Silicon Valley loves nothing more than a little disruption, and the disrupt du jour is in the TV industry. The meme? That digital is driving a revolution in television comparable to the one that upended the music industry a little over a decade ago.
Google Wallet for iOS update allows adding cards with your smartphone camera, single sign-on compatibility
Last month, Google Wallet for Android got an update that allowed capturing credit and debit card info via smartphone camera. Now, that functionality has arrived for iOS users.
Benjamin Von Wong has a short and sweet tutorial on how to wirelessly tether a camera to a computer (his post is Lightroom Specific, but I assume other programs will work in a similar manner).
We’ve seen single-pixel cameras, and now MIT researchers have figured out how to create clear images of dimly-lit objects using single photons — in 3D, no less. The technique doesn’t involve any fancy new hardware, either, as the team worked with a standard photon detector that fired low-intensity visible laser light pulses. The magic happens from the algorithms they developed instead, which can pick out variations in the time it takes for individual photons to bounce off of subjects. After the software separated the noise (as shown above) the result was a high-res image created with about a million photons that would have required several hundred trillion with, say, a smartphone camera. That’ll open up new possibilities for low-energy surveying, for instance, or even spy cameras that could virtually see in the dark — because no laser research project is complete with a sinister-sounding military application.
Audience ratings have collapsed: Aside from a brief respite during the Olympics, there has been only negative ratings growth on broadcast and cable TV since September 2011, according to Citi Research.
Jessica Edwards recently published a book of essays she edited, where she asks documentary filmmakers to tell her something — specifically, some words of advice for other documentary filmmakers. In this excerpt, direct cinema hero Albert Maysles shares his advice for other doc filmmakers.
- Detroit is founded in 1701 as a trading outpost on the edge of the Detroit River, first main terminus on the westward expansion.
- Detroit rises in power as a logging hub, the vast deciduous and northern coniferous forest are leveled and shipped by boat back east, creating the original fortunes of the city.
- The late 1800s saw a growing city often called the Paris of the West. Major building projects began in the city’s hub and rail lines were routed to Detroit from the east through Canada and out to Chicago. The lumber barons were investing in real estate and the architecture of the time reflects magnificently. The hub and spoke road system is adopted, but crucially is not rigidly adhered to. Main line roads radiate from the downtown hub, but secondary roundabouts and opposite diagonals are not constructed.
- At the turn of the century, the auto industry explodes. Albert Kahn creates an architectural model still in use today that allows for rapid construction of space-efficient factories. Factories are built almost as fast as they can be. At this point, Detroit begins installing a street car system on its main line roads. Henry Ford establishes the $5 day. Ford is viciously anti-union and rumblings of union formation at the time are knocked down by Ford’s generous pay levels. Word spreads and poor black southerners begin moving to Detroit in droves. The city housing stock explodes to accommodate this new population and vast tracts of land become identical row houses all built in the 1910-20 era.
- The first section of roadway is paved with concrete in Detroit on the Woodward corridor. As poorly maintained and expensive brick and dirt roads give way to durable concrete roads, more people begin using cars and the auto industry continues expansion.
- Prohibition hits Detroit hard. The city’s proximity to Canada encourages illicit importation of alcohol and a vast underground of speakeasies. Organized crime takes hold in Detroit and the City government becomes corrupted. Government culture shifts towards bribery and intimidation.
- By the start of WWII, Detroit is economically the most powerful city in the country. Its companies are making money on both cars and foreign military equipment contracts. When the US enters the war, all manufacturers are retasked to produce “the arsenal of Democracy” tanks, planes, military trucks, etc roll out of Detroit’s factories and while many other cities suffer under rations, Detroit profits. Due to the draft, many of the factory workers are at war and although 2.5M African Americans registered for the draft, a maximum of 700,000 were declared fit and served at any given time. Due to the economic opportunity in the factories, even more African Americans moved to Detroit. Following the war, the imbalance in certain government contracts meant some companies had advanced technology relevant to consumer markets while others did not. Ford and General Motors benefited greatly with technologies applicable to passenger cars while Packard and Chrysler struggled after receiving mostly airplane-related contracts. Returning GIs found a city with an increasingly black racial makeup and racial tensions began escalating.
- By the 1950s Detroit was at the height of its population with 1.8M, but violence became endemic owing to racism and government corruption. By this time the Teamsters, UAW and various Gangsters had staggering political influence and were bending the laws to the benefit of labor and detriment of business. The Eisenhower Freeway System comes to Detroit and slices the city to shreds. The highly inefficient hub-and-spoke road system means regular cross-city transit is very slow. The freeway system is routed indiscriminately through poor and immigrant neighborhoods. Whole neighborhoods are demolished or cut in two, fragmenting the entrenched communities. It is very obvious that rich cities are carefully routed around. This sows deep seeds of resentment amongst poorer Detroiters. The completed freeway system allows for living in outlying towns formerly too far for a practical commute. Automobile ownership soars and ridership on the street cars plummets, by 1956 the street car lines are closed. 180,000 Detroiters have left by 1960. Chrysler issues major layoffs in 1961. Packard goes out of business and the mile long Packard Plant closes.
