Recent quotes:

Scientists discover evidence of early human innovation, pushing back evolutionary timeline: Evidence of innovation dates to a period when humans faced an unpredictable and uncertain environment, according to three new studies -- ScienceDaily

early humans in East Africa had -- by about 320,000 years ago -- begun trading with distant groups, using color pigments and manufacturing more sophisticated tools than those of the Early Stone Age. These newly discovered activities approximately date to the oldest known fossil record of Homo sapiens and occur tens of thousands of years earlier than previous evidence has shown in eastern Africa. These behaviors, which are characteristic of humans who lived during the Middle Stone Age, replaced technologies and ways of life that had been in place for hundreds of thousands of years.

New tools create new worlds

Of all the tools we’ve created to augment our intelligence, writing may be the most important. But when he “de-augmented” the pencil, by tying a brick to it, it became much, much harder to even write a single word. And when you make it hard to do the low-level parts of writing, it becomes near impossible to do the higher-level parts of writing: organizing your thoughts, exploring new ideas and expressions, cutting it all down to what’s essential. That was Doug’s message: a tool doesn’t “just” make something easier — it allows for new, previously-impossible ways of thinking, of living, of being.

Could dolphins, evolved in a tooless soup, imagine inanimate objects having names?

Herzing swims with her right arm stretched out in front of her, pointing at a red scarf she has pulled out of her swimsuit. She repeatedly presses the button for “scarf” on the CHAT box. It’s a rolling chirp that dips low and ends high, lasting about a second. One of the dolphins swims over, grabs the piece of fabric, and moves it back and forth from its rostrum to its pectoral fin. The scarf ends up hanging from the dolphin’s tail as she dives down to the bottom of the ocean. I’m in the water with Herzing, trailing a few feet behind her with a graduate student who’s recording the encounter using an underwater camera. I keep waiting for one of the dolphins to take off with the scarf, but neither of them does. They seem to want to engage us, however tentatively. They pass the scarf back and forth, circle around us, disappear with it, and then offer it back to Herzing. She grabs it and tucks it back into her swimsuit and then pulls out a piece of seaweed. Nereide swoops down to grab it between her teeth and starts to swim off. Herzing takes off after her, pressing the CHAT box’s sargassum whistle again and again, as if desperately asking for it back. But the dolphins just ignore her. “It’s not inconceivable that if the dolphins understand that we’re trying to use symbols, that they would try to show us something,” Herzing says later, back on board the Stenella. “Or imagine if they started using our word for sargassum amongst themselves.”

Social tool box improves autistic social responsiveness

In the study, 22 people aged 18 to 24 and their caregivers were randomly assigned either to receive the PEERS treatment or to be part of a control group in which treatment was delayed. Those in the PEERS group received training on social etiquette related to conversational skills, humor, electronic communication, identifying sources of friends, entering and exiting conversations, organizing successful get-togethers, and handling peer conflict and peer rejection. The young adults in the PEERS group also received four sessions on dating etiquette. The PEERS approach teaches skills using concrete rules and steps of social behavior via lessons, role-play demonstrations, behavioral rehearsal exercises and assignments to practice the skills in natural social settings. Caregivers (including parents and other family members, job and life coaches, and peer mentors) are also provided tips to help participants use their skills in the real world. Among members of the PEERS group, social skills, frequency of social engagement and social skills knowledge improved significantly, and autism symptoms related to social responsiveness diminished. In addition, 16 weeks after the treatment ended, most of the gains were still evident, and the researchers observed new improvements in social communication, assertion, responsibility and empathy -- a result the scientists attributed to the involvement of caregivers as social coaches.

Archaeologists Take Wrong Turn, Find World’s Oldest Stone Tools | Observations, Scientific American Blog Network

A happy accident led to the discovery of the ancient tools. Sonia Harmand of Stony Brook University and her team had been en route to a known fossil site on the western shore of Lake Turkana one morning in July 2011 when the group took a wrong turn and ended up in a previously unexplored area. The researchers decided to survey it and by teatime they had found stone artifacts. They named the site Lomekwi 3, and went on to recover dozens of tools—including flakes, cores and anvils–from both the surface and below ground. Harmand described the findings April 14 in a talk given at the annual meeting of the Paleoanthropology Society in San Francisco. “The cores and flakes we recovered are clearly knapped and are not the result of accidental or natural rock fracture,” Harmand said. “The Lomekwi 3 knappers were able to deliver sufficient intentional force to detach repeatedly series of adjacent and superposed flakes and then to continue knapping by rotating the cores.” The team determined the age of the tools based on their stratigraphic position relative to two layers of volcanic ash and a magnetic reversal of known ages.

Pullquote = wow.

I saved the best for last, as Pullquote goes into my “wow” folder. […] if you see a quote which hits you over the head, and you think “I MUST show this to my Twitter followers!“, then simply use your mouse and highlight the words you want to quote. This will open up a black horizontal menu where you can choose “tweet”[…] now you have a lovely box with your quote in it which will impress the hell out of your followers.[…]

Today's lonely music reflects solo creativity?

