Not For Faint-hearted

Warning: Images in this post might be disturbing for some readers.

Four  “bloodcurdling scary” – some more other less so – places from the list of 20 such places found everywhere on earth:

Pripyat, a ghost town in northern Ukraine.pripyat

Named after the nearby Pripyat River, Pripyat was founded on 4 February 1970, the ninth nuclear city in the Soviet Union, for the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. It was officially proclaimed a city in 1979, and had grown to a population of 49,360 before being evacuated a few days after the 26 April 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

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Island of the DollsIsland of the Dolls1

dollisland3

Photo: ThisIsMyHorror.

Island of the Dolls in Isla de las Munecas – 17 miles south of Mexico City, Mexico, is a floating garden  –a chinampa. It belonged to Julian Santana Barrera, a hermit who lived on the canal in near complete isolation.

Mr Santana Barrera created the exhibit of dolls in memory of a drowned girl-child whose body he found floating in the water near his home. Some days later he discovered a doll in the same spot. Believing the girl’s spirit lived inside it, he hung the doll to the tree. From then on, he’d collect dolls to add to the shrine. Locals, too, when they found out about this island started bringing dolls to add to the collection.

Island of the Dolls2

In the 1990s, during the works to clean up the canal, shrine was “officially discovered” and became a popular tourist attraction.  Oddly, in 2001, Mr Santana Barrera has drowned in the canal, supposedly in exact spot where he has found the little girl’s body.

Ghost statues of St. George’s church in Lukova23

Ghost statues by artist Jakub Hadrava are placed at the St. George’s church near Plzen on November 16, 2014 in Lukova, Czech Republic. 24Artist Jakub Hadrava created 32 empty plaster life-size ghost statues, which symbolize Sudeten Germans who lived in the village. St. George’s church, which was built in the north-western Bohemian region of the Czech Republic in 1352.tumblr_nchumdBC481rdredko1_500

Witch Market in Togo.

The largest religious group in Togo, 51% of the population, are those who hold indigenous beliefs. This market, largest of its kind, has everything you’d ever need for witchcraft and shamanism. 30 (1) 29 (1)

Mathematics Of Trend

tumblr_m1vpbcxJc51qj2bqyo1_1280.550x321x50A little girl insists on having a pixie cut instead of braids, “I want to be original like everybody else!”

Cute. However, not original. Little does she know, she might be a case study of the ‘hipster paradox’: trying to be different, following the latest trends, people ultimately end up looking the same.

Idle observation? Not at all. Professor Jonathan Touboul, a mathematical neuroscientist at the Collège de France in Paris, sought to study hipster paradox and came up with a mathematical equation he published in a paper “The Hipster Effect: When Anti-Conformists All Look The Same. Hipsters, according to the paper, tend to keep making the same choices as every other hipsters when they’re “too slow in detecting the trends.”hipster evolut Hipster Style: The Mathematical Equation That Makes All Hipsters Look Alikeion

Hipsters avoid labels and being labeled, yet they all dress the same and act the same to conform to this very same non-conformity they all share. A hipster style actually goes against “hipster beliefs.”

This belief stems from the ability to recognize trends in others based on your proportional distance from those people. For example, the trends your close friends follow is predictable because you interact with them frequently. However, it’s difficult to stand out at a loft party full of people you don’t know, meaning you are less sure of the likelihood they will be wearing the same trend you are. This suggests hipsters, just like the rest of the population, cannot know what other people decide in real time. (Medical Daily)

Touboul explored the time it takes for a trend to begin to take traction and the time hipsters begin to follow it. He used a theory known as Hopf bifurcation. Touboul told Vocativ: “If you take large sets of interacting individuals — whether hipsters, stock traders, or any group that decides to go against the majority — by trying to be different, they will ultimately all do the same thing at the same time.” The mathematical equation to hipster looks like this:

Hipster formula

The theory observes how oscillations — in this case swinging between trends toward the mainstream and how hipsters track these trends — change over time. The delay of recognizing a trend that causes stronger oscillations, and they become ever stronger with time.

The hipster formula

In reality, a true hipster does not exist. In order to be a real hipster, you would need to be constantly changing and adapting your style, personality, and authenticity as an immediate response to the current trend. Touboul’s study suggests this is impossible and too difficult to attain. It can become physically and mentally excruciating staying on top of the mainstream trends you are trying to resist. 

