Animating Still Life

My most recent article has been posted over on the OSC IB Blogs site:  Animating Still Life.  I've re-posted it below. Visit the OSC-IB Blogs site and explore the posts on other areas of interest for students and for teachers

I hope you remember reading a post of mine which was published on this site at the end of July this year titled Transforming the meaning of evidence and truth. If not, go have a look, and then watch this video, and read on below.
“What use is there for this technology, you may be asking? Well, with Facebook’s involvement, it is quite possible that users will be able to animate their profile picture and cause it to react to stimuli on the social network at some point in the future.” writes PetaPixel, which is where I learned about this tech.
On their project page, the development team describes their project in their Abstract:
“We present a technique to automatically animate a still portrait, making it possible for the subject in the photo to come to life and express various emotions. We use a driving video (of a different subject) and develop means to transfer the expressiveness of the subject in the driving video to the target portrait. In contrast to previous work that requires an input video of the target face to reenact a facial performance, our technique uses only a single target image. We animate the target image through 2D warps that imitate the facial transformations in the driving video. As warps alone do not carry the full expressiveness of the face, we add fine-scale dynamic details which are commonly associated with facial expressions such as creases and wrinkles. Furthermore, we hallucinate regions that are hidden in the input target face, most notably in the inner mouth. Our technique gives rise to reactive profiles, where people in still images can automatically interact with their viewers. We demonstrate our technique operating on numerous still portraits from the internet.”
(You can download the project paper at this link on the project page.)
Well….let’s say you have pictures of your friends, or students, or teachers, or family, or government….and you have access to this technology, and you also have access to a machine-driven-communication tool, such as the ones described in this post on Medium.com: “Five years from now you won’t have any idea whether you’re interacting with a human online or not. In the future, most online speech, digital engagement, and content will be machines talking to machines…This machine communication will be nearly indistinguishable from human communication. The machines will be trying to persuade, sell, deceive, intimidate, manipulate, and cajole you into whatever response they’re programmed to elicit. They will be unbelievably effective.”
Do you know about Interactive Dynamic Video?
Read about it at this web page http://www.interactivedynamicvideo.com/, and watch the other videos there. “One of the most important ways that we experience our environment is by manipulating it: we push, pull, poke, and prod to test hypotheses about our surroundings. By observing how objects respond to forces that we control, we learn about their dynamics. Unfortunately, regular video does not afford this type of manipulation – it limits us to observing what was recorded. The goal of our work is to record objects in a way that captures not only their appearance, but their physical behavior as well.”
Imagine the possibilities in the classroom! Class discussions without any input from the class!  Oral exams without examiner or students! Or, perhaps, ideas  more useful for teaching and learning like those described below.
The Virtual Holocaust Survivor. The video below shows a hologram, not the technology described above, but the effect on the viewer is somewhat the same – this is an interview with a man who is not there. (You can see more of Pinchas Gutter here and here.)
Highlands Ranch students use virtual dialogue with WWI kaiser to spark interest in history describes a history class which has built an AI Kaiser Wilhelm:  “World history students at STEM School Academy in Douglas County built a historical figure head of Kaiser Wilhelm compete with artificial intelligence that can speak through Google…what (the head) can do is answer students’ questions, debate and even reason with them because its AI is stocked with deep historical background.
“The students researched both primary and secondary sources for information about the causes of WWI and its leaders, using the College Board’s AP World History Curriculum: Stearns’ “World Civilizations: The Global Experience.”
“They also went to reliable websites such as the British Library’s World War I site, BBC news’ “World War One: 10 Interpretations of Who Started WWI,” the World War I Document Archive, and the Library of Congress records on the Great War, Cegielski said.
“The AI, in this case Kaiser Wilhelm, can respond either in frustration, anger or be perfectly agreeable when talking about his role in history. It all depends on the question.”  Read the whole article at this link, and  watch this video from KUSA-TV in Denver to learn more about the why and how of this project.

Written by cats and a hamster

My most recent article has been posted over on the OSC IB Blogs site:  Written by cats and a hamster I've re-posted it below. Visit the OSC-IB Blogs site and explore the posts on other areas of interest for students and for teachers

F.D.C. Willard's pawprint
It's Extended Essay time in the Northern Hemisphere (perhaps it's always Extended Essay time everywhere), and I'm sure that all students and supervisors are scrutinizing resources very carefully. How careful do you have to be? I thought I'd share these news stories...

