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An 1840s Road Trip, Captured on Lustrous Silver





Can you even remember a time before Google Image Search and Street View, before we all had instant access to far-flung sites like the Parthenon, the Dome of the Rock, a stretch of empty highway in the Australian outback? The whole inhabited world has now been pictured and cataloged, and we have so fully embraced the archive that it feels like an extension of our collective mind. In the infinite scroll of the search results page you can forget that once not every place was visible. Someone, in every place, had to take the first photograph.

In dozens of cases, that first photographer was Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey (1804-1892), a Frenchman of astonishing artistic ambition and considerable tech savvy. In 1842, three years after his countryman Louis Daguerre unveiled the world’s first practical camera, Girault set out on an epic adventure across Europe and into the Middle East, lugging custom photographic equipment that weighed more than a hundred pounds. He returned with over a thousand photographic plates, including the first surviving daguerreotypes made in Greece, Egypt, Anatolia, Palestine and Syria.

More than 120 of them are on view in “Monumental Journey: The Daguerreotypes of Girault de Prangey,” a buffed jewel of an exhibition now open at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“Monumental Journey,” organized with the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and curated by Stephen C. Pinson, of the Met’s department of photographs, is the capstone of a strong season of early photography in New York. (Other highlights include Anna Atkins’s botanical blueprints, at the New York Public Library through Feb. 17; and the groundbreaking “Posing Modernity,” at Columbia University through Feb. 10, which includes photographs of 19th-century black Parisians.)

Digital reproductions can’t capture the glistening silver surfaces of Girault’s daguerreotypes, which appear at the Met in free-standing cases, illuminated by pin lights. But put yourself back in the 1840s, and try to imagine them as something less gemlike. To viewers of his day, these pictures from Rome and Jerusalem were the most cutting-edge products of new media.


Before his journey, Girault visited the monuments of Paris to master the fundamentals of the daguerreotype process, in which light passes through the lens of a box camera onto a silver-coated copper plate, producing highly detailed images that, early viewers thought, glistened with the force of truth. (There are no negatives; each daguerreotype is unique.) Since the camera had a long exposure time, architecture was an ideal subject for early photography. This daguerreotype of the Tuileries Palace shows how Girault was beginning to understand photography as an archival medium — whose value, in this case, Girault could not yet know. While the pavilion in the back still stands, as part of the Louvre, the Tuileries Palace is gone: In 1871, during the Paris Commune, revolutionaries burned it to the ground.


Daguerre had already commercialized the box camera by the end of 1839, but Girault, before setting out on his journey, designed a custom kit. His camera held an oversized plate of about 7½ x 9½ inches, which could be rotated vertically or horizontally, plus a dark slide behind the lens that could be pulled to expose just a part of the plate. The result: Girault could make the world’s first multiple-exposure photographs. He would usually cut the plates into wide panoramas or uncommon vertical images. But sometimes, when it suited his systematic study of monuments, he would present his double exposures jointly — as in this daguerreotype from Corneto (today called Tarquinia, northwest of Rome) that contrasts a Romanesque bell tower with the double vaults of a Gothic window.


Photography came into being just as archaeology was being standardized into something like a science. (Previously the study of buildings of the past was called “monumental history,” on which this show’s title is a play.) In Athens, whose monuments were far less well known to French audiences than those of Rome, Girault made more full-size daguerreotypes than anywhere else. Up on the Acropolis, the Parthenon remains strewn with rubble, and wooden scaffolding is visible behind the colonnade. In another of Girault’s images, you can just make out a tripod, forerunner of today’s selfie sticks.


More than the marbles of Greece or Rome, it was the architecture of the Islamic world that most animated Girault’s archival impulse — a decade earlier he had studied Moorish and Arab buildings in Spain and Tunisia. This was still a young field of study in early colonial France, and his photographs of minarets and mosques in 1842 and 1843 offered an unprecedented record of medieval Islamic architecture. Several daguerreotypes here foreground the ornament and patterning of Egyptian buildings; this one captures every edge of the involute roof of a 16th-century mosque, festooned with knotty hearts and flowers.