[...] His “hipster effect” may help explain why all flannel-wearing, fixie-riding, beard-growing, PBR-drinking hipsters all look like the next one around the block. (Hipster Style: The Mathematical Equation That Makes All Hipsters Look Alike)

So far so good, math, physics and statistics notwithstanding. And all of this only to explain why torn jeans or three-day stubble is becoming mainstream faster than real hipsters can come up with something really weird? 

“I just thought the metaphor was kind of enlightening,” Touboul says, adding that uncovering what causes this paradox ‘goes beyond finding the best suit to wear this winter.’

‘[It has] implications in deciphering collective phenomena in economics and finance, where individuals may find an interest in taking positions in opposition to the majority – for instance, selling stocks when others want to buy.????????????????????????????????????????

‘Applications also extend to the case of neuronal networks with inhibition, where neurons tend to fire when others and silent, and reciprocally.’

So there.

Don’t walk under a ladder…

Here is a collection of odd, strange, unusual and otherwise curious superstitions and prejudices from around the world for your Saturday amusement.

Carlos Menem

Carlos Menem

Argentinians are trying not to say aloud the name of their former President Carlos Menem. Bad, bad luck.Brazilian superstition

In Brazil, purse fallen or dropped to the floor means loss of money.China4

In China, the number 4 is considered the number of Death, as the words “death” and “four” sound similar.  Thus Chinese are trying to avoid using number 4 at all cost… unless no other number would do.Broken

In Denmark, broken dishes often kept around until  New Year’s Eve. The shards and pieces must be shared with family and friends. It is believed that the more pieces of broken porcelain has been collected, the more successful the coming year will be. Scissors

In Egypt, it is considered a very bad luck to open and close scissors without cutting the object, and far worse than that is to leave the scissors open. At the same time, the Egyptians believe that placing a pair of scissors under the pillow before going to sleep can fend off nightmares.merd

France: Stepping in dog excrement with one’s left foot is for good  luck, with one’s right foot — for bad.

Greek RedWhen two Greeks  say the same words at the same time, they must say in unison “Piase Kokkino” out loud, and together touch something red at the same time, otherwise the quarrel is inevitable.haitians

In Haiti, many superstitions surround mother’s figure in the life of a person. If you walk wearing one shoe, sweep the floor at night, crawl on your knees or eat watermelon tips, the premature death of your mother is your fault.india

In India, a lot of odd superstitions have to do with grooming. For instance, nails are better not be cut at night, as well as on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Washing one’s hair on Thursday and Saturday brings bad luck because sweeping floors at night might lead to a number of small valuables being lost. Historically, Thursday is a day off for hairdressers and barbers, and Saturday is the day of Saturn (planet Shani) that ancient Hindus revered.japan

In Japan, every child knows that you have to hide your belly during a thunderstorm and, even more importantly, before bedtime. It is believed that if you’re not careful, then Raijin (god of thunder) might steal and eat your navel.korea

In South Korea, it is considered that the fan running in a closed room can kill you in your sleep. That is why many fans in South Korea are equipped with a timer to turn them off before they turn into killing machines.lithuania

Lithuanians avoid whistling inside their homes. Everyone knows that whistling can cause invasion of tiny devils determined to harm and terrorize you.малаизия

Sitting on pillows brings extremely bad luck to Malaysians. It is thought to cause itching, blisters and other discomforts affecting their backsides. Perhaps, no Malaysian likes to sleep on a pillow someone was sat on, just like most of people?nigeria

Nigeria:It is believed that if a man is beaten with a broom, he will most definitely become impotent. Moreover, his genitals might fall off.oman

Oman: To “cleanse” your new car, you must turn on Koran  audiobook and play it through your car speakers for 1-2 weeks. This measure is thought to protect the vehicle and its owner from evil eye.demon-horse

A sun-shower  for Philippinos means Tikbalang’s (demon-horse) wedding party.quatar

Qatar: Don’t kill spiders in your living quarters. It is believed that spiders can put out fires in the house.angry-goat-301x350

Rwandan women are forbidden to eat goat meat — it is believed they might grow beards after consuming mutton.sweden

