Posts Tagged ‘BBC’
“Maybe the only significant difference between a really smart simulation and a human being was the noise they made when you punched them”*…
The nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) is tiny; it has only has 302 neurons. These connections have been completely mapped in the OpenWorm project, which is building a complete simulation of the worm in software. One of the founders of OpenWorm, Timothy Busbice, has embedded the connectome in an an object-oriented neuron program– which he has installed in the simple Lego robot pictured above…
And the result?
It is claimed that the robot behaved in ways that are similar to observed C. elegans. Stimulation of the nose stopped forward motion. Touching the anterior and posterior touch sensors made the robot move forward and back accordingly. Stimulating the food sensor made the robot move forward…
Are we just the sum of our neural networks? More at “A Worm’s Mind In A Lego Body.”
* Terry Pratchett, The Long Earth
As we cram for the Turing Test, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967 that the BBC banned “I Am The Walrus” for play on their air. The Beatles had grabbed and used a snippet of a BBC broadcast of King Lear (which has also influenced Lennon’s lyrics), but that wasn’t the problem. Rather, the lines “pornographic priestess” and “let your knickers down” were deemed inappropriate.
Last Friday in Norway, 1.3 million people watched strangers knit on television. For four hours they tuned in as people talked about knitting, and then they stuck around for eight and a half extra hours of actual knitting. I’m serious.
National Knitting Evening is not the first program belonging to a genre called “Slow TV”: Norway’s public TV company, NRK, is responsible for several. Its predecessors include behemoth-size studies on a train trip from Bergen to Oslo (the station’s first, in 2009, clocking in at seven hours), a cruise ship (a record-breaking five days), salmon swimming (18 hours) and a fire burning (12 hours, and very reminiscent of our nation’s own Christmas Yule Log broadcast). Norway’s population is just more than 5 million people, and more than half of them watched a cruise ship’s voyage for the better part of a week…
Read more at the always great Grantland in “Wait For It: Norway’s Slow TV Revolution.”
* Shakespeare, Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 3
As we take our time, we might recall that it was on this date in 1936 (though some records hold that it was this date inverted– November 21) that the BBC broadcast the first televised gardening program, a special based on a radio staple: In Your Garden, hosted by C. H. Middleton– known throughout the British Isles simply as Mr. Middleton. The son of a head gardener in Northamptonshire and a gardening columnist for the Daily Mail, Mr. M, Britain’s first celebrity gardener, introduced and championed the “Dig For Victory” campaign in 1939. His Sunday afternoon program reached 3.5 million listeners, over a third of the available (licensed) audience in the U.K.
It was 80 years ago (more specifically, 80 years ago last month) that the BBC conducted its first experimental broadcast. In grateful commemoration, Paste has created a list of its favorite BBC TV series. Like any “best of” list it begs for bickering (e.g., while Jools Holland’s wonderful series is included, the honoree of this post’s title is not); but then, that’s the fun– and there’s not a ringer in the bunch.
Check them out– and then add your own– at “The 16 Best BBC TV Shows.”
As we acknowledge our Anglophilia, we might recall that this was not a banner date for British-American relations in 1774: in response to Parliament’s enactment of the Coercive Acts in the American colonies, the first session of the Continental Congress convened at Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia.
Colonists had gathered before to protest the Stamp Act (1765) and the Tea Act (1773); indeed, the “Tea Party” (and related acts of violent protest)– “Intolerable Acts” as they were called by Parliament– precipitated the Coercive Acts, which closed Boston to merchant shipping, established formal British military rule in Massachusetts, made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America, and required colonists to quarter British troops. The Continental Congress was called to consider a united American resistance to the British… and so it did.
In this 1974 clip from the BBC news magazine Nationwide, Mr. Tony McCabe demonstrates how to jump on eggs without breaking them:
Slow news day…
[TotH to The Presurfer]
As we struggle to balance “nimble” and “quick,” we might light a candle for Lucifer Calaritanus, bishop of Cagliari in Sardinia; he died on this date in 370 (according to St. Jerome; it may have been 371). Though the status is elsewhere disputed, Lucifer is considered a saint in Sardinia, and today is his feast day. In any case, his name– which means “bearer of light”– is a reminder that “Lucifer” had not in his life time attained its Satanic connotation. Indeed, it was St. Jerome, in his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate) in the 390s, who made “Lucifer” synonymous with the Dark Lord… Given that Jerome was a theological antagonist of (Bishop) Lucifer, the naming may not have been altogether coincidental.
