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Portugal at World Expo 1998 by Vitorino Ramos

Images – Portugal (1A – top left, original input satellite image below), geodesically stretched by one of my Mathematical Morphology algorithms, in order to represent real travel times from each of the 18 regional districts in Portugal, to the rest of the territory.  From the 18, three capital districts are represented here. As departing from Lisbon (1B – top right), from Faro (1C – South of Portugal, bottom left), and from Bragança (1D – North-East region, bottom right). [World Exposition, Lisbon, Territory pavilion, 1998].

Recently one of my colleagues who knows I love maps, pointed me to an old TV show “Câmara Clara“, a cultural TV show by RTP2, at one of the main public Portuguese TV stations. Main reason for my interest was his current theme: Maps. My second reason was their guests: Joaquim Ferreira do Amaral (an ex-Minister with a passion for maps) and Manuel Lima, which wonderful work on information visualization I know for a long time (on one of my past posts I referred to one of his ongoing working sites: visualcomplexity).

For my complete and positive surprise, their interview ended with some new examples, being one of my old works referred (from 57m 12s up to 60m 26s on ). It’s a long story on how I ended doing these kind of maps. Part of it, it’s here. During 1998, the World Exposition was in Portugal, and I got invited to present a set of 18 different maps from the Portuguese territory. So I decided to geodesically stretch the travel distances from any of the 18 different capital districts, to the rest of the territory, in order to represent travel Time not Distance, or Distance as time. For that,  I have coded new algorithms based on Mathematical Morphology (MM), taking in account every road (from main roads to regional, check some images below), from which I applied different MM operators.

Unfortunately, many of those maps are now lost. I did tried hard to find them from my old digital archives, but only found those above, which represent the departure from Lisbon (the Capital), Faro and Bragança. So, if by any reason you happen to have some photos from the 1998’s World Exposition in Lisbon, inside the Territory pavilion, I would love to receive them.

Os Portugueses e a Arte dos Mapas - Câmara Clara 131 - Maio 10 2009Video (LINK) – “Câmara Clara” TV show by journalist Paula Moura Pinheiro dedicated to maps (nº 131), at one of the main public Portuguese TV stations (RTP2), broadcasted on May 3 2009, in Portuguese.

A sketchy summary of this TV program went on something like this (the poor translation is mine): At the year Google promises to launch his first and exhaustive world-wide open-access digital cartography of the African continent, Joaquim Ferreira do Amaral, passioned by the Portuguese World Discover History and collector of historical maps, joins as guest with Manuel Lima, the Portuguese information designer that recently Creativity magazine has considered one of the top bright minds along with Google and Amazon founders, debating the importance of “navigating” reality with a map. From the Portuguese cartographic history, know to be the best in the XV and XVI centuries, up to the actual state-of-the-art in this area, from which Manuel Lima is considered to be one of the top researchers at global scale.

Original + Layers Portugal at World Expo 1998 by Vitorino Ramos

Octavio Aburto David and Goliath CaboPulmo NatGeo2012

During several years, Octavio Aburto thought of one photo. Now, he finally got it. The recently published photograph by Aburto, titled “David and Goliath” (it his in fact David Castro, one of his research science colleagues at the center of this stunning image) has been widely shared over the last few weeks. It was taken at Cabo Pulmo National Park (Mexico) and submitted to the National Geographic photo contest 2012. Here, he captures the sheer size of fish aggregations in perspective with a single human surrounded by abundant marine life. On a recent interview, he explains:

[…] … this “David and Goliath” image is speaking to the courtship behavior of one particular species of Jack fish. […] Many people say that a single image is worth a thousand words, but a single image can also represent thousands of data points and countless statistical analyses. One image, or a small series of images can tell a complicated story in a very simple way. […] The picture you see was taken November 1st, 2012. But this picture has been in my mind for three years — I have been trying to capture this image ever since I saw the behavior of these fish and witnessed the incredible tornado that they form during courtship. So, I guess you could say this image took almost three years. […], in , Dec. 2012.

