## Wednesday, December 24, 2008

### Christmas Quiz

Name the film.

1. Onq Fnagn
2. Oenmvy
3. Qvr uneq
4. Terzyvaf
5. Genqvat Cynprf
6. Zhccrgf Puevfgznf Pneby
7. Ervaqrre Tnzrf
8. Vgf n jbaqreshy Yvsr
9. Fpebbtrq
10. Avtugzner Orsber Puevfgznf

## Tuesday, December 23, 2008

### World Vision

How do you improve the vision of poor people? Poor as in uneducated less then a dollar a day third world poor. Joshua Silver has invented adjustable glasses to cheaply do this. There are other ideas donating old glasses for example.

The rand experiment showed that one of the few useful free health care provisions are free glasses. Granted that was of fairly rich people who could buy glasses if they really needed them but it still shows a benefit.

See if you can figure out what the picture is used for?

## Wednesday, December 17, 2008

### Bonnie the whistling orangutan

Bonnie, a 30-year-old female orangutan whistles. Now that is not a weird as a French person showering or an interesting Canadian but it is still important news. From my extensive knowledge of computer games and films I knew simians could kidnap damsels then either throw barrels or climb skyscrapers but whistling?

Bonnie being able to whistle is important because it shows these apes have control over their vocalisations and their sounds can be voluntary.
This means that voluntary vocal abilities are not purely a human ability. Bonnie learned to whistle by copying her zoo keeper rather then through being taught explicitly. This means orangutans have far more vocal abilities than previously believed and so humans vocal language skills are shared at least in part with other species.

Which leads to many questions, Should we upgrade the rights we give Orangutans? Or more likely should we downgrade the rights of wolf-whistling builders? Could we have have zoos with exhibits of brick layers who strut and preen occasionally shouting mating calls at passers bye? That does not sound much different to many building sites I have seen.

Now the comparison of human and orangutan may not be fair. I can't whistle and I'm significantly worse at hanging out of trees. On the positive side I'm nearly as house trained so I am not overly worried about getting replaced just yet.

The revelation comes from a paper published in December in Primates, an international journal of primatology. The Christmas edition of Primates is out? And I missed it? That is the one with the free 2009 calender. I hear the miss April Gibbon is a babe.

If they can whistle what else can the do? After whistling a full Christmas carol album can't be far behind. A simian soundtrack to the festive season is imminent.
How annoyed is Jane Goodall going to be when she finds out about this? She probably has her chimps working on a a full barbershop album right now.

All the articles on this keep pointing out she is 30? Bonnie is still on the market and pointing out shes a trigenarian and getting on a bit cannot help her in the dating stakes.

Great Ape Trust scientist Dr. Serge Wich said "This is important because it provides a mechanism to explain documented between-population variation in sounds for wild orangutans," Did you know animals had accents? Do Hillbilly mountain monkeys get looked down on by the urbane city slicker zoo ones?

Not only that but the orangutans are teaching each other how to whistle. Indah was a roommate of Bonnie and she learned to whistle from Bonnie. Unfortunately Indah died before they could record a Christmas duet single. They can teach other this stuff? If one ever figures out how to lay bricks builders are in trouble.

## Saturday, November 29, 2008

### Cost of the Bailout

The bailout seems to have cost somewhere between 4 and 8 trillion dollars.

In todays money (inflation adjusted) world war two cost the US around 5 trillion. according to here, here, here and here.

## Friday, November 14, 2008

Name the country

1. Oenmvy
2. Nyonavn
3. Terrpr
4. Wnznvpn
5. Ivrganz
6. Phon
7. Ehffvn
8. Svaynaq
9. Ghexrl
10. Flevn

### Name that Country

Match the outline of a country to its name.

1. Cbynaq
2. Fhqna
3. Vena
4. Pebngvn
5. Svaynaq
6. Zrkvpb
7. Flevn
8. Zbebppb
9. Fbznyvn
10. Puvyr

## Tuesday, November 11, 2008

### Poodle Quiz

Poodles are Satan's Idea of a good pet. But what happens when a proper animal spawns itself with these furballs of hate. All these animals are the unholy union of a poodle and a proper dog. Match the picture of a poodle hybrid to the others side of the crossbreed.

Label these dogs whose very existence mocks god.

1. Qbkvrcbb (Qnpufuhaq)
2. Vevfu qbbqyr (Vevfu Frggre)
3. Fpuabbqyr (Fpuanhmre)
4. Furrcnqbbqyr (Byq Ratyvfu Furrcqbt)
5. Tbyqraqbbqyr (Tbyqra Ergevrire)
6. Ynoenqbbqyr (Ynoenqbe Ergevrire)
7. Fcevatreqbbqyr (Ratyvfu Fcevatre Fcnavry)
8. QbbqyrznaCvafpure (Qborezna Cvafpure)

## Friday, November 07, 2008

### Lets all become drug dealers

1.
A RECORD haul of cocaine worth more than €500m was dramatically seized off the south-west coast yesterday in a sweeping international 'sting' operation.

2.
TD warns vaccine cut will result in 80 deaths
calculating the cost of the programme was half the €14m claimed by the Government — €7m

Does anyone else think 1 could solve 2? Why not let the government sell cocaine to people? You don't hear of pharmacists shooting each other.
But we cannot profit from drug dealers? We already do through CAB (criminal assets bureau).
But what about the lives that would be lost? Id rather coked up assholes died at their own hand than condemn women to a preventable death.

We are now short of cash. That is the reason prohibition ended.

## Sunday, November 02, 2008

### Puzzle

A bunch of my friends were trying to find a route round this graph at the weekend. Yeah it was a crazy party.

A quick search showed the problem was one of finding the Eulerian path. And that the puzzle had no solution

"Eulerian path is a path in a graph which visits each edge exactly once. Similarly, an Eulerian circuit is an Eulerian path which starts and ends on the same vertex"

If there is to be an Eulerian path for a given graph the graph must have lesser than three nodes with odd number of edges."

Code to check for these paths is found here

The code to test this puzzle is
print eulerPath({ 1:[2,2,3,3,4], 2:[1,1,3,4,4], 3:[1,1,2,4,4], 4:[1,2,2,3,3]})
print "test run to make sure code works "
print eulerPath({ 1:[2,2], 2:[1,1]})

## Thursday, October 30, 2008

### Name The Film

1. Npr va gur Ubyr
2. Vaqvnan Wbarf: Envqref bs gur ybfg nex
3. Gur Ubyr
4. Gur Tbbavrf
5. Gur Qrfprag
6. Gur Pnir
7. Gur Pber
8. Ynolevagu
9. Svtug Pyho
10.PyvssUnatre

use this to unobscure

## Tuesday, October 28, 2008

### Harrison Ford Quiz Round

Name the film Harrison is looking mildly perturbed in.

1. Nve Sbepr bar
2. Ncbpnylcfr Abj
3. Jung yvrf orarngu
4. Oynqr ehaare
5. Gur shtvgvir
6. Fgne Jnef
7. Vaqvnan Wbarf
8. Fnoevan
9. Jbexvat Tvey
10. Fvk qnlf frira avtugf
11. Cngevbg Tnzrf
I accepted any film where the character is played a few times (6,7,11). Use this to unscramble. You can reuse the image for whatever use.

