UT transportation research center applies science to real-world challenges, celebrates its 50th year

A few images from last year’s Center for Transportation Research Center’s Annual Symposium.

CTR Distinquished Lecture Series UT Austin: Dean Fenvis & Prof. C. Michael Walton

It’s alive! (responsible journalism). But newspapers are history.

SxSW 2013 Craig Newark, Poynter Kelly McBride: responsible journalism

“Craigslist” Craig Newmark, Poynter Kelly McBride on responsible journalism, at the 2013 South by Southwest Interactive 2013 in Austin Texas

“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh – or they may kill you – Oscar Wilde. (Quoted by Craig Newmark at SxSW interactive 2013)

New standards of journalism in a new age (of journalism)  

Someone from Poynter went through the crowd, handing out a small pamphlet titled “100 Ideas to Make Your Journalism Better” to the large audience who had come to hear Craig “Craigslist” Newmark and Poynter’s faculty member Kelly McBride talk about what has gone wrong – and what’s right—in modern journalism.

“Journalism should be the immune system of democracy,” Craig told the crowd. “Without information, how can we vote responsibly?”

Excited, maybe a little bit nervous, but with a strong edge of humility, the well-known founder of Craigslist described himself as “a nerd” who became a customer service professional.

He and Kelly McBride summarized the recent woes of journalism. More than one-fourth of all journalists have been laid off since 2007, in part due to economic disruptors such as Craigslist, which took away a valuable source of revenue for newspapers (the classified).

It’s not that people aren’t consuming news content. But spite of the growth of digital news delivery, for every dollar of digital revenue $7 in print revenue has been lost.

You can tell the organization is eating itself when a bastion of supposedly solid journalism like CNN chooses to eliminate its own investigative news journalism department.

In addition to the economic struggles of the news industry, the journalism food chain has changed. Once the pecking order was local reporters, then mid-size newspapers, and finally national news outlets. Nowadays, entertainment news and social media is at the top of the pile, with mid-size news, national news, and national magazines in the middle and local news at the bottom. This topsy-turvy situation has encouraged gossipy, sensationalist news and the viral spread of misinformation.

It’s hard to judge the quality of the content being served in a business forced to put journalists on a “hamster wheel” where writers pump out content on constant deadline. Effective investigative journalism  takes time to produce.

In contrast, the Poynter Institute is supporting a journalistic environment where there is sufficient time to think—and it’s building a new framework for ethical, community journalism.

This means turning away from the current farce of “balanced” news, where manifestly absurd, offensive ideas are given a voice to counter sanity, in order to pay lip service to “fair” reporting.

McBride derided the cliché of presenting a news story in the “two viewpoints” pretense of objectivity.  This artificial creation of false balance – reporters giving equal weight to opposing views even though one viewpoint is demonstrably false or irrelevant, is a big part of what’s wrong with the craft of reporting.

So, how should a responsible journalist write a story? According to McBride, good journalists get smart (informed)—and then speak with authority about what’s going on.

Journalism and ethical reporting

One of Craig’s pet peeves is broadcast  journalists interviewing talking heads that sit atop PR hacks and lobbyists—“ A responsible journalist shouldn’t interview people who are paid to lie.”

SxSW 2013 Craig Newmark: don't interview people who are paid to lie

He says being a news reporter is one of the most difficult careers to pursue but it is only a worthy calling if you deliver information that others can trust. We are in a bizarre situation right now, where we might feel more “truthiness” from watching an  “entertainment” show like The Daily Show, and find it surreal to discover news “actors” (as opposed to anchors) on global news networks, whose only involvement in a story is reading the words off a teleprompter.

SxSW 2013 Craig Newmark: responsible journalism immune system of democracy

Integrating journalism into communities

Social media has been a disruption to traditional journalism. The product has been the article, photo, or Vine/Youtube post as content. That social news product enhances, and helps to build, community. Citizens can inform themselves with the right tools: consider Politifact, a great combination of news and nerds.  (http://www.politifact.com/ )

But news gathering by community journalists, according to Newmark and McBride, are not rivals to professional journalism, although they augment and help to redefine its purpose and methods.

Consider the news opportunity created during the Huffington Post Obama fundraiser when the phrase, “clinging to guns and religion,” was released by the media. Consider how the recorded and shared  “48 percent” quote during a Romney fundraiser may have altered political outcomes.

Journalism is also a business. But it should differ from other industries, where the product is perceived as a means to an end. With responsible journalism, community should be the end product of the reporting of truth.

Traditional journalists saw community as a resource to create something else. McBride says that we should rethink this and recognize that community is an end in itself.

Newmark says that citizen journalism is good, but we need trained editors, content curators, fact checkers, professional writers and professionalism in every area in order to have responsible, quality journalism.

