November 20th, 2008

animals

Pet poll

Poll #1301415 Pets poll

As a pet, I have kept one or more:

Dogs
0(0.0%)
Cats
1(3.0%)
Horses
0(0.0%)
Rodents
0(0.0%)
Mammals of other types (cows, sheep, pigs, deer, bears, bats, platypi, primates, apes, elephants, dolphins, etc.)
0(0.0%)
Turtles and snakes
0(0.0%)
Frogs, toads, newts, or salamanders
0(0.0%)
Reptiles and amphibians of other types
0(0.0%)
Talking birds (parrots, cockatiels, etc.)
0(0.0%)
Birds of other types
0(0.0%)
Saltwater fish
0(0.0%)
Other fish
0(0.0%)
Insects
0(0.0%)
Other arthropods (tarantulas, spiders, snails, lobsters, etc.)
0(0.0%)
Anything else
0(0.0%)

I have WANTED, but NOT had:

Dogs
1(4.2%)
Cats
0(0.0%)
Horses
2(8.3%)
Rodents
1(4.2%)
Mammals of other types (cows, sheep, pigs, deer, bears, bats, platypi, primates, apes, elephants, dolphins, etc.)
0(0.0%)
Turtles and snakes
0(0.0%)
Frogs, toads, newts, or salamanders
0(0.0%)
Reptiles and amphibians of other types
0(0.0%)
Talking birds (parrots, cockatiels, etc.)
0(0.0%)
Birds of other types
0(0.0%)
Saltwater fish
0(0.0%)
Other fish
0(0.0%)
Insects
0(0.0%)
Other arthropods (tarantulas, spiders, snails, lobsters, etc.)
0(0.0%)
Anything else
0(0.0%)

If I had to pick ONE type of animal for my NEXT pet, it would be:

Dogs
6(18.2%)
Cats
14(42.4%)
Horses
1(3.0%)
Rodents
1(3.0%)
Mammals of other types (cows, sheep, pigs, deer, bears, bats, platypi, primates, apes, elephants, dolphins, etc.)
1(3.0%)
Turtles and snakes
1(3.0%)
Frogs, toads, newts, or salamanders
0(0.0%)
Reptiles and amphibians of other types
2(6.1%)
Talking birds (parrots, cockatiels, etc.)
2(6.1%)
Birds of other types
0(0.0%)
Saltwater fish
0(0.0%)
Other fish
1(3.0%)
Insects
0(0.0%)
Other arthropods (tarantulas, spiders, snails, lobsters, etc.)
3(9.1%)
Anything else, including NO pets
1(3.0%)

Please specify your answer to #3.

I have had more than one pet at a time before.

Yes, of the same species
5(15.2%)
Yes, of different species
24(72.7%)
No
4(12.1%)

I have had to give up animals that were incompatible with one another.

Yes, of the same species
3(9.4%)
Yes, of different species
1(3.1%)
No
28(87.5%)

I have had a pet from one or more of these rare or unusual taxa before:

Non-dog canine (wolf, fox, coyote, etc.)
0(0.0%)
Wildcat or great cat (tiger, lion, hybrid)
0(0.0%)
Non-horse/pony equid (donkey, zebra)
0(0.0%)
Camelid (camel, dromedary, llama, alpaca)
0(0.0%)
Non-domesticated even-toed ungulate (deer including elk/moose, antelope, giraffe, hippopotamus, etc.)
0(0.0%)
Marsupial (oppossum, wombat, koala, kangaroo, wallaby, etc.)
0(0.0%)
Cetacean (whale, dolphin, porpoise)
0(0.0%)
Arachnid (spider, tarantula, scorpion)
2(28.6%)
Crustacean (crab, lobster, "Sea Monkeys" or other brine shrimp), mollusc (snail, giant oyster) or other non-insect, non-arachnid arthropod (centipede, millipede, etc.)
4(57.1%)
Crocodilian (alligator or crocodile)
0(0.0%)
Flightless bird (kiwi, weka, penguin)
0(0.0%)
Monotreme (platypus, echidna)
0(0.0%)


ETA, 14:10 CST Sat 22 Nov 2008 - gondhir correctly points out that molluscs (including snails, slugs, and clams) are not arthropods, nor are annelids (worms).

For the first three questions. snails and other molluscs belong under "anything else".

For the last question, the category "Crustacean (crab, lobster, "Sea Monkeys" or other brine shrimp), mollusc (snail, giant oyster) or other non-insect, non-arachnid arthropod (centipede, millipede, etc.)" should be "Other Arthropods, Molluscs, and Annelids", my idea being "other shelled, creepy, crawly, and slimy things that aren't proper bugs (insects and arachnids)". Of course, the line between centipedes and other bugs is pretty fine as pets go; you'd have to define "proper bugs" as "having 6-8 legs".

--
Banazir
space

Heliodons

A heliodon (HEE-leo-don) is a device for adjusting the angle between a flat surface and a beam of light to match the angle between a horizontal plane at a specific latitude and the solar beam. Heliodons are used primarily by architects and students of architecture. By placing a model building on the heliodon’s flat surface and making adjustments to the light/surface angle, the investigator can see how the building would look in the three dimensional solar beam at various dates and times of day.
    -Wikipedia


It's a Greek-to-English neologism, so I don't think it quite belongs as a Cool Word of The Month (although I once chose panmictic), but I just think it's a nifty invention. We have one in our College of Architecture that is used for various visualizations. I think darana and phawkwood have seen it; anybody else who's reading this?

