Posts Tagged ‘science’

What is GeoDesign and why is it important (ESRI + GeoInformatics)

Monday, March 15th, 2010

[Editor’s note: Like mashups, but in ArcGIS and analytical without programming skills. Sounds like CommunityViz but is more generally the “pairing of design and GIS. It unites the art and creativity of design (planning) with the power and science of geospatial technology. As one, GeoDesign can produce more informed, data-based design options and decisions.” This drive will introduce modeling, sketching, and feedback capabilities in ESRI’s ArcGIS Desktop 10, set for release in the second quarter of 2010. Looks like it will rely more on GIS services (web apps and 2) and more validating of resulting feature topology by GIS techs. Recently concluded mini-conference on GeoDesign has streaming video clips. This article is also good. Thanks @geoparadigm and @gisuser.]

Republished from ESRI and GEO Informatics.

What is GeoDesign?
GeoDesign is a set of techniques and enabling technologies for planning built and natural environments in an integrated process, including project conceptualization, analysis, design specification, stakeholder participation and collaboration, design creation, simulation, and evaluation (among other stages). “GeoDesign is a design and planning method which tightly couples the creation of design proposals with impact simulations informed by geographic contexts.” [1] Nascent geodesign technology extends geographic information systems so that in addition to analyzing existing environments and geodata, users can synthesize new environments and modify geodata. Learn more about GeoDesign on Wikipedia.

Read more at ESRI ArcWatch . . .

Jack Dangermond on GeoDesign:
“In January [ESRI hosted] the first GeoDesign Summit. It will bring people from both the GIS and design fields together and have them share their work and get a conversation going. I’m not totally sure what the outcome is going to be, but I’m hoping a new profession or direction will emerge. I think we need this kind of mixing at this point to bring these two fields together; people who design the world with people who design the future. Today, geography lives very well in its world and designers live very well in their world, but there’s not this cross-mixing. I believe the outcome will be much enlightened ways to do development; ways that bring science into how we design things: cities, the environment, highways, everything that we do. Today we certainly see the need for this all the way from global warming to designing more livable and sustainable cities. We need more geographic thinking in the way we make decisions. GeoDesign is an attempt to try to do something about that.”

Read more at GEO Informatics . . .

What does it mean for GIS discipline:
“It is not so much that geodesign is new, but rather that technology has reached a point that allows artists to participate in the geodesign process – without becoming technologists.” (Kirk at GeoThought) It still requires good (accurate, precise) base maps and themes in GIS to enable smart decision making (geodesign) on the desktop and in the cloud (web apps). Instead GIS techs being puck jockeys, the planning folks will be able to use the GIS directly, or it’ll seem that way to them ;) I used to work somewhere where the boss had desktop design apps installed and he could comp out designs, but they still had to be rebuilt to production specs. My guess is the same will be true with GeoDesign for a good bit yet. Meanwhile, focus on core competencies.

Learn more at the ESRI Developers User Conference later this month . . .

Geocaching GPS Adventure at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore

Friday, February 19th, 2010

[Editor’s note: If your on the East Coast the next couple months and looking to entertain kids (or your inner kid), check out the GPS Adventures geocaching experience at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore, just an hour’s drive from Washington, DC. Requires modest entrance fee. After Baltimore, the exhibit heads to Redding, California, and then Dayton Ohio.  Thanks Dan!]

Republished from Maryland Science Center.
Video above is “The Thrill is in the Hunt” from the Pacific Science Center.

Opens this Saturday, thru April 18th.
Directions, hours and price »

Get Lost!

GPS Adventures is a life-sized maze exhibition introducing visitors to cutting-edge Global Positioning Systems (GPS) through Geocaching–a family friendly treasure hunting game.  More than three million people around the world are on the hunt for nearly a half million hidden treasures. In addition to hidden booty, these geocachers are finding the real treasure: reconnecting with family, community and nature in a meaningful way.

Exhibit highlights

  • Discover how GPS Technology is changing the way we live
  • Join the global treasure hunt movement known as geocaching
  • Use navigation, memory, and critical thinking to get through the maze

New navigation for a new kind of treasure hunt

GPS technology is changing the way we live.  It can be found in surprising places from cars to cell phones and is the backbone of the global treasure hunting game geocaching.  Get lost in the maze and learn how to find your way using GPS.  Visitors simulate a GPS adventure using a unique stamp card that leads you to your own Treasure City.  By collecting all 4 stamps you can better understand how satellite technology uses plotting to determine your exact location on the planet.

