Monthly Archives: October 2007

Lecture at U Minnesota about Medieval Islamic Automata, Thu, Nov 8, 2007

 Thursday, November 8, 2007 4:00 PM

Room 125
Nolte Center for Continuing Education
Minneapolis Campus

Free Lecture

“Simulations of Time and Life in al-Jazari’s Automata: Islamic Symbolism, Teleological Mechanisms, and Ontological Difference”: a talk with Ayhan Aytes

Sponsored By:  Institute for Advanced Study
Additional Sponsors:  Center for Medieval Studies

 Ayhan Aytes’s research focuses on a series of examples from al-Jazari’s Book of Ingenious Mechanical Devices written in 1206. By using media archeology, his study addresses the symbolic depiction of the concept of time such as in al-Jazari’s Elephant Clock, as it simulates a unique mechanistic conception of the universe. Because of the highly syncretic nature of the symbolic system to which these machines refer, al-Jazari’s works are also a subject to the discussion of knowledge transmission of medieval technology. Ayhan Aytes is a graduate researcher in the Department of Communication at the University of California, San Diego. This event is also part of the University Symposium on Time.

Thanks to Aurangzeb for the tip.

Some science-inspired Flash video games on the ‘Net

Here are some links I found on the ‘Net to Flash video games with somewhat of a scientific bent. I haven’t had chance yet to play these myself so caveat emptor (actually, the games are free).

The two games below are microbiology-inspired. (Links found through coracle and SciencePunk; thanks.)

Infect. Evolve. Repeat. –

Pandemic –

This one from the Science Museum in the UK is a bit like “Gizmos and Gadgets”. You have to manoeuvre a ball past obstacle using some principles of physics. As a neat twist you can also create new configurations of obstacles to play yourself or send to friends:

Launchball –

Top 100 Software Tools for Learning and Productivity

Oh, hey. I have been meaning to post this link for while. Here is a list of the top 100 software tools selected by learning professionals (i.e. people in the education community). Lots of free tools are listed here. Some will be quite familiar to you but others may be new.

The list is here.

I have tried out some of the less commonly known tools (i.e. tools other than WordPress, Skype, GoogleMaps, etc.).  Of these:

Audacity– the digital sound editing tool provides tremendous functionality and is also easy to use.

diigo– is a “social annotation” tool i.e. it lets you mark up web pages and share those marked-up pages with your friends and colleagues. Pretty useful for discussions about design and content though I really haven’t had a chance to use it (is that because I don’t have any friends )-:  ).

Tiddlywiki– is personal wiki tool i.e. you can download a wiki template and use it for creating hyperlinked documents. It is basically an html file with some Java Script and the template file size is only 269 kB. In essence you can do pretty much the same kind of stuff with Microsoft Word and its hyperlinking capability but Tiddlywiki is a bit easier to use in this manner, is free, and you only need a browser to use it.

You do know that there are MS Office-compatible free suites available, right? Some are listed in this Top 100 list; have a look.

Not quite a double helix: Watson on race and Crick on consciousness

Hi, I haven’t been posting much (too much “real” work and other activity (-:  )  but here are a few snippets that may interest you. (By the way, I post some material at Qiyas as well so you may want to drop in there too). 

You may have heard about DNA co-discoverer Jim Watson’s comments about differences in the intelligence of various races. Well, that has created quite a flap, as you can imagine. I have not followed the issue but the original remarks are reported here, and there are additional reports here, here, here, and here. In all of this brouhaha it is difficulty to tease apart science from prejudice from hype. You can listen to a discussion about this flap in the Guardian’s weekly science podcast.

Interestingly you can also listen to ideas about consciousness from Watson’s old colleague and DNA co-discoverer Francis Crick, in this podcast. Wonder what Crick thinks of Watson’s remarks.

His Last Lecture

Prof. Randy Pausch is living out the last few weeks of his life.

He is only 46.

Prof. Pausch is professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University and co-founder of the CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), which is a collaboration of the School of Computer Science and the College of Fine Arts at CMU. ETC already has a branch campus in Adelaide, Australia, and will soon have branches in Korea and Singapore.

Prof. Pausch is also the director of Alice, a freely downloadable software system for teaching computer programming in a 3D graphical environment, and which will soon feature characters from the SIMS video game. He is also the creator of a project course on building immersive, interactive virtual worlds.

Prof. Pausch’s lecture is about achieving one’s childhood dreams. He really wrote the material for his three very young children but he also shared it with students, colleagues, and friends, more than 450 of whom came to hear him. You can listen to the lecture too, here.

Let’s salute the man – for his achievements and fortitude. May his days be filled with peace and love.