Monday, April 30, 2007

Raw Talk - "But it's Legal"

And now for something completely different..My friends at POD DESIGN came up with this silly animation concept of "seafood talking" over a late night dinner...they must have had too much to drink! But the people at Legal Seafood thought it was fresh enough for their marketing campaign, so they asked us to make it into a "web video". Here is a sneak peak of our video clip #1 before it's formal debute in public. Please pass it along and make your replies on the blog. Don't clam up...Tell us what you think! As they say, "if it isn't fresh, it isn't legal". Thanks for all the fish!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Looking Toward Nirvana

The holy grail of computing (besides renders of 3D high res photorealistic scenes in less than 1/60th of a second) is high end content served to people and machines tailored to their specific needs, something that is not being done today, AFAIK, by the Google's of the world when one conducts a search. At the present time, when one asks, for example, information on Babe Ruth's 714th home run, one gets thousands of sites/pages that cover the Babe's last exploits, a useful result that, unfortunately, is light years from getting one or two pages filled with the right material keyed to user preferences. Is there a way to do this? I think the answer is yes but questions like the following should be asked to at least get the ball rolling in the right direction.

For starters, why can't you do the following?

1. Conduct searches keyed to individual disciplines equipped with appropriate sub category items able to be selected individually or combined in designated arrays, thus enabling one to easily build a targeted content set relating to specific area(s) of any given discipline (i.e. architecture/subcategory/renaissance; biology/subcategory/fungi, etc., etc.) at the beginning of the search process. By doing this, the accuracy of the search, in my opinion, would be greatly enhanced.

2. Be able to save the search string in question to eliminate rebuilding the drill down pattern again when that particular search needs to be redone.

3. Have the ability to date, reorder and rank saved search strings to be used as needs dictate.

Without question, this is doable as this approach to conducting searches definitely works based on personal experience on developing this kind of system. Search results would still exist as sites/pages sets but the accuracy of the search conducted would, as stated before, be greatly enhanced.

Formatting and putting this information into properly formatted pages as described in the first paragraph of this discussion is another matter entirely as it will require sophisticated research into developing state-of-the-art database/semantic-driven environments but this will certainly become reality given the rapid acceleration of compute power and software design as seen by IBM & Intel and Simile. the innovative open source semantic offering from MIT.

The question now is who will do it and when will it happen. For me, it can't come soon enough.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Back in 2005, Murry C turned me on to this most provocative take on how news, reality and society will change when EPIC becomes real as we leave the 'aughts" of the 21st century. Created by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson, 2014/15 shows how the "objective" nature of "the media" will be transformed into EPIC (Evolving Personalized Information Construct), a digital environment that subjectifies news and turns it into the start point of an information appliance that meets our every need. In looking at this, one can question the impact this will have on civilization when "news" is tailored to our every whim with little regard as to what is considered to be accepted as true or valid by society as a whole. To be sure, objective events like earthquakes and hurricanes will be covered and viewed by all concerned parties but everything else will be shaped, processed and delivered in bite size morsels to all interested parties, kept under the control of systems and corporations to a degree unheard of in the halcyon days of reporting during the latter part of the Vietnam War. Is this a good thing? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Running the Numbers

I was rummaging through the net and chanced upon an extraordinary artist who illustrates the impact of tech in a way that is beautiful, insightful and powerful (Blowback comes to mind here.). His name is Chris Jordan, a photographer out of Seattle WA., who will change how you view reality. Enjoy.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

God doesn't play dice...or does he?

Einstein hated Quantum Theory even though he was one of its founding fathers along with Niels Bohr, Max Planck and Werner Heisenberg. He hated it because of the seemingly "Alice in Wonderland" properties that sub atomic particles possess, properties that allow electrons, for example, to tunnel through solid surfaces and single photons to go through multiple slits at the same time or entangled particles being "instantaneously" connected no matter how far apart they may be. Because of this inherent strangeness, (Richard Feyman - If you're not mystified by Quantum theory, then you don't understand it.) Einstein proclaimed that "God does not play dice with the universe." and, to the naked eye, Einstein appears to be right but theorists have long conjectured that Quantum Weirdness should scale to macro levels without a problem save that decoherence. a property that prevents ordinary matter from being in more than one state at a time, shields us from seeing the true nature of reality - until now.
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics have devised an exquisite experiment to see how quantum effects can be applied to the macroscopic world, something that has never been done before. If this experiment works, it shows how man is touching the very fabric of reality, something that Einstein would appreciate even though it looks like God may play dice after all.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Simplest Is Best...

