2010 — 31 August: Tuesday

It seems like only yesterday1 that I popped the Lyall Watson quote about the non-simplicity of the brain onto this otiose little web sanctuary of mine. Today, I find a lovely demolition job shooting holes in Ray Kurzweil's (to me, ridiculous sounding) claim that human neural functioning can be reverse engineered into about one million lines of code. "Bafflegab"? Sweet!

To simplify it so a computer science guy can get it, Kurzweil has everything completely wrong. The genome is not the program; it's the data. The program is the ontogeny of the organism, which is an emergent property of interactions between the regulatory components of the genome and the environment, which uses that data to build species-specific properties of the organism. He doesn't even comprehend2 the nature of the problem, and here he is pontificating on magic solutions completely free of facts and reason.

PZ Myers in Pharyngula

And it seems like only yesterday (times 1393 or so) that I relayed that equally silly Patrick Nielsen Hayden "explanation" of reading, too :-)

Time (09:52) for that all-important second cuppa, to finish rebooting the million lines or so of code needed just to think about how to get up from my chair, let alone find the kettle, let alone re-fill it and switch it back on. And I've already been asked overnight for a copy of an incredibly rare Barry Bermange radio recording that I'd passed along (in the wake of a similar request) to an Oxbridge student a couple of years ago and (unless I can find and activate the right patch of brain cells) I'm never going to track down what happened next. I have a vague memory that I was sent a CD with my ancient tape cassette transformed into mp3 files, but we all know how tricky memory can be in my family by now, having seen the splendid example of dementia demonstrated by dear Mama sitting in her care-home cycling endlessly through rather fewer than a million lines of code.

What was I saying?

Good job the sun's shining and the only thing of any real importance I have to tackle today is finding a suitable birthday card for the birthday lad ahead of tonight's Indian bean feast. Just call me Mr Taxi. And why do you suppose Mr Staples has just sent me an invoice for only two bookcases when they're on the hook to deliver three of the pesky things tomorrow for me to cannibalise three side panels out of?

From designer jeans...

... to designer genes, to designer... universes? Having just read this piece, I'm now left wondering if I respect John Gribbin more, or less, than before. And I'm still puzzled about how it all "started" if that question can even have any meaning in a universe of gravity with negative energy. (How does that work, then?)


Tasmanian honey resisted in Waitrose? Check
Suitable birthday card found in Arcade Books? Check
New DVD of Emmy-winning performance by Claire Danes as Temple Grandin ordered? Check
Next cuppa? I'll get right on it.

UK digital radio

I happen to like radio (the pictures are much better than those on TV) and I happen to prefer a nice, robust, high-bandwidth digital audio signal (as delivered, effortlessly, by the "Freesat" service via an 80cm dish pointing to the patch of Sky more or less owned by that lovely Rupert Murdoch chap). I see, from page 23 of this report...

Not Ofcom

... that my two preferred channels, between them, gain just 2% of the audience. I have tinkered slightly with the original artwork in the PDF file, just for fun.

My salad has been gently defrosting on the kitchen windowsill for the last 40 minutes or so. Let's see if it's fit to eat. It's 13:44 and I'm a mite peckish.

I should know better by now than to read email from my chum Len while eating my lunch:



Dammit. I wear socks with sandals. I've always done so. I prefer not to have blisters on my feet. Get over it!

Indeed, the finds made there even suggest that the Romans, far from having brought Italian style and sartorial elan to the British Isles, may even have been responsible for one of the worst fashion crimes linked to Britain. Rust on the nail from a sandal found there appears to have impressions from fibres on it, suggesting the unspeakable UK habit of wearing socks under sandals was imported centuries ago. That, apparently, is what the Romans really did for us.

Robin McKie in The Observer



1  Erm, it was...
2  What goes on inside our heads is generally described in terms of whatever is seen as the latest technology of the time. I remember, for example, that in the one-volume encyclopedia I was sitting up in bed reading on the ferry crossing to Orkney in 1959 (while dear Mama was being decorously seasick, but that's another story) there was a supposed cross-section drawing of a person's head with a series of little chaps inside it pulling levers, bashing away on Morse code keys, and generally having a whale of a time operating what was presumably a cross between a railway signal box and a telegraph station. There was no hint of speculation about what might have been going on inside the heads of each of the little chaps, of course.