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Heavy Snowfall Transforms Kyoto into Wintry Wonderland

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Arashiyama (left) and Kinkakuji (right) of Kyoto covered in snow

Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, with its old temples and gardens, is a picturesque city as it is. But add heavy snow, like a lot of Japan saw over the weekend thanks to a cold front, and these sites get transformed into magical wonderlands.

Kinkakuji (photo by ui_hii618love)

Ginkakuji (photo by @_nanashina_)

Heavy snowfall can be dangerous, as one Japanese weather researcher likened snowfall to sumo wrestlers on your roof. And the snowstorm was strong enough to cancel flights, delay trains and hamper the country’s university entrance exams, which were also going on over the weekend.

But for some adventurous souls, who were armed with a warm coat and a camera, were rewarded with spectacular views of some of Kyoto’s most iconic spots like Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavillion) and Fushimi Inari-taisha. Japan’s Huffington Post and My Modern Met have more photos if you’d like to observe Kyoto’s wintry beauty behind the comfort of your screen.

Fushimi Inari-taisha (photo by @mayu_sakurai11)

Arashiyama (photo by @tttks)

Arashiyama (photo by @tttks)

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digdoug
7 hours ago
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Louisville, KY
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Mathematical Model Reveals the Patterns of How Innovations Arise

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Innovation is one of the driving forces in our world. The constant creation of new ideas and their transformation into technologies and products forms a powerful cornerstone for 21st century society. Indeed, many universities and institutes, along with regions such as Silicon Valley, cultivate this process.

And yet the process of innovation is something of a mystery. A wide range of researchers have studied it, ranging from economists and anthropologists to evolutionary biologists and engineers. Their goal is to understand how innovation happens and the factors that drive it so that they can optimize conditions for future innovation.

This approach has had limited success, however. The rate at which innovations appear and disappear has been carefully measured. It follows a set of well-characterized patterns that scientists observe in many different circumstances. And yet, nobody has been able to explain how this pattern arises or why it governs innovation.

Today, all that changes thanks to the work of Vittorio Loreto at Sapienza University of Rome in Italy and a few pals, who have created the first mathematical model that accurately reproduces the patterns that innovations follow. The work opens the way to a new approach to the study of innovation, of what is possible and how this follows from what already exists.

The notion that innovation arises from the interplay between the actual and the possible was first formalized by the complexity theorist Stuart Kauffmann. In 2002, Kauffmann introduced the idea of the “adjacent possible” as a way of thinking about biological evolution.

The adjacent possible is all those things—ideas, words, songs, molecules, genomes, technologies and so on—that are one step away from what actually exists. It connects the actual realization of a particular phenomenon and the space of unexplored possibilities.

But this idea is hard to model for an important reason. The space of unexplored possibilities includes all kinds of things that are easily imagined and expected but it also includes things that are entirely unexpected and hard to imagine. And while the former is tricky to model, the latter has appeared close to impossible.

What’s more, each innovation changes the landscape of future possibilities. So at every instant, the space of unexplored possibilities—the adjacent possible—is changing.

“Though the creative power of the adjacent possible is widely appreciated at an anecdotal level, its importance in the scientific literature is, in our opinion, underestimated,” say Loreto and co.

Nevertheless, even with all this complexity, innovation seems to follow predictable and easily measured patterns that have become known as “laws” because of their ubiquity. One of these is Heaps’ law, which states that the number of new things increases at a rate that is sublinear. In other words, it is governed by a power law of the form V(n) = knβ where β is between 0 and 1.

Words are often thought of as a kind of innovation, and language is constantly evolving as new words appear and old words die out.

This evolution follows Heaps’ law. Given a corpus of words of size n, the number of distinct words V(n) is proportional to n raised to the β power. In collections of real words, β turns out to be between 0.4 and 0.6.

Another well-known statistical pattern in innovation is Zipf’s law, which describes how the frequency of an innovation is related to its popularity. For example, in a corpus of words, the most frequent word occurs about twice as often as the second most frequent word, three times as frequently as the third most frequent word, and so on. In English, the most frequent word is “the” which accounts for about 7 percent of all words, followed by “of” which accounts for about 3.5 percent of all words, followed by “and,” and so on.

This frequency distribution is Zipf’s law and it crops up in a wide range of circumstances, such as the way edits appear on Wikipedia, how we listen to new songs online, and so on.

These patterns are empirical laws—we know of them because we can measure them. But just why the patterns take this form is unclear. And while mathematicians can model innovation by simply plugging the observed numbers into equations, they would much rather have a model which produces these numbers from first principles.

Enter Loreto and his pals (one of which is the Cornell University mathematician Steve Strogatz). These guys create a model that explains these patterns for the first time.

They begin with a well-known mathematical sand box called Polya’s Urn. It starts with an urn filled with balls of different colors. A ball is withdrawn at random, inspected and placed back in the urn with a number of other balls of the same color, thereby increasing the likelihood that this color will be selected in future.

