Mechanics, not microbes, are the menace to civilisation.
– Norman Douglas (1868 – 1952)
The Mobile Phone
My mobile phone or cell phone is now a part of my everyday life. I don’t know how I ever mananged without it.
Mine you, I am not a very techie person. I use my mobile phone to make a phone call and occassionally to send a text. If push, I would also use it to browse website, especially globalgranary.org. 😉
Anyway, I do not use my iPhone much but the battery drains so fast, it is unbelievable and charging it takes time. It takes ages and I can be a very impatient person.
I heard that if you charge the phone using the airplane setting, the charging will be faster! The only drawback is that you won’t be able to receive call.
I agree with Stephen Hawkings on this one. My smartphone alone will be the death of me. It autocorrects my messages. It automatically change my sometimes funny but nonsensical comments into downright stupid ones. It is killing my reputation and gathering me some very unhappy friends. 😉
I also find that machines, which are supposed to make life easier are anything but. I now have less and less free time as technology improves more and more.
My social life now consists of me and my Facebook friends and Twitter followers. 🙂 Of course I love every single one of them. Some of them give me gifts for my Farmville, Sugar Crush and help me with my Pet Saga, but surely there is more to life than a mouse, keyboard and a small screen and of course a capricious internet connection?
Artificial Intelligence – Death of Mankind
Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind
He told the BBC:”The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”
His warning came in response to a question about a revamp of the technology he uses to communicate, which involves a basic form of AI.
But others are less gloomy about AI’s prospects.
The theoretical physicist, who has the motor neurone disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is using a new system developed by Intel to speak.
Machine learning experts from the British company Swiftkey were also involved in its creation. Their technology, already employed as a smartphone keyboard app, learns how the professor thinks and suggests the words he might want to use next.
Prof Hawking says the primitive forms of artificial intelligence developed so far have already proved very useful, but he fears the consequences of creating something that can match or surpass humans.
“It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate,” he said.
“Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”
But others are less pessimistic.
“I believe we will remain in charge of the technology for a decently long time and the potential of it to solve many of the world problems will be realised,” said Rollo Carpenter, creator of Cleverbot.
Cleverbot’s software learns from its past conversations, and has gained high scores in the Turing test, fooling a high proportion of people into believing they are talking to a human.
Rise of the robots
Mr Carpenter says we are a long way from having the computing power or developing the algorithms needed to achieve full artificial intelligence, but believes it will come in the next few decades.
“We cannot quite know what will happen if a machine exceeds our own intelligence, so we can’t know if we’ll be infinitely helped by it, or ignored by it and sidelined, or conceivably destroyed by it,” he says.
But he is betting that AI is going to be a positive force.
Prof Hawking is not alone in fearing for the future.
In the short term, there are concerns that clever machines capable of undertaking tasks done by humans until now will swiftly destroy millions of jobs.
In the longer term, the technology entrepreneur Elon Musk has warned that AI is “our biggest existential threat”.
In his BBC interview, Prof Hawking also talks of the benefits and dangers of the internet.
He quotes the director of GCHQ’s warning about the net becoming the command centre for terrorists: “More must be done by the internet companies to counter the threat, but the difficulty is to do this without sacrificing freedom and privacy.”
He has, however, been an enthusiastic early adopter of all kinds of communication technologies and is looking forward to being able to write much faster with his new system.
But one aspect of his own tech – his computer generated voice – has not changed in the latest update.
Prof Hawking concedes that it’s slightly robotic, but insists he didn’t want a more natural voice.
“It has become my trademark, and I wouldn’t change it for a more natural voice with a British accent,” he said.
“I’m told that children who need a computer voice, want one like mine.”
Yellow Pages – Telephone Book
Peter was doing his daily recycling when he got hold of the yellow pages which was delivered on our letter box a few days ago. He was flabbergasted and found it antiquated to still use yellow pages when it is easier to just go online to search for anything under the sun.
He has a point, I have not used the yellow pages since the early 90s and yet we get them year after year, though decidedly thinner that the 2 inches thick yellow pages of a few years ago.
I remember when we went to visit Ripley’s there were several outstanding arts made from different everyday things. One of which was the telephone book. I think the portrait of Sting was rather good.
What do you think?
This is good news. We are now mobile/cell phones using nations and the end of roaming charges can only be good news to us all. We have heard of much horror stories, which landed so many unsuspecting users with thousands of pounds of hidden and not quite so hidden roaming charges.
The only thing is that, what does it mean the roaming charges are to end by Christmas 2015? Does this mean roaming charges are not quite dead yet?!!!
