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Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Infinite Library

Tech Review on The Infinite Library. I continue to be amazed by my personal use of the web ... I have links now to several libraries, and can quickly determine availability. If I could only get the full text and then also link to it as required. As in Nelson's Xanadu, the ultimate exercise in 'non sequential' writing. The infinite library still appears to have too many holes in it ...

Friday, May 20, 2005

Exploring Supermarket Paths

In the latest Knowledge@Wharton, an article on analyzing shopper paths in grocery by Peter Fader and Eric Bradlow. This provides an overview and study conclusions. I have taken a look at the complete technical paper on this, and its a novel use of statistical clustering techniques that could be quite important in this kind of analysis. This could result in some interesting changes in how a number of retail spaces are designed.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Gershenfeld's FAB

I finally finished Gershenfeld's FAB, enjoyed it, I have posted a longer overview and review over at Future Now.

Autistic Savant

I saw the Discovery program on Daniel Tammet this week A genius explains. Quite remarkable case, certainly an example of pattern recognition vastly different from the way we normally think of intelligence. A case for some sort of neural network as opposed to building rules .... Now if we could only tap this in some way, what we know so far is only maddeningly sketchy.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Don Tapscott

I am reading Don Tapscott's 2003 book The Naked Corporation in preparation for a meeting next week. Had previously read Growing Up Digital, which I found to be engaging. He has a related blog: Age of Transparency, which I also found to be useful.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Camille Paglia's Break, Blow Burn

Just reading Paglia's book of selected poetry and commentary. I don't appreciate all of her selections, but even the ones I would not have chosen myself did stretch me a bit. I liked her analyses in general, but this is not really a book for the 'ordinary' reader, I doubt if anyone without a quite strong interest in poetry could deal with deal with it. That being said, her book is worth reading, including some familiar, some little known, and some very eclectic examples of poetry. I learned quite a bit from it.

Robots Working as a Team

This item on robot teamwork: Robot Teamwork brought to mind some work we had done on the teaming up of small groups of simple, cheap robotics to perform simple tasks. One suggested task was to take inventory of a warehouse with simple device that could travel about and sense location and stored items with RF tags. More specifically the idea of 'teaming' is more difficult, even the idea of giving a robot an 'agent' status is non-trivial, and adding the team aspect of reasoning takes it to another level.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Electric Universe

Read David Bodanis' Electric Universe, The Shocking True Story of Electricity .... which is a set of essays on the history of electricity. The are disjointed, hardly forming any sort of sort of coherently written view of the subject, which I was looking for. The longest essay is a popular history of radar in WWII, which though interesting, is out of place in this book. The individual topics are of interest, but scantly covered. Some of the writing too left me a bit puzzled. The author heavily overuses specific mental images, e.g. clouds of electrons for example. There are some emphatically negative reviews in Amazon, and I checked the references on a few, and the mistakes could be attributed to interpretation, but I would expect a book like this, to be read by non-scientists, to be more clear. This is another example where it is very hard to believe that the well-known reviewers on the back cover ever read the book. The Amazon reviews led me back to Robert Thompson's 1947 history of Telegraphy: Wiring a Continent. Still considered a classic.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Mathematicians and Tapestries

Interesting article Capturing the Unicorn A story of digital imagry, reconstruction and mathematics. Its also about stitching images. For some new work on this idea, for decidedly less complex sets of images, see here. An interesting, seemingly simple topic, with lots of complexity.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Examining Playful Invention Company (PICO)

Saw a presentation by Elisabeth Sylvan on the Playful Invention Company (PICO) this past week. This has come out of the Lego supported work at the MIT Media Lab ... inspired by Froebel and Papert. This first inspired the Lego Mindstorm project, and now PICO plans to sell programmable bricks or crickets, which can be programmed and used to design systems. I am particularly intriqued by the tactile aspect of this, and its use to help engage collaborators on tough problems.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Bobby Fischer Goes To War

Reading Bobby Fischer Goes To War: How The Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of all Time. I followed this event closely when it was news. Now Fischer is back in the news due to the recent granting of Icelandic citizenship to him. An avid chess-player at the time, I had no idea what Fischer was doing outside of the moves of the game, it was my first introduction to the notion of gamesmanship, bizarre as his form of that was. Finally a writeup of what occured, and hopefully a full explanation of the motivations.

