Studying Evolution With an Eye on the Future – NYTimes.com

Studying Evolution With an Eye on the Future – NYTimes.com.

Great intro to experimental evolution through an interview with Sinead Collins of the University of Edinburgh.

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Zimoun

Cool sound sculptures, many made with motors and objects that collide to sound like wind and rain (and storms and crickets and a million other things that come to mind), and look like they would be fascinating to experience and see in real life. Every installation makes me wonder how Zimoun thought of and developed it.

The video is long but worth watching to get the whole experience of sound, motion, and environment (as opposed to just looking through the installation photos on the website). Each piece is unique but together they have a particular style, so the overall video is very enjoyable to watch.

“Using simple and functional components, Zimoun builds architecturally-minded platforms of sound. Exploring mechanical rhythm and flow in prepared systems, his installations incorporate commonplace industrial objects. In an obsessive display of simple and functional materials, these works articulate a tension between the orderly patterns of Modernism and the chaotic forces of life. Carrying an emotional depth, the acoustic hum of natural phenomena in Zimoun’s minimalist constructions effortlessly reverberates.”

Source, Video

On the Albright Institute at Wellesley

Highly recommended reading:

However, the way Wellesley has chosen to alleviate these anxieties is problematic for its identity as a liberal arts college. Wellesley has chosen to brand itself as an incubator – or a “laboratory,” as the Albright Institute describes itself – for women to develop the skills and confidence to succeed in a “man’s world.” While this goal might appear banal, if not laudable, to the majority of Wellesley students and alumnae, it induces a troubling temporal shift: a Wellesley education isn’t important for what happens while you experience it but for what happens after you graduate.  Our motto – “women who will make a difference in the world” – emphasizes the future, who you will become, and what type of career you will have, all while pushing out of sight the true joy of academia: learning in the moment and for its own sake.

This, this, this. THIS. I wish I could bold and underline it.

I’ve been really appreciating the writing and topics coming out of the Wellesley Underground lately. They’ve all been relevant and necessary ideas, stories, and arguments that aren’t represented in most other Wellesley-related outlets. This one really struck a chord, though, especially as the Albright Institute for Global Affairs was announced and quickly became a sort of darling program while I was there.

I think certain types of people fall through the cracks at Wellesley, which originally and counterintuitively seems like the sort of place that would help those who fall through the cracks. It could be that there just aren’t many of those, but even though that assumption isn’t true, would that make them any less worthy of being there? Or any less interesting as human beings? There is a definite and constant undercurrent of inequality across the spectrum of campus life, culture, and structure. Not just in the more commonly discussed senses of inequality, such as racism or sexism, but also, as well-put in this article, in the matters of providing a thorough liberal arts education. Catering to all camps of students, and maybe also those who aren’t sure of which camp their in – by not pushing them in any one direction, and pressuring them to think in a closed-minded way. To not remove options, choices, and opportunities for questioning. I came there for the experience of an education, but I left disappointed in many ways, though Wellesley gave me an unforgettable and often amazing four years. I remember that I was excited for the idea of possibly applying to the Institute when they first announced it, and then two things happened: I learned what it was operating on and for, and I realized that I would never be accepted because I was not, and never will be, who they’re looking for.

Source: The Problem with the Albright Institute by Hailey Huget

Synthetic Biology Incubator Launches

Yes, an incubator! Just for synthetic biology! It’s being hosted at Singularity University in Silicon Valley. Does anyone need any more convincing that there is a huge future in synthetic biology, through big leaps in both innovation and technology? The way we work with biology is changing, evolving, from observation to invention.

Looks like the incubator is providing resources, mentoring, and stipends for their chosen startups. Hopefully it will be like what tech incubators such as Y Combinator have done for computer startups – no doubt that many will fail or have to change their business plans and project ideas, but at the very least, there will be increased coverage and education about what synthetic biology is capable of.

“Teeming with ambitious ideas and some pretty futuristic potential, synthetic biology is an emerging multidisciplinary field in which the principles of genetic engineering are coupled with genome design software to capitalize on the plummeting cost of DNA analysis and synthesis. The approach is to construct artificial biological systems in a similar way that computer chips are made. The result is a broad array of potential technologies that could lead to a radical transformation across a variety of sectors, including medicine.”

There’s a great video at the end of the article that gives an intro to synthetic biology, too.

Source: http://singularityhub.com/2012/05/29/inaugural-synthetic-biology-incubator-synbio-launches-at-singularity-university/

Dan Barber’s Culinary Crusade – WSJ.com

“Butchering and eating animals may not be called kindness, but eating soy burgers that rely on pesticides and fertilizers precipitates destruction too. You don’t have to eat meat, but you should have the good judgment to relinquish the high horse. There is no such thing as guilt-free eating.”

WSJ Soapbox piece on food, sustainability, local diets, and the environment by Dan Barber, chef at Blue Hill at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. He discusses his opinions on what is best for humans to eat – best for us in a way that is healthy, and best for the earth in a way that is sustainable and logical – based on nutrient cycles, tracing the energy flow, and the inputs and outputs unique to different areas and their soils, as well as culture and our biological needs. Interesting ideas on “ecological intelligence” and an argument against vegetarianism (it’s always good to hear the reasoning behind both sides!).

“What I don’t like about sustainable foodies—and I’m considered one of them—is that we carry an air of preachiness about food. (No one wants to be told what to eat, whether it’s by your mother or by a group of holier-than-thou chefs.) But true sustainability is about more than just deciding to cook with local ingredients or not allowing your child to have corn syrup. It’s about cuisine that’s evolved out of what the land is telling you it wants to grow. As one farmer said to me, Food systems don’t last; cuisine does.”

Source: Dan Barber’s Culinary Crusade – WSJ.com

The Chromatic Typewriter

Speaking of the difficulties of defining color in a discrete way (see my previous entry on Empirical Zeal’s great blog post about color naming), here’s a creative tool that gives us a new spin on blending and blurring the lines between color names and identities. I wish I had one of these!

“Washington-based painter Tyree Callahan modified a 1937 Underwood Standard typewriter, replacing the letters and keys with color pads and hued labels to create a functional “painting” device called the Chromatic Typewriter. Callahan submitted the beautiful typewriter as part of the 2012 West Prize competition, an annual art prize that’s determined by popular vote. I don’t know how practical painting an image with a color typewriter is, but if Keira Rathbone can do it…”

– Christopher Jobson at Colossal

Source