Girault was an aristocrat from a conservative stretch of northeast France, and he relied on a tidy inheritance to pay for his travels. Along with his efforts to capture and systematize the world’s monuments — an endeavor with its own colonial baggage — he also made images of sailors, porters, horse drivers and women like this Egyptian: unveiled, smoking a hookah, and looking straight forward. The colonial gaze finds what it wants, and the Met show’s mottled, spectral images of camels and palm trees reveal how Girault indulged French fancies of the East. But by picturing this world via daguerreotype, Girault also insisted that it was not a timeless place, outside of history. It was as real as Paris, and picaresque fantasies were harder to maintain in front of the lens.


French travelers in the late 1830s and 1840s would have kept up with what the newspapers called “the Oriental question” — the international struggle set off by Muhammad Ali, an Ottoman army officer who took control of Egypt and threatened to sack the imperial capital of Constantinople. This first-ever daguerreotype of the city pictures the same sights that tourists in today’s Istanbul glide past with their camera phone’s panorama function: the tiered Blue Mosque on the left, the baroque Nuruosmaniye Mosque at center, the imposing Hagia Sophia at right, and the radiant Bosporus stretching along the back. Like us, Girault was using the sweep and miniaturization of the panorama to document a roisterous city, where past beauties framed contemporary political troubles.


Girault made the first known photos of Jerusalem, which the Ottomans had only retaken from Muhammad Ali a few years before. He failed to gain admission to several of the holiest Muslim sites, but at the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, venerated by Christians as the site of Jesus’s burial and resurrection, he captured the grooved arches and ornate Byzantine columns of the two entranceways — one of which was, and remains bricked shut. This is one of the show’s only photographs to include passers-by, who inscribe the image into the reality of the 1840s. At right is a veiled parishioner, blurred, by the camera’s long exposure time, into a phantasm.


The eastern extreme of Girault’s journey was booming, cosmopolitan Aleppo, where he made this daguerreotype of its ancient ramparts; poking out at top center is the minaret of the Great Mosque. After his death the images languished in the custom wooden boxes he designed, passed into the hands of a distant relative, and only gained wide attention when they came up for sale in 2003. As the world’s oldest photographic archive, Girault’s travel pictures offer a tantalizingly familiar mapping of the world through images, and their modernity pierces sharpest when they picture places razed or renovated in the intervening decades. Some, like this one, picture sites destroyed even more recently. In 2013, during the Syrian army’s horrific onslaught of rebel-held Aleppo, the minaret crumbled into powder.

Monumental Journey: The Daguerreotypes of Girault de Prangey

Through May 12 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manhattan; 212-535-7710,


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Trudeau Government Should Turn to Sustainable Floor Heating In Its New Deal





A consortium has been chosen by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to manage the $1.1-billion overhaul of five heating and cooling plants in the National Capital Region. However, this decision has been met with a lot of disapproval by the country’s largest federal public service union.

Early June, the department announced that Innovate Energy has been awarded the 30-year contract “to design, retrofit, maintain and operate the plants,”winning the bid over a rival group that included SNC-Lavalin.

Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna, said the federal government was “leading by example” in its bid to drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions across the country. McKenna noted that by supporting this project, they’re utilizing heating and cooling infrastructure to promote a more environmentally friendly option.

“We’re very proud that our government is working with partners like Innovate Energy to modernize this critical infrastructure,” she said during the announcement at one of the facilities that will be upgraded, the Cliff Heating and Cooling Plant in downtown Ottawa.

The plants would be known as the district energy system and would heat 80 buildings in the area with steam. It is also expected to cool 67 of these buildings with chilled water through more than 14 kilometres of underground pipes.

Under the Energy Services Acquisition Program, PSPC will be tasked with modernizing the outdated technology in the plants to lower emissions and supportgrowth in the eco-friendly technology sector.

