Friday, 30 September 2005

The Birth Of The NewsMaster: The Network Starts To Organize Itself

The Birth Of The NewsMaster: The Network Starts To Organize Itself - Robin Good' Sharewood Tidings

Interesting paper on RSS and EPIC related issues.

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Jane Gazzo's Last Show


Just listened to Jane gazzo's last show. An Annie Nightgale for our age. Just great to listen to late at night or the next day on Listen Again. Just great Indie music. The poor girl was in tears.

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Wednesday, 28 September 2005

Answering Subcognitive Turing Test Questions:

A cracking paper by Peter Turney on how to use Google hit counts to solve some AI problems.

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The arrival of the MegaTraveller canon on CD-ROM is giving me a real case of Traveller-itis, despite my experiences with GURPS Traveller. If you've never come across Traveller, THE SF role-plyaing game, check out the Traveller Web Portal -, Marc Miller's site at, and of course my own Traveller site at

I still dream of that all encompassing Traveller virtual reality.....

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Alaskan Penguins and dumbed down searches

Interesting that 4 of the top 10 results for a Google search of "effect of oil pollution on the penguin population of alaska" are now pages discussing Autonomy's Mike Lynch's comments about dumbed down searches.

Mind you Google does a good job of routing users to articles on Penguins in Antartica, and picking up articles on oil effects in Alaska on aquatic birds.

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Aleksander's five axioms of consciousness

Guardian Unlimited | Life | Scientists start work on thinking robot

Went to Igor Aleksander's lecture on the Emergent Mind at Imperial College last night (strange to go back to my alma mater after 20 odd years - and I'm there again next Tuesday!). Whilst most of it was about neural networks, he also talked about his 5 axioms (note nothing about communications!)

Aleksander's five axioms of consciousness

Axiom 1: a sense of place
We feel that we are at the centre of an "out there" world, and we have the ability to place ourselves in the world around us

Axiom 2: imagination
We can "see" things that we have experienced in the past, and we can also conjure up things we have never seen. Reading a novel can conjure up mental images of different worlds, for example

Axiom 3: directed attention
Our thoughts are not just passive reflections of what is happening in the world - we are able to focus our attention, and we are conscious only of that to which we attend

Axiom 4: planning
We have the ability to carry out "what if?" exercises. Scenarios of future events and actions can be mapped out in our minds even if we are just sitting still

Axiom 5: decision/emotion
Emotions guide us into recognising what is good for us and what is bad for us, and into acting accordingly

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Wednesday, 21 September 2005

Nokia 20Lives - Life 3

This is a bit more like it, playing papparazi Gonzo Barber you have to track down and photograph rising star Sarah Nichols. To find out what she looks like you have to do a real Google search. If you're lucky you get to Tanya Hayes - as featured in Fuzzolicious, a spoof site with Sarah's photo's on it.


Just what all the other Sarah Nichols in the world make of this interest I've no idea. The final part of the Life, chasing around Rome on a moped getting and delivering favours against the clock to get to the party was fun too.

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Monday, 19 September 2005

Loebner 2005 Results

The Loebner 2005 results are out, the Bronze prize being won by Rollo Carpenter's Jabberwocky. However there was no silver/gold winner (as usual - i.e no judge scored a chatbot more highly than a real human). Highest chatbot score was 40, lowest humna score was 55. Lowest chatbot 2!, highest human 98!

Must have a look at the historical data to see if the chatbots are actually geting better (or the people worse!).

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Return to the Moon - 2018 -- Moon-to-Mars Plans Emerge: New Agenda or Apollo Retread?

NASA's due to announce the plans today. Just hate the "do anything" CEV approach rather that having tuned components for each job.

"Aspects are somewhat vintage Apollo in approach, but with numerous technical twists. For example, a four-person lunar expedition crew would make use of a Crew Exploration Vehicle that is outfitted with solar panels. The astronauts would rendezvous in Earth orbit with a pre-launched Earth Departure Stage, and then make the outbound voyage to the Moon."

"Once in lunar orbit, all four crewmembers would ride down to the Moon in a lander. They would depart the Crew Exploration Vehicle, putting it in autopilot mode as they spend seven days on the lunar surface."

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Friday, 16 September 2005

The Singularity is Near


Ray Kurzweil has just launched a new web site to promote his new book The Singularity is Near.

From the blurb: " The Singularity is an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today—the dawning of a new civilization that will enable us to transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity."

Might be interesting to start running a poll as to when people think the singularity might happen.

As to what comes after, well that's another book...