## Friday, September 19, 2008

### Predicting rain has been banned

Annoyed at the constant bad weather the government today banned the met office predicting rain. Shares in Irish sun holidays and solar power soared on the new “ostrich” rules designed to stop meteorologists talking us into barometric depressions.

In the past weathermen who predicted the weather accurately were rewarded and those who had all the precognition of Icarus on the devils dandruff were shunned. Now with the fantastic rules that ban any depressing weather forecasts nothing but sunny skies will follow.

In a related story “emperors” clothing has released a new line of minimalist clothing. Anyone disparaging this clothes range or suggesting it may be too minimalist will be thrown to the wolves.

I am going to write a film called “A weekend at Bernankes” where the federal reserve chairman has amazing adventures with the bloated corpses or banking institutions. Of course no one dare anyone suggesting he’s engaging in necrophilia.

When you want to know if someone believes what they claim you ask them to bet. If they won’t bet it’s a very good sign they are spoofing you. Some people want to short stocks, where they are betting the market value of the bank will decrease. They have been banned from predicting the price of banks will decrease. When the government bans predicting the future you have to wonder how bad it must be going to be.

## Friday, August 29, 2008

### Neolithic Mancala

There is a game played in most of the world called Mancala. It is a “count and capture” game that involves moving stones around a board made up of holes. You can see an explanation of various forms of rules of the game here.

Ireland has some of the best preserved ancient tombs and building sin the world. This means we have some of the oldest known versions of games in the world. Boards of a game called “windmill” have been cut into the temple at Kurna, Egypt (~1440 BC). A version of this game called “Nine Man Morris” is still played. Tic Tac Toe can be considered a very basic version of it also. The earliest known depiction of this game is a bronze age cemetery in Ballinderry Ireland.

Boards of nine man morris have also been found in roman age sites.

Irish 5000 years old Mancala boards should look like this. On a flat surface. Two rows of holes, probably six holes (possibly more) long with slightly larger holes at either end. Possibly you would see a few together as mancala is currently a social game and tends to be played in groups.

We tend to view megalithic carvings as having a religious purpose. It is quite possible that megaliths were gathering points and as such social games took place there. So next time your at a megalith have a look for a game board.

## Monday, July 07, 2008

### Thoughts on Cuba

1. You can graph a countries poverty versus its populations niceness based on the number of hats people wear when they return.

2. The Chinese are coming. My hotel was full of Chinese business people. They spoke fluent Spanish. Chinese people are investing in Cuba and are serious about the country. All the hotel staff came out to bid goodbye to a visiting Chinese MP. Cuban security were present, hawkish men with identical cream shirts. I saw no Chinese security. This shows how comfortable/safe the Chinese politician felt in Cuba.

3. Cubans are the only people on earth who clap when their plane takes off. Other people clap when the plane lands safely but they are just glad to get out.

## Thursday, July 03, 2008

### Delta Airlines needs a Splashscreen

Delta have a little linux computer for each seat that shows films and plays games and such. These go tits up often. When they do you get to see the Linux boot process for a few minutes. On my last flight you got to watch it over and over again all flight.
Instead of showing the boot process Delta should show a splashscreen with some sort of image/ad.

It is fairly easy to do this . Of course they should actually stop linux from freezing and such but this is a simple change.

### Guinness and Red Bull

The bubonic plague wiped out 1/3 of Europe's population but the depopulated continent meant that peasants had more bargaining power and this hastened the end of the feudal system. So in spite of nearly destroying civilisation and killing millions in crippling pain the black death had some beneficial effects.

I cannot say this about the cocktail of Guinness and red bull.

This is now pretty much the national drink of Jamaica. The barman did not bat an eyelid, or try drive a stake through my pitch black heart, when I ordered it. There are even songs about it

I am not going to even describe what this tastes like. I think if I had gone up and grave robbed an Indian burial ground I would have caused less desecration.

## Tuesday, June 10, 2008

### Gardner's constant

Gardner's constant is the transcendental number e^{\pi \sqrt{163}}. It is given as the integer 262,537,412,640,768,744 in his April 1975 Scientific American Column. So Lets see what programming langugaes have the accuracy to give this result?

So with these figures what will your programming languages will give Gardner's constant?
e=2.7182818284590452353602874713526624977572470936999595749669676277240766303535475945713821785251664274274663919320030599218174135966290435729003342952605956307381323286279434907632338298807531952510190115738341879307021540891499348841675092447614606680822648001684774118537423454424371075390777449920695517027618386062613313845830007520449338265602976067371132007093287091274437470472306969772093101416928368190255151086574637721112523897844250569536967707854499699679468644549059879316368892300987931277361782154249992295763514822082698951936680331825288693984964651058209392398294887933203625094431173012381970684161403970198376793206832823764648042953118023287825098194558153017567173613320698112509961818815930416903515988885193458072738667385894228792284998920868058257492796104841984443634632449684875602336248270419786232090021609902353043699418491463140934317381436405462531520961836908887070167683964243781405927145635490613031072085103837505101157477041718986106873969655212671546889570350354021234078498193343210681701210056278802351930332247450158539047304199577770935036604169973297250886876966403555707162268447162560798826517871341951246652010305921236677194325278675398558944896970964097545918569563802363701621120477427228364896134225164450781824423529486363721417402388934412479635743702637552944483379980161254922785092577825620926226483262779333865664816277251640191059004916449982893150566047258027786318641551956532442586982946959308019152987211725563475463964479101459040905862984967912874068705048958586717479854667757573205681288459205413340539220001137863009455606881667400169842055804033637953764520304024322566135278369511778838638744396625322498506549958862342818997077332761717839280349465014345588970719425863987727547109629537415211151368350627526023264847287039207643100595841166120545297030236472549296669381151373227536450988890313602057248176585118063036442812314965507047510254465011727211555194866850800368532281831521960037356252794495158284188294787610852639pi=3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307816406286208998628034825342117067982148086513282306647093844609550582231725359408128481117450284102701938521105559644622948954930381964428810975665933446128475648233786783165271201909145648566923460348610454326648213393607260249141273724587006606315588174881520920962829254091715364367892590360011330530548820466521384146951941511609433057270365759591953092186117381932611793105118548074462379962749567351885752724891227938183011949129833673362440656643086021394946395224737190702179860943702770539217176293176752384674818467669405132000568127145263560827785771342757789609173637178721468440901224953430146549585371050792279689258923542019956112129021960864034418159813629774771309960518707211349999998372978049951059731732816096318595024459455346908302642522308253344685035261931188171010003137838752886587533208381420617177669147303598253490428755468731159562863882353787593751957781857780532171226806613001927876611195909216420198938095257201065485863278865936153381827968230301952035301852968995773622599413891249721775283479131515574857242454150695950829533116861727855889075098381754637464939319255060400927701671139009848824012858361603563707660104710181942955596198946767837449448255379774726847104047534646208046684259069491293313677028989152104752162056966024058038150193511253382430035587640247496473263914199272604269922796782354781636009341721641219924586315030286182974555706749838505494588586926995690927210797509302955321165344987202755960236480665499119881834797753566369807426542527862551818417574672890977772793800081647060016145249192173217214772350141441973568548161361157352552133475741849468438523323907394143334547762416862518983569485562099219222184272550254256887671790494601653466804988627232791786085784383827967976681454100953883786360950680064225125205117392984896084128488626945604241965285022210661186306744278622039194945047123713786960956364371917287467764657573962413890865832645995813390478027590099465764078951269468398352595709825822620522489407726719478268482601476990902640136394437455305068203496252451749399651431429809190659250937221696461515709858387410597885959772975498930161753928468138268683868942774155991855925245953959431049972524680845987273644695848653836736222626099124608051243884390451244136549762780797715691435997700129616089441694868555848406353422072225828488648158456028506016842739452267467678895252138522549954666727823986456596116354886230577456498035593634568174324112515076069479451096596094025228879710893145669136867228748940560101503308617928680920874760917824938589009714909675985261365549781893129784821682998948722658804857564014270477555132379641451523746234364542858444795265867821051141354735739523113427166102135969536231442952484937187110145765403590279934403742007310578539062198387447808478489683321445713868751943506430218453191048481005370614680674919278191197939952061419663428754440643745123718192179998391015919561814675142691239748940907186494231961567945208095146550225231603881930142093762137855956638937787083039069792077346722182562599661501421503068038447734549202605414665925201497442850732518666002132434088190710486331734649651453905796268561005508106658796998163574736384052571459102897064140110971206280439039759515677157700420337869936007230558763176359421873125147120532928191826186125867321579198414848829164470609575270695722091756711672291098169091528017350671274858322287183520935396572512108357915136988209144421006751033467110314126711136990865851639831501970165151168517143765761835155650884909989859982387345528331635507647918535sqrt163=Math.sqrt(163)gard=262537412640768744guess=e**(pi*sqrt163)puts "Gardiners constant is 262537412640768744 \n guess #{guess}\n"

