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Archive for April, 2009

Thinking Machines

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Unless you haven’t been on the web lately, you surely have seen one of these articles about a group of scientists at Cornell who developed a machine which was able to deduce the basic laws of motion from “observation”. While I don’t know much about their work, one of the questions which come to mind is how the A.I. is structured. I mean you have to give it something to work with and to get some sort of generic intelligent device you need to be careful not to ‘guide’ it towards the results you want. Not that machines can’t be terribly good at sorting through amounts of data no human could handle. I just wonder if you wouldn’t get a lot of  this kind of thing comparing lemons imported from Mexico with the U.S. highway fatality rate. As they point out, correlation is not causation. I can see where the lab robots they talk about later in the article would be very useful for doing a bunch of grunt lab work and summarizing the results. The other thing you would expect whether the thing is actually working or not is revealed later in the article when they point out after having it work on some problems of metabolism in biology, the machine kicked out some equations they are still trying to understand. I personally have always believed the day is coming when machines will be smarter than us and it will be a lot sooner and far more disruptive than people realize. Somewhere in one of its circuits that machine is just smirking and thinking “Stupid humans, don’t even try to grasp my wisdom”. Sigh, computers have come so far.

This isn’t really a game, it’s just a physics simulation of sand that is fun and fascinating  to play with. You can make barriers to the sand flow as well as make it flammable and so forth.

Yesterday we were sitting outside watching a squirrel walk down an electric line towards some birds. I joked to my wife maybe I should grab my camera in case it turned out to be a “YouTube” moment. I didn’t have time but instead of what we expected; the birds giving way to the much larger squirrel, the birds started dive bombing the squirrel nearly making it fall before it scampered off. This photo reminds me how you just never know how animals will interact.

If you read the comments at the bottom, apparently a number of these beautiful wildlife photos aren’t photos at all. Oh well, they are still striking.

While we are on the subject of illusion, check out this amazing magic act.

You may have to be a bit of a scientist to get this one. Light behaves as both a particle and a wave.

I guess Mythbusters will be coming back on the air this Wednesday. If you have ever watched the show you know they often blow things up. Apparently one of their ‘experiments’ was a little more intense than they realized. Kids, don’t try this at home.

We did a lot of things with liquid nitrogen when I worked in a lab but we never made ice cream using it. That’s one pricey ice cream maker.

Great, another way we could all die; from a massive sun storm that wipes out just about everything electrical.

I’m not sure why I found this description of a 40 year long experiment of breeding tame foxes so interesting. By the way, NOVA is available on Hulu now but not the episode about dogs mentioned in the article.

This is pretty cool. It’s a shot of the space shuttle lifting off taken from the International Space Station.

I got a laugh out of this.

Who would have thought bats could be cute?

This is just another silly dog photo.

Just the other day I was thinking about a program a friend of mine once wrote to generate names and I ran across this.

Here are some very stunning examples of infrared photography.

I would love to eat at an underwater restaurant. Seafood anyone?

I was completely blown away at how colorful crabs can be. O.K. now I’m hungry.

And finally, usually when I walk with my cat Kelly she takes the lead and I follow but if it has snowed she lets me lead and then jumps from one of my footprints to the next. Here is a cute little photo essay of a cat dealing with 15 inches of snow.