Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Sketch for Autumn by Grant Snider

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Check out the new glowing art installation coming to Madison Square Park: TIME OUT New York

Public art installations at Madison Square Park do not mess around.

This summer, renowned artist Josiah McElheny brought a trio of glass sculptures to the space for his Prismatic Park installation. Last year, a set of life-size gingerbread houses set up shop there during the holiday season. Heck, even a giant inflatable banana that was more of an advertisement for Chiquita than a work of art had the internet buzzing about the park last month.

This fall, a new installation from Erwin Redl will head to the park's Oval Lawn. Titled Whiteout, the piece looks like something straight out of Star Wars. The project is made up of hundreds of white, transparent spheres that encapsulate white LED lights, which will be suspended from a grid of poles and cabling. The “orbs” will dangle two feet off of the ground, swaying with the wind. Redl is also programming the spheres to light up in a trippy pattern, producing a wave-like visual across the lawn. 

The exhibit will be on view from November 16 through April 15, 2018.

Madison Square Park:

This public space was a highly desirable address when it opened in 1847, and is now a verdant oasis. It hosts art installations, food festivals and a popular series of summer concerts. The destination is also home to Shake Shack, a summer favorite (as evidenced by the shockingly long lines) for burgers, fries and, of course, shakes.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

SEEING WITH YOUR TONGUE: Sensory-substitution devices help blind and deaf people, but that’s just the beginning.

According to one scientist, "You don't see with your eyes, you see with your brain."

The climbers at Earth Treks gym, in Golden, Colorado, were warming up: stretching, strapping themselves into harnesses, and chalking their hands as they prepared to scale walls stippled with multicolored plastic holds. Seated off to one side, with a slim gray plastic band wrapped around his brow, Erik Weihenmayer was warming up, too—by reading flash cards. “I see an ‘E’ at the end,” he said, sweeping his head over the top card, from side to side and up and down. “It’s definitely popping—is it ‘please’?” he asked me. It was. Weihenmayer moved triumphantly on to the next card.

Erik Weihenmayer is the only blind person to have climbed Mt. Everest. He was born with juvenile retinoschisis, an inherited condition that caused his retinas to disintegrate completely by his freshman year of high school. Unable to play the ball games at which his father and his brothers excelled, he took to climbing after being introduced to it at a summer camp for the blind. He learned to pat the rock face with his hands or tap it with an ice axe to find his next hold, following the sound of a small bell worn by a guide, who also described the terrain ahead. With this technique, he has summited the tallest peaks on all seven continents.

A decade ago, Weihenmayer began using the BrainPort, a device that enables him to “see” the rock face using his tongue. The BrainPort consists of two parts: the band on his brow supports a tiny video camera; connected to this by a cable is a postage-stamp-size white plastic lollipop, which he holds in his mouth. The camera feed is reduced in resolution to a grid of four hundred gray-scale pixels, transmitted to his tongue via a corresponding grid of four hundred tiny electrodes on the lollipop. Dark pixels provide a strong shock; lighter pixels merely tingle. The resulting vision is a sensation that Weihenmayer describes as “pictures being painted with tiny bubbles.”

Reading the cards before his climb helped Weihenmayer calibrate the intensity of the electrical stimulation and make sure that the camera was pointing where he thought it was pointing. When he was done, he tied himself into his harness and set off up Mad Dog, a difficult route marked by small blue plastic holds set far apart on the wall. Without the BrainPort, Weihenmayer’s climbing style is inelegant but astonishingly fast—a spidery scramble with arms and feet sweeping like windshield wipers across the wall in front of him in order to feel out the next hold. With the device on his tongue, he is much slower, but more deliberate. After each move, he leans away from the wall, surveys the cliff face, and then carefully reaches his hand out into midair, where it hovers for a split second before lunging toward a hold several feet away. “You have to do the hand thing, because it’s hard to know where, exactly, things are in space,” Weihenmayer explained, as I prepared to tackle Cry Baby, a much simpler route. “Once my hand blocks the hold, I know I’m in front of it, and then I just kind of go in there.”