Why do kids wish that their parents behaved like Luxemborgers, while parents wish their kids had more Dutch expectations? The Economist explains it all:
When it became an independent nation in the seventeenth century, the Netherlands pioneered what today would be called austerity chic: think of the plain interiors painted by Vermeer or ruddy-faced merchants in their black smocks by Frans Hals. Today’s chart, which shows a correlation between Christmas spending (culled from various sources) and wealth (in purchasing-power parity terms), suggests that the disapproval of those Amsterdam merchants still has some sway over their descendants. Lightly-taxed Luxemborgers, by contrast, are exceedingly generous outliers. Footloose readers would be well advised to head there for December 25th.
As we reach for the wrapping paper, we might recall that it was on this date in 1932 that the world received a gift from Britain: The BBC World Service began as the BBC Empire Service operating on shortwave frequencies. Its broadcasts were aimed principally at English speakers in the outposts of the British Empire, or as George V put it in the first-ever Royal Christmas Message, the “men and women, so cut off by the snow, the desert, or the sea, that only voices out of the air can reach them.”
Expectations for the new Empire Service were kept low. The Director General, Sir John Reith (later Lord Reith; see almanac entry here) said in the opening program: “Don’t expect too much in the early days; for some time we shall transmit comparatively simple programmes, to give the best chance of intelligible reception and provide evidence as to the type of material most suitable for the service in each zone. The programmes will neither be very interesting nor very good.” (As recording hadn’t yet been mastered, Reith had to read the same statement, live, five times over a 7 hours period to account for different time zones.)
From that modest beginning, the politically-independent, non-profit, commercial-free Empire Service, now the World Service, has become the world’s largest international broadcaster, operating in 32 languages to bring current affairs, culture, education, and entertainment via shortwave, internet streaming and podcasting, satellite, and FM and MW relays to over 188 million listeners the world over.
Alistair Cooke reading “Letter from America” on the World Service (source)
Bertrand Russell delivering the first Reith Lecture
The Reith Lectures were inaugurated by the BBC in 1948 to honor the contributions of its first Director General, John Reith (more formally known by the end of his career as “John Charles Walsham Reith, 1st Baron Reith”).
Lord Reith had operated on the principle that broadcasting should be a public service that enriches the intellectual and cultural life of the nation. In that spirit the BBC invites a leading figure to deliver a series of radio lectures each year– the aim being “to advance public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest.”
And so, over the last 63 years, British listeners have been treated to Arnold Toynbee on “The World and the West,” Robert Oppenheimer on “Science and Common Understanding,” John Searle on “Minds, Brains, and Science,” John Keegan on “War in Our World,” Marina Warner on “Managing Monsters”… and dozens more extraordinary minds explaining and provoking.
As of a few weeks ago the BBC has made the entire audio library of Reith Lectures available online, from Bertrand Russell’s kick-off through 2010’s Martin Rees on “Scientific Horizons.”
[TotH to @brainpicker for the link]
As we listen and learn, we might recall that it was on this date in 1908 that “SOS” (. . . _ _ _ . . .) became the global standard radio distress signal. While it was officially replaced in 1999 by the Global Maritime Distress Safety System, SOS is still recognized as a visual distress signal.
SOS has traditionally be “translated” (expanded) to mean “save our ship,” “save our souls,” “send out succor,” or other such pleas. But while these may be helpful mnemonics, SOS is not an abbreviation or acronym. Rather, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the letters were chosen simply because they are easily transmitted in Morse code.
click image above, or here
HW: Do you find that audiences are frightened by different things now from the things that frightened them when you started, what, 30 years ago… 35 years ago, making films?
AH: No, I wouldn’t say so, because after all they were frightened as children. You have to remember this is all based on “Red Riding Hood,” you see? Nothing has changed since “Red Riding Hood.”
In 1964, Huw Weldon (later, Director General of the BBC) interviewed Alfred Hitchcock for the BBC series Monitor…
Part Two here
HW: Have you ever been tempted to make what is nowadays called a horror film, which is different from a Hitchcock film?
AH: No, because it’s too easy… I believe in putting the horror in the mind of the audience and not necessarily on the screen.
[TotH to Brain Pickings]
As we reach for our security blankets, we might recall that, though accounts of an unusual aquatic beast living in Scotland’s Loch Ness date back 1,500 years, the modern legend of the Loch Ness Monster was born when a sighting made local news on this date in 1933. The Inverness Courier ran the account of a local couple who claimed to have seen “an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface.” The story of the “monster” (a label chosen by the Courier editor) became a media sensation: London papers sent correspondents to Scotland and a circus offered a 20,000 pound reward for capture of the beast.
Photo “taken” in 1934, later proved a hoax (source)