Video – Behind the scenes of David and Goliath image. This photo was taken at Cabo Pulmo National Park and submitted to the National Geographic photo contest 2012. You can see more of his images from this place and about Mexican seas on Octavio‘s web link.

Recent research have increasingly being focused on the relationship between Human-Human interaction, social networks (no, not the Facebook) and other Human-activity areas, like health. Nicholas Christakis (Harvard Univ. research link) points us that, people are inter-connected, and so as well, their health is inter-connected. This research engages two types of phenomena: the social, mathematical, and biological rules governing how social networks form (“Connection“) and the biological and social implications of how they operate to influence thoughts, feelings, and behaviours (“Contagion“), as in the self-organized stigmergy-like dynamics of Cognitive Collective Perception (link).

Above, Nicholas Christakis (in a 56m. documentary lecture produced by The Floating University, Sept. 2011) discusses the obvious tension and delicate balance between agency (one individual choices and actions) and structure (our collective responsibility), where here, structure refers not only to our co-evolving dynamic societal environment as well as to the permanent unfolding entangled nature of topological structure on complex networks, such as in human-human social networks, while asking: If you’re so free, why do you follow others? The documentary (YouTube link) resume states:

If you think you’re in complete control of your destiny or even your own actions, you’re wrong. Every choice you make, every behaviour you exhibit, and even every desire you have finds its roots in the social universe. Nicholas Christakis explains why individual actions are inextricably linked to sociological pressures; whether you’re absorbing altruism performed by someone you’ll never meet or deciding to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, collective phenomena affect every aspect of your life. By the end of the lecture Christakis has revealed a startling new way to understand the world that ranks sociology as one of the most vitally important social sciences.”

While cooperation is central to the success of human societies and is widespread, cooperation in itself, however, poses a challenge in both the social and biological sciences: How can this high level of cooperation be maintained in the face of possible exploitation? One answer involves networked interactions and population structure.

As perceived, the balance between homophily (where “birds of a feather flock together”) and heterophily (one where most of genotypes are negatively correlated), do requires further research. In fact, in humans, one of the most replicated findings in the social sciences is that people tend to associate with other people that they resemble, a process precisely known as homophily. As Christakis points out, although phenotypic resemblance between friends might partly reflect the operation of social influence, our genotypes are not materially susceptible to change. Therefore, genotypic resemblance could result only from a process of selection. Such genotypic selection might in turn take several forms. For short, let me stress you two examples. What follows are two papers, as well as a quick reference (image below) to a recent general-audience of his books:

1) Rewiring your network fosters cooperation:

“Human populations are both highly cooperative and highly organized. Human interactions are not random but rather are structured in social networks. Importantly, ties in these networks often are dynamic, changing in response to the behavior of one’s social partners. This dynamic structure permits an important form of conditional action that has been explored theoretically but has received little empirical attention: People can respond to the cooperation and defection of those around them by making or breaking network links. Here, we present experimental evidence of the power of using strategic link formation and dissolution, and the network modification it entails, to stabilize cooperation in sizable groups. Our experiments explore large-scale cooperation, where subjects’ cooperative actions are equally beneficial to all those with whom they interact. Consistent with previous research, we find that cooperation decays over time when social networks are shuffled randomly every round or are fixed across all rounds. We also find that, when networks are dynamic but are updated only infrequently, cooperation again fails. However, when subjects can update their network connections frequently, we see a qualitatively different outcome: Cooperation is maintained at a high level through network rewiring. Subjects preferentially break links with defectors and form new links with cooperators, creating an incentive to cooperate and leading to substantial changes in network structure. Our experiments confirm the predictions of a set of evolutionary game theoretic models and demonstrate the important role that dynamic social networks can play in supporting large-scale human cooperation.”, abstract in D.G. Rand, S. Arbesman, and N.A. Christakis, “Dynamic Social Networks Promote Cooperation in Experiments with Humans,” PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (October 2011). [full PDF];

Picture – (book cover) Along with James Fowler, Christakis has authored also a general-audience book on social networks: Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, 2011 (book link). For a recent book review, access here.

