Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Crazy or Brilliant?

Have you seen Cyriak's animation mix? If not you should.

It's very... special. On first watching one doesn't if it's the work of a madman or of a brillant absurd animator.

The strangest pictures and combinations follow each other to annoying yet cool music.

It reminds me of Monty Python's Terry Gilliam. Looks like he has a successor.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why the Library is Full of Pretty Girls?

I was in the library a few days ago I wondered why so many pretty girls are there. Wherever I looked I saw a pretty girl and I started thinking why it was.

In order to get back to reality I started to really look instead of scanning only and then I saw the non-pretty girls too. The explanation is obvious: lots of information reaches our brain, so most if it must be filtered out, so that we don't go crazy from information overload.

My male brain filtered out the important things for me and pretty girls are definitely fall into the important category. It didn't show ugly girls, because that information is thrown away anyway, so it shouldn't get into my brain in the first place. (Note that I don't talk about absolute prettiness. "Pretty" in this case means girls I personally find pretty which doesn't necessarily means cover girls.)

I wonder how women perceive their environment. Do they notice only able males who can provide for their family and overlook clumsy weaklings? After a certain age it must be the case.

This phenomenon is similar to the one which can be observed on online forums dealing with love issues. Those who don't have a partner complain that wherever they look they see happy couples, though surely there are lots of single men and women too.

One sees only what one wants to see.

The mantra of positive thinking is based on this psychological effect. If you think of positive things, things you want to get then you train your brain to look for opportunities to find them. There are different techniques for training the brain to look on the bright side of life. A gratitude journal is one such technique which can be very effective if applied consistently.

The Secret is also based on this principle. Of course, it was invented by clever people who want to get rich on the ignorance of others, but it contains a grain of truth nevertheless. You won't get all the riches automatically from the Universe even if you think about them all day, but by focusing on the things you want you set your brain too look for information which you missed before because of concentrating on the lack of your desired items instead.

So, dear singles who don't have a partner concentrate on meeting the love of your life and if you do so then you will notice not the happy couples, but rather Him or Her who's sitting the seat across on the underground as you go home. :)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Why Women Don't Use RSS?

At least that's my experience if I consider the women I know. RSS is used mostly by hardcore users, but most women don't use it all. What can be the reason?

RSS is really useful. I can't image using the Net without it. I don't like doing mundane tasks like checking if a website is updated, so I let the computer do it, but not everyone thinks like that. I have a friend who is a computer expert, but doesn't use RSS because he thinks it's too primitive (the appearance that is). He likes to see all the articles at once, like in a newspaper, so he can scan the contents quickly and choose what he wants to read, so he uses the front pages of news sites which I don't see at all, because I use exclusively RSS.

Going back to the subject of women and RSS the root of the problem can be that I don't have a computer-maniac female acquaintance. Those I know want to learn only as much about the computer as necessary to use it, and from this standpoint RSS is a mystic, overly complicated, uncool thing which only computer-fanatics can appreciate.

Maybe RSS is similar to cars in this respect. Most women don't like fixing cars, because it's messy and boring, so they leave it to the pros instead. And it's true it's usually the boys who like to take things apart to see how they work and they are the ones who choose a technical carrier. Most of the computer experts are male, but is it a good thing?

Why do women avoid technical areas? Is it because of their genes, or is it because of how they are raised? Are their brains not wired for it in the first place, or is it more like the part of their gender role in society (the man fixes things, the woman cooks and takes care of the children)?

We know there are lots of excellent male cooks, so if cooking would be part of the curriculum from a really young age then boys would very much be able to perform well in the kitchen. What if we encouraged girls from a young age to take apart and fix things? Would there be more technical geniuses among them compared to the present situation?

We hear often that more women should be involved in politics, because they approach problems differently and they would bring a much needed fresh way of thinking into mainstream politics. Could they bring a fresh thought into technology too?

