Archive for February, 2009

Ignore this post. ;)

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I just have to test out the WordPress app for my iPhone.

So..If you’re reading this…It works!

Wow! Freaky Fish

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Not much to say beyond wow! Take a look

I saw a still photo of this on Pharyngula a couple of days ago, but, somehow, the transparent part didn’t sink in until I saw this video.

Obama’s Elf

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OK, I promise not to let this degrade into a bunch of funny video’s I run across.  But you know how sometimes you see something that will forever change the way you perceive a thing in the future….

Now try not to laugh the next time you hear that song. 🙂

Brain Rules by John Medina

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Brain Rules by John Medina

Brain Rules by John Medina

For more information visit
Twelve rules that detail how to get optimum brain performance. It’s something to consider just how different work environments and schools might be if this research were seriously taken to heart. The author closes each chapter with just such suggestions, both for research and how work and school environments might be changed. It’s not particularly likely that you or I will see many of these, fairly radical, be applied.


Of course it’s not all “pie in the sky” look how much smarter we could be if we made all of these significant changes. There are plenty of practical implications to things that we can control. We can get more sleep. We can get regular exercise, etc. These sound like common advise, but the research results presented in this book drive home the significance of these practices to a degree that you might actually make changes.

Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life

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I really enjoyed this book. He does a nice job of bringing game theory to every day life. From cake-slicing to the prisoner’s dilemma. You won’t find magic solutions to arriving at a fair solution to every conflict. (So if you’re looking for a I slice, you pick solution for more complex conflicts, you won’t find it here.) Nevertheless, it’s quite interesting.

The Monty Hall Problem

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I’ve seen this discussed several times. The question is whether or not you should switch your decision after you pick a door and Monty shows you another door that was the wrong door. It really seems that the status of a door you didn’t pick couldn’t possibly have an impact on whether the door you did pick was the right door, and in a sense that’s true. But the argument is that you should switch (that switching is the better decision two thirds of the time. Here’s a clip from Numb3rs that gives a better explanation than my lame attempt here.

Convinced?? Me neither. So it just happened to be the right decision when he demonstrated it. I follow the math but I wasn’t so convinced. Then I read a comment on a blog about someone simulating it before they were convinced. Well, being a programmer, I figured that would be the best way to settle it for myself. So I threw the following ruby program together.

$switch = 0
$stay = 0

def play
  win = rand(3)-1
  doors = [:goat, :goat, :goat]
  doors[win] = :car
  pick = doors.slice!(rand(3)-1)
  $stay += 1 if pick == :car
  $switch += 1 unless pick == :car

3000.times {play} 

puts "switch=#{$switch}  stay=#{$stay}"

I was actually convinced by the process of just writing the code (without running it). When putting the code together, I realized that my first pick would be right 1 out of three times, but on the other 2 times, since one wrong choice was eliminated, I would always be right when I switched (for the 2 out of three times I guessed wrong initially). You may have to think about that a bit, since I’m not always very good at wording things like this.

Better yet… I also wrote a javascript version of the same simulation.

The simulation graphs how many times you win by staying versus how many times you win by switching.

Click here to simulate 3000 rounds

Here’s the code ( Unfortunately, it’s a bit harder to see the logic in the code since there’s so much code around presenting the results dynamically):

function randomDoor() {
    return Math.floor(Math.random() * 3);
function oneRound() {
    doors = ['lose', 'lose', 'lose']
    doors[randomDoor()] = 'win'
    if (doors[[randomDoor()]] == 'win') {
    } else {
    div = document.getElementById('doorResults');
    if (change > 0)
    stayWidth = 300 * (stay / (stay + change));
    stayWidth = 300;
    changeWidth = 300 - stayWidth;
    div.innerHTML = '<table cellspacing="0" width="300">' +
    '<tr height="20">' +
    '<td width="' + stayWidth +
    '" bgcolor="#66B">Stay ' + stay + '</td>' +
    '<td width="' + changeWidth +
    '" bgcolor="#fff"/></tr></table>' +
    '<table cellspacing="0" width="300">' +
    '<tr height="20">' +
    '<td width="' + changeWidth +
    '" bgcolor="#6b6">Change ' + change + '</td>' +
    '<td width="' + stayWidth +
    '" bgcolor="#fff"/></tr></table>';
    if (rounds == 3000) {
function simulateDoors() {
    stay = 0;
    change = 0
    rounds = 0
    playInterval = window.setInterval(oneRound, 10);

Developing Intelligence : The Science of Mind-Reading: SVMs Extract Intentions from Neural Activity video

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(note: I just noticed that this entry that I wrote on January 12th was never published, so… better late than never)
Developing Intelligence : The Science of Mind-Reading: SVMs Extract Intentions from Neural Activity video.

I recently posted a blog about scientist reading what a person was seeing by watching brain activity. That was amazing, but, as I recall, they had to calibrate to each individual. In this post referencing a 60 Minutes segment, we see a computer using fMRI to determine what a person was thinking about without calibration. Lot’s more interesting stuff beyond that.

One wrong step — No Marathon

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I’ve been training the past couple of months to run the Snickers Marathon in Albany Georgia. In spite of coming down sick and fighting a nagging cough, I was doing reasonably well. Then, on my morning run this Tuesday, I caught the side of the pavement wrong with my left foot and rotated my ankle. I guess I landed on the outside of my foot, though it felt more like I landed on the top of my foot. Over the past couple of years, I’ve done this a couple of times and it always scares me that I’ll sprain my ankle. So, I kept running but was checking out how my ankle felt. It seemed OK, but my foot did not feel so well. I tried to “run through it” for maybe a quarter mile, but decided that it just didn’t feel right, and since I had another seven and a half miles for my scheduled distance, I reluctantly decided I better take it easy, head home and get it checked out.

It appears that was the right decision. I went to the doctor, and the x-ray showed that I had a fracture of the 5th metatarsal. Diagnosis: wear stupid looking shoe and no running for at least 6 to 8 weeks.

Since the marathon is three weeks from today… that’s it for a marathon this year.

If you run marathons, or do any similar activity requiring a lot of training in preparation, you probably know how demoralizing this is.

Oh well…..

Computer Tan

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So, a theme here is passing on things that make you go “huh?”.  It may be hard to top this for some time.  Apparently, they’re quite serious, and there’s an iPhone version in the works (wow!).  I can’t really rule out that it’s some sort of spoof, but it looks like they are more than happy to take orders, so I’ll assume it’s “real”.

Computer Tan.

The mental images conjured up of people trying to use this product for a complete tan, are so humorous, as to fall into “you can’t make this stuff up” category.

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