Update/Review: You really have to be very interested in this topic to want to read this. It did fill me in on some of the events, which I only barely remembered via NY press coverage at the time. It most made me wonder why Iceland wanted to take him back in. Reinforced my impression of Fischer as an embarassment ... Although it seemed like Fisher-Spassky progressed interest in chess at the time, it has progressed very little since then.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Gershenfeld's FAB

Have not read Gershenfeld's FAB book yet, but its on the list. His previous popular books were thought-provoking, and his modeling texts are well worth taking a look at.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Shaping the Future - Robust Simulation

Brought to my attention by Steve King at Future Now an article: Scientific American.com: Shaping the Future -- On Robust modeling. Interesting view of the problem of robust modeling under uncertainty. I will comment there later this week. Brought to my attention: The Copenhagen Consensus and the fact that the poorly performing Club of Rome still exists. Here is a link to the PDF of the full RAND Pardee Center report.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Affective Computing example

Here Software Detects Unhappy Callers is an example of interacting with consumer emotions to classify calls. Note commercial example of work suggested by Rosalind Picard in her book: Affective Computing.

A Trail of DNA and Data

Paul Saffo article: A Trail of DNA and Data

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Beer Games and Engagement Models

Some work activities today made me re-visit the MIT Beer Game. I have some fond memories of participating in this game back in the 90s. Also recall some work being done on an agent-based advanced, multi-SKU version being developed by members of the Santa Fe Institute, have to look that one up. A good example of a simple game leading to complex behavior. This is required reading for folks new to supply chain. This brings to mind what I call 'engagement models', used to introduce folks to a domain, usually very visual, but which are not intended to be predictive. I have seen these to be quite valuable in industry. The Sim models are examples, but perhaps more complex than they need to be to represent this modeling approach.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Niklas Luhmann

Niklas Luhmann's Social Systems Theory . - In the latest issue of the Journal of Artificial Societies a post on the use of agent-based models to implement Luhmann's societal theories, which has led me to investigate them further. Further, these papers may be useful as examples of the use of simulation for agent based models and related techniques.

Physics of Society

Futurology gets a little more exact: Guardian article on Philip Ball's: Critical Mass: The Physics of Society. (Published under a different title in US ...: Critical mASS: How One Thing Leads to Another ) Covers issues of modeling people's group behavior, most recently suggested in agent-based technologies. Do not have the book as yet, but it looks to be interesting. Is it possible to model people in a way that is statisically meaningful? Yes thats been done fairly well,depending opon the measures you care about. Is predictive at some individual level? Not clear. Can provide true emergent behavior? In this too the jury is out ... I have not seen it as yet. This book appears to be non-technical, for a technical view of the complexity of models of people see: Journal of Artificial Societies ... See also Ball's article in PhysicsWeb.

Saturday, April 02, 2005


Picked up Patrick Keefe's Chatter, recently, all about sigint surveillance, in particular the Echelon project. We have all heard about term 'chatter' by now, we have a feeling for what it means, but how is it measured? That question is never answered. I pose the more general question in a post at Future Now. I know a little about the subject and worked on Darpanet many years ago, have also looked at text mining approaches .. so I thought there would be some interesting detail here. Pretty early on Keefe makes it clear that he doen't know much about the topic, or technology in general. He provides uninteresting descriptions of his standing outside of facilities looking in through the fence, or interviewing other journalists with similarly limited knowledge. While visiting a purported, abandoned NSA site ... he is amazed that the computer room had a raised floor ... that there was a cable tunnel between two buildings on the site. He is in awe of the radomes that protect antenna complexes. He shows shock that an employee at a UK base is prosecuted when she steals classified material to support her own political agenda. He lost my respect fairly quickly, but I did slog on. He is further amazed that the NSA's public web site does not contain a full directory of their employees (no company does this today). He describes the criminal trashing of Admiral Poindexter and his neighbors to make a point. There was no faint suggestion of loss of privacy or potential data mis-use that he does not cover in depth, but there was not much mention of the potential value of these capabilities. His discussion of 'mining' in particular was weak; you got the impression it was just about finding words. The one part I did find interesting was some of the statistics regarding human intelligence ... but can I trust them? Find this at the library, but beware.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Blogs, Everyone? Weblogs Are Here to Stay, but Where Are They Headed?

From Knowledge@Wharton Blogs, Everyone? Weblogs Are Here to Stay, but Where Are They Headed? . Good overview article on blogging. Quotes marketing professor Peter Fader, who we have linked to several times.

