Quick links -augmented reality articles

 A quick write-up before I go off to work/last minute shopping

I’ve been really into tumblr lately. Tumblr+twitter had been my medium of choice for past month or two. 

I want you to check out two links I put up at my tumblr on the subject of augmented reality. 

http://bookhling.tumblr.com/post/66220823/books-infused-with-augmented-reality-illustrations

http://bookhling.tumblr.com/post/66220638/augmented-reality-graffiti-heres-a-cool-idea  (((this one’s really amazing)))

Follow up post when I get back home later.

all-nighty

Part of being an adult is pulling an all-nighter, and then getting paid for it. You see, kids pull all-nighters all the time on ridiculously stringent schedule, but they (usually) don’t get paid. Ah the sweet innocence of the lost days.

I just took a relaxing stretch in the living room, with all the lights off and only the monitor of my trusty laptop blinking at intermittent intervals in the study while crunching numbers with the Mathematica and running some minimal cellular automata written in python.

Of course, I had the obligatory glass of alcohol in my hand. A cheap, mild merlot. What is a night without a decent drink?

As I lay myself on the sofa in the dark, my eyes adjusted to the darkness, with remarkable haste I should add, since I’ve been staring at a full-brightness LED screen for past five hours straight.

For a moment I thought I was standing on the edge of a skyscraper in Tokyo. A trick of the tired vision.
You see, my living room, for all its tidy appearance (I like to keep things organized), is filled and stacked to the brims with electronic gadgets ranging from draft-N wireless router to media center laptop I have cabled to external HD and a HDTV. I didn’t notice it before with the light on, but the whole room is apparently dotted with constantly blinking LED diodes embedded into the electronics.

Distantly blinking lights of green, red, orange and blue, all around the dark rectangular and squarish masses.

It seems that I’ve been unwittingly creating a skyline within my own living room.

P.S. I found another web-augmentation to play around with. The good thing about this particular service? I don’t have to do anything to it. I’m just syndicating all the existing input-services to a central location, so that bits and pieces of myself can permeate the web further. Have you ever searched for Bookhling on the Google?

http://bookhling.swurl.com/

Augmentation

I’ve had a chance to encounter a service on the web called ‘tumblr.’ So far I like it.

Tumblr is a service that’s somewhere in between the constant microbursts of the twitter and full-scale blogging of the wordpress. Only more modern, not in sense of any aesthetic faux pas, but in sense of integration with the user, like being able to post animation/picture directly from one’s cell phone, rssing different services on the web and etc… More media centric friendfeed would also be a reasonably accurate description of the Tumblr service.

While I am somewhat tired of such deluge of ‘web 2.0’ applications that are practically everywhere these days, I do feel that the whole experience is a positive one. Some people might argue that broadcasting one’s own thoughts and lives are somehow ‘arrogant’ or something such because no one would care about their lives in the first place anyway… Well people who argue that point must not have many friends. 😛

Seriously though, I do not see services like twitter and Tumblr as a channel to reach out to people. Rather, such web applications are augmentations of modern human mind, something physical technology is hard pressed to catch up to. Augmentations of memories and visions one would encounter in the daily life, recording bit and pieces of ‘experiences’ that are separate from carefully mediated thoughts that permeate the decent portion of the web these days…

A rough continuum created to fill the vacuum left by the lack of physical technology of memories and experiences.

And when you tinker around with one of those services, you are tinkering with an augmentation service for your mind itself, albeit in crudely executed form that requires multiple intermediaries.

It is interesting how then the user’s lives get increasingly intermingled with the web, as the experience of the living stands next to the fantastic shapes and movements scrounged from the remotest corners of the infosphere.

A Note: Propagation of Learning

I’ve finished reading Neal Stephenson’s Anathem some days ago. As is usual with all his works so far, I enjoyed it immensely. This is the kind of book that grips your attention and never let it go, the sort of reading experience that many people don’t get to enjoy very often past a certain age. Other than some technicality like how stable elements from one universe can remain stable even in another universe (and if it is because the physical laws are the same, what caused those elements to be different enough to be incompatible with life forms in another universe) that keeps on nagging at the back of my mind, I see no reason to criticize the book in any way. Of course, Neal Stephenson won’t be winning Nobel prize for writing the Anathem, but he never meant for it to be that kind of work, did he?

