Archive for category Science

Ultracaps — has the “wall” been jumped?

After years of ultracaps lagging battery power density, but tempting us with an almost endless stream of other benefits, UCLA has announced a breakthrough: easily manufactured, physically robust, high energy density ultracaps. After having been burned so badly by EEStor’s complete failure to back up its claims, we’ve every reason to be skeptical, but… this comes from UCLA. Surely they actually know what they’re doing, have actual peer review, and so on?

Well, all I can say is, bring it on, baby. If I never buy another battery, it’ll be too soon.

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Robotics and Sex – Social Consequences

My prediction: The days of women pushing against gender identity at the plumage and courtesy levels will come to an end with a screeching halt when robotics come into their own. For two primary reasons:

First, because domestic and working robotics will provide people with the free time to court and interact (something notably lacking in today’s multi-job, rushed world.) Since that’s actually kind of fun, or at least, I think it is, I am fairly comfortable speculating that courting between real people will become common behavior. Again.

Second, if a fellow can buy a social companion that is as exactly up for sex, cuddling and whatever other interests he has… that whole “I wear pants and cut my hair short and makeup is too much work” thing will evaporate like it never existed if a lady actually wants a flesh-and-blood companion.
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Demolishing AI’s “needs a body” argument

robbyI am engaged in research in the presently nascent field of artificial intelligence. I also do some work along the lines of artificial life and evolutionary software. One consequence of this is that I am often exposed to opinions and ideas from others with the same interests. Here, I’m going to take on – and take down – one of the less well thought-out ideas that are currently making the rounds; that idea that, in order to have intelligence, that device must also have a body.

Where does this idea come from, you may ask? Professor Alan Winfield, Hewlett Packard professor of electronic engineering at the University of the West of England, says “embodiment is a fundamental requirement of intelligence in general” “a disembodied intelligence doesn’t make sense.” Susan Greenfield, professor of pharmacology at Oxford University’s Lincoln College, says “My own view is that you can’t disembody the brain.”

So there’s the setup, as it were. Here’s the knockdown.

If a person is born deaf, do they fail to develop intelligence? No. If deaf and blind? No. If deaf, dumb and blind? No. Further, if a deaf, dumb and blind person suffers a spinal injury and loses nervous system contact with the body, do they suddenly become unintelligent? No. And so it goes. Intelligence is not about any particular sense, and it is not about mobility, nor, in the end, is it about structure.
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Interp project

graphYeah, about that coding problem. More of the same. This one is about generating temperature and humidity estimates with a single latitude / longitude input using the point measurements of the National Weather Service nearest the point of interest, and interpolating in a useful and hopefully likely manner. As a project, it gets its own static page, right here.

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atAw, man, I got this… this… coding problem. I keep finding myself writing things that only I would have a use for. So on my iPad, I found this App called “Emerald Observatory”, and I was so, so impressed. First, it’s pretty. Really pretty. Second, it’s full of astronomical data, useful stuff. And I thought to myself, wow… I really like some of this.

Then (oh, no…) I began to think about what parts of it I would like to use, that is, have directly available to me. So I wrote those nice folks, complementing them sincerely on what a nice App they had come up with (check it out, you won’t regret it), and suggesting they write what I had in mind, because actually, they sort of had the data in the app already, it was just a matter of organizing it differently. I got a nice reply, thanking me for the suggestion, but allowing as to how they had a lot to do, and so it would be “on their list.”

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Aurora time lapse

Aurora time lapse, originally uploaded by fyngyrz.

This is 40 still frames from my EOS50D, taken the evening of the onset of the April 3-4-5-6 geomagnetic storm, all from the same point and with the same camera settings. I used Canon’s 50mm ƒ/1.4 lens, wide open, after manually focusing it on a star. All these shots were taken at ISO 3200, 4 seconds exposure, then combined using the Mac’s movie software and converted from .dv to .mp4 using Handbrake, and from thence to flickr.

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Aurora – Geomagnetic storm bonus

One of the many benefits of living in the northern part of Montana is that from time to time, when the k-index reaches 5 or more, the aurora may extend far enough south for us to see it, and in my case, photograph it. Last night I had the pleasure of shooting over 300 photos of the aurora as it waxed and waned as part of the current intense geomagnetic storm. Here is one of my favorites:


You can click on the above image to see it larger, if you like.

Shooting details: Canon EOS 50D [modified IR response in H? range], hooded Sigma EF-S 30mm ƒ/1.4 EX DC HSM prime [ø62mm] using SRAW2 @ 50%, ƒ/1.4, ISO 1600, 5 second single exposure, fixed tripod, processing in Aperture 3.

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AGW skepticism is warrented. Here’s why.

Science – The path from unsubstantiated hypothesis to experimentally-verified theory, more to the point – requires that we come up with models, which then lead to predictions of the result of experiments in the realm of the hypothesis. These predictions, if borne out by experiment (the model is not falsified), validate the hypothesis and then we have a theory with laws (that is, rules for models we can use to predict.) If the predictions are wrong, they falsify the model and we are back to, or still have, an unsubstantiated hypothesis. We get to try once again, if we still think the hypothesis has merit, hopefully with more information at hand the next time around.

Now, the problem with the AGW hypothesis is that the models which are making the predictions are not matching the actual results. These climate models never worked well at both the poles and the mid-latitudes; they failed to predict the current long-lasting stall; the rates of temperature rise predicted don’t match, when rise actually does occur; and so what we have here are hypothesis that are not producing rules that we can use to predict their notional basis. With regard to predictions made of future performance, as that future has not arrived, as the near-term predictions have failed, there is no basis to presume that the models are verified long term.
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