McBride and Newmark shared two lists of journalism values for the audience to consider. One was time-honored, from Mother Jones; the other is suggested by The Poynter Institute  for journalism in a new era of community.

SxSW 2013: journalists should get smart to speak with authority

Mother Jones: journalism values

  1. Seek the truth and report it.
  2. Be independent.
  3. Minimize harm.
  4. Be accountable.

New set of journalism values suggested by Poynter

  1. Seek truth and report it.
  2. Be transparent (about what you know and what you don’t know).
  3. Engage the community as an end.

Poynter has a book out if you are interested in finding out more about their ideas of what journalism could become. http://about.poynter.org/about-us/press-room/poynter-publishes-definitive-new-journalism-ethics-book

And Craig Newmark is out there, talking at events like SxSW Interactive about responsible journalism, trying to help, supporting groups like Poynter: “A nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do. Nerds are always outsiders.”

SxSW 2013: Misinformation travels faster than the correction

Responsible journalism is the immune system of democracy – Craig “Craigslist” Newmark

Listen to the presentation on Soundcloud

More images from 2013 South by Southwest Interactive

2013 SxSW Interactive Presentations on Soundcloud 

Find out more about the South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin Texas

DIY comics artist Jody Culkin: Making and Drawing Comics in a Makers World

SxSW 2013 Jody Culkin & Fumetti comic & NYU open source laser project

Jody Culkin, artist in a variety of media, speaking at South by Southwest Interactive 2013 in Austin Texas

Lasersaurs, science geek comics, comic book how-to’s on lasers, creative uses of IPhone cameras, hacking, soldering, coloring books on electronics, rapid development of instructional manuals using photo-comics—Jody Culkin brought many (pardon the art pun) graphic examples in a slide show presentation on DIY comics to a South by Southwest Interactive Conference audience.

Jody Culkin, a teacher in the Multimedia Program at CUNY’s Manhattan Community College, is an artist in a variety of media, including comics, photography, mixed media, installations and much more. She’s shown her sculptures, photographs and new media pieces at museums and galleries throughout this country and internationally.

Culkin suggested the use of comics, with their straightforward images and text, to assist with the development of an idea from a prototype to a finished product. And why not use comics for product—hardware or software— documentation?

Making your own fun

Tools: if you have the money or access via work or school, it’s certainly possible to use professional, expensive tools like Adobe’s Illustrator and InDesign for comics, there are plenty of no- or low-cost tools that can be applied to DIY comics. Comic Life, while not open source, integrates well with photos and is wired in with IPhoto if you use it to organize images.

Gimp, an open-source tool similar to Photoshop, can be used for pixel-based, as opposed to vector-based art and it’s available for Mac, PC, and Linux. Gimp has a lively community of users. Find out more about Gimp at http://www.gimp.org/

And for open-source vector-based art creation, consider Inkscape:   http://inkscape.org/en/

Culkin listed sites where science, electronics, DIY toy creation…..

Perhaps the best way to experience what the artist brought to the audience would be to review her event slides, which she posted in SlideShare. What a great idea, eh, for a DIY comics outsider artist, to give us an easy way to take in the ideas and images? Bravo, Culkin!  http://www.slideshare.net/jodyhc/culkin-diycomicssxswi2013

SxSW 2013 Jody Culkin list of suggested online comics

Links

Links from her slides in graphic form.

More images from 2013 South by Southwest Interactive

2013 SxSW Interactive Presentations on Soundcloud 

Find out more about the South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin Texas

How I learned to love supercolliders more than space travel and telescopes

SxSW 2013 Steve Weinberg Physics Discoveries

UT Physics professor Dr. Steven Weinberg at the 2013 South by Southwest Interactive Conference

“We need to fund supercolliders – and that is why I am here (at SXSWi),” said Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dr. Steven Weinberg. And the South by Southwest Interactive audience applauded with enthusiasm. As much as SxSWi participants love the pursuit of space travel and rocket ships, they love their big data more.

What physicists need in order to get to the next step is more data. Isaac Newton was able to make a transformative discovery about the laws of motion and gravitation— but his theories were based upon hundreds of years of star and sky data. Evolutionist Charles Darwin’s theories drew upon a large collection of naturist data from an aggregate of fossil collections.

Manned space flight might need perhaps a hundred billion in funding to get off the ground. That kind of money is ten times what it would cost to build a device such as the Hadron collider. But, when you are talking about an investment of that magnitude, you need to consider which scientific and engineering initiative would produce the largest amount of data that is of scientific interest and worth?  The answer, according to Weinberg, is the supercollider.

