Thursday, August 18, 2011

James Carroll's Review of The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was only so so, and there were two main reasons.

First, his evidence:

It simply wasn't that good. And it's not because there isn't good evidence for evolution. But the whole way through this book I kept thinking things like: "I could produce better evidence than that!" "Why didn't he mention this or that?" and, "Why is he talking about this, it's a huge digression?" etc. The evidence he provided is actually overwhelmingly convincing, the problem is that there is actually even better evidence out there that he didn't talk about (or that he only mentions in passing). I did learn about a few lines of evidence that I didn't know about before, so in that sense it was worth the time I spent. I just wish that he had done a better job, since I completely agree with him that we badly need this sort of a text today.

Second, his atheism:

Dawkins is a staunch atheist. Now, Dawkins claims that his primary purpose is to provide the evidence for evolution in order to save those who have been deluded by those he calls the "history deniers." That is his term for those creationists who deny the fact that evolution happened in order to cling to Biblical inerrancy. But if that was his goal, then he should have left his atheism on its shelf, at least for the duration of this text. In fact, in the introduction, he claims that this is what he is going to do. However, it appears that Dawkins is so enamored of his atheistic position that he is incapable of doing so, and I fear that it chased away the very people he was trying so hard to reach.

I vastly preferred "Why Evolution is True" by Jerry Coyne. That book is what this book should have been. http://www.amazon.com/Why-Evolution-True-Jerry-Coyne/dp/0670020532 If you are looking for a good book on the evidence for evolution, Coyne's book is the one I would suggest instead.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Book Review, Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge." Stephen Hawking

I couldn't agree with that statement more. Some of his other conclusions in the book from which the quote was taken "The Grand Design"... not so much.

But in what way is philosophy dead? Clearly the love of wisdom is not dead, but it may well be that the field of liberal arts philosophy may indeed be dead (or at least loosing relevance and productivity).

To attempt to discover the real truth requires more than sitting and thinking, it requires observation, and then modeling, which requires math. This means that today the mathematicians and physicists are doing the real leg work of philosophy, while the liberal arts philosophers are, for the most part, spinning their wheels.

There is a feeling that theology and philosophy should be the ones asking the questions about morality, theology, meaning, and God, while science should keep its distance. But I believe that you can't ask these questions correctly without a firm grounding in the observations of science and physics, which MUST inform any inquiry into philosophy, or even theology. As Einstein said, science without theology is lame (in the sense of not having the power to move things forward), while theology without science is blind (in the sense of moving forward, but not seeing where it is really going).

Therefore, I find that I simply can not agree with those that say that science should leave such theological matters to religion. In my view, Stephen Hawking has every right to venture into the field of theology, and to bravely see what implications his understanding of the laws of physics has on his understanding of God. This is a useful and potentially very productive undertaking.

Let us take some of Hawking's conclusions in this book as an example, and see how science can inform theology:

1. In the beginning, the universe was very small, thus the rules of Quantum Mechanics hold, and things like the universe can (and indeed will) appear out of nothing without violating the rules of quantum mechanics, so long as it eventually cancels itself out, just as virtual particles usually do.

2. The universe has an equal amount of positive and negative energy, and so is a cosmic free lunch, and can (and will) appear out of nothing (essentially, the universe cancels itself out, much like virtual particles do).

3. But the universe was also hugely massive, so it followed not only the rules of quantum mechanics, but also the rules of relativity, which says that mass bends space and time, and at the point where you have enough mass to make a black hole (as we clearly had in the early universe), time itself stops, so there IS no time before the big bang, time curves back upon itself, and comes to a single closed point, creating a beginning not only of the universe, but of time itself, and thus it creates a beginning to the chain of causation. The chain of causation (where the causes come before the results) comes to an end at the Big bang, which necessarily had no cause, because there was no time before the big bang for that cause to act in.

His conclusion? There is no God in the platonic sense of the "prime mover" or "first cause" because 1. we don't need him to explain how and why the universe could come into being, (quantum mechanics does that) and 2. there could be no creator of the universe, because there was no time before the universe was created for Him to act in. Essentially, God could not "cause" the universe, because relativity guarantees that there was no time in which he could act to initiate such a cause, and after the big bang bangs, we don't need Him to explain the progression of the universe from that point on (the laws of nature do that).

