Posted by mike in News,Religion at 8:02 pm on May 29, 2007

The Creationism Museum in Kentucky (where else?) opened yesterday, and I can’t think of any surer sign of the diminishing of our society’s general level of intelligence. Here we now have a place for delusional people with archaic beliefs to not only pretend to know what science is (which isn’t that uncommon), but to pretend that it’s actually on their side, as well.

“It’s really impressive—and it really gives the impression that they’re talking about science at some point,” Krauss said. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being best, “I’d give it a 4 for technology, 5 for propaganda. As for content, I’d give it a negative 5.”

The pictures accompanying the Yahoo article are pretty humorous overall, if you’re the type who can laugh at stupidity (I am). Aside from all of the depictions of the douchebag who started the “museum” demonstrating just how smug his smile can be, I think the one showing a hippie-looking dude in jeans walking beside a dinosaur is my favorite:
Hippies Walked With the Dinosaurs
I can only hope that they open a “Hippies with Dinosaurs” exhibit at some point in the future.

Of course, I do find the tactics used by the museum’s leading opposition to be pretty funny, as well. Good for them, though. I’m glad to see people who are as sick of the “freedom to believe what they want” mantra as I am, and instead focus on their own freedom to ridicule those people for their ridiculous and detrimental beliefs.

Update: I forgot to include this link when I originally posted: Sneak Peak at the Creation Museum.

Comments (2)

Posted by mike in Computers,Entertainment,Internet at 8:22 am on May 15, 2007

This past weekend was commencement at U of I. As is pretty typical of these things, they had a relatively famous alum (Jawed Karim) speak at it. What’s different about this particular guy, though, is that he’s quite young for a speaker–he and I are about the same age, actually (like me, he’ll presumably be skipping his 10-year high school reunion this summer). His resume pretty much speaks for itself: he’s been working on some interesting and high-profile Internet-related technologies for his entire adult life. The most recent such endeavor, and by far the one he’s most famous for, is YouTube.

As the already-old joke goes, I couldn’t find a video of his commencement speech on YouTube (yet), but I did find a description of it:

Karim’s speech was great. It was short, it was funny, and it had video clips. He advised students to always be open to opportunity and to take risks while you can (like leaving college while still young to try something brand new). He apologized for ruining their gpa’s by inventing YouTube! He was self-deprecating when reminding students that things don’t work right away. In 1997, Karim’s application to the University of Illinois’ computer science department was rejected. He wrote a letter asking them to reconsider, which they did… He also talked about how lame YouTube was in the beginning until users started uploading their own videos — a concept that the founders had not envisioned.

The funniest line of the speech came when Karim explained that YouTube was launched on February 14, 2005. I am paraphrasing, but he said something akin to: “One of the best things about being a computer science major is that Valentine’s Day is just like any other day.”

Jawed previously gave a talk at the UIUC ACM chapter‘s reflections|projections conference last year. This one is available on YouTube, entitled “YouTube: From Concept to Hyper-growth,” and I think it’s well worth watching for anybody interested in this stuff:

Aside from noting that they began development on Valentine’s Day, as Jawed himself saw fit to joke about during his commencement address, I think the funniest part is around the 39:50 mark (11:00 remaining), when he talks about how they realized that in order to really get YouTube to become more popular and start spreading, they’d have to get chicks involved. So they posted an add on Craigslist LA:

Hey, if you’re a female, and we think you’re attractive, and you make 10 videos and upload them, then we’ll send you a hundred bucks via PayPal.

Surprisingly (or not), they didn’t get any replies, but as we all now know, that didn’t hurt YouTube’s success.

What I find so fascinating about this guy is not just the fact that he’s already accomplished so much before his 28th birthday, and not just the fact that he’s somewhat more interesting to me than most young entrepreneurs because he and I went to the same school. It’s the matter-of-fact way he presents himself and his endeavors, as if it’s just a common occurrence to create something that sells for 1.65 billion dollars. I think this is probably what sets folks like him apart: they are so driven that they can’t imagine not working your ass off on idea after idea until you get something that does succeed, so it’s not even surprising to them when it happens. That’s a perspective I don’t think I’ll ever know, but I bet it’s nice, albeit frustrating at times when things that you just know are going to pay off for you take their time getting off the ground.

In a way, of course, I’m envious. How cool would it be to make one of the most popular Web sites on the Internet? Then again, how much work would it take? I think just the fact that the second question so closely follows the first in my mind proves I’m not cut out for this type of thing. But it’s certainly interesting to follow.

Comments (1)

Posted by mike in Computers,News,Science at 11:51 pm on May 8, 2007

A friend I used to work with in the OpCenter sent me a link to a Washington Post article on robots that I found very interesting. It started out reminding me of a selection from The Mind’s I:

The colonel ordered the test stopped.

Why? asked Tilden. What’s wrong?

The colonel just could not stand the pathos of watching the burned, scarred and crippled machine drag itself forward on its last leg.

This test, he charged, was inhumane.

(See “The Soul of the Mark III Beast” in The Mind’s I–which, incidentally, I would consider to be one of the two most influential books from my high school days, along with the previously mentioned Sirens of Titan.)

The article presents several interesting examples of people wanting to ascribe human traits to their robot assistants, and asks lots of neat philosophical questions that many of us might actually have to come up with answers to at some point in our lifetimes.

“The 2 million personal bots in use around the world in 2004 are expected to grow to 7 million next year,” it claims, but this makes me wonder: Where are all of these robots they’re talking about? They can’t all be vacuum cleaners, can they? I’d prefer to imagine 7 million ASIMOs walking around myself, as spooky at that might initially be.

Humans respond so readily to Kismet, created by Cynthia Breazeal, that graduate students working in the lab at night have been known to put up a curtain between themselves and the bot, Brooks reports. They couldn’t stand the way it seemed to gaze around and stare at them. It broke their concentration. These humans are as sophisticated about robots as anyone on Earth. Yet even they are freaked by Kismet’s lifelike behavior.

And, of course, whenever I start thinking about the topic of futuretech, I get to wondering: where the hell are the flying cars we’ve been promised in popular fiction for so long? This in turn brings to mind Avery Brooks lamenting the lack of flying cars in the early 21st century in a classic IBM commercial:

There are signs that we might actually get flying cars some day, although “as of spring 2007, no flying prototypes exist,” so we’ve probably got quite a wait still ahead of us. I expect it’ll take even longer for them to get personalities, unfortunately.

Comments (2)