Monday, December 31, 2012

Memorize: Sci-Fi Short

A decent Swedish concept film by aspiring directors Jimmy Eriksson and Erik Ramberg.  The film takes place in 2027, where everyone is implanted with a chip which can record everything an individual sees. This new technology allows the stylish paramilitary police unit known as the Special Surveillance Unit (SSU) to effectively become judge, jury and executioner a la Judge Dredd.

Though it is a short film, and as such has a limited scope, I would liked to have seen a deeper exploration of the technology as opposed to the non-stop action scenes.  Also the lack of dialogue made it feel a little off.  On the other hand, I thought it did a wonderful job of conveying a futuristic world through it's use of CGI.  I also liked the Kage Bunshin holograms ;)

Memorize - Short Film from Jimmy Eriksson on Vimeo.

Here is a link to a lower quality youtube version if you have trouble with the one above.

Monday, December 24, 2012


An intriguing interactive art installation put forth by the collaborative efforts of Aaron Sherwood and Mike Allison.

Firewall from Aaron Sherwood on Vimeo.

You can read more about the project here.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

IQ test not so smart?

An interesting article on Kurzweilai regarding a large research study conducted by a Canadian Western University research team which concluded that the concept of a general intelligence or 'IQ' is highly misleading.

The online study, which was open to the general public, asked respondents to complete 12 cognitive test on memory, reasoning, attention and planning abilities, as well as a survey about their background and lifestyle habits.  The results showed that variations in performance on the tests could only be explained with at least three distinct components: short-term memory, reasoning and verbal ability.

According to senior investigator Adrian M. Owen "Regular brain training didn't help people's cognitive performance at all yet aging had a profound negative effect on both memory and reasoning abilities."

Researcher Adam Hampshire stated "Intriguingly, people who regularly played computer games did perform significantly better in terms of both reasoning and short-term memory".

I find it very interesting that "brain training" doesn't seem to help cognitive performance yet those who regularly play video games performed better.  Of course correlation doesn't necessarily mean causation.  Perhaps individuals that possess higher cognitive abilities find video games more appealing than those with average and (or) below average abilities.  On the other hand, if there is something about playing video games which enables one to enhance their cognitive functions then this would indicate that regular "brain training" could actually be beneficial but that it is currently done wrong.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Two years of blogging

Where does the time go?  I can't believe it has been two years since I started this blog!  This was actually my second attempt at blogging.  The first, which I started a number of years ago, did not last more than a few months.  For some reason this time around I have been a lot more committed to keeping this thing alive.

My original intention with starting this blog was to have a place that I could take note of things that I found interesting, clarify my thinking and to flesh out ideas.  This kind of personal blogging is a strange thing.  It is like you are having this conversation with yourself that you are also openly sharing with whoever may want to be a part of it.  This curious combination does come at a price.  On one hand you are writing for completely personal reasons, but as time goes on and more people start to read your blog, you begin to think about things more from the readers perspective.  This, to some degree, can affects what you post since you are thinking about how you will be perceived by others.  I don't believe it has had a large impact on what I have written but it does cause one to pause and reflect before clicking the publish button.  On second thought maybe it isn't a negative at all since it can force you to give more consideration to things instead of just going with a preconceived bias.

Anyway, while I can't say that the blog has been a runaway success, it has been a lot of fun seeing it develop from a monthly average of 140 views the first year to 1080 average views the second year.  It's kind of funny how sometimes the posts you put the most into will get next to no views while the ones you put almost no thought into are most popular.  For instance, when I first started this blog I wrote two papers on the federal debt.  The first paper was an introduction to the problem while the second one delved more into the details.  Both were well cited works which took a fair amount of time to write.  To date, the first one has had thirty views and the second one has had ten views.  On the other side, I wrote a short post on the bare bones basics of flowcharts which has a simple example I nabbed from somewhere.  That post, for whatever reason, consistently gets hits every month and to date has had just over a thousand views.

Then there are the shooting star posts which shine brightly for a short period before burning out.  The one experience I have had with this was my post on a short sci-fi cgi film called Ruin.  I must have stumbled upon it at just the right moment.  Over the course of 3 days I received about two thousand views and then after that, next to nothing.

Anyway, I think overall the whole blogging thing has been a worthwhile endeavor.  I would like to thank those of you who have taken time out of your busy lives to share in some of my interests and thoughts.  I would also like to encourage you to try blogging out for yourselves.  I read a number of blogs myself but am especially interested in what friends and family members are thinking about.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Economic Freedom

This past September, the Fraser Institute released it's 2012 Economic Freedom of the World report.  The annual report is an index of nations ranked from most free to least which is constructed by using over 40 variables in five broad areas: (1) size of government: expenditures, taxes, and enterprises; (2) legal structure and security of property rights; (3) access to sound money; (4) freedom to trade internationally; and (5) regulation of credit, labor and business.  The 2012 report uses data from 2010 and includes 144 nations.

Though the United States has long been considered a model of economic freedom, it has experienced a considerable decline in recent years.  "From 1980 to 2000, the United States was generally rated the third freest economy in the world, ranking behind only Hong Kong and Singapore. After increasing steadily during the period from 1980 to 2000, the chain linked EFW rating of the United States fell from 8.65 in 2000 to 8.21 in 2005 and 7.70 in 2010. The chain-linked ranking of the United States has fallen precipitously from second in 2000 to eighth in 2005 and 19th in 2010 (unadjusted ranking of 18th)".1

Here is a table I created showing the ranking of the United States from 2000 to 2010.

Given that there is strong evidence to support a causal relationship between higher levels of economic freedom and economic prosperity, there is cause for concern over our decline in the rankings.  Year after year, nations ranked in the top quartile of economic freedom have consistently had higher average per-capita GDP, higher average income for the poorest 10%, higher life expectancy and higher political and civil liberties than the bottom quartile.1  Exhibits 1.7, 1.8, 1.9, 1.10, 1.11 and 1.12 are taken from the 2012 report and show the results in these four areas for 2010.1

Unfortunately I don't believe our near future outlook is good.  As both government debt and regulation continues to grow I don't foresee any improvement on next years report.

1. Fraser Institute: Economic Freedom of the World 2012

*Originally posted on 12/06/12.  Updated on 12/16/12.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Brain Teaser 14: Four Card Problem

A nice little logic problem I found here at

You are presented with the four cards represented in the illustration below.  Each card has a number on one side and a letter on the other.

You are told that every card that has a vowel on one side has an even number on its opposite side.
Which card or cards must you turn over in order to determine whether or not that statement is true?


Monday, December 3, 2012

Evil Plotting Boxes

 Great pareidolia picture of two 'evil plotting boxes' making it's way through the blogosphere.