Friday, November 12, 2010

New Regime of Fineness

[In his Monadology 1] true substances were explained as metaphysical points which, Leibniz asserted, are both real and exact — mathematical points being exact but not real and physical ones being real but not exact 2.


1.^ Leibniz G., The Monadology translated by George MacDonald Ross, 1999
2.^ Leibniz G., New System §11
Image: Controlled-NOT Molecular Gates of NMR-type Quantum Computer

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Natural Engine

Five brand new close-ups of comet 103P/Hartley 2 arrived at NASA’s Jet Propulsion 8:02 Pacific time this morning.

The Deep Impact probe (now on a mission called EPOXI) passed by comet Hartley 2 at 7:01 a.m. PDT... The probe flew through the comet’s diffuse corona at about 27,500 miles per hour and came within 435 miles of its icy, dirty core.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Design of Design

"Edwin Land, inventor of the Polaroid camera, once said that his method of design was to start with a vision of what you want and then, one by one, remove the technical obstacles until you have it. I think that’s what Steve Jobs does. He starts with a vision rather than a list of features."

Fred Brooks

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Interstitial Mind

A revolution is only interesting in its becoming. The intermediary state of revolt, not the authority state nor the revolutionary government. An interstitial state between events. The negative space. The Void. The zone of not the city nor the suburb, but the street. That of wires that connect nodes, and that of mathematical equations that put two otherwise distinct variables in a relationship. Guerrilla artfare, with no plausible form or taste. The culinary art of preparing ‘water’. An entire movie on the flow of black oil.

That median space is where the DJ usually stands; in-between two decks, twisting reality on the turntable. A circlet or what Deleuze might call a “crystalline ” is formed, resonating the minute reactions of chemical influx onto amplifiers. Palpation of vibrations at a sub-atomic level. Once again it is the body that is the instrument of inscription. It is an infinite loop between an organic battery and the indomitable machine powered by electricity. Electricity that is traditionally produced by burning oil.

Image: Pixel3 Photography 2007

Ecosystem of Bodies

“My idea is that every specific body strives to become master over all space and to extend its force (--its will to power) and to thrust back all that resists its extension. But it continually encounters similar efforts on the part of other bodies and ends by coming to an arrangement ("union") with those of them that are sufficiently related to it: thus they then conspire together for power. And the process goes on__”1

1- F. Nietzsche, The Will to Power, s.636, Walter Kaufmann transl.
Image: Formation of intensity in Mamatus Clouds. Jorn C. Olsen 2004

Sunday, August 15, 2010


If the role of architecture is to create spaces of superior quality, that of motivation and refinement, then one is to ask why the most effectual conceptions in human culture were initiated in treacherous spaces.1 Many great thinkers flourished and died in deficient spaces. It is possible that uneasy conditions are essential to the path of human nobility. There is something about the 7½ floor and its improbable connection to the head of John Malkovich in the office building that extracted dramatic tension from its actors.2 Rem Koolhaas argues that human beings are species that easily form to their mold. “People can inhabit anything. And they can be miserable in anything and ecstatic in anything. More and more I think that architecture has nothing to do with it. Of course, that's both liberating and alarming.”3 My best work has been so often the result of tormented ulterior conditions. This conditioning might even be interior to the self. It is no secret that many great thinkers have died of terminal illnesses that followed them all along. Tormented conditions that were the result of their containing rather than their container. It was cancer that transfused Sohrab’s body –the late Iranian poet- onto paper in the form of poetry.4
Tormented spaces are often ambiguous. The magic of Koans and fortune cookies lie in their ambiguity. They are almost universal to any situation and everyone tailors them to their individual zeitgeist. Ambiguous spaces have the same effect, they are far from, yet optimally generic. They are specific by being vague and the feat lies in their complexity. You inhabit your ‘place’ not because of your situation (such as affordability and social status) but because you have ‘found’ them. “[Don Juan] pointed out that I was very tired sitting on the floor, and that the proper thing to do was to find a “spot” (sitto) on the floor where I could sit without fatigue…. [He] clearly emphasized that a spot meant a place where a man could feel naturally happy and strong. …[He] explained to me that not every place was good to sit or be on, and that within the confines of the porch there was one spot that was unique, a spot where I could be at my very best. 5

1. A continuum of such spaces are well presented in the ghostly crust of post-manufacturing buildings in the movie 8 Mile (2002, Universal Studios and Dreamworks LLC)
3. Katrina Heron, From Bauhaus to Koolhaas WIRED Issue 4.07 - Jul 1996 [When humans bearing the same physical anatomy dwell in such diverse forms of habitat, it is easy to nullify Corbusier’s universal definition of ‘man’.]

