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Koen De Paus
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"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." -George Bernard Shaw
"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." -George Bernard Shaw

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Denis Peterson breaks reality to bring you back to it

It might be hard to believe that the photos below are in fact paintings but they are. Denis Peterson was one of the first Photorealists to emerge in New York. He is widely acknowledged as the pioneer and primary architect of Hyperrealism, which was founded on the aesthetic principles of Photorealism. Peterson distinguished hyperrealism from photorealism by making meticulous changes to a work's depth of field, color, and composition in order to emphasize a socially conscious message about contemporary culture and politics.

Originally, his floor-to-ceiling sized paintings centered around a single figure, with his monochromatic subjects characteristically cropped to appear as enlarged black and white photographs. Later, he developed a diverse number of original painting series, such as multiple phone booths in New York City. Although not a professional photographer, he has relied on his own camera shots to maintain a consistency of composition and subject matter as reliable reference studies. Several years ago, Denis utilized photorealism as a visual medium through which to portray the unthinkable: genocides. As with his controversial painting series on homelessness, his work centered on the indefatigable human spirit rather than on political and economic crucibles. 

"The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible." Arthur C. Clarke

#ArtAndDesign  | #Art  | #Painting  
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Denis Peterson
29 Photos - View album

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Welcome to a new reality

HTC has just announced the Vive, a virtual reality headset developed in collaboration with Valve. It will be available to consumers later this year, with a developer edition coming out this spring. The company has promised to have a significant presence at the Game Developers Conference next week, where devs will have a chance to play with Valve's VR technology.

The Vive Developer Edition uses two 1200 x 1080 displays that refresh at 90 frames per second, "eliminating jitter" and achieving "photorealistic imagery," according to HTC. The displays are said to envelope your entire field of vision with 360-degree views. The company says in a press release that it's the first device to offer a "full room-scale" experience, "letting you get up, walk around and explore your virtual space, inspect objects from every angle and truly interact with your surroundings."

The device uses a gyrosensor, accelerometer, and laser position sensor to track your head's movements as precisely as one-tenth of a degree. Most surprisingly, there will be something called the Steam VR base station, which will let you walk around the virtual space instead of using a controller. A pair of the base stations can "track your physical location ... in spaces up to 15 feet by 15 feet."

http://www.theverge.com/2015/3/1/8127445/htc-vive-valve-vr-headset

http://www.htcvr.com/

Of course we don't yet know the precise specs that Oculus' consumer headset will launch with. The specs of this headset are leaps beyond those of their current crescent bay prototype. Considering we still don't have a firm idea of when the rift will launch, it's beginning to look like Oculus might have spent just a bit too much time perfecting their HMD. Unless they've got something in the works that blows this out of the water, their drive for perfection might just have lose them the race to market. Either way, Google, Sony, LG, Apple, ... are all working on VR headsets as well so this space was bound to get increasingly hot... We as consumers will no doubt benefit from this heated competition.

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Peter Paul Rubens fleshed out the body of classical myths

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), was a Flemish Baroque painter. A proponent of an extravagant Baroque style that emphasized movement, colour, and sensuality. Rubens is well known for his Counter-Reformation altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and history paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects. In addition to running a large studio in Antwerp that produced paintings popular with nobility and art collectors throughout Europe, Rubens was a classically educated humanist scholar and diplomat who was knighted by both Philip IV, King of Spain, and Charles I, King of England.

His father, a Calvinist, and mother fled Antwerp for Cologne in 1568, after increased religious turmoil and persecution of Protestants during the rule of the Spanish Netherlands by the Duke of Alba.
Jan Rubens became the legal advisor (and lover) of Anna of Saxony, the second wife of William I of Orange, and settled at her court in Siegen in 1570, fathering her daughter Christine. Following Jan Rubens' imprisonment for the affair, Peter Paul Rubens was born in 1577. The family returned to Cologne the next year. In 1589, two years after his father's death, Rubens moved with his mother Maria Pypelincks to Antwerp, where he was raised as a Catholic.

In Antwerp, Rubens received a humanist education, studying Latin and classical literature. By fourteen he began his artistic apprenticeship with Tobias Verhaeght. Subsequently, he studied under two of the city's leading painters of the time, the late Mannerist artists Adam van Noort and Otto van Veen. Much of his earliest training involved copying earlier artists' works, such as woodcuts by Hans Holbein the Younger and Marcantonio Raimondi's engravings after Raphael. Rubens completed his education in 1598, at which time he entered the Guild of St. Luke as an independent master.

