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.

Second Life meets MySpace

I assume you know what are Second Life, MySpace, and Facebook. Well there is new site that provides social networking in a virtual world environment. It is called Kaneva. Basically, you create a network of friends, as in a social network, and then meet them in a virtual world. Of course you also can make friends directly in the virtual world.

The Kaneva virtual world looks similar to the one in Second Life but I found that it ran a little bit more smoothly on the machine that I am using; though it seemed to take forever to load.

The reason I compared Kaneva to MySpace rather than Facebook is that its social environment seems closer to the one found in MySpace than the one found in Facebook i.e. a little more broadly distributed. Not too long ago I had read a piece about social research that compared the environments of these two sites and suggested that the sites had some partitioning along social and economic class lines. (Sadly, I cannot locate that piece right now). However, why not go and see it for yourself?

In both Second Life and Kaneva conversations can be quite dull and there is little to do till you make some friends. You can watch the videos and listen to the songs posted by other people but you can do that on YouTube and other similar sites too. However doing those things in a virtual world may add a certain pizzaz to it. I do find that the visual element added to conversations by the use of avatars increases the social feel of the interactions.

So visit Kaneva (or Second Life) and look around. If you leave your user name here I’ll look you up.

Cheers!

 (Also cross-posted to Qiyas)

Science websites with Web 2.0 technology

I would like to bring two interesting websites to your notice.

 SciVee

The first one is called SciVee and is a joint offering of the the Public Liborary of Science (PLoS), the National Science Foundation, and the San Diego Supercomputing center. It allows scientists to publish papers and also to upload presentation videos that provide a guide to their work. It has been called a YouTube for scientists.

Explore SciVee here.

 nanoHUB

The second website called, nanoHUB, is devoted to nanotechnology and provides many resources to help people learn about it. It uses Web 2.0 technlogy to provide online presentations, animations, simulation tools that you can use (after free regsitration), and much more.

nanoHUB can be accessed here.

2007 TR35 Awards

Technology Review magazine from MIT has announced its 2007 Young Innovators awards given to 35 people under 35 years of age whose inventions and research are having or are likely to have a significant impact on the world.

You can view the full list here: http://www.technologyreview.com/TR35/

Two of the award winners are further recognized:

2007 Innovator of the Year: David Berry (for work on renewable petroleum from microbes)
2007 Humanitarian of the Year: Tapan Parikh (for building mobile phone-based software tools for developing economies)

I also liked the work by Tariq Krim on building personal, dynamic Web pages,

by Sanjit Biswas on mesh networks-based, cheap Internet access,

by Jeff LaPorteon Internet-based (Skype-like) calling from mobile phones,

and by Garrett Camp on the web discovery toolbar.

Of course there is much other interesting work not related to the Internet; check out the list.

On my way back

Sorry, folks. I have been gone for a while. Travel, work, other engagements. If you have been checking the blog, thanks for your patience. I’ll be posting again now.

Been there

EnJoo Chung has been worried this week.   more …