Monday, June 30, 2008

Scientific Theory

"All models are wrong, but some are useful."
So proclaimed statistician George Box 30 years ago, and he was right. But what choice did we have? Only models, from cosmological equations to theories of human behavior, seemed to be able to consistently, if imperfectly, explain the world around us. Until now. Today companies like Google, which have grown up in an era of massively abundant data, don't have to settle for wrong models.
Indeed, they don't have to settle for models at all.

Well, this Wired article doesn't compute, at least in my eyes it doesn't, because any sample, no matter how large, is incomplete, thus necessitating insightful analysis (models) to determine as best as possible, why the data is what it is. Asking the right question is key to sound scientific theory (or data collection), something this article blissfully glosses over when stating the end of scientific theory is nigh. Maybe the author should have delved into Godel's Incompleteness Theorems before writing this because Godel proved that anything mathematical is incomplete including the data repositories of Google. On the reality side of things, quantum theory and (Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle has everything covered.

Addedum: Click here to get another take on Godel's masterwork.

Kurt Godel

Last but not least, according to this piece, if you don't have huge samples of data, then nothing of significance can be accomplished. If so, maybe geniuses like Einstein, Newton and Bohr (among many others) should have postulated nothing because after all, they sampled hardly anything while putting out scientific theories that changed every aspect of civilization as we know it.

Follow your gut

Seems that free will may be an illusion as the brain appears to make up it's own mind 10 seconds before any conscious decision is made on any given situation we find ourselves in.
"We think our decisions are conscious," said neuroscientist John-Dylan Haynes at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin, who is pioneering this research. "But these data show that consciousness is just the tip of the iceberg. This doesn't rule out free will, but it does make it implausible."

When this data is correlated with the fact the brain peers 1/10th of a second into the future, BRT Electric Cool Aid Acid Test things get very strange indeed but do they?

In conducting our path through life, we find that incomplete information on literally everything we do rules. Nothing is ever completely identified, especially when one considers that we are part of the quantum universe where everything is based on probabilities and nothing is ever complete. Because of this, the mechanism by which the brain operates falls perfectly into place when quantum theory is put into the equation. The part's that really fascinates is the fact we now have the tech to tease out the details of how our brains operate, something thought impossible to consider prior to the age of digital computation.

"We are trying to understand who we are," said Antonio Damasio, director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California, "by studying the organ that allows you to understand who you are."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

True Colors

"If people say, ‘What kitsch,’ it annoys me but I’m not surprised,” says Brinkmann, who, with his wife, archaeologist Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann, colored this reconstruction of the c.550 B.C., “Lion from Loutraki.”

"A replica of a stele erected c. 510 B.C. on the grave of the Greek warrior, Aristion, commemorates his exploits in battle. He is dressed in yellow bronze or leather armor, a blue helmet (part of which is missing), and matching blue shinguards trimmed in yellow."

Absolutely a great article from Smithsonian Magazine where one learns the ancient Greeks were into color big time, something that would have changed the look of art forever had the pigments stayed on the great statues and buildings the Greeks had created from the 6Th - 2Nd centuries BC. One fascinating tidbit from the article was a passage scholars missed on how just important the Greeks felt about color on their masterpieces.

"My life and fortunes are a monstrosity, Partly because of Hera, partly because of my beauty. If only I could shed my beauty and assume an uglier aspect The way you would wipe color off a statue."

Helen of Troy - Euripides

What's amazing about this is (after the shock wears off that white was NOT the look of Greek art) is the reality of light and color in Greece as bright sun added to blue sky & deep blue sea gives a pretty good notion that color was an essential component to their culture and... "Vinzenz Brinkmann insists his eye-popping reproductions of ancient Greek sculptures are right on target."

The “Alexander Sarcophagus” (c. 320 B.C.), was found in the royal necropolis of the Phoenician city of Sidon.

After looking at the images, one must admit the colors rock and the look does too.

Now just imagine how colorful the Parthenon was... and yes, modernity lives on in spite of the fact it began over 2600 years ago.

Monday, June 23, 2008

State of Affairs

The US is in trouble. No money, no oil, nada, zilch, something BRT eluded to in The Long Emergency.

Common Dream's take is just as compelling:

Midwestern levees are bursting. Polar bears are adrift. Gas prices are skyrocketing. Home values are abysmal. Air fares, college tuition and health care border on unaffordable. Wars without end rage in Iraq, Afghanistan and against terrorism.

Horatio Alger, twist in your grave.

The sense of helplessness is even reflected in this year’s presidential election. Each contender offers a sense of order - and hope. Republican John McCain promises an experienced hand in a frightening time. Democrat Barack Obama promises bright and shiny change, and his large crowds believe his exhortation, “Yes, we can.”