Whether or not you agree with these conclusions (which I do not), it is clear that a firm understanding of the issues surrounding quantum mechanics should indeed necessarily inform our theology. Even if his reasoning here is flawed, that is the way science works. It is necessary for someone to make these sorts of inferences, so that science can move forward and either prove or disprove this theory.

So, why don't I come to the same conclusions as Hawking? His reasoning appears rather solid at first glance. However, relativity and quantum mechanics are notorious for their inability to play nicely together, and there are a myriad of potential theories that have been proposed in an attempt to produce a good theory of quantum gravity. He is here espousing one of these theories, granted, it is the one that is (so far) the most mathematically robust, but it is by no means the only solution to this problem. For example, some theories of quantized time predict a big bounce instead of a big bang, in which case there was indeed time before the big bang. Another competing theory predicts that two of the membranes predicted by M-theory collided, producing the big bang, again, this is a theory that predicts time before the big bang. Still other theories predict that there are other dimensions of time, outside of our own. It is also unclear to some whether quantum fluctuations can create virtual particles without space or time in which to create them, which could cast doubt on whether a quantum fluctuation alone could create the universe from no-where and no-when. For example, Sean Carroll proposes that each universe is born from parent universes (see From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time), in which case, time would indeed exist before the big bang. The possibilities are nearly endless. And, most importantly, we have yet to find observations that can clearly differentiate between many of these competing theories. Essentially, we have no observationally verified theory of quantum gravity, which is necessary before we can make any real predictions of how the universe behaved in these early moments that are so essential to Hawking's arguments.

So, if we take this into consideration, we can rephrase Stephen Hawking's brilliant deduction differently. IF we accept THIS theory of quantum gravity, together with its predictions about quantum fluctuations and the beginning of time, THEN the universe necessarily had no cause within our dimension of time, and thus, there is no God that exists solely within our universe's dimension of time. I believe that this is a valid deduction, and, to some extent, it should inform our understanding of God. It is only unfortunate that he didn't state his conclusions with this level of cautiousness. Instead, he is far more confident in his conclusions than is warranted by the data, and he leaves out the many "if"s that should have preceded his conclusion. This was perhaps my only serious disagreement with the Book.

And what of my own conclusions about God? That is not really what this review is about, but to be short:

Theleologians in my chosen branch of Christianity have often said that God does not just predict the future, he quite literally sees it. For this to be the case, God must, of necessity, exist outside of our dimension of time, and likely outside of our dimensions of space as well. I find the fact that science is now predicting a universe of multiple dimensions and multiple universes (some with different laws of physics), and is finding that God cannot exist only within our dimension of time and still create the universe, to be quite faith promoting since that is in line with what I believed all along.

Stephen Hawking would likely take issue with my interpretation of his work, but hey, that is what Science is all about, and we should be grateful to Stephen Hawking for so clearly expressing this brilliant deduction.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Is the Singularity Near or Far?

In this article, titled "The Singularity is Far", http://www.kurzweilai.net/the-singularity-is-far-a-neuroscientists-view?utm_source=KurzweilAI+Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=a40a06de5c-UA-946742-1&utm_medium=email David J. Linden challenges many of Kurzweil's timetables for the reverse engineering of the Human Brain. His primary argument is that although data is growing exponentially, our understanding of that data appears to be growing only linearly.

Lincoln Cannon challenged this article's premises here:http://lincoln.metacannon.net/2011/07/singularity-merits-understanding-but.html

Lincoln's response was well thought out, and he had some excellent points.

Lincoln's primary argument seems to be that we don't need understanding, just simulation and scanning resolution. "In a sense, it would be like riding a bike versus understanding the physics of riding bike; we can do the former without the latter." I essentially agree with him there. It is indeed possible to develop a singularity like event using simulation without understanding.

However, when Kurzweil made his predictions, he assumed that functional simulation would require much less computational power than would a full simulation. Essentially, Kurzweil assumed that we would use the power of "understanding" to create algorithms that are more efficient than the brain, and his entire time table was based upon this assumption. If we are instead going to assume that we will use simulation without understanding to do the trick of creating the singularity, then we must recognize that the computing power needed will be far greater, and this will move the time table for the Singularity far back from Kurzweil's predictions.

