This says it all:
These two robots, developed by Boston Dynamics, are Youtooobing:
I can imagine this one (called the Sand Flea) being used by the military and police for sending in cameras and other spy equipment in an urban landscape. The Big Dog (below) is something I really could use when I am gardening – a container on its back, and a voice interface so I could tell it to go empty itself in the compost bin when it is full of garden refuse.
This is simply wonderful, shades of Rodrigo y Gabriela, you are simply amazed that it can be done at all:
By the way, you can stop watching at 7:00, the rest is just a Rolex commercial.
To me, this just might be the best episode of QI ever (and that says quite a lot, doesn’t it?)
Incidentally, should you miss it, here is the second part:
Now, if someone could just syndicate this show to just about every TV channel on earth, the world would be a much more agreeable place. Smarter, more erudite, and less superstitious. In short, A Good Thing.
Please make it so.
This video by the rather hard-to-control Tim Minchin is so brilliant that I just have to have it grace my unworthy and insignificant corner of the blogosphere:
And now I know where to point people who tells me I don’t know everything…
One of the most famous car movies ever made was Claude Lelouche’s C’était un rendezvous, which is a single take, 9 minutes long, of an incredibly fast drive through the streets of Paris. The film was not speeded up, and the only safety concession was a lookout near the Louvre for a particularly sharp turn into traffic. The car used was a Mercedes 450SEL 6.9 (erhm, not unlike mine…) but the sound of a Ferrari was overlaid later. Here is the result:
Now Jay Leno, car collector and talk show host, has made a version of this for LA, doing a lap around Mulholland Drive and Beverly Hills in a Mercedes SLS AMG. Though not as exciting as the original (given that the driver is identified, it would have landed him in jail), it nevertheless induces some of that sinking stomach feeling from going really fast around a bend with a good car. (Note that the speedometer is never shown.) Enjoy:
(Yes, it is kind of childish, I know. But fun.)
And this to get a match point in a semi-final..
Youtube turns out, no particular surprise, to be a fount of interesting info- and entertainment. After watching Stephen Fry about Gutenberg’s press, I came across a documentary he had done for BBC on bipolar disorder, also called manic depression. I found it very interesting because it lays out a good description of the illness and the consequences it has for patients and their families, all in a quiet and informative way that never becomes sensationalistic or titillating. It does become personal, though: You can see on Stephen Fry’s face in episode two, when he is informed of the severity of his own condition, that this is a hard message to get.
Mental illnesses are gradually becoming less of a taboo in society, and more and more we understand the underlying causes, though treatments to a large extent are experimental, treating symptoms rather than causes. This documentary, in an excellent fashion, shows the link between personality and illness – a surprising number of people with bipolar disorder like the manic phases, when creativity is flowing and inhibitions are lower. The illness is part of their personality as well, and potentially losing that is difficult choice to make.
Highly recommended. (The videos below may change, occasionally BBC kicks it off the ‘tube, then it appears again….)
Don’t know how I came across this one, but this is a truly awesome (in the original sense of the word) performance of "Summertime". That base player must have finger joints made out of pure titanium…..
After that, why not listen to their rendition of Air as well…
Much art is hard to understand, often, I suspect, because there is no underlying message, just the implication of one. In this fun article by Stephen Levy (who is one of those writers I just read everything I can of) shows a piece of art which both is very germane to its owner (the CIA) and really contains underlying messages.
Bjørn Olstad: Microsoft’s vision for enterprise search
Search as a transparent and ubiquitous layer providing information and context seamlessly – from a search box (tell me what you want in 1.4 words and I will answer) to a conversational interface (giving pointers to more information and suggestions for continued searches, to a natural interface.
Demo of Microsoft Surface: Camera interface, can recognize things. Multiuser (as opposed to Apple. Showed an application built on search with touch – whenever you touch an information object a query goes towards an ESP implementation and brings up all the information available on that object.
Very impressive demo of Excel Gemini: How do you fit enterprise data into Excel. (Picture of a VW bug with a jet engine.) Pulls 100 million rows into Excel, sort them (instantly), slices and dices. Built on top of ESP, does extreme compression, takes advantage of high memory, allows publishing of live spreadsheets to Sharepoint. Extremely impressive, worth the whole conference.