2014’s best new music sounds lonely. As a firm believer in the theory that music’s evolution follows the path of technological progress (the Vox distortion pedal begat Hendrix and the face-melting solo, the Linn drum begat the Human League and 80s pop and so on), I had put this down to the fact that artists at the cutting edge these days work alone, by night (music doesn’t pay much, so they all need day jobs), on a laptop or home studio. That’s not a qualitative judgement, by the way. As much new music as ever is excellent – but, I believe, the circumstances of its construction leaves an audible imprint. Listen to the Clash and, along with other things, you will hear traces of their cultural context – an alternative scene which was collective, political and urban. The sound of the capital now (artists like Azekel, Kwes and Deptford Goth) is almost the opposite – languid and nocturnal, conjuring the hypnagogic state between waking and sleeping, occasionally becoming claustrophobic. It sounds isolated. Musically and lyrically it speaks to the modern city at night and a creative community whose members now mostly work alone – a product of financial necessity as much as an individualist culture. The days of local rehearsal rooms and recording studios are on the wane thanks to rocketing property prices and technological advances (though Kwes has a cool-sounding place in a remodelled freight container).

J. G. Ballard on how tools impact his writing

Every day, five days a week. Longhand now, it’s less tiring than a typewriter. When I’m writing a novel or story I set myself a target of about seven hundred words a day, sometimes a little more. I do a first draft in longhand, then do a very careful longhand revision of the text, then type out the final manuscript. I used to type first and revise in longhand, but I find that modern fiber-tip pens are less effort than a typewriter. Perhaps I ought to try a seventeenth-century quill. I rewrite a great deal, so the word processor sounds like my dream. My neighbor is a BBC videotape editor and he offered to lend me his, but apart from the eye-aching glimmer, I found that the editing functions are terribly laborious. I’m told that already one can see the difference between fiction composed on the word processor and that on the typewriter. The word processor lends itself to a text that has great polish and clarity on a sentence-by-sentence and paragraph level, but has haywire overall chapter-by-chapter construction, because it’s almost impossible to rifle through and do a quick scan of, say, twenty pages. Or so they say.

Snapshot of the collapsing innovation cycle

The life span of an innovation, in fact, has never been shorter. An African hand ax from 285,000 years ago, for instance, was essentially identical to those made some 250,000 years later. The Sumerians believed that the hoe was invented by a godlike figure named Enlil a few thousand years before Jesus, but a similar tool was being used a thousand years after his death. During the Middle Ages, amid major advances in agriculture, warfare and building technology, the failure loop closed to less than a century. During the Enlightenment and early Industrial Revolution, it was reduced to about a lifetime. By the 20th century, it could be measured in decades. Today, it is best measured in years and, for some products, even less.
An alternative approach – the one I’ve built my company around – is the idea of an open platform. HootSuite is the core of an ecosystem that integrates with dozens (soon to be hundreds) of leading marketing, social media and productivity apps. Clients aren’t locked into a single, defined suite of services; instead, they can incorporate the tools they are already using and familiar with into the HootSuite platform. This includes everything from Marketo’s marketing automation tool and customer experience apps from Nimble and SugarCRM to project management software like Trello, analytics utilities like Statigram, social networks like YouTube and Instagram, and more. The ecosystem is exhaustive, not exclusive: If there’s a best-of-class tool out there, HootSuite finds a way to work with it.
Over the past century, the freshman composition papers had exploded in length and intellectual complexity. In 1917, a freshman paper was on average only 162 words long and the majority were simple “personal narratives.” By 1986, the length of papers more than doubled, averaging 422 words. By 2006, they were more than six times longer, clocking in at 1,038 words – and they were substantially more complex, with the majority consisting of a “researched argument or report,” with the student taking a point of view and marshalling evidence to support it.
I take copious notes on books I’m reading, as well as online materials, and save everything to Evernote, where I tag meticulously – it’s so easy for any extensive library or archive to become useless if the items in it aren’t searchable or retrievable, and I find the tagging system is an incredible memory aid to help counter that.
My site runs on WordPress, but I write straight in HTML – on my desktop, in Coda – and not in the WYSIWYG editor on WordPress. I use Evernote to save notes on various items I’m reading and to photograph the marginalia on book pages, which are then searchable thanks to optical character recognition. I read almost everything online in Pocket.
It's hard to understate exactly how small even the L180X—the biggest of the lineup—is. It's only about 5in (~13cm) tall, 3in (~8cm) wide, and less than one inch (2.5cm) deep. It's the most portable high capacity pack I've seen, especially considering it can charge two devices at once at different amperages. It eschews additional screens in order to save power for your gear, and the only lights on it are the emergency flashlight and the status LEDs.
Mark some foreground green and some background red and the algorithm takes care of the details.