Archive for the ‘Extra Credit Blogs’ Category

Extra Credit #4_ Sound Symposium_by Nikolaos Mouchtouris

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

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On Thursday March 5, I attended an extra credit lecture called, Cymatics: Bringing Matter To Life With Sound presented by Dr. Hans Jenny. I was really impressed by all these videos of matter, sand or liquids, vibrating in different frequencies forming various shapes.

I believe I missed the first few minutes because of our class at Broad Hall so I am not perfectly sure about the accuracy of the facts that I am going to bring up in this blog. Nevertheless, I liked this presentation because I have learned a lot about vibrations and frequencies etc in physics and chemistry, however I never had the chance to see a visual representation of all these initially abstract concepts. The textbooks have a couple pictures but it is nothing like a video where you actually see sand vibrating and eventually forming a ring. Even though they may seem meaningless, I do find beauty in all these pictures and videos because they help me realize the grandeur of nature that is able to form incredible art works. I should not deviate and start talking about all the perfect creations of nature, like the human organism because that would take really long, but at this point, I have to admit that that presentation was really captivating because I was able to visualize various concepts like vibration of a membrane at a specific frequency that causes a liquid to move in such a way that reminded me of professional dancers doing a choreography.

I am not sure to what extent the rest of my classmates where impressed but I feel that at least south campus students saw something special that they have heard of many times but never managed to actually see. Additionally, I thought that many of these shapes formed were pretty funny which I guess is another form of art because once the scientist/artist figures out various frequencies that make the liquid or sand vibrate in different way, he/she can actually create something instead of simply moving matter. Thus, the audience not only gains some knowledge about vibrations, but we get to see art. If we go back to first week, we can see that this presentation combines the two cultures, art and science to produce something very unique that has double purpose as I mentioned previously, to educate and entertain. This being my last blog for this class, I feel that the last sentence actually summarizes the purpose of this class, to promote the combined use of art technology and science to educate and entertain ourselves and the people around us.

Nick Mouchtouris

Extra Credit #3_Invisible Earthlings by Nikolaos Mouchtouris

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

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In the last week of February, I attended Beatriz Da Costa’s art exhibition called Invisible Earthlings, which was about microbes and their interaction with humans. Before I start describing what I saw, I have to admit that the idea was original and interesting, however, it was questionable to what extent there was a point in it.

On one of the walls, there was a passage, perhaps the “abstract” of the art project, where the artist talked about her idea about microbes and why she felt the need to do what she did. Microbes are found everywhere, indoors and outdoors, consisting a big part of our world. They are infamous for causing diseases and getting us sick, however, their role in life is definitely more important. Being Greek, I would like to point out that the word comes from the two greek words small and organism, perhaps sort of obvious without any knowledge of Greek. Bacteria, viruses, fungi and many other tiny organisms are all microbes and are usually unicellular. Some of these actually live inside us at moderate levels, but once they start increasing in numbers, then unfortunately we get sick. That is their bad side, however, microbes are really crucial in carrying out several basic processes, such as nitrogen recycling. They are decomposers, thus, they take care of dead material, recycling it in a way. Microorganisms are also well-known to us because of their use for research, as they are used as vectors to insert several desired genetic characteristics into a human body. The truth is that without micro-organisms, research would not have developed as much because it is really convenient to work with viruses and bacteria. I would like to end this scientific review of the importance of microbes by one of their most famous application to college students. They are actually used for the preparation of beer, which most college students are very familiar with.

Beatriz da Costa tries to bring up the significance of microbes and raise awareness to people who are not really into biology. She uses technology to point out our co-existence in this world, by revealing where they live-everywhere pretty much. It is nice how there were small interactive screens and each attendant had to click and would observe the zoomed in image.