...and often the most delightfully illuminating.

Especially if, in this case, you only barely read music. I'd argue the same principle can apply to almost any endeavor. Stripping out the complexity--getting rid of the 'white noise'--leaves cognitive space to 'see' what's really going on: the Reductionist Agenda.

Then again, "Everything should be as simple as possible. And not one bit simpler." A. Einstein

For more on the animation, see here.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Inspector Gadget

In surfing the web, one finds incredible tools to do unbelievable stuff for free. For starters, Google Docs gives everyone online ability to do most of the functions of MS Office, something very powerful when needing to write, distribute and store content free from the constraints of location and money (does PDF conversions as well). Get an account at Google and you're done. Zoho is another resource that does the same thing but adds a plethora of other cool applications including Wikis, Chat, Database and Creator.
For doing online research, Zotero's the one as it's "a free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. " It also connects to Word to do the same drill.
For visualizing data, Many Eyes does the deed indeed. While you are at it, check out THE BEST tutorial on an app here! IBM has a winner on it's hands for sure.
For Semantics, MIT's Simile simply rocks. A link to this site showing the benefits of Time Line has been posted before but every time anyone goes there, something new appears.
For RSS, Attensa has a very nice free aggregator that works with Outlook (I know, I know) and Firefox. It ranks and categorizes feeds in elegant fashion.
For out of this world stuff, wikisky will kill time and educate you while doing it.
Last but not least, go to Refdesk to access more apps than God for everything from architecture to zoology. I use this as a home page to keep me in touch with the world.
This is just a very short list of what's out there for doing serious work at no cost save the price of web connects and a computer. Open source rules and the fruits of this disruptive tech is there for the picking.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Size Matters

The finer grained the technology, the more advanced the society - RM
Pervasive computing is coming, something articulated by Xerox Parc back in the late 70's & early 80's when they did state-of-the art research relating to how "smart rooms" and "smart buildings" would change how society does business. Little did they know especially when systems will shrink down to dust motes able to change appearance and function at the flip of a switch. Don't believe me? Then check out Hacking Matter, the entertaining and informative book written by Will McCarthy that details how nanotech will impact every aspect of our lives as we move further into the 21st century.
This may be all well and good but at this point in time, tech, like the Apple iPod, is "comfortable" as it is properly sized and designed for human interaction while the iPod nano seems to be "just a touch too small" for folks like me who need glasses to handle anything smaller than a shovel let alone something that approaches the size of a matchbox. What happens in ten years time when molecular systems come on line driven by plasmonics; invisible, connected and all pervasive, creating an environment where, as Murry C says Everything Will be Alive.

"You can't get there from here" - Through the Looking Glass
Exhibit I: Spray On Computers

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Sunday, April 08, 2007


The term Blowback or the Law of Unforseen Consequences was coined by the CIA to describe, in part, the actions the US did in perpetrating the Viet Nam disaster, something similar to the ongoing Iraq disaster that's being perpetrated by the Bush Administration. What's interesting about this word, above and beyond politics, is how well it applies to the Lorenz Butterfly Effect and how small changes in initial conditions can have a huge impact on the end result.
This is something Edward Lorenz discovered doing atmospheric studies at MIT in 1963, research that gave rise to understanding the butterfly effect and "to the idea that a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that ultimately cause a tornado to appear (but not prevent a tornado from appearing). The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale phenomena. Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different."

To that end, I give you Exhibit A: The 2000 election. Any Questions?

Infinities within Infinities

Back in the late 1800's to early 1900's, a brilliant mathematician named Georg Cantor explored transfinite sets to see how they related to the concept of infinity. As seen above in iterations of the Menger Sponge (a 3D version of the Cantor Set), one sees, via Cantor's ideas, how infinities can reside within finite space without a care in the world. When Cantor's recursion is randomised and iterated via computer and applied to the real world, magic happens...