Ruby does not give this result by a fair margin.

Obviously Haskell, matlab, mathematica and such are the proper languages for these problems. The Haskell compiler for OS X seems to require you to blow Satan to get it to work though*.

Your language may give a give some weird answers but are you going to believ someone called Hermite?

*Don Stewart pointed out you don't have to felate beelzbub to get Haskell. So if you don't want to get his scaley member down your gullet try here

## Monday, June 09, 2008

### Apéry's constant using monte Carlo methods

Apéry's Constant (1.20205690315...) "arises naturally in a number of physical problems, including in the second- and third-order terms of the electron's gyromagnetic ratio using quantum electrodynamics."

I described how to use monte carlo methods to estimate mathematical constants here and here. A passion for mathematics select three positive integers at random the odds of them having no common divisor are 1 in 1.202056....

So her is a ruby program that does not work for calculating this
def findCD(num1, num2, num3, cd) if num1 % cd==0 && num2 % cd==0  && num3 % cd==0 return cd elsif cd < ([num1,num2,num3].max)/2 findCD(num1, num2, num3, cd+1) else return 0 endendi=1 factor =0N=1000while (i < N) x=rand(1000) y=rand(1000) z=rand(1000) ans=findCD(x,y,z,2) if ans >0 factor=factor+1 endendans=(factor).quo(N)puts "Apéry's Constant estimated as #{ans}" ;

The first problem is that my find common divisor algorithm is idiotic. There are all sorts of clever ways of doing this.

The second one is that computers have trouble creating random integers. The integers go up forever but a computers numbers don't. How do you ask a computer to give you one of any infinite one of the integers? rand(1,000,000) will not do it.

## Sunday, June 08, 2008

### Using a Random Number Generator to estimate e

After this post I started to wonder what other constants can be estimated using probabalistic methods.

You can estimate e = 2.7182818 using
monte carlo methods. The sum S = X1 + X2 + ... + Xn > 1 averages as the eth element. So if you rand(0,1)+rand(0,1)+... until they are greater then 1. If you average the number of elements needed it approximates e.

This code is dog ugly and probably bug riddled but it might give you some idea how the calculation is done.
i=0N=1000000number=0total=0  p=0k=1   while k < N        i=i+rand    p=p+1  if i>1     total=total+p     number=number+1     p=0     i=0  end      k=k+1   end   total=total.quo(number)   puts "e is #{total}"

If you know of a better way to use iterators to carry out this calculation please comment.

### Testing Random Number Generators with π

"Imagine that you have a dart board that is 2 units square. It inscribes a circle of unit radius. The center of the circle coincides with the center of the square. Now imagine that you throw darts at that dart board randomly. Then the ratio of the number of darts that fall within the circle to the total number of darts thrown is the same as the ratio of the area of the circle to the area of the square dart board. The area of a circle with unit radius is just π square unit. The area of the dart board is 4 square units. The ratio of the area of the circle to the area of the square is π / 4."

I got the book Digital dice the other day

It is about using monte carlo methods to solve probability problems that are hard to solve analytically. The first example given is how to estimate pi based on the % of darts that fall inside a cirle that is inside a square with the side length of twice the circles radius.

I decided to try out some languages to see how they got on with this problem. The aim is to test
1. Accuracy for mante carlo simulations
2. Ease of writing
3. Speed
in order of importance

If a language cannot accurately estimate π using this method then it indicates its random number generator (RNG) might not be very good. To test the RNG propery you need to do chi square tests and such as described in Seminumerical Algorithms by Knuth but i think its funny you can use π to test a RNG.

Perl
$N=10000000;$p=0;   $k=1; while ($k<$N){$x=rand();    $y=rand(); if (($x*$x)+($y*$y)<1){$p=$p+1; }$k=$k+1; }$ans=((4*$p)/$N);   print "ans".\$ans;

Ruby
N=10000000   p=0   k=1   while k < N    x=rand    y=rand     if (x*x)+(y*y)<1     p=p+1     end    k=k+1   end   ans=(4*p).quo(N)   puts "pi is #{ans}"

Scheme
I cannot figure out how to get random numbers with scheme. There is code to do it here but I am not going to write my own rand function.

C
int main(void){long N=10000000;double x=0;double y=0;double p=0;int k=1;   while (k < N){    x=(   (double)rand() / ((double)(RAND_MAX)+(double)(1)) );    y=(   (double)rand() / ((double)(RAND_MAX)+(double)(1)) );     if ((x*x)+(y*y)<1){     p=p+1;     }    k=k+1;   }      double mypi=((4*p)/N);      printf ("my pi  %f \n",mypi);   return 0;}

(less then sign) is < (thanks Helium).
I should use srand here to make it reproducible. Or more to be really fair run the test a few times and collect the average error. This is how the Digital dice runs the test with matlab. Anyway I wont tell you what language worked out the best. If you have any suggestions or code please comment.

### Sign Language

If you want to speak to someone you need to share a language. Because languages have different phonemes it can be difficult to pronounce a foreign language.
So how about if we all had a base of sign language that we could communicate with? The advantage is simple movements do not have a local accent that localises them.
So how many words do you need to know?

Language word usage follows zipfs law. Which means a suprisingly low number of words cover a high percentage of our speech.

There are 850 words in basic english which implies you can communicate basic information with about this many words.

