A great In Focus post over at the Atlantic showcasing some very Unusual Homes Around the World
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Malcolm Harris at The New Republic reviews a new book titled Outside Color by University of Pittsburgh professor M. Chirimuuta which tries to look at color in a different way. After showing that the existing scientific models for color have surprisingly insistent results she turns to computers and optical illusions to make her point in a very clever way. Rather than looking at them as a weakness of human perception she sees them as a strength.
Take a popular optical illusion, designed in 1995 by Edward Adelson, a professor of vision science in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT:
The human perception system sees a checkerboard with a cylinder, while a basic SSR measurement shows squares A and B read the same. “Illusion” implies that our system is fooled, but as far as useful information goes, the checkerboard interpretation is probably better. Try as they might, mathematicians can’t make the computers see the checkerboard. Rather than a demonstration of how easily fooled we are, optical illusions like this one are examples of the brain’s mysterious and irreplicable abilities. It interprets its environment with a sophistication that exceeds our ability to measure and reconstruct physical phenomena. The usual framing has it wrong:
Despite A and B having the same SSR, humans are still able to see the checkerboard.
The color is not as important as the information that it conveys to us. This might explain why we have such an obsession with color and it’s perception. How much the color information that we take in on a daily basis was manufactured by our ancestors and given to us by our parents and culture? This reminds of of the fantastic Radio Lab episode Why Isn’t the Sky Blue? which looked at the etymology of the word blue and noted that in almost all languages it was the last color named in the rainbow. Without the name could we even perceive the color?Leave a comment
Zack Kanter at Quarts on the impending
Autonomous cars revolution:
Autonomous cars will be commonplace by 2025 and have a near monopoly by 2030, and the sweeping change they bring will eclipse every other innovation our society has experienced. They will cause unprecedented job loss and a fundamental restructuring of our economy, solve large portions of our environmental problems, prevent tens of thousands of deaths per year, save millions of hours with increased productivity, and create entire new industries that we cannot even imagine from our current vantage point.
I’m not sure we will make it by 2025, there are some large hurdles to overcome, but I pretty much agree with everything else in this article. Say goodbye to car ownership, speeding tickets and parking lots.Leave a comment
There are some interesting, if possibly competing, teams working on new battery designs at Standford.
One team, lead by Hongjie Dai is working on an aluminum-ion battery with some interesting benefits. Typical alkaline batteries are terrible for the environment and lithium-ion batteries not only have a bad habit of catching on fire but they are also slow to recharge and only last about 1,000 cycles. The aluminum variety should be able to charge in minutes while also lasting more than 7,500 cycles. The main hurdle, and it’s a big one, is that it currently doesn’t put out enough juice to power something fancy like an iPhone. (source: iflscience.com)
Meanwhile, on the other side of Campus Yi Cui is going after the ion side of the lithium-ion battery.
Today, we say we have lithium batteries, but that is only partly true. What we have are lithium ion batteries. The lithium is in the electrolyte, but not in the anode. An anode of pure lithium would be a huge boost to battery efficiency.
There are a number of problems with using lithium as an anode, not the least of which is that when lithium comes into contact with air it bursts into flames. To prevent this researchers are covering the lithium in a protective layer of interconnected carbon domes a bare 20 nanometers thick. They are still working on the coulombic efficiency of the battery but so far the results are quite promising.
(source: news.standord.edu)Leave a comment
The Vortex Bladeless is an interesting idea for a new wind turbine.
Vorticity has long been considered the enemy of architects and engineers, who actively try to design their way around these whirlpools of wind. And for good reason: With enough wind, vorticity can lead to an oscillating motion in structures, which, in some cases, like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, can cause their eventual collapse.
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If you have ever rolled your eyes when a TV show or movie enhances a blurry image to bring out more details then you will certainly want to take a look at image scaling using deep convolutional neural networks that the engineers at Flipboard are working on.
The math is pretty dense but the article also has a great primer on the use of neural networks to create algorithms that learn how to reduce their own error rate.Leave a comment