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Monday, 12 September 2005

Nokia - 20 Lives

Nokia has just announced Nokia 20Lives, the replacement for Nokia Game. The game runs 19th Sept - 13th Oct, and everyday players play the part of one of 20 lives/careers, with by the looks of thinsg a variety of Flash games/tasks to compleete each day. The demo "life" has you copytyping an auto-cue prompt and assembing a TV commercial from a bunch of video clips. Oh well, we'll see what it's like and maybe the girls can play it for me.

Not quite the same as Flo and Tragamin though.

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Friday, 9 September 2005

The Web - Have It Your Way: Birmingham Post 6 Sep 05

A major trend in technoculture at the moment is the remix. We've all grown used to DJ remixes dominating the dance floors – but the remix, or mash-up in US geek speak – is now appearing almost everywhere. The reason is that the cost of the technology needed to re-edit existing material has plummeted. Star Wars fans have used desktop PCs to create a Jar-Jar Binks-less A Phantom Menace, anime fans have cut video-game footage to fit their favourite pop songs, and machinema enthusiasts have used commercial game engines like Quake and Halo to create their own video soaps. Now, though, it's happening to the web.

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Wednesday, 7 September 2005


BBC - Press Office - Mark Thompson Edinburgh International Television Festival 2005

"In 2006 - of course subject to scrutiny and approval from our Governors and all necessary consents - we hope to launch a new offering with the working title of MyBBCPlayer, a window through which licence-payers will be able to access a host of BBC content. The last seven days worth of programmes from BBC Television and Radio. "

Now that's worth waiting for!

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On-line Buyer Behaviour

The Slow Tail: Time Lag Between Visiting and Buying (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)

Fascinating article from Alertbox on some ebuying research. Highlights are:

- Average conversion from a search ad click is 2%
- 50% of conversions happened in 28 minutes!
- 75% of the conversions occurred within 24 hours
- Orders didn't reach the 90% mark until 12 days
- it took four weeks to reach 95%.
- After two months, 99% of orders had been received
- final percent gained during the third month.
- For items costing less than $100, 90% of orders were received within eleven days.
- For items costing more than $300, it took eighteen days to reach that level.

There's a good chart summarising the data.

slow tail graph

Thus, the last 5% of orders happened more than four weeks after the initial click.

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Tuesday, 6 September 2005

Jeff Waynes' War of the Worlds


Forget Tom Cruise, this is the real War of the Worlds. Got back into it when I recorded it onto MP3, and the film has just kept it front of mind. Might even get Joanna into it too.

Update 20/10: They're doing a live version at Symphony Hall next April, complete with Justin Hayward and video of Richard Burton. Must see!

Buy now from Amazon!

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Redemption Ark *

redemption ark cover

Third book in Alastair Reynolds space saga. Revelation Space was an OK start, Chasm City was really good. ........but Redemption Ark was pretty poor and almost had echoes of EE Doc Smith with its "my momentum suppressor works better than your momentum suppresor" chase through space. Pity.

Buy now from Amazon!

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The Dice Man ***

the dice man

Not a bad book at all, if a little extreme in places. The premise is simple, a man decides to live his life by the die, but the fact that he's a psychiatrist, and that alll his friends are psychiatrists, mean that the book can explore issues about the fragmentation of personality, what it is to be a self, etc.

Buy now from Amazon!

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Monday, 5 September 2005

CS Lewis Ransom Trilogy


Spent most of the Holiday reading CS Lewis' Ransom trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Voyage to Venus, and That Hideous Strength.

The trilogy starts OK, but gets worse. Very much of its time (or even after its time).

Buy now from Amazon!

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danish holiday home

Had a great holiday with the family in Denmark. The Danes own masses of well holiday homes, some exceedingly well appointed, and by late August very cheap. Ours boasted (apart from 4 bedrooms) a swimming pool ( 15 sq m), sauna, hot-tub, and solarium. It sat in a lovely wood and was a pleasant 3km cycle ride from the 60km long beach at Henne Strand. What got us most was how quiet and peaceful the whole place. Even Esjberg - Denmark's 5th city, was quieter than Moseley on a Sunday afternoon.

henne beach

Also there were wind-turbins everywhere. Our first sight of Denmark as an 80 turbine off-shore windfarm, but 3 - 12 - 20 strong farms where everywhere. Perhaps that's where we've gone wrong in the UK - we try and put turbines out of sight on lovely hills rather than just park them outside of every village the way the Danes and Germans appear to do. Anyway Denmark is well recommended for a family holiday - check out Novasol for details.

Rive cathedral tower

And we never even went to Legoland!

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Katrina and Google Maps

Katrina Information Map

If you want to see the power of web based GIS applications take a look at this dynamic GIS bulletin board for the survivors of Katrina based on Google Maps.

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