Tivo Pops-Up ads

More details about the testing of the Tivo ads that pop-up during fast-forward. This was apparently part of the recently announced Comcast-Tivo deal. I previously posted on this, with some links to Tivo economic models. This brings to mind the book: The Big Picture: the New Logic of Money and Power in Hollywood by Edward Jay Epstein, which talks at considerable length about the evolution of content delivery economic models. This is just another example, perhaps the first interactive one. Slashdot post on Tivo's test. Via Richard L. James.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Chernoff Faces

I was reminded of the method of 'Chernoff Faces'; in Clifford Pickover's 1990 book: "Computers, Pattern, Chaos and Beauty" (p. 47-) .. I was led there by a pointer to some Java implementations of Chernoff faces. For those that have not seen this, its the use of cartoon faces, whose attributes (eyes, ears, mouth, hair, etc) are varied in their size and orientation based on some numerical measure. Specifically using a cartoon face is said to allow us to use our own facial pattern recognition ability to better understand complex multidimensional data. Can anyone point me to other implementations or examples of a similar idea ... linking numeric measures to the size of other aspects of an image in general? Is this idea used very often today?

Hortense Powdermaker

New to me, Hortense Powdermaker, anthropologist ... author of Hollywood, The Dream Factory ... famously quoted to have said ... that Hollywood was a " dream factory .. engaged in the mass production of prefabricated daydreams ...". Quoted in Edward Jay Epstein's recent book The Big Picture: The New logic of Money and Power in Hollywood, under review. Lots of interesting financial detail in this book, alternative economic models for dealing with content. Though fairly dry in style, not for everyone.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

V. S. Pritchett

Just reading VS Pritchett's London Perceived, a 1962 book about London supported by a number of excellent photographs by Evelyn Hofer. Its a 42 year old book, so you can't use it as a guide today, but Pritchett provides such a lyrical overview of his subject that this is still excellent reading. There are a few overlaps with the London I know, and it makes me want to re-examine those. It a guide to time and place when bomb-sites still existed, and the economy of London was very different. If you like the topic, well worth the read, its still in print. Likely in your local library. Also has inspired me to look into Pritchett as an author.

Friday, March 25, 2005

First look at Yahoo! 360

Charlene Li posts on First look at Yahoo! 360. Yahoo's new social networking and blogging service. Overall, based on the description, I am not impressed. I have experimented with a few of these social networking services, and they leave me cold.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Numenta: Hawkins Brain Models for Intelligence

I reviewed Jeff Hawkin's book: On Intelligence last year. The founder of Palm Computing suggested a model using the architecture of the brain to build artificially intelligent systems. This is a novel approach, since most AI systems do not attempt to use the brain as structural model. His book was very good, but I suggested that he had considerable work to do to implement his ideas. Its another commendable attempt at the holy grail of machine intelligence.

Now an article in today's WSJ: Next Case for Palm Pilot Creators: The Brain and another in BusinessWeek: Jeff Hawkins' Bold Brainstorm, suggest that some progress has been made. He linked with Dileep George, who has started to implement some mathematics based on Hawkin's ideas, and formed a company called Numenta to work on practical applications. Both articles quote Intel scientist Gary Bradksi who says "Even if he's wrong, his theory is better than nothing. And it's 'attackable' -- and that's a good thing." Likely early applications are in machine vision and drug discovery. See also article in the NYTimes. Well worth tracking.

Michael Faraday Bio

A Life of Discovery: Michael Faraday by James Hamilton is the first bio I have read of Faraday. Hamilton is an architect, and sometimes fits in pieces about London architecture into the work, I didn't mind that, since I enjoy London, but it can seem forced. Good descriptions of Faradays lectures and the amount of time and care he took to get them right. I doubt he would have used Powerpoint. The most amazing part is his description of Faraday's creation of the first simple electric motor, the rush of creativity, if it could only always be that way ... his own enthusiasm then got him into trouble as he rushed to get the word out. I also recall reading parts of his chemical history of a candle in chemistry class, a tour-de-force of observation. He was to follow with the invention of the transformer, the dynamos and electrolysis, plus a great deal of fundamental chemistry and physics. His correspondence with Ada, Lady Lovelace, is also intriguing. Good bio.
The Wikpedia entry on Michael Faraday is also worth a look.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Dvorak on 1995

Short but interesting column by Dvorak, who I have been reading since then 1995: That Was the Year That Was. Although I had used the Darpanet back in the 70s, this was about the year I was first introduced to the Web and Internet. It took a few more years for the corporation to discover it. Shortly after this I remember giving a talk to management introducing the web, and their astonishment that their prime products were not showing up on search engines of the time. It is amazing how much has happened in the last 10 years. Nostalgia in just so few years.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Chance Discovery

