The brain and parallel processing

Interesting story here about what parallel resources the brain musters to perform simple tasks. It suggests that trying to build a functional brain-analog by simulating individual neurons is unnecessary. Instead, a much more practical silicon implementation would come from understanding the aggregate behavior of groups of neurons and simulating that instead. Not a new idea but it’s interesting to see an attempt to start to understand how this might work.

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A global quantum internet?

Interesting paper here describing a potential system for creating caches of quantum entangled photon pairs separated by very large distances. It wasn’t all that long ago that the concept of entanglement seemed like science fiction and, in any case, entanglement was so fragile that things de-cohered in a very short space of time. Now it seems like it may be possible to store widely separated entangled pairs for at least long enough (> 67mS) to be useful for things like quantum key distribution.

Pizza-stabilized restaurant tables – a demonstration of restaurant table engineering

PizzaJust returned from a tour of California and came across this piece of engineering at a restaurant at SFO. Sadly, the table designers had chosen to have four points of contact between the table and the floor which is of course a disaster. Apparently, a section of pizza had the correct size and compliance to form a stable interface between the table and the floor. An adjacent table had what seemed like a better design in that a single pole came down from the table to a circular disk base but the base had five points of contact with the floor. A waitress noticed my interest and a more general discussion ensued, causing some hilarity to other patrons. It was explained that I was a nerd (we’d visited CalTech after all) and that seemed to take care of it.

Believe it or not, restaurant table stability is a common subject for discussion here, especially since one of our number is a mechanical engineer and also because we spend too much time at restaurants. So, time to develop a proper (although not very rigorous or perhaps even correct) theory…

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Hollywood and the progress bar

ProgressBarWhere would Hollywood (and TV dramas for that matter) be without the tension of the non-linear progress bar that never seems to quite get to 100%? Until the very last moment that is, when the bad (good) guys are just about to discover the good (bad) guys engaged in their nefarious activities. Saw a clip of the The Net the other night – even a floppy disk wielding Sandra Bullock back in 1995 had a tense and sweaty moment with a low resolution progress bar.

Surely it’s time to move on to a completely different widget! Or at least recognize the progress bar’s contribution to movie excitement with a lifetime achievement award. And, if Bart the Bear can have his own page on IMDb, maybe the progress bar should too.