Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Rocket Panda Theme Song

Probably the best-in-class videogame music ever.

From this game (I usually play on Kongregate.com):


Monday, March 4, 2013

Fold or Be Folded

There is a saying that floats around among the computer-elitist world: "Program or be programmed." It is even the pretentious title of a book, "Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age" (Douglas Ruskoff).
The debate over whether the Net is good or bad for us fills the airwaves and the blogosphere. But for all the heat of claim and counter-claim, the argument is essentially beside the point: It’s here; it’s everywhere. The real question is, do we direct technology, or do we let ourselves be directed by it and those who have mastered it? “Choose the former,” writes Rushkoff, “and you gain access to the control panel of civilization. Choose the latter, and it could be the last real choice you get to make.”
See what I mean about "pretentious" and "elitist"? Basically, learn to code or be a slave. Of course, there is a tendency for people to assume that their own skillset is the most important one:
Philosophy [nature] is written in that great book which ever is before our eyes -- I mean the universe -- but we cannot understand it if we do not first learn the language and grasp the symbols in which it is written. The book is written in mathematical language, and the symbols are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without whose help it is impossible to comprehend a single word of it; without which one wanders in vain through a dark labyrinth. - Galileo Galilei
Learn math or live in darkness. Even psychologists are not immune:
The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind. - William James
But there is no one discipline that determines your fate or your freedom. Learning to read and write, to do math and science, or to program certainly offers people tools for understanding and acting on the world, but they aren't enough by themselves. It's not about simply having these skills - plenty of book-smart, math-smart, or computer-smart people are living forgettable/forgotten lives right now.

The real issue is how you use these skills at the right place and right time. You need to have a flexible, critical, creative mind that sees opportunities and can act on them. There is value in thinking about things in new ways and from new perspectives outside of your comfort zone.

From "Urban Origami Installations on the Streets of Hong Kong and Vietnam by Mademoiselle Maurice" featured on Colossal Art and Ingenuity.
So, said organizers of the Waza developer's conference, maybe consider origami or quilting as a hobby!
Instead of filling the entire conference with talks about programming technique, Teich felt it was more important to bring in outside activities to broaden coders’ horizons. “We as developers have the opportunity to become better at a our craft, and the way we do things as humans,” says Teich, “Why do we care about crafts? Because I want you to be thinking not just about ‘how do I write the best line of code,’ but ‘how do I open myself up to world of what’s possible.’ - from the Waza Conference 2013
Attendees learn how to fold origami cranes and frogs.
Another beautiful example is the connection between crochet and complex math, discussed in the 2012 Euler Book Prize winning, Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes (Daina Taimina). Which has also inspired the Crochet Coral Reef project by Margaret and Christine Wertheim (see also this article from Public Radio International).

From The Scottsdale Reef, the New York Reef and the Chicago Reef installed in the The Gallery @ The Library in the Scottsdale Civic Center, 2009.
Fold or be folded. Stitch or end up in stitches. Knit or get off the pot.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Techno Telepathy

Neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis (Duke University) studies brain-machine interfaces. In this study, Nicolelis and colleagues connected two rats together electronically, allowing signals to pass from one to the other. 
Scientists have wired the brains of two rats together and shown that signals from one rat’s brain can help the second rat solve a problem it would otherwise have no clue how to solve.
The rats were in different cages with no way to communicate other than through the electrodes implanted in their brains. The transfer of information from brain to brain even worked with two rats separated by thousands of kilometers, one in a lab in North Carolina and another in a lab in Brazil. - from Rodent Mind Meld: Scientists Wire Two Rats’ Brains Together (Wired, Greg Miller).

This is interesting by itself. However, last week I read a novel by Ramez Naam called Nexus:
In the near future, the experimental nano-drug Nexus can link human together, mind to mind. There are some who want to improve it. There are some who want to eradicate it. And there are others who just want to exploit it.
When a young scientist is caught improving Nexus, he’s thrust over his head into a world of danger and international espionage – for there is far more at stake than anyone realizes.
It was a fast-paced and gripping novel in the growing "post-human" genre. Good science-fiction is often just on the horizon of current technology. If you're interested in thinking about the consequences of linking humans (not just rats) mind-to-mind, this book provides both a grim and inspiring tale.