Visiting Sweden, one might notice that sometimes people walking down the street change direction or scratch their backs repeatedly and seemingly for no reason at all.  This is because of manholes. In Sweden manhole covers marked by the letters “K” or “A”. “K” indicates “fresh water” and, coincidentally, “love”, while “A” indicates “sewage” and “unrequited love”. It is believed whichever letter one encounters more, that’s the kind of love one is going to have. However, this “curse” can be removed by stroking one’s back three three times. Works 50% of the time.turkey

In Turkey, it’s considered disgusting and bad omen to chew gum at night. You see, at night gum turns into the flesh of dead people. Banan_04

Vietnamese schoolchildren and students never eat bananas before tests and exams, since bananas are slippery. In Vietnamese, the word “slippery” is consonant with the word “failure”.Йемен

Yemen: A pregnant woman can determine the sex of her unborn child just throwing a snake into the air. If the snake hits the ground horizontally, a girl is on a way, if vertically — expect a boy.zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, the life is largely ruled by black magic, thus every prejudice and superstition is deeply rooted in magic spells and curses. The groom, for instance, may impose a spell of infidelity on his bride. If she cheats on him with another man, the spell will inseparably twine illicit lovers together. This practice is believed to be a serious deterrent against infidelity.Russia

Russians fend off  evil eye using a variety of uncomplicated actions, such as biting one’s tongue, curling one’s finger into a fig (gesture of extreme contempt), spitting over one’s left shoulder three times, knocking on wood three times, wear underwear inside out, wash one’s face in water ‘puified’ by inserting a silver spoon. Works every time!podborka_foto_25_907

Profoundly Perplexing Cyberspace

Tomasz Setowski

Tomasz Setowski

Tom Standage, a British science writer, the digital editor at The Economist and the author of such unorthodox chronicles as “A History of the World in 6 Glasses” and “The Victorian Internet,” a steampunk classic about the rise of the telegraph — makes a convincing case.

Social Media

What is media today? Conglomerates and moguls, of course: Time Warner, Viacom, Rupert Murdoch. What was media the “day before yesterday”? It may have been Cic­ero and other upper-class Romans, passing from person to person papyrus rolls with latest news. They copied, annotated and passed them around.

Speeches, books, even personal letters were read aloud by slaves and sent on to friends and acquaintances. This distribution system made early media social; by sharing in this fashion, people were able to do what people do in such situations: signal their interests, define their personas and strengthen their ties with others.

Fourth style fresco painting of Sappho holding a stylus

A fresco painting from Pompeii of Sappho holding a stylus.

Graffiti in Pompeii were nothing less than “wall posts”. Even content reads like yesterday’s posts:Graffiti from PompeiiWax tablets were used for sending messages are the iPads of their day (flat objects from across the ages are going to look similar).

wax tabletThe Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences were written by Martin Luther in 1517.  On 31 October 1517, Luther posted them on the door of the church in Wittenberg. They “went viral” and thus widely regarded as the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation. Thomas Paine‘s revolutionary pamphlet Common Sense was a “media hit,” as well.

Every time in history such things happen due to changes in technology, there were disdainful commentators lamenting blasphemous advancement of humanity toward havoc, destruction, moral degradation.

socrates_out_on_a_drink_by_maladjustSocrates argued that, exposed to writing, people would become “hearers of many things, and will have learned nothing; they will appear omniscient and will generally know nothing”.

In 1641, The Worshipful Company of Stationers worried that “every ignorant person that takes advantage of a lose presse may publish the fancies of every idle brain”.

Thomas Fuller, a 17th-century clergyman, argued that pamphlets “cast dirt on the faces of many innocent persons, which dried on by continuance of time can never be washed off”.

Then, now, again, and after the morrow people believed, believe and very likely will believe that technology is able to alter humanfolks fundamentally. To do so is to fall into the trap of thinking that machines are somehow alien. They are human creations that reflect our needs and desire, Tom Standage argues.

Then, is there also a “need and desire” to drown in a sea of misinformation and, while at it, part with our privacy?

Charles Seife, an American author and journalist, a professor at New York University, wrote Virtual Unreality, a seriously entertaining book with a built-in warning: beware, be skeptical of what you read, view and watch online.

