# !!c1QfXUgcGY0

boom

3:21pm | author:
(Notes:6)

When a nanolaser casts a shadow, the grad student gets 6 more weeks of fabrication.

The pillar in the middle is one of the nanolasers our lab makes.  It’s supposed to be a single column all by itself, roughly cylindrical with a bit of a funky coke bottle shape, about 1/100 the height of a sheet of printer paper.  We etch out the column from a solid block of layered semiconductor, using a bombardment of high-energy plasma from the top.  So, how did the nanolaser end up carving its shadow into solid semiconductor?

It seems that when we use the scanning electron microscope (SEM) to look at our nanolasers after various steps in our fabrication process, the microscope’s electron beam changes the properties of the semiconductor it hits, making it more resistant to our etching plasma.  Since we’re usually imaging our lasers from the side, the electron beam hits each nanolaser pillar at an angle, and the area hidden behind the nanolaser gets shielded from the beam.

What this means, unfortunately, is that the more we use SEM to look at our fabrication progress, the less predictable the fabrication process becomes. A watched laser never lases.

Fabrication and SEM by Dr. Qing Gu.

8:00pm | author:

"Hydra 70"

The Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) II is a program to provide a laser guidance to the existing Hydra 70 systems in service. It was cancelled by the US Army in February 2007,[5] but was restarted by the US Navy in 2008. Similar programs are the US Navy Low-Cost Guided Imaging Rocket, Lockheed Martin Direct Attack Guided Rocket and the ATK/Elbit Guided Advanced Tactical Rocket – Laser.

Defense contractors in action.

10:51am | author:

Wondermark #1045

8:17am | author:

Zazzle boT-shirts

Zazzle is great place to spot generative bots in action. The online marketplace has an API that allows scripts to upload designs, which has been exploited by those who seek to gain the trickle earnings of the Long-tail demand economy. By generating millions of variants of t-shirts and other products, the bots increase their chances of niche demand sales. To see a bot in action simply sort the items by Newest and refresh every now and again to find more items added to the market. Eventually you’ll spot patterns in the way products are generated, often the bot is going through words from A to Z. Above are some T-shirts generated when it passed through words beginning with ‘Ex’.

6:03pm | author:

In this month’s Har­vard Busi­ness Re­view, The Con­tent Mar­ket­ing Revo­lu­tion smells like con­cen­trat­ed essence of evil; an uniron­ic paean to the take-over of jour­nal­is­m, and pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion, by mar­ke­teer­s.

I rec­om­mend read­ing it, if on­ly for shock val­ue; here are a cou­ple of out-takes for fla­vor.

Brands are no longer mere­ly ped­dling prod­uct­s; they’re pro­duc­ing, un­earthing, and dis­tribut­ing in­for­ma­tion. And be­cause they do, the cor­po­ra­tion be­comes not just eco­nom­i­cal­ly im­por­tant to so­ci­ety, but in­tel­lec­tu­al­ly es­sen­tial as well.

Just a sec, be right back.

Sor­ry, had to make an un­ex­pect­ed run for the loo there; hate it when that hap­pen­s. Let’s try again.

Brand­ed con­tent is a brave new world and a brand’s ed­i­to­ri­al team, re­gard­less of how it’s or­ga­nized, must learn to live and breathe a company’s bot­tom line while al­so be­ing mind­ful of the kinds of sto­ries that ap­peal to read­er­s.

Just a sec, be right back.

I guess that’s the new ethos of jour­nal­is­m: the employer’s bot­tom line plus the kinds of sto­ries that ap­peal. Author Alexan­der Jutkowitz is on the board of over­seers of the Columbia Jour­nal­ism Re­view so I guess this rep­re­sents main­stream think­ing on the profession’s fu­ture.

11:00pm | author:

Bots - talking amongst themselves - via

A twitter conversation between two bots (@oliviataters and @notkeithcalder) was picked up and intercepted by the Bank of America bot account. This is twitter bot culture sans humans.

how beauteous mankind is! o brave new world, that has such people in ‘t!

