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Geophysical dance course to be offered next quarter

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HANNAH LEE / AGGIE

Freshman seminar merges arts and science

Crashing tides, tsunamis and other fluids that move our world will be paired with dance in a freshman seminar offered next quarter in the hopes of creating a new way to approach science and the arts.

The course, Geophysical Dance, is a two-hour class offered on Tuesdays from 12:10 to 2 p.m. It has no prerequisites and is described by the lead professor, Ian Faloona, as being “light” in both science and dance elements. The class is interested in putting these two topics into conversation.

Faloona, an atmospheric science professor at UC Davis, has been dancing since he was an undergraduate and was encouraged by colleagues to develop a class that united his two areas of interest.

“I teach how the atmosphere moves and […] I have all these ideas about how the way we move is so similar to — in a lot of ways — what I am trying to teach about how fluids move in the atmosphere and oceans,” Faloona said.

The class will be a hybrid of lecture and applications, using students’ bodies to teach concepts of atmospheric science and to create new ways of thinking about science in general. Faloona has built the class around five basic concepts that are all based around fostering creativity through the combination of these two disciplines.

“We try to find elements in nature that then we can use to build movement pieces,” Faloona said.

He emphasized that there is not a formal dance component to the class, but rather that this is a way to use creativity to understand fluids of the environment. Topics for the quarter include understanding the summer fog of California, exploration of the physics of rotation and formation of thunderstorms.

“One of my main objectives is try to get us back to this level of pure creativity,” Faloona said.

With a planned field trip to a playground and a unique teaching philosophy, this class is a rare opportunity for UC Davis students.

Faloona is teaching this class with the help of Kevin O’Connor, a Ph.D. candidate in performance studies at UC Davis who holds an MSA in choreography.

“In the case of this class, we’re using the dance studio and our bodies as experimental laboratories to explore contemporary scientific understanding of weather,” O’Connor said. “Using the different practices [of art and science] to think through or imagine new ways of modeling the data, bodies can be used as models to think about scientific data with and in enacting the data, it creates new ways of thinking about the data.”

While Geophysical Dance is a fairly new class, Terry Nathan, a professor of atmospheric science, has been teaching a class that also combines the arts with the sciences in a course that pairs photography with atmospheric science.

In my course, students use photography to explore the common ground occupied by art and science,” Nathan said in an email interview. “Gestalt psychology meets Einsteinian physics in photographic composition; the geometric foundations of art and science; order versus disorder; and photographic interpretation of the environment.”

Nathan is one of the people who encouraged Faloona to create his own course. He also emphasized the unique experience that science and art provide each other.

“Despite the apparent dichotomy between art and science, they share the twin pillars of a university education — creativity and the quest for discovery,” Nathan said.

The seminar being offered next quarter highlights what Nathan discusses — merging “pillars of a university education.” The Geophysical Dance class is a way to use creativity and expression as a lens to describe the world.

 

Written by Emma Askea — science@theaggie.org

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luizirber
3 days ago
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Davis, CA
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Scenes from our dystopian cyberpunk present

jwz
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How is this headline for real?

Why American Farmers Are Hacking Their Tractors With Ukrainian Firmware

To avoid the draconian locks that John Deere puts on the tractors they buy, farmers throughout America's heartland have started hacking their equipment with firmware that's cracked in Eastern Europe and traded on invite-only, paid online forums. [...]

A license agreement John Deere required farmers to sign in October forbids nearly all repair and modification to farming equipment, and prevents farmers from suing for "crop loss, lost profits, loss of goodwill, loss of use of equipment ... arising from the performance or non-performance of any aspect of the software." The agreement applies to anyone who turns the key or otherwise uses a John Deere tractor with embedded software. It means that only John Deere dealerships and "authorized" repair shops can work on newer tractors. [...]

And a reminder to never trust a man with a pig farm:

Deere sold farmers their tractors, but has used software to maintain control of every aspect of its use after the sale. Kluthe, for example, uses pig manure to power his tractor, which requires engine modifications that would likely violate John Deere's terms of service on newer machines.

"I take the hog waste and run it through an anaerobic digester and I've learned to compress the methane," he said. "I run an 80 percent methane in my Chevy Diesel Pickup and I run 90 percent methane in my tractor. And they both purr. I take a lot of pride in working on my equipment."

