abraham lincoln abraham maslow academic papers africa aging aid alexander the great amazon america android os apple architecture aristotle art art institute chicago astronomy astrophysics aubrey de grey beck beer berlin bernacke bicycle BIG bill murray biophilia birds blogs bob dylan books bourdain brewing brian wansink buckminster fuller bukowski cameras cancer carl jung carl sagan cemetary change charter city chicago china christmas church civil war climate change cologne construction coop himmelblau copenhagen cornell west cps craigslist crime crown hall cyanotype cyrus dalai lama darkroom data dbHMS death design build dessau detail Diet dogs dome dongtan douglas macarthur drake equaation dresden dubai ebay eco economics economy education einstein emerson emily dickinson energy experiments facebook farming finance finland florida food france frank lloyd wright frei otto freud frum funny furniture games gay rights gdp george w bush george washington germany ghandi glenn murcutt goals good google government graphic design guns h.g. wells h.l. mencken hagakure halloween health health care henri cartier bresson herzog and demeuron honey housing human trafficking humanitarian efforts hydroponics ideas iit indexed india industrial design industrial work internet investments japan jaqueline kennedy jim cramer john maynard keynes john ronan john stewart journalism kickstarter kings of leon kittens krugman kurt vonnegut kurzweil lao tzu law le corbusier ledoux leon battista alberti links LSH madoff malcolm gladwell marijuana marriage masdar city math mead medicine microsoft mies van der rohe military milton friedman mlk money movies munich murphy/jahn music nasa nervi neutra new york nickel nietzsche nobel prize norman foster nsa obama occupy open source paintball palladium print paris parking party passive house paul mccartney persia philip roth philosophy photography picturequote pirate bay pirating plants poetry poker politics portfolio potsdam predictions prejudice presidents process photos prostitution psychology public housing q and a quotes rammed earth randy pausch reading reddit regan religion rendering renewables renzo piano restaurants revolution richard meier richard rogers robert frank rome rubik's cube rule of 72 rumi san francisco sartre sauerbruch hutton saule sidrys schinkel school science screen printing seattle sesame street seth roberts sketch social media soviet sparta spider spinoza sports stanley kubrick stanley milgram statistics steinbeck sudhir venkatesh suicide sustainable design switzerland taxes technology ted teddy roosevelt tension terracotta tesla thanatopsis the onion thomas jefferson thoreau time lapse tommy douglas transportation travel truman tumblr unemployment urban design van gogh venezuela vicuna video video games wall street war werner sobek wood woodshop woodworking ww1 ww2

17 September 2009

Required Reading

Color-blind monkeys get gene therapy and are cured. That's insane. They did it by injecting a type of virus carrying a gene that essentially activates a protein that the monkeys are lacking in their cone cells. Wired and MIT.

Interesting video on tangible statistics. So fascinating...

More interesting food research by Brian Wansink. Short

More on high speed rail. It's so cool but just not cost effective for the most part. More on this later when I eventually talk about sunk cost fallacy.

Great article on entrepreneurs in Africa. Must read.

Cameras in London and cops driving around in cars in America are really expensive and both don't do ANYTHING to deter crime... (sarcasm) shocking (/sarcasm)!

Buzz Aldrin gives a Q&A on Freakonomics.

Well written piece about the future of cars, or rather; electric cars are taking over.

New Scientist puts out a list of 13 things in science that can't be explained. Here's round two.

Contact lenses that can monitor your bodily functions. They actually have a working model too.

Penn and Teller's show, Bullshit, covers The Bible. It's good but I wish they'd scream less and be a bit more objective. Then again, it's a show called bullshit.

Some college professors are giving money back to their students that they receive in royalties for required texts that they authored.

Some 9/11 Bush hate pieces. One by Barry Ritholtz of The Big Picture and excerpt of an article in The Atlantic (long) commented on by Chris Blattman (short), a professor of economics and political science at Yale who runs this insightful blog.

Finally, an explanation of why people who don't necessarily agree with Republican candidates vote Republican; they prefer their moral values and views on personal wealth. The strongest indicator? "Whether candidates view themselves as 'better than normal' human beings because of their wealth."

Think the Tevatron (ever notice that just about everything cool was either invented in Chicago [skyscraper] or resides near Chicago?) or Large Hadron Collider is huge? The US was planning one back in the 90's that was over twice as big as the LHC and actually started construction. Here's a photo gallery and story about what remains - yeah I'd totally live there. Here's a piece from Wired about how Fermi Lab's Tevatron is working around the clock to churn out ground breaking research before the LHC comes online.

