Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Saturday 21 November 2009

IBM has created a supercomputer with more cerebral capacity (as measured by neurons and synapses) than a housecat:

The simulator, which runs on the Dawn Blue Gene /P supercomputer with 147,456 CPUs and 144TB of main memory, simulates the activity of 1.617 billion neurons connected in a network of 8.87 trillion synapses. The model doesn't yet run at real time, but it does simulate a number of aspects of real-world neuronal interactions, and the neurons are organized with the same kinds of groupings and specializations as a mammalian cortex. In other words, this is a virtual mammalian brain (or at least part of one) inside a computer, and the simulation is good enough that the team is already starting to bump up against some of the philosophical issues raised about such models by cognitive scientists over the past decades.

...[B]uilding a highly accurate simulation of a complex, nondeterministic system doesn't mean that you'll immediately understand how that system works—it just means that instead of having one thing you don't understand (at whatever level of abstraction), you now have two things you don't understand: the real system, and a simulation of the system that has all of the complexities of the original plus an additional layer of complexity associated with the models implementation in hardware and software.

On the other hand, I've met a number of cats in my day, and as cute as I think they are...do your really need that much computing power to outsmart one? I've seen gerbils do it.

Saturday 21 November 2009 13:59:09 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cool links#

After two hours of classes this morning, both of which reminded me I need to study more, what better way to recover than with another Parker puppy video?

The bed, by the way, lasted about four days. He shredded the thing like a Cuisinart.

Saturday 21 November 2009 11:24:40 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Daily#

My cousin sent me this example of...something...but I couldn't stop laughing:

Friday 20 November 2009 23:13:54 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cubs#

You think he's cute now? This is Parker at 12 weeks, just a couple days after I adopted him:

Friday 20 November 2009 22:14:56 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Daily#
Friday 20 November 2009

I don't know where this came from originally, but...well, look:

(Full size after the jump.)

Friday 20 November 2009 17:17:49 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Jokes | Security#

From the Economist's Gulliver blog:

The Germans said in a letter to the Dubai-based carrier that under European law it was not allowed “to engage in price leadership” on routes from Germany to non-EU locations. Emirates, which condemned the decision as “commercially nonsensical”, responded by raising prices by 20% on some routes.

Andrew Parker of Emirates told the Financial Times, "We are adamant this is selective and clearly an attempt by Lufthansa [Germany's national carrier] to pursue Emirates versus a legitimate policy."

Yes, but on the other hand, it would not surprise me to learn that Emirates had priced the seats as a loss-leader to undercut its competitors, including Lufthansa. Regardless, this seems a good example of the African proverb, "When elephants wrestle, the grass suffers."

At this writing, a 7-day advance, Saturday-to-Thursday (discount) business class ticket from Frankfurt to Dubai was €2,245 on Emirates and €2,954 on Lufthansa. I can see why Lufthansa (and the German goverment) might suspect anti-competitive behavior...but still, raising prices for everyone doesn't seem sporting.

Friday 20 November 2009 16:08:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | World#
Thursday 19 November 2009

Of course we knew Bill O'Reilly didn't care about the Constitution, but it's refreshing to hear him admit it:

Thursday 19 November 2009 10:15:24 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#
Wednesday 18 November 2009

Silly me for forgetting that U.S. citizens need visas to visit India. (I'm usually more up on those things.) So yesterday I got mine, for the CCMBA Delhi residency.

Color me impressed. Travisa, the company that the Indian government employs to handle their visa processing, had me in and out in 15 minutes to drop off my application, then sent me a text the same afternoon letting me know my passport had come back, then had me in and out in 90 seconds in the afternoon. Total time spent getting the visa, including filling out the application: about 2½ hours, of which almost 2 hours was spent on buses getting to and from the Travisa office.

I sincerely hope (without much confidence) that China and Russia make it similarly easy.

Wednesday 18 November 2009 13:26:27 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Duke | Geography#

You should see him after I've been gone a week. This is Parker after three days of boarding:

Wednesday 18 November 2009 11:49:33 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Parker | Daily#
Tuesday 17 November 2009

While the Burj Dubai will likely remain the tallest building in the world for a long time, the rankings of the next few buildings on the "world's tallest" list got shuffled today when the organization that ranks them changed the definition a bit:

The old standard was that a skyscraper's height was determined by calculating the distance from the sidewalk outside the main entrance to the building's spire or structural top.

The new standard is that height is measured from "the lowest, significant, open-air, pedestrian entrance" to the top.

This means that Trump Tower, Chicago, moved up to 6th place, and some of the other "official" heights got jiggled a bit. The new rankings as of January (when Burj Dubai opens) are:

  1. Burj Dubai, U.A.E., 818 m
  2. Taipei 101, Taiwan, 508 m
  3. Shanghai World Financial Center, China, 492 m
  4. Petronas Towers 1, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, 452 m
  5. Petronas Towers 2, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, 452 m
  6. Sears Willis Tower, Chicago, 442 m
  7. Trump Tower, Chicago, 423 m
  8. Jin Mao Building, Shanghai, China, 421 m
  9. Two International Financial Center, Hong Kong, 415 m
  10. CITIC Plaza, Guangzhou, China, 390 m

Notice that all but two of the entrants in the list are in Asia, the exceptions being within five blocks of each other right here in Chicago. Still, it's sad to see the Hancock Center, Empire State Building, and a few others I could name, missing from the top-10 list.

Tuesday 17 November 2009 11:34:35 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink#
Monday 16 November 2009

Reader EB has passed along Travel & Leisure's "World's Scariest Runways," including one of my favorites, Princess Juliana Airport in Sint Maarten:

Why It’s Harrowing: The length of the runway—just 2,180 m—is perfectly fine for small or medium-size jets, but as the second-busiest airport in the Eastern Caribbean, it regularly welcomes so-called heavies—long-haul wide-body jetliners like Boeing 747s and Airbus A340s—from Europe, which fly in improbably low over Maho Beach and skim just over the perimeter fence.

Today I had scheduled my annual flight review (required by my flight club—the FAA requires a review only every other year), but with 28 km/h direct crosswinds gusting to 48 km/h, I used the time-honored safety procedure called "staying on the ground."

Monday 16 November 2009 16:06:38 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#
Sunday 15 November 2009

Andrew Sullivan has a recap of the top 30:

Palin lied when she repeatedly claimed to have said, "Thanks, but no thanks" to the Bridge to Nowhere; in fact, she openly campaigned for the federal project when running for governor.

Palin lied when she denied that Wasilla's police chief and librarian had been fired; in fact, both were given letters of termination the previous day.

Palin lied when she wrote in the NYT that a comprehensive review by Alaska wildlife officials showed that polar bears were not endangered; in fact, email correspondence between those scientists showed the opposite.

Palin lied when she claimed to be unaware of a turkey being slaughtered behind her during a filmed interview; in fact, the cameraman said she had picked the spot herself, while the slaughter was underway.

Palin lied when she denied having rejected federal stimulus money; in fact, she continued to accept and reject the funds several times.

And many, many more. This is the opposition party's de facto leader.

Sunday 15 November 2009 08:08:26 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#
Friday 13 November 2009

This is about the coolest aviation-related thing I've seen in years.

Friday 13 November 2009 07:54:33 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is a software developer in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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