last night google’s alpha go beat the second best human go player in the world, Lee Sedol last night the first game of this 5 game match was held in south korea, so it starts at 11pm EST, hard to watch it live without falling asleep.

Go players around the world held this go program in contempt. Go can’t be played by computers. Go is artistic and requires human ideas. Come on go players. Humble yourself. You really thought humans would beat computers forever?

How this program works is ridiculous. there was no way that the programmers could find to beat humans, straight up calculation doesn’t work (like used to beat Kasparov in chess 20 years ago) the calculations get too complicated, while the random walk monte carlo method tends to create weak moves in the middle game.

What did they do? They created a neural network. An artificial human brain. Then they told the computer to play itself millions and millions of times. This computer taught itself how to win at go. Remarkable really.

In the actual game, Lee Sedol who is a very aggressive player, he likes to battle early in the game took the game out of book early with a play close to the edge on the 3rd move, he seemed to be testing alphago. Alpha go then responded by fighting for the center and Sedol definitely looked to have an advantage pursuing the upper right corner. Quickly the game turned into a huge battle with both players fighting, you know how in go you can play tactically or strategically, right away Sedol took the game into a tactical battle and alpha go obliged. The game become terribly complicated and in retrospect both the human and the computer began making some small errors. Sedol then in the middle game made 2 or 3 more errors than the computer did. When the game wound down to the ending, it wasn’t clear until just before the final ending play that alpha go was ahead and Sedol resigned immediately instead of playing it out.

Sedol never thought that the computer would be this strong. That it would play “like a human” instead of like a computer. What Sedol never counted on is that 5 months after the last time alphago played a human it had played itself millions more times and had become much stronger.

Two conclusions: Good for you computers! Chess is my game, not go, and I am glad that the computers came for you. I have had to suffer the intolerable airs of humans proclaiming go is better than chess because only humans can win at go. So good for you alpha go. Humble those go players.

Second conclusion. This is going to be really good for go. You would think that when computers beat humans it means that humans will just give up. That’s not what happened for chess when kasparov lost. paradoxically it helped chess. Something about not having to worry about computers any more gave chess a huge surge. Now people only play people. And people turn to computers to help them train. So all around losing to computers will in the long run only help go become more popular.

I’ll be rooting for the computers for the rest of this match. Hail computers. Beat the human!

You might think I have some sympathy for Lee Sedol not a chance. Before the match he said he would crush alpha go 5-0. So I love seeing him get humbled.

This book tricked me.  I have a degree in physics so I am always incredibly excited to see a book that seems to be a hard science book you know one actually about the science or if not that at least religiously adheres to the standard model.  This book has titles like The Zeroeth Law of Thermodynamics, Degeneracy, you know stuff relating to the laws of physics, black holes, information and such.  But really this is a book about terrorists, a shady Mallt-y-Nos, the entire solar system hunting them down, guns in space, maintenance hatch, a sort of mix of John le Carre, the locked room mystery of Agatha Christie and a bit of Star Trek.   There is plenty of excitement fights, interrogations, a good solid plot.  But like I said I got distracted reading this book, it’s like you bite into an orange and it’s made of meat.   Just not what I expected.   It’s very tightly written good characters, but I can’t get over how mislead I felt when I read this book.    I might re-read this again but next time I would put my mindset into that of a spy thriller murder mystery, and not get ready to have my thirst of science slacked.

A lot of 1977 references, deep throat, towering inferno, several commercials that were running in 1977, the feel o vision was a reference to the dolby sound system that first came out in 1975, then the blasploitation reference, the enter the dragon parody.

You have to be on your toes to catch the references and from the vantage of 2015 these parodies of pop culture in 1977 are just not very funny, the main reason is that when you make fun of something that is trivial it’s hard to see why there is a parody in the first place. In 1977 tho a lot of these things were big but from 2015 it’s hard to see what the fuss was.

The best parts of this movie are the really shocking bits, frying a cat, keep a dead child around to play with that sort of stuff. That can still be shocking even if it’s not tremendously funny and the movie gets props for being outrageous there. The nude scenes are tame by today’s standards, so for instance the newscasters looking in on a sex scene and getting excited, it seems weird why would you care about it.

The best thing about this movie is that it led to the Zuckers eventually making some of the greatest comedy films of the past 50 years with airplane and the naked gun franchise.

It’s really impossible for me to put myself back in 1977 but I wonder if I would find it funny back then. It isn’t funny now.

