mellowtigger: (hypercube)
It's no secret that I've been addicted to crowdfunding for years.  You can change the world if you lend your resources to the effort(s).

The most popular site for projects is probably Kickstarter, but other sites (Experiment, SunFunder, Indiegogo, Patreon, and more) promote various specialties.  My only disappointment so far is PetriDish for science projects.  I successfully funded one project there, but the site owner was running it only as a capitalist not a science afficionado.  He decided he wasn't making enough cash from his cut of the pledges, so he stopped development on the website.  In contrast to that stalled effort, sci-fi computer game Star Citizen currently stands at $47.4 million raised, the largest crowdfunding effort in history.

Reading Rainbow kickstarterToday's post, however, is about 3 new ideas.

First, another huge success (already one of the top 5 fundraisers on the Kickstarter site) is an effort to bring back Reading Rainbow.  They have 3 days to go to their deadline, so you can still donate before the fundraising ends!  Not only did they quickly surpass their $1 million initial goal, but they've won the attention of Seth McFarlane who will match every dollar raised beyond their current $4 million up to their next $5 million stretch goal.  Successes like this project do restore my faith in the compassion and goodwill of humanity.

Second, it's not all about charity.  Innovation can be found on sites like these.  I spend too much time at my computer desk, and I already know that I'm prone to blood clots, so that's a very bad combination for my health.  The new Cubii, however, is maybe a way to counteract the health risks of my time at the computer.  It's a mini-elliptical so I can exercise while I type.  I look forward to trying it.

Third, I've already mentioned that I want a gauntlet to wear that incorporates many tech devices in one.  Someone is working to develop a wristwatch with a 360-degree display surface.  That's one more step towards a tech gauntlet.  The Moment smartwatch has already reached its funding goal (and I need to conserve my limited funds), so I'm donating only $1 to this one.  I am happy, though, to see creativity going where I expect to see great new developments.

I approve the religious exhortation to tithe money, but I disapprove of donating money to religions.  Think outside the box.  Every effort to improve the lives of humans is ultimately the result of hard work by other humans.  I recommend donating money where it is most impactful.  Choose a charity or a project that suits your interests, then go help them change the world for the better.  Sometimes you can even help yourself in the process. I enjoy it immensely.  I hope you will too.
mellowtigger: (hypercube)
I don't wear tech.  I don't wear jewelry.  I don't particularly like even wearing clothes. But here's an idea for technology that I would definitely wear.  The good news is that much of it is already here.  We just need to mix them together and add a small dash of future-tech.

Here are the parts that already exist in our world.  We have smart watches and google Glass, wide screen display for the forearm, the Coin multicard, and the Angel sensor bracelet.

iWatch and googleGlass smartphone in prosthetic arm
coin card Angel sensor bracelet

Here's how to mix them together.  Instead of a prosthetic forearm, make a "gauntlet" that straps a credit-card-sized device to the arm.  The credit card comes with a metallic rim that clicks into place onto the base unit's magnets, so it is easy to return to its home location.

While the card is removed from its gauntlet, it becomes an emulator for any and all credit cards or other identification (keep your library card, your driver's license, your pet food discount card, etc.) all in one device.  The front face of the card is entirely a screen display, so it can appear as any card.

While the device is attached to the gauntlet, it becomes your watch, your calendar, your RSS newsfeed ticker.  It also tracks your heart rate, oxygen level, temperature, and galvanic stress.  The whole credit card face is a display, so you have more space available than just a smart watch.

Remember that metallic rim on the device?  The google Glass easily spots it and reacts to what is displayed on the interface within the rim's border.  The newsfeed says you received a new email?  If Glass says your eyeball is focused on that news item, then Glass pops up a display showing the full text of the email.  If you are looking at the clock icon, then Glass displays your calendar.

I want it.  I would wear it.  I want my Gauntlet-and-Glass combo.  For now, I'm settling for an Angel and a Coin.  I already contributed to their crowdfunding campaigns while they were active.  I look forward to receiving these new tech items in the coming months.  Google, your job is to work on that eye-scanning technology and integrate with an all-in-one gauntlet.  I'm waiting.
mellowtigger: (hypercube)

Insomnia.  Again.  I might as well push an idea out of my head and into the digital aether.

Is there a way to convert unwanted heat into coherent light?  Is there a way to reflect that laser light without loss?  If so, then I want underground vacuum tubes connecting equatorial regions with higher latitudes.  Use "waste" heat from one region by shipping it to another part of the planet where it could be put to good use.  Just beam the laser light through underground vacuum conduits to where heat is needed.

Alternatively, "store" the energy by building tubes that reflect the light, perpetually bouncing it from one end of the tube to the other.  In this way, you could build up "light year" (or, more specifically, one-half light year) chambers that would keep that laser light traveling for six months until cold weather has arrived in your local environment.

It seems hugely wasteful to generate heat during Minnesota winters while excess heat annoys people in other regions of the world.  I wonder if reducing temperature differences between latitudes might even reduce extreme weather events.  It's not like we have to worry about melting polar ice caps by bringing warmth to their environment.  That proverbial ship has already sailed.


Mar. 11th, 2013 11:20 am
mellowtigger: (break out)
Existence by David BrinI finished reading Existence by David Brin. As usual, it is a very long story (875 pages) with great exploration of possibilities, just what science fiction should be.