There are several reasons why I reject Kurzweil's time tables for the Singularity:

When I look at most of the technology trend data, I tend to see exponentials where Kurzweil sees double exponentials. Furthermore, although I do see exponentials trends in our data gathering abilities, like David J. Linden, I see linear progress in our understanding of that flood of data. I actually believe that understanding is most likely on an exponential trend too, but it is just in the early, nearly linear, beginning of an exponential that will take time to "ramp up" to the knee of the curve. But it's hard to map numbers to brain "understanding" and so it is hard to predict when this shift will take place.

Kurzweil's time table is based on 10^14-10^16th cps to simulate the functionality of the brain, something that would require re-writing the brain's algorithms in a more efficient manner, and that requires understanding. To go the "simulation without understanding" rout you need more like 10^19th cps. That would push many of the dates for Kurzweil's predictions back several years at least.

10^19 cps should arrive in super computers by 2022-2025 according to my last projections. https://picasaweb.google.com/jlcarroll/Economy#5620432299391054642. This really isn't in time to meet Kurzweil's deadlines, because he predicts strong AI at about the time when the computation necessary to simulate the brain hits $1000, not when it can be done only on the world's most expensive supercomputers. In other words, he predicts that we will have good strong AI simulations AFTER we have had clumsy ones in a super computer for a while, after we have some time to study and perfect the clumsy ones, and then only after they get cheap enough to work really well and become ubiquitous.

Down the "simulation without understanding" road, you need 10^19th cps to hit $1000 instead of only needing 10^16th cps to hit $1000, and that shouldn't happen until significantly after 2022 when our fastest super computers should be able to do it. My last prediction put this landmark at about 2058! And that assumes that the doubling rate of cps/$ doesn't slow after Moore's Law hits the quantum barrier somewhere between 2020-2025. If it slows, which it might, then this could take even longer. I will admit that if I am wrong, things don't slow down but speed up, and if there is a double exponential at work here that I can't find, then this might happen significantly sooner. Nevertheless, even then, it would still happen some time after Kurzweil's deadline if you use a simulation without understanding paradigm.

In other words, I may buy into many of Kurzweil's predictions, but I find that I must also question some of his timetables.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

GDP, Going Further Back, Optimism Again

I earlier blogged about Why I am an Optimist. In that post I presented the following graph of GDP between 1930-2011:
My Per Capita, inflation adjusted GDP graph for 1930-2011.

I was fascinated by the exponential growth in GDP, even in inflation adjusted per-capita GDP, and craved more data. Since getting data from the future by Hepatoscopy failed (mostly because I couldn't find a good lamb to sacrifice and read its liver), I decided to take the more practical rout, and look further into the past instead. Granted, looking further into the past is usually not as exciting as looking further into the future, but we will take what we can get until we invent that pesky time machine.

In any event, I looked around the internet for some more data, and found this data, which I summarize in the following graph:
My Per Capita, inflation adjusted GDP graph for 1 AD - 2001 AD.

What interested me most about this data was that it indicates that for the last 2000 years, inflation adjusted, per-capita GDP has been growing at a super exponential rate. This means that not only is the GDP growing exponentially, but the rate at which it is growing exponentially is itself growing exponentially.

But what exactly does it mean for GDP to be growing at a super exponential rate?

What it means is that trade, specialization, technology, and automation have been making us all more productive and more wealthy. And it means that the rate at which have been making us more productive and wealthy has been increasing. And that the rate at which this rate is increasing has itself been increasing. All the wars, dark ages, inquisitions, famines, natural disasters, genocides, recessions, and depressions of the past 2000 years have only been minor bumps along the road to increased prosperity when viewed from the perspective of this 2000 year sweep of history.

What would it mean if this trend were to continue? We can only guess, but something like the end of scarcity, and the beginning of overwhelming world wide prosperity would be one such guess, and would be a reasonable one at that! Insuring that this outcome is actually produced will naturally require a certain amount of effort on our part, but I believe that that will be effort well spent.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Some housekeeping

Because I want a place to ramble about economics and politics, and because my photography viewers aren't usually interested in that, and because my politics people aren't usually interested in my photography, I decided to split the blog.