Platitudes and BS don't cut it anymore. Both pols running for president, to date, haven't a clue about what's to be done. Here are some suggestions.

1. Tell the Truth! Americans need to know we are in very deep doo doo. Patriotic claptrap telling everyone why we are great is crap.
2. Be courageous as the decisions to be made are the kind that the powers at be are not going to like.
3. Be visionary in approaching the problems that face us.
4, Be inclusive and open in making change, don't approach problems like the way Hillary approached Health Care.
5. Do, not try a la FDR and his first 100 days.
6. Demand excellence. Stupidity is no longer acceptable, nor is sloth, greed or corruption as the earth does not need us and other nations in the world hate us.
7. Ride the horse, don't let the horse ride you and last but not least...
8. Good luck, you're going to need it.

End of rant - RM

Addendum: Climate change combined with man's shortsightedness forms a toxic brew worthy of Dune's Giedi Prime.

George, We will miss you

I am going to miss George big time. Irreverent, brilliant and mind-bendingly funny, George was one of my heroes. His riffs on religion, stupidity, prejudice and sloth absolutely hit the mark on defining the true state of America. Click here to get the bio on one of the greatest comedians (philosophers) of all time. To me, he and Richard Prior were the best and now both are gone.

Click here to read a relatively recent Mother Jones interview with George C.
Click here to see why the guy mattered.

Let's cut the crap. - George Carlin

Friday, June 13, 2008


Billboard Woman: I like being beautiful. I like to stay fit. That's why I like Avalon. With Avalon, I know I'm beautiful. And I'm going to stay that way.

Stylish beyond words, a look unique and a story line worthy of The Third Man, I saw Renaissance late at night while hanging out with my brother. Sin City comes to mind here but unlike SC, the real person characters (rotoscoped & chromo keyed) are truly composited into the flick whereas Bruce Willis and company (not rotoscoped but chromo keyed) play their parts in front (like dancers in front of a background). Both generes are extremely cool but Renaissance's visual cues are more integrated (Check out the transparencies generated by one shade of gray.). See the film, it will stun you with it's take on Sci Fi, society and the unsettling notion we are all under surveillance.

300 would make the cut but the dialog is really lame, thus compromising a wonderful synthesis of CG and live action.

Head Space

Of course Murry C would give me the heads up on mind-driven computing with his email titled, Solving the haptics problem...aka, Minority Report without the Gloves. Seems that Emotiv has developed a headset that can take brains waves to drive a computer. The product description and software set used to run the hardware include the following:

Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) neuro-technology.
The Affectiv™ suite measures discreet emotional states.
The Cognitiv™ suite detects conscious thoughts.
The Expressiv™ suite can identify facial expressions in real-time.

Meatspace, your days are limited.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Holodeck 1.0

A holodeck is a simulated reality facility located on starships and starbases in the fictional Star Trek universe. The holodeck was first seen in the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Encounter at Farpoint"
Needles to say, this is science fiction, right?? Well...

The HoloVizio is a 3-D screen that will allow designers to visualise true 3-D models of cars, engines or components. Better yet, gesture recognition means that observers can manipulate the models by waving their hands in front of the screen. The function offers enormous scope for collaboration across the globe.

Said system runs on Linux and Windows and uses Voxels to generate 3D imagery without the need for glasses. (Voxel processing is a means of visualizing 3-dimensional shapes and structures implied by a series of cross-sectional images.) Cost of same probably necessitates a bank roll the size of Bill Gates' but, as people know, tech advances at double exponential speeds so one of the babies will sell at, god forbid, Walmart, for 29.95 around the year 2020.

Light Waves

When a weak intensity and high intensity beam are aimed at a liquid crystal valve, the output pulse is split into different diffracted pulses, each showing a different group velocity. The images above demonstrate image delay: image (a) is an original image imposed on the input pulse, and image (b) is the image from an output pulse delayed by several milliseconds.

Using pioneering research done by Havard's Lene Hau and Ronald Walsworth to slow light to a crawl (using supercooled rubidium gas & two lasers), scientists now have done the same thing using liquid crystals operating at room temperature. Because the form factor is small and the tech is mature, the impact this research will have on all things digital will be profound.

Optical computing/storage/networking, interferometry (Click on the image above to see how interferometers work.) and last but not least, image delay...

They imposed a 1-cm2 image on the low-intensity beam for a pulse duration of 180 milliseconds, and illuminated the image with the high-intensity beam. The output beams showed that the image was delayed by 82 milliseconds as it traveled through the liquid crystal. The image, which had a spatial resolution of 15 micrometers, appeared without any significant distortion due to the crystal’s homogeneity.

Through the Looking Glass & What Alice Found There - Louis Carroll