Teaching the art of juggling

I am a long time amateur juggler, able to perform a few basics with 3 or 4 balls, 3 or 4 rings, or 3 clubs.  5 ball juggling has always escaped me, as well as many of the more complicated 3 and 4 ball patterns.  That’s why it’s great to see more capable jugglers creating videos that teach others how to perform some of these difficult tricks.

The International Juggler’s Association (IJA) has an annual contest for submissions of video tutorials, and they have chosen their top 10 for 2013.  Below is just one of the videos I enjoyed watching, especially since the 5 ball juggling skill is so elusive to many amateurs.  If you are interested in the science of juggling, Discover Magazine (2004) featured an article on the “Mathematics of … Juggling.”


About Big Data

Wondering what Big Data is?  This blog by Tim Powell is a pretty good summary of the challenges.  I particularly like this statement by Powell regarding what’s missing in many Big Data projections of return on investment: “the human attention and processing needed to convert the analyzed information into decisions and actions.” 

That said, here are a couple of recent articles on the subject of Big Data related to financial markets, where human trading is often considered too slow.

Nature.com: Quantifying Trading Behavior in Financial Markets Using Google Trends
Wall Street Journal: Feeds Drive Trading


2013 GamesForHealth conference – Boston 6/26-6/28

Attend the 2013 @GamesForHealth Conf! Boston 6/26-6/28. Explore how videogames help with health/healthcare http://bit.ly/gfh2013

I attended this conference in 2009 and gave a talk with Ben Sawyer about my game “Microsurgeon” being one of the first video games related to health.  Dave Graveline of “Into Tomorrow” interviewed me, and he’s got some nice pictures from the 2009 show (click on the link below).  My interview is near the beginning of the third hour of the broadcast.  ReachMD also attended and interviewed me.

VR helmet and a treadmill

Dvice.com calls this a peak at the first real holodeck, but I think that’s a bit much.  I have not tried it, but I wonder how it feels to walk upstairs in the video, while you are actually walking level.  Also, as an exercise tool, I wonder how effective it would be since there is a lot of stopping and starting.  It’s not the holodeck that I want, and I wish they would have come up with a non-shoot-em-up game for an example.

Van Gogh, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and “Starry Night”

According to Wikipedia, American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson once said “Creativity is seeing what everyone else sees, but then thinking a new thought that has never been thought before and expressing it somehow. It could be with art, a sculpture, music or even in science. The difference, however, between scientific creativity and any other kind of creativity, is that no matter how long you wait, no one else will ever compose “Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony” except for Beethoven. No matter what you do, no one else will paint Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” Only Van Gogh could do that because it came from his creativity.”

That’s fascinating, and it’s one of the reasons that inspired me to write “Light Echo,” a science fiction story featuring Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”.  It won best-in-issue in “The Fifth Di…” and is featured in my ebook, “Science Fiction: The Arts.”

In the video below, Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about some of his favorite things in his office, including his Van Gogh treasures (see 1:33 into the video).

Robot jobs

MIT Technology Review blogger Tom Simonite asks, “will robots create new jobs when they take over existing ones?”  Makes me wonder if in the future we’ll all have jobs managing robots (as in “The Jetsons”), or will the robots be managing us?  Or maybe laws will be created to prevent robots from certain kinds of jobs.

Those of us who watch “Futurama” learned that robots aren’t allowed to compete in Blernsball (a future jazzed up version of baseball).

Robots and the law

There’s an interesting MIT Technology Review blog entitled “Does a Tele-Robot Operator Need a Visa and W-2?”  That’s a good question.

I’ve been reading about telerobotics for a few years, wondering how well the technology works, especially internationally.  So I contacted a few of the companies that manufacture them.  The technology is so new that there don’t seem to be solutions yet for renting, repairing, and insuring telerobots for international use.  One company suggested that if it breaks down, you’d have to pay for the shipping costs back to the manufacturer in the U.S.

While there are probably plenty of customers interested in using telerobotics from a U.S. state-to-another-state, I wonder how many users there are internationally (such as U.S. to Europe).  I think it could make a significant dent in international air travel costs for businesses, but I don’t think the technology is there yet.


Strong’s exhibit of pre-video games

DemocratANDChronicle.com posted an article about the Strong’s new exhibit “of pre-video era games.”  It’s neat to see these old games that were popular long before video games appeared.

In my own video games career, I was certainly inspired by games like Chess, Risk, Monopoly, Stratego, and other popular board games of my youth.  The Strong’s online collection of video games includes my classic game, “Microsurgeon”.


STEM subjects

Adafruit Industries posted their first episode of an educational show aimed at kids.  It’s cute, and at the least it is an attempt to introduce children to electronics knowledge.  Hopefully, though, kids will also have many opportunities to learn by doing (hands-on) in their classrooms.

Can dreams be read like in the movie Futureworld?

According to BBC News, Dr Mark Stokes, a cognitive neuroscientist from the University of Oxford, said “a single dream-reading system would not work for everyone…you would never be able build a general classifier that could read anybody’s dreams. They will all be idiosyncratic to the individual…”

Wikipedia says this about dreams: “It is unknown where in the brain dreams originate, if there is a single origin for dreams or if multiple portions of the brain are involved…”  If it turns out that dreams and perhaps consciousness have a non-brain wave component, or are made up of a complex network of brain function, then there might be other, richer channels of information for reading dreams.  I am not ready yet to rule out this possibility.

UCLA Places #3 in 2012 William Lowell Putnam (Math) Competition

A team of UCLA undergraduates bettered the school’s 12th place performance in 2011 in the William Lowell Putnam Competition.  Take a look at the difficulty of previous year Putnam math problems, and you’ll see why I congratulate the entire UCLA math team!

I don’t compete at that level, although I did compete in a city-wide math competition when I was in high school, but I’m enjoying the Ole Miss Math Contest for 2013.  So far, I’m in the top 10 in the Algebra and Problem of the Week competitions.

Pioneer Awards winner – Steve Russell

In 1995, I enjoyed working with Steve Russell at a games company in Northern California.  In 1962, while working at MIT, Steve Russell invented Spacewar!.  It was an amazing accomplishment, and I would like to congratulate Steve on receiving the Games Developers Choice Pioneer Award.  By the way, Steve can be seen in the awards video (click on the link above) at around 37:30.

I think the video below is of the original game, but it’s possible that it’s a slightly different version.

Family narrative

I recently read this New York Times article (“The Stories That Bind Us”) about the power of family narrative in a child’s life.  Genealogy research is a great tool for learning about one’s ancestors.  It has been invaluable not only in helping me to build my own family tree, but also in better understanding how characters in my stories might better understand their own family history.

In my story “You Can Choose Your Parents” the meaning of family narrative is expanded.  In “A Floccinaucinihilipilificatious Life” a team of tiny robots build their own group narrative.  “Home Renewed” uses Mars as the backdrop of a people’s narrative, and “Above the Mississippi” shows you two brothers’ views of their family history.  More about my stories can be found here.