My uncle Kevin Scanlon has snapping photos of Appalachian life for as long as I could form sentences -- actually, no, longer. When I was young, his photos taught me to appreciate the modest, mostly overlooked beauty surrounding the old railroads that snake through West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and neighboring states. His photographs document what is now a dying culture.
His first-ever solo exhibit opens tomorrow in Grafton, West Virginia. It's probably safe to guess that most of the people who read this blog post aren't in easy driving distance of Grafton, West Virginia, but you can see some of the images online, and buy prints if you're so inclined. If you do go to the opening on Saturday, please give him a hug for me.
Shown above: Morning Coal Train, Coopers, WV, 2005. Here's another one of my favorites from his railroad series. (high five, uncle Kev!)
Previously on BB: Kevin Scanlon's heavy industry photography
Update: Here's a snip from an interview with Kevin:
West Virginia reveals itself much like a book, one page at a time. The mountainous terrain and twisting valleys force you in close. Every page of the state has an interesting story to tell and another surprising view. The railroad is the thread that ties it all together. There are two themes that define my approach to photography: context and light. I am drawn to industrial subjects because of their influence on the culture of an area. Railroads are iconic in West Virginia. They were the key in developing the state, they were one of the defining factors when the state's borders were laid out and they literally carry the state away every day, one carload at a time.Read the rest
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Technology hacker Joshua Klein built a vending machine that teaches crows to deposit coins they find into a special vending machine that dispenses peanuts. He has been studying crows for over ten years and has learned that they are very intelligent. Their brain/body weight ratios are similar to chimpanzees. He's showing a video of how a crow learned to use a tool to pull an object out of of a tube. It's impressive.
Crows are smart and adaptable. For example, they drop nuts on streets so cars run over them, then wait for the traffic signal to change so they can pick up the food. Other crows who see this happen quickly learn how to do this for themselves.
His machine uses Skinnerian training. He put coins and peanuts around the machine. The crows eat the peanut on the feeder tray. Then Joshua took away the nuts and left coins in the feeder tray. It pisses off the crows. They sweep the coins around with their beaks, looking for food. When a coin accidentally drops into the slot, it dispenses a peanut. Next, Joshua took away the coins. The crows learned to find coins elsewhere and deposit them.
So now he wants to train crows for search and rescue, picking up trash, and other mutually beneficial tasks.
Chris Anderson: If someone takes an obscure area of nature and spends a lifetime studying it, it can be applied to the world at large in interesting ways. Case in point, mycologist and author Paul Stamets, who believes mushrooms can save the world.
1.3 billion years ago, fungi were the first plants organisms to come on land, other plants followed hundreds of millions years later. We have more in common with fungi than other plants. Mycelium breathes oxygen like us.
Stamets says he loves a challenge and saving the Earth is a good one. He will present a suite of six mycological solutions.
Mycelium holds 30x 30,000 times its mass. They are soil magicians. Creates a spongey soil. It is earth's natural internet, a biologically successful model. It's highly branched. If a path gets broken, their are redundant paths. It is sentient, leaping up in aftermath of your footprints, trying to grab debris. They generate humus soils, and provide a multi-directional transfer of nutrients to trees. The sequence of microbes that occur of rotting mushrooms are an important part of natural cycle of the forest. I'm in love with old growth forests and I'm a patriotic American because of them.
Fungi uses radiation as a source of energy, so the possibility of fungi existing on other planets is a "forgone conclusion."
Mushrooms produce strong antibiotics. Work well against flu. We should save the old growth forests as a mater of national defense. Read the rest
Presenter: Geophysicist and shipwreck explorer Robert Ballard unearth's lost histories in the ocean.
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Why are people interested in going into space, but not in exploring the ocean? Most of the Southern Hemisphere is unexplored. It's naive to think that the easter bunny put all the resources on the continents. We are leaving so much of the table. 71% of Earth is ocean.
Ballard's gone on over 150 expeditions. On a good day we might have four people at the average depth of the Earth. 1/4 of our planet is a single mountain range, but we went to the moon before we went to the largest feature of our own planet. Tens of thousands of active volcanoes are down there. It's a very alive place.
No one had gone into that boundary of creation until 1974 when we went in a little submarine and went into the rift valley. No light can penetrate, no photosynthesis. We thought there'd be no life down there. Lots of tube worms, clam beds sitting on barren rock but when we opened them their body had taken over by a bacteria that uses chemosynthesis, not photosynthesis.
Ballard designed robotic subs to continue to search the bottom of the ocean (I would not let an adult drive my robot sub, because they don't have enough gaming experience, but I'l let a kid do it because they know how to control it). Found upside-down pools of water with the pH of Drano but it harbored life.
Presenter: Brain Cox works on the Large Hadron Collider that's about to become operational at CERN.
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Aim of particle physics is to find out what everything is made of. As you get back to the early times of the universe, things were simpler. In the 1st billionth of a second it was very simple. Everything was made from 12 particles of matter stuck together by four forces. "All science is either physics or stamp collecting." - Ernest Rutherford
Large Hadron collider is 27 Km in circumference and will accelerates protons to 99.99999% the speed of light (I might not have gotten the right number of 9s, sorry if this spoils your calculations if you are trying this at home). These will collide with another beam of protons going in the opposite direction.
Higgs gives mass to fundamental particles. Particles are massive because they are surrounded by Higgs particles. (Maggie Thatcher shown here surround by a Higgs field). The LHC will hopefully verify the existence of Higgs particles. If not, it'll find whatever is responsible for giving mass to stuff.
