News Briefs 09-05-2016

Heeeeeere's Skippy!

Thanks to @TheUFOTrail.

Quote of the Day:

One day, someone showed me a glass of water that was half full. And he said, "Is it half full or half empty?" So I drank the water. No more problem.

Alejandro Jodorowsky

The Mystical Genius of Srinivasa Ramanujan

Stories about mathematicians are, perhaps surprisingly, the fodder for a number of critically acclaimed movies - from the fictional Good Will Hunting to the John Nash biopic A Beautiful Mind. And now, another film about a mathematical genius has arrived: The Man Who Knew Infinity (trailer above).

It tells the true story of Srinivasa Ramanujan, an Indian self-taught prodigy, who credited his brilliant insights to visions given to him by a goddess.

Though he had almost no formal training in pure mathematics, he made extraordinary contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions. Ramanujan initially developed his own mathematical research in isolation; it was quickly recognized by Indian mathematicians. When his skills became obvious and known to the wider mathematical community, centered in Europe at the time, he began a famous partnership with the English mathematician G. H. Hardy, who realized that Ramanujan had rediscovered previously known theorems in addition to producing new ones.

...Ramanujan credited his acumen to his family goddess, Mahalakshmi of Namakkal. He looked to her for inspiration in his work, and claimed to dream of blood drops that symbolised her male consort, Narasimha, after which he would receive visions of scrolls of complex mathematical content unfolding before his eyes. He often said, "An equation for me has no meaning, unless it represents a thought of God."

Beyond the mystical manner in which he made his breakthroughs, what is also extraordinary about Ramanujan's work is that, as one mathematician has put it, "there is a seeming reversal of cause and effect. No one can write down a formula with deep, hidden properties unless they first know what the deep properties are that they are trying to encode. This is the way mathematicians understand math to work; it is the only way they—we—know to approach the subject. But the significance of the tau function—the reason to write it down—wasn’t discovered until Ramanujan had been dead for sixty years":

"There’s no way Ramanujan knew all these intermediate things,” says Ono. “The concepts [encoded in the tau function] didn’t exist when he was alive. That’s the mind-boggling part: Ramanujan anticipated the work of people who would live long after him. He had visions that said there were going to be some theories in the future. Somehow. He didn’t need any intermediate steps for him to anticipate that there would be all these subjects, and that he would find the first examples of them, and that they would go on to be the prototypes that we desperately needed to build our subjects. Whether he’s in fashion or out of fashion has more to do with us, with where we are in coming to grips with him.

So what was the origin of Ramanujan's genius? Hidden abilities of the human brain? A conduit directly plugged into the back-end of mathematics? Or truly visions from another realm?

Sadly, Ramanujan died at the age of just 32...one can only wonder what other breakthroughs he might have made given a long and prosperous life.

News Briefs 06-05-2016

"Our responsibility is much greater than we might have supposed, because it involves all mankind."

Quote of the Day:

“The real nature of the present revealed itself: it was what exists, all that was not present did not exist.”

Jean Paul Sartre

News Briefs 05-05-2016

With so many people feeling this means the end of the world is nigh, just remember: *Every day* is the end of the world for someone, somewhere.

  • Brave New World: Biotech company granted ethical permission to use stem sell technology to stimulate the nervous system of brain-dead patients.
  • Bernardo Kastrup: You're being subtly deceived (again) by that recent LSD study.
  • IBM is letting anyone play with their quantum computer --anyone that knows HOW quantum computing works, that is.
  • When robots are instruments of male desire.
  • The self-powered camera is one of this year's Invention Award winners.
  • The good news: Ancient DNA reveals ancestry and migration history of modern Europeans.
  • The bad news: Rising seas are swamping our archeological heritage.
  • Global warming is slowly suffocating our oceans.
  • In order to control wild carp populations, Australians are giving them herpes. Wait, what?!
  • Planet 9 just got weirder.
  • Oh look, Canada will have its 1st National Public Hearing on UFOs. I wonder what kind of 'experts' they'll gather…
  • Sonic boom drama over Doncaster: Typhoon jets intercepting AirFrance airliner, or dogfight with UFO rising from the North Sea? You be the judge!
  • Turkish witness photographs oval UFO.
  • The things you learn by setting up a Google news alert for the word "Satanic."
  • Economic inequality between first class passengers and the rest of us lowly plebes, is the #1 cause of 'air rage' --that and the f$#%in baby crying on seat D27!!
  • Red Pill of the Day: Screenwriter issues formal apology for penning the script of Dragon Ball: Evolution. And you thought Majin Buu was the biggest redemption story in the whole saga!

Thanks to my uncle Juan Ramón. Buen viaje, tío!

Quote of the Day:

"Maybe this world is another planet's hell."

~Aldous Huxley

All-Hearing Eye: Researchers Can Reconstruct Audio From Objects' Micro-Movements Captured Only on Video

Person of Interest - Control's Office

Sometimes even science fiction can't keep up with technological developments...

