Sunday, February 13, 2011

If you're within shooting distance of Waterloo...

I highly recommend this lecture:

My Top 10 Bonkers Things About the Universe
March 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Did you know you could fit the entire human race in the volume of a sugar cube? Or that, if the Sun were made of bananas, it wouldn't make much difference? Or that 98 per cent of the universe is invisible? Award-winning science writer Marcus Chown invites you to come along and discover how the universe we live in is far stranger than anything we could possibly have invented.

Tickets are available for free tomorrow morning at 9am. 

Of course, if you miss this, all past lecutres are available online here, but more on that later...

MAN VS. MACHINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This week on Jeopardy, Watson the Supercomputer takes on Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter!

Ken Jennings, who became a household name when he won 74 games in a row, and the all-time biggest Jeopardy money winner, undefeated Brad Rutter, who has won more than US$3.2 million over several tournaments, will take on IBM's Watson on Feb 14th-16th. Jeopardy executive producer Harry Friedman says most of Watson won't even fit on a stage. Its size is "the equivalent of ten refrigerators," he says. It has, for one, 15 TB of RAM!

So, what do I think is going to happen? I'd have to agree with the BoingBoing analysis.

The difference between winning and losing isn't mental agility, but the ability to time the milliseconds between the moment Alex finishes the clue and one of the producers activates the buzzers, slamming your thumb down with either (a) near-perfect reflexes at the off-camera lights telling you the buzzers are go, or (b) a near-perfect guess at the off-stage producer's timing.

Since a computer can obviously react to the "go" lights more rapidly and consistently than any human, it will probably win.

This seemed to be pretty much confirmed if you watched the practice round, which Watson won.

More: A former software engineer, Jennings remembers thinking, when he was first told of the idea behind Watson a couple of years ago, that a computer capable of playing Jeopardy! was decades away. "I was very skeptical," he says.

But then he watched Watson play its pre-game sparring matches, and he felt a growing nervousness in his stomach. "It's really amazing," Jennings says. "Watson gives you only the tiniest window. It never forgets. And its buzzer reflexes will make me look like... What's an example of someone with really bad reflexes?"

More info on the "parallel probabilistic events based architecture" machine:


Big picture Jeopardy analysis.

Most popular Jeopardy categories>:

An ENORMOUS Jeopardy archive with past questions:

Oh, and this:

Soooo......   hey there. Does anyone have cable tv (or an antenna) they would like to share for an evening or two? I won't be able to make the 14th, but can bring dinner and drinks (plus whatever else--boardgames? It's the week before reading week!) to your place on the 15th and 16th around 7-7:30! This is going to be GREAT.

More ice bike race info

National Post article on the race.

For its first five years, Icycle took place on a figure-eight course, on a lagoon in Lake Ontario, off Toronto Island. "We would go out there with chainsaws and cut 800-lb pieces of ice out of the lake to build a track," recalls Derek Chadbourne, owner of Harbord's The Bike Joint, and Icycle organizer. "But the weather became too unpredictable." This year marks Icycle's 10th at Dufferin Grove rink.

Here is Mr. Chadbourne's advice about cycling in winter: "The thinner the tires, the better. Keep your ass on the saddle--it's like putting sandbags in the trunk of your car. If you do hit ice, stop pedalling and pray."

I brought my dslr last night, but forgot the sd card in the laptop. The iphone filled in admirably, but wasn't capable of the zooms, obviously. However, got to try out the Pro HDR functions.

More pics here.