The truth is that I was not very impressed by this exhibition because I was familiar with the existence of microbes and their different functions. Even though I have not worked in a research lab yet, I have learned about them through the biology courses I have taken all these years. However, this exhibition is probably really interesting for someone who does not know anything about microbes and perhaps he/she is scared of them. After attending this exhibition, he/she finds out that there is no reason to be scared of microbes because we are actually supposed to live together peacefully. Besides, if every person takes care of himself and does not tire or stress himself out, then microbes will not “attack”, thus, staying healthy.

Nick Mouchtouris

Moore’s Meta-law (Kenneth Hurst)

Friday, March 13th, 2009

One of the most interesting points of the last lecture was the ‘cycles of innovation’ graph. Admittedly somewhat subjectively measured, it is pretty objective overall — that is, a lot of really good ways of measuring will produce a similar graph. The most interesting part of the graph was that the cycles get closer and closer, which is to say that the pace of innovation is increasing.

Exponential technological growth is well known to annyone familiar with Moore’s Law. That this law is applicable to many other fields is not so well known. And that the pace of this growth itself grows exponentially is even more amazing. In his 2005 book The Singualarity is Near, Ray Kurzweil argues that this point is especially important for computing power on its way to matching (and surpassing) human intelligence.

This exponential growth is what makes the Two Cultures so important — if technology advances exponentially and art stagnates, alone in its corner, the Two Cultures become the Two Species. Keeping close ties is not just important, it’s vital for the survival of art, lest it get left behind, the retarded step-child of spiritual machines.

Slow food or slow progress? (Kenneth Hurst)

Friday, March 13th, 2009

The CNSI talk on Slow Food and the University of Gastronomic Sciences are interesting and important movements that address a real problem of modern society: a lot of food sucks, even expensive food. People often don’t take the time to enjoy it, opting to shove it down their throats instead.

Although the movement has its plusses, it is doomed to failure or obscurity/irrelevance if it doesn’t take into account two critical problems with its mantra:

First, slow food is not for everyone, and fast food is not wholly bad. Slow food is a luxury; if you can afford it and have the desire to pay for it, feel free to cough up the dough and be glad that you can; but for a significant portion of the population (even of affluent countries like the US), slow food is just not worth it. It’s not worth the time, and it’s not worth the expense. You can almost always pay more for better quality. Cheaper, more convenient food often comes with the balancing price of being less exciting to the tongue or less nutritious. It’s ok to choose fast food (or ‘non-slow’ food), just like it’s ok to choose clothes from WalMart over over ones from Banana Republic.

Second, preserving cultural food misses the point. Lots of cultural traditions have great things about them that are worth preserving, but very often that preservation comes by integrating with other cultural traditions. This is the idea of the melting pot. Authentic Italian food from hundreds of years ago is very dissimilar from the Italian food you get in modern America, or even modern Italy. It’s evolved from its contact with other food traditions, and probably for the better. Malcom Gladwell gives an excellent talk at TED that mentions some of these evolved differences here.

Extra Credit - Sound, Consciousness, and Culture by Jane Chen

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Last Friday I attended one of the Sound and Science lecturess titled Sound, Consciousness, and Culture: exploring music and technology through semiotics and ethnographic study, presented by Rene Lysloff and Paulo Chagas of the University of California, Riverside Department of Music.  The first part of the lecture focused on the semiotic part of music and technology.  There, Chagas narrated how sound and music object events stand out as distinct wholes against the background of other events.  Here, duration correlates to intential direction and unity correlates to individuality.  A gesture is an embodied action that acts as a mediator between technology and the world.  It is made distinctive through features such as articulations, dynamics, timing, rhythm, timbre, sound composition, and musical structuring.  Lastly, spectral semiotics is a phenomenological reflection on sound and music, focusing on temporality, affect, and technicity.  In the second part of the presentation, Lysloff suggested that perception of sonic order must be in the mind before it emerges as music.  This implies that there is a human agency behind the ordering of sound.  In that sense, humanly organized sound may not be musical, but can be creative.  Sounds move us to experience an array of emtional states.  For example, many sounds in film and television have no real life counterpart (eg, dinosaurs, monsters, aliens) but they have become a part of common culture.  Additionally, sound effects enhances the 3-dimensional realism of video games.  Finally, Lysloff concluded with an interesting thought: although many people may think that music controls the dancers on the dancefloor, it is actually the DJ that controls the dancers.  Oftentimes, dancers credit the DJ for bringing about an aesthetic state of performance.  This causes us to reconsider the role of humans in music.

After attending this lecture, I was reminded of an interesting encounter I had while I was traveling in Taiwan this past summer.  In a remote village in the mountains, I came across this man who was famous for creating music from random, everyday items.  This truly shows that humanly organized sound may not be musical, but can be creative.  I happened to find a video clip of this man’s performances.
In case the objects are hard to see, here are the “instruments” he played.
1. Newspaper
2. Water bottle
3. Syringe
4. Saw

Jane Chen

Extra Credit 4: Cymatics: Bringing Matter To Life With Sound (Dwayne Myhre)

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

A couple days ago I went to the Sound and Science Symposium where I attented the “Cymatics: Bringing Matter To Life With Sound” film screening by Dr. Hans Jenny.

To be honest, I was a little bored of what I attended because there was not much going on.  For the most part, there was an image on the screen that moved with vibrations and that was it.  That was what I saw for about an hour.

To go more in-depth, the film comprised of many different substances, from particles to plastics, which would respond differently to the vibrations they were introduced to.  The whole idea behind this exhibition was to see how these substances reacted.

Viewing the film holistically, all of the substances shared a similar response in that, event though there were some differences; they mainly followed the same pattern.  This pattern comprised of circular motion of constantly going up and then around down.   The substance would be pushed out from the center and then, as it reached the top, it would reverse and come down.  This is what happened to most of the substances that flowed smoothly.  In contrast, the less smooth substances would do the opposite; the pattern consisted of moving from side to side and moving into the center.  While both can be related, the key difference was that of the flowing particles in the video.  These particles would not move circularly, but instead just move freely around as they were vibrated.

Overall, I was very unimpressed with the film and that is why I have little to write about on this subject.  The room was a very nice setting, meaning comfortable for watching a film, but the film itself lacked anything exciting.  Even the narrator’s voice was boring and the film appeared like an 80’s infomercial.  Every now and then there might be something that was interesting from the video, such as a random movement out of the normal pattern or a really cool color from the substances, but that was about it.

Dwayne Myhre

Extra Credit_Sound+Science Symposium by Manuel Aleman

Monday, March 9th, 2009

            I attended two of the presentations for the sound and science symposium. I attended the Gabor’s Sonic Model presentation by Curtis Roads and the Illusions in Music and Speech by Diana Deutsch.  Curtis Roads is a composer of electronic and electroacoustic music.  He teaches and pursues research in the area of music and technology.  He was Editor and Associate Editor of Computer Music Journal, and he cofounded the International Computer Music Association in 1979.  He was also a researcher in computer music at MIT, and he also has had experience working in the computer industry. He was invited to teach electronic music composition at Harvard University, and sound synthesis techniques at the University of Naples. He has also been appointed Director of Pedagogy at Les Ateliers UPIC and Lecturer in the Music Department of the University of Paris VIII.  Lately, he has been researching a new method of sound analysis that is the analytical counterpart of granular synthesis called dictionary-based methods.  Electronic music is music that uses electronic musical instruments and electronic music technology in its production.  Roads showed in his presentations many things that deal with electronic and electroacoustic music, as well as things involved with his research and analysis of sounds.  One work he showed us was how he recorded pulses and could speed up or slow down the pulses in order to make a melody.  One of the most memorable parts of his presentation was a project where he recorded a Ferrari accelerating and decelerating.  He then edited the recording so that you could only hear the engine.  He played the edited version for us and while the track was playing increased the speed and slowed it down in order to create different melodies.