Politics, economics, computers stuff, transhumanism, all that will stay here. If you are looking for my photography stuff, go here:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Welcome to the Future, Why I am an Optimist

Introduction:

There is a tendency to talk about "the good old days" and to talk about how much better things were "back then." However, our view of such things tends to be nostalgic, and more than a little skewed. We think that "back then, there wasn't so much violence" or "back then the economy worked" or "back then our people still had a moral compas." The truth of the matter may be very different from what we think.

Optimism, Economic:

A little while ago, I posted a chart I had created on the US GDP to facebook. I created this chart because I was curious about how the current recession had affected the US GDP. This is what I came up with:


My Per Capita, inflation adjusted GDP graph.


What I was most interested in, was the way that mechanization and computerization had allowed our work to be increasingly more productive. Thus, I divided the GDP numbers by the US population each year, producing a per/capita inflation adjusted GDP. For the same amount of labor, we were now producing substantially more wealth, and this was a trend that our current recession had barely put a dent in. Of course, all that assumes that GDP is a good measure of "productivity."

However, as a friend of mine pointed out, GDP is often not a good measure of "productivity." He cited the following article by John Mauldin. This was a very interesting read. John advocates the use of a "private sector" only GDP, as well as what he calls a "Structural" GDP, which is a measure of the GOP that does not arize from deficit spending.
Consumption is not prosperity. The credit-addicted family measures its success by how much it is able to spend, applauding any new source of credit, regardless of the family income or ability to repay. The credit-addicted family enjoys a rising “family GDP”—consumption—as long as they can find new lenders, and suffers a family “recession” when they prudently cut up their credit cards.

In much the same way, the current definition of GDP causes us to ignore the fact that we are mortgaging our future to feed current consumption. Worse, like the creditaddicted family, we can consciously game our GDP and GDP growth rates—our consumption and consumption growth—at any levels our creditors will permit!
I disagree with his focus on "private sector GDP" (because the government can produce services and products too), but applaud his use of what he calls "structural GDP" which is the GDP minus the GDP that comes from deficit spending. In that domain, our current recession has cost us about 15 or so years of "progress."


John Mauldin's GDP graph, http://www.johnmauldin.com/images/uploads/pdf/mwo050911.pdf


Yet even this bleak view of our current recession, with the recession costing us about 15 years of "progress" in structural GDP, admits that there IS progress. His real, inflation adjusted, per capita structural GDP has been going up, and up, and up since 1944, with a minor hiccup that is our recession. I really wish that he had taken his graphs back further in time so that we could see the "great" depression and compare it to today's recession, but he did not. You can however, see the great depression in my graph, although not in "structural" GDP terms. It would appear that our current problems are actually quite minor when taken into the grand scheme of things. I am sure that provides little solace for a family out of work and struggling to get by, but it should privide hope that this won't last forever, and that things will eventually get better.

In any event, progress has been made, and there is every reason to believe that more progress will be made in the long term. Today, we live substantially better than our parents, even if we live slightly worse than we did 10 years ago. And we live a LOT better than our grandparents did.

In fact, I am not entirely convinced that we actually do live worse than we did 10 years ago, despite the "structural GDP" figures. Our structural GDP may have dipped, but think about this: Compare your access to information with your access 10 years ago, with the internet, cell phones, dish TV, Wikipedia, etc. Look at your access to advanced software. Look at your access to entertainment. 10 years ago your car didn't have a DVD player in the back, you didn't have a vast collection of DVD's, and Blue Ray disks with HD TV's didn't exist. 10 years ago you played Star Craft I instead of Star Craft II. Your digital camera today is VASTLY superior to the one you likely owned 10 years ago, and it was substantially cheaper despite inflation!

And if we go further back, your great-grandfather's car was a horse.... you get the picture.

John pointed out how GDP can over estimate how well we are doing by pretending that deficit spending is real. But GDP can also vastly under estimate our current standard of living, because it can ignore the depreciation of goods and services, especially in the computing and electronic markets.

Computing power/$ doubles about every year, which means that every dollar of that GDP buys twice as much computing power each year (and is therefore twice as valuable). That affects our standard of living from the gadget perspective, and since gadgets are in more and more of our products, it affects more and more of our lives, from entertainment to healthcare. This process will only accelerate, as gadgets are found in more and more places, from our sun glasses to our clothes, and eventually within our own bodies.

