MonthApril 2013

Are Homophobes Really Just Repressed Homosexuals?

From Ted Haggard to Larry Craig, some of the most vocal anti-gay crusaders have turned out to be some of the biggest hypocrites. Some researchers have finally decided to put it to the test: are homophobes really just repressed homosexuals? Skeptikai writes:

The researchers looked at six studies from the US and Germany involving 784 university students. The participants rated themselves from gay to straight on a 10-point scale. Then they took an implicit sexual orientation test via computer, where participants are shown images and words associated with heterosexuality or homosexuality (such as “gay”) and asked to sort them into the appropriate category as fast as possible. Their reaction times were measured.

But before each word came up, the word “me” and “other” was flashed on the screen for 35 milliseconds – just enough time to subliminally perceive the word without being aware of it. The hypothesis was that when “me” precedes words that reflect their sexual orientation, those images will be sorted quicker. This is how researchers also try to determine things like implicit racist beliefs in individuals.

Over 20% of self-described highly straight people indicated some level of same-sex attraction – by which I mean they were faster at sorting “me” with pictures and words associated with homosexual than with heterosexuality. I have my own reservations about these kinds of studies – because I hesitate to call someone gay or racist by simple matching and reaction-time methodologies. However, it’s extremely difficult to measure something like this, and the next part of the study regarding this 20%+ group is fascinating.

Full Story: Skeptikai: Are Vocal Homophobes Really Just Homosexuals in the Closet?

Why So Many Scientists Are Abandoning Their Fields

Here’s my article for Wired about why so many scientists ended up working in the tech industry:

Tech companies are snapping up scientists with backgrounds in fields like physics, mathematics and bioscience — people we might expect to be busy curing cancer, saving the environment or discovering the origin of the universe. It’s easy to be cynical about this. “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” former Facebook data scientist Jeff Hammerbacher told Business Week in 2010. But it’s happening for a reason.

It’s not that tech companies need people with PhDs. Many of the best data scientists in the business only have bachelor’s degrees. It turns out that many scientists are moving into tech because opportunities aren’t as prevalent as you might think.

The U.S. produced 100,000 PhDs between 2005 and 2009, while creating only 16,000 new professorships, according to data cited by The Economist. Though we’re used to hearing about PhDs in the humanities ending up as low-paid adjunct professors or baristas, we tend to expect another fate for people who major in fields like bioscience or physics. But even the natural sciences produce more PhDs than professorships. [...]

Those that do land jobs are often frustrated. “Scientists spend more time chasing funding than thinking about the science,” Berkolz says. And because funding sources are so risk adverse, the type of research funded tends to be conservative. “Scientists are supposed to be all about falsifiability,” Miller says. “But your job as a professor is to never be wrong. It’s hard to be intellectually experimental when you’re a scientist.”

Full Story: Wired Enterprise: Shouldn’t All Those Internet Scientists Be Curing Cancer?

I think this is also probably why some researchers fabricate experimental data.

The Psychologist Busted For Faking At Least 55 Experiments

The New York Times reports on Diederik Stapel, psychology’s most notorious fraudster. But the problems with psychology — and science — go far beyond Stapel’s deception:

At the end of November, the universities unveiled their final report at a joint news conference: Stapel had committed fraud in at least 55 of his papers, as well as in 10 Ph.D. dissertations written by his students. The students were not culpable, even though their work was now tarnished. The field of psychology was indicted, too, with a finding that Stapel’s fraud went undetected for so long because of “a general culture of careless, selective and uncritical handling of research and data.” If Stapel was solely to blame for making stuff up, the report stated, his peers, journal editors and reviewers of the field’s top journals were to blame for letting him get away with it. The committees identified several practices as “sloppy science” — misuse of statistics, ignoring of data that do not conform to a desired hypothesis and the pursuit of a compelling story no matter how scientifically unsupported it may be. [...]