Bjørn continues talking about search as a platform: Demoing Globrix.com, where you can ask questions about apartments and houses and get a rich search experience where you can change attributes and the data changes dynamically. Globrix does not hold content themselves, but crawls available content on the web and shows it (much like Kayak.com for airline tickets).
Another demo: Search for entertainment based on location, friends and content. Moving from there to a focused movie site. This is federated search that understands some of the semantics (understands that “David Bowie” refers to a person and therefore only search certain databases.) Also incorporates community (letting users edit the results and feed them back).
FAST AdMomentum – advertising network – has had tremendous growth.
Content analytics: How can you lay a foundation for a good search experience by focusing on data quality? Demo: Content Integration Studio, sucking out semantics from unstructured text and writing it back both to the search engine and to databases (such as an HR database).
Panel session on enterprise search
Hitachi consulting (Ellen): Very big focus on the economy now, almost all conversations are about that topic. eDiscovery is important: Looking at many sources with a view towards risk discovery and risk mitigation.
EMC consulting (Mark Stone): Natural interfaces will be important, frees up the mind to focus on the information rather than the interface. Shows a video of a small girls using the Surface table and how she very quickly starts to focus on the pictures she is manipulating rather than the interface – she completely forgets that she is working with a computer.
Sue Feldman, IDC: We have to get beyond the document paradigm. I want to see interfaces that will immerse me in the sea of information and explore it, without having to think about what application it is in.
Sue Feldman: Core issue with search: Data quality and making it a rich experience for the user. Anthropological, linguistic and cultural issues, getting people to understand both what they are seeing and what they are looking for. We are just beginning on this journey. From keyword matching and relevance ranking to pulling the user in, having a dialogue with the information. What we are seeing is hybrid systems that combine collaboration, search, analysis etc.
AMR Research: There is a religious war going on, between collaborative systems, portals, content management systems, and search. They all claim to be the answer to the problem of connecting users with their data. There is also consolidation in the market, partially driven by the economy, but there is also a consolidation of functionality and an explosion in new ideas, many small companies coming up with new ideas. No one technology is going to solve all of these problems. Lots of opportunity because Microsoft is gobbling up all these technologies, trying to provide one product that covers most (Sharepoint).
Q: Examples of interaction management?
Hitachi consulting: Best examples currently found in collaboration and community software.
EMC: There is a tool out there that searches not only blogs, but specifically the comment sections of blogs, looking for mentions of products. Do sentiment analysis, find out what the customers are saying about you.
Sue Feldman: Searching through corporate communications in lawsuit situations. Ad targeting. And what is the relationship between search and innovation?
Hitachi: Innovation comes from finding what you did not expect to find.
Q: This question always comes up: Search is a commodity – or is it? What is the current market doing for search adoption?
AMR: I am not sure who says that, there is so much room for innovation, so I can’t understand why anyone would say it is commoditized. Go out there and find the opportunities.
Sue F: Well, search is a tool, like a screwdriver. But I really need a screwdriver. The toolbox has expanded so much. I see the search market continuing to explode even though the technology is tanking. Possible that we will see a disruption with a new platform based on information management, access and collaboration.
EMC: We are seeing growth, the business will mature because companies have to focus on what the business really needs.
Sue Feldman & others: Search use awards
As I said after reading his book in in 2005:
In an age of seemingly simpleminded politics and increasingly spin-oriented politicians, it is rather reassuring to know that at least one US senator has the experience of life in the less privileged lane; the perseverance and intellectual capability to analyze deeply entrenched issues and work at resolving them; and the willingness to keep the complex issues complex and [...] the simple things simple.
This is the kind of read that makes you proud to be even remotely connected to computers, science and academia…..
Endnote, owned by Thomson Reuters
Reuters, is suing the main creator of Zotero, Dan Cohen (Or, rather, they are suing GMU, his university.) The reason is that Zotero includes a tool that can convert Endnote styles to Zotero (much like Openoffice has functionality for converting from MS-Word or other formats).
Now, there is a brilliant market move. Endnote is primarily used by academics. I have used it since around 1991, and for a couple of years I was a beta tester (and had the T-shirt to prove it.) Aside from the T-shirt, I got zilch for my efforts (and I did find a bug or two.) Neither did the thousands of academics who have created bibliography styles for various journals and uploaded them to Endnote’s web site.