Consider the excellent Person of Interest, a television show that over four seasons (the fifth and final season began last night) has had a long and fascinating story arc exploring the impact of artificial intelligences on our world, especially in the context of surveillance and law enforcement. In the final episode of season 4 - which aired around a year ago -, one scene has the character 'Control' placing cell phones in a sound-proof box, to stop the artificial intelligence named 'Samaritan' from hearing the content of her discussion by hijacking the cell's microphone.

Turns out that may have been a touch naive, especially coming from someone in her position. Because in real life, a couple of months earlier at TED 2015), researcher Abe Davis demoed software that allowed him and his team to reconstruct audio of an event, purely from video taken (ie. no audio required at all) on an off-the-shelf camera. They did so by creating algorithms that looked for tiny movements in objects in the environment (on the order of micrometres, invisible to the human eye and even a fraction of a pixel). As 'sound' is actually air vibration perceived by our ears, the micro-movements captured by the video can be used to reconstruct the air vibrations that caused them.

Subtle motion happens around us all the time, including tiny vibrations caused by sound. New technology shows that we can pick up on these vibrations and actually re-create sound and conversations just from a video of a seemingly still object. But now Abe Davis takes it one step further: Watch him demo software that lets anyone interact with these hidden properties, just from a simple video.

Watch the amazing demonstration below:

While Samaritan would surely employ such a system in its 'sousveillance' arsenal, Davis does point out that there are other applications as well, including creating an actual '3D model' of an object and its natural movements, simply by capturing its subtle motion.

Related:

News Briefs 04-05-2016

Burn the Witch

Quote of the Day:

'Stars are never sleeping / Dead ones and the living'

David Bowie

I See Dead People: Can Mediums Tell If Someone is Alive or Dead From Just a Photo of Their Face?

The Deceased on 'The Other Side'

Mediumship - the alleged 'talent' of communicating with the dead - is as old as human history itself. But most modern scientists regard its manifestation in the modern world as a relic of times past, incompatible with our new and improved knowledge of the cosmos. For many, the only way science should interact with the claims of Spiritualism is to debunk it so that it takes its place "among the solemn absurdities in the history of thought," as one critic put it.

There are other scientists, however, who believe that the correct approach is to withhold judgement, listen to the claims made by mediums, and test them using science to see if they are valid, or at least worthy of further investigation. This approach is evident in a new paper just published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, titled "Prediction of mortality based on facial characteristics" (full paper currently available via the link on the side of that page).

Researchers from the University of California and the Institute of Noetic Sciences (Arnaud Delorme, Alan Pierce, Leena Michel and Dean Radin) began with the claim by some individuals that they are"adept at gauging mortality based on a glance at a person’s photograph" (see this 2011 story here on the Grail for background). To test the validity of this assertion, they invited twelve people who claimed this ability - i.e. 'mediums' - to see if they "could determine if a person was alive or dead based solely on a brief examination of facial photographs."

There are individuals known as “intuitives” or “sensitives” who claim to be able to predict mortality based solely upon a brief examination of a facial photograph. Various forms of intuitive counselling, including psychics, “fortune tellers,” and mediums, can be found in all cultures. This profession persists, even in modern times, due to the understandable desire to offset anxieties associated with health issues and a host of other uncertainties. Some counsellors may provide useful information gained through their experience in closely examining body language and other nonverbal cues. Others, with compromised ethics, are unfortunately only interested in perpetrating fraud.

The key question explored in the current study is whether it is possible for such alleged intuitive individuals to report accurate mortality information based on brief exposure to facial photographs under blinded conditions that prevent the exploitation of obvious non-verbal clues. A secondary question is whether there are electrocortical correlates associated with accurate predictions.

Each subject (medium) was shown 404 photos on a computer screen, one at a time for a maximum of 8 seconds each. For each photo, the participant was asked to press one of three keys on a key pad to indicate that they thought the person in the photo was “deceased,” “living,” or “do not know.” The 404 photographs were made up of three sets:108 images, originally taken about 75 years prior to the experiment; 126 images, taken about 50 years prior to the experiment; and 160 images taken more recently (about 10 to 20 years prior to the experiment).

(All of these photos had been previously rated by three judges on multiple characteristics: gender, age, gaze direction, glasses, head position, smile, hair color, and picture resolution. For each photo these ratings were combined, and two subgroups of photos - alive and deceased - were then created by a computer program, minimizing the differences between the two groups on all 8 characteristics.)

The results for each of the 12 subjects (% correct in each group, and combined for all three) can be found in this table taken from the paper:

Death Face Data

As can be seen, some of those results are quite interesting (though to be fair, not exactly paradigm-shattering). The researchers note that:

Both behavioral and electrophysiological data indicated that individuals claiming intuitive abilities were capable of classifying photos of living vs. deceased people above chance levels, and under conditions
where the photos were balanced across 8 dimensions to reduce visual cues about the health status of the individuals.

In summary, the paper's conclusions is that the study "supports the hypothesis that facial photographs contain as-yet unidentified information predicting mortality", though they can't make any determination of how they did so: ie. by through as yet unidentified visual cues (normal means), or via "access to information in ways that are not currently understood by modern physics (supernatural means).