Fraud like Stapel’s — brazen and careless in hindsight — might represent a lesser threat to the integrity of science than the massaging of data and selective reporting of experiments. The young professor who backed the two student whistle-blowers told me that tweaking results — like stopping data collection once the results confirm a hypothesis — is a common practice. “I could certainly see that if you do it in more subtle ways, it’s more difficult to detect,” Ap Dijksterhuis, one of the Netherlands’ best known psychologists, told me. He added that the field was making a sustained effort to remedy the problems that have been brought to light by Stapel’s fraud.

Full Story: The New York Times: The Mind of a Con Man

This is the sort of thing that led to the foundation of the The Reproducibility Project, which aims to verify studies published in Psychological Science, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition in 2008.

One thing not really discussed is the difficulty of funding for experiments. I have a story coming out on Wired.com tomorrow that deals in part with the state of scientific research, including how hard it is to get funding for research that has the chance of failing. Researchers are spending more time chasing funding than doing research, and the stakes are quite high to find positive results and to publish. Then there’s also, as alluded to above, the ever present publication bias. Update: here’s the Wired story.

Full Transcript Of Secret Meeting Between Wikileaks’ Julian Assange And Google Chairman Eric Schmidt

Audio and transcript of a meeting between Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, from June 23, 2011.

Assange on why some countries censor speech more than others:

So you can have a lot of political change in the United States. But will it really change that much? Will it change the amount of money in someone’s bank account? Will it change contracts? Will it void contracts that already exist? And contracts on contracts, and contracts on contracts on contracts? Not really. So I say that free speech in many places – in many Western places – is free not as a result of liberal circumstances in the West but rather as a result of such intense fiscalization that it doesn’t matter what you say. ie. the dominant elite doesn’t have to be scared of what people think, because a change in political view is not going to change whether they own their company or not. It is not going to change whether they own a piece of land or not. But China is still a political society. Although it is radically heading towards a fiscalized society. And other societies, like Egypt was, are still heavily politicized. And so their rulers really do need to be concerned about what people think, and so they spend a portion of efforts on controlling freedom of speech.

About what gets censored first:

JA: Even the censors in China of the Public Security Bureau, people who work there. Why do they censor stuff and what do they censor first? I’ll tell you what they censor first? They censor first the thing that someone in the Politburo might see. That’s what they censor first. They are not actually concerned about darknets.

JC: Sorry, about?

JA: They are not concerned about darknets. Because their bosses can’t see what is on the darknet, and so they can’t be blamed for not censoring it. We had this fantastic case here in the UK, we had a whole bunch of classified documents from the UK military, and published a bunch. And then later on we did a sort of preemptive FOI which we do occasionally on various governments when we can. So we did it on the UK ministry of defense, just to see whether they were doing some investigation, sort of a source protection to understand what is going on. So we got back… first they pretended they were missing documents and we appealed and we got back a bunch of documents. And so it showed that someone in there had spotted that there was a bunch of UK military documents on our website. About their surveillance programme. Another two thousand page document about how to stop things leaking, and that the number one threat to the UK ministry was investigative journalists. So that had gone into some counterintelligence da da da da, and they had like, oh my good, it has hundreds of thousands of pages, and it is about all sorts of companies and it just keeps going, and it’s endless, it’s endless! Exclamation marks, you know, five exclamation marks. And that was like, okay, that is the discovery phase, now the what is to be done phase. What is to be done? BT has the contracts for the MoD. They told BT to censor us from them. So everyone in the UK MoD could no longer read what was on WikiLeaks. Problem solved!

On mainstream media:

Well, the way it is right now is there is very… first we must understand that the way it is right now is very bad. Friend of mine Greg Mitchell wrote a book about the mainstream media, So Wrong For So Long. And that’s basically it. That yes we have these heroic moments with Watergate and Bernstein and so on, but, come on, actually, it’s never been very good it’s always been very bad. And these fine journalists are an exception to the rule. And especially when you are involved in something yourself and you know every facet of it and you look to see what is reported by it in the mainstream press, and you can see naked lies after naked lies. You know that the journalist knows it’s a lie, it is not a simple mistake, and then simple mistakes, and then people repeating lies, and so on, that actually the condition of the mainstream press nowadays is so appalling I don’t think it can be reformed. I don’t think that is possible. I think it has to be eliminated, and replaced with something that is better.

