This Is The Internet Now

Below is a re-blog of the very interesting 2021 Internet Map published by TeleGeography on Twitter : https://blog.telegeography.com/2021-global-internet-map-tracks-global-capacity-traffic-and-cloud-infrastructure

In fact shown are the traffic flows of many networks which are peered (interconnected competitor networks) at the Internet Exchanges. Not only Internet but also corporate and private networks, ISP’s, Mobile telephony & -data networks and video streams.

The map which can be opened online, for zooming in & out is here: https://global-internet-map-2021.telegeography.com/

Numbers in the circles depict ranking of hubs (IX’es) according to size of traffic in the world: 1. Frankfurt: DE-CX , 2. London: LINX , 3. Amsterdam: AMS-IX, 4. Paris: France-IX.

A more detailed list of IX’s can be found on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Internet_exchange_points_by_size

On the lower side of the (wall-chart) map are shown various characteristics and impressive growth statistics.

Very impessive worldwide digital infrastructure.

The driving forces behind its construction and interconnectivity are not so much the drive to make money but by constructing COMMONS (cooperatives) with the FIVE NETWORK EFFECTS:

— the first four:  https://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/np9-engines-for-the-new-power-the-four-network-effects/ about economies of scale and scope 🙂

— the fifth: https://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/2019/08/26/what-can-we-do-8-the-fifth-network-effect-the-law-of-p2p-cooperation-and-scaling-up/

When you follow the network dynamics of this Internet Infrastructure you will notice that it behaves like a new lifeform on our planet. 🙂 for the Global Brain?

jaap van till, TheConnectivist

==========================================

2021 Global Internet Map Tracks Global Capacity, Traffic, and Cloud Infrastructure

INTERNET NETWORK MAP

By Jayne MillerFeb 16, 2021Share

There’s so much information packed into our 2021 Global Internet Map that you might not know where to start.

You could begin by digging into the 35% growth we saw in international internet capacity—from around 450 Tbps to over 600 Tbps—between 2019 and 2020. 

Or you could scope out regional connectivity intel, noting that Europe is the region with the highest regional capacity; it also saw the largest growth from 2019 to 2020.

Other notable findings include:

  • Global Peak Traffic – Peak international internet traffic increased at a compound annual rate of 30% between 2016 and 2020. 
  • Global Average Traffic – Average international internet traffic increased from around 120 Tbps to 170 Tbps from 2019 to 2020.
  • COVID-19 Impact – The peak traffic growth rate for 2019 to 2020 was forecasted at 28%, however the observed level for the same period was much higher, at 47%.

“It’s been very interesting to track global trends in terms of capacity and traffic over the past year, and learning how operators responded to the pandemic. Our latest data show that global capacity and internet traffic surged in 2020, mostly driven by the widespread remote work and learning, with more people relying on the internet than ever before,” said Anahí Rebatta, Senior Analyst at TeleGeography. 

Global_Internet_Map_2021_medium

Fans of this map will notice the exciting addition of cloud infrastructure data.

2021 Infra Map Cloud Infrastructure Data

This includes six new cloud service provider maps showing active and planned cloud regions, number of availability zones, and on-ramps.

Per usual, this map also displays key insights into the world’s internet exchanges. These include the aggregate number of exchanges in each country and the number deployed by region over the past five years.

Key projections include intraregional internet bandwidth, metro-to-metro area internet bandwidth, metro area internet bandwidth and the top 50 metro areas ranked.

Our colorful 2021 edition is sponsored by the team at Netskope.

=========end of re-blog======================

Rather silly that in 2000, more than twenty years ago, just after the Internet Bubble (hot air shares) burst on Wall Street, the media reported gloomy forcasts about the future of Internet:

The only ones who gave up on Internet where computer illiterates who gambled and lost with shares. And for instance the Board of the Delft University of Technology who stopped my “Internet” professorship then after such messages, much to the chagrin of my large audience of students. These clever boys and girls have been very successful in this field since!

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Tutorial Book about Internet and Private Networks

  1. Very much recommended: the new book “How the Internet REALLY Works” by Article 19 and ‘Catnip’ = a group of clever young Digerati.

How the Internet Really Works: An Illustrated Guide to Protocols, Privacy, Censorship, and Governance Hardcover – Illustrated, December 11, 2020

It can be used by senior decisionmakers who want to be better informed what Internet is and does. And it is very useful for schoolchildren who want to know what it is so they may be interested to get jobs in this exiting new line of work. Well it gives the basics but they should be challenged and prepared to learn fast in the field of network building and expanding :-)). Never a dull moment!

That is what my students in Delft and Arnhem experienced, but it saves a lot of time if you can understand things with the Knowledge from this book as a basis.

2. Only commend I have is that in the book a proper definition of Internet is missing. Most people who are in discussions about regulations of Internet for instance have different and only vague notions about what they are talking about. And often they mean the WWW or ICT systems / database instead of The Internet.

The following Definition was given to me by people who defined and started to build internets: For further information about this definition, see https://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/what-is-internet/

” An internet is a voluntary agreement among network operators to exchange traffic for their mutual benefit.  (The Internet is a prototype internet.) That’s all — it’s an agreement.

It’s not a network, or a Thing of any kind.  Part of the agreement is to exchange routing information.  In order to reduce conflict, IANA assigns address blocks. Networks, however, advertise what address blocks they carry, and this is not normally checked against IANA. So IANA address block lists are there to advise in case of conflict. If however people stopped trusting them, they might look elsewhere, or (heaven forbid people give up Authority and think for themselves) make their own decisions on whom to trust”.

It is urgent that more people know how the Internet and corporate networks are constructed, since it is basic knowledge to survive in this world where our kids are glued to screens nearly all day long and during the lockdown their parents and grandparents need Internet to order and sell things and communicate and cooperate all day long.

jaap van till, TheConnectivist

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Amanda Gorman’s Poem

Amanda Gorman
  • Video of the presentation of the Poem at the inauguration of President Biden and VP Harris, January 20, 2021 https://youtu.be/m_DL4xytjCo
  • The second half was written after the coup attempt at the Capitol
  • Transcript: THE HILL WE CLIMB

When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade
We’ve braved the belly of the beast
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice


And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished


We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one


And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn’t mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man


And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another


We seek harm to none and harmony for all
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew
That even as we hurt, we hoped
That even as we tired, we tried


That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious
Not because we will never again know defeat
but because we will never again sow division
Scripture tells us to envision
that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid
If we’re to live up to our own time
Then victory won’t lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we’ve made


That is the promised glade
The hill we climb
If only we dare
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it


Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy
And this effort very nearly succeeded
But while democracy can be periodically delayed
it can never be permanently defeated
In this truth
in this faith we trust


For while we have our eyes on the future
history has its eyes on us
This is the era of just redemption
We feared at its inception
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
of such a terrifying hour
but within it we found the power
to author a new chapter


To offer hope and laughter to ourselves
So while once we asked,
how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?
Now we assert
How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?


We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be
A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free


We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation


Our blunders become their burdens
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright


So let us leave behind a country
better than the one we were left with
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one


We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,
we will rise from the windswept northeast
where our forefathers first realized revolution
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,
we will rise from the sunbaked south


We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful


When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it

#

====translation into the Dutch language of The Netherlands===

“THE HILL WE CLIMB”

(Vertaling gedicht van Amanda Gorman*, uitgesproken bij de inauguratie van President Joe Biden.)

“Als de dageraad komt vragen wij ons af waar wij licht kunnen vinden in deze nooit ophoudende duisternis.

Het verlies dat wij lijden, een zee die wij moeten doorwaden.

Wij hebben de buik van het beest getrotseerd.

Wij hebben geleerd dat stilte niet altijd vrede is,

En dat de normen en noties van wat “rechtvaardig” is, niet altijd rechtvaardigheid zijn.

En toch, de dageraad is bij ons voordat we het wisten.

Op één of andere manier doen we het.

Op één of andere manier hebben we een natie doorstaan en beleefd die niet kapot is, maar gewoon onaf.

Wij, opvolgers van een land en een tijdperk, waar een mager Zwart meisje,

Afstammeling van slaven en opgevoed door een alleenstaande moeder, ervan kan dromen president te worden, al was het om zichzelf te horen een voordracht voor een president te geven.

En jazeker, wij zijn nog lang niet glanzend, nog lang niet smetteloos, maar dat betekent niet dat wij niet streven naar een verbondenheid die perfect is.

Wij streven ernaar een verbintenis te smeden met een bestemming.

Een land samen te stellen dat alle culturen, kleuren, karakters en menselijke eigenheden toegewijd is.

En daarom heffen wij onze blik niet naar wat tussen ons staat, maar wat vóór ons staat.

Wij dichten de scheiding omdat wij weten dat, om onze toekomst op de eerste plaats te zetten, wij eerst onze verschillen terzijde moeten zetten.

Wij leggen onze handwapens neer zodat onze handen zich kunnen uitstrekken naar elkaar.

Wij willen leed voor niemand maar leedwezen voor allen. 

Laat de wereld alleen al dit als waarheid noemen:

Dat zelfs toen wij rouwden, wij bouwden.

Dat zelfs toen wij leden, wij beden.

Dat zelfs toen we ons vermoeiden, ons bemoeiden.

Dat we voor altijd verbonden zijn, zegevierend.

Niet omdat wij nooit verslagen worden, maar wij nooit meer verdeeldheid zaaien. 

De Schrift vertelt ons dat allen onder hun eigen wijnstok en vijgenboom zullen zitten en dat niemand hen vrees zal inboezemen. 

Als wij onze tijd waardig willen zijn, dan zal de overwinning niet komen met het zwaard, maar over de bruggen die bouwden.

De belofte die schuilt in het moeras, de berg die wij beklimmen, als wij maar durven.

Dat is omdat Amerikaan zijn méér is dan een trots die wij erven.

Het is het verleden waar wij in stappen en hoe wij dat herstellen.

Wij hebben een kracht gezien die onze natie zou verpletteren in plaats van haar delen.

Ons land zou vernietigen als zij de democratie wil verdagen.

Die inspanning werd bijna beloond.

Maar ook al kan democratie tijdelijk kan worden verdaagd,

Zij kan nooit blijvend worden verslagen.

In die waarheid, in dit geloof, stellen wij ons vertrouwen, 

Want waar ons oog zich op de toekomst richt, heeft het verleden zijn oog op ons gericht.

Dit is het tijdperk van de verlossing.

Wij vreesden het bij zijn aanvang. 

Wij voelden ons niet klaar om erven te zijn van zulk een afschrikwekkend uur,

Maar eenmaal binnengetreden vonden wij de kracht een nieuw hoofdstuk te schrijven, hoop en een lach te bieden aan onszelf.

Dus waar wij ooit vroegen: “Hoe kunnen wij ooit de catastrofe verslaan?” 

Stellen wij nu “Hoe zou de catastrofe ons ooit kunnen verslaan?”

Wij marcheren niet terug naar wat was, maar bewegen naar wat zal zijn:

Een land dat is gebutst maar gezond, weldadig maar stoutmoedig, frank en vrij.

Wij zullen niet teruggestuurd worden of tegengehouden door bedreiging,

Omdat wij weten dat onze inactiviteit en inertie de erfenis van de volgende generatie is.

Onze blunders worden hun bagage.

Maar een ding is zeker:

Als wij vergiffenis samenbrengen met macht, en macht met het goede, dan wordt liefde onze erfenis en onze verandering, het geboorterecht van onze kinderen.

Laten wij dus een land achterlaten, beter dan hoe wij het kregen.

Met iedere zucht van mijn geharnaste borst, zullen wij de gewonde wereld tot een verwonderende wereld maken.

Wij zullen opkomen van gouden heuvels in het westen.

Wij zullen opkomen van het door wind belaagde Noordoosten waar onze voorouders als eersten revolutie maakten. 

Wij zullen opkomen uit de door meren omzoomde steden in de staten van de Mid-West.

Wij zullen opkomen vanuit het zonovergoten Zuiden.

We zullen herbouwen, herenigen en herwinnen. 

In elke ontdekte plek van onze natie, in elke hoek die wij ons land noemen, 

Zal ons volk, divers en mooi, oprijzen, gehavend en fraai.

Als de dag ontwaakt, stappen wij uit de schaduw, in vuur en vlam, onbevreesd.

Dan zal een nieuwe dageraad kleuren, die wij vrijmaken.

Want er is altijd licht,

Als we maar de moed hebben om het te zien.

Als we maar de moed hebben om het te zijn.”

(Vertaling: Herman Rottinghuis)

=======================================

jaap van till, TheConnectivist

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Navalny’s Speech and Letter

Updated Febr. 5, 2021: Letter that Navalny wrote in jail is added at the end of this blog.

At his trial on 2 Febr. in Moskow Alexey #Navalny, Leader of the Russian Opposition Party, gave a very impressive speech.

Below is the link and text of the English language translation, including a voice recording.

This speech is IMHO a historic moment in the movement towards democracy, the young people hunger for, not only in Russia.

In another court his wife was also sentenced to spend many years in prison. Political justice like in banana republics.

jaap van till, TheConnectivist

====================RE-Blogged from MEDUZA ============

https://t.co/02DMkecGic

‘Vladimir the Poisoner’ A translation of Alexey Navalny’s speech in court on February 2

On February 2, during a court hearing that will determine if he remains in prison for several years to come, opposition figure Alexey Navalny addressed the court, delivering a short speech in which he maintained his innocence and condemned Russia’s political and legal system for corruption and repression. Meduza publishes an English-language translation of Navalny’s courtroom remarks below.

UPDATE

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/977583655&color=%23ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=trueМедиазона · Выступление Алексея Навального в суде по замене ему срока на реальныйAudio recording of Navalny’s remarks in court (in Russian)

SPEECH: ” I would like to begin by discussing the legal issue here, which seems to me to be paramount and a bit overlooked in this discussion. There are two people sitting right there and one of them is saying: let’s lock up Navalny because he showed up [to meet with his parole officers] on Mondays, not Thursdays. And the other says: let’s lock up Navalny because he didn’t show up immediately after coming out of his coma. But I would like everyone to remember that the essence of this trial is to lock me up over a case in which I was already exonerated — a case that’s already been recognized as fabricated.

If we look at the criminal statutes — your Honor, I hope you’ve already done this once or twice — we’ll see that the European Court of Human Rights is part [of the Russian justice system] and its decisions are binding. The Russian Federation halfway acknowledged this ruling and even paid me compensation here. Despite this, my brother spent 3.5 years in prison because of this same case. I spent an entire year under house arrest for this same case.

Let’s do a little math. The verdict was in 2014, it’s 2021 now, and I’m still being prosecuted for this. Why this case exactly? There’s a reason and it’s not because there’s some shortage of criminal charges against me. Somebody wanted me arrested, the moment I crossed the border [after returning from Germany]. 

THE POISONING INVESTIGATION ‘It’s always a choice’ ‘Bellingcat’ lead investigator Christo Grozev explains how his team unmasked the Russian agents who tried to kill Alexey Navalny

The explanation is one man’s hatred and fear — one man hiding in a bunker. I mortally offended him by surviving. I survived thanks to good people, thanks to pilots and doctors. And then I committed an even more serious offense: I didn’t run and hide. Then something truly terrifying happened: I participated in the investigation of my own poisoning, and we proved, in fact, that Putin, using Russia’s Federal Security Service, was responsible for this attempted murder. And that’s driving this thieving little man in his bunker out of his mind. He’s simply going insane as a result.Реклама

There’s no popularity ratings. No massive support. There’s none of that. Because it turns out that dealing with a political opponent who has no access to television and no political party merely requires trying to kill him with a chemical weapon. So, of course, he’s losing his mind over this. Because everyone was convinced that he’s just a bureaucrat who was accidentally appointed to his position. He’s never participated in any debates or campaigned in an election. Murder is the only way he knows how to fight. He’ll go down in history as nothing but a poisoner. We all remember Alexander the Liberator [Alexander II] and Yaroslav the Wise [Yaroslav I]. Well, now we’ll have Vladimir the Underpants Poisoner. 

I’m standing here, guarded by the police, and the National Guard is out there with half of Moscow cordoned off. All this because that small man in a bunker is losing his mind. He’s losing his mind because we proved and demonstrated that he isn’t buried in geopolitics; he’s busy holding meetings where he decides how to steal politicians’ underpants and smear them with chemical weapons to try to kill them.

The main thing in this whole trial isn’t what happens to me. Locking me up isn’t difficult. What matters most is why this is happening. This is happening to intimidate large numbers of people. They’re imprisoning one person to frighten millions. 

We’ve got 20 million people living below the poverty line. We have tens of millions of people living without the slightest prospects for the future. Life is bearable in Moscow, but travel 100 kilometers in any direction and everything’s a mess. Our whole country is living in this mess, without the slightest prospects, earning 20,000 rubles [$265] a month. And they’re all silent; they try to shut people up with these show trials. Lock up this one to scare millions more. One person takes to the streets and they lock up another five people to scare 15 million more.

I hope very much that people won’t look at this trial as a signal that they should be more afraid. This isn’t a demonstration of strength — it’s a show of weakness. You can’t lock up millions and hundreds of thousands of people. I hope very much that people will realize this. And they will. Because you can’t lock up the whole country. 

The only thing growing in [Russia] is the number of billionaires. Everything else is declining. I’m locked up in a prison cell and all I hear about on TV is that butter is getting more expensive. The price of eggs is rising. You’ve deprived these people of a future.

Everything I’m saying now reflects my attitude toward the performance you’ve staged here. This is what happened when lawlessness and tyranny become the essence of a political system, and it’s horrifying. 

But it’s even worse when lawlessness and tyranny pose as state prosecutors and dress up in judges’ robes. It’s the duty of every person to defy you and to defy such laws. 

I am fighting as best I can and I will continue to do so, despite the fact that I’m now under the control of people who love to smear everything with chemical weapons. My life isn’t worth two cents, but I will do everything I can so that the law prevails. And I salute and thank the staff at the Anti-Corruption Foundation who have been arrested and all the honest people across the country who aren’t afraid and who take to the streets. Because they have the same rights as you. This country belongs to them just as it does to you and everyone else. We demand proper justice, decent treatment, participation in elections, and participation in the distribution of the national wealth. Yes, we demand all this.

I want to say that there are many good things in Russia now. The very best are the people who aren’t afraid — people who don’t look the other way, who will never hand our country over to a bunch of corrupt officials who want to trade it for palaces, vineyards, and aqua-discos.

I demand my immediate release and the release of all political prisoners. I do not recognize your performance here — it’s a deception and completely illegal.”

MEDUZA RESPONDS TO NAVALNY’S SENTENCING Free Alexey Navalny! Meduza responds to the imprisonment of Russia’s most outspoken opposition politician

Translation by Kevin Rothrock

===============end of reblog===========

===============Letter written by Navalny in jail=========

“Do not let yourself be fooled by illusions of power and toughness. What kind of power do they have, if they need to secretly poison people and lawlessly imprison them?

“Where is their nation-wide support, if they can only win elections by preventing independent candidates in the race?

They can only hold on to power, using it for their personal gain, by relying on our fear.

Therefore we, by overcoming our fear, can free our Motherland from the handful of thieves who occupy it.

The truth is on our side. Stay free.”

Full text in Russian:

Привет, это Навальный. Я, конечно, много раз слышал эту фразу: «Невозможно лишить свободы того, кто свободен внутри». И вот сейчас сам себя честно спрашиваю: «Ну как, работает?». Поверьте, работает.

Железные двери за мной захлопываются с оглушительным лязгом, но я чувствую себя свободным человеком. Благодаря уверенности в своей правоте. Благодаря вашей поддержке. Благодаря поддержке своей семьи.

Демонстративное беззаконие, происходящее со мной с момента, как я сошел с трапа самолета, — это месть Путина лично мне. За то, что выжил, за то, что осмелился вернуться. Теперь еще и за то, что рассказал о его дворце. Но в еще большей степени это послание Путина и его друзей всей стране: «Видали, как мы можем, а? Наплюем на законы и свернем в бараний рог любого, кто осмелится идти против нас. Мы и есть закон.»

И я в очередной раз (понимаю, надоел, ну а что мне еще остается?) призываю: не дайте себя запугать. Не дайте обмануть себя с помощью иллюзии силы и крутизны.Какая же это сила, если им приходится тайком травить людей и беззаконно их сажать? Где их всенародная поддержка, если выборы они могут выиграть, только не пуская на них независимых кандидатов, а страх перед протестующими вынуждает их закрывать станции метро?

Они могут удерживать власть, используя ее для личного обогащения, лишь опираясь на наш страх. Зато мы, поборов страх, можем освободить свою Родину от кучки воров-оккупантов. И сделаем это. Обязаны сделать. Для себя и будущих поколений.

Правда на нашей стороне. Оставайтесь свободными.

===============================

Demonstrators in Russia

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Successful Unconventional Thinking 2: The Bellingcat Team

What this team of civilian journalists, with investigative website Bellingcat , does: FINDING THE TRUTH is wildly succesful, with high impact and it is very surprising for the slow hierarchies of dictatorships and other bureaucratic controlaholics. Video spectacular documentaries can be found by G”bellingcat: truth in a post-truth world” (2018).

They move fast and are well connected with a team of clever people using access to public accessible data or telephony metadata databases, which can be bought on the market. “Little brothers” in action 🙂

Example: they could trace the photo’s send to the mothers of the Russian soldiers involved in the BUK rocket shooting of #MH17. And sometimes they can de-fuse false info because the shadows of lampposts in the composite picture do not match.

And most recent they could trace who ordered and implemented the poisoning of #Navalny. So Navalny could call them maskerading that the call came from the Kremlin. Whereupon that FSB officer described what they had done and how the assasination failed at the last minute due to bad luck (for the Kremlin).

Today Feb 4 #Bellingcat published an exiting book how they started an how they operate and why. See below for a press clipping about that book.

I have called their method “Social Super Resolution” #SSR, and recommend that more journalists and scientists employ it to cut through the fog if mis-information and lies, spread in huge amounts on Internet and social media.

For more information on how #SSR works and can be employed, you can contact me.

jaap van till, TheConnnectivist

=============================Re-Blogged from THE SPECTATOR=========

A bored business administrator in Leicester puts the intelligence services to shame

Eliot Higgins reveals how his investigative website Bellingcat uncovered vital information about the Russians that had eluded the West

From magazine issue: 30 January 2021

Eliot Higgins, founder of Bellingcat. Credit: Getty Images

We Are Bellingcat: An Intelligence Agency for the People

By Eliot Higgins

****** New Book: Bloomsbury, pp. 272, £20. **********

In the summer of 2012, a man was walking near Jabal Shashabo, a Syrian rebel enclave, when he spotted a group of turquoise canisters with what appeared to be tail fins attached. He picked up one of the objects and filmed it. Later he uploaded his video to YouTube.

What were those strange turquoise cans? The answer was provided not by a UN investigator, war correspondent or military expert, but by a bored business administrator at his desk in Leicester. He had never been to Syria, spoke no Arabic and by his own admission knew nothing about weaponry. But Eliot Higgins had become fascinated by the war in Syria, and was following the social media feeds of people in the thick of it. He saw the YouTube clip and noticed the serial number ‘A-IX-2’.

Working with other online amateur weapons-spotters, Higgins figured out that the man in the video was holding a Russian-made cluster bomb. These devices detonate at high altitude, sending out a shower of smaller bombs that often land without exploding. Children are especially likely to pick them up and be killed by cluster munitions, and for that reason they are illegal in many countries. By interrogating the contents of a single YouTube clip, Higgins had established that the Syrian government was using illegal, Russian-supplied cluster bombs against its own people. He published his findings online.

Then came the chemical weapons attack on Ghouta, the rebel-held suburb of Damascus, in which up to 1,700 people died. Higgins found images of the rocket on social media, and a detail caught his eye: the screw cap on the warhead suggested that it had contained liquid. After more online sleuthing, he concluded that the device was a Soviet-made artillery rocket and that the warhead had contained the nerve agent sarin.A bored man at his desk in Leicester identified exactly what bombs Assad was using against his own people

This time Higgins went further. Using a combination of Google maps and extreme perseverance he was able to ‘geolocate’ the spot where the rocket had landed. From its angle of arrival, he deduced the rocket’s trajectory and therefore its launch site — a Syrian army installation. Higgins had shown that Assad’s army was using chemical weapons of Russian origin, in violation of international law. His investigations started attracting followers and he set up a blog, which he called ‘Brown Moses’.

It was the tragedy of flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur that brought his work to international attention. On 17 July 2014, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, MH17 crossed into Ukrainian airspace. It was shot down, killing all on board. Using information that was openly available online, Higgins established that the plane had been hit by a Russian Buk missile. He also identified the serial number of the missile-launcher and even uncovered the identity of the shooters, in this case a unit of the Russian 53rd Brigade. In his report on the incident, he and his team concluded: ‘The Russian government bears responsibility for the tragedy.’

By this time Higgins’s blog had turned into an online research group, part-funded by Google, which he named Bellingcat. The name derives from the children’s story of the mice who decide to put a bell round the cat’s neck. By ‘belling the cat’, they take away its ability to act unseen.

Higgins and his team have been very effective at ‘belling the cat’. In 2018, they uncovered the identity of the men who poisoned Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury. In an absurd interview on Russian state TV, the two suspects claimed to have been tourists, visiting Salisbury to view the cathedral. Bellingcat established that they were GRU operatives, a kill team working for Russian military intelligence. Higgins’s work evidently touched a nerve. Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, told an interviewer: ‘Bellingcat is closely connected with the intelligence services, which use it to channel information intended to influence public opinion.’

Higgins, whom I have met and interviewed, denies this. What’s more, he is completely unfazed by having made such powerful enemies. In a further investigation published after this book’s completion, Bellingcat identified the men who tried to assassinate Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader. The culprits this time were operatives from the FSB, the Russian security service.

This determination to reveal awkward facts has led Bellingcat to focus on what Higgins calls ‘the counterfactual community’, the radical, conspiracy-obsessed online culture that has begun seeping out into the real world, with hideous consequences. As Higgins explains, the man who carried out the Pittsburg synagogue massacre in 2018 was radicalised by websites featuring anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, Nazi memes and ‘ironic’ white supremacist language. A mass murder at a Texas synagogue that same year was also announced on an extremist website, as was the 2019 Christchurch massacre at a New Zealand mosque.

The websites that radicalised these killers gave rise to conspiracy theories such as QAnon, popular among the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol. QAnon’s followers believe that a cabal of child abusers, made up of senior Democrats and liberals, is trying to take over the world, and only Trump can defeat them. It’s absurd — but look at the social media images of the crowd that stormed Congress. Look at the QAnon flags and clothing emblazoned with the capital ‘Q’. A ridiculous theory, if widely believed, can threaten national security.

This is a fascinating, bewildering book. Remarkably, the world’s media failed to spot a gold mine of online information and it took a bored guy working in his spare time to show them the way. In doing so, he created an entirely new way of investigating events. Organisations including the BBC and the New York Times now have open source investigation units modelled on Bellingcat. In some cases, including the downing of MH17, Bellingcat’s findings have proved more revealing than investigations by governments and official bodies. Is its methodology more powerful than that of government agencies?

The distinction between the truth and the lie is often muddled, sometimes purposefully. Higgins worries that it will become even more blurred now that AI can generate ‘deepfake’ images of events that never happened. But the lesson of this deeply impressive book is that, despite the noise, the propaganda and the lies, the truth is everywhere. You just have to know how to look for it.

WRITTEN BY Jay Elwes

============================end of RE-Blog from The Spectator=========

Want to donate? See here: https://bellingcat.com/donate/

========

BOOK REVIEW:

We Are Bellingcat

An Intelligence Agency for the People

By: Eliot Higgins

Media of We Are Bellingcat
Published:04-02-2021
Format:Hardback
Edition:1st
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ISBN:9781526615756
Imprint:Bloomsbury Publishing
Dimensions:234 x 153 mm
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About We Are Bellingcat

‘John le Carré demystified the intelligence services; Higgins has demystified intelligence gathering itself’ Financial Times
‘Uplifting . . . Riveting . . . What will fire people through these pages, gripped, is the focused, and extraordinary, investigations that Bellingcat runs . . . Each runs as if the concluding chapter of a Holmesian whodunit’ Telegraph
‘We Are Bellingcat is Higgins’s gripping account of how he reinvented reporting for the internet age . . . A manifesto for optimism in a dark age’ Luke Harding, Observer

How did a collective of self-taught internet sleuths end up solving some of the biggest crimes of our time?

Bellingcat, the home-grown investigative unit, is redefining the way we think about news, politics and the digital future. Here, their founder – a high-school dropout on a kitchen laptop – tells the story of how they created a whole new category of information-gathering, galvanising citizen journalists across the globe to expose war crimes and pick apart disinformation, using just their computers.

From the downing of Malaysia Flight 17 over the Ukraine to the sourcing of weapons in the Syrian Civil War and the identification of the Salisbury poisoners, We Are Bellingcat digs deep into some of Bellingcat’s most successful investigations. It explores the most cutting-edge tools for analysing data, from virtual-reality software that can build photorealistic 3D models of a crime scene, to apps that can identify exactly what time of day a photograph was taken.

In our age of uncertain truths, Bellingcat is what the world needs right now – an intelligence agency by the people, for the people.

Reviews

“A fascinating book . . . The lesson of this deeply impressive book is that, despite the noise, the propaganda and the lies, the truth is everywhere. You just have to know how to look for it” –  Spectator

“The gripping story of how Eliot Higgins and Bellingcat used innovative investigation techniques to expose some of the gravest state crimes of our era” –  Bill Browder, bestselling author of ‘Red Notice’,

“Tells the story of the most innovative practitioners of open-source intelligence and online journalism in the world” –  Anne Applebaum,

“It is impossible to exaggerate the urgency and the power of their work . . . Higgins and Bellingcat are a crucial and courageous corrective” –  James O’Brien,

“It is strange that Eliot Higgins’s We Are Bellingcat should be such an uplifting book . . . Riveting . . . It is quite a story . . . Spare, elegant . . .What will fire people through these pages, gripped, is the focused, and extraordinary, investigations that Bellingcat runs . . . Each runs as if the concluding chapter of a Holmesian whodunit, in which the scientific sleuth explains in crystalline manner his inescapable conclusions . . . Ultimately, the book consoles, reassuring readers that in a world where everyone has an opinion and objectivity feels extinct, the tools to prove and verify have never been more accessible” –  Telegraph

“Bellingcat has pioneered a new field of investigation that has proven key to understanding the clandestine criminal actions of Russia and other nations both at home and abroad. They have exposed numerous war crimes, human rights violations, and much more . . . If there were a Nobel Prize in uncovering war crimes, Bellingcat would receive it. No wonder authoritarian and criminal regimes hate them so” –  Toomas Hendrik Ilves, former President of Estonia,

“John le Carré demystified the intelligence services; Higgins has demystified intelligence gathering itself . . . Higgins is one of the internet’s good guys – a champion of truth in a post-truth world’” –  Financial Times

“The blogger who tracks Syrian rockets from his sofa” –  Daily Telegraph

“Taking on the Kremlin from his couch … Eliot Higgins and Bellingcat are fighting Vladimir Putin and his ilk, using little more than computers and smartphones” –  Foreign Policy

“’We Are Bellingcat is Higgins’s gripping account of how he reinvented reporting for the internet age . . . Bellingcat’s rise reveals something new about our digitally mediated times: spying is no longer the preserve of nation states – anyone with an internet connection can do it’” –  Observer

====================

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Digital Democracy in the USA, in the UK?

  1. The Choice. Taken from Twitter is the following text below about Max Weber who was tricked (the students stated that they would invite a very hot air politician if Weber would not accept their invitation) by students to give in Januari 1919 the following lecture: Click to access weber_max_1864_1920_politics_as_a_vocation.pdf

In other words, if we skip the first, the traditional hereditary monarchy (1) form of state governance, Max Weber confronted the audience during the troubled Weimar Republic in Germany with the choice between (2) FASCISM and (3) DEMOCRACY

2. In the present 2021 #cosmologicalReset it is very interesting that Americans, and maybe all passengers on this very well interconnected spaceship Earth are faced with the same CHOICE again now, although with slightly different lables:

Either:

A. National centered #Authoritarianism / #Fascism with a very tightly organized vertical command & control Hierarchy. Often found in Dictatorships or aspiring dictatorships with “populism”, conservative (change resisting) and fearful populations which seem to be enslaved (extracting value) or held in produce & consum captivity. If the leadership has to appoint lower level managers they let “loyalty, to the leader(s)” prevail over competence for the job. This is a ticking timebomb in their organisation, and leads to inevitable and ugly powerfights. And books published afterwards. Other attributes are: * belief in the fairytales of #Neolib market economics and privatisation; the “invisible hand” which are cleary not working in healthcare, education, infrastructures, climate policy, politics and law. When the NeoLib proponents suggest to leave things to The Market, they lie and plan to establish a martket monopoly that slows down change, innovation and improvements. * very slow reaction time and filtering/simplification of reporting messages, going up and down the levels of the hierarchy. * inability to percieve, cope and handle complexity. * no crownprince. Exploitation and extraction of value by a few at the expense of the many and natual resources = in its roots a colonial (US southern) system embraced by the White Supremacists there. Drivers: sensation media, media figures, measured in viewer numbers (number of eyeballs).

Or:

B. #RepresentativeDemocracy. This does not function very well, because businesses (corruption) and “voting by majority” is confused with “Leadership by the People” (Demos) what it should be. This system of organising has about all attributes 180 degrees opposite as A. It is not National/ isolated, it focusses on Creation of Value (by SYNERGY) by connecting and COMBINING very skilled people with different views, backgrounds, cultures, ages, etc. * open discussions and sharing views accross boundaries and borders. * organisation forms derived from “Commons’ which is the counterpart of State and Business interests (see my blogs about “The Trias Internetica”. This type of activity is working distributed, in parallel and very fast so all participants gain value and learn togethet to improve things for themselves and for others. The networking effect used is much stronger than propaganda & mindmanipulation developed in commerce and consumer advertising , and is based on the Fourth Law of network effects (van Till’s Law) which is based on cooperation, see https://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/np9-engines-for-the-new-power-the-four-network-effects/ I have called such form of society a #Synthecracy

3. The recent storming of the Capitol (enabled by the police not getting the orders to stop the crowd. Reason: in the DC small Federal enclave the police is for good normal reasons under direct command of the POTUS = was Trump, so he did not gave the order) gave the USA a narrow escape from being forced into governing system A. The escape was made by quickly bringing the Senators and Representatives through tunnels out of reach of the rioting (but well organized) violent crowd.

4. So the USA population did formally choose to be a Democracy again, although nearly half of the population was and is with religious zeal still believing what Trump promised them an Authoritarian ruled country full of lies that the common people would get a better life. This is what the former non-voting people was told, and which makes them mad when the rich got richer instead.

This is an unstable situation which can in my humble opinion only be repaired by repairing the damaged democratic system its self. And it can be done !! With the help of networks and internet functions the public can be INVOLVED in the idea forming and decisison process. This should bring the establishement into contact and into cooperation with the public and their reality in cities and rural :-).

But is not something you can change with the flip of a switch or by decree of the new POTUS.

DO a. Take a closer look at how Digital Democracy is implemented in a number of countries like Taiwan (see https://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/2020/06/24/digital-democracy-in-taiwan-basic-8-for-synthecracy/ ) and city-areas like Barcelona.

DO b. Read the recent book by Joss Sheldon “DEMOCRACY – A USER’S GUIDE, UK 2020 , see http://www.joss-sheldon.com The point is that Democracy is ancient as a concept but very differently implemented in various countries.

He has not yet been able to include the Digital Democracy activities in #Belorus #HongKong #Taiwan and several capital cities in South America. There are encouraging new experiments with it which you should study, before just jumping into the sea withou having taken t seriously enough. Your life, happiness and that of your tribe members depends on it !!!

jaap van till , TheConnectivist

=============================reference for the book “Democracy” ========

For example on Amazon there is an Kindle version, a large print edition, Hardcover and a pocketbook edition of this book.

Editor’s Note:

Review:

5.0 out of 5 stars Must-read for all Americans Reviewed in the United States on August 24, 2020 There are a few, masterful books, that I wish had been part of my curriculum in school while I was learning about what made our Nation what it was. Now there are two at the top of my list. The first is Howard Zinn’s History of America, and now it has been joined by Joss Sheldon’s Democracy: A User’s Guide. It’s rare to see a subject so well-investigated yet so accessible. Author Sheldon, while known as a superbly conversational fiction writer, provides us an amazing combination of a completely engaging voice and superb cred as a curator of examples to support the full range of his arguments. Democracy is not a form of government for the lazy or uninformed. We face dangers all along the road, to it being co-opted into some new form of fascism, oligarchy, kleptocracy, etc. Tyranny must be guarded against. This book teaches, using examples of how this can work in several specific areas of peoples’ lives, politically, economically and in the forms of education and services communities may need government help securing for their own needs. Each is fully revealed, which of course, poses new questions and suggests many new answers. I’m grateful for the opportunity to read this book and recommend it very highly to anyone with a serious interest in making our government work properly.

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Successful Unconventional Thinking 1: the basic inventions for the Vaccines

  1. Update February 28, 2021. These scientists where driven by their curiosity to find more about HOW LIFE WORKS. The broader story what they did and do is is added in full below this post, see: https://www.macleans.ca/society/science/scientists-mrna-covid-vaccines/
  2. Here is a link to an article in WIRED describing how Katalin Karikó had to fight her way against the current of convential thinking and therefore lack of funding = position at an American university. For decades, Katalin Karikó’s work into mRNA therapeutics was overlooked by her colleagues. Now it’s at the heart of the two leading coronavirus vaccines

“How mRNA went from a scientific backwater to a pandemic crusher” | WIRED UK

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/mrna-coronavirus-vaccine-pfizer-biontech

This unconventional thinking now will save millions of lives, IF we keep updating our knowledge and update our mindsets faster that the virus can mutate.

2. I have a new credo, taken from icehockey: “Do not skate to where the puck is, but to where it will goto next at high speed!!!

This is done by looking forward beyond expectations and common knowledge. And by taking closer looks at assumptions of other scientists. Katalin did and was nearly deported back to Hungary. So it takes courage.

Jaap van Till, TheConnectivist

Reblog of the wider story waht was the struggle to establish tools for mRNA, basis for the vaccines to fight Corona:

=========== reblog======

Researchers looking for mRNA were ridiculed by colleagues. Luckily, that didn’t stop them.

Sixty years ago, the scientists who were pioneering the technology that would make today’s COVID-19 vaccines possible were mocked and dismissed

By Christina Frangou February 18, 2021In this illustration, a ribosome (centre) is producing a protein (red) from an mRNA template (multicoloured); the COVID-19 vaccine uses mRNA to teach our bodies to recognize and attack the virus’s protein (Juan Gaertner/Science Photo Library/Getty Images)

In this illustration, a ribosome (centre) is producing a protein (red) from an mRNA template (multicoloured); the COVID-19 vaccine uses mRNA to teach our bodies to recognize and attack the virus’s protein (Juan Gaertner/Science Photo Library/Getty Images)

A few days before Christmas, Matthew Meselson, a 90-year-old professor at Harvard, called his university’s health service to inquire about being vaccinated against COVID-19. He was eager for his shot. Meselson felt imprisoned in his Cambridge apartment, just blocks from the campus where he’d worked for six decades. He’d officially retired from teaching at the beginning of 2020, but continued his research as much as possible throughout the pandemic, wearing a K95 mask to work in his lab.

He longed to re-engage in the world around him. He missed his weekly date with close friends over lunch at Boston’s best French restaurant; they’d switched to Zoom, but staring into a computer screen is no replacement for lingering at linen-covered tables. He longed for his wife of 32 years, Jeanne Guillemin, who died from cancer late in 2019. Meselson was still figuring out how his world worked without her, and isolation made this hard task harder.

The person on the other end of the phone apologized to the professor. “We don’t have a vaccine schedule yet,” she told him.

The first two COVID-19 vaccines to be approved for use in North America were developed, tested and delivered into freezers before many jurisdictions figured out how to administer them. The vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are the first approved vaccines ever to employ modified mRNA, which is delivered sealed in a lipid shell. The mRNA slips into our cells, carrying instructions to make antibodies that target SARS-CoV-2. The vaccines function almost like a wanted poster: if you see these guys, get ’em. Then, the mRNA degrades, leaving no trace.

READ: How quickly will the COVID-19 vaccines start curbing the pandemic in Canada?

The fact that mRNA is the basis of these vaccines contributed to their rapid development. In November, the New York Times reported that within two days of China releasing the genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2, scientists at Moderna Inc., a 10-year-old company headquartered not far from Meselson’s home in Cambridge, “plugged that data into its computers and came up with a design for an mRNA vaccine.” Meanwhile, BioNTech, a small biotech company in Germany that had been working on mRNA flu vaccines with the pharmaceutical powerhouse Pfizer, soon similarly turned its resources to generating an mRNA COVID vaccine.

But these fastest vaccines in history have been decades in the making. They’re the product of generations of scientists who built on one idea after another, and kept at it despite failed experiments, rejections, threats of deportation, a lack of funding and skepticism from contemporaries. They were inspired by the discovery of DNA: in 1951, a young English physical chemist named Rosalind Franklin took X-ray photographs that captured DNA’s helical shape; two years later, James Watson and Francis Crick of Cambridge University published the first report describing DNA’s double helix, for which they received the Nobel Prize. (Franklin died of ovarian cancer in 1958; her contributions were largely overlooked in her lifetime.) And they were driven not by a race to halt a raging pathogen or by the chance to patent a multi-billion-dollar drug, but by one big, irresistible question: What makes life?

“These weren’t people who wanted to solve little problems,” says Meselson. “These were people who wanted to solve a great big problem.”

He was one of them.

***

Born in Colorado in 1930, Meselson zipped through the sciences at a young age. By 16, he enrolled at the University of Chicago. In 1957, while doing post-doctoral work at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Meselson and Frank Stahl demonstrated how DNA replicates itself, a model that had been suggested but never shown. Science historian Frederic Lawrence Holmes later characterized their work as “the most beautiful experiment in biology,” having revealed how life worked.

But many unanswered questions remained about what happens inside our cells. Meselson and colleagues knew that DNA resides in the nucleus, a compartment barricaded off from the rest of the cell by a membrane. On the other side of the membrane is the cytoplasm, a gelatinous liquid that fills the remainder of the cell. This is the home of tiny granules called ribosomes, which house RNA.

Around the same time that Meselson and Stahl published their groundbreaking work on DNA, French scientists discovered that cells made proteins through the ribosomes. DNA, despite holding the critical codes for life, is a relatively passive molecule. Ribosomes do the busy labour, building proteins to carry out the biological processes of survival. The question was how?

One of the French scientists, Dr. François Jacob, theorized that there must be an “unstable intermediary” that went between the DNA and the RNA—sending messages from the DNA to the RNA, and then disappearing.

Jacob, a physician who’d been forced from medical school when Germany invaded France in 1940 and spent the war years fighting with Charles de Gaulle’s Free French Forces, called this theoretical intermediary “X.” Other researchers “rolled their eyes in horror” when he presented his theory, Jacob recalled in his memoir, The Statue Within. “With a little encouragement, my audience would have jeered and left,” he wrote.Meselson at Caltech in 1958 (Courtesy of the Caltech Archives)

Meselson at Caltech in 1958 (Courtesy of the Caltech Archives)

In spring 1960, Jacob wrote to Meselson with a proposal: he and Sydney Brenner, a South African biologist at the University of Cambridge, would meet at Meselson’s lab at Caltech to find X. Meselson, who was in his first year on faculty, had developed a technique to track smaller molecules inside a cell. Jacob believed this technique would help identify X. That summer, with Jacob and Brenner in his lab, Meselson set up initial cultures and tests. Brenner took over the operations, while Jacob sat in a chair taking notes—pain from bomb fragments in his legs was worsened by the California humidity, says Meselson. For three weeks, they met with one failure after another. The ribosomes kept falling apart. Other scientists poked their heads in periodically and asked sarcastically for news of X. Jacob wrote that they “came to visit as one would visit the zoo.” On the trio’s very last scheduled day in the lab, Meselson, having given up on X, left. He flew to Boston to propose to his first wife.

Dejected, Jacob and Brenner went to Malibu Beach. The duo lay on the beach, watching huge waves of the Pacific crashing onto the sand and contemplating where their idea had gone wrong. Jacob wrote in his memoir: “Suddenly, Sydney gives a hoot. He leaps up, yelling, ‘The magnesium! It’s the magnesium!’ ” They raced back to the lab to run the experiment one last time, with additional magnesium. The result was spectacular. X existed.

READ: There’s a new strain of COVID-19. Will the vaccines work against it?

The pair gave a seminar the same day at Caltech to demonstrate X. Even then, no one believed them. They contacted Meselson in Boston that night to tell him. He was delighted. “It didn’t occur to me that they would figure out what was going wrong on the very last day,” he says. When the trio published their findings in 1961, they renamed X as messenger RNA.

They did not imagine that their finding would be used for therapeutics or a vaccine. Their questions were more philosophical. Meselson says, “We wondered what is it that allows you to put together the atoms of the ordinary periodic chart and end up with something that’s alive?”

Their work became the central tenet of molecular biology: DNA makes RNA makes protein makes life. It took another generation of scientists to find a way to harness RNA to treat and prevent illness.

***

As a kid in Kisújszállás, Hungary, Katalin Karikó watched her father, a butcher, dismember the carcasses of pigs. It was her first introduction to science. In the 1970s, while studying biochemistry at the University of Szeged, Karikó heard about a new report from London: interferon, a type of protein made by the body to trigger a defence against a virus, was mediated by an RNA called 2-5A. Karikó remembers a mentor talking to her about the discovery and being thrilled by the possibilities. He suggested to her that if they could make a synthetic version of a 2-5A molecule, they might be able to treat cancer or viral disease. “I immediately thought that what I was doing was tremendously important,” she says. It was the start of a 40-year quest to make synthetic RNA that could cure illness.

But she couldn’t secure funding in Hungary. Married with a two-year-old daughter, Karikó saw no way to continue her work in her home country. She wrote to professors throughout Europe about joining their labs, but no one could hire her. In 1985, she received an offer from Temple University in Philadelphia. If she could get to the United States, a job was waiting for her.

At the time, Hungarian money could not legally be converted to another currency and taken out of the country. Worried about how their family would survive until her first paycheque, Karikó and her husband, Bela Francia, sold their Russian-made car and converted the proceeds on the black market for a total of 900 British pounds. They sewed the money into their daughter’s teddy bear to smuggle it out of the country. The teddy bear’s owner, their daughter, Susan Francia, grew up to become a two-time Olympic gold medallist for the United States in rowing.Karikó at home in Pennsylvania (Rachel Wisniewski)

Karikó at home in Pennsylvania (Rachel Wisniewski)

In their new home, things did not go as planned. Karikó’s bosses changed, she couldn’t get funding and she lost her job. Her supervisor cited her for deportation. Desperate to stay in the United States as her daughter entered first grade, Karikó accepted a researcher post in Bethesda, Maryland. She commuted from Philadelphia every Monday morning at 3 a.m. and returned late Friday. In Bethesda, she slept at colleagues’ houses or in her office rather than renting a place of her own. On the weekends, she brought home lab equipment for her husband to fix. “From the outside, if somebody looked at me, they could smell sweat and struggle,” she says.

For all its promise, synthetic RNA was proving to be a headache. Around the world, scientists were encountering the same problem: cells dying off in the culture dish.

READ: More COVID vaccines are coming to Canada. Who will get them first?

In a human body, when a virus like a coronavirus injects its nucleic acids—DNA or RNA—into a cell, the nucleic acids make proteins to build more virus. That way, a virus goes on to infect a whole animal or person. The infection can be halted when a cell identifies the intrusion and rallies its antiviral forces through a variety of immune cells. “The immune cell recognizes that, ‘My God, we are under attack,’ ” Karikó explains, “and they will alert all the other cells. ‘Come, there’s an enemy here.’ ” In the most extreme response, a cell responds by committing a kind of altruistic suicide, killing itself off in order to prevent an infection from running rampant within an organism. That’s what was happening in labs when researchers injected synthetic RNA.

Karikó, who moved to the University of Pennsylvania in 1990, was convinced there was a workaround that would allow her to make RNA that could glide into a cell without triggering an attack from the cell’s defence forces. Evidence suggested it was possible—in 1990, researchers at the University of Wisconsin successfully injected RNA into mice. The same year, Karikó submitted a grant application for mRNA-based gene therapy. It was denied. So were her following applications. Without funding, she was demoted.

But she remained convinced. “I always had a Cassandra feeling,” she says, referring to the priestess in Greek mythology who possessed the gift of prophecy but was cursed to never be believed. Karikó was not a good salesperson for her idea, she admits. “I couldn’t get money. I couldn’t convince people.”An illustrated cross section of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine with its lipid coating. (Juan Gaertner/Science Photo Library/Getty Images)

An illustrated cross section of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine with its lipid coating (Juan Gaertner/Science Photo Library/Getty Images)

By 1997, Karikó was spending hours at the office’s Xerox machine, photocopying scientific journals to take home for reading. There, she met Dr. Drew Weissman, a physician and immunologist. The pair started chatting about their work. Weissman had just joined the faculty, fresh off a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health under Dr. Anthony Fauci. Weissman was working with dendritic cells, human cells that digest parts of foreign invaders and present remnants as evidence to the immune system. They decided to collaborate.

Over the next decade, Karikó and Weissman discovered that cells in the lab were dying because synthetic mRNA provoked an inflammatory reaction. But if they modified one of the four building blocks of RNA, known as nucleosides, the cell no longer flagged synthetic RNA as a foreign invader. It could be delivered into a cell without causing inflammation. “This was a game-changer for the field,” says Dr. Norbert Pardi, a research assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania who works with the duo.

Pardi’s grandfather worked as a butcher alongside Karikó’s father in Hungary, and he sought her mentorship as a student. Eventually, he became an accomplished mRNA researcher in his own right and followed Karikó to the United States. Working with Karikó and Weissman, Pardi found that if they packaged mRNA inside a coating of lipid nanoparticles, mRNA could be protected from rapidly disappearing after delivery, making it more effective.

Weissman and Karikó immediately recognized that their discovery had huge potential. Usually, when someone invents a new drug, that drug works for one disease, says Weissman. “But RNA had the potential to act on many different diseases,” he says. They believed it could work as a vaccine, a therapy or a gene editing system. “It could treat hundreds, if not thousands, of different diseases.”

Their findings were published in the journal Immunity in 2005. To their frustration, the report went unnoticed in the scientific community. Undeterred, they started a company called RNARx, which received nearly $1 million in small business grants from the U.S. government. But it never really got off the ground, hampered by the university’s constraints over the licensing of the intellectual property.

Asked if he was angry about the business outcomes, Weissman shrugs. “Thinking about the past is kind of useless because you can’t change it and you can’t fix it. It’s just how things happen,” he says.

***

After finishing his first two degrees at the University of Toronto, Canadian-born Derrick Rossi was on his way to completing his Ph.D. when he announced to his colleagues that he was quitting to move to Paris. “They thought I was crazy,” he says. He remained in France for a year, working late in a research lab and partying when he wasn’t working. He left when he couldn’t maintain the pace anymore. He hitchhiked around Europe, spent time researching in Texas and moved to Finland for a third go at his Ph.D., finishing in his late 30s. By that time, stem-cell research was a hot political issue, with American conservatives calling for blocks on federal funding for research that used newly obtained embryonic stem cells.

Rossi was intrigued by the work of Japanese researcher Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, which seemed to offer a way around the use of embryonic stem cells. Yamanaka discovered that mature cells could be converted into stem cells with the addition of four transcription factors, known as Yamanaka factors, a finding for which he received the Nobel Prize. But there was a catch, and a frustrating one. Yamanaka used retroviruses to deliver these transcription factors into the cell. The strategy would not work in humans. Retroviruses, while very good at delivering cargo like transcription factors, can integrate into the cell’s DNA and remain there forever, explains Rossi. He wondered if he could use mRNA as the delivery service. Again, the same problem came back: cells dying in dishes.Canadian-born, Rossi co-founded Moderna in 2010 (Photograph by Jake Belcher)

Canadian-born, Rossi co-founded Moderna in 2010 (Photograph by Jake Belcher)

Searching for a solution, Rossi came across Karikó and Weissman’s discovery, then almost three years old. In their first experiment using this approach, Rossi and post-doc student Lior Zangi made a modified mRNA for luciferase, the enzyme in fireflies that makes them emit light. They injected the modified mRNA into the thigh muscles of anaesthetized mice and placed the animals in a machine devoid of light. As the researchers watched, the legs of the mice glowed.

“It worked on the very first shot. That tells you something about the robustness [of the technology],” says Rossi. The implications were clear: modified mRNA could be used to express a protein, possibly any protein—whether it was needed to treat disease, cure it or maybe prevent it.

Rossi co-founded Moderna in 2010. A charismatic storyteller with a talent for explaining complex scientific concepts in easy-to-understand terms, he persuaded giants in America’s biotech industry to invest. In 2013, after two years of functioning under the radar, Moderna announced that it was on the verge of introducing an entirely new drug category to the pharmaceutical arsenal in the fight against diseases. Within two years, Moderna Therapeutics brought in more than $950 million from investors and corporate partners—a figure the New York Times called “somewhat remarkable” for a company that did not yet have an experimental drug in clinical trials.

***

Every person has hundreds of millions of copies of mRNA in their body, sending the instructions for vital activities of life in our cells. The mRNA in vaccines differs in two ways from our regular mRNA: one, it’s made by machines rather than in the nucleus of our cells; and two, it’s introduced from outside of the cell. Once inside, it does what mRNA does. Ribosomes read the mRNA and get to work, building the corresponding protein.

In the case of the COVID-19 vaccine, cells build the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Our bodies learn to recognize the spike protein as an invader, putting our immune system on alert. As we go about the world, walking into grocery stores and churches and schools, many of us will unknowingly encounter the virus for the first time. If we are vaccinated, our immune system is already primed to respond to it.

Vancouver-based Acuitas Therapeutics makes the lipid delivery system for several kinds of therapeutics, including the mRNA vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech and a second one that is still in trials from Germany’s CureVac. Acuitas CEO Thomas Madden likens the lipid packaging around the mRNA to the protective wrapping around a delicate Christmas ornament; ideally, the wrapping comes off just before the ornament is hung on a tree. For mRNA vaccines, a sturdy delivery system means less mRNA is required to get the job done—in other words, a smaller dose. “We can vaccinate far more people from a given amount of the vaccine if the delivery system is very efficient,” says Madden.

The advantages of mRNA vaccines are remarkable: there is no risk of infection from the virus or permanent changes to the genome, and the mRNA rapidly degrades by normal cellular processes so nothing remains. The vaccine can be designed on a computer and rapidly scaled up for manufacturing. Over the last four years, there’s been an explosion of interest in mRNA vaccines, with work under way on vaccines for cancer, influenza, Ebola and Zika. There are questions, too. How long will protection last? Can it eliminate transmission risk? Exactly who is at risk for side effects, and do we know all the side effects? Madden (right) and a colleague at an Acuitas lab in Vancouver (Photograph by Alia Youssef)

Madden (right) and a colleague at an Acuitas lab in Vancouver (Photograph by Alia Youssef)

When the hunt for a COVID vaccine began, years of research came to fruition within months, accelerated by infrastructure and financial support from governments around the world. And by November, both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech reported results from phase 3 trials, showing the vaccines were more than 90 per cent effective in protecting against severe illness from SARS-CoV-2. Scientists who spoke to Maclean’s called Nov. 9, the day Pfizer-BioNTech reported the trial data, the highlight of an otherwise terrible year. “The results just blew everyone’s mind,” says Weissman, who has lost friends to COVID. In Vancouver, Madden heard the results on the BBC early in the morning and emailed everyone in the 29-person company, many of whom were working in shifts in order to maintain social distancing in the lab. The company sent deliveries of champagne and charcuterie to all its employees.

The pandemic has been “a coming of age” for mRNA vaccines, says Madden. The fact that the first vaccines approved are mRNA vaccines indicates that this technology could be used to respond quickly and effectively to future threats, he says. He adds that he is hopeful the stringent storage criteria for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will change in the next two months, facilitating easier administration. The current requirement of -70° C was selected to expedite approval because testing the vaccine’s stability at warmer temperatures would have delayed the delivery. Those studies are ongoing, he notes.

Karikó, who joined BioNTech in 2014, and Weissman have been suggested as deserving candidates for the Nobel Prize, given their groundbreaking contributions to vaccines. Karikó says she’s not motivated by rewards. “I do not care about any reward. I care about one thing: that this vaccine stops the infection.”

The pair received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Philadelphia on Dec. 18. Rossi is waiting for his shot and says he will happily take either of the approved vaccines. In Vancouver, Madden expects to be vaccinated as part of the rollout to the general population. He, too, will gladly accept either, though he has a soft spot for one using his company’s lipid delivery system.

In Boston, Meselson is working on, among other things, the theory that oxidative damage drives the aging process. He has started taking cello lessons over FaceTime and is reading the unpublished works of his late wife, a renowned anthropologist and writer who exposed a secret biological warfare lab in the Soviet Union as the source of a lethal anthrax outbreak. He’s lost one close friend to COVID who died in the United Kingdom in April, barely a month after Meselson had visited.

The famed scientist believes vaccines are a vital part of the response to the pandemic, but cannot be the only one. Proper ventilation and air filtration of enclosed spaces will be essential for preventing future pandemics, he says. “That’s what we need to do,” he says.

In the meantime, he eagerly waits for his vaccination date.


This article appears in print in the March 2021 issue of Maclean’s magazine with the headline, “Shooting the messenger.” Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here.

===========================end of reblog ==========

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New Handbook “Innovation in Interactive Systems”

Dear readers of this blog.

I have the honour to announce the upcoming publication of an important and ground breaking scientific research book, which you can preorder from now on. See below. It will be on sale in March 2021.

I am one of the authors. I was invited to write one of the chapters. Below is a description of the book, chapter by chapter, and instructions for your libarian to pre-order it.

December 2020: About our book in USA (it is in production stage — a good news):

1) General information:

https://www.igi-global.com/book/handbook-research-software-quality-innovation/259901

2) Form to librarian:

https://www.igi-global.com/forms/recommend-to-librarian/259901

3) Form to colleagues:

https://www.igi-global.com/forms/recommend-to-colleague/259901

4. And if you are really in a hurry, contact me so I can send you a sneak peak of an earlier version of Chapt. 3

jaap van till , TheConnectivist

===============Abreviated version of 1) . For full page: see link above==========

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Handbook of Research on Software Quality Innovation in Interactive Systems
5% Pre Publication Discount available until one month after release.

Handbook of Research on Software Quality Innovation in Interactive Systems

Francisco Vicente Cipolla-Ficarra (Latin Association of Human-Computer Interaction, Spain & International Association of Interactive Communication, Italy)


Projected Release Date: March, 2021|Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 400|DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998 70104ISBN13: 9781799870104|ISBN10: 1799870103|EISBN13: 9781799870128|ISBN13 Softcover: 9781799870111Hardcover: Forthcoming$224.20List Price: $295.00Current Special Offers E-Book: Forthcoming$224.20 List Price: $295.00Current Special OffersHardcover + E-Book: Forthcoming$269.80List Price: $355.00Current Special Offers

Description

The inclusion of experts in communicability in the software industry has allowed timeframes to speed up in the commercialization of new technological products worldwide. However, this constant evolution of software in the face of the hardware revolution opens up a host of new horizons to maintain and increase the quality of the interactive systems following a set of standardized norms and rules for the production of interactive software. Currently, we see some efforts towards this goal, but they are still partial solutions, incomplete, and flawed from the theoretical as well as practical points of view. If the quality of the interactive design is analyzed, it is left to professionals to generate systems that are efficient, reliable, user-friendly, and cutting-edge.

The Handbook of Research on Software Quality Innovation in Interactive Systems analyzes the quality of the software applied to the interactive systems and considers the constant advances in the software industry. This book reviews the past and present of information and communication technologies with a projection towards the future, along with analyses of software, software design, phrases to use, and the purposes for software applications in interactive systems. This book is ideal for students, professors, researchers, programmers, analysists of systems, computer engineers, interactive designers, managers of software quality, and evaluators of interactive systems.