Similar "depreciations" have happened in the communication domain. Compare mail to e-mail. Compare e-mail with video chat. Our ability to connect with each other, to share ideas, and to stay in touch has improved by vast orders of magnitude over just the last few years.

Similar "depreciations" have happened in some of the materials markets. Yes, many raw materials have gone up in price drastically. But at the same time we have been developing new materials, (carbon fiber anyone?) stronger, lighter, and cheaper than the materials we used before. Again, there is no reason to assume that this trend will not continue.

Industrialization, automation, and mechanization have cost us some jobs. But they have also created many jobs, and these new jobs produce more goods and services for less. Real wealth and standard of living is found in the consumption of such good and services. The cheaper they get, the more we can consume, and the higher our standard of living. Again, this is a case where GDP can under-estimate our prosperity.

More improvements have been made in health care. Although again we still have a long way to go, miracles are happening right before our eyes each and every day. The blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, more and more of those with cancer survive. There has never been a better time to live.

Optimism, Violence:

In the last few years, there have been quite a few wars. Violence appears to be everywhere. The Middle East is exploding, and the US is currently involved in THREE separate conflicts in the Middle East at the same time. As if this isn't enough, there are numerous conflicts in South America, and Africa. Many of them appear to be right on the edge of exploding. The world certainly seems to be quite the violent place.

Yet we must ask ourselves, is this perception of increased violence accurate? Certainly there is some serious violence going on, and we shouldn't downplay this fact. There is much that we can (and should) do to make the world a better (and less violent) place. But the simple fact of the matter is that "In fact, our ancestors were far more violent than we are, violence has been in decline for long stretches of time, and that today, we are probably living in the most peaceful time in our species existence." (By the way, I HIGHLY recommend watching this talk, it will change your view of everything). This same talk addresses issues such as homicide and crime, which also appear to be improving drastically.

Mis:

The potential for the use of nuclear weapons has unfortunately increased with the fall of the Soviet Union. Nuclear weapons have spread to many smaller, third world countries, and the potential that nuclear weapons might get into the hands of a terrorist who would use them has unfortunately gone up. As frightening as this prospect is, the world is actually much safer from complete nuclear annihilation today than it was 20 or 30 years ago. Although the potential for an isolated use of an atomic weapon has increased, the potential for a large, world wide distruction (Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD) has dropped dramatically since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Who would have thought in the 80's that the Soviet Union was about to fall, and who would have thought in 2009 that Democratic reforms and revolutions were about to spread across the Middle East. Around the world, governments are becoming more democratic, human rights are improving (although we still have a long way to go), and world poverty levels are dropping.

Let Freedom Ring.

The civil rights movements have changed our perceptions of racism for ever. African apartheid has fallen. Women's rights movements have done much to improve gender inequalities. In just a short few hundred years we went from a situation where blacks were slaves and women could not vote, to the point where our greatest arguments about "equal rights" seem to be about defining marriage. The very fact that this is an issue at all, indicates just how far we have come. Who would have thought just 20 years ago that today we would have a black president. Regardless of what you think about the job that he is doing, the very fact that we have such a man as president gives some impression of just how far we have come.

Conclusions:

There appear to be a LOT of reasons to be optimistic about the future. I think I will let Brad Paisley summ things up for me:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0Yg9wjctRw&feature Welcome to the future everyone.

(I continue these thoughts here).

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Mustard Seed

This is a continuation of my "You Inspired Me" photography challenge. You can see the results of these challenges here.

This Week's Challenge:


This week, a friend challenged me with this photo from my favorites:



By Just Joe over on Flickr.

What I liked most about the source picture was the way they used a simple image of a simple item in order to represent a complex religious idea. I loved how the image uses the nature of the item to convey the message. In this case, the Bible is well worn and clearly well used, and thereby conveys the faith and dedication of its owner. I loved how clearly this complex idea is conveyed by this simple object. Nothing but the object in question was needed to convey the idea. It is this ability to apply the attributes of one object to another that is at the heart of religious symbolism. I wanted to find a single item that I could photograph that would have some attribute that would powerfully convey a religious idea.