So we must not celebrate by using our phone’s roaming apps just yet. 😉 Wait a while longer! Easy does it!
Brussels, 3 April 2014
European Parliament votes to end roaming charges, expand consumer rights and make it easier to create better telecoms.
Today the European Parliament voted to end roaming charges by Christmas 2015, as part of a wider vote in support to the Commission’s proposed regulation for a “Connected Continent” (telecoms single market)*.
European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said:
“This vote is the EU delivering for citizens. This is what the EU is all about – getting rid of barriers to make life easier and less expensive.”
“Nearly all of us depend on mobile and internet connections as part of our daily lives. We should know what we are buying, we should not be ripped-off, and we should have the opportunity to change our mind. Companies should have the chance to serve all of us, and this regulation makes it easier for them to do that. It’s win-win.”
“In 2010 I promised to end roaming charges by the end of 2015, and now we are one step away from achieving that result.”
“Beyond the highly visible barrier of roaming we are now close to removing many other barriers so Europeans can enjoy open, seamless communications wherever they are”.
EU Member States will now continue to review the regulation and the Commission expects final agreement of the Regulation by end of 2014.
*The “Connected Continent” telecoms Regulation was proposed by the Commission in September 2013. It aims to bring us much closer to a truly single market for telecoms in the EU, by ending roaming charges, guaranteeing an open internet for all by banning blocking and degrading of content, coordinating spectrum licensing for wireless broadband, giving internet and broadband customers more transparency in their contracts, and making it easier for customers to switch providers.
Tweets from @NeelieKroesEU today included:
“Today EU Parliament voted to end roaming charges by Christmas 2015 !! #roaming”
“We need a digital Europe – today we are another step closer with EU Parl vote for #ConnectedContinent”
“Find out more about the EU plan that is set to end #roaming + guarantee #NetNeutrality on Connected Continent webiste”
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +32.229.57361 Twitter: @RyanHeathEU
Last Friday, we took our lively little terrier dog to the veterinary surgeon (vets). He had his routine vaccination. The vet also checked that his implanted microchip was working OK.
In the UK by law, all pet dogs have to have microchips implanted (normally near the neck). The microchip is about the size of a grain of rice. It consists of a tiny computer chip housed in a type of glass made to be compatible with living tissue. The microchip is implanted between the dog’s shoulder blades under the skin with a needle and special syringe. The process is similar to getting an injection with little or no to no pain. Once in place, the microchip can be detected immediately with a handheld device that uses radio waves to read the chip. This device scans the microchip, and then displays a unique alphanumeric code. Once the microchip is placed, the dog must be registered with the microchip company, usually for a one-time fee. Then, the dog can be traced back to the owner if found.
Microchip and detector
This made me think to the future and all the surveillance and communication technology we have and use in the 21st Century.
Today, we use an increasing amount of Radio-frequency identification (RFID) wireless devices to monitor movements/location of people or items. Shops/stores use RFID for stock control or used to asset tag for inventories.
Indeed many of our smart phones, PC tablets can be tracked through built-in RFID devices. Cars and vehicles have RFID.
This technology is invaluable in locating/tracking lost or stolen pets & valuable items.
Ever increasing sophisticated implanted microchips would also provide a range medical benefits for monitoring health and even adjusting critical bodily functions to keep us healthy.
I wonder if, or indeed when humans maybe similarly ‘microchipped’ and have RFID implanted to monitor us . We would have a truly ‘Big Brother’ Orwellian 1984 nightmare, where the locations and status of all citizens are known or can be found by the government, regimes etc.
At birth or soon after, would all children have micro-chip implants by law and registered along side the Birth Certificate process!?
Possibly the microchip(s) would only be activated for specific, appropriate and lawful needs?
Possibly known criminals,terrorists etc., will be implanted with microchips active for their lifetimes or for a fixed period. This would make policing immeasurably more effective but remove fundamental human rights.
Mining Asteroids A New Venture
Mining for minerals, precious stones and metals from our small planet earth has been undertaken by humans since around 4000 BC, when our stone age ancestors mined stone such as flint to make axes and tools. Since then we have plundered our planet for any mineral that could be used for fuel, manufacturing for most of what we use today including ever increasing demands electronic goods, smartphones, tablets computers and jewellery.
Our earth has only a finite amount of these resources in terms of minerals and metals which are becoming scarcer and harder to mine, alternative sources are now being looked at beyond our pale blue dot of a planet!
Asteroids which orbit our sun and sometimes wander close (not too close we hope) to earth are thought to contain an abundance of the stuff we need.