Time travel back to the year 1993 in Texas: what if the U.S. had funded and constructed the superconducting supercollider in Ellis county. It would have pursued many important scientific goals. But there was a funding competition between the supercollider and the International Space Station in Houston. Congress passed the space station, but not the supercollider. (For more information on the history of the superconducting supercollider, see WIKI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superconducting_Super_Collider )

Dr. Weinberg was there through it all. And he is optimistic about a little project called the International Linear Collider or ILC. (For more information visit here: http://www.linearcollider.org/ ) The ILC is the next step that could lead to an avalanche of new data that might reap massive scientific rewards, taking scientists into future discoveries about the nature of the universe as they peek into the building blocks of the world itself.

According to Dr. Weinberg, it should have been built decades ago.

“2,000 years ago, the Greek philosophers theorized about the existence of atoms. It took until the 1900s for chemists to prove that atoms existed. We do not have another 2,000 years to wait to move scientific knowledge forward. Funding is needed,” said Weinberg.

Dr. Weinberg’s areas of research include particle physics, unification of fundamental interactions, and cosmology. (For a summary of his work, see his WIKI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Weinberg ) Dr. Weinberg is perhaps one of the most brilliant minds working in theoretical physics at this time and that leads to him throwing out remarks of this kind…saying that scientists currently have “strong hints that a unification [unified field theory] may be possible, but the simplicity will be seen in the phenomena when it is a much higher rate of energy —10, 000 trillions times more energy than we can create in a lab.”

He pauses. Then he explains that when he says 10,000 trillion, he is not implying a “big number.” This is the exact number he is talking about. Now that’s a theoretical mathematical physicist.

Dr. Weinberg explained that, historically, 20th century physicists reasoned that there were four main forces of nature. By the 1940s, electromagnetic forces were understood pretty well and there were interim theories about weak nuclear forces, but there was no theory to explain strong forces. The fourth force – gravity – was not well understood.

Could there be simplicity in the equations? By the 1950s, physicists theorized that there might be a particle that carried the weak force – a w particle. (Weinberg jokes “w” for weak, not for Weinberg…but it would not be improbable if a particle was to be named for him, as he is at the forefront of this science.)

Dr. Weinberg treated the audience to a physics lecture that summarized the development of the search for various particles that led to the discovery and proof of the various particles, including the crucial Higgs Boson, a very unstable particle that is pivotal to basic theories of particle physics.  (For detailed information on the discover or the Higgs Boson and it’s importance to theoretical physics, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_boson .)

Candidate Higgs Events in ATLAS and CMS.png
By CERN for the ATLAS and CMS Collaborations – <a rel=”nofollow” class=”external free” href=”https://cds.cern.ch/record/1630222″>https://cds.cern.ch/record/1630222</a&gt;, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The particle was discovered at the Large Hadron Collider (LAC) at CERN in Switzerland. (See: http://home.web.cern.ch/topics/large-hadron-collider ) Dr. Weinberg was asked to list some experiments he believed should be funded and he listed these:

  • Produce neutrinos which would travel in a mine and that we could detect: electron neutrinos.
  • Look into the decay of the proton. Granted, the average proton’s age is longer than the age of the universe! However, if you have enough protons, you can observe one decaying.
  • Various experiments at the 100 million level range of funding, for example….
  • After the LAC is finished, scientists will need a collider that collides electrons and positrons. This will take an international collaboration to get this funded, which is difficult because few nations want to fund something this is not located in their country.

Listen to the presentation on Soundcloud https://soundcloud.com/officialsxsw/toward-the-unification-of?in=officialsxsw/sets/sxsw-interactive-2013

Recent news from the CERN laboratory in Geneva has revealed the existence of a heavy unstable particle that had been predicted by the theory that unifies two of the forces of nature. This is the last missing piece of our current theory of known elementary particles, the Standard Model. But there is much left to be done before we have a thoroughly unified theory of all matter and force, and some of this will involve observations from space.– quote from the Youtube video summary of his talk, found here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSEXA5JueRU http://www.ph.utexas.edu/~weintech/swbio.html

Steven Weinberg holds the Josey Regental Chair in Science at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is a member of the Physics and Astronomy Departments. His research on elementary particles and cosmology has been honored with numerous prizes and awards. He is the author of over 200 scientific articles, one of which is the most frequently cited paper on particle physics of the past fifty years. 

Among his books are the prize-winning The First Three Minutes and Dreams of a Final Theory, and the treatises Gravitation and Cosmology and, in three volumes, The Quantum Theory of Fields.   Educated at Cornell, Copenhagen, and Princeton, Dr. Weinberg also holds honorary doctoral degrees from sixteen other universities, including Chicago, Columbia, McGill, Padua, Salamanca, and Yale. He taught at Columbia, Berkeley, M.I.T., and Harvard, where he was Higgins Professor of Physics, before coming to Texas in 1982.

Links: Dr. Steven Weinberg’s bio page on UT’s website

Dr. Steven Weinberg’s book, Lake Views: This World and the Universe

More images from 2013 South by Southwest Interactive

2013 SxSW Interactive Presentations on Soundcloud 

Find out more about the South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin Texas

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