2) We are surrounded by a sea of our friends’ genes:

“It is well known that humans tend to associate with other humans who have similar characteristics, but it is unclear whether this tendency has consequences for the distribution of genotypes in a population. Although geneticists have shown that populations tend to stratify genetically, this process results from geographic sorting or assortative mating, and it is unknown whether genotypes may be correlated as a consequence of nonreproductive associations or other processes. Here, we study six available genotypes from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to test for genetic similarity between friends. Maps of the friendship networks show clustering of genotypes and, after we apply strict controls for population strati!cation, the results show that one genotype is positively correlated (homophily) and one genotype is negatively correlated (heterophily). A replication study in an independent sample from the Framingham Heart Study veri!es that DRD2 exhibits signi!cant homophily and that CYP2A6 exhibits signi!cant heterophily. These unique results show that homophily and heterophily obtain on a genetic (indeed, an allelic) level, which has implications for the study of population genetics and social behavior. In particular, the results suggest that association tests should include friends’ genes and that theories of evolution should take into account the fact that humans might, in some sense, be metagenomic with respect to the humans around them.”, abstract in J.H. Fowler, J.E. Settle, and N.A. Christakis, “Correlated Genotypes in Friendship Networks,” PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (January 2011). [full PDF].

How wings are attached to the backs of Angels, Craig Welsh (1996) – Production by the National Film Board of Canada ( In this surreal exposition, we meet a man, obsessed with control. His intricate gadgets manipulate yet insulate, as his science dissects and reduces. How exactly are wings attached to the back of angels? In this invented world drained of emotion, where everything goes through the motions, he is brushed by indefinite longings. Whether he can transcend his obsessions and fears is the heart of the matter (from Vimeo).

video – tshirtOS is the world’s first wearable, shareable, programmable t-shirt. A working, digital t-shirt that can be programmed by an iOS app to do whatever you can think of (by CuteCircuit, link).

It takes you 500,000 microseconds just to click a mouse. But if you’re a Wall Street algorithm and you’re five microseconds behind, you’re a loser.” ~ Kevin Slavin.

TED video lecture – Kevin Slavin (link) argues that we’re living in a world designed for – and increasingly controlled by – algorithms. In this riveting talk from TEDGlobal, he shows how these complex computer programs determine: espionage tactics, stock prices, movie scripts, and architecture. And he warns that we are writing code we can’t understand, with implications we can’t control. Kevin Slavin navigates in the “algoworld“, the expanding space in our lives that’s determined and run by algorithms (link at TED).

Video lecture – In this new RSA Animate, Manuel Lima, senior UX design lead at Microsoft Bing, explores the power of network visualisation to help navigate our complex modern world. Taken from a lecture given by Manuel Lima as part of the RSA’s free public events programme.

Network visualization has experienced a meteoric rise in the last decade, bringing together people from various fields and capturing the interest of individuals across the globe. As the practice continues to shed light on an incredible array of complex issues, it keeps drawing attention back onto itself. Manuel Lima is a Senior UX Design Lead at Microsoft Bing and founder of, and was nominated as ‘one of the 50 most creative and influential minds of 2009’ by Creativity Magazine. He visits the RSA to explore a critical paradigm shift in various areas of knowledge, as we stop relying on hierarchical tree structures and turn instead to networks in order to properly map the inherent complexities of our modern world. The talk will showcase a variety of captivating examples of visualization and also introduce the network topology as a new cultural meme. (from RSA, lecture link).

Video Documentary – Code Rush (, produced in 2000 and broadcast on PBS, is an inside look at living and working in Silicon Valley at the height of the dot-com era. The film follows a group of Netscape engineers as they pursue at that time a revolutionary venture to save their company – giving away the software recipe for Netscape’s browser in exchange for integrating improvements created by outside software developers.

” (…) code (…) Why is it important for the world? Because it’s the blood of the organism that is our culture, now. It’s what makes everything go.“, Jamie Zawinski, Code Rush, 2000.

The year is early 1998, at the height of dot-com era, and a small team of Netscape code writers frantically works to reconstruct the company’s Internet browser. In doing so they will rewrite the rules of software development by giving away the recipe for its browser in exchange for integrating improvements created by outside unpaid developers.  The fate of the entire company may well rest on their shoulders. Broadcast on PBS, the film capture the human and technological dramas that unfold in the collision between science, engineering, code, and commerce.

Video – Lynn Hoffman (social worker, link) talks about a shift that has been taking place in our world, a shift that simmered in the background for many years and has recently erupted onto the world stage. This shift is akin to a revolution, and often gives a renewed impetus to contemporary revolutionary movements. The shift is related to what Lynn sees as a move from the system metaphor, with its emphasis on symmetry, order and a return to the same, to the rhizome with its more messy and horizontal plane of endless relations.

Gregory Bateson and the Rhizome Century” is an interdisciplinary event inspired by the vision of family therapy pioneer, Lynn Hoffman. The conference is for anyone who: Appreciates the pressing significance of honoring the complexities of our interrelations with one another, with nature, and also with our technologies; Understands that a primary responsibility for our generation is to move beyond the individualism’s and negations so prominent in Western thought, towards a work that generates sustaining and sustainable webs of relationship. [, Vancouver, Canada, Oct. 2012].

Video – Animaris Gubernare (AG), is one of the most recent Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest‘s ( machine animals. Born in October 2010, AG died out in October 2011. It had two external (rolling) wind stomachs which serve as an anchor against strong winds.

Since 1990, only by using plastic tubes, lemonade bottles and air pistons as logic gates, powered by wind, Theo Jansen has produced some quite incredible machine animals. His creatures are designed to move – and even survive – on their own. In some cases he have recurred to Evolutionary Computation (more) as a mean to optimize their shape in order to longer survive hard storms and salt water. He briefly explains:

“(…) Since 1990 I have been occupied creating new forms of life. Not pollen or seeds but plastic yellow tubes are used as the basic material of this new nature. I make skeletons that are able to walk on the wind, so they don’t have to eat. Over time, these skeletons have become increasingly better at surviving the elements such as storm and water and eventually I want to put these animals out in herds on the beaches, so they will live their own lives (…)”, Theo Jansen, in Strandbeest (

But he goes a step further. Not he only develop sensors (for water sensing) as well as a full Brain, a binary step counter made of plastic tubes, which could change his pattern of zeroes, overtime, and adapts. Have a look (minute 6, second 33) … :

Video – Jansen‘s Lecture at TED talks, March 2007 (Monterey, California). Theo Jansen creates kinetic sculptures that walk using wind power (featured in a few previous short sifts), here he explains how he makes them work. Incredibly, he has devised a way to optimize the shape of the machine’s parts and gait using a genetic algorithm running on a PC and has actually made logic gates out of the air pistons making up the machines. His work attests to a truly jaw-dropping intelligence.

Video – Water has Memory (from Oasis HD, Canada; link): just a liquid or much more? Many researchers are convinced that water is capable of “memory” by storing information and retrieving it. The possible applications are innumerable: limitless retention and storage capacity and the key to discovering the origins of life on our planet. Research into water is just beginning.

Water capable of processing information as well as a huge possible “container” for data media, that is something remarkable. This theory was first proposed by the late French immunologist Jacques Benveniste, in a controversial article published in 1988 in Nature, as a way of explaining how homeopathy works (link). Benveniste’s theory has continued to be championed by some and disputed by others. The video clip above, from the Oasis HD Channel, shows some fascinating recent experiments with water “memory” from the Aerospace Institute of the University of Stuttgart in Germany. The results with the different types of flowers immersed in water are particularly evocative.