Understand how satellites pinpoint your position on the globe

Once visitors collect all 4 stamps visitors navigate the maze.  Navigate around impossible obstacles including waterfalls, cliffs and ravines to solve cache puzzles in four environments: city, local park, backcountry and an historic site to find secret codes and gain access to each of the satellite rooms.  Learn about maps, compasses and geography along the way.

Join the community of modern day treasure hunters–geocachers!

Meet Signal Frog—your helpful guide along the way.  Try on the latest outdoor gear and insert yourself into an outdoors-themed magazine cover.  Short, funny videos give an insider peak at the outdoor adventure of geocaching.  Interactive displays throughout the maze help visitors understand exactly how GPS works and how an outdoor treasure hunt using GPS navigation and deciphering clues has become a worldwide phenomenon with families and groups who embark on these 21st century treasure hunts.

If You Swat, Watch Out: Bees Remember Faces (NY Times)

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

[Editor's note: Besides the great headline, fascinating look at bee's spatial memory.]

Republished from the New York Times. Feb. 1, 2010.
By SINDYA N. BHANOO

A honeybee brain has a million neurons, compared with the 100 billion in a human brain. But, researchers report, bees can recognize faces, and they even do it the same way we do.

Bees and humans both use a technique called configural processing, piecing together the components of a face — eyes, ears, nose and mouth — to form a recognizable pattern, a team of researchers report in the Feb. 15 issue of The Journal of Experimental Biology.

“It’s a kind of gluing,” said Martin Giurfa, a professor of neural biology at the University de Toulouse, France, and one of the study’s authors.

It is the same ability, Dr. Giurfa said, that helps humans realize that a Chinese pagoda and a Swiss chalet are both abodes, based on their components.

“We know two vertical lines, with a hutlike top,” he said. “It’s a house.”

In their research, Dr. Giurfa and his colleagues created a display of hand-drawn images, some faces and some not.

Continue reading at the New York Times . . .

Comic: Converting to Metric (XKCD)

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

[Editor's note: Helpful hints on how to go metric if you never had a science class in the US since the 1970s. I don't yet dream in metric but I ain't afraid of it ;) Thanks Jo!] 

Republished from XKCD: A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.

The key to converting to metric is establishing new reference points. When you hear “26° C,” instead of thinking “that’s 79° F” you should think, “That’s warmer than a house but cool for swimming.” Here are some helpful tables of reference points:


View larger size.

After the Mosquito’s Bite, What Causes That Itch? (Wash Post)

Monday, August 18th, 2008

A mosquito doesn’t “bite,” of course. Its proboscis works like a syringe to draw out blood. The resulting itch is caused not by the piercing proboscis or the protein in the mosquito’s saliva but by the body’s immune response to them. 

By Brenna Maloney And Patterson Clark — The Washington Post. First published July 2007. See original.

Act First, Think Later (Wall Street Journal)

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

Get Out of Your Own Way: Studies Show the Value of Not Overthinking a Decision
By ROBERT LEE HOTZ. June 27, 2008; Page A9. Wall Street Journal. View original.

wsj act first, think later

Reprinted from The Wall Street Journal:

Fishing in the stream of consciousness, researchers now can detect our intentions and predict our choices before we are aware of them ourselves. The brain, they have found, appears to make up its mind 10 seconds before we become conscious of a decision — an eternity at the speed of thought.

Their findings challenge conventional notions of choice.

“We think our decisions are conscious,” said neuroscientist John-Dylan Haynes at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin, who is pioneering this research. “But these data show that consciousness is just the tip of the iceberg. This doesn’t rule out free will, but it does make it implausible.”

Through a series of intriguing experiments, scientists in Germany, Norway and the U.S. have analyzed the distinctive cerebral activity that foreshadows our choices. They have tracked telltale waves of change through the cells that orchestrate our memory, language, reason and self-awareness.

In ways we are only beginning to understand, the synapses and neurons in the human nervous system work in concert to perceive the world around them, to learn from their perceptions, to remember important experiences, to plan ahead, and to decide and act on incomplete information. In a rudimentary way, they predetermine our choices.

To probe what happens in the brain during the moments before people sense they’ve reached a decision, Dr. Haynes and his colleagues devised a deceptively simple experiment, reported in April in Nature Neuroscience. They monitored the swift neural currents coursing through the brains of student volunteers as they decided, at their own pace and at random, whether to push a button with their left or right hands.

In all, they tested seven men and seven women from 21 to 30 years old. They recorded neural changes associated with thoughts using a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine and analyzed the results with an experimental pattern-recognition computer program.

