Friday, May 15, 2009

Wolfram Alpha

Wow, JD got first in 2009, but I'm actually going to post something worth reading, if anyone is still reading that is.

Wolfram Alpha! A "computational knowledge engine" that can compute various mathematical, statistical, and physics equations. In addition, it can do other computations like 'red + yellow' or genomes or music.

If the website isn't live yet check out this video.(There's a live webcast of the launch right now, but there looks to be problems)

Wolfram is ridiculously cool, but also makes me curious about how this will impact people, specifically students. With the coming of the internet, it has brought instant sources of data (for writing papers) and Wikipedia. I wonder if not having students work out integrals stifle their development. Maybe integrals themselves aren't that important (I'm not sure I could do a complex integration right now), but I feel something could be said about the process of doing and learning. I guess my argument is a little short-sighted as the same could be said about calculators, and how they just let people do things more efficiently. Actual knowledge needs to be behind the calculator. So I'm on the fence about this, and I wonder what other people think.

All in all, it's an amazing piece of technology that has been put together, and I'm really excited to try it out.

Monday, May 4, 2009

I don't think that anyone looks at this thing but I just wanna have the first post of 2009 so in the spirit of blogging:


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Stephen King: Videogame Lunacy

A excerpt From Entertainment Weekly:

"What really makes me insane is how eager politicians are to use the pop culture — not just videogames but TV, movies, even Harry Potter — as a whipping boy. It's easy for them, even sort of fun, because the pop-cult always hollers nice and loud. Also, it allows legislators to ignore the elephants in the living room. Elephant One is the ever-deepening divide between the haves and have-nots in this country, a situation guys like Fiddy and Snoop have been indirectly rapping about for years. Elephant Two is America's almost pathological love of guns. It was too easy for critics to claim — falsely, it turned out — that Cho Seung-Hui (the Virginia Tech killer) was a fan of Counter-Strike; I just wish to God that legislators were as eager to point out that this nutball had no problem obtaining a 9mm semiautomatic handgun. Cho used it in a rampage that resulted in the murder of 32 people. If he'd been stuck with nothing but a plastic videogame gun, he wouldn't even have been able to kill himself." - Stephen King

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Future

Hey everyone! I hope all of you that took the time to read our posts through January have enjoyed it and maybe made you think a little bit. JD and I had a great time writing up our posts for you. We both hope to continue doing this, but it'll probably be at a less frequent basis because of the spring semester starting up. So check in soon and I hope that we'll have some new stuff up!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Day Away from Media

So for all those who have not read Brian’s post or are interested in what my take is on our media experiment this is what I thought. As most of you know Brian and I decided to see what a 24 hour unmediated day would be like. Being the huge techno nerd that I am, I had huge doubts about this experiment and thought that it was doomed for failure from the get go. So on Tuesday we actually began our unmediated journey. My day began by me waking up at 11am, this was a feat all in itself because prior to my waking up I went to sleep at around 5am. Why did I go to bed at 5am you ask? The reason is because I could not go to sleep for the life of me. Since our experiment began at 12am and I usually go to sleep with the TV on I could not sleep. I tried to go to sleep at about 2am after a rousing game of billiards and “Skip Bo.” I sat in my bed and began to read, when I could read no longer I lay in bed trying to sleep. This began around 3:30am and the last time I remember checking the clock it was 5am. So right then and there the experiment was off to a bad start.

That morning after I showered and got dressed Brian and I began to clean the apartment. The cleaning expedition began at about 1pm and we cleaned from then until about 4pm. Our whole apartment is spotless. I have to say that the cleaning part actually wasn’t that bad, it was something that had to be done and because we had so much more time on our hands we did a thorough job of it. The most notable change was while we were cleaning how quite the place was. It was so quite that we could even hear the humming of the overhead lights and we had to turn them off in order to maintain our sanity. We tried to fill in the lack of noise by singing. That lasted for a good half hour or so and it also provided us with conversation. I have to say though that even while we were singing I began to sing the theme songs to some of our childhood cartoons, Duck Tales, Sesame Street, Pokemon, etc. Even in an unmediated environment media still played a role in our lives.

After we finished cleaning Brian and I went grocery shopping and made dinner for 9 people, once again the noticeable difference was the lack of background noise. Even at dinner we usually have music on just to fill in the silence between conversations but I felt that without the background noise the silence was more uncomfortable. For this reason I also felt more pressure to make conversation just so there wasn’t that awkward lull. I do have to say that after people finished eating we did sit and talk longer than usual. I’m not sure if the conversation was longer because of the lack of media or because we were all genuinely having fun but that was another difference that I noticed.

After dinner people left and it was just me and our other roommate. This was a huge pickle for me because this is where the experiment would really come into affect. I was now faced with the option of having one on one human bonding or the other option, sleep. Since it was only about 8pm sleep wasn’t a real option so me and the other roomie decided to go out and play billiards. We did this for a while and then we came back to the apartment, by this time it was about 10pm and I had made it to the home stretch. After an event filled day I had nothing to do, so I decided to read the book “The Neverending Story.” Our other roommate came in and she decided to read with me. I usually don’t read with other people and didn’t know how this was going to work, I wasn’t sure if there was going to be awkward silence or would we talk and not get any reading done. It was actually an enjoyable experience, she explained things that were going on in her book and I explained things that were going on in mine. Surprisingly two hours had gone by pretty fast but when it was over I was thankful. The reason I was thankful was because I was tired of looking for things to do that would occupy my time. I just wanted to relax and watch a movie. When midnight came around my other roommate and I had picked out a movie and committed to that for the rest of the night.

I don’t know what to really make from this experiment. I originally thought that I would see and talk to people longer than I would usually but that didn’t really happen. The thing that I noticed the most was the silence. I did talk to people more but it was to avoid the awkward silence, it wasn’t because I wanted a closer human experience but it was just to avoid awkwardness. Maybe media has made me uncomfortable around people in silence but I don’t see how being around people in silence could help me either. This experiment has led me to the conclusion that background noise provides topics for conversation which in turn leads people to learn more about one another. Without this medium of background noise there would just be silence and that doesn’t really help anyone.

-J.D. (BigBear)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Experiment

We made it through the day without any breakdowns of any kind, not that we were expecting any. There was definitely a noticeable difference between life with and without media. I feel that a majority of the difference came with the unfamiliarity of living surrounded with media and not connecting to it. For example, JD and I were cleaning the room, but there was no music or television on. The background noise is something strange to go without. The buzzing sound of the lightbulb seemed even louder than usual in the quiet dorm room. I think the conversations were pretty average, but the lulls in the conversation were a lot more apparent.

I would say that the lack of technology introduced many inconveniences. Trying to find another person in the grocery store is made a lot simpler with the use of cell phones. It made me remember about the times when people used to get paged to the front of the store where their parents would be waiting for them. Now it is easy to just call a person. This is a good example of using technology, but there is nothing which might suggest whether connections have become better or worse because of this. I suppose that the use of phones would allow me to call home and ask if there is any milk left. Without phones, I would have to make sure what I need before going shopping. I guess there would suggest greater attention to the things around us, but to me it just seems bothersome. The primary use of technology is to make more life convenient. I would say that technology does allow people to get more done faster and more efficiently.

The activities I participated in over the course of the day were fairly similar to what I normally do. However, I think I felt a little less rushed while doing them, thinking that I had to burn time in the day. Without technology, I felt at a loss in trying to accomplish many of the “important” things I would have to do like answering emails. The fact that we only went through the experiment for one day was pretty interesting because I simply put off many of the “important” things for today when I could use my computer again. If I simply had no access to a computer for an extended period of time, I would have meet people in person to get answers to questions or use a phone if they were far away. Trying to do things that normally would require a computer seemed pointless to attempt as a computer would allow me to accomplish my tasks much faster. I can type 60 words a minute, but how many words can I write in a minute? Again, this brings up a problem of inconveniences.

As for the personal connections that I made, I believe things were rather similar. One thing that was special is that we cooked dinner for a friend who is graduating soon. One might say that it was because we had more time that we could do this for our friend and make a stronger connection with him. However, I think that this occasion just happened to fall on the day that we were going through with this experiment. The dinner party would have occurred whether or not technology was available. In fact, I think my friends used technology to help coordinate the gathering. About the personal connections, they seemed the same, no stronger or weaker than usual. In fact, I believe that making connections is simply a matter of whether a person wishes to go out and make a connection. Today, we did not have any limitations on our use of technology, but we took the time to speak with a shopkeeper for a few minutes. If we were to go by Pappano’s definition of connection, then we were able to make one despite having technology in our lives.

In some ways, technology may make us feel like our lives are busier than they have to be. We find that news is filled with unimportant facts, yet we feel the need to always know what is going on. However, there are major benefits to technology, and these positives definitely outweigh the negatives. I think that the main point is that technology does drive us to a life as a hermit, shunning all human contact. In fact, technology makes it easier to stay connected to those who we already have connections with.

Monday, January 28, 2008

In Closing

The end of January is approaching which means that our project is coming to an end pretty soon. So for this post, we wanted to bring together some of the ideas that we have brought up in the past month. I believe that most of our work can be summed up into what different people place importance on. In terms of defining our connections with other people, things need to change to incorporate digital means of connecting with other people. Along with the telephone, the internet has extended our reach in connecting with others. While maintaining this idea, I feel that we should not take for granted the conversations we do have with others, whether in person or online. In some ways, I have found myself agreeing about how the use of telephones has degraded to quick questions and check-ups. Personally, I have thought about how I use technology to communicate, and I believe that my telephone conversations rarely have much substance.

Technology has evolved so rapidly that it is often overwhelming when put in perspective. The number of people with computers at home has exploded since the 80’s. It is amazing to see where technology has brought us. But there is also danger in that people can exploit the advantages technology lends us. Advertising on the internet is the main source of income for any website. As technology has evolved to a necessity of life, media and advertising has also become unavoidable. Movies, books, news, games, TV shows are always on hand now. Can we control ourselves from overloading our brains with all this content? Also, with the birth of HDTV and technology constantly placing us one step closer to realism, will we be able to separate ourselves from the fantasy worlds on the screen? There are examples for both sides. The majority of people are on the side that uses technology with moderation. The few deaths caused by technology, which JD pointed out in his last post, are simply insane. The key for anything is moderation. While things like this do happen, people have a firm grasp on reality and understand that the media is created.

For Wednesday, we are going to perform a little experiment. Basically, we are going to (try) and go a day without contact with media. I guess it is similar when one goes camping to get away from everything, but as part of a generation so closely attached to media (having television and computers growing up) it will be interesting to see if we can avoid subjecting ourselves to media and technology for a day. Basically, this means that we are not going to watch television, use computers, cell phones, or read the newspaper. We will be recording our activities over the course of the day. We decided that books will be allowed. We expect frustration entering this experiment and already find ourselves preparing for the impending experiment. Basically, we feel like we must get most of our emails done illustrating how much we rely on technology. While this may seem like cheating, I think the feeling of not being able to check email freely will be a major annoyance. So is there such a thing as “internet addiction” or “technology highs” (getting a good feeling when finding new content on the web)? Well, we are going to take it a step further so stay tuned for the results.