Tuesday, October 19, 2010
In keeping with this month's IS Group science fiction reading, The Dervish House, by Ian McDonald, which features a children's toy that is a nanobot that reassembles into various forms, including a bird, a rat, and a snake, IEEE Spectrum on-line has a report called, "Japanese Snake Robot Goes Where Humans Can't." "Japanese robotics company HiBot has unveiled a nimble snake bot capable of moving inside air ducts and other narrow places where people can't, or don't want to, go." Not quite the snake of The Dervish House, but a good start. The IEEE website has a number of videos of the ACM family of robots in action.
Monday, October 18, 2010
"I don't believe in the singularity for the same reason I don't believe in Heaven." Thus begins Annalee Newitz's column in io9, a blog that focuses on futurism, science fiction, and technology. The article, called "Why the Singularity isn't going to happen," discusses the unpredictability of technology and its effects on us. Cory Doctorow discusses her objections in Boing Boing.
Friday, October 15, 2010
David Dobbs, in his blog Neuron Culture in Wired, comments in a piece called "How to Set the Bullshit Filter When the Bullshit is Thick" on an Atlantic profile by David H. Freedman of Dr. John Ioannidis, best known for his 2005 paper in PLoS Medicine, "Why most published research findings are false." In an earlier Times piece, Dobbs said "Ioannidis, an epidemiologist, recently concluded that most articles published by biomedical journals are flat-out wrong. The sources of error, he found, are numerous: the small size of many studies, for instance, often leads to mistakes, as does the fact that emerging disciplines, which lately abound, may employ standards and methods that are still evolving. Finally, there is bias, which Ioannidis says he believes to be ubiquitous." Dobbs provides a good overview and analysis of Ioannidis's work, its implications, and related articles. Freedman's profile of Ioannidis is called, "Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science."
Monday, October 4, 2010
Nick Enfield, of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, and Radboud University in Nijmegen, has a fascinating review of two recent books about language evolution in the 24 September 2010 issue of Science. The article, called "Without Social Context?", reviews The Evolution of Language by W. Tecumseh Fitch, and The Evolution of Human Language: Biolinguistic Perspectives, by Richard K. Larson, Viviane Déprez, and Hiroko Yamakido (eds.). In summary, Enfield says that "... an urgent prerequisite for this line of research ... is a comparative understanding of language in the dynamic context of social behavior."
The next IS Group meeting will take place on Saturday evening, 23 October 2010. The exact time and location will be posted a few days before the meeting. The theme is Modern Warfare, Crime, and Terrorism. The readings include John Robb, Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization; Ian McDonald, The Dervish House; and Misha Glenny, McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld. Additional information can be found on the IS Group website.