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  • We are pleased to announce that Whitney Phillips recently won the 2016 Nancy Baym Book Award for This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture. Sponsored by the Association of Internet Researchers (AOIR), the award seeks to recognize the best work in the field of Internet Studies, relating to the social and cultural dimensions of networked media.

    Posted at 12:39 pm on Fri, 26 Aug 2016 in
  • The daguerreotype, invented in France, came to America in 1839. It was, as Sarah Kate Gillespie's book The Early American Daguerreotype shows, something wholly and remarkably new: a product of science and innovative technology that resulted in a visual object. We're celebrating World Photo Day with an excerpt from The Early American Daguerreotype.

    Originally a French invention, daguerreotyping—a photographic process that produces extremely detailed images—reached American shores in the fall of 1839. A daguerreotype is a direct-positive image on a silvered copper plate. Historically, the plate was polished until it had a mirror-like surface, then was treated with lightsensitive chemicals. The plate was then fitted into a camera and exposed to the subject. Once exposed, the plate was developed above a box of mercury fumes, and the image was fixed in a bath of hyposulfate of soda. The finished product was then washed and dried. Because the surface remained sensitive, it was placed under a plate of glass and usually put in a case.

    Posted at 07:00 am on Fri, 19 Aug 2016 in art, history, photography, science, technology
  • This month’s Spotlight on Science looks at the intersection of synesthesia and art. Carol Steen discusses her own synesthesia and her journey to understand it, how synesthesia has impacted her art, and the increase in synesthesia awareness and research. Her article, “Visions Shared: A Firsthand Look into Synesthesia and Art” (Leonardo, June 2001) was one of the earliest first-hand accounts of synesthesia and its role in art, and her story helped inspire Wendy Mass's award-winning novel, A Mango-Shaped Space. Steen has since co-written a chapter for the Oxford Handbook of Synesthesia, and continues to create art from her synesthetic visions.  Read the article for free on our SOS page.

    You write that you first learned about synesthesia in 1993 when Richard E. Cytowic was in the process of bringing it back into mainstream science. Your article was published seven years later, in 2001. In 2003, author Wendy Mass wrote a young adult novel about an artistic and synesthetic girl named Mia, called A Mango-Shaped Space. Ten years later, Oxford University Press published the Oxford Handbook of Synesthesia, and just last year, your article was cited in an extensive paper titled "Color Synesthesia: Insight into perception, emotion, and consciousness," published in the journal Current Opinion in Neurology. How has the rise in awareness of synesthesia, and the accompanying increase in research about it, impacted you? Has it affected your art, or your artistic process, at all?

    In 1993, we didn't have computers. Well, a few people did, but for most of us computers didn't exist. More importantly, even if you had a computer, you were still isolated. Early in 1995 I would make long trips by subway to the one branch of my college where they had a computer lab. In a very small dark room on the top floor of an old NYC building were about 20 small screened computers. I could use them if a class was not being held, or if, with permission and providing I was very quiet, there was an available seat. I remember one day I sat in this room and learned I could ask a search engine for information about synesthesia. I did and waited for the answer. It gave me 35 “hits”—seventeen of those were duplicates. 

    Posted at 06:00 am on Tue, 16 Aug 2016 in art, journals, science
  • Zika is here to stay, says Dr. Alan Lockwood, emeritus professor of neurology at the University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY and a senior scientist at Physicians for Social Responsibility, Washington DC. He is the author of The Silent Epidemic and the forthcoming Heat Advisory. Heat Advisory details how climate change is affecting public health, including the increased range of mosquitos carrying the Zika virus, and in this post Dr. Lockwood reflects on the recent discovery of mosquitos carrying the virus found in a small section of Miami.

    Hardly a day goes by without another news story about the Zika virus. This is a relatively new virus. It was first identified in the Zika Forest in Uganda in 1947. Originally confined to tropical areas in Africa and Asia, it spread across the Pacific Ocean reaching epidemic levels in the Americas during the last year. Most infections with the virus are mild and may not be noticed. However, after a large number of children with microcephaly were born to Brazilian mothers who had been infected with the virus the fear of this virus rose dramatically. Although these initial reports were treated with the level of caution that is typical of scientists, there is now little doubt that Zika virus infection may cause microcephalus. The relatively recent detailed publication of the brain pathology associated with Zika-induced microcephaly provided additional convincing evidence for the link. The Zika-infected brain was much smaller than normal, malformed, and contained many focal calcifications, evidence of prior injury by the virus. Current research also suggests that Zika virus may cause Gullian Barré Syndrome in adults. This poorly understood but relatively rare disorder is the result of immunological attacks on nerve cells and may occur after a variety of diseases.

    Posted at 06:00 am on Tue, 09 Aug 2016 in current affairs, environmental studies and nature, public health
  • This week visionary educator and mathematician Seymour Papert passed away at the age of 88. In 1969 he coauthored Perceptrons: An Introduction to Computational Geometry (with Marvin Minsky), which has become a classic text on artificial intelligence. Beginning in the 1980s he published books on children, technology, and learning. In this post, Yasmin Kafai, for whom Dr. Papert served as a mentor and thesis advisor, pays tribute to his work and enduring legacy. Yasmin Kafai is coauthor of Connected Code (dedicated to Seymour Papert) and the forthcoming Connected Gaming.

