How fast is the speed of light, and other assorted links

Friday, 18 September, 2015

If you have a lazy forty-five minutes then check out this animation portraying the journey of a photon of light from the Sun, its origin point, out to the orbit of Jupiter, by Alphonse Swinehart. Forty-five minutes, that’s how long it takes, travelling at the speed of light.

Light speed may be the fastest at which any object can travel in the universe, but it doesn’t seem the least bit speedy here. Until you appreciate the distances being covered, and see how quickly the planets whip by as you move outwards passed them.

Sarcasm, “the lowest form of wit but the highest form of intelligence”, to quote Oscar Wilde… used at the right time, in the right measure, it can be quite effective:

Sarcasm has many uses, depending on the degree of sharpness. The most common is to allow someone to show a negative emotion but soften the blow with humor. “You can express anger but do it in a socially acceptable way,” says Roger Kreuz, a professor of psychology at the University of Memphis.

Introvert Freelance is a series of humorous comics by French freelance designer and illustrator Sow Ay, that explores the life of, you guessed it, an introvert freelance worker. Can’t this client just email me? Indeed…

Art installation by Jakub Hadrava

Keen to raise funds to go towards restoring their dilapidated medieval-era church in the Czech village of Lukova, residents turned to Czech artist Jakub Hadrava, in the hope he could find a way to entice more visitors to the area.

Hadrava promptly set about creating an installation made up of shrouded, ghost like figures, to occupy the church’s pews, an idea equal parts creepy, intriguing, and successful, judging by the influx of tourists to the church in recent times.

Ten percent of children aged between three and six display psychopathic traits, according to UNSW researcher Eva Kimonis, who is part of an international team that developed a diagnostic tool to help identify such children.

More than 200 children aged between three and six took part in the study, which found that 10 per cent showed callous and unemotional traits such as lacking remorse or empathy for the feelings of other people.

It is hoped that the tool will aid in picking out, and treating, children who may be at risk of engaging in criminal behaviour later in life.

Uncertainty… that unnerving feeling of not quite knowing what’s going to happen next. Is this something you thrive on, or does it keep you awake at night?

Research, or finding out what we can about an unknown situation, might help, but such fact finding is not always useful, as no two occurrences are necessarily the same. What is it they say? The only certainty is uncertainty…

Research may help reduce uncertainty, but it can never provide certainty. Research is an errorful process that peers into an obscure reality. Determining what is true is plagued by the problem of induction, which was recognised in antiquity by Pyrrhonian sceptic Sextus Empiricus. As British philosopher David Hume explains, it is a mistake to infer “that instances of which we have had no experience resemble those of which we have had experience”.

There’s no excuse to not use emojis now, following the recent addition of a middle finger, or flip it, emoji character. Do you think it will prove popular?

At last, a camera that will help us to take photos that are a little more unique… Camera Restricta, by way of several algorithms, powered by GPS and geo-tagging technologies, will determine how many other photos have been snapped at the same location in the past.

If a certain number of pictures have already been taken, the camera’s shutter will close up. Now it is that a smart-camera, or what?

It’s a hoary old chestnut isn’t it? The nation that McDonald’s restaurants have secret menus, and alternative dishes, that can be ordered only on request. Customers and staff were discussing the topic at a store I stopped at once on the Central Coast, with the conclusion being there was no such thing.

That doesn’t appear to be the opinion of head office though, who are quoted as saying that their restaurants do have “off-menu creations”. Seemingly you have to ask repeatedly though. Would you be up for that?

You heard right: McDonald’s has a selection of off-menu creations that don’t appear on our menu, but are available to anyone who asks. And we’re not talking a McGangbang or any other spurious and, frankly, offensive do-it-yourself creations that have been circulated on the Internet in recent years. There is a legitimate secret menu, scrawled on the back of a placemat by Ray Kroc himself in the late 1950s, that has remained buried under a missile silo in southern Illinois – until today!

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Jobs of the future, it’s all opportunity for creatives, entrepreneurs

Monday, 14 September, 2015

Robots and 3D printers potentially threaten millions of factory floor jobs globally. Self-service check out machines, or assisted check outs, as one local supermarket prefers to describe them, stand to wipe out a similar number of retail positions. It doesn’t end there. Even fast food restaurants are stepping up to the self-service plate.

And libraries, for anyone who still borrows such books. It’s a good thing then that your parents sent you to medical school to become a doctor or dentist, isn’t it? But don’t be so sure. The digital revolution has brought forth technology that is capable of detecting illnesses, with far greater accuracy, than a human medical professional can.

Thankfully that medical major was in ophthalmology, I mean how could a robot do an eye test properly? Robots don’t need to. Patients can now conduct eye tests from their laptops. And be issued a prescription, if need be. Just as well then there’s always that accounting minor to fall back on, right? Again, don’t go betting on it.

