NASA sent an $850 million hammer to Mars and it could uncover clues to an outstanding mystery in our solar system

  • Insight Lander successfully touched down on Mars yesterday and it’s the largest drill NASA has ever sent to space. 
  • The $850 million drill is designed to study the interior structure of Mars, digging deeper than ever before. 
  • Watch the video above to find out how the Insight will uncover clues to one of the most outstanding mysteries in our solar system

Following is a transcript of the video. 

NASA’s about to break new ground like never before, by sending a giant drill to Mars. It’s the largest drill NASA has ever sent to space, and it will dig deeper into Mars than ever before. The mission? Uncover clues to one of the most outstanding mysteries in our solar system.

NASA’s $850 million InSight Lander is the first designed to study the interior structure of Mars. Until now, NASA’s landers mainly focused on exploring Mars’ surface for signs of potential life. They’ve touched down near volcanoes, valleys, and canyons. But InSight won’t be going anywhere like that, since InSight is not a rover and can’t move around. NASA has one shot to land it in the perfect spot, here! Elysium Planitia, sometimes referred to as the biggest parking lot on Mars. It’s one of the plainest spots NASA could find and the perfect place for InSight. For one, it’s close to the equator, guaranteeing the solar panels that power InSight’s instruments will work year-round for its nearly two-year mission. But most importantly, that smooth surface will make it easier for InSight’s drill to bore deep into the Martian soil.

The drill works like a motorized nail, hammering itself into the ground. Over the course of 40 days, the drill will reach 16 feet into the planet. That’s roughly the length of a car. For comparison, NASA’s Curiosity Rover only dug about half an inch deep. That’s the length of an aspirin pill. As InSight digs, it will occasionally shoot out bursts of heat. By calculating how quickly that heat warms the ground around it, InSight can measure the chemical makeup of the soil. But InSight’s drill pulls double duty. As it hammers away, it also sends vibrations through the ground, which are sensitive to different layers that might be hiding under the surface. For example, if Mars has underground lava flows, those vibrations will find them. But this only gives NASA clues to the shallower layers of Mars. To understand the deep inner core, InSight has another tool that will measure how much Mars wobbles on its axis. It works similar to an egg. If you spin an uncooked egg, the liquid yolk will slosh around making the egg wobble. But if the inside is cooked, there’s less wobble. Similarly, how much Mars wobbles can tell us whether its core is molten liquid or solid metal.

And all these clues can help scientists solve a bigger mystery of how rocky planets like Mars and Earth formed in the first place. By studying the interior of Mars, scientists can get a better grasp on how Mars has evolved over billions of years from a warm, wet world to the desolate landscape it is today. But there’s an even bigger objective on the horizon. Ultimately, the more we know about our own solar system, the better we get at searching for other planets beyond our solar system that may have the potential to harbor life.

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from SAI

You can now add VST support to VCV Rack, the virtual modular


VCV Rack is already a powerful, free modular platform that synth and modular fans will want. But a $30 add-on makes it more powerful when integrating with your current hardware and software – VST plug-in support.


It’s called Host, and for $30, it adds full support for VST2 instruments and effects, including the ability to route control, gate, audio, and MIDI to the appropriate places. This is a big deal, because it means you can integrate VST plug-ins with your virtual modular environment, for additional software instruments and effects. And it also means you can work with hardware more easily, because you can add in VST MIDI controller plug-ins. For instance, without our urging, someone just made a MIDI controller plug-in for our own MeeBlip hardware synth (currently not in stock, new hardware coming soon).

You already are able to integrate VCV’s virtual modular with hardware modular using audio and a compatible audio interface (one with DC coupling, like the MOTU range). Now you can also easily integrate outboard MIDI hardware, without having to manually select CC numbers and so on as previously.

Hell, you could go totally crazy and run Softube Modular inside VCV Rack. (Yo dawg, I heard you like modular, so I put a modular inside your modular so you can modulate the modular modular modules. Uh… kids, ask your parents who Xzibit was? Or what MTV was, even?)

What you need to know

Is this part of the free VCV Rack? No. Rack itself is free, but you have to buy “Host” as a US$30 add-on. Still, that means the modular environment and a whole bunch of amazing modules are totally free, so that thirty bucks is pretty easy to swallow!

What plug-ins will work? Plug-ins need to be 64-bit, they need to be VST 2.x (that’s most plugs, but not some recent VST3-only models), and you can run on Windows and Mac.