It begins a few decades into our future, possibly the 2050s. It addresses primarily "the great silence", the glaring question of why we haven't detected signals from other civilizations even though the galaxy should be teeming with them. Given a universe that permits only slow travel between stars (no magical warp drives), Brin gives readers a thorough justification for one possible answer.

He also explores what it means to be "human". The story begins with one sanctioned species of humanity plus two unsanctioned: the autistics of our so-called autism epidemic and the neanderthal from genetic experiments for revival of the species. The numbers and categories change as humans ponder their long-term survival on galactic timescales and prepare to meet their future.

I discuss details ahead, but if I include any spoilers then they are only minor ones.

My very first impression was to wonder if the author had been stalking me online. He presents so very many topics that I have discussed openly in my blog over the years:
  • Austistics represent a distinct form of humanity, an old variety still trying to breakout into a niche, one having more in common with previous Homo species than Homo sapiens. Emotion regulation is a particular frailty.
  • Harappa is an important civilization in our history, although he published before recent reports that they may have been the first human civilization, not the third.
  • Transparency and sharing of information are great assets among our tools for survival.
  • Climate change is so far gone that we have to accept the rising oceans and adapt.
  • The USA nation is likely to splinter.
  • Exponential growth is a Very Bad Thing.
He also presents a topic that I have avoided discussing openly, my belief that some people are biochemically addicted to their behaviors of contrariness. By my estimation they get their "fix" from norepinephrine (aka noradrenaline) regulation, just like cocaine addicts. Brin doesn't posit the specific method, but we reach the same conclusions about the terrible effects upon society of these undiagnosed addicts. I like his solution.

Existence is, however, a difficult story to read. There are many actors in the story, and each gets their own viewpoint; it's quite hectic. He doesn't reveal the principle plot device until nearly 100 pages into the story. He doesn't define common vocabulary either, and one recurring term didn't get explained until page 703. The book never gives calendar dates for its current events so it's hard to pin down the time frame, although it definitely begins in this century. The ending was abrupt, leaving some continuity without proper explanation.

Overall, though, it is a good story that leaves the reader with a lot to ponder. It would make a great television drama, especially if that ending is fleshed out some more. The book's afterward is also important. He tells us that we can expect a new book in the Uplift saga "soon"! Now there's a story that I'd love to see turned into a series. Anyway, I do recommend Existence. A few dollars for the paperback will offer many hours of thought-provoking entertainment.
mellowtigger: (hypercube)
Dan Whaley was involved in e-commerce as early as 1994 with his startup GetThere, which eventually led to  He is seeking funds for a new programming project to help determine the reliability of our sources for information. I've already donated some money to the effort, and I've registered my username at the project's website.

I have written previously about the need for computer assisted epistemology to help us organize our thoughts and opinions to reach the kernels of truth within them. I have also written previously about Kickstarter, the website that helps funnel money into creative projects. Just yesterday, I wrote about the need to verify our sources of information.

I'm pleased that these discussions have collided at a useful intersection.  :)
mellowtigger: (Green Lantern)
Technology is great. The user interface still needs a lot of improvement, but this is exactly the kind of tool that can help promote democratic discussion! Individuals now have the power to experiment with government budgeting.

This website offers a tool to help people see just how difficult (or easy) it is to balance the Minnesota state budget.  Tweaking taxes upward (not even a lot) solves the deficit very quickly.  Cutting expenditures requires some really awful choices when you see how all of the costs are divided between various programs.

How do the various candidates stack up, when you get to play with the numbers yourself? They only link to PDF documents instead of providing a template with the user interface widgets already adjusted for you, but at least it's a start! As this local newspaper article mentions: "[The Democratic candidate] boasts, not unjustly, that he has been "far more explicit than other candidates about what I intend to do."

The Republican mantra ("Cut taxes!  Cut spending!") looks pretty awful when you watch just which programs have to get axed, rather than blaming some nebulous and nefarious "gummint". Only one of the Big Three candidates has no explicit budget proposal on the site: the Republican candidate.

I happen to dislike both the Democratic and Republican candidates, so I am looking to give my vote to a minor party instead. This tool, however, is awesome for comparing the various political platforms on one important issue.
mellowtigger: (Daria)
I have a few female readers at this blog, and I wanted to make sure they all knew about this opportunity to display the supernatural power of their cleavage.  No, seriously.

We already know that the homosexuals are responsible for God allowing Americans to die at the hands of terrorists.  As it turns out, low necklines (and short shorts) are responsible for God sending earthquakes to destroy cities.  Who knew?  One of God's own prayer leaders, that's who.

""Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Sedighi is Tehran's acting Friday prayer leader."

Those are some mighty boobs, indeed.

lethal cleavageNaturally, one bright woman thought of a way to test that theory.  Women: Plan on Monday to wear your clothes that are least modest.

I have a modest proposal.  Sedighi claims that not dressing modestly causes earthquakes. If so, we should be able to test this claim scientifically. You all remember the homeopathy overdose?  Time for a Boobquake.