This is a model that mathematicians use to explore rich-get-richer effects and the emergence of power laws. So it is a good starting point for a model of innovation. However, it does not naturally produce the sublinear growth that Heaps’ law predicts.

That’s because the Polya urn model allows for all the expected consequences of innovation (of discovering a certain color) but does not account for all the unexpected consequences of how an innovation influences the adjacent possible.

So Loreto, Strogatz, and co have modified Polya’s urn model to account for the possibility that discovering a new color in the urn can trigger entirely unexpected consequences. They call this model “Polya’s urn with innovation triggering.”

The exercise starts with an urn filled with colored balls. A ball is withdrawn at random, examined, and replaced in the urn.

If this color has been seen before, a number of other balls of the same color are also placed in the urn. But if the color is new—it has never been seen before in this exercise—then a number of balls of entirely new colors are added to the urn.

Loreto and co then calculate how the number of new colors picked from the urn, and their frequency distribution, changes over time. The result is that the model reproduces Heaps’ and Zipf’s Laws as they appear in the real world—a mathematical first. “The model of Polya’s urn with innovation triggering, presents for the first time a satisfactory first-principle based way of reproducing empirical observations,” say Loreto and co.

The team has also shown that its model predicts how innovations appear in the real world. The model accurately predicts how edit events occur on Wikipedia pages, the emergence of tags in social annotation systems, the sequence of words in texts, and how humans discover new songs in online music catalogues.

Interestingly, these systems involve two different forms of discovery. On the one hand, there are things that already exist but are new to the individual who finds them, such as online songs; and on the other are things that never existed before and are entirely new to the world, such as edits on Wikipedia.

Loreto and co call the former novelties—they are new to an individual—and the latter innovations—they are new to the world.

Curiously, the same model accounts for both phenomenon. It seems that the pattern behind the way we discover novelties—new songs, books, etc.—is the same as the pattern behind the way innovations emerge from the adjacent possible.

That raises some interesting questions, not least of which is why this should be. But it also opens an entirely new way to think about innovation and the triggering events that lead to new things. “These results provide a starting point for a deeper understanding of the adjacent possible and the different nature of triggering events that are likely to be important in the investigation of biological, linguistic, cultural, and technological evolution,” say Loreto and co.

We’ll look forward to seeing how the study of innovation evolves into the adjacent possible as a result of this work.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1701.00994: Dynamics on Expanding Spaces: Modeling the Emergence of Novelties   

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digdoug
1 day ago
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Louisville, KY
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Euphoric Bear Gleefully Splashes Around in His Sanctuary Pool After Being Freed From a Bile Farm

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A euphoric Asian black bear named Tuffy gleefully splashed around in his pool with reckless abandon, as if he was slowly realizing that he was finally free. Tuffy, just like the bear cub with a white Batman logo, had been rescued by AnimalsAsia from a bear bile trafficker in Vietnam, which would have meant certain death while trapped in a cage.

Coming from years of little or no water, for Tuffy this must feel like a true oasis after being parched and in pain for so long. It must have felt like such a relief to have the freedom to splash around in the water after only being able to stand on the hard metal bars of the bile farm cage. In fact Tuffy loved being outdoors so much he decided not to return to his den in the evening – choosing instead to sleep under the stars.

via reddit

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digdoug
2 days ago
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What the heck is Bear Bile used for? (I'm not sure I want to know)
Louisville, KY
digdoug
2 days ago
Yeah, I followed the link. You don't want to know.
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thenearsightedmonkey: Dear Students, Tonight I was thinking of...

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thenearsightedmonkey:

Dear Students,

Tonight I was thinking of students in my past comics classes and how much I loved being able to see the work being made. Here are some selected images from a watercolor-on-index card accordion-fold book that appeared in the homework basket a little over a year ago.

These are by The Girl.

Sincerely,

Professor Mandrake

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digdoug
5 days ago
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Louisville, KY
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74-Year-Old Grandpa Shares Memories of Playing Asheron’s Call Before the Servers Shut Down Forever

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We Sleep Talk has captured footage of her 74-year-old grandfather, Julien, chatting about the many great memories that he has had over the past 17 years playing Asheron’s Call, a fantasy MMORPG for the PC developed in 1999 by Turbine. Julien, who was recently diagnosed with lung cancer, just found out that the Asheron’s Call servers would be shutting down for good on January 31st and he was saddened by the news. According to his granddaughter, “his plan was to play it during his recovery. His surgery is soon. He’s a strong man and the game has helped take his mind off things.”

When I consider how many of his friends still play consistently, my heart breaks. There are retirees, seniors, veterans, mothers and fathers – what an incredibly dedicated group of players. I would have been 8 in 1999 when I started playing AC with him on Leafcull. Back then he used to use his home phone and call everyone long distance when they were questing. Geez some things have changed! Now I imagine everyone on AC on January 31 2017. It’s going to be difficult. I figure this hasn’t hit him yet.

