Links for October 2014

  • Total moving face reconstruction“:

    We present an approach that takes a single video of a person’s face and reconstructs a high detail 3D shape for each video frame. We target videos taken under uncontrolled and uncalibrated imaging conditions, such as youtube videos of celebrities. In the heart of this work is a new dense 3D flow estimation method coupled with shape from shading. Unlike related works we do not assume availability of a blend shape model, nor require the person to participate in a training/capturing process. Instead we leverage the large amounts of photos that are available per individual in personal or internet photo collections. We show results for a variety of video sequences that include various lighting conditions, head poses, and facial expressions.

  • What’s changed since the days when theft was worse than murder? I would really love to see whether a “historical economist” (or whatever those are called) could estimate the statistical value of a human life as defined by people’s own revealed preferences. This is the sort of calculation where we infer how much each of us values our own lives based on the amount we are willing to pay to avoid small chances of death. In the US today, the number is about $8 million now, and is surprisingly consistent (within a factor of 2) over many possible inference methods. (Of course, there are exceptions where people effectively pay rates of many billion dollars per life to avoid emotionally salient risks, like terrorism.)

    The Nautilus article gives the misleading impression that society’s changing values are mostly due to moral progress (presumably arising, I guess, from people being persuaded by moral arguments, or from certain societal norms taking hold). But it’s almost certainly the case that you can explain the vast majority of the change by economic developments, especially following the dramatic rise in per capita wealth starting with the industrial revolution. The dark implication of this is that if per capita wealth falls drastically in the future, which is possible depending on technological developments, then we are likely to see a regression in moral attitudes.

  • India is first country to enter Martian orbit on its first try, the cheapest interplanetary mission ever. The MOM spacecraft arrived at Mars just days after Nasa’s bigger and more expensive MAVEN Orbiter. The Indian orbiter’s much more modest capabilities make direct comparisons about cost efficiency unhelpful, but the extensive historic failure record of Mars-bound craft clearly make this impressive.

  • More Nasa: What would the history of the American space program look like if support for the Apollo program had been maintained? Dreaming a different Apollo.

    What might have been?

  • Yet more Nasa: Everyone knows about the Lunar lander, but few are aware of the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (credited by Niel Armstrong as essential for a successful Moon landing) or Nasa’s bold proposals for Lunar Escape Systems.

  • Why are quadracopters better at small scales, and helicopters better at large scales?

  • The Economist has a new article on advances in research on limb replacement. At the center of it is osseointegration, a technique where mounts for the artificial limbs are driven directly into the bone and protrude through the skin.

    You can see a video of this surgical procedure here. It’s bloody and graphic (although fairly modest as far as surgery goes), and reminds you of how much this has in common with carpentry. Here is a video of the patient walking 8 weeks post-op, which is substantially less graphic.

    I hope this isn’t similar to the electrode-controlled artificial limbs that I have seen described in the news for years and years but never seem to become widely used. It’s not clear to me what’s changed in medical technology to enable osseointegration, since screws and rods have been available forever. My best guess is some sort of combination of improved infection control techniques and drugs (infection being a serious risk of permanent openings in the skin) and bone-growth promoting materials (featured in the surgical video).

  • Sean Carroll is crowdsourcing funding. It will be very interesting to see how this affects academic attitudes if he is successful.

  • More from Nautilus: Steve Hsu argues that Super-Intelligent Humans Are Coming.

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