I have just received the book Chance Discovery, by Yukio Ohsawa and Peter McBurney. I met Yukio at a recent meeting at the University of Illinois. Ohsawa is from the University of Tsukuba. The idea is intriguing and am looking forward to reviewing. I was introduced to the idea as part of a look at the DISCUS method of augmenting focus groups. See also his Chance Discovery site for an overview.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Norbert Wiener The Father of Cybernetics

Itching to read Dark Hero Of The Information Age .... I read a few of Wiener's books, and the insight into our current age is amazing. Yet few people today, even those in the business, have heard if him. In the NYTimes review its mentioned that the Soviets thought highly of him, and I remember getting some English translations of Soviet work in 'Cybernetica' in the 80s that often mentioned his work. NYT suggests that ...information as a discrete concept did not widely exist before Wiener .. early Bell engineers referred to the signal traveling over telephone wires as 'the commodity to be transported by a telephone system' ... Intriguing, if true.

Understanding Comics: Scott McCloud

I read McCloud's Understanding Comics back in 1993, I was pointed back to it again by Christ Atkinson's book Beyond Bullets, now I am re-reading. Here is his site. Some very interesting things here ... See in particular the interface to the 'Morning Improv', something I would like to experiment with myself for instructional interaction.

In the early part of this book McCloud posits a fascinating distinction between realistic drawings of people and various levels of stylizing with a minimal number of pen-strokes. In real-life, whenever we talk to people we look at them directly and get a realistic view, but our pictoral view of ourselves in that interaction is stylized, since we cant see ourselves. So he suggests that by using a level of simplification in cartoons, it allows us to put ourselves in the position of the character. Thoughtful view.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Psychophysiology of Risk

Posted for potential workup into an article: MIT Laboratory for Financial Engineering: Psychophysiology of Risk

Communications Models

An interesting post on communications models at iaocblog. Steve King of IFTF provides some interesting thoughts about this. Particularly interesting , the stoller queen example. Though not a blog, this is an excellent example of consumers taking control of the marketing conversation.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Sign Language

Fascinating pointer Sign Language on work underway about using gestural interfaces to control geospatial interfaces. Apparently designed to be used in high stress situations, such as the emergency management centers, to help partipants collaborate and interact with geospatial data. I have worked on some relatively primitive GIS systems, this would have been useful. Can we ultimately just wave our hands at out data?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Spring comes to AI winter: Hecht-Nielsen's Confabulations

This article Spring comes to AI winter Mentions neural net commercialization pioneer Robert Hecht-Nielsen and his confabulation idea. Its also described in a Physorg post. Some pretty bold predictions of the generality of the approach. I have not looked at the technical article as yet. Is it available online anywhere? We worked with Hecht-Nielsen's HNC Software back in the 90s to develop neural nets for corporate pattern recognition problems. They were acquired by FairIsaac.

MemCheck Memory News from Cognitive Labs

Consumer Marketing taking hints from neuroscientists. Another example of neuromarketing ideas.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Why Stock Markets Crash

Inspired by an article in MIT's Tech Review on using Physics models to predict book sales (No longer online, you would think MIT Tech Review would know better?) I just read: Why Stock Markets Crash: Critical Events in Complex Financial Systems, by Didier Sornette. Here is UCLA's press release on the work. The book is a well-done overview of complexity work as it relates to financial markets. Though technical, the book spends much time in setting up coherent descriptions of how models link to financial problems. Leading to an 'autopsy' of major crashes. I can't speak to the validity of the conclusions in detail, since finance is not my world. Many, many useful references here to related work, and good thumbnail descriptions of advanced modeling work in finance. Obvious overlap with Benoit Mandelbrot's The Misbehavior of Markets. The last chapter addresses the question of if we are in for a end of growth by 2050. Optimistic overall. Here is chapter 1, though its the least technical.

IFTF's Future of Marketing

I am blogging now at IFTF's Future of Marketing specifically for marketing related emergent technology ideas. Some of those posts will start to be initially outlined here, with sometimes a request for information I can fold up to that blog. Not sure how many people are reading this, but always welcome additional information, credit and links will be given to those that contribute.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Strange Angel

Completed Strange Angel, by George Pendle, bio of rocket fuel pioneer John Whiteside Parsons. Early history of JPL and rocketry in the US. Also, Parsons connection to cult leader Aleister Crowley. Sometimes uneven , but interesting view of that time.

