Meat and Leather without killing animals

Animal agriculture is one of the largest contributors to climate change and habitat loss. As a species, we need to go vegan or move to sustainable meat production. But let’s be realistic, people won’t give up meat willingly. So, the cost of meat needs to go waaay up or we need a less destructive way to produce it. Andras Forgacs has an exciting solution:

The remarkable tardigrade may change how we think about evolution 

This microscopic water creature is so hardy it can survive the vacuum of space. It has also managed to incorporate a large amount of foreign DNA, which may not only explain it’s incredible resiliency, but may change how we think about evolution. Key quote:

We think of the tree of life, with genetic material passing vertically from mom and dad. But with horizontal gene transfer becoming more widely accepted and more well known, at least in certain organisms, it is beginning to change the way we think about evolution and inheritance of genetic material

Source: The tardigrade genome has been sequenced, and it has the most foreign DNA of any animal – ScienceAlert

The decay of Apple design

Without Steve Jobs at Apple to champion the first principles of design — like make it invisible — it looks like Apple needs outside critics like Don Norman and Bruce Tognazzini to push back against Jonny Ives:

Gone are the fundamental principles of good design: discoverability, feedback, recovery, and so on. Instead, Apple has, in striving for beauty, created fonts that are so small or thin, coupled with low contrast, that they are difficult or impossible for many people with normal vision to read. We have obscure gestures that are beyond even the developer’s ability to remember. We have great features that most people don’t realize exist.

From Fast Company

Blowback and the legacy of Stuxnet

Keeping in mind that Stuxnet, the most ingenious computer worm the world has seen so far, was created by the NSA to target Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, consider:

[N]ow with that code available in the wild for anyone to study and copy, the digital weapon can serve as a blueprint to design other attacks targeting vulnerable control systems in the United States and elsewhere—to manipulate valves in a gas pipeline, for example, or to release sewage into waterways, or possibly even to take out generators at a power plant. It wouldn’t necessarily require the resources of a wealthy nation to pull off such attacks. With most of the core research and development already done by Stuxnet’s creators to expose the vulnerabilities in these systems, the bar has been lowered for other attackers, state and nonstate players alike, to get in the game.

from Countdown to Zero Day by Kim Kettner:

Challenging Extremism in Pakistan

Beygairat Brigade, or ‘a Brigade without Honour’, are 3 young guys from Pakistan challenging the military, religious fundamentalists, and anti-American conspiracy theorists with songs like “Aalu Anday” (“Potatoes and Eggs”) that I posted below. If you watch the video, stick around to the 2 minute mark and the metaphor starts to make sense.

The song rues the fact that killers and religious extremists are hailed as heroes in Pakistan, while someone like Abdus Salam, the nation’s only Nobel Prize-winning scientist, is often ignored because he belonged to the minority Ahmadi sect. – New York Times

The song is catching fire in Pakistan where there’s a surprisingly large but often quiet liberal population. I’m inspired by how these guys are changing their society with just a video camera, a song, Youtube and a lot of courage.

The 2004 Tsunami: Our Story

Since the tsunami struck Japan on March 11th, people have been asking me about what it was like back in the Indian Ocean Tsunami 2004. Sonja and I wrote about the experience a few days after it happened. Here it is again:


We arrived in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka on December 22. It had been an epic journey from Kandy to Boticaloa and then south along the coast of Ampara. Sam (from Toronto) and Liz (from Utah) were already there and had found an idyllic spot not far from the lagoon, near the center of the bay. Our Swedish friends, Erik and Jonas, showed up at our 2 bungalows on the beach a day later. Sonja and I had been travelling for 2 months through Thailand and Sri Lanka and we were looking forward to a rest and some time in the surf.

December 26, 2004

The day started like any other. The morning was already hot and sticky but a strong wind from the ocean kept us cool. Unfortunately it also rustled the palm leaves so much we heard nothing from the beach. The group of us, except for Jonas who was packing his stuff next door, were sitting inside the bungalow, chatting about what we should do for the next part of our journey.

If we had been paying attention we might have noticed the water rushing out from the beach dragging everything with it but a few stranded fish; we might have heard the yells of the fishermen as they ran for higher ground; we might have seen the wall of water coming toward us, a boiling white line that crashed over the receding water as it charged for the shore. But we heard only the wind.

Continue reading The 2004 Tsunami: Our Story

Snorkelling in the Molokini volcanic crater

Sonja and I caught a boat ride this morning to Molokini Island for a few hours of snorkelling. We didn’t see anything big but we were serenaded by humpback whales the whole time — If you listen carefully you can hear them in the video. They sounded so close Sonja wanted to swim out and find them.

The Molokini Crater is a partially sunken volcanic coldera off the coast of Maui. It’s also a marine reserve and, apparently, one of the best dive sites in the world.

The end times are near

It was only a matter of time before someone saw the recent mass deaths of cows, birds and fish as a sign of … neuro-toxic pollution? Severe weather shifts bringing unsurvivable cold or heat? The new media’s hyper-connectivity giving rise to the cognitive linking of similar but otherwise unrelated phenomena? Nope: something much more simple and obvious: the end of the world. “Are you serious? Could this be real? Are you serious? Yes!”

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Heads up: Does the Death of 200 Cows in Wisconsin Confirm Biblical Prophecy?

7 Ways Games Reward the Brain

Most web and software designers think about designing to people’s expectations — make the software easy to use: put a menu where it will be easy to find, make a button’s function clear and obvious. But really good software, the software that just seems fun to use, is designed to reward the user.

Video game developers have become so good at rewarding their users they have made their games literally addictive. For many people, this bodes ill for our species — video games are just another drug enslaving the human mind, lowering economic productivity, and diminishing the human spirit.

I disagree. Sort of. I think the first step in overcoming the addiction is admitting we are addicted and most gamers will readily fess up to their obsession. After that, we might use the understanding about what makes video games addictive to create reward systems for projects that actually benefit humanity and the planet.

Tom Chatfield does a great job explaining how video games reward our brains and how we can apply reward systems to business, environmental conservation and more.