Mr. Seife cites an appalling example of dangerously misleading Internet: President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa was persuaded, largely by HIV-denialist websites, to try to thwart the distribution of drugs that could treat the disease in his nation. Mr. Mbeki’s campaign resulted in the deaths of over 300,000 South Africans between 2000 and 2005.

Charles Seife is an American author and journalist, a professor at New York University. He has written extensively on scientific and mathematical topics.

Charles Seife (Credit: Sigrid Estrada). Charles Seife has written extensively on scientific and mathematical topics.

Internet groupthink is creating a new kind of reality, Mr. Seife says, reality in which privacy is not merely endangered, but nears extinction. “[Free information] is a double-edged sword because when information is out there for everyone to manipulate, for everyone to alter, for everyone to broadcast, unfortunately, you get a huge amount of nonsense as more and more people put their stuff out there. You get noise to the signal.”

Q:  Looking to the future a little bit, do you think we’re going to keep cruising along with the way things are happening, where we have less and less control over our private information or do you think we’re going to be entering some kind of a different realm? I’m wondering if this is a transition stage and if we’re going to have more control and if people are going to become more and more aware of how their information is being used.

A: I definitely think we’re in a transition phase. But I hate to say it, I think we may be entering a post-privacy society. I teach journalists, and one of the things that keeps journalists in check is a sense of privacy, a sense of boundaries, and the understanding that you are imposing upon the people you interview and there are certain things that may not be worth exposing even though they’re juicy. In trying to talk about journalistic ethics, the students today are actually studying with the understanding in a way students even seven or eight years ago weren’t. And I wonder, these are people who are used to sharing everything online and so it’s really much harder to understand the value of why others would not want that, would not behave in the same way.

FacebookQ: Is that something that will just go away as older generations go away? The worries about over-sharing, sharing private information…

A: I see through my students’ eyes a world without privacy that is completely normal. It’s something that’s completely foreign to me but I understand others can live with it. The future is not going to be up to us; it’s going to be up to them.

Kitsch And Vanitas

Still Life - Infinite Vanitas

Still Life – Infinite Vanitas  by Kevin Best

Vanitas

Pieter_Claesz._008

Still Life by Pieter_Claesz

Still Life Roemer with nuts and lemon (after Pieter Claesz)

Still Life Roemer with nuts and lemon (after Pieter Claesz)

David Bailly (1584–1657) Self-portrait With Vanitas Symbols, dated 1651

David Bailly (1584–1657) Self-portrait With Vanitas Symbols,  dated 1651

Kevin John Best, OAM (27 January 1932 – 31 July 2012) was an Australian artist. Kevin Best photographs the past – or as close to it as is humanly possible to get. He painstakingly re-produces the images produced by Dutch painters of the 17th century.
Self Portrait with vanitas symbols (after David Bailly)

“Still life photography is technically challenging and intellectually stimulating. While the original masters of the genre delighted in fooling people that their paintings were real, I delight when people think my photographs are paintings.” ~ Kevin Best

Dirck Jacobsz. (circa 1497–1567)  Portrait of Pompejus Occo (1483-1537).

Dirck Jacobsz. (circa 1497–1567)
Portrait of Pompejus Occo (1483-1537).

Kevin Best created contemporary photographic versions of the classic Dutch still life paintings (Vanitas included) by constructing complex sets incorporating authentic antique props, and then adding whimsical twists, such as iridescent bubbles (which also represent the ephemeral nature of mortality and brevity of life).

Self Portrait after Dirck Jacobsz - Pompeius Occo

Self Portrait after Dirck Jacobsz – Pompeius Occo

Vanitas Still Life with Pochette

Vanitas Still Life with Pochette

Musical Vanitas - after Pieter Claesz

Musical Vanitas – after Pieter Claesz

Still Life With Mirrored Ball - Kevin Best

Still Life With Mirrored Ball – Kevin Best

Kevin Best. Triple Self Portrait

Kevin Best. Triple Self Portrait

А popular Russian photographer Yekaterina Rozdestvenskaya is known for a series of “historical” artwork entitled “Private Collection”. These works, deemed educational by many admirers, have a pronounced kitschy feel and look. Kitsch like in “a low-brow style of mass-produced art or design using popular or cultural icons. No whimsical twists here, no authentic props or carefully selected authentic props. Most Russians would recognize their “cultural icons” – actors, writers and TV announcers mostly.

