Mapping Ideas with Open Source Handwriting-to-Text Software

hey there world

Ideas are curious things. You’re going along and suddenly… Boom! An idea. But it wasn’t really out of the blue, was it? Sure, something immediate may have sparked it. The spark came from somewhere. Where is that? How.. What is an idea? Configurations of neurons grow and represent realization..such vague explanation is saying Earth is a space rock. It is this. It’s immensely more.

Through language and emotion we navigate the world. We choose how to spend time, with whom to spend it. We choose which ideas are most interesting and seek out more. We read, browse, share. Videos, politics, religion, business, creativity.. our modern world is full of inspiration for those who explore. The idea I’ve been most interested in exploring is categorical: pondering how it is that ideas come about in the first place. Along this intellectual journey, I encounter a great breath of people, perspectives, and experiences. Playfully I explore the world of minds in order to create a perspective that is uniquely this self, this Amy.

In an effort to explore a bit of how I became myself, I’ve developed a side project over the past few years: mapping ideas. This post and accompanying a lecture at Stanford summarize the why.

Let this focus on the next step: sharing.

I write frequently. Between 2008 and June, 2016, I have filled up over 40 Moleskine Notebooks. Words, musings, aphorisms, speech outlines, sketches.. these notebooks are not mere writing, if there is such a thing. They are the evolution of the ideas I hold dear. The ideas I think have played the lead roles in my becoming who I am today.

Analyzing language for things like sentiment and keywords has for many years been possible thanks to platforms like AlchemyAPI from IBM. There is still a missing puzzle piece: a tool that automatically transcribes images of notebook pages into text files. Several tools exist but none so far have worked for me. I realize that Evernote makes writing searchable. It does not allow you to export text files.

Anyone out there interested in computer vision tools that turn writing to .txt? I would love to team up with you. Not just to make the next step in mapping ideas but to create an open source tool that anyone who writes can use to transform handwriting into a digital database.

I’m @amyleesterling on GitHub and Twitter. I’m still of course ever-searching for deeper understanding of who I am and perpetually welcome conversations with those of you on similar journeys. Ping me if this is up your curiosity alley. These are my personal notes and currently I’m brave enough to share them with people who ask but not publicly on the web just yet 🙂

A few sample images of notes below illustrate content diversity and wackiness.

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Maps of Ideas

mapping ideas quid neuroscience arxiv snapshot, mapping ideas, neuroscience, arxiv, quid, amy robinson, map ideas, graph ideas, mapping ideas

A universe.

We live in one. Your mind is one.

Human beings, besides generating things like science and technology and businesses, generate ideas. Thoughts. Sometimes thoughts lead to action. Life happens or rather is made by he who lives it.

I’ve been pondering: how could we explore being human from a perspective of ideas over time? Say, my personal ideas over time. A dynamic network, the questions, concepts and values that fuel who I am. Creativities and habits; discoveries and experiences.

If you were to document things you think are important or things you are curious about or wonder, what might you have after a month? A year? Eight years?

That’s how long I’ve been doing this. I’ve amassed 30 Moleskine notebooks, 3.5G or 756 voice memos, 6,000 Tweets and gigs of autotune on t-payne (don’t judge).

How could you map ideas? Here was my first attempt from 2012, delivered for Quantified Self at Stanford.

I spent hundreds of hours figuring out how to map 6 months of ideas in the form of emails to self. A collaboration built through an amazing community of Gephi devs.

Others are making strides in this arena. Watch the below TEDTalk about mapping ideas from the top 25% of TEDxTalks. From transcripts to a network you can interact with and explore. Beautiful. And insightful. How could these ideas apply to the ideas of an individual over time?

How do the things I’m interested in evolve? What new things have I learned and how have they made their way into the projects I create or things I do or learn in the future? When do ideas change how I think? After I learn something that changes how I think, it can be difficult if not impossible to retain how I thought before I realized it. Particularly over years. These deep ideas fascinate me.

So I’m exploring them. Publicly. And I’m going to make all of my personal data public someday. Still working up the nerve to put up my browsing history. The short term will see transcripts of voice memos and handwriting. We may need to create new language processing algorithms for stream of consciousness.

Publicly. If you think this is interesting, contact me and think about it with me. I’m using Quid and learning principles of graph theory, community detection, python, JSON, dealing with audio transcription, and most interestingly figuring out how to build a network/networks out of ideas.

Challenging. Exciting. Neural avalanche inducing.

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Quantified Curiosity 2.0

ideas, Gephi, "network visualization" "Quantified Curiosity" Amy RobinsonBack in September I gave a talk at Stanford for Quantified Self titled Quantified Curiosity (summarized in this post, which includes slides and a links to videos refrenced in the talk). Below, check out the video complete with a text transcript.