I'm tempted to start a parallel "moobquake" event in a masculine gesture of solidarity, but then we'd muddy the scientific purity of the experiment that is underway.  Instead, I'll just point everyone to the Facebook page for the event (and they already have 64,610 attendees registered):

Heterosexual men:  I'm sorry, but I don't know what to recommend.  Should you take your cameras to work on Monday in order to participate in the apparently-necessary immodest thoughts?  Or do you resist temptation so that we know for sure that the earthquake wrath is brought upon us solely because of those wicked women ways?  This confused homosexual is staying out of that debate.
mellowtigger: (hypercube)
There has been some evidence in recent years that our language affects our thoughts.  I want to be pro-active in this matter, so I've decided to make a stronger push in my life to include 3 specific changes.

metric adoption worldwidemetrics:  As [ profile] philbutrin pointed out recently, the USA looks rather silly as a holdout on officially adopting the metric system.  America has been in the process of converting since 1975.  I remember attending classrooms where we talked about the new system and our conversion to it.  I also remember 1982 when President Reagan defunded and closed the office that was supposed to be helping the nation make the conversion.  We got stuck with liter Coke bottles but gallons of milk and gasoline.

dual speed signsI've been in the habit of posting temperatures in both Fahrenheit and Celsius.  That practice ends now.  I will post only in Celsius.

I have an easier time (because of the aforementioned school classes) thinking of small units of distance in terms of meters and centimeters.  Harder, however, are long distances.  It doesn't help that roadway signs are no longer posted in dual metrics.  Thank you again, President Reagan.  It will be difficult to figure out my vehicle mileage.  I'll still call it "mileage" rather than "kilometerage".

history:  Calendars, in addition to helping us predict future events, are supposed to help us relate current events to past ones.  I've never been able fully to wrap my mind around our current year-counting system.  Enough of that silliness.  I've grown lax in adhering to my Recorded Human History timeline.  I'll work harder at posting dates in this RHH format.  Oversimplified, just add 4,000 to the current Gregorian year and you'll have your RHH date.  Welcome to the year 6010!  *cheer*

Signing/dating my checks will be confusing to me, since I'm guessing that banks would not appreciate or adopt the new and more sensible calendar.  I'll have to convert to Gregorian years when I pay debts.

  I'm glad that English doesn't insist upon gender for every single noun.  Pronouns, however, are an obvious holdout to older ways of thinking.  I dislike "s/he" which is readable but unpronounceable.  I dislike "they" as a neutral singular.  I have not found a consistent usage among transgender folk yet, but I'm going to choose one now.  I'm selecting a modified Xe vocabulary.  This option probably feels more natural to me only because of prior exposure.  This language was proposed by Jim Sinclair (genderless autistic human), and I spent a few years reading xer email communications.

The letter "X" is pronounced like the letter "Z", as in the familiar corporate name "Xerox".
  • xe (plural they); replaces he, she, and it
  • xem (plural them); replaces him, her, and it
  • xer (plural their); replaces his, her, and its
I am changing the official "xir" or "xyr" spelling into "xer" just to maintain vowel consistency.  I very much prefer that every vowel be either "e" or "i" instead of being mixed.
mellowtigger: (Obama)
I like a good conspiracy theory.  The more bizarre, the better, right?  Well, here's a doozy for you.

Back on December 9th, strange lights appeared in the sky over Norway.  Popular Science has a good photo spread of the images taken of the weird phenomenon.  Most of them show a white spiral appearing in the sky, with a spiral blue beam jutting from it.  What was the explanation for it?  Russia claimed responsibility with a failed missile test.  Never mind that those photos look absolutely nothing like missile contrail. They look more like the teleporting, time-traveling aftereffects of The Last Mimsy returning to the future.  Anyway, moving along...

Also on December 9th, there was a massive pyramidal UFO over Moscow.  I mean massive as in huge: 1.5 kilometers wide.  The YouTube upload of one video is interesting.  (Notice the posting date to confirm the December 9th occurence.)  With such a huge object appearing over a major city, you'd think the police would be swamped with calls, right?  If they weren't, then obviously the video is a fake.  Well, the news agency Russia Today reported that police were making "no comment".  Huh?  If the object was not actually in the sky, a simple "We received no reports of such an incident" would be easy.  But "No Comment"?  Anyway, moving along...

Finally, Pravda even acknowledged the presence of the pyramid.  But then... they get the date wrong. 
"A strange flying object was spotted in the sky above Moscow today, December 18."


The Russians aren't the only ones to have the date wrong.  You see, our governments have collectively known about aliens on Earth for decades.  (Don't worry, they're peaceful.)  A big announcement was supposed to finally be made in 2010.  Other theorists, however, dispute that date.  Apparently, it wasn't supposed to happen until 2017.  Who knows?  Apparently, managing global multinational conspiracies is a very confusing activity.  Newspapers being fed stories by alien co-conspirators can't be expected to keep the timeline straight, can they?  Anyway, moving along...

On December 10th, the next day, is when Obama gave his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize... in Norway (remember the spiral).  Well, as it turns out, the Nobel Committee is "in" on this big secret too. They were trying to prepare the world to accept the validity of an announcement by Barack Obama in 2010 regarding the presence of alien life on our world, so they pre-emptively awarded him the Peace Prize in 2009.  Expect the "aliens" announcement later this year.

Really.  I read it on the internets so it must be true.  (No, I'm not adding this one to my predictions tag.)
mellowtigger: (hypercube)
I dreamed again last night.  More accurately, I awoke and still remembered the dream.

