Why we don’t fall in love with technology anymore
As we prepare for the Mobile World Congress tomorrow, here is an interesting piece from Charles Yu that appeared in this weekend’s New York Times. He says:
Technology has crossed the uncanny valley; it is simply too good at representing our real world.
That doesn’t mean that technology is no longer impressive, particularly those things that remain on the horizon for the average consumer, like nanotechnology and quantum computation. New worlds remain to be opened. But since buying that first iPhone, I’ve grown too used to new worlds. The potential congeals into the actual, the possible calcifies into the practical. What is imaginable gets pared down into what was actually imagined.
An interesting meditation (click here).
Scientists hope to sequence genome of Richard III
About a year and a half after finding King Richard III’s corpse under a parking lot in Leicester, British scientists will proceed to grind up some of his bones to try to sequence his genome. They hope to discover his hair and eye color and see what kind of infectious bacteria he might have been hosting.
A geneticist, Turi King, will lead the project to produce the genome sequence, which will take about a year and is estimated to cost 100,000 British pounds (about $166,000), according to a statement from the project’s co-founders, the Wellcome Trust and the Leverhulme Trust.
“It is an extremely rare occurrence that archaeologists are involved in the excavation of a known individual, let alone a king of England,” Dr. King said.”
They have already confirmed that the last Plantagenet king had scoliosis, that he was infected with roundworm and that he died from the blow of a sharp instrument, like a sword or halberd, to the head.
The king died at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, and his body was supposedly taken on horseback by the victor, Henry Tudor, who later became Henry VII, ending the Wars of the Roses. His body was brought to the Franciscan Greyfriars Friary in Leicester, where it was buried in a crude grave, but was later lost after the friary was dissolved in 1538 and demolished. The body was discovered and exhumed in 2012.
For Dr. King’s website click here.
The Math Behind Solving Rubick’s Cube
There is a great article in the Irish Times about the Cube’s relationship to mathematics, specifically Group Theory. There is a good discussion of solution algorithms and how speedcubers are continuing to work out better algorithms to improve solve times:
Group theory is the branch of mathematics dealing with symmetry, and Rubik’s cube is replete with symmetries. Even before twisting any faces we can orient the cube in 24 ways: there are six choices for the top face and, given this, four for the front. Symmetries such as these allow us to reduce drastically the search space, or cube group, when seeking a solution.
The size of the Rubik’s cube group is truly enormous: there are more than 43 quintillion different positions (that’s a 43 followed by 18 zeros), so a brute-force search for solutions to every possible scrambled position is impractical.
While a solution from any starting position in at most 20 moves is known to exist, no practical method is known that can be used by a human to unscramble the cube in 20 turns. The best general algorithms require at least twice as many moves as this, and cube-lovers continue the quest for faster solution methods.Via The Irish Times.
At the British Library: “Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight” (20 February - 26 May 2014)
Many of us are involved in data and data visualization so I thought the following would be of interest. I just opened by British Library newsletter and found this:
The British Library
Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight
20 February - 26 May 2014
Folio Society Gallery; admission free
Turning numbers into pictures that tell important stories and reveal the meaning held within is an essential part of what it means to be a scientist. This is as true in today’s era of genome sequencing and climate models as it was in the 19th century.
Beautiful Science explores how our understanding of ourselves and our planet has evolved alongside our ability to represent, graph and map the mass data of the time.
From John Snow’s plotting of the 1854 London cholera infections on a map to colourful depictions of the tree of life, discover how picturing scientific data provides new insight into our lives.
For more information click here.
Facebook’s 10th birthday: an alternative Timeline
Facebook turned 10 last week. Robert Shrimsley, a writer for the Financial Times, marks the event with … what else? … a Timeline:
Feb 4 2004 thefacebook goes live at Harvard. Lists its relationship status as single but hoping to meet other students on campus.
Feb 10 2004 The first official unfriending takes place when Mark Zuckerberg ditches the Winklevoss twins.
Mar-Jun 2004 thefacebook extends its network to others including Yale, Dartmouth, Stanford and Justin Timberlake.
Dec 2004 Now just called Facebook, it racks up its millionth user. Zuckerberg unfriends co-founder Eduardo Saverin, adding him to that new group, “People I used to know and am going to have to pay millions in compensation”.
Oct 2005 Introduces new “embarrassing friends in photos” feature. Very popular with recruiters.
Sep 2006 Opens up network to anyone aged over 13, beginning a global arms race to amass the most friends. Millions of teenagers befriend their parents in the quest to acquire more friends.
Nov 2006 Millions of teenagers unfriend their parents as the full consequence of earlier openness becomes apparent to them.