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Atlantic Architecture

The images [are] captured by researchers from the University of Aberdeen during more than 300 hours of diving with a remotely operated vehicle between 2,300 feet and 12,000 feet deep along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the largest mountain range on Earth, which runs down the center of the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and Africa on the east and the Americas on the west.

“They have no eyes, no obvious sense organs or brain but there is a head end, tail end and the primitive body plan of backboned animals is established,” said Monty Priede, one of the lead researchers on the project, part of the Census of Marine Life.

Images: David Shale
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Friday, July 2, 2010

Speed Merchants

Emotion > Choreography > Motion > Illusion > Trace > Intent

Image: Satellite image of the Nurburgring race track, Google inc.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mapping Free Will

The "Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO), [is] exploring the development of new technologies to rapidly create theoretically-informed, data-driven models of complex human, social, cultural, and behavioral dynamics that are instantiated in near-realtime simulations. These technologies would leverage the entire social science community and provide a rich test bed for establishing the empirical validity of alternative theories, and identifying gaps in knowledge that cannot be accounted for by the current body of social science theory. Other important technologies of interest include the formalization and semantic representation of social science theories, the semantic integration of disparate types of social science data, techniques for analyzing these data, and efficient computational techniques for rapid data processing. DARPA refers to this range of technologies as “Technologies for the Applications of Social Computing (TASC).” DARPA anticipates all these technologies would be integrated to develop a flexible, modular social simulation system that integrates sound social science theory with real world data, that facilitates a wide spectrum of military and intelligence applications, and that supports reliable, real-world decisions at multiple levels of analysis."

From: DARPA-SN-09-20 Request for Information (RFI): Technologies for the Applications of Social Computing (TASC)
Image: Apocalypse Now, © 1979 Omni Zoetrope

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Still from Kárhozat (Damnation) by Béla Tarr

'Artistic creation is by definition a denial of death. Therefore it is optimistic, even if in an ultimate sense the artist is tragic.’

Andrei Tarkovsky, Time Within Time: The Diaries 1970-1986, translated by Kitty Hunter-Blair, London, 1994

The Screen

"Chaos does not exist; it is an abstraction because it is inseparable from a screen that makes something - something rather than nothing - emerge from it. Chaos would be a pure Many, a purely disjunctive diversity, while the something is a One, not a pregiven unity, but instead the indefinite article that designates a certain singularity. How can the Many become the One? A great screen has to be placed in between them. Like a formless elastic membrane, an electromagnetic field, or the receptacle of the Timaeus, the screen makes something issue from chaos, and even if this something differs only slightly. In this way Leibniz had long been able to ascribe several approximations to chaos. According to a cosmological approximation, chaos would be the sum of all possibles, that is, all individual essences insofar as each tends to existence on its own account; but the screen only allows compossibles -and only the best combination of compossibles -to be sifted through.

Following a physical approximation, chaos would amount to depthless shadows, but the screen disengages its dark backdrop, the "fuscum subnigrum" that, however little it differs from black, nonetheless contains all colors: the screen is like the infinitely refined machine that is the basis of Nature. From a psychic point of view, chaos would be a universal giddiness, the sum of all possible perceptions being infinitesimal or infinitely minute; but the screen would extract differentials that could be integrated in ordered perceptions. If chaos does not exist, it is because it is merely the bottom side of the great screen, and because the latter composes infinite series of wholes and parts, which appear chaotic to us (as aleatory developments) only because we are incapable of following them, or because of the insufficiency of our own screens.' Even the cavern is not a chaos, but a series whose elements remain caverns filled with an increasingly rarefied matter, each of which is extended over the following ones."

