China’s first space walk

September 27, 2008
Chinas First Space Walk

China's First Space Walk

It’s about time someone / a country took up where America left off in the late 70’s and pushed human exploration of space.  This isn’t outer space yet, but it seems like the Chinese are serious.  I can’t condone their human rights record, but in this instance I am full of praise.

Onwards and literally upwards China.

Read more here.


China's first space walk

September 27, 2008
Chinas First Space Walk

China's First Space Walk

It’s about time someone / a country took up where America left off in the late 70’s and pushed human exploration of space.  This isn’t outer space yet, but it seems like the Chinese are serious.  I can’t condone their human rights record, but in this instance I am full of praise.

Onwards and literally upwards China.

Read more here.


China says: “I can haz more internetz pleez?”

September 24, 2008

“China is running out of IP addresses, Unless it makes the switch to IPv6. : The Internet in China may soon run out. According to the China Internet Network Information Center, under the current allocation speed, China’s IPv4 address resources can only meet the demand of 830 more days and if no proper measures are taken by then, new Chinese netizens will not be able to gain normal access to the Internet.

Slashdot is reporting this today.  Apparently China needs an urgent supply of new IP addresses via the new and improved IPv6 protocol.  Between poisoning babies with tainted baby milk, bashing Tibet and a myriad of other self created problems and human rights abuses it appears that China will soon have an even harder time accessing the already heavily censured web.  Sucks to be Chinese.


China says: "I can haz more internetz pleez?"

September 24, 2008

“China is running out of IP addresses, Unless it makes the switch to IPv6. : The Internet in China may soon run out. According to the China Internet Network Information Center, under the current allocation speed, China’s IPv4 address resources can only meet the demand of 830 more days and if no proper measures are taken by then, new Chinese netizens will not be able to gain normal access to the Internet.

Slashdot is reporting this today.  Apparently China needs an urgent supply of new IP addresses via the new and improved IPv6 protocol.  Between poisoning babies with tainted baby milk, bashing Tibet and a myriad of other self created problems and human rights abuses it appears that China will soon have an even harder time accessing the already heavily censured web.  Sucks to be Chinese.


Harping on again?

May 30, 2008

It’s been a while since I mentioned the reality of the effects of our huge meat production line, but a story in this mornings papers has made me decide to bring it back into focus here.

The Guardians article “More Wealth, more meat.  How China’s rise spells trouble.”  highlights a very simple yet enlightening fact about our meat eating environmental economy.

To produce a kilogram of beef farmers need 8kg of feed; for pork about 6kg; for chicken 2kg. Worldwide, 700m tonnes of grain are needed to fatten animals each year.

When you think about that it raises many questions.  Food prices are rising, many people around the world are starving.  Now what would feed more people?  1kg of beef or 8kg of grain.  The answer is self explanatory in my opinion and although I am simplifying using the above quote the facts are not much more complicated.

Our meat industry is hugely inefficient when it comes to the amount of food we get out of it compared to the amount of energy put in and the environmental impact created is also hugely underestimated and misunderstood.

The impact of the global meat industry with regards to green house gasses is larger than the worlds car or automobile footprint.  Yes, that’s right.  The meat industry contributes more green house gasses to our atmosphere than the total impact of cars, motorbikes and lorries.

It’s definitely something to think about.

And as the worlds population rises at an unprecedented rate, so does the impact of the meat industry.

On average Americans eat 129% more meat than the Chinese; Europeans consume 83% more. But in China’s case the fear is not of individual consumption, but of the multiples of scale and speed of 1.3 billion people growing richer at a rate of more than 10% a year.

I haven’t even touched on world food prices and the treatment of said animals, but I believe, pardon the pun, that there is enough food for thought above.


The Amnesty Report 2008

May 28, 2008

Amnesty has recently published its yearly report on the state of human rights across the world and it makes very interesting, if not depressing, reading.

I will leave the deatils to the report itself but here are some of the details that struck me and were highlighted by Amnesty International themselves:

“The most powerful must lead by example,”

* China must live up to the human rights promises it made around the Olympic Games and allow free speech and freedom of the press and end “re-education through labour”.
* The USA must close Guantánamo detention camp and secret detention centres, prosecute the detainees under fair trial standards or release them, and unequivocally reject the use of torture and ill-treatment.
* Russia must show greater tolerance for political dissent, and none for impunity on human rights abuses in Chechnya.
* The EU must investigate the complicity of its member states in “renditions” of terrorist suspects and set the same bar on human rights for its own members as it does for other countries.