I was attending another university.  The dream involved my trip there and the days of my first week in classes.  The university was odd for three reasons.  First, it was founded by one man who had earned his fortune in business.  I think it was the movie business, sort of like a Walt Disney story.  He still lived and worked on university grounds.  Second, although the university was a secular institution, the policy there included a strong religious slant in order to acquiesce to the founder's own personal beliefs.  Not quite like Oral Roberts University, but along those lines.  Third, it was very cheap to attend.  The costs were low because the founder insisted they be so, and that's the reason that I was attending; it was affordable to me.

I was going at my current age, so I was much older than other students.  I got paired on campus with a roommate that I think was gay, but he was still too closeted to say so to anyone.  That's when I noticed that nobody on campus was "out".  Somehow this realization morphed into me confronting the founder of the institution about his beliefs on homosexuality.  One male and two female students joined me, but they again were very closeted and would not even come out to me.  I was the only one who spoke to the man.

We argued for a while and then I suggested that he attend one of his own Psych 101 classes to learn that homosexuality is an inherent condition rather than a moral failing.  He ranted about how gay was evil.  It was the usual and familiar tripe.  We left the meeting without getting permission for a gay group on campus.  I was left with a personal choice about staying or leaving before my first week was even up.  And then I woke.

Nothing in the dream involved autism directly.  There is the subtle similarity that autism is considered a universal "wrongness", never to be approved or desired.  Yet I woke with a new theory about autism, and it specifically involves university campuses.

The CDC finally admitted a few days ago that the incidence of autism is indeed rising, currently at about 1 out of every 110 children.  People are wondering what environmental trigger (poisonous exposure) is causing this "epidemic".  What if there is no chemical trigger for autism?  What if the trigger is actually social?

We know that environmental conditions (health, stress, etc.) change which genes that a person has switched on and off.  We know, through the wonders of epigenetics, that these changes can be passed along to offspring as "preset conditions" in their genetic machinery.  In essence, epigenetics allows children to be prepared for the same environment that their parents faced, giving them a competitive edge in meeting those particular challenges.

During the last century, however, the environment that people face has changed dramatically.  First, women entered the workforce during World War II.  The demands placed upon the bodies and minds of women changed significantly.  Second, the workforce began attending college in increased numbers.  These days, college degrees are listed as job requirements for careers that (in my opinion) should not in any way require them.  College has essentially become a mandatory experience.

What if these social changes caused two very significant biological changes?
  1. Epigenetics favored mental changes in individuals, more women were changed but also many men.
  2. Breeding opportunities changed, allowing more individuals with these mental changes to partner and produce children?
What if Mother Nature is trying to produce a new human suitable to the environment that we created for ourselves, and autism is currently one of its byproducts, one of the "tweaks" being experimented with to see if it is a suitable solution?

We already know about the engineering effect and the Silicon Valley effect.  What if the same thing is happening on a grand scale, worldwide?  What if the combination of "women's liberation" and the "technology revolution" together are helping to produce the next evolutionary change in humans, and we are just now beginning to see the side effects of Mother Nature's experimentation in how to produce Homo brains?
mellowtigger: (hypercube)
There was a time when Newton's and Kepler's laws of motion reigned supreme. The universe was a perfectly explainable place, with every body following particular rules of motion that could be calculated and predicted. The only problem? They were wrong.
As the 19th century dawned, it seemed that Newton’s Theory of Gravitation had won the day. All sorts of motion could be described by the equations that we have looked at (all based on F = ma and F = GM1M2/d2). However, it soon became clear that the planet Mercury was not obeying Newton’s Laws. At this point, scientists can do one of two things: either reject the theory and replace it with a better one, or find some subtlety that had been missed in examining the problem the first time.
Astronomers tried to find a small planet inside Mercury's orbit that would explain the deviation. They found none. They faced a significant problem. Their wonder-formula was failing, but they couldn't explain why. It wasn't until the arrival of Einstein and his theories of relativity that an answer finally appeared. Mercury is deep inside our sun's gravity well, and time dilation effects were changing its orbit. Not only does the quantum (small-scale) reality differ from our own, but so does the astronomic (large-scale) reality.

Just as physics requires a frame of reference to make its equations applicable, could it be that economics also requires a frame of reference?

While exploring "Post-Autistic Economics" topics, I have read the call to remove macro- and micro-economics from introductory economics classes. The claim is that these theories have proven to be utterly wrong because of their profound, worldwide, and expensive failure to account for and predict our current economic mess. At first, I agreed wholeheartedly. Now, though, I think the problem might be a matter of scale.

I've been insisting on the end of exponential economics. I've called for an end to fiat money and a return to "money" that is measured by actual physical objects (gold, beer, lima beans, whatever). What if such material valuations are a means of enforcing "local scale" where traditional economic theories can still apply?  In other words, suppose traditional economic theories really do work, but only when material is kept within 1 or 2 steps from producer to consumer? What if our transition to fiat money and stocks and derivatives (and other arcana of money markets) has removed the "reality check" that's needed to keep transactions faithful to their real-world value?

Traditional economics claims that rational self-interest will succeed at regulating a market more effectively than any form of imposed regulation. "Post-Autistic Economics" claims that this old theory is not only wrong but also harmful. The real world has now witnessed the results of traditional thinking; the prediction failed. People are not rational actors within their systems. Or, phrased more generously, people are not rational actors within their systems when viewed within a lengthy timeframe that can account for ecologically sustainable and morally acceptable activity.

