One of Rembrandt van Rijn’s biggest paintings just got a bit bigger.
A marriage of art and artificial intelligence has enabled Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum to recreate parts of the iconic “Night Watch” painting that were snipped off 70 years after Rembrandt finished it.
The printed strips now hang flush to the edges of the 1642 painting in the museum’s Honor Gallery. Their addition restores to the work the off-center focal point that that rebellious Golden Age master Rembrandt originally intended.
“It can breathe now,” museum director Taco Dibbits told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The crowded painting’s two main characters, Captain Frans Banninck Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch, are central in the chopped down painting. With the new digital additions — particularly a strip on the left of the painting that features two men and makes clear that a boy is looking over a balustrade — the main figures effectively are shifted to the right.
“It really gives the painting a different dynamic,” Dibbits said. “And what it taught us is that Rembrandt never does what you expect.”
The museum always knew the original, uncut, painting was bigger, in part thanks to a far smaller copy painted at the same time that is attributed to Gerrit Lundens.
Researchers and restorers who have painstakingly pored over the work for nearly two years using a battery of high tech scanners, X-rays and digital photography combined the vast amount of data they generated with the Lundens copy to recreate and print the missing strips.
“We made an incredibly detailed photo of the Night Watch and through artificial intelligence or what they call a neural network, we taught the computer what color Rembrandt used in the Night Watch, which colors, what his brush strokes looked like,” Dibbits said.
The machine learning also enabled the museum to remove distortions in perspective that are present in the Lundens copy because the artist was sitting at one corner while he painted Rembrandt’s painting.
The reason the 1642 group portrait of an Amsterdam civil militia was trimmed is simple: It was moved from the militia’s club house to the town hall and there it didn’t fit on a wall between two doors. A bit of very analog cropping with a pair of scissors ensued and the painting took on the dimensions that have now been known for centuries. The fate of the pieces of canvas that were trimmed off remains a mystery.
The digital recreation that will be on show in coming months come as part of research and restoration project called ” Operation Night Watch ” that began just under two years ago, before the global pandemic emptied museums for months.
Under relaxations of the Dutch COVID-19 lockdown, the museum can welcome more visitors from this weekend, but still only about half of its normal capacity.
During the restoration project, the painting was encased in a specially designed glass room and studied in unprecedented detail from canvas to the final layer of varnish.
Among that mound of data, researchers created the most detailed photograph ever made of the painting by combining 528 digital exposures.
The 1642 painting last underwent significant restoration more than 40 years ago after it was slashed by a knife-wielding man and is starting to show blanching in parts of the canvas.
Dibbits said the new printed additions are not intended to trick visitors into thinking the painting is bigger, but to give them a clear idea of what it was supposed to look like.
“Rembrandt would have definitely done it more beautifully, but this comes very close,” he said.
Ford to add 10,800 jobs making electric vehicles, batteries
Ford and a partner company say they plan to build three major electric-vehicle battery factories and an auto assembly plant by 2025 — a dramatic investment in the future of EV technology that will create an estimated 10,800 jobs and shift the automaker’s future manufacturing footprint toward the South.
The factories, to be built on sites in Kentucky and Tennessee, will make batteries for the next generation of Ford and Lincoln electric vehicles that will be produced in North America. Combined, they mark the single largest manufacturing investment the 118-year-old company has ever made and are among the largest factory outlays in the world.
Notably, the new factories will provide a vast new supply of jobs that will likely pay solid wages. Most of the new jobs will be full time, with a relatively small percentage having temporary status to fill in for vacations and absent workers.
Together with its battery partner, SK Innovation of South Korea, Ford says it will spend $5.6 billion in rural Stanton, Tennessee, where it will build a factory to produce electric F-Series pickups. A joint venture called BlueOvalSK will construct a battery factory on the same site near Memphis, plus twin battery plants in Glendale, Kentucky, near Louisville. Ford estimated the Kentucky investment at $5.8 billion and that the company’s share of the total would be $7 billion.
With the new spending, Ford is making a significant bet on a future that envisions most drivers eventually making the shift to battery power from internal combustion engines, which have powered vehicles in the United States for more than a century. Should that transition run into disruptions or delays, the gamble could hit the company’s bottom line. Ford predicts 40% to 50% of its U.S. sales will be electric by 2030. For now, only about 1% of vehicles on America’s roads are powered by electricity.
In an interview Monday, CEO Jim Farley said it would be up to the workers at the new plants to decide whether to be represented by the United Auto Workers union. That question could set up an epic battle with union leaders, who want employees of the future to join the union and earn top UAW production wages of around $32 per hour. It represents a high-stakes test for the UAW, which will need jobs for thousands of members who will lose work in the transition away engines and transmissions for petroleum-powered vehicles.
