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friday :: july 29, 2005
what the hack

What The Hack is a largely self-organizing outdoor hacker conference/event taking place on a large event-campground in the south of The Netherlands from 28 until 31 July 2005. Events such as WTH take place every 4 years, and have been described as 'the Woodstock of the hacker scene'

What The Hack originate from a group of people that was originally centered around a small hacker magazine called Hack-Tic. The magazine's last issue was published in 1993, but for reasons unknown the events have so far refused to die. 1989 Featured the Galactic Hacker Party, then in 1993 we saw Hacking at the End of the Universe, followed in 1997 by Hacking In Progress, and in 2001 there was Hackers At Large.

Like previous editions, the conference side of this multi-faceted event will cover traditional 'hacker topics' such as:

* Computer security
* The politics surrounding the net
* Freedom of speech
* 'Lawful' access technology
* Open Source software development
* Wireless networking developments
* Lockpicking

This edition, we would like to expand even further into areas to which the connection may or may not be immediately obvious, but which are of general interest to a technologically savvy and politically awake audience. Just to name a few, we would like to see lectures and presentations by people who can tell us something fascinating about:

* The world's dwindling supply of oil
* Military hardware
* How Internet is used in Africa
* Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
* Drug politics
* Adbusting and culture-jamming
* How to become a politician and stay a hacker
* Bugs and wiretapping
* North-Korea
* Biometrics
* Economic issues regarding the Internet
* Renewable energy
* Biotech
* Corporate intelligence-gathering
* 3D-modeling
* Game theory
* All sorts of earth-orbiting satellites
* How to tap into underseas cables
* Climate change
* The Titan lander
* Nuclear physics
* Mass-media piracy
* Do-it-yourself pyrotechnics
* Electro-stimulation of the human brain

>from *What the Hack site* Lat 51°33.270858 / Lon 5°20.620584 (Liempde, near Den Bosch, The Netherlands). July 28-31 2005,

related context
defcon 13. july 29-31, 2005.
> transnational hackmeeting. june 25-27, 2004
> codecon: hacker projects. february 20, 2004
> a new cultural movement?. august 7, 2002
> h2k2: hackers on planet earth 2002. july 10, 2002

bamboo's long life makes it a chinese symbol of long life

sonic flow
hacked flow [stream]
hacked flow [download]

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friday :: july 22, 2005
novelty-detection: seek the unusual, ignore the commonplace

Researchers at Harvard University have found evidence that the retina actively seeks novel features in the visual environment, dynamically adjusting its processing in order to seek the unusual while ignoring the commonplace. The scientists report that this principle of novelty-detection operates in many visual environments.

"Apparently our thirst for novelty begins in the eye itself," says Markus Meister, the Jeff C. Tarr Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "Our eyes report the visual world to the brain, but not very faithfully. Instead, the retina creates a cartoonist's sketch of the visual scene, highlighting key features while suppressing the less interesting regions."

These findings provide evidence that the ultimate goal of the visual system is not simply to construct internally an exact reproduction of the external world. Rather, the system seeks to extract from the onslaught of raw visual information the few bits of data that are relevant to behavior. This entails the discarding of signals that are less useful, and dynamic retinal adaptation provides a means of stripping from the visual stream predictable and therefore less newsworthy signals.

For example, Meister says, in visual environments such as forests or fields of grass with many vertical elements but only rare horizontal features, the retina adjusts to suppress the routine vertical features while highlighting the singular horizontal elements.

Meister and his co-authors examined neural signals in retinal ganglion cells, which convey visual images from the eye to the brain. These cells generally record local spatial differences and changes over time rather than faithful renditions of momentary scenes. Scientists had interpreted this as a form of predictive coding, a strategy shaped by the forces of evolution in adaptation to the average image structure of natural environments.

"Yet animals encounter many environments with visual statistics different from this hypothetical 'average' scene," Meister says. "We have found that when this happens, the retina adjusts its processing dynamically: The spatio-temporal receptive fields of retinal ganglion cells change after a few seconds in a new environment. These changes are adaptive, improving predictive coding by enhancing the ability of these receptive fields to pick out unusual features."

