Quanta Magazine: At the Far Ends of a New Universal Law
Article by: Natalie WolchoverArt: Olena Shmahalo

A surprising explanation has emerged for a recently discovered statistical law that exhibits “universality,” a mysterious phenomenon in which diverse microscopic effects give rise to the same collective behavior. The Tracy-Widom distribution, a puzzling curve that seems to be the complex cousin of the familiar bell curve, appears in complex systems with correlated variables like financial markets, exotic phases of matter or the Internet.

Quanta Magazine: At the Far Ends of a New Universal Law

Article by: Natalie Wolchover
Art: Olena Shmahalo

A surprising explanation has emerged for a recently discovered statistical law that exhibits “universality,” a mysterious phenomenon in which diverse microscopic effects give rise to the same collective behavior. The Tracy-Widom distribution, a puzzling curve that seems to be the complex cousin of the familiar bell curve, appears in complex systems with correlated variables like financial markets, exotic phases of matter or the Internet.

Elusive Form of Evolution Seen in Spiders
via Quanta MagazineArticle by Emily SingerGraphic by Olena Shmahalo

Did you know that some spiders cooperate like bees and ants? Tangle-web spiders form bands of 1,000 or more to spin webs that stretch for hundreds of yards, entrapping flies, small birds and “virtually any invertebrate imaginable,” said Jonathan Pruitt, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Pittsburgh. In a new Nature study, Pruitt presents evidence of group selection in one social spider species.

Beware, arachnophobes.

Elusive Form of Evolution Seen in Spiders

via Quanta Magazine
Article by Emily Singer
Graphic by Olena Shmahalo

Did you know that some spiders cooperate like bees and ants? Tangle-web spiders form bands of 1,000 or more to spin webs that stretch for hundreds of yards, entrapping flies, small birds and “virtually any invertebrate imaginable,” said Jonathan Pruitt, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Pittsburgh. In a new Nature study, Pruitt presents evidence of group selection in one social spider species.

Beware, arachnophobes.

via Space.i09:

If you’re having a hard time wrapping your head around how scientists could’ve been confused by dust when they thought they detected gravitational waves earlier this year, Olena Shmahalo has a slick infographic in Quanta Magazine. The infographic is part of [Natalie Wolchover’s] article on the mechanics of how scientists could’ve mistaken dust for signals from the Big Bang.

via Space.i09:

If you’re having a hard time wrapping your head around how scientists could’ve been confused by dust when they thought they detected gravitational waves earlier this year, Olena Shmahalo has a slick infographic in Quanta Magazine. The infographic is part of [Natalie Wolchover’s] article on the mechanics of how scientists could’ve mistaken dust for signals from the Big Bang.

I Contain MultitudesOur bodies are a genetic patchwork, possessing variation from cell to cell. Is that a good thing?
By: Kat McGowan    Art by: Olena ShmahaloAugust 21, 2014

Your DNA is supposed to be your blueprint, your unique master code, identical in every one of your tens of trillions of cells. It is why you are you, indivisible and whole, consistent from tip to toe.But that’s really just a biological fairy tale. In reality, you are an assemblage of genetically distinctive cells, some of which have radically different operating instructions.

I Contain Multitudes
Our bodies are a genetic patchwork, possessing variation from cell to cell. Is that a good thing?

By: Kat McGowan   
Art by: Olena Shmahalo
August 21, 2014

Your DNA is supposed to be your blueprint, your unique master code, identical in every one of your tens of trillions of cells. It is why you are you, indivisible and whole, consistent from tip to toe.

But that’s really just a biological fairy tale. In reality, you are an assemblage of genetically distinctive cells, some of which have radically different operating instructions.

olena

olena:

Hank Pellissier { writes }:

Metaphorically, for me, the “nakedness” of mental transparency is identical to physical nudity. The complex data of our yearning craniums won’t be shrouded any longer, won’t be buried and disguised under fabricated obstacles and artifice.

••••••

But, naked isn’t free.

Can I climb mountains, naked? Can I travel to outer space, naked? Can I “be myself”, naked? Definitely not, definitely not, and no, I don’t think so.

Whatever appendages we choose to attach to ourselves daily or permanently, whatever artifice we handle and live with and use and surround ourselves with… it’s our costume, our armor, our shelter, our extremities, our transformation into what we are and everything we’re capable of being, would like to be, or are becoming.