With more nations and private enterprises now launching space craft and looking to develop fast evolving space related technology, instead of visiting these heavenly bodies to map, take amazing photos and get the odd sample, these new space industries want to mine asteroids. Instead of the famous Californian Gold Rush of the mid 1800s and misquote “There’s gold in them thar hills”. We may say there is gold and more in them space rocks.
The BBC reported that a new venture is joining the effort to extract mineral resources on asteroids.
The announcement of plans by Deep Space Industries to exploit the rare metals present in the space rocks turns asteroid mining into a two-horse race.
The other venture, Planetary Resources, went public with its proposals last year.
Advocates of asteroid mining hope it could turn into a trillion-dollar business, but some scientists are highly sceptical of the idea.
Deep Space Industries wants to send a fleet of asteroid-prospecting spacecraft out into the Solar System to hunt for resources.
These spacecraft, which the company has dubbed “Fireflies”, would use low-cost CubeSat components and benefit from discounted delivery to space by ride-sharing on the launch of larger communications satellites.
The Fireflies would have a mass of about 55 lb (25 kg) and be launched for the first time in 2015 on journeys of two to six months.
The company then wants to launch bigger spacecraft – which it calls “Dragonflies” – for round-trip visits that bring back samples.
These expeditions would take two to four years, depending on the target, and would return 60 to 150 lbs of material from target asteroids.
“Using resources harvested in space is the only way to afford permanent space development,” said the company’s chief executive David Gump.
“More than 900 new asteroids that pass near Earth are discovered every year. They can be like the Iron Range of Minnesota was for the Detroit car industry last century – a key resource located near where it was needed. In this case, metals and fuel from asteroids can expand the in-space industries of this century.”
Asteroids could yield precious minerals such as gold, platinum and rare-Earth metals. But some are also thought to harbour water ice, which could be used as a raw material for the manufacture of rocket propellant or even breathable air.
The other firm in the mining race, Planetary Resources, has backing from several billionaire investors, including Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, software executive Charles Simonyi and film maker James Cameron.
That company wants to start by launching orbiting telescopes that would identify suitable asteroid targets for mineral exploitation.
However, some scientists struggle to see how cost-effective asteroid mining could be, even with the high value of gold and platinum.
Also what percentage of asteroids would contain material worth mining?
They point out that an upcoming Nasa mission to return just 60g (two ounces) of material from an asteroid will cost about $1bn.
Grace the Original Hopper
Today’s Google Doodle is an animation of Grace Hopper sitting on her computer, using COBOL to print out her age. Google is celebrating the 107th birthday of Grace Hopper, the “mother” of the COBOL computer language.
Just toward the end of animation a moth was seen coming out of the computer; that was a reference to Grace popularising the term “debugging”. Apparently whilst in the Navy and working on a Mark II computer, it was found that a moth was stuck in the relay, which was impending the system, quick as a flash Grace said they are debugging the system.
The remains of the moth can be seen at the Smithsonian in Washington DC.
Grace lived a full and hectic life.
At a very young age, she showed a very inquisitive mind. At the age of seven, she tried to find out how clock works and managed to disassemble seven of them much to her mother’s consternation. In the end she was only allowed to touch one clock. LOL
Grace was a Vassar girl but at 16 she was declined entry to the College because she had a low score in Latin. She got admitted the next year and went on to earn bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Physics. She then went to Yale University and became a history maker for becoming the first woman to graduate with a doctorate in Maths in Yale’s long history.
Grace Brewster Murray, as she was, married Vincent Foster Hopper, a New York professor in 1930. The marriage ended in divorce in 1945. Grace never married again thus retaining her ex-husband’s surname. Grace Hopper has a memorable ring to it.
Grace Hopper, to me, was like a grasshopper. She leaped from one success to another. She leaped from one awards to the next.
Even her retirement was one of the longest hopping in history. She first retired at 60 but was recalled almost immediately and then retired again and then recalled and then retired and then recalled………
Grace ended up working until her death at 85.
I still have an iPhone 4s and due to renew April next year. So my Siri is a man, whom I adore for his calm and patient feedbacks. But sometimes he leaves me chortling on my iPhone because he could be so literal.
Actually he can cheer me up. 😉 I often ask Siri “iPhone, iPhone in my hand, who is the beauty that before you does stand?” 😉
iPhone replies “I don’t know, Dave.”
Who the bloody hell is Dave? See, he keeps me grounded! 🙂
Georgia Woman Revealed as Voice of Siri
October 4, 2013 10:10am EST
The voice of Apple’s voice assistant Siri has been revealed as Georgia-based voiceover actress Susan Bennett.
