Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Lunar Eclipse Defined by Wikipedia

In cel­e­bra­tion of today’s lunar eclipse, Google‘s logo fea­tures an ani­mat­ed moon.  When you click through, as usu­al, you get a page of relat­ed search results.

A lit­tle while ago, one of the top results includ­ed a sur­pris­ing def­i­n­i­tion of “lunar eclipse” from Wikipedia:

Accord­ing to Wikipedia:

Lunar eclipse: A lunar eclipse is when the moon turns black and explodes, releas­ing a poi­so­nous gas, killing all of human­i­ty.  Of course this can occur only when the Sun, …

The page had already been cor­rect­ed by the time I saw it.  But the false def­i­n­i­tion was appar­ent­ly cached and show­ing up in Google’s search results, until a lit­tle while ago.

I love Wikipedia. But it’s still fun­ny.

Check out the page devot­ed to Google Doo­dles.

Synthetic Biology Conference

Feb. 3-4, 2011 – Syn­thet­ic Biol­o­gy con­fer­ence held at Google’s Wash­ing­ton, D.C. offices

I am par­tic­i­pat­ing in a syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy con­fer­ence called “Here Be Drag­ons: Gov­ern­ing a Tech­no­log­i­cal­ly Uncer­tain Future.” 

Stel­lar cast of speak­ers from sci­ence AND sci­ence fic­tion:  Drew Endy, Andrew Hes­sel, George Church, Robert J. Sawyer, Neal Stephen­son, Bruce Ster­ling, Robert Wright, and many more!

Part of the Future Tense series, the event is co-sponsored by Slate mag­a­zine, Ari­zona State Uni­ver­si­ty, and the New Amer­i­ca Foun­da­tion, and will explore gov­er­nance issues sur­round­ing new, rapidly-developing fields of sci­ence.

How do we pro­ceed when we have no maps for these unex­plored ter­ri­to­ries?

*****************

Thurs­day, Feb­ru­ary 3, 2011 – 8:30am – Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 4, 2011 – 1:30pm

Google, DC
1101 New York Avenue, N.W.
Wash­ing­ton, DC 20005 

Hi-Tech Magic Teaser

At the end of the Sifta­bles ses­sion, I met Seth Raphael (also here), who was sit­ting two seats over from me.  We also hap­pen to be shar­ing a stage togeth­er tonight at the LateTech event – I’ll be doing sci­ence com­e­dy and Seth presents “a new tech­no­log­i­cal mag­ic show.”

In the three or four min­utes we spoke, Seth gave me an absolute­ly amaz­ing demon­stra­tion of his abil­i­ties.

He told me that when top hats and hand­ker­chiefs were in style magi­cians devel­oped pre­sen­ta­tions mak­ing use of them.  But they are no longer in style.  So, as a mod­ern magi­cian, he draws from more mod­ern mate­ri­als.

His demon­stra­tion involved a Google search that I defined.

He asked me to type two ran­dom words into the search field but not to hit Enter yet.  I typed “tur­tle opin­ion.”  He sug­gest­ed I add a third word because my two words were going to gen­er­ate too many hits.  I added “can­dy.”

He jot­ted some­thing down on a piece of scratch paper that I pro­vid­ed.

Then he asked me to hit Enter on my Google search and, as I did, he quick­ly put his paper face­down.   He esti­mat­ed that it took him about a third of a sec­ond to do so.  The Google search took slight­ly less time.

Now here’s the amaz­ing part:

Seth had writ­ten down on the piece of paper the num­ber 2,510,001.

Google returned 2,510,000 results.

Then, appar­ent­ly off the top of his head, he typed in a url at About.com that he claimed is the one result/page that Google missed.

And, as a bonus, there was anoth­er num­ber that he’d first writ­ten and then scratched out…  it was 3,540,000.  And, when we removed “can­dy” from the search, so that it was sim­ply on “tur­tle opin­ion,” that was exact­ly how many results the search returned.

How did he do it?

I can’t wait to see what else he has up his vir­tu­al sleeve.

seth-raphael-trick

Odyssey Moon Eyes Lunar X Prize

Odyssey Moon is making a bid for the Google Lunar X Prize:

 

From their website:

Odyssey Moon is the first team to complete registration for the $30M Google Lunar X PRIZE competition. The company made its first public debut on December 6th, 2007, at the Space Investment Summit in San Jose, California, unveiling its plans to make history with the first private robotic mission to the surface of the Moon and win the Google Lunar X PRIZE. The inaugural Odyssey Moon mission will involve a unique small robotic lander designed to deliver scientific, exploration and commercial payloads to the surface of the Moon.

 
Good luck! The more the merrier!

