Monday, March 04, 2013

MoAR: cool, hopefully cool, weird-but-cool, uncool, and weird.

this past week was .. busy, i suppose. more than that, it just seemed full of distractions when all i wanted to do was rewrite some manuscripts.

anyway .. the roundup:

1. sensing the invisible.

i think it's generally accepted that there are more than five human senses, but imagine having even more .. and new ones, at that:
"In a study published last week, for instance, Nicolelis’s group at Duke used brain implants to allow mice to sense infrared light, something mammals can’t normally perceive. They did it by wiring a head-mounted infrared sensor to electrodes implanted into a part of the brain called the somatosensory cortex.

Similarly, Nicolelis thinks in the future humans with brain implants might be able to sense x-rays, operate distant machines, or navigate in virtual space with their thoughts, since the brain will accommodate foreign objects including computers as part of itself.

~ from "The Brain Is Not Computable" @techreview
.. "virtual space," you say? how virtual?

admittedly, after reading this i pondered how possible it could be to experience four dimensional space .. or at least some representation of a space with four independent parameters, where geometry can be converted to something observable.

2. on open access (or: sweet!)

these days i don't know mathematics journals so well, mostly because i usually find out new and interesting results from arXiv preprint server first. (this can lead to trouble sometimes, because often i have no idea where to submit an article, when it's ready.)

despite my own habits, i think this is a good step forward for maths and science.
"The White House has moved to make the results of federally funded research available to the public for free within a year, bowing to public pressure for unfettered access to scholarly articles and other materials produced at taxpayers' expense.

"Americans should have easy access to the results of research they help support," John Holdren, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, wrote on the White House website.

~ from "White House directs open access for government research" @reuters
however, publishing companies are probably not eager to see their profits drop .. so i predict that they will start charging authors in order to meet the new mandate.

i don't think that it will get to the point where the company will refuse to publish the article, especially if it's been accepted for publication under peer review. on the other hand, never underestimate the power of greed.

3. familiar yet unexpected

i don't know about you, but i see a familiar shape here.

This and similar images show the stability of the hexagon even 20+ years after Voyager. Movies of Saturn's North Pole show the cloud structure maintaining its hexagonal structure while rotating. Unlike individual clouds appearing like a hexagon on Earth, the Saturn cloud pattern appears to have six well defined sides of nearly equal length. Four Earths could fit inside the  hexagon.

~ from "Saturn's Hexagon and Rings "

4. different assumptions, flawed data.

what i'd like to know is what the average "split" is, in north america.
" The test that Henrich introduced to the Machiguenga was called the ultimatum game. The rules are simple: in each game there are two players who remain anonymous to each other. The first player is given an amount of money, say $100, and told that he has to offer some of the cash, in an amount of his choosing, to the other subject. The second player can accept or refuse the split. But there’s a hitch: players know that if the recipient refuses the offer, both leave empty-handed. North Americans, who are the most common subjects for such experiments, usually offer a 50-50 split when on the giving end. When on the receiving end, they show an eagerness to punish the other player for uneven splits at their own expense.
When he began to run the game it became immediately clear that Machiguengan behavior was dramatically different from that of the average North American. To begin with, the offers from the first player were much lower. In addition, when on the receiving end of the game, the Machiguenga rarely refused even the lowest possible amount. “It just seemed ridiculous to the Machiguenga that you would reject an offer of free money,” says Henrich. “They just didn’t understand why anyone would sacrifice money to punish someone who had the good luck of getting to play the other role in the game.”

~ from "We Aren't the World" @psmag
there's more.
"But the most chilling potential problem is that the data we use to guide ourselves can be incomplete or overly reductionist. Many crimes go unreported, which could fool predictive policing software into thinking a neighborhood is safe. Cops on the beat, however, might be able to tell when things don’t seem quite right there and keep an eye out. ­Morozov fears a future in which such “intuitive knowledge” about how to deploy resources is overruled by algorithms that can work only with hard data and can’t, of course, account for the data they don’t have."

~ from "The Problem with Our Data Obsession" @mit_techreview

5. an interesting analogy..

i take it that the scifi writer, s. lem, wasn't aware of "pair of pants" decompositions from hyperbolic geometry. (-:
"Let us imagine a mad tailor who makes all sort of clothes. He does not know anything about people, birds, or plants. He is not interested in the world; he does not examine it. He makes clothes but does not know for whom. He does not think about it. The tailor is only concerned about one thing: he wants to be consistent. […] He takes the finished clothes to a massive warehouse. If we could enter it, we would discover that some of the clothes fit an octopus, others fit trees, butterflies, or people. We would find clothes for a centaur and for a unicorn as well as for creatures they have not even been imagined yet. The great majority of his clothes would not find any applications.

Mathematics works in the same way. It builds structures but it is not clear of what. These are perfect models (i.e., perfectly accurate), but a mathematician does not know what they are models of. He is not interested. He does what he does because such an action has turned out to be possible.

~ from S. Lem's "Summan Technologiae" @facebook

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