Watchful eyes, thoughtful mind

Earth and us ….. past, present and future ….. connected?

TED Tuesday: Supercomputer to mimic brain December 15, 2009

Filed under: computer,nature,TED — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

Henry Markram says the mysteries of the mind can be solved — soon. Mental illness, memory, perception: they’re made of neurons and electric signals, and he plans to find them with a supercomputer that models all the brain’s 100,000,000,000,000 synapses.


TED Tuesday: Visualising data and sound December 1, 2009

Filed under: acoustic,animation,computer,technology,TED — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

JoAnn Kuchera-Morin demos the AlloSphere, a new way to see, hear and interpret scientific data. Dive into the brain, feel electron spin, hear the music of the elements … and detect previously unseen patterns that could lead to new discoveries.

Evan Grant demonstrates the science and art of cymatics, a process for making soundwaves visible. Useful for analyzing complex sounds (like dolphin calls), it also makes complex and beautiful designs.

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Silicon valley no more? November 19, 2009

Filed under: computer,history,human interference — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

Move over, silicon — it may be time to give the Valley a new name. Physicists at the Department of Energy‘s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have confirmed the existence of a type of material that could one day provide dramatically faster, more efficient computer chips.

Recently-predicted and much-sought, the material allows electrons on its surface to travel with no loss of energy at room temperatures and can be fabricated using existing semiconductor technologies. Such material could provide a leap in microchip speeds, and even become the bedrock of an entirely new kind of computing industry based on spintronics, the next evolution of electronics. Physicists Yulin Chen, Zhi-Xun Shen and their colleagues tested the behaviour of electrons in the compound bismuth telluride. The results, published online June 11 in Science Express, show a clear signature of what is called a topological insulator, a material that enables the free flow of electrons across its surface with no loss of energy.

So now my generation might be the last one to know the computers as we know them today. Of course this is just one among many other things, like the black and white photographs, black and white television, cars with stick-shift gear, hardcopy (not electronic) scrapbooking etc., that the next generation may never know of! Wow, now THAT makes me feel old!

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Sunday Spotlight: Social media and Web2.0 October 11, 2009

Filed under: computer,sunday spotlight,technology — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

socialmedialandscapeThis time the Sunday Spotlight is focused on a very different kind of subject. If you’re a regular reader of my blog you will know that I usually focus on science or ecological topics. However, this blog itself and the ease with which I can use it to spread science and eco awareness are products of the social media revolution. Hence I thought of dedicating a blog post to this whole affair that has come to be known as Web2.0.

Media for a long time has been a one way bridge. Various people used the media, TV, radio, cinema, theatre, newspapers, pamphlets and other printed material, as a means of putting forth their ideas, issues, solutions, news etc. However the proportion of “givers” of information has been far less than the “receivers”. And that was probably the power of conventional media. The advent of internet and the social media changed this to a large extent. People are interacting on one-to-one bases and anyone can be the “giver” and the “receiver” of information. Of course, this boon of freedom of expression in true sense comes with a bane of misuse to spread information detrimental to the human race in mere seconds all over the world. So, IMHO, one should take the whole Web2.0 explosion with a pinch of salt.

I am one of those people who try their best to keep abreast of the new developments and trends in social media. Albeit I don’t require doing that professionally I do understand that it is for my own benefit. After starting my blog about a year ago, I’ve especially taken interest in Web2.0 as I could clearly see its wonderful potential in promoting my blog and hence my ideas and passions with millions of people who are internet savvy. Among many other social media platforms, Twitter helped me get my blog posts out there and also make new connections with people from my niche. However, I realised very soon that tweeting and RTing can become a job in itself if not automated. A bit of Google search brought me in contact with a fabulous service called SocialOomph (then known as TweetLater). This service (free version) lets you set a date and time in future for your tweets so you don’t have to be online at some ghastly hour, trying to keep feeding your Twitter. The RSS feed lets you feed your tweets into RSS feed readers of all sorts and lets others subscribe to it. However, the Pro version is the real showstopper (or rather show-runner). This paid service lets you do much more with your tweets and your network. Besides all features of free version, it lets you setup criteria for automatically following and unfollowing fellow tweeters. You can vet this feature if you like or set it in autopilot with SocialOomph. When someone follows you, you can have SocialOomph send them a DM (with your Twitter ID of course) with a welcome message. But what I like best are, bulk upload, recurring tweets and spinning of tweet text. The first one, as name suggests, lets you upload as many tweets as you want in one go. The second lets you set a recurrence frequency for any number of tweets and forget about them for as long as you wish. Spinning tweet text involves you giving as many different versions of a given tweet you like and SocialOomph will randomly chose a version to tweet when you’ve told it to. This is really a great feature because let’s face it, it get boring to see same old tweets recurring every so many days on the same account. People are going to ignore you! So all in all, if you haven’t already done so, I will definitely suggest you try out the Pro SocialOomph for their trial period. I’m sure you’ll want to upgrade for the cheap value that offers so much more freedom to do your real work.