Beyond Bullet Points

I completed my review of Cliff Atkinson's Beyond Bullet Points and posted it in Future Now. Good book, I found a number of its ideas useful and plan to use them in upcoming presentations. Also interesting, some of the pointers in it to research on effectiveness of multimedia presentations.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Gallups New Poll on Blogs

Gallups new poll on blogging is worth noting: Blogs Not Yet in the Media Big Leagues As bloggers we do lots of introspection about this emerging idea, around since only 1997 ... As has been pointed out to me, we have been doing things like blogs for some time, but only in these last few years have we seen its explosion. The study makes the case that three quarters of US public uses the internet, but only one in four is even somewhat familiar with blogs ... just slightly more than half of the US public has no knowledge at all of them. There is considerable room room yet for the expansion of this idea. Well worth reading in its entirety.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Understanding Comics

I was referenced to this book: Understanding Comics. Via Cliff Atkinson's Beyond Bullet Points. See also his excellent Beyond Bullets site.

Stay-in-car shopping : Autocart

Stay-in-car shopping | www.azstarnet.com �

I found this during some research on the drive-through superstore concept, note it mentions IFTF.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

AutoCart revs up drive-through supercenter

I wrote about this before in Future Now ... AutoCart revs up drive-through supercenter. Still looking for more details, would appreciate anything people can send along.

Monday, March 07, 2005

On Demand Blogosphere

Jon Udell introduced me to bookmarklets, and although I am mostly an ad-hoc programmer, used to constructing things to solve problems, rather than a professional programmer, his simple examples helped me collaborate with the local library to construct a simple interaction between web pages and the library reservation system. That resulted in something I use daily now.

Since then I have been following his work, Now he is working on another problem of note, how do you make your RSS feeds more useful, how do you find out who is talking about a topic you want additional commentary on. In his recent post he provides a short screencast that describes how he is working towards the goal of constructing tighter networks between bloggers and their networks of information.

Augmented Marketing Focus Groups: Discus

Here is a blog post I wrote about our recent visit to Professor David Goldberg's GA lab at the University of Illinois to observe the first test of their Discus augmented focus group idea.

Charles Stross' Singularity Sky

Just completed Charles Stross' SF novel Singularity Sky. Very nicely done, a wild compendium of technology touched upon, less on the side of character development. Still a very good, readable story, recommended.Here is his blog. Just starting to peruse.

Envisioning a Leapfrogged World

Envisioning a Leapfrogged World

Saw this noted in Rajesh Jain's Emergic blog ... Thoughtful piece on the subject of technology leapfrogging ... in particular how the process of leapfrogging is also likely to change over time as some of the development capabilities are also leapfrogged. (Note the recent Businessweek article on product development in China) Will become an increasingly important issue for the west.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Professionalization of Blogs

The Professionalization of Blogs

Good article by Steve King addressing the professionalism of blogs, and the apparent movement from amateur to professional.

Friday, March 04, 2005

HP Blog Epidemic Analyzer

I was reminded of this research on blog academics by a recent link, out of HP's Information Dynamics Lab. See their demonstration, and their related FAQ. The research and data is a couple of years old now, but its an intriguing piece of work.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

GPS and Google Maps

Jon Udell: Walking tour of Keene: followup

Here is another clever thing from Jon Udell. Last summer I played with his library lookup capability, and with just a little help from the local library folks, was able to set up searches based on ISBN, author, title and subject. This introduced me to bookmarklets, and now I use these lookup capabilities most every day. Very nice for a biblio junkie. I continue to try to get other folks to use them ... a very nice capability.

This new example makes use of Google Maps, which I have played with a bit as well, and although still Beta, boasts a very nice interface. Udell has worked on setting up a GPS-based tour of a set of locations, based on Google maps. He points to a live example, and outlines how to do this.

See also pointers to Google Maps Hacking Wiki, which I am also starting to explore.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

RiverGlass Real-Time Analytics


RiverGlass develops software that merges multiple data streams from disparate sources and applies powerful, real-time data analysis and modeling techniques that help customers manage risks, solve critical problems, and make informed decisions.

I am starting to look at this provider of data mining capabilities. Especially with regard to the real-time aspects of its capabilities. Will update this post as I progress.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Jump Book

I recently read Jeremy Bernstein's bio of J Robert Oppenheimer (excellent) ... but this post is not about that. On the cover of that bio is a remarkable picture of Oppenheimer jumping into the air, pointing at the sky. It turns out this picture is from the 1959 Jump Book, by Phillipe Halsman. Halsman was a photographer who worked for Life, and took pictures of 178 celebrities of the time jumping, and published them in the book. He also developed a technique he called Jumpology, which seeks to analyze character from the nature of people's jumps. He at least seems serious about that. Fun book, including many still recognizable people from politics, science, film and industry. Although I got my copy at the library, its still in print.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Beyond Bullet Points

In a classic 2003 cartoon in The New Yorker, The Devil is sitting at a desk, apparently interviewing a new conscript for Hell:

Lucifer asks ... 'I Need someone well-versed in the arts of torture - do you know PowerPoint?'