Ms Khan from Amnesty warned: “World leaders are in a state of denial but their failure to act has a high cost. As Iraq and Afghanistan show, human rights problems are not isolated tragedies, but are like viruses that can infect and spread rapidly, endangering all of us.”

“Governments today must show the same degree of vision, courage and commitment that led the United Nations to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sixty years ago.”

“There is a growing demand from people for justice, freedom and equality.”

Some of the most striking images of 2007 were of monks in Myanmar, lawyers in Pakistan, and women activists in Iran.

“Restless and angry, people will not be silenced, and leaders ignore them at their own peril,” said Ms Khan.

Facts and Figures

ARTICLE 1

1948 Promise:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights
2008 Reality:
In the first half of 2007 nearly 250 women were killed by violent husbands or family members in Egypt and on average 2 women were raped there every hour.

ARTICLE 3

1948 Promise:
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person
2008 Reality:
1,252 people were known to have been executed by their state in 2007 in 24 countries; 104 countries however voted for a global moratorium on the death penalty.

ARTICLE 5

1948 Promise:
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
2008 Reality:
Amnesty International documented cases of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in more than 81 countries in 2007.

ARTICLE 7

1948 Promise:
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law
2008 Reality:
Amnesty International’s report highlights at least 23 countries with laws discriminating against women, at least 15 with laws discriminating against migrants and at least 14 with laws discriminating against minorities.

ARTICLE 9

1948 Promise:
Noone shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile
2008 Reality:
At the end of 2007, there were more than 600 people detained without charge, trial or judicial review of their detentions at the US airbase in Bagram, Afghanistan, and 25,000 held by the Multinational Force in Iraq.

ARTICLE 10

1948 Promise:
Everyone charged with a crime is entitled equally to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal
2008 Reality:
54 countries were recorded in the Amnesty International Report 2008 as conducting unfair trials.

ARTICLE 11

1948 Promise:
Everyone has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law
2008 Reality:
Amnesty International figures show that around 800 people have been held at Guantánamo Bay since the detention facility opened in January 2002, some 270 are still being held there in 2008 without charge or due legal process.

ARTICLE 13

1948 Promise:
Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state
2008 Reality:
In 2007, there were more than 550 Israeli military checkpoints and blockades restricting or preventing the movement of Palestinians between towns and villages in the West Bank.

ARTICLE 18

1948 Promise:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
2008 Reality:
Amnesty International has documented 45 countries as detaining Prisoners of Conscience.

ARTICLE 19

1948 Promise:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
2008 Reality:
77 countries were restricting freedom of expression and the press according to the Amnesty International Report 2008.

ARTICLE 20

1948 Promise:
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association
2008 Reality:
Thousands of people are believed to have been arrested during the crackdown on protests in Myanmar in 2007, Amnesty International estimates that around 700 remain in detention.

ARTICLE 23

1948 Promise:
Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to fair and equal pay, and to form and join trade unions
2008 Reality:
At least 39 trade unionists were killed in Colombia in 2007, 22 have died in the first 4 months of this year.

ARTICLE 25

1948 Promise:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for their health and well-being, especially mothers and children
2008 Reality:
14% of Malawi’s population was living with HIV/AIDS in 2007, only 3% of them had access to free anti-retroviral drugs, 1 million children were orphaned there by HIV/AIDS related deaths.

(All figures from Amnesty International Report 2008)


Trouble around the world

May 14, 2008

A cyclone in Burma and an earthquake in China.

Natural disasters are just that.  Natural.

It doesn’t mean that we should be any less sympathetic or charitable.  Luckily China has, in it’s own ways, the resources to deal with a disaster of this scale.  However, with possibly hundreds of thousands dead or dying and damage to infrastructure beyond comprehension hopefully they will be more open to outside help than the dictatorship that is Burma.

I have been reading in newspapers, online and hearing over the radio how this secretive state is blocking foreign aid at almost every turn.  Either simply not letting aid and aid workers in, or placing unreasonable conditions on the aid agencies involved.  The ruling military power is taking the abuse of human rights to new levels and we as a civilised world should not take their ‘no’ for an answer.  Forcing aid in via peaceful means should be considered.