            The second presentation I attended was Illusions in Music and Speech by Diana Deutsch.  Deutsch conducts research on perception and memory for sounds, and music. She has discovered a number of musical illusions and paradoxes, which include the scale illusion, the glissando illusion, the octave illusion, the cambiata illusion, the triton paradox, and others. She also explores ways in which we hold musical information in memory, and in which we relate speech and the sounds of music to each other. Much of her current research focuses on absolute pitch.  In her presentation she went over many of the illusions she has researched and some of the findings that went along with it.  One project she presented was the octave illusion, which she herself discovered.  The octave illusion is an illusion produced when simultaneously playing two sequences of two notes that are spaced an octave apart.  Most people hear a single tone that switches between their left and right ears, while simultaneously the pitch switches back and forth between high and low.  She said the reason for this was because the tones are sine waves of constant amplitude, and switch between high and low four times a second, with no amplitude drops and that most people do not hear this pattern correctly, which is why the illusion rises.  The most memorable project presented was the tritone paradox.  The tritone paradox is another illusion where a pair of “shepard tones”, which are seperated by a half octave, was played.  The paradox is that some people hear the notes ascending and others descending.  Deutsch ended the discussion of the paradox by discussing how different populations tend to hear the notes the same way.

  Manuel Aleman

Extra Credit: Symposium: “Using Audio Cues…” by Christina Cheng

Monday, March 9th, 2009

The next day, Friday, March 6, I attended one more of the presentations at the Sound and Science symposium.  This talk was called “Using Audio Cues to Enhance Navigation and Spatial Learning for the Blind,” and it was by Professor James Marston of UC Santa Barbara.  Mainly, the presentation focused on developing audio cues and navigation systems to help the blind.  He first introduced the idea of bounded areas and unbounded areas.  Bounded areas are easier for the blind to walk through because there are audio and directional cues such as lights, cars, streets, and sidewalks.  On the other hand, semi-bounded areas like the park may be a bit more difficult for the blind in that there are no definite audio cues like lights and cars.  To make it easier for blind people to get around on a daily basis, he created the Talking Sign, which was composed of virtual sound air tube earphones and a hand pointer.  Voice that comes through the earphones tells the person how many more feet they have to go to get to the destination.  There is also a beeping sound that indicates to a person to continue walking in the same direction.  The hand pointer is a hand-held device that allows a person to choose whether or not they want to hear the directions.  For instance, if the person is familiar with a certain part of the route and does not need directions at the moment, then they can turn off the Talking Sign with the hand pointer.

            Another one of the devices that Professor Marston created was the Remote Infrared Audible Signage (RIAS), which can be used more effectively to give a blind person a sense of spatial position of where he or she is standing.  This device may be very helpful in making it easier for the blind to cross streets, transferring terminals, finding boarding gates, and finding bus stops.  Using this device, a person can stand at one spot and receive all the information about his or her spatial surroundings.  Unfortunately, one of the more complicated aspects of this device is that the characteristics and maps of the buildings and areas where this device will be used will need to be pre-programmed.  In a way, the RIAS works like the GPS.  It can locate where the person is standing and tell he or she which way to go.  Nevertheless, there are also disadvantages to the RIAS.  For example, the RIAS is actually a huge backpack-like object that the person will have to carry around.  Thus, it will be very effective in helping a blind person to get around, only if he or she is willing to carry around a large backpack that may not be too fashionable.  Second, the RIAS does not tell a person the location of certain places based on his or her preferences.  In other words, it may not tell someone where the nearest Italian restaurant is or where the nearest movie theater is.  Marston said that there is too much liability issue when it comes to this.  Therefore, it will only indicate to a person which direction to walk when they are at a place that is also installed with the receivers of the RIAS (probably at a train station or airport).  Personally, I believe that these devices will be very helpful tools to blind people and that it will probably be very popular if they are designed in a fancier and more portable way.  After all, like Marston mentioned, it is not that blind people have limited spatial intelligence; they just need more cues.