With that impression in mind, I am just starting Cliff Atkinson's book: Beyond Bullet Points. For some of you who have read my writings in Future Now, you will recall I am a long suffering corporate victim of Powerpoint, so I am looking forward to this book.

I will post on this again as I progress.

See also, Atkinson's blog Beyond Bullets. Which always has some fascinating information on visual communications.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Cogwheels of the Mind

Its probably pretty telling to be reading a book on the history of Venn diagrams at the beach, but I took the chance and started A.W.F. Edwards' Cogwheels of the Mind: The Story of Venn Diagrams a few weeks ago. A delightful, short (about a hundred pages, with many diagrams) history of the graphical approach by John Venn. Which links well with the algebra of Bernoulli, whose algebra led to computing, and is being used very actively in the computer you are staring at. It also has survived as a much-taught methodology in schools from kindergarten upwards. Perhaps I am a bit optimistic, but I believe a large number of eighth graders could draw one. Its perhaps the most beautiful and simplest example of visualization of complex ideas. The book also carefully reviews the extension of Venn diagrams into greater numbers of classifications, and Edwards further work in the area. Although the book is short, it does require some willingness to think through his examples. A strong graphical intuition is desirable.

One of the reviewers at Amazon suggested that the book should have gone further, comparing Venn diagrams to other diagrammatic methods, but I disagree ... this is an example of a 'just enough' monograph, rich in both in the history and its implication regards the way we think about hard problems. It sufficed at the beach. It did inspire me to look at the other methods mentioned. In an appendix, Edwards suggests its extension into statistical domains.

Another reviewer questioned if there was an audience for such a book. Well, besides myself, there are others who like to see popular mathematics well written, and prefer the proofs to be left in the references for now. No, it won't make the NYT best-seller list, but it did enlighten me.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Predicting with Randomness

RedNova News - Can This Black Box See Into the Future?

This certainly seems odd ... I am always suspicious of predictors that are too good... why would they be publicizing it rather than playing the market? I have frequently seen such alternative science claims ... I maintain the skeptics response ... Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof ... this does not mean that I am not open to changes in what we know ...

Via Nova Spivacks' blog.

Agents of Change

A good overview article on Agent-Based Modeling (ABM) philosophy, techniques and applications, from the February ORMS Today, by Douglas Samuelson. He makes the case that this technique will transofrm social science because of the natural linkage between social and agent entities and their inclusion of behavioral changes. He also links ABMs to classical simulation techniques and Systems Dynamics. Some useful further links.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Virtual Reality in the Round

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft Presseinformation 04.02.2005

An interesting idea, which attempts to improve on the illusion of a CAVE. I have see a number demonstrations in a number of CAVE environments, and was never very impressed with the result, low quality with flat projections, such immersive environments may be OK for the engineer who accepts the illusion, but do they work for the behavior of a consumer you are trying to understand?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Global Grid Computing: Johnson and Johnson

InformationWeek: Grid Computing

...Johnson & Johnson's $22.1 billion pharmaceuticals research-and-development unit has two grid projects under way, each geographically contained and centered on its own networks. David Neilson, director of drug-discovery information management, expects these projects will save the company "in the seven- to eight-figure bracket" over five years by recruiting low-cost computers to handle tasks once done mostly by expensive specialty machines.

Johnson & Johnson was an early sponsor of the Globus Toolkit project, an effort by researchers at Argonne National Lab, the University of Chicago, and the University of Southern California to develop open-source software that could link distant computers and users over the Net. "We're not [a sponsor] anymore," Neilson says. For its virtual drug-screening pilot in Belgium that recruits the spare power of 400 PCs and 64 Linux servers and for a stateside effort to model clinical drug trials using more than 100 PCs and workstations, Johnson & Johnson has been using commercial software from United Devices Inc., which can schedule jobs across PCs or servers under one roof, but whose capabilities fall far short of the promise of building global grids ...

The MIT Museum

Before the holidays I paid a first visit to the MIT Museum. A rather interesting one-floor exhibit, up some modernistic steel stairs not far from the center of campus. I had heard that they had become the repository of a number of AI and robotics artifacts that I had read much about. So I wandered over there after some meetings and spent a few hours walking the exhibits.

You do understand quickly the quandry of the director of such a museum. Its easy to display artifacts that deal with robotics, which readily lend themselves to physical objects. Artificial Intelligence, being a work of symbols and process, is harder to do, what you can do is display pictures of visionaries and descriptions of their work. Interactive displays are also used, but somehow they didn't work quite as well. A good, but not comprehensive set of robotics artifacts is displayed, its understandably about work at MIT. The picture above is one I took of their Kismet social robot.