Newspeak the artificial language in the novel 1984 was simplified to the extent to make coherent political thought impossible. The point of here is to search for a simple universal language is for emergency situations or for providing an anchor for language learning so such a Newspeak nightmare is not a worry.

One way of looking for a basic subset of language is to find the common subset of all languages. This has been studied as the semantic metalanguage. There follows a list of the words (in english) that occur in all known languages and their international sign language equivalant.

Semantic primitives

The English exponents of the 61 Semantic Primitives (addition of LONG is proposed)

substantives
I,
YOU
SOMEONE
PEOPLE
SOMETHING/THING
BODY

mental predicates
THINK
KNOW
WANT
FEEL
SEE
HEAR
BE
speech
SAY
WORD
TRUE
actions, events and movement
DO
HAPPEN
MOVE
PUT
GO
existence and possession
THERE
IS
HAVE
life
TIME
WHEN/TIME
BEFORE
A LONG TIME
A SHORT TIME
FOR SOME TIME
MOMENT
space
WHERE/PLACE
HERE
ABOVE
BELOW
FAR
NEAR
SIDE
INSIDE
TOUCHING

"logical" concepts
NOT
Maybe
CAN
BECAUSE
IF
intensifier
VERY
augmentor
MORE
quantifiers
ONE
TWO
SOME
ALL
MANY/MUCH
evaluators
GOOD
descriptors
BIG, SMALL, (LONG)
taxonomy, partonomy
KIND OF, PART OF;
similarity
LIKE
determiners
THIS
SAME
OTHER

## Friday, May 30, 2008

### Irish Foreign Aid

Ireland has said it will give .7% of gdp to foreign aid by 2012. This will be about 1.4 billion dollars

So what can you do with 1.4 billion a year that will help the worlds poor the most? I believe Ireland should fight worms. Intestinal worms are a big easily fixed problem.
“Thirty percent of children in developing countries are moderately or severely undernourished, and nutritional supplements or treatments for intestinal parasites can be an inexpensive way to raise school attendance and increase physical and mental capacity.
Children who are better nourished in their first years of life stay in school longer and learn more each year they are there. In areas where malnutrition or worm infestations are common, nutritional supplements or treatments for intestinal parasites offer an inexpensive way to raise attendance and physical and mental capacity.

A school-based de-worming program in Kenya had even more remarkable results with benefits at least 450 times higher than the costs.
Most opportunities will not be as rewarding, but it is safe to assume the benefits are around 25 times higher than the costs in many cases. “

So the 1.4 billion a year spent of eradicating intestinal worms in third world children would be worth at least 35 billion to these countries.

Leishmaniasis, Trypanosomiasis and Malaria are other serious parasitic infections that are easily prevented. There is a description here on the effects of intestinal worms on children in the third world.

Worms are not sexy, you look up intestinal worms on google and the first site deals with pets. But if we give ourselves on achievable goal with our money, one that has proven huge benefits to people I think our money will be better spent then on many vague diffuse projects. Ireland got its snakes removed for us, why not become the country that removes the worms from everyone else?

## Wednesday, May 28, 2008

### Logic attack

Reasoning with First order logic can be hard
Unfortunately, a more complex algorithm can get caught in infinite loops that are known to be impossible to guard against completely. (to be more precise, it is NP complete)”

This means that is someone creates a new web app. “Do I really think this?” where you input your beliefs. “Grass is green” “cows eat grass”->output “Cows eat something that is green” you can attack it.
Denial of Service via Algorithmic Complexity describes Attacks“. Where by sending data that they know has worst case analysis time (eg. a sort in exactly the wrong order, entries that hash to the same bucket) an attacker can massively slow down your system.

First order logic decisions are NP-complete. In the same way as hash tables can be attacked if a system reasons about first order logic maliciously crafted inputs could be used to tie up the systems resources.

## Tuesday, May 20, 2008

### Everything Tube

Youtube takes in videos, allows you to easily add them to your blog. There is some searching and idiotic comments on the site but the big deal is

1. Take in data
2. Store it forever
3. Make it easy to embed in another website

What other kinds of data can this be done with?
1. Chess viewer
2. Chemicals viewer
3. Music
4. Other games draughts, dice games etc
5. Sound
6. Knitting patterns
7. Aresti aerobatic symbols
8. Dances
9. Motion/gesture
11. Electronic design
12. Crystallography
13. Knot diagrams
14. All sorts of physics notations. None of which I understand
15. weather data
16. Molecular biology
17. Biomedical data, ecg’s stuff like that
18. Astronomy
19. Astrology, tarot cards, homeopath recipes, crap like that
20. Surveys. Caves, mountain routes etc
22. Maths functions
23. Knowledge representation. Take in a decision tree in Yaml format and turn it into a visual tree graph.
24. Seismology

The idea is to make a "tube" website that takes in some data and makes it easy to add visualisations of it to your website. The data is already online, or at least easily placed online what youtube did was make it easily viewable. Searching on your tube website is important but the first thing to do is get it so people can show their data on their website. So what other "tubes" would be interesting/useful? Please comment your thoughts

## Sunday, May 18, 2008

### Bizzarre fruit

I bought a dragonfruit the other week. The next day I bought another weird fruit and the next...Nature, capitalism and immigration have brought in loads of these weird fruits into Ireland. Things you could not have bought 5 years ago. The same has happened with beer and loads of other foods. There is something very simple about fruits though, you just cut them open and eat no preparation is needed. You also realise that this is just how nature produced it with almost all other products are massively processed. So I have started a weird fruit odyessey, it is a small quest but it is fun.

Here is what I have tried so far
Sapodilla is like a sweet dry pear
Cherimoya is like a creamy melon
Sharon fruit- really nice
Dragon fruit
kumquat
bananito
plantane
passion fruit
figs- Fig rolls really do a lot with their core ingredient
Giant Chinese pear
Chow chow -I have no idea what this is but it tassted like it needed to be cooked
sour mango
prickly pear- First cactus I have eaten
Guava-Melon like not that guava tasting
papaya

## Thursday, May 15, 2008

### Ulysses Pact 2

The medical definition for this is
Ulysses Contract
Declarations by patients, made in advance of a situation in which they may be incompetent to decide about their own care, stating their treatment preferences or authorizing a third party to make decisions for them. (Bioethics Thesaurus)
This paper discusses the issue in relation to mental health.

How bound are you to your past self? Could you shoot the 50 year old conservative who as a tied dyed in the wool hippy 30 years previously wrote “If I ever vote republican please kill me”? If you are not bound to a contract by yourself of many years ago then how come there are 30 year mortgages?

There is a website here. Where people put quantifiable ambitions out in public. Keep wight below X, Make Y steps every day things like that. Are there common usages for Ulysses Contracts (not just the current cognitive health ones) that you could provide on another website? Is there a measurable way people change their thinking in response to an event that they could agree before the event to avoid?

## Tuesday, May 13, 2008

### Ulysses Pact

Some time in the future you might be crazy. You might decide to scupper your boat on some rocks because some moistened bint persuades you to. Now if you tell people to ignore you when you go crazy you have entered a Ulysses pact.
An example of this is someone making a living will in case they get dementia or car crashed into a coma where they won’t really be able to make decisions for themselves anymore. But what other events lead to known changes in cognition?