What can you route? Modular is no fun without patching! So here we go:

There’s Host for instruments – 1v/octave CV for controlling pitch, and gate input for controlling note events. (Forget MIDI and start thinking in voltages for a second here: VCV notes that “When the gate voltages rises, a MIDI note is triggered according to the current 1V/oct signal, rounded to the nearest note. This note is held until the gate falls to 0V.”)

Right now there’s only monophonic input. But you do also get easy access to note velocity and pitch wheel mappings.

Host-FX handles effects, pedals, and processors. Input stereo audio (or mono mapped to stereo), get stereo output. It doesn’t sound like multichannel plug-ins are supported yet.

Both Host and Host-FX let you choose plug-in parameters and map them to CV – just be careful mapping fast modulation signals, as plug-ins aren’t normally built for audio-rate modulation. (We’ll have to play with this and report back on some approaches.)

Will I need a fast computer? Not for MIDI integration, no. But I find the happiness level of VCV Rack – like a lot of recent synth and modular efforts – is directly proportional to people having fast CPUs. (The Windows platform has some affordable options there if Apple is too rich for your blood.)

What platforms? Obviously Mac and Windows; confirming how this works on Linux. (Also try optional support of JACK as a way of integrating support with other tools, which will make particular sense to Linux users!)

How to record your work

I actually was just pondering this. I’ve been using ReaRoute with Reaper to record VCV Rack on Windows, which for me was the most stable option. But it also makes sense to have a recorder inside the modular environment.

Our friend Chaircrusher recommends the NYSTHI modules for VCV Rack. It’s a huge collection but there’s both a 2-channel and 4-/8-track recorder in there, among many others – see pic:

NYSTHI modules for VCV Rack (free):

And have fun with the latest Rack updates.

Just remember when adding Host, plug-ins inside a host can cause… stability issues.

But it’s definitely a good excuse to crack open VCV Rack again! And also nice to have this when traveling… a modular studio in your hotel room, without needing a carry-on allowance. Or hide from your family over the holiday and make modular patches. Whatever.

Friendly advice – watch out for some wrinkles! Host is new to VCV Rack and this is still testing software, not release software. So expect some bugs (though a recent release did iron some issues out) – as with any new plug-in support in any software. Jim Aikin offers this tip:

“Since Host only plays one note at a time in any case, switch any VST presets to monophonic. This will usually have no musical effect, and you won’t encounter a subtle but troublesome issue with extra notes.”

It’ll be interesting to see how Rack eventually handles polyphony, but for now that’s a reasonable (possibly even interesting) limitation in some fairly unlimited software. Thanks for the tip, Jim!

from Create Digital Music

Luminar and Volvo use LiDAR to figure out pedestrian activity


Luminar / Volvo

Trying to figure out what a vehicle or pedestrian is about to do is tough enough for human drivers. But it’s something that the AI systems that end up in autonomous vehicles will have to figure out. Luminar and Volvo announced that they’re closer to figuring that out using high-resolution LiDAR.

Volvo announced back in June that it would be partnering with LiDAR company, Luminar. At the LA Auto Show, they announced that they would be using the high-resolution long-range sensor to figure out what the intentions of pedestrians.

Luminar’s high-resolution LiDAR is able to pinpoint the appendages of pedestrians. That data is used to create an articulated version (stick person) of the human — essentially their pose. That information can be used to determine what that person is about to do. For example: Are they walking or leaning into a crosswalk about to cross? Luminar and Volvo want to be able to determine that.


Luminar’s LiDAR has a range of 250 meters and perceives an incredible amount of detail. Working with an established automaker like Volvo (a company that’s built its reputation around safety) is a good fit for the two companies. The research will also focus on highway driving, but when it comes to creating an autonomous car the hardest environment is the city and the people that populate it.

from Engadget

A scientist claims to have made the world’s first gene-edited babies — Sharp Science



Professor He Jiankui claims that he successfully altered the DNA of twins in order to make them immune to HIV. The scientist from China made the announcement through a YouTube video earlier this week, and has subsequently sparked moral concerns.  Read more…

More about Mashable Video, Hiv, Crispr, Gene Editing, and Sharp Science

from Mashable!