Weihenmayer told me that he wouldn’t take the BrainPort up Everest—relying on fallible electronics in such extreme conditions would be foolhardy. But he has used it on challenging outdoor climbs in Utah and around Colorado, and he loves the way that it restores his lost hand-eye co√∂rdination. “I can see the hold, I reach up, and I’m, like, ‘Pow!’ ” he said. “It’s in space, and I just grabbed it in space. It sounds so simple when you have eyes, but that’s a really cool feeling.”,

The BrainPort, which uses the sense of touch as a substitute for sight, is one of a growing number of so-called sensory-substitution devices. Another, the vOICe, turns visual information into sound. Others translate auditory information into tactile sensation for the deaf or use sounds to supply missing haptic information for burn victims and leprosy patients. While these devices were design,d with the goal of restoring lost sensation, in the past decade they have begun to revise our understanding of brain organization and development. The idea that underlies sensory substitution is a radical one: that the brain is capable of processing perceptual information in much the same way, no matter which organ delivers it. As the BrainPort's inventor, the neuroscientist Paul Bach-y-Rita put it, "You don't see with your eyes, you see with your brain."

Bach-y-Rita, who died in 2006, is known as the "father of sensory substitution," although as he liked to point out, both Braille and white canes are essentially sensory-substitution systems, replacing information that is typically visual -- words on a page, objects at a distance -- with tactile sensation. He even argued that writing ought to be the original precursor, because it enabled the previously auditory experience of the spoken word to be presented visually......


NOTE: Since the article is pages long, I thought I'd stop here. If you are interested in the rest, please click on the link at the top of page which will take you to the original.

It's fascinating, isn't it?

I noticed after having yogurt for breakfast that even while eating, I was taken at how diluted it was compared to the same yogurt 20 years ago. Wholeheartedly agree with this concept.

Incredible the blind and deaf will be able to enjoy all that the planet and its inhabitants have to offer.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

This Tiny Device Could Provide Clean Water for 663 Million People

A tiny, black rectangular device could be the world’s long-term solution for clean water.  The gadget is solar-powered, half the size of a postage stamp, and it disinfects water.

“Our device looks like a little rectangle of black glass,” said Chong Liu, lead author of a paper on the device published in 
Nature Nanotechnology. “We just dropped it into the water and put everything under the sun, and the sun did all the work,” she said.

663 million people in the world not having access to clean water, a device this efficient stands to significantly change many lives. Roughly 800 children die a day due to lack of access to clean water.

The purifier, developed by researchers at the SLAC National Accelerator and Stanford University, contains microscopic layers of “nanoflakes.” When exposed to water and sunlight, they produce hydrogen peroxide, a natural disinfectant. In early testing, the disinfectant killed 99.999% of bacteria before dissipating and leaving behind safe-to-drink water.

“When you see there’s no bacteria growing, it’s really exciting,” said Liu in the report published on Monday. “We didn’t expect it to work that well at first.”

The new device is a substantial improvement over previous solar-powered water cleaning systems. The nanoflakes, which contain industrial lubricant molybdenum disulfide, absorb more than just UV light. Absorbing a wider band of the light spectrum means the nanoflakes utilize 50% of the incoming sunlight’s energy, whereas standard purifiers harness 4%.

The solar-powered reaction should leave the device completely reusable.

Researchers tested the tiny tablet in 25-milliliter vessels containing E. Coli and lactic acid bacteria Enterococcus. It took less than 20 minutes for the water in the container to be cleaned. Larger water tanks can be purified by scaling up the number of tablets used.

For the moment, the still-unnamed device’s ability to clean chemical pollutants like lead is unknown.
Despite the potential limitation, the small rectangle of nanoflakes is a major step forward to providing everyone in water-contaminated areas with a clean source of refreshment.

“As a researcher it’s really exciting for us to see that by developing technologies you have the potential to help a lot of people,” Liu said.

The device will next be tested in real world settings before, researchers hope, being put into commercial production at a price less than $30.

Written by Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer

Brandon is the Managing Editor of Global Citizen. He has lived and worked on 4 different continents and travelled to nearly 60 countries. His first job was with Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy, and he has been working in international affairs ever since. From academia (he was a professor!) to development work to business to work on radio and television he has always been focused on global issues. He also loves college basketball.