Friday, January 30, 2009

Why can't more science be so clearly inspired by cartoons?

FTA: C-Questor of Weybridge, Surrey, has developed a technique to drop and plant hundreds of tree seedlings from a helicopter, greatly increasing the speed with which forests can be replanted, and reducing costs.

I'm all for it. I also sort like the idea of using this tech in combination with military efforts. 'Yeah you used to have city there, but you know what, effe it, now it's a new growth forest. Peace, suckas!'

Glibness aside, this is extremely cool.

Saddlebacking Defined!

I’m a devoted Dan Savage Sex Column reader over at the Village Voice. A month ago Dan answered this question…

Dear Dan: Is "saddleback" a sex act? If not, can you define it as one? Or if it is, can you popularize it? Each time I hear about Rick Warren, I can't get past the name of his church. - Jeffy Lube

Stephen Colbert joked on his show that "saddleback" was a sex act, but he didn't define it. So I guess we'll have to. Suggested definitions can be sent to

He published a few of his favorite answers on January 13th. Click on the link below if you want to read them…and yes you might be offended. I personally voted for #4.

And finally, on Tuesday, January 27th, Dan defined the term (and why it’s a ridiculous idea and dangerous act) here…

AND gave it a website!

I think this man is brilliant, and I am going to try and use this word whenever I can.

Bright Ideas and a Case for Economic Optimism.

Fact: Robots are going to take our jobs. This is true and unavoidable. However while this is happening the cost of stuff is going to plummet and our standard of living is going to improve. As long as we have a plan for the transition everything should be better than fine... the short term though, this trend, already present, is going to continue and accelerate. What am I talking about? Light bulbs. LED light bulbs.
FTA: Cambridge University based Centre for Gallium Nitride has developed a new way of making GaN which could produce LEDs for a tenth of current prices.

What's this mean for us? Light bulbs that could last, on average, for sixty years. That's 60. And cost only a couple bucks more than the old fashion incandescent bulbs. Lights that use even less electricity than CFL's, don't need to warm up, can be put on dimmers and contain no mercury. The article sights the UK statistics, not sure what it'd translate out to here in the states, but basically it reduces the percentage of all electricity taken up by lighting (approximately 20% of the total electricity generated)by 75%!!

That astounding reduction translates out to savings to the consumer and less strain on our power grids. It also makes energy self sufficient homes more attainable.

So yeah, a better light bulb... kind of a big deal.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

iTunes DRM upgrade: now per song, but I'm still not happy

MacRumors has reported that iTunes is now allowing folks to upgrade their previously purchased DRM songs to DRM-free on a 'per track' basis instead of having to upgrade their entire library at once.

While this is a step in the right direction, it's still insulting to loyal Apple customers.

Apple is trying to pass this scheme off as a chance to upgrade the bit rate of your song from 128kps to 256kps, charging you 30 cents for the better bit rate. But most users could care less about the higher bit rate, and probably aren't going to notice the difference unless they have a serious sound system hooked up to their computer. From my perspective (which I think is shared by a large amount of veteran iTunes customers), I'm being charged 30 cents for a song I've already purchased just to have the right to play it on a device of my choice.

Does that sound like an honorable business decision to you?

While I love Apple software and hardware (I just bought iLife '09, and will post a review once I have a chance to play with it), I feel as though I'm being punished for the business I've given to the iTunes store for the past few years (over 4000 tracks worth of business). Since I currently have no need to play the songs on other devices, I won't be upgrading my songs, and going forward, my business is going to Amazon.

I'm hoping by the time iTunes incorporates the layered pricing structure, they'll come up with a better offer. What are the chances someone is going to want to pay an additional 30 cents for a song they've already bought for 99 cents, and is now available for 30 cents less?

