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Cyborg beetles

An article I saw in Technology Review. A researcher named Michel Maharbiz at the University of California, Berkeley has fitted out giant flower beetles like the one on the right with electrodes and a receiver. He can then fly them from a remote control connected to his laptop.

Dr. Haharbiz is very proud of his creations that he sees as having extensive military as well as hiumanitarian uses. The hardware on each beetle costs a mere $5 using off the shelf components that he grafts onto the creature using his expert knowledge of both biology and engineering to successfully mesh an animal’s nervous system.

I was reminded of Ray Kurzweil’s singularity. where he predicts that humans will become indistiguishable from robots within the next 50 years.

I think that this technological advance raises several ethical issues:

  1. The ability to perform ubiquitous and invisible surveillance has just taken a massive leap. While possible evil uses of a new technology has never been a good reason to prevent research, the possibility that every common fly could be spying on you and sending a constant video feed back to base is rather frightening.
  2. While I support the (controlled) use of animals for vital experimentation an I also eat animals, the idea of wiring and radio-controlling an animal for the advance of technology seems wrong to me. True the beetle has no self-consciousness and rudimentary senses, but all the same it doesn’t sound right.

What do you think?

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    Back to “HaTanakh Hayah BeEmet” (התנ”ך היה באמת, דר. ליאורה רביד 2009) which I have commented on several times (here, here and here) over the last couple of weeks. This time Liora Ravid makes the assertion that the term “ויחר אף” means particularly violent anger – which it may but also may not, as I will show.

    She is discussing the birth of Ya’akov’s children and the names given them by their mothers. This she uses to continue to portray Ya’akov in a far more negative light than I believe he deserves as a violent man and a fraudster. As for the fraudster, I do think can be said of him. His name says as much, he deceived his father and got his uppance Midah keNeged Midah from Lavan with Leah and Lavan even explains himself on this point. He then successfully uses his skills against Lavan for the flocks.

    However I don’t see him as a violent man. She takes the names of Leah’s first children (Reuven and Shim’on) to tell a story of domestic violence and the term “sanuah” to mean literally hated as in the modern usage. Joshua Berman maintains in his book that LeEhov in Tanakh means more in terms of faithfulness and preferentialness than love and gives examples both from Tanakh and outside of the verb meaning to be faithful to a covernant. In contrast he maintains that LiSnoh means to be unfaithful and not give special consideration complete with examples. Thus he explains for example Deut 11.1 or 7:13 or 10:13 or more pointedly for us 21:15 that is talking about a man with two wives; one “loved” and the other “hated”. This becomes one given preferential status over the other.

    Liora Ravid goes further to suggest that when Leah says “ראה ה’ בעניי” she is aluding to rape as in what Shekhem will later do to Dinah “ויעניה”. Rather tenuous seeing as marital rape was not a crime, and other uses of the word in Gen 31:42 (Ya’akov describes his hard life looking after the sheep to Lavan) or 41:52 (Yosef calls his son Efrayim “כי הפרני אלוהים בארץ עניי”) which both just mean miserableness.

    And so we get to Gen 30:2 where Ya’akov remonstrates with the childless Rahel “ויחר אף יעקב ברחל”. Ravid asserts that this term is otherwise reserved for God’s destructive wrath like when he wants to wipe out the people altogether. It is true that it can, but it also can mean just plain annoyance. It can mean the whole spectrum of annoyance and anger. Here are the examples that prove my point:

    Ex 4:14 –
    וַיִּחַר-אַף יְהוָה בְּמֹשֶׁה, וַיֹּאמֶר הֲלֹא אַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ הַלֵּוִי–יָדַעְתִּי, כִּי-דַבֵּר יְדַבֵּר הוּא; וְגַם הִנֵּה-הוּא יֹצֵא לִקְרָאתֶךָ, וְרָאֲךָ וְשָׂמַח בְּלִבּוֹ. God is annoyed at Moshe’s persistent refusal and excuses not to do his mission.

    Num 22:22 –
    וַיִּחַר-אַף אֱלֹהִים, כִּי-הוֹלֵךְ הוּא, וַיִּתְיַצֵּב מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה בַּדֶּרֶךְ, לְשָׂטָן לוֹ; וְהוּא רֹכֵב עַל-אֲתֹנוֹ, וּשְׁנֵי נְעָרָיו עִמּוֹ. God is going to kill Bil’am just remind him what the rules are.

    Num 24:10 –
    וַיִּחַר-אַף בָּלָק אֶל-בִּלְעָם, וַיִּסְפֹּק אֶת-כַּפָּיו; וַיֹּאמֶר בָּלָק אֶל-בִּלְעָם, לָקֹב אֹיְבַי קְרָאתִיךָ, וְהִנֵּה בֵּרַכְתָּ בָרֵךְ, זֶה שָׁלֹשׁ פְּעָמִים. Again Balak isn’t going to kill Bil’am, he is just rather annoyed.

