Monthly Archives: April 2014

The History of Light, from an Economic point of view

I enjoy NPR’s “Planet Money” Podcast for it’s style of short (usually <15min per episode), “Explanatory Journalism”, focused on Economics. I followed the whole European Debt Crisis through the podcast a couple of years ago and it was really interesting.

Well, their latest episode (at the time of writing) is #534 – “The History of Light”.

On today’s show: How we got from dim little candles made out of cow fat, to as much light as we want at the flick of a switch.

The history of light explains why the world today is what it is. It explains why we aren’t all subsistence farmers, and why we can afford to have artists and massage therapists and plumbers. (And, yes, people who do radio stories about the history of light.)

The history of light is the history of economic growth — of things getting faster, cheaper, and more efficient.

This episode is 21 minutes, and very interesting. Really puts some things in perspective as far as how hard it used to be to get light for work or play after sunset.

Another fantastic and fascinating episode was #320 – “How Fear Turned a Surplus Into Scarcity”. Described thusly: “In this global caper of good intentions gone wrong, there are shadowy trade deals, corrupt government officials, and warehouses full of rice in a country that didn’t want it.” Really makes you think twice about food prices and just how much artificial manipulation goes into them.

See also:
How Modern Lightbulbs (of various kinds) work
An environmentally safe (and pretty) way to reduce light pollution
Two interesting uses of light

Nerd Nite Presentation Recap – Life as a Polymath

[Update 2 June 21, 2014 – I’ve come across data that refutes the validity of the MBTI system, so the reference to INFJ in this post isn’t as relevant anymore]

This post is essentially a written transcript of my Nerd Nite Presentation (delivered on April 17, 2014). The presentation was titled “I want to do EVERYTHING! (Life as a Polymath)”.

So, we start with a photo of Albert Einstein, and a quote of his:

I have no special talents,
I am only passionately curious

This quote has pretty much come to define my life, and I only discovered it last year.

So let’s start with a question. It’s a pretty common icebreaker when meeting new people. So, what do you do? Continue reading

High-Resolution Microscope You Can Fit In Your Pocket?

Another cool story thanks to Probably Science. A professor named Manu Prakash and his students at Stanford University are developing a new device which they have dubbed “Foldscope”.

Yahoo News has the article (which is so short I’m going to just quote the whole thing), “Super-Cheap Paper Microscope Could Save Millions of Lives”.

Imagine if clinics in developing countries were equipped with an inexpensive yet durable tool that could help medical personnel identify and diagnose a variety of deadly diseases like Malaria, Chagas disease, or Leishmaniosis? For millions of people around the world waiting to be diagnosed and treated, such a tool could be a life-saver.

Manu Prakash, a professor at Stanford University and his students have developed a microscope out of a flat sheet of paper, a watch battery, LED, and optical units that when folded together, much like origami, creates a functional instrument with the resolution of 800 nanometers – basically magnifying an object up to 2,000 times.

Called Foldscope, the microscope is extremely inexpensive to manufacture, costing between fifty-cents and a dollar per instrument. And because the microscope is assembled primarily from paper and optical components the size of a grain of sand, it is virtually indestructible.

Foldscope also differs from the microscopes typically found in science labs because it’s not only portable, but it also has the ability to project an image on any surface, allowing a larger group of people the ability to look at an image simultaneously.

Prakash is hoping that because the Foldscope is so cheap to manufacture and easy to assemble that everyone will have access to the world of microscopy and one day every kid will have a Foldscope in their backpacks or tucked away in their pocket.

Visual, Technology Metaphors for Heartbreak

This is a bit different, but it amused me, and it’s kind of light hearted.

Victoria Seimer has created an image series called “Human Error”, (featured on HuffPo “This Is What Heartbreak Looks Like In The Digital Age”), which she describes:

The series was inspired by an unfortunate Photoshop experience. “I lost everything I was working on,” Siemer, also known as Witchoria, explained to HuffPost. “An error message popped up that said, ‘Photoshop has crashed unexpectedly’ — you know, stating the obvious. In my frustration I took a screenshot of that message to make a joke about how photoshop broke my heart.”

“As I was manipulating the image, I realized how many error messages could be applied to things that happen in day-to-day life,” Siemer added. “The options that error messages offer are limited; by putting their prompts in conversation with images that evoke heartbreak or discontent, I’m emphasizing the sense of futility you feel in both contexts.”