Ford’s move also could put the company at odds with President Joe Biden’s quest to create “good-paying union jobs” in a new, greener economy.
Farley said it’s too early to talk about pay or unionization at the new factories. He stressed that Ford will maintain a geographic manufacturing balance when the company’s investments in Ohio and Michigan are included. Ford and General Motors have UAW-represented plants in Kentucky and Tennessee, states where it is common for political leaders to actively campaign against unionization.
“We love our UAW partners,” Farley said. “They’ve been incredible on this journey of electrification so far. But it’s up to the employees to decide.”
Just four months ago, Ford said it would build two new battery plants in North America. But Farley said demand for the electric Mustang Mach E SUV and over 150,000 orders for the F-150 electric pickup convinced the company to increase battery output.
Farley said Ford intends to lead the world in electric vehicles, a title now held by upstart Tesla Inc., which is adding jobs at a third factory now under construction near Austin, Texas.
Ford picked the Kentucky and Tennessee sites in part because of lower electricity costs, Farley said, as well being less exposed to flooding and hurricanes than other states. Battery factories use five times the electricity of a typical assembly plant to make cells and assemble them into packs, so energy costs were a big factor, Farley said.
The company also needed huge tracts of land for the plants that weren’t available in other states, Farley said.
Both Southern states also have skilled labor forces and are willing to train workers for the new jobs, he said.
“These jobs are very different than the jobs we’ve had in the past,” Farley said. “We want to work with states who are really excited about doing that training and giving you access to that low energy cost.”
The Tennessee Valley Authority, which serves the Memphis-area site, sells industrial electricity at a price that’s lower than 93% of competitors nationwide, said CEO Jeff Lyash. Rates have stayed flat for the past decade and are planned to stay flat for the next 10 years, he said.
Combined, the three new battery plants will be able to supply enough batteries to power 1 million vehicles per year, about 129 gigawatts of power, Ford Chief Operating Officer Lisa Drake said.
Shares of Ford Motor Co., which is based in Dearborn, Michigan, rose more than 4% in extended trading after the new factories were announced late Monday.
Reaction from the union was tempered Monday, with officials seemingly optimistic about organizing the factories.
“We look forward to reaching out and helping develop this new workforce to build these world-class vehicles and battery components,” union President Ray Curry said in a statement.
Kristin Dziczek, a senior vice president at the Center for Automotive Research who follows labor issues, said the union’s future depends largely on organizing the new plants.
“It’s imperative that the UAW organize these if they’re going to have a stake in the electrification of this industry,” she said.
Union representation of the plants could become a contentious issue in the next round of national contract talks with the union in two years.
When General Motors first announced joint venture battery factories over the past few years, its executives said workers would decide on unionization. UAW officials howled in protest. In May, GM said it would support union organizing at the plants.
The Kentucky site is only about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Louisville, where Ford has plants that make SUVs and trucks now powered by internal combustion engines. Ford wouldn’t comment on whether those plants eventually would make electric vehicles, but Dziczek said converting at least one would make sense. One plant makes the Ford Escape small SUV, in the most popular segment of the U.S market, she said.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said in an interview that Ford’s 5,000 jobs at the Glendale battery plants is the largest single employment announcement in state history. And he said it will also bring jobs with suppliers that make components for the plants. Earlier this month state legislators approved $410 million worth of economic development incentives.
Beshear said Ford would get a loan of up to $250 million to draw on through construction. It’s forgivable if the company hits completion milestones. The package also includes the cost of the Glendale land, plus up to $36 million in training incentives, he said.
Ford will formally announce the plants with ceremonies on Tuesday at both sites. In Glendale’s one-block downtown on Monday evening, there were no signs of pending dramatic changes in the economy from the new jobs. All was quiet in the town where the primary businesses are antique shops and corn and soybean fields that stretch in all directions.
The Tennessee assembly plant is to be built on a site about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Memphis that’s almost six square miles (15.5 square kilometers). Combined, the assembly plant, to be run by Ford, and the battery factory, would employ about 5,800 workers.
State officials have been trying to develop the site for years without success. Gov. Bill Lee said Tennessee offered Ford $500 million in incentives to win a contest with 15 other states. Lee said he is confident legislators will approve the spending.
GLENDALE, Ky. (AP)
Remote work is becoming the new norm, should tech industries be worried?