(FYI - this isn't the first time Apple has defecated on their customers. In 2007, they charged people who had recently bought new Macs an additional $2 after the purchase just to activate the 802.11n wireless capabilities already built into the computer).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

USPS = United States Postal Suck

So the Post Master General has recently said that the Postal Service/Suck may need to get rid of Saturday delivery because of mounting deficits. Recently, I had to mail a package to northern Pennsylvania. I sent the package out Monday afternoon (which is another story, but I'll spare you). Tracking it over the past two days was sort of a surreal experience. Frankly, if this is the level of efficiency that the USPS operates on, it's no wonder they're in the red. From Manhattan to Wyalusing, PA, I present to you this (A was Monday afternoon, B was Monday evening, C was Tuesday morning, D was Wednesday morning):

Things I probably shouldn't inadvertently admit about myself

Shit like this is why I quit marching band in High School, even though I was head of the drum section and actually enjoyed some of the music.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"So I Guess A Pity Frak Is Out Of The Question."

"There is a Languor of the Life
More imminent than Pain —'
Tis Pain's Successor —
When the Soul
Has suffered all it can"
- Emily Dickenson

This is what happens when the Ship of State is left without anyone manning it. Roslin has retreated into hiding and is waiting out her remaining days in the fleet. Because of this lack of leadership within the civilian fleet, Tom Zarek has managed to swoop in turn the situation to his advantage in a political power grab. Zarek has some excellent points about the captains of ships having some say over any equipment retrofits, and about having any Cylons come aboard, and it's easy to lose sight of the fact that the people in the fleet and in the Quorum haven't been watching the show; they've been cooped up in tin cans for 3 of the last four years, and the only hope that the government held out for them turned out to be a sick joke.

Of course, it didn't help that all along, Roslin made many of her decisions classified, so that for the most part nobody has any idea why the fleet should be siding with the rebel Cylons, or why they can (mostly) trust them. It's this secrecy that makes it all-too-easy for a propagandist like Zarek, conveniently holding the post of Vice President, to swoop in and start a revolution, for that's what we saw begin this week.

On the what's-Baltar-espousing-this-week front, he hasn't quite made the leap back to Atheism, but seems to be settling into the God-is-a-shithead camp. All well and good, but I'd like to see Baltar become more involved in the story than he's been since his trial back at the end of season 3. He's literally been relegated to the bowels of the ship, and they should put him to better use as one of the more interesting characters on the show. Still I'm certain he's got bigger things ahead of him in this last run of episodes. But as it stands now, Roslin could have let him bleed to death during the attack on the Resurrection Hub and we wouldn't have lost any of the story in the last few episodes.

One minor continuity quibble: Callie would have gotten pregnant during Baltar's presidency (she was still pregnant at the end of season 2, one year after Baltar was sworn in), and Baltar threw his hat into the ring to be elected on a freedom of choice platform. Now, Cottle says that Callie came to him for an abortion and that abortions are illegal, so either the story doesn't add up, or we can add "Politician who goes back on campaign promises" to his list of sins. All in all, I think it's more of a retconning issue than it is evidence of a bigger conspiracy, and Ron Moore's comments on it seem to support that.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Happy Birthday to the Mac!

Yep. It was 25 years ago today that this now famous commercial aired during Superbowl XVIII:

And 25 years later, their most popular desktop computer still packs an all-in-one design. It's sort of a reoccurring theme for them:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Science! It begins!

Headline: FDA approves human embryonic stem cell study

Now before I give credit to Obama, this was begun under Bush. Yes, yes. But we can expect a whole lot more where this came from!

Intel: Robots smarter than humans in 40 years (39 yrs 8 months...)

Not sure how this slipped by me back in August, but Intel has predicted that we're reaching an inflection point in the growth rate of our technology. They believe that ai's going to surpass human learning within 40 years... just in time for me to retire- eat it suckers! (Suckers are people younger than me.)

FTA: "The industry has taken much greater strides than anyone ever imagined 40 years ago," said Justin Rattner, CTO of Intel said.

Personally I'd like to come a little sooner- like say twenty years from now- but hey, I'll take what I can get. Its important to also note that full human AI doesn't have to be reached before it would dramatically impact labor. How many jobs really require full human level intelligence? What percentage? Fifty? That seems high to me. I think you could easily cull most of retail, a good portion of hospitality, food and beverage, factory, custodial... and even low level education jobs, certainly data entry, and with them the support jobs associated with them... administrative assistants... with, what? A program that can 1) learn and function at the level of say IQ of 80? (A deceptive term- basically the program would need to be able to develop specialist knowledge but it wouldn't actually need to have an IQ which reflects general intelligence.) The robots needn't have an opinion on Shakespeare. They don't need to be able to hold dinner parties. They just need to be able to perform a job and interact with the other programs or, rarely, humans.

