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Lemming Suicide Is a Myth That Was Perpetuated by Disney
"We've all heard that lemmings jump into the sea every year, drowning themselves because they are just following the herd. Except they don't. That's actually a myth invented for a Disney wildlife documentary, and it has blinded us to the truth about the weird lives of lemmings for decades.

Lemmings are small, fluffy rodents that live mostly in the Arctic, thriving on the snowy tundra in places like Norway, northern Alaska, and Siberia. One of the great mysteries of lemmings is their odd population cycle. Like many rodents, their population expands every few years. But among lemmings, this explosion is dramatic — every few years, their population grows 100 to 1000 times larger in just one winter season.

These events are often called lemming outbreaks because the rodents will migrate all over the place looking for food, even swimming across rivers and lakes to find plants and mosses to eat. Occasionally, they fall off rocks or cliffs as they scramble to find sustenance. Then, just as abruptly, their population crashes into near-extinction.

For centuries, legends have formed around this odd cycle. Where do the lemming outbreaks come from? And what happens to all of the rodents afterwards? One popular myth was that they all just jumped into the ocean and died. Back in 1958, Disney was making a documentary about Arctic wildlife, White Wilderness, and decided that legends were as good as facts. So they brought in a truck full of lemmings to throw into the Arctic ocean. First, they put a bunch of the lemmings on a big, snowy turntable to film them "running" toward some cliffs. Then they shoved hundreds of these poor little guys over the cliff, into the ocean, where they (not surprisingly) drowned after trying to swim.

Here is the original clip from White Wilderness, below. Knowing that these lemmings were deliberately shoved over the cliff and drowned makes this pretty upsetting, so be warned before watching.

This film is what gave rise to many sayings about how lemmings follow the herd no matter what. And of course it's misled many people into thinking that lemmings commit mass suicide on a regular basis.

The reality is actually just as mysterious as the legends. Lemmings are one of the only true Arctic rodents, and they prefer to reproduce in winter. During especially cold winters, or at chilly high altitudes, they will have far more offspring. Lemming population booms, according to researchers' observations, are dependent on icy cold weather. There are likely a few reasons for this, but most important would be that they've adapted to cold weather systems — when there's a long, intense winter, these little guys breed like crazy under the snow.

As for what causes the lemmings' massive population crash — we still aren't completely sure. We know for certain that it's not mass suicide, but we also know that more adult lemmings die during outbreak years. So the population is huge, but a lot more of the animals are dying than during a typical year.

This high lemming death rate could be because the expanded population suffers food shortages, or it could be caused by predators chowing down on these tasty creatures that are suddenly everywhere underfoot. Another possibility is that there is a lot more infanticide because so many males want to mate with females — and killing a female's brood will make her ready to mate again.

Because the most intriguing part of the lemmings' lifecycle takes place under the Arctic ice, it's been hard to observe them and find out what's driving their population flux. But one thing is for certain. With the Arctic warming, there are likely to be fewer and fewer lemming outbreaks. And nobody is really sure what that will do to the typical lemming population.

For now, lemmings remain a strange and adorable mystery of the tundra."

[I never bookmarked this when I used it in January: "In 1958, Disney made a film about big data. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMZlr5Gf9yY More info: http://www.snopes.com/disney/films/lemmings.asp + http://factually.gizmodo.com/lemmings-dont-commit-mass-suicide-disney-pushed-them-o-1614038696 "
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/556196381258293248 ]
lemmings  disney  1958  nature  animals  propoganda  data  bigdata  herdmentality  slander  arctic  tundra  annaleenewitz  2015 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Your guide to California in the Pacific world, past, present, and future
"via: https://twitter.com/the_wrangler/status/567023408064778240
"California is a queer place... it has turned its back on the world and looks into the void Pacific."—D.H. Lawrence: http://hosted.verticalresponse.com/1862325/d14d0bdf66/572442965/353d17b409/ "

"At Boom, we think of our mission as opening up conversations about California in the world and the world in California. California was part of the Pacific world long before it was part of the United States. Today, we live in many worlds. The Pacific is not the only one. But it is arguably most important for California—and one we are still trying to figure out.

We put together our new issue looking backward and forward on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco to try to provoke, inspire, and sustain a conversation about California in the Pacific world: 1915 | 2015 | 2115.

In the process, we found a strong current we didn’t anticipate running from the past through the present and into the future: the quest for a California cosmopolitanism in the Pacific world.

