Future blast from the past

12 09 2010

via Here’s Why

Take in some futurology from the past in these videos – A combination of industry propaganda and promotions from the early 20th Century.

“Frontiers of the Future” (A Screen Editorial With Lowell Thomas) (1937) Archive.org

“To New Horizons” (1940) Archive.org

“Century 21 Calling” (1964) Archive.org

“Connected Earth” (1969) Youtube

Can you see some modern day inventions, perhaps in a slightly different form? And how about those inventions that never eventuated – was it because they were impractical, or an industry related reason, or perhaps they still might-someday-be?

What things did these futurologists never take into account? Perhaps the inverse growth relationship between the size of a TV screen and the size of a mobile handset…





Game: I wanna play forever

30 06 2010
Kids hard at learning.Image: sean dreilinger (Creative Commons)

Play-based learning is used in the Early Years to provide children with an intuitive learning environment suited to activities that little kids do best – playing around with stuff.

This tends to be phased out around the end of year 3, as we move into constructive activities and even, ‘oh noes’, direct instruction. This is something one the children I look after lamented now he is in a year 3/4 class at his new school, “We never play anymore”. Boo hoo, little Johnny, boo hoo. You don’t think I don’t not want to not play games too, yeah?

With gaming returning to an acceptable past time for adults – just listen to Kevin Butler¹ at this year’s E3 – shouldn’t this be reflected in our schools and curriculum? Many of the kids I taught respond to questions like “What’s your hobby?” or “What do you do in your spare time?” with some form of console or another. Many child care centres, and even libraries, these days have consoles available for visitors to use. And if you want to get into economics, I’m sure you can go and find your own figures on just how much this industry is worth.

Games in the classroom do present some problems, mostly to do with moral panic. Firstly just about “games” in general – with some of the students I’ve worked with not allowed to complete teacher-set homework on Mathletics at home because carers won’t let them². Others more serious and understandable moral panics about inadequate classification, excess violence, and depictions of sexual and criminal activities. The ethics and other social issues surround video gaming culture and industry is probably enough to design a unit (or three) all on your own – but what I am interested at the moment is what recreational video games are out there that could provide the stimulus material for an entire trans-disciplinary unit on there own.

As this Dueling Analogs strip illustrates games today are becoming more and more complex – not only in gameplay and graphics – but in background stories, character development, dialogue, and even the style or genre of storytelling themselves (also known as interactive fiction). These components should make it easier to take a single game and safely stretch it into multiple learning areas.

Below the fold are just some ideas:

Read the rest of this entry »





Surely a ball of string is cheaper

27 05 2010

I’ve seen some videos circling about the place of children using the iPad but this is just silly.

Actually, you know what I would like to see: those talking/language proficient non-human apes getting a spin on this device. That might actually be some productive. (Not the only one who thought about this apparently).





Sixth Sense: The world is your touchscreen

21 04 2010

Here is the TED video I snuck in at the end of the previous post. It is just way too amazing to miss.Pranav Mistry from India explains the amazing potential of the “Sixth Sense” interactive media device. No psychics involved, I promise.

more about “Pranav Mistry: The thrilling potentia…“, posted with vodpod





A world without paper cuts

20 04 2010

Reading with an iPod You're doing it wrong

It could well soon be the world we live in.

A world without electrical shocks and stomach burns may be another story for another day.

I will admit to a love/hate relationship with paper over the last 25 years. For the pursuit of drawings, doodles, story writing, schoolwork, reports, certificates, laboratory notes, my thesis, and, yes, I’ll even admit pen and paper roleplaying games, countless forests have been sacrificed , and in my shame I have been loathe to just throw them away. At my mother’s there still remains a suitcase filled with 3 years worth of undergraduate biomed notes and study guides that I have yet to throw away, because ‘I went to all that trouble’ and ‘maybe it will be of use one day’.

I blame my mother for not buying me a computer and exposing me to digital media. These days I have been making progress in keeping my teacher-in-the-making resources more digitally based (powerpoints, activity pdfs, and lists of links) – but I still have a growing colony of paper sheets that I have had to recently sanction a humanitarian cull of over the Easter weekend. The new heater screen and my ipod touch will try and keep my digital honour intact. Read the rest of this entry »





I am not your friend

13 11 2009

One of the best farewells that was written on my end-of-prac card was “you r now mi friend”. I had told this student earlier that day when he was not cooperating that today was the last day he had to make me his friend.

But is it okay to be friends with students? Particularly where everyone’s friends are now, Facebook.

During my last week, Education Queensland updated their code of conduct for employees to clearly stipulate that teachers “must not use internet social networks such as Face Book, My Space or YouTube to contact or access present students enrolled in any school or institute” and “If you use internet social networks in your personal time you must ensure that the content is appropriate and private, and that you restrict access to specific people who are not students” (Section 2.2.2 (b) Interactions with Students).

Teachers (along with probably everybody else) have been needing to be increasingly careful about what sort of material they make available online (for example). Thankfully a lot of social media websites have been updating features to make it easier to control how you are viewed online. At the start of previous school year Facebook blogged specifically to teachers about the benefits of making friends lists to control what is viewable by “students” (or non-teachers may like to create a similar group for “Uncles, Aunts and Grandparents”).

