The discussion below between Neil deGrasse Tyson and Richard Dawkins is mostly about atheism and belief, and the degree to which the atheist viewpoint can or should be promoted.
But at one point, about 1 hr 3 mins into the video, Tyson talks about why he’s worried that there aren’t more scientists in politics. Everyone seems to be a lawyer. And his concern is not for the perhaps more obvious reasons of, say, ensuring sufficient funding for research. It’s that lawyers are people trained to be good arguers of a point of view, regardless of whether it’s the view they necessarily hold themselves.
I want people who know how to make decisions in Congress, and I’m sorry, but I don’t count lawyers among those…
When we have two scientists, if we disagree, it’s because one of us is wrong, or the other is wrong, or we’re both wrong… and we both agree with that fact — that those are the three possibilities that exist, and we’re both waiting for more or better data, to resolve it — so that we will one day agree, and then go out and have a beer.
Lawyers don’t… it doesn’t happen that way… any time I’ve seen lawyers in conflict.
Now, I’d be a bit more generous to lawyers than that, perhaps because I’m married to one! Good lawyers are at least trained to examine all the possible arguments, which is a very valuable skill, not taught to everybody. In some ways, I think, they’re almost scientists. But this doesn’t change the fact that, at least outside the academic sphere, they are usually exploring these possibilities on the behalf of a client, so they’re looking to turn their awareness of the other arguments into a reinforcement of a predetermined point of view. This makes them effective, but undesirable, politicians.
It’s nice to think that, in theory at least, good scientists would be better…
Some of you may know that, alongside my normal consultancy business, I spend one day a week in the University Computer Lab for a change of scene. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, working on Frank Stajano’s Pico project, which is trying to create a better replacement for passwords, as the normal way to authenticate yourself to digital systems.
One of my roles in the project has been cameraman/video editor. Last year we produced the original video describing the project:
and just last month we did an update, which describes in more detail how the current phone-based prototype works underneath.
It’s been a fun couple of years – as well as the videos, we’ve produced a lot of code, we’ve written some papers and some blog posts, given some talks, and had quite a lot of fun at times.
But I felt it was time for a change, so I’ve recently moved to a new project, which is in the so-called Rainbow group – somewhat nostalgic for me, because it’s where I did my Ph.D. about 20 years ago.
In this group, we’re looking at how we can improve the ways cars communicate with drivers, and, while the only web page about the project is somewhat limited at present, no doubt this will change over time…
Just over 14 years ago, in one of my first blog posts on Status-Q, I referred to the amazing fact that Apple, with the impending launch of OS X, was about to become, overnight, the largest vendor of Unix operating systems.
Unix was, up to that point, beloved of those of us working in universities and other scientific institutions, but was notoriously unfriendly to anyone not familiar with its highly-abbreviated command language. It sold in small quantities on expensive workstations, and the idea that the creator of the cuddly Macintosh was about to start deploying it on ordinary desktops seemed astonishing. In a little over a decade it would have evolved to be not only at the core of their mobile phones, but even on their watches!
Today, I fired up the Titanium Powerbook G4, the machine I was just starting to use at about that time.
For nostalgia reasons, I was revisiting the classic Mac OS, but back then I had been playing with the developer preview of OS X for a while, and when it was officially released I switched to the Mac and never looked back. I didn’t realise that I had made quite such a transition at the time, but a few months later I wrote:
At CNET there’s a comparison of Windows 2000 vs Mac OS X which comes out in favour of OS X. I’m a bit dubious about the higher OS X score for hardware compatibility, but it’s pleasing none the less. I currently use 3 machines on a regular basis. One runs Win2K, one runs Linux, and one runs Mac OS X. They all have their pros and cons, but if I could keep just one, I think it would be the Mac. I find myself pining for it when I’m using the others and, for all its current limitations, the reverse is seldom true.
P.S. I noticed a couple of other things from those early posts. The first is that they are both called ‘[untitled]’, because the convention of putting a title on blog posts hadn’t been established back then. The second is that neither of the URLs I linked to still work now. Never assume the web is going to be a long-term reference archive unless you control the site yourself!
[untitled] At CNET there’s a comparison of Windows 2000 vs Mac...
Many of you will know that I’m currently spending one day a week in the University Computer Lab helping my pal Frank Stajano with a project called ‘Pico’. We’ve been making a little introduction movie, which has been a great opportunity for me to get some more practice shooting video with my Canon 6D, and learning the new version of Final Cut Pro.
We plan to refine it a bit in the New Year, but here it is for anyone who’s curious about what we’re doing:
Out of Vision My friend Phil Ashby has long experience in the world...
I always enjoy Jeff Cable’s photography tutorials. Here’s a good talk to recommend if you know somebody who has just got a DSLR, or is wondering about getting one. What kind of things can you do with it, and what do you need to know about it, if you’re used to a fully-automatic point-and-shoot?
Remember that these days you may need to click the ‘YouTube’ logo and watch it there if you want to do so in full-screen mode.
I’ve been trying to shift much more of the paperwork in my life into the digital world, but I was very keen that filing a bit of paper electronically should be as easy as putting it in a folder in the filing cabinet. “Wouldn’t it be nice”, I thought, “if the only thing I had to do was type a name or a few keywords and everything else happened automatically?”
So I built a system which did just that. This video describes in some detail how the script is set up. You may want to use the full-screen and HD options to make things more readable. If you’re less interested in the details and would just like to see it in action, watch the first couple of minutes and then skip to about 13:30.
One thing I don’t talk about in the video is the fact that Hazel rules can also look at the contents of the file. So, once the document has been OCRed, the automatic filing can happen based on words that actually occur on the paper — it might detect your car’s registration number (licence plate), for example, in a document and know to file that under ‘car stuff’ — which I think is very cool.