Year of Data brings together Apple iPhone, Microsoft Surface, Google Android

 

Neat video below (Stimulant’s “XRay” project), but first, why I think it’s neat:

Every year is the year of data, I believe.

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Higher Math on the Sands of Santa Barbara

UCSB

UCSB, looking NW

Spent Sunday afternoon with world-renowned mathematician Michael Freedman (short bio here) walking the beach and bluffs above, just northwest of UC Santa Barbara, talking about a number of absurd and not-so-absurd possibilities in the future applications of quantum computing.  Here’s an example of the kind of stuff I was trying, very hard and maybe somewhat successfully, to grasp while walking in the California sun and trying to ignore the nude sunbathers and hang-gliders.  If that’s unhelpful (as most of it is for me), here’s a straightforward description of some of his main work and its possible applications. 

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Pentagon’s New Program for Innovation, in Context

FACT: According to an article in today’s Washington Post, the Pentagon has announced “the selection of six university professors who will form the first class of the National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellows Program. The professors will receive grants of up to $600,000 per year for up to five years to engage in basic research — essentially a bet by the Pentagon that they will make a discovery that proves vital to maintaining the superiority of the U.S. military.”

ANALYSIS: This new program is an innovation from DoD’s Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E), and since tomorrow I’ll be at Ft. McNair for a two-day conference sponsored by DDR&E on Strategic Communications, I’ll congratulate John Young and his staff for the good idea.

But the Post article falls short in two ways: one immediate (it leaves out key information about next year’s program and the upcoming deadline!) and one longer-term (it ignores the overall context of federal support for R&D).  I’ll fill in the blanks below.

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Is It Even Possible to Connect the Dots?

FACT: Among the inspired ideas of polymath Danny Hillis (pioneer of parallel computing) was establishing the Long Now Foundation, whose projects include the millennial Long-Now Clock (“the world’s slowest computer”) and the notion of “Long Bets.”  A Long Bet is an “accountable prediction,” meaning one that has a specified end-date and a testable, wagerable, proposition.  One of the early Long Bets posted wagers $2,000 that “By 2020, no one will have won a Nobel Prize for work on superstring theory, membrane theory, or some other unified theory describing all the forces of nature.”  That particular bet is one of many signs of scientific skepticism about string theory.

ANALYSIS: Even without the ease of hyperlinks, old-fashioned newspapers foster serendipitous connections between articles, particularly if you’re reading a Sunday morning paper with lots of sections. Sunday the Washington Post did me a service by placing in different sections a couple of articles which I connected, about intelligence “failures” and about stock-market prediction, leading me to some web-surfing about the questionable validity of string theory and some related observations about the difficulty of predicting human behavior.

In the Outlook section, the Post has an opinionated and thought-provoking op-ed piece by Mark Lowenthal, one of the most “intelligent” individuals in the recent history of the U.S. intelligence community (after all, he was the 1988 Jeopardy grand champion, as well as a former assistant director of CIA).

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Google Accelerates Hiring of Nobel Laureates

FACT:  Answering a question in this week’s Business Week about several recent high-profile departures of Google executives and engineers, CEO Eric Schmidt said: “What bothers me is that some people write: ‘So-and-so left the company.’ Well, they don’t also write that we hired 120 people that week, five of whom have Nobel prizes, three of whom have PhDs, and so on, who are beginning their career here now.”

ANALYSIS: There have only been some 700 Nobel Laureates awarded in the history of the program since 1901, according to the official Nobel site, and at least as of a 2001survey there were approximately 210 living Nobel prize-winners.

So, with some trepidation, I calculate that by Schmidt’s aggressive hiring of five Nobel laureates in a typical week, the entire roster of living prize-winners will be working for Google within a year.

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IARPA’s First Director: Dr. Lisa Porter

Fact: IARPA has a new Director.

Analysis: The well-known DARPA (part of DoD) will now at last have a full-fledged intelligence-community counterpart. The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity – prosaically called “IARPA” – was created last year, but has been stepping out slowly because [/opinion on] of lack of leadership [/opinion off], with only “interim” place-holder leaders.  Many of my friends who were recruited or absorbed into IARPA at the beginning, as it swallowed the old Disruptive Technologies Office for example, felt that the new org was spinning its wheels without traction, for lack of a strong and stable hand at the helm.  [Note also this recent post on IARPA.]

Today the Director of National Intelligence named Dr. Lisa Porter as IARPA’s first Director. She’s been at NASA, and before that DARPA itself.  She and I were at Stanford at around the same time, although hanging in different crowds – she working on her doctorate in Applied Physics while I was over doing the real heavy lifting in the hardest of all sciences, Political Science 🙂  

I’ve never met her, unless I don’t recall from old DARPA visits, so I did a tiny bit of surfing to clip a few salient tidbits from her DARPA work.

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