Articles, Page 23 of 203
We’ve been waiting for the Jeopardy Deathmatch between humans Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter against IBM’s Watson for awhile now. The past three days of Jeopardy revealed a glimpse of the coming human enslavement during the machine apocalypse. IBM’s Watson soundly beat humanity by a $50K margin with the previous champions Jennings and Rutter coming in at $24K and $21K respectively. Watson’s performance was interesting to watch, the interface allowed viewers to see its three answers deemed most likely along with a scoring threshold upon which it decided which was best and whether to click in. The system was not without its glitches as it answered a question incorrectly using the same wrong answer that Jennings had provided just seconds before. Glitches like this lead to cataclysmic events like the Great Purge.
Some of OmniNerd’s more observant readers may have noticed the new feature on the frontpage dashboard in the past weeks. Found above the Discussion Threads in the left column, the Looking Glass is a small object designed to look back and rehash some of OmniNerd’s past content. The Looking Glass will peek at a time window 1, 3 and 5 years backward while automatically refreshing itself periodically. So when you’re not cough submitting new content cough, let the Looking Glass remind you of some of the past discussions and hot topics.
This You tube Clip
Should be viewed by all parents of school age children. It is meant to shock us, but it did not have that effect on me.
I am not sure I buy the entire message. If we want to turn our kids into efficient four function calculators when armed only with pencil and paper, then she is probably right about standard algorithms. However if we want them to understand what they are doing and develop a real feel for math then the new approach looks good to me. I think the old way relies fairly heavily on mastery of the multiplication tables, and there is no doubt that that skill is often useful in ordinary life.
When I moved to Utah 7 months ago, I realized that it was going to be a weird place to live (even for a Texan). So I guess it should be no surprise that amidst serious discussion about the state budget deficit and how to pay for education, Medicaid and other such weighty costs, the Utah Legislature decided to spend time passing a bill to make the Browning M1911 the state firearm of Utah.
Not too long ago, I moved into a new house. I had done some rough estimating on what my electric bills might be like based on past history and projecting HVAC needs across a larger volume. Needless to say, when the first winter bill of $660 came in three times higher than my projection, I was pretty shocked. I know heating tends to be the “bill killer” for most people, but it’s not like I was running a giant server farm, keeping on all my lights or doing anything else unusual electricity-wise. I had replaced my lights with CFLs, replaced my thermostat with a programmable digital unit and configured it for the EnergyStar times and temperatures for maximum efficiency.
A colleague of mine sent me a link to a little flash-based website called Boxcar2D.com. It wasn’t long before pretty much everyone on my five person team had the simulation running in the background on their PCs. After determining that letting it run unfettered wouldn’t affect our bandwidth reports to management, a few of us decided to just let it run all night.
It is a fairly cool simulation that lets you pick a few parameters for the evolution of a simple two dimensional car that has to traverse a randomly generated (and increasingly difficult) track. The best performers out of each generation (20 car types) are sent to the next generation with the most beneficial traits passed on.
Google still reigns champion of the search engines, but Microsoft’s Bing has been making a slow and steady dent. Nonetheless, Google engineers found some of Microsoft’s results interesting and prepared a sting operation to root out the cause. The behavior was noticed with how Bing would return near identical results to Google for misspelled search keywords – a technological point of pride for the Google time. To catch Microsoft in the act, Google engineers basically crafted manual search results for some fake, made-up keywords – essentially results that shouldn’t be produced by any engine. Lo and behold, Bing began producing identical results in enough cases to be statistically significant, solid evidence of blatantly copying the search engine and passing its results off as Bing’s own.
Cyclone Yasi is bearing down on North Queensland and should hit tonight (Qld time) during a King tide.
The locals there are used to this kind of thing, but this one is measured as the strongest ever to hit Australia. At a met station on island in the Coral Sea the anemometer took off (literally) after recording 200 kph – 300 is estimated.
The state is reacting calmly and sensibly although its emergency services have been at full tilt for weeks over the recent floods.
The Australian federal government has a very low deficit because the country avoided a recession over the GFC, but even so it is seriously considering a permanent disaster relief tax levy. The idea is that a devastated area, however big or small, should not have to rely on the media to generate charity in order to get the recovery effort moving. Some natural disasters involve only one small community and don’t generate much media interest or sympathy, even though the locals are just as devastated.
Last week, populist protests erupted in Cairo, Egypt for a regime change. The current Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak has been in power for the past thirty years following the assassination of Sadat. Protesters are demanding that Mubarak step down from his post, where he is considered an authoritarian ruler who achieved stability by squashing freedoms. The government attempted to quell the uprising at first with media control, cutting off the Internet presumably to disrupt their ability to organize and gain support digitally. Interestingly, the Egyptian media carried stories live from the protests seemingly in opposition to supporting the government. Another interesting development in the protests was the deployment of military forces by Mubarak to settle the people. Rather crush the protesters, the military has seen a split in its support for Mubarak and its agreement with the people – it is expected that an ultimate decision on where the military’s allegiance lies will truly determine Mubarak’s future.
For over a decade, scores of parents have been at odds with the decision on whether to vaccinate their children thanks to beliefs they were linked to autism. Most of the hysteria began back in 1998 when Dr. Andrew Wakefield released a study directly linking vaccinations with significantly increased chances of developing autism. That report, however, turned out to be a complete fraud after a British medical journal uncovered the doctor had directly manipulated the data. Following that study, parents took nearly every minor nuance of evidence as confirmation bias leading to the resurgence of previously eradicated diseases as vaccinations lulled. Even after the report’s fraudulent outing, nearly half of America is still convinced autism is linked to vaccines.
So there’s an OmniBaby coming my way in roughly three weeks. The question is simple – what sort of fun, home science experiments can I perform on baby cognition and skills? I suppose this sort of thing goes against the Advice For A New Father article from five years ago. But I’m thinking of simple and harmless things like the gullible baby story that can be done at home … who knows, maybe she’ll grow up and take naturally to science as a positive side effect.
Music I purchased in December 2010:
- Badly Drawn Boy – It’s What I’m Thinking: Photographing Snowflakes
- Nada Surf – If I Had a Hi-Fi -
- Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown – Not as good as their previous (by far), but not as bad as the reviews.
- We Are Scientists – Barbara
The United States debt achieved a new benchmark as it topped $14 trillion for the first time. Apparently, the nation is within $300 billion of the maximum cap established by law. The new Congress is now faced with the task of approving what will clearly be an unpopular vote to pass legislation on raising that cap in order to allow the government to continue on its present course. Just for a quick look at the debt over the past decade, I graphed the historical daily debt values available from Treasury Direct.
Controversy has always surrounded Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and as history repeats itself, the classic is back in the crosshairs again. This time, it’s because the book is going to be re-released with all 219 occurrences of the n-word (as everyone says these days) replaced with “slave” so as not to offend readers. Thus, debates for this round center around whether modifying history to settle the stomachs of contemporary society is a slippery slope versus the regular argument of whether the original classic is of learning merit. The battles over literary content, their applicability to education and their availability to children will seemingly never end.