- Christina Cheng       

Extra Credit: Symposium: “Sounding Out the Matter Market” by Christina Cheng

Monday, March 9th, 2009

On Thursday, March 5, I attended one of the presentations at the Sound and Science Symposium.  I intended to go there for the “Sounding out the Matter Market” presentation by Ricardo Dominguez, but I got there a little early to hear the ending of the previous talk.  This previous presentation was “The Sound of Fear” by Daniel Blumstein, who is actually an Ecology and Evolutionary Biology professor here at UCLA.  By the time I got there, the presenter was already answering questions from the audience.  One of the interesting questions that I heard was a question similar to the chicken-or-egg question: “What came first- the alarm calling of animals or their fear?” The lady brought up the idea that animals can be born with the behavior of alarm calling, and they apply it when they are frightened.  Conversely, animals can feel scared and develop alarm calling as a way to express their fear.  I thought about this for a second, and I personally believed the latter was more correct.  My reasoning is that animals probably do not yell when there is not much going on, so there must be something that they want to express when they call.  Professor Blumstein responded to this question by saying that it can be either way, but he believes that some forms of alarm calling may be innate.  While animals may learn different ways to express their fear in different habitats, most of alarm calling comes from the animals’ instincts.  Unfortunately, this was the only part of Blumstein’s presentation that I heard by the time I got there; I really wish I could have listened to the rest of this interesting discussion.

            Anyway, the presentation that I was actually there for was “Sounding out the Matter Market.” Its presenter, Ricardo Dominguez, is the cofounder of the Electronic Disturbance Theater and the Particle Group.  I was actually a bit confused about the theme of his presentation because it seemed like he was reading poems and concepts about the idea of the “sound market.” Although it was a bit difficult to follow due to the lack of powerpoint slides, I did like one of the projects that he showed us.  He created a product called a Particle Sniffer, which was similar to the idea of an airport sniffer.  When people walk pass the Particle Sniffer, they will be “sniffed” for nanoparticles or other chemical compounds that they have been working with.  The sniffer will be equipped with speakers that immediately tell the person about the kinds of particles that are “sniffed” from him or her.  Dominguez also showed us some clips of how the Particle Sniffer worked when people approached it at an exhibit in Berlin.  He also mentioned that there had been some problems with the Particle Sniffer when it was installed in a public area.  Many people did not like it because they felt offended by the fact that they were “sniffed” and checked every time they passed by it.  Overall, I think that the Particle Sniffer was an interesting idea, but I also think that it will not be such a great idea to have it in public areas.  It may be effective to have it at the exit of certain laboratories so that people can be “sniffed” for toxic chemicals before they leave the lab.


- Christina Cheng

Extra Credit: Invisible Earthlings/University of Gastronomic Science/The sound of fear

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

First event:

On February the 27 I attended the Invisible earthling’s exhibition by Beatriz Da Costa. This exhibit by Ms. Costa focused on informing the Human that there are other smart earthlings surrounding us which play an important role in our every day lives. However we don’t pay attention to them only when they become harmful to us. The idea of the exhibit is to inform all of the roles of many microbes and how they an important role in our digestive system and ecosystems.

She displayed such information by creating 7 different mini clips that displayed, the seven different microbes she explored from her backyard, each with its corresponding Petri dishes, which contained the microbes. The seven microbes she explored are from the following objects: Inside garden, gate microbes, porch microbes, butterfly bush microbes, flowers, Bench, trash from under the trash can. What I discovered from the presentation was, that the microbes found in the individual microbes can also be found on the human body. So microbes play a key role in our surroundings, as well as in the human body. One such microbe that I learned about was the Staphylococus which contains 33 different species, that reside in the human skin and mucus however it was found on the bench. Another interesting microbe that I learned about was the Corynebaterium, what is interesting about this microbe was that it was found under the trash can yet it can be found in human skin and soil.

