Monthly Archives: May 2012

Christian/Atheist Turing Test at Unequally Yoked Round 2!


Get over to Unequally Yoked and start voting on the next round of Leah Libresco’s Christian/Atheist Turing Test.

Like the real Turing Test, where computers try to pass as human (but no humans try to pass as computers), the idea is for atheists to try to pass as Christians, and Christians to try to pass as atheists. Who knows the other’s worldview better? Who are better liars!? Who will win?

Last year I participated and I did fairly well, convincing both sides I was one of them, coming in 6th ranked for the Christian round (of 15) and 5th ranked for the atheist round (it helps to be pompous, so if you read my answers, keep in mind I was acting – don’t think I’m that big a jerk, please!) Last year was also a Christian blowout, with Christians taking 4 of the top 5 spots for impersonating atheists, and 3 of the top 5 spots for being believably Christian.

Three tests have already been posted
, so get over and vote soon! The world needs your skills to judge who is real and who is an impostor.

I find the psychology of the test fascinating, and it is great to see how people attempt not only to fully articulate their own worldview, or that of another, but also what strategies they use in order to appear authentic. The test is also really fun. Last year I was the “boring” atheist. But I think if I were to attempt again I would try to be more extreme; boring got me to be believable, but I want to win!


What Kind of a World for Our Children?

Earth as the “Blue Marble” of Apollo 11, from NASA (via Wikipedia).

My father is a quiet man. Very smart, but not exactly philosophical. I once asked him if he had any wisdom to share with me after his long life and he said (in sum) “no.”

Which is why something he said to me many years before strikes me as all the more important. He said “I don’t think we’re leaving you a world as good as the one we were given.”

When you are a little kid that doesn’t really make sense. The world changes? The world gets better and worse? Why is it worse now? What happened to make it worse?

Now that I’m an adult it unfortunately makes perfect sense. Continue reading

Brian’s Links 18 May 2012: Medicine, Crime, Climate Change, and Creatures

A cute little jumping robot.

This US wind map is really cool.

Conservation in the Age of Man – its not about protecting the wild anymore – its more like gardening… and using nature to protect people. An interesting shift in philosophy from the Nature Conservancy.

Mind over matter: paralyzed patients moving robotic arms with only their minds.  In the video, a locked-in patient uses her mind via the robotic arm to reach for her coffee and drink it for the first time in 15 years.

First it’s shocking and horrible (UC Davis) and then it’s normal, barely even news. From last month. Didn’t get enough coverage.

How to deal with psychopaths, using Girardian theory.  I especially like the “gray rock” strategy.

Brain injuries are very bad things. In this new study deceased US military veterans were autopsied and found to have similar brain damage to athletes such as football players.

This story is grotesquely unjust. An elderly man accidentally sets off his medic alarm. Cops come to man’s home.  He informs them it was an accident. Cops shoot man dead. Can you guess the victim’s skin color?

The dollar is being slowly, intentionally, steadily devalued, as anyone who has watched gas or gold (or any) prices might suspect. No conspiracy, just economics – its the best the Fed thinks they can do to keep the monetary system stable.

Yes, your dog does need plastic surgery. No, the starving children don’t need food.

Three fun climate-change-related links.  One on Washington D.C.’s warmest winter ever (I was there in late December, and it was quite pleasant), another on the record-breakingly warm March, and the last imagining San Francisco as an island after the sea level has risen. The time frame on SF Island is totally unrealistic (IPCC estimate is less than 3 feet in the next century, not 3 feet per year – see Wikipedia), but people like to imagine disasters.Interesting linked info too.

And one for any skeptics: the US military thinks climate change is real.

What bacteria can survive 1000 times more radiation than a human? Also known as Conan the Bacterium? Well Deinococcus radiodurans, of course. Luckily, its also friendly.

The RoboBonobo. Not only does it look freaky, it really just is. It’s basically an ape-controlled drone (well, humans are apes too… so it’s a non-human-ape-controlled drone…) armed with a squirt gun. Yeah, next we’ll have them invading and bombing foreign countries! Well, maybe we could just keep this one for fun, for now, at least.

Some very alien places on Earth. Very interesting pictures.

An enormously giant bunny. The world’s biggest. Bigger than small children. About four and a half feet and 50 pounds of bunny.

Lastly, happy bouncing cows.

Brian’s Links 12 May 2012: Science, Space, Cardinals, and Ennui

Robotic support brings freedom to paraplegics – Tek RMD. More really cool technology.

A Stanford scientist conducts an experiment on himself, producing “an integrative personal omics profile (iPOP) [that] combines cutting-edge scientific fields such as genomics (study of one’s DNA), metabolomics (study of metabolism), and proteomics (study of proteins).” And he discovers a link between viral infections and type-2 diabetes, among other things.

Elon Musk, billionaire founder of Paypal, Solar City, Tesla Motors, and Space X, wants to save the world. He wants to get humans off-planet, on Mars, to “back up the biosphere.” Sounds like a good idea to me. Here’s a fascinating interview from CBS’s 60 Minutes.

A “seed vault for culture.” From the folks at The Long Now Foundation.

Yes, there are even invasive plant species in Antarctica.

George Monbiot tells us what he really thinks about Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophy. Hint: it includes the word “psychopath.”

According to these guys women can be Catholic Cardinals. How interesting.

Panera restaurants make paying for food voluntary. And it works! At and USA Today.

The South Korean scientists who faked his human-cloning data is off to redeem his reputation. By trying to clone a Woolly Mammoth.

So the Galactic Empire in Star Wars has leadership troubles. The Sith really need to work on their “people skills.” Here’s how you can learn from their failures.

Grass fed cows! They still exist? Yes! And they can be environmentally friendly? Well, yes. Moo.

The NSA is watching you. And You. And you, and you, and you, and…

Okay, near the end of the links I try to be funny. Here’s research about sexually rejected fruit flies turning to alcohol to cheer themselves up. No joke! Gives a new meaning to “bar flies.”

Lastly, Henri, Cat of Ennui.

Two Amazing Innovations for Persons with Disabilities

Technology can do some amazing things, and today I came across two big stories.

For the first, imagine being both blind and deaf. How incredibly isolating. This glove cannot remove those burdens, but it does allow deafblind people to send and receive text messages, thus permitting communication with people who do not know the intricate signals necessary to communicate with deafblind persons. What a fantastic technology – this is what tech is all about.

(h/t to God and the Machine)

The second story is perhaps even more incredible: the restoration of sight to people who are blind.People are calling it a bionic eye, and, well… IT IS! It’s fantastic. The field of vision restored is miniscule (the size of a CD at arm’s length), but the proof of concept in this experimental implant is mind boggling. The chip turns light into nerve impulses. This is full neural-electronic interface, which, while it has been done before in various contexts, is becoming more and more effective and miniaturized.

In this video a prototype from 2008 is tested:

Now, this technology has potential for weirdness. With modification, the image, for example, could be fed to outsiders, not just the implantee’s optic nerve, so you could literally see through someone else’s eyes (this has been done before with cats). And the reverse, perhaps false signals could be put into the chip, or even messages written directly into neural patterns (talk about a personal text message). And the list could go on and on.

But for now, it is just plain amazing.