While inside the brain scanner, the students watched random letters stream across a screen. Whenever they felt the urge, they pressed a button with their right hand or a button with their left hand. Then they marked down the letter that had been on the screen in the instant they had decided to press the button.

Studying the brain behavior leading up to the moment of conscious decision, the researchers identified signals that let them know when the students had decided to move 10 seconds or so before the students knew it themselves. About 70% of the time, the researchers could also predict which button the students would push.

“It’s quite eerie,” said Dr. Haynes.

Continue reading at Wall Street Journal.com . . .

The Crowd Within (Economist)

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

A battle of ideas is going on inside your mind.

crowd wisdom cover

Reprinted from the Jun 26th 2008 edition of the Economist.

THAT problem solving becomes easier when more minds are put to the task is no more than common sense. But the phenomenon goes further than that. Ask two people to answer a question like “how many windows are there on a London double-decker bus” and average their answers. Their combined guesses will usually be more accurate than if just one person had been asked. Ask a crowd, rather than a pair, and the average is often very close to the truth. The phenomenon was called “the wisdom of crowds” by James Surowiecki, a columnist for the New Yorker who wrote a book about it. Now a pair of psychologists have found an intriguing corollary. They have discovered that two guesses made by the same person at different times are also better than one.

That is strange. Until now, psychologists have assumed that when people make a guess, they make the most accurate guess that they can. Ask them to make a second and it should, by definition, be less accurate. If that were true, averaging the first and second guesses should decrease the accuracy. Yet Edward Vul at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harold Pashler at the University of California, San Diego, have revealed in a study just published in Psychological Science that the average of first and second guesses is indeed better than either guess on its own.

Continue reading at the Economist . . .

Related content: The wisdom of crowds at the Economist.

Related content: Measuring the Crowd Within: Probabilistic Representations Within Individuals (pdf scientific article)

Social Networks’ Sway May Be Underestimated (Washington Post)

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

[Editor’s note: Graphic shows not physical geography but a topological network of social friendships and how smokers used to be at the center of social networks but are now more isolated. If someone becomes a smoker than it cascades thru the social network, but if someone quits smoking, it can have a similar effect by influencing others in the crowd to quit. The program used to make the graphic is called Pajek. Thanks Patterson!]

smokers quiting social network wash post

Reprinted from The Washington Post. By Rob Stein, Staff Writer. Monday, May 26, 2008.

Facebook, MySpace and other Web sites have unleashed a potent new phenomenon of social networking in cyberspace. But at the same time, a growing body of evidence is suggesting that traditional social networks play a surprisingly powerful and underrecognized role in influencing how people behave.

The latest research comes from Nicholas A. Christakis, a medical sociologist at the Harvard Medical School, and James H. Fowler, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego. The pair reported last summer that obesity appeared to spread from one person to another through social networks, almost like a virus or a fad.

In a follow-up to that provocative research, the team has produced similar findings about another major health issue: smoking. In a study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, the team found that a person’s decision to kick the habit is strongly affected by whether other people in their social network quit — even people they do not know. And, surprisingly, entire networks of smokers appear to quit virtually simultaneously.

Taken together, these studies and others are fueling a growing recognition that many behaviors are swayed by social networks in ways that have not been fully understood. And it may be possible, the researchers say, to harness the power of these networks for many purposes, such as encouraging safe sex, getting more people to exercise or even fighting crime.

“What all these studies do is force us to start to kind of rethink our mental model of how we behave,” said Duncan Watts, a Columbia University sociologist. “Public policy in general treats people as if they are sort of atomized individuals and puts policies in place to try to get them to stop smoking, eat right, start exercising or make better decisions about retirement, et cetera. What we see in this research is that we are missing a lot of what is happening if we think only that way.”

For both of their studies, Christakis and Fowler took advantage of detailed records kept between 1971 and 2003 about 5,124 people who participated in the landmark Framingham Heart Study. Because many of the subjects had ties to the Boston suburb of Framingham, Mass., many of the participants were connected somehow — through spouses, neighbors, friends, co-workers — enabling the researchers to study a network that totaled 12,067 people.

When researchers analyzed the patterns of those who managed to quit smoking over the 32-year period, they found that the decision appeared to be highly influenced by whether someone close to them stopped. A person whose spouse quit was 67 percent more likely to kick the habit. If a friend gave it up, a person was 36 percent more likely to do so. If a sibling quit, the chances increased by 25 percent.

