Category / Science

Violin Playing Robot December 10, 2007 at 6:39 am

This is one impressive robotic achievement if you ask me. The following link is a video showing Toyota showing off a robot playing violin! Incredible…



Goodbye Amazing Alex September 12, 2007 at 8:20 am

Alex

I was saddened when I heard that Alex died on TV. You see Alex is an amazing Congo African Grey parrot; he is a world-famous bird and he ain’t no birdbrain (or may be he is)…

I first saw Alex in a documentary and I was in awe by his abilities. Alex was a research subject of Professor Pepperberg at Brandeis University in Massachusetts since the ’70’s. Parrots in general have good vocal mimicry, but African greys are the best talkers of all parrots. Alex, no exception, was a very good talker with very clear vocalization. But he does more than mindless vocal mimicry ala "Polly wants a cracker"– he actually communicates with words like no other animals I’ve ever seen. He was living proof that language isn’t only limited to humans.

Using a technique called model/rival developed by Deitmar Todt, a German expert in animal behavior, Pepperberg taught Alex amazing abilities. Alex can identify different objects, grasped the concept of same & different. He can distinguish objects by colors, sizes and shapes. As I recall from the documentary, Pepperberg would hold 2 keys of different sizes and asks him "what’s different?" Alex replied "sizes." He did the same with blocks with different colors and shapes!

Recently, Alex learned to count. Presented a tray of 18 different items, Alex’d mentally separate and count items based on colors! He even understood the concept of zero. When asked how many items of a particular color that isn’t on the tray, he replied "none."

Learning about Alex inspired me to get my own bird Bongo many years go. Bongo was smart and very vocal but we had to give him away when we have our girls…

Goodbye Alex…

Monsters In Space November 1, 2006 at 1:32 am

PBS aired a captivating Nova episode last nite called “Monster of The Milky Way” (aptly named for Halloween). It details astronomers on the hunt for a monstrous black hole at the center of our galaxy. Furthermore it was discovered that at the center of every single galaxy is a super massive black hole. These black holes turn galaxies into collosal cannibals as they “eat” up each other in this heavenly dance. As a result, the bigger galaxies will continue to grow fatter and the smaller galaxies will wither away as they get eatened up. Survival of the fittest at an astronomical scale!

Fascinating…

Censuring and Rewriting Science March 20, 2006 at 1:48 am

Even at the get-go, the Bush adminstration made clear its stance on the environment by withdrawing from the Kyoto Accord, which aims to reduce global emmision of green-house gases. It insofar denied even that global warming is a real concern when in 2001, Bush claimed that “we do not know how much our climate could, or will change in the future. We do not know how fast change will occur, or even how some of our actions could impact it.” Sure claim ignorance…

An episode of 60 Minutes aired last nite claims that the administration is now censuring findings by NASA’s James Hansen on global warming. Hansen is the world’s leading researcher on climate changes and believes global warming is accelerating; he points to the melting of artic glaciers and that 2005 was the warmest year on record, as proofs. The administration is restricting his communiques. Interview requests for Hansen are repeatedly turned down by the administration. When requesting an interview with Hansen, NPR was informed by NASA that they didn’t want Hansen talking on the most liberal media in America. Hansen’s press releases are reguarly reviewed by the chief-of-staff of the Council on Envronmental Quality named Phil Cooney. Conney was a lobbyist for American Petroleum Institute before going to work for Bush! 😮

Now, it’s one thing to be driven by certain politcal motives (aren’t all politicians?)– it’s another to censure, and worse, alter science! It’s blatant, outrageous and alarming. Now I won’t get started on the administration’s dealing with stem cell research, that’s a story for another day…

RIP Telegrams February 1, 2006 at 10:13 pm

Ran across this interesting piece of news today…

Apparently after nearly 150 years, Western Union has discontinued its telegram service. I’m only surprised it didn’t happen sooner; it’s a technology made obsolete by telephone, faxes and emails. I haven’t never sent a telegram in my life, nor received one. I did remember my dad sent quite a few in the 70’s to my grandparents in Asia. I wonder what future communication technology awaiting us.