Bennett made the revelation to CNN, eight years after lending her voice to a 2005 project for ScanSoft, which eventually acquired Nuance, the company that powers Siri. As a result, Bennett did not know she would one day be the voice behind a pop culture icon. When Siri was released on theiPhone 4S in 2011, it was friends who recognized her voice and filled her in.
Nuance and Apple declined to comment on Bennett’s revelation to CNN, but the cable channel hired an audio forensics expert to compare her voice to the voice answering queries on iPads and iPhones around the globe. “They are identical – a 100 percent match,” the expert told CNN.
Bennett kept quiet about the fact that she was Siri until a September feature from The Verge led some to believe that voiceover actress Allison Dufty was Siri, something Dufty denied.
Amidst the confusion, Bennett decided to reveal that she was actually the voice of Siri. She’d spoken with CNN’s Jessica Ravitz a few months ago for a separate story on the voices that power announcements at airports, at which time Ravitz had quite by accident asked if Bennett was the voice of Siri. Bennett was coy at the time, but recently came back to Ravitz to reveal her secret.
With iOS 7, users now have the option to select a male version of Siri, so Bennett’s voice might not be as omnipresent as it once was. Her voice does not power Siri around the globe; in Nov. 2011, the voice of Siri in the U.K. was revealed, while the Australian Siristepped forward earlier this year.
Check out Bennett’s voice for yourself in the video below.
The British have a remarkable talent for keeping calm, even when there is no crisis.
– Franklin F. Jones
From the 1700s Britain, this small group of islands was and still is a leader in science and engineering. Surely Sir Isaac Newton must be regarded as the greatest scientist that ever lived. He formulated the laws or motion and gravity, proved that sun light was not pure white but made up of colour and corpuscular(tiny particles of matter)when he produced a spectrum via two prisms and isolated one colour. He invented the reflecting telescope and for mathematics he invented calculus still a valuable mathematic tool today. His discoveries about energy gravity and motion laid the ground for Einstein.
Below is an article about an excellent new BBC TV series charting the successes and discoveries made by British scientists and engineers.
The Amazing Story of British Science
Britons Sir Isaac Newton, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Sir Tim Berners-Lee all changed the world through their discoveries and inventions
Professor Brian Cox
Scientist and presenter
The British Isles are home to just one percent of the world’s population and yet our small collection of rocks poking out of the north Atlantic has thrown up world beaters in virtually every field of human endeavour.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in science and engineering. Edward Jenner came up with vaccines, Sir Frank Whittle ushered in the jet age and Sir Tim Berners-Lee laid the foundations of the world wide web for the Internet. Sir Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday, George Stephenson, James Watt, Isambard Kingdom Brunel (engineer), Francis Crick ( co discoverer of DNA)… the list is gloriously long. We can now add Peter Higgs,who proposed the so called ‘God particle’ Higgs Bosun a field that holds particles together, which if if did not exist , sub atomic particles would never had formed into atoms and ultilmately us! The Higgs Bosun has been tentatively discovered by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)
What is it about Britain that allowed so many great minds to emerge and flourish?
This is a very important question to ask, because science and engineering are not only part of our past – the future of our economy depends to an ever-increasing extent on our continued excellence in scientific discovery and high-tech manufacturing and engineering.
The roots of our success can be traced back many centuries. Oxford and Cambridge Universities were formed over 800 years ago.
They paved the way for the world’s oldest scientific institution, The Royal Society, formed in 1660 by a group including Sir Christopher Wren, professor of astronomy and architect of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Robert Boyle Boyle 1627 – 1691 is one of founders of modern chemistry and one of the pioneers of modern experimental scientific method which Britain gave to the world. He is best known for Boyles Law which describes the inversely proportional relationship between the absolute pressure and volume of a gas, if the temperature is kept constant within a closed sytem.
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was a brilliant physicist and mathematician who is considered a founding father of science.
Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) was a naturalist and geologist who came up with the world-changing theory of evolution.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859) was an inventor and engineer who designed some of the UK’s most famous tunnels, bridges, railway lines and ships
Sir Frank Whittle (1907 – 1996) was a daredevil test pilot who is credited with inventing the turbo jet engine
Sir Tim Berners-Lee (1955 – ) is the inventor of the world wide web
Scientist Rosalind Franklin’s photograph’s of X Ray diffraction of DNA confirmed it’s double helix structure
Any theory or idea about the world should be tested and if it disagrees with observations, then it is wrong.
