Monday, 11 April 2016

Brain - The Last Frontier

http://www.matteofarinella.com/
Brain - The Last Frontier by Matteo Farinella
Regular visitors to my blog know that I believe that thinking creatively "outside the box" is an important part of science. Recently I have been introducing many of my science posts with a short summary of the issue in the form of a limerick - because it is a challenge to get the essence of a scientific idea into a few human-friendly words. I also like photography and I am creating a record of the area where I live with occasional posts on my Remembering Tring blog - but like to include some of the more creative shots on this blog under the heading "Captured by the Camera."

However there is no point in giving me a pen or paintbrush  because any attempt to produce an attractive picture using such tools would be a complete waste of time - and I admire those who can combine artistry with science. I was therefore delighted to learn of Matteo Farinella's blog.

Matteo is a scientist who did a Ph.D. in computational neuroscientist - and then decided to become a freelance cartoonist. He has just become a Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience at Columbia University with the goal of creating "a new paradigm for interdisciplinary university-sponsored research to advance understanding of mind, brain, and behavior, and the social foundations and consequences of new neuroscientific findings."

I wish Matteo well in his endeavours and will certainly be following his blog with interest.  My feelings are that much existing research in computational studies of the brain are so deeply involved in"fine science" and "sophisticated mathematics" that the human side is forgotten. Matteo's cartoons could bring in a welcome breath of fresh air.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

The Leo Computer Society Reunion

The Leo Computer Society committee line up for a photograph.
I spent a most enjoyable day at this meeting talking to old colleagues and came away with a lot of interesting ideas relevant to my research - which I hope to follow up on this blog over the next few weeks.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

The Link between Codil and the Evolution of Human Intelligence

The following notes have been prepared for the Leo Computer Society Reunion on April 10th. It is a brief summary describing the link between the original observations made of how salesmen understood complex sales contracts at Shell Mex and BP and later research in CODIL. It also outlines the recent reassessment which relates the earlier work to neural nets and the relevant to research into human intelligence. If you want to know more do not hesitate to contact me.

The Surprising Connection between the Leo III and Research into the Evolution of Human Intelligence
by Chris Reynolds
10th April, 2016

In 1967 I was asked to look in detail at the Shell Mex & BP sales accounting programs which ran on their Leo 3 computers at Hemel Hempstead. The aim was to see how they might be moved to the next generation of computers – which would have computer terminals. The result was a proposal for a computer with a user-friendly symbolic assembly language called CODIL (COntext Dependent Information Language). Nearly 60 years later it is possible to link my original observations on how salesmen though about contracts with a model of how human intelligence may have evolved. This note briefly explains the link and suggests that some way should be found to re-vitalize the research.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Captured by the Camera - Portrait of an Owl-Man


This picture was recently submitted to the Tring Camera Club competition for black and white prints. It was not selected as one of the top pictures - possibly it is not the kind of picture you would hang on your wall. Several people liked it and the only specific comment I got was that there was not enough contrast in the "face".

From my point of view its chief interest is that the picture says a lot about how the eye/brain combination works.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Environmental Limerick: Tasmanian Wilderness areas saved

The Threat!
From Tasmania I like the news
For its wildness has such great views
And will not now be felled
For the plans have been shelved
As the wild life they cannot abuse.


The Tasmanian Wilderness covers about a fifth of the island and is one of the world's last big temperate forests. The BBC news has reported that owing to protests from Unesco the plans to open the area up to logging have been abandoned,
My interest is that in 1991 I was working on a short term contract with CSIRO in Sydney and was asked to help set up a data base on a small area of the Tasmanian forest to demonstrate to Australian Heritage the advantage of digitising their records. Unfortunately it was considered unnecessary for me to actually visit the area I was documenting as I was "only a computer  expert." However in my own time I visited the Tasmanian section of the Botanical Gardens at Canberra and stopped off for a short time on the edge of the Great Otway National Park in Victoria, which is about the biggest bit of surviving temperate rain forest in mainland Australia. Should I ever have the chance to visit Australia again I would love to visit parts of the Tasmanian wilderness.

Are Artificial Intelligence programmes really so clever?

Lee Se-dol lost three games in a row
When he played against slick Alpha-Go
Well he won number four
But the program won more,
'Cause mere humans are really too slow.

Draughts was the first of the classic board games to succumb to the power of computers, then Chess, and now Go. So congratulations to all the people who have worked on the design of the Alpha-Go software and the computer on which it runs.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Environmental Limerick: The Warmest Febuary worldwide ever



Source ecosmart
Firm action should not be delayed.
We are warming too much centigrade.
With so much CO2
There's a lot we must do
Or in future the price must be paid.

Following a NASA report the papers world wide have been full of the news that February was a real shocker - see for example The Guardian (UK), New Zealand Herald, USA Today, The Indian Express, etc.

So have you made sure your political representative knows your views and is actually doing something positive about it?