The resulting series pairs dreamy portraits of beaches, tangled hair and crumpled bedsheets with stomach-churning error messages familiar to anyone who’s operated modern technology. Gazing at the series, the viewer conflates feelings of ill will, realizing praying for a rainbow wheel to cease spinning — and impatiently waiting for a heart to heal — are not so far from each other.

Go, have a look, have a chuckle, and share with anyone who could use something like this to bounce back today.

Self Defense of the Artistic Kind

I try to focus on positive stuff here, and while this story has an aspect of negative, ultimately the end result is positive. PetaPixel has the story, “Band Responds in the Worst Way Possible After Stealing Photographer’s Work

Photographer Rohan Anderson had one of his photos “stolen” (used without credit, permission or payment) by the band the photo was of. When confronted, the band initially scoffed at him and told him to get lost and that he had no case.

I’m not an intellectual property lawyer, but even I know better than to do what this band tried to.

Rohan fought back, and after continuing to be mocked by the band, the tables began to turn. They attempted to contact a magazine that he worked for but the magazine sided with Rohan. Then they had the ill-conceived idea to try and rally their twitter followers around the theft, which quickly backfired on them, and someone from legal/PR on the band’s side must have stepped in, as the band was forced to put their tail between their legs and concede.

Apparently, the final word from the band is that “all forms of digital art should be free”. That, I think, is a choice to be made by each artist about their own work. I happen to offer most of the art I create, for free, but that’s mostly because I’m not try to make a living from it.

The original blog post is good, and features several screenshots of the exchange, so I encourage you to go check that out, as this has only been a brief run-down.

You may also want to read a blog post I did about Fair Use.

What can you do without a brain?

If you’ve ever wondered, Vsauce on YouTube attempts to answer this question:

As you might guess, there isn’t a lot you can do, definitely not much that is “useful”, but still, interesting to think about.

HabitRPG – Round 2

A little while ago, I posted about a productivity app called HabitRPG, I ultimately recommended checking it out, though the mobile application (the only thing I tried at the time) really didn’t win me over. I haven’t really had a problem with motivation for a while, moreso just actually doing things in a good order (ie not getting distracted and falling down a facebook rabbit hole instead of doing more productive things first).

Last night I was hanging out with a friend who pulled HabitRPG up on their computer while we were talking and I stopped and said “what’s that?”. The web interface looks virtually nothing like the mobile interface. It’s far better, in my opinion.

And after just a couple hours of having it set up, and adding and checking off tasks as I go about my business, I have to say there is something immensely satisfying about being able to physically check something off when you complete something. Rather than just say to myself “cool, now that’s done”, I can actually click a box and get some points for it. It pushes my desire for accomplishing things into the red zone. And that’s good. It provides just that little extra bit of incentive for me to put really productive things first, and ignore distractions.

For others, I imagine it will just serve as an extra boost to get past the initial procrastination stage.

www.habitrpg.com

Spray on Clothing: Technology of the Future, Today!

A friend of mine just told me about this, and I didn’t believe her at first, because it sounded like a joke. I know there is spray-on hair, but the quality and believability of it is laughable.

Enter Dr. Manel Torres, who has improved upon the idea. From Mashable “Spray-On Clothing Opens Door For Next-Level Tech”:

The company behind this technology is called Fabrican. Developed by clothing-designer-turned-chemist Dr. Manel Torres, who was originally looking for a faster way to produce clothes, the idea came to the self-proclaimed fashion doctor when he went to a friend’s wedding and saw someone getting sprayed by silly string, the popular 90s-era toy.

That’s when Torres got his “aha” moment and decided to pursue an instant, nonstick fabric. The result was the creation of instant garments you can remove and even wash. But the real value goes far beyond fashion. Commercial applications stretch to household products, factories and industry, healthcare, transportation and art.

Los Angeles based artist Aaron Axelrod calls the cans a mobile studio. Axelrod, who’s done installations for The Tonight Show, Coachella and Disney, says he wished he had a tool like this years ago. Instead, he’s had to use less malleable products such as tile, plastic, paint and cotton, often heavy to carry and time consuming to apply.

Beyond art, it’s possible this substance will soon be in hospitals and emergency service vehicles. That’s because the cans are sealed and sterilized, and could work as bandages or as a spray-on cast for broken bones. Welcome to the first-aid kit of the future.

