Forget driving or taking the bus, travel by jet pack instead

Thursday, 5 March, 2015

How’s your fear of heights? Travel by way of personal jet pack seems to be drawing ever closer. The P12, for example, as manufactured by the Martin Aircraft Company, reaches an altitude of almost one thousand metres, so not that far above the ground, yet high enough to circumvent frustrating peak-hour traffic.

It may not be as small as some of us might have envisioned personal jet packs to be, but the P12 looks like it will still stow away conveniently away in a corner of the garage. Commutes of the future may be about to become a whole more interesting…

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Here’s what might happen when you apply for work at Apple

Thursday, 5 March, 2015

“We don’t waste time with the dumb”… well, I’m glad we clarified that from the get go. Brighton based UX and UI designer Luis Abreu describes his perspective of Apple’s recruitment process, when he was recently considering taking a role with the US technology company.

3 weeks after speaking for a total of 2 hours with possible future team members, I was invited for a new round of onsite interviews at the Apple Headquarters. Due to thanksgiving, workload, and holidays we ended up scheduling this new round of interviews for the second week of January 2015. I was given a link to Apple Travel and freedom to book a return flight and 3 nights accommodation at a hotel near the Apple HQ.

An interesting read, especially if you’re thinking of working one day for a large, multinational, tech company.

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So much for “doctor” and patient confidentiality online…

Tuesday, 3 March, 2015

Are you hitting the search engines looking for information about an illness you’ve – erroneously more than likely – diagnosed yourself with, based on material you’ve discovered by way of the same search engines?

It might be an idea to stop, and not just because you may have misinformed yourself, but on account of the apparent levels of surveillance such look-ups are subject to:

But an astonishing number of the pages we visit to learn about private health concerns – confidentially, we assume – are tracking our queries, sending the sensitive data to third party corporations, even shipping the information directly to the same brokers who monitor our credit scores. It’s happening for profit, for an “improved user experience,” and because developers have flocked to “free” plugins and tools provided by data-vacuuming companies.

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How long would we last without tools, if they were all somehow lost?

Monday, 2 March, 2015

A library full of books to help people rebuild civilisation, should the need arise, is one thing, but books may not be much use if we were without tools, or what may seem to us now, basic items of technology. Indeed, people may not last very long at all, a matter of mere days possibly.

This may come as a shock to those people – nearly always wealthy, well-educated, and comfortable – who see themselves as “all natural” or “anti-technology.” Typically, their first objection to the thought experiment is that, if any of this was true, then we would not be here, because our ancestors would have died. If they could survive without tools, why can’t we? The answer to that is simple if surprising: our pre-technology ancestors were from a different species. They had big teeth, strong jaws, small brains, moved mainly on four limbs, and were covered in fur. After them came our more recent ancestors, humans but not homo sapiens, that used primitive tools that eventually changed their bodies. Those ancestors gradually evolved into us.

A post apocalyptic world minus tools and equipment is an unsettling thought to say the least. In addition to the proposed library, maybe a store of tools should also be established?

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A library full of books to help with the rebuilding of civilisation

Monday, 2 March, 2015

If resources were severely restricted, those who might one day find themselves, for whatever reason, having to rebuild the Earth’s civilisations, might have to rely on single sentence snippets of information as starting points. I’m not sure how much that would actually give anyone to work with though.

If it were possible though to preserve a number of books, somehow keep them somewhere safe, and out of the way of whatever brings down today’s civilisations, what titles should such a library, or depository, contain?

Music producer Brian Eno, writer and blogger Maria Popova, and Wired magazine co-founder Kevin Kelly, among others, have been on the case, and suggested titles that could constitute a section of a library to be called the Manual for Civilization, that would house such a collection of books.

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If extraterrestrials invade, how much warning might there be?

Friday, 27 February, 2015

On the off chance you had been wondering about this very matter… a Slashdot discussion regarding the Earth’s distant early warning capabilities, as it were, if such a term is even applicable, and just how effective it might be:

My question is how good are we at the moment in detecting an alien ship/fleet that jumps into our solar system. Do we have radio dishes around the globe such that we can detect objects in space in all longitude and latitude degrees? I know we have dishes pointing to the skies but how far can they reach? Do we have blindspots perhaps on the poles? I also wonder if our current means, ie radio signals, are relatively easy to be compromised with our current stealth technology? To formulate it in more sci-fi terms, how large is our outer space detection grid, and what kind of time window can they give us?

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Once a computer passes the Turing test, is it time for a new test?

Wednesday, 25 February, 2015

The Turing Test, named for British computer scientist Alan Turing, in essence, tests a computer’s ability to pass itself off as a human. For instance, it could be that the… person you’ve been engaged in an email dialogue with for weeks – and who you’ve never met of course – in fact turns out to be a rather clever bot.

Fooling a human into thinking a computer may be human however, no longer appears to be sufficient test of a smart bot’s mettle it seems, as there are now calls to replace the test with something a little more challenging

A plan is afoot to replace the Turing test as a measure of a computer’s ability to think. The idea is for an annual or bi-annual Turing Championship consisting of three to five different challenging tasks. A recent workshop at the 2015 AAAI Conference of Artificial Intelligence was chaired by Gary Marcus, a professor of psychology at New York University. His opinion, and one that we share is that the Turing Test had reached its expiry date.

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Anyone care for some laboratory grade peanut butter?

Monday, 23 February, 2015

If you’re a scientist running tests and experiments on peanut butter – and after all the cake and watermelon, it is really just another chemical compound – you might find yourself paying top dollar to obtain the laboratory grade stuff… as in US $671, for a jar similar in size to what you see on supermarket shelves.

This peanut butter isn’t actually intended for your mouth (rude, I know), but to be fed into laboratory gadgets like gas chromatographs and mass spectrometers. Smart people then use it to establish an industry-wide standard to which similar food products can be compared. The high price has nothing to do with taste or quality, but simply reflects all the scientist-hours that went into its making.

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Programmer proverbs that all of us can live by

Thursday, 19 February, 2015

The first symptom of stagnation is preference, by Futurice

Not just for programmers, I don’t think, these programmer proverbs, from Finnish software development company Futurice.

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The secret life of machines, and other things, illustrated

Tuesday, 17 February, 2015

An illustrated guide to how things, many things, work, things such as fax machines, cars, electric lights, central heating systems, photocopiers, and my personal favourite place/object ever, offices, by Tim Hunkin.

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