- It’s a hot summer day in 1967. A police raid on an illegal bar escalates to police brutality and African American retaliation. The incident was the match that lit the fuse on a powder keg. Five days of rioting left the city decimated. 43 dead, 1189 injured, more than 7000 arrests, and more than 2000 buildings destroyed. The riots were viewed by whites as a sign of things to come and what had been a slow stream of whites leaving the city for the suburbs exploded to a flood. White flight was in full effect. By 1980 470,000 Detroiters have left.
- The Coleman Young era is a city descending into madness. Rapid depletion of the city population, an incredibly inept and corrupt government, and the rise of crack cocaine as the street drug of choice lead to extreme violence. Although the police force is up, the police are not much better than the criminals. Young is known to have had shady dealings with a great number of organizations, but no police organization will investigate him. It is during this era that massive projects are undertaken to attempt city revitalization. The Renaissance Center, People Mover and Joe Louis Arena included. One of the most controversial was the completion of the Poletown Plant, a GM plant built after the mayor evicted a large portion of neighborhood and razed it. Considerable city funds were directed away from fundamentals and towards these ends. The effects of these large projects were fragmentation of neighborhoods and bad blood between residents and the government-business partnerships. In 1989, the iconic Michigan Central Station closes. A city income tax on residents, workers, and businesses is established to supplement dropping property tax revenues.
- 1994, the North American Free Trade Act passes. Ross Perot’s prediction is correct and the biggest sucking sound in the country is centered right over Detroit. The auto industry races to set up “maquiladora” along the border of Mexico. These towns are little more than dusty villages but in five years they’d be filled with factories churning out subassemblies with zero value added tax or tariffs imposed. Local suppliers and large specialized sub-assembly plants in Detroit begin closing, labor rates in Mexico under $2 an hour which puts American workers out of competition. The same model will be applied when China woos manufacturers in the 2000s, but their ~75 cent labor rates are even more enticing.
- By the late 90s projects to restore downtown begin. Massive sporting arenas (Ford Field and Comerica park) are constructed while neighborhoods continue being hollowed out. The renovation of downtown continues through the early 2000s and defunct neighborhoods such as Brush Park and Corktown are being purchased by speculators. The city government is heavily in debt, however in 2003 it’s not running deficits. As the city enters the new millennium, its population is below 1M for the first time since the 1920s
- The housing and banking crisis cripples the city. Rising property values plummet and speculators and developers pull out. The city pushes on with ambitious riverfront projects hoping to lure citizens downtown. Automakers and suppliers lay off thousands and the city’s revenue disintegrates. Jefferson North plant closes. Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is indicted on corruption charges. The police force is sliced down and police respond primarily to violent crime calls only. A series of police commissioners are fired following corruption investigations.
- Mayor Dave Bing is elected and his straight-talking, no baloney style chafes city council. The new mayor proposes bold plans to bring the city finances in line with its receipts, including closing down sections of the city and relocating population, selling or leasing Belle Isle, and restructuring the city charter. All are shot down following political infighting. Downtown development has been successful and the downtown district is now a major entertainment location. Investors are buying and renovating major downtown structures formerly vacant. Some downtown neighborhoods are at 100% occupancy, however this effect is concentrated and vast stretches remain vacant and essentially urban prairie. Jefferson North plant re-opens and GM invests heavily in the nearby Hamtramck plant. Special economic zones such as TechTown are centers of innovation. Outlying neighborhoods slowly disintegrate and scrapping rages out of control. Vacant homes in these areas are stripped of plumbing, HVAC, and wiring within days of becoming empty, rendering them essentially useless for market sale. The population is below 700,000 in spite of urban renewal in concentrated areas.
- The Governor of the state declares the city in a financial emergency and appoints Kevyn Orr as emergency financial manager, effectively rendering Detroit’s elected government impotent. Orr analyzes the city finances and offers a 10 year budget plan the council accepts (although primarily a ceremonial vote). Orr files bankruptcy proceedings, which are currently being adjudicated.
- I should add a point about the late 90s early 2000s. During the nationwide housing boom, lax regional zoning restrictions led to developers like Pulte buying enormous tracts on the outside of the metropolitan area and constructing instant neighborhoods at an incredible rate. The greater metropolitan area grew markedly in diameter during this time. Following the market crash in 08, huge numbers of these homes went for practically nothing which in turn drove market values across the city down, making the exodus from Detroit in the next four years even easier. The greater metropolitan area faces a serious issue of infrastructure upkeep, as so many new roads, drainage systems, electrical, gas and water lines were laid that flagging municipal tax revenues will cause major maintenance issues in the next decade. The city of Detroit operates the central water supply system for the entire region, supplying cities as far away as Flint, and could in the future be a major sale or source of income from the region.