Our computer systems today are dominated by male thinking. They were conceived by men, implemented by men and maintained by men. (Of course, there are competent female technicians, but we're talking about averages here.) What kind of change could it bring if more women were involved in the IT industry? Would there be a significant difference in the computing landscape than today? Would programs be implemented with different approaches? Would there be less bugs in them? Or maybe more?

I'd really be interested in the answer.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Proposal for a More Convenient Commenting System for Forums and Blogs

Commenting on forums and blogs is a nuisance. When a heated discussion is going on it involves constantly reloading the page, which is tiring and inconvenient.

Chats are much more useful when the participants are actually there, but the problem with chats is that the discussions are not permanent, since they are usually not logged.

Couldn't we somehow have the best of both worlds and combine the advantages of the approaches?

Why not have a chat box in the comment section of blogs, so that visitors can chat about the entry in question? It would be no ordinary chat box, because sent messages would be saved as actual blog comments , and vice versa, regular comments would appear in the chat as messages.

This way it would be very convenient to comment on blogs and the discussion would be recorded instantly.

Similarly, in forums online participants could chat with each other, and those who arrive later could read the discussion and add their opinion to it.

No more manual page reloading, it would be handled by the software automatically.

In order to give a structure to conversations the chat (unlike regular chats) would require the user to specify which message he's replying to: either to the first one (which is the blog entry for blogs and the topic starter for forum topics) or to an existing comment. This would make it possible to display threaded messges even for comments which come from the chat.

In these days AJAX is THE thing and this technique is just the thing where AJAX could prove very useful.

Has anyone implemented a similar setup already? If not who will be the first?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Aliens Do Not Live on the Holodeck

In this article the author states we can't find alien life forms, because they chose to live in virtual worlds. The virtual reality requires far less energy to maintain than doing actual space traveling, so it's logical they chose this way of existence which provides endless possibilities.

It's catchy concept, only I don't think an intelligent being would choose the model of the real world instead of the real world itself.

Virtual reality is a model which reflects its creators' current understanding of the Universe, so it's inherently limited, unless the creators know everything about the world, so they can emulate it completely.

But if they do know everything then why should they need a virtual reality? An all-knowing race surely comes up with an efficient and practically unlimited energy source, so the above argument about energy-efficiency does not apply.

An intelligent race wouldn't be satisfied with the shadow of reality when the real world is out there. What kind of challenges could a virtual reality hold? Surely only those kind which its creators can envision.

The real Universe is the ultimate challenge. Figuring out all its secrets and mastering it is the ultimate puzzle for any intelligent being.

Of course, it's possible the aliens have a completely different mindset than ours, and they don't want more than what their current knowledge can offer. In that case it's conceivable they choose to live in a VR world.

But as far as humanity is concerned I doubt this kind of existence would be appealing to humans. There would be people accepting it, but as a whole I think mankind is much more curious than that.

At least I am. :)

Why Doesn't Google Search for Partial Words?

Is it too much to ask? I know about stemming, but partial search would be much simpler.

For example, searching for compl* would find every word beginning with compl regardless of the ending.

This would make it possible to search for a specific form like completed without getting other hits, and when we want those other hits then we could use the asterisk form above.

Partial search would also be very useful for searching in languages other than English. The stemming algorithm is not that good for other languages, so partial search would help a lot in those cases.

The index for partial words could be generated trivially and I don't think Google would have any problem dealing with the bigger index size.

So why don't we have partial search already?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sick Tale About the Horrorballoon

This video is sick, but also funny in its own way. Absurd humor to the extreme. Don't show it to your kids! :)

Don Hertzfeldt is known to create such unusual cartoons. His most famous piece is Rejected. You gotta have a sense of humor to appreciate it:

A Musical Instrument with Ethereal Sound

In today's rock and pop world it's surprising a musical instrument invented only a few years ago doesn't produce sounds we're used to in these days. It brings us into some ethereal world instead.

The hang is invented in 2000 in Switzerland. The artist holds the instrument in his lap, and plays it with his hands. There are only two people in the world who make hangs, so it's pretty pricey when sold at internet auctions.