The premises of Anathem is obviously reflective of that of the current world we live in, notably the ubiquity and evanescence of information. The fact that most people lack learning of significant depth (which isn’t really all that much of a change from any other time in history) while becoming increasingly irreverent of the devotion to learning itself is a trait of the modern world frequently discussed in variety of media. Anathem also devotes quite a number of pages to discussion of the issue, and I hit upon a simple idea while thinking about a section on dangers of unintentional misinformation born through insubstantial learning.

In conventional process of teaching and learning, an individual opts to become a node of a degree of knowledge. The individual-node then connects with other individuals of varying degrees of learning and transmit his/her learning to those individuals in a process reminiscent of propagation of thermodynamic equilibrium. Currently the system of public knowledge-the web-is like an ever expanding vacuum. Lack of reliable sources of data and knowledge combined with abundance of random bits of knowledge that remain nonetheless incoherent and worthless in light of a greater system of thought is the symptom of such a vacuum. Maybe this symptom can be alleviated once the academic sector of the knowledge network begins to open its data to the world at large? Maybe the web itself can become a coherent learning environment through steady injection of respectable nodes of knowledge that expands along with the noise of the internet vacuum. I believe we already have the beginnings of the groundwork for such a project in the guise of openscience/science 2.0. If the openscience movement remains unhampered by the increasing haranguing of special interest groups and economic fundamentalists, we might be able to observe a true renaissance of human learning some time in the future that makes current advances in human network and information technologies pale in comparison.

Support LHC, and the Long Now event

There are two big events from today to tomorrow, one of them truly big in the sense of its possible impact on humanity and the sciences, and the other one big in the sense that it is a release celebration of a book by one of my favorite authors hosted by one of the more interesting groups around today. Both of them will be on the net through live webcast, so anyone interested should set the alarm bells on their clocks today.

The first and the most important is the upcoming live webcast of CERN lab LHC first beam. The Large Hadron Collider went though so much drama and uncertainty (pun intended) from inception to its recent power-up, this event will be quite emotional for the people who worked on the project as well as the large portions of the members of scientific community at large (and there are lot of them, I assure you). The first *beaming* of the tens of kilometers large apparatus is set to begin at 10th September 2008 9am CEST (GMT+2), which roughly translates into around 10th of September 3am EST in NYC. Considering that the technical and scientific magnitude devoted to this project likely dwarfs that spent for building the Great Wall, it would be tragic for anyone even remotely interested in the advances of sciences to miss this significant event. I know I will be up and about in the night, despite the fact that I have early workday tomorrow. It is worth the anguish of a day without sleep I say! So please remember to make a ruckus and wake up members of your family in support of the sciences when the beam goes off. (Fermilab in U.S. is hosting a pajama party in honor of the event, though the registration is closed I am sorry to say)

The second even is the release party for the book Anathem by Neal Stephenson, hosted by the Long Now foundation. While Neal Stephenson might not be the greatest writer alive, he is certainly one of the most interesting. I preordered my copy from Amazon in a heartbeat when I heard that he was set on publishing a new book after a long period of inactivity. The Long Now foundation itself sounds as interesting as the man himself, focused around the concept/building of millennial clock. Those people should be well worth checking out if you are interested in humane pursuits that stretches beyond mere decades or centuries. I personally find such devotion to long-term pursuits to be very attractive in this day and age where vast majority of information seem to be relegated to the role of a junk food.  Since the basic premise of the Anathem itself revolves around the millennial clock concept, the Long Now foundation is throwing a party of sorts in celebration of the release of them book, with some readings and performances that will be streamed through a live webcast at the Long Now website. The webcast is set to begin on 9th September at 7pm PST, so I guess it will be around 10pm EST in NYC (interestingly enough, the year is written as 02008 on the Long Now website. Maybe we should all begin adding zeros in front of our year marks from now on).

P.S. There is a teaser stream running at the LHC first-beam webcast site describing what they are doing at CERN. For some reason I can not stop thinking about the background music they used in the stream.

Wordie=Not too wordy.