The Museum also takes its displays from before the immediately modern. I much enjoyed the large display of the work of Harold Edgerton, famously responsible for the use of the electronic stroboscope to provide slices of time we have not seen before. Also, a display that contained some sample exams from long ago that showed we have not necessarly progressed in understanding basic knowledge.

Another room covered the technical experiences of the MIT student ... which I imagine would be most interesting to alumni, but I also found element of it to be amusing.

Parts of the collection, such as the kinetic sculpture exhibit and the collection of ship images, while of technical and artistic interest, appear to be a bit out of place and likely mostly opportunistic.

Well worth a visit, for more detail, see the link above, which does a nice job of providing an overview of each exhibit, and an e-gallery which extends the exhibits. As I walked about I did muse about the future of museums. There were many times I would have liked to be able to click-through for more information. There were other times, where I was able to walk around each piece, encounter physically, even touch items in ways I could not online. Exhibits that were symbolic, without artifacts, probably could have been encountered better online. There is still a place for located artifacts and even places to encounter history directly. But for how long?

Origami and Mathematics

Origami and Mathematics

From the IAPR Newsletter, I had missed this connection, looks intriguing. Also pointers to other resources. From the International Association of Pattern Recognition Newsletter, now online.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Security Risks of Frequent-Shopper Cards

Security Risks of Frequent-Shopper Cards

Via Schneier on Security. An interesting case study ... if information is stored ... it also has to have some likelihood of of being correct. Pretty low in this case. I guess this kind of thing ultimately comes out in court, but shouldn't there be be some sort of earlier point at which the potential of it being correct could be demonstrated?

Emergence of Blogging as Legitimate Media

OpinionJournal - Peggy Noonan

I have followed blogging and participated for a couple of years now, and Peggy Noonan in the WSJ seems to be right on in her analysis of the way that blogging is starting to change the media landscape. I also read the March Wired article today on the Wikipedia: 'The Book Stops Here' (apparently not online as yet) which shows how the Wikipedia is changing the world of knowledge. These two ideas have interesting similarities ... they are both changing the world ... but both have some very interesting weaknesses, created by this idea of universal empowerment.

The Value of Social Networking

Dunbar Triage: Too Many Connections

A very thoughtful article on Social Networking, with LinkedIn, etc, by Christopher Allen in his Life With Alacrity Blog. I have also been part of Linkedin for some time, but have not seen it as overly useful. I sometimes get a note or two from it, but it seems to be easier to just manage your contacts yourself ... do many multiple contacts links really work? As is suggested, its the quality of a small number of links that is more useful than sheer quantity.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

A Wisdom Of Models?

I recently presented at the Informs Roundtable Meeting on Data Mining. I will post several short individual items on useful learnings.

Data mining is about finding useful patterns in data, frequently from data that was not gathered explicitly to solve a current problem at hand. Modeling methods for data mining include neural nets, regression, genetic algorithms and classification approaches. Dr John Elder of Elder Research promotes the idea of trying a number of models and then combining the results in an ensemble result, the simplest approach would be to average the results ... a kind of Wisdom of Models, see his paper on why an ensemble of models can do better.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Brain Scans for Sale

Brain Scans for Sale

This is an area I have followed for some time ... Interesting article ... scary and likely an inevitable area of progress. In part the issue will be how generalizable such analysis will be, or do we each have our own world?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Viewpoints Research Institute and Squeakers

About VPRI

Last summer I tracked an article in Fortune about a hero of mine Alan Kay. Kay is involved in the non-profit Viewpoints Research Institute. In part their goal is to ... put on the Internet, a sample curriculum with supporting media for teaching "real math" and "real science" to K-12, with an initial emphasis on K-8 ... The platform they are doing this on is the Squeak personal authoring environment. I just received a copy of Squeakers, an Emmy award winning DVD movie that outlines their goals, a very fine effort. It would be interesting effort to compare such an authoring environment with blogs in general. But blogs which contain other intelligence modules to attract the interest of kids. Eli Lilly, among others is supporting the Squeak effort. Like Dean Kamen's FIRST program, the object is to give kids the impression that science and math are as fun and important as athletics and rock. Sounds like an important thing to support. Does anyone know more about the state of the effort?

sub-$100 PC

BBC NEWS: Digital guru floats sub-$100 PC

I posted a longer look at this with examples in Future Now. It makes sense to look at very simple devices, with memory, a browser, a network connection, screen and keyboard. It still seems that it would be tough to break the $100 cost.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

A Look at Informational Chaos

First Monday Article on Knowledge/Blogging and LiveJournal

A colleague pointed this out to me, I am reviewing now. In particular I like the examnination of blog-like systems to how knowedge is acquired and maintained. The way to get knowledge acquired has to be simple, so you can build a critical mass quickly so it has immediate value as an archive. As a very simple example, I used Blog This! to post this article. I am also thinking of this also in terms of HP's Steve Cayzer's Semantic Blogging idea, see his blog, which has other useful posts.