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If It Smells Like Vagina…

De Cupere

If it smells like vagina it must be vagina, right? Either this or a creation of an olfactory (having to do with smells) artist. Such as Peter De Cupere. The artist, among many other smells, likes the smell of a woman. His latest exhibit, The Deflowering, in Antwerp, promotes the idea that, in his own words, “A woman’s vagina smells, in general, great and more men should respect that.”

De Cupere engaged a chemical laboratory to develop a “vagina smell” perfume.

“I wanted to be sure that it’s a mix of different women and that they are from different origins. The scent is not synthetic. It’s the real vaginal scent distilled in special ways. How they do it is the secret of the labs.”

Then he sculpted a statue of Madonna from the frozen “holy water”. The statue has been places atop of a puddle of a “vagina smell” perfume.

“I use the Madonna statue as a symbol because it’s the most known religious symbol of a woman.  …I don’t say that women are always treated wrong in religion, but it still happens too often! …Religion has always been an interesting issue in art. The reason is simple, because it’s conservative, an old and closed idea and art is the opposite, it’s progressive and open — like a vagina.”

In an exhibit that lasted about 2 hours, the statue slowly melted into a perfumed spot and the room took on the odor of love and passion. Or whatever.

The melting of the Madonna metaphorically yields a sense of sexual freedom, while physically oozing a sexually liberated perfume. At its core, De Cupere’s project is simply and wonderfully a celebration of scent — in particular, a natural, feminine scent all too often deemed unsavory or unwelcome.  (Huffington Post article)

Viewers were both permitted and encouraged to dip their fingers into the puddle. Attendees were aware that so doing they’d end up smelling like vagina and the the smell would linger for a long while.

“Passion is smelling and enjoying the scent of your love,” De Cupere says. “It’s too taboo! And what is taboo should set be free.”

Huffington Post has more on the work for those interested, but I will just sit here and scratch my head. I admit I am incredibly curious to see what a lab has determined a vagina smells like. I would also like to know how much trial and error there was, with various people standing around in a room trying to describe what the failed recipes are lacking and how to improve them. (from the short post in Daily of the Day

This is surely one of the stranger feminist artwork’s we’ve seen smelled in our day, but we wholeheartedly support the scentiment. The performance takes place today in Antwerp, but you can get a whiff of the experience in the video below. (Huffington Post)

My comment? I can’t express it in a word or two. It took me a long soliloquy in Russian, riddled with unprintable obscenities, to say I didn’t like it.

Other works of Peter De Cupere  – too bad (or not?) you can’t smell them.

Smile Room: 2010, a smell installation made with 3400 tubes toothpaste, pu-components, creating an intense minty toothpaste smell.

Smile Room: 2010, a smell installation made with 3400 tubes toothpaste, pu-components, creating an intense minty toothpaste smell.

peter de cupere

SWEAT: 2010, Sweat is a performance where the sweat of 5 dancers was caught. They wear specially designed costumes that were made out of plastic and connected by tubes. Before the action, the artist made a separate dish for each dancer. The intention is to catch the sweat from the dancers and to distill it. The sweat will be sprayed on a wall of the dance lab and protected by a glass box. In the glass is a small hole where visitors can smell the sweat. The performance is shown by video in the glass tank. More info will follow soon. The performance is shown for a selective audience (200 people). Other artists who are invited to realize an art integration are: Luc Tuymans, Michael Borremans, Koen Van den Broek, Berlinde De Bruykere, Joep van Lieshout, ...

SWEAT: 2010, Sweat is a performance where the sweat of 5 dancers was caught. They wear specially designed costumes that were made out of plastic and connected by tubes. Before the action, the artist made a separate dish for each dancer. The intention is to catch the sweat from the dancers and to distill it. The sweat will be sprayed on a wall of the dance lab and protected by a glass box. In the glass is a small hole where visitors can smell the sweat. The performance is shown by video in the glass tank. More info will follow soon. The performance is shown for a selective audience (200 people). Other artists who are invited to realize an art integration are: Luc Tuymans, Michael Borremans, Koen Van den Broek, Berlinde De Bruykere, Joep van Lieshout, …

 

Isaac Asimov: How To Generate Ideas

isaac-asimov

Isaac Asimov published over 500 volumes of books in addition to 90,000 letters, postcards and other scientific books for laymen.

