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Friday, October 28, 2005

Last Word on (*blech*) ID

If you havent been to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster yet, GO THERE NOW !


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Mark Fiore's Animations

Mark Fiore's animated political cartoons are a must-see for everyone, his take on so many of the issues facing this country today is just hilarious....


Thursday, October 20, 2005

The End of the World Cometh....?

This is going to be a long-winding post, but rightfully so.....

A report that MSNBC online carried today about doomsday scenarios that are being predicted because of the tsunami, hurricane Katrina, and all....(You can read it here). While such predictions are nothing new, what is disturbing is that some of these beliefs are shared by lawmakers -- senators no less. The report mentions the comments of Alabama senator (Republican, rest assured) Henry Erwin Jr., who said that Katrina was God's way of punishing New Orleans, (and the rest of the area) for its decadence.

These thoughts are particularly disturbing.....following from that line of reasoning, Las Vegas (along with a dozen other cities in the US) should have been destroyed by God a long time ago. Regarding New Orleans -- the people who suffered the most were the poorest, and the reason why they suffered is simply BAD GOVERNANCE -- for which people like Henry Erwin Jr. are to blame. How convenient to pick them as targets for God's wrath!

Like I mentioned above, doomsday prophets are abound in every culture, every country, so comments like these keep popping up in the media every often. Many religions attest to this idea too -- so its not just Christianity that mentions the end of days. For me, these notions are reflective of the time when humanity was unable to understand and hence, many a time cope with natural disasters. Not surprisingly, they would attribute it to a higher power, who needed to be appeased. Unfortunately, this line of reasoning continue into this age and day....uncertainty is something humans will always have to live with -- and it seems that in times of uncertainty, the only ones with definite answers are with these so-called prophets....

Whats more scarier is the gradual trend that we can see the coming together of religion (or atleast, many religious beliefs) with the state in the US. This has been worrisome -- with President Bush's alleged comments about God leading him to make decisions about war, to his endorsement of teaching Intelligent Design in schools. Maybe he would like to take a page or two from some of the Islamic States in the middle east? Where is this leading to in the long run? Is this just pandering towards a potential vote base, or is this much more ?

Central to these dangerous notions is the supposed inerrance of the religious texts (which make these claims), but thats a topic for another post...


Isaac Newton's credibility as being a seminal figure in history was lowered a lot, in my view, when I came across this comment he had made. This is probably the kind of stuff that emboldens people like Henry Erwin Jr. ....

"About the time of the end, a body of men will be raised up, who will turn their attention to the prophecies, in the midst of much clamor and opposition" -- Isaac Newton

Friday, October 14, 2005

The DARPA race and Probabilistic AI

This article covering the DARPA Grand Challenge road race in the NY Times interested me for more reasons than one -- the biggest one of 'em all being the advances made in 'probabilistic' AI. While I would acknowledge the contributions logic-based AI has made so far, I do not think that it is the way to go. Probabilistic decision making techniques are more representative of the way in which humans function in their environments, and developing computational techniques that can simulate these will mean huge advances in AI. However, the obstacles still remain...

Here's a snippet from the article -

While artificial intelligence technology is already in use in telephone answering systems with speech recognition and in popular household gadgets like the iRobot vacuum cleaner, none of the existing systems have been as ambitious as Darpa's Grand Challenge road race.

This leap was possible, in large part, because researchers are moving from an approach that relied principally on logic and rule-based systems to more probability or statistics-oriented software technologies.

"In the past A.I. has been dominated by symbolic systems and now the world is gray," said Terrence J. Sejnowski, head of the computational neurobiology laboratory at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif. "That's what it's like to deal with the real world."

This crucial shift, Mr. Sejnowski said, "grew out of the recognition that the human brain is very good at this, why not have machines do the same thing?"


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Thomas Schelling Essay

Following from my previous post on global warming, I thought this was a nice essay by Thomas Schelling on the greenhouse effect. In case you havent heard of him, he won the Nobel prize for this year in Economics for his work on Game Theory.

Read it here.


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