In 1975, The American physicist and mathematician Jack H. Hetherington, at Michigan State University, wanted to publish some of his research results in the field of low–temperature physics in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters

A colleague, who was proofreading it, pointed out that he had used the first person plural, the "royal we",  in his text, and that the journal would therefore reject this submission by only one author. Rather than take the time to retype the article using the first person singular, or to bring in a co-author, Hetherington decided to invent one.  The paper in question ,  Two-, Three-, and Four-Atom Exchange Effects in bcc 3He, was an in-depth exploration of atomic behaviour at different temperatures.  

Because typewriters lack the fantastic ability to "find and replace" that we use so often in our word processing software today,  retyping the article would have caused Hetherington a major delay. Much quicker to invent the second author, F.D.C. Willard. Hetherington's Siamese cat was named Chester. Too short a name for a scientific paper; he became  F.D.C. Willard. The “F.D.C.” stood for “Felix Domesticus, Chester.” Willard had been the name of Chester’s father.   Who would know?

How do we know?  In 1982, in  More Random Walks in Science,  Hetherington wrote about his decision: "...Why would I do such an irreverent thing? … If it eventually proved to be correct, people would remember the paper more if the anomalous authorship were known. In any case I went ahead and did it and have generally not been sorry.”   (In 1975 the Chairman of the Physics department invited Willard to become a member of the department.) (Jack Hetherington is currently Professor Emeritus at USM.)

This is NOT a picture of Bruce Le Catt[
In July this year we read that the Australasian Journal of Philosophy issued an Erratum notice on its web page: Le Catt Bruce 1982. Censored Vision, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 60/2: 158-162.  http://doi.org/10.1080/00048408212340581  The Australasian Association of Philosophy would like to clarify that ‘Bruce Le Catt’, was a pseudonym used by the author David Lewis, to discuss some work published under his own name.
The website Retraction Watch filled in the details. "In 1982, Bruce Le Catt wrote a response to a paper in the Australasian Journal of Philosophy critiquing an earlier article about prosthetic vision.  But Le Catt was no ordinary author. No, he was a cat, the beloved pet of David Lewis, a world-class philosopher who just happened to be the author of the article about which Bruce Le Catt was commenting."

You can read Le Catt's paper at this link. It is thought that Lewis's friends were aware of his using his cat's name as that of the author.  The correction was requested by Michael Dougherty a philosopher at Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, who is writing a book about research integrity. "..Not all philosophers are aware of the identity between Lewis and Le Catt, and it is conceivable that many younger members of the profession could read the 1982 article without knowing that Lewis is providing a critique of his own work...." The paper by Bruce Le Catt has been cited four times since its publication; you can read one at this link on Google Books.

This is NOT a photo of H.A.M.S. ter Tisha
Academia Obscura, writing about animals authoring papers, tells us about ‘Detection of earth rotation with a diamagnetically levitating gyroscope‘. "All looks quite normal, until you see that the second author is H.A.M.S. ter Tisha. i.e. a hamster named Tisha. Author One, Dr. Andrei Geim, is the only academic to  individually win both an Ig Nobel Prize and a real Nobel Prize, and Author Two is his pet hamster. No explanation has been advanced for this, but Dr. Geim, responsible for the aforementioned levitating frogs, is clearly quite a character."  

Dr. Geim won the Nobel Prize in 2010 for "groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene" and the IgNobel Prize in 2000 for "using magnets to levitate a frog." (You can read the paper at this link) ("The hamster contributed to the levitation experiment most directly and later applied for a PhD at the Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands." link)

So, are you supposed to question all the authors of all your resources?  Hardly.  But you might read their names very carefully. How is a student (or a teacher, for that matter) supposed to "Locate, organize, analyse, evaluate, synthesize and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media [including digital social media and online networks]" (link) when some of the research has been authored by cats and hamsters?

Image sources: paw prints from Wikipedia; cat and hamster photos in the public domain.

Searching for the Truth

My most recent article has been posted over on the OSC IB Blogs site: Searching for the Truth.  I've re-posted it below. Visit the OSC-IB Blogs site and explore the posts on other areas of interest for students and for teachers

Continuing my thoughts and writing about fake news, fake web pages, teaching search skills, and ultimately, trying to find the Truth of a matter, this post brings together for your consideration two web articles which are not new, but which work well together.