With the addition of nanotechnology, the spray could also become an instant nicotine patch, an oral inoculation or vaccine. Carrying other elements in the fabric is also an option, meaning UV protection, mosquito repellent, vitamin supplements, medication, all could be in the cards. With additives, the fabric could even be fire-proof.

Pretty cool, and promising idea. I would also say if the purchase price can be reduced enough, this would also be a great solution for helping make clothes for people in need (such as in shelters, refugees of natural disasters, etc).

Search the Internet, Plant a Tree, Save the World

Here’s another easy, free way to do some more good by doing something you already do.

I’ve posted before about the sites where you can donate rice by solving problems, and Tab for a Cause, where you can donate to various causes just by opening new tabs in your browser, well now I’ve found another one.

www.Ecosia.org is a search engine that plants a tree for every search you make on their site.

Ecosia is a search engine that donates 80% of its income to a tree planting program in Brazil. By searching with Ecosia you can help the environment for free.

I just did a test search to see what the results would be like, and they don’t seem to be terribly unlike what you would get from google (the interface is nicer too!). And you can add a browser extension to firefox to make it even easier.

Actually, since I almost always open a new tab to do a search, using Ecosia and Tab for a Cause together is going to do a LOT of good.

So, since you already do internet searches, why not switch from google (who tracks you anyway) to this alternative, and help fight climate change!

Also worth reading: Duck, Duck, Go – The privacy based search engine

“The Never-Ending Career/Major Dilemma” aka INFJ problems, aka Scanner problems

Update 2 June 21, 2014 – I’ve come across data that refutes the validity of the MBTI system, so while you are reading this, try to focus more on if you relate to what is being said and less so that it specifically ties to being an INFJ or any specific Myers Briggs Type.

Someone once found this blog using the search term “personality types at a crossroad”. I have no doubt they stumbled onto my first Scanner post. But as when I tried to answer the question “Should a scanner personality type run their own business?” (also a search term that led someone here), I’ve wanted to address this other question as well. And I just found a really good basis for such a post.

In the world of Myers-Briggs, one of many (but the most popular and widely used) personality type tests, I am an INFJ. That means I’m an introverted (though pretty ambiverted now), intuitive, feeling, judging (but not judgemental!) person. I recharge with downtime, I think more abstractly, I make decisions overall based on how I feel or how my actions will affect others, and I prefer structure and predictability (to an extent) in my life. Here is another description of INFJs which is pretty flattering.

There was a discussion on the Puttytribe not too long ago, asking what each person’s type was. I think the IN parts were exceptionally well represented, with J/P being pretty split and F/T also being divided. But, when doing some of my own internet searches recently, I was searching for “what defines an INFJ?” and I found a thread on the forums at INFJs.com titled “The Never Ending Career/Major Dilemma”.

The poster explains:

Everything I look up about my INFJ personality type suggests something along the lines of psychology, teaching, or art. Problem is, I don’t particularly enjoy helping people. I don’t like volunteer work, and in the past couple of years, I’ve become incredibly irritated by the petty problems people seem to have, unless they’re someone close to me, and I have therefore completely eliminated psychology from the list. I absolutely hate teaching and training; I have no patience for it, and I get frustrated when they don’t understand. It isn’t fair of me to become a teacher and get frustrated at the students for something that’s my own issue, so I have eliminated education in all forms (from elementary to the collegiate level). While becoming an artist (particularly a photographer) would be fun, I feel like I’m too lazy and not disciplined enough to take the number of photos I would need and market myself and my photography in order to actually be profitable.

I know exactly where he is coming from. The first reply offered some fantastic insight and advice (quoted at the end of this post), and another thread was linked with that advice really expanded and fleshed out by a different person. The longer version (below) was basically a written description of my entire life thus far. I think this pretty accurately defines what it means to have “scanner problems”:

This is not a definitive guide but just some perspective and realistic outlook on choosing a career or “careers” as an INFJ and the usual obstacles we face as sensitive introverts.

