Sunday, April 27, 2008

Peak Water

Peak Water: Aquifers and Rivers Are Running Dry. How Three Regions Are Coping

That the news is familiar makes it no less alarming: 1.1 billion people, about one-sixth of the world's population, lack access to safe drinking water. Aquifers under Beijing, Delhi, Bangkok, and dozens of other rapidly growing urban areas are drying up. The rivers Ganges, Jordan, Nile, and Yangtze — all dwindle to a trickle for much of the year. In the former Soviet Union, the Aral Sea has shrunk to a quarter of its former size, leaving behind a salt-crusted waste.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mind Enhancing Drugs and Software

Two interesting articles in a similar field from this time.

First up and the less likely to be controversial of the two is "Want to Remember Everything You'll Ever Learn? Surrender to This Algorithm", it's a fascinating read, so if you've got some spare time have a look at it.
The article covers supermeamo a memory enhancement software package and it's creator. A software package that utilises research on optimal memorisation strategies to provide a system that can boost your ability to memorise material. The system apparently works by determining the optimal periods at which to refresh the material you want to memorise. It then sticks up a reminder with the info at the point were you should be just starting forget the information. Seeing apparently if the optimal time is targeted regularly the average time between needing a reminder increases and the quicker it gets committed to "longterm" memory. If it works, it sounds like a rather useful system for extending/increasing your ability to memorise material in an optimal manner. The second part of the article looks at the creator of the algorithms used, a man who's so convinced about the software that he allows it to run his life, choosing what he wants prioritised and then letting the software, take what he wants to read and learn and sticking it into this system.
The writer makes some interesting comments that the future of computer boosted IQ for humans, may not be using the computer to store the information for you but instead using them to optimise the manner in which you learn it. The software is available commercial for windows and is apparently considered brilliant for learning languages, free alternatives that use slightly different algorithms are available for both windows and Linux.

Secondly we move on to an article on Brain-Enhancing Drug Regimens where people are using mind enhancing drugs, originally designed to help with sleeping "disorders", ADHD and other disorders to boost their mental performance for work, tests and assignments. The article provides a brief overview and then dives into examples of drug regimens used by readers of the magazine in their daily life. The Drugs act to promote alertness, and boost the users focus, ability to ignore distractions and rate of memorisation. What is also interesting is that the US department of defense is funding research into such drugs for a variety of uses by military personnel.

Together both articles are rather interesting look at the field of human mental self experimentation, as people try to boost there mental rather than physical capabilities with various strategies and drugs. I suspect such things will increase as we move further and further into an information saturated society. One where we are permanently connected to various information sources and our friends and colleagues, and have to deal with the associated information overload. Seeing we've done pretty well so far considering we're a group of evolved hunter gather scavengers, who are an increasingly long way away from the plains and deserts that we spent millions of years wondering and that our minds and bodies were "optimised" (yeah, yeah I know Evolution and optimisation don't go together but give me a break, you know what I mean) for.

Give Your Intellect a Boost — Just Say Yes to Doing the Right Drugs!
Now if you've read the second article have a look at this quick page, which lists a varity of the drugs, their effects, side effects and possible modes of action.

Any way what do you people think, would you be interested or consider utilising either system? Or do you consider such systems to either not work or to be actively dangerous to ones health?

Is the Wii a Toy or a Gaming System?

A VERY interesting interview with the heads of Bioware (you know the company responsible for a few small games like, Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic etc).

Interview: BioWare On Narrative, Wii Gaming, Mainstream Press, MMOs & More

It's well worth reading, they discuss such things as is the Wii a gaming platform or a toy platform, and what the differences between those are, along with the various other things mentioned in the title.

I think I'd agree with the view that at the moment the Wii is more of a toy than a gaming system in that do you play the gmae for the game (storyline etc) or do you play with it to have fun with your friends?

Sound and Fury, Signifying ...?

An interesting little article by the SF Author Richard K Morgan, on the angst and some of the other issues in SF & Fantasy. It was written as a guest editorial for an SF anthology, but was never used as consider somewhat too negative. Any way he's decided to stick it up on his website and it's an interesting read and those of you interested in SF & Fantasy or writing little bits may find it worth reading.

