Map Mysteries

Screenshots mysterious things to identify exploring Google Earth.

First, this is beautiful. On a coast of Egypt.

this is beautiful earth, map mystery, google earth


Curious (tweet me your thoughts @amyleerobinson):

1. What made these tracks?

1 what is this a track of?, map, map mystery
from higher altitude:2 tracks from higher up, map mystery

2. How awesome would it be if there were a map where you could view seasonal changes on demand? Maybe it exists and I just don’t know yet?


3. What is this?

4 what is this?


5 what is that there are houses

4. What are the structures built out in the water?

7 this is also beautiful and what are those things in the water?

5. Waves, not clouds?

8 waves or are they clouds

Macro Time Lapse: Great Barrier Reef

Macro coral images by Daniel Stupin of Microworld Photography. Scroll down for video.

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Daniel Stoupin‘s stunning reef timelapse consists of over 15,000 macro shots; each frame is 3-12 images merged together.

Despite the gorgeous footage, this view shows a near-microscopic oceanic battleground. Daniel explains:

By day most hard corals are cute and colorful. Their polyps coexist with their symbiotic algae and depend on light for nutrients produced by their photosynthetic symbionts. By night these polyps open up like flowers, but unlike flowers they turn into fierce predators, extend their tentacles, and sometimes invert their guts to digest the crap out of everything that they can reach. Coral colonies have to compete for substrate with other species, sometimes in violent battles. The winner is usually the species who digests faster or can resist digestive enzymes of the attackers better.

Enjoy the video:

Slow Life from Daniel Stoupin on Vimeo.

A 30 Second TEDTalk

Imagine a future when you could put on one of Hugh Herr’s robotic biomechatronic exoskeletons and instantly do acrobatics. Imagine shredding slopes like Shaun White. Pair this with a Chris Klewe style augmented reality football visor so you could see real time stats and visualizations of your new iron man esque skills. Thinking farther future, you might pop some Negroponte knowledge pills and Kurzwifi neuro nanobots so you can instantly calculate new tricks, download the latest apps and stream your adventures first person from glass and the drones filming you from above.

Surprise this morning. I was invited to share a 30 second neural avalanche onstage at TED 2014. Opening the final day. This references a few favorite wild and forward thinking presentations from this week which I look forward to rewatching. Because awesome.

Extraordinary life. Wonderful times. Viva TED.

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Video Infographic, 3D

Air Traffic Control company NATS visualizes data from flights over 24 hours. A moving camera path brings out the data’s 3D structure. Gorgeous work. Curious circuits pumping people of the world around. I’d never heard of a Heathrow holding stack! Imagine when we have one of these for the brain..

“A few highlights include the North Atlantic tracks that connect Europe with North America, the airways that run up the spine of the UK, the holding stacks at London’s capacity stretched airports and the military manoeuvres off Anglesey in Wales.”

via Visually

air traffic over europe NATS, infographic, earth

Maps of Ideas

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A universe.

We live in one. Your mind is one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenging. Exciting. Neural avalanche inducing.

BRAIN Initiative: Thoughts on Interim Report to the NIH

neurons reconstructed in eyewire, connectome

We stand on the verge of a great journey into the unknown—the interior terrain of thinking, feeling, perceiving, learning, deciding, and acting to achieve our goals—that lives within the human brain. These capacities are the essence of our minds and the aspects of being human that matter most to us. Remarkably, these powerful yet exquisitely nuanced capacities emerge from electrical and chemical interactions among roughly 100 billion nerve cells and glial cells that compose our brains. All human brains share basic anatomical circuits and synaptic interactions, but the precise pattern of connections and interactions are highly variable from person to person—and therein lies the source of the remarkable variation we see in human behavior, from the breathtaking dance of a ballerina, to the elegant craftsmanship of a master carpenter, to the shrewd judgment of an expert trader. Our brains make us who we are, enabling us to perceive beauty, teach our children, remember loved ones, react against injustice, learn from history, and imagine a different future.

Preamble, The Goals of the BRAIN Initiative

Today is my one year anniversary at MIT. I’ve grown as a person and learned more than I ever imagined. To celebrate, I read a 50+ page NIH report, which was surprisingly awe inspiring. Here are my thoughts.

On Sept 16, 2013, an advisory committee of prominent neuroscientists presented a report to the NIH Director outlining the goals and objectives of the BRAIN Initiative for FY 2014.