See also: Julian Assange plans to develop new crypto system

Understanding The Brain Of A Man With No Conscious Memory

Fascinating:

The primary problem E.P. experienced came in what we’d probably call conscious memory, or what professionals call declarative memory. This involves, as the names imply, the ability to be aware of something we know, and to state it, whether it’s a historic event or the term for an obscure object. For example, E.P. moved to San Diego shortly after his illness, but he was never able to consciously remember the layout of his apartment or where the Pacific Ocean was, even though it was two miles from home. And although he could relate stories about the events of his youth, he’d often get repetitive while doing so—after all, he couldn’t remember which parts of the stories he’d already related.

But that doesn’t mean he had no memory. We store short-term information (like the digits we’re carrying when we’re doing math) in a place called working memory—and E.P.’s working memory was just fine. In some tests, he was blindfolded and led along a path up to 15 meters in length. When it was over, he was able to remember his start position successfully. But wait a few minutes, and the entire test faded from his memory. When asked, he’d tell the researchers that he’d been “in conversation” a few minutes earlier.

Full Story: Ars Technica: Understanding the brain of a man with no conscious memory

(Remind anyone of Memento?)

Mindful Cyborgs Ep 1: Data Exhaust, Augmented Dating and Fractalnoia

Mindful Cyborg

Mindful Cyborgs is a new podcast (or internet radio show, if you will) hosted by Chris Dancy and me. The tagline is: “Contemplative living in the age of quantification, augmentation and acceleration.” In our first episode we talk about data exhaust, augmented dating, fractalnoia and more. You can listen to it or download it from Soundcloud or iTunes.

Show notes and full transcript inside.

Continue reading

3 Weird Art Machines

Tangible Sound Lab’s Skintimacy

The Tangible Sound Lab’s site seems to be down, so all I’ve got to go on is description of the video:

With ‘Skintimacy’ we present a skin-based interface for a collaborative musical performance. The experimental setup is intended to be both an evocative tool for interpersonal interaction and touch, as well as an alternative digital musical instrument. By integrating the human skin and touch into the musician-computer interface, we propose a bodily-close haptic and emotional experience.

(via Sara Hendren via Warren Ellis)

Destroy Angels’ Light Machine

How to Destroy Angels light show

A bit less weird, but still interesting: How to Destroy Angels’ light instrument:

Rob Sheridan, the art director for Trent Reznor’s side project How To Destroy Angels, is up on stage, but he has no instrument. More accurately, he is playing an instrument, but it doesn’t play music — it plays light.

Smeller

smeller

Those not weird enough for you? Check out Smeller:

SMELLER is a genuine organ, an olfactokinetic art device for composing, producing, interpreting, programming, recording, storing and playing back compositions made up of scents and scent chords.

The SMELLER 2.0 project encompasses
The production of the hardware
The production of the control software
The production of the notation system
The production of the scent sources (basic components)
The creation of olfactokinetic scent compositions (“Smellodies”)

(via Rahel)

Boeing Worker Mentors Barefoot Bandit

Boeing worker Jonathan Standridge is mentoring Colton Harris-Moore:

While he declined to get into some specifics about their conversations, Standridge said Harris-Moore badly wants to get a pilot’s license and hopes one day to design prototype aircraft. Harris-Moore has said he wanted to get an aeronautical engineering degree while in prison. They talk about planes, corporate governance, management techniques, body language, and books – Steve Jobs’ authorized biography was a favorite of Harris-Moore’s, he said.

