(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Georgia Institute of Technology

Whether ’tis ignobler…

“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but, ‘That’s funny…” —Isaac Asimov

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” —Sherlock Holmes

The good folks at Improbable Research have once again awarded the Ig Nobel Prizes.  In keeping with IR’s goal…

to make people laugh, then make them think. We also hope to spur people’s curiosity, and to raise the question: How do you decide what’s important and what’s not, and what’s real and what’s not — in science and everywhere else?

… The Ig Nobel’s “honor” research that is, at the least, amusing…  for instance, among this year’s winners:

VETERINARY MEDICINE PRIZE: Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK, for showing that cows who have names give more milk than cows that are nameless.

PEACE PRIZE: Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining — by experiment — whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle.

MEDICINE PRIZE: Donald L. Unger, of Thousand Oaks, California, USA, for investigating a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers, by diligently cracking the knuckles of his left hand — but never cracking the knuckles of his right hand — every day for more than sixty (60) years.

For the scholarly citations attaching to these accomplishments– and a full list of other winners– click here.

At the 2009 ceremony, Public Health ig Nobel Prize winner Dr. Elena Bodnar demonstrates her invention — a brassiere that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of protective face masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander. She is assisted by (real) Nobel laureates Wolfgang Ketterle (left), Orhan Pamuk, and Paul Krugman (right). PHOTO: Alexey Eliseev.

As our minds drift back toward campus, we might recall that, on this date in 1916, The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (playing under coach John Heisman, after whom The Trophy is named) set a still-unbroken football record, beating the Bulldogs of Cumberland College 222-0… of course, the game was in Atlanta, so the Jackets had home field advantage…  Astoundingly, Tech wasn’t named National Champion for the first time until the following season.

The Tally

Everett Strupper, who scored eight TDs in the game

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Consoling… or Alarming… or…

source: H+

Q: Do you envision robots ever disobeying military orders on the battlefield to “do the right thing?” If so, under what circumstances?

A: Asimov originated the use of ethical restraint in robots many years ago and presented all the quandaries that it can generate. In our prototype ethical governor (and in the design itself) we do provide the robot with the right to refuse an order it deems unethical. It must provide some explanation as to why it has refused such an order. With some reluctance, we have engineered a human override capability into the system, but one which forces the operator to explicitly assume responsibility for any ethical infractions that might result as a consequence of such an override.

… Ronald C. Arkin, director of the Mobile Robot Laboratory at Georgia Tech, who is working on programming ethical behavior into military robots, interviewed in H+.  (Those unfamiliar with “Asimov’s Three Laws,” to which Dr. Arkin alludes, can click here.)

As we reach for our rayguns, we might recall that humans could be a menace even before the advent of robotics:  it was on this date in 1892 that the family of Lizzie Borden (distant relatives of famous dairyman Gail Borden, of “Elsie” fame) was found murdered (by axe) in Fall River, Massachusetts.  Though the spinster Lizzie was acquitted of the killings, no other suspect was ever identified, and she entered the public memory as a patricide.

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.
– jumprope rhyme, Anonymous


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Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 4, 2009 at 12:01 am

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