Sunday, February 14, 2010


First, one of the most notable characteristics of life is activity in the 4th dimension. Observe:

Another interesting fact is that computers also exhibit activity in the 4th dimension:


Almost entirely unrelated to the entries prior, here is a coffee cup as a measure of progress towards some certain success, followed by a painting and a portrait:

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I've heard that some people think technology isn't really progressing at an amazing rate. I think they're crazy. I don't think I've shared this yet, it's an example of the state of technology:

Frankly, I think we have so much technology at our fingertips that we have hardly even begun to scratch the surface of what it's capable of. On top of that, better technology is hitting the scene faster than anyone can keep up with. I certainly think that we are in a technological singularity, and that Kurzweil's condition (strong artificial intelligence) is satisfied by our own intelligence as augmented by the Internet. It's a subtle, almost secret form of artificial intelligence that, from what I gather, no one has yet realized the significance of. With the power of the Internet, a person, so willing, may learn practically anything, and at record speed--no digging through card catalogs or driving to the library necessary. Suppose you want to learn engineering but can't afford school? No problem, one of the best engineering schools in the country, MIT, has put all course materials for the first four introductory engineering courses online (lectures, notes, assignments, labs, etc) for free, available to anyone with an Internet connection. You'd probably want more than an introduction, so it's a good thing they've made freely available most of their curriculum, including that from other programs. You don't get any certificate, but does that really matter? I'm certain that a degree is worthless in lieu of an education, and that an education is no less valid if it isn't certified. This isn't a new fact, it's just easier to get an uncertified education now than it has been in the past. Take Dean Kamen, the man behind this amazing prosthetic arm and many other similarly astounding creations--he didn't earn even an undergraduate degree, though he now has around 7 honorary doctorates. The real point is that now other potential Kamens are easily able to obtain the resources necessary for their talent to reach fruition. An important addition is that I think most people have more potential than is generally realized; if this is true, than we should expect a significant increase in technological progression. The question I'll leave for you to answer then is this: have we seen a significant increase in technological progression since the Internet became widely available?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Arbitrary archetypical emotion

Describing an emotion such as disappointment is an undertaking well served by describing situations which would cause this emotion, that is by conveying an archetypal scenario. Thus what follows.

My math professor had mentioned multiple times in class that an upcoming assignment could be done by way of spreadsheets or with a computer program. Given that I'm supposed to be a computer programmer, I figured that despite the bit of extra work involved I was either obliged or compelled to write the computer program. Hoping to not be merely a person who could write a computer program but instead perhaps someone who could (possibly, maybe) be described as having a talent for writing these programs, I spent some time and effort more than reason would suggest to construct a beautiful program, replete with color graphs and readable formatting. I went to some length to make it work with just a single double click, dissatisfied with the alternative prospect of explaining to my instructor how to enter a command into the shell, much less how to add java to the PATH. I added an equation parser so that input like sin(e^(ln(y-sqrt(x-y)))) could be interpreted correctly, a scrollable output window for tables of values, and 2 windows for 12 full graphs, labeled unambiguously with their associated equations. I even tested it on three different platforms to make certain it would Just Work (note it won't run on OSX because it doesn't have the latest JVM, Doesn't Just Work). So it was with pride and satisfaction that I sent it off along with the source code, wondering, wishing I could see the reaction.

A day later, I received the response. It was a request, for me to bring in a paper copy of my results; my professor, for whatever reason, didn't want to run my program.

That vignette could be used to describe disappointment, but with a catch: it would best illustrate the emotion only if the emotion was stated beforehand. If I had said that I was about to describe anger, frustration, or even success and satisfaction, would the story have illustrated the emotion any less? It is easy to see that a person could be angry in such a situation, frustrated too. But I could have just as easily felt flattered, were I to think that I had created a program so sophisticated it was to be handled with caution. If any of these clearly distinct emotions could have occurred, then circumstantial emotion is itself in some ways ambiguous (I hope that's not news). The ambiguity of emotion is something easily used to our advantage; it's a fact that when you feel positive emotions, you feel better, you're physically healthier. That being the case, why not exploit the ambiguity of emotion? In writing that program I learned a lot, I improved my life regardless of who sees or approves of it. I could feel disappointed, or I could feel a strong sense of self satisfaction in my accomplishment. Given those options the choice isn't very difficult! The power is in the fact that there is a choice, that you have a say in how you feel. You can spend all your time looking for reasons to be sad or you can spend all your time looking for reasons to be happy--either way you shouldn't be surprised by the results.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

One down

One assignment done, 6 or 7 to go. Ok, just an excuse to share some Rachels - Last Things Last.

Technically the piano is a percussion instrument, but I don't think that's why I like it so much. I like harpsichords a lot as well, which utilize plucking instead of striking to elicit those wonderful resonant frequencies. The logical conclusion then is that I like instruments roughly shaped like pianos. On a related note, Wikipedia says "The word piano is a shortened form of the word pianoforte, which is derived from the original Italian name for the instrument, clavicembalo [or gravicembalo] col piano e forte (literally harpsichord with soft and loud)."

Demonstration of feasibility

I'm a bit too busy to give the normal glyphic flood, but as proof following my plea for autonomous vehicles this demanded mention. The Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS) is planning to send an autonomous Audi up Pikes Peak at race speeds. Pikes Peak is a mountain road used as a rally stage, with surfaces varying from packed dirt to loose gravel. Actually an autonomous car has finished the course previously, but "only" at an average 25 mph. There is some reason to suspect the Stanford team will succeed in their intent, as they won DARPAs Grand Challenge and took 2nd place in their Urban Challenge; the car can at least drive 120 mph across the salt flats. I cannot wait to hear the results!