More on the dangers of facial recognition software

This facial recognition stuff gets more chilling at every turn. Did you see this article from the Guardian a few days ago? SXSW panel opens window into dangers of facial recognition software .

He said that his facial recognition system is now so good at recognising races, a challenge in the past, that it can be used as a genealogy tool. “It’s coming back with the percentages of race the person is,” he said, mentioning someone who came up 12% Asian despite looking Caucasian. “Oh, I have a Chinese grandmother,” she said, according to Brackeen.

Brackeen said Kairos has been pushing for regulation, and that although he believes Karios’ conduct is responsible, he could not say the same for some competitors. He mentioned FindFace, for example, the Russian company which made an app that could analyze images of people and match it to their social media accounts.

The app was supposed to be for finding friends, but members of online messaging board Dvach started using it to expose identities, harass porn actors and spam their families with the news of their discovery. [continue]

So here’s how it’s going. You’ll be out having a coffee at the neighbourhood cafe, and anybody with a camera will be able to take your photo, submit it to a facial recognition database, and find out more about who you are. What’s your name? Who’s your mamma? Where did your ancestors come from? And more.

Are you ok with that?

Are maple tree seedlings edible?

Maple tree seedlings appear all at once here, it seems, through vast swaths of the forest. Usually I spot them on February 11th (a friend’s birthday, so easy to remember) but this year they’re over a month late. At any rate, they’re everywhere now. And they look so much like the sprouts I grow in my kitchen that I wonder if I can add baby maple trees to my salads.

Nancy J Turner’s Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples says this about aboriginal use of Broad-leaved Maple:

Broad-leaved Maple was not widely used as food, but the Saanich and Cowichan placed the leaves in steaming pits to flavour meat, and according to Barnett (1955), the Vancouver Island Salish ate the fresh cambium in small quantities, although “it made one thin to eat too much”. The cambium was constipating, so was eaten with oil. It was also occasionally dried in criss-cross stips for winter. The Nlaka’pamux people at Spuzzum, near Yale in the Fraser Canyon, and possibly also the Upper Sto:lo peeled and ate young maple shoots raw, and also boiled and ate the sprouts when they were about 3 cm tall.

So! That sounds promising, yes?

I wonder if Susannah of Wanderin’ Weeta has eaten maple seedlings. She’s not too far from me, and notices lots of details in the forest. The photos she publishes are so often like the ones I have just taken!

Guaranteed basic income on verge of take-off in Canada

From The Tyee: Guaranteed Basic Income on Verge of Take-off in Canada.

Guy Caron is not a household name in Canadian politics. Yet.

Caron kicked off his campaign for the New Democratic Party leadership this week with a policy proposal that’s becoming the subject of a lot of political chatter in Canada and beyond: a guaranteed basic income.

The idea could well become the sleeper issue in Canadian politics in 2017 — not just in the NDP but across the political spectrum, drawing in non-partisan advocates as well. [continue]

Renting a dog?

Bloomberg’s article, I’m Renting a Dog? explains how you can buy a dog at a pet store, and then find out that you’re on the hook for a whole lot more money than you’d dreamed, because you’ve actually agreed to lease a dog. What an insane world! This is why it’s important to read every contract you sign, kids. Sigh.

The fake British radio show that helped defeat the Nazis

You’ll enjoy this Smithsonian Magazine article, I think: The Fake British Radio Show That Helped Defeat the Nazis. Summary:

By spreading fake news and sensational rumors, intelligence officials leveraged “psychological judo” against the Nazis in World War II.

See? It’s just what you want to read while you sip your coffee.

Do we need predators to prevent Lyme disease?

From the New York Times: A Natural Cure for Lyme Disease.

If humans have inadvertently increased the chances of contracting Lyme disease, the good news is that there’s a potential fix: allow large predators, particularly wolves and cougars, to return.

They would help keep down the number of deer, which, although they don’t carry the Lyme-causing bacterium, probably encourage its transmission. [continue]

If you missed it a couple of weeks ago, take a detour over to the how wolves change rivers thing I pointed out. The four-minute video is stunning.

(Link to the NTY article found here at Microfishing.)