The first is Why Students Can't Google their Way to the Truth, by Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew, published 1 November 2016.  
laptop user
Photo in the Public Domain, CC0 Creative Commons
The authors describe their research at Stamford University: "Over the past 18 months, we administered assessments that tap young people's ability to judge online information. We analyzed over 7,804 responses from students in middle school through college. At every level, we were taken aback by students' lack of preparation: middle school students unable to tell the difference between an advertisement and a news story; high school students taking at face value a cooked-up chart from the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee; college students credulously accepting a .org top-level domain name as if it were a Good Housekeeping seal."

Students were asked to determine the trustworthiness of material on two organizations' websites, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Pediatricians. 25 undergraduates at Stanford were asked to spend up to 10 minutes examining content on both sites.  "More than half concluded that the article from the American College of Pediatricians, an organization that ties homosexuality to pedophilia and which the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled a hate group, was "more reliable." Even students who preferred the entry from the American Academy of Pediatrics never uncovered the differences between the two groups. Instead, they saw the two organizations as equivalent and focused their evaluations on surface features of the websites."

When Wineberg and McGrew gave their task to professional fact-checkers, it became clear that these professionals used three strategies that are often unknown to, or not used by average readers:
  1. Landing on an unfamiliar site, the first thing checkers did was to leave it. Fact-checkers use the vast resources of the Internet to determine where information is coming from BEFORE they read it.
  2. Fact-checkers know it's not about "About." They don't evaluate a site based solely on the description it provides about itself.
  3. Fact-checkers look past the order of search results. Google does not sort pages by their reliability. (GoogleSearch presents results in an order it judges to be most relevant. (see How Google Search Works)
Read the full article on Education Week, and read more about Wineberg and McGrew's research at this page from Stamford. An executive summary of the report (Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning) is available here.

In an article on Open Culture, Josh Jones posted Carl Sagan Presents His “Baloney Detection Kit”: 8 Tools for Skeptical Thinking on 11 April 2016. "Sagan... did not hesitate to defend reason against “society’s most shameless untruths and outrageous propaganda." These undertakings best come together in Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World, a book in which he very patiently explains how and why to think scientifically, against the very human compulsion to do anything but." (The full text is available on the Internet Archive. An 4-hour reading of Sagan's book can be heard here. )

In The Fine Art of Baloney Detection, Chapter 12 of the book (p. 189 of the Internet Archive text), Sagan describes his tools for skeptical thinking: "...What skeptical thinking boils down to is the means to construct, and to understand, a reasoned argument and—especially important—to recognize a fallacious or fraudulent argument." The video embedded below gives a quick overview of the tools; Read them all in  Sagan’s full chapter, where he writes:

Carl Sagan with a model of the Viking lander.
Before you read this caption, did the image make you think that
Sagan had been on Mars with the lander?

(Photo in the Public Domain)
 (https://mars.nasa.gov/programmissions /missions/past/viking/)
"...A deception arises, sometimes innocently but collaboratively, sometimes with cynical premeditation. Usually the victim is caught up in a powerful emotion—wonder, fear, greed, grief. Credulous acceptance of baloney can cost you money; that’s what P. T. Barnum meant when he said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” But it can be much more dangerous than that, and when governments and societies lose the capacity for critical thinking, the results can be catastrophic—however sympathetic we may be to those who have bought the baloney."

"In addition to teaching us what to do when evaluating a claim to knowledge, any good baloney detection kit must also teach us what not to do. It helps us recognize the most common and perilous fallacies of logic and rhetoric. Many good examples can be found in religion and politics, because their practitioners are so often obliged to justify two contradictory propositions...Knowing the existence of such logical and rhetorical fallacies rounds out our toolkit. Like all tools, the baloney detection kit can be misused, applied out of context, or even employed as a rote alternative to thinking. But applied judiciously, it can make all the difference in the world—not least in evaluating our own arguments before we present them to others. "

The Rational Wiki has a page about The Fine Art of Baloney Detection which includes a table of  the fallacies listed by Sagan, giving with examples and definitions.  If one were teaching search strategies, or how to sort the "fake" from the "real", or scientific methods, or reading for content, etc., this might be a very useful addition to the class library.