--
Banazir
buildings

Cool Word of The Month

حكمة [transliterated hikma] (Arabic, noun) - "wisdom"

From Wikipedia:
The House of Wisdom (Arabic: بيت الحكمة‎; Bait al-Hikma) was a key institution in the Translation Movement - a library and translation institute in Abbassid-era Baghdad, Iraq. It is considered to have been a major intellectual center of the Islamic Golden Age. The House of Wisdom acted as a society founded by Abbasid caliphs Harun al-Rashid and his son al-Ma'mun who reigned from 813-833 CE. Based in Baghdad from the 9th to 13th centuries, many of the most learned Muslim scholars were part of this excellent research and educational institute. In the reign of al-Ma'mun, observatories were set up, and The House was an unrivalled centre for the study of humanities and for sciences, including mathematics, astronomy, medicine, chemistry, zoology and geography. Drawing on Persian, Indian and Greek texts—including those of Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Euclid, Plotinus, Galen, Sushruta, Charaka, Aryabhata and Brahmagupta—the scholars accumulated a great collection of knowledge in the world, and built on it through their own discoveries. Baghdad was known as the world's richest city and centre for intellectual development of the time, and had a population of over a million, the largest in its time. The great scholars of the House of Wisdom included Al-Khawarizmi, the "father" of algebra, which takes its name from his book Kitab al-Jabr.


--
Banazir
games

Austin City Gimmicks

Have any of you ever worked for, or interviewed with, the Austin-based Gathering (formerly Gathering of Developers or GODGames, later rebranded as 2K Games, a subsidiary of Take Two)?

The back issues of Computer Gaming World I've had in my office since 2000 and 2001 got me thinking of this company, back when it was founded as a consortium of Ritual Entertainment (makers of the multi-platform Quake II derivative SiN), Epic Games (makers of One Must Fall: 2097 and later the Unreal series), and 3D Realms (makers of the granddaddy of Quake, Wolfenstein 3D, and the Apogee games Command Keen and Duke Nukem). ETA, 08:00 CST Fri 21 Nov 2008: So did the advent of the Max Payne movie.

It seems that Gathering flourished in the heyday of its constituent companies, but has since gone out not with a bang, but a whimper. Max Payne seems to me to be the only really big hit that it turned out, unless you count the Railroad Tycoon sequels. True?

Disclaimer: I haven't followed Godgames since Romero and Carmack went their separate ways, the one to go make Daikatana, so this might just be one of my "real sunrise" moments.

--
Banazir
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science

Break The Silence: Combatting The Quiet Censorship of Science

One reaction that I'm often met with when I relate the story about my 1999 evolutionary computation paper is incredulity that a censorious attitude towards science still exists "in this day and age". I always respond that this shouldn't surprise the speaker, but it should incense him. That is, as a scientist, you should expect but not brook attempts to silence you. I hold it to be a solemn duty.

Call it the price of intellectual freedom: eternal intellectual vigilance. Your ideas are always under attack, and their challengers are always trying to supplant them. The difference between the scientific and nonscientific challengers is, in principle, that the rules of challenge are well-established and acknowledged in science; they are the ones we've agreed to play by. In science, if you want to replace someone else's ideas with you own, you must demonstrate that they are better in ways that anyone should be able to understand by studying your communications, and confirm for themselves with sufficient resources. (The transparency - call it openness or glasnost - that technology brings to this process, or the lack thereof that persists in some fields of science, is a topic for another post.) In nonscientific culture, such as political discourse fueled by religious debate, degeneration to ad hominem attacks and hitting below the belt is par for the course. More on this when I have time to tell you the aftermath of the e-mail exchange over that GECCO paper.

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Banazir
spirituality

Dances with Gods: Discourses Between Science and Faith

Many argue, as I do, that faith as an aspect of culture is compatible with science as a method of inquiry. Doctors and lawyers, after all, have upheld their professional oaths and then expressed and resolved personal misgivings where their beliefs conflicted with some aspect of their professional code. So have soldiers, tax collectors, artists, and actors over the centuries.

What is different about science, after all? The conflict is in a sense in the believer's mind. What reifies that conflict, and makes it a sticking point to the effect that "you cannot be a scientist and believe/disbelieve X" is really metareasoning assertions about evidence. If we understand faith to be belief in the unseen, it still remains a valid question how we define sight. We can agree to disagree on a feasible system of observation and experimentation within the material universe - i.e., on what is testable. What I think scientists and religious advocates should especially not do is go "Dances With Wolves" and write the other side off as not worth talking to. In true inquiry, your opponent can have invalid premises, make erroneous judgments, or simply exercise reasoning you don't acknowledge as valid, but if you pack up and go home, the only lost cause is you.

auriam and others have said to me that science versus religion is intrinsically an insoluble conflict: it's "them or us". But let's put that cultural question to the test: suppose it is indeed an ideological war. Even in a war, there are scenarios of mutual assured destruction, and there are reasons for detente, dialogue, and diplomacy. When you have two ways of life that conflict, supported by two systems of belief that each assert their own truth, the next thing you have to ask is who has to live in the battle zone.

If you have followed the Collins-Dawkins debate an similar dialogues, well-reasoned and capable scientists don't resort to circular arguments that can't support their own weight. Of course there are irrational fanatics - arguably on either side of a "science vs. religion" debate. When you reduce it to an intrinsically amoral or purely moral question, though, it's like trying to broker a peace treaty when everything has been reduced to one issue. Then, and only then, is it zero sum; but I don't think it is. I think we have the dialogue because many of us have issues to resolve within ourselves. We want to reconcile the believing part of us, whether we acknowledge it fully or not, with the part that wants to subject everything to rational inquiry. Put another way, you wouldn't come to the table (or step up to the debate podium) if you thought it was just every heart and mind for itself.

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Banazir