    After writing his groundbreaking ideas on children, computers, and learning in Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas, Seymour Papert started working on the sequel. The years following the 1980 publication were heady times where many of the ideas previously kept under lock and key in the laboratory were moving out into the world: an inner-city elementary school in Boston called Project Headlight demonstrated how teachers and students could engage with computers by making their own software games, a robotics kit with which children could accessorize their Lego blocks with motors and sensors at home and in school developed at the MIT Media Lab became available to the public, and a gigantic Walk-Through Computer at the Computer History Museum made tangible the inner workings of the new machine. Seymour's vision in Mindstorms was becoming reality.

    Posted at 09:00 am on Wed, 03 Aug 2016 in in memoriam
  • As the polls tighten between presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, many are left wondering where the bulwark of Trump’s support comes from. A recent New York Times article entitled “The One Demographic That Is Hurting Hillary Clinton” shows that Trump has a large lead among less-educated white voters and white working-class voters. To a casual observer it may seem strange that the latter group is the main support behind the GOP nominee, given that many of his brand products are made overseas, thus implying that Trump’s businesses are likely benefitting from free trade policies and cheap foreign labor. Yet despite this, Trump’s anti-immigration and anti-free trade message seems to be resonating with this demographic. Why is this? Didier Eribon reflected upon this same apparent contradiction in France in Returning to Reims, published in English translation by Semiotexte.

    Posted at 07:00 am on Tue, 02 Aug 2016 in current affairs, Semiotexte
  • On July 20, 1969 workers called in sick and children stayed home from school. Crowds gathered around televisions in department store windows to watch the Apollo 11 moon landing. Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight by David Mindell examines the design and execution of each of the six Apollo moon landings, drawing on transcripts and data telemetry from the flights, astronaut interviews, and NASA’s extensive archives. In honor of the anniversary of the first moon landing, the following is an excerpt from Digital Apollo that describes the high tension of that fateful day.

    On a July day in 1969, after a silent trip around the far side of the moon, the two Apollo spacecraft reappeared out of the shadows and reestablished contact with earth. The command and service module (CSM) (sometimes simply ‘‘command module’’) was now the mother ship, the capsule and its supplies that would carry the astronauts home. The CSM continued to orbit the moon, with astronaut Michael Collins alone in the capsule. ‘‘Listen, babe,’’ Collins reported to ground controllers at NASA in Houston, ‘‘everything’s going just swimmingly. Beautiful.’’ His two colleagues Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘‘Buzz’’ Aldrin had just separated the other spacecraft, the fragile, spidery lunar module (LM, pronounced ‘‘lem’’), nicknamed Eagle, from the command module. This odd, aluminum balloon, packed with instruments and a few engines, would carry the two men down to the lunar surface.

    Posted at 06:00 am on Wed, 20 Jul 2016 in history, science, technology
  • Drones are changing the conduct of war. Advocates say that drones are more precise than conventional bombers, allowing warfare with minimal civilian deaths while keeping American pilots out of harm’s way. Critics say that drones are cowardly and that they often kill innocent civilians while terrorizing entire villages on the ground. In Drone: Remote Control Warfare, Hugh Gusterson looks at the paradoxical mix of closeness and distance involved in remote killing: is it easier than killing someone on the physical battlefield if you have to watch onscreen? Hugh Gusterson discusses his new book.

    How has the use of military drones altered the way that war is conducted?

    Traditional definitions of war assume combatants on either side who can kill one another. In drone warfare, one side is now physically absent from the field of combat. This is why some people have said drone warfare is more like hunting than war.

    Further, democratically elected leaders have always been aware of a certain risk in going to war: if too many of their own citizens come home in body bags, the country may turn against them (as happened to Presidents Johnson, Nixon, and George W. Bush). But drone warfare, by sparing us Americans in body bags, offers the possibility of indefinite war without victory, but with very little political cost at home.

    Posted at 11:30 am on Mon, 18 Jul 2016 in anthropology, current affairs, technology
  • Happy #WorldEmojiDay! We are celebrating with a passage from Book from the Ground by Chinese artist Xu Bing. A book without words, it recounts a day in the life of an office worker, told completely in the symbols, icons, and logos of modern life.

    Posted at 06:00 am on Sun, 17 Jul 2016 in art
  • Back in May, ahead of the referendum on whether Britain should remain part of the European Union or leave, Guy Edwards penned an op-ed in the Boston Globe explaining why Brexit would make realizing climate change cooperation significantly tougher. In the wake of the Brexit vote, he reflects on what's next for Europe. Guy Edwards is coauthor of A Fragmented Continent.

    Despite the vote in favor of Brexit, I feel resolutely European. Our generation grew up as the Cold War drew to a close and the Berlin Wall came down. Our continent shares common values and ideals: freedom, equality, democracy, multilateralism, and the international rule of law. Our generation has for the most part embraced the freedom of travel to live, work and study across the continent; reinforcing our love and respect for each other's cultures.

    Posted at 11:35 am on Mon, 11 Jul 2016 in environment, politics
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Books, news, and ideas from MIT Press

The MIT PressLog is the official blog of MIT Press. Founded in 2005, the Log chronicles news about MIT Press authors and books. The MIT PressLog also serves as forum for our authors to discuss issues related to their books and scholarship. Views expressed by guest contributors to the blog do not necessarily represent those of MIT Press.