During the first stage of the overhaul, the system would be converted from steam to low temperature hot water and then switched from steam to electric chillers—with the estimated completion date being 2025. PSPC notes that the project will reduce current emissions by 63 per cent, the equivalent of removing 14,000 non-eco-friendly cars off the road.

Afterwards, the natural gas powering the plant will then be replaced by carbon-neutral fuel sources, which according to estimated will reduce emissions by a further 28 per cent. The renovation project is bound to save the government an estimated fee of more than $750 million in heating and cooling costs in the next 40 years.

Furthermore, the implementation of radiant floor heating in Ottawa by the federal government would be an additional step in driving its agenda for a more eco-friendly state.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers website, radiant floor heating has a lot of benefits and advantages over alternate heat systems and can cut heating costs by 25 to 50 per cent.

“It is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because no energy is lost through ducts,” the website states.

Radiant floor heating provides an equal amount of heat throughout a building, including areas that are difficult to heat, such as rooms with vaulted ceilings, garages or bathrooms. Consideringit warms people and objects directly—controlling the direct heat loss of the occupant—radiant floor heating provides comfort at lower thermostat settings.

“Radiators and other forms of ‘point’ heating circulate heat inefficiently and hence need to run for longer periods to obtain comfort levels,” reports the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNet).

Radiant heating is a clean and healthy option—a perfect choice for those with severe allergies—as it doesn’t rely on circulating air, meaning there are no potentially irritating particles blowing around the room. Additionally, it is more energy efficient, aesthetically pleasing with wall radiators or floor registers and virtually noiseless when in operation.

“They draw cold air across the floor and send warm air up to the ceiling, where it then falls, heating the room from the top down, creating drafts and circulating dust and allergens.”

It is important for the leadership in Ottawa to equally drive the adoption of radiant floor heating as doing this would lead to increased usage in residential buildings—and even government-owned buildings.

However, in October, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), a representative body of employees of the plants,began a campaign target at the government against their decision to use a public-private partnership (P3) for the retrofitting project, citing concerns about costs and safety.

According to the union, outside employees won’t be bound to the same health and safety standards of government workers and that typically P3 projects cost a lot more than traditional public financing deals.

The union demands that the government scraps the proposed project and meet PSAC members and experts to brainstorm on a new way forward that would ensure federal employees continue to operate and maintain the plants.

However, parliamentary secretary to public services and procurement minister, Steve MacKinnon said that the union officials have consulted him but that after conducting an analysis, the P3 option was still the best for the job.

“We didn’t have (to) sacrifice on safety or health — we didn’t have to sacrifice on job security,” he said.

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Steps to becoming a Data Scientist





Data science has become one of the most in-demand career paths in this century, according to Business Insider. With the amount of information being circulated online, it has created a huge demand for storing, interpreting and implementing big data for different purposes—hence the need for a data scientist.

Today, there too much information flying around for regular people to process efficiently and use. Therefore, it has become the responsibility of data scientists to collect, organize and analyze this data. Doing this helps various people, organizations, enterprise businesses and governments to manage, store and interpret this data for different purposes.

Though data scientists come from different educational backgrounds, a majority of them need to have a technical educational background. To pursue a career in data science, computer-related majors, graduations and post graduations in maths and statistics are quite useful.

Therefore, the steps to becoming a data scientist are quite straightforward.  After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in an IT related field—such as computer science, maths or physics—you can also further your education by obtaining a master’s degree in a data science or any other related field of study. With the necessary educational background, you can now search for a job and obtain the required experience in whichever filed you choose to invest your acquired skills.

Here are the necessary steps to be taken to become a data scientist.

Step 1: Obtain the necessary educational requirements

As earlier noted, different educational paths can still lead to a career in data science. However, it is impossible to begin a career in data science without obtaining a collegiate degree—as a four-year bachelor’s degree is really important. However, according to a report by Business Insider, over 73% of data scientist in existence today have a graduate degree and about 38% of them hold a Ph.D. Therefore, to rise above the crowd and get a high-end position in the field of data science, it is important to have a Master’s degree or a Ph.D.—and with various online data science masters program, obtaining one is quite easy.