A little update on the state of my life first. I have been working on something that might be awesome for the io9 madscience contest. Although I am approaching the contest through a sort of team-based brainstorming and responsibility sharing method, I have become increasingly aware of my limited understanding of the molecular biology and genomics, so there are a whole lot of things I need to brush up on before the contest deadline of August 25 midnight PST. So no blog posts about nothing for a while, folks.  I would like to take advantage of this moment to urge anyone still not aware of the awesome coolness that is the io9 madscience contest on synthetic biology to get cracking for that secret mad science idea you have been hoarding to yourself, and drag all your friends and families with you into participating.

Despite the busy lifestyle I lead between the study for all the crazy exams and the field of synthetic biology, I also manage to surf the web and fish out interesting websites… Which might suggest that I am not actually busy but I assure you that I am nearly numb from all the busy-ness that is my life. Eating fast and sleeping less does wonders for time micromanagement-on-the-go. Anyway, I came across this website, wordie during one of my excursion around the Internet. It is one of the many web 2.0 based sites we see popping up all around these days, with emphasis on entering and making lists of words, while sharing those lists and favoriting other peoples lists and words… Basically a web 2.0 community website devoted to the pursuit of lexicographical side of the world. The feeling and layout of the website reminded me of the eponymous everything2 for some odd reason… And I believe that the spirit and purpose of the website is not very far from some of the more obvious characteristics of the everything2 as well. Which is a good thing.

I was rather surprised to find out that the *words* I could enter into the website database were not necessarily limited to words in dictionaries, or words in any form, actually. One of the most commented on words at the wordie website at the moment is *shaken baby syndrome* which is quite clearly something you will not find in any dictionary that came off the printing press. There are a number of words in foreign language, like Chinese (though such are few at the moment, who knows what will happen in the future?), with the function to make diverse lists and being able to favorite words I especially like being some of the more notable, and welcomed features.

What I especially love about the wordie webpage is its design. Just white background and black letters, with the fonts I find attractive for some odd reason. I think the wordie blog Errata is especially representative of the minimalist aesthetics underlying the design of the main wordie webpage. It is simple, it gets the point across, it is easy to access using variety of Internet-enabled devices, and the service as a whole seem to integrate well with other Internet/communication services, which I admit is a work-in-progress but shows great potential nonetheless. Sometimes people underestimate what can be done with simple arrangement of black things on white spaces and certain choices of fonts.

I like what I have seen so far of the wordie. I think this is a service I see myself using frequently for a long time, whether it be entering an interesting word I found, or tagging and commenting numerous words already present in the webpage. If you have a minute or two to spare, maybe you might want to give it s try as well. Who knows, maybe it will even increase your vocabulary.

Without borders

I happened to stumble upon this article about a program called scientists without borders. It’s basically a web 2.0 project much like jove, but with focus on interactivity and network building for scientist around the world with goal of negating some of the more significant effects of brain drain across the globe rather than sharing physical data or research protocols. Wonderful stuff, somewhat of expected and perhaps even redundant with all the ‘community’ sites aimed at various strata of the world popping up all over the place, but still it’s nice to see that someone in this world noticed the negative effects of professional brain drain and is attempting to do something about it (I’m looking at you, United Nations). Perhaps this program can also work in favor of certain people of professional learning scraping dishes in remoter corners of the globe simply due to the problems of accessibility, rather than lack of talent or diligence. Such waste of men/womenpower always bothered me.

The problem of brain drain is a serious issue. It had been as long as anyone can remember. However, just like the field of synthetic biology which, despite being of opensource nature (reflecting the roots of the movement based on informations technology), can’t establish itself without significant industrial presence of genome synthesizing and computerization facilities, science utilizing web 2.0 concept itself won’t work well without some sort of physical international distribution network that would make it possible for remoter corners of the globe to have access to the more sophisticated laboratories and equipments available in richer nations.

Application of the web 2.0 and related human network philosophy (…engineering?) ethos is only beginning, of course. What we see right now will not even remotely be close to what we will see in the future, and all I can say at the moment regarding the matter are mere speculations. However, am I too far gone in predicting that in the future the science community might be able to reap the benefits of an international laboratory that does the lab work ‘contracted’ from scientists around the globe regardless of nationality and location?