Tag Archives: flying

Things 114: Kern Test, Robot Bird, Social Graph, Too Soon To Say

Puzzle
This week, try testing your ability to kern.

If you liked that, try the splines.

Video
It’s easy to get overexcited about human progress, when in the grand scheme of things we’re still pretty small fry. I would periodically remind myself of this by considering that for all our ingenuity, we still couldn’t make a robot the size of a bird that could fly like a bird. Thanks to the determined efforts of Festo, I’m going to need to come up with something else.

Link
I’ve seen this link crop up in a few places now, but for good reason – I think this is some really important stuff that we are collectively getting wrong on a large scale right now: “The Social Graph is Neither” by maciej.

Cutting large swathes of great text for concision, here’s my favourite part of the  argument:

[…] declaring relationships explicitly is a social act […] Social graph proponents seem uninterested in th[is] signaling problem. […] [and] how does cutting ties actually work socially? […]  In real life, all relationships fade naturally if you don’t maintain them, but right now social networks preserve ties in amber until we explicitly break them […] Can I unfollow my ex now, or is that going to make her think I’m still hung up on her?

[…] You might almost think that the whole scheme had been cooked up by a bunch of hyperintelligent but hopelessly socially naive people, and you would not be wrong.

However, after a lot of good stuff, it ends with something of a shrug:

It’s just a matter of waiting things out, and leaving ourselves enough freedom to find some interesting, organic, and human ways to bring our social lives online.

I’m not sure that’s quite the right way to put it. I don’t think it’s about bringing our social lives online. Its more about augmenting our social lives with online functionality that goes with the grain of human nature.

That said, leaving ourselves enough freedom is critical. Quite how we do that is a topic for another day.

Quote
In the early 1970’s, Richard Nixon asked Zhou Enlai what he thought of the French Revolution. Zhou notoriously responded:

It is too soon to say.

Which everyone thought was quite wonderfully representative of Chinese sagacity.

This year it emerged that the whole thing was a misunderstanding too delicious to invite correction, as Zhou thought Nixon was referring to the much more recent student riots in Paris.

But this doesn’t matter, because the misread quote still stands as a useful reminder that we should err towards taking a longer-term view when evaluating the benefits of things. On a similar note, Ben Hecht says:

Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.

Last Week’s Question
Last week I asked: when someone says “next Thursday” on a Monday, which Thursday do they mean?

Richard’s response was the same as mine – always clarify. However, where I was aware of two interpretations, he identified three [This part added thanks to Richard’s clarification – T.M. 25/11/11]:

I have come across three possible scenarios:

|

(a) this = first occurrence, next = second occurrence
(b) this = occurrence in the week you’re in, next = occurrence in the following week
(c) this = occurrence in the week you’re in, next = first occurrence

|

I don’t think anyone actually uses (a).
Personally I use (b).
I have met people who use (c).

|

To give some examples, on a Tuesday, referring to “This Monday”
and “Next Monday”.

|

(a) This Monday = 6 days times, Next Monday = 13 days time
(b) This Monday = -1 days time, Next Monday = 6 days time
(c) This Monday = -1 days time, Next Monday = 6 days time

|

I can’t think of anyone who would use (a).  (b) and (c) agree.

|

Another example, on a Tuesday, referring to “This Friday” and
“Next Friday”.

|

(a) This Friday = 3 days times, Next Friday = 10 days time
(b) This Friday = 3 days time, Next Friday = 10 days time
(c) This Friday = 3 days time, Next Friday = 3 days time

|

(a) is indistinguishable from (b), hence somewhere who is a (c)
might assume upon hearing (b) that their algorithm is actually
(a).  I would use (b).  I have met people who use (c).

However, I now wonder if this is paranoia – how divided are we really on this issue? Do the vast majority of people use one of these interpretations? My plan is to start to collect instances of people using this form of date referral, noting on which weekday it was said, and which day they were intending to refer to. I’ll report the results here when I have enough data, which may take a few years.

Things 47: Flying Robot Penguins, Hamster Wheel Projection, Space Stick

(Originally sent May 2009)

Film
I saw Wolverine. I found it to be acceptable. I was particularly impressed that they held almost all shots of the enjoyably over-the-top climactic battle back from the trailer.

Video
In this video there are giant flying robot penguins, after the small swimming robot penguins, after the pre-roll ad, after the video loads. But worth the wait.

Link
Since the media make it very difficult to tell if a manageable disease outbreak has grown into a rampant society-threatening pandemic of doom, here’s a map that collects data on the progress of Swine Flue cases.

Semiotically speaking, the size of the circles when zoomed out subconsciously suggests a more severe situation than is actually the case, but zooming in quickly brings things into perspective.

Quotes
Going through my old archive of things-I-heard-people-say-and-wrote-down recently, I found a cluster of baffling utterances all made by the same individual, who shall remain nickless. Er, I mean nameless.

“I’ll take your word for it – but I’m still not convinced.”

“Is it one of those things you can only see when you look at it?”

“I don’t like shopping, it’s really boring. Except when you’re buying something for yourself… or someone else.”

Picture
I’ve come across this three times this week, but feel compelled to add to its viral propagation. Here and There is a “horizonless projection” map of Manhattan, which some have more intuitively described as a “hamster wheel projection”.

Previous Puzzle – The Inconvenient Hobby

Last time I asked for a time-based goal that can easily become part of a routine but sits somewhere between once-a-day and once-a-week. Given some of the answers, it became clear I hadn’t emphasised the ‘easy’ part sufficiently!

One answer was to tie different aspects of the same goal to different days of the week For example, if the goal is to exercise 3 times a week then one could do three activities once a week each, assigning each one to a particular day of the week.