What particle physics means to me: gives modern science a creation story. We know universe beAgn 13.7 billion years ago as a dot smaller than an atom. Universe underwent exponential expansion in a billionth of a second and continues to expand. AFter 400 million years, the first stars formed and other elements were cooked in them. On some planets oxygen and hydrogen formed into water, liquid water on some planets.
Here at TED, I met a man named Steve Varon. He's a warm and gregarious man who runs a successful children's underwear company on the East Coast. For the last year or so, he's been working very hard to make his dream possible: to see the Dalai Lama carry the torch in the Chinese Olympics. He made a short video about it, which he submitted to Pangea Day, but you can see it now on YouTube. I wish him luck in his quest. Read the rest
Presenter: author Amy Tan
She walks on stage and sets a bag on the ground. In every story something unknown is revealed. She says she will open the bag at the end of the talk.Read the rest
Her creative process is nature, nurture, and nightmares, each word at one vertex on a triangle. One definition of creative is an inability to repress looking at associations.
She got some B minuses in school for her creative writing. Parents pushed her to be a doctor, or to be a pianist on Ed Sullivan show. Her father and brother were both diagnosed with brain tumors. Her father was a baptist minister and said God would take care of them. He died soon after and so did her brother. Her mother believed that she and Amy would be next. She then became very creative "in a survival sense." (This could be why she is so interested in "luck and fate and coincidences and the synchrony of mysterious forces.")
On writing a book: In that framework between page 1 and 300, I have to develop a cosmology as the creator of that universe. It can often take years and years to do that.
Dark energy and dark matter apply to creativity, too -- you sometimes find out what matters by what's missing. Sometimes what you hope to find is no longer there.
Moral ambiguity -- it is constantly there. "Save a man from drowning, you are responsible to him for life." We all hate moral ambiguity, but it is absolutely necessary in writing a story.
Presenter: Robert Lang, origami expert
Origami has been around for 100s of years. It didn't change until 1970s when it experienced a Cambrian explosion in variety and techniques. It got richer and more interesting because people started applying math.
The secret to origami, and so many other things, is to let dead people do your work for you, like looking at the geometry of disk packing.
Four simple laws can give rise to very rich complexity in origami. They have to do with properties of crease patterns, angles around a vertex, layer orders, and valleys and ridges. If you obey these laws you can make anything. He has a program on his website that will show you the fold patterns needed to make anything. (You give it a stick figure, it shows you the folds.)
He shows how he uses these mathematical ideas to fold a square sheet of paper into anything.
Origami has applications in other areas, like a solar array that flew in a Japanese satellite telescope, umbrella telescope, solar sail, airbag, heart stent (origami may save a life). Read the rest
The Jawbone: It has a humanistic technology. It feels your skin, and knows when you're talking and it gets rid of the environmental noise. We wanted to take out the techie and nerdy stuff and make it as beautiful as possible. If it isn't beautiful it doesn't belong on your face. We bring values and these values create a soul for the company we work with.
The XO laptop: (the $100 One Laptop Per Child). Nicholas Negroponte told Behar the design is why kids will want the laptop. He designed it to be iconic, too look like it was for a kid, but not a toy.
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John compared how visual effects were made for movies from the 1950s with contemporary movies. He showed clips from Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and clips from Pirates of the Caribbean.
The process hasn't changed that much. You start off looking at the script, have discussions with director, and decide what needs to be shot using visual effects: anything you can't just go out and shoot, anything that doesn't exist, anything that's too expensive, too dangerous, or just not possible.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea used miniature ships in a studio tank (about 200 ' x 200', a few feet deep). The last pictures that used this techniques was Tora! Tora! Tora!. The tank method works pretty well but the scale of the water doesn't work well. Droplet size is wrong.
For Pirates, Knoll also built a tank, but came up with ways to split in full-size water droplets. Adding full scale water in background really helps.
Today on Boing Boing tv, another episode in our ongoing series of experimental animated shorts.
First, regular BBtv contributors monochrom from Austria give us The Void's Foaming Ebb, a hallucinatory retrospective of ancestral media -- from the eight-track to the VCR to long-extinct PDAs -- and a meditation on dead data-forms of the future (created by: Frank Apunkt Schneider, Christoph Sonnleitner, Johannes Grenzfurthner, Stefan Scheder, Roland Gratzer, David Dempsey). German version here.
Next, 198090 by BBtv favorites Peppermelon from Argentina -- a sweet short suggesting new forms of luminous eco-erotica (created by: Fernando Sarmiento & Tomás Garcia).
A well-known evangelical crusader is claiming credit for the federal government's move to deny tax credits to TV and film productions that contain graphic sex and violence or other offensive content.Link (Thanks, Dave!) Read the rest
Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, said his lobbying efforts included discussions with Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, and "numerous" meetings with officials in the Prime Minister's Office.
Science Fiction 2.0 Cory Doctorow – upload Freitag, 29.02., 19.30 UhrLink Read the rest
Theaterhaus StammstraÃŸe 38–40, Ehrenfeld
The face is a grid of circular white discs, each over a white LED. The watch has three modes: hours (hour is spelled out as a number on the bottom grid, minutes are approximated on the 12 lights on top), minutes (vice-versa) and binary (a fine update to the traditional binary LED watch).
I'm a clockwatcher, so I like having a little cognitive load associated with checking the time -- it slows me down and makes me recognize when I'm checking the clock (again).
TokyoFlash is giving away three Tibida watches to Boing Boing readers: just email the name of the holiday that's celebrated in Japan on March 14th, and email your answer to email@example.com. Three winners will be selected at random on Thursday March 6th 2008. Link Read the rest