Before you watch it, think about this. Who are you? Seriously, how do you answer that question? Does who you are change over time? How? Why? When? What if you could explore these questions empirically, with data that correlates with significant events in your life, data that collectively integrates to tell a story of who you are? This is what I begin to explore with Quantified Curiosity, a network exploration into the ideas that fuel me. As of March 2013, I’ve connected with a couple academic and corporate network powerhouses to this concept a few orders of magnitude higher and deeper. More on that soon.

Over the coming months, stay tuned for the evolution of questions, new visualizations, and curiosity progress reports. A goal of this side project is to create a platform that allows anyone to explore and graph his or her ideas over time. Here’s to tackling fundamental questions! Ping me if you are interested in brainstorming. Now, on with the evolution of ideas!

Transcript with slide selections:

Quantified Curiosity brainbow Amy RobinsonI am obsessed with thinking about thinking.

My name is Amy Robinson and I am here to share Quantified Curiosity.

I am very curious how the ideas that I encounter and the new things that I discover integrate and infuse to form who I am and who I will become.

A stranger at a TED Conference once walked up to me and said “Hi Amy, What inspires you?” Besides actually making me think about what inspires me, it made me think about how the things that inspire me change over time. I am not a constant, I am very dynamic; however, it’s hard to remember how I change and to keep it in perspective.

Those 5 seconds consequently have mattered much more than just 5 seconds and I wonder if the same is true for ideas. So I’ve been tracking them.

How? I email myself “interestingness.” So when I look at say an article or write notes or watch a cool video; anything that makes me think “hm, that’s interesting,” I email it to myself. For this talk I’ve compiled 6 months of this data into..a pretty big spreadsheet and some beautiful network visualizations.

Each line is an idea, an entry, and the data has attributes like a date, a link, an ngram (which is the subject and body text of the email), it’s tagged with topics and it’s also given an interestingness ranking of 1 being low and 5 being high.

ideas, Gephi, "Quantified Curiosity" Amy RobinsonSix months worth of data came to 770 unique entries – or ideas – in 772 different topics. Once this data was organized into a spreadsheet I was able to analyze it and look at it in a completely new way.

This is a weighted graph  [below] of the most important topics of all topics that were used at least 40 times and weighted either 4, the green bar for “important,” or 5, the blue bar for “most important,” they show up on this graph. You can see based on the importance that the most prevalent topics vary. For example, the green bar most important is “journal,” which is peer reviewed literature, not my personal notes, followed by biology and neuro. Whereas if you look at the blue bar “notes,” my personal notes, come up first.

"Quantified Curiosity" Amy Robinson

photosofnotes, photos, notes, tumblr, amy robinson, quantified curiosity,You can also look at most important entries over time [graph below]. The most important entries  tend to occur in clusters. I wonder do these clusters actually correspond to something? There’s a huge cluster in February, 14 items in 3 days. They actually correspond to my starting a new side project, photos of notes, it’s a tumblr blog where I just publish photos of my notes. In that case, yes, that cluster was something real. And I wondered, is this true for the other clusters?

quantified curiosity, QS, quantified self,

Turns out, yes. In March there’s another one where 21 items occur in a period of 21 days. It corresponds to something kind of goofy that I do — lifebonus emails. I send these out now quite periodically to my friends saying, ya know, share something beautiful, inspiring, intelligent or entertaining that you’ve discovered in the past week and they get a hypothetical lifebonus. It’s goofy, it’s fun, it rocks the inbox but again the data actually corresponds to my doing something new.

How else can we actually explore this?

We were able to formulate these ideas into Gephi, a free network graphing program. The way this works: the circles are called nodes and they correspond to topics that are tagged with ideas. The size of the nodes indicate how many times they were used in tandem with other nodes. The edges – the lines between them – are the actual ideas that are co-tagged with the two different topics.

ideas, graph, Gephi, "network visualization" "Quantified Curiosity" Amy Robinson, "Quantified Self", nodes, edges

ideas, graph, Gephi, "network visualization" "Quantified Curiosity" Amy Robinson, "Quantified Self", nodes, edgesYou can run statistics in Gephi to modularize communities so based on how connected groups of nodes are relative to the overall connectivity of the whole graph and see distinct communities. For example, the blue down at the bottom is science and science-related tags. The purple is work slash health — I work[ed] in health; you can probably actually infer that by looking at the graph. The red section is TED and TED-related tags, including TEDx and video. And then the green section is “self” and there were come cool things in there like playful, curious, ideas and Quora that popped up really close to me. But this is messy. It’s hard to see 10,500 edges so what you can do is you can actually isolate individual topics.

ideas, graph, Gephi, "network visualization" "Quantified Curiosity" Amy Robinson, "Quantified Self"

The yellow dot here is the tag “ideas” within all my ideas data. You can see the little green dot sort of off to the side. It exhibits what’s called a high “betweenness centrality.” In social network graphs that represent people, those nodes that have a high betweenness centrality are the ones that bridge gaps between distinct communities. They’re interdisciplinary in a way and it made me wonder, could the same be true for ideas? Those “in between” ideas, and how can I decipher this information?