The ‘slow food’ approach to AI — why every ingredient matters


GettyImages 534825979

By Kim Rees, head of data experience design at Capital One

CapOne_Kim Rees Headshot

As a practitioner of data visualization and the design of data systems, I appreciate how the choices we make about data collection, curation, extraction, and transformation impact the outcomes of our analyses and algorithms. The way we choose to frame a question can sometimes yield vastly different results. With these considerations — and their far-reaching implications — in mind, it becomes of critical importance that they are factored into algorithmic development to help set the vision for, and more accurately inform, ultimate intended outcomes.

As we look at the future of AI, machine learning (AI/ML), and autonomous systems — and their increasingly outsized role across businesses, public agencies, educational institutions, and society broadly — we should be aware that models are trained on our past behaviors, not on our values or ideals. For instance, say an airline creates an algorithm to upgrade passengers trained on past upgrades given by gate agents. We could view those agents’ choices as an expression of the company values. While the airline doesn’t have an explicit value of a certain type of customer, perhaps gate agents’ unconscious bias led to more affluent passengers getting this perk.

The “problem” with AI and machine learning.

The problem with AI/ML isn’t that it "gets it wrong" or that it’s built with malice, it’s that the technology has gotten really good. Most of the negative headlines we read about algorithmic outcomes or bias are referring to the fact that the machine actually got really darn good at its job. The machine being a machine, this means that it excelled at executing a very narrowly defined set of tasks based on prior actions and decisions (for example, a more robust set of training data on a certain set of passengers may yield preferential treatment for that group on future algorithmic outputs). The hard part about what I think of as “responsible AI,” is that it forces us to take a hard look at ourselves and recognize that our data is not neutral, because we aren’t neutral.

To me, this begs the question of whether we use the word "bias" too liberally. There are many ways algorithms can single out a particular group of people without having biased data. For instance, the mere quantity of data available for a specific person in any given use case may cause an algorithm to rank them higher than someone else. People with a more robust digital presence may enjoy favorable treatment simply because the machine knows more about them.

In order to ask the machine to make the right decision, we can’t just give it our data and have it learn from our actions. Just as a mom, I can’t let my kids learn from me in a vacuum. Because I’m not perfect, and I let my exasperation come out while driving in rush hour traffic. I need to course correct and tell them I made a poor choice and how it could have been handled better.

Humans are naturally flawed.

Presuming we won’t suddenly start making flawless and fair human decisions, so the models can learn our values properly, we need to start by admitting that our past human decisions are flawed. From there, we can perhaps go back to clarify what our values look like when we make certain decisions and start embedding the appropriate levers in the models and algorithms to ensure that those values are reflected throughout the entire system, outputs included.

To help us uncover our flawed past and understand the possible long-term ramifications if proliferated through AI, we need a diverse approach. A diversity of perspectives, whether the perspective stems from socioeconomic, racial, gender, physical ability, professional discipline, or other, is essential to exploring the potential futures created by this technology. And to avoid the possible negative outcomes.

A humanity-centered approach.

It will take a decidedly human-centered approach — or even humanity-centered approach — to ensure confidence in our machine-generated decisions. I fear many of our technological advances will be wasted if we don’t look at human well-being first. If we take a humanity-centered approach, we can start with a crisp view of an ideal outcome and align our algorithms and models to serve that end state. If we simply start with the data at hand, we’ll merely promulgate and intensify the inequalities we already have.

Taking a “slow food” approach with AI, and being mindful of every ingredient, source, and construction, will serve us far better than the “move fast and break things” approach. As machines make more and more of the decisions in the world, we simply can’t accept ill-designed, myopic systems bred in a vacuum of values.

This post is sponsored by Capital One. | Content written and provided by Capital One.

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from SAI

Spaceflight’s 64-satellite rideshare launch takes off tomorrow on a Falcon 9


Seattle-based launch coordinator Spaceflight is gearing up for its biggest operation yet: Smallsat Express, deploying a staggering 64 separate satellites from 34 different clients — all from a single Falcon 9 rocket. It’s quite an endeavor, but the company believes that this kind of jam-packed “space bus” is the best way to make satellite deployment cheap and easy — relatively speaking, anyway.

Spaceflight, started in 2011, has under its belt plenty of launches from a variety of providers. But demand has been so intense that after taking up a handful of slots on this or that rocket, they finally decided to take the next logical step: “Why not buy our own Falcon?”

