Friday, June 29, 2007

Supercomputer to build 3D brain

Published 07/06/05 By BBC

The neocortex is organised into thousands of columns of neurons. Neuroscientists are to build the most detailed model of the human brain with the help of an IBM supercomputer. Experts at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, will spend the next two years creating a 3D simulation of the neocortex. Click for more...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Einstein(s) needed to simulate the human brain. Job specs below...

Published 28/06/07 By Bill Softky on "The Register"

So the tinkerers can't do the math, and the boffins can't tinker. To break that logjam we need an Einstein of engineering. He would be part hacker, part statistician: a special blend of mathematical genius, programmer, and tinkerer. And hopefully a businessman too. Click for more...

[G.K Comment: Bill Softky has a point here. But surely with the vast amount of research that goes into the sector of simulating the human brain on a machine... you would think that the result would come as a result of teamwork rather than individual excellence. Let's wait and see...]

Statistical Inference Software - The future is here

Published 25/05/07 By Bill Softky on "The Register"
...The fact is, what allowed Stanford's "Stanley" car (in the DARPA Grand Challenge competition) to cross a hundred miles of desert dirt unaided was not mechanical wizardry or "intelligence," but the careful application of statistical inference and software design to merging three kinds of sensor data: GPS coordinates, laser range-finders, and video color/texture signals. The secret sauce was in detecting the road fifty metres ahead and avoiding large obstacles, and even that apparently simple task consumed a year of the lives of a dozen computer science graduate students. It's hard to imagine Joe Tinkerer doing such things at home with his Mindstorms kit... Click here for the full article...

[G.K Comment: Well, another excellent article by Bill Softky. My favourite part of the article is the brief explanation of why statistical inference software is what really matters in some robot systems. I can't wait to see what other new technologies will emerge from the DARPA Urban Challenge which is due in late 2007.]

The flexi-laws of physics

Published by Paul Davies on 30/06/2007
New Scientist Magazine issue 2610

SCIENCE WORKS because the universe is ordered in an intelligible way. The most refined manifestation of this order is found in the laws of physics, the fundamental mathematical rules that govern all natural phenomena. One of the biggest questions of existence is the origin of those laws: where do they come from, and why do they have the form that they do?

Until recently this problem was considered off-limits to scientists. Their job was to discover the laws and apply them, not inquire into their form or origin. Now the mood has changed. One reason for this stems from the growing realisation that the laws of physics possess a weird and surprising property: collectively they give the universe the ability to generate life and conscious beings, such as ourselves, who can ponder the big questions.

If the universe came with any old rag-bag of laws, life would almost certainly be ruled out. Indeed, changing the existing laws by even a scintilla could have lethal consequences. For example, if protons were 0.1 per cent heavier than neutrons, rather than the other way about, all the protons coughed out of the big bang would soon have decayed into neutrons. Without protons and their crucial electric charge, atoms could not exist and chemistry would be impossible.

Physicists and cosmologists know many such examples of uncanny bio-friendly "coincidences" and fortuitous fine-tuned properties in the laws of physics. Like Baby Bear's porridge in the story of Goldilocks, our universe seems "just right" for life. It looks, to use astronomer Fred Hoyle's dramatic description, as if "a super-intellect has been monkeying with physics". So what is going on?

A popular way to explain the Goldilocks factor is the multiverse theory. This says that a god's-eye-view of the cosmos would reveal a patchwork quilt of universes, of which ours is but an infinitesimal fragment. Crucially, each patch, or "universe", comes with its own distinctive set of local by-laws. Maybe the by-laws are assigned randomly, as in a vast cosmic lottery. It is then no surprise that we find ourselves living in a patch so well suited to ...