ideas, Gephi, "network visualization" "Quantified Curiosity" Amy Robinson, "Quantified Self", beautifulWe can look at the graph of “beautiful” for an example. You see there’s a purple dot right in the middle. That’s “tech” and when I actually looked at these tags, there’s a series of beautiful, scientific, technological videos, that I’ve actually compiled on my blog [here!] if you’re curious to see them. You can also zoom in on this red section that were closely tagged with “beautiful” — so “TED”, “TEDx”, “side project”, I guess it’s a good sign that the things I do for free in my spare time incite a sense of awe and beauty. “Video” was the largest in that cluster.

ideas, Gephi, "network visualization" "Quantified Curiosity" Amy Robinson, "Quantified Self", video

When I actually look at the graph of “video,” it made me wonder how we could take this information and make it interactive. Imagine you were panning through this on a computer and rather than just looking at nodes, you could actually look at the content relative to where they’re tagged and other things

Here is the tag for “self.” A lot of this was intuitive — “TED,” “science,” — I’m geeky, I love TED. But one dot that very much surprised me, closely related to me — the green dot of Quora, Quora the social Q&A network.

ideas, Gephi, "network visualization" "Quantified Curiosity" Amy Robinson

ideas, Gephi, Quora, "network visualization" "Quantified Curiosity" Amy Robinson, "Quantified Self"This [left] is a graph of Quora. It’s highly infused with all the different communities of my ideas.

These are beautiful graphs; they’re elegant and nice to look at but what do they mean? What can you actually learn from exploring ideas in this type of way?

It puts them into context. By being able to see my ideas and see how they’re connected to each other, I’m able to think about myself in new ways. I’m able to see, rather than just the fact that I started a new blog or I sent out a lifebonus email to friends, I can see how that evolve and where it came about. Based on the features of these graphs, I can actually understand more about where my ideas come from and how they change over time. And there’s a lot that can be done in Gephi that I haven’t even gotten to yet.

Really, like that one line at TED, those 5 seconds carried a much greater weight than just 5 seconds. I think the same can be true of ideas. How do I remember what was new to me four years ago? How do I understand how the ideas that i encounter today are influencing me as a function of time? And I really wonder how I can discover more ways to think about myself and how I can explore how my mind looks relative to other people’s. I wonder if there are hidden patterns inside of this.

I don’t know the answers to these questions but I think that there are answers, or can be. I’m very curious to understand who I am and how I exist. Consciousness is my greatest curiosity and in the end I’ve learned that we need to think socially about how to better think about thinking. This was a momentous task to put all this  together and it can certainly be done more efficiently. Remember, you are extraordinary. Your mind is exquisite. You, the things that you think about and the things that are important to you, create who you are and who you will become. So imagine how you might answer the question “what inspires you?” if you had a quantified mind in your cognitive toolkit.

Thank you.

ideas, Gephi, "network visualization" "Quantified Curiosity" Amy Robinson, Quora, beautiful, video, self, quantified mind

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Idea flow

Sitting outside. A storm approaches.  Strong air. Thinking about life, ideas, posture, air quality, metabolic networks, connectomics, neuroscience, biomimicry, dynamic architectures, infographics many things.  How do I choose what to blog about?  Which idea arrays generate the most spikes of late.. how am I most passionate?  What ideas are most valuable to you, for you to think, to stimulate your own mind?  Hm exploring other minds, understanding and fueling curiosity, exploring what exists.. What ideas spark me as splendid and why.  That’s what I will blog about.

Neuroscientists are combining viral addictive game mechanics with EM resolution imaging analytics of 3D brain tissue. Game changer.

Background: you are the connections among your neurons.  Humans have never mapped this “connectome.”  Not even of a mouse.  Some scientists did c. elegans, a 1 mm worm with 4,000 total connections.  It took 12 years.  You have 100 billion neurons, some with tens of thousands of connections.

Researchers use a blend of AI and manual mapping to trace the 3D shape of neurons (colorful picture above).  It takes 1,000 lab hours to map 1 cubic milimeter of tissue.  How big is a full brain?  One million times larger.  We’re working to solve the bottleneck by crowd-sourcing the analytics. Sebastian Seung’s lab at MIT conceptualized a game called WiredDifferently (because we are, and we must map it to see and understand ourselves) and built a live beta that allows users to help map retinal connectivity at the synaptic level by filling in a 3D coloring book of sorts (we don’t even know how we see!).  I will write more about this on healthsterling.com.

Is this splended? You decide.  I experience joy by thinking about neural network complexity and the sheer magnitude of challenge. We don’t even know how many different types of cells there are in our own heads!  Opportunity.  Time to accelerate the rate of exponential progress.  Develop new questions, technologies, understandings..

Other splendidities..

Language.  How does the way I think reflect a configuration of neurons?  I wonder.