    I agree, these are my only examples out of 28 instances where most are of the “God was really angry and smote them” type, but that’s what tends to happen when the Tanakh explains that God was angry. However it does show that the term”ויחר אף” does not need to mean particularly violent anger. It can just mean regular anger.

    Come to think of it how does the Tanakh say “anger” in other words than”ויחר אף”? Maybe just that people/God who are angry at all in the Tanakh are generally those who are in a position and diposition to cause a great deal of damage? Any suggestions?

    Friday is Yom Yerushalayim – the day (by the Jewish lunar calendar) that Jerusalem was re-taken / conquered / liberated / occupied in the 1967 “Six Day War“. In Jerusalem they are having all the celebrations tomorrow because Friday is a short day. However the real day is Friday.

    In the circles I mix in it is considered a (rather) minor religious festival although in Israeli society at large it generally unnoticed outside of Jerusalem and the religious zionist community.

    In honor of this (and for want of better inspiration), my next picture will be a Jerusalem one. Yesterday I bought the canvas (100×40 cm)  and this evening I hop to make a start, even if only to gesso the canvas ready for work.

    The picture is a view of the Old City of Jerusalem taken from the lookout in the Citadel also known as Migdal David (The Tower of David). BTW the tower was most definitely not built by anyone called David. This is just a misnomer that has stuck and it has become a Jewish religious symbol of Jerusalem despite it being a mainly muslim and the tower itself is the minaret of a mosque.

    JmPanorama100x40-420

    This is the picture. I know it look kind of weird and what are all those “Demo” notices on it? The picture is a mosaic of pictures from my phone – I took a whole 360° panorama there. I then perspective-corrected it using some free demo-wear add in the Paint Shop Pro and this is the result.

    I still have to think about exactly how I’m going to do this painting as there is a lot of detail and I am not feeling so photo-realistic right now. It will get some kind of impressionistic treatment. Keep tuned.

    New look

    As you will notice there is a new look to Rafi’s Studio! I was a bit bored of the old theme and this new one looks a bit more stylish so here goes. Any comments from the readership?

    I have also just completed reorganizing all my categories and recategorizing the 238 posts that make up this blog into a more logical and consistent categorization. I have tried to group categories together so that they also make sense, but some of the categories that I reckon should go together are still hanging around ungrouped. I suppose I’ll have to mull on it… Any ideas?

    Jewish Ziegenhain

    By a series of chances, I happened upon a couple of interesting web pages about the Jewish sites in the town of Ziegenhain, Schwalmstadt in Germany. Ziegenhain is the town where my father’s family came from. We know of two generations of Sterns from Ziegenhain as well as a whole lot of other Sterns from there who are somehow our relations as well. 

    Our earliest Sterns are the couple Abraham (1772-1827) and his wife Keile (1784-1852) Stern who lived there. Their son Salomon (1814-1870?) moved to Frankfurt Am Main and married into the Goldschmidt family who hailed from Eschwege and Oberlistingen (also in the same area) who had also moved to Frankfurt at the same time when Jews were first allowed to live outside the Judengasse.

    I was in Ziegenhain in 1987 and visited the Jewish cemetery there. My brother had been in Ziegenhain previously but had not known of the cemetery. He enquired in the local museum who also didn’t know but they later sent a map by post which I used to find the site. If you want to take a look, it is at [50°55’9.96″N, 9°15’10.28″E]. Anyway it turns out that there is a web page all about the Jewish cemetery (or here translated to English). Looking at the pictures, I remember some of the tombstones and I have pictures of some of them as well. Another picture I have that they don’t show is the stone of Keile Stern my great-great-great-grandmother which reads:

    אשת חיל עקרת
    הבית תפארת
    פעלה מרת
    קיילה אשת
    אברהם שטערן
    נפארה ר”ח אב
    תריב לפק

    While I was looking I also saw the page about the Ziegenhain synagogue (or here translated into bad Google English). This shows photos as well as reconstructions of the interior and some documents related to the community. In an article that the local museum sent to my brother (photocopied from “Die Steuerpflichtigen des Jahres 1840 in den Synagogengemeinden des Kreises Ziegenhain” by Alfred Höck from “Schwälmer Jahrbuch 1978”) is a list of synagogue dues paid in 1840 including by “Abraham Sterns Witwe” – i.e. Keile Stern, but this list isn’t shown in the web page.

    Two action items:

    1. Digitize the photos I took in Ziegenhain, post them here and send them to the “Alemannia Judaica” web site
    2. Scan the article “Die Steuerpflichtigen des Jahres 1840 in den Synagogengemeinden des Kreises Ziegenhain” and do the same.

    Hot

    Not what you’re thinking… this kind of hot:

    hot

    like 37.1°c (or 98.8°F for the metrically challenged).

    Tomorrow’s supposed to go down to a more reasonable 29°c. 

    hot2

    The Brick Testament

    This is a must look. The Brick Testament is a very cool Tanakh (and New Testament) irreverently enacted out in Lego bricks (and not missing the juicy bits either).

    Recommended for believers with a good sense of humor.