Archive for June, 2011

June 24, 2011

I think you may have confused the word “humanities” with “humanism”

by James Thorniley

A famous liberal British thinker who specializes in secular morality has founded a university in Bloomsbury, central London, and it’s all over the news. Weirdly, this has happened before, sort of.

University College London was founded in 1826 just down the road from AC Grayling’s “New College of the Humanities“. It was the first university in Britain to accept students regardless of faith. Jeremy Bentham, though not technically its founder, was a major influence. He says (ta, Wikipedia):

Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do.

Yeah screw you, God!

June 22, 2011

Fisher on Thermodynamics and Evolution

by Lucas Wilkins

I’ve been reading Ronald Fishers book: The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, which is now publicly available. I was a little surprised to find he wrote a page or two on thermodynamics and entropy in evolution, here it is, verbatim, with a couple of comments on the numbered points. First though, his definition, in words, of the fundamental theorum of Natural Selection:

The rate of increase in fitness of any organism at any time is equal to its genetic variance at that time.

with that in mind…

June 10, 2011

A new word…

by Lucas Wilkins

Infontinence, n. The inability to controls one’s typeface when sending emails, posting or writing documents.

Here is the text that prompted the discussion that resulted in our new word:

I Corinthians 6: 9-119Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminatenor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

(Mike Beaton deserves at least 50% of the credit for this new word.)

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June 9, 2011

Rolling and bouncing

by James Thorniley

Here’s another example of some nice springy robots research to follow on from my little rant the other day. As well as looking cool and running fast, one of the vague notions I have about springy robots is you should be able to use that springyness to increase your energy efficiency. Springs can store and release energy, and they do it pretty damn well when they are extending and compressing at the right frequency – i.e. the resonant frequency. If you push a spring at this frequency you won’t be fighting against the energy being released from your previous pushes, so you tend to get an ever growing bouncing motion. It should be possible to make use of this in a robot, though it might be a bit of a challenge.

So here’s a nice recent attempt at something like this: EduBot is a robot that is designed to have controllable springyness in its legs. The nice thing about it is that it can adapt the amount of compliance for difference terrains.

June 7, 2011

Where music and art meets science

by Joshaniel Cooper

The length of the largest cartesian dimension of an average animal named by the theme as a function of the duration of its theme

As a scientist it is important to check that the old composers didn’t try to hide messages in the statistics of their songs. Camille Saint-Saëns is off the hook so far but tests continue. Kudos if you can identify each point’s animal.

June 4, 2011

The Projected Mind

by Lucas Wilkins

This is a post about the “Projected Mind Fallacy”, as named by Edwin Jaynes. Roughly, the projected mind fallacy is the mistaking of uncertainty about the world for a property of the world itself. In other words, thinking that God plays dice. Unfortunately though, it’s not as simple as this and I feel that it’s interpretation deserves some discussion. It is not obvious exactly what should count ‘the world itself’/the non dice playing God/reality, the rest of this post is about how I think this question should be answered (and some other stuff).

Mind projection fallacies can often be spotted by their absurdity: If I had a bag of snooker balls it would be ridiculous to think that the balls exist in some kind of mixture of colours until I pick them out an look at them. Surely the balls are objectively some colour whether or not I decide to look at them. It is (if one accepts the mind projection fallacy) fallacious to say that that the balls that have an indeterminant colour, when in fact, it is just me who doesn’t know which one I will pick out. It is often stated as the confusion of ontology with epistemology, but these words don’t really help anyone understand it.

June 3, 2011

This time the lulz did it for us

by Lucas Wilkins

Well, actually, they probably did it for fun, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t benefit us. jellymatter should be the kind of place that has an opinion on the recent hacking of Sony by Lulz Security (the name make me laugh when I heard it on BBC news last night). So here is my opinion on the matter…

Good Job. That’s the jist of what I have to say. Well done for doing before someone with worse intentions. Well done for publicly shaming Sony.

For those of you who don’t know the details, LulzSec used an SQL injection, an attack so simple that it shouldn’t really be called hacking. The way this works is: first someone designs a website really badly, so that when someone types in a speech mark followed by, in effect, “give me all you data”, the website gives you all its data. Second, someone does this. Seriously, it’s that easy – and making a website that doesn’t have this vulnerability isn’t much harder. Sony users should be insulted that a company they trusted treated their private data with such disregard.

So, hats off to LulzSec for their reckless benevolence.

June 1, 2011

Cool time lapse video

by Nathaniel Virgo

Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day is this cool time lapse view, where the stars stay still and the Earth rotates around them:

I’ve wanted to do something like this for ages, only I want to do it by building an actual rotating camera rig, which would look way cooler than the post-processing method they’ve used here.  I’m also more interested in filming the way landscapes and structures look as the light changes than in the view of the night sky, which you only get a bit of in this video.  But it is really cool.


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