Quora continues to fuel surprise discoveries.  Exploring how others explore fascinates me.  I love navigating thoughts with questions.  There is an entire network of ideas growng now.  Splended! You can be a part of it.  See how my ideas evolve. And check out these stats about your body.  Visualize..

What might you find curious…Last week was in San Fran working on the MIT project, before that was in Dubai and Doha for TEDxSummit (blog that) and prior to that TEDMED.  Hyper development in the past couple months.  Exceptional connectivity in rare environments catalyzes rapid idea prototyping.  Theories are evolving. More on that before the end of the year. For now, launched Healthy City pilot with DailyFeats; the TEDx Global Music Project was granted forward progress by TED, other projects hm this post is about what, making you think? You want to hear thoughts that come out of experiences.  Alright.

The Exploratorium: epic interactive museum.  These are whoa.

Uncoupled “simple” pendulum waveforms.

Magnetic sand (black and magnetic because it contains iron)

Ferrofluids, strongly magnetizable fluids.


In conclusion, think something new, think differently frequently.  Here’s a drop of surprise that I happened upon on Quora to get you on your way: what is the most badass ancient city?

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Be Inspired on Quora

How do you discover the web?

I’ve become a big fan of Quora, a Socratic social network.  In the words of its founder, Adam D’Angelo:

When you want to know more about something, Quora delivers you answers and content from people who share your interests and people who have first-hand knowledge — like real doctors, economists, screenwriters, police officers, and military veterans. On Quora, it’s easy to create a personalized homepage of everything you want to know about by following topics, questions, people and boards.

UCSD’s Neuroscience Department shared Quora with me on Twitter about a year ago.  Yes, that’s right.  Neuroscience labs are on Twitter.  Follow some.  But back to Quora.

If you already use it, do so more frequently.  And connect with me.

If you don’t use Quora yet, it’s pretty simple.  Like Twitter, you follow people and they can follow you back.  Link with Facebook and your “likes” automatically become Topics you follow.  This means that when someone adds a question to a topic you follow, it shows up in your feed.  You can also follow questions.  Play around with Quora.

Ask questions.

Add and explore answers.

Shuffle and discover random and hilarious questions, like

Create boards.

Today I built “Be Inspired” featuring ongoing questions like

(The crowd loves Euler’s equation)

Quora rocks.

Share links to your favorite Quora questions in the comments.  Add the most delightful questions to Be Inspired.

Amy

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Whoa! #lifebonus

About a month ago I shared #lifebonus, the first installment of an ongoing series designed to incite surprise and discovery in life.  Or at least my inbox.  Today, here is another round.

On Friday, the following Facebook status went live while a more personal email went out to a few friends:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subject: Life Challenge

Are you having an awesome day?  Yes?!  Yes.

This week’s Life Challenge:

Share something that made you say “woah!!! ..but is it too geeky to share?”
Due Sunday at noon, or earlier if you’re an intellectual baller.
Response could be a great article from 3 years ago or a photo you saw yesterday or a crazy fresh resource, such as

AskNature.org

Browse nature’s solutions to challenges such as network cooperation (think interwoven trees and UV protection from bacteria), physical integrity (think bones and trees) or mechanical energy (think spider legs using hydraulic lift and how honeybees fly).  Browse around. You’ll be surprised how exciting it is.  Covert learning.

via Nicholas Sykes at TEDxSummit

Cheers, have a wonderful weekend and take three deep breaths right now (seriously it’s good for your biochemistry). I’ll blog some replies and send out a post on Monday so that your week will start out with a little bit of epic.  And if you are curious for more Wow!Geek discoveries, let me know and I will be happy to share a few more.

Amy

Try this with your friends.

Who knows what you might discover?  I do.

The scale of the universe.

History meets Quora and Reddit:

Ask about any era of history and get answers from professional historians!

Keep in mind that this forum is for asking questions about what did happen, not what could have happened had something gone differently. For those types of questions, check out /r/historicalwhatif

Images from the Boston Globe Big Picture‘s Earth Day Gallery.

Science and Tech

Rockets that breathe.  SABRE engines “use atmospheric oxygen in the combustion process.  The engine achieves this with its two modes of operation: its air-breathing and conventional rocket capabilities.”

 

Magnetic Fields light up ‘GPS’ neurons. Findings allow scientists to infer that birds, like compasses, can determine both direction and relative position.  Importantly, this research adds to evidence “showing how single brain cells can record multiple properties or complex qualities in a simple way.”

Get your own Galaxy Cube (image right). 80,000 stars from the Milky Way laser etched into glass. As seen in Design for a Living World.

Philosophy

12 Things you should be able to say about yourself:

1. I am following my heart and intuition.
2. I am proud of myself.
3. I am making a difference
4. I am happy and grateful.
5.I am growing into the best version of me.
6. I am making my time count.
7. I am honest with myself.
8. I am good to those I care about.
9. I know what unconditional love feels like.
10. I have forgiven those who once hurt me.
11. I take full accountability for my life.
12. I have no regrets.

