My first moving illustration

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Here are a few observations I’ve made following my first attempt with a moving illustration. The original still illustration was drawn about four years ago. I have chosen to work with this one as the inherent movement of the image is simply horizontal, and I am only a beginner!
I am building the airplane in mid-air… I feel like I’m operating in a discipline that is in the process of defining itself.
The screen is ‘asking’ for the image to move, yet I think restraint is the key.
This discipline relays heavily on its illustrative origins, while using a hint of animation to enhance it.
I definitely do not intend to become an animator as I feel my skill is in ceasing the moment and not stretching to it.
As a narrating illustrator, when I first drew the still Tax shark, I invested a great deal of thought in choosing the very moment that would ‘freeze’ best in order to tell the story. While introduce the passage of time on to the image, it is as if I ‘thawed’ it and released it from my proverbial leash.
I think the movement of the animated trawler and the fish on their projected courses, is better contrasted by the animated crossing of the shark than it does in the still illustration.
Besides, after having looked at it again, I’ve realized there’s another added value to it: it is more entertaining…
Tax sharks

Tax sharks, the original still illustration

Its uphill/downhill from here – The movie



For Gianni’s 50th birthday I’ve created a painted plywood kinetic illustration, dealing with the ambiguous tricky meaning of the phrase:’Its uphill/downhill from here’.
The phrase was produced as a birthday well wishing and left the person addressed puzzled and perplexed. The idea is, that it may be an uphill struggle when we are young and fit, but once we’ve reached the summit, “…in mezzo del cammin della nostra vita“(Dante) we can enjoy the descent, no longer having to struggle uphill, enjoying the magic of mother gravity.

Visiting the Roman Colosseum

Visiting the Roman Colosseum

Visiting the Roman Colosseum

A week agoI had the opportunity to visit the colosseum in Rome through Arttzi’s writing in his weekly column.  Here is a mental snapshot from an event I’ve managed to capture during my mental visit there.

(No real Gladiators were hurt in this exercise, the Vespas on the other hand, were flattened in Photoshop)

Are Paleo Diets More Natural Than GMOs?

Originally posted on My Window - Izhar Cohen:

What do we mean by “natural”?

What do we mean by “natural”? What do we mean by “natural”?

In 1980 I subjected myself to a weeklong cleansing diet of water, cayenne pepper, lemon and honey, topped off with a 150-mile bicycle ride that left me puking on the side of the road. Neither this nor any of the other fad diets I tried in my bike-racing days to enhance performance seemed to work as well as the “see-food” diet one of my fellow cyclists was on: you see it, you eat it.

In its essence, the see-food diet was the first so-called Paleo diet, not today’s popular fad, premised on the false idea that there is a single set of natural foods—and a correct ratio of them—that our Paleolithic ancestors ate. Anthropologists have documented a wide variety of foods consumed by…

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Are Paleo Diets More Natural Than GMOs?

What do we mean by “natural”?
What do we mean by “natural”?

What do we mean by “natural”?

In 1980 I subjected myself to a weeklong cleansing diet of water, cayenne pepper, lemon and honey, topped off with a 150-mile bicycle ride that left me puking on the side of the road. Neither this nor any of the other fad diets I tried in my bike-racing days to enhance performance seemed to work as well as the “see-food” diet one of my fellow cyclists was on: you see it, you eat it.

In its essence, the see-food diet was the first so-called Paleo diet, not today’s popular fad, premised on the false idea that there is a single set of natural foods—and a correct ratio of them—that our Paleolithic ancestors ate. Anthropologists have documented a wide variety of foods consumed by traditional peoples, from the Masai diet of mostly meat, milk and blood to New Guineans’ fare of yams, taro and sago. As for food ratios, according to a 2000 study entitled “Plant-Animal Subsistence Ratios and Macronutrient Energy Estimations in Worldwide Hunter-Gatherer Diets,” published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the range for carbohydrates is 22 to 40 percent, for protein 19 to 56 percent, and for fat 23 to 58 percent.