There’s a promo video on their website but a longer version is available on YouTube:

 

And the X PRIZE Foundation’s own video from last year explains their “incentivized competition,” inspired by the $25,000 Orteig Prize which Charles Lindbergh won for the first non-stop flight between New York and Paris:

 

Science Foo Camp 2008: Chapter 2 – The Hotel

The Sci­Foo expe­ri­ence begins before the first ses­sion – even before we get to the Google­plex (Get thee to the Google­plex!).

There was the Wiki, as pre­vi­ous­ly dis­cussed, for first vir­tu­al encoun­ters.  Then Sci­Foo week­end arrived.

On Fri­day after­noon, my taller half and I checked into the Wild Palms Hotel in Sun­ny­vale.  Sad­ly, jeal­ous­ly, Tara would not be join­ing me at the uncon­fer­ence.  As I frol­icked at the vast Google empire, she’d be get­ting to know every square inch of our lit­tle hotel room.  Where­as I’d be inter­act­ing with 200 sci­en­tists and sci­ence and sci­ence fic­tion writ­ers, she’d be inter­fac­ing with a stack of sci­ence and sci­ence fic­tion books.  I’d have Neal Stephen­son; she’d have The Dia­mond Age.  I’d have Ann Druyan; she’d have Shad­ows of For­got­ten Ances­tors.

Shut­tles would begin fer­ry­ing campers to the Google­plex around 5:15pm.  Tara and I went down to the hotel lob­by a lit­tle ear­ly to join the gath­er­ing crowd.  We round­ed a cor­ner and bumped right into Esther and George Dyson, sit­ting exact­ly as cap­tured here in their nat­ur­al habi­tat by Bet­sy Devine.  They were very sweet and wished us first-timers a great expe­ri­ence.

Min­utes lat­er, Prab­hat Agar­w­al intro­duced him­self.  Prab­hat is a for­mer condensed-matter physi­cist who now works for the Future and Emerg­ing Tech­nolo­gies Unit at the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion.  His job is to iden­ti­fy and sup­port new areas of information-related sci­ence, and he told us about his per­son­al inter­est in how we rec­og­nize some­thing as new.  I’m still con­vinced that we rely most­ly on the new-concept smell.

Jim Hardy has a pic from a few min­utes lat­er of Tara and me talk­ing to Bri­an Cox and his wife Gia Mili­novich.  Tara and Gia are in oppo­si­tion, and I’m near­ly total­ly eclipsed by Bri­an.  John Gilbey’s left eye makes a spe­cial uncred­it­ed appear­ance.  [Jim sends along this link to a big­ger ver­sion]

This was the first of sev­er­al con­ver­sa­tions I’d have with Bri­an and Gia.  Bri­an is a par­ti­cle physi­cist who works on the ATLAS exper­i­ment at the Large Hadron Col­lid­er at CERN in Gene­va.  Gia calls her­self a sci­ence groupie and broad­cast­er.  She’s worked on some pret­ty cool stuff like the CERN pod­cast and Walk­ing with Robots and the new X-Files movie.

They are not only a cou­ple but also a cou­ple of the peo­ple I’d see the most through­out the week­end.  We end­ed up in a lot of the same ses­sions, although I was sor­ry to miss Brian’s LHC ses­sion.

We talked a bit about the LHC and laughed about the well-publicized fear that it would cre­ate micro-black holes that would destroy the Earth.  Although there is a chance that MBH’s will be cre­at­ed, it would require that the uni­verse con­tain a few extra unseen dimen­sions, an aspect that is wished for by string the­o­rists and oth­ers but still unproven (at least by us ter­rans in our local 4-dimensional space­time realm).  Also, if cre­at­ed, the black holes would be so small and like­ly dis­ap­pear so quick­ly (due to Hawk­ing Radi­a­tion) that they may be unde­tectable by the LHC’s sen­sors.  A far cry from devour­ing the plan­et.

For an excel­lent fic­tion­al treat­ment of a sim­i­lar cat­a­stro­phe on Mars, check out Lar­ry Niven’s Hugo Award-winning short sto­ry, The Hole Man.  Much fun!

A few min­utes before we start­ed board­ing the shut­tles, Steve Goldfin­ger intro­duced him­self to me and Tara.  He lives up in the Marin area, as I recall, and we live in SF.  Steve is co-founder of Glob­al Foot­print Net­work.  We sat togeth­er on the ride to the Google­plex, dis­cussing sus­tain­abil­i­ty (his field) and sci­ence com­e­dy (mine).

Steve also men­tioned hav­ing been impressed with some sci­ence fic­tion by Kim Stan­ley Robin­son – although we laughed when he acci­den­tal­ly called him “Kim Stan­ley Ander­sen,” which I sug­gest­ed was a mash-up with Hans Chris­t­ian Ander­sen.