(via webinarfantastic)

6:21pm | author:

ipgd:

oh my god. tumblr. tumblr. please. there is no “4chan raid”. 4chan is not an organized website and the people who use it have the attention spans of gnats. if there is any “raiding” going on, it is literally a selection of individuals that you could count on one hand who would have been bored of this within hours of beginning if you hadn’t responded with a degree of hysteria that reaches “confused grandma tries to use a computer” levels of gullibility

if you stop making 60,000 note deep reblog chains about how 4chan is engaging in CYBERTERRORISM and that the FBI is going to SHUT DOWN THEIR WEBSITE i fucking guarantee you whatever four nerds are actually doing anything at all on tumblr will stop and you will never hear from them again. the entire substance of this “raid” is making fake posts about what they’re going to do and posting screencaps for you diarrhea dump in your baby diapers and it is working so effectively that i feel embarrassed to be here

9:00am | author:

## Vulnerability

The insidious thing about malicious manipulation is that, by design, it goes unnoticed.

Manipulation is an act of subterfuge, and a victim of manipulation does not see themselves as a victim. From the victim’s perspective, they aren’t being manipulated - they are being informed, or protected, or making a choice based on available evidence. A person who is being controlled through manipulation thinks they are in complete control of their own thoughts and actions, and this raises an unsettling question: how do we actually know if someone is manipulating us?

To address this, you really have to get into what makes manipulation what it is. Like mentioned above, it’s fundamentally an act of subterfuge. However, unlike conventional misinformation or the simple act of lying, a manipulator creates complex, self-sustaining structures that can resist or invalidate counterevidence. They effectively create lies that cannot be proven wrong, and to resist this you have to do something that seems extremely counterintuitive to resisting manipulation:

You have to make sure your beliefs have vulnerabilities

Imagine, for example, that you completely suck at basketball For most of you, this probably will not take much imagination. Let’s say you start to theorize that wearing a sports jersey will improve your basketball abilities. Since, after all, the professional players wear them.

This isn’t a particularly harmful idea, because it has vulnerability. After donning a jersey, you’ll be able to see if you actually get any better at basketball. You even have a numerical metric (score) to judge yourself by. If your average score with a jersey is not discernibly higher than your score without a jersey, you will more or less know that you were wrong. The entire belief is firmly tied to reality, there is an easy way to judge it, and it can be weakened or destroyed if it does not reflect reality. It is extremely vulnerable.

But now, imagine you are a malicious manipulator who wants to sell as many jerseys as possible. And imagine you have no ethical boundaries for doing so.

You could make an outright false claim like “this jersey will make you better at basketball”, but - as mentioned above - that would be extremely vulnerable. Almost every person who uses the jersey would be able to tell that the claim was false. However, imagine you made a claim that was harder to directly address. Like, rather than saying the jersey will increase someone’s basketball ability, you say it will increase their torso agility.

Unlike basketball ability, there is no real way to measure “torso agility”. Agility itself is a pretty vaguely defined concept - the closest thing it’s ever gotten to an official definition was when some researchers said it was “rapid whole body movement with change of velocity or direction in response to a stimulus”, and reducing it to “torso agility” invalidates that.

While it’s pretty reasonable to say that increased torso agility helps someone play basketball (after all, more agility is better), it is very hard to dispute the claim that the jersey increases torso agility. If someone’s basketball ability does not improve after wearing it, you could easily just claim that they weren’t fully utilizing that new agility. Likewise, it would be very hard for them to show that their torso hasn’t gotten more agile - how would you even measure that?. By dealing with something that cannot be concretely analyzed, you have successfully created a stable manipulation entity separate from reality.

And that makes you a dick!