Genetic testing, privacy, and the law

If you have your DNA tested for genetic concerns, should the results be private? Or should you be forced to share that information with insurance companies and your employer? That issue is in the news this week. The USA moved in one direction (Guess what they decided – I know you can!) and Canada did the opposite.

Here’s what the US is doing:

And in Canada:

Over the objection of their own government, dozens of Liberal backbenchers voted Wednesday night in favour of a bill banning genetic discrimination.

In voting for what is known as Bill S-201, the backbench Liberals, along with all Conservative, NDP and Green Party MPs made it a crime for, among other things, insurance companies to demand potential customers provide a DNA test in order to get a policy. Additionally, no company will be able to deny someone a job if they fail to have their genes tested.

Protection from discrimination because of an individual’s genetic makeup will now be written into the Canadian Labour Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act. [continue]

That’s from the National Post article, Liberal backbenchers vote against Trudeau, pass law banning genetic discrimination.

Thank you, Canadian MPs.

Scandinavian words you’ll want to steal

There are some fun Scandinavian words in an article the Guardian published today: Fancy a beer outside? There’s a Scandi word for that – and so much else. Here are just two:

Texas

Norwegians love metonymy, or substituting a word for a concept. They also don’t mince their bald etymological insults. Texas translates as “crazy”. Helt Texas, then, means “total craziness” or “peak mayhem”. It goes on like this, incrementally. Indicative, perhaps, of the powerful impact American culture had on those Norwegians who grew up watching westerns.

Sisu

This is a quality unique to Finns and it translates as strength, determination and guts. Etymologically, the word actually translates as insides (of a person) or interior, but the concept itself is a mite sexier. Sisu is inner strength and then some. If you have sisu, you are a real man. If you have sisu, you’d sooner die than lose. Imagine Odysseus if he hadn’t been so bothered by the elements. [continue]

You might like some of the other ones even more.

Ozymandias statue found in Cairo mud

From the Guardian: Look on my works, ye mighty … Ozymandias statue found in mud.

Archaeologists from Egypt and Germany have found an eight-metre (26ft) statue submerged in groundwater in a Cairo slum that they say probably depicts revered Pharaoh Ramses II, who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.

The discovery – hailed by Egypt’s antiquities ministry on Thursday as one of the most important ever – was made near the ruins of Ramses II’s temple in the ancient city of Heliopolis, located in the eastern part of modern-day Cairo.

“Last Tuesday they called me to announce the big discovery of a colossus of a king, most probably Ramses II, made out of quartzite,” the antiquities minister, Khaled al-Anani, said at the site of the discovery.

The pharaoh, also known as Ramses the Great or Ozymandias, was the third of the 19th dynasty of Egypt and ruled for 66 years, from 1279BC to 1213BC. [continue]

Massive 4,000-year-old Galilee tombs force rethink of Bronze dark age

From the Times of Israel: Massive 4,000-year-old Galilee tombs force rethink of Bronze dark age.

Around 4,000 years ago, a man, a woman and a child were laid to rest in a barrow beneath a massive 50-ton slab of basalt on a hillside in the Hula Valley. Offerings in ceramic pots were laid by their sides, and above their heads mysterious symbols were etched into the stone.

This enigmatic discovery, detailed in an academic article published in PLOS ONE on Thursday, upends our understanding of a little-understood dark age in the Levant following the collapse of Early Bronze Age cities.

Their grave of boulders stacked to form a crude table, known by archaeologists as a dolmen, was one of a vast field of tombs recently excavated by archaeologists in what is now northern Israel. The multi-chambered barrow the three skeletons were found in, however, stood out from the rest. [continue]

Marcus Selmer’s photographs of 19th-century Norwegians

This is gold. If you’ve got Norwegian ancestry, or just happen to be interested in what life was like in 19th century Norway, you’ll love what The Public Domain Review has posted: Marcus Selmer’s Photographs of 19th-Century Norwegians.

It is not immediately clear what drew Marcus Selmer (1819 – 1900), a Danish portrait photographer, to spend most of his life working in Norway. He trained as a pharmacist in his native Denmark, and was working in a chemist owned by his uncle when he discovered daguerreotype photography. He experimented with this new technology in his spare time and began sending his pictures in to local exhibitions. In 1852, Selmer travelled to Norway, to visit some of his uncle’s family in the city of Bergen. He never returned.