And where will this leave us? What will the vast majority of people, suddenly unemployed and unemployable, do? I have a host of speculative theories... for another time.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Um, This Is Amazing

This is what viewers of the Space Channel in Canada saw when they tuned in to last week's episode of Battlestar. This contains a major spoiler for the episode, so don't watch it unless blah blah blah. But it is the single greatest commercial break you'll ever see.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A very interesting video

This is one of the more interesting video's I've ever seen and it certainly highlights part of the abortion debate that doesn't get a lot of talk time- a reporter asks a group of anti-abortion protesters a fairly simple question, 'If abortion is made illegal, what should the penalty be for a woman who has an illegal abortion?'

There's a couple of interesting things that go on. First (and keeping in mind that we don't know to what extent the video has been edited) no one seems to have an answer in mind. Almost all of them qualify their remarks by saying something along the lines of, 'I've never really thought about that before,' and, with one exception, none of them are willing to commit to a strong legal penalty. The only one who did would not firmly commit and kept adding qualifiers to her position. The second thing that struck me was how this particular group of protestors seemed mostly open to reasonable discourse with the journalist.

In my mind this suggests that while the protesters find abortion offensive and want to reduce the number of abortions to zero- somewhere they recognize, or have an inkling, that it isn't the same as murder or 'infanticide.'

You call it prayer, I call it talking to yourself

“The free exercise clause of the First Amendment protects religious belief, but not necessarily conduct.”

This has been reported in the news since it first happened, and it's happened before, so it's not necessarily surprising, but this just goes to show how dangerous blind faith in religion is. Remember that study years ago that showed that prayer can help heal heart patients? Well, uh, I think this pretty much debunks that. Entirely.

Part of me feels like this could actually be looked at as weeding out all the nutters in some weird moderately ironic form of Darwinism (if they don't get medical care, they'll kill themselves out of existence), but it's hard to even jokingly justify that considering an 11-year-old is dead as a result. I mean, you don't believe in anything but God's power to heal, fine, don't go to a doctor, but don't keep your child from going to the doctor, you crazy fucking religious nutbar.

The UK and Kenya and Art

"Obama On My Mind"

"Obama: The Musical"

Monday, January 19, 2009

At long last...

... the tag we've all been waiting for... ROBOTS IN THE BLOOD!!!

FTA: A range of complex surgical operations necessary to treat stroke victims, confront hardened arteries or address blockages in the bloodstream are about to be made safer as researchers from the Micro/Nanophysics Research Laboratory at Australia’s Monash University put the final touches to the design of micro-motors small enough to be injected into the human bloodstream.

It's only a mater of time! Tiny little machines cruising through our arteries, scraping up our cholesterol, repairing wear and tear... perhaps each carries a small payload of stem cells that can be delivered anywhere in the body as needed, or work in conjunction with a 'universal handheld diagnosis system' which uses nanowires coated with DNA sequences matching those of viruses or disease causing bacteria. Our sanguine nanobots could then swarm around these invaders, isolating them and moving them out of the body in the same way that a horseshoe crab's immune system works.

Very, very exciting.

This. Explains. So. Much.

Headline: Blast Overpressure Is Generated From The Firing Of Weapons, And May Cause Brain Injury

FTA: Blast overpressure is generated from the firing of weapons and this may cause brain injury. The brain may be injured by the noise, which is produced when, for example, an anti-tank weapon (Bazooka, Karl Gustav) or a howitzer (Haubits) is fired. Scientists at the Sahlgrenska Academy demonstrated mild injury to brain tissue.

This explains why Hawks only need to pay a little lipservice to get votes...