What Is an Event? by Gilles Deleuze from the Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque, translated by Tom Conley, the University of Minnesota Press, 1992.

image: Matthias Dittrich music visualization Java-Applet

Saturday, June 19, 2010


The Utah State Prison firing squad execution chamber  Photo: Trent Nelson/Salt Lake Tribune

'[Eventalization] means making visible a singularity at places where there is a temptation to invoke a historical constant, an immediate anthropological trait or an obviousness that imposes itself uniformly on all. To show that things weren’t ‘necessary as all that’; it wasn’t as a matter of course that mad people came to be regarded as mentally ill; it wasn’t self-evident that the only thing to be done with a criminal was to lock them up; it wasn’t self-evident that the causes of illness were to be sought through individual examination of bodies; and so on. A breach of self-evidence, of those self-evidences on which our knowledges, acquiescences and practices rest: this is the first theoretico-political function of eventalization.'

M. Foucault, ‘Impossible Prison’ [1980] in Foucault Live, 1996, p. 277

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Photon Farm

The power of crowd sourcing becomes obvious in its quantum application in a new experiment by the Japanese Space Agency. "A new space propulsion technology dubbed Solar Sail has been put to test in space ... When a photon strikes the surface of the sail, it bounces off, imparting its momentum to the sail. Each photon might not deliver much thrust, possibly a few millionths of a g, but due to its constant impact, it allows a build up of large velocity change over time which is ideal for long space travels."

A photon, frail by itself  as a source of thrust yet empowering and essential to the terrestrial ecosystem by its contribution to the photosynthetic process, makes its electromagnetic qualities visible through macroscopic effects. Scientists have demonstrated here that photons are capable of displaying particle qualities by harnessing its power in a swarm state.
Photo of solar sail deployment Courtesy JAXA/JSPEC

Mathematics of Hunting

When sharks and other ocean predators can’t find food, their movement patterns shift in surprising ways that are associated with particle physics rather than animal behavior. They abandon Brownian motion, the random motion seen in swirling gas molecules, for what’s known as Lévy flight — a mix of long trajectories and short, random movements found in turbulent fluids.

Computer models suggest Lévy flight is the optimal search pattern for predators in low-prey areas, and maximizes the chance of a random encounter. But real-world studies have been inconclusive, with reports of Lévy flight countered by doubts about data gathering and interpretation. As the animals went from areas of high ecological abundance to low, the equations describing their movement switched from Brownian motion to Lévy flight.

The findings raise the question of where Lévy flight comes from — whether it’s an instinctive or learned behavior, a property of individuals or a function of spatial distributions governed by as-yet-unknown laws — and how it first evolved. “Animals’ behavior is much more plastic than previously thought,” said Pade. “They have a huge repertoire of movement strategies and patterns.”

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Jeff Koons BMW art-car

"I don't speed. But i like to get to my destination as soon as possible"
Jeff Koons

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Affective Computing

While human emotions are often associated with surges in hormones and other neuropeptides, emotions in machines might be associated with abstract states associated with progress (or lack of progress) in autonomous learning systems. In this view, affective emotional states correspond to time-derivatives (perturbations) in the learning curve of an arbitrary learning system.

Marvin Minsky, one of the pioneering computer scientists in artificial intelligence, relates emotions to the broader issues of machine intelligence stating in The Emotion Machine that emotion is "not especially different from the processes that we call 'thinking.'"[8]

Minsky argues that emotions are different ways to think that our mind uses to increase our intelligence. He challenges the distinction between emotions and other kinds of thinking. His main argument is that emotions are "ways to think" for different "problem types" that exist in the world. The brain has rule-based mechanism (selectors) that turns on emotions to deal with various problems.


Image: Fearful face recognition after placebo infusion versus neutral face recognition after placebo infusion. WOEXP: 475.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Linux vs. Genome

A comparison of the networks formed by genetic code and the Linux operating system has given insight into the fundamental differences between biological and computational programming.