In 1600, Rubens travelled to Italy. He stopped first in Venice, where he saw paintings by Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto, before settling in Mantua at the court of Duke Vincenzo I Gonzaga. The coloring and compositions of Veronese and Tintoretto had an immediate effect on Rubens's painting, and his later, mature style was profoundly influenced by Titian. With financial support from the Duke, Rubens travelled to Rome by way of Florence in 1601. There, he studied classical Greek and Roman art and copied works of the Italian masters. The Hellenistic sculpture Laocoön and his Sons was especially influential on him, as was the art of Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci. He was also influenced by the recent, highly naturalistic paintings by Caravaggio.

Rubens travelled to Spain on a diplomatic mission in 1603, delivering gifts from the Gonzagas to the court of Philip III. While there, he studied the extensive collections of Raphael and Titian that had been collected by Philip II. This journey marked the first of many during his career that combined art and diplomacy.

Upon hearing of his mother's illness in 1608, Rubens planned his departure from Italy for Antwerp. However, she died before he arrived home. His return coincided with a period of renewed prosperity in the city with the signing of the Treaty of Antwerp in April 1609, which initiated the Twelve Years' Truce. In September 1609 Rubens was appointed as court painter by Albert VII, Archduke of Austria and Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain, sovereigns of the Low Countries.

He received special permission to base his studio in Antwerp instead of at their court in Brussels, and to also work for other clients. He remained close to the Archduchess Isabella until her death in 1633, and was called upon not only as a painter but also as an ambassador and diplomat. Rubens further cemented his ties to the city when, on 3 October 1609, he married Isabella Brant, the daughter of a leading Antwerp citizen and humanist, Jan Brant.

In 1610, Rubens moved into a new house and studio that he designed. Now the Rubenshuis Museum, the Italian-influenced villa in the centre of Antwerp accommodated his workshop, where he and his apprentices made most of the paintings, and his personal art collection and library, both among the most extensive in Antwerp. During this time he built up a studio with numerous students and assistants. His most famous pupil was the young Anthony van Dyck.

Rubens used the production of prints and book title-pages, especially for his friend Balthasar Moretus, the owner of the large Plantin-Moretus publishing house, to extend his fame throughout Europe during this part of his career. 

In 1621, the Queen Mother of France, Marie de' Medici, commissioned Rubens to paint two large allegorical cycles celebrating her life and the life of her late husband, Henry IV, for the Luxembourg Palace in Paris. although he began work on the second series it was never completed. Marie was exiled from France in 1630 by her son, Louis XIII, and died in 1642 in the same house in Cologne where Rubens had lived as a child.

After the end of the Twelve Years' Truce in 1621, the Spanish Habsburg rulers entrusted Rubens with a number of diplomatic missions. While in Paris in 1622 to discuss the Marie de' Medici cycle, Rubens engaged in clandestine information gathering activities, which at the time was an important task of diplomats. Between 1627 and 1630, Rubens' diplomatic career was particularly active, and he moved between the courts of Spain and England in an attempt to bring peace between the Spanish Netherlands and the United Provinces. He also made several trips to the northern Netherlands as both an artist and a diplomat.

At the courts he sometimes encountered the attitude that courtiers should not use their hands in any art or trade, but he was also received as a gentleman by many. Rubens was raised by Philip IV of Spain to the nobility in 1624 and knighted by Charles I of England in 1630. Philips IV confirmed Rubens' status as a knight a few months later. Rubens was awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree from Cambridge University in 1629.

Rubens's last decade was spent in and around Antwerp. Major works for foreign patrons still occupied him but he also explored more personal artistic directions. In 1630, four years after the death of his first wife Isabella, the 53-year-old painter married his first wife's niece, the 16-year-old Hélène Fourment. Hélène inspired the voluptuous figures in many of his paintings from the 1630s.

Rubens died from heart failure, which was a result of his chronic gout on 30 May 1640. He was interred in Saint Jacob's church, Antwerp. The artist had eight children, three with Isabella and five with Hélène; his youngest child was born eight months after his death.

