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We Are Legion (We Are Bob) February 18, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Books, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff.
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What happens when you take a slightly-brighter-than-average engineer (Bob) and give him immortality in a starship equipped with extremely advance prototyping machines, then  tell him to set up infrastructure for colonists to follow in a few decades?

In the fertile imagination of Dennis Taylor, Bob takes over guardianship of not only the whole human race but at least two other sentient species, invents FTL communication, planet-movers and nifty full-sense android bodies. It takes  quite a few decades, but Bob has made many. many clones of himself, and they all have all the time in, well the universe with which to foil the Evil Plans of man, machine and alien.

Well read by Ray Porter with excellent inflection and pacing, all three Bob books skip right along, neatly compressing the decades into digestible chunks and holding a listener’s attention well enough to keep me awake during six-hour drives that end at 2AM…like last night.[0]

The dialogue is interesting, the characters internally consistent and the technology descriptions are pretty darn good. Taylor is very obviously a sci-fi fan and geek, and we should all be glad for this: it lends credibility to his character’s engineering comments and descriptions of space, the choices of star systems (he apparently did some homework) to visit, and the tropes he chooses to infuse with credibility.

In the immortal words of Joe Bob Briggs, check it out.

 

[0] Goddamnit.

 

Teach Yourself Electricity and Electronics February 13, 2020

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by Stan Giblisco is a pretty good solid introduction to the very basics of electronics. An adult could run through a chapter a night while on vacation if his wife doesn’t talk too much (ahem). I’m technically inclined and I read for a living, so maybe that’s too ambitious for most folks? In any case, it’s a good grounding in the basics[0] with tests at various periods[1] to make sure the reading sinks in.

The trouble is, because I was on vacation, I didn’t apply any of the knowledge and so it’s fading fast (in all fairness to me, it was a year-long vacation).

What a re-volting[2] development. I’m going ohm.

 

 

[0] See what i did there?

[1] I almost said frequencies but that would be too poor a pun, so I resisted. I am reluctant to subject my readers to puns because of their strong capacity for reactance.

[2] OK, fine! One more.

 

Chrono-synclastic Infundibulum February 12, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Brilliant words, Photography, Toys.
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IMG_20170721_122016630_HDR.jpg

I texted this picture to my stepdaughter. She wrote back:

“Did it work???”

“Can’t tell; everything is still weird.”

 

NOTE: it’s funny how you can remember something as strange as “chrono-synclastic infundibulum” and spell it off the top of your head after having read it once in high school, nearly fifty years ago.

View from the back porch February 6, 2020

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Whale Skeleton in the Sahara January 29, 2020

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Wedding Photo January 28, 2020

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giraffe-officiates-at-wedding.jpg

I’m the tall one in the back.

Empress of Forever, by Max Gladstone January 21, 2020

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Empress of Forever, by Max Gladstone, read by Natalie Naudus is a delightful romp mostly because of the voice acting. Oh, the story is pretty good, too: tech billionaire becomes fugitive hunted by Empress of the Galaxy. Good enough for my twelve-year-old mind, certainly. But Natalie Naudus’ voice acting puts smarm and sarcasm into the character Zange (audiobook, so I don’t know the spelling), naivete into the voice of a hungry god, humility in the voice of a monk (Buddhist-derived, not Catholic) and chilling viciousness into the voice of the Empress. There’s reasonably-paced action and breathless hyperbole in descriptions[0] and an overarching gestalt of a galaxy composed partly of a computational cloud which gifts everyone with special abilities[1]…except our heroine, who is only[2] human.
Available on Amazon (no, really?) and at sfpl.org.

[0] Fun all by itself, if you are into that sort of thing.
[1] Dangerous abilities.
[2] By which I mean, merely.

The Wayfarers Series, by Becky Chambers January 13, 2020

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A series of three novels, the Wayfarers starts with Hugo-winning The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and extends to two equally charming sequels, A Close and Common Orbit and Record of a Space-born Few.  The first is the one I want to tell you about, because it is a rare gem that shows all the attributes of a space adventure novel (difficult journey, pirates, armies in tense standoff, difficult crewmates, culture clash, sapient AI, star-crossed lovers, etc.) but tells enough of each character’s thoughts and feelings to establish the why of every (often terrible) action. 

This already remarkable accomplishment is even more interesting when the tone of the whole novel is so warm and friendly (and the shipmates so careful with each other’s feelings) that I felt caught up in their drama myself. when they wander into danger (here and there), I felt concern for the outcome. Suspension of disbelief apparently applies to novels as well as performances.

The other two novels share these attributes, and I recommend them also. Available at Amazon (of course), and as audiobooks from sfpl.org.

The March of Progress January 6, 2020

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Charmin has new toilet paper technology debuting at CES.

It’s years too late:

Reddit Loves Cats January 1, 2020

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I Used to Post Creative Cakes December 30, 2019

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not made by me, but found various places on the Web. Today I found this on Reddit.com and felt it a good time to renew my love of carbohydrates:

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Where I Work December 27, 2019

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we are a hard-workin’ bunch, let me tell you:

A.I. and Gene Regulation December 27, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Brain, Geek Stuff, Mutants, Science.
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Understanding gene regulation is a bitch. Seriously, this is one of the thornier problems of science today and it is because the complexities of living cells, with the thousands of proteins in each cell, make tracing a single protein’s regulation just as complex as hell. Smart guys Tareen and Kinney have figured out a way for AI to interpret (some) interactions using massively-parallel reporter assays to figure out the biophysical basis for (some) gene regulation…which is more than we have had heretofore. They did this by assigning nodes and weights with explicit physiochemical interpretations. This last is the important bit; many AI algorithms are very difficult to interpret, so the underlying “logic” is impenetrable to humans.  The smart guys made many of the decisions explicit, so they would be better able to understand the “logic” by which the characterizations were derived.

