Profile cover photo
Profile photo
Zaid El-Hoiydi
Travel photography, nature and society.
Travel photography, nature and society.


Post has attachment
Solomon's Seal
Today I saw one of the largest and most elegant representative of this species, and I also enjoyed the mere two seconds it took for Google Lens to remind me its name. It comes out in May and is gone already by the end of June, apparently its details fade out of my memory just as quickly.

The plant is said to possess scars on the rhizome that resemble the ancient Hebrew seal of King Solomon.

Historically, the Native Americans consumed the starch-rich rhizomes of smooth Solomon's-seal as a “potato-like food” used to make breads and soups. The young shoots are also edible, raw or boiled for an asparagus-like food. Smooth Solomon's-seal was also used in herbal medicine. For example, the rhizome was used in making a tonic for gout and rheumatism. Smooth Solomon's-seal has had nearly a dozen uses in herbal medicine including as an anti-inflammatory, sedative, and tonic. Smooth Solomon's-seal is not used in large-scale agriculture.
7 Photos - View album
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Kloesterli Oberhofen
Next to the castle and the nearby pier about which I've reported numerous times already, here is the other place I am fond of in Oberhofen. Apparently an ancient convent which has been re-purposed for cultural events, and I have yet to attend to one.
Location: #Switzerland, #Oberhofen, May 11th, 2018.
4 Photos - View album
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Here are another few glimpses from a quiet Sunday morning, by the lake. I've seen fellows caring for their mind, their body and their spirit. I personally focused on the first two.
11 Photos - View album
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
This Morning by the Lake
The city of Thun is what you can see in the background. It is closer than it appears, I arrived and returned running.
Exact location: #Hilterfingen, May 20th, 2018.
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
❝Democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people onto the world, the value of life not only declines, but it disappears. It doesn’t matter if someone dies.❞
―Isac Asimov, 1988.
I stumbled across a wonderful interview done 30 years ago by Bill Moyers. In this extract Isaac Asimov was voicing his concerns about overpopulation. It is amazing to realize how everything he said is still valid today.
What have we done in this regard during the last three decades? Essentially nothing.
MOYERS: What about, though, the one subject you’ve written so much about, the population explosion, you know, the fact that right now the population of the globe is over four billion. You’ve said that if it –

ASIMOV: It’s over five billion.

MOYERS: Over five billion, yes. You’ve said if it continues at its 2% growth rate a year, it will be what in another-

ASIMOV: Well, actually, it’s down to 1.6%, but with a higher population it’s the same amount in actual numbers: 80 million a year. So that, oh, by the year 2000, it’s going to be perhaps 6.5 billion.

MOYERS: That’s just 12 years from now.

ASIMOV: Yes. Yes, it’s going up very fast.

MOYERS: How many people do you think the earth is able to sustain?

ASIMOV: I don’t think it’s able to sustain the five billion in the long run. So that, I mean, right now, most of the world is living under appalling conditions. And we can’t possibly improve the conditions of everyone. We can’t raise the entire world to the average standard of living in the United States, because I don’t think we have the resources and the ability to distribute well enough for that. We have condemned, right now as it is, most of the world to a miserable starvation-level of existence. And it will just get worse as the population continues to go up.

MOYERS: But you just can’t say to a woman, “Don’t have children.”

ASIMOV: Well, you know, it’s not so much that. It’s so many people are saying, “Have children.” There is such a pro-natalist attitude in the world. We celebrate Mother’s Day so enthusiastically, we say, “May all your troubles be little ones.” We celebrate additional children. I feel sometimes that if we’d only stop pushing for children, that somehow there’d be fewer of them.

MOYERS: Why did you say that the price of survival is the equality of women?

ASIMOV: Because if women have full ability to enter into all facets of the human condition, if they can enter business, if they can enter religion, science, government, on an equal basis with men, they will be so busy that they won’t feel it as necessary to have a great many children. As long as you have women under conditions where they don’t feel any sense of value, no self-worth except as mothers, except as baby factories, they’ll have a lot of children. Because that’s the only way they can prove they’re worth something.

In general, if you look through the world, the lower the status of women, the higher the birth rate. And the higher the birth rate, the lower the status of women. So that if you could somehow raise the status of women, I am certain the birth rate will fall drastically through the choice of the women themselves.

MOYERS: What do you see happening to the idea of dignity to the human species if this population growth continues at its present rate?

ASIMOV: It’s going to destroy it all. I use what I call my bathroom metaphor. If two people live in an apartment and there are two bathrooms, then both have what I call freedom of the bathroom, go to the bathroom any time you want to and stay as long as you want to for whatever you need. And this to my way is ideal. And everyone believes in the freedom of the bathroom. It should be right there in the Constitution. But if you have 20 people in the apartment and two bathrooms, no matter how much every person believes in freedom of the bathroom, there is no such thing. You have to set up, you have to set up times for each person, you have to bang at the door, aren’t you through yet and so on.

And in the same way, democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people onto the world, the value of life not only declines, but it disappears. It doesn’t matter if someone dies.

MOYERS: Of course so many people, say the United States is bringing its population under control. That we’re going to have a stable population, we’re not even reproducing ourselves. And what the rest of the world does, we can’t control.

ASIMOV: The population of the United States is still going up. The only time it went up really slowly was during the Great Depression when there were no laws sort of lowering the birth rate. There was just an economic depression, which made people think twice before they had children.

But the United States is doing something else, which is absolutely refusing to help other nations control population. So that our feeling is somehow that it’s enough for us to somehow make sure that the United States is in good shape and what other nations do is their business. It’s not their business, it’s our business, too.

MOYERS: In other words, we can’t exist as a stable economy, in a stable society, if around us is turmoil, chaos?

ASIMOV: Absolutely not. Right now in many nations they’re just destroying the rain forests because they need the firewood, they need the space for farms.

MOYERS: Why should I care about that?

ASIMOV: Because without the rain forests, we’re going to have deserts instead. The food supply will dwindle. As a matter of fact, there’s even the possibility that we’re going to lose all kinds of valuable substances we know nothing about. Those rain forests have an incredible number of species of plants and animals that we know very little about. Some of them may produce chemicals of great importance pharmacologically and medically. Some of the plants, might if properly cultivated be new food sources. And in addition to that, nothing produces the oxygen of the atmosphere with the same intensity that a forest does. Anything that substitutes for it will be producing less oxygen. We’re going to be destroying our atmosphere, too.

MOYERS: You’re how old now?

ASIMOV: Sixty-eight.

MOYERS: You’ve lived through a lot of this century. Have you ever seen human beings think with the perspective you’re calling on them to think now?

ASIMOV: Well, it’s perhaps not important that every human being thinks so. How about the leaders thinking so? How about the opinion-makers thinking so? Ordinary people might follow them. If we didn’t have leaders who are thinking in exactly the opposite way; if we didn’t have people who are shouting hatred and suspicion of foreigners; if we didn’t have people who are shouting that it’s more important to be unfriendly than to be friendly; if we didn’t have people shouting somehow that people inside the country who don’t look exactly the way the rest of us look, that something’s wrong with them. Again, again, it’s almost not necessary for us to do good. It’s only necessary for us to stop doing evil, for goodness sakes.
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
The Case for Nuclear Energy
❝For many conservation scientists, nuclear energy is a no-brainer: it is not only very low-pollution, its small land-use footprint means that it leaves more room for nature. By contrast, solar plants require 150 times more land than nuclear.❞

In a well documented talk Shellenberger leaves the ideologies (and the emotions which come with them) aside and gives a cold look at the figures, those which really matter.
Why I changed my mind about nuclear power | Michael Shellenberger |TEDxBerlin:

Here is a fact which is largely unknown. Not unlike Chernobyl before that, the Fukushima disaster of 2011 has caused in the following years a growing and worldwide global environmental disaster through national policy changes resulting in greater pollution, including CO2 emissions. Public opinion turned even more against atomic energy, as impressive as it was frightening, and now anything else would be better.

The reason for that is very simple. Renewable sources could not scale up quickly enough to replace the nuclear plants which were shut down, so dirty sources were favored. That was, and still is today, the case in Germany. In addition we have both a global population increase and more than ever before expecting a reliable supply of electricity to enjoy a modern lifestyle.

Shellenberger didn't have enough time to cover this part but nuclear energy production technology has progressed by both greatly minimizing the risks and the waste. That is another domain where the Chinese are quietly taking the lead.
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
The Münstergasse and the Münster last Thursday evening.
Only a tiny few will use a car in the old town of Bern but all love being pedestrians in it. The Münster is now again almost free from scaffolding which is to be appreciated.

A few meters from here I had attended to a public presentation from the University of Bern regarding alpine paleo ecology. How to read earth's recent history (12K) from the sediments found at the bottom of an alpine lake. It was as fascinating as the street it took place in, but not in visual terms.,
#Switzerland, #Bern
5 Photos - View album
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Social Assistant
Once artificial intelligence will be able to generate the kind of hilarious situation and dialogue such as what we get here, the world is bound to be very different than today. Some might probably speak from frightening but personally I can't wait to have a little chat with such an hypothetical assistant.

Great job and in a very short time by Darren Miller & Tamara Yajia.
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Learning to See in the Dark
About 30 years ago I had a professor who loved the opportunities his teaching function gave him to investigate into the very forefront of computer science and that was when I first heard of neural networks.

It all sounded extremely far fetched and I couldn't see what good would come out of that. The guy was more interested in the topics than if his students would profit from this know-how, these were engineering studies and not academia.

What a long way we've come since then! ➊

Nowadays we have countless impressive examples of real world applications and the last one I found to be pretty stunning, visually speaking, is what these guys showed up with ➋. Most were probably not even born 30 years ago :-).

It is pretty sure that one of my future cameras, possibly one integrated in a smartphone, will have this technology built in. Since we recently got a couple of them already boasting a.i. capabilities I wonder if software updates are already in the work for that purpose. We'll soon see...
❝Imaging in low light is challenging due to low photon count and low SNR. Short-exposure images suffer from noise, while long exposure can lead to blurry images and is often impractical.

A variety of denoising, deblurring, and enhancement techniques have been proposed, but their effectiveness is limited in extreme conditions, such as video-rate imaging at night. To support the development of learning-based pipelines for low-light image processing, we introduce a dataset of raw short-exposure night-time images, with corresponding long-exposure reference images.

Using the presented dataset, we develop a pipeline for processing low-light images, based on end-to-end training of a fully-convolutional network. The network operates directly on raw sensor data and replaces much of the traditional image processing pipeline, which tends to perform poorly on such data. We report promising results on the new dataset, analyze factors that affect performance, and highlight opportunities for future work.

Noise is present in any imaging system, but it makes imaging particularly challenging in low light. High ISO can be used to increase brightness, but it also amplifies noise. Postprocessing, such as scaling or histogram stretching, can be applied, but this does not resolve the low signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) due to low photon counts. There are physical means to increase SNR in low light, including opening the aperture, extending exposure time, and using flash. But each of these has its own characteristic drawbacks. For example, increasing exposure time can introduce blur due to camera shake or object motion.

The challenge of fast imaging in low light is wellknown in the computational photography community, but remains open. Researchers have proposed techniques for denoising, deblurring, and enhancement of low-light images. These techniques generally assume thatimages are captured in somewhat dim environments with moderate levels of noise. In contrast, we are interested in extreme low-light imaging with severely limited illumination (e.g., moonlight) and short exposure (ideally at video rate). In this regime, the traditional camera processing pipeline breaks down and the image has to be reconstructed from the raw sensor data.

We propose a new image processing pipeline that addresses the challenges of extreme low-light photography via a data-driven approach. Specifically, we train deep neural networks to learn the image processing pipeline for lowlight raw data, including color transformations, demosaicing, noise reduction, and image enhancement. The pipeline is trained end-to-end to avoid the noise amplification and error accumulation that characterize traditional camera processing pipelines in this regime.

Most existing methods for processing low-light images were evaluated on synthetic data or on real low-light images without ground truth. To the best of our knowledge, there is no public dataset for training and testing techniques for processing fast low-light images with diverse real-world data and ground truth. Therefore, we have collected a new dataset of raw images captured with fast exposure in lowlight conditions. Each low-light image has a corresponding long-exposure high-quality reference image. We demonstrate promising results on the new dataset: low-light images are amplified by up to 300 times with successful noise reduction and correct color transformation. We systematically analyze key elements of the pipeline and discuss directions for future research.❞
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
❝You know, at a certain point, sticking a gun in my face kind of loses its specialness. Laws of diminishing returns and all that. If you want me to take you seriously, at some point you're going to have to pull that trigger.❞
Here is another series we got from the long tail of modern entertainment. One where the writers, and the actors, must have had a blast moving along those episodes. If you consider all the previous posts I made in that collection, this is something completely different, far-fetched (sometimes out of reach), full of black humor and sarcasms.
"Critics Consensus: Happy! certainly isn't for everyone, but its appealingly oddball concept and strong performances from Chris Meloni and Patton Oswalt make for a gritty, dark comedy with definite -- albeit unusual -- appeal."
Add a comment...
Wait while more posts are being loaded