He soon found work as a photographer in Bergen and, within a year, was able to establish his own studio. This became the first permanent photographic studio in Bergen, as few photographers who visited would stay all year round. Photographers often visited Bergen in the summer, hoping to capture the fjords and mountains that surround the area, but, as they needed good light for their work, the dark and cold weather had driven most of them away by the time winter rolled around. Selmer ingeniously built his studio almost entirely out of glass, allowing enough light into the space, which enabled him to continue working throughout the year.

Selmer’s work quickly became well-known throughout Norway. He sold many books of his photographs, and sold individual images to the press and the burgeoning tourist industry, before eventually being appointed the royal photographer in 1880. Although his career was varied, Selmer is primarily remembered today for his portraits of local people in national folk costume, as shown here. These photographs depict the customs, traditions and culture of the Norwegian people, and reflect Selmer’s interest in his adopted home. One of Selmer’s most notable portraits is of a local folk hero named Ole Storviken. [continue, see photos!]

To see more of Marcus Selmer’s photos, visit these sites:

Exceptional grave reveals 7,000-year-old garments Stone Age man was buried in

From International Business Times: Exceptional grave reveals 7,000-year-old garments Stone Age man was buried in.

In the first study of its kind, archaeologists have identified the garment a body was buried in between 4950 and 4800 BCE in the Mediterranean, discovering details down to the embroidered design of seashells lining the jacket.

The body, belonging to an adult man between 20 and 50 years old and estimated to be 1.67 metres (about 5’5″) tall, was buried in the 5th Millennium BCE in Avignon, southern France. The grave was first excavated in the 1970s, but has now gone through modern laboratory scrutiny to reveal the nature of the clothes the man was buried in, according to a paper published in the Journal of Field Archaeology.

The garment had sophisticated embroidery, with 158 conical seashells – of the species Columbella rustica – arranged in lines on what was thought to be a jacket or tunic. They are arranged in patterns, either all pointing up, all pointing down, or alternating in pairs. [continue]

Rabbit hole in farmer’s field leads to ‘mystery caves’

From the Beeb: Rabbit hole in farmer’s field leads to ‘mystery caves’.

An apparently ordinary rabbit’s hole in a farmer’s field leads to an underground sanctuary said to have been used by devotees of a medieval religious order – but is everything what it seems?

According to local legend, the Caynton Caves, near Shifnal, in Shropshire, were used by followers of the Knights Templar in the 17th Century.

Located less than a metre underground, they appear to be untouched structurally.

Their original purpose is shrouded in mystery, but Historic England, which describes the caves as a “grotto”, believes they were probably built in the late 18th or early 19th Century – hundreds of years after the Templar order was dissolved. [continue]

I think you’ll want to see the photos.

Related:

Rat-hunting dogs take a bite out of New York City’s vermin problem

I have the sort of dog who would make quick work of a mouse or rat, so this article from the New York Daily News caught my eye: Rat-hunting dogs take a bite out of New York City’s vermin problem.

On a couple of recent nights, an eclectic group of ratters converged on an alley near City Hall about an hour after sunset. The lineups included two border terriers; a wire-haired dachshund; a Jack Russell terrier/Australian cattle dog mix; a Patterdale terrier, an intense, no-nonsense breed that’s uncommon in this country; and a feist, a type of dog developed in the American South to tree squirrels.

“Get ‘im! Go!” Serge Lozach yelled as his cairn terrier, Hudson, streaked down an alley after a fleeing rat. Unlike many of the other owners, Lozach doesn’t breed or show dogs, but he has taken Hudson to several alley hunts.

“I like watching him have fun,” Lozach said.

Although the dogs have hunting instincts, it takes training to capitalize on them. Just because your pet runs after backyard squirrels doesn’t mean it could ever catch one.

When at its best, the alley pack works together. One dog will sniff out a rat and signal its whereabouts, often by barking. Another leaps at the hideaway to rout the quarry, and then a third lurches to catch it as it flees. A rat that scuttles into the open might get caught in a rundown, or even a tug of war, between dogs that circle and flank it.

After making a kill with a bite or a shake, the hunters trot back, rat in mouth, and allow their owners to take it from their jaws. The night’s kill ends up in a trash bin. [continue]

Blood spurt trajectory sheds light on ‘lost Caravaggio’ found in French attic

From ResearchGate: Blood spurt trajectory sheds light on ‘lost Caravaggio’ found in French attic.

When the owners of a house near Toulouse, France went to fix a leak in the ceiling, they discovered a well-preserved canvas depicting the biblical beheading of General Holofernes by Judith. Experts believe the canvas was painted between 1600 and 1610, and that it could be the work of the Italian master Caravaggio. However, this belief is disputed and is currently being investigated by the Louvre Museum in Paris.

In a study published in European Journal of Internal Medicine, Italian doctor Antonio Perciaccante argues that the newly discovered painting may not be the work of Caravaggio, because of the way in which the blood spurt’s trajectory is painted. [continue]

Can tilapia skin be used to bandage burns?

From statnews.com: Can tilapia skin be used to bandage burns?

FORTALEZA, Brazil — In this historic city by the sea in northeast Brazil, burn patients look as if they’ve emerged from the waves. They are covered in fish skin — specifically strips of sterilized tilapia.

Doctors here are testing the skin of the popular fish as a bandage for second- and third-degree burns. The innovation arose from an unmet need. Animal skin has long been used in the treatment of burns in developed countries. But Brazil lacks the human skin, pig skin, and artificial alternatives that are widely available in the US. (…)

Enter the humble tilapia, a fish that’s widely farmed in Brazil and whose skin, until now, was considered trash. Unlike the gauze bandages, the sterilized tilapia skin goes on and stays on. [continue]

Nature neuroscience

Every day I set out for the forest with my dog. I’ll admit that I am often vexed or grumpy when we enter the woods, having dealt with hours of computer frustration or human stupidity. But somehow, the forest fixes it all. If I walk long enough, my world is set right, and I wonder why I do anything but walk in the woods.

So this NYT article caught my attention: Get Out of Here: Scientists Examine the Benefits of Forests, Birdsong and Running Water.

Imagine a miracle drug that could ease many of the stresses of modern life — a combination mood enhancer and smart pill that might even encourage the remission of cancer. Now imagine that this cure-all was an old-fashioned folk remedy: Just take a hike in the woods or a walk in the park. No prescription necessary.

That’s the proposition of Florence Williams’s fascinating “The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative.” We suffer from an “epidemic dislocation from the outdoors,” Williams writes, and it’s destructive to our mental and physical health. The therapy is straightforward. “The more nature, the better you feel.” (…)

It’s all very encouraging, but how exactly does nature have such an effect on people? To answer that question, Williams shadows researchers on three continents who are working on the frontiers of nature neuroscience. [continue]

Norwegian ‘anti-troll’ site makes you read before commenting

From phys.org: Norway ‘anti-troll’ site makes you read before commenting.

A Norwegian site may have found the key to muzzling malicious commenters on the internet: requiring people to read an article before discussing it.

As an experiment, NRKbeta, a media and technology subsidiary of public broadcaster NRK, has since mid-February required viewers to correctly answer three questions about articles before being able to comment on them. [continue]

That’s an interesting approach. Do you think it will work?

Meanwhile, Canada’s national broadcaster, the CBC, has this absurd comment policy:

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada’s online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

How crazy is that? It would take zero effort for me to post a comment under your name, or some fictitious name. And what evidence is there, anyway, that a ‘real name required’ comment policy does any good? Grr.

But back to the Norwegian site. It’s at https://nrkbeta.no, so take a look at it if you like. But of course it’s all in Norwegian.

One ocean, many killer whale cultures

I’ve marvelled at the killer whales here, but it had never crossed my mind that killer whale culture might differ from place to place. But maybe it does! From Hakai Magazine: One Ocean, Many Killer Whale Cultures.

In the cold, dark waters off the southern tip of Iceland, killer whales work together to corral fish into tight balls, taking turns to stun and devour them. Groups of up to 200 whales will enter the fray, feeding on these concentrated schools of herring. A few months later, some of these same whales will be 1,000 kilometers away, working in small groups to hunt seals along the Scottish coast.

The observation that Icelandic killer whales are fluid in both their choice of prey and their group size surprised researchers studying the whales’ social structure. This behavior, discovered by Sara Tavares of Scotland’s University of St Andrews, was unlike that of the intensively studied killer whales of the northeast Pacific, which have more rigid and hierarchical relationships. There, resident killer whales feed on salmon, stick to relatively small home ranges, and live in stable kinship groups led by a matriarch. In contrast, northeast Pacific transient killer whales are marine mammal specialists that live in small groups and travel over wide ranges. While transients also form family groups, it is not uncommon for individuals to form temporary associations with other transient killer whales. Residents and transients, however, rarely interact.

The findings of Tavares’s team show a much less stable association between Icelandic killer whales. They found that groups frequently break apart and come back together, and that it’s not just the prey type, but how the prey act that may be driving their relationships. [continue]

Fire-scarred trees record 700 years of natural and cultural fire history in a northern forest

I have all kinds of reasons for being interested in the effects that fire has on forests, so this grabbed my attention. And look, it’s full of interesting historical info, too! From phys.org: Fire-scarred trees record 700 years of natural and cultural fire history in a northern forest.

From AD 1300 to 1600, wildfires ignited during late summer, with about 5-10 ignitions per quarter century, generally occurring during warm, dry summers.

In the next two centuries, fire frequency rose dramatically, particularly in the mid-17th century. Early summer fires grew in prevalence. Books and other documents from this time period record a rising use of slash-and-burn cultivation and rangeland burning, explained author Ken Olaf Storaunet. The population was recovering from the devastation of the Black Death and several subsequent epidemics. People returned to abandoned lands and began using fire to improve land for grazing animals and to cultivate crops. The average length of time between recurrences of fire in the same location fell by half, from 73 to 37 years.

Increasing demand for timber in Europe raised the value of forests and discouraged slash-and-burn cultivation practices. The fires legislation banning the use of fire in Norway came in 1683. After AD 1800, fire frequency and size dropped precipitously, with only 19 fires occurring in the study area during the last 200 years.

Ecologically, the period from 1625 and onwards to today is probably unique, and something that perhaps has not happened in thousands of years, Storaunet said. [continue]

Archaeologists uncover vast ancient Roman mining operation in Spain

From Haaretz.com: Archaeologists Uncover Vast Ancient Roman Mining Operation in Spain.

Archaeologists excavating the ancient city of Munigua in southern Spain have found a vast Roman copper mining operation built on an older mine dating back thousands of years.

Exploitation of ore at Munigua apparently began by the Turdetani, the original inhabitants of the region, over 4,000 years ago. Now the excavators have discovered an elaborate system of ventilated underground galleries connected by tunnels dating to the Roman era.

They also found shafts connecting at various heights forming floors that let the miners extract metal deeper than had been believed possible at the time. Happily for the miners, the ancient Romans were on to the secret of ventilation. [continue]

The surprisingly early settlement of the Tibetan Plateau

From Scientific American: The Surprisingly Early Settlement of the Tibetan Plateau.

Article summary:

Scientists thought people first set foot on the frozen Tibetan Plateau 15,000 years ago. New genomic analyses suggest multiplying that figure as much as fourfold.

So of course you’ll want to read it!

Thanks to Peter Gardner for posting this on Diaspora, which is where I saw it.

7000-year-old footprints in Wales

From Wales Online: Ancient human footprints discovered on Welsh coastline are 7,000 years old, say researchers.

Ancient human footprints discovered on the Welsh coastline are 7,000 years old and could show a snapshot of a Mesolithic hunting party, researchers have said.

Discovered in 2014, the pre-historic footprints of both children and adults at Port Eynon on the Gower peninsula were initially thought to date to the Bronze Age but analysis carried out at Cardiff University has revealed they are actually 3,000 years older than that. [continue]

When high-class ladies wore masks that made it impossible to speak

From Atlas Obscura: When High-Class Ladies Wore Masks That Made It Impossible to Speak.

For refined, upper-class ladies in 16th-century Europe, getting a tan, especially on your face, was not a good look.

The implication of such coloring was that one must work outside, and thus, quite possibly be poor (cue gasps and swooning faints). So to make sure they didn’t get burned, some 16th-century ladies wore face masks called visards (or vizards) that covered their delicate visages. Unfortunately, the masks also made it so they couldn’t speak. And, look as if they belonged to an evil cult. [continue]

You know you want more details, yes? And for that, see: