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Andrei Kolmogorov is a name unfamiliar to most, but his work had lasting impact. Slava Gerovitch profiled the mathematician, describing the change in thought towards probability theory, which was once more of a joke than a serious approach to evaluate the world. I especially liked the bit about Kolmogorov's appreciation for the arts.

Music and literature were deeply important to Kolmogorov, who believed he could analyze them probabilistically to gain insight into the inner workings of the human mind. He was a cultural elitist who believed in a hierarchy of artistic values. At the pinnacle were the writings of Goethe, Pushkin, and Thomas Mann, alongside the compositions of Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, and Beethoven—works whose enduring value resembled eternal mathematical truths. Kolmogorov stressed that every true work of art was a unique creation, something unlikely by definition, something outside the realm of simple statistical regularity. "Is it possible to include [Tolstoy's War and Peace] in a reasonable way into the set of 'all possible novels' and further to postulate the existence of a certain probability distribution in this set?” he asked, sarcastically, in a 1965 article.

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For this rainy Labor Day, here's an uplifting talk by DataKind founder Jake Porway. He talks data and how it can make a worthwhile difference in areas that could use a change.

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(author unknown)

The time to enter the 25th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest is running short -- entries will be accepted for another few days, until June 30, 2013. The first prize winner will receive a 10-day Galapagos expedition for two. National Geographic was once more kind enough to allow me to share some of the later entries with you here, gathered from four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place, and Spontaneous Moments. Photos and captions by the photographers. Also, be sure to see Part 1, earlier on In Focus. [46 photos]

From the 'Sense of Place' category, a couple paddle out for a sunset surf in the coastal surfing town of Byron Bay, Australia. (© Ming Nomchong/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)     

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Original author: 
Ben Popper

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The field of neuroscience has been animated recently by the use of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or fMRI. When a person lies in an fMRI machine, scientists can see their brain activity in real time. It’s a species of mind reading that promises to unlock the still mysterious workings of our grey matter.

In April, a team in Japan announced that they could identify when a subject was dreaming about different types of objects like a house, a clock, or a husband. Last November, another group of researchers using this technique was able to predict if gadget columnist David Pogue was thinking about a skyscraper or a strawberry.

What earlier studies couldn’t determine, however, was how the subjects were actually feeling. A new...

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Original author: 
Soulskill

vinces99 writes "Small electrodes placed on or inside the brain allow patients to interact with computers or control robotic limbs simply by thinking about how to execute those actions. This technology could improve communication and daily life for a person who is paralyzed or has lost the ability to speak from a stroke or neurodegenerative disease. Now researchers have demonstrated that when humans use this brain-computer interface, the brain behaves much like it does when completing simple motor skills such as kicking a ball, typing or waving a hand (abstract). That means learning to control a robotic arm or a prosthetic limb could become second nature for people who are paralyzed."

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Original author: 
John Timmer

FirasMT

In the past few years, there have been a regular series of announcements about devices that cloak something in space. These typically bend light around the cloak so that it comes out behind the object looking as if it had never shifted at all. In contrast, there's just been a single description of a temporal cloaking device, something that hides an event in time. The device works because in some media different frequencies of light move at different speeds. With the right combination of frequency shifts, it's possible to create and then re-seal a break in a light beam.

But that particular cloak could only create breaks in the light beam that lasted picoseconds. Basically, you couldn't hide all that much using it. Now, researchers have taken the same general approach and used it to hide signals in a beam of light sent through an optical fiber. When the cloak is in operation, the signals largely disappear. In this case the cloak can hide nearly half of the total bandwidth of the light, resulting in a hidden transmission rate of 12.7 Gigabits per second.

The work started with the Talbot effect in mind, in which a diffraction grating causes repeated images of the grating to appear at set distances away from it. The cloaking device relies on the converse of this. At other distances, the light intensity drops to zero. The key trick is to convert the Talbot effect from something that happens in space to something that happens in time.

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TEDxTalks


Mechanics of unconscious thinking: Boicho Kokinov at TEDxNBU

Boicho Kokinov was a professor of Cognitive science with New Bulgarian University. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-o...
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Original author: 
Nathan Yau

PBS Off Book's recent episode is on "the art of data visualization." It feels like a TED talk — kind of fluffy and warm — with several names and visualization examples that you'll recognize. No clue who the first guy is though.

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(author unknown)

» Research Tips For Designers and Developers

How is the waterfall web design process like the childhood game of “Telephone,” and how can we fix it? Bringing designers and developers into the discovery and research phase is a good start, says Happy Cog creative director Chris Cashdollar, who shares stakeholder interviewing tips in this helpful Cognition post.

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Original author: 
Sean Gallagher


Alpha.data.gov, an experimental data portal created under the White House's Open Data Initiative.

Data.gov

President Barack Obama issued an executive order today that aims to make "open and machine-readable" data formats a requirement for all new government IT systems. The order would also apply to existing systems that are being modernized or upgraded. If implemented, the mandate would bring new life to efforts started by the Obama administration with the launch of Data.gov four years ago. It would also expand an order issued in 2012 to open up government systems with public interfaces for commercial app developers.

"The default state of new and modernized Government information resources shall be open and machine readable," the president's order reads. "Government information shall be managed as an asset throughout its life cycle to promote interoperability and openness, and, wherever possible and legally permissible, to ensure that data are released to the public in ways that make the data easy to find, accessible, and usable." The order, however, also requires that this new "default state" protect personally identifiable information and other sensitive data on individual citizens, as well as classified information.

Broadening the “open” mandate

The president's mandate was initially pushed forward by former Chief Information Officer of the United States Vivek Kundra. In May of 2009, Data.gov launched with an order that required agencies to provide at least three "high-value data sets" through the portal.

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