Sunday, November 19, 2006

Marvin Minsky in Wired

Wired has been coming through with some pretty good articles lately. Articles that it takes some balls to print and happen to be things that hold a great amount of my interest. Rarely does one read about these topics elsewhere in the ink on dead tree world. Last months cover was devoted entirely to Atheism, with interviews with people like Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins. This month was a much smaller article in the Play Print section about Marvin Minsky's new book, "The Emotion Machine," his much anticipated follow up to The Society of Mind.

Wired writer David Pescovitz is interviewing Dennett and Minsky when he asks, "What would a machine that worked this way (like a human basically) look like?" Dennett answers by interpreting Minsky's initial response as, "It's too early to build the big model." Minsky replies, "Actually, I could quarrel with that. I think the architecture described in The Emotion Machine is programmable. If I could afford to get three or four first-rate systems programmers, we could do it"

He goes on to say that it's unfair something like the DARPA Grand Challenge gets millions to be worked on when something like this project receives, presumably, little to no money from outside sources. At the lest the Grand Challenge is related to AI. I would take that a step or two further and say that it makes you wonder why we pay actors millions of dollars to make 1.5 hour films about crap and pay sports stars million of dollars to run into each other 200 times in the course of an hour, but we can't muster up enough money to pay a couple programmers to code for, I don't know, a year or three. It's the difference between a few hours of entertainment versus reaching humankind's destiny within our lifetimes and very few people even know or care about it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I finished reading Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five yesterday. I enjoyed it very much, covering the 224 pages in two sittings. I try to give my reading rotation a variety of selections. I enjoy sci-fi the most, but I throw in non-fiction, educational, and out of my norm books as much as possible. This book satisfied what I will call my classic requirement.

It was absolutely depressing as hell while at the same time it had me laughing hysterically. I guess you are supposed to walk away from the book with an anti-war, anti-violence, things happen for a reason and you can't change it type of message. While I agree to some degree with the anti-war and anti-violence, at least in the main context of the book which is unnecessary war and violence, I couldn't help but feel frustrated with Billy's lack of motivation to try and change the negative things in his life. The only action he took to try and do something useful with his situation was to tell other people about it. He does spin it off in a positive light, stating that even when a person dies, they are still alive at some other point in time and always will be. That just doesn't cut it for me. I would have tried to change things every time I could for the better. Instead, Billy shrugs and goes on in his indifferent sort of way. I suppose this shows how much war can break a man's spirit.

Anyhow, it was a good read, very different and entertaining. I'll certainly be giving some more of Mr. Vonnegut's works a go. I leave you with a quote from the book, the scene is Billy being given a female to mate with in his cage on an alien world where he is a zoo exhibit: "Montana was naked, and so was Billy, of course. He had a tremendous wang, incidentally. You never know who'll get one."

So it goes...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Space and Time

You are never in the same place twice, and you never know exactly what time it is. Let me explain:

You are never in the same place twice when you state your position from an absolute fixed point in space. The Earth spins on its axis and revolves around the Sun, the Sun revolves around what is thought to be a super massive black hole, and the Milky Way galaxy itself is moving at around 300 km/sec. While you may be in the same place on Earth, from an imaginary, immovable point in space you are in a new location every second of the day.

You never know exactly what time it is ever. You do however get to know what time we think it was a month ago to a certain resolution. You never know exactly what time it is ever because the atomic clocks we use to keep track of the passage of a single second are not perfectly accurate. Furthermore, the exact time also depends on your altitude (gravity) and speed. With looser margins of error you only know what time it was a month ago. There are many atomic clocks and groups of atomic clocks that keep time very accurately. When all of the data from the world's clocks has been compiled and weighted the BIPM (International Bureau of Weights and Measures) releases the final numbers for the previous month.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

The New iPod Shuffle

I'm officially back on the bleeding edge of iPod with my new Shuffle.

First impressions:
  • It's small and light. Yeah.
  • Still manages to seem pretty sturdy. I won't be scared to take it to the gym.
  • Belt clip is strong, which is was one of my biggest concerns. Even if it does fall off, it's so light that the headphone connector doesn't unplug nor does it even pull the iPod buds out of my ears. I wish it was a wee bit stronger though.
  • Clipping vertically as on your belt, the forward button points down, etc. I don't like that. It means it was designed more to be clipped horizontally, something I doubt I will do. Not really a big deal.
  • Songs transfer a little slow, a few seconds each, through the USB to Headphone Jack converter. Not a problem for just a gig. Well worth the size reduction moving USB off device.
  • Oh, one more thing. It's freaking sweeeeeeeet.