I want to be buried, disguised, fabricated, obfuscated, clarified, extended through artifice.

mucholderthen

mucholderthen:

THE OPERATING SYSTEM
Created by Olena Shmahalo

Far-long ago, in a distant space-time,
a n0thing exploded over eons,

rippling into the here-now.

Over billions of years, anxious bits vibrated into “being”,
in every direction stacking and multiplying,
creating branches of { Unimportance },
of complexity and necessity, until, eventually,
that explosion became themselves.

See and read the entire “Operating System”

Your father was a space rock;
you were born a cosmonaut.

You are a cosmic accident —
a system of instructions,
 achieving self-recognition. 

You are nature looking in, 
at once mundane and sublime.

See and read the entire “Operating System” …

RIGHTS: Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike

Thanks for featuring my site!

"Bio-synthetic"
Or, semiannual shit-test.
Listen to cat music.
•••••
Ft.: xanthoria (orange wall lichen), usnea (old man’s beard), cladonia rangiferina (reindeer moss), bracket fungi (shelf mushrooms), shield lichen, cushion moss, mycena haematopus (purple mushroom), and irradiated quartz (angel aura)

"Bio-synthetic"

Or, semiannual shit-test.

Listen to cat music.

•••••

Ft.: xanthoria (orange wall lichen), usnea (old man’s beard), cladonia rangiferina (reindeer moss), bracket fungi (shelf mushrooms), shield lichen, cushion moss, mycena haematopus (purple mushroom), and irradiated quartz (angel aura)

Be Interested to Be Interesting

It’s funny when people say “you’re lucky you found something that you love doing.”

It reminds me of that thing Picasso supposedly said when some Parisian marveled at his 5-minute napkin drawing: “Sure it took 5 minutes… and forty years.” Quoted very loosely, but hopefully you get the idea. It’s a result of time and effort.

It’s also a strange thing to say (although I do understand what they mean) because it’s not like taking something from a grab-bag and deciding, “Oh yeah this one’s pretty good. I can do this.”

I used to think that way, as a child. I had no idea about the weight of things. There were fun things (like drawing) and horrible, boring things (like math). What depth was there? For a child, why not change your mind weekly: Teacher, Disney Animator, Doctor… What else? Same with subjects in school: all treated basically equally.

It’s only fairly recently that I started to see that maybe all’s not so equal at all. So when someone says “you’re lucky,” I wonder if they really don’t see it. It has nothing to do with luck. It’s just plain wonder. Taking a step back from living for a second, to wonder at it. Isn’t it WEIRD? Isn’t it interesting that you’re this bunch of non-sentient stuff that’s put together with some bits of code and rules and all of it comes together to make this “living” thing? Don’t you want to know more about that?

It’s unlike anything else, to wonder at that. You can say history is important or finances are important, but then it’s arbitrary human stuff. It could go this way or that, and have little effect on nature outside of our silly little planet. (Although we like to pretend otherwise, and superimpose biological feelings generally unique to our species onto the rest of the universe, with phrases like “Love conquers all.”) But there’s something you can learn about that does affect EVERYthing, regardless of planet or size or anything… Is that luck? It’s noticing. Finally noticing.

It’s important that humans have varied communities with members that have different skillsets in order to function, so we can’t possibly all have the same interests. But if you’re really wondering what to do with yourself, why revert to that grab-bag of subjects? Certainly sometimes circumstances dictate how you can proceed, but when you can make a choice, Why not Be Interested? There’s so much more outside of us…

We can’t answer questions about ourselves the same way anymore — by just thinking about it philosophically, looking for some metaphysical reason.

Call it reductionist if you must, but it’s beautiful that even weekly we’re ever-closer to answering our deepest questions by looking into our biological, chemical — and deeper still — physical blueprints.

When wondering why we animals do as we do, we can also inquire about what the particles do, and how those activities travel up and down the chain of magnifications to create a whole, and the epiphenomenon we finally witness.

Did you know that quantum effects are observed in macroscopic, biological processes?

Carver Mead:

…believes that the scientific revolution that began with the discovery of special relativity and quantum mechanics has stalled, and that it’s up to us to kickstart it.

"A bunch of big egos got in the way," [said Mead].

Much more work needs to be done to restart that revolution, … with the goal of explaining in an intuitive way how all matter in the universe relates to and affects all other matter, and how to explore those interrelationships in a way that isn’t “buried in enormous piles of obscure mathematics.”