#ArtAndDesign  | #Art  | #Painting  
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Peter Paul Rubens
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Still waters run deep

The below clip is a trailer of sorts for an upcoming non-verbal film titled Prograve by Italian filmmaker and documentarist Sandro Bocci. The feature is billed as (translated from Italian) “an experimental film orbiting scientific and philosophical reflections on time and space, and that through various shooting techniques, fields of magnification, and an exciting soundtrack, weaves a web between science and magic.” The section shown here depicts beautiful macro timelapses of coral, sponges and other aquatic wildlife filmed under ultraviolet light.

It looks to be a film in the style of those like Koyaanisqatsi and Baraka. Definitely worth keeping an eye on.

via http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2015/02/prograve-aquatic-wildlife/

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David Černý - revolting?
1. rise in rebellion.
2. cause to feel disgust. 

Born in 1967 in Prague, Černý learned his trade from 1988 to 1996 at the Academy of Applied Arts in the country’s capital. He spent several years abroad, studying in Boswil during 1991 after receiving a grant from the Swiss government. He lived in New York City from 1994 to 1996 where he first enrolled at P.S.I  Artists Residence New York and later took part in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program.

Lots of his work can be seen in many locations throughout Prague. His output tends to be somewhat controversial and often shocks those who unexpectedly bump into it while strolling through Prague's late medieval alleys. He gained notoriety in 1991 by painting a Soviet tank pink, to serve as a war memorial in central Prague. As the Monument to Soviet tank crews was still a national cultural monument at that time, his act of civil disobedience was considered "hooliganism" and he was briefly arrested. 

When asked why he created a fountain sculpture featuring male figures that urinate into an enclosure shaped like the Czech Republic he stated that “I just enjoy pissing people off”. I am not sure if his statements should be taken at face value. I often get the feeling that he's just putting on a show, wanting to create the impression that he's punk, that he doesn't think before he does, that he's all about fucking with authority, consequences be damned... Although those elements sure play a large part in many of his creations I also get the feeling there is a very different side to Černý. The side that made works like Metalmorphosis and Speed seems to be much less concerned with pissing people off and more with depicting aspects of the human condition we take for granted but perhaps should not.

Apologies for the sometimes poor quality of the included pictures. I've searched far and wide for decent ones but he does not seem to have a huge online presence. In fact, some of his best stuff is missing from this album. His art travels the world though so if it ever shows up in an exhibit near you, make sure to go take a look! :)

http://www.davidcerny.cz/

Kafka - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nm15Qb4NFwg

London Booster - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGbRlcPdwPU

Soldiers - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10R0kHWiZH0

2 men pissing -  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pf69QlFy3oY

Cerny sculpture work - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uojg9gZvpJc

#ArtAndDesign  | #Art  | #Sculpture  
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David Černý
24 Photos - View album

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The odd jobs worked on the periphery of scientific endeavor

http://www.nature.com/news/not-your-average-technician-1.16785

From Snake Milkers to Glass Blowers, Squid collectors and data mechanics, scientists often depend on peculiar people doing peculiar jobs. Nature talks to some of them to highlight their careers and to find out what drives them.

Beneath the polished exterior of published academic papers and university press releases lies another world. And it is a world that can be glimpsed, more often than not, in the brief acknowledgements of a PhD thesis.

Alongside the praise (through gritted teeth?) for a (largely absent?) academic supervisor and the earnest gratitude showered on parents, spouses and pets for pastoral support, there is usually a list of thanks for Angela, Juan, Denise, Samuel, Ernie and a directory of other essential first-named extras. This cast of thousands is made up of the support staff and lab technicians who work behind the scenes to hold up the entire research enterprise, and who rarely get the attention they deserve.

"Harrison never believed that he could have a career involving snakes, so he became a police officer instead. But he continued extracting venom in a home laboratory equipped with a centrifuge to purify venom and a lyophilizer for freeze-drying it. At 26, after getting mown down by a stolen car while trying to make an arrest, Harrison's heart stopped. He decided that policing was too dangerous, so he retired early and dedicated his career to snakes. Since then, snake bites have stopped Harrison's heart three more times." 

"He will do this [milk snakes] on between 600 and 1,000 snakes per week. If everything goes as it should, he says, then milking snakes is methodical — “boring”, even. In fact, according to data that a physician friend gathered on him, Harrison's heart beats faster when he is driving to the supermarket than when he is milking."