Perhaps at very large scales of activity where individual people are far removed from the actual material produced, imposed regulation may be necessary to create sustainable activity. Small-scale endeavors may require altogether different (more traditional) kinds of economic measurements (and laws) than large-scale endeavors. The scale of economic activity might influence the equations that can be used to predict (and laws that influence) its behavior.

Instinct would claim that economic theories should apply at all scales of operation. Instinct, though, would also claim that moving clocks always tick at the same pace as stationary clocks.  In the real universe, though, moving clocks tick more slowly.
The question is, is this crazy world really our world? In other words, do experiments bear out these effects? The answer is yes. All experiments done to date confirm that these effects really work out as the equations of Special Relativity dictate.
What if economics also operates under different rules depending on the "scale" (proximity to material produce) and timeframe?  What if "adjustments" (laws) are necessary to force large-scale operations (and exponential money nonsense) back down to face the appropriate real-world limitations?

As astronomers faced a dilemma when viewing Mercury's orbit, perhaps now economists face the same dilemma when viewing recent economic failures.  Either the entire theory on which it was based is false (which seems unlikely), or it's time to accept that the theories are situational.  It could be the case that barely regulated markets are enormously effective within small scales and timeframes, yet intense regulation is necessary for large scales and timeframes.
mellowtigger: (hypercube)
I coined a phrase back on the afternoon of 2006 October 04 when I tried to imagine a computer technology that would assist humans in collaboration on large, complex projects.  Suppose a democracy allowed its citizenry to craft legislation directly.  That's the kind of massive scale that I had in mind, the involvement of millions of people to produce a single document that met preset standards of quality.  We would need a tool that allowed huge numbers of people with varying skill levels and specialties to work together while identifying contributors either as reputable or disreputable based on the validity of their concrete arguments and sources.

On that date, I searched the quoted phrase "assisted epistemology", and I came up with a completely empty result list from Google.  How often can you do that using only a 2-word search phrase?  *proud grin*  I emailed ANI-L (an autism listserv) that day to tell them about my idea.  Even today, google finds only 3 hits on the phrase, and none of them are appropriate to the concept that I intend."assisted+epistemology"

Me, I'm still just "getting by" in life, as it were, so I haven't even begun to build such tools.  I'm glad to learn today that other people are putting serious effort into building them.  Some people are studying the logic of structured debate.  Others are creating tools to assist with confrontational computing, like Intel's browser plugin tool called "Dispute Finder" for annotating and searching text with disputed claims.  The most recent entry seems to be an essay on "disputation arenas" written by my favorite sci-fi author of all time, David Brin.

Just imagine the power of a tool that can help people to contribute on the difficult construction of an important document.  It could be a document of legal significance, or religious, or medical.  Contributions would be rated according to the logic of their argument and also according to the truth of their argument.  Logic should be rather uniform (I think?), but truth would depend upon the knowledgebase of the subject matter.  People would gain reputations (tracked by the software, of course) for their consistency in making logical contributions... or for frequently adding to the knowledgebase (like Wikipedia perhaps but with mandatory source article verification or at least plausible verifiability by experiment).

Confrontational computing.  Disputation arenas.   Assisted epistemology.

It'll happen someday.  We'll have tools that help us, even with our slow chemical-sidetracked minds, to find the truth of our statements.  I'm very hopeful.  :)
mellowtigger: (mst3k)
Just in time for folk going to CONvergence to have trivia for dazzling the natives! And how appropriate that their webpage shows the MST:3K profile. *laugh* Suppose there was a government experiment in which a person born right now was forced to watch television every single day for the rest of their lives. Is there already enough Hollywood content to meet the need?

Short answer: Yes, but only if you require the subject to also view non-English films.

I've pondered this matter before, but then I said it out loud at Bear Coffee last week that I was thinking about downloading IMDB data and determining for myself if there was already more video/film content than a person could ever watch. I finally got around to following through on the commitment. :)

It turns out that IMDB is a huge mess that somehow, somehow continues to work. It is a collection of flat text files (yes, that's right), each devoted to a particular set of data. Records do not have key fields (yes, really). The primary field is just the name of the movie, which the end user can enter with any combination of double and single quotes that they'd like. (really, such a headache for a programmer trying to do string processing.) The other two fields in the "running-times" table are supposed to indicate the number of minutes and the number of episodes, respectively. But there is no data validation because users can enter anything they want, just like a wiki. Minutes might be listed as a whole number "60", or minutes and seconds "20:47", or a range "28-29", or might contain whatever text notes a person thought to be useful information. (Yes, the internet movie so-called database really is this bad.)  Oh, and the field that's supposed to name how long a movie is in minutes, well that's also the place where they dump in the country-of-origin information.  *boggle*

Nevertheless, I managed to import it to an OpenOffice database. I produced the following stats:
890,100 KB memory needed by OpenOffice to import the data using my OOBasic macro
466,181 records processed
 19,926 records that I was unable to clean up well enough to determine the minutes
446,255 records left with countable data

29,506,703 minutes total
491,778 hours total
35,127 days total (allowing 14 hours per day for continuous viewing)
96 years total (which exceeds average lifespan for both males and females)
If I limit consideration only to entries that either do not specify the country of origin or mention specifically USA, UK, Canada, and Australia, then I assume I'm looking mostly just at the English movies. Those results are as follows:
22,427,409 minutes English
373,790 hours English
26,699 days English (at 14 hours per day)
73 years total English
Which becomes doable, but just barely squeaking by within the average lifespan. For Americans, the current average male lives 75 years and female lives 80 years.  All of my numbers are underestimates, I should point out.  I'm not convinced that my macro for cleaning up the episode-count data did a very good job.  It looks like most everything was counted as a movie with only 1 episode rather than allowing for tv series which may have had multiple episodes.  My totals may revise upwards if I ever decide to further clean up the awful IMDB table.