Jan 2007 Adults, still struggling with Facebook, fill their feeds with pictures of cats and the news they are “hitting the couch”.
Mar 2007 Wave of self-recrimination as users ponder why they re-established contact with people they hated at school.
Nov 2007 Facebook changes its relationship status to “with advertisers”. Launches Beacon, giving advertisers the power of social ecommendation based on the activities and interests of users. “Robert Shrimsley just bought a really cool shirt from the Marks and Spencer Blue Harbour range.”
Dec 2007 Beacon backlash begins after users complain that they do not want everyone to know they bought their shirts at M&S.
Aug 2009 Introduces Facebook Gun Nut, a special page for people about to embark on a killing spree to post nice pictures of themselves and sociopathic messages before they go on the rampage.
Sept 2009 FarmVille game introduced, allowing users to take part in digital agrarian chores such as milking, crop rotation, contaminating the food chain and shooting ramblers. Soon becomes most popular online gaming app, far outpacing other dreary chore-based games such as CleanthekitchenVille.
Mid-2010 Facebook accepts friend request from the US National Security Agency. Every user suddenly gains an extra secret acquaintance.
Nov 2010 Uproar as latest changes to privacy settings give Facebook the right to read all your emails and share them with their subjects unless you opt out. Zuckerberg justifies move by explaining that anyone can opt out by clicking on settings>privacy>ormaybesecurity>ohdamn,itwasprivacy>lookunderthatrock>notheotherone>whatis76543dividedby89751>i’lldoitlater.
Jan 2011 Plays key role in Arab spring after picture of a “cat that looks like Hosni Mubarak” goes viral, destabilising the entire Egyptian regime.
July 2011 Launch of Google Plus. Sensing the possibility of a fresh start, thousands of users announce they are leaving Facebook for the new social network.
Aug 2011 Thousands of Google Plus users return to Facebook after discovering that no one they know is using it like a social network and none of their friends has followed them there.
April 2012 Facebook buys Instagram after the NSA complains about the picture quality of posts.
May 2012 Initial public offering. Facebook stock valued at $38 a share with a market capitalisation of $104bn. Gleeful critics call the end of the bubble.
Oct 2012 Facebook hits 1bn active users. It announces a new and dazzlingly successful relationship status with mobile devices and begins to pull in phenomenal amounts of advertising revenue.
Jan 2013 Begins to roll out Graph Search, which makes it easier to identify friends with an unhealthy interest in Dr Who.
Feb 2014 With shares 65 per cent above the float price, Zuckerberg celebrates Facebook’s 10th birthday with a pledge to bring it to the two-thirds of the world’s population without access to the internet. Two billion children prepare to unfriend their parents.
How blogs are changing the scientific discourse
Mainstream media always follows the same kind of ‘He said, she said’ template, which is why even climate change deniers get their say, although they are a tiny minority. The leading scientific journals, on the other hand, are expensive and behind pay-walls.
But it turns out there are places on the web where you can follow science up close and personal: the many personal blogs written by scientists. The conversation there is changing the very nature of scientific debate.
From the article I linked above:
"It’s interesting to contemplate how corrosive the arguments between Bohr and Einstein may have turned out, if they would have been conducted via blogs rather than in person. But it’s not all bad. In the olden days, science could easily be mistaken for a bloodless intellectual game, but nobody could read through the hundreds of comments on Scott’s blog that day and come away with that impression."
The Mathematics of The Walking Dead
Valerie Coffman, a member of my Mathematics community on Google+, has applied the Kermack-McKendrick model (a.k.a. the S.I.R. model) to the spread of disease on the TV show to investigate what dynamics are necessary to have a zombie population nearly overwhelm the United States followed by a zombie apocalypse that stretches out for two years. She found that the infection rate has to take a sharp drop just before all humans become zombies and that the zombie death rate needs to be fairly moderate in order for the scenes of zombie hordes to be (mathematically) plausible.
For her full analysis click here.
The “World of Mathematics” ebook - a brilliant source
I have posted this before thanks to my Math Chums on Google+. The website for Mathigon has a wide array of resources but in particular is their “World of Mathematics” ebook with the continuing addition of new sections.
It uses interactive games, animations and countless illustrations. Its advanced mathematics becomes accessible to both children and adults.
Topics covered include : Circles, Orbits, Conic Sections; Symmetry and Groups; Modelling Space; Dimensions and Distortions; Sequences; Graph Theory; Knots, Mazes, Labyrinths; Statistics; Game Theory; Coding and Cryptography; etc., etc.
Give it a look (click here).