While manipulating the visual scenes faced by salamanders and rabbits, Meister and colleagues recorded neural signals from the animals' retinal ganglion cells, testing whether adaptation to a different environment altered the encoding of retinal signals. From the neural responses to novel stimuli, the researchers computed the sensitivity of individual ganglion cells to various scenes.

For most cells, sensitivity to a novel scene was greater than sensitivity to control scenes to which the animals had already been exposed, a gap that grew gradually in the seconds after introduction to a new environment. Because this adaptation occurred in both salamanders and rabbits, Meister concluded that it typifies retinal function in both amphibians and mammals, animals that differ greatly in ecology and physiology but share the challenge of adjusting to a variable visual environment. >from *Retina Adapts To Seek The Unexpected, Ignore The Commonplace* Novel cues driveanimal behavior; 'our thirst for novelty begins in the eye itself,' scientists say. July 7, 2005

related context
real-world processing. october 15, 2004
> pattern recognition: oscillatory associative memory networks. may 14, 2004.
> blog epidemic analyzer. march 12, 2004.
> eye gaze direction: how the brain perceives emotion. june 13, 2003
> scanning online trends. march 7, 2003
> first look at the world: making sense of the unknown. december 3, 2002
> human perception: controlled by single neurones. march 15, 2002

retina silent shouts

sonic flow
ignore the commonplace [stream]
ignore the commonplace [download]

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friday :: july 15, 2005
tripolis: urban art and the public sphere

Tripolis is a single-minded way to interrogate and interact with urban public space in the three City Mine(d) cities: Brussels, London and Barcelona. Arts interventions on public spaces will contribute to a positive atmosphere and invite people to participate, to create or to congregate on the chosen spaces. Central themes are 'Temporary use' in Brussels, 'Media and technology' in Barcelona and 'Transit zone' in London.

"Tripolis, Urban Art and the Public Sphere" was launched on 22 June '05 with PRECARE - a workshop on temporary occupation of empty spaces in the city - and will run until March 2006 - when an international conference will bring together experiences and reflections on the project.

3 'tools' - L-Atlas, ReadyMades, Conference/Publication – wil go beyond the local character of the interventions and will reflect the inter-city ambitions of the project. Exchange, networking and intervening will dominate Tripolis. We think that the creation of new forms of communication and presentation and support for new urban initiatives and creative participation are crucial for the future of the city.

TRIPOLIS is a City Mine(d) project sponsored by Cultuur2000, cultural programme of the European Union. >from *tripolis site*

Tripolis in Barcelona:Visquem Can Ricart
Urban creativity in a space for the 21st century
technology workshops, European encounter and open activities. july 27-30, 2005

Can Ricart is a unique space for urban creativity.

Since its construction in the XIXth century, through the work of several generations, the manufacturing colony Can Ricart has brought to life a complex and rich social, productive, creative and cultural fabric. Can Ricart has become a reference of European industrial heritage, with unique opportunities for the urban regeneration of Barcelona.

Paradoxically, Can Ricart is now threatened with expulsion by the City Council planning proposals in the framework of the plan 22@. However, there are viable alternatives, like the ones developed by the civic platform "Salvem Can Ricart" that brings together production, crafts, arts, leisure, innovation and experiment.
Raising the awareness of the value of Can Ricart went through several stages. At first the value of the productive capacities of companies located on site was recognized. Contrary to the existing image of their obsolescence, they are very innovative and still growing. In a second step the recognition of the heritage value of the factory, one of oldest of the city.

The following stage "Visquem Can Ricart" will explore the scope of cultural creation. During four days of public activities will highlight the creative potential of Can Ricart - home to projects like Musikomuna, AXA/Can Font, Flea, Nave 7 or Hangar - as laboratory for the new cultures and the new forms to live and to work in the city.

The objective of the days is to demonstrate how the hidden potential of urban spaces can be made manifest by cultural activities.

With this objective "Visquem Can Ricart" proposes three lines of work:
… To reactivate the space of Can Font and by extension the one of Can Ricart.
… To recuperate the creative network generated by and in the surroundings of Can Ricart.
… To explore the potential of 'new technologies' in this urban space.

The proposals will be gathered and explored in a workshop on 'new technologies' - with the participation of groups from Brussels, London and Barcelona (Parkbenchtv, Hacklab, Reseau Citoyen, Telenoika, R23, Xarxa Sense FIls Cooperative, Nice-noise, Cityborg...) . A practical result will be the construction of a tool for the appropriation of public space - a caravan (GuaGua) transformed for the occasion. On the other hand, the days will foster encounter between the different groups, neighbours of the district and the productive and creative fabric of the factories in Can Ricart.

' Visquem Can Ricart !" makes part of the project "Tripolis, Urban Art and the Public Sphere", from City Mine(d) supported by the European Union, program Culture 2000; Generalitat de Catalunya, Departemento de Cultura; and the Vlaamse Gemeenschapscommissie (Flandres-Brussels).

This project was started by citymine(d) and context weblog.

related context
citymined. 'our ultimate objective is to realize an international urban movement.'
> can ricart + parc central, urban space of 21th century. june 10, 2005
> pervasive and locative arts. 'what kinds of creative, social, economic and political expression become possible when every device we carry, the fabric of the urban environment and even the contours of the earth become a digital canvas?.' january 28, 2005
> cityborg.net, a digital interface with our world. 'a cultural project oriented to build a digital open platform to generate social networks in our mediated environments.' december 17, 2004
> an urban media space. 'the increasing presence of mobile communication technologies is transforming the ways we live, construct and move through our built environment.' october 8, 2004
> creative cities. 'a portrait of the values and lifestyles that will drive the 21st century economy, and on the importance of place in the knowledge-driven economy.' june 10, 2002

Visquem Can Ricart: reactivate + recuperate + explore

this post han been edited and published from axa/cant font in can ricart. july 19, 2005 is our fifth anniversary: context we blog, since 2000!

you can find a comprehensive explanation on overall context' project in an article we published in 'quaderns d'arquitectura i urbanisme' this spring (pdf's print version in a zip file):
> context@quaderns [en-ca] [7.65 Mb]
> context@quaderns [es-fr] [7.65 Mb]

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friday :: july 8, 2005
what don't we know? a survey of our scientific ignorance

What is the universe made of? What is the biological basis of consciousness? Can the world continue to sustain a growing population and growing consumption? In celebration of its 125th anniversary, Science has taken stock of some of the most important, yet-unanswered scientific questions and delved into 25 of them for a closer look at just what we do and don't yet know about our universe.

Questions like these show us how far science has come in explaining the natural world, and they also fuel the discoveries of the future, writes author and journalist Tom Siegfried in an introduction to the special 1 July issue of Science, published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.

In the special issue, Science's editors have identified 125 "big questions" that scientists have yet to answer. Rather than a comprehensive inventory, this list is a significant sampling of the major questions facing science today. Science's news team has also focused on 25 of these questions in a special package of essays.

"Today, science's most profound questions address some of the largest phenomena in the cosmos and some of the smallest. We may never fully answer some of these questions, but we'll advance our knowledge and society in the process of trying," said Donald Kennedy, Science's editor-in-chief.

"As Science celebrates its 125th birthday, we've recognized that an examination of science's outstanding mysteries also reflects its tremendous accomplishments," he added.

Founded by Thomas A. Edison, Science debuted on July 3 1880, with 12 pages of articles on the possibility of electric-powered railroads, the latest observations of the Pleiades and advice to science teachers on the importance of studying animal brains. Issues over the following decades included articles by Albert Einstein, Edwin Hubble, Louis Leakey and other great scientific thinkers.

Over time, the prominence of the journal's coverage of science and science policy has increased, according to Science's news editor, Colin Norman.

"The worlds of research and policy have become thoroughly intertwined, and when we report on scientific developments, the distinction between the two is often very blurry. The journal's news section is now a section for all of science, for both scientists and policymakers," he said.

Ultimately the editors selected 125 questions for their list and focused on 25 that there was a chance of solving – or at least knowing how to approach solving – in the next 25 years. These 25 questions include:

What is the universe made of? In the last few decades, cosmologists have discovered that the ordinary matter that makes up stars and galaxies is less than 5 percent of everything there is. What is the nature of the "dark" matter that makes up the rest?

What is the biological basis of consciousness? In contrast to René Descartes' 17th-century declaration that the mind and body are entirely separate, a new view is that whatever happens in the mind arises from a process in the brain. But scientists are only just beginning to unravel those processes.

Why do humans have so few genes? To biologists' great surprise, once the human genome was sequenced in the late 1990s, it became clear that we only have about 25,000 genes – about the same numbers as the flowering plant Arabidopsis. The details of how those genes are regulated and expressed is a central question in biology.

How much can human life span be extended? Studies of long-lived mice, worms and yeast have convinced some scientists that human aging can be slowed, perhaps allowing many of us to live beyond 100, but others think our life spans are more fixed.

Will Malthus continue to be wrong? In 1798, Thomas Malthus argued that human population growth will inevitably be checked, for example by famine, war or disease. Two centuries later, the world's population has risen sixfold, without the large-scale collapses that Malthus had predicted. Can we continue to avoid catastrophe by shifting to more sustainable patterns of consumption and development?

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science. AAAS was founded in 1848, and serves some 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of one million. The non-profit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy; international programs; science education; and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert! the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS. >from *What don't we know?* Science presents the great unsolved scientific mysteries of our time. Special issue marks the journal's 125th anniversary. June 30, 2005

related context
science misuse. february 24, 2004
> why the public library of science became a publisher. october 13, 2003
> science commons. building a free flow of knowledge. march 15, 2002
> public library of science journals: a new model for scientific publishing. september 10, 2001
> science must ‘push copyright aside’ by richard stallman. june 20, 2001

a fresh shower and special package
for the advance of science and to serve society

sonic flow
what don't we know? [stream]
what don't we know? [download]

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friday :: july 1, 2005
creativity and autism spectrum disorders

The nature of artistic creativity and its relationship with ‘difference' has intrigued people for centuries. The Genesis of Artistic Creativity is a revealing exploration of the lives of 21 famous writers, philosophers, musicians and painters including George Orwell, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Andy Warhol and many others, in light of the recognized criteria for diagnosis of high-functioning autism and Asperger's Syndrome.

Having diagnosed hundreds of individuals with Asperger's Syndrome during his professional career, Professor Fitzgerald examines here the social behaviour, language, humour, and obsessive interests and routines that accompanied creative genius in the past four centuries.

From Herman Melville's eccentric breakfast habits and Simone Weil's intense dislike of being touched by other people to Ludwig van Beethoven's inappropriate marriage proposals and Vincent van Gogh's inability to form satisfying relationships with others, the author offers compelling insights into the association between creativity and autism spectrum disorders. >from *The Genesis of Artistic Creativity. Asperger's Syndrome and the Arts* by Michael Fitzgerald.

related context
'missing link' between madness and genius. 'people with asperger's can have exceptional artistic creativity, as well as mathematical genius.' june 11, 2005
> mirror neurons. 'a faulty mirror-neuron system could represent the neural underpinnings of the social deficits characteristic of autism.' march 11, 2005
> a genius explains. 'savants can't usually tell us how they do what they do. it just comes to them. daniel tammet can. he describes what he sees in his head. he could be the rosetta stone.' february 12, 2005
> intelligence in men and women. 'women and men use different brain areas to achieve similar iq results.' february 4, 2005
> low latent inhibition: one of the biological bases of creativity. 'low levels of latent inhibition and exceptional flexibility in thought might predispose to mental illness under some conditions and to creative accomplishment under others.' october 13, 2003
> costs of intelligence. october 10, 2003

genius creativity: difference or disorder?

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