I don’t know which Robin­son work he was talk­ing about but sus­tain­abil­i­ty was a major theme (which it often is for Robin­son) and it was not the Mars Tril­o­gy (per­haps the Three Cal­i­for­nias Tril­o­gy or his most recent nov­els Forty Signs of Rain and Fifty Degrees Below).

As we arrived at Google, Steve and I exchanged busi­ness cards.  I had a great time chat­ting with him, but after we left the shut­tle, I only ever saw him in pass­ing per­haps once more.

Tara reads Niv­en & Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye. On the night­stand: Asimov's The God's Them­selves, Sagan & Druyan's Shad­ows of For­got­ten Ances­tors, Farmer's To Your Scat­tered Bod­ies Go, Jill Bolte Taylor's My Stroke of Insight. Tara is a vora­cious read­er.

Science Foo Camp 2008 on Nature Podcast

While at Sci­ence Foo Camp 2008, I grabbed a few quick inter­views for the Nature pod­cast, which was post­ed today on Nature.com.  Just a few sound­bites from atten­dees David Bauer, Bri­an Cox, Chris Patil, and Mar­tin Rees. And a shout out to me.

It’s the lat­est episode so, for now, you can find it here.  When it gets moved to the archive, I’ll link to its per­ma­nent loca­tion.*

Thanks to every­one who took the time to speak to me!

* Update:  Here’s the pod­cast episode (21 August 2008) in mp3.  And also a text tran­scrip­tion.

Science Foo Camp 2008: Chapter 1 – The Wiki & What I Missed

[I’ve made one pre­vi­ous Sci­Foo post, in antic­i­pa­tion (and trep­i­da­tion) of the approach­ing week­end.]

Where to begin? How to cap­ture the essence of such an over­whelm­ing expe­ri­ence? Nature! O’Reilly! The Google­plex! 200 cer­ti­fied sci­ence genius­es! No less than four (4) Nobel Lau­re­ates! And oth­er incom­plete sen­tences!

By design, Sci­ence Foo Camp has no real agen­da until we get there and cre­ate it, and even then, it’s com­plete­ly flex­i­ble. But, about three months in advance, a wiki was estab­lished for every­one to post to with descrip­tions of our­selves and ideas for ses­sions we’d like to see or lead. This was a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn a lit­tle bit about our fel­low campers and to be that much more pre­pared by the time we got there, since time would be so pre­cious.

[Note to Lee Smolin: I’m not sure about the rest of the Uni­verse but, at Sci­Foo, the flow of time is very real and very fast.]

If you ever get the chance to attend Sci­Foo, take advan­tage of the wiki. Start ear­ly. Most of the campers post­ed brief bios with their areas of research and inter­ests and links to home­pages, blogs, com­pa­nies, and orga­ni­za­tions.  For the ones that didn’t, there’s Google.  If they’re at Sci­Foo, you won’t have any trou­ble find­ing ’em. Most of them have Wikipedia entries.

My only wish for “improv­ing” the amaz­ing crea­ture that is Sci­Foo would be to length­en it just a bit. I want more!  Per­haps extend the Fri­day and Sun­day to full days. Give us just a lit­tle extra time to take it all in. There are so many fas­ci­nat­ing peo­ple, so many intrigu­ing ses­sions.  There’s no way to meet every­one or attend every ses­sion you’d like. With as many as four­teen (14!) simul­ta­ne­ous ses­sions in each hour time slot, no mat­ter how much you expe­ri­ence, there’s still a sense that you missed out on a lot of cool stuff.

Of course, even if it were a week long, I’m sure I’d feel the same.

Betsy Devine\'s morning session

For the first ses­sion of the week­end, I missed Carl Diet­rich’s “Ener­gy for Long Dis­tance Trans­porta­tion” because I want­ed to catch Bet­sy Devine’s “5-minute Talks by Smart Peo­ple About Web 2.0 Tools for Sci­ence” (fea­tur­ing Tim O’Reilly, Esther Dyson & Anne Woj­ci­c­ki, Chris Ander­son, Barend Mons, and Vic­to­ria Stod­den).

And I missed Carl again, for the last ses­sion of the week­end, when he talked about his fly­ing car, because I want­ed to see Broth­er Guy Con­sol­mag­no explain why the Pope has an astronomer (and a mete­orite col­lec­tion!).

I real­ly should’ve been at “Trans­form­ing Edu­ca­tion – Mak­ing Sci­ence Fun and Rel­e­vant for Kids and Stu­dents,” but I want­ed to hear Aubrey de Grey, Chris Patil, and Atti­la Csor­das talk about Aging and Life Exten­sion.