Even today, that’s radical, because it means that the opinions of important and powerful people are worthless if they conflict with reality. So central is this idea to science that it is enshrined in The Royal Society’s motto: “Take nobody’s word for it”.
Shortly after The Royal Society was formed, Sir Isaac Newton deployed this approach in his great work The Principia, which contains his law of gravity and the foundations of what we now call classical mechanics – the tools you need to work out the forces on bridges and buildings, calculate paths of artillery shells and the stresses on aircraft wings. This was arguably the first work of modern physics.
This has become known as the scientific method, and its power can be seen in some unexpected places. During the filming of Science Britannica, I met Capt Jerry Roberts who worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.
Bletchley intercepted enemy messages and the captain and his colleagues were given the job of decoding them. He told me the story of his colleague, Bill Tutte, who worked on the ‘Tunny” code used by the Nazi high command to send orders to generals in the field.
Bill spent most of his time staring into space, but after just a few months, with awesome mathematical acumen he cracked the code.
In an age before computers, he did it using mathematics, logic and pencil and paper, aided by a single mistake by a German telegraph operator who sent a message twice. In the opinion of many, Tutte’s achievement was the greatest single intellectual achievement of the 20th Century, shortening the war by years and saving millions of lives on both sides.
This is what happens when genius is aided by the careful, scientific approach pioneered by Newton and others at The Royal Society. Capt Roberts and his colleagues at Bletchley are, in my view, heroes in every sense of the word.
Bletchley Park was Britain’s main decryption establishment during World War II.
The Buckinghamshire compound is famous as the place where wartime codebreakers cracked the German Enigma code
Codebreaking machines Colossus and Bombe were the forerunners of modern computers. Mathematician Alan Turing helped create the Bombe
Historians estimate that breakthroughs at Bletchley shortened the war by two years
Bletchley Park’s computing was so innovative
Alan Turing’s work built the foundations of computer science,programming etc. He is regarded as a true genius and founder of modern computing.
Another such genius was Nobel Prize winning phycisist Paul Dirac He was regarded by his friends and colleagues as unusual in character. Albert Einstein said of him “This balancing on the dizzying path between genius and madness is awful” Among other discoveries, he formulated the Dirac Equation, which predicted the existence of antimatter.
Despite its tremendous success, scientists have occasionally had a difficult relationship with the wider public. Frankenstein – the ultimate ‘scientist out of control’, has become a short-hand for things we fear.
A particularly colourful example can be found in the grim tale of George Forster, convicted of the double murder of his wife and daughter in 1803 and duly hanged.
This being the 19th Century, nobody was concerned about the hanging itself but rather illogically, the fate of Forster’s corpse caused a public outcry. It was taken directly to a nearby lecture theatre and used to demonstrate the effect of electricity on the human body.
The corpse twitched and jerked and even ‘opened an eye’ as an electric current was applied. There were reports of fainting and a particularly sensitive audience member died of shock – a wonderfully Georgian thing to do. The scientist – a visiting Italian called Giovanni Aldini – was forced to leave the country, when in fact his motives were absolutely sound. He was trying to resuscitate people using electricity.
Far from being a dangerous lunatic, he was ahead of his time. Nowadays thousands of lives are saved as hearts are regularly re-started using electrical pulses delivered by defibrillators.
Aldini’s controversial experiments were performed for a particular purpose, but not all science is carried out with a goal in mind.
Mary Shelley soon after wrote the classic gothic story Frankenstein, a cautionary tale of science out of control.
In the 19th Century, John Tyndall decided to work out why the vivid red and purple colours appeared when the sun is low, and why, for the rest of the time, the sky is blue.
He concluded that the colours of the sky are produced because light bounces off dust and water particles in the air. Blue light is more likely to bounce around than red, and so it is only when the sun is low and the light travels through more of the dust-filled air that the red light is bounced around to produce a sunset.
Tyndall was half right – we now know that it is mainly the air molecules themselves that scatter the light – but this didn’t really matter. Tyndall’s romantic curiosity led to a far more important discovery.
He decided to produce “pure” air with no particles in it, to see if the colours vanished, and he discovered that samples of meat didn’t rot in it. Here was evidence that infection and decay are caused by germs in the air – which Tyndall had inadvertently removed during his purification process. The discovery ultimately transformed the way that doctors dealt with infection and contamination.
Countless millions of lives were saved, because one curious scientist wanted to find out why the sky is blue. Today, the curiosity driven exploration of nature is still known as “blue skies research”.
Science has truly revolutionised our world. It is the basis of our economy and the foundation of our future. We must value our great heritage and continue to invest in education and science to ensure that we never lose our position as the best place in the world to do science.