Friday, April 30, 2010

Creation Science and Robotics: A match made in heaven, BY GOD!

I have been wondering recently whether there is a lot of robotics research happening in the world of Creation Science. It seems like a really good fit. If there are answers in Genesis, surely one of them is the answer to the question: how do you make an autonomous entity that will do your dirty work for you (naming all the animals, that sort of thing)? Surely Creation Scientists are not, as their critics claim, merely working backwards from what they've already decided is the truth and trying to arrange cherry-picked scraps of evidence to fit it.

Also, I think we've all seen the list of 500 people who have taken science classes who subscribe to creation science. Robotics is very high on the list of cool and fun science, so surely at LEAST one or two of these people have devoted their lives to emulating God by doing some of their own creating.

Unfortunately, after I downloaded the list from the Dissent From Darwin site, a search for 'robot' or even 'robo' came up with nothing.

Google was kind of my friend in this search. I found a reference to an Ian Juby, the owner of Canada's first Creation Museum (oh, Canada...). Ian is 'a robotics engineer by trade'.

Unfortunately, the trail ran cold on further digging. I was curious to see where Juby had studied, what papers he'd published, or even just messages he'd posted to robotics forums to help enthusiastic newbies out. All I could find was this one. It sounds pretty robotic-y, but you'd think he'd have been a little more active there, or, really anywhere.

Degreewise, I found that 'Ian received a college Diploma in Robotics Engineering from Canadore College, North Bay, Ontario, Canada, in 1989.'

Essentially, all I could find about Ian's career was this quote, from his own site:
The robot itself (remember, I'm a robotics engineer by trade; I know how much intelligence is involved in designing even a simple robot!) requires incredible and precise engineering, design, and intelligence.
Pretty much true, although my daughter and I have done OK with our Lego NXT kit (speaking of which, a kid at Falwell's Liberty University wrote a book about the NXT that's pretty good. Maybe one day he will be the big star of Creation Robotics).

I did considerable digging, and I couldn't really find anything to rank him higher in the robotics community than the cool guy who builds robots at hackerspace and in his basement. That guy will tell you that he is a pharmacist by trade, and it's true, but as a roboticist he is no slouch, not at all.

I may ping Ian and see if he can refer me to some info about his work in the field. Maybe he can do an interview with the people with the people at the Robots Podcast. I really don't want to give up on the idea of a rich and thriving robotics sub-branch of Creation Science, not yet anyway.

And Ian, if you're reading this, I just want to tell you it's OK if you're not a roboticist even though you studied it in school. I was a mathematician back in my school days. I loved math and really immersed myself in it, but today I'm the mathematical version of the guy who was a high school football star 20 years ago, but now gets winded going to the fridge to get a beer. I suppose I could call myself a mathematician, but I'd be lying to myself, and the world. I'd set myself up for all manner of ridicule and pity. Life took a different turn, and that's fine.

Friday, April 23, 2010

More About The Wit of the Staircase

It turns out the French phrase for thinking of something clever too late to use it is 'L’esprit de l’escalier or esprit d'escalier (staircase wit)'.

A classic example of this in popular culture is the Seinfeld episode where George wracks his brains thinking up a riposte to a co-worker's 'the ocean called, they're running out of shrimp', and all he can come up with is 'oh yeah? Well the jerk store called, and they're running out of YOU'.

If the French sounds too pompous for you, or, as in my case, you're not sure how to pronounce it, Wikipedia provides German and Yiddish options:
The German word Treppenwitz and the Yiddish word trepverter are used to express the same idea.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

If You Have a Racist Friend...

Back when I was cycling through all the music subcultures of the past 50 years and I was on the ska chapter (2-Tone ska, not the Don Drummond/Skatalites 60s ska - yet), I of course loved The Specials. I still like The Specials a lot, they're just not in the kind of heavy rotation they were 20 years ago.

They had this song called 'Racist Friend':
If you have a racist friend
Now is the time, now is the time for your friendship to end

Be it your sister
Be it your brother
Be it your cousin or your, uncle or your lover
This was a tall order. I had a racist mentor (about whom more later), and at least a couple racist relatives. I also had friends and acquaintances and classmates and room-mates that were decidedly racist. I felt like the song was giving me a hard time for not having the balls to give every last one of these people the heave-ho.

It really got under my skin because it called my attention to a weakness I sometimes have when it comes to people saying or doing hateful shit. At some point you have to say shut the fuck up, or at least I have no interest in your theories about how Mexicans are destroying the country, and if that doesn't work, not doing business with the person anymore is probably the best course of action.

Easier said than done.

(yes, embedding disabled by request. just click thru, don't be lazy)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Internet: How do I work this?

"Bragging that you're not a blogger is like bragging that you're slow and stupid and probably don't know how to use the Internet that well."
-Jake Dobkin of

This was something I heard on a not so recent episode of WFMU's Too Much Information, the DEAD MEDIA episode. I'm kind of slow (ouch) in mentioning it, but I agree with the sentiment.

On the other side of the news (although it's not really an opposition viewpoint, more a complementary one), we have this celebration of the joy of reading text on paper : You Can't Wrap A Fish In an iPad

..but you can tune a piano. I got nothin'. Carry on with your day now.