The world is at a stage in it’s life, with us as the dominate species, where nobody should go hungry, nobodies human rights should be infringed on and we should be looking after our fragile planet.  Even more so in a time where millions of litres of water has to be shipped in to Spain, just for people to be able to drink, due to never before seen levels of drought.  Sceptics beware, global warming may just be rearing it’s head enough to bite.

Sadly, even in times of desperate need, lives that could be saved through the goodness and charity of others is refused and the human race suffers needlessly.

Our evolution stutters in the face of adversity and our right to call ourselves civilized should be called in to question more often than not.

We fail to act over atrocities like genocide in Africa.  Yet fall over ourselves to initiate a wars over oil and imaginary WMD and terrorists, killing those we profess to save.

I hope with all my heart that the influential Super Powers of the world are subject to the political changes necessary to rip up the rotten foundations of our political morality and that grass roots voters open their eyes and minds to the reality of our existence.

We are one species, one human race on one small planet.


Boycott the Olympics

May 12, 2008

China’s human rights record should be under attack. China should be forced by every peaceful means to change it’s human rights policies. China should not be hosting the Olympics.


Dugg

December 30, 2007

So Christmas has come and gone, and I have a few updates / things I have read to add here. Well, more than a few…..

Top 10 Reasons Why We Procrastinate

Climate Change Performance Index 2008 Released, US #55

Israel visits US to convince to bomb Iran despite evidence

How much is a Million,Billion,Trillion?

Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Songs of 2007

China passed US as world’s biggest CO2 emitter 6 MONTHS AGO

European Team of Astronomers Say Gliese 581 May be Habitable

House Expected to Pass $70 Billion War Funding Bill

Sixty Foot Scroll of Bush Scandals On Display

U.S.’s Largest Solar-Electric Plant Goes Online (and its military)

Scientists: Time Itself May Be Slowing Down

The Mourning (PIC)

The Top Ten Technology Nostalgia

The Worst Films of 2007

What Should the Torrent Community do in aXXo’s absence?

Linux and Mac computers sweep Amazon’s ‘best of’ 2007

Ok, I think that’s me up to date.

Way too much for me to comment on though. Should be able to keep up again now the festive season is almost over.


Rock, paper or scissors

December 20, 2007

[spoiler]

  • 22 December 2007
  • NewScientist.com news service
  • Michael Brooks

YOU know the score: paper wraps rock, rock blunts scissors, scissors cut paper… It’s just a trivial way of making decisions about whose round it is at the bar, who gets the TV remote, that kind of thing. It’s something like tossing a coin, right?

You couldn’t be more wrong. Rock, paper, scissors (RPS) – also known as RoShamBo – is a startling game of strategy that reveals both the fickleness and the limitations of the human mind. There are RPS world championships worth big money, fiercely contested tournaments to find the best RPS computer programs, and heated arguments over which is the optimal RPS strategy. When millions of dollars have been made on the throw of a hand, it is hard to argue this is an insignificant debate. So, how do you win at RPS?

From a mathematical perspective, RPS is a function known as an intransitive relation, which means it creates a loop of preferences that has no beginning and no end, defying standard notions of hierarchy. Though each item is better than some other item, it is impossible to define what is “best”, and this makes it interesting to mathematicians. “It makes you think precisely about what you mean by ‘is better than’,” says John Haigh, a mathematician at the University of Sussex in the UK. “Context is everything.”

Given the interest among mathematicians, it was almost inevitable that computer programmers would get involved and try to produce the ultimate player. According to game theory, the optimal strategy is straightforward: make your throws random. If no one can guess what you’re going to play, they can’t devise a winning strategy against you. That may sound like a simple thing to do, but it isn’t – not even for computers – as David Bolton, a programmer for a finance company based in London, has demonstrated.
Bolton, an RPS enthusiast, has been running a computer RPS league on www.cplus.about.com. The competitors supplying their game-playing code come from as far afield as the Philippines, South Africa, Sweden and China, and their programs, or bots, use a wide range of strategies. Surprisingly, the least successful bots are those that seem to make their choice based on nothing more than random numbers. “These all tend to be at the bottom of the league,” Bolton says.