Topics Covered

The many academic areas covered in this publication include, but are not limited to:

  • Augmented Reality
  • Computer Architecture
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • ICT
  • Interactive Design
  • Interactive Systems
  • Internet of Things
  • Mobile Applications
  • Remote Laboratories
  • Smart Things
  • Software and Innovation
  • Software Quality
  • Web Software Engineering

Table of Contents and List of Contributors

Please note that this book is currently in development and this table of contents is tentative. Chapter authors can make adjustments to their individual submissions in the eEditorial Discovery® system if they notice any discrepancies.

Chapter 1 Software and Innovation: Detecting Invisible High-Quality Factors Francisco Cipolla-Ficarra

The study analyzes the invisible factors that influence the innovation and quality of the software of the 21st century, through natural language and programming languages. The analysis of languages shows how technological evolution influences the innate and acquired skills of human beings, especially those who are dedicated to software engineering and all its derivations in the field of ICTs. There is a detailed list of internal and external factors affecting the qualitative and reliable software industry. It also examines the relationships between innovative and creative education of experts in new technologies, programming over time and the role of social networks. Finally, a state of the art on the myths and realities of the software profession in the new millennium is presented, which together with a group of rhetorical questions, allow generating new lines of research, within the formal and factual sciences, starting from the inquiries and conclusions of this work.

Chapter 2 Quality and Web Software Engineering Advances Francisco Cipolla-Ficarra, Alejandra Quiroga, Miguel Cipolla Ficarra

In this chapter, the main avant-garde components that favor quality on the web are disclosed, especially from the perspectives of software and design. At the same time, the deviations of these components that slow down these processes from the technical-human point of view are presented. In this dualistic perspective, the role of education is included in each of the generations of users, programmers and publishers of digital content on the web, as well as the context in which they are immersed. A triadic vision of past, present and future is presented in each of the aspects and components, directly and indirectly related, with the development of operations, models and methods, which converge in obtaining a high quality of the web. Finally, parallels are drawn between the formal science professions and infinite semiosis in web engineering.

Chapter 3 Masters of Imagination: From Hierarchies to Connected Swarms Jaap van Till

This chapter is about some observations of the social and economic impact of ICT and ICT digital infrastructures. And more specific: what users do with processing and telecommunication power tools. Network architects should be aware of those. Computer systems are no longer neutral tools, but they influence companies, public policies for control & institutions and civil society cooperatives. Even the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) has issued a directive about these effects. Electronic & network surveillance of users and what they do is growing, with effects on elections. ICT is at the core of several large scale transitions, identified in this chapter. Groups of people who are immune to social media propaganda and alternative truth are discovered. And the chapter is rounded of with a hopeful vision about constructive value creation in cooperatives and science teams, making use of liberty of though and diversity of backgrounds. Making swarms and micro grids makes society alive again. Social Super Resolution is an interesting direction to persue together.

Chapter 4 The Universal Knowledge Machine Alan Radley

Human knowledge – considered as a single entity – is a leviathan – and consists of aggregates of fragments. With a World-Wide-Web based search system such as Google you only ever see a small fraction of the myriad of items, associations and pattern(s) present, and can only faintly perceive the countless connections and vast network of relationships of everything to everything else. Evidently, the Internet consists mostly of isolated – and ostensibly orphaned – nuggets of information that lie deep inside largely opaque and coarse-grained files and documents, monolithic databases, plus unstructured web-pages etc. Items often become lost, erased or hidden; and useful datums, variants, informative links and contextualizing patterns – are inaccessible. The present chapter introduces a technical prescription for a Universal Knowledge Machine (UKM) – or World-Brain – the same being a proposed global media system with the capability to encapsulate/organize/index – and provide user-friendly access to – all human knowledge.

Chapter 5 Experiences With Computer Architecture Remote Laboratories Pablo Godoy, Osvaldo Marianetti, Carlos García Garino

This chapter resumes several experiences about using a remote laboratory based on Raspberry Pi computers and Arduino microcontrollers. The remote laboratory has been used to teach computer architecture, parallel programming and computer networks on computer sciences and telecommunications careers. The laboratory is aimed at students with medium level of programming knowledge, which require flexible access to the computers, being able to implement their own solutions. Students can explore the software and hardware of the laboratory computers, deploy and run their codes, perform input and output operations, and configure the computers. Four different architectures are described, based on: cloud computing and remote procedure calls, IoT platforms, VPN and remote desktop. On the other hand, practical activities performed by students are summarized. Advantages and disadvantages of these architectures, problems that arose during the teaching experiences and future work are described.

Chapter 6 The Method and Tools Development for Web-Cameras Color Correction in Binocular Vision Systems Konstantin Dergachov, Leonid Krasnov, Olexander Cheliadin, Olexander Plakhotnyi

The possibilities of using an adaptation principle in application for organizing the close-loop life circuit of autonomous fly vehicles (FV) are discussed in chapter. The uncertainties arising at each stage of the life cycle of an autonomous fly vehicles (FV) are considered. To solve a problem the approach with using intelligent, rational objects and using knowledge database tool is proposed. The main tethises of rational adaptation control system (CS) are represented. The preliminary designing tools for constructing rational adaptation algorithms for motion control system (CS) are considered. The practical applications of the proposed approach at the stage of preliminary design of control systems for autonomous fly vehicles are presented

Chapter 7 A Communication Model Based on Fractal Geometry for Internet of Things Sergio Salinas

Internet of Things (IoT) is a paradigm that involves an increasing number of human activities. IoT fuses heterogeneous electronic devices and processes into Cyber Physical System (CPS) to improve conventional processes efficiency in terms of performance and resource usage. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE) has polled more than 150 IoT scenarios based on CPSs to be developed in the next years. A CPS is strongly coupled to a communication system for interchanging data among devices that orchestrate actions in certain environments such as a factory. In general, a decentralized communication model is more resilient and efficient in data traffic management than centralized model. A problem with decentralized models is how to keep track of nodes location without a centralized service that keeps updated data of nodes. This work describes a decentralized model where any node is able to be located based on its identification in the system.

Chapter 8 The Science of Smart Things Alan Radley

An ontological analysis of the application of the key concept of Synergy to the Internet of Things (IoT) is presented. We begin by defining Synergy as it applies to all types of human-made objects, and in particular to connected Things, along the way developing a new theory of Synergetic Accommodation that provides a detailed Aetiology of Smart Technology. A presentation of the history, routes plus a complete definition of Smart Technology is given, before looking at how the IoT is developing today and might progress in the future for the benefit of all humankind. Accordingly, we develop two new concepts: named as Situated and Distributed Intelligence that may be used to develop practically useful smart technology that fully meets the needs of the future in terms of providing Efficient, Magnified, Reliable, Safe, Automated and Economical Services.

Chapter 9 Autonomous Communication Model for Internet of Things Sergio Salinas

The Internet has changed the way human activities are performed, in a few years, this communication infrastructure evolved to leverage a new technological paradigm named Internet of Things (IoT). This technology fuses processes and devices to create multipurpose Cyber-Physical Systems (CFS) that improve human quality of life. These systems rely on Internet availability, which can be affected by natural phenomena such as earthquakes carrying out economic and social consequences. In this work, an autonomous communication model for IoT domains is proposed. The main goal of this model is to set the basis for the development of a communication system capable of operating independently of the Internet. This communication autonomy is critical in catastrophe scenarios where information broadcasts can support disaster management. According to simulation results, the proposed model can be implemented in different IoT scenarios including cities developed under this technology.

Chapter 10 The Analytic Hierarchy Process as a Method for the Selection of Resources in the Cloud Hugo Haurech, David la Red Martinez

Due to technological advances, organizations have to face many challenges in providing support through the use of Information Technologies (IT) to carry out tasks that require computing skills. It is important to adopt adequate resources with the aim of developing processing skills that meet actual needs. Cloud computing (CC) represents an alternative that offers many opportunities to be exploited. This paper introduces characteristics of CC, the technologies that enable its deployment and a model of selection based on qualifications and mathematical development.

Chapter 11 Exploring Antecedents to Adopt Mobile Augmented Reality Applications: A Uses and Gratifications Approach İrem Eren Erdoğmuş, Pelin Doğanay, Görkem Vural

The concept of augmented reality (AR) is a topic of increasing importance for the future of marketing. Research, especially on AR in mobile devices, is still in its infancy; therefore this study explored the user motivations to employ mobile augmented reality applications against the hindrance of perceived risks, and tried to understand user acceptance and willingness to use this technology; and possible marketing-related outcomes. In-depth interviews were carried on with 16 participants as well as three mini focus group interviews with twelve participants. The underlying theories utilized were the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) and the Uses and Gratifications (U&G). The results showed that entertainment, obtaining information, experiential qualities, socialization, and personal motivations acted as gratifications in the adoption of AR applications, which exerted positive influence on brand interest, image and purchase intention of the users.

Chapter 12 Students in Socially Vulnerable Contexts: Discovering Their Entrepreneurial Potential Silvia Poncio, Daniel Tedini, Veronica Castañeira, Diego Marzorati, Eric Roth

Descriptive exploratory research to assess the entrepreneurial potential of students who attend the Job Training Institute from Cuatro Vientos Educational Center (Instituto de Capacitación Laboral del Centro Educativo Cuatro Vientos, in Spanish). A survey was developed based on an adaptation of the resource used by the Association for Training, Research and Development of Entrepreneurship (AFIDE: Asociación para la Formación, Investigación y Desarrollo del Emprendimiento, in Spanish) in the project for the Entrepreneurial Potential of Latin American Undergraduates (PEUL: Potencial Emprendedor de los Universitarios de Latinoamérica, in Spanish). The results showed that more than three-quarters of the students acknowledged having initiative, being creative and innovative, and obtaining and managing information in order to make their own decisions. They also identified that they value flexibility and time management, and they feel confident and motivated by making uncertainty a tool that allows them to recognize mistakes and continue to pursue their projects.

Chapter 13 The Language of Cinema Fosters the Development of Soft Skills for Inclusion and Interdisciplinary Learning Annamaria Poli, Daniela Tamburini

This chapter presents research on an Italian education project implemented with immigrant students attending C.P.I.A. courses in Bergamo (Provincial Adult Education Center). This contribution proposes an educational experience characterized by an interactive approach among different disciplines.The title of the project was: Cinema as a resource for enhancing interdisciplinary teaching and learning by harnessing knowledge and skills from across different subject areas: from Italian language to geography and history, and from science and maths to the visual arts. Over the four years of the project, film was used in multiple ways as a tool/resource for teaching-learning focused on developing school inclusion. The overall aims of the projectwere to incorporate the Cinema into the construction of an interdisciplinary teaching/learning path, while seeking to integrate theory and praxis within a collaborative professional development and research model. The project activities were designed in keeping with EU recommendations on core competences for ongoing learning.

Chapter 14 Comparative Analysis of ACO Algorithms for the Solution of the Travelling Salesman Problem Gloria Quispe, Maria Rodríguez, José Ontiveros

Metaheuristics are non-deterministic algorithms. Metaheuristic strategies are related to design. This paper presents an introduction on metaheuristics, from the point of view of its theoretical study and the foundations for its use. Likewise, a description and comparative study of the ant colony-based algorithms is carried out, which are: Ant System (AS), Ant Colony System (ACS), and Max-Min Ant System (MMAS). These results serve to deliver solutions to complex problems and generally with a high degree of combinatorics for those there is no way to find the best reasonable time. An experimentation and analysis of the results of the ACO algorithms (Optimization by Ants Colonies) is also carried out. For the evaluation of the algorithms, comparisons are made for instances of the TSPLIB test instance library. Therefore, it is deepened in the resolution of the Travelling Salesman Problem (TSP), a comparative analysis of the different algorithms is carried out in order to see which one adjusts better

Chapter 15 A Survey on the Techniques to Improve the Visibility of Geospatial Resources on the Web Saif Ansari, Piyush Shukla, Rajeev Pandey, Rohit Agrawal

Geographical information has become ubiquitous. The demand to access geospatial data on the web is growing in numerous knowledge domains & disciplines. For the sharing of geospatial data, Geoportals acts as entryways to the SDI (spatial data infrastructure) from where the data is disseminated. Because these Geoportals are limited to geoinformation communities only, they exhibit challenges in terms of indexing by web search engines. Thus, the geospatial resources need a boost in terms of visibility over the Internet (web). In this chapter, a discussion on the present state of Geospatial resources on the web & comparison of various methods that have been employed for increasing the discoverability of Geographical resources is presented. Therefrom by discussion, the chapter concludes with a conjecture regarding scope for the further improvement in the methods that have been reviewed, along with depicting the need for the presence of geospatial resources on the internet.

Chapter 16 Developing Augmented Reality Multi-Platform Mobile Applications Susana Herrera, Paola Budan, Federico Rosenzvaig, Pablo Najar Ruiz, María Morales, Marilena Maldonado, Carlos Sánchez

This chapter presents advances in the Software Engineering field related to the efficient development of multi-platform mobile applications that require access to the device hardware for 3D marker-based Augmented Reality functions. After presenting the theoretical background that supports the proposed solutions, the complex problem of the development of AR multi-platform mobile applications is introduced. The problem about how to choose a framework for developing multi-platform applications is described and a general model for developing mobile applications with AR is proposed. The advances were applied to the field of m-learning. A Linear Algebra educational practice was designed using MADE-mlearn; and an Augmented Reality mobile app called AlgeRA was developed using MobileRA methodology. The instantiation of the general model for the development of AlgeRA is reported. It includes the development environment, the programming libraries (to manage 3D objects repositories, patterns readers, rendering of images) and the 3D model.

Chapter 17 Results of the Research in the Comparison and Analysis of Historical Artifacts’ Photographic Images Catalogued in Online Databases: The Case of a Roman Stele From Ravenna Marco Tedaldi

In the field of archaeology, when a discovery is made the comparison of images is often used to catalogue a find and give it an interpretation. The image on an exhibit is always subject to analysis, comparisons, graphic reconstructions which can define it, classify it, and most of all understand it as a whole. The problem arises when the discovered find proposes a completely new and unpublished image, therefore requires an in-depth study in all its elements. Photographic images, online databases and archive collections of museums provide some valid help for solutions or interpretations and the theories that come out of this comparison can then shed light on the meaning of an image present in a find, when there is no direct confirmation.

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The Success of the Commons

To Co-Operate (work together) is not so easy as it sounds.

In the best case you can generate Value together by the mysterious process of Synergy. The Fourth Network effect of Van Till’s Law does apply then. See: https://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/np9-engines-for-the-new-power-the-four-network-effects/

Worstcase, a struggle for control and who can extract the value for his/her personal gain, at the disadvantage of the workers results: a Tragedy.

So, when a work cooperative is started, the participants should realize that in order to let it blossom the best way is to realize that it is a P2P COMMONS. And that its success depends on adhering to strict rules. Below is an essay about those rules that Nobel Prize (Economics) winner Elinor Ostrom has found and published.

  1. My main rule in ‘networks’ in which powerful and diverse companies participate is: Define claarly at the start what is the shared objective. And define clearly what is done & shared together (non competitive) in a NON-COMBAT ZONE. And: what NOT (competitive).

2. In that way the Common-Interest can be connected in a full circle to Self-interests. !!!

If the participants allow me I will state here some exciting examples, as PS’s. And I will give examples wher it did NOT work at all.

jaap van till, TheConnectivist

========Reblog from Evonomics (WordPress)======================

The Tragedy of the Commons: How Elinor Ostrom Solved One of Life’s Greatest Dilemmas

The design principles for solving the tragedy of the commons can be applied to all groups

Editor’s Note: In an effort to center New Economic Thinking in the discussion of the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve curated a list of Evonomics articles relevant to this moment—including this one. Check out the full list here.

2016 October 29

By David Sloan Wilson

As an evolutionary biologist who received my PhD in 1975, I grew up with Garrett Hardin’s essay “The Tragedy of the Commons,” published in Science magazine in 1968. His parable of villagers adding too many cows to their common pasture captured the essence of the problem that my thesis research was designed to solve. The farmer who added an extra cow gained an advantage over other farmers in his village but it also led to an overgrazed pasture. The biological world is full of similar examples in which individuals who behave for the good of their groups lose out in the struggle for existence with more self-serving individuals, resulting in overexploited resources and other tragedies of non-cooperation.

Is the so-called tragedy of the commons ever averted in the biological world and might this possibility provide solutions for our own species? One plausible scenario is natural selection at the level of groups. A selfish farmer might have an advantage over other farmers in his village, but a village that somehow solved the tragedy of the commons would have a decisive advantage over other villages. Most species are subdivided into local populations at various scales, just as humans are subdivided into villages, cities and nations. If natural selection between groups (favoring cooperation) can successfully oppose natural selection within groups (favoring non-cooperation), then the tragedy of the commons can be averted for humans and non-human species alike.

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At the time that Hardin published his article and I was working on my thesis, this possibility had been considered and largely rejected. A book titled Adaptation and Natural Selection, written by evolutionary biologist George C. Williams and published in 1966, was on its way to becoming a modern classic. Williams described between-group selection as theoretically possible but almost invariably weak compared to within-group selection. By his account, attempts to explain evolutionary adaptations as “for the good of the group” reflected sloppy and wishful thinking. Hardin’s article reflected the same pessimism about avoiding the tragedy of the commons other than by top-down regulation. My interest in rethinking the plausibility of group selection placed me in a very small group of heretics (see Okasha 2006, Sober and Wilson 1998, Wilson and Wilson 2007, and Wilson 2015 for more on the controversy over group selection, which in my opinion has now been mostly resolved).

Evolutionary theory’s individualistic turn coincided with individualistic turns in other areas of thought. Economics in the postwar decades was dominated by rational choice theory, which used individual self-interest as a grand explanatory principle. The social sciences were dominated by a position known as methodological individualism, which treated all social phenomena as reducible to individual-level phenomena, as if groups were not legitimate units of analysis in their own right (Campbell 1990). And UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher became notorious for saying during a speech in 1987 that “there is no such thing as society; only individuals and families.” It was as if the entire culture had become individualistic and the formal scientific theories were obediently following suit.

Unbeknownst to me, another heretic named Elinor Ostrom was also challenging the received wisdom in her field of political science. Starting with her thesis research on how a group of stakeholders in southern California cobbled together a system for managing their water table, and culminating in her worldwide study of common-pool resource (CPR) groups, the message of her work was that groups are capable of avoiding the tragedy of the commons without requiring top-down regulation, at least if certain conditions are met (Ostrom 1990, 2010). She summarized the conditions in the form of eight core design principles: 1) Clearly defined boundaries; 2) Proportional equivalence between benefits and costs; 3) Collective choice arrangements; 4) Monitoring; 5) Graduated sanctions; 6) Fast and fair conflict resolution; 7) Local autonomy; 8) Appropriate relations with other tiers of rule-making authority (polycentric governance). This work was so groundbreaking that Ostrom was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics in 2009.

I first met Lin (as she preferred to be called) just a few months before she was awarded the prize, at a workshop held in Florence, Italy, titled “Do Institutions Evolve?” (recounted in Wilson 2011a). Similar events were taking place all over the world in 2009 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species. Multilevel selection theory, which envisions natural selection operating on a multi-tier hierarchy of units, had become more widely accepted by then, especially with respect to human cultural evolution, making me much in demand as a speaker. I had also cofounded a think tank called the Evolution Institute2 that formulates public policy from an evolutionary perspective, giving me a strong interest in the workshop topic. I had become somewhat familiar with Lin’s work but having the opportunity to talk with her at length had a transformative impact.

I quickly realized that Lin’s core design principle approach dovetailed with multilevel selection theory, which my fellow-heretics and I had worked so hard to revive. Her approach is especially pertinent to the concept of major evolutionary transitions, whereby members of groups become so cooperative that the group becomes a higher-level organism in its own right. This idea was first proposed by cell biologist Lynn Margulis (1970) to explain how nucleated cells evolved from symbiotic associations of bacteria. It was then generalized during the 1990s to explain other major transitions, such as the rise of the first bacterial cells, multicellular organisms, eusocial insect colonies and human evolution (Maynard Smith and Szathmary 1995, 1999).

Hunter-gatherer societies are famously egalitarian, not because everyone is nice, but because members of a group can collectively suppress bullying and other self-aggrandizing behaviors within their ranks – the defining criterion of a major evolutionary transition (Boehm 1993, 1999, 2011). With disruptive competition within groups held largely in check, succeeding as a group became the main selective force in human evolution. The entire package of traits regarded as distinctively human – including our ability to cooperate in groups of unrelated individuals, our ability to transmit learned information across generations, and our capacity for language and other forms of symbolic thought – can be regarded as forms of physical and mental teamwork made possible by a major evolutionary transition.

Lin’s design principles (DP) had “major evolutionary transition” written all over them. Clearly defined boundaries (DP1) meant that members knew they were part of a group and what the group was about (e.g., fisherman with access to a bay or farmers managing an irrigation system). Proportional equivalence of costs and benefits (DP2) meant that members had to earn their benefits and couldn’t just appropriate them. Collective choice arrangements (DP3) meant that group members had to agree upon decisions so nobody could be bossed around. Monitoring (DP4) and graduated sanctions (DP5) meant that disruptive self-serving behaviors could be detected and punished. Fast and fair conflict resolution (DP6) meant that the group would not be torn apart by internal conflicts of interest. Local autonomy (DP7) meant that the group had the elbow room to manage its own affairs. Appropriate relations with other tiers of rule making authority (DP8) meant that everything regulating the conduct of individuals within a given group also was needed to regulate conduct among groups in a multi group population.

The concordance between Lin’s core design principle approach and multilevel selection theory had three major implications. First, it placed the core design principle approach on a more general theoretical foundation. Lin’s “Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD)” framework emanated from political science and she was an early adopter of economic game theory, but her main case for the design principle approach was the empirical database that she compiled for common-pool resource groups around the world, as described in her most influential book Governing the Commons (Ostrom 1990). Multilevel selection theory showed how the core design principle approach follows from the evolutionary dynamics of cooperation in all species and from our own evolutionary history as a highly cooperative species.

Second, because of its theoretical generality, the core design principle approach is likely to apply to a much broader range of human groups than those attempting to manage common-pool resources (CPRs). Almost any group whose members must work together to achieve a common goal is vulnerable to self-serving behaviors and should benefit from the same principles. An analysis of business groups, churches, voluntary associations and urban neighborhoods should yield the same results as Lin’s analysis of CPR groups.

Third, the core design principle approach can provide a practical framework for improving the efficacy of groups in the real world. It should be possible for almost any kind of group to assess itself with respect to the design principles, address shortcomings, and function better as a result. This prospect was especially appealing to me as president of the Evolution Institute, since I was now actively engaged in formulating and implementing public policy from an evolutionary perspective.

Lin inspired me to begin several projects in parallel with each other. One was to collaborate with her and her postdoctoral associate Michael Cox to write an academic article, “Generalizing the Core Design Principle for the Efficacy of Groups” that established the three major implications listed above for an academic audience (Wilson, Ostrom and Cox 2013). Michael was the lead author of a 2010 article that evaluated the core design principle approach for the literature on CPR groups that had accumulated since Lin’s original analysis (Cox et al. 2010). Our article was published in a special issue of the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization titled “Evolution as a General Theoretical Framework for Economics and Public Policy.” Both the article and the special issue should be consulted for more on the theoretical framework that underpins the design principle approach.

In addition, I started to use the design principle approach in projects that involved working with real-world groups in Binghamton, New York. One was a collaboration with the City of Binghamton and United Way of Broome County called “Design Your Own Park,” which used the opportunity to turn a neglected space into a neighborhood park. Neighborhood groups that formed to create a park would be coached in the core design principles and start to manage the affairs of their neighborhood in other respects. This project led to the creation of four neighborhood parks—and their groups—in our city (Wilson 2011b).

The second project was a collaboration with the Binghamton City School District to create a “school within a school” for at-risk youth called the Regents Academy (Wilson, Kaufmann, and Purdy 2011). This was our most ambitious and best documented project because we were able to employ the gold standard of scientific assessment, the randomized control trial, which randomly assigns participants into an experimental group and a control group to identify significant variables that might affect outcomes. To the best of its ability, the Regents Academy implemented the eight core design principles and two auxiliary design principles deemed to be important in a learning context (a relaxed and playful atmosphere and short-term rewards for long-term learning goals). Not only did the Regents Academy students vastly outperform the comparison group, but they even performed on a par with the average high school student on the state-mandated Regents exam (see Wilson, Kauffman and Purdy 2011 for details). This is a strong indication that the design principle approach can be generalized beyond CPR groups and can be used as a practical framework for improving the efficacy of groups in our everyday lives.