And what constitutes “natural” anyway? Humans have been genetically modifying foods through selective breeding for more than 10,000 years. Were it not for these original genetically modified organisms—and today’s more engineered GMOs designed for resistance to pathogens and herbicides and for better nutrient profiles—the planet could sustain only a tiny fraction of its current population. Golden rice, for example, was modified to enhance vitamin A levels, in part, to help Third World children with nutritional deficiencies that have caused millions to go blind. As for health and safety concerns, according to A Decade of EU-Funded GMO Research, a 2010 report published by the European Commission:

The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are notper se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.So why are so many people in a near moral panic over GMOs? One explanation may be found in University of California, Los Angeles, anthropologist Alan Fiske’s four-factor relational model theory of how people and objects interact: (1) communal sharing (equality among people); (2) authority ranking (between superiors and subordinates); (3) equality matching (one-to-one exchange); and (4) market pricing (from barter to money). Our Paleolithic ancestors lived in egalitarian bands in which food was mostly shared equally among members (communal sharing). As these bands and tribes coalesced into chiefdoms and states, unequal distribution of food and other resources became common (authority ranking) until the system shifted to market pricing.

Violations of these relations help to show how GMOs have come to be treated more like moral categories than biological entities. Roommates, for example, are expected to eat only their own food or to replace one another’s consumed items (equality matching), whereas spouses share without keeping tabs (communal sharing). If you invite friends to dinner, it would be disconcerting if they offered to pay for the meal, but if you dine at a restaurant, you are required to pay the bill and not summon the owner to your home for a comparable cuisine. All four relational models are grounded in our natural desire for fairness and reciprocity, and when there is a perceived violation, it creates a sense of injustice.

Given the importance of food for survival and flourishing, I suspect GMOs—especially in light of their association with large corporations such as Monsanto that operate on the market-pricing model—feel like an infringement of communal sharing and equality matching. Moreover, the elevation of “natural foods” to near-mythic status, coupled with the taboo many genetic-modification technologies are burdened with—remember when in vitro fertilization was considered unnatural?—makes GMOs feel like a desecration. It need not be so. GMOs are scientifically sound, nutritionally valuable and morally noble in helping humanity during a period of rising population. Until then, eat, drink and be merry.

The Difference between Science and Pseudoscience

The Electric Universe Acid Test

The Electric Universe Acid Test

Discerning science from pseudoscience, By Michael Shermer | Sep 15, 2015


Newton was wrong. Einstein was wrong. Black holes do not exist. The big bang never happened. Dark energy and dark matter are unsubstantiated conjectures. Stars are electrically charged plasma masses. Venus was once a comet. The massive Valles Marineris canyon on Mars was carved out in a few minutes by a giant electric arc sweeping across the Red Planet. The “thunderbolt” icons found in ancient art and petroglyphs are not the iconography of imagined gods but realistic representations of spectacular electrical activity in space.

These are just a few of the things I learned at the Electric Universe conference (EU2015) in June in Phoenix. The Electric Universe community is a loose confederation of people who, according to the host organization’s Web site (, believe that “a new way of seeing the physical universe is emerging. The new vantage point emphasizes the role of electricity in space and shows the negligible contribution of gravity in cosmic events.” This includes everything from comets, moons and planets to stars, galaxies and galactic clusters.

I was invited to speak on the difference between science and pseudoscience. The most common theme I gleaned from the conference is that one should be skeptical of all things mainstream: cosmology, physics, history, psychology and even government (I was told that World Trade Center Building 7 was brought down by controlled demolition on 9/11 and that “chemtrails”—the contrails in the sky trailing jets—are evidence of a government climate-engineering experiment).

The acid test of a scientific claim, I explained, is prediction and falsification. My friends at the nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory, for example, tell me they use both Newtonian mechanics and Einstein’s relativity theory in computing highly accurate spacecraft trajectories to the planets. If Newton and Einstein are wrong, I inquired of EU proponent Wallace Thornhill, can you generate spacecraft flight paths that are more accurate than those based on gravitational theory? No, he replied. GPS satellites in orbit around Earth are also dependent on relativity theory, so I asked the conference host David Talbott if EU theory offers anything like the practical applications that theoretical physics has given us. No. Then what does EU theory add? A deeper understanding of nature, I was told. Oh.

Conventional psychology was challenged by Gary Schwartz of the University of Arizona, who, in keeping with the electrical themes of the day, explained that the brain is like a television set and consciousness is like the signals coming into the brain. You need a brain to be conscious, but consciousness exists elsewhere. But TV studios generate and broadcast signals. Where, I inquired, is the consciousness equivalent to such production facilities? No answer.