The explanation must be that these poor performers are not truly random. If there are any patterns at all, well-programmed bots will pick them out – and work out how to exploit them. Iliatsi, currently the leader in Bolton’s league, has 10 strategies to deploy against its opponents, analysing their previous moves, for instance, to find a pattern and thus work out the most likely next move. Iliatsi, created by a Greek programmer, looks set to win when the championship winds up this month.

Though competitions between programs are a challenge for the programmers, they are of limited interest to everyone else, says Perry Friedman, who created RoShamBot, one of the first RPS bots. Computer RPS players are simply too good. “It’s much more interesting to find games that play well against people,” Friedman says. So when Friedman created RoShamBot, he deliberately refrained from making it invincible. While the program is powerful, its charm, he says, is that it doesn’t just mash you into a pulp. You can play against RoShamBot at http://zonker.stanford.edu/cgi-bin/roshambot.

Since graduating from Stanford, Friedman has worked as a programmer for IBM and Oracle and as a professional poker player. In the latter pursuit, playing RPS against other humans has been a big help, Friedman says, because live-action RPS teaches you about the peculiarities of human thought. In RPS, the golden rule is to be unpredictable, but without extensive training humans are hopeless at this. “People tend to fall into patterns,” Friedman says. “They tell themselves things like, ‘I just went rock twice, so I shouldn’t do rock a third time, because that’s not random’.”

Worse, people tend to project patterns on their opponents. “They see patterns where there are none,” Friedman says. This, he adds, is a major source of complaints in online gaming: when players lose because of something they perceive as a too-lucky dice throw, say, they think the computer they are playing against must be rigged. “What are the odds double-six came up right when he needed it?” players ask. The thing is, as Friedman points out, “They don’t notice all the times it didn’t come up.”

If you are going to win at RPS, Friedman’s advice is to think – but not too much. Of course you want to randomise your throws, but once the game is under way you should look for patterns. If your opponent is human, the chances are he or she works – consciously or unconsciously – with a sequence in their head. Spot it, and they are toast.

Another tip is don’t throw rock in your first game. This strategy won the auction house Christie’s millions of dollars in 2005 when a wealthy Japanese art collector couldn’t decide which firm of auctioneers should sell his corporation’s collection of Impressionist paintings. He suggested they play RPS for it. Christie’s asked for suggestions from their employees, one of whom turned out to have daughters who played RPS in the schoolyard. “Everybody expects you to choose rock,” the girls said, so their advice was: go for scissors. Christie’s acted on this expert tip, while rival auction house Sotheby’s went for paper – and lost the business.

Scissors is still a good starting throw even if you are playing against someone experienced: they won’t go for rock because that’s seen as a rookie move, so the worst you are likely to do is tie. Once things are under way, different techniques come in. You could try the double bluff, where you tell your opponent what you’re going to throw – then do it: no one believes you’ll do it, so they won’t play the throw that beats the throw you are playing. Then, if your mind goes blank, play the throw that would have been beaten by your opponent’s previous throw: some kind of subconscious activity seems to encourage players – especially those who are not feeling at the top of their game – to aim to beat their own preceding throw.

When all else fails, the rule is “go with paper”, because rock comes up more often than it would by chance. In 1998, Mitsui Yoshizawa, a mathematician at Tokyo University of Science, studied throws from 725 people and found that they threw rock 35 per cent of the time. Paper came in at 33 per cent and scissors at 31 per cent. Facebook has an online game called Roshambull which has logged 10 million throws in over 1.6 million games. Here the statistics are 36 per cent rock, 30 per cent paper and 34 per cent scissors. “Players clearly have a slight preference for rock, and that affects the distribution of all the plays,” says Graham Walker of the World RPS Society. This pleases him, since it shows how winning something like the world RPS championship involves skill, not luck. “Given people’s preference for rock, it is impossible to claim that RPS is a game of chance,” he says.

So there you go: if arguments over which TV channel to watch are a regular feature of your holidays, now you know how to get your own way more often than not. Do a little study, practise against an online trainer, then, wide-eyed, make what looks like an innocent suggestion: shall we settle this with rock, paper, scissors?

From issue 2635 of New Scientist magazine, 22 December 2007, page 66-67

 

[/spoiler]

 

The science behind everything….

I love these articles that are about nothing really, but are still so interesting you read them.

Maybe I’m just sadder than i originally thought.