After a fas­ci­nat­ing chat Sat­ur­day morn­ing with Eric Wasser­mann on the 15-minute shut­tle ride from the hotel to the Google­plex (about the expe­ri­ence of spir­i­tu­al­i­ty and the illu­sion of con­scious­ness), I would’ve loved to have sat in on his ses­sion a few hours lat­er about the ethics and impli­ca­tions of brain enhance­ment. But I also want­ed to con­tribute to “Seduc­ing the Pub­lic with Sci­ence” (ini­ti­at­ed – on the wiki – by John Gilbey and Jen­ny Rohn – and includ­ing Tim O’Reilly,Seducing the Public - Tim O'Reilly, Marc Hodosh, Kevin Grazier, et al Ann Druyan, Marc Hodosh, Ben Goldacre, Euge­nie Scott and oth­ers). And, at the exact same time, I was miss­ing NASA Ames Direc­tor Pete Wor­den’s ses­sion on Set­tling Mars, and “LHC: The Uni­verse and All That” with Bri­an Cox, Max Tegmark, Mar­tin Rees, and Betsy’s hus­band, Nobel Lau­re­ate Frank Wilczek!

Impos­si­ble choic­es that have to be made!

I missed Paul Stamets’ ses­sion on How Fun­gi Can Save the World, as well as Paul Davies’ ses­sion on Mul­ti­ple Ori­gins of Life and a “Shad­ow Bios­phere” on Earth, and ses­sions on the World­Wide Tele­scope and brain read­ing neur­al pros­thet­ics, the future of quan­tum com­put­ing, 23andMe, build­ing bet­ter cli­mate mod­els, and sev­er­al more – all in the Sat­ur­day 4pm time slot – because I want­ed to sit in on a ses­sion with Lee Smolin, Max Tegmark, and Gar­rett Lisi called “Incu­bat­ing Adven­tur­ous Sci­ence and the FQXi.”

It wasn’t until Sun­day morn­ing, when I got into a great con­ver­sa­tion with the won­der­ful Dan Janzen about cater­pil­lars and moths, that I real­ized I shouldn’t have missed his pre­sen­ta­tion the day before on DNA bar­cod­ing the world’s species – all 10,000,000 of them.

But what could I do?  I was up to my ears in dark mat­ter – pick­ing the brain of Patri­cia Bur­chat, head of the Physics depart­ment at Stan­ford, who helped me final­ly under­stand how we could know – from our nar­row van­tage point – that the expan­sion rate of the Uni­verse has increased.

I could go on. And on. Expand­ing like the Uni­verse. And that’s what the week­end was real­ly about.

Look­ing over the list of campers, I fig­ure I had sub­stan­tial, inter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tions with at least 50 dif­fer­ent peo­ple, on prob­a­bly 50 dif­fer­ent top­ics – plus, I attend­ed about a dozen ses­sions, ask­ing ques­tions or con­tribut­ing com­ments dur­ing quite a few.

And I enter­tained per­haps the smartest crowd I’ve ever played with 45 min­utes of sci­ence humor at my own sur­pris­ing­ly well-attended ses­sion, Sat­ur­day night after din­ner (while, just down the hall, Mar­tin Rees and Nick Bostrom led a somber dis­cus­sion called “Exis­ten­tial Risks & Glob­al Cat­a­stroph­ic Risks.”)

There was some­thing for every­one.

In the end, there were some peo­ple – like Jim Hardy and Chris Patil and Bri­an Cox and his wife Gia Mili­novich and John Gilbey and Nick Bostrom and David Bauer and Lars Jeppe­sen and Simon Quellen Field – with whom I had mul­ti­ple chances to chat. And, yet, there are scores of peo­ple I nev­er met. I had no idea (until I was back home in San Fran­cis­co) that there were four Nobel Lau­re­ates among us; I met only one. On the final day there were some faces that didn’t even look famil­iar to me… had they real­ly been here all week­end?

[more to come]

Science Foo Camp 2008: Chapter 0

This is a hel­lu­va week. I’ve been pro­mot­ing and prepar­ing for my upcom­ing sci­ence com­e­dy show at the San Fran­cis­co Punch Line: Ratio­nal Com­e­dy for an Irra­tional Plan­et, Mon­day, August 11, 8pm, please come.

But between now and Mon­day I have what promis­es to be one of the most mem­o­rable week­ends of my life…

Fri­day through Sun­day, I’ll be attend­ing Sci­ence Foo Camp 2008 (“Sci­Foo”).

What is Sci­Foo, you ask?

Well, it’s an invitation-only gath­er­ing orga­nized by Nature, O’Reilly Media, and Google, and host­ed at the famed Google­plex in Moun­tain View, CA.

It’s a week­end of inter­ac­tive ses­sions. All del­e­gates are also pre­sen­ters. There’s no agen­da until we get there and then it is deter­mined col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly and sub­ject to change through­out the week­end.

And who was invit­ed?

Read the rest of this entry »