With permission of Asimov Holdings, Technology Review presents his never before published essay “How Do People Get New Ideas?”, which I post here in its entirety, supplemented by images of my choice, appropriate or not.

Arthur Obermayer, friend of the author, recently rediscovered this essay among his files and has this memento to share:

In 1959, I worked as a scientist at Allied Research Associates in Boston. The company was an MIT spinoff that originally focused on the effects of nuclear weapons on aircraft structures. The company received a contract with the acronym GLIPAR (Guide Line Identification Program for Antimissile Research) from the Advanced Research Projects Agency to elicit the most creative approaches possible for a ballistic missile defense system. The government recognized that no matter how much was spent on improving and expanding current technology, it would remain inadequate. They wanted us and a few other contractors to think “out of the box.”

When I first became involved in the project, I suggested that Isaac Asimov, who was a good friend of mine, would be an appropriate person to participate. He expressed his willingness and came to a few meetings. He eventually decided not to continue, because he did not want to have access to any secret classified information; it would limit his freedom of expression. Before he left, however, he wrote this essay on creativity as his single formal input. This essay was never published or used beyond our small group. When I recently rediscovered it while cleaning out some old files, I recognized that its contents are as broadly relevant today as when he wrote it. It describes not only the creative process and the nature of creative people but also the kind of environment that promotes creativity.

“How Do People Get New Ideas?”

Presumably, the process of creativity, whatever it is, is essentially the same in all its branches and varieties, so that the evolution of a new art form, a new gadget, a new scientific principle, all involve common factors. We are most interested in the “creation” of a new scientific principle or a new application of an old one, but we can be general here.be creative

One way of investigating the problem is to consider the great ideas of the past and see just how they were generated. Unfortunately, the method of generation is never clear even to the “generators” themselves.

But what if the same earth-shaking idea occurred to two men, simultaneously and independently? Perhaps, the common factors involved would be illuminating. Consider the theory of evolution by natural selection, independently created by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace.

Wallace Edwards

Wallace Edwards

There is a great deal in common there. Both traveled to far places, observing strange species of plants and animals and the manner in which they varied from place to place. Both were keenly interested in finding an explanation for this, and both failed until each happened to read Malthus’s “Essay on Population.”

Both then saw how the notion of overpopulation and weeding out (which Malthus had applied to human beings) would fit into the doctrine of evolution by natural selection (if applied to species generally).

Obviously, then, what is needed is not only people with a good background in a particular field, but also people capable of making a connection between item 1 and item 2 which might not ordinarily seem connected.

Undoubtedly in the first half of the 19th century, a great many naturalists had studied the manner in which species were differentiated among themselves. A great many people had read Malthus. Perhaps some both studied species and read Malthus. But what you needed was someone who studied species, read Malthus, and had the ability to make a cross-connection.

Nikolay Zaytsev

Nikolay Zaytsev

That is the crucial point that is the rare characteristic that must be found. Once the cross-connection is made, it becomes obvious. Thomas H. Huxley is supposed to have exclaimed after reading On the Origin of Species, “How stupid of me not to have thought of this.”

But why didn’t he think of it? The history of human thought would make it seem that there is difficulty in thinking of an idea even when all the facts are on the table. Making the cross-connection requires a certain daring. It must, for any cross-connection that does not require daring is performed at once by many and develops not as a “new idea,” but as a mere “corollary of an old idea.”

It is only afterward that a new idea seems reasonable. To begin with, it usually seems unreasonable. It seems the height of unreason to suppose the earth was round instead of flat, or that it moved instead of the sun, or that objects required a force to stop them when in motion, instead of a force to keep them moving, and so on.

A person willing to fly in the face of reason, authority, and common sense must be a person of considerable self-assurance. Since he occurs only rarely, he must seem eccentric (in at least that respect) to the rest of us. A person eccentric in one respect is often eccentric in others.einstein

Consequently, the person who is most likely to get new ideas is a person of good background in the field of interest and one who is unconventional in his habits. (To be a crackpot is not, however, enough in itself.)