Some institutions provide data science programs with courses that will equip students to analyze complex sets of data. These courses also involve a host of technical information about computers, statistics, data analysis techniques and many more. Completing these programs equips you with the necessary skills to function adequately as a data scientist.

Additionally, there are some technical—and computer-based degrees—that can aid you begin a career in data science. Some of them include studies in, Computer Science, Statistics, Social Science, Physics, Economics, Mathematics and Applied Math. These degrees will imbibe some important skills related to data science in you—namely, coding, experimenting, managing large amounts of data, solving quantitative problems and many others.

Step 2: Choose an area of specialization

There rarely exists an organization, agency or business today that doesn’t require the expertise of a data scientist. Hence, it is important that after acquiring the necessary education to start a career as a data scientist, you need to choose an area of specialization in the field you wish to work in.

Some of the specializations that exist in data science today include automotive, marketing, business, defence, sales, negotiation, insurance and many others.

Step 3: Kick start your career as a data scientist

After acquiring the necessary skills to become a data scientist, it is important to get a job in the filed and company of your choice where you can acquire some experience.

Many organizations offer valuable training to their data scientists and these pieces of training are typically centred around the specific internal systems and programs of an organization. Partaking in this training allows you learn some high-level analytical skills that were not taught during your various school programs—especially since data science is a constantly evolving field.

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Artificial intelligence pioneers win tech’s ‘Nobel Prize’





Computers have become so smart during the past 20 years that people don’t think twice about chatting with digital assistants like Alexa and Siri or seeing their friends automatically tagged in Facebook pictures.

But making those quantum leaps from science fiction to reality required hard work from computer scientists like Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun. The trio tapped into their own brainpower to make it possible for machines to learn like humans, a breakthrough now commonly known as “artificial intelligence,” or AI.

Their insights and persistence were rewarded Wednesday with the Turing Award, an honor that has become known as technology industry’s version of the Nobel Prize. It comes with a $1 million prize funded by Google, a company where AI has become part of its DNA.

The award marks the latest recognition of the instrumental role that artificial intelligence will likely play in redefining the relationship between humanity and technology in the decades ahead.

Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society,” said Cherri Pancake, president of the Association for Computing Machinery, the group behind the Turing Award.

Although they have known each other for than 30 years, Bengio, Hinton and LeCun have mostly worked separately on technology known as neural networks. These are the electronic engines that power tasks such as facial and speech recognition, areas where computers have made enormous strides over the past decade. Such neural networks also are a critical component of robotic systems that are automating a wide range of other human activity, including driving.

Their belief in the power of neural networks was once mocked by their peers, Hinton said. No more. He now works at Google as a vice president and senior fellow while LeCun is chief AI scientist at Facebook. Bengio remains immersed in academia as a University of Montreal professor in addition to serving as scientific director at the Artificial Intelligence Institute in Quebec.

“For a long time, people thought what the three of us were doing was nonsense,” Hinton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They thought we were very misguided and what we were doing was a very surprising thing for apparently intelligent people to waste their time on. My message to young researchers is, don’t be put off if everyone tells you what are doing is silly.” Now, some people are worried that the results of the researchers’ efforts might spiral out of control.

While the AI revolution is raising hopes that computers will make most people’s lives more convenient and enjoyable, it’s also stoking fears that humanity eventually will be living at the mercy of machines.

Bengio, Hinton and LeCun share some of those concerns especially the doomsday scenarios that envision AI technology developed into weapons systems that wipe out humanity.

But they are far more optimistic about the other prospects of AI empowering computers to deliver more accurate warnings about floods and earthquakes, for instance, or detecting health risks, such as cancer and heart attacks, far earlier than human doctors.

“One thing is very clear, the techniques that we developed can be used for an enormous amount of good affecting hundreds of millions of people,” Hinton said.

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