A company has found a way to detect autism in children much earlier - 2 years old instead of the usual 5 to 6.

A university professor lands in jail for sharing research with Chinese graduate students... really? And apparently The State Department classifies satellites as munitions so that some cutting edge research done on them is considered classified. Short.

A 48 pound genetically engineered rainbow trout was caught in Canada. Just go look at the photo.

The highest resolution photo of Andromeda ever taken can be seen here. Andromeda is 2.5 million light years away and is the closest galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy.

11 September 2009

Obama's Health Care Speech

Part one, two, three (where at 2:05 a Republican screams "you lie"), four, five, and six.

Paul Krugman's commentary on the speech complete with many links to key points he's talked about previously.

10 September 2009

Why Prostitution Laws are Sexist

There are quite a few laws in the United States which have no real underpinnings other than moral grounds. Which is kind of absurd if you're aware that morals change from one country to the next. Some people, such as myself, don't really believe in morals at all. To us all situations are unique and some shade of gray (although, to be honest, some of those shades are pretty damn black and white). People from India think we're barbaric because we eat cows (we are); they of course consider cows sacred. The Germans have brothels and I think we can all agree they're pretty okay post 1945.

What I really want to talk about is the idea of a commodity and its time value. It's a very proletariat, capitalist, alienation type-talk that is pretty common with me. Regardless of how you feel about these things they exist. I mean, I don't necessarily like UV radiation but I acknowledge its existence. There's nothing inherently wrong with them either. It's just the context in which they operate that upsets people.

Take for example me. I just turned 25, I'm about 180 pounds, in good shape, and know my way around industrial construction. Thus, I get paid to lift heavy things into place and weld them there. It isn't exactly what I'd like to spend my brief time here doing, but c'est la vie. I need money and would prefer to make more as opposed to less. Sure, I'm good at drawing, taking photos, cooking, riding a bike, shooting people, etc. but no one is going to pay me even close to that amount of money I can make as a mechanical contractor. Here's the thing. That skill only lasts so long. I won't be able to do this kind of work in 30 years. I have a window of "opportunity" in which I have the option to capitalize on my knowledge and physical ability. I could take a pay cut and do one of those other things and hopefully the difference I experience in well-being would make up for the lost wages, but that is my choice to make.

Enter a young pretty female (or male I suppose) with few economic opportunities. She could go work at a bar or restaurant and make more than any male there because old creepy guys give young pretty girls creepy stares, stories, and excessive tips. In this way she is exploiting her looks in some way. I would argue that female beauty is worth more than most people realize. Think of the wars, social, and personal problems that arise over female beauty, or even the amount of money that gets allocated to it (models, plastic surgery, etc.). The same girl could also go work at McDonald's or some other job in which her looks played no significant role in her earnings. She would essentially be rejecting the idea of profiting off of her looks. Again, this is a personal choice to be made by that individual.

So why is it that women aren't allowed the epitome of profiting off of their looks; that is, prostitution? I know I know... "it's wrong." Assuming no skulduggery or human-trafficking - both obvious no no's - what's the problem? I'm not saying it's perfectly okay, but if both parties willingly agree then why does anyone else care? Is it degrading? I think so, but not to the woman. A guy who has to pay for sex is to my mind shamed more than the female who takes advantage of that situation. Religious arguments are moot here as we're supposed to be a secular state (yeah, right). So again, why do we deny women the ability to profit off of their looks? Isn't that in some way kind of sexist? I'm not not allowed to work blue collar labor because I'm strong. And of course you could argue that that skill is more necessary to the world's well-being, but I think a lot of unsightly lonely men would disagree.

Like many of the unconventional things I support the legalization of; regulate it, tax it, and make it safer for everyone involved. Prostitution isn't going away. It's something we must live with, so why not try to mitigate the negative effects it can have on its participants. Make drugs legal - drug dealers become extinct. Make prostitution illegal, human-traffickers involved in the sex trade go extinct (if you disagree post a comment and we'll debate).

Disclaimer: Please view this as some sort of economic commentary. I'm a firm believer in everything economists propose being vetted by a philosopher before being implemented as is done in Norway, Denmark, etc.

09 September 2009

Humans Aren't Alone or Special - The Drake Equation

The inspiration for this post came when I made my brother watch Carl Sagan's Cosmos with me. He was floored by the fact that scientists weren't in debate about the fact that intelligent civilizations are thought to exist beyond our own. I thought that was somewhat common knowledge?