As seen in the beautiful Lorenz attractor, used in monitoring temperature variations in weather patterns, the notion of exact repeatability in open systems (in this case, temperature) is but a dream, something that is duplicated, among other things, in the variance of planet orbits, the growth of ferns or the dripping of a water faucet. Additionally, what is also seen from this research is the emergence of complex behavior coming out of seemingly simple systems, something that has forever changed how we view reality. "and so it goes." KV/Slaughterhouse Five"

Thursday, April 05, 2007

(more on) Interfaces...

Bob's Nobel Prize interface moves me to the following observations:
1. There's a basic distinction between "Interface Metaphors" - that is how we view the system as a whole (Windows, OS X, BumpTop, MIrrorWorlds).
2. Applications interfaces, that sit on top of the basic system UI.

These are not necessarily tightly-coupled, but the second is ultimately dependant on the first. Refering back on the LookingGlass discussion, if the system UI doesn't natively support 3D, then layering a 3D app;lication interface over that is more difficult (than it ought to be).

Here are some examples I've been impressed by over the past few years. And none of which have made the impact they really ought to have (click the title to go to the actual site).

The GlassEngine -

A great interface to a deep set of multimedia resources, especially notable for the way in which the interface clarifies the relationships that underly the data and the way we think about it.

(I can't guarantee that this will work on any given system. Which highlights yet another problem: the almost-instantaneous obsolesence of many applications. One upgrade of any arbitrary component and your favorite app is toast.)

Visual Thesaurus -

An English major (which I am/was) has a particular relationship to words and the network of connections embedded in language. The Visual Thesaurus lets us view and explore that network. Being able to 'see' the relationships, rather than just 'talk' about them, is another case of, as I once said in a different context...Writing About Music Is Like Dancing About Architecture.

Grokker -

Google is a wonderful thing, it changed the way we use the Internet, no doubt. Ask the average person how they learn about things and the #1 answer for the last couple of years is, "I just google it." (Anytime a tradename turns into a common usage verb/noun and you know a Rubicon's been definitively crossed.)

On the other hand, I don't know about you, but that text list of links falls short as often as not. There are alternatives, we just too often don't know about them, or use them as we ought to. Grokker is just one of them.

There's a much bigger world out there than the one we're living in most of the time. Let's step through the door.


Yes, we have all heard about the fact tech is advancing at double exponential rates but does anyone really believe that when 65% of all software projects fail and things that WORK REALLY WELL IN THE LAB totally spaz when exposed to the vagaries of the real world. (Sorry State of Software - E Week) (21 Hardware Flops - Computerworld)

Also, when looking at shows like the one Discovery had about future cars, nothing is ever discussed about the inherent difficulty of building a viable infrastructure to support, in this case, the "smart" car of the future to insure that the damn thing will be able to steer by itself and "know" where it's going without a care in the world that the train of computer controlled cars traveling at 150 MPH could possibly experience a BSOD moment, something that happens with every system in the world as NO software environment is invulnerable to a system crash no matter how many redundancies or safeguards are built into the system.

Question, if teleprensence and immersion computing is as pervasive as it is supposed to be 20 years hence, why are we talking about cars and commuting (Something that will get worse as time goes by no matter how smart these cars may be.) outside of the fact these designs do look unbelievably cool and futuristic.

Not being a naysayer here but...building the "Automatrix" (or environments like that) is a bit of a stretch when one sees the rosy scenario of an incredibly efficient system that effortlessly extends far beyond what is being done today regarding the auto industry or anything else that deals with computers and "meat space", the harsh reality we all share on Planet Earth.

In the computer industry, the idea of double exponential rates apply because computers push bits that are displayed on a screen with nary a thought about "stuff". When bits get involved with solid objects, Murphy's law applies with a vengeance, something that seems to escape breathless futurists who have not dealt with the maddening glitches that infiltrate every project no matter how well planned out it may be. "and the beat goes on..." Lou Reed, Walk on the Wild Side.