Friday, May 31, 2013

Find The Thing You're Most Passionate About, Then Do It On Nights And Weekends For The Rest Of Your Life

I can’t stress this enough: Do what you love…in between work commitments, and family commitments, and commitments that tend to pop up and take immediate precedence over doing the thing you love. Because the bottom line is that life is short, and you owe it to yourself to spend the majority of it giving yourself wholly and completely to something you absolutely hate, and 20 minutes here and there doing what you feel you were put on this earth to do.

Before you get started, though, you need to find the one interest or activity that truly fulfills you in ways nothing else can. Then, really immerse yourself in it for a few fleeting moments after an exhausting 10-hour day at a desk job and an excruciating 65-minute commute home. During nights when all you really want to do is lie down and shut your eyes for a few precious hours before you have to drag yourself out of bed for work the next morning, or on weekends when your friends want to hang out and you’re dying to just lie on your couch and watch TV because you’re too fatigued to even think straight—these are the times when you need to do what you enjoy most in life.

Because when you get right down to it, everyone has dreams, and you deserve the chance—hell, you owe it to yourself—to pursue those dreams when you only have enough energy to change out of your work clothes and make yourself a half-assed dinner before passing out.

Really, the biggest obstacle to overcome here—aside from every single obligation you have to your friends, family, job, and financial future—is you. And I’ll tell you this much: You don’t want to wake up in 10 years and think to yourself, “What if I had just gone after my dreams during those brief 30-minute lunch breaks when I was younger?” Because even if it doesn’t work out, don’t you owe it to yourself to look in the mirror and confidently say, “You know what, I gave it my best half-hearted shot”?

- David Ferguson in The Onion


Quote of the Day

The exaggerated faith in small samples is only one example of a more general illusion – we pay more attention to the content of messages than to information about their reliability, and as a result end up with a view of the world around us that is simpler and more coherent than the data justify. Jumping to conclusions is a safer sport in the world of our imagination than it is in reality.

- Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Liquid Mammoth Blood Found, De-extinction Next? 

Semyon Grigoriev, chairman of the university's Museum of Mammoths and head of the expedition, said: "The fragments of muscle tissues, which we've found out of the body, have a natural red colour of fresh meat. The reason for such preservation is that the lower part of the body was underlying (sic) in pure ice, and the upper part was found in the middle of tundra. We found a trunk separately from the body, which is the worst-preserved part."

The temperature was ten degrees celsius below zero when the mammoth was found, so the discovery of liquid blood was a shock. "It can be assumed that the blood of mammoths had some cryo-protective properties," Grigoriev said. "The blood is very dark, it was found in ice cavities below the belly and when we broke these cavities with a pick, the blood came running out."

- via Kottke

What I've Been Reading

On The Shortness of Life by Lucius Annaeus Seneca. Got to have a regular dose of stoicism these days to restore some sanity to the "proceedings" !!

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it.

Believe me, it is the sign of a great man, and one who is above human error, not to allow his time to be frittered away: he has the longest possible life simply because whatever time was available he devoted entirely to himself. None of it lay fallow and neglected, none of it under another’s control; for being an extremely thrifty guardian of his time he never found anything for which it was worth exchanging. So he had enough time; but those into whose lives the public have made great inroads inevitably have too little.

We are excluded from no age, but we have access to them all; and if we are prepared in loftiness of mind to pass beyond the narrow confines of human weakness, there is a long period of time through which we can roam. We can argue with Socrates, express doubt with Carneades, cultivate retirement with Epicurus, overcome human nature with the Stoics, and exceed its limits with the Cynics. Since nature allows us to enter into a partnership with every age, why not turn from this brief and transient spell of time and give ourselves wholeheartedly to the past, which is limitless and eternal and can be shared with better men than we?

Therefore it is better to conquer our grief than to deceive it. For if it has withdrawn, being merely beguiled by pleasures and preoccupations, it starts up again and from its very respite gains force to savage us. But the grief that has been conquered by reason is calmed for ever. I am not therefore going to prescribe for you those remedies which I know many people have used, that you divert or cheer yourself by a long or pleasant journey abroad, or spend a lot of time carefully going through your accounts and administering your estate, or constantly be involved in some new activity. All those things help only for a short time; they do not cure grief but hinder it. But I would rather end it than distract it.

That great-souled man Diogenes realized this, and arranged that nothing could be taken from him. You can call this state poverty, deprivation, need, and give this freedom from care any shameful name you like: I shall not count this man happy if you can find me another who has nothing to lose.

Quote of the Day

Celebrating your pet’s birthday even though they have no idea what’s going on.

#758 on
The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How Nature Writing Can Make Us Care

Nature writing is being touted as a new literary genre for new times. Most of us live in towns and cities but we are all keen naturalists now – at least by proxy. The more remote our physical relationship with the natural world, the greater our appetite to experience it through other eyes: fed properly, even the most city-bound will reconnect with nature. That, at least, is the theory.

And there is a growing number of publications to meet this "demand": wilderness journals, species "biographies", and year-in-the-life-of accounts of familiar animals – many of which prove more fascinating than we knew.

In this "new" nature writing, everything is close up and personal – and not just the wildlife. The beguiling lives of birds, butterflies and backyard bugs come with an obligatory foray into the life and thoughts of the author. An engaging bit of storytelling, some confidences shared, and we will be more inclined to nurture what is left of nature. Maybe.

- More Here by Stephanie Pain and she recommends three enthralling contemporary books on nature :

Another Link Between Dog Brains And Our Brains

I got a surprising email yesterday from Pat Levitt, the director of the Program in Developmental Neurogenetics of the Institute for the Developing Mind at the Keck School of Medicine of USC in Los Angeles. Although Levitt wasn’t involved in the dog research, it hit home for him. This table is the reason why. It lists a dozen genes that experienced strong selection in both dogs and humans. Two of those genes have been shown to be involved in the brain, four in digestion, and six in the cell cycle. (When those last six mutate, they can cause cancer.)

There’s a mistake on that list–but a mistake of the good kind. One of the six cancer genes is called MET. “However,” Levitt wrote to me, “in 2006, my laboratory published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science on a mutation in the MET gene that increases risk for autism.” (Here’s the paper.) In fact, a variant of the MET gene is now recognized as one of the strongest genetic risks for autism.

Levitt and his colleagues have continued to study the gene to understand how it plays a role in autism. My fellow Phenomena blogger Virginia Hughes wrote last year about how Levitt and his colleagues discovered that it shapes the wiring connections between neurons. Not just any neurons, however. It’s most active in circuits in the brain that are involved in social and emotional behavior.

“I don’t believe it is a coincidence that both the serotonin transporter and MET are on the list,” says Levitt.

- More Here from Carl Zimmer

Evolution Tamed Dogs & Humans Using The Same Gene - SLC6A4

Scientists are now zeroing in on some of the genes that were crucial to the rewiring of dog brains. Their results are fascinating, and not only because they can help us understand how dogs turned into man’s best friend. They may also teach us something about the evolution of our own brains: Some of the genes that evolved in dogs are the same ones that evolved in us.

Some of the genes that evolved early in dog evolution are involved in smell or hearing. Others are active in a region called the prefrontal cortex, where mammals make decisions about how to behave. Some genes are involved in growing connections between neurons. One gene, called SLC6A4, transports a neurotransmitter called serotonin into neurons.

In this situation, aggressive wolves would have fared badly, because humans would kill them off. Mellower wolves, by contrast, would thrive. If this notion turns out to be true, it means that we didn’t domesticate wolves — they domesticated themselves. SLC6A4 may have played a crucial part in this change, because serotonin influences aggression.

To test these ideas, Dr. Zhang and his colleagues are gathering DNA from more dogs and wolves. They also hope to collaborate with cognitive scientists to see how variants of genes like SLC6A4 affect the behavior of dogs today. Their results may also help explain human evolution, because Dr. Zhang and his colleagues found that some of the same genes that evolved in dog brains, such as SLC6A4, also experienced natural selection in human brains.

- More Here from Carl Zimmer

Quote of the Day

They wondered if reading about human-animal similarities might make the subjects more sympathetic toward fellow humans. And, as it turns out, it did. After reading the articles, all subjects completed a survey to determine their attitudes toward immigrants, agreeing or disagreeing with assertions like “immigrants are getting too demanding in their push for equal rights.” Those who read the article emphasizing that humans are like other animals were less prejudiced, as measured by this test, toward immigrants. From the paper: “As anticipated, outgroup dehumanization appears rooted in the perception that humans are different from and superior to animals.”

Realizing that humans are animals may make us more tolerant and, in a sense, more human. Plus it just happens to be true, as a certain plucky 8-year-old will gladly inform you.

- Humans Are Animals: 8-Year-Old vs. Misinformed Teacher

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wisdom Of Failure

Moderated by Kathryn Schulz author of Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error

The Essayification of Everything

I believe that the essay owes its longevity today mainly to this fact: the genre and its spirit provide an alternative to the dogmatic thinking that dominates much of social and political life in contemporary America. In fact, I would advocate a conscious and more reflective deployment of the essay’s spirit in all aspects of life as a resistance against the zealous closed-endedness of the rigid mind. I’ll call this deployment “the essayification of everything.”

Essayism, as an expressive mode and as a way of life, accommodates our insecurities, our self-absorption, our simple pleasures, our unnerving questions and the need to compare and share our experiences with other humans. I would argue that the weakest component in today’s nontextual essayism is its meditative deficiency. Without the meditative aspect, essayism tends toward empty egotism and an unwillingness or incapacity to commit, a timid deferral of the moment of choice. Our often unreflective quickness means that little time is spent interrogating things we’ve touched upon. The experiences are simply had and then abandoned. The true essayist prefers a more cumulative approach; nothing is ever really left behind, only put aside temporarily until her digressive mind summons it up again, turning it this way and that in a different light, seeing what sense it makes. She offers a model of humanism that isn’t about profit or progress and does not propose a solution to life but rather puts endless questions to it.

We need a cogent response to the renewed dogmatism of today’s political and social landscape and our intuitive attraction to the essay could be pointing us toward this genre and its spirit as a provisional solution. Today’s essayistic tendency — a series of often superficial attempts relatively devoid of thought — doesn’t live up to this potential in its current iteration, but a more meditative and measured version à la Montaigne would nudge us toward a calm taking into account of life without the knee-jerk reflex to be unshakeably right. The essayification of everything means turning life itself into a protracted attempt.

The essay, like this one, is a form for trying out the heretofore untried. Its spirit resists closed-ended, hierarchical thinking and encourages both writer and reader to postpone their verdict on life. It is an invitation to maintain the elasticity of mind and to get comfortable with the world’s inherent ambivalence. And, most importantly, it is an imaginative rehearsal of what isn’t but could be

- More Here by Christy Wampole

Quote of the Day

Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is.

- William James

Monday, May 27, 2013

What I've Been Reading

Letters to a Young Scientist by Edward O. Wilson. Wish I started reading Wilson when I was in my teens but its never too late. For all those teens out there;  grab this book and devour it - Wilson offers a recipe to change your life on a platter !!
Btw., it was Wilson who coined the term "Evolutionary Biology".

On Math:
Exceptional mathematical fluency is required in only a few disciplines. Particle physics, astrophysics, and information theory come to mind. Far more important throughout the rest of science and its applications, however, is the ability to form concepts, during which the researcher conjures images and processes in visual images by intuition. It’s something everyone already does to some degree.

Wilson's Principle Number One: 
It is far easier for scientists to acquire needed collaboration from mathematicians and statisticians than it is for mathematicians and statisticians to find scientists able to make use of their equations.

Wilson's Principle Number Two: 
For every scientist, whether researcher, technologist, or teacher, of whatever competence in mathematics, there exists a discipline in science for which that level of mathematical competence is enough to achieve excellence.

Wilson's Principle Number Three: 
You may have heard the military rule for the summoning of troops to a battlefield: “March to the sound of the guns.” In science the opposite is the one for you, as expressed in Principle Number Three: March away from the sound of the guns. Observe the fray from a distance, and while you are at it, consider making your own fray.

Wilson'sPrinciple Number Four:
In the search for scientific discoveries, every problem is an opportunity. The more difficult the problem, the greater the likely importance of its solution.

Wilson's Principle Number Five: 
For every problem in a given discipline of science, there exists a species or other entity or phenomenon ideal for its solution. (Example: a kind of mollusk, the sea hare Aplysia, proved ideal for exploring the cellular base of memory.) Conversely, for every species or other entity or phenomenon, there exist important problems for the solution of which it is ideally suited. (Example: bats were logical for the discovery of sonar.)

On Choosing a Domain:
  • I believe that other experienced scientists would agree with me that when you are selecting a domain of knowledge in which to conduct original research, it is wise to look for one that is sparsely inhabited.
  • Consider a rotting tree stump in a forest. You and I casually walking past it on a trail would not give it more than a passing glance. But wait a moment. Walk around the stump slowly, look at it closely— as a fellow scientist. Before you, in miniature, is the equivalent of an unexplored planet. What you can learn from the decaying mass depends on your training and the science you have chosen to begin your career. Choose a subject, draw on it from anywhere in physics, chemistry, or biology. With imagination you will conceive original research programs that can be centered on the rotting stump.
  • All of the life of the stump ecosystem is dwarfed, however, in both variety and numbers of organisms, by the bacteria. In a gram of detritus on the surface or soil beneath the stump’s base exist a billion bacteria. Together this multitude represents an estimated five thousand to six thousand species, virtually all unknown to science. Still smaller and likely even more diverse and abundant (we don’t know for sure) are the viruses. To give you a sense of relative size at this lowest end of the stump-world scale, think of one cell of a multicellular organism as the size of a small city. A bacterium would then be the size of a football field and a virus the size of a football.
  • Imagine the extent of human ignorance! Beneath the surface of the oceans and seas, which cover 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, there exists an all but countless number of lost worlds. Their complete exploration will occupy generations of explorers from every discipline of science.
Scientist is an artist too:
The ideal scientist thinks like a poet and only later works like a bookkeeper. Keep in mind that innovators in both literature and science are basically dreamers and storytellers. In the early stages of the creation of both literature and science, everything in the mind is a story. There is an imagined ending, and usually an imagined beginning, and a selection of bits and pieces that might fit in between. In works of literature and science alike, any part can be changed, causing a ripple among the other parts, some of which are discarded and new ones added. The surviving fragments are variously joined and separated, and moved about as the story forms. One scenario emerges, then another. The scenarios, whether literary or scientific in nature, compete with one another. Some overlap. Words and sentences (or equations or experiments) are tried to make sense of the whole thing. Early on, an end to all the imagining is conceived. It arrives at a wondrous denouement (or scientific breakthrough). But is it the best, is it true? To bring the end safely home is the goal of the creative mind. Whatever that might be, wherever located, however expressed, it begins as a phantom that rises, gains detail, then at the last moment either fades to be replaced, or, like the mythical giant Antaeus touching Mother Earth, gains strength. Inexpressible thoughts throughout flit along the edges. As the best fragments solidify, they are put in place and moved about, and the story grows until it reaches an inspired end.

Quote of the Day

Every living thing is, from the cosmic perspective, incredibly lucky simply to be alive. Most, 90 percent and more, of all the organisms that have ever lived have died without viable offspring, but not a single one of your ancestors, going back to the dawn of life on Earth, suffered that normal misfortune. You spring from an unbroken line of winners going back millions of generations, and those winners were, in every generation, the luckiest of the lucky, one out of a thousand or even a million. So however unlucky you may be on some occasion today, your presence on the planet testifies to the role luck has played in your past.

- Daniel C. Dennett, Freedom Evolves

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What Salamanders Could Teach Scientists About Growing Human Limbs

Salamanders, specifically the axolotl, are vertebrates that can regenerate limbs and organs, which sure would be a useful technique for humans to have, too. So researchers, led by James Godwin, of the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute at Monash University, figured out how salamanders pull it off. Godwin suspected that macrophages, cells that work in the immune system, played a part. When he and his colleagues removed the macrophages from the axolotls, the axolotls couldn't regenerate limbs: instead, they ended up with scarring and stumps.

Some sort of chemical cocktail is being released by the macrophages, Godwin speculates, and if that's discovered, maybe the cocktail could be used to on humans to cause regeneration.

- More Here

A Psychological & Biological Tour Of Memory Formation.

Ted Abel of the University of Pennsylvania explained some of molecular processes involved in creating long-term memories. Some of his lab’s work focuses on a binding protein (called CREB binding protein) that’s been found to play a central role in memory storage. Abel and colleagues have also observed a gene called Nr4a2 that’s critical to memory enhancement.

“In a sense, this is the field where nurture meets nature — where our experience interacts with our DNA and our genes,” Abel said.

Moving only slightly up the biological line, Michael Fanselow of University of California, Los Angeles, discussed the interactions between several areas of the brain involved in memory storage. Much of Fanselow’s work involves contextual fear memories in rats; in these cases, the amygdala is the hub for the fear that occurs, and the hippocampus is the part that creates the painful association with the context or place.

While the amygdala is vital to the retrieval of fearful memories, Fanselow and colleagues have found that other brain regions — notably, two areas in the prefrontal cortext — can pick up the slack for the hippocampus. Rats whose hippocampus was surgically damaged, for instance, still feared a place where their bad memories were made.

“It seems when you don’t have a hippocampus and you try to learn something about context, other brain regions can compensate,” Fanselow said.

Sugata Mitra On Learning

"If we let the educational process be a self-organizing organism, learning emerges. It’s not about making learning happen, it’s about letting education happen."

Quote of the Day

There are two types of education… One should teach us how to make a living, and the other how to live.

- John Adams

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Is Driving With Google Glass Safer Only With Google Driverless Car?

To their credit, Google’s designers have recognized the distraction caused by grabbing someone’s attention with a sudden visual change. Mr. Brin explained that Glass doesn’t flash an alert in its users’ visual field when a new text message arrives. Instead, it plays a sound and requires them to look up to activate the display. The “eyes-free” goal addresses an obvious limitation of the human brain: we can’t look away from where we’re heading for more than a few seconds without losing our bearings.

Yet experiments that we and others have conducted showed that people often fail to notice something as obvious as a person in a gorilla suit in situations where they are devoting attention to something else. Researchers using eye-tracking devices found that people can miss the gorilla even when they look right at it. This phenomenon of “inattentional blindness” shows that what we see depends not just on where we look but also on how we focus our attention.

Research with commercial airline pilots suggests that displaying instrument readings directly on the windshield can make pilots less aware of their surroundings, even leading to crashes in simulated landings. Google Glass may allow users to do amazing things, but it does not abolish the limits on the human ability to pay attention.

- Daniel Simons is the author of The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us

Mermise - What Would You Like To Learn?

Old dogs, then, are much more adaptable than folklore would have it – and if we do have deficits, they aren't insurmountable. The reason that children appear to be better learners may have more to do with their environment, and factors such as physical fitness.

Indeed, many researchers believe that an adult's lifestyle may be the biggest obstacle. "A child's sole occupation is learning to speak and move around," says Ed Cooke, a cognitive scientist who has won many memory contests. "If an adult had that kind of time to spend on attentive learning, I'd be very disappointed if they didn't do a good job."

A glut of free time and a carefree existence are out of reach for most of us, but there are other behaviours that boost children's learning, and these habits can be easily integrated into even an adult's schedule. For example, children are continually quizzed on what they know – and for good reason: countless studies have shown that testing doubles long-term recall, outperforming all other memory tactics. Yet most adults attempting to learn new skills will rely more on self-testing which, let's be honest, happens less often.

That's why Cooke developed a website, called Memrise, which helps take some of the pain out of testing and, crucially, can integrate learning into the adult day. It is designed to track your learning curve with cunningly timed tests that force you to retrieve the information just as you are about to forget it.

"Memrise engages your brain to the greatest possible extent," says Cooke, who has himself used the site to learn thousands of words of foreign vocabulary. Users can create their own courses – the topics range from art to zoology – and importantly, it is easy to load the site in the few spare minutes of your lunch break or while you are waiting for a train. Cooke also plans to launch a smartphone app.

- You never stop learning like a child

Check out Memrise to learn things outside the realm of STEM and yes, there is more to life than STEM.

How To Give A Killer Presentation

  • Frame Your Story - If you frame the talk as a journey, the biggest decisions are figuring out where to start and where to end. To find the right place to start, consider what people in the audience already know about your subject—and how much they care about it. If you assume they have more knowledge or interest than they do, or if you start using jargon or get too technical, you’ll lose them. The most engaging speakers do a superb job of very quickly introducing the topic, explaining why they care so deeply about it, and convincing the audience members that they should, too.
  • Plan Your Delivery - It’s just a matter of rehearsing enough times that the flow of words becomes second nature. Then you can focus on delivering the talk with meaning and authenticity. Don’t worry—you’ll get there. But if you don’t have time to learn a speech thoroughly and get past that awkward valley, don’t try. Go with bullet points on note cards. As long as you know what you want to say for each one, you’ll be fine. Focus on remembering the transitions from one bullet point to the next. Also pay attention to your tone. Some speakers may want to come across as authoritative or wise or powerful or passionate, but it’s usually much better to just sound conversational. Don’t force it. Don’t orate. Just be you.
  • Develop Stage Presence - In general, people worry too much about nervousness. Nerves are not a disaster. The audience expects you to be nervous. It’s a natural body response that can actually improve your performance: It gives you energy to perform and keeps your mind sharp. Just keep breathing, and you’ll be fine.
  • Plan the Multimedia - Another approach creative types might consider is to build silence into their talks, and just let the work speak for itself. The kinetic sculptor Reuben Margolin used that approach to powerful effect. The idea is not to think “I’m giving a talk.” Instead, think “I want to give this audience a powerful experience of my work.” The single worst thing artists and architects can do is to retreat into abstract or conceptual language.
  • Putting It Together - Presentations rise or fall on the quality of the idea, the narrative, and the passion of the speaker. It’s about substance, not speaking style or multimedia pyrotechnics. It’s fairly easy to “coach out” the problems in a talk, but there’s no way to “coach in” the basic story—the presenter has to have the raw material. If you have something to say, you can build a great talk. But if the central theme isn’t there, you’re better off not speaking. Decline the invitation. Go back to work, and wait until you have a compelling idea that’s really worth sharing. The single most important thing to remember is that there is no one good way to do a talk. The most memorable talks offer something fresh, something no one has seen before. The worst ones are those that feel formulaic.
- Chris Anderson

Wisdom Of The Week

And when things get tough, this is what you should do.

Make good art.

I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn’t matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.

Make it on the good days too.

- Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman (via the ever fascinating Farnam Street)

Quote of the Day

The harder they looked, the less they saw. And so it is with luck – unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else. They go to parties intent on finding their perfect partner and so miss opportunities to make good friends. They look through newspapers determined to find certain type of job advertisements and as a result miss other types of jobs. Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there rather than just what they are looking for.

- Richard Wiseman

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dogs, Us & Microbes - Lots Of Good News !!

  • In one study in Detroit, the health of pregnant women (and their newborns) with dogs in their homes was compared to that of those who did without. Researchers examined the effect of having a dog on one indicator of an individual’s tendency to develop allergies: the level of IgE antibodies in the mother’s umbilical cord blood. What these researchers found: pregnant mothers who lived in houses with dogs tended to have lower levels of IgE antibodies in their cord blood—and such lower levels have been found to be protective when it comes to childhood allergies. This study like any study, had limits. The number of women considered was relatively small. In addition, the study was not experimental. The dogs were not given randomly to women irrespective of their interest in having a dog. 
  • The researchers studying pregnant mothers posited that the effect of the dogs is due to the effect of dogs on the microbes in the house and on and even in the body. Initially, this argument was pure speculation, but in 2010 another group of researchers considered the microbes in six houses with dogs and five without. Their goal was specific, figuring out which microbes were present. They seemed to find a difference, though they were appropriately cautious in interpreting it, stating that the diversity of bacteria in the dog houses seemed higher than that in the no-dog houses. Interestingly, fungal diversity seemed lower in dog houses (though again, the sample size was very small).
  • A more recent study has shown that children with pets in general (primarily dogs) are at a reduced risk of childhood wheezing (which is associated with allergy and asthma). The study also found that one common bacteria species, generally thought of as a beneficial gut microbe, Bifodobacterium longum, was more abundant in those children exposed to pets than those who were not exposed to pets and suffered from wheezing.
  • I’ll suggest a hypothesis for just what it is that our dogs are doing in our homes. Once, our dogs were our mutualists. We benefited them and they us; today our relationship is more complex. But I hypothesize that our dogs still affect our fitness. They do so when they bring bacteria to us. They bring it in their mouths, on their skin and in their fur, but also  from the dirt around our homes (this much is not speculative, it now seems well-supported). I hypothesize that some people, particularly a subset of individuals living in very urban environments, environments in which their fingers rarely sink deeply into the mud, are so deeply removed from the diversity of wild species that their immune systems fail to develop normally (this also seems rather well supported). Finally (this is the bit in which I lean out into the darkness and wave my hands), I hypothesize that in these latter settings, settings like those found in many suburbs and most cities, dogs reconnect us to a diversity of species, species they drag into our houses, species that in the absence of more robust connections to microbial diversity may be sufficient to bring sense to our immune system. The connection dogs offer is not perfect (we might achieve a similar effect, other studies suggest, by living on a farm, or even planting native species in our backyards), but it can sometimes be enough in a world in which we have so few direct connections to life’s richness. In other words, while our dogs sometimes bring us frozen turkeys, they may,other days, bring us health. 
 - More Here from Rob Dun, author of The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today

Btw., I am still waiting for my results from his Wild Life In Our Homes Project

Survivorship Bias - Lessons From A Brilliant Statistician Named Abraham Wald Who Saved Countless Lives

What is Survivorship Bias ?

The Misconception: You should study the successful if you wish to become successful.

The Truth:
When failure becomes invisible, the difference between failure and success may also become invisible.

Simply put, survivorship bias is your tendency to focus on survivors instead of whatever you would call a non-survivor depending on the situation. Sometimes that means you tend to focus on the living instead of the dead, or on winners instead of losers, or on successes instead of failures. In Wald’s problem, the military focused on the planes that made it home and almost made a terrible decision because they ignored the ones that got shot down.

It is easy to do. After any process that leaves behind survivors, the non-survivors are often destroyed or rendered mute or removed from your view. If failures becomes invisible, then naturally you will pay more attention to successes. Not only do you fail to recognize that what is missing might have held important information, you fail to recognize that there is missing information at all.

If you are thinking about opening a restaurant because there are so many successful restaurants in your hometown, you are ignoring the fact the only successful restaurants survive to become examples. Maybe on average 90 percent of restaurants in your city fail in the first year. You can’t see all those failures because when they fail they also disappear from view. As Nassim Taleb writes in his book The Black Swan, “The cemetery of failed restaurants is very silent.” Of course the few that don’t fail in that deadly of an environment are wildly successful because only the very best and the very lucky can survive. All you are left with are super successes, and looking at them day after day you might think it’s a great business to get into when you are actually seeing evidence that you should avoid it.

As the psychologist Daniel Kahneman writes in his book Thinking Fast and Slow, “A stupid decision that works out well becomes a brilliant decision in hindsight.” The things a great company like Microsoft or Google or Apple did right are like the planes with bullet holes in the wings. The companies that burned all the way to the ground after taking massive damage fade from memory. Before you emulate the history of a famous company, Kahneman says, you should imagine going back in time when that company was just getting by and ask yourself if the outcome of its decisions were in any way predictable. If not, you are probably seeing patterns in hindsight where there was only chaos in the moment. He sums it up like so, “If you group successes together and look for what makes them similar, the only real answer will be luck.”

- One the most fascinating posts of the year; read the whole piece here by David McRanely author of You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself

A Final Lesson:

As best I can tell, here is the trick: When looking for advice, you should look for what not to do, for what is missing as Phil Plait suggested, but don’t expect to find it among the quotes and biographical records of people whose signals rose above the noise. They may have no idea how or if they lucked up. What you can’t see, and what they can’t see, is that the successful tend to make it more probable that unlikely events will happen to them while trying to steer themselves into the positive side of randomness. They stick with it, remaining open to better opportunities that may require abandoning their current paths, and that’s something you can start doing right now without reading a single self-help proverb, maxim, or aphorism. Also, keep in mind that those who fail rarely get paid for advice on how not to fail, which is too bad because despite how it may seem, success boils down to serially avoiding catastrophic failure while routinely absorbing manageable damage.

Launching The Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab

Machine learning is highly difficult. It’s what mathematicians call an “NP-hard” problem. That’s because building a good model is really a creative act. As an analogy, consider what it takes to architect a house. You’re balancing lots of constraints — budget, usage requirements, space limitations, etc. — but still trying to create the most beautiful house you can. A creative architect will find a great solution. Mathematically speaking the architect is solving an optimization problem and creativity can be thought of as the ability to come up with a good solution given an objective and constraints.

Classical computers aren’t well-suited to these types of creative problems. Solving such problems can be imagined as trying to find the lowest point on a surface covered in hills and valleys. Classical computing might use what’s called “gradient descent”: start at a random spot on the surface, look around for a lower spot to walk down to, and repeat until you can’t walk downhill anymore. But all too often that gets you stuck in a “local minimum” — a valley that isn’t the very lowest point on the surface.

That’s where quantum computing comes in. It lets you cheat a little, giving you some chance to “tunnel” through a ridge to see if there’s a lower valley hidden beyond it. This gives you a much better shot at finding the true lowest point -- the optimal solution.

We’ve already developed some quantum machine learning algorithms. One produces very compact, efficient recognizers — very useful when you’re short on power, as on a mobile device. Another can handle highly polluted training data, where a high percentage of the examples are mislabeled, as they often are in the real world. And we’ve learned some useful principles: e.g., you get the best results not with pure quantum computing, but by mixing quantum and classical computing.

Can we move these ideas from theory to practice, building real solutions on quantum hardware? Answering this question is what the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab is for.

Hartmut Neven, Google Director of Engineering

Quote of the Day

A roboticist is someone who can take different subfields and combine them and use them in novel ways.

- Adam Setapen, a roboticist at Romotive

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Quote of the Day

It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. ... The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.

- Lucius Annaeus Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Makr Shakr - Robot Bartender

I remember after the dot com bust, many went to bar-tending to earn few quick bucks but that seems to be out in the technological unemployment era...

Called the MakrShakr, the project is a collaboration between MIT Senseable City Lab and Carlo Ratti Associati, an Italian architecture firm. Mustachioed mixologists have been replaced by a team of theree robots, capable of making millions and millions--or, to get mathematical, a googol (that’s 1 followed by 100 zeroes)--of drink recipes, created on the spot by the bar’s patrons. "Makr Shakr aims to show the 'Third Industrial Revolution’ paradigm through the simple process design-make-enjoy, and in just the time needed to prepare a new cocktail," explains the project website.

- More Here

Daniel Dennett's Seven Tools For Thinking

In this extract from Daniel Dannett's new book Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, he reveals some of the lessons life has taught him:

  • Use Your Mistakes - Try to acquire the weird practice of savouring your mistakes, delighting in uncovering the strange quirks that led you astray. Then, once you have sucked out all the goodness to be gained from having made them, you can cheerfully set them behind you and go on to the next big opportunity. But that is not enough: you should actively seek out opportunities just so you can then recover from them.
  • Respect Your Opponent - How to compose a successful critical commentary:  

  1.  Attempt to re-express your target's position so clearly, vividly and fairly that your target says: "Thanks, I wish I'd thought of putting it that way."
  2.   List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement). . Mention anything you have learned from your target.
  3. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
  4. One immediate effect of following these rules is that your targets will be a receptive audience for your criticism

  • The Surely Klaxon -  When you're reading or skimming argumentative essays, especially by philosophers, here is a quick trick that may save you much time and effort, especially in this age of simple searching by computer: look for "surely" in the document and check each occurrence. Not always, not even most of the time, but often the word "surely" is as good as a blinking light locating a weak point in the argument.
  • Answer Rhetorical Questions - A rhetorical question has a question mark at the end, but it is not meant to be answered. That is, the author doesn't bother waiting for you to answer since the answer is so obvious that you'd be embarrassed to say it!  Here is a good habit to develop: whenever you see a rhetorical question, try – silently, to yourself – to give it an unobvious answer. If you find a good one, surprise your interlocutor by answering the question.
  • Employ Occum's Razor - The idea is straightforward: don't concoct a complicated, extravagant theory if you've got a simpler one (containing fewer ingredients, fewer entities) that handles the phenomenon just as well. If exposure to extremely cold air can account for all the symptoms of frostbite, don't postulate unobserved "snow germs" or "Arctic microbes".
  • Don't waste you time on rubbish - Let's stipulate at the outset that there is a great deal of deplorable, second-rate stuff out there, of all sorts. Now, in order not to waste your time and try our patience, make sure you concentrate on the best stuff you can find, the flagship examples extolled by the leaders of the field, the prize-winning entries, not the dregs. Notice that this is closely related to Rapoport's rules: unless you are a comedian whose main purpose is to make people laugh at ludicrous buffoonery, spare us the caricature.
  • Beware of Deepities -  A deepity is a proposition that seems both important and true – and profound – but that achieves this effect by being ambiguous. On one reading, it is manifestly false, but it would be earth-shaking if it were true; on the other reading, it is true but trivial. The unwary listener picks up the glimmer of truth from the second reading, and the devastating importance from the first reading, and thinks, Wow! That's a deepity.

Quote of the Day

I'm the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It's awful. If I'm on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I'm going, I'm liable to say I'm going to the opera. It's terrible.

- J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cognitive Science and Design

Brilliant talk by Alex Faaborg !! Feels like some contemporary neuroscience and psychological research added to Normal Donald's classic The Design of Everyday Things and Gary Reylonds's Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery.

A Life of the Genius Ramanujan - The Movie

Robert Kanigel’s  book The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan is now being adapted into movie.

Srinivasa Ramanujan’s life is being made into a film with ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ star Dev Patel starring as the legendary mathematician while a Hollywood A-lister is set to play his mentor GH Hardy. “The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan” will be adapted by Matthew Brown from Robert Kanigel’s book of the same name.

Ramanujan and I were born in the same town and the similarity ends there !!

Quote of the Day

People tend to be extremely similar in their vulgar and prurient and dumb interests, and wildly different in their refined and aesthetic and noble interests.

- David Foster Wallace

Monday, May 20, 2013

More "Human" Than Average Human ??

Whatever that means !! That's from the Neanderthal ancestry via 23andme

Quote of the Day

Why might chimpanzees be so adaptable to change? It may have aided the survival of their ancestors–and ours. For example, many primates regularly face drastic seasonal changes in rainfall, temperature, and food availability. Some primates have specialized adaptations that help them survive under harshly changing seasonal conditions. For chimpanzees, a learned knowledge of the fruit tree locations, even during periods of low fruit availability, is critical. Chimpanzees acquire this knowledge over a prolonged period of development, with high reliance on their mothers until full weaning at age 5, followed by juvenile and sub-adulthood learning periods lasting until age 15. A high degree of neural plasticity facilitates this learning ability. In humans, an especially high degree of plasticity may aid our strong reliance on learning. Plasticity may also play a key role in what we call resilience, enabling both humans and our chimpanzee kin to roll with the punches during trying times. For chimpanzees today, this may mean finding a new fruit tree when one due to ripen has been felled, or basking in the sun for the first time after decades inside a laboratory.

Chimps in Uganda: Resilience

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Morality of China in Africa

Excerpts from the new book The Morality of China in Africa: The Middle Kingdom and the Dark Continent by Stephen Chan:

The da xue (Mandarin: the big study, or the big reading) or dai ho(k) (Cantonese: the big learning) are Chinese terms for a university. In the romance of the "old days", learning was the only way to bypass the class system. China's annual imperial exams allowed even the poorest subject to step outside his poverty and feudal status to become an official. When, later, learning became concentrated in universities, the institutions became prestigious and symbolic. They were the portals of escape.

With this in mind, it is amazing that Chinese aid to Africa has not seized earlier upon the building of universities. The addition of universities was unremarked in the original Chinese proposal for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2008. China pledged a $9bn loan, $3bn of which was to develop mines, over which China entered a 68/32% joint venture involving Sinohydro Corporation and DRC's previously almost defunct Gecamines; and $6bn was for infrastructure, with China Railway Engineering Corporation playing a major role.

The Chinese expected to gain 6.8m tonnes of copper and 620,000 tonnes of cobalt over a 25-year period. However, China would also build huge expanses of road and railway and, along those transport routes, a large number of clinics, schools and universities. It was an unheard-of proposal; it would have transformed development in the south of DRC, with provision for a huge increase in the national pool of trained personnel; and it thoroughly alarmed the west, which saw an exponential increase of Chinese influence in central Africa.

Using the IMF as a battering ram, and insisting upon the priority of its own development assistance programme, the west succeeded in reducing the Chinese package to $6bn. At the time of writing, it is unclear how many elements of infrastructure have been sacrificed in this reduction. But it still means 2,400 miles of road, 2,000 miles of railway, 32 hospitals, 145 health centres and two universities. On this occasion, there was a keen symmetry between Chinese and African aspiration – and this included both the benefits and the prestige of higher education.

Quote of the Day

There were lot of fools at the conference – pompous fools – and pompous fools drive me up the wall. Ordinary fools are alright; you can talk to them and try to help them out. But pompous fools – guys who are fools and covering it all over and impressing people as to how wonderful they are with all this hocus pocus – THAT, I CANNOT STAND! An ordinary fool isn’t a faker; an honest fool is alright. But a dishonest fool is terrible!

- Richard P. Feynman, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Wisdom Of The Week

After finishing the first AI class taught by Sebastian Thrun; I was convinced the world was unto something very unique and special - I called him the Norman Borlaug of this century. This week Georgia Tech announced their online MS in computer science and  Sebastian was euphoric:

There are a few moments in my life I will never forget. Like the moment I proposed to my wife, Petra. Or the moment Stanley crossed the finish line in the DARPA Grand Challenge. Today is one of those moments."

No question MOOC will have a huge impact. But I am not convinced that they would replace college because of one single reason - not everyone who teaches these online classes have the zeal and charisma of teaching that comes naturally to Sebastian and the folks at Udacity. To be blunt, the list of classes at Coursera are mind boggling but the classes themselves doesn't capture the student's attention. If spreading education to the masses is the goal then they have already succeeded. But if the goal is to make knowledge and learning a contagion then they haven't even scratched the surface. I wish they learn a thing or two from Salman Khan who mesmerizes his students with just a black screen.

To be fair most of these professors are brilliant introverts sans the global charisma. So why can't they take the directors seat and let the others with gusto have the screen presence? Have they heard of animation and sound effects? Well, if the noble goal of online education is learning then probably they should be open enough to get innovative and adapt from say hollywood and advertisement agencies.

Yes, there will always be smart students all over the world who will learn for joy of learning but to attract those marginal students, one has to advertise that joy of learning. Online eduction has an huge opportunity and obligation to do that. Is it too much to ask for if I expect Georgia Tech MS to be similar to programming a driverless car class ?

The noblest pleasure, the joy of understanding.
- Leonardo Da Vinci

Quote of the Day

He did very graciously dedicate the book to me, and it’s an incredibly powerful articulation of this theme on many different levels. I think the question of technological dynamism isn’t often examined, but when you look into it you see many problems, from transportation failures to the space program and the Concorde decommissioning to how the energy failure allows oil price shocks to undo the price improvements of the previous century. Think of the famous 1980 Paul Ehrlich-Julian Simon wager about resource scarcity. Simon may have won the bet a decade later, but since 1993, on a rolling decade basis, Ehrlich has been winning famously. This is something that has not registered with the political class at all.

- Peter Thiel on Tyler Cowen's The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will(Eventually) Feel Better

Friday, May 17, 2013

Has The Future Of College Moved Online?


“Imagine you’re at South Dakota State,” he said, “and they’re cash-strapped, and they say, ‘Oh! There are these HarvardX courses. We’ll hire an adjunct for three thousand dollars a semester, and we’ll have the students watch this TV show.’ Their faculty is going to dwindle very quickly. Eventually, that dwindling is going to make it to larger and less poverty-stricken universities and colleges. The fewer positions are out there, the fewer Ph.D.s get hired. The fewer Ph.D.s that get hired—well, you can see where it goes. It will probably hurt less prestigious graduate schools first, but eventually it will make it to the top graduate schools. . . . If you have a smaller graduate program, you can be assured the deans will say, ‘First of all, half of our undergraduates are taking MOOCs. Second, you don’t have as many graduate students. You don’t need as many professors in your department of English, or your department of history, or your department of anthropology, or whatever.’ And every time the faculty shrinks, of course, there are fewer fields and subfields taught. And, when fewer fields and subfields are taught, bodies of knowledge are neglected and die. You can see how everything devolves from there.”


Might it make some things better? Peter K. Bol, a Chinese intellectual historian, started depending on computers as a graduate student at Princeton, in the late nineteen-seventies, because he was a sloppy typist. Today, as the director of Harvard’s Center for Geographic Analysis, he’s a leading exponent of the use of geographic-information-system technology in historical study—like Google Maps, except with a historical record’s worth of information in it.

To him, MOOCs look like a victory for open-access scholarship. “The question for us here was: How do you take what you’re teaching to a very small group and make it accessible to a large group?” Bol told me late one morning in his office, a kind of paper jungle piled with journals, manuscripts, and books. “Unless I’m writing popular books, I’m not reaching those people. I’m not telling them stuff that I’ve worked hard to try to understand.”

Now he thinks he can. This fall, Bol will launch ChinaX, a survey of Chinese cultural history from the neolithic period to the present day. He has also launched a course to let students get involved in preparing that program. Those in “Chinese History 185: Creating ChinaX”—a campus class offered only to Harvard students—have spent this term building Bol’s online course, module by module, in small groups under his direction. Teaching takes place in both a classroom and a computer lab.

- More Here by Nathan Heller

"Simpler" With & Without Sunstien

David Brooks brings a very obvious but important debate to the table about Cass Sunstein's case for Simpler: The Future of Government:

I generally support the little behavioral nudges that Cass Sunstein describes in his outstanding book “Simpler” — the subtle policy shifts that induce people to save more, or eat healthier. I’d trust somebody with a minimalist disposition like Sunstein to implement these policies. But I wouldn’t necessarily trust the people at the I.R.S. or Justice Department to implement them. They’d take a nudge and expand it into a shove.

And what are we to make of financial regulatory reform and the new health care law? In a culture of unrestraint, will federal regulators use these rule-writing opportunities to expand their reach beyond anything now imagined?

People can only have faith in a government that self-restrains, and there’s little evidence of that now. 

Quote of the Day

True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.

- Socrates

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home - Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher

Sue Halpren, author of A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home: Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher explains the wisdom of dogs:

It’s a moving and important thought as we rush through our lives and careers, seeking the next step, never fully inhabiting where we are now or adequately appreciating the people we love. We are in a culture seemingly designed to make us forget our mortality, to place goods like “celebrity” or “money” or “success” over the classical virtues of fortitude, prudence, restraint and justice, let alone the Christian ones of faith, hope and random love of others. And the trouble with this culture is that it does not make us either happy or virtuous. Dogs, it appears, know better.

Quote of the Day

In the 1830s, Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered a set of lectures on nature that formed the foundation of American Transcendentalism, a movement that rejected the analytic hyperintellectualism of America’s top universities. Emerson argued that the deepest truths must be known by intuition, not reason, and that experiences of awe in nature were among the best ways to trigger such intuitions. He described the rejuvenation and joy he gained from looking at the stars, or at a vista of rolling farmland, or from a simple walk in the woods…

Emerson and Darwin each found in nature a portal between the realm of the profane and the realm of the sacred….The emotion of awe is most often trigged when we face situations with two features: vastness (something overwhelms us and makes us feel small) and a need for accommodation (that is, our experience is not easily assimilated into our existing mental structures; we must “accommodate” the experience by changing those structures). Awe acts like a kind of reset button: it makes people forget themselves and their petty concerns. Awe opens people to new possibilities, values, and directions in life. Awe is one of the emotions most closely linked to the hive switch, along with collective love and collective joy. People describe nature in spiritual terms — as both Emerson and Darwin did — precisely because nature can trigger the hive switch and shut down the self, making you feel that you are simply a part of a whole.

- Jonathan Haidt,  The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (via Ben)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Georgia Tech To Offer $7,000 Online Master’s Degree In Computer Science !!

The Georgia Institute of Technology, Udacity and AT&T have teamed up to offer the first accredited Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS) that students can earn exclusively through the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) delivery format and for a fraction of the cost of traditional, on-campus programs.

This collaboration brings together leaders in education, MOOCs and industry to apply the disruptive power of massively open online teaching to widen the pipeline of high-quality, educated talent needed in computer science fields. Not only will OMS CS serve as a catalyst for transformational change throughout higher education, it could serve as a blueprint to help the United States address the current shortage of workers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

The OMS CS program will begin accepting student applications to matriculate in Fall 2014. Whether you are a current or prospective computing student, a working professional or simply someone who wants to learn more about the revolutionary program, we encourage you to explore the Georgia Tech OMS CS: the best computing education in the world, now available to the world.

- More Here and Tyler says THE FUTURE IS HERE

Robot Overlords Will Definitely Take Our Jobs

When the robot revolution finally starts to happen, it's going to happen fast, and it's going to turn our world upside down. It's easy to joke about our future robot overlords—R2-D2 or the Terminator?—but the challenge that machine intelligence presents really isn't science fiction anymore. Like Lake Michigan with an inch of water in it, it's happening around us right now even if it's hard to see. A robotic paradise of leisure and contemplation eventually awaits us, but we have a long and dimly lit tunnel to navigate before we get there.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

One of the most impressive features of brains – especially human brains — is the flexibility to learn almost any kind of task that comes its way. Give an apprentice the desire to impress his master and a chicken-sexing task, and his brain devotes its massive resources to distinguishing males from females. Give an unemployed aviation enthusiast a chance to be a national hero, and his brain learns to distinguish enemy aircraft from local flyboys. This flexibility of learning accounts for a large part of what we consider human intelligence. While many animals are properly called intelligent, humans distinguish themselves in that they are so flexibly intelligent, fashioning their neural circuits to match the task at hand. It is for this reason that we can colonize every region on the planet, learn the local language we’re born into, and master skills as diverse as playing the violin, high-jumping and operating space shuttle cockpits.

- David Eagleman, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Computer Programmers Might Get Better With Age

A new study from North Carolina State University shows that programmers actually improve with age.

“The older developers seemed to know more than the younger developers did,” says Emerson Murphy-Hill, co-author of the study. “That runs contrary to what the popular expectation is.”

Particularly traits like vocabulary, knowledge of history and life experience — skills key to programming — improve with time. But programming knowledge, too, can be maintained at a high level into a person’s 50s and 60s.

Of course, age discrimination in tech hiring is about more than skill: startups don’t just want savvy employees, but might prefer employees without families, outside responsibility, and high salary expectations.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

The more people there are crowded into a space, the harder it becomes to thrive there. Working in such a field will tend to wear you out as you struggle to get attention, to play the political games, to win scarce resources for yourself. You spend so much time at these games that you have little time left over for true mastery. You are seduced into such fields because you see others there making a living, treading the familiar path. You are not aware of how difficult such a life can be.

- Robert Greene, Mastery

Monday, May 13, 2013

How Nest Thermostats Were Born

I bought Nest Thermostat early this year; it's fascinating to see machine learning at works right in your living room.

Even with limited funding Nest still managing to assemble a killer engineering team in the midst of a talent war exploding all across Silicon Valley. “It was a mixture of my old team at Apple, my old professor from CMU and a few folks from Tony’s early days at General Magic twenty years earlier. One guy was a VP at Twitter, one was running Microsoft User Experience. Unlike most startup teams the average age of our team was about 40. I think I was the youngest.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

Kurt Vonnegut

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Photographer & The Wolf

Aqutaq, a two year-old female white wolf (aka arctic wolf), lives in Marin County in the shadow of Mt. Tamalpais with owner Oliver Starr. Aqutaq is not wild, but she certainly isn’t a pet; she was purposefully bred in captivity and raised to be an “ambassador wolf” for Starr’s ongoing advocacy for the protection of wolf species.

“It is a complex thing; to have a wild thing in your home,” says Seaman. “I understand the need for wolf ambassadors, and that is what Aqutaq is being raised to be, but it just is a very different life than living in the Arctic wilderness. Is one better than the other? Who can say?”

Keeping a Wolf at Home to Save the Species

I never knew much about Wolves until I read about Brenin, the Wolf who lived with Mark Rowlands for 10 years. Mark chronicled his life with Brenin in his book The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death, and Happiness, which is one my all time favorite book.

Quote of the Day

They say, best men are moulded out of faults,
And, for the most, become much more the better
For being a little bad.

- Shakespeare, Measure of Measure

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Wisdom Of The Week

Fascinating profile of Stewart Brand and how his book The Whole Earth Catalog changed the world - A must read !!

On what inspired Stewart:

His hero was Buckminster Fuller, a futurist architect and designer, who he says "bent my twig" with what Brand calls a "psychedelic version of engineering".

Fuller said if all the politicians died this week it would be a nuisance, but if all the scientists and engineers in the world died it would be catastrophic. So where's the real juice here? And he really got me and others focused on that.

Lots of people try and change human nature but it's a real waste of time. You can't change human nature, but you can change tools, you can change techniques." And that way "you can change civilisation".

On how to get inspired by Stewart:

This could be another of Brand's maxims. He's always been a doer, when he has an idea, he tries to act on it within 10 minutes, which just seems impossibly dynamic. He is genuinely… I don't know what the word is… an inspiring, uplifting, helpful force in the world. I've seen him in many situations, I've seen him under stress, I've seen him in private, and I have never been disappointed.

Quote of the Day

A gardener who works for a particle physicist is indirectly helping to unlock the secrets of the universe.

- Alex Tabarrok, Launching The Innovation Renaissance

Friday, May 10, 2013

Dog's May Reduce Risk Of Heart Disease - AHA

Having a pet might lower your risk of heart disease, according to a new American Heart Association scientific statement. Research shows that:

  • Pet ownership is probably associated with a reduction in heart disease risk factors and increased survival among patients. But the studies aren’t definitive and do not necessarily prove that owning a pet directly causes a reduction in heart disease risk. “It may be simply that healthier people are the ones that have pets, not that having a pet actually leads to or causes reduction in cardiovascular risk,” Levine said.
  • Dog ownership in particular may help reduce cardiovascular risk. People with dogs may engage in more physical activity because they walk them. In a study of more than 5,200 adults, dog owners engaged in more walking and physical activity than non-dog owners, and were 54 percent more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity. 
  • Owning pets may be associated with lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and a lower incidence of obesity.
  • Pets can have a positive effect on the body’s reactions to stress.

American Heart Association  Press Release

Quote of the Day

The game of life is the game of everlasting learning. At least it is if you want to win.

- Charlie Munger

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Your Are Not A Lottery Ticket - Peter Thiel

One of the best talks I have heard in long long time (via here)

The sound bite version of this is:

  • In a definite world , money is a means to an end because in order to do specific things you need money
  • In an indefinite world, you have no idea what to do with money and so money simply becomes an end in itself. Seems perverse, you always accumulate money and no idea what to do with it.

If you start a successfully  business you sell the company or sell shares to investors in an IPO, you make some money.

What do you do with the money? 
You have no idea because nobody no knows to do with anything. And so you give the money to a large bank to help you do something.

What do the bank do? 
It has no idea, so it gives the money to portfolio of institutional investors.

What do the institutional investors do? 
They have no idea, so they all just invest in a portfolio of stocks. Not too much in any single stock ever because that suggests that you have opinions  or ideas. 
That’s very dangerous because it suggests that somehow not with it.

What do the companies that get the money do? 
They are told that all they should do is generate free cash flows because if they actually would invest the money in specific things that would suggest that the company had ideas about the future and that would be dangerous. So one of the worst things you can ever have is a company that’s not profitable in this indefinite world. Sort of a contrarian idea I like saying that we always like investing in companies that are losing money and we don’t like companies that are making money. Because the companies that not profitable are the companies that have lot of ideas about what to do with their money; where as a company that is massively profitable is at some level is a company that is out of ideas.

Video streaming by Ustream

Quote of the Day

Most people would rather convince themselves of being in love than of being happy, just as most people would rather believe they are talking to others when talking to themselves.

- Sarah Manguso

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Captain Phillips

2014 Oscars is already buzzing for Tom Hanks!! Why didn't anyone else think of making a movie on Somalia pirates?