How Daughters Affect Their Legislator Fathers' Voting on Women's Issues "Parenting an additional female child increases the propensity of a member of Congress to vote liberally on women's issues, particularly reproductive rights."”
Could conservative voters enter into a Ulysses pact with a politician that if he has a female child he cannot alter his votes on reproductive rights? I am not saying here that liberalising your opinion on this topic is a bad idea just that it may not match the preferences of those who voted you into office.

Kuhn was of the belief that old scientists never really accepted new theories and in fact delayed the acceptance of new ideas. A Ulysses pact of “ignore the old people who invented the last theory” is probably too vague.

In what other areas do people bias their decision making in response to certain events?

## Tuesday, May 06, 2008

### The return of smoking

Tobacco Farming
Projected employment decline: -18.6%
Projected revenue decline: -16.9%
Projected output decline: -11.7%
Pity America's tobacco farmers. First they weather the decline in smoking among U.S. consumers, now they face lower prices from foreign competitors. The Feds dropped tobacco-price supports in 2005, forcing farmers to diversify or find another line of work.
The economic projections continue on an abysmal trend: From 2000 to 2007, tobacco farming revenue fell by more than 50% as output declined by 41.6%. If only tobacco farmers could find a way to convert their crop to ethanol ... “

What if smoking was not bad for you? Or at least not as bad.

For example, a 1998 Lantz, et al. study in the Journal of the American Medical Association of 3,600 adults over 7.5 years found large and significant lifespan effects: a three year loss for smoking”

Three years is less then I would have thought, what if this was reduced further. Say three reasonably unlikely things happen

1. Smoking + Virus causes cancer. HPV and measles are linked to lung cancer. “While the specific viruses at issue -- human papillomavirus (HPV) and measles -- may not directly cause lung cancer, they seem to aggravate the negative impact of tobacco, American and Israeli researchers say” Then if we prevent measles and HPV infection this might reduce lung cancer rates.

In a person smoking 1 1/2 packs of cigarettes per day, the radiation dose to the bronchial epithelium in areas of bifurcation is 8000 mrem per year -- the equivalent of the dose to the skin from 300 x-ray films of the chest per year. This figure is comparable to total-body exposure to natural background radiation containing 80 mrem per year in someone living in the Boston area.”

This mp3 talks about how much radiation you get from smoking in comparison to eating bananas and other dangerous activities

The theory is that the phosphorus fertilizer used on tobacco is radioactive and breathing this in is bad. Maybe organic tobacco will be less unhealthy?

4. Genes
First-degree relatives of lung cancer patients have a 2 to 3.5 times greater risk of developing lung cancer than the general population, and tobacco smoke plays a major role, even among those with a genetic predisposition” Genetic testing is halving in costs each year. So testing to see if someone is susceptible to lung cancer should get quite cheap quite soon. You could probably get an accurate test by asking “has any of your blood relatives died of lung cancer before the age of 70?” If the answer is yes make it more difficult for this person to smoke. This would reduce the amount smoking takes off the average lifespan.

I do not smoke and I always assumed less and less people will smoke in future. I could be wrong though. If smoking is made less dangerous it could become more popular again.

## Sunday, April 27, 2008

### Improving Books

One thing with books that most modern entertainment lacks is that you know when it will end. You can tell as you go through a book how much remains. This reduces the uncertainty present in the plot.

You could add empty pages to the end of the book. But these would be obvious. Adding complete gibberish would also be obvious even to someone flicking to find the last page number. You could generate more realistic text using a Markov model. Shannon generated fairly reasonable looking text with a simple algorithm. Markov models will create text that bears closer inspection though. It was used to generate postmodern critical analysis that got published without anyone realising it was nonsense.

So you train up your model on the rest of the book. Then get it to produce pages of text that without some study cannot be differentiated from the real books text. Then place these pages with the occasional *the end* in them after the book ending. The ending is marked with *the end*. Now the readers who do not go to a big effort cannot tell as they read the book how much remains.

## Friday, April 25, 2008

### Panic

I am not one to panic unnecessarily but I think the time has come to admit we are fucked. And not kind of fucked, fucked like a passed out rabbit wearing suspenders at a furvert convention. The seas will boil, locusts will swarm, dogs and cats will live together IN SIN.

We are running out of fig rolls

Hoards of middle aged Irish men will soon be wandering the aisles muttering to themselves in the guttural Romero growl “FIGS

The next stage these shuffling zombies will start looting shops in search of their rolly fix

Mark my words society will collapse as the mid life crisis brigade start breaking into houses on the vague hope of finding fig rolls.

## Wednesday, April 23, 2008

### Green Reaper

I talked here about my eco burial idea. Turn out the concept is really popular.
The Americans seem to have gone all high tech.

Whereas the Australians stick you in next to some koalas and give your family your gps cordinates. I wish I had thought of calling the service "The Green Reaper".

I think if you want to see the carbon sink that is Ireland's bogs preserved you should buy a few metres cubed of it for your burial patch. A burial plot in Dublin costs about five thousand euro which would buy you a fair amount of bog.

## Tuesday, April 15, 2008

### Women will be size zero in 2130

Proof seems to come in the form of shapely silver screen siren Marilyn Monroe, who everyone remembers wore a Size 12 during her 1950s heydays.

"That would be equivalent to a Size 6 today," attests Meryle Epstein, 42, acting academic director for fashion marketing at the Art Institute of Phoenix.”

So in about 6 decades there has been a six size change. That is one size deflation a decade. So now the average woman is a size 12 which means that in 120 years the average woman will be a size 0.

### What can you tell about someone from their shoelaces?

I love in Sherlock Holmes films where he goes “Given the red dust on your feet I deduce that you have visited the island nation of PaiPai known for the poison…” So is there anyway to gain deductive knowledge of someone from something you usually ignore?

Take shoe laces for example. How much can you tell about someone by their laces?
Wired has a story here where it describes runners, skaters, hacky sackers and fashion victim lacings.

Americans and Europeans lace their shoes differently. So you can probably tell which someone comes from looking at their lacing. The American lacing is more efficient

There is a list of shoelace knots here. I have not seen any of these rare ones before. Possibly you can say anyone using a secure shoe lace has a careful disposition.

This site gives more possible lacings. Ladder Lacing This type may indicate the wearer has American military training

Shoe shop lacing

This is quick to do. Someone who walks around with this lacing is probably a bit lazy as they did not change the lacing after they bought the shoe and they had the shop assistant lace the shoe for them.

Display shoe lacing
The wearer took the shoe off display and bought it. Which means they probably have size 9 feet.

Army Lacing
“used by the British, Dutch, French and Brazilian armies (and possibly others)”

one handed lacing
The person probably only has one working arm

Lock Lacing
These and other tight lacings usually indicate one foot is longer then the other. I have noticed that the foot on the non dominant side tends to be longer but I have seen no evidence on this.

From this I have learned that you can tell a lot about someone from very small things and that there seems to be a site on the internet for everything.

## Monday, April 14, 2008

### Medical Phishing

There has recently been a reported attack targeted GP’s login information.
“A number of NHSmail users have recently received an email fraudulently claiming to be from the NHSmail team. The email asks users to send their name and password to an email address. Under no circumstances should you respond to any email or other form of communication requesting your password.”