Our spring issue, in the mail to subscribers now, is divided into three sections. Colin Marshall, Wendy Cheng, Robert Gottlieb, and Jean Melesaine kick things off by exploring the state of California in the Pacific world—or Latin-Pacific world—today. Elizabeth Logan, Abigail Markwyn, Phoebe S.K. Young, and Suzanne Fischer explore the 1915 roots of California’s cosmopolitanism in an optimism for peace and prosperity on the eve of World War I, but also in the deeply troubling scientific racism that underpinned imperial aspirations abroad and segregation at home. And then we look ahead to 2115, with help from Gustavo Arellano, Alex Steffen, Alexis Madrigal, and Annalee Newitz. Will Silicon Valley's view of itself and California still at the center of the Pacific world prevail, or will a broader Pacific cosmopolitanism win out, one in which California may not be the center, but will always be a part?

The full issue is already available on JSTOR, and over the coming weeks we’ll be rolling it out at www.boomcalifornia.com, where historian Thomas Osborne’s introductory essay [http://www.boomcalifornia.com/2015/02/california/ ] is up now, along with my letter from the editor's desktop, the full list of contributors, and our quarterly Boom list of things to do, see, and read around California this spring. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to be sure you don't miss a thing."

[See also: http://www.boomcalifornia.com/2015/02/from-the-editors-desktop-4/
and http://www.boomcalifornia.com/2015/02/contributors-spring-2015/
and http://www.boomcalifornia.com/2015/02/spring-2015/ ]
california  pacific  2015  history  dhlawrence  1915  2115  cosmopolitanism  colinmarshall  wendycheng  roberthgottlieb  jeanmelasaine  elizabethlogan  abigailmarkyn  phoebeyoung  suzannefischer  optimism  gustavoarellano  alexsteffan  alexismadrigal  annaleenewitz  boomcalifornia  thomasosborne 
february 2015 by robertogreco
We Are All Living Among the Dead
"My father loved high-end stereo equipment. After he died, I kept seeing one of his old radio tuners from the 1980s in my mind. For my whole life, I'd been listening to his broadcasts — but now, when I moved the knob to tune the station frequency, there was nothing. The signal had ended. But I kept trying to tune it anyway, wanting to hear him apologize, or say he loved me, or list the ingredients in what he was cooking for dinner. There is only static, though. Static forever.

I think our fantasies of zombies and ghosts are ways of explaining this feeling, this sense that the dead are still out there broadcasting and walking around. Just because someone has died doesn't mean they don't continue to shape our lives.

Will was an electronics geek and environmentalist, who combined these passions to create a large intentional community in California called Regen Co-op. Many Co-op members worked with Will at the small business he ran, which helps people transition to solar energy and electric cars. Here is a classic moment with Will, doing a how-to about creating a car charging station in Sausalito, CA: [video]

It's thanks to Will that I have an unholy number of solar panels on my roof and a strange assortment of LEDs in pretty much every light socket in my house. At his funeral, which was packed with colleagues and friends and activist co-conspirators, I heard many people talk about how Will would live on — not just in their hearts, but in their electrical wiring and energy systems. Will changed our infrastructure. He is dead, but he is still here, in the power I send back to the grid on sunny days.

But how can we bear to live among the dead? I think this is also a question posed by ghost stories, which are usually full of pain and horror. How do we cope with all the missing people, the fantasies we have of them, when there's work to be done and people still living all around us? I wish the answer were as simple as burning the ghost's bones with a pinch of salt, after hanging out with the Winchester brothers on Supernatural. If only it were as easy to dispatch my sadness as it is to shoot a zombie straight through the eyes.

Sure, there are comforting rituals and the slow erosion of pain with the passage of time. That's not enough. I think the only thing to be done is to admit that the dead live with you forever, and to find some way to make room for them — while still leaving plenty of space for the people who have survived with you. I carry my dad's wallet with me every day, with his old teacher's union card in it. And right now, I am sitting under an LED light that Will installed. These are just small material things, but they represent a lot more than that.

They are my promises to the dead that I will survive, and I will take them with me into the future. I will make their jokes for them; I will cook the recipes they taught me; I will fight to save the Earth alongside their ghosts. This is about keeping up the good fight for all of humanity, but it's also about the little struggles just to stay hopeful after a sad year. So I will take their memories out to see Guardians of the Galaxy, and I'll invite all you survivors to come along too. Those of us who remember the dead are all the dead have left; and that is why we honor them by sticking together, by staying alive together, so that every haunting becomes a possible future.