It’s going to be tough on a lot of people. I can’t imagine how many senior players will be upgrading their PC’s so they can play and learn a newer game? Also not sure if newer players who just found AC realize how many people over 65 they are playing with? Haha, it’s an interesting thought. (read more)

via reddit

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digdoug
7 days ago
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AC meant a lot to me. I think I might have to tell the story by the 31st.
Louisville, KY
luizirber
7 days ago
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Davis, CA
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The Lumio Review

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Lumio-4

I’m a believer in the effect enviroment can have on one’s productivity. I’ve found that I’m much more productive when I can turn the lights down low, put on my headphones, some ambient music, and hone in on my work. I’ve tried many things to get my workspace just right. The Lumio, a unique lamp made from wood, has found permanent placement in my office thanks to it’s great design and soft-light capability.

Lumio

The Lumio in dark walnut, along with the included accessories.

The Book of Light

To the layman, the Lumio looks like a book with a wooden cover. At 6.5″ x 8.5″, it gives an aura of importance without demanding attention. That is, you could put the Lumio in your daily bag and it’s likely most people would be none the wiser.

Lumio

The Lumio’s wonderful design begins and ends with the stunning all-wood cover.

The Lumio comes in two different types of wood: walnut and maple. As a fan of dark-toned wood, I have the former, and it looks really great. Moreover, the Lumio is made with FSC-certified wood, which means the Lumio is made with nature preservation in mind.

Lumio

I particularly like the walnut cover over the maple cover. Plus, the Lumio is made with FSC-certified wood, meaning it’s made with some environmentalism in mind.

The spine of the Lumio is especially pleasing. There are small slivers cut out that allow the Lumio to open a full 360 degrees without damaging the high quality wood. The pattern of the cutouts make the Lumio look even greater than it does on it’s own.

Lumio

The Lumio’s spine is wondrous. Not only do the slats have a purpose, they add a unique personality to the Lumio.

When you open the Lumio, you’ll have nostalgia for the popup books of yesteryear. Constructed of DuPont Tyvek (a synthetic fiber), the Lumio opens to show “pages”, lit from the inside. Upon first opening, I was taken back by the feeling I had. It was almost magical.

Lumio

The Lumio unfolded to 180 degrees.

The Book of Versatility

While the Lumio looks like a book, it can take many forms. The Lumio comes packaged with several pieces of hardware that will help the lamp fit your needs, including magnetic wooden pegs for mounting it to a wall and a leather strap for hanging. This is great for those with limited desk or shelf space and often resort to floor lamps.

Lumio

The Lumio unfolded 360 degrees. This gives off some of the most unique light one could ask for.

What makes the Lumio so innovative is the ability to take it anywhere you’d need more light, from your nightstand to the tent during a camping trip. In fact, Lumio has some great use cases of the lamp on their website.

I’ll often use the Lumio in the morning, while I’m drinking coffee at our dining room table. I wake up at 5 AM everyday, while my wife prefers to sleep in. Using the Lumio at our dining room table allows me to obtain enough light to make a cup of coffee in my Chemex and start the day off reading from my Instapaper queue.

Lumio

The lamp puts out 500 lumen, which is a comfortable reading light. I wish it could be boosted to a brighter light if needed.

Lumio claims approximately 8 hours of battery life, which I’ve found to be accurate. Admittedly, I was skeptical at the claim, considering the lamp puts out 500 lumen (which is slightly brighter than a 40w light bulb), but thanks to the internal LED at 2700K, my skepticism was unfounded.

The Lumio comes with a handsome orange USB A to micro USB connector for charging. The cable itself is braided, and of great quality.

Lumio

The small micro USB port is used solely for charging. The Lumio claims eight hours of battery life, which I’ve found to be accurate.

My only qualm with the Lumio is that you cannot change the intensity of the LED, and are locked into the 500 lumen. There have been several instances where I’d love just a little more or less light, depending on the situation. If Lumio was able to address this with, say, a button near the charger, the Lumio would be practically perfect.

Conclusion

Lumio

The Lumio is easily the most unique lamp I’ve ever owned.

The Lumio is the most unique lamp I’ve ever encountered. It’s made of beautiful dark walnut (or maple, if you so choose), durable thanks to the DuPont Tyvek, and goes wherever you go. With 8 hours of battery life, I’ve found that I only need to charge it every month or so. The included hardware is top-notch and allows uses for the Lumio that I hadn’t thought of.

The Lumio is both practical and a piece of art, and one that’s not meant to just be looked at.

Buy Now

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digdoug
8 days ago
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I kickstartered this thing, ages ago. It still works, and it really is beautiful.
Louisville, KY
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