The shapes are very dissimilar, reflecting the evolutionary parameters of each process. Biology is driven by random mutations and natural selection. Software is an act of intelligent design.

“One of the biggest problems of biological data is that you have no intuitions about it. It’s just a bunch of gobbledygook symbols. One way to get intuition is to map its structure onto something we know about,” said study co-author and Yale University informaticist Marc Gerstein. “Linux is evolving and changing. But unlike evolution in biology, we know exactly what’s going on.”

Several years ago, he refined a technique for turning gene-network “hairballs” — densely tangled depictions of gene interaction — into hierarchical maps. At the top of each map are what Gerstein calls master regulators, which steer the activity of many other genes. At the bottom are workhorses, which pump out protein code. In between are the middle managers, which do a bit of both.

Since then, Gerstein has compared the structure of gene networks between species, and contrasted biological networks with corporate and governmental structures. He hopes the contrasts will illuminate how network structure shapes genomic function.

In the latest study, published April 4 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, he compared the genome of E. coli, a widely studied microbe, to Linux, the popular open source operating system. Though Gerstein hoped for insight into biological networks, the study also suggests strategies for social and technological engineers.

“If we don’t have designers fine-tuning things, and we have to deal with random changes, then what do we need to do in the control structure to make it robust?” said Gerstein.

E. coli’s network proved to have a pyramid-like shape, with a few master regulators, more middle managers, and many workhorses. In stark contrast, the Linux kernel call graph — the network of interactions between different pieces of program code — looks almost like an inverted pyramid. A great many top-level programs call on a few common subroutines.

Gene network structures start to resemble the Linux call graph as species become more complex, according to Sergei Maslov, a Brookhaven National Laboratory systems biologist not involved in the study. However, their pyramids never become as top-heavy as Linux. There seems to be a natural limit to this progression. The new study suggests why.

“If you update a low-level function, then you need to update all the functions that use it. That’s doable if you’re an engineer. You just go through all the code. But it’s impossible in biology,” Maslov said.

Indeed, when Gerstein’s team tracked the evolution of Linux kernel code since its original 1991 version, they found that its basic components had undergone extensive alteration. Biologically analagous are so-called evolutionarily conserved genes, which are used in a great many functions, but these have hardly changed at all. When a mutation is added, evolution can’t quickly update the rest of the genetic code.

Asked if human software engineers have outpaced natural evolution, Gerstein said the opposite was true. The computer model may be so extreme that it can’t be scaled to biological levels of complexity. “You can easily see why software systems might be fragile, and biological systems robust. Biological networks are built to adapt to random changes. They’re lessons on how to construct something that can change and evolve,” said Gerstein.

For now, the researchers have no plans to compare genomes to the most widely-used operating system of all, Windows.

“That’s forbidden,” said study co-author and Stony Brook University biophysicist Koon-Kiu Yan. “Windows is not open source.”

Image: Network structures of E. coli genome and Linux./PNAS.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Karl Popper, the great philosopher of science, once divided the world into two categories: clocks and clouds. Clocks are neat, orderly systems that can be solved through reduction; clouds are an epistemic mess, “highly irregular, disorderly, and more or less unpredictable.” The mistake of modern science is to pretend that everything is a clock, which is why we get seduced again and again by the false promises of brain scanners and gene sequencers. We want to believe we will understand nature if we find the exact right tool to cut its joints. But that approach is doomed to failure. We live in a universe not of clocks but of clouds.

Wired Contributing editor Jonah Lehrer

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Continental Bodies

"Nobody can deny that to be able to swim is a conquest of existence, it is fundamental that you understand: I conquer an element; it is not so obvious to conquer an element. I can swim, I can fly; wonderful. [But] what does it mean? It is very simple: not being able to swim consists of being vulnerable to the confrontation of the wave. Then, you have the infinite ensemble of water molecules that compose the wave; it composes a wave, and I say it's a wave because it is composed of elementary bodies called “molecules”. Actually they are not the most elementary; one should go even further than water molecules. Water molecules already belong to a body, the aquatic body, the ocean body, etc…