"Computational biologists the world over rely on Dawn Johnson even though most do not know her. That's because Johnson is a computer-hardware engineer at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) in Hinxton, UK. The servers that she keeps running hold one of the world's most extensive collections of molecular databases — from an archive of DNA-sequencing data to the leading repository of protein structures. The machines that she and her colleagues maintain hold a whopping 60,000 terabytes of data, and people at around half a million unique Internet addresses use these data each month."

Johnson and her colleagues install, maintain and repair the machines that feed the centres' seemingly insatiable hunger for data storage — which is projected to reach 2 exabytes (2 × 1018 bytes, or 2 million terabytes) by 2016.

She remembers a celebration to mark the completion of a draft human-genome sequence. “I saw that happening and thought I would like to be a part of that,” says Johnson. A hardware-engineer job opened up five years ago, and she jumped at the opportunity. “It's great when I drive into work and hear people on the radio talking about the latest studies,” she says. “I'm very proud and lucky to be part of it.”


 “They really become not just suppliers, but almost collaborators in a sense.” says Steven Aird at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology

http://www.nature.com/news/not-your-average-technician-1.16785

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Henryk Siemiradzki - A forgotten master of academicism

Siemiradzki was a Polish 19th-century painter known for his depictions of scenes from the ancient Graeco-Roman world and the New Testament. He was born in 1843 to a Polish noble family near the city of Kharkiv in the Russian Empire (now Ukraine).

He entered the Physics-Mathematics School of Kharkov University and studied natural sciences there with great interest, but also continued to paint. After graduating from the University with the degree of Kandidat he abandoned his scientific career and moved to Saint Petersburg to study painting at the Imperial Academy of Arts in the years 1864–1870. Upon his graduation he was awarded a gold medal. In 1870–1871 he studied under Karl von Piloty in Munich on a grant from the Academy. In 1872 he moved to Rome and with time, built a studio there on Via Gaeta.

At one point his paintings were loved through most of the western world. He even received the French National Order of the Legion of Honour in 1878, but today he has been largely forgotten. Most likely because all his work is on display in the national museums of Poland, Russia and Ukraine which draw relatively small crowds when compared to museums like the Louvre or the Metropolitan.

Siemiradzki died in 1902 and was buried originally in Warsaw, but later his remains were moved to the national Pantheon on Skałka in Kraków.

#ArtAndDesign  | #Art  | #Painting  
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Henryk Siemiradzki
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Microbes given a new lease on shelf life

http://www.nature.com/news/gm-microbes-created-that-can-t-escape-the-lab-1.16758

Critics of genetic engineering have long worried about the risk of modified organisms escaping into the environment. A biological-containment strategy described this week in Nature has the potential to put some of those fears to rest and to pave the way for greater use of engineered organisms in areas such as agriculture, medicine and environmental clean-up.

The new approach gives GMOs an Achilles heel. The researchers who have produced the organism have built in vital dependency on an artificial nutrient. If the nutrient is withdrawn, or the organism spreads to where it is no longer available, then the organism cannot survive.

The research marks an elegant step forward for the growing field of synthetic biology. In the first paper, Farren Isaacs and his colleagues at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, describe how they have produced various GMOs whose growth is restricted by the expression of multiple essential genes that depend on synthetic amino acids (A. J. Rovner et al. Nature http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature14095; 2015). In the second, separate study, George Church at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, and his colleagues redesigned essential enzymes in a GMO to make it metabolically dependent on synthetic amino acids (D. J. Mandell et al. Nature http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature14121; 2015). The modifications are made throughout the genome to make it harder for the altered sequences to be ejected.

The new technique originated in the laboratory of George Church. Two years ago, Church and his team (which included Isaacs) reported the synthesis of a strain of Escherichia coli that had a reprogrammed genetic code3. Instead of recognizing a particular DNA triplet known as the amber stop codon as an order to terminate protein synthesis, the recoded bacterium read the same instruction as a directive to incorporate a new kind of amino acid into its proteins.

Church and Isaacs have independently made this engineered microbe reliant on unnatural amino acids. The Isaacs team used genomic sequencing to identify sites in essential bacterial proteins where the microbes could incorporate synthetic amino acids without affecting overall function, whereas Church’s group started with the protein structures and added elements to help integrate and accommodate the artificial amino acids. “This is really the culmination of a decade of work,” says Church.