This line of research also remembers me back of an old and quite interesting paper by a colleague, Chrisantha Fernando. Together with Sampsa Sojakka, both have proved that waves produced on the surface of water can be used as the medium for a Wolfgang Maass’ “Liquid State Machine” (link) that pre-processes inputs so allowing a simple perceptron to solve the XOR problem and undertake speech recognition. Amazingly, Water achieves this “for free”, and does so without the time-consuming computation required by realistic neural models. What follows is the abstract of their paper entitled “Pattern Recognition in a Bucket“, as well a PDF link onto it:

Figure – Typical wave patterns for the XOR task. Top-Left: [0 1] (right motor on), Top-Right: [1 0] (left motor on), Bottom-Left: [1 1] (both motors on), Bottom-Right: [0 0] (still water). Sobel filtered and thresholded images on right. (from Fig. 3. in in Chrisantha Fernando and Sampsa Sojakka, “Pattern Recognition in a Bucket“, ECAL proc., European Conference on Artificial Life, 2003.

[…] Abstract. This paper demonstrates that the waves produced on the surface of water can be used as the medium for a “Liquid State Machine” that pre-processes inputs so allowing a simple perceptron to solve the XOR problem and undertake speech recognition. Interference between waves allows non-linear parallel computation upon simultaneous sensory inputs. Temporal patterns of stimulation are converted to spatial patterns of water waves upon which a linear discrimination can be made. Whereas Wolfgang Maass’ Liquid State Machine requires fine tuning of the spiking neural network parameters, water has inherent self-organising properties such as strong local interactions, time-dependent spread of activation to distant areas, inherent stability to a wide variety of inputs, and high complexity. Water achieves this “for free”, and does so without the time-consuming computation required by realistic neural models. An analogy is made between water molecules and neurons in a recurrent neural network. […] in Chrisantha Fernando and Sampsa Sojakka, Pattern Recognition in a Bucket“, ECAL proc., European Conference on Artificial Life, 2003. [PDF link]

Video – NASA | SDO’s Ultra-high Definition View of 2012 Venus Transit. (June 5 2012).

Seeing these pictures is like a time machine. We link onto those who have seen it years ago, as well those who will see it centuries from now.” (link)

Launched on Feb. 11, 2010, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, is the most advanced spacecraft ever designed to study the sun. During its five-year mission, it will examine the sun’s atmosphere, magnetic field and also provide a better understanding of the role the sun plays in Earth’s atmospheric chemistry and climate. SDO provides images with resolution 8 times better than high-definition television and returns more than a terabyte of data each day.

On June 5 2012, SDO collected images of the rarest predictable solar event–the transit of Venus across the face of the sun.  This event happens in pairs eight years apart that are separated from each other by 105 or 121 years.  The last transit was in 2004 and the next will not happen until 2117.

The videos and images displayed here are constructed from several wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light and a portion of the visible spectrum.  The red colored sun is the 304 angstrom ultraviolet, the golden colored sun is 171 angstrom, the magenta sun is 1700 angstrom, and the orange sun is filtered visible light.  304 and 171 show the atmosphere of the sun, which does not appear in the visible part of the spectrum.

Fig. – Handout image by NASA (click to enlarge) shows the planet Venus at the start of its transit of the Sun, June 5, 2012. One of the rarest astronomical events occurs on Tuesday and Wednesday when Venus passed directly between the Sun and Earth, a transit that won’t occur again until 2117, 105 years from now. The first observation of the Transit of Venus was made by Salford stargazer William Crabtree in 1639 (mural drawing at Manchester Town Hallby by Ford Madox Brown – image from Wikipedia).

Video – A compilation of Professor Walter Lewins and some of his lectures at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He draws some of the best lines, especially dashed lines – so fast that his hand isn’t even moving up and down to produce the dashes.

[…] Swing music, also known as swing jazz or simply swing, is a form of jazz music that developed in the early 1930s and became a distinctive style by 1935 in the United States. Swing uses a strong rhythm section of double bass and drums as the anchor for a lead section of brass instruments such as trumpets and trombones, woodwinds including saxophones and clarinets, and sometimes stringed instruments such as violin and guitar, medium to fast tempos, and a “lilting” swing time rhythm. The name swing came from the phrase ‘swing feelwhere the emphasis is on the off-beat or weaker pulse in the music (unlike classic music). Swing bands usually featured soloists who would improvise on the melody over the arrangement. The danceable swing style of bandleaders such as Benny Goodman and Count Basie was the dominant form of American popular music from 1935 to 1945. The verb “to swing” is also used as a term of praise for playing that has a strong rhythmic “groove” or drive. […] from Wikipedia (link).

nota bene – tomorrow is Jazz day, isn’t it?!


