Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Lightman cometh

This week the Sunday Globe Arts and Ideas section ran an interview with Lightman, who recently wrote about the 25-some-top scientific miracles of the 20th Century. Among the types of discovery, he notes, is One kind that is just an accident! Penicillin is always the big [exemplar - templar] there. Of course you have to have developed receptivity to appreciate the value in the mistake. In Lightman’s words, “You have to have a prepared mind and be open.” XRays would have been discovered earlier had a certain decaying process not been overlooked. Anyway, according to Lightman,

First you work hard on a problem and have what I call a prepared mind. You've done your homework, you've defined the problem. Then you get stuck. But getting stuck is a very important part of the process. It's a good thing, not a bad thing. It catalyzes the creative imagination. There is a change in perspective, a shift in thinking, and you see the problem in a different way. That leads to discovery.

Besides an open and prepared mind, you need that shift in perspective. These so often come, it is noted, away from the lab. Scientists make “breakthroughs while driving, walking in the snow, and even dreaming.” It’s a tale oft told in the story of scientific miracles.

Alan Lightman will discuss ''The Great Scientific Breakthroughs of the 20th Century" at the Museum of Science in Boston at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec 2.. For more information, call 617-723-2500

Miracles of science - The Boston Globe
There are six or seven categoies of discovery, says Lightman, one of which is accident. Getting stuck is an important part of the process

Also noted – Fuzz tonics
History of fuzz –Tripod
Did Link Wray invent fuzz tone. Here’s one vote yeah.
Rock steady - The Boston Globe
Includes this on Hendirx: “Stylistically, Hendrix music is where the old embedded sadness and defiance of the blues meet a furious stream of information from the future -- ethereal static, new weapons and chemicals, technology's song to itself. Voodoo Child Harold!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Delivery for Welch

Came across V.Bush sideways at first. See related. This is how it played. More or less. Was done in days not long after discovering the tenets of Investigative Poetry. It wasnt about Bush but was about Welch.

Delivery for Welch

In the neighborhood
up where Doctor Bush lives
Everything is cozy
There’s green grass past the golf course
There’s stone walls
and trucks of spring water

Doctor Bush..he’s ancient ...
one of his neighbors is Robert Welch.

...so it goes on and describes Chris, the long-haired delivery boy from Belmont Groceries showing up with Post Toasties, potatoes, milk ... for the founder of the John Birch Society..

Maid looks at him and shuts the door.
It opens again
There’s a dude with a shoulder-holstered gun who informs him they
‘don’t appreciate
long haired delivery boys, '
especially with no advance
notice.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

In search of the lost Link


In studying musical feedback, ’ve looked mainly at Elmore James and Hound Dog Taylor on the one hand, and Jimi Hendrix and the Velvet Underground on the other. The key Hendrix song for our purposes has been Third Stone from the Sun.

When you listen to it, there are a whole host of musical influences on display..running about the full gamut. It is hard now to think of first hearing of the song.

But (thanks in no small part to the artist dropping hints) the probable first impression was this was a satire that mixed surf music with space invader music. So guitar influences you’d pick out would include Dick Dale and The Ventures... and Forbidden Planet. Could we throw in Duane Eddy and Link Wray?

[If you traipse back to Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt.. we come up to say Les Paul.. and T-Bone Walker ... and head out in two directions.. blues and country... and its not hard to get to Link Wray.. and rocknroll]

Link Wray died Nov. 5 at home in Copenhagen. Less interested in feedback than in raw distortion, for all I know, he is most revered for Rumble. I remember discovering the song [via WTOS oldies show in Milwaukee] about the same time I read that Peter Townsend put Link in the sainthood category. Rumble says Sisario in Times obit “remains a symbol of the stylized menace of rockabilly.”

Wray punctured his amp speaker to get the fuzz. Kinks approached music similarly. Wray in way created the power chord. He was a Shawnee, and quite an active chatterer, as a linked-to Fresh Air reprise episode shows.
Related
Famed guitarist Link Wray, Shawnee, dies as 76 - Indianz.com
Did not know he was Shawnee. He was a king of feedback and harmonic distortion. Just heard interview with him last week on American Routes. Cecelia sent me this link.

Remembering Guitarist Link Wray – FreshAir, NPR [audio]
Link Wray, 76, a Guitarist With Raw Rockabilly Sound, Dies – NYT

Friday, November 25, 2005

Early Boy of the Universal Mind

You come to a lot of things in very roundabout ways. You see the scientist-administrator in a Sunday serial. Then you sneak up on a real life person like Vannevar Bush.

A friend of mine used to deliver groceries to Bush [who lived in a Belmont, Mass. neighborhood; on the grocery route as well was Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society; there is another story there].

My friend told me that Dr. Bush had built the A-bomb, and I thought I knew enough about the A-bomb to know he was wrong. But still learning later, I discovered Bush’s very significant management role in the Manhattan project.

Gaunt cheeked. Pipe smoking. Greyng. Well suited. Like a New England minister. That was bush. In school I studied the roots of computing, and came across his Differential Analyzer. I great machined contrivance, it filled a basement room at M.I.T. and was something of the apex of mechanical analog calculators.

It held a fascination. And may have represented the end of the era where you could feel the comfort of hearing the machine think ca chunk just as you could here the hum of your steam or gasoline engine. Like you could hear the coins separating in the bus’s coin parser. Anyway, Bush like this feeling, and was slow to appreciate digital technology, because you couldn’t hear what was going on inside there.

The “Universal Mind” has crept up of late, in part because of Google’s appearance as a boding presence on the scene. I use the term, which has meaning in Buddhism. “World Brain,” an idea of circulated by H.G. Wells, is what Bush may have had on his mind in the late 30s. Then, he wrote about –theorized upon – an intelligence that was a combo of all mankindle. [Bush may have been raised a Universalist.] Aspects of it look disarmingly prescient. Hyper cards I believe was one of his notions. Bush did influence Douglas Englebart. This and more discovered in Endless Frontier: Vannevar Bush, Engineer of the American Century, by G. Pascal Zachary.

We will get to Bush and the Big Brain. But should first consider what he is more famous for: The A-bomb.

Vannevar Bush’s place in broader history would seem to come from his role in applying science in the cause of the political system. That would be the US system at its first heights. I work under the star that says technology is the application of science to solving problems. Which might be another way of describing his role. He was a helleva engineer. But not a rambling wreck.

His along association with MIT, as an administrator; later at the Carnegie Institute, again as administrator; set him up uniquely in his eventual role as head of the OSRD, in which Manhattan project was one of many. Project leadership came at the expense of engineering achievement. But he had a special approach to taming technologists and military figures both. The Karsh foto that covers the Endless Frontier shows an indvidual with eerie purpose, accomplishment, and knowledge. The power behind the atomic glory.

But he may someday remember for his link in the chain of thinking on universal mind.

Related
Endless Frontier: Vannevar Bush, Engineer of the American Century - Amazon.com

Sunday, November 20, 2005

I'm gonna googlarize ya, baby

He goes down in the bowels of the Great Northern Search Company’s cluster server farm. Admires the work of the engineers uploading the works of mankind online. You might think “good going guys” – putting the works of mankind online worthy – and the guys might discern your thinking. And then they jar you saying “we’re doing this for the machines.” Google me with a stick!

On October 31 last, Google ran a full page ad featuring its Halloween Day home page--one on which a morbidly surreal landscape morphs onto Google’s usual logo banner. It’s like pages they’ve done on BloomsDay, Thanksgiving, the anniversary of the first manned Moon landing, and other special days in years past.

For me this one was spooky in an unfunny way. Google as friendly is at risk. The company’s plan to put the world’s books in their index, Borgesian and innocuous and grand both at first, has proved a defining moment, if you consider the notion that this is to feed AI agents of tomorrow. Its great algorithms notwithstanding, Google is getting to be a scary kind of smart.
An Edge article writ of late by George Dyson, author of Darwin among the Machines, set my neck hairs abuzz. Forebode arises as Dyson reports his personal discovery of a brooding presence of a Universal Mind readying the planet for arrival of AI Moloch. I found this piece by the way courtesy of deli.cio.us perusing, not Google searching.

John Battelle [I take it] introduces the story thus: “Whether we're talking about John Cage's idea of "the mind we all share" or H.G. Well's "World Brain", Google has its act together and are at the precipice of astonishing changes in human communication...and ultimately, in our sense of who or what we are. And like nearly all science-driven, technological developments, governments can only play catch-up as no one is going to get to vote for Google's changes, and the current laws, written in a pre-digital age, don't address the new situation.”Some sincerely believe we are entering a golden age of wonder and Google is leading the way ... Still, others believe there are reasons for legitimate fear of a (very near) future world in which the world's knowledge is privatized by one corporation. This could be a problem, a very big problem.”

The story comes in the wake of a long New York Times piece on Google, and John Battelle’s book on the same subject.

Background: The story is entitled Turing’s Cathedral. It is more about von Neumann, but in the context of Google. Author discusses Alan Turing’s tenets for discerning the machine that had evolved to the state of mindfulness. It begins with a discussion of John von Neumann and his invention of the stored program computing concept circa 1945. It’s noted in round about that Von Neumann was concerned with cellular phenomena and influenced by the then recent deciphering of DNA when he died in the mid-1950s. But that is not why Dyson came here to speak today. What he wants to talk about is Google, and the idea that it is 1945 all over again. Before the assault of stored programs. When a content addressable machine might have held sway. Something a bit more cellular in action.

Dyson is telling: “The von Neumann architecture is here to stay. But new forms of architecture, built upon the underlying layers of Turing-von Neumann machines, are starting to grow.” [I think Turing is depicted here as important in initial computer evolution as von Neumann – the reference is not to Turing’s influence on the human-like Thinking Machine.]The story harks on a rarely heard notion: the content addressable memory. Dyson brings it up in describing the architecture of Google search engines that now overlays the computing fabric.

[I digress: Content addressable memory {CAM} is helpful in search problems. It differs from RAM – it does not require the user system to supply memory address. Instead it searches its whole memory for requested data, and returns a list of associated storage addresses. Its fast, and so far, too costly to threaten conventional RAM in most areas.The major area where CAMs have found use is in network traffic routing. Neural and AI experiments that surmise our memories adhere some to our neurons have played with novel processor architectures that have sometimes included CAM or CAM-like devices.]

I guess what Dyson is indicating is that a global computer, the World Wide Web, is now taking on the architecture of content addressable memory, which people have often thought might more closely resemble ways of human thinking. If its ultimate job is to sate the machines, it's a smiling Moloch, one that has been very helpful to me as I have put together this dispatch.

Futurism Today
Edge: TURING'S CATHEDRAL by George DysonNever forget the secret of Google's team is velcro.
Cyber Ivar - Get answers to your questions about the UML
To revisit
Robots Expose Snipers
BU folks constructed neural-network circuitry that mimics the behavior of nerve cells. This is not therefor 'bet your life on it' technology.
World's Fastest Computers
Apparently No 1 doubled its performance, but had to double its size to do so...
Blatant copying' in coursework
The World Wide Crib - Examiners say they detected "blatant copying of material from the Internet" in some of this year's coursework for an important test. In other news, Google has resumed its project to put the entire library of humankind online.
Lab Notes: Research from the Berkeley College of Engineering
Massive wireless sensor networks are us.
Driving lessons pay off for robotic SUV
Knight Ridder author gets good guff on Stanley; inventor expects a future without need to surround work and malls with big parking lots. Instead, cars will dutifully park themselves on the edge of cities, waiting for a call to come retrieve their owners.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Helium rush is on


China, U.S. shoot for moon's helium stock: CHINA's recent announcement that it plans to put a man on the moon by 2017 has started a space race with the U.S. for the lunar equivalent of El Dorado. Only it's not gold these two nations are after. It's helium-3, the gas some scientists tout as the fuel of the 21st century. The top metre of the moon's surface is believed to hold more than 1-million tons of helium-3, a substance rare on Earth. Gerald Kulcinski, director of the Fusion Technology Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says a single pound of helium-3 could generate as much electricity as one to 10 million pounds of coal. Read it ...

Deracinated musings: The Edmund Fitzgerald

I grew up very near Lake Michigan. Was never than five or
six blocks away, and was for many years about two blocks
away. Never remember the Lake at night during storms. With
Winter storms particularly, one would be thinking inland. Of
course in the late 70s Gordon Lightfoot wrote The Edmund
Fitzgerald. Which described those storms. I guess I
remembered then the newspaper stories about ships going down
in the winter. The eels in the lake were also a scary
fascination.

My father would say well it's not like the ocean..he was
from Boston. BUt he'd note as the paper would, that the lake
could create strange and dangerous vortexes. We'd go for fish dinner in Whitefish Bay.
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitgerald is a great song. After the
thirities, few mythic folk songs passed over to pop and the
general radio in such a way that mixed Tin Pan ALley with
Chaucer.

Nintey-mile winds and 30-foot waves I did not know. An NPR story describes the day, which was in November 30 years ago, the bells ringing in the Detroit seamen's chapel, and a book by Michael Shoemaker on the facts of the tacanite ore ship's tragic singing.
[Footnote: Today Jake and I were on the museum battleship U.S. Massachusetts.]

Related
Book Delves into the Mysteries of the 'Mighty Fitz' -NPR, Nov. 10, 2005

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

An open letter to a ham

Dear Dan:
Notes inventor Ray Ozzie wrote a piece about Internet services that I thought was kind of interesting. Actually its an e-mail memo that leaked out, but it almost seems as if it was deliberately leaked, appearing in both the WSJ and NYT simultaneously.

Digression: I saw IBM's CTO [Danny SUppan?] about a year ago, and he really impressed me. And with some of the things that have happened at MS [especially missed ship dates for products] I was beginning to think that Gates, now the chief software architect, was losing his mojo, and was at a loss compared to IBM [with Eclipse, and Java, and knowing where to draw line between software interfaces]. My guess is that Ray Ozzie in the runup to MS buying Groove was saying as much as that - that MS lost his mojo - perhaps noting there were too many groups with their fingers in too many other groups' products. Not knowing where the right line was between OS and app. So funny that now he is Gates partner in chief technologizing! A Gates' memo was leaked today too.

Why bother you with such blather?

Well, when I look at Deli.cio.us, and look at the patterns of people's visits, including yours, a pattern emerges. Not that I can describe it very well. But it seems like people are mucking about and mashing free software together.

Here is Ozzie talk:
Many startups treat the ‘raw’ internet as their platform. At the grassroots level, such projects actively use standards such as vCards and iCal for sharing contacts and calendars. Most all use RSS in one way or another for data sharing. Remixing and mashing of multiple web applications using XML, REST and WS is common; interesting mash-ups range from combining maps with apartment listings, to others that place RSS feeds on top of systems and data not originally intended for remixing. Developers needing tools and libraries to do their work just search the internet, download, develop & integrate, deploy, refine. Speed, simplicity and loose coupling are paramount.

Does any of that resonate for you? I am pinging in the blogosphere, sausage maker! I abhor vaccuum. I am probably trying to write a piece on this, but its open mike night here, and I need some feedback.

Related
H Y P E R C A M P : Dave Winer published the memos discussed above.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Music
Yoko Ono News on Yahoo! Music
She apologizes to Paul..Wwwwhhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyiiiiiiieeeeeee????

New York Doll - Review - Movies - New York Times
Filmed in the time before his death, Dolls' bassist A. Kane comes across as a soft-spoken, damaged soul who has found refuge and hope in the Mormon Church, in whose Family History Center library he works.

The Alan Lomax Database
Sign up.. treasure of music snippets .. but good stuff.

Deracination
ESPN Classic - Hutson was first modern receiver
Before there was Jerry Rice...there was Don Hutson..People from Racine knew him for Don Hutson Chevrolet.

Wright in Racine
Journal Times Feature: Frank Lloyd Wright's Racine work on display. There is more than Wingspread and the Johnson Bldg.

Technology
From Molecules to Mind Doors of IDG founder Pat McGovern's brain institute at MIT have opened. Advances in brain images have yet to yield much in the age old quest to find what makes thought. Now is the time to figure perception - understanding how you go from A to B.

OOPSLA2005
Been a few years since I got to OOPSLA [it's in Portland next year]. Martin Fowler describes what he saw this year.

The Integrator
Notes on Noyce - founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and IC hero.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Sogyal Merton

Went back to the old well and read a Thomas Merton book that was a text in Theology at Marquette circa 1969. Faith and Violence. What he wrote played into what I'd been thinking coming up to those days. Violence was a topic in the time [CIA hunt of Che, Kerner Commission, Cronkite, Watts, Detroit, Vietnam, Velvet Underground, Panthers, MC5, etc.]. Here we go again.

This book is concerned 'with the defense of the dignity and rights of man against the encroachments and brutality of masive power structures....'

He writes: "The population of the affluent world is nourished on a steady diet of brutal mythology and hallucination, kept at a constnt pitch of high tension by a life that is intrinsically violent in that it forces a large part of the population to submit to an existnece which is humanly intolerable. " p.3

He quotes John XXIII quoting Augustine: ''What are kinkdoms without justice but bands of robbers?'' And I look in my daily paper and see that Sen. McCain has to couch his motion to outlaw torture using strategem: "Rest of world no longer respects us." I feel for him - I am on no stage where I have to scrape the ethical bottom of the empire barrel. p.4

Daily paper described per Merton: "The ritual moring trance, in which one scans columns of newsprint, creates a peculiar form of gneneralized pseudo-attention to a psedo-reality This experience is taken seriously It is ones daily immersion in 'reality.' One's orientation to the rest of the world. One's way of reassuring oneself that one has not fallen behind. That he is still there. That he still counts!" p.151

Comment per me: Too real!

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