The simple and sheer amazingness of this picture cannot be overstated. Here we have a picture taken by a camera on board a space probe that’s been orbiting Mars for six years, reset and re-aimed by programmers hundreds of millions of kilometers away using math and science pioneered centuries ago, so that it could catch the fleeting view of another machine we humans flung across space, traveling hundreds of million of kilometers to another world at mind-bending speeds, only to gently – and perfectly – touch down on the surface mere minutes later.
The news these days is filled with polarization, with hate, with fear, with ignorance. But while these feelings are a part of us, and always will be, they neither dominate nor define us. Not if we don’t let them. When we reach, when we explore, when we’re curious – that’s when we’re at our best. We can learn about the world around us, the Universe around us. It doesn’t divide us, or separate us, or create artificial and wholly made-up barriers between us. As we saw on Twitter, at New York Times Square where hundreds of people watched the landing live, and all over the world: science and exploration bind us together. Science makes the world a better place, and it makes us better people.
The Grand Prize winner of the science fair, for good reason, was a 17-year-old from Lakewood Ranch, Florida. Combining the fields of biology and computer science, Wenger wrote an app that helps doctors diagnose breast cancer, according to the description of her project on Google.
The type of computer program, called a “neural network,” was designed by Wenger to mimic the human brain: Give it a massive amount of information (in this case, 7.6 million trials), and the artificial “brain” will learn to detect complex patterns and make diagnostic calls on breast cancer. Her program used data from “fine needle aspirates,” a minimally invasive procedure that, unfortunately, is often one of the least precise diagnosis processes, according to Fox News. But Wenger is helping change that, as her program correctly identifies 99 percent of malignant tumors.
Very amazing and inspiring science projects from teenagers. See Brittany’s winning project here.
Though much of this research is new, the essential insight isn’t. Ancient philosophers and spiritual teachers understood the need to balance the positive with the negative, optimism with pessimism, a striving for success and security with an openness to failure and uncertainty. The Stoics recommended “the premeditation of evils,” or deliberately visualizing the worst-case scenario. This tends to reduce anxiety about the future: when you soberly picture how badly things could go in reality, you usually conclude that you could cope. Besides, they noted, imagining that you might lose the relationships and possessions you currently enjoy increases your gratitude for having them now. Positive thinking, by contrast, always leans into the future, ignoring present pleasures.
(This is how San Jose gets into the New York Times. Just sayin’)
Great intro to experimental evolution through an interview with Sinead Collins of the University of Edinburgh.
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.”
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
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.
“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.”
Watch this in fullscreen mode and with HD on:
California is a breathtaking, beautiful land, and Yosemite is one of its best. Not that I’m biased or anything.