Awesome tapes from Africa:  “music you won’t easily find anywhere else—except, perhaps in its region of origin.”

Popularity data:

Curious world!

At Wikipedia, it always interesting to see traffic on various articles, Some are constant while others are “One-Day-Hero” articles, receiving 1million views in one day, and that’s it – nothing after that.  The world acts in curious ways.

Here is an example: Google Launched Zipper Doodle few days back on Gideon_Sundbäck‘s B’Day. (Click here to see the doodle) You can see his article received 1m+ views on that day, and almost negligible traffic today.

For me, its something interesting, how the mind works and how someone [or something] gets popular overnight, and then is again forgotten over the next few days.

I hope this post contains something cool for you to think about.  The way I see it, your mind is a world. You are a wold abundant with resources like intelligence, stories, experiences, perspectives, curiosity..  Your self resources can be – and I think are best when – shared.

Be creative in your pursuit of extraordinary interactions.  Send out a Life Challenge or other playful yet serious opportunity with which friends can spice their minds.  Think of it as a game.

What should I send out next week?  I love discovering innovations and ideas you are passionate about.

Finally, this last image came as a Life Challenge response, too.  What does it mean to be happy, anyway?

In the words of my friend Carlos,

“Love this!  Nothing is too geeky, Amy.”

I concur.  Bring on the geek.

 

 

Thanks to Marconi Pereria, Rio de Janeiro; Antonella Broglia, Madrid; Will Sterling, Nashville TN; Mosab Abulkhair, Amman Jordan; Cody Marx Bailey, Austin Texas; Ramy Nassar, Waterloo Canada; Terry Pollard, Oxford UK; Kevin McClure, Birmingham Alabama; Shreenath Regunathan, San Francisco California; Philip Kovacs, Huntsville Alabama; Chris Palmer, Huntsville Alabama;  Kat Haber, Vail Colorado; Hugo Schotman, Zurich Switzerland; Abhishek Suryawanshi, Pune India; Nicholas Sykes, Doha Qatar.

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#lifebonus

What makes you excited to be alive?

Open-ended questions like the one above light me up.   I personally love it when people lay out the ideas they are passionate about and then explore how and why those ideas matter.  Would you like to be asked “What’s the most curious thing you have discovered recently?” more often?  I would. Hopefully this post will inspire you to surprise someone with a delightful chance to share who they are and enlighten you in the process. It’s relatively easy: ask a good question.

About 48 hours ago I sent the following email to a few friends:

Hey!  I hope you’re well!  This is for fun/how I’ve decided to keep Friday Fresh.

Reply inline and I will subsequently send fresh shit from my end.  It’s important to note that when you successfully answer these challenges you, friend, get a life bonus!!  Seriously, it will make your day rock.

– Most interesting thing you’ve discovered in the past 10 days (if it’s too hard to choose, share up to 3)
– Most beautiful image/video from past month
– Best meal or food from the past month
– Did you learn a new word in the past month?  Share.  If not, go find one.
– Funniest/most entertaining.  “Find out what is to be taken seriously and laugh at the rest” -Herman Hesse
That’s all.  You have 48 hours to reply.  Good luck!
For fun/inbox entertainment
Amy
This is more than inbox entertainment.  I think it actually helps me get to know a person along the lines of what’s important and how he or she spends free time.   What matters to you?
“Such as are your constant thoughts, such will be the character of your mind” Marcus Aurelius
From here on out, this post is crowd-sourced.  Every video, image, link, quote and fact was “recruited” by the above email.    I hope you enjoy this fresh broad collective perspective that materialized over the weekend.
  • Most Beautiful Image/Video

Creative tech

a story for tomorrow

Rediscovered classic

que bella

there and back: space

NASA releases epic panorama of night sky made from 18,000 images.

  • Most interesting thing you’ve learned/discovered

Nat Geo’s Friday Fact: A hurricane weighs as much as 160 million rhinos!

exp.lore.com

How to divide a square equally into 5 parts.

“Triggered by Brené Brown’s talk about shame I discovered some things about myself.
I discovered that fears and insecurities can be layered and that if you’ve successfully stripped away one layer you may discover another one underneath.
Unfortunately, I am not always aware which fears and insecurities I really have.”

“That the technology for taking a blood sugar reading on an iPhone is being developed.”

ChronoZoom beta is out!

Sexually rejected mice turn to booze.

“Offer a male fruit fly a choice between food soaked in alcohol and its nonalcoholic equivalent, and his decision will depend on whether he’s mated recently or been rejected by a female. Flies that have been given the cold shoulder are more likely to go for the booze, researchers have found. It’s the first discovery, in fruit flies, of a social interaction that influences future behavior.”

Wild lions up close with the Beetle Cam.

Shark teeth are essentially modified scales and evolved from skin, not bones (right, sharks are cartilaginous; they don’t have bones).

“No matter how much you plan, you’ll always face something totally unexpected.”