Where's Joel when you need him?
mellowtigger: (hypercube)
I think I've found a way of modifying existing LiveJournal features (plus adding 1 new feature) to encourage more public participation in journals while still allowing extensive (better, I'd say) control over access and the blocking of griefers.  This idea is specific only to LiveJournal and does not really apply to other journal sites.

1) expand the Tag system
One reserved tag will always be public, and another reserved tag will always be adult.  Users are free to create any new tag that they want.  Perhaps limit the number of tags that free accounts can use.  The existing tag system is very robust and needs no significant programming changes.  All posts, however, must have at least one tag.  The default tag is always public.

2) consolidate the Friends/CustomGroups system
With all posts tagged into appropriate subjects, it's now easy to introduce the concept of invitations, which is the permission system that each user can modify to control their journal.  You can set a default for your journal, and you can also set a value specific to any user account for your readers.  There are 2 logic protocols on permissions.
ALL except taglist
NONE except taglist (public cannot be excluded as a journal default but can be applied to individual user accounts)

The ALL setting is inclusive, but the NONE setting is exclusive.  This is important for deciding permissions when you make a post with multiple tags.  So, for instance, suppose you have a journal with the following tags:
public (required), adult (required), recipes, workplace, sexcapades, unicorns, poems

You can set your journal default to ALL except sexcapades.  Other people will have permissions to see all of your tagged posts except for those in the sexcapades category.  If you're a public kind of person and post a story with BOTH public and sexcapades, then the inclusive ALL setting will mean that since one category (public) is permitted then the whole story is permitted and viewable by readers.

You set your journal default to NONE except public, recipes, unicorns.  In this case, the exclusive NONE setting will mean that a story with multiple tags will use the most restrictive permissions.  A story posted with BOTH public and sexcapades tags will have one restricted tag and therefore the whole story is not viewable by readers.

You can mix-and-match settings.  Your journal default can be ALL, but then your mother (or an annoying twit) signs up and you can set individual user permissions that are more restricted.  Poor mother, for instance, can be granted NONE except public and recipes, and she'll never even know about your sexcapades category.  She will see only public and recipes, exclusively, with no other tags seen.  As long as she's logged in as herself, LiveJournal will not show her the other public posts that you make, even though you made them available to everyone as your default (in this scenario).

Using these 2 methods, give writers an extra feature if they've included the public tag on their post.  Give them the ability to create a custom url name for their post.  So, for instance, instead of being post number "286714.html" in their journal, it could be "vacationphotos2009.html".  A small feature that encourages public participation.

3) introduce a subscription system based on the tags that you are permitted to see (replace the Friends page)

Suppose a journal has used the following tags that the author has made permissible (using the system in step 2 above):
public (required), adult (required), recipes, nanowrimo, workplace, vacation

I've browsed all the available-to-read posts and decided that the only subjects by this person that I want to be notified about are the recipes and nanowrimo posts.  I subscribe to them.  Now they show up on my subscription page, just like the Friends page does now.  The other public posts are still out there, and I can see them if I go directly to the user's page, but only my subscribed topics show up on my "new posts page" with my subscribed topics. 

It's a reader's own filter system, diverting only selected topics to their attention.  It can be even more powerful with an "ALL except taglist" and "NONE except taglist" option.  With this system, a user could collect only recipes.  They could build their LiveJournal experience to show them only topics that deal with issues like animal welfare, a political party, or poetry.

4) introduce a rating system for judging users (like what is done on Slashdot using karma scores):

If people have "scores" from -5 to +5, then it's very easy to add further permissions.  A journal owner, for instance could Block posting for anyone with a score of less than -2.  Additionally, they could Screen postings for anyone with a score of less than 0.

Anonymous users automatically get a score of -1.

When you Friend a person, you friend them at a rating of +1 to +5.  Doing so means that, regardless of what their karma level really is, they are treated as having that score when trying to post into your journal.  I suppose an alternative could introduce ratings of -5 to +5, allowing the concept of Enemy to also be used.

Scores affect the ability to write into all journals, either in public or private tags.  Users can have their scores judged/modified, though, only in public posts.  This restriction encourages public participation in various journals, but it still allows people to create their own private community of Friends.
mellowtigger: (economy)
Suppose a function reaches a point where the input can continue to grow, but the output ceases to actually exist. In my thoughts, that's the entire concept of "asymptote".  The function simply "can't go there". Mathematically, though, it has a different and more precise definition. Thanks to[info]snousle for pointing out my error! It's led me to another interesting theory already out there.

I asked [ profile] foeclan if he had a biology book that would discuss the practical limits on growth curves. Like a colony that grows too large to absorb nutrients through its surface area so it dies. He mentioned the classic giant ant of sci-fi B-movie fame, the insect that grows enormously large... too large to actually exist because its chitin skeleton couldn't possibly support the weight of all that chitin. He pointed me to the square-cube problem. That's apparently the appropriate name for my sample problem with colony collapse. Yes, yes, that's what I'm getting at!