I met Death today. We are playing chess. (…) My life has been a futile pursuit, a wandering, a great deal of talk without meaning. I feel no bitterness or self-reproach because the lives of most people [plague] are very much like this. But I will use my reprieve for one meaningful deed.”, Antonius Block.

The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet). Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, Sweden 1957 – (…) Disillusioned knight Antonius Block and his squire Jöns return after fighting in the Crusades and find Sweden being ravaged by the plague. On the beach immediately after their arrival, Block encounters Death, personified as a pale, black-cowled figure resembling a monk. Block, in the middle of a chess game he has been playing alone, challenges Death to a chess match, believing that he can forestall his demise as long as the game continues. Death agrees, and they start a new game. The other characters in the story do not see Death, and when the chess board comes out at various times in the story, they believe Block is continuing his habit of playing alone. (…)

(…) In the confessional, the knight says “I use a combination of the bishop and the knight which he hasn’t yet discovered. In the next move I’ll shatter one of his flanks.” Death (in disguise as the priest) replies “I’ll remember that.” When they play by the beach, the knight says: “Because I revealed my tactics to you I’m in retreat. It’s your move.Death captures his opponent’s knight. “You did the right thing“, states the knight, “you fell right in the trap. Check! Don’t worry about my laughter, save your king instead.Death‘s response is to lean over the chess board and make a psychological move. “Are you going to escort the juggler and his wife through the forest? Those whose names are Jof and Mia and who have a small son.” “Why do you ask?” says the knight. “Oh, no reason”, replies Death“. (…) from Wikipedia [link] (Nota bene – bolds and underlines are mine).

Sound/Video – willterminus (YouTube link) says: “I was bored so I wanted to see if I could get free dial up internet so I found that NetZero still has free service so I put in the number and heard the glorious sound of the Dial-up. Remind me of years gone. Unfortunately I was not able to make a connection“.

Video – Finland’s educational system: Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss the revolutionary educational system Finland has instituted and the results of that system on the education of their children. Read more about it at: Anu Partanen, “What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success“, The Atlantic magazine, US, Dec. 2011.


The above artificial ecosystem investigates the characteristics of the simulated environment through the use of agents reactive to pheromone trails. Pheromones spread through the fluid and are transported by it. The configuration of the reefs will be developed therefore in areas with less chance of stagnation of pheromones (done in Processing, from Alessandro Zomparelli, 2012).

I would like to thank flocks, herds, and schools for existing: nature is the ultimate source of inspiration for computer graphics and animation.” in Craig Reynolds, “Flocks, Herds, and Schools: A Distributed Behavioral Model“, (paper link) published in Computer Graphics, 21(4), July 1987, pp. 25-34. (ACM SIGGRAPH ’87 Conference Proceedings, Anaheim, California, July 1987.)

I saw them hurrying from either side, and each shade kissed another, without pausing;  Each by the briefest society satisfied. (Ants in their dark ranks, meet exactly so, rubbing each other’s noses, to ask perhaps; What luck they’ve had, or which way they should go.)” — Dante, Purgatorio, Canto XXVI.

Video documentary: A 15-minute program produced from February 1949 to April 1952, Kieran’s Kaleidoscope presented its writer and host in his well-acquainted role as the learned and witty guide to the complexities of human knowledge (Production Company: Almanac Films). This is probably the most genuinely entertaining of all the John Kieran‘s Kaleidoscope films. On Ant City (1949) [Internet Archive] produced by Paul F. Moss, the poor ants are anthropomorphized to the nth degree; we even hear the Wedding March when the “queen” and her drone fly away from the nest. Kieran‘s patter has never been more meandering; he sounds like a befuddled uncle narrating home movies. Clumsy but enjoyable.

[...] People should learn how to play Lego with their minds. Concepts are building bricks [...] V. Ramos, 2002.

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