Animals, Anthropology, Biological Computation, Biology, Biometrics, Education, Nature, PDF, Science

Darwinism About Darwinism (Joeri Witteveen)


Review of Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection by Peter Godfrey-Smith (Oxford Uni Press 2009)

“… devoted to fleshing out what makes a population Darwinian. This is done by scoring a given population on a variety of parameters, such as H, the fidelity of heredity, and V, the abundance of variation. So, instead of saying that a population must have heredity and variation—in the vein of the classical approach—the Darwinian populations framework ranks populations according to how much it possesses of each. The H and V parameters are familiar; they are derived from the classical summaries. The other parameters are less obvious. G-S discusses several important ones, but notes that these do not exhaust the options; other parameters may also be important in judging how Darwinian a population is. The new parameters that are discussed at some length are α, defined as the competitive interaction with respect to reproduction, C, for “continuity” or smoothness of the fitness landscape, and S, the dependence of reproductive differences on “intrinsic character.” The concept of continuity was introduced by Lewontin as the principle that “small changes in a characteristic must result in only small changes in ecological relations” (Lewontin 1978: 169). G-S extends this principle, and turns it into a parameter. One way to understand C is as the smoothness of the fitness landscape. The smoother the fitness landscape, the higher the value C takes for the population under consideration. C is determined by causes of both internal and external nature. Internal influences stem from the organism’s physiology and development. External influences on C are location, and interaction with others. G-S assigns the internal/external difference its own parameter, S, for “intrinsic character.” The higher a population’s score on C and S, the more Darwinian are the individuals it is composed of. C and S not only tell us something about what makes individuals more Darwinian, they also serve as a replacement for another vexed notion in evolutionary theory: drift. Selection is often contrasted with drift; change may be due to selection and/or drift. G-S suggests that the C and S parameters dissolve this dichotomy. What we take to be drift is in fact a combination of low values of C and/or S. So drift and selection are not two distinct factors, but are “distinctions along the gradients of S and C” (p. 61). After having discussed some of the parameters, G-S introduces a spatial framework of three-dimensional “Darwinian spaces” as a tool for further analysis. Along each of the three axes of a Darwinian space, we can put a parameter, on which a score from 0 to 1 can be obtained. For instance, if we put the H, C, and S parameters along the axes and start scoring populations, one that scores close to (0,0,0) is very marginal, and one that sits close to (1,1,1) is a paradigmatic Darwinian population. Scoring somewhere in between will make it a minimal Darwinian population.”


Architecture, Art, gas, PDF, Photography

Gas Tanks (Bernd and Hilla Becher)

“Typological, repetitive, at times oddly humorous,  photographs of industrial structures are, in their cumulative effect, profoundly moving. The Bechers’ serenely cool, disarmingly objective, and notoriously obsessive images of water towers, gas tanks, grain elevators, blast furnaces, and mineheads have been taken over several decades, under overcast skies, with a view camera that captures each detail and tonality of wood, concrete, brick and steel.
In this work, the Bechers’ present four principally different forms of gas holders or gas tanks in 140 photographs taken during the years 1963-1992 in Great Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, and the United States. The subjects are photographed under overcast skies that eliminate expressive variations in lighting; the Bechers make no attempt to analyze or explain them. Captions contain only the barest of information: time and place. On the subject of gas holders, the Bechers limit their remarks to a minimal functional description, leaving the aesthetic dimension of their subject to the photographs themselves: much of the fascination of these photographs lies in the fact that these unadorned metallic structures, presumably built with little concern for their visual impact, are almost invariably striking in appearance.”


Anthropology, Bacteria, Farming, History, Medicine, Nature, PDF, Society

‘Darwinian Gastronomy: why we use spices’ (1999) Sherman and Billing

“An early attempt to use statistical analysis of cookbooks to reveal deeper patterns about what we eat and why. The paper theorizes that there is an evolutionary benefit to eating spices: “by cleansing food of pathogens before consumption, spice users contribute to the health, longevity and fitness of themselves, their families and their guests.” There is more disease in the tropics and this is also where most spices are added to food, or so the paper seems to argues. Personally I think the argument runs the risk of putting the horse behind the carriage. Spices predominately grow in tropical areas and it makes sense to expect that this is where they eat them most.”


Anthropology, Biology, Biometrics, Brain, Education, History, Medicine, Neural Networks, Optics, PDF, Science

The Optics of Ibn Al-Haytham, Books I–III: On Direct Vision (c1028-38)

“This is the first English translation of first three out of the 7 volumes of the fundamental work on optics by the medieval Arab scientist Ibn al-Haitham or Alhazen (965–c1039). His book exerted a great influence upon science through Vitelo, Roger Bacon, Peckham and Kepler. Alhazen investigated many particular cases of reflection and refraction, and drew attention to the light-ray’s property of retracing its path when reversed. He was the first to give a detailed description of the human eye and to study binocular vision. Certain ophthalmological terms originated from the Latin translation of Alhazen’s Arabic text, e.g. retina and cornea. The Book of Optics (Kitāb al-Manāẓir, كتاب المناظر) presented experimentally founded arguments against the widely held extramission theory of vision (as held by Euclid in his Optica) and in favour of intromission theory, as supported by thinkers such as Aristotle, the now accepted model that vision takes place by light entering the eye.”


Education, History, Logic, Music, PDF, Radio, Sound

La telegrafía rápida: el triteclado y la música eléctrica (Castillejo 1944)

“In this curious book, a Spanish priest proposes to combine the developments in telegraphy, teleprinter keyboards, typewriters and “electric music”. He describes how in the 1930s he built and perfected an ”electro-composition device”, equipped with lamps, transformers, capacitors, resistors, dozens of speakers and several engines. He intended to cause the perforations in the telegraphic tape to be automatically selected by different engines that would trigger the various sound tracks recorded, and thus cause each of the “books on the perforated tape” to become an “audio book”. The purpose behind this idea was to enable the future creation of “spoken libraries” and “speech archives” in which the item being searched for could be instantly found. He performed practical experiments by means of a radio station where he managed to make the radio transmitter “speak automatically”, repeatedly broadcasting random announcements without anyone being present. He also intended this “talking device” to become an electric orchestra that composed “a music of chance configurations that was subjected to a number of panels governing its harmonic possibilities”, as well as bearing in mind the multiple possibilities that it offered in the field of improvisation.”


Algorithm, Architecture, Art, Automata, Biological Computation, Chaos, Code, Cybernetics, Drawing machine, History, Interface, Kinetic, Light, Logic, Maker, Man/Machine, Mathematics, Neural Networks, PDF, Social intelligence, Society, Tactical Media

Cybernetic Serendipity the Computer and the Arts – (1968)

Exhibition catalogue. Edited by Jasia Reichardt (Studio International Special Issue, London. 1968)


Anthropology, Art, Capitalism, Code, Commons, Economy, Ethics, History, Interface, Media, Memory, PDF, philosophy, Social intelligence, Society, Tactical Media

Kittler Friedrich : Gramophone Film Typewriter

“Part technological history of the emergent new media in the late nineteenth century, part theoretical discussion of the responses to these media—including texts by Rilke, Kafka, and Heidegger, as well as elaborations by Edison, Bell, Turing, and other innovators—Gramophone, Film, Typewriter analyzes this momentous shift using insights from the work of Foucault, Lacan, and McLuhan. Fusing discourse analysis, structuralist psychoanalysis, and media theory, the author adds a vital historical dimension to the current debates over the relationship between electronic literacy and poststructuralism, and the extent to which we are constituted by our technologies. The book ties the establishment of new discursive practices to the introduction of new media technologies, and it shows how both determine the ways in which psychoanalysis conceives of the psychic apparatus in terms of information machines.”