Saving Knowledge From Going Extinct

Ultimology is a new field of thought which may help is in the future when we need it the most and don’t realize it. It’s the study of of extinct or endangered subjects, theories, and tools of learning. The Department of Ultimology is an art project that has set out to interpret what the study of dead/dying studies could look like and how it can be accomplished. It’s a groovy project that explores the fringes of knowledge with some real world examples of how very recently required knowledge for some disciplines have already been forgotten.

Knowledge of how things work is always needed and it’s good practice to keep abreast of changes in how and why we keep certain knowledge sets while discarding others.

For example, we met with Dr. Sylvia Draper, Head of the School of Chemistry at Trinity, and asked her what had changed in the discipline of Chemistry. She spoke about how glassware used to be an essential part of research. If you were a student of chemistry, you might actually design a piece of glassware that goes with your research. Draper told us that Trinity College had a glassblowing workshop on site with a glassblower named John Kelly, but that he was going to retire in two years and would not be replaced. It ties back to the commercialization of the university: the reason he’s not being replaced is because he’s salaried and a salaried employee is a high cost for the university. And so he and his work become expendable because in theory the department can just bring in cheaper, standard glassware from abroad.

However, if you’re a student and you’re planning your experiment and it requires an intricate, strange, unique piece of glass, it might now be much more expensive for you to get it, which might impact how you look at your research. You might be less willing or able to do something weirder, essentially. I picture it like these tiny little cracks that maybe can’t be explored in a discipline as people are funnelled down into a more particular standard route.

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How Early Video Games Expressed Environmentalism

thanks motherboard

It can be fun to tune out and just play some games, and that’s a good thing. There are games that are obviously educational like Math Blaster and there are games like Carmen Sandiego that celebrate fun over learning while still teaching. Indeed, there are many games being played that entertain and educate at the same time – and they are subtle about it. In what is partly a self-exploratory piece over at Motherboard the author has created a list of early Sega games that celebrated environmentalism.

So every now and then, take a break, and relax by playing games.

In Sonic 2, our heroic hedgehog speeds through the Chemical Plant, where he definitely doesn’t want to stay under the chemical solutions they’ve been working on for more than a few seconds. Later, he fights toxic sludge-spewing, enslaved and mechanized animals in the “Oil Ocean Zone.” The game ends with Super Sonic flying alongside the baby eagles he’s freed from the evil Dr. Robotnik.

Vectorman follows “Orbots” who are cleaning up Earth because humans have destroyed it: “It’s 2049 and Earth’s cities, forests, and icecaps are fouled with toxic sludge,” the game starts. Vectorman fights through the ruins of humanity’s cityscapes in an attempt to make it safe for the return of mankind.

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The Best Way to Understand Earth’s Temperature Changes Through History

2016 has been the hottest year ever recorded on Earth, and every month this year has broken records for being so dang hot. It’s hard to put these records into context since they seem so abstract since it’s just what we’re used to. You might even be sick of hearing about how hot it’s getting and brush all those recent articles about the heat aside.

Despite all of this climate changed induced temperature escalation there are too many people who think that temperature changes like this are natural. They are, but not at the rate of change we’re seeing. Randal Moore of XKCD fame put together a fantastic infographic/cartoon/image of why we should care about climate change and how fast the temperature is increasing.

It’s worth scrolling through and sharing with anybody who thinks that we don’t need to act on climate change. Spreading knowledge in a fun way about a serious topic is a good thing.

Visualization of the history of Earth's climate temperature. XKCD is amazing!

New Technique For Restoring Historic Videos

USC Shoah Foundation has a large collection of interviews with survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides. Old physical media formats are susceptible to damage from fires to improper storage and USC has had to deal with this. The tech department at the foundation has figured out a painless way to restore and even improve the quality of footage from the damaged media.

Remembering history and being able to hear first hand accounts of events (no matter how horrific) can only help humanity. If we forget our history we are likely to repeat it.

Ryan Fenton-Strauss, video archive and post-production manager at ITS, was tasked with researching video restoration techniques currently being used in the motion picture industry. He found that there were very few existing options for restoring tape-based material.

“It seemed terribly unfortunate that after a survivor had lived through the Holocaust and poured his or her heart into a testimony, that parts of it would be lost due to a technical problem during the recording process,” Fenton-Strauss said.

However, Fenton-Strauss had an epiphany while sorting family photos with Google’s Picasa tool. He noticed that Picasa’s facial recognition software was so powerful that it could recognize his six-year-old daughter as a baby.

“I realized then that if we could automate the process of identifying the “good” and “bad” images using image recognition software, then we could correct some of our most difficult video problems,” Fenton-Strauss said.

Read more here.

Chicago Wants to be a World Class Bicycle City

Chicago politicians understand that people in their city commute sustainably via bicycles and that this is a great component to their transit planning. What’s more is that by building proper infrastructure for cyclists they can draw people to the city and show the world what the future looks like – again. Over at Roads Were Not Built For Cars they provide a very interesting historical perspective on the bicycle in Chicago and how it relates to cities today.

“Bicycling is an integral part of Chicago’s transportation system. Every day, thousands of people bike on our streets, whether it is to ride to work, to the store, or for recreation…My vision is to make Chicago the most bike-friendly city in the United States…Over the next few years, we will build more protected bike lanes than any other city in the country, redesign intersections to ensure they are safer for bicyclists, and improve hundreds of miles of residential streets for bicyclists, pedestrians, and the people that live on them.”

Read the full article.