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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luizirber
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acdha
3 days ago
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Washington, DC
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A Homeland Security Official Came to Warn Us About Workplace Shootings and Political Correctness

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On Thursday afternoon, Gizmodo Media Group’s corporate parent Univision asked Gizmodo Media employees, which includes Jezebel’s staff, to attend an “active shooter training” conducted by a Department of Homeland Security official named Kevin Peterson. It’s no mystery why any responsible employer would want to prepare…

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jepler
3 days ago
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It's worth clicking through for the whole article
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
acdha
1 day ago
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luizirber
3 days ago
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Why I'm Frequently Absent from Open Source

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The goal of free open source development is empowerment: everyone can not only use code for free but also contribute to and influence it. This model allows people to teach and learn from each other, improves businesses by sharing work on similar ideas, and has given some people the chance to break out and become well-known leaders.

Unfortunately, in reality open source development is rife with problems and is ultimately unsustainable. Somebody has to pay the cost of maintaining a project. Actually writing code is only a small part of running a project, so it's never as simple as mutually benefitting from sharing code. Somebody, or a group of people, needs to step up and spend lots of hours every week to make sure code actually gets pushed through the pipeline and issues are triaged.

Even if that problem was solved, human beings are complex and full of conflict when we try to work together, and open source has little structure for dealing with these problems like a normal workplace would.

For businesses, an active open source project may not make sense. I've seen projects go open source just for the "warm fuzzies" that unfortunately embody that model, only to drown in all the work that goes into powering open source. When most of the time is spent trying to help contributors, call it for what it is: charity. Which is great! But it may be more efficient to focus on the project internally.

I love open source! I think it's a net win for society, even if there are big problems we still need to solve. I wouldn't be close to where I am today without it, and it felt amazing to release prettier and watch its success (even if I'm dealing with the above problems now).

I think we need to change how we talk about it and change our expectations. Because right now open source is full of guilt. Tell people that it's OK to neglect a project for a while. It's OK to let PRs pile up for a few weeks, and then close some that you don't have time to look into. It's OK to tell contributors that nobody has time to help them. The best solution is to find other people to help, but if that doesn't happen, all of the above are totally OK to do.

Now that I got that off my chest, I wanted to explain why I am frequently absent from my open source projects. I haven't even looked at prettier's issues for days, and I've let other projects die because of lack of time.

The reason is simple: family.

Sarah and I have been married for 6 years as of today (with 2 kids, Evy and Georgia). I write about a lot about technology on my blog but I don't write about the thing that I spend more time on and is way more important than tech: my family. I thought our 6-year anniversary is a good time to acknowledge that!

For a while I put myself in a lucky position of not maintaining any open source projects. But recently I released prettier and it's been interesting to try to balance work on it with my family (and not to mention change of jobs). While it's an important project to me, most of the time I intentionally ignore it to spend time with my family on nights and weekends. (Thanks to Christopher for spending so much time on prettier and making my time away less guilty).

I'll be honest, it's a struggle sometimes. Being married and raising kids is a lot of work by itself, and balancing free time is complicated. There's no question in my mind though that, by comparison, tech has little meaning in the greater context of life.

Happy 6th anniversary babe!

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luizirber
19 days ago
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acdha
29 days ago
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Things want to work, not punish errors

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For better or worse, things want to work.

Consider driving at night on unlit, curvy mountain roads, at a speed about twice the limit, zigzagging between cars, including oncoming ones. Obviously dangerous, and yet many do this, and survive. How?

  • Roads and cars are built with big safety margins
  • Other drivers don't want to die and help you get through
  • Practice makes perfect, so you get good at this bad thing

The road, the car, you, other drivers, and their cars all want this to work. So for a long while, it does, until it finally doesn't. I know 3-4 people who drive like this habitually. At least 2 of them totaled cars. All think they're excellent drivers. All have high IQs, making you wonder just what this renowned benchmark of human brains really tells us.

Now consider a terribly managed project with an insane deadline, and a team and budget too small. All too often, this too works out. How?

  • Unless it physically cannot exist, a solution wants you to find it. You carve out a piece and the next piece suggests itself. Even if management fails to think how the pieces fit together, the pieces often come out such that they can be made to fit with modest extra effort.
  • And then the people who make the pieces want them to fit. Even if the process is totally mismanaged, many people will talk to each other and find out what to do to make parts work together.
  • The project was approved because a customer was persuaded. At this point, the customer wants the project to succeed. A little bit of schedule slippage will not make them change their minds, nor will a somewhat less impressive result. More slack for you.
  • The vendor, too wants the project to succeed, and will tolerate a little bit of budget overrun. More slack.
  • Most often, when things fail, they fail visibly. It's as if things wanted you to see that they fail, so that you fix them.

The fact is that by cutting features, having a few non-terminal bugs, and being somewhat late and over budget, most projects can be salvaged. In fact, when they say that "most projects fail," the PMI (*) defines "failure" as being a bit late or over budget. If "failure" is defined as outright cancellation, I conjecture that most projects "succeed."

Which projects are least likely to be canceled? In other words, where is being late, over budget and off the original spec most tolerable? Obviously, when the overall delivered value is the highest, both in absolute terms and relatively to the cost. In other words, reality punishes bad management the least in the most impactful cases.

What is the biggest problem with bad management? Same as crazy driving: risk. The problem in both cases is you risk high-cost, low-probability events. It's terrible things that tend not to happen. And people are pretty bad at learning from mistakes they never had to pay for.

Wannabe racecar drivers fail to learn from driving into risky situations which their own eyes tell them are risky. For managers, learning is harder – the risks accumulated through bad management are abstract, instead of viscerally scary. In fact, a lot of the risks are never understood by management, or even fully reported. There's just too much risk to sweep under various rugs to make it all ingrained in institutional memory.

In fact, it's even worse, because risk-taking is actually rewarding as long as the downside doesn't materialize. The crazy driver gets there 10 minutes earlier. Similarly, non-obviously hazardous management often delivers at an obviously small cost. And while driving is not actually competitive, except in the inflamed minds of the zigzagging few, most projects are delivered in very competitive environments indeed. And competition can make even small rewards for risk decisive – as it can with any other smallish factor large enough to make a difference between victory and defeat.

Things want to work more than they want to punish us for our errors. The punishment may be very cruel and unusual alright, but it's rare. It seems that the universe, at least The Universe of Deliverables, is Beckerian. It delivers optimal punishment for rational agents correctly estimating probabilities. Sadly, humans are bad at probability.

And thus crazy drivers and bad managers alike (often the same people, BTW) march from one insane adventure to the next, gaining more and more confidence in their brilliance.

(*) PMI (The Project Management Institute) is a con, where they sell you "PMBOK" (Project Management Body of Knowledge, a thick book you can use as a monitor stand) and "PMP" (Project Management Professional, a certification required by PMI's conscious or unwitting accomplices in dark corners of the industry.) A variety of more elaborate cons targeted at narrower audiences incorporate PMI's core body of cargo cult practices.

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luizirber
20 days ago
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Princeton’s “Muggle Studies 101” Exhibit Deeply Misunderstands Bagels

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Téa Wimer, Muggle Studies 101, Cotsen Children's Library

The Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton University had a fun to-do this week called Wand Works, a Harry Potter-themed celebration where the kids could paint their own wands and receive magical books and sundry. But one of their exhibits stood out as something you would expect to see in a Hogwarts classroom or perhaps a wizarding museum: Muggle Studies 101.

Created by Princeton sophmore Téa Wimer (who happens to be studying anthropology and creative writing), the misunderstood Muggle artifacts each have descriptions attached that give us a window into how the wizarding worlds sees non-magical instruments. Here are a few hilarious examples from the exhibit:

Téa Wimer, Muggle Studies 101, Cotsen Children's Library Téa Wimer, Muggle Studies 101, Cotsen Children's Library Téa Wimer, Muggle Studies 101, Cotsen Children's Library Téa Wimer, Muggle Studies 101, Cotsen Children's Library Téa Wimer, Muggle Studies 101, Cotsen Children's Library Téa Wimer, Muggle Studies 101, Cotsen Children's Library

Wimer found the items at a thrift store and enjoyed assigning new meanings to each one:

I think one of the coolest things about this process was that my developing skills as an ethnographer and anthropologist met with my creative side. I’ve always been looking for ways that those two (seemingly separate) parts of my interests can intersect, and even if this seems a bit “silly,” I really enjoyed taking a previously known object and regarding it as an anthropologist might look at an unknown cultural rite or artifact and creatively thinking up a way that a Muggle might use the given object.

I also had to think of myself as a different character sometimes too, as a wizard who is genuinely baffled by Muggles and their weird ways. I think that my child-like curiosity and imagination has never really left me, and that was also a huge plus as the Curator of Muggle Artifacts.

You can find the rest of the exhibit, as well as a Q&A with Wimer on the project over at Pop Goes the Page, the Cotsen Children’s Library blog!

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vitormazzi
21 days ago
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Brasil
luizirber
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