"Sometimes I get a great notion To jump into the river an' drown"

The following post contains spoilers for Friday's episode of Battlestar Galactica. If you haven't seen it already, you probably won't care about what is to follow.
After spending literally years since we got our first glimpse of Earth back in March of 2007, and the big reveal of last summer, there has been a lot of speculation as to what the fleet would discover following their arrival. As always, Moore and Eick have given us a taste, but each answer they provide only leads to more questions.
First, there's the timeline of the thirteenth colony's arrival at Earth. The show tells us that it happened 3, 600 years before the show's present. The nuked remains of the Earth show that life on Earth was ended roughly 2,000 years prior to the fleet's arrival, meaning that the Earth's Cylon inhabitants were only around for 1,600 years. Did the Cylons show up, wipe out the indigenous human population, and repopulate the planet? Did they find a planet already bereft of life? One possibility that stretches the bounds of plausibility is that we are the descendents of those Cylons, and that the nuclear apocalypse is imminent. But surely, Moore isn't a young Earth creationist. So we're left to wonder.
Also, it's noteworthy that the Galactica's landing crew ended up in the exact spot on the planet where the Fleet Four died on Earth. There are two possibilities that I can think of: one is that it's a complete coincidence, and the other is that the Earth was populated entirely with many copies of those four models, and that the Fleet Four hold the memories of every dead copy of their model from Earth. This would seem likelier, as we know that one copy can hold the memories of more than one previous copy, such as Athena having Boomer's memories, and last year's 8 having Athena's.
And then there's the reveal of the final Cylon: Ellen Tigh. Will we be seeing another copy of Ellen at some point? Or are the Final Five the sole remaining copies of their model? Perhaps Earth is 2,000 light years away from the colonies, and it took that long for the Final Five's resurrection signals to get there.
And what was Starbuck's role in all this? The Earth she described seeing wasn't a blasted wasteland, but held "blue skies." Could her arrival at Earth have lead to it's destruction, with her getting caught up in the nuclear war that led to the charred corpse in her Viper?Tough to speculate on these, but it's important to ask the right questions.There's still much to be explored about Earth, but sadly that will have to be saved for a later date, as the fleet has moved on. All told, it's a bit Planet of the Apes, except instead of Humans and Apes it's Humans and Cylons.
Getting away from the heavy mythology parts, there are several large issues facing the fleet moving forward. First and foremost is that of leadership. With Roslin content to crawl into a hole and let herself die and Adama unwilling to stop the lotting and open fistfights on the decks of his own ship, it's fallen upon Lee to give a rousing speech to the fleet, which could be summed up by Samuel Beckett's "The Unnamable:" in short, "I can't go on. I must go on. I'll go on."
The second major obstacle is morale: Now that there is no Promised Land, where will the fleet draw inspiration from? Is it enough to keep on searching for a new home to recolonize human civilization, or will more members of the fleet succumb to despair? And even if they do manage to find another habitable planet, what would stop them from just making it New Caprica all over again?

Forget Apple, and You May Be Forgotten

Palm's new smartphone, the Pre, has garnered some attention, and some folks are calling upon it, like many before, to be the "iPhone Killer". Nokia had one. So did Blackberry. But none of them have even put a damper on Apple's momentum in the phone market.

It appears as if karma is catching up with a lot of companies for snubbing Apple over the past decade. Now that times are tough, most consumer tech companies are feeling a hit. Apple sales are similar, but they are able to sell laptops priced 30% higher then comparable offers from competitors.

My theory is that this could have been avoided if companies had only recognized Apple's turning point back in 1998 with the iMac. Before Apple unveiled their 'bondi blue' savior, their products came in beige or gray, and the few major software and hardware companies who supported them didn't provide updates for Mac as often as they did for PC. And after the iMac was released, those companies still didn't see much potential in them.

This was also right around the time that MP3s were taking over the CD and short lived minidisc market. Hardware companies were making portable players to jump on the trend, but with the exception of Diamond Rio, they didn't see profit in extending compatibility to the Mac. So Mac released iTunes, then the iPod, and finally the iTunes Store. Today, they are the #1 music software, device, and store in the world. Most of the original companies from the 90's are nowhere to be found (How many people do you see today carrying a Grundig or a Diamond Rio?). The same thing applies to phones. While Palm had limited ability to sync with a Mac, Blackberry offered nothing. People still rely on 3rd party software to make it work. So Apple created the iPhone, cutting into Blackberry's market share, and leaving Palm and Motorola in the dust.

