Robonaut will go where humans would be in danger

This is NASA's picture, which I just borrowed to illustrate this story

This story is about a robot that is being developed by a team at NASA. The idea is to have a machine that can do “EVA”s… Extra-Vehicular Activities… which are very dangerous for people. The robot will be primarily controlled directly by people, not self-operating, and is shaped like a human torso so that it can be remote-controlled in a sensible way (if it was shaped like a spider, for instance, people would have a hard time learning to operate it), and so that it can use the tools NASA has on hand in space for astronauts to use.

Read More…

Lingua Franca – 17/03/01: The Newspeak of the New Millenium…

Lingua Franca – 17/03/01: The Newspeak of the New Millenium…: ”

Saturday 17/03/01

The Newspeak of the New Millenium…


At a recent Colloquium on ‘the power of the word’

at Churchill College, Cambridge, the plain-speaking

Nigerian writer and human rights campaigner

WOLE SOYINKA attacked the language of political

correctness. “

Charlotte Observer | 05/22/2004 | Advice to the graduate: Be a healthy skeptic

(I’m posting this whole article because I know that most people won’t want to register just to read it…)

Posted on Sat, May. 22, 2004

Advice to the graduate: Be a healthy skeptic

It’s the character trait essential for becoming a thinking adult


Special to The Observer

Almost 30 years ago today I graduated from high school. I was third in my class, which isn’t particularly impressive in a class of 50. The valedictorian and salutatorian were students more gifted and hardworking than I was, and I don’t remember feeling envious of their accomplishments. I was, however, irked that they had the chance to make speeches to the other graduates and the guests while I had to sit mutely in the audience.

The 2004 graduates will probably hear some of the same messages that I heard – to go forth with confidence, to persevere in the face of adversity, to do their best in all things — good messages, certainly, but not the one I would deliver if I had the chance to stand before them and their parents. Instead, my graduation speech would be a call to embrace the character trait essential for becoming a thinking adult. I would tell every graduate to become a healthy skeptic.

A healthy skeptic is someone who rejects easy certainty and intellectual laziness, who actively questions what he sees and hears and doesn’t let anyone usurp his mind. All of us are skeptical about people we distrust — we question the accuracy of their data and their motives for sharing it. A healthy skeptic also examines what he learns from his friends and from others who seem to reflect his world view. Even more difficult, the healthy skeptic questions himself, not just what he knows and how he knows, but why he believes what he believes.

Imagine a world of healthy skeptics. We would continue to look at our enemies with a jaundiced eye, surely, but we would be cautious about simplifying their actions into sound bites such as “they hate us because they hate freedom.” When I heard President Bush say this recently about the Iraqi insurgents, my heart sank. What exactly does that mean, that someone hates an abstraction such as freedom? Could some of the Iraqis attacking our troops be motivated by religious fanaticism? Could some of them be fighting because the presence of foreign troops is an offense to their sense of sovereignty? Are some of the insurgents criminals fomenting chaos so that they can profit economically, or could other fighters be interested in carving out a fiefdom of loyalists who will support them in the future after the coalition forces leave them to face each other? Wouldn’t we be better off rejecting an easy certainty — “they hate freedom” — and adapting our strategies to deal with a more complex situation?

In a world of skeptics, politics wouldn’t trump science. The FDA wouldn’t bow to pressure to ignore the recommendations of their scientific panel to make emergency contraceptives easier rather than harder to get. The environmentalists who worry about global warming wouldn’t be scoffed at by lawmakers who accept campaign contributions from polluters. Treasury Department whistle blowers and terrorist experts wouldn’t be squelched or fired. Plagiarized documents touting weapons of mass destruction would undergo genuine scrutiny instead of being used to bolster a particular agenda.

Dissent would be valued as an essential part of sorting out the truth. Discussions would be more raucous debate and less rubber stamping. Censorship would cease to be a concern because people who examine many points of view before drawing conclusions neither want nor need to be protected from information. If we made up our own minds after looking long and hard and skeptically, talk radio would be defunct and political pundits would be out of work.