The private education sector in Queensland has yet to install a blanket ban on social media interactions with students (and last I heard they were not intending to go that far, but were considering available options). While I understand where EQ is coming from on this, it is a bit disappointing that there appears no room for leeway or principal-appointed exemptions (which are included on clauses regarding camera usage and other points). This means a whole range of Web 2.0 based activities and learning environments (Second Life, class blogging) are excluded from Queensland state school classrooms at all age levels (and I think it may also apply to TAFE classes too).

The Queensland Curriculum embraces technology on most levels, to me it just seems disappointing that it is not being flexible on this one. Perhaps their strategy is to ban it while they work out a more appropriate strategy to monitor student-teacher interactions on the world-wide-web.





Women need to apply more to achieve representation in MSTE

3 06 2009

Women just aren’t applying enough to get senior faculty and tenure track positions in maths, science, technology and engineering (MSTE). Perhaps I should rephrase, the report suggests that underrepresentation may be a result of women not applying for positions in the first place. Ha! not nearly as mysoginistic as you thought.

The congressionally mandated study, Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering and Mathematics Faculty, concluded that women are hired in similar proportions to that they are interviewed. For example in maths, women made up 20% of applicants, 28% of intervewees and 32% of job offers. That doesn’t seem to smell of discrimination against women in science technology, does it?

Th problem is that first figure is low. More than 20% of doctorates in math are awarded to women. So why aren’t women applying for the jobs?

The press release I read doesn’t identify any particular reason for this difference. It notes “most institutional strategies to try to increase the proportion of women in the applicant pool … did not show significant effectiveness [except] Having a female chair of the search committee and a high number of women on the committee were associated with a higher number of women in the applicant pool”. Suggesting lack of prominent role models might be factor. The comitte rests on the ubiquitous phrase “[more] Research is needed to investigate why more women are not applying for these jobs”.





Move your body

3 06 2009

The future is now!

Check out this awesome video of Microsoft showcasing the Natal at this week’s E3 press conference.

 





Why can’t you let go of your past

30 12 2008

via Blog Around The Clock

A list of 7 Living Artifacts

Technology that is dead, but just won’t admit it yet. Except maybe old media (radio and newsprint), which has made a somewhat delayed entry into the digital era with blogs and podcasts.

I think it’s rather sad sometimes that people are unable to easily let go of past technology. You would think that by now, people would be able to accept that as technology improves old technologies will become obsolete.

It’s almost an enigma that society on one hand accepts planned obsolescence but still fears disruptive technology. That is capitalist consumerism for you. While  planned obsolescence keeps people employed and the economy going – disruptive technology can eliminate labour forces and require extensive retraining for manufacturers and consumers alike.

Is progress becoming obsolete?

The writer of article puts it well:

It should never be a surprise to anyone when new technologies replace a previous generation of less efficient tools.  Yet the business world and our society itself are for some reason afraid of change … We can’t keep operating in this manner.  We should instead encourage innovation to create better, more efficient ways of doing things and work together to achieve the results

Things change. Deal.





Ice ice kitty

18 12 2008

All right. Stop. Collaborate and listen,
Ice is back with my brand new invention

via iO9

The Cryotranz™ concept (which will capture market share over the Kold Kitty Karrier) would allow safe, stress-free, and easy travel for pets. Or small children. Same diff.

Cryogenics rests on the border between impossibly crazy and almost plausible. While tissue and cellular integrity tend not to fare up well during the freezing and unfreezing processes – natural cryptobiosis adaptions allow some animals to survive prolonged cold-induced torpor.

The minds at work behind the thought experiment have considered some possibilities – using a chemicals (proprietary knowledge of course) to slow down kitty metabolism and prevent cellular damage. Perhaps derived from sub-antarctic marine life and cryptobiosis frogs?

The vacuum though? Possibly not the best environment. A fluid would definitely be preferred. While an inert gas (apparently oxygen is “corrosive”) sounds sensible – like a light globe. I think a goop (with a low melting point) of some kind that keeps the animal hydrated (along with important membranes) – but might remove some of the, “no mess, no fuss”, aspects.

cat
more cold kittehs





Mars attacked by robot ants from Earth

8 11 2008

via io9

Yes, those planets are the right way round.

Maybe they are just going to turn the red planet into a big 1950s space horror theme park. Personally I’d much rather a Total Recall theme.

I-SWARM is an EU brainchild that has tiny robots working together to accomplish tasks. Not only will they be small and versatile, but they will adapt to new scenarios, and use a mega-Voltron form to accomplish difficult tasks.

Sounds great. If they don’t kill us all. Autonomous robots capable of “anything” are not exactly going to calm down technophobic doomsayers.

They are microbots, not nanobots, so we are hopefully avoiding the grey goo scenario. Maybe apocalypse by M&Ms?

Anyway, I’m not against them on techno-grounds. I’d just rather it wasn’t ants. Robotic spiders are awesome though.





Playing “Doctor” goes 3D

17 10 2008

IBM have unveiled prototype technology for what they are calling “Google Earth for the body“.

Don’t expect to see it coming to your local gaming store, this one is serious business for your local GP.

The idea that your medical records will now not just be available digitally, but they will be represented on 3-dimensional figure on the screen.

This figure is more than just a simple paper doll – your doctor will be able to zoom in, focus on specific body parts and see relevant information.

The idea of it being digital means it is easy to transfer. Say you have a bad fall on holiday, your local doctor can send your record to a more distant specialist. It should also be easy to append additional files (X-ray data for instance, or links to disease databases, even doctors need explanations).

I can see some problems. Mostly in that it might make doctors “lazy”. The reason why you normally get tests when you present to a doctor is because they are interested in how you are now, not how you were six months ago at your last check-up. This new technology may look pretty, but it is no wikipedia. There are no little gnomes running inside your body transmitting updates to the system. Well not yet anyway.





Ellos!

23 09 2008

Myrmecos reports his findings: Paraguay may be the only place in the world that is a net exporter of invasive ant species.

Ugh! I hate ants. I don’t think there is a living thing I detest more.

Don’t get me wrong they are social and technologically fascinating creatures, but they must be destroyed before they destroy us.





Next Gaming in Evolution – part 2

6 09 2008

First two parter on It’s Alive!!

For some background on our topic: Science in the new Spore Computer game visit: Spore Official Site, Carl Zimmer: Gaming Evolves, Joan Bushwell’s Chimpanzee Refuge and/or the first part of this post.

I’m going to be rather brash and provide some constructive criticism on a game that I haven’t played yet, and isn’t even released in Australia yet…

The user-driven nature of Spore is going to be very hard to remove in a gaming market. A game isn’t a game if a user isn’t able to meddle with it. Even Sim-Earth, which allowed you to tweak planetary climate conditions, still allows some lee-way towards IDiots. Hell, IDiots even use computer evolution simulations by proper evolutionary biologists as *proof* of ID. So I’m not going to suggest too many improvements on that aspect, aside from perhaps a version that allows attributes to be generated in a more random fashion than spending points in a shop. I don’t think this would float in the market though, modern gamers are very much used to be able to get what they want.

To combat the games “one dimensional march”, perhaps mods or sequels that introduce “end-game” style content for the pre-intelligence mini-games in the greater Spore game.

For the beast-stage game, the user could try and make their creature survive in wake of another creature holotype achieving sentience. I think this could have a capacity to have some environmental messages in there. The user would be charged in ensuring their species does not go extinct. This could be achieved in several ways:

  • the high road – adaptation – adjusting to threats such as hunting (build up defense like – venoms, quills, mimicry of predators), habitat destruction (adapt to extreme habitats or adjust to city life), and pollution (avoid eating plastic bags, drinking polluted streams) – standard time-based victory
  • the middle road – domestication – either by becoming tasty, cute or just generally useful enough that the sentients will actively try not to wipe you out. Be careful though, the balance between being domesticated and being hunted to extinction may be very tricky to reach. Case study: The Aurochs.
  • the low road – nature fighting back – why let yourself be hunted to death, having sentience doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be top of the food chain – I think this would prove a popular victory path – standard winning by ensuring the other guys (in this case the human equivalents) are wiped out

For the tadpole-stage game. I was intrigued by the NYTimes comment amount the small sea-critter being eaten by leviathans out in the depths, forcing it to go onto land. Why not allow your creature to become the leviathan. Again conservation could be brought in by drawing from the fate of whales, sharks and other ocean dwellers.

The ocean depths being analogous to space in terms of a Final Frontier would really open up opportunities for some very exotic environment and alternative creature animations.

Further discussion below the fold… Read the rest of this entry »





Iranians banned from studying nuclear technology

9 07 2008

You might suspect this would be the work of Uncle Sam. I’d even be less surprised if it was my own Australian government, or the UK. But no it’s the Netherlands who are promoting racist barriers to education.

The Dutch are more well known for liberal approaches to marijuana and sex, but like quite a few central European countries, there are growing conservative elements preying on fears regarding Arab and Muslim immigration and influence.

This is very sad. Nothing really vindicates the harshness of this ruling.

It just shows gross ignorance and lack of respect on behalf of the Dutch government. Broad sweeping bans against all citizens of Iran from studying nuclear physics and rocket ballistics – including persons with Dutch dual citizenship is just unfair.

I doubt Iran is not above employing Saudi, Afghani, Indonesian, or any other nationality, to aid in any nuclear programs. Nor does it appear to prevent someone abandoning Iranian citizenship to pursue training.

Why just Iran? Why not North Koreans, Pakistanis, or other potential breakers of the nuclear proliferation treaty.

Indeed, if this technology is deemed so dangerous in the hands (or minds) of the wrong people, why even have public education programs in it at all?

Other countries have appropriate screening for foreign nationals wishing to study such technology.

And as the Nature article highlights, many international students are against the oppressive regimes in their mother countries. That is part of why they are studying abroad.








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