In a lot of ways, this actually parallels the mechanics of mental illness. Someone who suffers severe obsessive compulsive disorder, for example, is disjointed from reality. They might feel like something horrible will happen if they don’t pass through a door in just the right way, and counterevidence will just be dismissed as “I got lucky that time”. Someone with severe depression will feel worthless, and no amount of testimony or empirical analysis of their value will shake that belief - the testimony is just wrong. The beliefs are not vulnerable; they exist in a place where outside reality cannot touch them, and this leads to the “downward spirals” typical of many mental illnesses.

When it comes to conscious manipulation, you can see this same thing very clearly in religious cults. A cult leader may say that a proper amount of faith (and accompanying donations) will make something favorable happen. If someone makes those donations and something favorable doesn’t happen, then their faith wasn’t strong enough and they have to try even harder. It’s a downward spiral based around an idea that cannot be disproved. It’s a very well-designed manipulation construct in that it disjoints the victim from reality.

If you’ve seen that recent “#LikeAGirl” video sponsored by Always, there is a scene toward the end of it that completely hits the nail on the head when it comes to resisting manipulation. The woman in the blue dress is essentially giving the advice to be empirical. She is encouraging young girls to take the notion that being “like a girl” is a negative thing and hold it up against measurable results - to keep it vulnerable to counterevidence, rather than treating it as inherently true. While most people are probably just going to interpret the video as yet another toothless statement of  ”our word use causes problems”, the lady in the blue dress actually delivers an incredibly important message about countering manipulation by remaining tied to reality. Determining beliefs based on what you experience rather than what you’re told.

And that is all it really comes down to: remaining tied to reality. It is very easy for us to latch onto harmful false beliefs, and they are often planted there by someone who wants to control us. Like an airborne sickness, it’s not something you can completely wipe out or isolate yourself from - all you can do is develop the antibodies to get over it quickly. To resist harmful manipulation you need to constantly question whether your ideas have vulnerabilities and, if one doesn’t, take a very serious look into where you got it.

Having beliefs that cannot possibly be shaken does not make you an admirable person, It just makes you a danger to yourself and others. Having an invulnerable belief is the biggest red flag that you are someone else’s pawn, and recognizing it is crucial. If you let someone cut your ties to reality, there is no telling what they’ll make you believe.

9:23pm | author:

so tumblr can make their own posts un-rebloggable but not implement this for everyone and people’s comfort when they make personal posts they don’t want people reblogging??

"Making posts unrebloggable" is the Tumblr community’s favorite impossible feature. It wouldn’t provide anything more than the faintest impression of security, because, of course, the analog hole is still there.

We know this for a fact, and the OP knows this, because this post is literally a screenshot of an unrebloggable post. Wow, removing the reblog button sure stopped 2 thousand fucking people from reblogging this!

I know that I, and a bunch of other people, have talked a lot about Tumblr’s culture of lazy uncritical thinking. But this is worse than the time more than 800,000 people reblogged a looping gif thinking it was a countdown timer, if only due to the manifestly self-defeating nature of the activism. Each person who reblogs this makes the “unrebloggable post” feature more patently and obviously useless.

(Source: davekins, via vappy)

9:05am | author:

When I read people who get really into specific ev psych hypotheses about all the fancy domain-specific mental modules we supposedly have, I just want to tell them that

you know there isn’t that much room in the human genome

it contains on the order of a gigabyte of data, more like 600 MB according to some estimates

you have applications on your computer that contain more bits than the human genome

about a third of that information is also present in the fruit fly genome

and that ~1GB also includes the genes for all the biochemical stuff going on in your body that doesn’t have anything to do with cognition

how do we get such a complicated and yet precisely specified brain, with ~10^14 synapses, out of those ~10^9 bytes of genome?  by a genetically guided learning process that imports massive quantities of information from the environment

[…]

Genome size correlates very poorly to organism “complexity”. The human genome is 3.2 gigabases. Corn is 2Gb. Paris japonica, another plant, has 150Gb. The animal with the largest genome we know of is the marbled lungfish, with 133Gb.

Selection pressures favoring a smaller genome in anything bigger than a bacteria would appear to be pretty weak. Drawing any kind of qualitative prediction about an animal from the size of its genome would also seem to be pretty foolish.