The growth curve has a boundary on its maximum possible output value. The nature of the curve contributes to the evaluation of its maximum value. In my mind, that's why the exponential economic growth curve has an asymptote. There exists a maximum value which cannot under any circumstances be surpassed. (The value of the maximum can be increased thanks to technological advances resulting from prior economic activity, but that's a feature of the growth curve. It merely moves the maximum, it doesn't eliminate the existence of a maximum.)

Sure enough, that led me to something new called Constructal theory. It's meant to be a thermodynamic evaluation of flow systems, figuring out what forms the flow will take to minimize resistance. The nature of the flow determines the kinds of resistance it faces, therefore the shape it will take. Yes, yes, again this is what I'm getting at! *excitement* "Flow" is the same concept either way: money or electrons or oxygen molecules.  edit: Hey, someone is applying the concept to economies too.  Now if they'd just apply it to the underlying financial system.

Consider this video of Adrian Bejan, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke University:
The Constructal law states that for a finite size flow system to persist in time, which means to survive, it must evolve in such a way that it provides greater and greater access to the currents that flow.
Socialism! It's a freaking mathematical way to prove that socialism (equal individual access to common resources) is where we need to go next. "Share the wealth!" Let's hope that Obama is the traitor socialist that Republicans claimed him to be. *un-serious laugh*
These patterns occur naturally in living systems such as society (...?) but also in the simpler systems such as the lung. And they also occur in inanimate, that is geophysical, flow systems such as the river basin and lightning. Lightning is a river basin of electricity flowing from the entire cloud to one point.
So economies, as complex systems trying to persistently keep money flowing among citizens, could be modeled the same way. (Or so I claim.) The nature of the system will determine the boundaries of its possible shapes.  On the surface, it sounds like "trickle-down economics" which has been a huge failure, as I see it.  Maybe because Constructal theory needs to define the nature of the "resistance" to the flow.  Rich people don't just hand out their money to lots and lots of poor people.  The money bottles up.  Constructal theory could provide an analysis of how to improve flow.  Like a tree, from diverse root system to central body back out to diverse leaf system?

I still insist that growth needs to be linear (preferably flat) and the individual agents (consumers, in a capitalist model) kept in near-equal flows of money. How utopian would that be? Could this new Constructal theory prove it mathematically as a stable possibility? And could it expose exponential growth systems as inherently unstable because they collapse under the necessities of the physical world and its bothersome limitations?
mellowtigger: (Default)
I still haven't written the increasingly-belated script for my story about The Children. It's a sci-fi story about human nature. It's set in the near future on various spaceships with human crew intended to pilot them across generations of inhabitants. Each spaceship chooses a different type of society to survive the long haul, so we learn about the long-term consequences of their choices.

This space race is initiated by two events. First, scientists publish a list of all habitable planets (nitrogen atmosphere with oxygen, plentiful water, suitable gravity and temperature) within a limited range (perhaps 200 light years) from Earth. Second, the Christian Broadcasting Network announces plans to build a spaceship to go populate one of these planets in an attempt to create a proper God-loving society. The space race ensues.

Scientists here in the real world are already making fast progress. Besides deducing mathematically the existence of planets in certain orbits around other stars, they are now starting to image them directly.

Fomalhaut bHR8799

An exoplanet is any planet orbiting a star other than our own sun. The first (red) image is of a young still-cooling planet orbiting Fomalhaut b, 25 light years away. The second (purple) image is of two huge planets orbiting HR 8799, 130 light years away. Since this image was taken, a different telescope has observed a third exoplanet at HR 8799.

None of these planets is habitable for humans, but it's just a matter of time until we find one that is.

what if...

Nov. 10th, 2008 06:03 pm
mellowtigger: (Default)
What would happen if diagnosis was entirely separated from prescription?  So you'd go to a doctor to diagnose a problem and get a document stating your condition and/or recorded symptom.  (Like an optometrist today records measurements of your eye performance on visual tests.)  Then you'd take your diagnosis somewhere else to get treatment.  Perhaps treatment could be an expansion of the pharmacist role, or it could be a whole new role in medicine.
  • Is there a way to legalize self-prescribing of some medications?  Which medications?
  • Is there a way to reduce legal burdens by spreading medical expertise amongst other working classes besides "doctors"?  Like perhaps the midwife can still do today?
  • Is there a way to remove the profit motive from medical care?  The obvious conflict of interest is that doctors/corporations get more money if they keep you only healthy enough to come back for more consultations.
  • Is there a way to reward doctors for fast and accurate diagnoses, regardless of patient outcome?
  • Given a diagnosis, is there a way to increase competition for treatment options and reduce costs?
Perhaps treatment regimen provides the immediate feedback that a doctor needs to reinforce learning that a diagnosis was accurate.  If the two activities were split, maybe doctors would be less accurate instead of more accurate with diagnoses?

I'm just wondering out loud.
mellowtigger: (hypercube)
So does anyone know where I can mail-order some cobalt-60? Seriously. [ profile] otterlover01's giant crystals reminded me of an idea I had last year, and I think it'd be cool to try it out someday.

