The rest of the story on recent posts. . . .

The computer named Watson ended up wiping the floor with the human used-to-be champions on Jeopardy. The human race is evidently doomed. So if Watson is smarter than people, should we elect him president? What does this mean?

The Patriot Act, which gives the government expanded wiretapping and surveillance powers in fighting terrorism, is being extended, for three to ten months, depending on how the Senate Bill and the House Bill are reconciled. But both houses voted for extension. Earlier, as we discussed, some Tea Party Republicans led by Rand Paul joined with liberal democrats to stop the bill. But that was for a special fast-track approval that required a supermajority vote. The House subsequently passed the bill under the normal majority-vote process.

The Borders bookstore chain has filed for bankruptcy.

How much information is there?

Science Daily has a story about “the world’s total technological capacity — how much information humankind is able to store, communicate and compute.”  It cites some unimaginably big numbers.  But what was most striking is this last sentence:

Looking at both digital memory and analog devices, the researchers calculate that humankind is able to store at least 295 exabytes of information. (Yes, that’s a number with 20 zeroes in it.)

Put another way, if a single star is a bit of information, that’s a galaxy of information for every person in the world. That’s 315 times the number of grains of sand in the world. But it’s still less than one percent of the information that is stored in all the DNA molecules of a human being.

via How much information is there in the world?.

HT: Joe Carter

The Gospel according to Sling Blade

I am happy to report that Anthony Sacramone, once of  Luther at the Movies, is back from his blogging hiatus and is posting  again at Strange Herring.  Amidst his wry observations, humorous rants, and theological zingers, he will post thoughtful meditations and perceptive film criticism.  For example, here he discusses What Is a Christian Film? and puts forward an unlikely-seeming candidate:

To me, the most explicitly Christian film ever made is Billy Bob Thornton’s Sling Blade. Consider: the central figure is Karl, who in today’s parlance who be described as mentally challenged or autistic, played by an unrecognizable Thornton himself. We meet Karl as he sits in an institution to which he has been consigned for murdering his own mother. Yet this strange, dangerous man with this creepy affect is about to be let loose on an unsuspecting society. Unsuspecting because Karl is by far the most enlightened person in any room he walks into. And that is for one good reason: he has a keen appreciation for his own capacity for evil. He is not self-deluded. He has a grasp of reality such as would drive most other people to drink.

But this self-knowledge is not born of hubris but of humility. When Karl realizes that he must commit another crime, and thus forsake his hard-won freedom for the sake of another — a little boy who is being tormented by his mother’s boyfriend and their self-destructive lifestyle — the first thing he does is ask to be baptized. He is identifying himself with the crucified Christ because he is about to sacrifice his own “righteousness” (i.e., that fragile social acceptance that permits him to live in civil society) for the sake of another, to save another. Karl knows he is a sinner. He knows he must die for his sin. But he also knows that he has a redeemer, who can save him even as he is about to descend into hell.

And so we leave Karl just as we found him. Incarcerated, but strangely free.

Partly on Mr. Sacramone’s earlier recommendation–he listed Sling Blade among his “Lutheran movies”–I watched it, and he’s right.

Could we agree to this?:  A  movie that is  uplifting or moral or positive is not necessarily a Christian movie.  Rather, for a movie to be Christian, it must have something to do with sin, redemption, and Christ.

Can you think of other examples?

Time’s Person of the Year 2045

I’ve been posting on the Singularity hypothesis and have already alluded to this big story in Time Magazine.  It’s worth reading as perhaps a foretaste of an emerging secular religion, one that will solve all of our problems and bring us everlasting life.  A sample:

So if computers are getting so much faster, so incredibly fast, there might conceivably come a moment when they are capable of something comparable to human intelligence. Artificial intelligence. All that horsepower could be put in the service of emulating whatever it is our brains are doing when they create consciousness — not just doing arithmetic very quickly or composing piano music but also driving cars, writing books, making ethical decisions, appreciating fancy paintings, making witty observations at cocktail parties.

If you can swallow that idea, and [Raymond] Kurzweil and a lot of other very smart people can, then all bets are off. From that point on, there’s no reason to think computers would stop getting more powerful. They would keep on developing until they were far more intelligent than we are. Their rate of development would also continue to increase, because they would take over their own development from their slower-thinking human creators. Imagine a computer scientist that was itself a super-intelligent computer. It would work incredibly quickly. It could draw on huge amounts of data effortlessly. It wouldn’t even take breaks to play Farmville.