Hey you, out there — please stay alive with me. There are no zombies to fight. We only have each other."
death  memory  memories  time  immortality  ghosts  2014  annaleenewitz  mourning 
october 2014 by robertogreco
I've Seen the Worst Memes of My Generation Destroyed by Madness
"Cultural critic Evgeny Morozov has just written the essay equivalent of The Social Network. "The Meme Hustlers," published yesterday in The Baffler, is a fictional-but-true account of a well-known Silicon Valley figure, O'Reilly Books publisher Tim O'Reilly. It's also a story about the future that Silicon Valley pioneers want to build for the world, using corrupt memes that could wreck democracy."



"What disgusts Morozov about the slide from free software to open source is that a revolutionary idea -- radical transparency, radical sharing -- became yet another corporate landscape with a little bit of cooperation between companies. Morozov blames O'Reilly's "meme engineering" for this shift, for popularizing open source at the expense of freedom.

The real problem, however, is the way this shift to open source has spawned a creepy kind of political futurism devoted to "open government.""



"More importantly, Morozov believes this future will fragment our citizenry, eroding group solidarity and turning us into little monads who can't organize a protest or social movement. After all, we'll be busy trying to set up DiY schools and build roads that our government stopped providing because doing so was inefficient.

It's a dystopian vision of the open future, and one that's worth paying attention to.

As a coda, it's worth noting that Morozov's rhetorical style in this essay has a history that stretches back as far as the one he attributes to O'Reilly. This is the kind of article that made The Baffler famous back in the 1990s, when founder Thomas Frank ran the zine as the intellectual wing of an indie movement whose biggest political enemies were artists and thinkers who had "sold out" to corporate capitalism. Morozov's essay eviscerates O'Reilly's career in order to out him as a fake progressive who confuses entrepreneurialism with political freedom. In this story, O'Reilly is the indie rocker who sold out -- or maybe the hipster marketer who induced other indie rockers to sell out. Either way, O'Reilly's foundational crime is taking something radical and transformative like free software and mainstreaming it by making it palatable to entrepreneurs and consumers. And this is the kind of mainstreaming that also turns participatory, responsible governments into pathetic tools of crony capitalism and (in a worst-case scenario) privatized military forces.

As I said, the essay must be read as an allegory about a set of memes, not as a profile of a man. But Morozov is correct to identify a disturbing slipperiness at the core of the "open government" meme. It sounds like freedom but is really just another way of turning you into a passive data point, easily mined by the highest bidder."
annaleenewitz  timoreilly  evgenymorozov  2013  technocracy  opensource  rhetoric  writing  opengovernment  californianideology  siliconvalley  libertarianism  freedom  markets  wealth  capitalism  miltarism 
april 2013 by robertogreco
Corvids: The Birds Who Think Like Humans
"Someday I will come up with a good reason why I am friends with the neighborhood crows. For now, I can say that it started when I looked up from my office window to see this big flock of crows hanging out on the roof of an apartment building nearby. I had heard that these creatures, part of a larger family of birds called corvids, were among the smartest animals in the world. If they were that intelligent, I wanted to meet them. How could I get those awesome animals to come visit me? I decided to find out."

"Do crows, jays and other corvids share with humans the ability to know themselves and know other creatures too? Or are they merely acting on instinct, which we mistake for more complex thought patterns? It's impossible to say for certain. But there is no doubt that they are extremely intelligent, social animals, who count humans among those creatures they are willing to trust."
nature  science  behavior  animals  birds  crows  2012  annaleenewitz 
december 2012 by robertogreco
Max Headroom predicted my job, 20 years before it existed
"The entire 80s cyberpunk Max Headroom TV series is available today on DVD, and one of the pleasures of rewatching the series is discovering how many things it got right about the future."
1980s  cyberpunk  future  futurism  io9  maxheadroom  television  tv  predictions  technology  journalism  sciencefiction  media  scifi  punk  1988  1987  annaleenewitz  ratings  instant-ratings  4chan  piratevideo  mediahacking  security  2010 
august 2010 by robertogreco
News & Culture in Silicon Valley | Technology News: Geowanking
"a group of high-tech map enthusiasts whose areas of expertise range from making customizable web maps (often built out of polygons) and geolocation software to map-based online storytelling and handheld devices that provide information about your environ
geocoding  geowanking  maps  mapping  location  location-based  humor  neologisms  annaleenewitz  webapps  geolocation  storytelling 
june 2008 by robertogreco

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