Before we proceed, Iet’s back up. My greatest passion in life is understanding consciousness; understanding how the brain yields a thinking, feeling human being. That’s why I’m at Seung Lab working on EyeWire, attempting to catalyze exponential progress advancing neuroscience from the unknown into the understood. How exciting, how chill-inducing to read that the greatest minds on minds of our generation are teaming up and calling for unprecedented action in this direction, progress backed with investment and goals for disruptive, interdisciplinary collaboration that “reconceives what it means to be an experimental neuroscientist.” (13)

The report outlines several themes and high-priority research areas for 2014:

  1. Generate a Census of Cell Types
  2. Create Structural Maps of the Brain
  3. Develop New Large-Scale Network Recording Capabilities
  4. Develop A Suite of Tools for Circuit Manipulation
  5. Link Neuronal Activity to Behavior
  6. Integrate Theory, Modeling, Statistics, and Computation with Experimentation
  7. Delineate Mechanisms Underlying Human Imaging Technologies
  8. Create Mechanisms to Enable Collection of Human Data
  9. Disseminate Knowledge and Training

I am particularly excited about, well, all of these but for the interest of time I’ll hone it down. First, let’s reflect on the fact that we don’t even know how many types of cells there are in our own heads..and how quickly that’s changing. A catalog of cell types would provide a framework for existing research and a foundation for future experiments. Like everything in this report, it’s extremely exciting.

Second. Create a structural map of the brain. The report calls for a movement “towards [mapping] a full connectome.” Oh yes. There are many layers of functional circuits in the brain, all of which are important to our broader understanding. Special emphasis is given to integrating scales in both time and space and creating platforms that “enable understanding of the relation between neural structure and function.” The report calls for “faster, less expensive, and scalable approaches” that will reveal how how neural dynamics relate to complex behavior. Crowd-sourcing is specifically mentioned in this section, which needless to say amps me up.

neuron branches, eyewire,

I’ll skip now to numbers 5 and 6, which read as a call for revolutionary cross-boundary collaboration among researchers to create integrative tools for creating enriched, multidimensional datasets that, for example, might integrate molecular, functional and connectomic information. The report indicates a preferences for involvement from fields outside neuroscience such as computer science, statistics, engineering, physics and theory (and even calls for new theoretical tools and techniques — a “brain based theory of higher functions is notably lacking.” hello, opportunity).

This is not the time to play is safe.

I love this. Neuroscience is due a bit of disruption; we need to bring in minds from different fields — fields that the authors of this report may not have even considered, such as design. I think crucial components will be identifying and communicating neuroscience’s biggest accomplishments, current state of knowledge and present/future hurdles to communities of talented individuals and organizations, many of which may be outside academia, who will develop and test innovative solutions to them. We may use tools like Kaggle or host Hackathons, challenging a burgeoning global developer community to create software that will help solve neuroscience’s biggest difficulties. I’ve come to realize that while techniques do cost a considerable amount of time, it seems that software and big data analysis are what’s really needed to increase technolgical and analytical throughput by 100-1000x, as the report calls for. One infamous case of analytic delay is that of Earl Miller’s Lab at MIT. The team spent 2 weeks collecting functional activity data and 2 years analyzing it. Damn. We need tools, better AI and brave collaborations on all neruoscientific fronts. This is one area I’m particularly interested in catalyzing.

Another interesting component of this research is an open call to create a neuroscience data reservoir where researchers can store and one day maybe even crowd-source analysis of their research findings, specifically image data. Seung Lab (my lab) has an interest in this, so stay tuned.

synapse in eyewire

A final point of interest is #9, the dissemination of knowledge and training. In the context of citizen science, which will likely play an increasingly important role in neuroscientific progress, we need to share best practices and methods through which labs can involve the general public in the scientific method. We are actively working on such toolkits and events. Ping me if you are interested in collaborating on this or any other area.

Finally, going back to the big picture (my favorite), I’d like to point out that the report specifically calls for research “composed with a specific eye toward eventual impact for humans” and that “encourages changes in the culture of neuroscience.”

The challenge is to map the circuits of the brain, measure the fluctuating patterns of electrical and chemical activity flowing within those circuits, and understand how their interplay creates our unique cognitive and behavioral capabilities.

Our ultimate goal is to understand our own brains.. to understand the circuits and patterns of neural activity that give rise to mental experience and behavior.

It’s a wonderful time to be alive. I’m honored to have the opportunity to play a leading role in the future of neuroscience through EyeWire and specifically Seung Lab at MIT.

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