A world of healthy skeptics would be a world where the charismatic Osama bin Ladens and Charlie Mansons would have little power or influence.

Fraud would be harder to perpetrate on people who refused to be gullible. Liars would be found out sooner.

Lovers might hesitate longer before getting married.

Teachers would stop trying to indoctrinate students. Students would hold themselves more accountable.

Most importantly, we would never have a moment when, asked if we could think of any mistakes we might have made, we would draw a blank.

On the last test that I gave my seniors, I realized that they have become healthy skeptics without hearing any graduation speech from me. In one question I asked them to reflect on their growth this year. What have they learned? How have they changed? What are they taking with them as they leave the nine-month gestation of their senior year?

“I learned to read and write more critically,” one student wrote, “but mostly I learned how to think.”

Several students wrote that they had learned to listen with an open mind.

“I learned to listen more and talk less.”

“I learned that everyone is ignorant, but mostly I’ve learned that I am, too.”

“I’ve always wondered about that saying that the more you learn, the less you know. Now I understand what that means.”

“I know why you have `the unexamined life is not worth living’ on your bulletin board. It’s what you really wanted us to learn.”

It is indeed.

Kay McSpadden

Read the Original

Will Google Netscape Microsoft? by Paul Allen

Last November, Google released its Deskbar, which allows you to search the web from your Windows toolbar without using a browser. I use it occasionally; but when I first learned about it I blogged a memo to Larry Page and Sergey Brin with what I thought was a brilliant idea, but probably one that had occured to them long before. I suggested that Google provide a free search tool that would index all your personal email and all the files on your desktop. If they did this two years before Microsoft releases Longhorn, with local and web search integrated into the OS, Google’s chances for survival would dramatically increase.

Read More…

Oil running out in 2025?

After getting the Y2K (remember that?) all wrong, (thank goodness), I’m
hesitant to panic too much about this, but I just watched an article on
CNN, where they interviewed one expert who thought that we’d be
substantially out of oil by 2025. That doesn’t seem like all that long
from now. I’ll be 65. Will I spend my retirement years fighting through
some Mad Max landscape?

Bible Argument Spurs Boiling-Oil Charge

Posted on Thu, May. 20, 2004

Associated Press

EUGENE, Ore. – A woman is accused of pouring boiling oil on her

boyfriend’s face in an argument over a Bible verse.

Angela S. Morris, 19, was charged with domestic violence assault and

jailed on $250,000 bail. Her 31-year-old boyfriend, whose name was not

released, was hospitalized with severe burns on his face, neck and chest.

The two were reading the Bible at the boyfriend’s apartment May 13 when

Morris went to the kitchen to prepare french fries, police said.

Morris told police that they continued to argue and that her boyfriend

grabbed her from behind. Police said he then went to his bedroom to lie

down. Morris followed and threw the oil on him, police said.


Okay, Google is driving me nuts. First I salivate over Gmail, finally
getting in during the third or fourth wave of beta testers, and now I
stumble over a reference to a new in-testing “social networking”
service called Orkut. I’m such a dweeb that I _at once_ want to join
the Borg Collective (blog collective?) but… the way the system is
set up, you have to be invited to join by someone who knows you. Since
I disconnected from my old Pagan world back in ’93 or so, I really
haven’t had many friends. So… I’ll have to depend on someone from
those days who might still remember me fondly (hah) or someone I met
during the years when I was active in HTML discussions… or, finally,
someone from Wachovia. The chance of someone I know _also_ being a
member of Orkut _and_ reading this blog… well… I might as well go
spend some money on the SC lottery. Just about as much of a chance.


Moving to this development means that I finally have access to a pool. I went for my first swim today, and had a blast, but the strain on my neck caused a flare-up of my neck pain, and I’m hurting now. A combination of pain meds and my rice-filled neck warmer is keeping me vertical and not too unhappy, but I’m planning to start drinking as soon as we get back from our weekly shopping trip. Ouch.