So, as a piece of exploratory research it's interesting. But I'm not sure too much can be concluded from it other than 'let's take a closer look' - and if it's the mediumship side of things that we want to investigate, perhaps a method similar to that of Emily Williams and Diane Arcangel's earlier paper, "An Investigation of Mediums Who Claim to Give Information About Deceased Persons", might be a better way forward.

Link: "Prediction of mortality based on facial characteristics"

Related Stories:

Nightmares of the Future: The Marsification of Earth

SPOILER WARNING: This post completely spoils the plot of the movie ALLEGIANT, the latest installment in The Divergent Series.

Much like the first post that initiated this “Nightmares of the Future” series, Deconstructing TRANSCENDENCE, this third movie in the Divergent series isn't a great film – which is disappointing, because I actually quite enjoyed the first two much more than other instances of the now well-established post-apocalyptic young adult film genre. We're talking about The Hunger Games of course, and stuff like The 5th Wave and Maze Runner too. The key point the film really serves to make is how played out that genre actually is now, at least its current form. Anyone looking to quickly cash in on it has probably missed the boat by now.

Yet what Allegiant is absolutely perfect for is to serve as an elaboration of the concepts core to the idea of the Plutocratic Exit Strategy that I've been developing - that the Elite are in the process of leaving behind a ruined planet and building their long dreamed of technocratic paradise on the Red Planet (or elsewhere). The film brings that all home; to Earth. It's a rather banal realisation of what actually lies ahead for this planet and its denizens in a century or two, if nothing changes course. For that reason, I have zero hesitation in spoilering the absolute shit out of this film to demonstrate just how this is the case.

Just watch the trailer: it's Fury Road meets Tomorrowland.

Perhaps you remember when I wrote about Fury Road's trailer here, asking of its world:

Is there another instance of humanity across the ocean, that has kept the high tech life of those that came before intact, but are dealing with their own set of uniquely horrifying problems? What is the geography of the end of the world?”

Mad Max : Fury Road slots disturbingly well into this filmic universe.

Immortan Joe could easily be made to work as a cult leader field-testing mind control techniques for the secret technocratic rulers of Earth, hidden away in their shielded, camouflaged cities, invisible tentacles of control reaching into every crevasse.

In the Plutocratic Exit Strategy series I have been sketching the idea a Technocratic Elite in the process of fleeing to Mars from an Earth whose ruined they've benefited from, establishing utopic technocratic colonies there. In the film Tomorrowland they've long been retreating to a parallel dimension to build their perfect world [Spoiler: it didn't go too well]. In Allegiant, it's shown they never left. They just holed up, and let the world burn. That's vastly simplifying it, so allow me to unpack it all now, point by point.

It's New Atlantis at the end of the World

In the 17th Century, Francis Bacon wrote a novel called New Atlantis that depicted his ideal vision of a technocratic community, hidden away on a remote island. He didn't actually finish writing it before he died; it was published posthumously in its incomplete form and has arguably served as inspiration for much of the Technocratic Elite since. The community of New Atlantis were free to pursue their scientific pursuits absent from interference from the masses, and its members would periodically walk amongst the Earth in disguise, gathering new knowledge to bring back. It's literally the prototype for a Breakaway Civilisation, as others have noted recently, and Allegiant might be its most perfect realisation yet.

As the above trailer shows, what the Divergent series' heroine, Beatrice 'Tris' Prior and her companions, discover upon escaping from the post-apocalyptic nightmare of a ruined Chicago is a shielded, highly technology advanced outpost for a technocratic civilisation. The brutal world she's known has just been an experiment overseen from without by these New Atlanteans. Worse, her nightmarish reality has been serving as an entertainment program for its citizens, who've been able to watch the entire drama of her life unfold like they're all ants in some glass colony. The post-apocalyptic Chicagoans are greeted as reality TV show stars by its inhabitants. That perspective on the life and death struggles of the bulk of humanity is a perfect rendering of how the Elite views the rest of the world. Like ants.

Or cattle. And as Tris quickly learns, she's been exactly that: the product of a breeding program.

The Technocrats are Eugenicists

On arrival at the technocratic output established in the old O'Hare Airport, Pris is informed she is the first 'Pure' to be back-bred from the 'Damaged' that are the bulk of humanity now.

For undivulged reasons in the film – maybe they're elaborated on in the books? - the blame for the breaking of the world is put on a period of time where the emergence of a genetically-engineered humanity went disastrously wrong. Some kind of transhuman civil war took place as people started modifying their children, resulting in not just the world being broken, but the bulk of humanity too. They're all termed 'Damaged', and are treated as sub-human; fit only to be experimented on; or, as we'll see later, otherwise interfered with.

The technocratic solution is to back-breed humanity to its original state, using experimental setups like the walled city of Chicago.

Now, anyone paying attention to the current science on the subject knows is total rubbish. Humanity has been in a constant state of evolution, and if anything is a mutant species; the result of cross breading between multiple hominid lineages. We're finding traces of ... Read More »

News Briefs 03-05-2016

TFW when you start the week with good momentum, and all of a sudden...

Quote of the Day:

The Earth is mostly just a boneyard. But pretty in the sunlight.

Larry McMurtry