Welcome to #Indiana


I don’t think badly of the many Hoosiers who are (IMHO) freaked out by the mind-blowing speed with which traditional views of gays, and a whole lot else, is changing.  A whole worldview they were born into and grew up in is being shooed away and no one can say what comes next.  Karen Armstrong says ‘all fundamentalism is a rooted in the fear of extinction.’ Many of us are dinosaurs on the way out.  Pushback is not surprising though resistance seems futile.

Biracial Beauty Queen Called “Not Japanese Enough”


Tokyo (CNN)A biracial beauty queen in Japan is facing criticism for not being Japanese enough.

Half-Japanese and half African-American, Miss Nagasaki Ariana Miyamoto is the first-ever mixed-race Miss Universe Japan.

Some say she doesn’t represent Japan’s demographic, while others champion the model, proud that she is overcoming racial hurdles and helping to expand the definition of what it means to be Japanese.

But changing perceptions here can be an uphill struggle. In a culture that typically prefers pale — where “pure Japanese” white skin is considered a symbol of beauty — the darker skinned Miyamoto’s crowning last week was a revolution on the runway. http://go.shr.lc/1NhiMuo

Madonna: I’m not Jewish, I’m an Israelite – Israel Jewish Scene, Ynetnews

She makes an interesting and thoughtful distinction between traditional practices and formal religion.  Not just a Material but an Intellectual Girl!


When asked to what extent would she would characterize herself Jewish? Madonna reportedly laughed the question off, saying “No, I don’t affiliate myself with any specific religious group. I connect to different ritualistic aspects of different belief systems, and I see the connecting thread between all religious beliefs.” 

Madonna elaborated on her theological outlook, saying that though she studied Kabbalah, and does follows many religious practices affiliated with Judaism, like observing the Shabbat and holding a bar mitzvah for her son, she has not converted

Madonna: I’m not Jewish, I’m an Israelite – Israel Jewish Scene, Ynetnews.

False flags & cyber wars: New Snowden leaks reveal Canada spy agency’s ‘deception toolbox’

Remember when Canada seemed to exemplify a “nice” government?


Top secret documents from Edward Snowden’s cache have revealed Canada’s ambition to become a big player in the world of electronic spying. The leak comes just as the country plans to vote on a law that would give its cyber agencies more powers.

A confidential presentation by Canada’s intelligence agency Communications Security Establishment (CSE) dated 2011 was among the documents published jointly by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation and The Intercept, the website of investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald. In it, the counterpart of US National Security Agency (NSA) assures its Five Eyes allies – US, UK, Australia and New Zealand – that by 2015 it “will seek the authority to conduct a wide spectrum of Effects operations in support of our mandates.”

​Palestinians accuse Israel of ‘unfair distribution’ on World Water Day


Water supply and sanitation in the Palestinian territories are suffering from the unfair distribution of resources on account of Israel, Palestinian authorities said, bringing attention to their struggle in a statement issued on World Water Day.

The Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) called for sustainable infrastructure development in the wake of Israeli occupation to ensure not only water availability but also its quality.


Anti-Robot Protest Held At SXSW


A small group of protesters held signs and handed out t-shirts to protest robots today at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

What did they have against robots you might ask? Well, they are (apparently, seriously) concerned that robots could one day surpass human intelligence and they were genuinely anxious about this.

A spokesperson for the group told TechCrunch they hoped to raise awareness about the possible dangers of uncontrolled growth and development around artificial intelligence and robotics.

He stressed, however the group wasn’t against technology per se or even robots and AI, but they wanted to make sure that these technologies were developed in a controlled way.

The protest spokesperson cited Elon Musk as a prominent person who has expressed concern about robots and the development of artificial intelligence, and in fact TechCrunch reported in January about a $10M donation by Musk to the Future of Life Institute to “keep AI beneficial to humanity.”

As the article stated:

“Here are all these leading AI researchers saying that AI safety is important”, said Elon Musk in the statement, referring to this letter originally put forward by FLI founder and MIT professor Max Tegmark. “I agree with them, so I’m today committing $10M to support research aimed at keeping AI beneficial for humanity.”

FLI wrote in the blog post:

“There is now a broad consensus that AI research is progressing steadily, and that its impact on society is likely to increase. A long list of leading AI-researchers have signed an open letter calling for research aimed at ensuring that AI systems are robust and beneficial, doing what we want them to do.”

The group is simply organizing around the concerns expressed in this letter by some prominent members of the scientific community including physicist Stephen Hawking.

That said, the protest spokesperson insisted they didn’t intend to stop the progress of technology, but they hoped to encourage government oversight and even a worldwide organization to make sure that these technologies are developed safely and under controlled growth.

Ramses Alcaide, an electrical engineer and neuroscientist and CEO of Neurable, a startup that is developing brain-computer interfaces for people with disabilities, told TechCrunch he spoke to the group to the get their perspective.

“They see the big picture, but they don’t know where we are technologically. We could be a thousand years from what they are worrying about. There are so many things we don’t understand.”

He added, “I think slowing it down would be a disservice to humanity. I’m glad there are people who think that way. Let’s think about this scientifically, but let’s not stop research. I think if you were to ask Elon Musk if we should stifle progress, I don’t think he would want to do that,” Alcaide said.

The protest group has a Twitter account and a website, which lists the organization’s mission statement: “Stop the Robots is dedicated to using technology for good and understanding the true risks that artificial intelligence poses to humanity.”

They also list several articles with titles like: Why You Should Fear Machine Intelligence and The Need For Regulation. The website home page features the SXSW protest prominently, although the pictures make it look a lot bigger than what I observed when I came upon it this afternoon.

My first instinct when I saw this protest that it was a publicity stunt, but the people who were there seemed to have genuine concerns, and they took them to a street corner in Austin today to express them.

Update 3/17/2015: In a statement published on the Stop The Robots website last night, the founders admitted the protest was indeed a convoluted publicity stunt. They still insist they believe in the sentiment of the rally — controlled growth of artificial intelligence. Ultimately though this was about generating publicity for a dating app. Feel free to roll your eyes.


Solar Eclipse 20 March

Mark your calendar!

Explaining Science

Some of us living in the Northern Hemisphere will be able to view a solar eclipse on Friday 20 March 2015. Most people will only see a partial eclipse, but some lucky people living in a particular region will experience a total eclipse.  When this happens the Sun is completely obscured and it goes dark during the period of time that the Sun is covered.

Throughout this post I will use the term “eclipse” to mean an eclipse of the Sun or solar eclipse. I will talk about eclipses of the Moon in a future post.


The path of totality, where a total eclipse can be seen is shown as the dark band in the map below

2015 eclipse totality path

As you can see from the map, most of this area is uninhabited, with the notable exception of the Faroe Islands (population 50,000) where a total eclipse lasting over 2 and half minutes will be visible. This…

View original post 1,181 more words

Highland Park comedian tackles the humor in science

twotoneFor the first time in his long career as a comedian, Aaron Freeman’s jokes are being fact-checked.

“I’ve never had anyone fact-check my jokes,” says the Highland Park resident. “It adds an extra degree of difficulty.”

An extra degree of difficulty, however, comes with the territory in Freeman’s new role as artist-in-residence for the Chicago Council on Science & Technology, a regional consortium on science and technology education and policy.