Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Kids see Facebook like adults see LinkedIn

This interesting article on TechCrunch explains the appeal of services like SnapChat to teenagers. It's really quite simple, social media savvy teens are wary of leaving a permanent record of their opinions and behaviour on sites like Facebook, just as we adults seek to present our best side to professional networking sites like LinkedIn. Bill Gurley, of SnapChat, explains why ephemeral messaging is on the rise: For kids, the Internet is increasingly becoming a place that you can’t share, that you can’t have fun, that you can’t socialize in the way you want to. I think that’s really the essence of Snapchat. It’s a platform where they can communicate and have fun without any anxiety about the permanence. You hear about kids not getting jobs because of what’s on their Facebook page.” So far from being merely a service for sexting, SnapChat allows youngsters the freedom to be young.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Would you like ultra ultra fast broadband?

Most people always want the Internet to go faster. Currently you might be able to get residential broadband at around 10 to 70Mbps depending on where you live. NASA has just tested an Internet connection of 622Mbps over a distance of 239,000 miles. They're not using fibre. They fired a laser at a satellite orbiting the moon. Watch the video below to find out more.

Monday, October 21, 2013

IBM unveils computer fed by 'electronic blood'You've probably heard o

You've probably heard of Moore's Law that has predicted that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. The problem is that we are nearing the physical limits of our ability to miniaturise these circuits. Our current solution is to stack chips to make multi-chip cores. The problem with this is cooling the chips, which tend to get very hot. The BBC reports that IBM are developing a novel approach in which a fluid of vanadium is used to both power the chip and cool it simultaneously. The advantage of this is that the design doesn't need two separate circuits, one for power and the other for cooling. This IBM scientists state is inspired by the brain where our blood provides both energy to the brain and cooling, resulting in a very efficient system.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

ConceptNet — a practical commonsense reasoning tool-kit

Computers are quite good now at dealing with specifics: you can ask Siri "how far is it to the moon?" and it will reply "about 376,000 kilometers," but computers still struggle with common sense knowledge. For example, if someone says, "I want some chips right now," humans will often interpret "chips" as meaning potato chips. But "chips" may easily confuse a computer system. Are we talking about potato chips? Computer chips? Wood chips? Poker Chips? To solve this type of problem researchers at MIT's Media Lab have developed ConceptNet, which they describe as: " a freely available common sense knowledge base and natural-language-processing tool-kit which supports many practical textual-reasoning tasks over real-world documents including topic-gisting, analogy-making, and other context oriented inferences. The knowledge base is a semantic network presently consisting of over 1.6 million assertions of common sense knowledge encompassing the spatial, physical, social, temporal, and psychological aspects of everyday life. ConceptNet is generated automatically from the 700 000 sentences of the Open Mind Common Sense Project — a World Wide Web based collaboration with over 14,000 authors."
   ConceptNet recently took an intelligence test and scored about the same as a 4 year old child, but since then its knowledge-base has increased ten fold. Are computers that can really understand what we say almost with us? ConceptNet is an open source project, with a Python implementation and a API that anyone can use to add computational common sense to their own project.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Computer Science contributes to Nobel Prize win

Michael Levitt,  of Stanford University; Martin Karplus of Strasbourg University; and Arieh Warshel of the University of Southern California have been awarded the Nobel Prize for  chemistry. However the researchers themselves acknowledge that their breakthroughs in modeling proteins couldn't have been done without recent advances in computing. In an article by the BBC Michael Levitt said this success was due in large part to the spectacular performance of modern computing: "I've told people that the silent partner in this prize is the incredible development in computer power. When we started this, no-one had any clue that computers were going to become so powerful; no-one knew about Moore's Law. This incredible increase in computer power has taken everybody by surprise, and I think this is one of the reasons why our field has become so important. And it's just going to get bigger and bigger."
[This post was suggested by Mark Wilson]

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The first home video game console

The first home video game console wasn't the Atari Pong. A reader of The Universal Machine pointed out the Magnavox Odyssey to me, which was released in August 1972 a full three years before Atari. In fact Pong was based on a ping-pong game that shipped with the Odyssey. Sales of the Odyssey were poor caused by bad marketing and many customers mistaken belief that the console would only work with Magnavox television sets. When Atari subsequently released Pong Magnovox successfully sued them (and many other imitators) for patent infringement. So we now know what the first video game console was but what was the first video game? This is a complex issue that Wikipedia devotes a whole entry to.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Big Data and the America's Cup

With the America's Cup still very much in the news an article in today's New Zealand Herald highlights the role that ex University of Auckland students played in the success of Oracle Team USA and in the development of Emirate's Team New Zealand's boats. In particular the Engineering Faculty's Yacht Research Unit has played a key role in the Kiwi's success since 1987 and we can expect it to do so in the future.