The third project was a collaboration with a number of religious congregations in Binghamton to reflect upon the core design principles in relation to their faith and social organization. These conversations did not lead to a formal effort to change practices but they were invaluable for exploring how the success of religious groups can be understood in terms of the design principles approach.

All of these projects were instructive and broadly confirmed the relevance of the core design principle approach for any group whose members must work together to achieve a common purpose. They also showed how the design principles can be sadly lacking in some groups, such as disadvantaged neighborhoods and public schools. It is important to remember that Ostrom was able to derive the core design principles for CPR groups because they varied in how well the design principles were implemented. Some did well without needing to be taught, while others did poorly and might benefit from some coaching. Based on my own projects, I became convinced that all groups are likely to face similar challenges in implementing the core design principles.

Sadly, Lin died of cancer in June 2012. I was with her only a few months before at a workshop, “Rules as Genotypes in Cultural Evolution,” which we organized together and hosted at her Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, at Indiana University. She was simultaneously trying to care for her aging husband Vincent, satisfy the worldwide demand for speaking appearances, manage her projects and care for herself. I am grateful to be among the many who were touched by her and proud to contribute to her legacy by helping to generalize the core design principle approach and make it available to any group whose members must work together to achieve shared goals.*

Adapted from Patterns of commoning, co-edited by David Bollier and Silke Helfrich.

2016 October 29


*PROSOCIAL is the first Internet platform that enables any group, anywhere in the world, to evaluate itself and increase its efficacy based on a fusion of the core design principle approach and evidence-based methods from the applied behavioral sciences.

References

Boehm, Christopher. 1993. “Egalitarian Society and Reverse Dominance Hierarchy.” Current Anthropology, 34:227 – 254.

———. 1999. Hierarchy in the Forest: Egalitarianism and the Evolution of Human Altruism. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

———. 2011. Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame. New York: Basic Books.

Campbell, Donald T. 1990. “Levels of Organization, Downward Causation, and the Selection-Theory Approach to Evolutionary Epistemology.” In G. Greenberg & E. Tobach, editors, Theories of the Evolution of Knowing, 1 – 17. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Cox, M., G. Arnold & S. Villamayor-Tomas. 2010. “A Review of Design Principles for Community-based Natural Resource Management.” Ecology and Society. 15.

Hardin, Garrett. 1968. “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Science. 162:1243-1248.

Margulis, Lynn. 1970. Origin of Eukaryotic cells. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Maynard Smith, John, & E. Szathmary. 1995. The Major Transitions of Life. New York: W.H. Freeman.

———. 1999. The Origins of Life: From the Birth of Life to the Origin of Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Okasha, Samir. 2006. Evolution and the Levels of Selection. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Ostrom, Elinor. 1990. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

———. 2010. “Polycentric Systems for Coping with Collective Action and Global Environmental Change.” Global Environmental Change. 20:550 – 557.

Sober, Elliot, & Wilson, D. S. 1998. Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Williams, George. C. 1966. Adaptation and Natural Selection: A Critique of Some Current Evolutionary Thought. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Wilson, D.S. 2011a. The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My CityOne Block at a Time. New York: Little, Brown.

———. 2011b. “The Design Your Own Park Competition: Empowering Neighborhoods and Restoring Outdoor Play on a Citywide Scale.” American Journal of Play. 3:538 – 551.

———. 2014. “Introducing PROSOCIAL: Using the Science of Cooperation to Improve the Efficacy of Your Group.” This View of Life.

———. 2015. Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Wilson, D.S., Kauffman, R. A., & Purdy, M. S. 2011. “A Program for At-risk High School Students Informed by Evolutionary Science.” PLoS ONE, 6(11), e27826. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027826

Wilson, D.S., & Gowdy, J. M. 2013. “Evolution as a General Theoretical Framework for Economics and Public Policy.” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. 90:S3 – S10. doi:10.1016/j.jebo.2012.12.008

Wilson, D.S., Hayes, S. C., Biglan, A., & Embry, D. 2014. “Evolving the Future: Toward a Science of Intentional Change.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 37:395 – 460.

Wilson, D.S., E. Ostrom & M. Cox. 2013. “Generalizing the Design Principles for Improving the Efficacy of Groups.” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. 90:supplement, S21 – S32.

Wilson, D.S., & E.O. Wilson. 2007. “Rethinking the Theoretical Foundation of Sociobiology.” Quarterly Review of Biology. 82:327 – 348

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DAVID SLOAN WILSON

David S. Wilson is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University and Arne Næss Chair in Global Justice and the Environment at the University of Oslo. His most recent book is Does Altruism Exist? Twitter: @David_S_Wilson

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Octopus: a collective intelligence with distributed authority

North Pacific Giant Octopus by photographer Mark Laita from his project Sea

The reblog below is fascinating, and about “consciousness” other than our own ??

Some people have even suggested that octopi are Aliens.

jaap van till, TheConnectivist

======== re-blogged from the BrainPickings blog

The Soul of an Octopus: How One of Earth’s Most Alien Creatures Illuminates the Wonders of Consciousness

“While stroking an octopus, it is easy to fall into reverie. To share such a moment of deep tranquility with another being, especially one as different from us as the octopus, is a humbling privilege… an uplink to universal consciousness.”

BY MARIA POPOVA

The Soul of an Octopus: How One of Earth’s Most Alien Creatures Illuminates the Wonders of Consciousness

“Despite centuries of investigation by everyone from natural historians, psychologists, and psychiatrists, to ethicists, neuroscientists, and philosophers, there is still no universal definition of emotion or consciousness,” Laurel Braitman wrote in her terrific exploration of the mental lives of animals. Virginia Woolf defined consciousness as “a wave in the mind,” but even if we’re able to ride the wave, we hardly know the ocean out of which it arises.

During my annual visit to NPR’s Science Friday to discuss my choices for the year’s best science books, my co-guest — science writer extraordinaire Deborah Blum — mentioned a fascinating book that had slipped my readerly tentacles, one that addresses this abiding question of consciousness with unparalleled rigor and grace: The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness (public library) by naturalist, writer, and documentary filmmaker Sy Montgomery.

Montgomery begins with a seemingly simple premise. The octopus is a creature magnificently dissimilar to us — it can change shape and color, tastes with its skin, has its mouth in its armpit, and is capable of squeezing its entire body through a hole the size of an apple. And since we humans experience reality in profoundly different ways from one another, based on our individual consciousnesses, then the octopus must be inhabiting an altogether different version of what we call reality.

The constellation of complexities comprising this difference, Montgomery reveals over the course of this miraculously insightful and enchanting book, expands our understanding of consciousness and sheds light on the very notion of what we call a “soul.”

She writes:

More than half a billion years ago, the lineage that would lead to octopuses and the one leading to humans separated. Was it possible, I wondered, to reach another mind on the other side of that divide? Octopuses represent the great mystery of the Other.

Among the pitfalls of the human condition is our tendency to see otherness as a source of dread rather than an invitation to friendly curiosity. The octopus, as the ultimate Other, has a long history of epitomizing this inclination and sparking our primal fear of the unknown. Montgomery cites one particularly emblematic depiction from Victor Hugo’s novel Toilers of the Sea:

The spectre lies upon you; the tiger can only devour you; the devil-fish, horrible, sucks your life-blood away… The muscles swell, the fibres of the body are contorted, the skin cracks under the loathsome oppression, the blood spurts out and mingles horribly with the lymph of the monster, which clings to the victim with innumerable hideous mouths…

Setting out to “defend the octopus against centuries of character assassination,” Montgomery notes that octopuses have highly individual personalities and can exhibit marked curiosity — faculties we tend to think of as singularly human. Even their motives for friendliness and unfriendliness, far from the baseless brutality of depictions like Hugo’s, parallel our own:

In one study, Seattle Aquarium biologist Roland Anderson exposed eight giant Pacific octopuses to two unfamiliar humans, dressed identically in blue aquarium uniforms. One person consistently fed a particular octopus, and another always touched it with a bristly stick. Within a week, at first sight of the people — looking up at them through the water, without even touching or tasting them — most of the octopuses moved toward the feeder and away from the irritator. Sometimes the octopus would aim its water-shooting funnel, the siphon near the side of the head with which an octopus jets through the sea, at the person who had touched it with the bristly stick.

Surely, a skeptic might argue that this is more instinct than “consciousness.” But Montgomery goes on to outline a number of strikingly specific and context-considered behaviors indicating that octopuses are animated by complex conscious experiences — things we tend to term “thoughts” and “feelings” in the human realm — that upend our delusions of exceptionalism. Lest we forget, we have a long history of bolstering those delusions by putting other species down, much like petty egotists try to make themselves feel big by making other people feel small — even Jane Goodall contended with dismissal and ridicule when she first suggested that chimpanzees have consciousness.

Pacific giant octopus by photographer Susan Middleton from her project Spineless

But beyond intellectual considerations of this weird and wonderful creature’s inner life, Montgomery points to the physical, bodily presence with an octopus as a transcendent experience in its own right — one that pulls into question our most basic assumptions about consciousness:

While stroking an octopus, it is easy to fall into reverie. To share such a moment of deep tranquility with another being, especially one as different from us as the octopus, is a humbling privilege. It’s a shared sweetness, a gentle miracle, an uplink to universal consciousness.

Indeed, the book’s greatest reward isn’t the fascinating science — although that is riveting and ablaze with rigor — but Montgomery’s bewitching prose, pouring from the soul of a literary naturalist who paints the marvels of the ocean’s depths like Thoreau did the marvels of the New England woods. Finding herself “drunk with strange splendors” as she beholds the marine world’s “parade of wonders,” Montgomery writes:

A splendid toadfish hides beneath a rock. Once thought to live only in Cozumel, it’s pancake flat, with thin, wavy, horizontal blue and white stripes, Day-Glo yellow fins, and whiskery barbels. A four-foot nurse shark sleeps beneath a coral shelf, peaceful as a prayer. A trumpet fish, yellow with dark stripes, floats with its long, tubular snout down, trying to blend in with some branching coral… A school of iridescent pink and yellow fish slide by inches from our masks, then wheel in unison like birds in the sky.

I have known no natural state more like a dream than this. I feel elation cresting into ecstasy and experience bizarre sensations: my own breath resonates in my skull, faraway sounds thump in my chest, objects appear closer and larger than they really are. Like in a dream, the impossible unfolds before me, and yet I accept it unquestioningly. Beneath the water, I find myself in an altered state of consciousness, where the focus, range, and clarity of perception are dramatically changed.

Suddenly acutely aware that the octopuses she has met and come to love on her expeditions experience this dizzying otherworldliness as their basic backdrop of existence, she considers the limited array of sensations and perceptions that we’ve come to accept as the whole or reality:

The ocean, for me, is what LSD was to Timothy Leary. He claimed the hallucinogen is to reality what a microscope is to biology, affording a perception of reality that was not before accessible. Shamans and seekers eat mushrooms, drink potions, lick toads, inhale smoke, and snort snuff to transport their minds to realms they cannot normally experience.

[…]

In my scuba-induced altered state, I’m not in the grip of a drug: I am lucid in my immersion, voluntarily becoming part of what feels like the ocean’s own dream.

Out of this perspective-shifting consideration arises Montgomery’s most profound inquiry. Sitting in a Tahitian temple dedicated to the spirit of the octopus, where one of her expeditions has taken her, she wonders:

What is the soul? Some say it is the self, the “I” that inhabits the body; without the soul, the body is like a lightbulb with no electricity. But it is more than the engine of life, say others; it is what gives life meaning and purpose. Soul is the fingerprint of God.

Others say that soul is our innermost being, the thing that gives us our senses, our intelligence, our emotions, our desires, our will, our personality, and identity. One calls soul “the indwelling consciousness that watches the mind come and go, that watches the world pass.” Perhaps none of these definitions is true. Perhaps all of them are. But I am certain of one thing as I sit in my pew: If I have a soul — and I think I do — an octopus has a soul, too.

This, no doubt, is what Alan Watts meant when he asserted that “Life and Reality are not things you can have for yourself unless you accord them to all others.”

The Soul of an Octopus is an astoundingly beautiful read in its entirety, at once scientifically illuminating and deeply poetic, and is indeed a worthy addition to the best science books of the year.

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Fascinating TED-EX film about the Octopus “wiring”:

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