Can you see the pattern? Apple's not necessarily trying to take over these markets. OK fine - yes they are, but part of the decision to go down the recent paths they've traveled is to further strengthen their computer market share. You haven't seen them dive into the graphic software market, because Adobe has always provided cutting edge software for them. They backed off of the printer market because Epson's entire line of printers were compatible by the mid 90's. By the time digital cameras were commonplace, Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Olympus knew better than to ignore Apple. Today, gaming companies are quickly porting their most popular games to play on the Mac, and Google was quick to admit their mistake in not having a Mac version of Chrome upon release.

The moral: Apple marketing is king. If you create a product that is not compatible with the Mac, Apple may just create a similar product that will render yours obsolete.

You Can Always Tell the Artists from the Scientists 2

FTA: “Imagine a world of ‘human perfection’ where disabled people are a distant memory, edited out by medical enhancement and economic cost-benefit analysis: a world where thanks to generic selection and economic crises disabled people find themselves expendable.
Is such a world desirable?
Not necessarily so, says artist and computer animator Simon McKeown from the University of Teesside’s School of Computing, who is challenging many of the notions of so-called human ‘imperfection’ in a high-tech film-based exhibition called Motion Disabled.”

I’m a staunch supporter of diversity, particularly genetic diversity, but I find this particular idea ridiculous. Call me an absurd redunctionist if you must but the purpose of an organism is to survive and procreate. Maximizing everyone’s potential to do both of these things is one of the surest ways to maximize human happiness. No one wants to go hungry. No one wants to sit home on prom night.

I understand the idea- it’s nice. Variety is the spice of life. Rah-rah-rah. We are what we are, let’s embrace it. But it’s the things we can’t change that need to be embraced. The things we can change, the things which are malleable, they needn’t be embraced. That the list of that which is malleable is ever growing frightens some people and I don’t blame them, but its absurd to suggest that someone should be content with their lot in life when they’ve been the victim of a non-beneficial genetic copying error or a shit storm of recessive genes.

Should we suggest that people be content with their predisposition for heart disease? ‘Hey man, we all have different life-spans and that’s beautiful.’ Or IBS? ‘Listen, you’re a beautiful girl, you just digest food differently, that’s all. Quit whining and buy your Depends.’ Or elephantiasis? ‘Mr. Merrick, I have nothing pithy to say, you poor, poor bastard.’ No. Not when the goal’s within reach.

I don’t doubt that many handicapped people view their disabilities as a ‘uniqueness,’ or a ‘blessing as well as a curse,’ or as something that just makes them ‘special.’ And bully for them. They won’t be forced to change, but art like this, or more specifically, the stated intention of the artist, undermines the quest to give them that option by fretting over how many of them will take it. I’m going to close with a poem by Isaac Watts that Joseph Merrick, aka the Elephant man, used to end his letters with:
"Tis true my form is something odd, But blaming me is blaming God. Could I create myself anew, I would not fail in pleasing you. If I could reach from pole to pole, Or grasp the ocean with a span, I would be measured by the soul, The mind's the standard of the man."
Everyday we draw closer, Joseph.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Who Could Possibly Object?

FTA: The Department of Defense is soliciting proposals for a computer program that would enable young children to interact with a virtual version of their parent. Officials hope it could provide reassurance and general chat when phone or internet contact is not possible.

I really can't quite figure out who's pitching this project. Pro-Family Hawks aren't usually too big on science, Pro-Science forward thinkers aren't usually too big on war. Also, the tech's not remotely close yet. This would be like a glorified AIM bot.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for funding personality mapping software and fully believe that one day we'll be able to get something pretty close to what they're proposing... just not today. Its much more likely we'll get general AI before we get specific AI.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Tonight we will present the final episode of G.I. JOE in all of it's glory..



FTA: Parkinson argued: beyond about 20 members, groups become structurally unable to come to consensus.

That's gotta be BS. What about the House of... no, ok then surely the Senate... hmm. There might be something to this.