True.  Perspective on embracing the unanticipated with delight from a different person:

“I have no idea where I’m going, I’m totally conflicted and I’ve never been happier or more flipped out.”

  • New words

awesomeness 

bitumen – the pronunciation is awesome. It’s a synonym for asphalt.

buckram – 1. A coarse cotton fabric heavily sized with glue, used for stiffening garments and in bookbinding. 2. Archaic Rigid formality

coqui – teeny nocturnal frog 

dongleflump – “not sure about a new word but I make lots up, like this one.” Define for yourself, world!

entelechy -In the philosophy of Aristotle, the condition of a thing whose essence is fully realized

LTE – (4G phone network) means Long Term Evolution

pedantic – overly concerned with minute details or formalisms

plumbeo- (Spanish word)  sad, slow, opaque.  “It is like the colour of the sky in winter.”

sycophant – A person who acts obsequiously toward someone in order to gain advantage; a servile flatterer.

wish – “I had forgotten what it meant.  I know now.”

What is the last new word you learned?

  • Best recent nomnoms

I ate fruit roll-ups with a girl I had just net a few days before, she looked at me and smiled and I felt like a teenager.

mom’s chicken pot pie; a private restaurant in Bogota, Columbia; Portuguese food: Rice with octopus and red wine; dinner with Hans Rosling on Wednesday; sukiyaki; Silk City Diner pork tacos; pork chop at vinotinis; fish tacos at Tacombi NYC; some beef mince thing at a party (I have no idea what it was); oven roasted Red Drum fish fillet with kai lan; butternut squash, pasta and a preserved lemon saffron sauce; dinner at an Australian restaurant near Amsterdam; Brenda’s soul food; dinner in Philly two weekends ago on a pitstop before I came home to Switzerland.

Catching up with friends and sharing stories and challenging each other to think critically on a wide range of topics.

  • funny+entertaining

“Went to my grandmothers 80th birthday party, which for most 80 year olds means a nice little party with family and friends. Now for my grandmother, who happens to be the owner of 4 Gentleman’s clubs in NYC..her friends are well interesting.”

Demoreel for visual effects studio The Mill

“If camping outside is so great, then why are all of the bugs trying to get into my house. “- Jim Gaffigan

When was the last time you got this excited when you heard a new song? 🙂

“My kids listening to Toy Dolls”

Where’s _why?

Portraits imagining a baby’s future profession.

Books on Amazon:

That is all.  John Hodgman

The Fan“, Eric Bogosian (comedy)

  • anything else?

“48 days until I graduate from Penn State. No sure exactly what’s going to happen in the next 48, but I know it’s going to be crazy.”

What are you doing with the next 48 days of your life?

Try something different.  Do new.  Ask open-ended questions.  Instigate surprise.  Play.  Explore the world and minds around you. And feel free to answer the questions below or post your own question in the comments section.  Or tweet interestingnesses with the hash tag #lifebonus to @amyleerobinson.

– Most interesting thing you’ve discovered in the past 10 days (if it’s too hard to choose, share up to 3)
– Most beautiful image/video from past month
– Best meal or food from the past month
– Did you learn a new word in the past month?  Share.  If not, go find one.
– Funniest/most entertaining.  “Find out what is to be taken seriously and laugh at the rest” -Herman Hesse

Kudos to Antonella Broglia (Madrid), Jon Yeo (Melbourne), John Eberhart (Huntsville, USA), Dave Lim (Singapore), Marconi Pereria (Rio de Janeiro), Lisa Nicole Bell (Los Angeles), Steve Garaguilo (Zurich), Hugo Schotman (Zurich), Evan Grant (London),  Brad Garland (Huntsville), Philip Kovacs (Huntsville), Dylan Finelli (Boston), Zach Zimbler (Penn State), Lionel Felix (Austin TX), Dan Jacob (Toronto), Shreenath Regunathan (San Francisco), and Sean Gourley (San Francisco).  This post is friend-sourced.

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The TED Conference 2012

Think of TED as a marathon for your mind.  Over the course of a week, roughly 100 presenters from around the world deliver power-packed presentations lasting 18 minutes or less.  Topics range from quadrotor flying robots to the abundant future of humanitybasic human rights to next-generation liquid metal batteries.  And that’s just the first session.

 

TED is a brain spa.  The main TED Conference hosts 1,500 attendees in Long Beach, California.  600 additional TEDsters gather for a simulcast event known as TEDActive in Palm Springs.  So maybe it’s a brain rave.  Heavenly perspective with the world’s big thinkers.  A little known sentiment among attendees is that meeting other people at TED is the best part of attending – even better than the talks is interacting with the audience.

‘TEDTalks set the atmosphere for you to jump in and engage with people you’ve just met.  You can feel like you’ve known for someone for years when really it’s been only a few minutes,” says one attendee.

This is one of many reasons thousands of people shell out thousands of dollars on an annual basis to immerse themselves in the hybrid reality that is TED.  Innovation comes alive.

What is it like to walk into TED?  Look up and you see a rainbow made of thread.  To the right, custom prosthetics printed in 3D via additive manufacturing. There’s a Google Garage; AutoDesk’s history of the universe; Target Idea/Paper Airplane Factory; Music Genomic Sequencing; TEDBookshop, Coffee Commons’ endless espresso and numerous lounges stacked cushily with the latest Steelcase designs.  These spaces are designed to germinate ideas.  A single conversation, for example, may include Peter Diamandis of XPRIZE, Jesse Dylan of Wondros Films and Jay Walker of Priceline and TEDMED.

Finally, a quick rundown of my favorite presenters from TED2012:

  • Peter Diamandis:  Our world is fueled with abundance. Rather than lamenting potential future catastrophies, how can we empower the billions of new minds coming online with the priceless treasure that is the internet?  A passionate case for optimistic possiblism.
  • Ed Glaeser, Harvard:  Globalization has increased the value of being intelligent.  Cities boast benefits ranging from higher incomes to lower infant mortality rates.  Most importantly, cities are a place to evolve culture.  As humans, we need to be immersed in innovation – cities allow us to experience and learn from the mistakes, failures, and successes of others.
  • Andrew Stanton, Pixar:  When you’re telling a story, invoke wonder.  Elegance is the ability to tell a story without dialogue and is a central tenet to Pixar’s success in making animated features mainstream.  Pixar abides by the Unifying Theory of 2+2, meaning that the audience should put things together.  Don’t give people 4, give them 2 + 2.  Make people think; make the story worth your audience’s time.
  • Michael Tilson Thomas, Conductor:  Music is a new language and it has something powerful to say about what it means to be alive.  Factoids:  The earliest recorded music in history is from around 200 BC and was inscribed on a Greek tombstone.   Music “notes” were first seen in the 13th century as lines on a page.  Recording technology emerged in the 1880′s and forever revolutionized music such that suddenly songs could exist even when there were no musicians in the room.
  • Regina Dugan, Director of DARPA:  Believe in impossible things. Failure is key to success.  Case in point:  6 out of the first 8 rockets blew up on the pad.  ”There is only time to iron your cape..and it’s back to the sky for you.” Regina shared amazing technology inspired by biological systems such asadhesives akin to gecko feet and hummingbird spy drones.
  • Tali Sharot, Cognitive Neuroscientist: Optimism changes subjective reality.  It is a motivation to action.  If we expect to do well, stress and anxiety are reduced, resulting in positive health benefits.  Quoting Henry Ford, “Whether you believe you can or cannot, you’re probably right.”
  • Taylor Wilson, 17 year old scientist:  At 14 years old, he built a nuclear fusion reactor in his garage.  Enough said.
  • David Kelley, Founder of IDEO: ‘We’re focused on human-centered design: designing behaviors and personality into products.”  Everyone is innately creative.  Unlock it and let your ideas fly.  Case study of creative success:  an fMRI machine at a children’s hospital had to sedate children 80% of the time for them to be still enough for successful scans.  The team reimagined design into a pirate cave.  Operators were trained by museum guides to bring kids into a game where they had to lay very still so pirates didn’t find them.  Results?  After the fMRI turned playful, only 10% of kids had to be sedated.
  • Joshua Foer, Memory Champion: Remember better by taking information lacking context and creating a framework so that it becomes meaningful.  Josh brings to the table important considerations about what we miss by not deeply processing interactions with others.  What do we lose when we constantly tweet, text, check facebook etc. in stead of engaging with the person across the table?
  • Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Prize Winner: Leymah shares heart wrenching stories of women in Liberia.  We sometimes lose focus on the world outside our sphere, a world where, for example, a girl may get a scholarship only to find out that she must repeatedly have sex with the department chair if she wishes to keep it.  We have the power to change this world by giving a voice to the silenced and providing education scholarships to girls worldwide.
  • Brene Brown, Vulnerability Researcher: Final speaker at TED.  Outstanding presentation met by thunderous applause.  Rene speaks toward the importance of being vulnerable.  She asks “How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness?”  In the spirit of TED, failure is necessary.  We will fail repeatedly in the process of success.  Those who take failure and cultivate courage, compassion and connection are the ones who are able to derive true meaning and joy from life.
 
 

And that’s a wrap.  Or is it.  The notorious “TED Hangover” has come and gone (#firstworldproblem: TED’s wonder seemingly surpasses reality and generally leaves attendees with a sinking feeling – the hangover – of returning home to the real world).  The question now is “what’s next?”  How do I turn these great ideas and phenomenal interactions into meaningful outputs?  How will this year’s TED shape the way I perceive future challenges?  I am inspired, invigorated, motivated by the abundance of great minds in today’s world.

As we learned from Ed Glaeser, urbanization increases both the true and perceived value of intelligence.  With this in mind, I challenge you to TEDify your life by participating in the 2012 TEDPrize:  The City 2.0.  Lead your community to the future you imagine.