Sound and Fury, Signifying ...?

Here's a quote:

"[T]hey're really a bunch of self-righteous condescending arrogant little pricks who are more than happy to ignore history and scientific facts when it suites [sic] them ... a bunch of goddammed fucking militant, humorless, and annoying asshats for whom beatings are way too good."
Trawl back through the short history of SF and you can see the exact same bitching and lekking oneupmanship set loose time and time again. New Wave writers lambast and laugh at their predecessors from the so-called Golden Age. Individual authors ally or square up to each other with ludicrous intensity. Lots of furious lit. crit. goes flying this way and that. Splat! Pow! Blood on the dancefloor. Oh, but the times, they are a-changing -- here comes the hard-SF revival to "take back" the genre, to barricade themselves in the genre cabin with their technophilic faith and new frontier spirit and hold off the weirdos for a while. Then cyberpunk kicks down the door all over again, proclaims itself dangerous and subversive (but over here, in this corner, some New Wave purists scoff).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The God Delusion Ch 2-4

A few more thoughts from my sporadic (in time rather than order) read through the book. This time it's less of a comment and more a few pet hates.

Darwinian Consciousness Rising

The first one I can't stand is Dawkins use of the idea/term "Darwinian Consciousness rising" and it's variants. Where, he appears to assume a correct understanding and agreement with Darwinian evolution some how gives you this amazing new "Super" mindset (or at least that's the way it appears based on how he uses it in his book). It's almost as if understanding Darwinian evolution is enough to somehow raise your level of consciousness to a step above the majority of humanity (and especially religious people...). A view I highly disagree with. An understanding of evolution may help make considering some ideas easier, as it provides you with a language and framework within which to work, however it does not raise or place you in some elevated mindset. I personally suspect that he's taken a certain type of mindset that handles such scientific and abstract ideas well, and is able to link them to physical reality then, at least in my reading of his use of the term, seemed to suggest that one of the ideas that such a mindset might produce, evolution, is responsible for creating the mindset.


Another thing that annoys me is his discussion of simplicity and why it makes the concept of God impossibly improbable. He decides to contrast this to multiuniverse/metauniverse (or my preference to hijack cosmos, and push it's definition out to include every thing that can or might exist) theory (both parallel and serial theories). The multiverse theory he then declares to be simple, because theoretically if it does exist it could theoretically be derived from a "few" "simple" laws and a form of cosmic evolution. God he then declares is obviously, and could only be, irreversibly complex (thus theoretically failing some cosmic form of KISS/Occam's Razor). Seeing as he's already explained previously in the book, complex things don't just come into existence, and evolution is the only currently known way to for a simple system to increase in complexity (non-chaotic complexity obviously). So while he's quite happy to take a theory that explains an increase in complexity in a biological system, and possibly a means of converting nonliving inorganic to living organics and apply it to the development of a "simple" multiverse/metaverse, he is not even at all willing to trying think of anything outside the box for how a "God" like being might come into existence. Instead he's quite happy to stay inside the box described God by traditional religious views...

(What if "God" is an evolved pan/metaverse Intelligence? An intelligence with an interest in other intelligences, sure it leaves a problem with communication and a few other things but hey least we're now also thinking out side the box...)

Underlying fear?

One vibe I'm starting to pick up more and more through out the book seems to be that part of his dislike for religion and a possible reason for his rather aggressive view point is that idea that Religion and Faith, kill Science and Reason. He appears to hate the viewpoint that goes "ohh I don't understand that, so obviously it's God at work, so I don't need to study that!", something I can completely understand such a view is naive, annoying and foolish, and is undoubtedly present in many Christian groups. However I fail to see how converting the world to Atheism would help with eradicating that mindset. Instead I suspect the reason given would simply change from "God at work" to "It's boring", "It's irrelevant", "Why should I care", "it's too much work" and similar. Such a mindset is not a religious mindset, it's a very common human mindset, that is present in the vast majority of the population (Try explaining just about any research that doesn't have instant gratification to most people and you'll see how quickly they lose interest (unless they're trying to be polite for some reason)).