That’s what I want to do. So badly.

But is a Virtual Artist Interesting?

Yesterday at Google’s Creative Sandbox, Ed Ulbrich of { Digital Domain } talked about the process of bringing Tupac Shakur back to life as a hologram { Pepper’s Ghost }.

Initially, Digital Domain (here on in, “DD”) was approached by Dr. Dre with the idea of creating a “virtual artist”. The rapper-cum-entrepreneur was inspired by some of DD’s work for film, involving 3D human mapping/simulation.

A series of serendipitous events later, Dre’s spark became Tupac and performed at April 2012’s Coachella. The response was massive — “Tupac Hologram” soared on Google’s search trends. People were absolutely dumbfounded and excited by an age-old effect. Pepper’s Ghost was magical again.

Since then, DD hasn’t given up on the idea of developing a computer generated star. Ulbrich prompted the Sandbox audience to "Imagine a virtual artist — one who can perform at any time, anywhere, and doesn’t have to go to rehab!”

But, to be honest, I think we want our artists to go to rehab

Ulbrich himself analyzed why Tupac was interesting: he appeared real. It seemed, for a moment, as though he had to have been “brought back” because the body was his, the voice was his, and yet, Tupac had never done a Coachella concert before. This wasn’t prerecorded. How could he be interacting with the audience and his friends on stage? The mystery made “him” something to talk about.

So how can one expect audiences to be just as wooed by an artificial being? Something created just for performance, without the real back story and struggles of a human artist? Knowing that any story or personality present are implanted to incite customers into buying into this spectacle? The show alone can’t be enough — we’re not truly interested in Lady Gaga or Bieber for their talent. We’re there for the idiosyncrasies: to see how and why these humans made the decisions they did in convincing everyone, themselves even, of their image, and to see how they’ll progress. We “want [them] to go to rehab” because we want to see how a human reacts to those decisions — to fame. We’re there for the vulnerability, because we can all relate to that.

There is one extremely successful performer I can think of who has no story, no struggle, and no reaction: Japan’s { Hatsune Miku }. Miku is essentially a bit of software with a huge world-wide following. She’s even had live tours. She has no biography nor personality, but that happens to work for a cute anime girl: her fans create their owns stories, spin-offs, etc. She’s an open-source collaboration for some, and a personal fantasy for others. And luckily for her creators, the customers keep buying into it.

But can Miku’s formula be effective in the West, particularly for something more “human”? As stated, no personality is fine for someone who’s already imaginary, with no pretense of trying to be like us. We’re able to go along with the fiction, knowing it’s just that. Yet if Miku was made to look realistically human, we’d probably have to be lied to to be OK with it. (And how long can you keep that up? Pepper’s Ghosts and holograms only work in certain conditions.) She would be a creepy, empty shell with a pretty face and a nice singing voice. After 5 minutes, the audience for that is much more limited. How can one relate to, and thus be interested in, some”one” created to be famous and comparatively perfect? Someone who never fails because they don’t actually produce anything, are backed from the beginning, and even when a wrong move is made by their strategists, it doesn’t matter because the virtual star can have no real reaction to a failure. 

Despite these problems and doubts — due to a fascination with sci-fi and futurism, and because I have no qualms about { artificiality } — I’m all for this and can readily imagine this type of entertainer in our future. I just wonder what the right concoction will be. Will we have to leave them in the realm of the fantastic in order to avoid the Uncanny Valley, both aesthetically and in terms of personality? Or perhaps { creative AI } will be a solution…?

So, you want to study science to inform your art work, is that right?

I was asked this recently.

The intention was good, but those words in that order are entirely wrong. This is the kind of art I’m *least* interested in — a shallow concept with a little Science thrown in to liven things up and make it all seem that much more GENIUS!

But, I remain interested in Art as a means of communication, for one thing. Not design or illustration or painting or anything so specific — these are all forms Art can take, although they are not necessarily Art. Carrots are vegetables but not all vegetables are carrots, right? So aren’t we grocers, and not carrot-men?

By Art, whatever form it takes, I mean the one practice that’s free enough to load with something heavy, the one that can handle ideas about our universe that won’t fit elsewhere. Art as a vehicle for those ideas and experiences that are too extravagant to allow elsewhere.

So, no. In truth, my agenda is closer to something like studying “science” (specifics aside) so that my art may *carry* it.