That’s how founder Curt Blake explained it to me when I visited the company’s modest office in Westlake, a mile or so from downtown Seattle. Unfortunately, he said, they happened to make that investment just before another SpaceX rocket exploded on the launch pad. That rattled everyone, but ultimately the cost-benefit equation for wholesale rideshare like this makes too much sense.

“There have been lots of shared launches before, but not on this scale,” he said. Dozens deployed, but not 64. The number was actually even higher originally, but some clients had to back out relatively late in the game. That’s one of the downsides of a major shared launch: an inflexible timeline. If 9 out of 10 of the passengers are ready to go, they can’t sit and wait while the last one gets their ducks in a row; the next favorable launch time might be months off.

Spaceflight, like other launch coordinators, does a bunch of things for their clients: help navigate the red tape and schedule things, of course — but perhaps most importantly for a launch of this scale, it works with everyone to create a payload that can launch scores of satellites ranging in size from breadbox to cooler.

That payload, Blake said, is known at SpaceX as the “FrankenStack.” A “stack” is the components in the rocket’s payload that actually do stuff, and Spaceflight had to make this one from scratch. They learned a lot, Blake noted, and had to invent a lot in order to cram all those satellites in there.

The FrankenStack, which you can see at right, is rather like a giant wedding cake, with layers of different satellite deployment hardware. After all, these satellites are all going to different places, different orbits, different directions. You can’t just get up there and hit the “release” button.

At the very bottom, or rather above the cone that attaches to the rocket stage, is the MPC, or multi-payload carrier, which has a variety of large items on four shelves, including ones that need to be launched along the FrankenStack’s path, as opposed to perpendicular. Above that is the hub and cubesat portion, also called the upper free flier, because it will detach from the MPC and go its own way.

If all goes well, there will be 64 more little stars in the sky by the end of tomorrow. Watch the live stream of the launch on SpaceX’s site starting at about 10 AM.

from TechCrunch

Porsche’s latest 911 knows when it’s on a wet road


Porsche may pitch the 911 as a pure driver’s car, but that doesn’t mean it will turn down technological assistants that could get you out of a jam. The company has unveiled the eighth-generation 911 as a 2020 model, and one of its most conspicuous upgrades is a "world first" Wet mode that detects water on the road, prepares control systems and alerts the driver to the slippery conditions. You don’t have to tone the car down (say, if you’re on a track and expect to slide around), but you only need to push a button to configure the car for safety. The feature will come standard, Porsche said.

The new 911 is also the first in the line with an option for a thermal imaging camera (Night Vision Assist), and carries a host of additional helpers like anti-collision, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping and an autonomous Emergency Assist if you’re in trouble. There are upgrades inside the cabin, too. You’ll find a much larger 10.9-inch touchscreen in the center stack (up from 7 inches), which can help with the included crowdsourced online navigation.

There’s no hybrid option this year, at least not yet — you’re still looking at ‘just’ a conventional flat-six 443HP engine in the S and 4S. However, Porsche is at least willing to help you assuage the guilt you might feel from buying a gas-only supercar. It’s releasing a Porsche Impact app that helps you calculate the financial contributions you’d need to make to offset your CO2 emissions, and gives you a choice of climate projects to invest in. You’d ideally spring for a Panamera hybrid or wait for pure electric cars like the Taycan if you really care about eco-friendly Porsche ownership, but it’s a start.

You can pre-order the 2020 911 now, although it won’t hit US dealerships until summer 2019. And to no one’s surprise, the iconic car won’t come cheap. You’re looking at $113,200 for the rear wheel drive Carrera S, while the all wheel drive 4S will start at $120,600. The naming hints at more affordable Carrera models in the pipeline. Let’s be honest, though: if you’re determined to have the latest technological bells and whistles in a 911, you’re probably not limiting yourself to the base model.

Source: Porsche

from Engadget

YouBionic adds creepy hands to SpotMini, the creepy robot dog


If you’ve ever wanted to add creepy, 3D-printed hands to your creepy robot dog, YouBionic has you covered. This odd company is offering an entirely 3D-printed arm solution for the Boston Dynamics SpotMini, the doglike robot that already has an arm of its own. YouBionic is selling the $179 3D models for the product that you can print and assemble yourself.

