Category Archives: Science/Technology

The democratization of photography: S&R Honors George Eastman

Our lives are full of Kodak moments, even now.

The New York Times estimates there will be 1.3 trillion photos taken this year. Granted, the signal:noise ratio is low. A vast majority of these images will be captured with mobile phones of varying quality. Most will be selfies and casual users curating the moments of their lives, and if you want to insert the word “banal” in that description somewhere I won’t argue. I learned not long after buying my first camera that there’s a big difference between doing photography and merely taking pictures.

All that said, 1.3 trillion – that’s a huge number, and it must be acknowledged that digital technology has exerted a democratizing force on creativity. New tools have provided those who can’t afford an expensive DSLR with a means to capture, process and interpret their worlds in remarkably inventive ways.
If you can afford a nice digital camera, as well as increasingly accessible top-end digital editing tools (I use Lightroom, Photoshop and several of the functions in the Nik suite), the options are, for all practical purposes, infinite. Continue reading The democratization of photography: S&R Honors George Eastman

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Ghost in the Shell: a 2-minute review

The 2017 remake of the manga classic is marvelous to behold, but not especially filling emotionally.

Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell

Went to see Ghost in the Shell the other day. In IMAX. IMAX 3-D, to be precise. Initial impressions:

1) It’s just fucking gorgeous. The designers have studied the classics, from Blade Runner on down, and they create a world that does justice to the genre. This flick ought to win all the technical Oscars.

2) The story itself works well. Continue reading Ghost in the Shell: a 2-minute review

Remembering 2016: the year when everyone died

No, famous people won’t stop dying on January 1. But we lost too many bright lights this year and we hope that 2017 will be better. Here’s a list of noteworthy people who died in 2016.

For the past several months a lot of us have been saying we can’t wait for this damned year to be over.

2016 gave us the worst election season I can remember, and every ten minutes or so another beloved artist would die, it seemed. Any year that gives us Donald Trump and takes Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Prince in return has done more damage than some decades.

No, people aren’t going to stop dying at the stroke of midnight tomorrow. Continue reading Remembering 2016: the year when everyone died

Boulder, Colorado Bureau of Investigation planning new DNA analysis in JonBenet Ramsey case

Can new procedures tell us who killed the child pageant queen? Were there multiple murderers?

JonBenet Ramsey
JonBenet Ramsey

According to NBC News, “new DNA testing is planned in the unsolved murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey.”

The news was first reported by NBC affiliate KUSA in Denver, Colorado, and by the Boulder Daily Camera. The two news outlets did a joint investigation in October which pointed to a variety of potential flaws in the interpretation of the DNA evidence in the case.

Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett confirmed in a statement to NBC News Wednesday that his office had met with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which he said will be conducting “some further testing of the DNA evidence in the Ramsey case, as well as other cold case homicides and pending investigations,” in a new lab with new testing procedures.

There is now doubt as to the conclusions reached by former Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy in her 2008 letter clearing the family. Specifically: Continue reading Boulder, Colorado Bureau of Investigation planning new DNA analysis in JonBenet Ramsey case

Chelsea Clinton and "anecdotal evidence"

The once and future first daughter’s bout of reefer madness notwithstanding, please remember: “anecdotal evidence” is another way of saying “no evidence”…

Chelsea Clinton, who has been out on the stump a bit lately “helping” her mother’s campaign, recently dove face first into the muck by saying that pot can be fatal.

“…we also have anecdotal evidence now from Colorado where some of the people who were taking marijuana for those purposes, the coroner believes, after they died, there was drug interactions with other things they were taking.”

Clinton didn’t provide any details on this “anecdotal evidence,” and later one of her “spokesmen” was trotted out to explain that Chelsea “misspoke.” Continue reading Chelsea Clinton and "anecdotal evidence"

Monorail to the Future: reasserting the American Dream for #HopeTuesday

With the 1962 World’s Fair, Seattle asserted itself as the city that invented the future. Seattle Center, home to the Space Needle, Key Arena, the Pacific Science Center and other Jetsonesque architectural wonders, gave us a stunning Mid-Century Modern vision of our presumed technotopian future. In 2000 the EMP Museum opened, inserting a postmodern generational overlay in the form of Frank Gehry’s gripping postmodern architectural style. Ever upward, ever forward.

For #HopeTuesday today, I offer you a metaphor. Let’s rekindle our dream of a clean, sustainable, prosperous future with opportunity for all – a true and attainable American dream. I took this shot of the World’s Fair monorail, which connects the EMP and Seattle Center with downtown, in November of 2013. What could possibly be more optimistic, more hopeful, for Americans than a train destined for a technological Utopia?

Monorail, EMP Museum and Seattle Center
Monorail, EMP Museum and Seattle Center

A brief snapshot from the Information (Overload) Age

Then

In 1993, during my first year in the PhD program at the University of Colorado, we had a guest speaker in one of my classes. The subject was information technology and the Internet. He explained that at that moment, the largest repository of stored electronic data on Earth was at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, about four miles away. That building hosted two terabytes of data.

Now

One of my external backup drives seems to be failing, so I ventured out to get a replacement. Continue reading A brief snapshot from the Information (Overload) Age

Security vs privacy: RadioLab and the case for the surveillance state

Homeland Security PrecrimeWe all love freedom and the Constitution. But is it really that simple?

I’m a huge fan of a good debate. And by “debate” I don’t mean the sort of ginned-up scream-lie-and-spinfests we have come to associate with the term in the past few decades. No, I mean spirited, intelligent, thoughtful exchanges between parties with honest, good-faith disagreements. Lucky me, I tripped across one today.

My new friend – the lovely Christine – recently turned me onto RadioLab, and I’ve been streaming some of their podcasts while I work out. Today I listened to one that’s as fascinating as it is disturbing. It’s called “Eye in the Sky,” and if you’re plotting any crimes I suggest you give it a few minutes of your time before you pull the trigger, so to speak. Continue reading Security vs privacy: RadioLab and the case for the surveillance state

An insight into Libertarianism? George Packer’s Unwinding, Peter Thiel and techno-Libs

In their fascination with technology, are Libertarians really just seeking certainty?

I just finished reading George Packer’s remarkable, if not especially uplifting, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. One of the people he considers in his biography of the modern US is billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel.

Thiel is, among other things, a diehard Libertarian. Packer is … not. But the author doesn’t let his decidedly progressive perspective get in the way of telling Thiel’s story and representing the man’s perspective.

Toward the end, in a discussion of Thiel’s belief in the power of technology to free us from the innately limiting drag of politics, something occurred to me. Continue reading An insight into Libertarianism? George Packer’s Unwinding, Peter Thiel and techno-Libs