Mechanics, not microbes, are the menace to civilisation.
– Norman Douglas (1868 – 1952)
Category: Inventions & Discoveries
Under Lock & Key (to Safety)
We have a really lovely sideboard, in which I’ve stored all my chinas: plates, my lazy Susan, cups and saucers, my special dinner wares. I thought because they are for special occasion, I should store them under lock and key. Well, that was the idea. The problem now is that they are so safe, I can’t get to them, no one can get to them. The key won’t unlock the cupboard anymore.
I don’t really want to force open the sideboard because it is an antique, really beautiful; I don’t want to damage it. It has been with Peter’s family, before I was even born and that was a very long time ago. eeckk 🙂
Anyway with this problem in mind, I got to thinking (as one does) how keys and locks have evolved.
I know that in ancient time, people would bury or leave their valuables in special places such as caves, under a tree, by the riverbank, or obvious landmarks, etc. (Actually, our canine does this. He would bury his dog bones for later use. 🙂 )
The Egyptians and the Chinese used complicated wooden bolts as early as 2000BC.
And then of course Europe started using wooden chests to hide their valuables. The wooden chest graduated into a strong box, and then to the use of safe.
It was Linus Yale, Junior, an American, who developed a lock based on the early Egyptian principle of pin tumblers, the kind of lock that we still use today.
I think, like me, Benjamin Franklin had a problem with one of his keys and it had become rather redundant as it would not opened the furniture it was supposed to unlock. Ergo he used that key to conduct his now famous experiment of attaching a key to a kite, which he flew during a thunderstorm. The key was electrified, thus he invented the lightning conductor.
Keys are also used as a coming of age gift. When my son turned 13, under much pomp and ceremony, he got his first set of house keys, which he promptly lost. 🙁
Apparently ancient Rome used to have this tradition of giving the keys for the household to new brides.
The Mobile Phone
My mobile phone or cell phone is now a part of my everyday life. I don’t know how I ever mananged without it.
Mine you, I am not a very techie person. I use my mobile phone to make a phone call and occassionally to send a text. If push, I would also use it to browse website, especially globalgranary.life. 😉
Anyway, I do not use my iPhone much but the battery drains so fast, it is unbelievable and charging it takes time. It takes ages and I can be a very impatient person.
I heard that if you charge the phone using the airplane setting, the charging will be faster! The only drawback is that you won’t be able to receive call.
I agree with Stephen Hawkings on this one. My smartphone alone will be the death of me. It autocorrects my messages. It automatically change my sometimes funny but nonsensical comments into downright stupid ones. It is killing my reputation and gathering me some very unhappy friends. 😉
I also find that machines, which are supposed to make life easier are anything but. I now have less and less free time as technology improves more and more.
My social life now consists of me and my Facebook friends and Twitter followers. 🙂 Of course I love every single one of them. Some of them give me gifts for my Farmville, Sugar Crush and help me with my Pet Saga, but surely there is more to life than a mouse, keyboard and a small screen and of course a capricious internet connection?
Artificial Intelligence – Death of Mankind
Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind
He told the BBC:”The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”
His warning came in response to a question about a revamp of the technology he uses to communicate, which involves a basic form of AI.
But others are less gloomy about AI’s prospects.
The theoretical physicist, who has the motor neurone disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is using a new system developed by Intel to speak.
Machine learning experts from the British company Swiftkey were also involved in its creation. Their technology, already employed as a smartphone keyboard app, learns how the professor thinks and suggests the words he might want to use next.
Prof Hawking says the primitive forms of artificial intelligence developed so far have already proved very useful, but he fears the consequences of creating something that can match or surpass humans.
“It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate,” he said.
“Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”
But others are less pessimistic.
“I believe we will remain in charge of the technology for a decently long time and the potential of it to solve many of the world problems will be realised,” said Rollo Carpenter, creator of Cleverbot.
Cleverbot’s software learns from its past conversations, and has gained high scores in the Turing test, fooling a high proportion of people into believing they are talking to a human.
Rise of the robots
Mr Carpenter says we are a long way from having the computing power or developing the algorithms needed to achieve full artificial intelligence, but believes it will come in the next few decades.
“We cannot quite know what will happen if a machine exceeds our own intelligence, so we can’t know if we’ll be infinitely helped by it, or ignored by it and sidelined, or conceivably destroyed by it,” he says.
But he is betting that AI is going to be a positive force.
Prof Hawking is not alone in fearing for the future.
In the short term, there are concerns that clever machines capable of undertaking tasks done by humans until now will swiftly destroy millions of jobs.
In the longer term, the technology entrepreneur Elon Musk has warned that AI is “our biggest existential threat”.
In his BBC interview, Prof Hawking also talks of the benefits and dangers of the internet.
He quotes the director of GCHQ’s warning about the net becoming the command centre for terrorists: “More must be done by the internet companies to counter the threat, but the difficulty is to do this without sacrificing freedom and privacy.”
He has, however, been an enthusiastic early adopter of all kinds of communication technologies and is looking forward to being able to write much faster with his new system.
But one aspect of his own tech – his computer generated voice – has not changed in the latest update.
Prof Hawking concedes that it’s slightly robotic, but insists he didn’t want a more natural voice.
“It has become my trademark, and I wouldn’t change it for a more natural voice with a British accent,” he said.
“I’m told that children who need a computer voice, want one like mine.”
Professor Brian Cox recently guested at a morning tv show called “This Morning” at ITV. Brian Cox, the foppish scientist, was actually a member of a pop group sensation of the early to mid 90s, called D:REAM. He was the key board player. This was a part-time interest while he was being a particle physicist at the University of Manchester.
Today, Brian Cox has more or less left the music industry. He is now well and truly a member of the academia. He now works at CERN, Geneva.
The high brow Professor Cox has not completely left his pop star image; instead he is now the new face of popular science in Britain. He is often found fronting documentaries about science particularly things that have something to do with Particle Physics. I must say he’s got the knack of making high faluting subjects, brain numbing topics, to sound interesting and can be understood by viewers from all walks of life.
During his guest appearance at This Morning, Prof Cox revealed that teleportation is no longer a science fiction. It is already happening and being applied at this very minute.
He further said that we will be able to teleport ourselves to work or anywhere in the universe just like in Startrek.
I am not sure whether professor Cox has really seen Startrek or knows the science of Startrek.
According to Startrek, teleporting is done by replication. You go through a pattern buffer in the transporter. Your original molecules and atoms are stored there but replicated and teleported to wherever you wanted to be.
What if during teleportation, the original does not completely separate from the replicant, you will be left thoeritically with twin entities! Bizarre.
Apparently “real” teleportation does not do copies. The real thing is teleported to appear somewhere else. At the moment scientists are working on teleporting atoms and molecules and this has been a success and the mass being teleported is getting bigger and bigger all the time.
I love the mini-video below. It showed the games that I remember playing as a child in the Philippines.
I especially love piko (hopscotch)
In a way I pity children of today.
Being Children pre-internet
The advent of computer and internet brought in untold usefulness to everyone of us but as they said, nothing is ever perfect. Though I can’t live without access to the internet/computer now, it does have negative impacts on some lives. Especially in the west, the computer has somehow put paid to children playing outside. Children nowadays would rather be in their pc or ipad playing games rather than in the garden or at the park playing hide and seek with their friends.
I supposed we have become too security conscious. We want our children under our radar almost 24/7 and the easiest way to ensure this is to allow them access to the computer; sitting in front of it where we know where they are.
Let us think about this, “As a child, would you rather be playing computer games or playing tugs with friends outside in the sunshine?!!!”