This solution is very skimpy on the details, but, as you can see, it essentially turns the SpotMini into a robotic centaur, regal and majestic as those mythical creatures are. There isn’t much description of how the system will work in practice — the STLs include the structural parts but not the electronics. That said, it’s a fascinating concept and could mean the beginning of a truly component-based robotics solution.

from TechCrunch

7 Things I’ve Learnt About Photography From Pablo Picasso


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One of my favorite photographers, Ernst Haas, said we should seek inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. Listening to music, looking at paintings and sculptures, and reading books feeds your imagination more profoundly than just looking at the work of other photographers.

I think this is true. Exploring the work of a painter I love is as enriching to me as exploring a new city at sunrise. Similarly, wandering through a forest and photographing the sunlight filtering through the trees.

Our minds are hungry beasts. We think around 60-70,000 thoughts every day, with the majority of them being the same thoughts we had yesterday (and the day before). That’s scary. You can see how easy it would be to live life on autopilot.

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We can choose to think the same thoughts as yesterday, or we can feed our minds with new ideas – be they visual, sensory, words or music.

One artist who has inspired me with his work and ideas is Pablo Picasso. When he spoke about the artistic process, he articulated many of my core beliefs about taking photos.

He reminded me of the most exciting and essential elements of living a creative life. In the busy-ness of life, I so often forget.

Today I’d like to share some of Picasso’s ideas that are incredibly inspiring and impactful on any photographic journey.

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1. “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

This quote of Picasso’s sums up why I dedicated my life to photography. Why I let it be almost everything that I am.

There is something about photography that deeply stirs my soul. I feel more alive while taking photos than I do with most other things.

Playing with my kids or talking to my teenage son deep into the night about challenges he faces, brings a similar feeling of purpose. However, very little else matches the feeling I get in the act of creation.

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Photography is a life-affirming pursuit. It makes me feel I am not just skating on the surface of life – rushing to and fro, writing emails and filling in forms.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with either of those activities, but do they really make you feel alive?

We all have to live and do necessary mundane tasks. But, we can also commit to making a vast amount of space in our lives for things that create deeper satisfaction in ourselves.

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2. “Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.” – Pablo Picasso

This quote of Picasso’s is a testament to say: take photos even when you’re not in the mood, even when you’re only getting rubbish images. The only way to get that fantastic image is to keep going.

You never know when the light may dramatically change, making the scene before you look eerily beautiful. Alternatively, an intriguing stranger might walk past doing something peculiar!

Even though I am a professional photographer, I sometimes suffer from procrastination as much as the next person. I intend to go out shooting but get distracted by my kids or get too tired after a heavy meal.

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I realize if I’m not out there, I’ll never know what experiences, and then what photos, I’m missing. That seems like an insane waste of life.

Keep going. Continue searching for that great scene, interesting person, or a beautiful landscape. Whatever it is that floats your boat, go and find it.

3. “Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.” Pablo Picasso

I look at thousands of photos on my workshops. One thing I see regularly is people making images too complicated. When your images are too complex, you are not defining your subject correctly.

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There’s a myriad of compositional ideas you can use to help define your subject. For example, Rule of Thirds, creating clean backgrounds for your portraits and breaking the world down into elements.

The overarching concept in all of these ideas about composition is to eliminate all that is unnecessary.

Photography is a process of choosing what to put in the frame, and what to take away. It is wise to make your composition, then look and think. What isn’t working here? What do I need to remove?

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For example – one common mistake many photographers make is not checking their corners. It’s amazing how often people spend so much time composing their subject, but not checking all around the frame, especially the corners, to see that everything within it should be there.

Therefore, creating images is not just – ‘what do I put in the frame?’ But also – ‘what do I take away?’

4. Creating Feeling Within Your Images

“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who, with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.” – Pablo Picasso

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The same is true for photographers. You can photograph any number of things, and it looks entirely real. However, what does it feel like when you look at your photograph?

It is all too easy to just document, without creating any sense of what it feels like to be in that hot and humid city, to look at that face, to feel the textures of the buildings you are capturing.

Photographing a cold winter’s morning is simple. Nevertheless, to translate the feeling of what it would feel like to stand in a misty field, with cold biting your face and a deep feeling of eeriness as fog rolls in across the land – that is another skill entirely.

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Ultimately, the success of any photo is whether it creates an impact for your viewer. The only question you need to ask is, ‘does this image invoke a feeling?’

It’s not just what we see that creates an impact, but the feeling that is created within our bodies when we see something that we love, dislike, or invokes joy, or sadness.

Feelings are what we remember. Images have no sense of feeling are instantly forgettable.