Once you have the people you want, the next question is: Do you want to bring them together so that they may discuss the problem mutually, or should you inform each of the problem and allow them to work in isolation?

My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it. (The famous example of Kekule working out the structure of benzene in his sleep is well-known.)карандаши

The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.

Nevertheless, a meeting of such people may be desirable for reasons other than the act of creation itself.

No two people exactly duplicate each other’s mental stores of items. One person may know A and not B, another may know B and not A, and either knowing A and B, both may get the idea—though not necessarily at once or even soon.

Furthermore, the information may not only be of individual items A and B, but even of combinations such as A-B, which in themselves are not significant. However, if one person mentions the unusual combination of A-B and another unusual combination A-C, it may well be that the combination A-B-C, which neither has thought of separately, may yield an answer.

It seems to me then that the purpose of cerebration sessions is not to think up new ideas but to educate the participants in facts and fact-combinations, in theories and vagrant thoughts.

But how to persuade creative people to do so? First and foremost, there must be ease, relaxation, and a general sense of permissiveness. The world in general disapproves of creativity, and to be creative in public is particularly bad. Even to speculate in public is rather worrisome. The individuals must, therefore, have the feeling that the others won’t object.

If a single individual present is unsympathetic to the foolishness that would be bound to go on at such a session, the others would freeze. The unsympathetic individual may be a gold mine of information, but the harm he does will more than compensate for that. It seems necessary to me, then, that all people at a session be willing to sound foolish and listen to others sound foolish.

If a single individual present has a much greater reputation than the others, or is more articulate, or has a distinctly more commanding personality, he may well take over the conference and reduce the rest to little more than passive obedience. The individual may himself be extremely useful, but he might as well be put to work solo, for he is neutralizing the rest.

The optimum number of the group would probably not be very high. I should guess that no more than five would be wanted.rainbownetworks430

A larger group might have a larger total supply of information, but there would be the tension of waiting to speak, which can be very frustrating. It would probably be better to have a number of sessions at which the people attending would vary, rather than one session including them all. (This would involve a certain repetition, but even repetition is not in itself undesirable. It is not what people say at these conferences, but what they inspire in each other later on.)

For best purposes, there should be a feeling of informality. Joviality, the use of first names, joking, relaxed kidding are, I think, of the essence—not in themselves, but because they encourage a willingness to be involved in the folly of creativeness. For this purpose I think a meeting in someone’s home or over a dinner table at some restaurant is perhaps more useful than one in a conference room.

Probably more inhibiting than anything else is a feeling of responsibility. The great ideas of the ages have come from people who weren’t paid to have great ideas, but were paid to be teachers or patent clerks or petty officials, or were not paid at all. The great ideas came as side issues.

To feel guilty because one has not earned one’s salary because one has not had a great idea is the surest way, it seems to me, of making it certain that no great idea will come in the next time either.

Yet your company is conducting this cerebration program on government money. To think of congressmen or the general public hearing about scientists fooling around, boondoggling, telling dirty jokes, perhaps, at government expense, is to break into a cold sweat. In fact, the average scientist has enough public conscience not to want to feel he is doing this even if no one finds out.

I would suggest that members at a cerebration session be given sinecure tasks to do—short reports to write, or summaries of their conclusions, or brief answers to suggested problems—and be paid for that; the payment being the fee that would ordinarily be paid for the cerebration session. The cerebration session would then be officially unpaid-for and that, too, would allow considerable relaxation.

I do not think that cerebration sessions can be left unguided. There must be someone in charge who plays a role equivalent to that of a psychoanalyst. A psychoanalyst, as I understand it, by asking the right questions (and except for that interfering as little as possible), gets the patient himself to discuss his past life in such a way as to elicit new understanding of it in his own eyes.

In the same way, a session-arbiter will have to sit there, stirring up the animals, asking the shrewd question, making the necessary comment, bringing them gently back to the point. Since the arbiter will not know which question is shrewd, which comment necessary, and what the point is, his will not be an easy job.

