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Month April 2011

Maglia Rosa

Servizio Corse Strade Bianche Chapter I

App Explores Movie Connections Like Scientists Study Genes

Via Wired, by Brandon Keim

We live in an age of networks, with ever more appreciation for connections: among proteins, people, ecosystems and economies — or just about any system made up of linked units. And as connection-mapping tools become more sophisticated, there’s a need for new ways of interacting with those maps, going beyond description to exploration.

A new iPhone app called * Movies Mobile, developed by the New England Complex Systems Institute, is a preview of such tools. A front end for a network map of IMDB’s top 500 movies, it allows people to explore connections among films as researchers might examine pathways of genes or proteins.

What’s unique isn’t the map itself, but the level of exploration the interface provides, said Yaneer Bar-Yam, president of the institute.

“Say I show you a big network. You can see there are major rings, that in places it’s highly or weakly connected, or clustered. You want to say, ‘What is this cluster?’ This lets you touch one node and see what it is. You can see both the whole and the pieces,” said Bar-Yam.

The network itself is based on analysis of relationships among words and phrases in IMDB user comments. The map reflects connections made by viewers’ tastes and impressions; it could just as easily have been designed to map links between actors and directors, or to map something other than movies.

An earlier test of the program was conducted on anthropological documents produced by the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System in Afghanistan. It could also be done with economic networks, networks of genes, disease spread, social groups. Bar-Yam’s group is best known for studying the structural influences of networks in panicking stock markets and economic collapses.

“These are just the first couple applications,” said Bar-Yam. “There could be many.”

* Movies Mobile is available in free and paid versions. There’s also a YouTube tutorial for using it. Proceeds from sales will support research at the New England Complex Systems Institute.

Image: Screen grabs from the * Movies Mobile app. Left: The network formed by comments on the top 500 IMDB movies. Right: Links between Gone With the Wind and the most closely related movies (* Movies Mobile).

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Greg Papagrigoriou, Athens

From unurth

2011 Liège-Bastogne-Liège

From Cycling News

Vuelta e Bolivia from Rouleur Issue 23

2011 La Flèche Wallonne

Photo: © Bettini

Seeds of Future Stars

Via National Geographic

Bright filaments of molecular gas (amber color) stretch into space near the Cocoon Nebula (blue) in a new picture from the European Space Agency’s Herschel space telescope released April 13.

Herschel sees in far-infrared and submillimeter light, and this composite picture combines data from three wavelengths. The view allows scientists to see 27 distinct filaments in this particular region, as well as 45 bright spots within the filaments thought to be prestellar cores—the seeds of stars in the making.

Image courtesy D. Arzoumanian (CEA Saclay) for the “Gould Belt survey” Key Programme Consortium/SPIRE/PACS/Herschel/ESA

Philosophy and Simulation: The Emergence of Synthetic Reason

From Continuum Books

In this groundbreaking new book, Manuel DeLanda analyzes all the different genres of simulation (from cellular automata and genetic algorithms to neural nets and multi-agent systems) as a means to conceptualize the possibility spaces associated with causal (and other) capacities. Simulations allow us to stage actual interactions among a population of agents and to observe the emergent wholes that result from those interactions.

Simulations have become as important as mathematical models in theoretical science. As computer power and memory have become cheaper they have migrated to the desktop, where they now play the role that small-scale experiments used to play. A philosophical examination of the epistemology of simulations is needed to cement this new role, underlining the consequences that simulations may have for materialist philosophy itself.

This remarkably clear philosophical discussion of a rapidly growing field, from a thinker at the forefront of research at the interface of science and the humanities, is a must-read for anyone interested in the philosophy of technology and the philosophy of science at all levels.

2011 Amstel Gold Race