Secret codes, acoustic spaces, training computers, the craziest bicycle, a better future for the homeless

1. The codes that reveal the presence of network infrastructure all over New York City.

"Sometimes you'll see a manhole cover that is surrounded with colorful markings. Whenever a contractor or construction company plans to do street excavation, utility companies will mark out the location of their underground cables so that the contractor knows to watch out for them. There's a federal color-code standard for sidewalk markings. New York follows that standard. Orange refers to the broad catch-all of 'Communications, alarm, signal lines, cables and conduit.' This means that orange lines can be internet cables, television cables, telephone lines, or other kinds of conduits. The markings are sometimes really sloppy, and often in fragments. Sometimes you'll see several different labels in the same place. A lot of these cables are bundled up together running through ducts under the city."


+ This could be the most Real Future thing ever.

2. This company invisibly, electronically shapes acoustic spaces.

"When Oliveto underwent a renovation, last year, the owners called upon the Meyers to design a more conversation-friendly setting. The apparatus that the Meyers installed includes a version of the company’s Constellation system, which employs microphones, a digital-audio platform, and loudspeakers to sample the noise of a room, modify it, and send it back out in altered form. The walls of the seating area are outfitted with what the Meyers call the Libra system: sound-absorbing panels that have an attractive façade, in this case images of olive groves by the Berkeley photographer Deborah O’Grady. Concealed in a back room is the system’s digital processor, which can be controlled with a tablet. 'Each table is in its own sonic zone,' John explained. 'But it’s not isolated.'"


3. These new "deep learning" techniques for training computers don't actually make them "work like the brain," but they might be called "inspired by" the brain.

"Some aspects of our models are inspired by neuroscience, but many components are not at all inspired by neuroscience, and instead come from theory, intuition, or empirical exploration. Our models do not aspire to be models of the brain, and we don’t make claims of neural relevance. But at the same time, I’m not afraid to say that the architecture of convolutional nets is inspired by some basic knowledge of the visual cortex. There are people who indirectly get inspiration from neuroscience, but who will not admit it. I admit it. It’s very helpful. But I’m very careful not to use words that could lead to hype. Because there is a huge amount of hype in this area. Which is very dangerous."


4. This mac- and solar-powered bicycle (with a heads up display!) from 1991 is insane.

"The BEHEMOTH weighed a whopping 580 pounds and was pimped out with three laptops networked together—including a hacked Mac—several wireless communication systems, a color LCD display, a satellite earth station, a CD player, a handlebar keyboard, and solar panels to power it all. This green machine had more technology on board than most cars have today. And it was a group effort—most Friday afternoons, Roberts said, up to a dozen volunteers would come to the BikeLab in Mountain View, California to brainstorm about the kinds of sensors and gadgets that would be on the BEHEMOTH."


5. Trying to imagine a better future for the homeless.

"We could, as a country, look at the root causes of homelessness and try to fix them. One of the main causes is that a lot of people can't afford a place to live. They don't have enough money to pay rent, even for the cheapest dives available. Prices are rising, inventory is extremely tight, and the upshot is, as a new report by the Urban Institute finds, that there's only 29 affordable units available for every 100 extremely low-income households. So we could create more jobs, redistribute the wealth, improve education, socialize health care basically redesign our political and economic systems to make sure everybody can afford a roof over their heads."


Today's 1957 American English Language Tip

diapason. In its fig. use (from music), = range, scope, entire compass. The whole diapason of joy & sorrow.


The Credits:  1. / @disquiet 2. 3. 4. 5.

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