What a comet looks like, up close

The European Space Agency spacecraft Rosetta has rendezvoused with Comet 67P, with plans to send a smaller craft to land on it November 11.  The project was launched back in 2004.  The comet is about 3×5 kilometers across (1.86×3 miles).  Go here for more information.  After the jump, photographs from the probe, showing what a comet looks like up close. [Read more...]

Back to school–I mean, “possibility space”!

Daniel J. Flynn has written a book entitled Blue Collar Intellectuals: When the Enlightened and the Everyman Elevated America.  He writes about a time when “intellectuals” spoke to “the common man,” and how many in the demographic of “common man” (and woman) distinguished themselves as “intellectuals” in their own right.  He writes about blue collar savants like Mortimer Adler, Milton Friedman, and Eric Hoffer.  All of this contrasts with the tendency today, in which “intellectuals” speak only to themselves in an arcane idiom that no one else can even understand, while the “common man” is content with mindless pop culture pablum.  And even intellectuals have become anti-intellectual.

But that’s not what I want to blog about.  An excerpt from his book published in the Intercollegiate Review includes a devastating send-up of the state of contemporary education.   I offer it to you as a “Back to School” present. [Read more...]

Reading on Kindle vs. reading on paper

The London Guardian reports on a study of reading on a Kindle as compared to reading a traditional book.   Readers of the paper version performed significantly better when it came to reconstructing the chronological order of incidents in the plot.  The story cites another study that found 10th graders had significantly higher comprehension rates when they read the paper version, as opposed to a digitalized text.

Read the findings after the jump.  I then give my experience (which is rather different from what the study finds) and ask about yours.

[Read more...]

The potato chip bag as microphone

Sounds are vibrations of the air that are picked up by vibrations of the eardrum.  Those vibrations of the air can cause other objects to vibrate.  Scientists at MIT have found a way to reconstruct what people have said from a video of the vibrations of a potato chip bag. [Read more...]

Time to change your passwords

A group of Russian criminals has collected 1.2 billion user names and passwords.  And since most people use the same password for everything–from travel sites to banking (how else to remember the things?)–that makes 1.2 billion people extremely vulnerable. [Read more...]

Putting “ethical governors” on killer robots

Drone warfare makes some people squirm for the ethical issues it raises, but right now drones are still controlled by human beings.  The upcoming technology, though, would make them autonomous, allowing them to make their own “decisions” about whether or not to kill.  To meet the moral objections in giving machines the option to kill human beings, some techies are proposing tacking on separate software they are calling  “ethical governors” that could automatically run the decisions through international law protocols before going lethal.

What do you think about this?  Can there be “artificial morality’” just as there is “artificial intelligence”?  (After the jump, a defense of killer robots that goes into these issues.) [Read more...]


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