The EU folks I met were unfailingly polite, unquestionably smart and steadfastly unwavering in their belief that they have made one of the most important discoveries in the history of science. Have they? Probably not. The problem was articulated in a comment Thornhill made when I asked for their peer-reviewed papers: “In an interdisciplinary science like the Electric Universe, you could say we have no peers, so peer review is not available.” Without peer review or the requisite training in each discipline, how are we to know the difference between mainstream and alternative theories, of which there are many?

In his book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe quotes Merry Prankster Ken Kesey: “You’re either on the bus or off the bus.” It’s not that EUers are wrong; they’re not even on the bus.


Did Humans Evolve to See Things as They Really Are?

One of the deepest problems in epistemology is how we know the nature of reality. Over the millennia philosophers have offered many theories, from solipsism (only one’s mind is known to exist) to the theory that natural selection shaped our senses to give us an accurate, or verdical, model of the world. Now a new theory by University of California, Irvine, cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman is garnering attention. (Google his scholarly papers and TED talk with more than 1.4 million views.) Grounded in evolutionary psychology, it is called the interface theory of perception (ITP) and argues that percepts act as a species-specific user interface that directs behavior toward survival and reproduction, not truth.
Hoffman’s computer analogy is that physical space is like the desktop and that objects in it are like desktop icons, which are produced by the graphical user interface (GUI). Our senses, he says, form a biological user interface—a gooey GUI—between our brain and the outside world, transducing physical stimuli such as photons of light into neural impulses processed by the visual cortex as things in the environment. GUIs are useful because you don’t need to know what is inside computers and brains. You just need to know how to interact with the interface well enough to accomplish your task. Adaptive function, not veridical perception, is what is important.

Hoffman’s holotype is the Australian jewel beetle Julodimorpha bakewelli. Females are large, shiny, brown and dimpled. So, too, are discarded beer bottles dubbed “stubbies,” and males will mount them until they die by heat, starvation or ants. The species was on the brink of extinction because its senses and brain were designed by natural selection not to perceive reality (it’s a beer bottle, you idiot!) but to mate with anything big, brown, shiny and dimply.

To test his theory, Hoffman ran thousands of evolutionary computer simulations in which digital organisms whose perceptual systems are tuned exclusively for truth are outcompeted by those tuned solely for fitness. Because natural selection depends only on expected fitness, evolution shaped our sensory systems toward fitter behavior, not truthful representation.

ITP is well worth serious consideration and testing, but I have my doubts. First, how could a more accurate perception of reality not be adaptive? Hoffman’s answer is that evolution gave us an interface to hide the underlying reality because, for example, you don’t need to know how neurons create images of snakes; you just need to jump out of the way of the snake icon. But how did the icon come to look like a snake in the first place? Natural selection. And why did some nonpoisonous snakes evolve to mimic poisonous species? Because predators avoid real poisonous snakes. Mimicry works only if there is an objective reality to mimic.

Hoffman has claimed that “a rock is an interface icon, not a constituent of objective reality.” But a real rock chipped into an arrow point and thrown at a four-legged meal works even if you don’t know physics and calculus. Is that not veridical perception with adaptive significance?

As for jewel beetles, stubbies are what ethologists call supernormal stimuli, which mimic objects that organisms evolved to respond to and elicit a stronger response in doing so, such as (for some people) silicone breast implants in women and testosterone-enhanced bodybuilding in men. Supernormal stimuli operate only because evolution designed us to respond to normal stimuli, which must be accurately portrayed by our senses to our brain to work.

Hoffman says that perception is species-specific and that we should take predators seriously but not literally. Yes, a dolphin’s icon for “shark” no doubt looks different than a human’s, but there really are sharks, and they really do have powerful tails on one end and a mouthful of teeth on the other end, and that is true no matter how your sensory system works.

Also, computer simulations are useful for modeling how evolution might have happened, but a real-world test of ITP would be to determine if most biological sensory interfaces create icons that resemble reality or distort it. I’m betting on reality. Data will tell.

Finally, why present this problem as an either-or choice between fitness and truth? Adaptations depend in large part on a relatively accurate model of reality. The fact that science progresses toward, say, eradicating diseases and landing spacecraft on Mars must mean that our perceptions of reality are growing ever closer to the truth, even if it is with a small “t.”