Religion is Bad, It's just bad

Nothing specific in the book has really bought this thought to mind (except maybe a couple of bits in the first chapter, and the "feel" of some sections). But the first part of this comes to mind now and then when reading the book:

Religion is bad, because religious people do bad things in it's name.

Which brings to mind the similar:

Science is bad, because people use it to do bad things.

So there you go a few thoughts after finishing chapter 4.

Hmm 400th post, yawn :-P.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Got to Love it...

When older windows games run better on Linux via WINE than they do in Vista (and XP to a certain degree).
BG, BGII, IWD, IWD2, PST I choose you!

Any way time for some IWD2 Heart of Fury Mode, where level 1 Goblins have 40 health, do 200% more damage, and can wipe out your entire party of level 1 characters with out even lossing half there HP, if your not careful.

Amazing I even remebered to save my party from the last time I played ~1 year ago, heck I might even finish the game this time if I'm not careful. Go you level 26 Party!

Monday, April 14, 2008

The God Delusion Chapter 1

A few thoughts after having read the first chapter of the God Delusion.

His comments on the undeserved respect the religions seem to get, I certainly agree with for the most part. I think most religions expect this when they don't really deserve it, sure they've all done some stuff that's deserving of respect and continue to do so. However nothing they may have or will do qualifies them for some sort of exalted pedestal, from which they can stand and hurl abuse down at others with out receiving it back. And nothing pardons killing or threaten others who ignore or reject elements of your religion.

The bit on theist and deist was interesting and using those definitions It would seem likely I'm somewhere between the two. ;-)

His initial comments on a world with out religion and how it would or might be lacking things such as the crusades, 9/11, Irish troubles and many other "nasty" things I highly disagree with. It's a shallow statement that completely ignores reality and provides no argument at all. Skipping a head a bit I see he mentions some more on this so hopefully he'll actually make some sort of argument or two rather listing a whole lot of nasty stuff then saying it's all religiously motivated.

Highly enjoyed the bits on Einstein and various other scientists "God" and the wonder of nature. This quoted quote especially:

Carl Sagan, in Pale Blue Dot, wrote:
How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, 'This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant'? Instead they say, 'No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.' A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

HP2133, compeition for the eeepc

HP 2133 Mini-Note Review
HP 2133 Mini-Note Review
Just when you thought you'd never find the perfect small form factor notebook for less than $1,000, HP comes to the table with the all new 2133 Mini-Note. This ultra mobile subnotebook features an impressive 8.9-inch screen, a remarkably large keyboard, a full-sized notebook hard drive, and plenty of impressive specs. Is this the perfect road warrior machine? Let's take a closer look and find out.

So the eeepc finally has some serious and somewhat more expensive compeition, certainly a nice looking laptop though it's a pitty that the CPU seems even more underpowered than expected. Will be interesting to see if they upgrade it to the new via cpu that's coming out soon, seeing apparently it's pin compatible but offers similar preformance to a core 2 duo. Will all so be interesting to see if some one picks it up to sell in NZ and what the local price will be.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

One advantage at least and a mini RANT

Well there's at least one advantage to having nothing to do while looking for a Job, it leaves you with plenty of time to make nice stuff for lunch. Hmm homemade minipizza.

On a completely different note I'd like to say Apple's "Software Update for Windows" is a piece of annoying crap, it sticks a large window right in the middle of your screen, it provides no obvious way to disable it, it wants to download the full version of the program it's trying to update rather than a delta and finally it trys to install by default Safari, an entire new application as an update which is simply WRONG!
Windows update is by comparison is amazingly good it uses a tiny icon in the system tray, it only auto selects updates for you existing software (new stuff is not selected by default) it generally updates with delta's (or subcomponents) and it is highly configurable you can decide when and how often it runs and what it does each time.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Exciting Times...

Project Virgle

YouTube - projectvirgle's Channel

Google and Virgin announce there plan to colonise Mars :)

The Register on IBM's VirtualHuman Project

And many many others if you look carefully.

It's that day again ...

Where you need to check the local time for anything you read on the internet in the next ~24 hours.