A co-worker had an influence — 34 percent — only if the smoker worked at a small firm. The effects were stronger among the more educated and among those who were casual or moderate smokers. Neighbors did not appear to influence each other, but friends did even if they lived far away.

“You appear to have to have a close relationship with the person for it to be influential,” Fowler said.

But the influence of a single person quitting nevertheless appeared to cascade through three degrees of separation, boosting the chance of quitting by nearly a third for people two degrees removed from one another.

“It could be your co-worker’s spouse’s friend or your brother’s spouse’s co-worker or a friend of a friend of a friend. The point is, your behavior depends on people you don’t even know,” Christakis said. “Your actions are partially affected by the actions of people who are beyond your social horizon” — but in the broader network.

In addition, the researchers found that the size of smokers’ own networks did not change over time, even though the overall number of smokers plummeted, from 45 percent to 21 percent of the population during that time. The researchers realized that what happened was that entire networks of smokers would quit almost simultaneously.

Continue reading . . .

Flying With a Chemical Compass? (Washington Post)

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Ed note: I’m partial to this topic having researched bird migration while working at National Geographic producing the Americas side of the Bird Migration map supplement (wall poster), see that here.  

Scientists have synthesized a molecule that responds to a magnetic field like Earth’s. Similar compounds might exist in the nervous systems of birds and help them orient during migratory flight. Props to my colleague Patterson for this graphic. 

Read the full article. Read the chat transcript.

bird migration chem compas

SOURCE: Devens Gust | GRAPHIC: Rick Weiss and Patterson Clark – The Washington Post – May 05, 2008 

Blind to Change, Even as It Stares Us in the Face (NY Times)

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Leave it to a vision researcher to make you feel like Mr. Magoo.
(From New York Times. Thanks Martin!)

By NATALIE ANGIER; Published: April 1, 2008

blind to change new york times
GOOD EYE In deciding what to focus on, we scan and sweep until something sticks out and brings our bouncing cones to a halt, as shown above.


Multimedia

Pop-Art QuizInteractive Feature

Pop-Art Quiz

When Jeremy Wolfe of Harvard Medical School, speaking last week at a symposium devoted to the crossover theme of Art and Neuroscience, wanted to illustrate how the brain sees the world and how often it fumbles the job, he naturally turned to a great work of art. He flashed a slide of Ellsworth Kelly’s “Study for Colors for a Large Wall” on the screen, and the audience couldn’t help but perk to attention. The checkerboard painting of 64 black, white and colored squares was so whimsically subtle, so poised and propulsive. We drank it in greedily, we scanned every part of it, we loved it, we owned it, and, whoops, time for a test.

Dr. Wolfe flashed another slide of the image, this time with one of the squares highlighted. Was the highlighted square the same color as the original, he asked the audience, or had he altered it? Um, different. No, wait, the same, definitely the same. That square could not now be nor ever have been anything but swimming-pool blue … could it? The slides flashed by. How about this mustard square here, or that denim one there, or this pink, or that black? We in the audience were at sea and flailed for a strategy. By the end of the series only one thing was clear: We had gazed on Ellsworth Kelly’s masterpiece, but we hadn’t really seen it at all.

The phenomenon that Dr. Wolfe’s Pop Art quiz exemplified is known as change blindness: the frequent inability of our visual system to detect alterations to something staring us straight in the face. The changes needn’t be as modest as a switching of paint chips. At the same meeting, held at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University, the audience failed to notice entire stories disappearing from buildings, or the fact that one poor chicken in a field of dancing cartoon hens had suddenly exploded. In an interview, Dr. Wolfe also recalled a series of experiments in which pedestrians giving directions to a Cornell researcher posing as a lost tourist didn’t notice when, midway through the exchange, the sham tourist was replaced by another person altogether.

Beyond its entertainment value, symposium participants made clear, change blindness is a salient piece in the larger puzzle of visual attentiveness. What is the difference between seeing a scene casually and automatically, as in, you’re at the window and you glance outside at the same old streetscape and nothing registers, versus the focused seeing you’d do if you glanced outside and noticed a sign in the window of your favorite restaurant, and oh no, it’s going out of business because, let’s face it, you always have that Typhoid Mary effect on things. In both cases the same sensory information, the same photonic stream from the external world, is falling on the retinal tissue of your eyes, but the information is processed very differently from one eyeful to the next. What is that difference? At what stage in the complex circuitry of sight do attentiveness and awareness arise, and what happens to other objects in the visual field once a particular object has been designated worthy of a further despairing stare?

Continue reading at New York Times …