Posts Tagged Technology


Posted by on Thursday, 24 March, 2016
Robot gruumbles

                      Resentful robot asks “Why?”

Robots have more potential to “do wrong” than most people realize.

Scientists like Stephen Hawking have been warning robot makers lately (Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind – BBC News ) . Hawking (and others) don’t think robotocists fully realize that their robots could become more self aware,  becoming unexpectedly conscious and unpredictable.

The concern is that they could turn against us, perhaps using the communications networks and the power grids to attack humanity.

Maybe  robots will decide we’re in the way or – worse – that we humans are trying to enslave the robot race. It’s not hard to see how a robot might react to that one.

Experts acknowledge that this is theoretically possible but they say we have time. Most of them don’t think we’re anywhere close to self aware “bots”; some don’t think it’s even possible.


But MisterScienceAintSoBad wonders if self awareness is the wrong thing to be worrying about.

Who says robots have to be self aware to be nasty?

What do we know about the inner lives of tarantulas? Or snakes? Is there a “me” in a snake? Does a snake know itself when it looks in a mirror? In fact, why should recognizing yourself (self awareness) matter? Aren’t the most dangerous humans, the ones that are the least self aware? Does a snake have to know about itself to be dangerous?

Robots are way past the point where everything has to be hard coded. Robot designers, like designers of other advanced software based systems, are always going “Damn! I didn’t know it could do that!”

Google Now isn’t even close to conscious.

Siri either.

Both Google Now and Siri  suck at facts like hungry babies. They gorge on facts. They get smarter every day.

So maybe we should be worrying about something else besides if robots can see themselves in a mirror. Maybe that’s missing the point. Maybe we should be worrying about  autonomous robots– the kind that don’t need humans.

Autonomous robots certainly aren’t science fiction. Every day, more robots “cut the umbilical” or, as they like to say when there’s nobody around but other robots, “cut the imbecile”.

Just kidding about the imbecile thing (I think).

We have drones and Mars Rovers that work independently – just occasionally checking in to make sure the boss is around. If a Rhoomba rug cleaner bumps into a chair, it decides on its own which way to go. It doesn’t look at you for guidance. Will some future Rhoomba – one that’s just an ordinary robot without any self awareness features –  decide it’s more logical to push the mess makers out the back door than to perpetually clean up after them?


You’re sure?

Are Rhoomba’s designers sure?

What do you think?

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The drawing is mine.


Posted by on Sunday, 26 January, 2014
Cartoon about a world where geeks are cool




You come back time and time again to read about the latest stuff in science and technology.

And it’s  much appreciated.

You really never know what I am going to be talking about.  How could you? I don’t myself.

Some of my articles deal with medical” advances” and some deal with physics or  chemistry or astronomy. Sometimes it’s economics. Sometimes it’s the IPhone. Or Google’s Android products. When I write about abstract stuff – string theory, fusion power, or firewalls in black holes, you’re like “I would love to catch up with you and read that latest blog post but, thing is, I have to visit my aunt” .

I really don’t think you have an aunt. Am I right?

I love all that stuff about the beginning of the universe. What could be more fascinating then that tender moment when out of nothing – or almost nothing  –  an early universe appeared? In that first incredibly small fraction of a second, out of about a gram of matter, a process (inflation) began and ended much faster than the flicker of an eye and kicked off what we call the ‘Big Bang” expansion of the universe. There are mysteries within mysteries there. Where did that gram of matter come from? What was happening in the sliver of time just before that moment? What is the role of so called dark energy and dark matter? Is there more? Something out beyond the universe we can see? More universe? Other universes?

I imagine writing the  ultimate article about “The Beginning”. There’s a  nice cartoon with it. I’m thinking “They’re gonna love this!”

“Honestly?”, you say.  “If I don’t change the air filter in the car today, when will I get another chance? How about I skip that little universie deal and check in with your blog later in the week? Maybe you’ll have something to say about self driving cars.”

Recently, I wrote an article about Prince Charles and how he’d gotten himself into the middle of the homeopathy controversy. When the article went live, to my surprise, I was swamped with readers! Was it the mention of the ever popular Prince Charles? Or was it your fascination with the wackier kinds of “alternative” medicine?

It’s hard to guess what you will find interesting because, after all, “you” is a mysterious amalgam of individuals who come and go. Some of “you” write textbooks on astronomy and some of you read science fiction while you’re waiting in your beat  up taxi for a fare. There’s only one me but – when I’m lucky, anyway – there are many of you. Sometimes I get it right. Sometimes I drop a bomb and nobody – well almost – comes.

Bill and Marion and Danny come but I sorta take them for granted.

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad writes because – actually? I’m not sure why I write. I just do. The size of my audience doesn’t change anything. I’m not poorer if you don’t come and I’m not richer if you do.

That  “counter” I mentioned? The one that tells me how many readers I get? And how many articles they read? It keeps me aligned with my readers and their interests.  Maybe it’s vanity but I feel bad when you would rather check your air filter than read my latest article.

My point (if any)?

You read medical articles. If there’s a way to beat rheumatoid arthritis or hodgkin’s lymphoma or migraine headaches, you’re interested. Something for a bad back and you’ll read me for sure. Same for hearing loss.

Balding? Heck. A guy will ignore the love of his life for a few minutes and read every word of a new and promising drug that made a mouse look like Liberace.

Where medicine is concerned, I try as hard as I can to be a good partner. I know that being sick sucks; I do what I can to call your attention to important new developments and to steer clear of the blood suckers out there. For the “business of life”, I write about electronics and computers and refrigerators, and vacuum cleaners. I should do it more often but I’m no flipping Consumer’s Union. When I do, I try to sprinkle a little scientific sauce around. Nothing wrong with that, right? It’s my job.

Here’s the thing.

I won’t stop writing about  how life began or even how the  universe  got going/will end. Or whether quarks are  the smallest form of matter or are made of even smaller things. Or whether there’s evidence for life somewhere. I know I have to work harder to pull an audience with those blog posts.  And I’m not mad at you for choosing a spaghetti dinner over me. If I lose out to good food on a science article, it’s not your fault. I didn’t use enough seasoning. I’ll do better next time, okay? You’re not obligated.

We’ll work on that bad back of yours. But stay open. I’ll hook you on cosmology yet.




Vibrating Wigs And Other Ridiculous Stuff

Posted by on Thursday, 28 November, 2013


Cute cartoon about smart wigs




That’s it. I’m out of here!

In September I wrote a piece about a piece – a hair piece, to be exact.

I thought it was funny.

I said I had it on good authority that Apple is developing a smart wig. I made it up as I went along.  Lets get crazy, I thought. Really crazy. We’ll say the wig has built in audio via bone conduction using, supposedly, “Aviva’s Micro Cranial Transduction System”. I threw in some other absurdist “features” too including a virtual keyboard you could use by tapping your scalp.

Silly. But Mister ScienceAintSoBad’s allowed to have fun once-in-a-while, right?

I made sure to include something to let readers know the article wasn’t genuine. I don’t like it if a reader gets completely taken in and feels foolish. We’re sharing a joke here. Not playing mean tricks on people who are nice enough to read the blog.

So here’s the thing.

I happened to see a headline yesterday. “Sony smart wig patent is a real head-scratcher”.

Hmm, I thought. THAT sound’s familiar. Is this somehow related to my article?

Uh no.

According to Endgadget (Jamie Rigg), Sony has patented a “smart wig”. The patent, and I did look it up because – you know what? I would look like a real doofus if I fell for an “echo prank”- calls it a “wearable computing device” and says it’s got a computer, sensors, some way to communicate, and hair.

It has hair.

The patent was filed in May. Important because  I could have tangled Sony’s wig by having introduced the idea into the “public domain” before the filing date.


Why did Sony file a patent on something that is seemingly crazy?

Of course I don’t know. Some companies have aggressive  strategies where “intellectual property” (patents and such) are concerned. The low hangers are gone so they’re laying claim to whatever they can think of. If the idea doesn’t make commercial sense, maybe it can be part of a big block of patents that gets sold off or traded.

Or maybe the little puff of publicity about a stupid “smartwig” was worth the minimal effort to file.  After all, Sony managed to get MISTER ScienceAin’tSoBad to write a whole blog post about what it’s up to these days.

The actual value of Sony’s new “wearable computing device”?

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 1.


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The drawing? That’s mine.

The wig?




Posted by on Friday, 13 July, 2012



Some things are just TOO simple. They should be much more complicated. The Purdue Society of Professional Engineers understands this. You’re gonna blow up a balloon and pop it? In two steps? How about seven? If you’re REALLY good, maybe you can do it in 300 really ridiculous steps.

Don’t forget the sink.

Zach Umperovitch (geology student) was team leader in Purdue’s Rube Goldberg Machine Contest . To his team’s eternal credit, it found the hardest way to bust a balloon.  So proud. Back in the day, East German engineers used to be pretty good at this stuff. It’s how they made cars.

Here’s another project.


See, here’s the thing, A good way to understand the principles of simplification is to de-simplify. A good way to understand how to optimize is to de-optimize. Believe it or not, this is a good way to learn.


Long as you don’t think this is what your next employer is looking for.

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Image credits: The image is courtesy of Purdue University.