As for “gadgets” designed to elicit creativity, I think these should arise out of the bull sessions themselves. If thoroughly relaxed, free of responsibility, discussing something of interest, and being by nature unconventional, the participants themselves will create devices to stimulate discussion.

demotivational-apple

***

Thus spoke Isaac Asimov. Take it or leave it. He was brilliant in every one of his many pursuits. Without a doubt, if he would have set his eye on a career of motivational speaker for middle management, he would have succeeded splendidly and, perhaps, written 500 books on how-to-be-creative-and-generate-ideas. Luckily, he had chosen different career path.

Target Practice

 Over the past six years, German photographer Herlinde Koelbl visited some 30 countries and created series of images for the project Targets, photographing practice targets used for training marksmen-soldiers.  How to create an image of the enemy? The photo above was taken in Mali.

USA

USA

United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates

France

France

Lebanon

Lebanon

Great Britain

Great Britain

Lebanon

Lebanon

Great Britain

Great Britain

Austria

Austria

Algeria

Algeria

Algeria
Algeria

 

Mali

Afganistan

Afganistan

Russia

Russia

Mali

Russia

Russia

USA

USA

Mali

Mali

 

Teeter-Totter On The Brink

time1

As we all know, and I used to know but since forgot and re-learned only recently, we, humans, live in the Holocene Epoch of the Quaternary Period of the Cenozoic  Era. That means only that at certain point of human development scientists among our species agreed on calling it thus.

The “deciding body” is the International Geological Congress. It defines the planet’s geological timescale  by  dividing it into units, the longest of which are eras, then periods, then epochs and ages.

era

Since the mid-twentieth century, human footprint and humanity’s impact on our mother-planet has become a subject of both research and concern. Thus far, scientists and laymen alike agree that humans manifested their presence on Earth in a most profound way. Can we distinguish between man-made and natural at this time and age? Yes, we can… not without difficulty, however.

It does look like our species of mammals manged to trample and ravish the planet Earth to a degree that we can rightfully put a claim on the entire epoch.

Juan Gatti artwork

Artwork of  Juan Gatti

Scientists from around the world met this week to decide whether to call time on the Holocene epoch after 11,700 years and begin a new geological age called the Anthropocene. 

A group of geologists, climate scientists, ecologists and an expert in international law that have been conducting research since 2009, all met face-to-face for the first time in Berlin on Thursday and Friday to discuss the issue. (Reuters, Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of Cultures of the World))

“It is clear that, though we have differences about when it starts, it seems as a group that we were quite happy to say we are in the Anthropocene,” said Colin Waters, secretary for the working group and a geologist for the British Geological Society.

Juan_Gatti_Anatomical_Botanical_Studies_6

Juan Gatti. Anatomical Botanical Studies

Have we, indeed, entered a new human era already – the Anthropocene – to reflect our deep impact on the planet?

We have to wait until August 2016 to know for sure. At that time, the working group must report its conclusions to the International Geological Congress. If the International Geological Congress says YES, the Anthropocene it should bethen we can get lucky and literally rather than metaphorically live in two epochs.

Until then, lets just teeter-totter on the brink of the Anthropocene.

 

 

Murder In A Wax Museum. Update

FEMENThe following is an update to my Breaking News: Murder In A Wax Museum post of June 6, 2014.

PARIS, Oct 15 (Reuters) – A Ukranian activist belonging to topless feminist group Femen was convicted for exhibitionism by a Paris court on Wednesday for having attacked a statue of Russian President Vladimir Putin at a wax museum in the capital.

Iana Zhdanova, with “Kill Putin” written on her nude breasts, attacked the likeness of Putin at the Musee Grevin in the capital with a wooden stake in June.

WARNING: The images below are NSFW. FRANCE-FEMEN-PUTIN

FRANCE-FEMEN-PUTIN

The activist, who has lived in France for two years as a political refugee, laughed in court after the judge ordered her to pay fine of 1,500 euros ($1,897) for vandalism and a crime called “sexual exhibition” in French, as well as other damages payable to Musee Grevin.

“I’m laughing because it’s very strange,” said Zhdanova, 26, outside the courtroom. “I’m very surprised by this decision.”

Zhdanova’s lawyer, Marie Dose, said it was the first time a French court had sentenced a Femen member for sexual exhibition, calling it a precedent that would thwart the group’s ability to protest. Dose said she would appeal.

This is an official announcement of the above on the FEMIN web page:FEMEN articleAs well as the header image on that page:FEMEN page