Probably. It’s impossible to predict the behavior of these smarter-than-human intelligences with which (with whom?) we might one day share the planet, because if you could, you’d be as smart as they would be. But there are a lot of theories about it. Maybe we’ll merge with them to become super-intelligent cyborgs, using computers to extend our intellectual abilities the same way that cars and planes extend our physical abilities. Maybe the artificial intelligences will help us treat the effects of old age and prolong our life spans indefinitely. Maybe we’ll scan our consciousnesses into computers and live inside them as software, forever, virtually. Maybe the computers will turn on humanity and annihilate us. The one thing all these theories have in common is the transformation of our species into something that is no longer recognizable as such to humanity circa 2011. This transformation has a name: the Singularity.

The difficult thing to keep sight of when you’re talking about the Singularity is that even though it sounds like science fiction, it isn’t, no more than a weather forecast is science fiction. It’s not a fringe idea; it’s a serious hypothesis about the future of life on Earth. There’s an intellectual gag reflex that kicks in anytime you try to swallow an idea that involves super-intelligent immortal cyborgs, but suppress it if you can, because while the Singularity appears to be, on the face of it, preposterous, it’s an idea that rewards sober, careful evaluation.

via Singularity: Kurzweil on 2045, When Humans, Machines Merge — Printout — TIME.

And the date this will come to pass, according to the prophets, is 2045.

Killer asteroid may interfere with Singularity

Wouldn’t that just be humanity’s luck?  An asteroid hits earth and wipes out the human race just 9 years before the Singularity comes to pass and we all would have been made immortal.

From AOL News:

Not to alarm you, but Russian scientists estimate Earth will be hit by an asteroid on April 13, 2036. Should we start packing our bags now? And where would we go?

In 2004, NASA suggested the possibility that the asteroid called Apophis, bigger than two football fields, might collide with our planet in 2029. Further computations changed their minds about that prediction.

And now, Russian figures give us a new date for a possible encounter with the giant rock from space.

“Technically, they’re correct — there is a chance in 2036″ that Apophis will hit Earth, Donald Yeomans, head of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program, told the Life’s Little Mysteries website.

But Yeomans added that the odds of this happening are only 1 in 250,000.

Last month, Leonid Sokolov of Russia’s St. Petersburg State University announced that “Apophis will approach Earth at a distance of 37,000 to 38,000 kilometers on April 13, 2029. Its likely collision with Earth may occur on April 13, 2036.” . . .

The Russian researchers theorize that the nearly 1,000-foot-diameter Apophis might pass through an area in space called a gravitational keyhole in its 2029 pass of Earth. This keyhole might alter the asteroid’s course and aim it for a more direct hit of our home planet.

Yeomans explains that NASA isn’t concerned about Apophis coming too close to us in 2029.

“We’ve already ruled out the possibility of it hitting at that time,” he said. “On the other hand, if it goes through what we call a keyhole during that close Earth encounter … then it will indeed be perturbed just right so that it will come back and smack Earth on April 13, 2036.”

via Russian Scientists Say Asteroid on Collision Course With Earth.

Then read  Time Magazine: 2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal

We are going to have to run a whole gauntlet of apocalypses.  First comes Rev. Camping’s prediction that the Rapture will happen on May 21 of this year (just three months left!).  The Mayans predicted that the world will end in 2012.  Then we have April 13, 2036 for the Asteroid.  And 2045 for the Singularity.  At least it’s not just Christians or semi-Christians who are making these kinds of predictions now.

The King’s Speech

We finally saw the multiple-Oscar nominee The King’s Speech.  What a great movie!  I had expected in this account of King George VI and his speech therapist a light-hearted and humorous ‘enry ‘iggens My Fair Lady story in reverse.  But it was so much more than that, an in-depth character study of the king’s second son, so dominated by his royal father and tormented by his shallow elder brother that he suffers from a major speech impediment, a problem with stuttering that is deadly when, as a royal, you have to make speeches all the time.

But then his brother , now King Edward, abdicates the throne so that he can marry his floozy American girlfriend (something not allowed for the head of the Church of England since she had been divorced, and more than once).  Now Bertie is King George VI, just as World War II is breaking out.  (His eldest daughter is Princess and later-to-be Queen Elizabeth.)In a time of radio demagogues such as Hitler, the King of England must hold the nation and the Empire together, largely by means of radio broadcasts.  But he freezes and stammers when he has to speak in public.  His Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue, has to not only teach him to speak fluently, but, in doing so, he must help him get to the root of his royal neuroses.

The movie is absolutely compelling.  Not just for its speech therapy but as a political tale and a glimpse into the unique pressures and miseries of royalty.  No explosions, nobody got killed, no sex scenes, some therapeutic bad language, and lots of brilliant performances.  I saw a whole slew of Masterpiece Theater veterans, including an elderly and barely-recognizable Anthony Andrews (remember when he was the young rake on the good production of Brideshead Revisited?) and a Derek Jacobi, who, now that he is actually old, looks just like the cosmetically-produced old Emperor that he played in the final episodes of I, Claudius. But the performances of Colin Firth as King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as Logue just killed.