Tuesday, April 24, 2012

One Bark for right, two barks for left

Because I am last with your breaking technological news, you may be aware that Google released footage of their computer driven car. It essentially does what is in the name, it is a car driven by a computer. “So what” you say, “it’s just a dude in a bad suit driving a piece of shit Prius with a bad paint job. There is no way what-so-ever that this could be interesting. I would even rather watch Mythbusters than waste YouTube time on that.”

And I thought my car had a blind spot
The reason why this car is cool is that it was driven by a man not on Mythbusters, and who is leagally blind. 95% blind we find out in the video. I bet you’re regretting that bad suit comment now. Probably not the Prius one though. Its okay, he wasn't actually wearing a suit.

The man with the questionable licence is known as Steve Mahan to his parents.  From his home he picked up his dry cleaning, went through the drive through of Taco Bell, and then headed home not touching the steering wheel, accelerator, or even the brake pedal once, and completely unaided. How awesome is that? I like to think that he got cut-off and used an app to give the knob the finger.

This is a triumph for engineers down at Google, and more independence on the horizon for people who need it. Things like this might have been done before at universities around the world, but they generally required the use of signal reference points along the road, or were alone on a test track. Google’s engineering team have had this baby on highways travelling at speed, navigating regular traffic, and I wouldn't be surprised if it has helped move house once or twice.

From here we can develop algorithms to dictate the best way for traffic to flow and we can remove human error from accidents. Depending on how "naughty" you have set your filter search options, you may end up at a different toy store than you were planning.

While this will ultimately make things easier for drivers, I do think we have created a few more problems. Namely do you call road side assistance, a tow truck, or IT tech support?

“Hello, yeah I can’t get my car to start. No, it was working before. Did the car crash or did the computer crash? I think it might be the computer, I was driving along and then it stopped. Have I tried turning it off and on again? Not yet...”

I find this exciting because I hate driving to work. I would rather kick back and eat some breakfast or catch up on the morning blogs. No all the things you do and love on the bus/train/tram/tandem bicycle you can do in your car. You want to air guitar to La Grange with ZZ Top on the way to work like my mate and fellow Adelaide comedian Michael? Why not push that driver’s seat back and play a real guitar? If you don’t play guitar you have 30mins a day to and from work to learn.

What would be the first thing you do when trying auto pilot for the first time?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bee-n there, pollinated that

Science interests me. It is a human trait to want to know how shit works, and an engineering trait to find ways to exploit it so capitalists can make money from you. I came across an interesting article on the Discovery website about scientists at the University of Illinois looking into the risk taking behaviour of bees – I imagine because they have no beach to study the effects of bikinis and fun – and how it relates to risk taking behaviour in humans. (I’m sure there would be grants for the bikini study somewhere. Do Playboy offer a scholarship?)

At any point in every hive, 5-25% of bees are food scouts. These food scouts do not do the normal honey run like other bees. They are the hipsters of the hive; they will find a new source of food, tell all their friends, but never go back because all of their friends are now there and popular is uncool. I imagine using something similar to Facebook, maybe BeeBook, or checking in on OcelliBook if the bees knew the Latin name beach-lacking-scientists give for their face. (That is a case of trademark infringement Mark Zuckerberg’s lawyers would not want to touch… The Defence would like to release its opening statement your Honour. Attack my pretties!)

“You look at animals and they look really different and they act really different, but when you drill down deeper and look at the genomics, you find these deep commonalities” said Gene Robinson who is an entomologist, geneticist, and neuroscientist in charge of the study. The first thing I noticed when reading that quote is not the implications this find makes on what we believe makes humans human or that this man is obviously knee deep in bitches, is that he is a geneticist called Gene. That is like a Backhoe driver changing his name to Doug, or Footballer legally changing his name to “Sexual Assault”, or Chris Brown’s few remaining friends calling him “Punchy”.

Gene continues by saying “when you see this kind of result, you can say that personality is not a human invention”, I thought that would be obvious if you studied genes and was called Gene.

What the boffins did is find similarities between scouting bees, and other risk taking behaviour in mammals, including humans. People who are prone to alcoholism, gambling addictions, promiscuity, skydiving, Wall Street trading, or strip lawn bowls have a link to thrill seeking genes similar to those of the scouting bee. To translate, if scouting bees had a credit card, they would put it all on black while sculling vodka upside down after a bungee jump. Then they would post photos of their genitals on OcelliBook.

The interesting thing is that the scientists were able to tweak the genes patterns implicated in risk taking through experimentation, and increase the likelihood that the bees would become food scouts, and therefore increase the likeliness of them becoming risk takers. This is an amazing break through and good news for Gold diggers who are thinking about buying base jumping equipment for reluctant husbands.

 Now I don’t know what they mean by “tweaking genes”, but I believe it to be similar to “tweaking nipples”, and that’s the kind of science I can get behind, and probably more likely to get Playboy funding.

Check out what Hipster bees would look like at Pish Posh