I can’t think of a better way than a law suit to make people move to Zotero. This definitely does it for me – unless Thomson Reuters pulls this stupid suit. Come to think of it, we have a number of users at the Norwegian School of Management, I am sure I can persuade quite a few of them to switch sides…..
Suing an academic for creating software for other academics which draws on work of other academics when your primary market is academics? Have they hired hired lawyers from the music industry?
Zotero is a better tool, too. Shared lists, bibliographies, support for clipping from searches, including Google Scholar. Instant saves from browsing.
Time to move, methinks. Let me see, how hard would it be to migrate my 2100+ article database….
Update two hours later: Boingboing is on the case.
Bob Cringely proposes an upgrade to the US grid as well as a moratorium on incandescent light. Not sure about the underlying statistics, but I have always wondered about the puny 110V and ancient (often spaghetti) cabling found even in affluent neighborhoods over there. Not to mention the efficiency loss from the thin copper. 18% less power use? On the surface, this seems like a good idea to me.
I don’t normally like collections of pictures with commentary, but this Wired collection of beautiful Bridges provided a nice break.
Michael Pollan: The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, 2006
Michael Pollan is the author of In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, where he basically took on the flood of diet advice and replaced it with "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." In this book, he discusses the problem of what to eat today, which is not something most species wonder about, either because food is scarce and they will eat everything they can lay their hands on, or because they are so specialized that they can only eat one kind of food (like koalas and eucalyptus leaves, of pandas and bamboo shoots and leaves.) This choice is faced by all omnivores, such as humans.
The book tracks down the history of three meals: One industrial, one pastoral (i.e., organically grown), and one personal, where Pollan had to make everything himself, including hunting down the meat. Or, in other words, one meal from industrial society, one from the traditionally agricultural, and one from a society of foragers. The further back you go, the more he has to fudge the experience (and the same goes for the producers/foragers, I suspect.)
The industrial part of the book talks about corn, a plant that supplies the basis for most of what we eat (from corn flakes to meat (cattle now eat corn rather than grass) to sweeteners). Corn is highly productive, but cannot exist without human intervention. The rather twisted logic here is that the productivity of the farmer destroys farm life, and may destroy food as well.
The organically grown part is based on an analysis of an organic farm ("small" organic as opposed to "big" organic such as Whole Foods) which relies on local markets, crop and species rotation, and quality rather than quantity for profits. Back-breaking work and battles with a regulatory regime set up for industrialized farming (for instance, the meat processing plant needs to have a bathroom specifically for the USDA inspector).
The foraging part, of course, verges into the artificial – Pollan hunts feral pigs, but does it by SUV and with a high-powered rifle with a scope. But it is fun, and allows for some pretty interesting discussions of our relationship to food.
The book is full of interesting viewpoints and facts, and tells you things that you did not know – for instance that "free-range" chicken means that the chicken have access to grass and air. However, since they only live 8 weeks and have access to grass and air through a door that they don’t dare venture out of, having always lived inside, this does not mean the chicken has had a life that much different from the fully industrialized chicken.
Here is one quote I liked (page 293): "The adult human brain accounts for 2 percent of our body weight but consumes 18 percent of our energy, all of which must come from carbohydrates. Food faddists take note [...]"
In other words, the book is the supply-side prelude to In Defense of Food. I have not read that one, but it is on my list of books to read, triggered by Omnivore’s Dilemma. In the meantime, I listen to his talk at Google, and so can you:
Stuart Buck tries running practically barefoot… Interesting observations, since we undoubtedly are not designed for running and landing hard on our heels. On the other hand, we aren’t designed for running on asphalt either.
As for the Five-Finger shoes, I wonder what the reaction would be if you wore them on the subway.
This is rather hard to believe, but apparently, the US Homeland Security department has decided that Rodrigo Sanchez, the melodic half of famous guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, has the same name as someone barred from entering the United States, and therefore barred him from entering the US. Consequently, the couple has had to postpone or cancel a number of shows they were going to have in the US.
Aside from the fact that Rodrigo & Gabriela are world famous and have been on Letterman and the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, you would think that neither "Rodrigo" nor "Sanchez" are unusual names in Mexico, or for that matter in any Spanish-speaking country.
Hard to believe.
In the meantime, check out this fun interview with music: