The Flying Car

A Video News Release of the first flight of the Terrafugia Transition. The Transition achieved first flight on March 5th, 2009 in Plattsburgh, NY. The Transition is a roadable aircraft, or a “flying car”.

RIP Salinger

A sad day. Perhaps the next few years, when the decades of work he’s been doing trickle out into his readers’ hands, will give us some idea of what drove him.

Russian Lit in Korea

Why Koreans Love Russian Literature.

As is true so often, the article fails to live up to its title.  “That Koreans Have Read Russian Literature At Various Times in the Past And Are Still Doing So” would have been a more accurate title.  But what can you do?

Summation paragraph:

Russia and Korea are in many ways culturally compatible. The two countries are not only areas of cultural exchange, but they also share similar historical events and experiences. Literature, songs and movies often refer to the “Russian soul” and “anguish” as a characteristic of the Russian people. On the other hand, when talking about the mentality of Koreans, the term “han” (a Korean way of addressing anguish) is often used. Even this cultural similarity confirms that the two countries have all the prerequisites for closer cultural convergence. Perhaps it is for this reason that Russian literature enjoys the special attention and love of Korean readers.

Kasparov on AI

From this article:

With the supremacy of the chess machines now apparent and the contest of “Man vs. Machine” a thing of the past, perhaps it is time to return to the goals that made computer chess so attractive to many of the finest minds of the twentieth century. Playing better chess was a problem they wanted to solve, yes, and it has been solved. But there were other goals as well: to develop a program that played chess by thinking like a human, perhaps even by learning the game as a human does. Surely this would be a far more fruitful avenue of investigation than creating, as we are doing, ever-faster algorithms to run on ever-faster hardware.

This is our last chess metaphor, then—a metaphor for how we have discarded innovation and creativity in exchange for a steady supply of marketable products. The dreams of creating an artificial intelligence that would engage in an ancient game symbolic of human thought have been abandoned. Instead, every year we have new chess programs, and new versions of old ones, that are all based on the same basic programming concepts for picking a move by searching through millions of possibilities that were developed in the 1960s and 1970s.

Like so much else in our technology-rich and innovation-poor modern world, chess computing has fallen prey to incrementalism and the demands of the market. Brute-force programs play the best chess, so why bother with anything else? Why waste time and money experimenting with new and innovative ideas when we already know what works? Such thinking should horrify anyone worthy of the name of scientist, but it seems, tragically, to be the norm. Our best minds have gone into financial engineering instead of real engineering, with catastrophic results for both sectors.
This goes some distance toward capturing the ambivalence I feel when reading about the triumphs of AI.

The London Nobody Knows

A brilliant and obscure look at the flip side of swinging sixties London. Narrated by a rather sardonic and sometimes scathing James Mason, we are taken on a tour of the underbelly of London. The film is artfully edited and offers straight factual history with real life characters/ street performers/ vendors who seem very unaware of the camera. The documentary has extremely surreal and quite tragic scenes by turn and encapsulates a London undocumented in the media of the time.