Posts tagged: General Science

The Third Replicator

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By , July 31, 2009 2:19 pm

New Scientist has an interesting article suggesting that beyond genes and memes, that information in computers, the “Ghost in the Machine” if you will is now a replicator. Pointing to the way that software is now able to act in an autonomous manner without the aid of a human, and often the I/O for one system isn’t even for human consumption, rather for another computer.

It is an interesting idea – genes act through interacting elements at the molecular and cellular level to the point that they “explode” and are able to create systems that handle memes. Meme systems are able to interact and out complete, remix and replicate just as genes can, but what about this new thing? Demes, let’s call them (if it sticks, I said it first), digital genes, are a product of genes and memes it would seem. Or are they?

At first I would think that demes are just an extension of memes, but the fact is that they have  a separate carrier, and it just so happens that memes can be carried along with demes, but there are agents out there that cannot process the meme (they might try), but they can process the deme and depending on where the output goes, other agents, human or electronic can then take action. For instance, I am promoting certain memes with this blog, but it is sending out a feed that a machine can read and then analyze. That system could then say feed into another that is looking for a trend, that if spotted will increase the production of some item, all without any human memetic input beyond the initial data. If instead of a human entering information (memes), a sensor was doing the same thing (think RFID tags), then the entire process is demetic. Many big box stores are doing this now – items are purchased online or in store, inventoried are updated, new orders are placed and production is adapted to meet those orders with little if any outside input. The only thing that humans need to supply is raw material (stop thinking Matrix), but even than will soon happen in a demetic sense as we extend our reach to other worlds and resource exploration and extraction becomes automated.

Interesting ideas… and certainly something interesting to think about as we continually enter a brave new world.

Waterloo to be Hawking’s “Second Research Home”

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By , November 27, 2008 5:42 pm

Earlier this year, the rumour mill was buzzing that Hawking would be heading to Canada to be part of the Perimeter Institute. Well today we found out more details behind that.

According to Hawking:

”I am honoured to accept the first Distinguished Research Chair at the Perimeter Institute,” Prof. Hawking said in a statement released Thursday. ”The Institute’s twin focus, on quantum theory and gravity, is very close to my heart and central to explaining the origin of the Universe.”

With tongue firmly in cheek, I just have to say that at least there is some distance between Waterloo and Toronto – otherwise, this might have given TO a boost to the “center of the Universe” ego. But this is certainly going to be a boost to Canadian science.

Name the next Rover

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By , November 25, 2008 9:41 pm

With Wall-E out there showing off the galaxy with the World Wide Telescope with MS, there is now another way that you can reach out and learn more about the world beyond our Blue Marble – NASA is offering the chance to name the next Rover for students in US K-12 schools.It would be cool if it was an international contest, but that might be for a future contest.

Aurora Watch – for Edmonton

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By , November 4, 2008 1:55 pm

If you live in the Edmonton area, this is a cool resource if you like to watch the dancing lights – esp if you want to be able to get some pictures of them.

Science 2.0 – Celebrating the formative art

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By , April 24, 2008 3:22 pm

SciAm has an interesting article about the idea of Science 2.0 and how it seems to be slow to emerge. They suggest that the reasons range from shifting researchers from an attitude of competition to one of collaboration (OMG!) and celebrating the formative nature of the Scientific ProcessTM and not worrying that these informal notes are going to be treated the same as peer reviewed work.

If you think about it, there is a reason why the notebooks of the great researchers of the past have been so valuable. These books show not only the final work, but how they got there, something that Web2.0 is/would be great for science. 

This matches up with what Johnny Lee was talking about in his talk. Get the information out there and start the conversations faster. This can have a secondary impact, just like online classwork and conference2.0, when there are strong connections made online, face to face time becomes far more productive. 

Popular Memes

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By , April 23, 2008 11:55 am

It is very dangerous when leaders, or those who would be leaders pick up on a popular meme. In this case, the connection between vaccines and Autism. 

My connection with Autism is via my wife’s classroom and with researchers that I worked with in Education. But even though my connection is peripheral, my interest in the possible causes of this spectrum “disorder” have more to do with marveling at how narrow “normal” really is. Afterall, there are people who, had they been born today, would have  been labelled and stuck in a closet… but that is another post for another day. 

Back to this one. I am really hoping that the US, via Oprah, McCarthy and now it seem all the Presidential candidates does not start to believe that there is a direct connection between vaccination and autism. There certainly is more work to be done and every effort should be made to find all possible connections, and not take the easy way out because “the starts” are saying it as well. This vaccine/autism meme is a dangerous one to propagate and it will come back to haunt us. 

New collider could swallow the Earth and neighboring objects…

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By , April 14, 2008 8:31 am

like a kid popping Skittles say critics of the new project at CERN, but according to Michelangelo L. Mangano, [the black hole] would be concentrated in a space thinner than a human hair. Any black hole would be so tiny that it wouldn’t be able to get its teeth around a bit of local chevre cheese, let alone the world. 

Even though it’s not entirely accurate and certainly a bit more than sensational, headlines like this at least get people curious about basic research, so at least if the journalism isn’t quite up to spec, some good results can still come of it. 

Colors determined by language

By , March 3, 2008 4:19 pm

Well add this to the raft of “things” that get filtered through language – color seems to have some connection to language processing. Just like the Inuit and their words for snow, we all seem to have bias for color. I remember hearing something similar to this a while ago in reference to people who live on the beach as well.

So what does this have to do with general teaching and learning? Well, color is one of those basic features of design that we assume can be taken for granted – with exceptions for those who are physically color blind – but I guess we can’t do that any more. There is now proof for linguistic blindness.

But language can lead to all manner of “blindness”, so this may be one of those places where contructivism and connectivism collide. When connected, we might be able to get around some of these blind spots by collecting interpretations from our networks. But in the end, when it comes time to internalize, constructivism is needed.  If a student can not build on their own experiences to interpret what is being presented, it is a much greater challenge to learn from that presentation and the connected mind can only help so much… unless one flukes out and finds the one person out there that can fill the gap by one means or another.

Planet X may be back

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By , March 2, 2008 12:06 pm

This time it may be 30-70% of Earth’s mass according to Japanese researchers. If it exists, it will certainly make things interesting in local astronomy again… but after what happened to poor Pluto, I wonder what fate might fall this rock.

American (perhaps North American) kids are not even close

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By , November 13, 2007 4:42 pm

According to a report released by SETDA and ISTE (summarized by THE), there are a number of points that should be addressed. I’ll comment on then as how I see Alberta and the U of A (in Science) might be handling this.

First:

Even if all students mastered core academic subjects, they still would be woefully underprepared to succeed in postsecondary institutions and workplaces, which increasingly value people who can use their knowledge to communicate, collaborate, analyze, create, innovate, and solve problems. Used comprehensively, technology helps students develop 21st century skills. (THE Pt. 1)

So what do these mean? In the first case, the paper calls on educators to teach technology and build technological fluency in students not just through direct instruction in a specific hardware or software, but through the integration of technology in other areas of learning. (THE Pt.3)

If this is the case, Alberta’s idea of integrating technology skills across the curriculum is on the right track,

Second:

Used comprehensively, technology supports new, research-based approaches and promising practices in teaching and learning. (THE Pt.2)

I don’t want to say that teachers are lazy, but few barely have the time to deal with the existing curriculum that they need to deal with, to say nothing of a paradigm shift. I know that many instructors might want to change, but they don’t have the time to commit to make the changes and many young teachers are being mentored by teachers who are not even interested in research based approaches to say nothing of technology.

If you put those two points alone together, you can start to see the essential issue. There is little motivation to integrate the way that it should be done. Over the weekend, I was watching part of the Mars Rising and the point was made that we need a project like Mars, to get young people exited about science again. Without it, we are going down a scary road as our world becomes increasingly reliant on science, but allows ignorance of the process by the masses who will ultimately vote or make decisions about where science goes. This part of the post gets off the rails a bit, but perhaps technology (via the multiple literacies ideas of the last post) might enlighten the Arts that can then fuel the Science – an idea from the A&S Symposium.

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