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5. “I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” – Pablo Picasso

One of the things that surprised me about being a parent is how quickly young children latch on to the idea, ‘I can’t do this now, so I’ll never be able to do it.’

Once you have allowed that thought into your mind, it can quickly mushroom until you are utterly convinced that you can’t do something. Never, ever.

I see it in my children, and I see it in 70-year-old clients who come to my workshops. I have to say that, ‘I can’t do this, so I’ll never be able to it,’ is one of the most destructive ideas for your photography.

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Of course, the technophobe might never become the most skilled camera person alive. In contrast, they can overcome their self-perception and become competent and confident with their cameras. I see proof of this regularly.

One of the most exciting ideas I have noticed coming out of the science community in recent years is the idea of Neuroplasticity.

Instead of the old belief that our brains become ‘fixed’ and unchangeable as we enter into adulthood, we now understand that brains are completely changeable.

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In fact, at any point in life, one is able to totally rewire thoughts and beliefs we hold about ourselves.

“The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right.” – Confucius

Think of all the things you believe you can’t do with your photography, and go out and challenge those beliefs.

If you believe you can’t do street photography, but would secretly love to try it, do it!

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If you think you’ll never master manual mode, read up on it. Go out as often as you can. Make a ton of mistakes. You’ll get it eventually.

If like me, you think, ‘I’m not a nature photographer, but I’d love to try it,’ go and spend time in nature. Experiment, play and try new things.

As long as you approach the world with the attitude of ‘I can,’ you probably will.

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6. The World is Rich With Ideas

“A piece of space-dust falls on your head once every day… With every breath, we inhale a bit of the story of our universe, our planet’s past and future, the smells and stories of the world around us, even the seeds of life.” – Pablo Picasso

Of course, photography starts as a technical exercise. You need to use a machine, often with a little computer in it. Fully get to know the machine you are using. At least to the place where you are comfortable.

Photography is a union of the technical and the creative. The creative part of photography comes from an ethereal place within you that is unique.

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Your creative vision flows from everything that has made you who you are – your experiences, your life, what you love and what you detest.

It also comes from the world around us; from the feeling of history we experience when we walk through old city streets; from the awe of looking at a majestic five hundred-year-old tree.

The world isn’t a flat surface. Everywhere we look we see the ‘moment;’ the weather; the time of day. We also know that in a few hours everything we are currently seeing can change.

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Most people are so locked in their minds and focused on themselves that they don’t open themselves up to the mysteries of the world.

There are stories and ideas all around us that can inspire us in our photography, can provoke new ideas and adventures for us.

All we have to do is pay attention and commit to the awesome power of photography.

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7. “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” – Pablo Picasso

The older I get, the more I feel like I need to demand of myself. That by the end of each day I want to be profoundly and truly satisfied. Not just to be content, or to have my to-do list full of check marks.

I want to have created something. Something that is entirely my own. A creation that no one else could have, because they are not me.

Photography gives us that, and I love that it does. It can give us opportunities to see, feel and experience more of the world.

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Without photography, life would not be anywhere near as rich and meaningful as it is.

When faced with either sleep or the chance to catch an amazing sunrise – I get up to photograph the sunrise.

Our lives are speeding along and, although we are aware of this, we become complacent. In a subconscious part of ourselves, we truly believe we live forever. The possibility of not existing doesn’t seem right.

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Our time on this planet is finite. If we acknowledge that we are organic beings, it can motivate us to demand more of what we truly want from our lives.

For me, it’s exploring and taking photos. It’s creating art and sharing it with others or showing people what beautiful things I see all around me.

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Of course, your photography journey is different from mine.

You may record the breathtaking journey of your children from babies into adulthood or documenting the joyous color of flowers.

Alternatively, you may be climbing snowy mountains and showing the world the awe-inspiring landscapes you witness. You may be documenting the strange and humorous things we humans do when out in the world, inhabiting our little bubbles as we move around the streets, unaware of the world watching us.

There are so many ways to be a photographer. So many things to document, explore and see. Follow your own path.

Just be open, and inquisitive. Look around you and open your mind to everything you don’t usually notice.

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By showing yourself and others what you see in this world, you open up other people’s perspective of the world around them. You take them out of their hectic bubble – full of the 24/7 news, the list of things to do, the emails and daily demands of daily life.

You give them a gift of seeing — a gift of taking a moment to stop and stare in awe at what the world has laid out before us.