On the video below Manu Delago plays a piece on it. The sound may be foreign at first, so make sure you're listening to the video for at least a minute, so the music can expand to its full form.

It is like oriental, relaxation music, like one is walking amongst high mountains, clouds, or somewhere in nature.

I like it very much. It's much better than most music these days.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Why Don't We Have Our Personal View of the Internet?

I read about bits of this concept here and there, but I haven't seen it implemented, though it could be very useful, revolutionary even.

Lots of information reaches us via the net. Lots of news, ideas, comments, and one usually has to spend lots of time cleaning up trash until some gold is found.

People come up with clever solutions to mitigate this problem. For example, the Digg community filters individual items, so that trash is buried and better content is endorsed.

This is very useful, I'm also a Digg reader, but it has the drawback that others still find things interesting which I don't, so the problem is not as bad as before, but it's not solved completely.

In order to solve this one could use the relations between the diggers (using Digg as an example, but the method is not limited to it), so that if one scores articles similarly to me in the long run then the system should give more weight to his or her scoring when showing news for me. The italicized part is important, because it has the implication that there is no common front page which is the same for everyone, there is no common denominator, but rather there is a personalized front page for each person showing articles which are relevant for him or her in the first place.

Why should there be a common, generalized view in case of a news site which relies on community scoring and has no group of editors who approve articles to appear on the front page? It doesn't make much sense, because the data is available to bring things to the next level.

If the above scoring method is used then very dynamic groups or bubbles are created from users with similar interests and values. These people are bound together by their scoring history and they help each other to find the best stories and articles within their interests.

Note that these groups do not exist in the algorithm, the word "group" is used only to illustrate the effects of this method in the long run.

If one changes his taste and starts scoring articles differently then he leaves his current "group" and is connected with other people who share that different taste.

This method would be very effective against spammers too, because they can send in their links and give them high scores, but if others - whose opinion based on their scoring history has more weight for me - score it down then I won't see it. So the spammer will be alone with his scoring history or he might get connected with other spammers by the algorithm, so that they can read each other's links.

This method would decrease the need for censorship too, because the dynamic group I belong to would work actively to show only those items which I want to see, therefore porn links are unlikely to get high scores in a "Christian group". On the other hand, a "porn group" would value these links highly and vote down religious propaganda.

In essence this algorithm would result in a personal Internet where (if I actively vote for or against the items I see) I would rarely see content which I consider trash, and much more of those which I like.

One could choose to go deep and score in the raw, unscored news flood. These people would be the adventurers who are not afraid of exposing themselves to different ideas or simple trash. They would dig up the promising items from the swamp.

Others could choose to play it safe and score only items which are already discovered by their peers. These would be the people who would decide the fate of an item for other safe players.

I hope something like this will be the next step in the evolution of sites like Digg which rely on user participation.

I hope to see it implemented soon.

Holding a Trial with a Dead Pope's Body

This notable event was the so called Cadaver Synod where the Pope Formosus' body was dug up and put on trial:

Probably around January of 897, Stephen VI ordered that the body of his predecessor Formosus be removed from its tomb and brought to the papal court for judgement.

Formosus was accused of transmigrating sees in violation of canon law, of perjury, and of serving as a bishop while actually a layman. Liutprand and other sources say that Stephen had the body stripped of its papal vestments, cut off the three fingers of his right hand used for benedictions, and declared all of his acts and ordinations (including his ordination of Stephen VI as bishop of Anagni) invalid. The body was finally interred in a graveyard for foreigners, only to be dug up once again, tied to weights, and cast into the Tiber.

You can read more details about the trial on Wikipedia.

There is also a painting there depicting the dead Pope during the trial.

This story made me thinking about the sanity of rulers at that time. Torture can be explained: they needed confessions, had to make an example, etc. But this? What was this bizarre game good for? According to the sources I read there was a public outcry even then after this shameful procedure.

I wonder if we are better these days? Or are there lots of people amongst us who wouldn't hesitate to take part in such trials if it wasn't against the law?