Links for 17th September 2009

Fresh from the clogged tubes of teh intarwubs…

  1. New ‘Drake equation’ for alien habitats

    ""If you can imagine a planet with a thin atmosphere that lets through some of this harmful radiation, there must be a certain depth in the soil where the 'bad' radiation has been absorbed but the 'good' radiation can penetrate," said Hagermann.

    Icy planetesimals

    "We are looking to be able to define this optimal habitable region in a way that we can say that it is 'as habitable' or 'less habitable' than a desert in Morocco, for example," he said.

    So far there has been some criticism of the approach. Astrobiologist and physicist Paul Davies, of the University of Arizona in Tuscon, said it was a "pointless exercise" as the equation refers only to life as we know it.

    "The main thing omitted from the conventional Drake equation is the possibility of life inside icy planetesimals, most of which are rogue objects, untethered to stars. Such life is, however, most unlikely to be intelligent," he said."

    Tagged with: Drake-equationastronomycosmologyalienlifehabitablezone

  2. How inspired a scientific breakthrough

    "How does it work? At the basic level, students can "drag and drop" research papers into the site at, which automatically extracts data, keywords, cited references, etc, thereby creating a searchable database and saving countless hours of work. That in itself is great, but now the bit kicks in, enabling users to collaborate with researchers around the world, whose existence they might not know about until Mendeley's algorithms find, say, that they are the most-read person in Japan in their niche specialism. You can recommend other people's papers and see how many people are reading yours, which you can't do in Nature and Science. Mendeley says that instead of waiting for papers to be published after a lengthy procedure of acquiring citations, they could move to a regime of "real-time" citations, thereby greatly reducing the time taken for research to be applied in the real world and actually boost economic growth."

    Tagged with:

  3. Robots get smarter by asking for help

    "Where AI struggles, humans excel, finding this sort of recognition task almost effortless. So Alex Sorokin, a computer scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who collaborates with Willow Garage, decided to take advantage of this by building a system that allows PR2 to ask humans for help.

    The system uses Amazon's Mechanical Turk, an online marketplace which pairs up workers with employers that have simple tasks they need completing. The robot takes a photo of the object it doesn't recognise and sends it to Mechanical Turk. Workers can then use Sorokin's software to draw an outline around an object in the image and attach a name to it, getting paid between 3 and 15 cents for each image they process." AI meets crowdsourcing; that's a big resource to tap, right there.

    Tagged with: robotsAIartificial-intelligenceobjectrecognitioncrowdsourcingMechanical-Turkresearch

  4. ‘I think the sex robot will happen fairly soon’ | An interview with David Levy

    ""I think the sex robot will happen fairly soon because the bottom is dropping out of the adult entertainment market, because there's so much sex available for nothing on the internet," says Levy. "I think the market was worth something like $12bn a year, and they aren't going to want to lose all their income, and this seems to me an obvious direction to go. The market must be vast, if you think of the number of vibrators that sell to women. I'm sure a male sex doll with a vibrating penis will sell better than sex dolls today. I'll be surprised if it's more than another three years or so before we see more advanced sex dolls with more electronics and electromechanics.

    "There will be a huge amount of publicity when products like this hit the market. As soon as the media starts writing about 'My fantastic weekend with a sex doll', it will be like the iPhone all over again, but the queues will be longer." He's either nuts or bang on the money.

    Tagged with: sexrobotaiartificial-intelligenceDavid-LevyLoebner-Prize

  5. Librophiliac Love Letter: A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries

    Pure unadulterated book-pr0n.

    Tagged with: bookslibrariesphotographyarchitecture

  6. REVIEW – Reading Science Fiction by Gunn, Barr and Candelaria (2008)

    One of my reviews. More of a digressional rant than a review, I suppose, but you know what they say about leopards and spots, yeah?

    Tagged with: sciencefictioncriticismacademiatextdebatepostmodernismsfbookreviewPaul-Graham-Raven

2 thoughts on “Links for 17th September 2009”

  1. I really miss FPB, books read, music listened to and work updatery. Just saying. I know you’re busy making a living as a freelancer. Best with that.

  2. Thanks, John – I miss writing them, too! The plan is to get back into some sort of routine, but there’s a whole lot of other stuff to get under control first… 🙂

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