Links for 2019-01-30

  • The 26,000-Year Astronomical Monument Hidden in Plain Sight at the Hoover Dam

    This is amazing! I wish I’d noticed it when I visited Hoover Dam.

    The center of the circle traced by the axial precession is actually the massive flag pole in the center of the plaza. This axial circle is prominently marked around the pole, and the angle of Polaris was depicted as precisely as possible to show where it would have been on the date of the dam’s opening. Hansen used the rest of the plaza floor to show the location of the planets visible that evening, and many of the bright stars that appear in the night sky at that location. By combining planet locations with the angle of precession, we are able to pinpoint the time of the dam’s completion down to within a day. We are now designing a similar system?—?though with moving parts?—?in the dials of the 10,000 Year Clock. It is likely that at least major portions of the Hoover Dam will still be in place hundreds of thousands of years from now. Hopefully the Clock will still be ticking and Hansen’s terrazzo floor will still be there, even if it continues to baffle visitors.
    (Via Tony Finch)

    (tags: hoover-dam history precession astronomy long-now polaris vega thuban stars clocks)

  • Facial Recognition Is the Perfect Tool for Oppression

    ‘We believe facial recognition technology is the most uniquely dangerous surveillance mechanism ever invented. It’s the missing piece in an already dangerous surveillance infrastructure, built because that infrastructure benefits both the government and private sectors. And when technologies become so dangerous, and the harm-to-benefit ratio becomes so imbalanced, categorical bans are worth considering. The law already prohibits certain kinds of dangerous digital technologies, like spyware. Facial recognition technology is far more dangerous. It’s worth singling out, with a specific prohibition on top of a robust, holistic, value-based, and largely technology-neutral regulatory framework. Such a layered system will help avoid regulatory whack-a-mole where lawmakers are always chasing tech trends. Surveillance conducted with facial recognition systems is intrinsically oppressive. The mere existence of facial recognition systems, which are often invisible, harms civil liberties, because people will act differently if they suspect they’re being surveilled. Even legislation that holds out the promise of stringent protective procedures won’t prevent chill from impeding crucial opportunities for human flourishing by dampening expressive and religious conduct.’

    (tags: tech surveillance facial-recognition faces oppression future chilling-effects)

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