Back in 1822, Charles Lamb, British poet and essayist wrote in a letter to poet William Worsworth “You don’t know how wearisome it is to breathe the air of four pent walls without relief, day after day,” describing the agony he faces while working in the East India Company’s office located in the heart of London’s Leadenhall Street.
It’s safe to say Lamb would’ve enjoyed the COVID-19 pandemic that pushed workers into a work-from-home routine, liberated from what he coined as “official confinement.” Yet, this may not be the case any longer.
A new survey of 2,000 UK tech workers and employers by Hackajob’s marketplace researchers resulted in shocking findings.
Half of the employers who participated in the survey noted that it is extremely difficult to grow and enhance a strong team while working remotely, and 54 percent of the participants said having a distributed workforce caused a negative toil on the office culture.
However, tech professionals have a different perspective on the matter. Hackajob’s researchers found that only 22 percent of tech workers agreed that remote working has a negative impact, while 44 percent noted that there isn’t much of a difference.
The different findings mean one thing: businesses are increasingly facing challenges when trying to please their workers and ensure a productive workforce with the shift in job expectations.
Hackajob noted that 72 percent of the tech workers surveyed cited remote working as the main element they look for during a job hunt, while 67 percent said that they’re looking for different opportunities that don’t require remote work.
Co-founder and CEO of Hackajob, Mark Chaffey, made it clear that the increase in demand for tech workers might force businesses to reformulate their work culture, even though expectations of employers and employees “are not aligned at the moment.”
“Tech workers are in demand and our data shows it is a buyer’s market now, so employees seem to be in the driver’s seat,” Chaffey added.
For example, Microsoft recently warned that remote work can possibly have a harmful impact on workplace communication and productivity as it turns out that the tech giant’s own U.S. workforce was struggling with communicating back in March of last year when employees were forced to work remotely for the first time.
Yet, other tech giants are maneuvering their way around remote work in a different manner. Google has given its U.S. staff the option to work remotely at the expense of salary deductions.
In Hackajob’s survey, 53 percent of tech workers stated that they wouldn’t consider cutting their salaries to work remotely, in comparison to only 27 percent of participants who were okay with having potential salary adjustments.
“It will be interesting to see what shifts first and what shifts furthest, workers’ expectations about remote working or employers’ demands about being in the office,” Chaffey said.
New FTC memo will transform the way big tech operates
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan recently publicized her policy priorities and vision in a memo that was sent out to staff members on Wednesday.
Supervised by five commissioners who vote on enforcement actions and policy statements, Khan set in stone the main priorities of the agency in the recent FTC memo: fixing power imbalances, reducing harm on the consumers, and targeting “rampant consolidation.”
Khan laid out the main focus of the agency, as well as how it can adjust its strategic approach to overcome issues born by “next-generation technologies, innovations, and nascent industries across sectors.”
FTC’s new list of priorities indicates that tech giants, even though none of them were named, will be under extreme scrutiny going forward.
The five principles outlined in the FTC memo are the following:
- Conduct a “holistic approach to identifying harms.” Khan noted that the agency should acknowledge that employees, private corporations, as well as consumers, can be equally harmed by antitrust and consumer protection violations. The famous antitrust lawsuits have previously emphasized strictly on consumer harm, as it was mainly concerned with how to price a product to ensure fairness. However, Khan argued in her memo that a more productive approach could be utilized to better assess harm by tech giants, which often offer free of charge platforms in exchange to high levels of engagement.
- Keep an eye on “targeting root causes rather than looking at one-off effects.” Khan explained that the FTC workers should examine how business models or conflicts of interest go against the law.
- Incorporate more “analytical tools and skillsets” for an overall assessment of business methods.
- Enjoy “forward-looking” and work on stepping up quickly when harm is done, this includes focusing on “next-generation technologies, innovations, and nascent industries across sectors.”
- Democratize the FTC through ensuring it’s “in tune with the real problems that Americans are facing in their daily lives.”
“Research documents how gatekeepers and dominant middlemen across the economy have been able to use their critical market position to hike fees, dictate terms, and protect and extend their market power,” Khan wrote in the memo, adding that “deeply asymmetric relationships between the controlling firm and dependent entities can be ripe for abuse.”
The FTC chairwoman also included non-compete agreements in her memo, which she says have the ability to restrict workers from which jobs they can take on, as well as impose restrictions on consumer’s right-to-repair. Apple has been criticized in the past for the limit it imposed regarding the number of times users can repair Apple devices they purchased.
Earlier this year, the FTC vocalized its intentions to fighting these restrictions.
“Consumers, workers, franchisees, and other market participants are at a significant disadvantage when they are unable to negotiate freely over terms and conditions,” Khan wrote in the memo.
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