* Posts by boothamshaw

18 publicly visible posts • joined 24 Jun 2009

Level 5 driverless cars by 2021 can be done, say Brit industry folk


Post-pub car downside

Okay. It's 7.00am, and my driverless car arrives from the depot to drive me to work. Due to an oversight, cleaning did not happen and the part digested kebab helpfully left there by a 3am clubber is still on the seat. And the floor, and the door. Oh, and a used condom... Meatware will always be a factor.

Google research chief: 'Emergent artificial intelligence? Hogwash!'


I can never work out how you would "know" if a system became self-aware anyway, unless it told you it was, and even then it might have been mistaken about itself. Naturally intelligent systems, like hamsters, fish or Belgians are made of nothing but matter, with a great deal of information flowing between various bits thereof. There's probably no extra ingredient that an AI system would be forever denied access to, so I can't really see why a non-biological intelligence couldn't come into existence eventually. However, unless it "thought" in a manner highly similar to the way we do, perhaps we might never recognise each other as fellow sentients.

Slime mould mashup models fiendish computing problem


Ware tetrology comes true!

So Rudy Rucker's mouldies turn out to have come "true". This makes me very happy.

Robo-baby Diego-san shows creepy mimicry


Did they have to make it look so much like Robin Williams in "Bicentennial Man"?

Ocean seeding a dead duck as carbon solution


Re: I wonder if there is a way to process atmospheric CO2 into graphite?

Why graphite? What's wrong with charcoal? Pretty stable, can be buried, might even be used as fuel later. This is better than my other idea, which involves building big rafts of logs from conifer plantations, adding windsails and steering them quietly up to greenland to beach for a couple of hundred years. There is a carbon cost in the actual logging operation I admit, but that's where my third plan comes in, which is a sort of "job creation" scheme for large numbers of currently underused manual labourers...

The Terminator, coming to a reality near you


budget over-run on bionic man project imminent

Initial estimates of $6 000 000 may fall somewhat short of final total, NASA reports today...

Dissolving silk electronics melt in your body, not in the hand

Big Brother

tags for all?

In the pictures - are those RFID tags? I don't know enough about this sort of thing to be sure, but I can't say I'm thrilled about the idea of implanting RFID tags in people, even if they do dissolve over time.

Gigantic lava spirals wreck Mars ice valley theory


Re: Lava spirals?

first thing I thought of too. whodathoughtit.

Christmas gamma burst stupendo-explosion DEATHMATCH


that's just terriffic isn't it?

Oh great. I had thought that GRBs were A) far, far away and B) unlikely to happen in the near future. Now this. Merry Christmas. And yes, I know 10 000 lyrs sounds like a long way off, but it still seems too close for my paranoid psyche.

Alien city lights could be detected across interstellar space


They're probably beaming - oh I dunno - modulated super-luminal neutrinos or whatever at us right now and wondering why we haven't picked up the 'phone. I wonder if looking for ET radio is a bit like an uncontacted stone-age tribe trying to call us by thumping really hard on some bits of wood.

Astronomy crowd spots PLANET KILLER!


Still undecided on the Lucifer's Hammer issue. Crazy cannibal hordes on motorbikes or sensible middle-class professionals in support of nuclear power? I think the former group has more fun on the whole, but is it a post-apocalypse career choice that makes sense?

Best skiing in space is on Saturnian ice moon Enceladus


virtual downhillishness

simple - use the suit's in-built jet pack to propel yourself happily along at a tidy jog. Slight uphill gradients should be avoided unless you wish to spend the rest of the vacation orbiting Enceladus.

Schoolteachers can't teach our kids to code, say engineers


I'm a biology teacher, but about ten years back I wound up doing a couple of years teaching AS and A2 ICT, because I was well, a bit geeky and had my own memory stick (70MB I think).

It was the most sterile, pointless and bafflingly arbitrary educational experience I’ve ever had (and I had to introduce “key skills” to my school, so I know what I’m on about). I found myself recounting the exciting role played by Winchester discs in modern back-up regimes, and getting the students to make bullet-point lists of things they could say about ergonomic office furniture. I’m happy to say we’ve ditched the whole thing now. Maybe it is important to teach programming, maybe not. It would have to be more engaging than the tripe I was required to serve up. Based on my own experiences, home plumbing, wiring your own mains electrics, how to use a chainsaw and how to replace rotten bits of window-frame would have been far more life-enhancing.

Bloody Moon stuffs the Perseids


Nyahh nyahh

Just spent a happy couple of hours watching from a garden in SW France. Bloomin marvellous, despite Moon. Green ones, smoke trails and an Iridium flare for good measure. Have a nice evening back in Blighty...

Benefits of boozing outweigh harms, says survey


links rechts links rechts

One situation cannot be more unique than another, unless one is unique (an absolute state) and the other is not. Comparative statements of uniqueness are inexcusable. To be "a little unique" is to have slipped gracefully into a new category of rarity more commonly decribed as "unusual", "rare" or perhaps "out of the ordinary", if mood dictates.

"man"? are you absolutely certain your correspondant was a male?

Irregardless isn't really a word. Possibly you meant regardless.

Could of? Could OF? You mean could HAVE in all probability.

Your deployment of the semi-colon was a little ill-advised, and a mere comma would have been more acceptable, albeit less racey.

Finally, though no less importantly, "they could of cared less" is an Americanism. It is therefore also a truism, as our cousins tend to shy away from constructions that invite contradiction. Of course people have the capacity to care less about a particular issue. it doesn't mean that they will, merely that they might. To say that somebody "couldn't have cared less" is the sort of hyperbole that makes command of a language as expressive as English such a joy.

Oh wait a minute - I'm a grammar nazi. Oh the shame.

ANU plasma thruster gets research boost

Thumb Down

faith in SF? Heaven forbid.

I have absolutely no idea how many scientists start off because they got switched on by SF - I certainly did, and sure, only a tiny fraction of that crazy optimistic nonsense got into the textbooks. (Orbital phone relays anyone?) However, I don't read this column to hear about grown-up realism. I want to see the edges of what might be possible, just maybe, one day. Or maybe not.

Prof: Global windfarm could power entire human race


what will we ever do without patio heaters?

It's not really all that bad in a lot of the developing world. Sure, watch Bob Geldorf's holiday videos, and it looks like hell on Earth. Those people are in need of far more than electricity, and no amount of wind farming is going to address their problems. For a lot of places though, the reduced standard of living implied by lower power consumption in no way reduces the human capacity for being happy, fulfilled and productive. I am not at all convinced that we need everyone to come up to Californian standards of consumption in order to be content.

This boundary setting article is really useful, because it puts a clear limit on what can ever expect from wind power. That's helpful. Now we do the same for any other power sources we can think of and start to think about options. One of these has to be snatching the sweeties away from the Europeans and Americans before they gobble up the lot.