Day: May 24, 2014

NASA Has Released A Free eBook About Communicating With Aliens

Titled Archaeology, Anthropology and Interstellar Communication and edited by SETI Director of Interstellar Message Composition Douglas Vakoch, the document draws on “issues at the core of contemporary archaeology and anthropology” to prepare us “for contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, should that day ever come.” (io9)

R.I.P. Gerald M. Edelman

Nobel Laureate and ‘Neural Darwinist’ Dies at 84: His original recognition was for his work in immunology, but I came to know of him because

‘[f]rom the mid-1970s on, Dr. Edelman was largely concerned with the brain and the nature of consciousness — “how the brain gives rise to the mind,” as he put it. He rejected the prevalent notion that the best model for the brain was a computer.

Rather, he took a lesson from his earlier work in immunology. He had helped establish that antibodies work according to a process akin to Darwinian selection, and he now postulated a theory of the brain called neuronal group selection, which came to be known as “neural Darwinism.”

Within the dense thicket of nerve cells in the brain, known as neurons, are a vast array of neuronal groups. Dr. Edelman believed that when something happened in the world — something encountered by one of our senses — some neuronal groups responded and were strengthened by a series of biological processes. Those groups, he concluded, became more likely to respond to the same or a similar stimulus the next time, and thus did the brain learn from its own experience and shape itself over the course of a life.’ (NYTimes obituary).

The Sun Ra Centenary

‘Today is the centenary of a bandleader whose artistic legacy, within and beyond jazz, is as deep and as strong as that of Duke Ellington and Count Basie, a musician who took a name that bespeaks similarly grand ambitions and visions: Sun Ra. Ra was a crucial creator of what’s commonly called free jazz, and, unlike his swing-era predecessors, he found himself in the position of many modernists, both musical and otherwise: his work has eluded popularity. His influence and authority, even now, twenty-one years after his death, far outshine his name recognition, but his music remains among the essential experiences and representations of his times.

A musical prodigy in his home town of Birmingham, Alabama, Ra, who was born Herman Blount, had a firm footing in traditional jazz. He moved to Chicago in 1946 and worked as a pianist and arranger with the Fletcher Henderson band, but by that time he was already pursuing advanced musical and philosophical ideas. Fascinated with outer space, he changed his name—legally, to Le Son’y Ra—and worked out a literary vision of a quasi-scientific utopia based on a mythic past, which he ultimately realized in music.’ (New Yorker).