This attack targeted GP’s and it is unclear how much patient data could be compromised from a successfully phished GP account.
Phishing for medical records is likely to become much more common as computerized access to medical records become more common. Google have announced plans to store medical information.
“Google Health aims to solve an urgent need that dovetails with our overall mission of organizing patient information and making it accessible and useful. Through our health offering, our users will be empowered to collect, store, and manage their own medical records online.”

Not that Google health has been targeted by phishers but being aware it is a potential target is important. Increasing patients access to their medical records also presents opportunities to phishers. The market for phishing bank details is obvious, who will buy medical records is less clear. But any information private that has value will be phished for and we should anticipate this when new information is made computer accessible.

## Saturday, April 12, 2008

### Alba saves the world 2

There were some charming responses to the my previous Jessica Alba post. What this analysis of the private provision of public goods did not include was what if Jessica Alba tries to create the public goods herself.

"Here's how we catch Osama bin Laden: We give him two backstage passes to Zeppelin, and he'll show up. We got him. It's like a world-changing event. That would get him to come out of the woods. "Osama, we have front-row backstage passes for Zeppelin at the [Madison Square] Garden!" He'd be like, "Fuck! Happy days are here again. I gotta go!""

In a similar way what could Jessica Alba demand in response for becoming bereft of her clothing? Consider some possible options.

1. Jessica Alba, A childrens paddling pool, 200 litres of custard and the scientist who cures cancer. Result: Cancer gets beaten like a ginger stepchild, possibly by a chick.

2. Jessica Alba will release naked pictures if the Arabs and Isrealis do not fight anymore. Result: A group of fundamentalist Buddists nuke all the middle east.

I am not saying she could unite humanity in one joyful family but if any minge could it is hers.

## Friday, April 11, 2008

### Less fat a week in

A week off chocolate and beer and I have lost a kilo. I have figured that losing weight is not that a useful measure so I have decided to move over to using bodyfat percentage.

I currently measure 21.9% which is slightly less then a seal at 50%. 14% is a reasonable level but that is probably getting ahead of myself.

Anyway I have started doing pressups, situps and chinups in the morning to try get a bit fit. Nothing crazy like but I will gradually increase it as I go along.

## Wednesday, April 09, 2008

### Why would markets tend toward equilibrium?

“For the past 25 years or so the financial authorities andinstitutions they regulate have been guided by market fundamentalism: the belief that markets tend towards equilibrium and that deviations from it occur in a random manner” George Soros

There are all sorts of reasons based on human cognitive bias to believe that markets will not tend toward equilibrium. One fundamental reason is that virtually all systems of even basic simplicity do not tend toward an equilibrium position. Take a rock paper,scissors simulation

No equilibrium position will ever be reached.

A simple foxes and rabbits simulation I first say on a ZX spectrum in the early 80’s wont tend toward an equilibrium why would people think the desires and whims of millions of people will?

## Monday, April 07, 2008

### Olympic Politics

The French have had to extinguish the Olympic torch. Politics are being dragged into the Olympics, By the torch? The one of Goebbels invented?

"The modern convention of moving the Olympic Flame via a relay system from Olympia to the Olympic venue began with the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany."

Now as Nazi Symbols go the Olympic torch is a pretty good one, not as good as the Nazi's tailoring. Insane fucks they were but they were also really snappy dressers

While I am talking about Nazis why is everyone so shocked that FIA boss Mosley had an orgy with a bunch of hookers dressed as Nazis.

The 67 year old guy spent thousands and must have been taking Viagra like Smarties to get an erection in defiance of gods will and laws. After all that what do you expect him to get them to dress as, Feminists?

## Sunday, March 30, 2008

### Physical Computer Attack

Turns out the idea I had for a computer virus that physically attacks people has happened.
An epilepsy support forum has been targeted with flashing javascript. The whole attack is very sick. Still I think I was right for pointing out the threat. The warning could have lead the epilepsy forum to turn scripting off. I do not know how a migraine forum could prevent trigger images though.

## Tuesday, March 18, 2008

### Let me be the first to say Holy Shit

*THIS POST IS FALSE the silica hydrogen compound is a room temperature metal and a superconductor but not both at the same time*
I have talked about the possibility of of a hydrogen based room temperature superconductor here. As described in that article I believed a metallic hydrogen could produce a superconductor that would be such an advance as to be reasonably called a paradigm shift.

It turns out someone has made a room temperature superconductor using hydrogen. The pressure required for the compound is not practical. Now that hydrogen has been shown to have these properties more research into practical compounds will be encouraged. The area has recently seen another practical improvement. The first ambient at normal temperature superconductor has been reported in the last few days also.

So what does a room temperature superconductor mean? I have no idea, but it is probably the biggest innovation in electricity since *Nicolas* Tesla. It is something so odd that you are much better spending your time figuring out what do do with it then trying to think what other people are going to do with it. But to give one of a hundred possible examples, with a superconducting power cable you can produce electricity anywhere and transport it without loss. This would increase energy efficiency by over 30%*.

So my bet on what the maximum temperature superconductor by the end of the year is out by at least 110K. If you want to make a bet you can do it here.

*edit. You lose about 10% of electricity to power line loses and about 20% to disparities in usage between different times. You can smooth out these disparities by transporting the electricity during your night to someone elses peak demand time of day.

## Monday, March 17, 2008

### Why is there more business news then science news?

If almost all economic growth is caused by science why are scientific advances not reported in more detail then some change in bank shares? If science is going to effect the economy and our lives much more then sterling doing badly against a basket of currencies or even a basket of scampi then it should be reported.

For news media "five hours of viewing would yield 71 minutes of politics, 26 minutes of crime, 12 minutes of disasters and 10 minutes of celebrities. Science, technology, health and the environment received just six minutes of coverage (with health and health care accounting for half of that."

One possible way to help fix this is betting markets for science. These would provide
1. a figure on science that the public could understand. For example imagine a news broadcast
"the market odds for 5 degrees global warming in 50 years today moved up 2% to 95%"
2. Provide a way to hedge. Resource futures allow people to guarantee they will earn a certain amount for their produce. Science prediction markets can provide a similar hedge. A company owning port space in northern Canada could bet against global warming to guarantee a certain minimum income.
3.To subsidise scientific research. Scientific prediction markets would reward scientists for being right.

You could claim that scientific market would not provide any mew information as research companies already know this information. If they do the public could still benefit from this knowledge. If they do they are better predictors of science then they are of resource prices which seems unlikely. The market in science futures should be every bit as valuable as the market for resource futures. A coal market might help you plan for electricity supply in 10 years time but so can a market of superconductors or one on fusion power.
Saying there is no need for science futures because private firms carry out research is like saying there is no need for resource futures because private companies grow/mine the materials.

Anyway if you think scientific prediction markets are a good idea or a bad one you can make a prediction here

## Friday, March 14, 2008

### Giving up on music

This makes me look like one of the monkeys at the start of 2001AD but I buy CD's. Lots of them. Almost everyone else I know gave up on new music a few years after leaving college. But I keep wandering round shops with handfulls of laser readable processed dinosaur bones like some sort of animal. I do not own an Ipod, I dislike the idea of Apple chaining up my files so I just continue to fill my house with disks.