There is actually an equation for figuring out the odds of other intelligent civilizations existing - it's called the Drake Equation. I first ran across the Drake Equation in The Five Ages of the Universe: Inside the Physics of Eternity (the Harold Washington Library [in Chicago] has at least two copies). Quite possibly the most formative book I've read. Perhaps this is an overstatement but it was in some way the culmination of my spiritual ideas? It's hard to explain and I don't feel like it. Nothing goes beyond astrophysics. It is nature in its entirety and the culmination of literally everything. To understand it you have to understand how everything fits together at a fundamental level. Yup, sounds like boule-shit... yet totally true. Of course, although we understand quite a bit we really don't truly understand some very fundamental natural phenomenon.

Anyways, this is the Drake Equation:

N = R* x fp x ne x fl x fi x fc x L


N = The total number of civilizations in our galaxy (gasp).
R* = Total number of stars suitable for life (or rather their formation rate). About 1% or 2 billion (assuming 200 million stars in the Milky Way Galaxy).
fp = The number of stars that have planets in orbit around them. 50%, so now 1 billion candidates.
ne = Of these planets which can support life. 50%, so now 500 million.
fl = Which planets actually do support life. 20% or 100 million.
fi = Of this life what percentage is intelligent. 1% or 1 million.
fc = Of these, how many actually broadcast (have the technology to do so) the fact that they exist. 50% 0r 500,000 left.
L = The time period that this intelligent species actually broadcasts proof of its existence. That is, how long they last before they disappear/hit the little red button/melt their polar ice caps/etc. One out of 50 maybe? So 2%, that leaves us with 10,000.

Most estimates say that of the 200 million (100-400 million are the current estimates) stars in our galaxy about 10,000 of these may have civilizations orbiting around them. So that's .005% of stars. Here's the problem that most people are unaware of. The universe is an immensely empty place. The nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 light years away. Compare that to the fact that we are a mere 8 light minutes away from the sun... 8 minutes - 4.2 years, and it has a .005% chance of having intelligent sustaining etcetera life. Not so good. So the actual odds of us coming into contact with another civilization (that still exists - as in, we're not just picking up their radio waves that are 10,000 years old) are very bleak.

Here's what the equation does tell us. Life most likely exists elsewhere and even in our galaxy in relatively great quantity. Before you go criticizing my methods consider this. This is something I learned from some great statistician who's name I don't remember (but who's work included the first investigations on the impact of climate change). It doesn't matter that these numbers aren't accurate. Ever if they're off by one hundred magnitudes that still means life exists at a rate of 100 or 1,000,000 civilizations in our galaxy. The point is that they still exist.

Our universe is comprised of matter who's interactions are governed by the four forces (gravity, electromagnetism, strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force) as we currently understand them. What I find fascinating is that due to this unique combination of rules we get everything that we see before us. Gravity determines the shape of the universe. The strong and weak nuclear forces determine the number and size of atoms that exist, and by extension all of chemistry. Therefore, it is a property of matter in the universe that we inhabit to form galaxies and solar systems with suns and planets. If the conditions are right they can sustain another possibility of matter which is life. Beyond that, this "life" (it's tricky to define if you really think about it) can become intelligent to the point that it can understand what it is made of and how it came to be so; essentially it becomes self aware in the most significant way. And if you're me then you also believe that one day humans will make machines that are capable of the same thing. So really it is a property of matter that it can quite literally understand itself.

I admit, it gets a little weird but it's fun to think about. There's plenty more to add to that.

03 September 2009

Reading from Wired

Cool British guy makes vertical hydroponic-type vertical gardens that cover buildings. Really pretty; not sure if it has an advantage over ivy. More water transpiration maybe?

Two budding conflict photojournalists talk about one anothers work (there's even mention of the format I shoot in, medium format).

Monkey music. Must read/hear.

Craigslist kicks everyones ass. This article explains how and why; basically just very simple yet counter intuitive business thinking.

... and Paul Krugman on debt now versus WWII. Really short.

01 September 2009


I rarely have posts anymore that are of any original consequence; which I'm really not happy about. I've actually come to like "writing." But the reality is that what little time I have I try to sleep or catch up on eating or whatever. Luckily I have a few dozen posts I've worked on before... so until I post those it's kind of a given that I'm always taking photos and reading quotes.

"Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate." - Sigmund Freud

This is Attie. A really well trained 5 year old all black female German Shepard owned by my friends Brian and Stephanie.