Its an interesting article on work with a couple of real gems in it. (like this one: This is "Parkinson's law", first published in an article of 1955, which states: work expands to fill the time available for its completion.)

Its a good read, I recommend it.

Great, Robots Now Taking Jobs from Dogs

From my google reader: Guide robot steers with a tender touch: A robot equipped with cameras and touch censors to give it a gentle grip could safely guide the elderly or blind

I'm telling you, robots are going to put us all out of work... even those of us that are seeing eye dogs.

Headline: Appendix Removed Through Patient's Vagina

FTA: Breaking new ground in what many surgeons consider the next frontier in minimally invasive surgery, Yale School of Medicine and Yale-New Haven Hospital surgeon Kurt Roberts, M.D., successfully performed an appendectomy with no abdominal incision. The appendix was removed through a small incision in the patient's vagina.

Wow, who else thinks Dr. Kurt Roberts is over compensating for something?

All kidding aside this is fantastic. Natural Orifice Transluminal Endoscopic Surgery (NOTES) is even better than traditional laparoscopic surgery (which is practically a miracle in its own right). Couple these techniques with stem cell therapies and soon recovery time for even complex surgeries (like bypasses) are going to be so greatly reduced they will more closely resemble out patient procedures than what we recognize as surgery today. (Yes, its unlikely that a bypass is ever going to be an out patient procedure, but compared to the months and months my father spent recovering from his, laparoscopic techniques could reduce the recovery time to weeks or even days.)

Cure for Cancer, link to aging...

Headline: Protein That Amplifies Cell Death Discovered: Potentially A New Way To Kill Cancer Cells

Basically we're learning a lot about cell death. We can use it kill cancer by triggering the suicide impulse of a cancer cell or we can use this knowledge to *prevent* cell death entirely. This is doubly important as these things share another link, telomeres. Adding Telomeres to a cell can prevent it from reaching its kill point... but could potentially turn that healthy cell into a cancer cell. (Telomeres is present in all cancers.) But if we understand how this works, if we can give old cells an injection of telomeres, and if we can kill any cell given too much telomeres before it becomes cancer is, we have a recipe for immortality.

On the by-and-by, personally, I've no intention of dying.

The Strangest Fear

Artificial companions will make for more intimate conversations, not just because of their proximity, but because they will speak our language from the first moment of their stirring sentience. However, I fear what might happen as they evolve exponentially. Will they become so smart that they no longer want to talk to us? Will they develop an agenda of their own that makes utterly no sense from a human perspective? A world shared with super-intelligent robots is a hard thing to imagine. If we are lucky, our new mind children will treat us as pets. If we are very unlucky, they will treat us as food.
Technology forecaster

In Sci-fi robots are always stand in for something else. They act like people but with one or two exceptions established in the work’s ground rules. And bully for them. The fact of the matter is AI is not going to be like people in several very important respects.

Competition for resources. Sentient AI will not have the same needs as people and where there is overlap in our needs these will be disproportional. One of the most important concepts that I hope to impress upon, well, everyone, is that AI doesn’t require physical SPACE- or at the least not nearly as much as people do.

For centuries we’ve labored under the delusion of mind/body dualism- the false impression that the mind is separate from our physical body, however in the case of AI enabled robots this will literally be true. Their minds will be something that is distinct from their physical selves. They won’t need a body to continue to exist and the minimum amount of physical space they will require will be vanishingly small.

Interactions between humans and robots/AI will, likely, be significantly less strained than interactions between two competing human groups that require all the same resources. As long as the AI is able to fill its energy needs there should be no conflict at all- so maybe we should all get on top of solar, wind and tidal energy, huh?

Robots deciding to eliminate humans is as improbable as humans deciding to actively pursue the elimination of all sea turtles- something we might do on accident but nothing we'd ever do on purpose.

You Can Always Tell the Artists from the Scientists

Artist: Let's imagine that the fantastic Gulliver iconography with its cohabitation of tiny and giant people could also have some visionnary quality. Let's think that the 1957 film The Incredible Shrinking Man can be more than science fiction and let's imagine a worldwide collective decision to genetically miniaturize the future generations in order to reduce the human needs and increase space and ressources on the blue planet.