It’s a pretty exciting, amazing and incredibly life-enhancing pursuit taking photos.

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Have these ideas fed your creative soul? If they have helped you demand more from your photography, and to take more time out of your life to commit to this fantastic pursuit, let me know below. It’s always great to hear from you.

The post 7 Things I’ve Learnt About Photography From Pablo Picasso appeared first on Digital Photography School.

from Digital Photography School

Social music app Playlist lets you listen to music with others in real time


A new app called Playlist aims to make music a more social experience than what’s offered today by the major music platforms like Apple Music, Pandora or Spotify, for example. In Playlist, you can find others who share your musical tastes and join group chats where you listen to playlists together in real time. You can collaborate on playlists, too.

The app, backed by investment from Stanford’s StartX fund, was founded by Karen Katz and Steve Petersen, both Stanford engineers and serial entrepreneurs. Katz previously co-founded AdSpace Networks and another social music platform, Jam Music. She also was a founding executive team member at Photobucket, and founded a company called Project Playlist, which was like a Google search for music back in the Myspace era.

Peterson, meanwhile, has 35 patents and more than a decade of experience in digital music. In the early 2000s he created the software architecture and ran the team at PortalPlayer Inc., which powered the iPod’s music player and was later sold to Nvidia for $357 million. Afterwards, he was CTO at Concert Technology, a technology incubator and intellectual property company with a focus on mobile, social and digital music services.

“The world has gone social, but music has been largely left behind. That’s a real gap,” explains Katz, as to why the founders wanted to build Playlist in the first place.

“Ever since we started listening to music from our mobile phones, it’s become an isolated experience. And music is the number one thing we do on our phones,” she says.

The idea they came up with was to unite music and messaging by synchronizing streams, so people could listen to songs together at the same time and chat while they do so.

During last year’s beta testing period, Playlist (which was listed under a different name on the App Store), saw a huge number of engagements as a result of its real-time nature.

“Out of the gate, we saw 10 times the engagement of Pandora. People have, on average, 60 interactions per hour — like chats, likes, follows, joins, adds and creates,” Katz says. 

Under the hood, the app uses a lot of technology beyond just its synchronized streaming. It also leverages machine learning for its social recommendations, as well as collaborative playlists, large-scale group chat, and behavior-based music programming, and has “Music Match” algorithms to help you find people who listen to the same sort of things you do.

The social aspects of the app involves a following/follower model, and presents playlists from the people you follow in your home feed, much like a music-focused version of Instagram. A separate Discover section lets you find more people to follow or join in other popular listening and chat sessions.

At launch, the app has a catalog of more than 45 million songs and has a music license for the U.S. It plans to monetize through advertising.

The core idea here — real-time music listening and chat — is interesting. It’s like a for the Instagram age. But the app sometimes overcomplicates things, it seems. For example, importing a playlist from another music app involves switching over to that app, finding the playlist and copying its sharing URL, then switching back to Playlist to paste it in a pop-up box. It then offers a way for you to add your own custom photo to the playlist, which feels a little unnecessary as the default is album art.

Another odd choice is that it’s difficult to figure out how to leave a group chat once you’ve joined. You can mute the playlist that’s streaming or you can minimize the player, but the option to “leave” is tucked away under another menu, making it harder to find.

The player interface also offers a heart, a plus (+), a share button, a mute button and a skip button all on the bottom row. It’s… well… it’s a lot.

But Katz says that the design choices they’ve made here are based on extensive user testing and feedback. Plus, the app’s younger users — often high schoolers, and not much older than 21 — are the ones demanding all the buttons and options.

It’s hard to argue with the results. The beta app acquired more than 500,000 users during last year’s test period, and those users are being switched over to the now publicly available Playlist app, which has some 80K installs as of last week, according to Sensor Tower data.

The company also plans to leverage the assets it acquired from the old Project Playlist, which includes some 30 million emails, 21 million Facebook IDs and 14 million Twitter IDs. A “Throwback Thursday” marketing campaign will reach out to those users to offer them a way to listen to their old playlists.

The startup has raised $5 million in funding (convertible notes) from Stanford StartX Fund, Garage Technology Ventures, Miramar Ventures, IT-Farm, Dixon Doll (DCM founder), Stanford Farmers & Angels, Zapis Capital and Amino Capital.

The Palo Alto-based company is a team of six full-time.

Playlist is a free download for iOS. An Android version is in the works.

from TechCrunch