Twitter started as a simple idea of sharing 140 character updates with your friends and family. Of course the end users themselves have evolved it to something much more. It is now a leading platform on web2.0 to stay updated with latest news (e.g.: Iran elections), to promote your product (e.g.: Amazon Kindle), spread the word about your campaign (e.g.: climate change) or even make some money out of your tweets (e.g.: Magpie). Monetisation using web2.0 and social media has become a big obsession with a lot of bloggers or anyone involved in the cyberspace in any capacity. And a lot of services like Chitika, Sponsored tweets, Nuffnang (currently only for Asia-Pacific) have sprung up like mushrooms to provide you ways to make some dough out of your cyber-investment.

Affiliate marketing is another big avenue that many bloggers, including yours truly, have taken in order to make their blogging profitable. Writing was once upon a time considered a talent that came naturally. However, now a lot of cyber-gurus have taken upon themselves to teach others how to write a blog, promote it and monetise it. One such person I myself learn from is Problogger Darren Rowse. I participated in Darren’s 31 days to build a better blog (31DBBB) workshop online and gained tremendously from it. Darren’s own insights on various topics related to blogs, which stem from his own experience of past 5-6 years as a blogger, were definitely the highlight of this workshop. And I loved the little tasks that we were assigned everyday to complete and improve pur blog in the process. These insights and assignments, along with other useful material are now on sale as a book (Click here to view more details). Even though I participated in the workshop I felt this book was worth buying (especially for the price its being offered) as a reference for future. If you’re getting serious about blogging and pursuing it as more than a hobby, I suggest you buy this book.

There have been millions of items written on the topics of social media, web2.0, monetising, affiliate marketing and the likes. This was my little take on the same. I’m still a newbie in this world of web2.0 and I sometimes feel like a kid in a candy shop. There are too many things that I want. But lately I’ve learnt to focus on what my goal is and then trying to look for tools that I’d need. Because it is very easy for the web2.0 to take control and lead you astray if you don’t keep strong hold on the virtual steering wheel.

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Sunday Spotlight: Ethnologue September 20, 2009

Filed under: computer,linguistics — Radiance @ 11:00 AM
Ethnologue is an encyclopedic reference work cataloguing all of the world’s 6,912 known living languages. The print version is in its 15th edition being 1272 pages thick. The web version presents the data used to prepare the printed volumes, along with links to the SIL Bibliography and the International Academic Bookstore. It is a place where you can conveniently find many resources to help you with your research of the world’s languages. The website is owned by SIL International, a service organization that works with people who speak the world’s lesser-known languages.

The Ethnologue database has been an active research project for more than fifty years. It is probably the most comprehensive listing of information about the currently known languages of the world. Thousands of linguists and other researchers all over the world rely on and have contributed to the Ethnologue database. The website gives a country index (with maps) that lists (and shows) the languages spoken in a given region/country. It has a comprehensive section on the various language families and how the linguistic scholars determine which language belongs to which family? The information is also presented in statistical format by country, language family etc. There is a separate section on the ‘nearly extinct languages’, 516 in total. They are classified in this way when “only a few elderly speakers are still living.” Almost half of them are in the pacific region, with some of the languages being spoken by as less as just one individual! For those who are interested in digging deeper into the sources of the database, there is a very extensive bibliography on the website for linguists to feast on. Various print and online publications by SIL have also been listed and are available for sale in the online bookstore.

SIL has also produced some computer resources including an extensive library for language researchers and software tools and fonts. The freeware available for download can be used world-wide for any linguistics project. Technical support for the software users is also offered. Most of the material on the website is free for use without any permission needed. I found this website a GREAT resource for serious linguistic research as well as just information for curiosity’s sake.

One can find out interesting facts about their country’s linguistic make up. I found out that India has 427 spoken languages, 415 of which are indigenous. These make up for 6.2% of the world’s languages. And the diversity index for India is 0.93 which means if you select 2 Indians randomly, there is a 93% chance that their spoken language will be different from each other!


End of animal research? September 10, 2009

Filed under: animals,biology,computer,future,genetics — Radiance @ 10:00 AM
Before long, we will each have an alter ego to assess the medication we need. That’s the vision of Natalia Alexandrov, winner of the New Scientist/NC3Rs “Beyond animal research” essay competition.

TED Tuesday: Art that looks back at you September 1, 2009

Filed under: art,computer,optics,TED,unconventional — Radiance @ 10:00 AM
Golan Levin, an artist and engineer, uses modern tools — robotics, new software, cognitive research — to make artworks that surprise and delight. Watch as sounds become shapes, bodies create paintings, and a curious eye looks back at the curious viewer.