As the contactless payments technologies from Google Wallet to Isis flounder, critics point to what now seems rather obvious: Silicon Valley is trying to fix a system that simply isn’t broken. Swiping a card through a point-of-sale magnetic stripe reader is easy and it works in millions of locations. In fact, the mobile payments companies that have been most successful, such as Square and PayPal, aren’t necessarily trying to change that basic transaction – they’ve just made it possible to use your plastic in more places.
Kanishk Parashar learned that lesson the hard way. The PayPal veteran developed a smartphone wallet app in 2010 called Smart Market that went nowhere. But now he’s founded a new company called Coin that isn’t messing around with the fundamentals of the basic credit card swipe. Instead it’s building a better credit card.
When Earth was ruled by purple bacteria, its bio-signature would still have been recognisable, say astrobiologists who think similar signs might be visible on other planets
In the 1980s, when NASA built the Galileo probe destined for Jupiter, the plan was to launch it in the cargo bay of the space shuttle complete with a powerful booster rocket that would send it directly on its way to the giant planet.
But when the space shuttle Challenger blew up in 1986, the safety review that followed concluded that it would not be a good idea to place an unlit rocket inside any future shuttle. And since no other rocket was powerful enough to lift the space probe and its booster, NASA had to find another way of getting Galileo to Jupiter.
The solution was to send Galileo around Venus, back around Earth and back to Venus again before catapulting it on its way towards Jupiter. This new mission profile gave the mission scientists an idea.
Galileo, they realised, would be the first spacecraft to fly past Earth on its way to somewhere else. And that gave them a unique opportunity to use Galileo’s powerful suite of instruments to look for signs of life on the home planet.
Astrobiologists have always been keenly interested in finding signs of life on other planets. The new mission would provide a powerful control experiment of their capabilities.
In the event, Galileo gathered a great deal of evidence that pointed to something interesting happening on the surface of Earth. The results, said the Galileo team, “are strongly suggestive of life on Earth.”
One of the more interesting features was in the spectrum of light reflected from the surface. The team noted that a pigment on the surface strongly absorbed light in the red part of the spectrum.
This has since become known as “the red edge” and astrobiologists think that if life on other planets is anything like that on Earth, then a similar feature ought to be visible in the light reflected from life-bearing exoplanets too.
So what kind of signature might this exovegetation produce? Today, we get an answer thanks to the work of Esther Sanromá at the Universidad de La Laguna in Spain and a few pals who have calculated what Earth’s signature would have looked like during the Archaen era 3 billion years ago when the planet was probably ruled by purple bacteria.
At that time, the Sun was only about 80 per cent as bright as it is today and Earth was very different place. The atmosphere was dominated by nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapour.
Life had sprung into existence just 800 million years earlier and the first photosynthetic life was a purple bacteria that did not produce oxygen as a by-product—hence the lack of oxygen in the atmosphere.
Since these bacteria absorb light, this ought to have been visible in the spectrum of light reflected from the surface. So what kind of “edge” would this have produced?
Sanromá and co point out that instead of reducing water to create oxygen as today’s photosynthetic organisms do, purple bacteria probably reduced hydrogen or hydrogen sulphate. Since this requires less energy than reducing water, these organisms would have absorbed light at longer, lower energy wavelengths, perhaps as long as 1025 nanometres, which is in the near infrared.
“Thus, their color is distinctly diﬀerent from that of land plants that dominate the Earth today,” say Sanromá and co.
This would have created a similar effect to the red edge observed by Galileo. “Purple bacteria show a reﬂectance spectrum with a sharp increase in reﬂectivity similar to the red edge of leafy plants, but shifted redwards,” conclude Sanromá and co.
They go on to model how that might have been visible in various potential scenarios such as with varying amounts of cloud cover and whether the bacteria were confined to the ocean or were also found elsewhere.
They conclude that the biosignature of purple bacteria would have been observable in most scenarios with the technology we have available today.
That has interesting implications for astrobiologists studying exoplanets. It means that not only should it be possible to spot the red edge or infrared edge associated with different types of life, it ought to be possible to distinguish an exoplanet with early Earth-like life from one that has mature Earth-like life.
So if we can spot signs of life, we just might be able to determine how old it is.
The study of exoplanet signatures is a new field that is likely to get significant attention in the coming years and decades. Given the rate at which astronomers are finding exoplanets—they have over 1000 on their books with more than 2000 awaiting confirmation—one of the major drivers of future research will be the search for evidence of life on them.
Indeed, the growing number of papers on alien atmospheres and surfaces is proof of this. (We looked at one on this blog only last week.)
And while the evidence from these methods might not be conclusive of life, Galileo has already shown that the evidence can be strongly suggestive. For many astrobiologists, it is only a matter of time.
Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1311.1145: Characterizing The Purple Earth: Modelling The Globally-Integrated Spectral Variability Of The Archean Earth