The desert sessions 9&10 arrived yesterday and it is the last CD i will buy*. I will not buy new music until the music industry stops trying to steal from me. They are currently trying to make the internet more expensive and have less freedom. It is immoral for the record industry to take money from me for pirating when I do not pirate. Is is immoral for them to take freedom from me. It is immoral for them to sue 14 year old girls. It is immoral for them not to give the money they made suing p2p programs to the people they were suing for. I am not going to fund this behaviour anymore.

*I will buy music from skint artists from their website Jape, David Kitt and Mumblin' Deaf Ro people like that.

## Thursday, March 13, 2008

### Is metallic hydrogen a black swan?

I have set up a prediction market for superconductor temperature here. One problem with this bet is black swan events

When betting on the price of gold or the score in a football match you know it is very unlikely to move outside certain ranges. Scientific knowledge does occasionally make huge advances though.

To take one example say someone creates metallic hydrogen at reasonable temperatures. This substance is estimated to have a superconducting temperature at near room temperature. Well 230 85 K but the upper end of this is at the level to completely change the world (with the huge assumption that the pressure metallic hydrogen existed at is practical).

In this case the prediction for the superconductor temperature is in two forms
1. Something similar to the current rate of change happens. A few degrees a year.
2. Something completely new comes along with really different properties (figure 2 here).

Metallic Hydrogen would not even be that novel. It has been modeled theoretically and we know people are trying to make it. Usually in prediction markets you have scoring rules that give out money/points based on how close to the answer you were. In these cases where huge changes have a reasonable chance of occurring these sorts of scoring rules might be unfair.

Say there is a 90% chance that research will continue along its standard path to 188K. Say there is a 5% chance that nothing will change. And say there is a 5% chance the maximum temperature will suddenly jump up to 270K. Does this mean that the market will sit at 193K? Will people in the lab who create a room temperature superconductor go out and bet heavily on their side moving the market (and making them money)? Will people ignore the black swan of room temperature superconductor and move the market to a “sensible” level? Humans do have a bias to ignore unlikely highly risky possibilities.

Could this bias make scientific prediction markets more profitable for those that create huge innovations?

## Wednesday, March 12, 2008

### Is anyone interested in science prediction markets?

I set up one to find out. Please go here and make a prediction. The bet is on what the highest temperature superconductor by January 1st 2009 will be.

You need about 20 predictions to have a reasonable estimate. Real money prediction markets have the advantage of giving a greater incentive to be correct. I think it would be funny to have physicists in finance doing physics for a change.

## Monday, March 10, 2008

### Superconductor betting. How and why.

Setting up a superconductor betting/information market would
1. Provide publicity to superconductor research
2. Provide incentives to develop and publish theoretical models of
metallic superconductors. Publishing the models would move the market
in the way you have already bet on.
This would make more cash for the model developer. The theoretical
models should aid the actual production of the materials.
3. Provide some incentive for the development of superconductor materials.
4. Provide some evidence on whether these sorts of information markets
work. Whether they encourage research and results. If they do they
could be used for other research areas.
5. It would provide an estimate as to how well markets predict and incentivise scientific development. There are results on how well they predict elections and sports games but not much on science. If these markets are useful at predicting and incentivising science they would be very valuable.

It to set up would need
1. To get someone famous to talk about it. One of the aims of the market is to provide publicity to the area of research and nothing provides publicity like a celebrity bet. Stephen Hawking famously loves a good bet.
http://hanson.gmu.edu/press/natureNov02.pdf
2. To live in Ireland. We seem one of the only countries that allow this
sort of betting.
3. To figure out if this could be classed as a charity. You are
sponsoring scientific research. However you are also engaging in
betting which is illegal in most of the USA.

I will describe later the mechanism of a science prediction market that also allows donations to sponsor those that advance knowledge.

## Sunday, March 09, 2008

### Useful Superconductors

FX prediction market has a bet on the likelihood of an alloy high-Tc superconductor by 2017. The current market value of this places it at 65% likely.

77 kelvin is given as the useful figure because this is the boiling point of Nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen is in fairly cheap plentiful supply so if you can get a superconductor that works at that temperature it is useful for commercial applications.
Being malleable and ductile would also add to the practical applications of the superconductor. Malleable and ductile in this description are slightly ambiguous, I assume only metallic compounds can have these qualities but I could be wrong. So replace malleable and ductile with metallic in the post if that is a better description.

Superconductors have all sorts of known useful applications. It is such a weird property that trying to figure out what you can do with them is like a bronze age swordmaker trying to figure out all applications of iron.

This is an in depth description of the superconductivity phenomenon. Figure 12 shows the historical evolution of the maximum superconducting temperature.

If you look at this graph you can see that a metallic superconductor if current trends continue a metallic superconductor would be nearing the temperature of liquid nitrogen. This of course assumes that a metal could superconduct at this temperature.

Using these two graphs and this bet we can have some evidence of what the current trends in these class of superconductors is and also how likely people believe these trends are to continue. From this information we can estimate if actions have an effect on the development of this class of superconductors.

One way to encourage superconductor research would be to offer a prize for new metals that increase the highest temperature of superconductivity. Superconductor research is materials research that is not overly expensive. However it does require a reasonable level of investment. As such any prize for the development of new superconducting materials would need to be considerable. The producer of a metallic superconductor could expect to make significant commercial results from the discovery.

Theoreticians however do not need as much money. They could make a prediction on the properties of metallic superconductors and not have to go through the cost of actually producing the materials.

So if you could give a prize to the most accurate prediction of the future of metallic superconductors this would slightly encourage experimental research into metallic superconductors. It would I believe more strongly affect theoretical examination of the problem.

I believe we should use a form of betting market to incentivise research into superconductors. I will describe how this market would be designed and the pros and cons of the scheme in another post.

If you have any opinions on how to phrase the question so that knowing the answer requires more knowledge in this area to be acquired. How to judge the question reliably and in a trustworthy way is another important question.

## Saturday, March 08, 2008

### Prediction markets: For realreal or for playplay?

When running a prediction market is it more accurate to use play money (karma) or real money? This paper here and the easier to read presentation description here provide evidence it does not effect the markets accuracy. Both result in accuracies much greater then the average opinion of the people in the market.

This means that people with more confidence betting larger amounts tend to be more accurate. People without strong opinions being less involved in predictions seems to increase accuracy.

It is interesting to wonder why money does not seem to benefit accuracy. Could it be that using money attracts some of the wrong kinds of bettors? Would some combination of real and play money provide more accurate predictions? In this case there would have to be different types of bets in the real and play money that both happen to be of similar accuracy.

If it is the case that people bet the same with real and play money could it be that money is just a karma substitute?

One important factor with the use of real money is that it rewards those who are right in a way that they can eat. Karma does not butter any parsnips. For using prediction markets in science I think you should reward those who make accurate predictions in a way that aids their making predictions in future.

## Wednesday, March 05, 2008

### Bias and Netflix Prize

The Netflix prize aims to get an algorithm that judges better how people rate items.This article in wired talks about the use of examining human biases to help you rate items.

I find human cognitive biases fascinating and used them to develop a lottery number generator. What biases could affect the netflix prize?

