Investing Jetson’s Style

Science fiction movies like “Minority Report” portray a future where virtual reality is a natural way to access data. In reality, many companies, researchers, and governments have already experimented with this idea for enhancing military, educational, and healthcare technologies.

The line between games and “serious games” is becoming less clear. Now Fidelity is trying out Oculus Rift’s goggles for a flyover of one’s investments.

With people already performing daily tasks on their tablets and phones with simple touches, and video game technology being integrated into our work life, how long before office jobs are equivalent to working like George Jetson?

The Reading Game

Richard Levine, director at "The Reading Game" Oceanside
Richard Levine, director at “The Reading Game” Oceanside

Out of college, I started my career as a school teacher.  With many long-time teachers staying in the profession back then, it was difficult to find a job in the California school system.  After a stint as a math teacher at a junior high school, I landed a position as assistant director of the Fullerton branch of “The Reading Game”, a franchise of learning centers owned by “American Learning Corp” — which later was purchased by Britannica.  I even started and directed the Oceanside office of “The Reading Game”.

It was during this time that I saw how students learn with varying styles and at different rates.  But all the students I worked with seemed to learn better when they were motivated and having a good time.

Later, as a software engineer and game designer, I applied these lessons when developing “Microsurgeon” and “Truckin'” for Mattel Intellivision.  I wanted game players to have varying levels of difficulty and a variety of choices.  Like putting a little fun into education in my “The Reading Game” days, I put a little education into fun.

Will “12 Monkeys” be a good tv series?

[Also see my new entry on “12 Monkeys” created Jan. 9, 2015]

“Twelve Monkeys” was an interesting time travel movie that starred Bruce Willis, Madeline Stowe, Brad Pitt, and others.  One element that I think made it stand out was that time travel was depicted as making a person a bit — or a lot — nutty.  The “Journeyman” television series also showed us a time traveler who experienced headaches and other disorientation — not to mention his jumps were unplanned.

The new “12 Monkeys” series coming to SYFY television on January 16, 2015 could be good, but in watching the trailer (below) I wonder if some of the originality and edginess of the movie-by-a-similar-name will be lost on this new production.  It’s hard to predict, since the SYFY channel had great success in reimagining the original “Battlestar Galactica” series.

In my own writing, I’ve had at least a couple of time travelers who were driven to the edge.  “Timer” in my top selling anthology “Science Fiction: Time Travel” is about a scientist who struggles with the consequences of his time machine.  “The Time of Your Life” features a convict who suffers from Chronoagoraphobia.  This previously published story will appear in my next time travel anthology.

Time Travel E-book Cover

Brilliant mathematician meets Colbert

It’s not everyday we get to see a brilliant mathematician on a television show, let alone a comedy television show.  UCLA mathematics professor and Fields medal winner Terrence Tao was on “The Colbert Report” recently.  I would love to have heard more about the subject of twin, cousin, and sexy primes.  You can find more on the internet about bounded gaps between primes or computer algorithms for generating twin, cousin, and sexy primes.

OSHbots and science fiction

I just blogged a new entry on NEWWorthy regarding Lowe’s OSHbots, robot assistants in their stores.  Since science fiction writers helped to come up with the idea, it lead me to think about my own science fiction stories that consider robots that assist or sell products.  If you find the idea interesting from a science fiction point-of-view, you might like “Like Mother, Like Son” and “Agent Lenore” in my science fiction anthology “Science Fiction: Robots & Cyborgs“.


Lighthouse math

So I was reading “10Best: Scenic lighthouses around the USA“, and I had to stop for a moment when I came across “Further south, the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, built in 1860, stands 105 feet tall and provides stunning views up to 24 miles out to the Atlantic Ocean.”  Why?  Because I remembered the formula for calculating the distance to the horizon depending on the height you are viewing from.

The distance to the horizon is approximately 1.22 * squareroot(height_in_feet), so 1.22 * squareroot(105) in this case.  That’s about 12.5 miles — or a bit more if I include the height of a 6 foot person — nowhere near 24 miles.  So how do you get to see ‘stunning views’ up to 24 miles out?  You would need to see the top of an object that is over 100 feet tall — for example, an island mountain, a tall ship, a bird flying, or perhaps a tall building off in the distance.  Looking on a map, I suppose it’s possible that you could see the top of a tall building in Boca Raton or Port St Lucie, but I don’t see how that’s stunning.  I think the Bahamas are too far away, so what’s out in the Atlantic that is stunning, 24 miles out from Jupiter, and over 100 feet tall?  Maybe a cruise ship.

My numbers seem to coincide with the chart from Wikipedia below.  Is my calculation that far off?  What am I missing?


“The Force Awakens”?

According to CNN Entertainment and other sources, Star Wars 7 will be named “The Force Awakens.”  From a movie-goer and scifi writer perspective, I have to wonder what this means in terms of the plot.  So far, I can only guess that it might have something to do with either giving it a Disney perspective — meaning that this is a new beginning to the series, sort of like “Batman Begins” or “Superman Returns” — or maybe it indicates that what we’ve seen of the Force so far is nothing compared to what we’re going to see.  If it’s neither of these and nothing particularly different from what we’ve seen in the past, then one of the silly Twitter suggestions (see the bottom of the CNN Entertainment page) may be more appropriate.