These organisms are also more resistant to viruses than their natural counter­parts because of the mismatch between the genetic code of the virus and that of its host3. Looking ahead, Church and his team are working to co-opt seven different codons, instead of just one. 

The research in both papers is with bacteria, but there seems no reason why the techniques they describe could not be used to engineer more-complex, multicellular organisms — including crops — in the same way.

So what is the downside? Much of the controversy over genetic modification relates to early, clumsy, attempts by big business to commercialize crops, and to gain control over where, when and how they were grown to maximize profit. A crop that needs constant nourishment with a bespoke foodstuff — unavailable elsewhere and with manufacture protected under probable patents — could be presented as a way of tying vulnerable farmers still closer to largely unloved seed companies.

http://www.nature.com/news/gm-microbes-created-that-can-t-escape-the-lab-1.16758

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Patricia Piccinini's monstrously beautiful works

Piccinini was born in 1965 In Sierra Leone but moved to Australia in 1972 with her family. She initially studied economic history before enrolling at art school in Melbourne. Since 1991 her work has been exhibited around the world.

Piccinini works in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, video, sound, installation and digital prints. She has an ambivalent attitude towards technology but enjoys exploring what she calls... the often specious distinctions between the artificial and the natural. She is keenly interested in how our changing understanding of these concepts will effect the further evolution of our society. Specific works have addressed concerns about biotechnology, such as gene therapy and ongoing research to map the human genome. She is also fascinated by the mechanisms of consumer culture. 

Probably one of my all-time favorite artists, each and every one of her works invites and rewards closer study. What at first sight appears shocking often reveals something surprisingly tender. Most of her work is very layered and can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. 

http://www.patriciapiccinini.net/

#ArtAndDesign  | #Art  | #Sculputure     
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Patricia Piccinini
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How to map a billion frames of mind?

Shortened edit of an article worth reading in full;
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/magazine/sebastian-seungs-quest-to-map-the-human-brain.html
 
In 2005, Sebastian Seung suffered the academic equivalent of an existential crisis. Seung was growing increasingly depressed. He and his colleagues spent their days arguing over how the brain might function, but science offered no way to scan it for the answers. “It seemed like decades could go by,” Seung told me recently, “and you would never know one way or another whether any of the theories were correct.”

That November, Seung sought the advice of David Tank, a mentor he met at Bell Laboratories. Over lunch Tank administered a radical cure. He informed Seung of a former colleague in Heidelberg, Germany, Winfried Denk, who had just built a device that imaged brain tissue with enough resolution to make out the connections between individual neurons... Less than a month later Seung arrived at the Max Planck institute where Denk introduced him to the high-resolution brain-imager he had built.

Now, eight years later, Seung has become the leading proponent of a plan to create a wiring diagram of all 100 trillion connections between the neurons of the human brain, an unimaginably vast and complex network known as the connectome. 

If science were to gain the power to record and store connectomes, then it would be natural to speculate, as Seung and others have, that technology might some day enable a recording to play again, thereby reanimating a human consciousness. The mapping of connectomes, its most zealous proponents believe, would confer nothing less than immortality.

For now he hopes to prove that he can find a specific memory in the brain of a mouse and show how neural connections sustain it.

What makes the connectome’s relationship to our identity so difficult to understand, Seung told me, is that we associate our “self” with motion. We walk. We sing. We experience thoughts and feelings that bloom into consciousness and then fade. “Psyche” is derived from the Greek “to blow,” evoking the vital breath that defines life. “It seems like a fallacy to talk about our self as some wiring diagram that doesn’t change very quickly,” Seung said. “The connectome is just meat, and people rebel at that.”

When Seung started, he estimated that it would take a single tracer roughly a million years to finish a cubic millimeter of human cortex — meaning that tracing an entire human brain would consume roughly one trillion years of labor. He would need a little help.

In 2012, Seung started EyeWire, an online game that challenges the public to trace neuronal wiring — now using computers, not pens — in the retina of a mouse’s eye. Seung’s artificial-­intelligence algorithms process the raw images, then players earn points as they mark, paint-by-numbers style, the branches of a neuron through a three-dimensional cube.

