The mainstream media has been running tons of bits on “number-crunching” Chimpanzees today. Here’s one headline from WiredScience, “Chimpanzees are probably better than you at math.” Having previously studied primates’ mathematical abilities, I was shocked. It’s widely known that primates can’t do math because they don’t think the way we do. Eagerly I read the article only to learn that math wasn’t involved in this exercise. That pissed me off (I hate deceitful headlines), so I decided to blog about it.

Here’s the real skinny on this bit of misinformation. The chimps were TRAINED to use a touch-screen and memorization program. The program displays numbers in random positions, then the numbers disappear and the chimp touches the places the numbers appeared in numerical order (1, 2, 3, etc).

We know the chimps see numbers as symbols and understand that one symbol preceeds the next. But that’s the extend of their “genius”. There was no addition, subtraction, multiplication or division involved in this exersize. If chimps could add two numbers and understand what they were doing then that would be a true number crunching math chimp, but these aren’t. Again, the headline was, “Chimpanzees are probably better than you at math” …A complete lie.

Some chimps, which had practiced for quite some time, were pitted against college students who had no prior experience with this exercise. The students kept up with the chimps until the numbers were only appearing for less than half a second. I’m not impressed at all that chimps can be trained to react/memorize faster than humans who weren’t trained.

Instead of pitting college students against the chimps, why not use children and spend an equal amount of time training them? I’d put money on a 6-year old winning. …Children are faster learners than adults and have excellent memorization skills.

Obviously this story is another example of the media selling scientific lies by the click. Below is a clip from an average player in a Halo 3 match. Your reaction time here has to be in the 50-millisecond range to be competitive, and it’s ridiculously more complicated then the chimp game above. This is the kind of game humans (children and adults) play FOR FUN. Let’s see a chimp do this…




Michelle the Flying Cow

November 6, 2007

No, I didn’t forget about my blog. I was simply waiting and watching for the next great article. …Today I found it. You want to read this.

Fresh from today’s headlines, this is totally legit…

Couple escapes injury when falling cow hits minivan

Early Sunday morning in my home state of Washington something terrible happened. A visiting Michigan couple was driving home from church along the lake when all the sudden…

SLAMMOOO!!! A huge freakin’ cow landed on the hood of their car, instantly killing the peaceful creature.

The escaped cow was a beloved local prize heifer, affectionately named Michelle. It has been said of Michelle that she was fond of gazing into the heavens, sometimes with a longing look in her eye. …Not exactly normal cow behavior.

Obviously Michelle had decided she wanted to fly. Being an intelligent animal she must have planned to make her attempt over the lake. Unfortunately Michelle probably miscalculated her speed and trajectory by a few decimal places, resulting in a leap that landed her in history but was tragically short of clearing the road.

This is the cliff where Michelle made her fatal flight attempt…

This is the car…

And this is Michelle…

Your thoughts?

Fact or Fiction?

October 3, 2007

Recently a sixth-grade teacher brought up the Iraq war in her classroom. She said America was doing terrible things in Iraq, and that we needed to leave as soon as possible.

Unbeknownst to the teacher one of her new students recently lost her older brother in Iraq. This little girl proudly rebutted, “My brother went to Iraq to fix things. They killed him for trying to help. He’s in heaven now.”

The teacher rolled her eyes. Dedicated to the idea that she needed to educate her students on the harsh world around them she responded, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but if he was fighting in Iraq then he wasn’t helping anyone.”The little girl looked hurt for a second. Then she swallowed hard and said, “Oh yeah, when I get to heaven I’ll ask him.”

Irritated at the child’s response the teacher sharply replied, “What if he went to hell!?!”

Immediately the little girl spouted back, “Then you ask him!”

Squirrel Brains

September 20, 2007

My friend MK recently sent this video. I donno why, but I love watching squirrels do tricks. This one is pretty smart…

I’ve been working on some software for my Treo to replace the Windows Mobile UI for a while now. I think marketing and executives ruined Windows Mobile, and operators like Verizon only multiple the problem with their annoying almost-functional software. The reason I liked the iPod was that it was simple.

Amidst hundreds of flashy, cumbersome and confusing MP3 players the iPod was born. This wonderful Apple device was so easy to use even dogs can use them (though it seems to make them a little fruity)…

Unfortunately Apple has joined the usual suspects and gone flashy with the new iPod Touch and iPhone. I think Apple will refine MultiTouch until the interface is simple and easy to use, but it might take a while. My point is that they didn’t get it on the first try like they did with the iPod, and their new sales figures prove that.

Back to my software, I think your mobile phone should simple know where you are if you have GPS. I don’t want to fiddle with settings and menus. I simply want my phone to know where I am. Is that asking too much? So far I’ve written the interface to the device and the background service. …Next I need to finish my mapping, directions and phonebook services. I’ve only done %5 of the total work, but the rest is http parsing and UI.

Right now most people will have to use an external GPS solution because cell phone carriers are criminals. However, external devices have at least one advantage; they use their own batteries so they won’t be draining your phone.

I chose the GPSlim240 and paid something like $120 for it about a year ago. You can buy one today at MWave for $79. I’ve already got my money out of this gadget, and it lived up to my expectations. That’s rare.

This unit tracks 20 satellites (normal but not great) for up to 8 hours under continuous use (much longer when used sporadically). It connects to your phone using Bluetooth, which is a really special (think small-bus) wireless networking technology. It’s not perfect, but it does exactly what I wanted it to and it’s smaller then I thought it would be. This is what it looks like…

I tethered mine on my keychain because it’s small, and my jeans aren’t going to stop satellite signals. It works well in my pocket and while my key is in the ignition. This is what it looks like while I’m driving…

Here’s a picture of what Microsoft’s cumbersome Live Search Maps program looks like…

I’ll probably blog more about the software I’m working on later. Right now I just wanted to show you the GPSlim240. Hopefully Microsoft will just fix their software before I finish my own, but I’m not holding my breath.

My phone cassette adapter

September 16, 2007

It’s always annoyed me that there isn’t a SIMPLE way to connect audio devices (iPods, CD players, phones, etc.) to cars. It’s fairly common place now in new cars, but not in 1997 when they build my BMW. …So I had to hack a solution.

I sync my favorite playlist to my phone and I wanted to connect that to my car. This is my end result. It cost about $20 to build and it sounds MUCH cleaner than the Bluetooth and FM adapters I’d tried in the past. It also doesn’t skip or pause randomly like Bluetooth, and you don’t have to adjust it all the time like FM adapters.

This is what my cassette adapter looks like…

Below is an up-close shot of the adapter without the phone connected. The Velcro and old Xbox jack hang off a regular cassette adapter I modified to work with my phone. I couldn’t find a cassette adapter that had a 2.5mm jack, CDs, iPods, etc. all use 3.5mm. Cell phone companies use 2.5 (because they’re evil).

Below is the adapter outside of the cassette slot. I realize it’s not that pretty, but it’s always hidden so who cares.

And here’s a video of me explaining what I did and how you can build one. Just post a comment if you have any questions, anybody should be able to do this. Even if they have almost no experience with electronics. The real trick is to go to WalMart and buy a cassette adapter that can be easily taken apart like mine.


July 28, 2007

Rough Draft

As a kid I remember driving down the street when I saw a dog randomly jump out of its window. It bounced and rolled to a stop, probably injured but obviously not dead.

It bothered me enough that I sat down somewhere and decided not to get up until I’d figured it out. Eventually, right before dinner, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t random. The driver shouldn’t have had his window down because dogs don’t understand the dangers of driving.

If you throw a set of dice do they land randomly? …Doesn’t your hand’s position, sweat, force, twist, etc. really determine what happens? I think so. But that doesn’t prove randomness is a physical impossibility, it simply proves throwing dice isn’t random. …Or isn’t it? Suppose the person throwing the dice doesn’t know the shape of the surface they’re throwing a dice on? From the throwers perspective it would defiantly be random, but I don’t think their perspective changes the cause of the effect. So this is still defiantly not truly random in my book.

Look at the picture of computer generated “random” numbers below. Squint your eyes and you’ll see a pattern formed by the shapes of each letter and their spacing.

This might seem like a random pattern, it certainly doesn’t resemble any common objects. But this pattern isn’t. It’s the effect caused by aligning these particular numbers by their decimal point, sorting them from smallest to largest and spacing them evenly apart. Each of those factors may have been determined by different people, or other computer systems, but ultimately we know the pattern is the effect caused by these factors.

Towards my point, the computer generated “random” numbers aren’t random either. They are usually based on the number of nanoseconds since 1980, than multiplied by many math formulas. Surprised?

Did you know computers can’t even divide properly? It’s true. Actually division brings up an interesting sub-topic: Did you know the idea of having two equal halves of anything is a physical impossibility? Two values can always be measured more accurately and divided more evenly, and no two things (of any kind) are exactly alike. Upon close inspection everything is unique.

People have been fascinated by the idea of randomness throughout history. In ancient times they cast lots to both gamble and tell the future. Today we do the same thing. On the one hand our sciences all acknowledge that nothing is random. On the other hand we use “randomness” as the basis many seemingly rational things.

It seems that there are two small decided groups, those who believe nothing is random and those who believe everything is, while the majority of people tend to think it depends on the subject. …Which makes no sense to me …But then again, who am I? Just some random guy. 😉

So, what exactly does the word Randomness mean?

Princeton defines Randomness as…

Lacking any definite plan or order or purpose; governed by or depending on chance; “a random choice”; “bombs fell at random”; “random movements”. taken haphazardly; “a random choice”

Click here for my source

Wikipedia defines Randomness this way…

In ordinary language, the word random is used to express apparent lack of purpose or cause. This suggests that no matter what the cause of something, its nature is not only unknown but the consequences of its operation are also unknown.

Click here for my source

Why is there such a critical discrepancy between Princeton and Wikipedia? I think there are two reasons; 1) Wikipedia has a big culture with many perspectives. Mathematicians, etc. wouldn’t allow the article to misinform. Mathematicians know randomness hasn’t been quantified. That’s where the theory of probability actually came from. …And yeah, they never figured it out.

I prefer Wikipedia’s definition. Everything seems to serve a purpose. In fact, I can’t find a single thing that doesn’t. Maybe you’ve had better luck?