There would be a strange Gulliver-like period of transition where giants would still live with the next smaller generations, but on a longer run, the planet might look very different and the change of scale in relation to animals, plants, lanscapes could generate completely new ideas perceptions, representations and ideas.
Artist; Paris, France; Tate Museum

Scientist: Sociable technologies came onstage as toys, but in the future, they will be presented as potential nannies, teachers, therapists, life coaches, and caretakers for the elderly. First, they will be put forward as "better than nothing." (It is better to have a robot as a diet coach than just to read a diet book. If your mother is in a nursing home, it is better to leave her interacting with a robot that knows her habits and interests than staring at a television screen.) But over time, robots will be presented as "better than something," that is, preferable to an available human being, or in some cases, to a living pet. They will be promoted as having powers – of memory, attention, and patience – that people lack. Even now, when people learn that I work with robots, they tell me stories of human disappointment: they talk of cheating husbands, wives who fake orgasms, children who take drugs. They despair about human opacity: "We never know how another person really feels; people put on a good face. Robots would be safer." As much as a story of clever engineering, our evolving attachments to technology speaks to feelings of unrequited love.
-Sherry Turkle
Psychologist, MIT; author, Evocative Objects

Listen, I'm not saying scaling us down is a completely awful idea. I'm just saying its a completely made up, plucked from nothing idea.

Way to go, Science!

Man, that headline doesn't really sell the sarcasm. FTA: Smith says that cloaking technology could remove cell-phone interference in buildings, letting people have clear conversations even inside an elevator.

The article's amazing headlin, "Invisibility Cloak Closer Than Ever to Reality," is some what deceptive, FTA: The Duke cloak does have its limitations. It only works in two dimensions. Both the background and the hidden object must also both be wrapped in the metamaterial.

So... how is that invisible exactly? Isn't it just blending in at that point?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Respected Scientist or Really High D-Bag…

OK kids, here’s how the game is played… I’m going to post an excerpt from either a) a science article or b) the ramblings of a really high douche bag. It’s then up to you to determine which it is… here we go…

"If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is, then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram."

Well on the one hand there is a science-y sounding name in there, GEO600… on the other hand it does sound like the kinda crap that hippie that lived down the hall from you freshman year was always going on about…

Give up? It’s ‘A,’ a respected scientist named Craig Hogan who was recently appointed director of Fermilab’s Center for Particle Astrophysics.

Thankfully the article is not as douche-y as similar theories put forth by people like Nick Bostrom (who I think is a cowardly Nancy). Bostrom would jump all over this as evidence that all of creation is just a simulation by a superior intelligence, a la the Matrix, for dark purposes.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

People That Make Me Feel Good About Myself...

When life kicks you in the scrot there's nothing like the suffering of others, particularly those who deserve it, to make you feel better about yourself.

Exhibit A (for Adolf):

Yup, the family in New Jersey that was first in the news after they vocally complained about bakeries refusing to print their son's name on his birthday cake is in the news again... Of course this time its because the state has removed little Adolf Hitler Heath from their home. Yup. They named him Adolf Hitler and then wondered why the bakeries wouldn't make a cake for him. Then they got themselves all over the news and, surprise surprise, they've been found to be unfit parents. Their three children, Adolf, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Heath, and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Heath have been taken into state custody.

I hope these kids are given a real shot at the normal life they would have otherwise never received.

The Future: There Will be Perverts!

The porn industry (pr0n industry to my leet friends) has always driven technology. To Wit... (SFW... though you might get some looks.)

Setting you back $150 dollars (and your sense of self worth) the 'Real Touch' well... it uh... look you stick your pen15 in it. It syncs up to your porn, matches speed... provides warmth... and lubricant... OK I don't really want to talk about the device itself, but the implications are interesting.

I've often speculated about how different sexual development will be for kids being born today. When I was a boy, acquiring a playboy was a right of passage and it was no mean feat. Essentially you either had to steal one, buy one at an outrageous markup from someone older or hope that an older family member was inattentive with their collection. Now you just type 'boobs' into google. It lacks a certain romance...