My own answer has been to create a spreadsheet which automatically pops up when I boot up my PC and tells me how many days have elapsed since I last did the six things I’m trying to do with non-trivial frequencies, and whether that exceeds my target number of days to elapse for each one. Or at least, that will be my solution, but I haven’t got around to implementing it yet, which perhaps speaks to a greater problem.

Puzzle – the Space Stick
Information cannot travel faster than the speed of light. If it did, you just need to apply a bit of special relativity (not even general relativity) and you quickly get paradoxes. There’s a deeper argument to be made there, but trust me, if information could travel faster than the speed of light, It Would Be Bad, in the Ghostbustersian sense.

(Side note: that link was an example of something Kevin Kelly has spoken about – bringing the tools we have for literacy (cut and paste, footnoting, referencing) to moving pictures. Unfortunately the audio is very quiet on the YouTube video I linked to so it probably doesn’t quite work, but it’s close. See http://kk.org/ct2/2008/06/tools-for-vizuality.php )

[We now see further problems interfering as the video has been taken down. It linked to the utterance of the phrase “that would be bad” in Ghostbusters. – T.M. 30/4/11]

Unfortunately this important speed limit on information transfer seems to break if you have an extremely long stick.

It’s difficult to state the problem both precisely and concisely, but here we go:

Imagine you are at one point in space and your friend is one light-year away. You are about to have a baby and your friend will want to know if it is a boy or a girl as soon as possible. If you were to send this message at the speed of light, which is incredibly fast, it would still take one year for the message to reach them, since you are one light-year apart.

Anticipating this issue, you have got hold of a Space Stick, which is one light-year long and as rigid and low-mass as a substance can possibly be. With the Space Stick spanning the distance between you and your friend, you arrange for it to sit above a button that activates a buzzer at their end, the idea being that you simply press on your end of the Space Stick and the button is pressed pretty much instantaneously.

With a pre-arranged code (tap for a boy, long press for a girl) it seems as if this could be used to transmit information faster than light. Why could it never work?

Things 47

Film

I saw Wolverine. I found it to be acceptable. I was particularly impressed that they held almost all shots of the enjoyably over-the-top climactic battle back from the trailer.

Video

In this video there are giant flying robot penguins, after the small swimming robot penguins, after the pre-roll ad, after the video loads. But worth the wait.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16996-bionic-penguins-take-to-the-water–and-the-skies.html

Link

Since the media make it very difficult to tell if a manageable disease outbreak has grown into a rampant society-threatening pandemic of doom, here’s a map that collects data on the progress of Swine Flue cases:

http://flutracker.rhizalabs.com/

Semiotically speaking, the size of the circles when zoomed out subconsciously suggests a more severe situation than is actually the case, but zooming in quickly brings things into perspective.

Quotes

Going through my old archive of things-I-heard-people-say-and-wrote-down recently, I found a cluster of baffling utterances all made by the same individual, who shall remain nickless. Er, I mean nameless.
“I’ll take your word for it – but I’m still not convinced.”

“Is it one of those things you can only see when you look at it?”

“I don’t like shopping, it’s really boring. Except when you’re buying something for yourself… or someone else.”

Picture

I’ve come across this three times this week, but feel compelled to add to its viral propagation. Here and There is a “horizonless projection” map of Manhattan, which some have more intuitively described as a “hamster wheel projection”:

http://schulzeandwebb.com/hat/

Previous Puzzle – The Inconvenient Hobby

Last time I asked for a time-based goal that can easily become part of a routine but sits somewhere between once-a-day and once-a-week. Given some of the answers, it became clear I hadn’t emphasised the ‘easy’ part sufficiently!

One answer was to tie different aspects of the same goal to different days of the week For example, if the goal is to exercise 3 times a week then one could do three activities once a week each, assigning each one to a particular day of the week.

My own answer has been to create a spreadsheet which automatically pops up when I boot up my PC and tells me how many days have elapsed since I last did the six things I’m trying to do with non-trivial frequencies, and whether that exceeds my target number of days to elapse for each one. Or at least, that will be my solution, but I haven’t got around to implementing it yet, which perhaps speaks to a greater problem.

Puzzle – the Space Stick

Information cannot travel faster than the speed of light. If it did, you just need to apply a bit of special relativity (not even general relativity) and you quickly get paradoxes. There’s a deeper argument to be made there, but trust me, if information could travel faster than the speed of light, It Would Be Bad, in the Ghostbustersian sense.

[Side note: that link was an example of something Kevin Kelly has spoken about – bringing the tools we have for literacy (cut and paste, footnoting, referencing) to moving pictures. Unfortunately the audio is very quiet on the YouTube video I linked to so it probably doesn’t quite work, but it’s close. See http://kk.org/ct2/2008/06/tools-for-vizuality.php ]

Unfortunately this important speed limit on information transfer seems to break if you have an extremely long stick.

It’s difficult to state the problem both precisely and concisely, but here we go:

Imagine you are at one point in space and your friend is one light-year away. You are about to have a baby and your friend will want to know if it is a boy or a girl as soon as possible. If you were to send this message at the speed of light, which is incredibly fast, it would still take one year for the message to reach them, since you are one light-year apart.

Anticipating this issue, you have got hold of a Space Stick, which is one light-year long and as rigid and low-mass as a substance can possibly be. With the Space Stick spanning the distance between you and your friend, you arrange for it to sit above a button that activates a buzzer at their end, the idea being that you simply press on your end of the Space Stick and the button is pressed pretty much instantaneously.

With a pre-arranged code (tap for a boy, long press for a girl) it seems as if this could be used to transmit information faster than light. Why could it never work?