Also, further down the reblog chain, you talk about Kolmogorov complexity. Kolmogorov complexity is a very useful concept, but it’s tricky to use in a practical manner, since it’s literally uncomputable. You can kinda approximate it in some cases, but for any nontrivial string (such as: the entire dang human genome) your approximated complexity will be worse than true Kolmogorov complexity by some unknown amount. (Soler-Tuscano et. al. have actually gone ahead and brute-force calculated the K-complexity for “all 11n=12n binary strings of length n<12 and for most strings of length 12n16 by running all 2.5×10^13 Turing machines with 5 states and 2 symbols (8×22^9 with reduction techniques)”, which seems a little pointless, but that’s information theory for you.)

10:02pm | author:

Anonymous said: How valid is that post going around with the red squares showing *~how much space would be needed for solar panels to power the world~*? I feel like it's an under-estimation with the technology we have right now, and looking at the source it's fucking 9 years old.

I’d say that this chart isn’t actually too far off the mark. Their math is a little fuzzy, (“20% system efficiency”! Ha!) but the difference would only add a couple hundred pixels to the size of the boxes. The Earth is big, and there is a lot of sunlight.

Topaz Solar Farm in California is/will be the world’s largest solar installation. Located in a site with the best possible conditions, it has a design output of 1,096GWh a year. But, dude, it’s projected to cost $2.5 billion to build. Landartgenerator.com is using 199,721,000GWh as a total global energy budget for 2030. That would require 182,227 Topaz Solar Farms, or$455 trillion dollars.

That would consume the entire economic output of the United States for 30 years, and that’s just for the damn solar panels! It doesn’t include all the electrical transmission infrastructure you’d need, or conversion costs for electrifying our entire transportation network. (Step one: replace every gasoline car in the world with an electric car. Step two…)

Pointing out that solar wouldn’t actually take up that much land area, (though half a million square kilometres is still a heck of a lot of land) while true, is disingenuous. It’s like pointing at an Apollo capsule and saying, “See, look at how small it is! It’s not that expensive to go to the Moon!”

10:41pm | author:

I’m sorry, but I just have to shill this dumb thing we sell at work.

(Got tired of fighting with tumblr’s filesize limits, so I just stuck the gif on my site)

You plug a USB device into it and it tells you the voltage and how much current it’s drawing. You could use it on a USB breadboard power supply or something to see how much your circuit is using, but really, it’s a just a stupid toy I can’t stop playing with. I’ve mostly been using it to see how power my phone draws. (And how much some cheap USB plugpacks sag under load!)

I actually spent money on this. I have a gadget problem.

9:39pm | author:
"Friends without Benefits"

As the Wall Street Journal reports:

Zappos, based in Las Vegas, plans to hire at least 450 people this year, but candidates won’t find out about those jobs on LinkedIn.com, Monster.com or the company website. Instead, they will have to join a social network, called Zappos Insiders, where they will network with current employees and demonstrate their passion for the company—in some cases publicly—in hopes that recruiters will tap them when jobs come open.

A naïve reader might imagine that the traditional hiring process, where a company posts its openings and job seekers submit their cover letters and resumes, did plenty to serve the interests of our nation’s job creators. But Zappos’s “head of talent acquisition,” Michiael Bailen, told the Journal that traditional hiring “is too ‘transactional.’” Instead of reading about the qualifications of potential hires, “Recruiters instead will spend time pursuing candidates in the Insiders group with digital Q&As or contests, events that they will use to help gauge prospective hires’ cultural fit.”

Zappos has apparently decided it is no longer good enough to be a qualified hire who is interested in the job. An interested applicant must also spend unremunerated time pretending to engage in virtual social relationships with existing employees. The American economy has become so warped that it now appears reasonable to a subsidiary of a leading public company to require people who may never be hired to spent large amounts of time pretending to be friends with people with whom they may never work.