What is the fundamental mode of acquiring knowledge? It is ... the experiential acquisition of knowledge: I dare, I wade, like one says. What does it mean to wade? … the word indicates pretty well, one clearly sees that it is an extrinsic relationship: sometimes the wave cuffs me and sometimes it takes me away; they are shock effects… meaning, I don’t know anything of the relationships that compose themselves or decompose themselves, I receive the extrinsic effects. The parts that belong to me are being shuddered; they receive a shock effect coming from parts that belong to the wave. Therefore sometimes I laugh, sometimes I weep, depending if the wave makes me laugh or knock me out, I am within the passion affects…

On the contrary, ‘I can swim’ does not necessarily mean that I have a mathematical, physical, or scientific knowledge of the wave’s movement; it means that I have a skill, a surprising skill; I have a sense of rhythm. What does ‘the rhythm’ mean? It means that I know how to compose my characteristic relationship directly with the wave’s relationship. It does not happen anymore between the wave and me, meaning it does not happen anymore between the extensive parts, the wave’s wet parts and my body’s parts; it happens between the relationships. Relationships that compose the wave, relationships that compose my body and my skills when I can swim, presenting my body under some relationships that compose themselves directly with the wave’s relationships. I dive with synchronicity; I come out from under the water with synchronicity. I avoid the coming wave, or on the contrary I use it, etc… All this is the art of the composition of relationships.”

Translation of short excerpt extracted from a class by Gilles Deleuze's on Spinoza in Cours Vincennes University in Paris during the 70's.

Video: 'Drowning' by Luke Brown

Monday, January 25, 2010


In [an] experiment, researchers led by Toshiyuki Nakagaki, of Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan, placed oat flakes (a slime mold delicacy) in a pattern that mimicked the way cities are scattered around Tokyo, then set the slime mold loose.After about a day, the slime mold had constructed a network of interconnected nutrient-ferrying tubes. Its design looked almost identical to that of the rail system surrounding Tokyo, with a larger number of strong, resilient tunnels connecting centrally located oats. “There is a remarkable degree of overlap between the two systems,” Fricker says.
The researchers then borrowed simple properties from the slime mold’s behavior to create a biology-inspired mathematical description of the network formation. Like the slime mold, the model first creates a fine mesh network that goes everywhere, and then continuously refines the network so that the tubes carrying the most cargo grow more robust and redundant tubes are pruned.

The behavior of the plasmodium “is really difficult to capture by words,” comments biochemist Wolfgang Marwan of Otto von Guericke University in Magdeburg, Germany. “You see they optimize themselves somehow, but how do you describe that?” The new research “provides a simple mathematical model for a complex biological phenomenon,” Marwan wrote in an article in the same issue of Science.


Architecture is

As our capabilities for understanding phenomena becomes more granular and fine and processing power enables us to accurately map them, we can quantitatively calculate and thus materialize an interface that mediates between these domains, one that responds not only to material systems, but to flows of asomatous phenomena (climate, Hertzian Space, economics, sound, affect and so on). Almost all trends in contemporary technology and science point to the development of ubiquitous and ambient models based on fine granulation. Examples are parallel in almost every field from the development of the genetic computation and fitness function, the Semantic Web (GGG) as a single global machine that is materializing from all the computing bits and tagged objects in the world, the design of implicit interactions and distributed agents[1] to finally the understanding that the universe is made of bits and it is storing and processing information in the quantum realm [2]

A physical structure -being the medium of architecture- forms spontaneously as these fine components try to meet energetic requirements and seek a point of minimal free energy.

In this respect the architectural form, moving rapidly from the tradition of being the node itself, operates in an in-between fuzzy mode, an interface that exists only by means of connecting the nodes in the global network of said phenomena.

[1] "The most profound technologies are those that disappear” “[they] weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” The Computer for the 21st Century by Mark Weiser, Xerox PARC, 1991. He also coined the term Ubiquitous Computing.

[2] Seth Loyd interview with WIRED magazine Issue 14.03 - March 2006

[3] Image:Vincent Fournier/The Space Project/Courtesy of The Steps Gallery, London, UK