Once again I felt that this exhibit increased my understanding of how science and technology correlate with art, to inform all humans. I was able to make such correlation by analyzing the way Costa used technology to display the microbe’s information, in an interactive way; she utilized a small computer gadget with a touch screen to explore the different microbes of a specific location. She utilized research to gather information of the microbes, which is the science art, and she displayed her information in an artistic way. I admire her work for a deeper insight on the correlation that art, science, and technology have with each other.

Second Event:

On February 27 I also attended the presentation on the University of Gastronomic Science by David Szanto. David Szanto as a graduate from the University of Gastronomic Science, in northern Italy, discussed what the slow food non-profit organization was, as well as information on the University of Gastronomic Science.

Szanto’s began by introducing the definition of the word Gastronomic. He said that there are many definitions for the word such as in the French language “the art of eating well” in English “the study of relationship between culture and food”. However he discussed that this word, as well as the school are new, therefore the definition isn’t set in stone but the definition derived from the ethnology is gaste= stomach and nomos= word “Law”. The study of gastronomic’s is rather new, therefore many ask why are people studying. Szanto’s gave several great arguments on why there should be a study of food: to understand the relation between good and culture, make changes in our food to become more substantial, and have an interpretation between the consumer and the producer.

Then he also described what Slow Foods was and its key role in Gastronomy. Slow foods is a non-profit organization created in 1989 with a key that the US has food that is “good, clean, and fair”. Szanto’s in his presentation stated that clean food was food that was environmentally friendly, and fair food was food that was accessible and good for producer’s price. Therefore with the help of slow food, the university is trying to build the definition of Gastromic science.

As part of his presentation Szanto’s informed us about the university and its many opportunities. It described that the university had many trips throughout Europe where they examine the production of various food, the production allowed the student’s to develop a better understanding of the culture of the food. He depicted a scene of him and his classmates going to a pig factory and how some of them by the end of the tour turned vegetarian, while those who were vegetarian decided to get rid of their vegetarian form of being and try meat and explore its art.

Listening to this presentation also allowed me to discover that even food hold some sort of art. I was able to infer this because of one of the reasons he stated why we should study Gastronomic science, which is to understand the relation between culture and food. Culture has its own type of food, therefore the preparation and appearance is art, for all food is unique. That is how I believe culture, food and art are related.

Third Event:

On Thursday March 5, I attended the The sound of fear: implications of alarm calling and predator detection for conservation biology and national security presentation by Daniel Blumstein. The presentation focused on informing the audience between the difference of fear calls and screams of several animals and the means of protection for various animals.

Blumstein began by discussing how the Californian ground squirrel protects itself from the rattle snake. The squire has anti venom which allows it to be protected from the rattle snake. In addition it heat up its tail to protect itself against the rattle snake, since its heat sensitive. The ground squirrel like other animals search way in which to protect themselves from their predator. However each animal has its own unique way of calling for help.

The yellow belly marmot of the Rocky Mountains uses calling to protect themselves and others. The form of calling that they use has different stress levels, which label weather they are in greater danger and the type of dander. The call that is slower shows that the animal is less scarred. As you can see that marmot uses calls to identify its level of fear, the call may also signify a reference to an objects or label predator that are nearby.

The alarm call given off by the marmot can also be used for statistical purposes. The marmot’s call gives information such as its age, sex and identity this information allows for many researchers to gather information on the species. By listening to the calls the researchers can also identify if they are male or female because of the call is there are many call at once that means that they are females, for females travel in groups, while the males travel by themselves.

Blumstein also mention that the marmots also use screams to communicate, which are different than a call, the screams are calls for assistance of a highly aroused individual. The scream length identifies the forging, the longer the scream the less forge it is. Therefore marmots are known as reliable individuals to identify if there is a predator around.

I found this talk fascinating for before, I thought that animal talk wasn’t possible. I would always question, how is it possible for animals to communicate with each other, if they can’t talk? Now I understand that by their screams and calls. This presentation allows me to gather information that the common animal is smart however not to human standards.