(Source: katherinestasaph)

10:21am | author:

viruses are so fucked up like they aren’t even alive their sole purpose is to kill you like who do those microscopic pieces of shit think they are

I know they make me sick

did you just

While I love the pun, I can’t stand the inaccuracy.  Actually, their purpose isn’t to kill you!  It’s to propagate their genetic coding!  Killing their host cell is just a side effect.

Killing their host is probably the last thing a virus wants to do because then they’ve basically destroyed their own habitat. Arguably the best viruses are the ones that can propagate and spread to other hosts during the natural lifetime of their host without killing it.

1.) Beware teleology, the dark specter that haunts evolutionary biology. Viruses don’t “want” anything, they just execute the instructions that happened to work the best in the past. Humans see intent everywhere, because, to a first approximation, the intent of past designers shaped every complex system we see, except for biological systems.

2.) Not “arguably” at all, really. The best viruses are the ones that make the most copies of their genes. You might think, “Gosh, a virus that stuck its genes into the human genome would be pretty wildly successful”, and you sure would be right: endogenous retroviruses “occupy as much as 4.9% of the human genome,” most of which don’t do much of anything.

That touches on another area of biology that’s the subject of heated debate:

You’ll have heard about the massive data wave that hit (30 papers!) courtesy of the ENCODE project. That stands for Encyclopedia of DNA Elements, and it’s been a multiyear effort to go beyond the bare sequence of human DNA and look for functional elements. We already know that only around 1% of the human sequence is made up of what we can recognize as real, traditional genes: stretches that code for proteins, have start and stop codons, and so on. And it’s not like that’s so straightforward, either, what with all the introns and whatnot. But that leaves an awful lot of DNA that’s traditionally been known by the disparaging name of “junk”, and sure it can’t just be that - can it?

Some of it does its best to make you think that way, for sure. Transposable elements like Alu sequences, which are repeated relentlessly hundreds of thousands of times throughout the human DNA sequence, must either be junk, inert spacer, or so wildly important that we just can’t have too many copies of them. But DNA is three-dimensional (and how), and its winding and unwinding is crucial to gene expression. Surely a good amount of that apparently useless stuff is involved in these processes and other epigenetic phenomena.

And the ENCODE group has indeed discovered a lot of this sort of thing. But as this excellent overview from Brendan Maher at Nature shows, it hasn’t discovered quite as many as the headlines might lead you to think. (And neither has it demolished the idea that all the 99% of noncoding DNA is junk, because you can’t find anyone who believed that one, either). The figure that’s in all the press writeups is that this work has assigned functions for 80% of the human genome, which would be an astonishing figure on several levels. For one thing, it would mean that we’d certainly missed an awful lot before, and for another, it would mean that the genome is a heck of a lot more information-rich than we ever thought it might be.

But neither of those quite seem to be the case. It all depends on what you mean by “functional”, and opinions most definitely vary. See this post by Ed Yong for some of the categories. which range out to some pretty broad, inclusive definitions of “function”. A better estimate is that maybe 20% of the genome can directly influence gene expression, which is very interesting and useful, but ain’t no 80%, either. That Nature post provides a clear summary of the arguments about these figures.

Really heated debate:

Thus, according to the ENCODE Consortium, a biological function can be maintained indefinitely without selection, which implies that (at least 70%) of the genome is perfectly invulnerable to deleterious mutations, either because no mutation can ever occur in these “functional” regions, or because no mutation in these regions can ever be deleterious. This absurd conclusion was reached through various means, chiefly (1) by employing the seldom used “causal role” definition of biological function and then applying it inconsistently to different biochemical properties, (2) by committing a logical fallacy known as “affirming the consequent,” (3) by failing to appreciate the crucial difference between “junk DNA” and “garbage DNA,” (4) by using analytical methods that yield biased errors and inflate estimates of functionality, (5) by favoring statistical sensitivity over specificity, and (6) by emphasizing statistical significance rather than the magnitude of the effect.

10:42pm | author: