Category Archives: Uncategorized

Funding Asimov’s “Foundation”

Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” series is one of the most respected and enjoyed works in science fiction.  For several years now, a number of entertainment companies have secured rights for or at least talked about developing the series into a movie or television series.  Now, it has changed hands again.

I believe I mentioned in the last year or so that HBO was attempting to develop the material into a series.  It looks now like that did not happen.  Instead, BleedingCool reports — as does SciencFiction that Skydance Television is close to finalizing a deal with David Goyer (The Dark Knight) and Josh Friedman (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) to adapt the novels for a television series.  No word yet as to whether Skydance has obtained rights from the estate or made a deal with a television network or streaming service.

If you haven’t read even the first novel of the “Foundation” series, and you have any interest in science fiction, I recommend giving it a try.



Turtles shoot, don’t they?

Why the crazy title?  You may have seen the 1969 film “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”  It’s about people struggling with a variety of human frailties competing in a grueling 1930’s dance marathon.  If you haven’t seen it, believe me it’s not a feel-good film.  But my point here with “Turtles Shoot, Don’t They” is that when a turtle can be mistaken for a rifle, the results can be equally devastating.

Artificial intelligence and machine vision have come a long ways, however this technology is going into cars that not only aid us, but may soon drive us through town or on high speed highways.  We’d like to have the security of knowing that they can see and identify objects on or next to the road as well — or better than — as we humans can.  So it’s disconcerting that Google’s AI thinks a turtle is a gun, or a cat — which might be running in front of a car — is guacamole.

Researchers are just as busy creating adversarial images — images that can fool an AI — as they are figuring out how to properly categorize such images.  Recently published, “One pixel attack for fooling deep neural networks” explains how little it takes sometimes to fool an AI.

I hope that AI scientists can fix these issues.  I also want them to figure out why an AI can’t understand that a turtle is just a turtle.  After all, even a young child would probably know that the photo shown in the research is a turtle, not a gun.   What is going on in a child’s image recognition ability that isn’t going on in an AI?

Reminiscent of “Futureworld”

Scientists are just at the beginning of reading images from minds — in this case, from monkey’s minds.

In the movie “Futureworld” — sequel to the movie “Westworld”  — you might remember the Yul Brenner dream sequence, read from the mind of one of the main characters.  I don’t know how long it will be before researchers can achieve something like that, but it’s simultaneously exciting and frightening.

It was interesting to see HBO’s new “Westworld” series reimagine the original movie.  In particular, long dream — mixed with non-dream — sequences are being read from the minds of robots in order to test their memories and repair or modify them as needed.  Also exciting and equally frightening, especially since those in power think they know what’s best for the minds of their robot property and for the guests of Westworld.

Audio only games

Recently Amazon was in the news for launching a voice-only game for Alexa.  Good for them, I’m all for trying new kinds of games.

Sound only games go back a long time, all the way to the 1970’s.  According to Wikipedia, “Atari released the first audio game, Touch Me, in 1974.”  Milton Bradley made the sound-only game an art form with Simon (1978), which became one of the hits of the 1980’s.  To be fair, these games involved touch as well.

Amazon Echo Adventure Games, which can be developed using the Alexis skills kit,  are truly voice only.  They are similar to the kinds of text only adventure games of the 60’s and 70’s, like Zork (1977).  A big difference with Alexa, though, is that the games run in the Cloud — no game code on the device.

Moving a favorite in latest Microsoft Edge browser

If you have a number of favorites in various folders in Microsoft Edge, it can be difficult to click-and-drag the favorite from one folder to another — especially if the other folder is far down or up the list.  Here’s another way to move a single favorite.

In Microsoft Edge, the latest Windows 10 version as of November 2016, select a favorite from your list.  The browser tab should open that favorite.  Now just click on the Star icon at the top right of the browser as if you are adding a new favorite.  Select the folder you want it in.  Microsoft Edge will save this favorite in the folder you chose, but it will also move it out of the folder you previously had it in.

Shiny Star clip art

Outlook 2016 disconnected and related issues

Over the last several days I have noticed issues with sending, and sometimes receiving, emails from Outlook 2016.  Often, Outlook 2016 would report that it was disconnected — the Microsoft Exchange message at the bottom of Outlook that indicates connected or disconnected or Working Offline.  This morning, things got worse.  I had sent a couple of messages that went through, but in my Sent email folder it showed that the messages were copied to a couple of other people and attached a image001.png file I did not attach.  I had no idea why that happened, so I started to search help and online.

There were some references online to attached files, mostly regarding the use of signatures, html, or stationery in emails.  I did not use a signature or stationery, so I focused on html and turned on plain text.  This made no difference for me, so then I just focused on the disconnection issue.

I finally came upon a solution that worked, mentioned in the Microsoft Community on  Back in August 2016, this user had a similar issue to mine where Outlook 2016 was often disconnecting them.  The solution that worked for them — “removing and then adding the email account back into Outlook…” — also worked for me.  At least so far!  Also, when I looked at the messages that previously seemed to have an attached image001.png file and a couple of people I did not send to, the messages were now correct (no wrongly attached files and no people copied).

Just because this worked for me, I cannot guarantee it will work for you.  I am only posting this in case it helps someone who has the same issue as me.

Removing my Exchange email account and adding it back in from Outlook 2016 was easy.  I went to File-Account Settings in Outlook 2016, then selected the email account I wanted to remove.  Then I clicked on Remove (make sure you have the right email account selected, if you have more than 1).  Then I clicked on New, to add my email account back in (you’ll need your password and email address).  This is for an Exchange email account, so I have no idea what to do if you have disconnect issues with a Pop3 or other-than-Exchange email account.

Note that removing your email account from Outlook also deletes your associated email .ost file (offline folder file for synchronizing with the Exchange server) and recreates it.  If you have a lot of email on the server, it will take some time for Outlook to recreate this .ost file.  I have most email in local folders, so it only took a few minutes and my .ost file was completely restored.

Do presidential candidates time travel?

Since I write time travel stories, I wonder often about past and future.  For example, today I was thinking about the candidates for president.  In particular, this constitutional ammendment: “Under the Twenty-second Amendment, no person can be elected president more than twice.”

If you believe, even a tiny bit, that someday time travel will be possible, then you might have to also consider that one or more of the former — or about to be — presidents of the United States has already been to the future and back.  What if while they were in the future — and showed their birth certificate from the past to prove their eligibility — they got elected and served two terms?  Then, they return to today and get elected again.  Isn’t that a three term president?  But since they got elected today, wouldn’t the people in the future know because it became recorded history?  The idea of this loop is one of the things that makes time travel fun and challenging to think about.

Or perhaps they served two terms in the past already.  The problem with this is that it would also be in recorded history.  They won’t be allowed to run again.  When they show up in the future, voters will already know this.

A candidate today could time travel to the past and run, but what’s going to happen when they try to prove their birthday?  No one is going to believe they were born in the future.  Even if they could get past that somehow and get elected, wouldn’t it become a part of recorded history again?

I guess the results might differ depending on how time travel works.  If it just creates a new timeline in a different part of the multiverse, then an election in the past for a time traveler that differs from history — for example, getting elected instead of Franklin Pierce — might not be recorded in a different timeline — different part of the multiverse — when they go back to their own time.

So my answer is that president’s probably don’t time travel to get re-elected or serve three or more terms.  But that doesn’t mean they don’t time travel for fun!


UC Irvine Hall of Fame inductee

My Computer Science alma mater, UC Irvine, posted the inductees for their 50th anniversary celebration to their first Hall of Fame.

There were 20 inductees from Information and Computer Sciences.  I’m pretty excited to be among this group! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the ceremony since I was in India at the time — more on that in another post I’ll add soon. Photos and Bios of inductees are also posted online.  A video of the ceremony can be seen below.

If you are thinking of attending college and majoring in Computer Science, or considering obtaining a Masters or PhD in Computer Science, UC Irvine is an excellent choice.


Computerworld recently reported on simulated robotic surgery over the internet.  I think it’s only a matter of time before doctors are able to operate on a patient across the country.  But, as the Computerworld headline hints at, how about across space?

As long as the space station is within the orbit of the moon, we’re probably only talking about a 1 second or less display — assuming the station is within reach of a ground station.  That’s not ideal, but it might be acceptable for some emergency remote operations that are supervised.  But Mars communications, when everything is aligned to allow it, is a matter of minutes, not seconds.  That might be okay for communicating a set of operating instructions to a doctor on Mars — or surgical subtasks to a robot on Mars, which would have to be more robust than the research shows in the video below — but it would likely be dangerous for not-close-enough-to-real-time operation of a robotic surgical device.

But once you get further out to other solar systems, the communication times are in years.  Surgery from Earth would not be possible without some kind of FTL (faster than light) communications.  One can see in the movie “Prometheus” a — rather disturbing — example of a robotic surgeon capable of many different kinds of operating procedures on its own.  On Star Trek “Voyager” we’re introduced to an Emergency Medical Hologram capable of serving as the ship’s doctor when needed.

My story “RemoteDoc” — about a woman in the future who performs remote surgeries on Mars and on Earth — was published in 2004 in “The Martian Wave”.  It’s not in print, but I will put this in my second “Science Fiction: Robots & Cyborgs” anthology.

Extremely slow Wi-Fi transporter?

CNet recently wrote about a Wi-Fi router tricked out to look like the “Star Trek” Enterprise. That’s pretty neat to have, if you can get one or make one. As the article says, you might feel the need to say “Beam me onto the internet, Scotty”. But don’t expect to be transporting yourself from one place to another anytime soon. I figure it would take about 3 billion centuries to transport once using a Wi-Fi router. Here’s my rough calculations.

Figure quantum processing time on a quantum computer is unbelievably fast, but the Wi-Fi transfer rate is limited (1 gigabit per second, maybe) and recording quantum atom states likely takes more than 1 bit, so maybe 100,000,000=10^8 atoms recorded per second. The human body has approximately 10^27 atoms, so 10^27/10^8 = 10^19 seconds. There are about 60*60*24*365*100=3*10^9 seconds in a century, so 10^19/(3*10^9) is about 10^10/3 = 3 billion centuries.

Below is a video showing several transporter glitches in “Star Trek” movies and television episodes. Notice they don’t include any where the crew’s Wi-Fi signal is suddenly lost because their badges lost contact with the router, but they’ve had worse things happen.

While I haven’t written any stories that discuss transporters, I did have one published about a young man who has a device that attempts to predict the near future based on the current state of the atoms in his vicinity. This, like the transporter, would require technology far more advanced than Wi-Fi speeds. But it was fun to write about. The story is called “Surfing the Wave” and can be found in my anthology of science fiction short stories: “Science Fiction: Future Youth”.

Can computers become conscious?

MIT Technology Review had an interesting article recently titled “What Will It Take For Computers To Be Conscious?”  Judging from the Comments section on that page, consciousness is a hot topic.  There’s even a recent remark by Stuart Hameroff, one of the proponents of Quantum Consciousness.

I know that many science fiction and horror stories have dealt with this question in one way or another, but I feel the need to write at least one short story to add to the discussion.  I’ll let you know when I’ve done that.  In the meantime, you might enjoy my “Science Fiction: Robots & Cyborgs” anthology.

Theoretical Physicist Michio Kaku did a good job of describing the basic question a few years ago in the video below.

Social Impacts of Technology

Many of you have probably already seen this video, “I Forgot My Phone”,  on YouTube.  It’s about one young woman who doesn’t own a fancy (smart) phone.  Mostly, it seems to be a sad statement on the use of technology to disconnect from reality rather than the other way around.

As a computer science graduate from UC Irvine, I studied “Social Impacts of Computing”.  While I love technology and what it can do for entertainment, health, science, and other fields, I am often keenly aware of the downside.  My science fiction short story, “A Penny For Your Thoughts”, appeared in “Beyond Centauri magazine” April 2012.  It’s about another young woman who uses a future social media/mobile technology called Neuroo to communicate with friends.  It also disconnects her from family.  Or does it?

Asimov’s Foundation Series

Isaac Asimov’s writings inspired me to major in mathematics in college.  I remember being swept into the future upon reading his Foundation series.  I was already excited about math at an early age, but the character Hari Seldon’s development of psychohistory (mathematical sociology) — perhaps some futuristic version of what is now called Big Data analysis — was particularly inspirational.  That’s one reason I recently decided to incorporate a mathematician into one of my short stories, “Oddly Perfect”.

Asimov eventually tied together his Foundation Series with his Robot Series, so in a small way one movie, “I, Robot”, was made in relation to the entire series. There has been talk for years now that a movie series will be made from Asimov’s Foundation series, but I have not seen any recent discussion.  I would be excited to see these movies, if they are ever made, the same way I’ve enjoy watching the “Lord of the Rings” movies or “Game of Thrones” on television.

By the way, if you enjoy robot stories, you might also like reading my “Science Fiction: Robots & Cyborgs” e-book anthology.

Icon below from Wikipedia referring to Bayesian Probability.

File:Bayes icon.svg


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