Now I venture again out into the real world of thought and action, perhaps most inspired by a conversation starter which I humbly acquired at TED.  A stranger walked up to me, looked at my name badge and said “Hi, Amy.  So tell me, what inspires you?”

This is how I learned it is possible to have a deeply meaningful conversation with a stranger.  It is also possible to reconnect with the person you’ve known for years in a completely new way.  Today, this week, this year, try something new.  Dive straight into who you’re speaking with.  Strive to make every conversation worthy of TED.  Enbrace with daring courage the potential that someone will shut down your curiosity.   Embrace also that that person may tilt her head, be silent for a moment, then share something amazing that changes the way you think for the rest of your life.

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Google Body: the awesome report

Google Body is gone, ladies and gentlemen.  It was lost in a changeover from google labs.  “More wood behind fewer arrows,” says Google.  For now, what was google body is not available for use.  I hope the next version includes deep tissue zoom.

Google “google body” and you find Zygote Labs, the imaging and design firm that created the brain and heart below.

by Zygote 3D anatomy

Zygote is the company behind the 3D human anatomy displayed in Google Body.  As Google Labs winds down Zygote will move forward with Zygote Body.

A “searchable and interactive 3D model of human anatomy.”  Awesome.

I hope that interactive body3D incorporates agility.  I imagine that one could input a movement relative to neutral position and the digital anatomy moves as it were a human body and you can zoom into deep muscle layers etc and see which ones are flexing and how much etc.  zoom from whole body to biomolecular happenings.  I’m thinking.  It’s on now.

Imagination squared.

Notes on a blog:

This is individual reporting.  I think someday I will run these blog posts through a grammatical analytics platform and map the trajectories of my concentrated and directional ideas.  This post is a catalog, occuring over more minutes than you might think.

I’m looking around the Zygote/3Dscience website.  They have a curious program called Human Factors, which

“enables users to use anthropometrically accurate solid 3D male and female models within their SolidWork assemblies to visualize and evaluate …[one hopes musculoskeletal] interaction [of the human body] with the human body [are these hard to read?  I just wrote two varities of the incident sentence. As a reader of these thoughts some time in the future, I wonder what relevance the previous grammatical bifurcation might encourage.]”

$950 licensing fee.  Google body, you were free!  I think humanity is trending toward freedom of innovation.  I think it compounds when shared.  And the best part, action from ideas!

Welcome to my mind.  9:40 on a Tuesday evening. In between writing on this post I did 2 handstands.  Relevant?  Notes for future reference.  I am creating a book.

What else do I do.  What is a blog?

I ask questions.  They give life moguls and amplitude, and curious word combinations.  What does that mean, thinking differently?  Relative to myself, how do my neural networks change relative to how they used to be and where and how and with whom could I explore this?

I learned recently two cognitive curiosities:

  1. Every neuron in your brain has its own capillary.
  2. Dendritic spining is an integral part of your neurons’ function and evolution.
“The modification of synaptic connections between neurons is thought to underlie our ability to form memories and acquire new behaviors. The majority of excitatory synapses in the brain are formed onto specialized cellular structures known as dendritic spines that consist of a bulbous spine head that is separated from the remainder of the dendrite by a thin neck.”

Says Neurobiology Professor Bernardo Sabatini of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Neurobiology.  Dendritic spines seem to serve the purpose of spatially segmenting individual synapses such that signal transductions are not interfered with by neighboring synapses.  The volume of a spine is tiny at <1 femtoliter (one quadrillionth of a liter).  We have only recently been able to image them and observe their interaction in living tissue.  Here is the latest comprehension of how they work:

“spines are dynamic structures that grow, structurally reorganize, and sometimes disappear within tens of minutes and spine motility has been correlated with the ability of animals of reorganize their cerebral cortex..”

This spawns a plethora of thoughts in various directions which I will think more thoroughly through then communicate the most valuable aka curious ones to you, the internet and me, myself.  For now, on with the train of thought.

A blog is self notes.  I think of it as making my mind social.

How do I share how I think?  Is that what I actually think about?  When?  With most passion?  Curiosity?  Time?  How does what I do/what I spend time thinking about (and doing) vary over time?  It is in bursts.  What do I think about in my spare time?  Why do I suddenly experience shyness?

Finishing up, the awesome report: things interesting to me.  Think and discover and enjoy!

“Non-profit global collaborative experiment to collect health and lifestyle information and share it in an open and anonymous way.”

google chrome experimental

Google Experimental. I am testing Google Instant.

“Google is always experimenting with new features aimed at improving the search experience. Take one for a spin.”

Quora:  The Wikipedia of Questions

“A continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it.”

New arXiv entries into the journal of Quantitative Biology.

Look at these categories!

  • molecular networks
  • neurons and cognition
  • subcellular processes
  • biomolecules
  • cell behavior

11:56 pm.  Final words, thoughts?  Exist mindfully and intensely.

Life is long if you know how to use it.

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