Gamma radiation is just extremely high-frequency light waves. It's the kind of radiation given off by cobalt-60 (well, after it first emits a beta particle (an electron)), and it's the kind of radiation that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration permits to be used when irradiating food. (Aside: They allow it to be provided by cobalt-60 or cesium-137. They also allow x-rays and high-energy electrons to be used on food.)

Gamma sources need to be well shielded because their high frequency penetrates through matter (like entire pallets of food at once) very well. See: sample cargo photo taken with gamma radiation. So I realize that a source needs to be treated with care. I'd also need to order suitable long-term storage. Conveniently, though, cobalt-60 has a half-life of only 5.27 years and it decays into nickel. Yep, plain old nickel, the kind that's probably in your pockets right now.

So cobalt-60 would be a really convenient way to irradiate salt, wouldn't it? 8)

Have you ever seen those weird "new age" salt dome light things? Well, why not take it a step farther and eliminate the electrical cord or the candle? What if the salt itself was the light source? I don't know if amorphous salt would respond this way, or if it's only larger crystals that do it, but when salt is exposed to gamma radiation, it will continue to emit a red-orange glow for about 24 hours. The gamma radiation charges up salt's electrons, but something about the crystal lattice keeps the electrons from dropping back to a lower energy level right away. So for 24 hours they slowly emit visible light until all the electrons return to their resting state.

Imagine: You go at dusk to the cobalt-60 safe that sits under your kitchen sink, open it up to take out the glowing crystals. Leave them out all night for lighting, cover them up as necessary to get some sleep. When you wake up, gather the crystals and lock them back up in the safe for another dose of gamma exposure as they recharge.

It'd be like a glowstick, but without the unpleasant chemical leftovers. All you'd have left is nickel and salt. High-energy light goes into them, soft low-energy visible light comes out. What's not to like?

what if...

Sep. 3rd, 2008 08:08 am
mellowtigger: (Default)
What if someone (an enterprising terrorist, say) created a virus that affected neurons (sort of like herpes or toxoplasmosis) but specific kinds of neurons. What if this virus caused infected cells to produce chemicals that inhibited the ability to lie. Or, even better, what if lying caused neurons to create a toxic byproduct so that habitual lying or complex lying would eventually kill the person doing it? Wouldn't that change politics and war and religion in profound ways? Would it make for a better world?

What if people with disability pensions (a permanent 'trickle' income) banded together in a community to create a special kind of co-op. This co-op could provide a kind of nature sanctuary where people could hold classes for the public on mental health and relaxation. This co-op could provide a permanent home to disabled pets as well. (Like Home For Life does for deaf Blueberry, blind Celeste and Ben, or incontinent Speedy.) It could experiment with teaching self-help skills, sharing with the public what techniques it found productive.  It could be what I imagine a religious sanctuary should be, but this would be without the overt religious involvement.
mellowtigger: (Default)
It's all about making sense of the world. This whole schtick with reading and pondering and writing. Normally I'd skip the writing, but I haven't quite finished my year-long experiment on that part. Anyway, as I've mentioned before, I want a new year-system that's less complicated. I don't mind so much the month/day system that we have, but the year-system does annoy me.

1) Currently, there is no year zero... and that leaves the computer programmer in me just aghast. 2) Then there's the problem of notation that's changed over the years to make the system more palatable to non-Catholics. Anno domini gave way to CE, which itself could mean Christian Era, Common Era, or Current Era. 3) Then there's the additional notational problem of prefix/postfix notation. For instance, it is currently year "AD 2008" but also "2008 CE". 4) Add the backwards-but-positive numbering for "BCE" years into the scheme, and the whole thing just annoys me to no end.

I earlier proposed an "RHH" (Recorded Human History) method instead. Upon googling, however, I discovered that a similar method has already been proposed, the Holocene calendar. I understand the desire to fix the calendar against a geologic scale, but it still seems rather arbitrary to me. I mean, the planet is changing very quickly these days, so is it about time to change the zero date and renumber the whole thing again? I'd rather have a single point of history, a mark which will not be repeated later, as the origin. I still prefer my idea of using human writing as the origin. Time-keeping is for humans, and it seems like the time system should mark human interests rather than geologic interests.

Granted, we don't know an exact date for this first event of writing, so there's some significant "fudge factor" involved. It's always possible that archeology will eventually find an older sample, so the first instance of known recorded communication might shift earlier into the timeline. But I'm willing to accept that risk in favor of a year-system that makes much better sense in terms of human development.

So, I hereby propose the Anthrograph calendar (from Greek words meaning 'human writing'... I think). This calendar does have a zero year, and it is placed (somewhat arbitrarily) 4001 years prior to the Gregorian year 1. Previous years are numbered with a negative sign, so proto-writing and cave paintings could both be accounted for in "negative years" from this proposed point of origin. All "positive years" would occur in a time of human history when true writing was happening.

I'm still pondering monthly calendar reforms, but I don't know that I'll ever settle on a solution to propose for that problem. It is much more complex than just the years. Wikipedia has a good summary of the troubles with reform of that kind of calendar.

So, for now...

Hello to everyone, this fine August 17 Sunday morning of the year 6008.


p.s. I notice that "anthrograph calendar" returns zero entries at google, so apparently I really have created something new. (Or, at minimum, a new name.) Yay!

p.p.s.  I recommend pronouncing the R.H.H. as "ree".  As in "the year 6008 /ree/".  That's short for "re"corded, with not just one but two silent Hs afterwards.  *laugh*


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