Ultimately, Seung still hopes that artificial intelligence will be able to handle the entire job. But in the meantime, he is working to recruit more help. In August, South Korea’s largest telecom company announced a partnership with EyeWire, running nationwide ads to bring in more players. In the next few years, Seung hopes to go bigger by enticing a company to turn EyeWire into a game with characters and a story line that people play purely for fun. “Think of what we could do,” Seung said, “if we could capture even a small fraction of the mental effort that goes into Angry Birds.”

https://eyewire.org/signup

To explain what he finds so compelling about the substance of the brain, Seung points to stories of near death. Like the one of a young doctor named Anna Bagenholm who miraculously recovered from being clinically dead for more than 2 hours. Even after the cold arrested Bagenholm’s heart and hushed her crackling neuronal net to a whisper, her connectome endured.


At the Janelia Research Campus you can find MERLIN, a pair of hulking beige devices, a next generation brain-imaging system. The system combines slicing and imaging: An electron microscope takes a picture of the brain sample from above, then a beam of ions moves across the top, vaporizing material and revealing the next layer of brain tissue for the microscope. It is, however, a “temperature-­sensitive beast,” said Shan Xu, a scientist at Janelia. If the room warms by even a fraction of a degree, the metal can expand imperceptibly, skewing the ion beam, wrecking the sample and forcing the team to start over. Xu was once within days of completing a monthslong run when a July heat wave caused the air-­conditioning to hiccup. All the work was lost. Xu has since designed elaborate fail-safes, including a system that can (and does) wake him up in the middle of the night; Janelia has also invested several hundred thousand dollars in backup climate control. “We’ve learned more about utilities than you would ever want to know,” Hess said.

Here at Janelia, connectome science will face its most demanding test. Gerry Rubin, Janelia’s director, said his team hopes to have a complete catalog of high-resolution images­ of the fruit-fly brain in a year or two and a completely traced wiring diagram within a decade. Rubin is a veteran of genome mapping and saw how technological advances enabled a project that critics originally derided as prohibitively difficult and expensive. He is betting that the story of the connectome will follow the same arc. Ken Hayworth, a scientist in Hess’s lab, is developing a way to cleanly cut larger brains into cubes; he calls it “the hot knife.” In other labs, Jeff Lichtman of Harvard and Clay Reid of the Allen Institute for Brain Science are building their own ultrafast imaging systems. Denk, Seung’s longtime collaborator in Heidelberg, is working on a new device to slice and image a mouse’s entire brain, a volume orders of magnitude larger than what has been tried to date. 

As connectomics has gained traction, though, there are the first hints that it may be of interest to more than just monkish academics. In September, at a Brain Initiative conference in the Eisenhower building on the White House grounds, it was announced that Google had started its own connectome project. Tom Dean, a Google research scientist and the former chairman of the Brown University computer-science department, told me he has been assembling a team to improve the artificial intelligence: four engineers in Mountain View, Calif., and a group based in Seattle. To begin, Dean said, Google will be working most closely with the Allen Institute, which is trying to understand how the brain of a mouse processes images from the eye. Yet Dean said they also want to serve as a clearinghouse for Seung and others, applying different variations of artificial intelligence to brain imagery coming out of different labs, to see what works best.

It’s possible now to see a virtuous cycle that could build the connectome. The artificial intelligence used at Google, and in EyeWire, is known as deep learning because it takes its central principles from the way networks of neurons function. This could, in the coming decades, lead to more insights about neural networks, improving deep learning itself — the premise of a new project funded by Iarpa, a blue-sky research arm of the American intelligence community, and perhaps one reason for Google’s interest. Better deep learning, in turn, could be used to accelerate the mapping and understanding of the brain, and so on.

Eve Marder, a prominent neuroscientist at Brandeis University, cautions against expecting too much from the connectome. She studies neurons that control the stomachs of crabs and lobsters. In these relatively simple systems of 30 or so neurons, she has shown that neuromodulators — signaling chemicals that wash across regions of the brain, omitted from Seung’s static map — can fundamentally change how a circuit functions. If this is true for the stomach of a crustacean, the mind reels to consider what may be happening in the brain of a mouse, not to mention a human.

“If we want to understand the brain,” Marder says, “the connectome is absolutely necessary and completely insufficient.”

Seung agrees but has never seen that as an argument for abandoning the enterprise. Science progresses when its practitioners find answers — this is the way of glory — but also when they make something that future generations rely on, even if they take it for granted. That, for Seung, would be more than good enough. “Necessary,” he said, “is still a pretty strong word, right?”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/magazine/sebastian-seungs-quest-to-map-the-human-brain.html

https://eyewire.org/signup

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