Twenty years ago, sequencing the human genome was one of the most ambitious science projects ever attempted. Today, compared to the collection of genomes of the microorganisms living in our bodies, the ocean, the soil and elsewhere, each human genome, which easily fits on a DVD, is comparatively simple. Its 3 billion DNA base pairs and about 20,000 genes seem paltry next to the roughly 100 billion bases and millions of genes that make up the microbes found in the human body.
And a host of other variables accompanies that microbial DNA, including the age and health status of the microbial host, when and where the sample was collected, and how it was collected and processed. Take the mouth, populated by hundreds of species of microbes, with as many as tens of thousands of organisms living on each tooth. Beyond the challenges of analyzing all of these, scientists need to figure out how to reliably and reproducibly characterize the environment where they collect the data.
“There are the clinical measurements that periodontists use to describe the gum pocket, chemical measurements, the composition of fluid in the pocket, immunological measures,” said David Relman, a physician and microbiologist at Stanford University who studies the human microbiome. “It gets complex really fast.”
Excerpt from an article by Emily Singer at Quanta. Continue THERE
The language of more inequality, more poverty, more evictions from land and house, is not enough to capture the negatives in the current phase of global capitalism. I want to explore the hypothesis that we are confronting the emergence of new logics of expulsion that take us beyond the more familiar notion of growing inequality. The last two decades have seen a sharp growth in the number of people, enterprises and places expelled from the core orders of our epoch; I add our collective destruction of bits and pieces of the biosphere, which are turned into dead land and dead water — an expulsion of bits of life itself from the biosphere. This aggregate of expulsions is likely to be more consequential than the epoch-making economic development and new middle classes in India, China, and some other countries.
A key source of these expulsions is a mix of elements often experienced (and admired) as requiring specialized knowledges and complex organizational formats. One example is the sharp rise in the complexity of financial instruments, the product of brilliant creative classes and advanced mathematics. Another is the complexity of the legal and accounting features of the contracts enabling a sovereign government to acquire vast stretches of land in a foreign sovereign nation-state. And yet another is the brilliant engineering and innovations that make possible types of mining that destroy land and water bodies. I propose to explore the extent to which we have reached a point in our advanced political economies where complexity tends to produce elementary brutalities.
This is based on the author’s forthcoming Expulsions: When complexity produces elementary brutalities (Harvard University Press 2014). Text and Image via Penserglobal
As life has evolved, its complexity has increased exponentially, just like Moore’s law. Now geneticists have extrapolated this trend backwards and found that by this measure, life is older than the Earth itself. Here’s an interesting idea. Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles every two years or so. That has produced an exponential increase in the number of transistors on microchips and continues to do so.
But if an observer today was to measure this rate of increase, it would be straightforward to extrapolate backwards and work out when the number of transistors on a chip was zero. In other words, the date when microchips were first developed in the 1960s.
A similar process works with scientific publications. Between 1990 and 1960, they doubled in number every 15 years or so. Extrapolating this backwards gives the origin of scientific publication as 1710, about the time of Isaac Newton.
Via MIT Technology Review. Continue HERE
1) Given that the brain consists in a mass of connections, whose power depends on the number and complexity of those connections, why is it divided? Or is that just random, and we should give up trying to find a pattern which make sense in terms of evolutionary advantage? (Animal ethologists have already found that asymmetry is an evolutionary advantage, and some of the reasons why – I take those into account in the book.)
2) Is it logical or just a prejudice to dismiss the idea that there are significant hemisphere differences?
3) If it is logical, why? If it is not logical, should we not all be interested in what sort of difference this might be?
4) If not, why not? If so, what sort of difference would he himself suggest?
5) Failing any suggestion of his own, why is he opposed to others making suggestions?
6) Since it is in the nature of a general question that the answer will be general, what sort of criticism is it that an answer that has been offered is general in nature (though highly specific in its unfolding of the many aspects of cerebral function involved, of the implications for the phenomenological world, and in the data that are adduced)?
7) It is in the nature of generalisations that they are general. It is also almost always the case that there will be exceptions. Does that mean that no generalisations should ever be attempted for fear of being called generalisations or because there are exceptions?
8) I have never tried to hide the difficulties surrounding generalisations. My book is replete with caveats, qualifications, and admonitions to the reader. Does either KM or Ray Tallis think they have said anything substantial by calling a generalisation ‘sweeping’? What kind of generalisation is not, other than one that is qualified?
Excerpt from a response from Kenan Malik to Iain McGilchrist. Read it HERE
Kenan Malik is an Indian-born English writer, lecturer and broadcaster, trained in neurobiology and the history of science.
Iain McGilchrist is a psychiatrist, doctor, writer, and former Oxford literary scholar. McGilchrist came to prominence after the publication of his book The Master and His Emissary, subtitled The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World.
Beginning in the late eighteenth century, huge circular panoramas presented their audiences with resplendent representations that ranged from historic battles to exotic locations. Such panoramas were immersive but static. There were other panoramas that moved–hundreds, and probably thousands of them. Their history has been largely forgotten. In Illusions in Motion, Erkki Huhtamo excavates this neglected early manifestation of media culture in the making. The moving panorama was a long painting that unscrolled behind a “window” by means of a mechanical cranking system, accompanied by a lecture, music, and sometimes sound and light effects. Showmen exhibited such panoramas in venues that ranged from opera houses to church halls, creating a market for mediated realities in both city and country.
In the first history of this phenomenon, Huhtamo analyzes the moving panorama in all its complexity, investigating its relationship to other media and its role in the culture of its time. In his telling, the panorama becomes a window for observing media in operation. Huhtamo explores such topics as cultural forms that anticipated the moving panorama; theatrical panoramas; the diorama; the “panoramania” of the 1850s and the career of Albert Smith, the most successful showman of that era; competition with magic lantern shows; the final flowering of the panorama in the late nineteenth century; and the panorama’s afterlife as a topos, traced through its evocation in literature, journalism, science, philosophy, and propaganda.
About the Author
Erkki Huhtamo, media historian and pioneering media archaeologist, is Professor in the Department of Design Media Arts at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the coeditor of Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications.
Text and Image via MIT PRESS