To start let’s just state the obvious well known facts and ideal career parameters for INFJs:


  • Career Autonomy – INFJs thrive best when they have an intellectual freedom to set their working conditions the way they see it fit. Usually a mix of 60% solitary work and 40% interpersonal connections. Going on the extreme end on both of these conditions will create a lot of stress that can affect INFJs negatively in the work environment. Too much solitary work will create interpersonal distance that may cause depression and loneliness and too much human interaction will simply burn out an INFJ.
  • Humanitarian Instinct – INFJs humanitarian instinct is inborn and cannot be ignored nor does it go away over time. In fact; as an INFJ personality develops further into maturity; this humanitarian streak will become more obvious and the urge for full expression may create inner tension. This will be true if you work in a field that does nothing to help or better humanity in general. Younger INFJs may or may nor feel this urge strongly in the beginning; but do keep in mind that it will become an important factor as you grow older.
  • Work Environment – simply put; INFJs will have a hard time working in an corrupt, unorganized, critical, competitive and high stress work environments. INFJs ability to penetrate into the core of any systems or large organizations and seeing clearly where the issues and problems are will help weed out these environments. This is not to say that certain environments such as schools, hospitals or counseling and crisis centers should not be explored; but the built in bureaucracy of failing systems will affect an INFJ and if an INFJ chooses a career in these organizations then they will need to learn grounding and stress management techniques in order to cope and find balance.
  • Intellectual and Creative Challenge – INFJs are natural intellectuals with a desire to learn about subjects that catch their curiosity. Therefore; when choosing a career; intellectual stimulation or the opportunity to advance one’s knowledge base is important. Mundane and routine work will eventually bore an INFJs. The negatives of mundane work will make an INFJ question their role in society and if not careful can lead into hopelessness which leads to a mediocre careers without advancement. Hence it is recommended that INFJs pursue masters or doctorate degrees in fields that can open up intellectual growth opportunities. This will also become important as an INFJ gets older.



Intense Realism to balance the natural Idealist:

Intense realism is the practice of seeing life as is with no filters and covers. Learning to make sound life decisions based on hard reality will always help a natural idealist make better changes in life and career. For career decision making; below factors need to be considered for certain careers you maybe considering:

  • Job outlook – are you choosing a career field that is growing or declining? What types of careers is your generation considering? Just like products and business have life cycles; careers also have life cycles. It should not be looked on with fear but a natural progression of growth. Choose careers that are on the rise for the next 20 to 30 years – expecially fields such as healthcare and technology that offers lots of niche field within a larger field so there are many options to consider.
  • Salary – always do an opportunity cost for your careers. Are you finishing a degree that cost you $40,000 in student debt to be hired as an entry level making $42,000? Is that a fair or normal living standard in your neck of the woods? If you wish to go to masters or doctorate route then is it feasible to get your undergrad in a community college to save money in the long run? Is it worth getting a masters degree for 2 years so you can increase your chances of making a comfortable living 10 to 20 years down the road? INFJs should and need to consider these options as early as possible in their career planning so they have more options in a hectic and unstable economy.
  • Competition – how competitive are the career fields you are considering? Most INFJs love psychology but unless you specialize it is a fairly competitive field to enter into even with a masters. Consider other types of psychology fields that are less competitive like sports psychology or industrial psychology, etc. In order to edge the competition; do research into niche fields that are not widely recognized or advertized. Try your best to not follow the herd if possible.
  • Research – there should be 2 types of very important research needs to be done by INFJs if they are undecided on careers:



  1. Shadow a professional in their work environment for few days to get a clear idea of that career field and ask lots of questions. If that is not possible; find professional career forums in a particular field you are considering and browse their forums. Read about the job satisfaction; issues those professionals face, how much they make, etc and see if anything you find appeals or discourages your interests.
  2. Go and experience them yourself. Internships and volunteer experiences will shed light on certain careers. There are lots of resources to consider when researching a career. This experience will be better than asking people what you should do as a career from people that does not know you on the internet.

Final Advice:

My final advice is to choose careers that takes into the INFJ personality career parameters I discussed earlier with that of the realistic career changes that are happening worldwide. Find a good balance where an INFJs natural tendencies are honored as well as the ability to thrive in career fields that are going to grow and expand in the future. Don’t be afraid to explore unkown career niches and also to expand your knowledge with a higher educational degrees.

Also follow your GOALS not your passions. Goals in a nutshell will entail the type of lifestyle you wish to live. Consider all the details of this lifestyle and what you will or will not do to make it happen. 