Blogging It

I am still thinking about how I should use this blog. I am using it now as a staging place, as I see things I want to remember I post the item from the convenient Google tool bar, add comments if I have them at the time, then post it as draft. Later I go back to edit it, add comments, or even delete it.

I have been blogging for nearly two years, mostly behind my corporate fire wall. I have also been posting to Future Now since last year. As such this blog overlaps with some of the things I do there. The public nature of this and Future Now are still new to me.

The other interesting idea is the level of formality you want to include in your Blog. Its a little like the early era of e-mail (pre font-choice) when it was presented as a medium where you could be informal, make errors. Corporate email has since become very formal, with all sorts of advanced capabilties. Blogs are also starting to go that way. In some ways I want the simplest, easiest capability of posting text, links and pictures. Otherwise I am just creating a web page.

Blogs do really provide a means to help organize your thoughts, pull together lots of snippets of information, and if you want, expose that information to others. My internal blog acts as an excellent archive of information, for me and for others.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Perspex in Perspective

Towards a truly clever Artificial Intelligence

Simplexes are multi-dimensional geometric forms that were first used as paradigms for solving tough linear-programming problems in the 40s, leading to the Simplex Algorithm of George Dantzig, first for solving the logistics problems like deciding what materials to ship where, then to a dizzying set of variants on the same idea, from blending to pricing, routing and scheduling. Every major corporation uses these techniques every day.

Now the University of Reading's Dr James Anderson has created the Perpective Simplex, or Perspex to solve tough recognition problems for robotic interaction with real spaces. The claims in the overview article are considerable. I admit I have not looked at this very closely as yet, but I am intriqued by the concept ... and I really like the term. Well worth a closer look.

Monday, February 07, 2005

IBM, Sony, Toshiba to reveal superbrain chip

IBM, Sony, Toshiba to reveal superbrain chip

Interesting development ... a plus for pervasive computing, the challenge is still up for the software developers to produce the algorithms ... This kind of hardware development always reminds me of my attendance at the ACM awards for the IBM Deep Blue - chess playing system in 1997. To their credit, IBM gave the cash award to the programmers involved. One of the IBM recipients (sorry, have forgotten his name) made a point of saying that the approach was not 'smart' but rather 'clever brute force' ... That very honest statement made me smile. I recall the ACM folks being a bit taken aback by this, a bit embarrassed that they had not sponsored the emergence of intelligence in software. If the chips keep getting smaller and faster, will everything ultimately be solved by brute force? Its a bit like the prevalence of of search on the web today, its the easy way out. Or like the prevalence of blogs over wikis ... they are also the easy way to develop content. Although I see why its being done, is it preventing some deep thought about algorithms? Don't get me wrong, there is lots of work progressing on smarts, but I wonder if more can be done.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

IlliGAL Blogging

IlliGAL Blogging

Nothing Illegal about it ... its from the Illinois Genetic Algorithms Laboratory ... (Site no longer exists)  David Goldberg and his colleagues and students produce a very informative blog on genetic algorithms.

Cycorp: The Cost of Common Sense

Cycorp: The Cost of Common Sense

An informal view of Doug Lenat's work at Cycorp, which we have followed for years, starting in the early days of our Artificial Intelligence Group.

Downtown : My Manhattan

Downtown: My Manhattan by Pete Hamill

I am in the midst of reading this ... a nostaligic, walkers tour of lower Manhattan. Although I spent some of my early life in Queens, I rarely saw Manhattan itself. Since then I have visited on business a number of times, each time more engaged by its form and history. ... A journalist provides a knowing and interesting architectural and historical tour of downtown. Nostalgic at its heart, he discusses the concept of nostalgia very early on. Very nicely done .... If you have any interest in NY, or of the evolution of large cities, this is a worthwhile read.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

This Blogs Initial Purpose

I have done quite a bit of work in working with intracorporate blogs. . This is my first exploration of external, personal blogging resources. After I do some preliminary examination, this blog will evolve into a technology resource and commentary repository.