Genetic Bias. As this article describes numerous of our biases/opinions have a genetic basis.

The article reports on how your opinions on X-Rated movies has a genetic component. Now unless you have an identical twin in your Netflix set (they are 0.2% of the world population) this information may not be of much use. Still I think it is interesting that because some opinions have a genetic component peoples Netflix ratings probably have a genetic component.

There is a list of cognitive biases here. If I think of any others that are relevant to the Netflix prize I will post an article.

Off hand I would expect these effects
1.Bandwagon effect. If everyone you know says a film is good you will probably go along with them to some extent.

2. Post-purchase rationalization. Your ratings are likely to be slightly higher then your real feelings. The fact you went and rented the film means you have a certain investment in it being good. If you then say you were wrong you are admitting being wrong to some extent. People hate to admit being wrong.

3.Zero-risk bias. This is tenuous but i think users are more likely to rate a .5 movie as 0 then a 4.5 movie as 4. One bias i have not heard mentioned is how people will order films based on how this will make them look.

This slate article describes he phenomena. I expect that people will also overrate pretentious movies on the grounds that no one want to give Battleship Potemkin as 1 and Porkies 2 as 5.

## Tuesday, March 04, 2008

### Why use prediction markets for science?

“Cold fusion cannot be confirmed by a popularity context, or by politics, and not even by asking experts. There is only one way to confirm that it exists: by experiment…. Objective, replicated instrument readings are the one and only standard of truth in experimental science.”
This is correct, if everyone in the world thinks the world is flat it is still not. The only standard of truth is experimental science. However prediction markets do provide scientists with publicity, understandability and money. All these are useful.

Prediction markets give the public a readable figure on how likely *people think* a certain event is*.

They provide a method to clear FUD from scientific debates. For example when climate change skeptics are asked to bet on their prediction they suddenly become less supportive of their criticisms.

""Richard Lindzen says he's willing to take bets that global average temperatures in 20 years will in fact be lower than they are now." (thanks to William Connolley for the tip). Given his widely-promulgated views, I took this quote at face value and contacted him to arrange a wager. A payoff at retirement age would be a nice top-up to my pension.

Now here's the kicker. Richard Lindzen will indeed accept a bet - but only if offered odds of 50:1 in his favour!"

Another advantage of prediction markets is they provide a way for scientists to make money by being right. Being right is something we should encourage scientists to be. If the market is inaccurate you can make money betting against it.

The scientific method does change over time

That talk gives the following additions to the scientific method over time.
2000 BC - First text indexes
200 BC - Cataloged library (at Alexandria)
1590 - Controlled experiment (Roger Bacon)
1600 - Laboratory
1609 - Telescopes and microscopes
1650 - Society of experts
1665 - Repeatability (Robert Boyle)
1665 - Scholarly journals
1675 - Peer review
1687 - Hypothesis/prediction (Isaac Newton)
1920 - Falsifiability (Karl Popper)
1926 - Randomized design (Ronald Fisher)
1937 - Controlled placebo
1946 - Computer simulation
1950 - Double blind experiment
1962 - Study of scientific method (Thomas Kuhn)

There is a big push at the moment to have papers properly blinded so reviewers do not know who they are reading.

An mp3 talk on how the scientific method has changed is here.

So it might be odd but it is not heretical to suggest that the funding of science or even some elements of the scientific method can be altered to take markets into account. This will not alter the place of experiments but could alter the rewards and incentives available to scientists.

*edit. As Dunc correctly pointed out.

### How likely is cold fusion?

How likely do people think it is that cold fusion is a real phenomenon? Based on how likely people view cold fusion it can be used to decide whether to spend time/money/effort investigating it.
The Fx prediction market has a bet
“Cold fusion of deuterium in palladium can produce over 10 watts/cc. net power at STP (standard temperature and pressure). Cold fusion is discussed on the fusion newsgroup.”

The judging of this statement could be quite difficult due to ambiguities. However the statement is currently thought to have a 12% likelihood of being true. This means there is about a 1/8 chance that cold fusion is a real phenomenon according to the market. I believe that if people really believed cold fusion was this likely more mainstream research would be studying it. The market could be inaccurate in that
1. The question and judging of it are viewed as too ambiguous to trust.
2. Because real money is not used in this market the market is distorted by irrational bettors.

One problem with the field is that it has attracted cranks and conspiracy theorists. This now makes it difficult for a legitimate researcher to look into the area. The 12% figure could be accurate and some grand conspiracy against cold fusion exists. It is a feature of conspiracy theories that this hypothesis is likely to be supported by believers in such a conspiracy even though other explanations may be more accurate. Another possibility is that the 12% figure is accurate but that researchers fear being dismissed as cranks if they research the area.

Imagine the case where the market was overly optimistic and it used real money. A researcher with evidence against cold fusion could bet heavily against it. Then she would publish a result that showed it to be less likely. When the value of her bet (idea futures) increased she could then sell her “no cold fusion” bet and make a profit. As shown in this post people who provide evidence against conspiracy theories are frequently the subject to abuse.

So how likely do you think cold fusion is?

### Will the seed vault be used?

PPX has a bet on whether the doomsday vault designed to hold 4.5 million samples of plant life will be needed in its first year. The seed vault is a bank of biodiversity to counteract the problems of farming moving to a low number of species. If a plant becomes endangered seeds of the plant can be taken from the vault and used to reintroduce the plant. Storing seeds of many varieties means that if conditions devastate one species of plant being grown other similar species with different genes can be used to resist the unfavorable conditions.

The PPX market currently places the chances of the seed vault being used in its first year at 25%. This is a very high probability as if the seed vault is used a serious environmental problem must be underway. The vault is only a final insurance policy against conditions leading to species extinction rather then something for common usage. Imagine you invented a insurance policy that people believed had a ¼ chance of being used in its first year. You would wonder why no one had this policy before?

## Friday, February 29, 2008

### Problems with Science Prizes

One major problem with science prizes is that in creating publicity they also attract crazies.

James Randi offers a 1 million dollar prize for someone exhibiting paranormal powers. This prize has produced a lot of anger in the paranormal community and Randi has spent a great deal of time dealing with it.

The fact that this celebration of the upcoming closing of the challenge is bringing such joy to the woo-woo community, proves that the challenge offered an insurmountable impediment to the wonder-workers out there. They will all heave a mighty sigh of relief when March 7th, 2010, rolls around, and then will begin wailing that they weren’t given their chance to carry off the prize money…”

Another example of this is Alfred Wallace (the co-discoverer of evolution) who won a prize for proving the world was not flat.

The judge for the wager, the editor of Field magazine, declared Wallace the winner, but Hampden refused to accept the result. He sued Wallace and launched a campaign, which persisted for several years, of writing letters to various publications and to organizations of which Wallace was a member denouncing him as a swindler and a thief. Wallace won multiple libel suits against Hampden, but the resulting litigation cost Wallace more than the amount of the wager and the controversy frustrated him for years”

Prizes put up a great “put up or shut up” argument however particularly with people with odd beliefs engaging with them is a bit like covering yourself in barbecue sauce and rolling around in a bag of rabid badgers. Can you think of anyways to reduce the crazy tax associated with science prizes?