As with all my "you inspired me" photographs, I didn't just want to duplicate the source photo exactly, so a simple picture of a well worn Bible was out. I started to rifle through my collection of religious items, and I found a plastic container full of mustard seeds that I purchased while in Israel. I was immediately excited by the idea. Mustard seeds already have a powerful and immediate religious significance for most people. This is due to Jesus' comparison of mustard seeds with both the "kingdom of God" and with "faith." Luke records that Jesus said: "Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it" (Luke 13:18-19); and "the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you" (Luke 17:5-6).

However, it occurred to me that taking a picture of the idea behind the mustard seed wouldn't be as simple as taking a picture of a Bible on a white background. The attribute of interest with the Bible photograph was the worn and well used nature of the Bible. But the attribute of interest with the mustard seed is its small size. I had to find a way to take a picture of the mustard seed that made its size clear, and to do that, I knew that I would need something else in the background that would make the size of the mustard seed obvious. This presented a unique photographic challenge: how to create a composition that focused on the mustard seed, while including enough contextual clews to indicate their size.

My first idea was the clinical approach, simply photograph the seeds with a ruler in the background. This approach appealed to the scientist in me, and this is the result:


Mustard seeds grow in reasonably sized pods, while the seeds inside are smaller than a grain of sand. What I liked most about this picture is that I was able to include both the pod, and several of the very small seeds it contained. But while the clinical metric ruler conveys the size of the objects rather exactly, it doesn't do so very intuitively. For that I needed to try something else. This was what I came up with:

I really love how this picture immediately gives you an idea of the sizes involved. Unfortunately, this composition made it more difficult to include the pod in the picture, but I believe that this drawback was well worth it.

Next Week's Challenge:


For next week's challenge, my wife selected this picture as a tribute to spring:


What I liked most about this picture was its use of selective focus, with a strong diagonal composition in the background. Although the selective focus forces the flowers to be the focus of the image, the path and grass are still important compositional elements, providing line, direction, and balance. I am excited to try my hand at these compositional ideas, and I am especially excited to get out and take my first shots of all the new life that is appearing everywhere as part of Spring.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Flowers of Light: Bokeh Challenge

This is a continuation of my "You Inspired Me" photography challenge. You can see the results of these challenges here.

This week, a friend challenged me with this photo from my favorites:

By jegoble over on Flickr.

What I liked about the source picture was the Bokeh in the background, and the mysterious quality of the light in the foreground, especially the near translucent appearance of the candle. Those were the qualities that I tried to duplicate in this week's challenge.

Originally I planned to use a candle in the foreground and some Christmas-tree lights in the background. However, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do something completely different but that captured the same lighting/bokeh magic. These pictures are what I ended up with:


There are several elements of these that I think turned out rather well. I love the bokeh in the background, and I thought that the lighting in the foreground is lovely. I also think that the composition turned out relatively well. I do wish that I had more of these flower lights to use, as that would have allowed for a slightly more complex composition, but all in all, I am happy at how the challenge turned out.

I will post next week's challenge shortly.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Inspired By: Photography Challenge

To all my photography friends:

This is a new project that I have been working on. The idea behind this set is to improve my creativity and technical abilities.

We all love to look at each other's pictures. That is why we are on Flickr in the first place, right? And we favorite those pictures that inspire us or move us in some way. But the idea is not to just admire other people's work, but to allow their creativity to inspire us.

I have decided that every week (or so) I will select one photo from my favorites (or allow one of you to challenge me by selecting one for me), and then attempt to duplicate what inspired me about that particular photo.

The idea is NOT to replicate other people's work exactly, but to attempt to create something original that duplicates the technique, idea, or emotion that caused me to favorite the photo in the first place.

I think that this is an excellent way of improving my abilities as a photographer, and I invite anyone who is interested in doing this challenge with me to drop me some flickrmail. I will select photos to challenge you from your favorites, and you can select photos from my favorites to challenge me, and we can write about our experiences. Doing this together can provide added motivation and inspiration. I will be writing about each week's challenges here.

You can see the results of these challenges here.

This week, a friend challenged me with this photo from my favorites:



By jegoble over on Flickr.

What I liked about this picture was the Bokeh in the background, and the mysterious quality of the light in the foreground, especially the near translucent appearance of the candle. Those will be the qualities that I will be attempting to duplicate in this week's challenge, and I will post the result here when it is finished.

Wish me luck.