Full Story: CBS: “Barefoot Bandit” Mentor: Jonathan Standridge, Boeing worker, mentors Colton Harris-Moore in prison

Long Article on Urban Exploration (Urbex)

urban exploration

Matthew Power on the urbex subculture:

Despite his scholarly bona fides—his doctoral work in geography at Royal Holloway, University of London had garnered wide acclaim—Garrett scarcely looks the part of an academic, neither tweedy nor fusty. Thirty-two years old, with a trimmed goatee and a mop of straight brown hair hanging over black plastic frames, he grew up in Southern California and ran a skate shop before deciding to pursue a doctorate. His face, which is frequently lit up in mischievous, eyebrow-raised delight, still bears the pocks of over a dozen piercings he dispensed with in the interests of maintaining some veneer of academic respectability.

But it was his doctoral research itself that was perhaps most punk rock. His dissertation in human geography, which he had defended the previous year, was entitled “Place Hacking.” The title came from his argument that physical space is coded just like the operating system of a computer network, and it could be hacked—explored, infiltrated, re-coded—in precisely the same ways. He conducted a deep ethnographic study of a small crew of self-described “urban explorers” who over several years had infiltrated an astonishing array of off-limits sites above and below London and across Europe: abandoned Tube stations, uncompleted skyscrapers, World War II bomb shelters, derelict submarines, and half-built Olympic stadiums. They had commandeered (and accidentally derailed) an underground train of the now defunct Mail Rail, which once delivered the Royal Mail along a 23-mile circuit beneath London. They had pried open the blast doors of the Burlington bunker, a disused 35-acre subterranean Cold War-era complex that was to house the British government in the event of nuclear Armageddon. The London crew’s objective, as much as any of them could agree on one, was to rediscover, reappropriate, and reimagine the urban landscape in what is perhaps the most highly surveilled and tightly controlled city on earth.

Full Story: GQ: Excuse Us While We Kiss The Sky

(via Wayne)

See also:

Garrett’s thesis

Garrett’s site, Placehacking

Previous urbex stories on Technoccult.

The Key To A Successful Creative Career: Staying On The Bus?

the-bus

The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman explains Arno Minkkinen’s theory of success in creativity:

There are two dozen platforms, Minkkinen explains, from each of which several different bus lines depart. Thereafter, for a kilometre or more, all the lines leaving from any one platform take the same route out of the city, making identical stops. “Each bus stop represents one year in the life of a photographer,” Minkkinen says. You pick a career direction – maybe you focus on making platinum prints of nudes – and set off. Three stops later, you’ve got a nascent body of work. “You take those three years of work on the nude to [a gallery], and the curator asks if you are familiar with the nudes of Irving Penn.” Penn’s bus, it turns out, was on the same route. Annoyed to have been following someone else’s path, “you hop off the bus, grab a cab… and head straight back to the bus station, looking for another platform”. Three years later, something similar happens. “This goes on all your creative life: always showing new work, always being compared to others.” What’s the answer? “It’s simple. Stay on the bus. Stay on the fucking bus.”

A little way farther on, the way Minkkinen tells it, Helsinki’s bus routes diverge, plunging off on idiosyncratic journeys to very different destinations. That’s when the photographer finds a unique “vision”, or – if you’d rather skip the mystificatory art talk – the satisfying sense that he or she is doing their own thing.

Full Story: The Guardian: Helsinki Bus Station Theory

Really it’s just a metaphor for persistence being the key to finding your own voice. It’s not a perfect metaphor. As some on Metafilter have pointed out, some people probably should get off the bus and try something different. Grant Morrison got off the music bus, for the most part, and got back on the comics bus. That seems to have worked out pretty well. Gary Numan wanted to write sci-fi stories, but he ended up as a great musician instead. Many fine writers originally wanted to be painters. But it’s not bad as far as metaphors go.

See also: Ira Glass’ advice for beginners: creative people have good taste, and when you start out you’ll be bad and you’ll know it. That makes many people quit before they get good.

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