 

 

Homework: Biophysical models of cis-regulation as interpretable neural networks, Ammar Tareen, Justin B. Kinney BioRxiv,

Nanowired Brain-like Functions December 25, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brain, Mutants, Science.
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Nation Institute of Material Science geeks have created a complex metallic nanowire structure that mimics brain-like functions, such as memorization, learning, forgetting, becoming alert and returning to calm.

"figure: (a) Micrograph of the neuromorphic network fabricated by this research team. The network contains of numerous junctions between nanowires, which operate as synaptic elements. (b) A Human brain and one of its neuronal networks." Image

This indicates that self-organizing structures can be built from random arrangements of conducting fibers. This suggests that many different types of brain-like activity can be induced from stuff other than the kind of materials from which you and I are made.
Intelligent life on other worlds might be made of very different stuff indeed.

 

Homework: “Emergent dynamics of neuromorphic nanowire networks” by Adrian Diaz-Alvarez, Rintaro Higuchi, Paula Sanz-Leon, Ido Marcus, Yoshitaka Shingaya, Adam Z. Stieg, James K. Gimzewski, Zdenka Kuncic and Tomonobu Nakayama, 17 October 2019, Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-51330-6

Chemistry Class Graduation Photo December 24, 2019

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Multi-dimensional Blood Testing and A.I. December 23, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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I suggested long ago that sufficiently-comprehensive blood tests could effectively predict a person’s risk of developing a broad array of different diseases. We would use artificial intelligence to find patterns of varying concentrations of blood proteins to predict and/or diagnose disease. Someone much better funded than me has a newly developed platform called SomaScan which can scan five thousand individual proteins from a single blood sample.

In a new study testing the efficacy of predicting 11 different health indicators using these protein expression patterns some models were much more effective than others, such as the protein expression model predicting percentage body fat. The cardiovascular risk model was cited as only modestly predictive, however, the researchers do suggest the protein-pattern-based system is generally more convenient, and cheaper, than many traditional tests currently available for evaluating health conditions.

The study in Nature Medicine was funded by SomaLogic which owns SomaScan, so grain of salt, people. But it’s exciting to see that someone is actually looking into what I feel will be the method of the future for maximizing health…also, the study used ~85 million protein measurements in 16,894 participants, which is a pretty damn good sample size.  Plenty of data there for an A.I. to examine for hidden relationships.

Homework:

Plasma protein patterns as comprehensive indicators of health, Nature Medicine, Stephen A. Williams, Mika Kivimaki, Claudia Langenberg, Aroon D. Hingorani, J. P. Casas, Claude Bouchard, Christian Jonasson, Mark A. Sarzynski, Martin J. Shipley, Leigh Alexander, Jessica Ash, Tim Bauer, Jessica Chadwick, Gargi Datta, Robert Kirk DeLisle, Yolanda Hagar, Michael Hinterberg, Rachel Ostroff, Sophie Weiss, Peter Ganz & Nicholas J. Wareham

The Everything Box, by Richard Kadrey December 23, 2019

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The Everything Box, by Richard Kadrey is a macguffin chase done in neo-noir style with snappy dialogue and pretty unique characters..except they are all kind of snappy dialoguers. That’s a minor quibble and you don’t even notice it as the book hums along with charm, wit, pathos and a bit of terror tossed in for fun. The macguffin is stolen not once, not twice, not three times but four (tying with The Hot Rock’s record for ripped-off treasure). Problem is, this particular macguffin is an apocalypse engine lost by an angel right after The Flood, and being hunted by, well, everyone: gangsters, a fake Russian, two rival demon cults, The Government and probably others I have forgotten[0]. Along the way the burglar (our hero) meets, fights, partners with or robs a Caspar Gutman sort of character, a dragon, thousands of enchanted spiders, a frightened ghost, two mind-clouding women, a magical locksmith, the deedholder to Earth, the angel who lost the macguffin in the first place, vampires, werewolves, tentacle monsters from hell (by which I mean The Government), demonic pets, a revenant and a particularly unpleasant government operative.[1]

Very entertaining read, and admirably read as audiobook. The narrator gets the dialogue just right.

At Amazon, but I got mine at sfpl.org.

 

[0] Just kidding.  I think that’s all of them.

[1] I am not at all sure I mentioned everybody.

Two-headed Bearded Dragon December 23, 2019

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Enchanting Furby Toy Hack December 20, 2019

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I do wish I had thought of this.

Sacre Blue, by Christopher Moore December 19, 2019

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Sacré Bleu is the story of a muse, her enslaver, several Impressionist painters, multiple murders, syphilis, spelunkery, immortality, immolation and the possibly gratuitous use of the word “penis”. As with all Christopher Moore works, it has a hint of mythology which forms the center of the narrative but take off quickly from such staid constraints to a flighty soufflé featuring Henri Toulouse-Latrec as a detective hunting an impossibly ancient shaman (immolation comes into play here).

It’s hilarious. Amazon, or sfpl.org