While it may take some time, decades possibly, for these technologies to finally usurp human workers, there is little doubt that the workplace is on the cusp of a major upheaval. Unsettling as the prospect is though, lifestyle changes occasioned by the rise of some of these very technologies, are actually creating different forms of work.

Photo by Axel Alfons Hartmann

Especially for those with creative and entrepreneurial mindsets. In addition to a need for more child care workers, and fitness instructors, those with specialist skills in the fields of social media, and photography, will become more sought after, as people become ever more mindful of how they present themselves online.

And this just when you thought, for instance, that camera equipped smartphones were reducing opportunities for photographers, research carried out on behalf of Australia’s National Broadband Network indicates that there has been a twenty-seven percent increase in demand for their services over the last ten years.

So the real change is going to be in the way we perceive the work we do, because it will still be work nonetheless. It will not be what we currently deem traditional, or normal, however. No longer will we be in the employ of a medium to large scale organisation, toiling away at tasks many of us find unfulfilling.

Leave that for the robots. Increasingly humans will be micro business owners, part of smaller creative partnerships, or service providers of some sort. There will be more entrepreneurs in the world. The transition of course will bring uncertainty and disorientation, but look beyond that, and there will be all sorts of opportunity.

(Photo by Axel Alfons Hartmann)

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3D glass printers, great for working with molten glass

Thursday, 3 September, 2015

Mediated Matter, a MIT Media Lab group, in conjunction with the MIT Glass Lab, have devised a 3D printer that works with molten glass, to produce an array of stunning textured glass vessels and structures.

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What might save jobs from automation? People skills…

Thursday, 3 September, 2015

Humans, fearing their jobs may soon be lost to automation and advances in technology, have one advantage over the machines attempting to render them unemployed… social skills, or the ability to interact with other people, something that robots struggle with, for now at least.

Social skills have become more important for workers because they provide a crucial advantage over a frequent competitor: technology. A 2013 paper by two Oxford researchers projected that nearly half of U.S. jobs would be vulnerable to automation within 20 years. But “computers aren’t good at simulating human interaction,” Deming said. That means a job as a manager or consultant is harder to automate, and the skills those jobs require become more valuable.

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Watch a pistol discharge in ultra slow motion

Thursday, 27 August, 2015

Since I like looking at super slowed down slow motion video, here’s footage, filmed at a rate of seventy-three thousand frames per second, of a pistol being fired. Incredible.

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Technology takes work away, technology gives work back?

Wednesday, 26 August, 2015

A study of British census data, dating back over one hundred and forty years, suggests that far from doing away with jobs, emerging technologies in fact give rise to new work opportunities.

A study by economists at the consultancy Deloitte seeks to shed new light on the relationship between jobs and the rise of technology by trawling through census data for England and Wales going back to 1871. Their conclusion is unremittingly cheerful: rather than destroying jobs, technology has been a “great job-creating machine”. Findings by Deloitte such as a fourfold rise in bar staff since the 1950s or a surge in the number of hairdressers this century suggest to the authors that technology has increased spending power, therefore creating new demand and new jobs.

That was then, this is now. With talk of white collar jobs under threat from artificially intelligent robots, will that trend hold up for the next one hundred and forty years?

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Who needs a computer to play solitaire anyway?

Wednesday, 19 August, 2015

Solitaire cards by Susan Kare

If, like me, you’re a Microsoft Windows user who has recently upgraded to version ten of the operating system, or OS, you may be surprised to learn that a fee is now payable before certain games, including the much loved Solitaire, that are bundled with the OS, can be accessed. Or, more to the point, accessed free of adverts.

Lucky for me I have an older machine – that I keep as a back up – running on a previous version of Windows, I can fire up when the desire to play a hand or two manifests itself.

Of course not everyone has that option, but now, thanks to Susan Kare, who designed the artwork for the Windows 3.0 version of Solitaire in 1990, there is now an alternative… an actual deck of cards, based on her pixelated Solitaire designs, can now be purchased. Still not free, but who would be worried?

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Roll up, roll up, for the drone circus

Tuesday, 11 August, 2015

Air2015 is a circus with a difference… it is a show without artists, a show without stages, and a show without circus animals. Instead, upwards of one hundred drones will perform all sorts of stunts at a show being staged in Amsterdam later this year.

Drones as entertainment, how’s that supposed to work then? Check out the preview, and see what you think.

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Will rhythmic gymnasts of the future be robots?

Friday, 7 August, 2015

By the looks of it, not even rhythmic gymnasts are safe from the technologies that stand to eliminate many of our jobs in the future… a robot going by the designation of DENSO VS-050S2, may displace them.

While DENSO VS-050S2’s moves are pretty good, I doubt robots are really a threat to this form of gymnastics though.

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Sending text messages is one thing, transmitting them another

Friday, 7 August, 2015

Text messages, just type and send, and they reach the recipient almost instantly. It’s that simple, thanks to the science behind the technology, that, needless to say, isn’t quite as straightforward. It’s fascinating though, and it all comes down to a beam of light. In a way, that is.

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