Consider though what devices like the Real Touch might do to further erode these coming of age moments (no pun intended). Couple this device with any virtual reality technology and how would this effect dating among the youth? A little? A lot? Not at all?

If you could, as a teenager, have had a sexual encounter with any celebrity that was (and I'm not suggesting the Real Touch is at this level) indistinguishable from the real thing, would you have tried to date the same way you did? Would you still go for the prettiest girl or would your tastes slide back towards personality? Would you have minded taking it slow if you could go home and simulate an encounter with a virtual version of your date? Would there be a new intermediary relationship phase? (We've done everything in VR, but only third base in real life.) And will this further the social isolation of the chronically shy (especially if coupled with any AI that can approximate human interaction)?

Consider this (sfw):

Science: Why it won't be like in WallE

Scientists have discovered an enzyme that, when disabled, allows mice to gorge themselves on high fat food while remaining slim and healthy.

This is a true mixed bag. On the one hand I'm all for improving ourselves. On the other hand, every time we remove a consequence of gluttony we, likely, accelerate the depletion of our natural resources. The planet can barely sustain the human population as it is, remove from us the need to diet and BLAMO! No more rain forests, hell, we'd be lucky to still have fruit orchards. It'll be nothing but high fructose corn syrup refineries as far as the eye can see...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ricky Henderson does what Ricky Henderson will do to be the best Ricky Henderson that Ricky Henderson can be

Ricky, you're not supposed to literally steal the base...

Guerrilla Environmentalism

"I've been an environmentalist for pretty much all my life and done all the things that you're supposed to do that are supposed to lead toward change... I've marched and held signs. I've volunteered in national parks. I've written letters and signed petitions...Ultimately, I felt like those things were only mildly effective. And it was having a very tiny effect on a very large problem"
- Tim DeChristopher, a University of Utah Economics student who joined a Bureau of Land Management auction in Utah and raised prices on thousands of acres of federal land up for sale (to oil companies), and won 22,000 acres himself. He was forced out of the auction by federal agents and faces federal charges (which haven't been specified...). As a result of his actions, the land he won can't be put back on sale until after the Obama administration takes office (provided he can't pay the $1.3 million pricetag), effectively taking it off the market. He's raised over $45, 000 on the Internet in a bid (no pun intended) to keep the land.
The BLM announced the sale of over 149,000 acres of federal land in the Northwest on November 4th (Election Day), and set an auction date for a little over 6 weeks later, which is unprecedented in land auction history. Environmentalists say this was an obvious attempt by the Bush administration to help out their friends in the oil industry before leaving office.
Read more here: ""
and here: ""

Who said I was a pessimist?

"In all of 2008, 2.6 million people lost their jobs, the largest slump in employment since 1945. Economists estimate the actual unemployment rate is 13.5 percent if you include underemployed and discouraged workers, who have stopped looking for a job."- From

"Nearly as troubling, hundreds of thousands more people sought full-time work in December but could not get more than part-time jobs." - NYTimes (

In other news, we'll all probably have a lot more time to write for The Daily Otaku! The glass is half-full!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

MicroJobs. MicroPay.

If you believe that general intelligence is an attainable goal for AI, then you've wondered what a human-less economy will look like. Well, sadly, this might be it...

FTA: After years of globalisation in which rich western economies farmed out dull, repetitive jobs to developing nations, the tables may be about to be turned as businesses start to employ westerners in so-called virtual sweatshops.

Basically, Amazon has a site that lets you do semi-mindless but as yet unautomatable tasks for pennies at a go. If you're extremely good (and a little bit lucky) you might be able to make ten dollars a day.

I'm not a Neo-Luddite. I'm eagerly anticipating the future that's around the corner, but I'm concerned that if we don't take a hard look at the changes coming our way and plan for them in advance we're going to have a horrendously tough transition.

Cure For Cancer in Our Lifetime

New cancer treatment successful in early animal testing...

FTA: In a trial on mice with an aggressive melanoma that usually kills within 25 days, the new treatment saved 90% of the group.

...mark my words, if we don't cure cancer within my lifetime, I'll kill myself.

First Post

First Post! What's this all about?