture by crunching through all the words in 5.2 million digitized books, originally published between 1500 and 2008.  This sample represents roughly 4 per cent of all the books ever published.  The research leaders describe the prevalence of words over time as a cultural "fossil record."  Their comments are littered with weird neologisms lifted from economics and the sciences.  They say they are searching for the "cultural genome" using "culturnomics." You can test their work by typing in different words into a Google Books Ngram Viewer engine here - it will show you the frequency with which these words were used over time; but it doesn't indicate whether the meaning of the word changed. I typed in the word 'apocalypse' to check its use from 1500 to 2000. You can see the results in the image above.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Only People in the World Who Look Forward to the Past and Leave the Future Behind Them

Image Source: Face the Climate.

Phys.org.com is reporting that "[n]ew analysis of the language and gesture of South America's indigenous Aymara people indicates they have a concept of time opposite to all the world's studied cultures -- so that the past is ahead of them and the future behind."  (Hat tip: @swadeshine).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Embryos with Bar Codes

Image Source: Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona via news.com.au.

Scientists are considering barcoding embryos in order to avoid IVF mix-ups.  A report from Fox News carried by news.com.au (here) describes this approach being tested on mouse embryos at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain.  There are original UAB sites on the subject here, here and here.

Image Source: Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona via news.com.au.

Reference article: "A Novel Embryo Identification System by Direct Tagging Using Silicon-Based Barcodes." Novo, S., Barrios, L., Santaló, J., Gómez-Martínez, R., Duch, M., Esteve, J., Plaza, J.A., Nogués, C., Ibáñez, E. Human Reproduction. doi:10.1093/humrep/deq309.

Nuclear Disneyland: Ukraine Lifting Tourism Restrictions to Chernobyl in 2011

Image Source: Kidofspeed Ghost Town Chernobyl Pictures. [Addendum (2016): Kidofspeed Website was later accused of faking photos of Chernobyl.]

CNN is reporting that Ukraine is lifting general tourism restrictions to Chernobyl in 2011.  Full report here: "But most radioactive material has sunk into the soil, and visitors receive a dose comparable to the exposure they would receive on a trans-Atlantic flight."  So much for the haunting images immortalized by the blogger Kidofspeed, one of the few people previously to regularly explore the restricted area and who posted her photos of the degraded, abandoned site on the Web.  Her famous Chernobyl blog is here

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Electronic Village

Karen Woo, working in Afghanistan. Image Source: BBC.

Headline, August 7, 2010: “10 people, including 2 Americans, attacked and murdered in Badakhshan province, Afghanistan. Believed to be Christian medical team.” Almost every day, we confront a tidal wave of information, peppered with details like this. One of the ills of post-Postmodern society is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to greet this data with any personal depth or emotion. There is no connection to the 10 anonymous people. The Global Village has arrived. And yet the sensibilities that govern it are anonymous, divorced from our daily realities. There are of course, many courageous people who cross the bridge between ‘here’ and ‘there.’ One of the ways they do this is by blogging about their experiences so that their daily reality in the hot spots in the world becomes our daily reality.

What 10 Million Facebook Friend Connections Look Like

Image Source: Forbes.

Earlier yesterday Forbes reported that a Facebook intern posted a "visualization of friendship connections between 10 million users."

Addendum: There's a link to the original Facebook site here.  The intern who generated the image, Paul Butler, described the process:
Visualizing data is like photography. Instead of starting with a blank canvas, you manipulate the lens used to present the data from a certain angle… When the data is the social graph of 500 million people, there are a lot of lenses through which you can view it. One that piqued my curiosity was the locality of friendship. I was interested in seeing how geography and political borders affected where people lived relative to their friends. I wanted a visualization that would show which cities had a lot of friendships between them.
The Guardian is reporting on how the image was created here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Freud would have a Field Day

Gray and Gold (1942). Oil on canvas. By John Rogers Cox.

Thank you very much to J. for sending me a link to extensive work by John Suler of the Department of Psychology at Rider University about individual and group behaviour onlineHis work is called The Psychology of Cyberspace (read it here).  It examines how the mentality of people is changing as they interact on the internet, which he calls cyberpsychology; he investigates how cyberpsychology is altering our whole society, starting with the way computers have split the already-fractured self. He covers topics such as anonymity, disinhibition, the psychology of avatars, cyberspace as dream worlds, addiction to computers, online gender-switching, apocalyptic thinking, integrating online and offline living, in-person versus cyberspace relationships, virtual communities, and the ethics of cyberspace research.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Debts to the Past, Debts to the Future

"When you go home - Tell them of us and say, For your tomorrow We gave our today."  Stained Glass Window, St. Michael at the North Gate Church, Oxford, UK.  Photo Credit: 2009 © Sheepdog Rex. Image Reproduced with kind permission.

I recently had a look at Oxford's Saxon tower and church of St. Michael at the North Gate.  This is the oldest building in the city, constructed around 1000-1050.  A couple of stained glass windows in the church struck me because of their messages about the debt we owe to the past.  These were national and religious devotional windows, dedicated to the dead from the First and Second World Wars.  But in the act of remembering those who died to secure our present, they remind us that we too, must sometimes live as the predecessors of those who will follow, and do things to help those we cannot see, will never know, and cannot anticipate.  We owe a debt to those who live in the future.