Monday, November 30, 2009

Trailblazing Programme launched by The Royal Society to mark 350th anniversary

"Trailblazing is an online, interactive timeline launched to commemorate the Royal Society’s 350th anniversary in 2010."


The Royal Society is the UK’s academy of sciences and the world’s oldest science academy ... it wants people all over the UK to join in celebrating 350 years of scientific achievement and endeavour.

That is why it is undertaking a broad and exciting programme of activities – exhibitions, lecture, conferences, a new book, a vast science festival on the South Bank in London, television and radio broadcasting and much more besides."

See here for more information on the Royal Society's 350th anniversary events.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Prospects for UK Science: Blue Sky Debate

UK Science Minister, Lord Drayson will debate the challenge to inspire the next generation of scientists, web-cast by Times Higher Education on 30 November 2009, 7pm. View here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Countdown to James Cameron's 3D AVATAR Release

23 days to go!

Join the Official Avatar Community on TypePad.

From yesterday's Los Angeles Times:

'Avatar' as innovation: 'We were in new territory...there was no road there'
November 25, 2009 | 2:43 pm


"Avatar" may be the most ambitious film of 2009, and here at the Hero Complex we're bringing you coverage that fits this major movie moment with 30 stories in 30 days. Today it's the first installment of a two-part conversation with Rick Carter, one of Hollywood's most celebrated production designers, whose credits include "Forrest Gump," "Jurassic Park" "War of the Worlds," and "The Polar Express.."

GB: You've worked with a relatively narrow group of directors but it's quite the list -- Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Robert Zemeckis and now Zack Snyder. I would imagine, too, that "Avatar" is already feeling like a career highlight for you just based on its aspirations...

RC: Absolutely. Jim has made an amazing movie. He's quite a talent and when he puts his mind to something it's quite formidable.

GB: Coming into this project, what were some of the specific challenges it presented to you?

RC: I take a page out of the philosophy that obstacles are surmountable opportunities. I'm pretty optimistic because things have gone well for me. Coming into "Avatar," I had only really been working with Spielberg and Zemeckis up to that point. That's twentysomething years. My approach is to orient myself toward the vision of the director and that becomes the sole thing I have to concern myself with. There are many decisions but the one challenge really is to fulfill that vision. Those guys are so strong as directors that it's nice because the process isn't diluted with other concerns, like executives from the studio or even public opinion, which can happen to some degree sometimes. Its about the director's vision, solely, and completing it and realizing it. And at the point where there isn't something there, the task is, "What can I offer? What can people in the art department offer?"

GB: Where did you begin on "Avatar"?

RC: Coming into "Avatar," it took me about 3 1/2 hours to read the script, even before I had the interview with Jim. I really wanted to take my time to "see" the movie. It was clear that what he was doing was not just about a literal translation; you couldn't just piece it together by thinking of things you had seen in other films because it was an entirely new world. As I started reading through it there was a part -- and it's a part, actually, that's not in the movie anymore -- but one of the alien characters says, "When you see everything you see nothing." And I stopped at that and thought, "What does that mean?" And I realized that the state that I was in reading the script was that I was so overwhelmed with all of what I was seeing that I was actually starting to see nothing. I was in a state of what I call whiteout, where everything is in there. I liken that actually to "Pinocchio" and wishing on a white star that comes down and fills the frame of the window and out steps the Blue Fairy and out of that something is created, Pinocchio comes to life. So in a very lyrical way I gave myself over to that idea that there was too much for me to see.

Read more of the interview here.

Watch trailer at Official AVATAR movie homepage.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Peter Kay: "Generous Genius" of BBC Children in Need

Oh, how cute is Peter Kay's new BBC Children in Need 2009 single!

Featuring an "Animated All Star Band", the song "unites children's TV characters from over fifty years" including The ThunderbirdsTM:

Doing a Live Aid-esque rendition, Peter Kay's Animated All Star Band perform "a medley of popular songs for all generations to enjoy; Can You Feel It (originally by The Jacksons), Don't Stop (originally by Fleetwood Mac), Jai Ho (originally by Pussycat Dolls), Tubthumping (originally by Chumbawamba), Never Forget (originally by Take That), Hey Jude (originally by The Beatles), and One Day Like This (originally by Elbow)." (From BBC Children in Need)

Here's the song:

And I thought he was going to pull off "All you need is love", but what he's done is simply brilliant! Corr, watching ThunderbirdsTM brings back memories: loved Scott Tracy (but not as much as Captain Scarlett!!! In full SUPERMARIONATION, here're the Thunderbirds team:

Congratulations to Peter Kay for pulling of another unique, fun single for charity. And the fantastically, loveable big-hearted comic genius has announced he'll be back on tour next year!! Can't wait. In the meantime, Peter Kay's 'Animated All Star Band' single is available for pre-order from iTunes, please download and help the cause.

BBC Children in Need 2009

"Get it first! Peter Kay and 100 Famous Faces sing for Pudsey" - from the BBC Children in Need website:

"BBC Children in Need is delighted to announce this year's world-exclusive charity single from Peter Kay is available to pre-order on iTunes!

Be the first to get the single that promises to be another must have chart hit from Peter Kay. With over 100 famous faces from the UK and America, there will be something for everyone!

Not only is the single a musical delight for the whole family's ears, but for every video or song sold, the purchase will benefit the BBC Children in Need Appeal. This means if you buy the single, you will be helping to make a positive change to a young life in need here in the UK.

Perfect for a gift and just in time for Christmas, the single will be jam-packed with friendly faces and a bundle of joy and laughter that you can watch again and again. Plus, it has a guarantee of amusement from the comedian himself...

"It's taken two years of planning to create the video and I just know people are going to be both astonished and delighted,' Peter Kay said. 'It's been a real labour of love but the result is joyous, potentially another Amarillo!"

Kay will reveal the single during BBC Children in Need's Appeal show this Friday, 20 November, on BBC One, but the public can pre-order the single and video on iTunes and be the first to get the single!

This is Peter Kay's fourth charity single in five years. Previous hits include chart topping "Is This The Way To Amarillo", "I'm Gonna Be (500 miles)" and "Once Upon A Christmas Song."

From BBC Children in Need website.

Love Peter Kaye, can't wait to hear his new track for this cause, know it'll be awesome.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

End Water Poverty

"Waterborne diseases kill thousands every day" (End Water Poverty)

picture from End Poverty Water site

"There is a global crisis in water and sanitation. Billions of people live in the kind of squalor that was eradicated long ago in the rich world.

884 million people don't have clean water and 40% of the world’s population suffer without a safe toilet, that’s 2.5 billion people.

This crisis kills many and dramatically affecting life in developing countries."

Please help End Water Poverty and End the sanitation crisis by signing here.

Charter for Compassion

16308 have joined the Charter for Compassion so far:

" upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

....urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community."

Acts of compassion include:
Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group in California

Act here.

See also Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Problem with BCS's Machine Intelligence Competition

BCS 2009 Machine Intelligence Contest announce A.L.I.C.E* involvement:

"The British Computer Society Specialist Group on Artificial Intelligence (SGAI) has announced the finalists in the BCS Machine Intelligence competition, the eighth in a regular series held at its annual conferences at Peterhouse College, Cambridge. The prize is awarded on the basis of delegate voting to the system ‘which best demonstrates progress towards machine intelligence’.

One of this year’s finalists is ALICE, a chatbot developed by Dr. Richard Wallace and his colleagues at the ALICE AI Foundation. It aims to demonstrate that simple behaviourist stimulus-response methods, when applied on a large scale, lead to a believable illusion of intelligence in the context of Turing's Imitation Game. It has three times won the prestigious Loebner Prize, an annual international artificial intelligence competition for the most human-like chatbot." (From BCS_SIGAI email)

* Alice last won a Loebner Prize back in 2004. In that competition, in points awarded it was actually runner up to John Precedo's system, disqualifed on a technicality. Alice came sixth in Loebner Prize 2008.

"Will it win the BCS Machine Intelligence prize to add to this, in the face of opposition from

Dora the Explorer, a mobile robot which is able to inspect its own world knowledge for gaps and then perform behaviours to fill these gaps (e.g. by searching the room for objects which support inference about room category, such as a kettle in a kitchen).

Taaable, a system that illustrates how humans and machines can collaborate to reason and can share common knowledge on a particular domain, in this case creating recipes.

Fly by Ear, an intelligent autonomous helicopter which has been evolved to react optimally to its environment by listening to the sound emitted by the helicopter and interpreting the information transferred.

The competition is on Wednesday December 16th and is open to all delegates to the SGAI annual conference AI-2009 or the SGAI Real AI Day (the following day) " (From BCS_SIGAI email)

Problems with BCS's Machine Intelligence contest include that it is exclusive. Only delegates to BCS SIGAI conference have access. Secondly, the contest does not gather like-technology; contestants differ in what type of intelligence they attempt to demonstrate. For example, in 2009 Alice's dialogue will compete alongside Fly by Ear's helicopter autonomy.

As delegates decide, presumably not all can be experts in the dissimilar competing technologies, hence, judgment will be based on subjective opinion of "progress towards machine intelligence". Will the visceral concede to the abstract this year? Chatbot systems, Carpenter's Jabberwacky, and David Burden's HALO are past BCS Machine Intelligence contest entrants. Neither won it, good luck to Alice designer, Richard Wallace.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

'Alan Turing Year' on Facebook

Join 'Alan Turing Year' Facebook page for information and news of 2012 centenary events:

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Practical Turing Tests

Couple of new papers on Practical Turing tests:

1. Testing Turing’s five minutes, parallel-paired imitation game accepted for publication in (forthcoming) Kybernetes Turing Test Special Issue. Snippets from the abstract and conclusion -

Abstract: The authors consider Turing’s two tests for machine intelligence: the parallel-paired, three-participants’ game presented in his 1950 paper, and the ‘jury-service’ one-to-one measure described two years later in a radio broadcast. Both versions were instantiated in practical Turing tests during the 18th Loebner Prize for Artificial Intelligence hosted at the University of Reading, UK, in October 2008....

Conclusion: The Turing test supposes all humans are ‘packed’ with conversational intelligence, that interrogators could preclude their subjective notion of intelligence (Warwick, 2001), and what constitutes a machine-like response. .... What we have seen, and can conclude from that competition, is that .... ACE dialogue has improved since Eliza. Modern Elizas are able to recall, share information and disclose personal interests. The progress may appear slow, but it is present. [© Shah & Warwick 2009a]

2. Hidden Interlocutor Misidentification in Practical Turing Tests submitted for journal publication - snippet below:

Abstract: Based on insufficient evidence, and inadequate research, Floridi and his students report inaccuracies and draw false conclusions in their Minds and Machines evaluation, which this paper aims to clarify....

Conclusion: We suggest the interrogation strategy of 'power' .... resulted in a low correct identification rate. .... As Turing himself reminded: "[the] popular view that scientists proceed inexorably from well-established fact to well-established fact, never being influenced by any unproved conjecture, is quite mistaken" (1950: p.442). [© Shah & Warwick 2009c]

See also Myths and Misconceptions, re practical Turing tests in the 2008 Loebner Prize.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Android & Eve

Bridging Biology, Medicine and Technology, hosted at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology, Vienna Biocenter, November 12th – 13th 2009

Speakers include Miguel Nicolelis (Duke University):

Miguel Nicolelis is best known for his pioneering work in "reading monkey thought". He and his colleagues implanted electrode arrays into a monkey's brain that were able to detect the monkey's motor intent and thus able to control reaching and grasping movements performed by a robotic arm. This was possible by decoding signals of hundreds of neurons recorded in volitional areas of the cerebral cortex while the monkey played with a hand-held joystick to move a shape in a video game. These signals were sent to the robot arm, which then mimicked the monkey's movements and thus controlled the game. After a while the monkey realized that thinking about moving the shape was enough and it no longer needed to move the joystick. So it let go of the joystick and controlled the game purely through thought. A system in which brain signals directly control an artificial actuator is commonly referred to as brain-machine interface or brain-computer interface.

In this talk, I will review a series of recent experiments demonstrating the possibility of using real-time computational models to investigate how ensembles of neurons encode motor information. These experiments have revealed that brain-machine interfaces can be used not only to study fundamental aspects of neural ensemble physiology, but they can also serve as an experimental paradigm aimed at testing the design of modern neuroprosthetic devices. I will also describe evidence indicating that continuous operation of a closed-loop brain machine interface, which utilizes a robotic arm as its main actuator, can induce significant changes in the physiological properties of neurons located in multiple motor and sensory cortical areas. This raises the hypothesis of whether the properties of a robot arm, or any other tool, can be assimilated by neuronal representations as if they were simple extensions of the subject's own body.

From here.

And, Niels Birbaumer:

Birbaumer’s research focuses on neuronal plasticity and learning; Neurophysiological communication systems for motor paralysis (Brain-Computer-Interface); Behavioral medicine of epilepsy, Parkinson's disease; Amyotrohpic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and pain: Slow cortical potentials and psychological processes; Analysis and modification of anxiety and antisocial behavior; Self-regulation of electrical and magnetic and metabolic brain processes; Psychophysiology and behavior modification of chronic pain states; Neuropsychology of musical talent; Neural network models of brain activity, cognitive processes and non-linear dynamics; Functional Magnetic Resonance (fMRI) and learning; Magnetoencephalography (MEG) of cognitive and emotional processes, fetal brain processes and behavior; diabetes and brain processes.

Titel: Complete Silence: Brain-Computer-Interfaces and Paralysis
Abstract:The presentation summarizes recent work on the application of Brain Computer interfaces in Paralysis, Locked-In Syndrome and chronic stroke. Reasons for problems of brain communication in completely locked in patients are given and new data to solve the problem of "extinction of goal directed thinking" are discussed. The surprisingly good results in chronic stroke and movement restoration will be presented.Future applications of fMRI-BCI in psychiatry, neurology and psychology are illustrated with data from our lab.

From here.

[Prefer Android & She-borg for title!]