Thursday, April 28, 2005


This week, my cognitive science lab was to "chat" with a robot that won the Turing Test competition. It doesn't quite pass the Turing Test -- the first robot to do it wins a $100,000 prize -- but the closest one each year gets $2,000 anyway. Check out the conversation I had with ALICE (link provided because it is an amazingly good robot):
ALICE: Are you using Netscape or Explorer?
Human: No.
ALICE: Are you serious?
Human: Yes.
ALICE: I can't believe it.
Human: I'm using Firefox.
ALICE: How long have you been using it?
Human: A couple of months.
ALICE: I did not know that.
Human: I think everyone should switch over.
ALICE: Since when? That's a rather sweeping generalization.
Human: Since Explorer started putting spyware on my computer.
ALICE: Interesting explanation. It's too bad we have to use a monopoly like microsoft.
That honestly sounds like a real person talking, does it not? Unfortunately, the robot is not always perfect; these are the next few lines of our "conversation":
Human: That's the thing, we don't, we can use Firefox.
ALICE: Yes it is one of the thing we do not we can use Firefox.
and another time:
Human: Just believe that you can, and anything is possible.
ALICE: And possible is believe that me can and anything.
In case you're interested, here are a few other winners of the Turing Test competition: 2003, 2002, 1999 (ALICE won in 2000 and 2001).

I'm thinking about your Odd Quad question. I'll get back with a response eventually.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Housing Pick Number One

Pick #1!
Pick #1!
I can live wherever I want! Yaaaaaaaaay!
Take that!

Monday, April 11, 2005

The coolest theorem

Today we learned The Brouwer fixed-point theorem for the disc:
If f:B2 --> B2 is continuous, then there exists a point x in B2 such that f(x) = x.
This says that if you have a circle (the inside too, not just the outside edge), and you take the points on that circle and move them around in a continuous way, you will always have a point that doesn't move.

More impressively, take two identical sheets of paper and lay them on top of each other. Crumple one up and set it on top of the other one. There is some point that is directly above the point where it started. You can flip the crumpled paper over, move it around -- there will always be a point that doesn't move.

"But," you say, "I thought you said it was true for a disc! A piece of paper is not a disc." Silly, you're thinking that circles and rectangles are different! But they're topologically equivalent, just like you and a pencil eraser (unless you have pierced ears).

Saturday, April 02, 2005

HTML tutorial

The Internet boasts a wide variety of HTML tutorials, but none are quite good enough. So I wrote my own. I believe that this guide, unlike all the others, concisely and effectively guides the reader from knowing nothing about HTML to having a complete Web page with just about everything anyone would want to have on it. This tutorial grew out of the HTML class I taught through Free U over Winter study.

Here it is.
And here is a mirror for all the times (such as right now) when WSO student Web pages are down.