Passion and interest can bring joy into our lives but they do not always translate into a well paying and flexible career that can cater to the INFJ personality. Unless you are super talented in your chosen field and have the time and resources to make your dream a reality then good luck to you. Most people can benefit from a stable and comfortable careers that gives them 70% to 80% fulfillment and satisfaction in life while also giving them time to explore and pursue their hobbies and interests on the side as well as providing for their families and living expenses. Understand that your life circumstances and needs will be different when you are in your 20’s, 30’s and 40’s and making sound decisions based on these considerations can save some people a lot of headache and pain later in life. 

I wish I could figure out who wrote that, I can’t determine the person behind the profile, but I want to send them a whopping THANK YOU.

Now, despite the puttytribe being one example of how it’s not necessarily true that there is a defacto “scanner type”, perhaps INFJs go a little deeper on feeling/experiencing the difficulties outlined. I also think it gives a lot of great insight and advice to anyone experiencing those issues, arguably better than my own recent attempt. Some of those answers I figured out on my own through years of trial and error, and frustration.

Sometimes we get lucky and we find the pivotal answers we seek early in our search, other times we may be looking for years or decades until I we find that “aha!” piece of wisdom or insight. I’ve found some answers quickly, and others much later. But between the faster answers and the more delayed ones, I’ve managed to do alright on the overall. It has just taught me to keep reading, exploring, asking questions, and getting better at figuring out what leads to follow and which ones will trail off.

It doesn’t hurt that I know at least a few other people doing the same kind of thing. I’d say at least 80% of the things I post about on here are things that friends of mine or people I know, share, that I read and think are worth sharing here as well.

Here is the shorter version, directed at the poster of the original thread:

I’m going to tell you something that I wish someone told me seven years ago. You don’t “find” passion. You cultivate it. There is no such thing as the ‘right’ career for you and there’s no destiny or personality theory litmus test involved in the process. You can find something you love in every single one of those choices, just as you’ll find something you’ll hate in each. No job is perfect. What it all comes down to is which one of these careers is going to give you the practical means to lead the lifestyle you want. Start with the basic parameters. Consider the salary you’d like to make (how much money would you need per year to be comfortable?), the amount of hours you’d work, the training it’d take, the environment you’d work in, or whether or not you’d be comfortable living out in the wilderness for x number of months in a year away from family and friends (such as is the case with field work in geology). Do you want to settle down and have a family one day? How much will your job depend on networking? How much will licensing cost per year? Is there a future in the industry? 

At this point you also need to consider all that you know about yourself by now. If you have learned that you’re not a self-starter and you can’t function without structure or a steady pay-cheque, you’re probably not going to do well in a freelance position. If you’re not comfortable helping people, as you said, well, you won’t be all to happy in a teaching or service position. If you’re not a risk-taker/very sensitive to rejection, don’t go into sales. 

What I would do in your shoes is that I would interview as many people as possible who work in each of those fields. Ask them pro’s and con’s. Amass a huge list of information and differing perspectives. There is just no substitute for talking to someone who has been there, done that and who has insider knowledge into what it’s like to be in the field–but make sure you ask a variety of people so you’re not getting just one individual bias. 

At the end of the day, however, keep in mind that a job is a job and that’s where you have to do a cost-benefit analysis and figure out what sorts of things you can live with and what sorts of things you absolutely cannot compromise. One way or another we all have to work, we all have to pay the bills. I’m not saying that you should go for the job that pays the most… but at the same time, I kind of am. So long as you can marginally stand it, it will at least allow you to enjoy life outside of work.

For INFJs and Scanners alike, I feel like those 4 paragraphs kind of nail it on the head.

I will say, I also regularly enjoy reading www.reddit.com/r/infj. The questions – and answers – tend to be very thoughtful, honest, and insightful. Even if you aren’t an INFJ, if you want to learn about self-awareness and see how people who are really tuned into themselves think and act, that’s a great place to do some reading. People also go there to ask for advice, either if their partner is an INFJ and confusing/frustrating them, or if they are INFJ and struggling with their non INFJ partner.

Actually, it just occured to me – I’ve always strongly related to the traits bestowed onto people who are Pisces. But Astrology is basically bunk, so I had to accept that years ago. It only just hit me, that many of the same traits attributed to INFJs are also attributed to Pisceans. Huh.

So, whoever searched for my blog with that search term, I hope you found some answers. Next time, this post will be ready and waiting to hopefully give you some.