Thursday, July 21, 2016

Totalisator Counter in Context

Bob Doran continues his discoveries into totalisators on NZ, writing: Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision is New Zealand’s moving image and sound archive. Recently they put online an amateur movie made of the 1940 Manawatu Hunt races at Awapuni in Palmerston North, called “Racing at Awapuni”.  This is worth viewing for a peek into the fashions and way-of-life in New Zealand 75 years ago.
However, for us it gives a fascinating glimpse of an operating totalisator, the special purpose machines designed to count bets at race courses. We have a display on the second floor with some totalisator remnants of this era, and also a detailed exposition on totalisators and their history. In our display, we have one large counter from Awapuni that was saved from scrap. It was used to show the grand total of all bets on all horses. Although used up until the 1970s, this device was from the 1920s, retained when the old totalisator of  “Racing at Awapuni” was replaced with a modern machine in the late 1940s.
“Racing in Awapuni” shows us where our counter was located back in the 1920s. It was placed behind the rectangular window just below the top of the “tote house” as shown in this still from the movie. It also shows us that the 1920s  Awapuni tote was win-bet-only and could handle races with up to 24 horses.
Thanks to Brian Carpenter for a “heads up” about this film and to Nga Taonga for making it available on-line.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Not enough people to fill tech jobs

An article in the New Zealand Herald yesterday highlights the critical shortage of IT professionals in the country causing tech companies to have to bring in immigrants to fill their vacancies. Fortunately for us, New Zealand is a popular country to emigrate to. In the longer term, the Government is introducing Digital Technology as a formally integrated subject in the New Zealand curriculum. However, tech company leaders are arguing that this doesn't go far enough as it lumps computing in with metal-work and cooking. They want to see it taught as an academic subject, like history or chemistry, which they argue lead to far fewer direct jobs than computing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Watch Jupiter's moons orbit the planet

In the weeks leading up to the spacecraft's arrival at Jupiter Monday night (July 4), Juno captured a stunning video of the four Galilean moons — Callisto, Europa, Ganymede and Io — circling the giant planet in a first-of-its-kind view of celestial dynamics. Juno is now safely in orbit and the real science can begin.

Friday, July 1, 2016

You may not need to pay that parking fine!

The Guardian reports that a free online chatbot called DoNotPay has reportedly helped appeal over $4 million in fines. "Dubbed as “the world’s first robot lawyer” by its 19-year-old creator, London-born second-year Stanford University student Joshua Browder, DoNotPay helps users contest parking tickets in an easy to use chat-like interface."

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A tricky puzzle from the past

My colleague, Bob Doran, recently ran across a link to some 1950s technology advertisements. It is noticeable that the advertisements are positive as well as being striking designs. There are not many computing ads. in the set. We have some nice examples of these on our own dept. websiteOne of the 1950s set, shown to the right sets a very attractive-looking puzzle. That's the kind of thing that is worth spending a few minutes with for the pleasure of figuring it out. But, be warned, this is a particularly tricky puzzle and the minutes can turn into many hours. Have a go, but in order to not waste your time and make you feel cheated, there are some clues given following the image.
The “icons” are completely misleading – the colour and glyph have no meaning. It is equivalent to the puzzle:

             x40x
xxx ) xxxxxxx
             xxx
               xxx
               xxx
                 xxxx
                 xxxx
                       0 

where each x can be any decimal digit. There are no leading zeroes and the fine-print clues are needed to solve the puzzle. Mean eh? Many thanks to Lloyd Thomas for figuring it out and providing a link to the solution.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Limits of Quantum Computing: A Sceptic’s View

Quantum computing isn't an easy subject to understand - let's  be honest nothing quantum really makes sense. As Neils Bohr famously said: "If quantum mechanics hasn't profoundly shocked you, you haven't understood it yet." Fortunately two of my colleagues, Cris Calude and Alastair Abbott, do understand it and they've recently published a post on the Quantum for Quants website titled "Limits of Quantum Computing: A Sceptic’s View". Highly recommended.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Viv, the next-generation AI assistant built by Siri creator

Happy solstice everyone. My colleague, Mark Wilson, found this interview on TechChrunch with the inventor of Apple's Siri who has been working on an even better AI assistant. It's very interesting, clear progress has been made.