31 December 2012

"The Signal and the Noise: Why so many predictions fail--but some don't" by Nate Silver

Though a long, dense read, Silver delves into the delightful world of data analysis with full force, sometimes barely slowing long enough to give a primer to the uninitiated. Topics range from the recent housing market crash to baseball. With each examination, Silver explain how data analysis function in the given field and work he has done in the field (if not to improve the analysis itself then to review the poor work of others).

Interesting tidbit: Statistical analysis today is based mostly on the work of a man named Fisher who (in 1959) was arguing that there was no correlation between smoking and lung cancer.

27 December 2012

Anthony Atala: Printing a human kidney

Using 3D printing technology combined with recent development in cellular science (as in “cells” not “cell phones”), Atala is leading a project that is “printing” new organs. They demonstrate a kidney that they were printing during the presentation and even bring in a printed-kidney-transplant patient.

Anthony Atala: Printing a human kidney (TED)

24 December 2012

I live with a bunch of four year olds

I wrote this some years ago and though I have not lived with such roommates for some time, I find humor and reason to be grateful in it. While it was originally written with a certain group of roommates, I have modified it through out my time at school so it no longer represents any one group of roommates but rather my general frustrations with roommates over time. I have put a little effort into updating some of the references.

Okay, they may be five year olds, at times. But every day that I wake to an apartment in various levels of disarray I wonder how old my roommates really are. Well, mostly I wonder how they can be so rushed and harried as to seem so fragmented and disorganized while still not accomplish hardly anything at all.

Though I am limited on my experience of life, I find that by comparison, if I were so rushed and harried as they, such would be indicative of substantial projects underway in my life, the boons for which are lacking when examining the lives of those in question.

It would make sense to me to not be able to put your coat on a hanger in the coat closet when you came in from outside, if you were about to make a tremendous breakthrough in your latest research in nano technology. That is not the case. Instead one simply cannot be bothered.

It would make sense to me to not be able to put the bar stools you used to rest your plate on when you ate dinner while watching TV if you were suddenly called away by the FBI to assist in a crime scene investigation. This is not the case either. Instead one is just too lazy.

It would make sense to me to not be able to complete homework that was known about for more than a week, if you had been held up for the past week by kidnappers demanding ransom money. That is certainly not the case (otherwise, one would not have been able to leave one's possession strewn throughout the apartment like a bread crumb trail to lead an unsuspecting mother to a magnificent trap). Instead one was too easily distracted.

The part that really gets me is not so much that these, and many other, simple things go undone. Quite to the contrary, I am not a big fan of doing them myself and thus it is a of little wonder to me to see that others do not enjoy doing them as well. I have, however, learned that there is a deep and profound ease to life when the simple things are taken care.

For example, having put my coat in my closet where it belongs, allows me to know exactly where to go to retrieve it. I never have to go wondering from room to room calling out "coat, where are you" or, worse yet, crying: "has anyone seen my coat (that I casually through on the counter as if I had no manners or respect for the other people living here because I had some how forgotten that I no longer live with my mother who used to take care of such things for me)".

Another example, by putting the bar stools back around the counter from whence they came (though I personally try to avoid using them to eat off of while sitting in front of the television), I never have to be embarrassed where company comes over and it looks like I have done nothing all week but sit in front of the television eating.

One final example, if I do my homework, at least a little in advance (see my [past] blog called "Why I've Learned to Procrastinate", I was supposed to have written it, but I have not) then I can go to bed at a normal time, wake up at a normal time and still be alive enough to participate in whatever fun things are going on.


I was "wondering" aloud one day why such living space negligence happens, as I do frequently in increasingly disgruntled tones, and was immediately charged with "lambasting," a word which here means "beating the already overworked and abused with a bamboo cane".

One roommate told me that he had an incredible 14 credits, oh the horrors and my sincerest apologies. For those who do not know or may have forgotten, 14 credits hours is supposed to be equivalent to a 42 hour work week (14 in actual class time and 28 in homework or out of class learning). Though, we all know that very few classes use their full allotment of out of class time. Unless you are taking all chemistry, higher math classes or the like, one does not come close to spending the full allotment of time on homework. Even if one was truly putting in 45 hours a week in schooling (a little extra for the benefit of a doubt), about the same as a full-time job, what makes such a person so incredibly busy that they cannot put their coat on a hangar in the closet (or at least throw it on their bed or chair so the rest of us, namely I, do not have to deal with it)?

Another told me that he had a job. Wow, I am backing away from this one. This man is going to school AND working a part-time job (about 20 hours a week, unless he can cut it down to fewer hours, because he is working too much). Let me get this straight: he has no wife to talk with, children to play with, exotic animals to tend to, plants to prune, dying family members to take care of or even particularly needy friend to help; but he has a "job" (I wish you could hear the sarcastic tone this word makes in my head as I type it) and because he has a job, he is too tired to put the bar stool back in the kitchen or for that matter to even carry his dishes to the sink (let alone, wash, dry and put them away).

Ah, the joys of living with big, little boys.

20 December 2012

Allan Jones: A map of the brain

New technologies, and the application of older technologies, are allowing us to map the brain like never before. Jones is working to build a collection of brain maps to be able to allow other scientist to better understand the relationship between brain related illness and functions.

Allan Jones: A map of the brain (TED)

18 December 2012

Vaclav Havel: The Economics of Good and Evil

Havel discusses in length about economic cycles and how we have ended up in our current economic crisis because we spend too much when things were good and thus we were already in debt when we ran out of money.

The Economics of Good and Evil (RSA)

13 December 2012

Barry Schwartz: The real crisis? We stopped being wise

Schwartz discusses the disturbing trend of the degradation of wisdom in modern society. He comments that we need both moral will (the desire to do the correct thing) and moral skill (the ability to do it in the correct way). He points out that whenever bad things happen we react by building more rules and more incentives, neither one of which address the underlying problem: a lack a wisdom. Instead, more rules just prevent us from having to think and increased incentives push us to act in our self-interest, stripping away whatever appeal we would make to our personal responsibility.

Barry Schwartz: The real crisis? We stopped being wise (TED)

11 December 2012

Rob Reid: The $8 billion iPod

Reid uses a tongue-in-cheek presentation to satirize the economic impact claims of the MPAA, RIAA and other copyright defending organizations.

06 December 2012

Clifford Stoll: 18 minutes with an agile mind

Stoll is like listening to an energetic 6 year-old telling about an exciting day, except he is an old grey haired man. Stoll takes us on a stroll through history to end us with a sobering message: computer driven education will never surpass hands-on education for understanding and enlightenment.

05 December 2012

David R. Dow: Lessons from death row inmates

Row provides some insights as a lawyer for death row inmates. Chief among these insights is that we should for the earliest intervention possible.

David R. Dow: Lessons from death row inmates

04 December 2012

Kevin Slavin: How algorithms shape our world

Algorithms are progressively doing more for us as computing continues to integrate itself into our world. Slavin talks about some ways that these concepts are shaping our world, literally and figuratively.