Failure by Stuart Firestein Oxford University press, due out Oct 1, 2015

Unfortunately I couldn’t finish this book. Got through about 4 chapters before I gave up. There’s a quote by Enrico Fermi, to paraphrase, success means you confirm a theory failure means a discovery. That’s basically the book, make it through a few chapters but it was too repetitive for me to finish the book. I love science, but there was nothing new here for me. I had high expectations due to the subject matter and his previous book “Ignorance: How It Drives Science” but it’s clear now I should have started with book with lowered expectations. That’s about all I can say.

just read “The End of Physics: The Myth of a Unified Theory” by david lindley 1993, and the title is really a bit misleading, the first 200 pages is a history bringing us up to 1993 and the standard model, the last two or three pages is about the actual end of physics.

Really a wonderful book tho, he gets into all the basic problems, newton to einstein, bohr to schrodinger, Lord Kelvin and his prediction of the age of the earth.

What is amazing tho is despite this book being over 20 years old there is only one change or maybe two you need to make to bring it up to date and that is, “Yes Dark Energy exists” and of course the mass of the Higgs boson is no longer a mystery but known to be 125Gev.

Look back from 1900 to 1920, bohr atom was overthrown by the wave function, 1920 to 1940, quantum field theory was discovered and overturned the simple ideas of quantum particle theory, then from 1940 to 1960 the electromagnetic force was unified with the weak force, then from 1960 to 1980 the strong force and quarks were discovered with quantum chromodynamics also the higgs field was discovered and “symmetry breaking” the way it worked. Every 20 years has seen enormous strides in physics experiment and theory hand in hand.

from 1993 when this book was published until now, nothing has happened in theoretical physics. There has been one amazing discovery that of perlmutter made sometime around 2000 and that is dark energy, but nothing really on the theoretical end of physics.

This is astonishing. Oh there have been lots and lots of papers published especially about string theory but that’s just math, not actual physics.

Anyway it is a nice book even tho the title is misleading it’s more of a history. But I think the title might be right. It’s possible that we have reached the end of physics. Not because there is nothing more to discover! There are incredible mysteries. The reason we might have reached the end is because to go to the next stage in experimental physics we need an accelerator trillions of times bigger than the LHC, you know something the size of the solar system that ain’t happening. That by the way is one of the predictions of the book, that Lindley makes in the last chapter once we discover the Higgs, that’s it, experimental physics has reached a dead end because to level up one more time it’s just beyond the reach of the entire resources of the planet earth.

this whole thing is all spoilers.  Do not click, I repeat do not click the next page link unless you have read the book.  You have been warned!

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origins

This is from a netgalley copy. Origins is due out Oct 8, 2015, Oxford University Press.

I love origins stories. Especially ones that don’t involve super heros intights. I mean origins of the universe, life and everything. I’m also a huge fan of all those tv shows even through the wormhole with Morgan Friedman but there is a problem with the other popularizers of science.

This book I think is a correction to those television shows. These shows feature the more outlandish science that is purely speculation. Baggott leaves that out. By that I mean the science without the science fiction. so you get general relativity but without wormholes. You get quantum mechanics but without time travel. Basically get rid of the fantastical science and use merely the agreed upon science and a tiny bit of speculation thrown in when he can’t help it especially about the origin of life itself which we don’t really understand yet.

But there’s a small problem when you do this. Because all the interesting stuff is in what we don’t know. If you only talk about what we do know how do you present it? My favorite way to present something that science in general does know is to go deep. Present it, yes but give the general public more than just a metaphor. So for instance for general relativity, give them the loretnz factor itself. I know equations are scary but what can you do?

If you don’t give the public something which even the scientists don’t know than the other option to keep it interesting is to give them what the scientists do know but force the public to learn. It can be a difficult kind of reading.

The only other option if you want to re-hash all of the universe from beginning to end is to make it so beautifully written that every sentence is a pleasure to read.

Unfortunately none of those apply to this book. It is simply a primer, a beginner edition of physics chemistry and biology, absolutely no equations but no wormholes either nothing fantastical. It’s true that quantum mechanics is really fantastic but it’s only fantastic if you are able to actually explain enough of what it really is.

For instance here Baggott describes wave particle duality:

“Bohr [and] Heisenberg … argued … it makes no sense to speculate what photons or electrons really are, better to focus on how these quantum particles appear” and that is pretty much the end of it.

I like how he resists metaphors for instance the “molassas metaphor” of the higgs. But he keeps every explanation so simple that I feel that you don’t really get a sense of just how ridiculous things are at the lowest level.

I can’t resist comparing this book to Stephen Hawking’s “A brief history of time”. Both hawking’s book and this one by Baggott are aimed at the someone who has finished perhaps high school education and but the sentences in Hawking’s book are just so well written.

The difficultly of this book varies a bit, some places it is quite easy to read in other places it becomes a bit more difficult.

But you would be wrong to think I judge the book poor. I am giving it a 5 out of 5. Because the science is correct, it is accurate and it is being taught without bad metaphors. The electron orbitals for instance are correctly given out as standing waves and then you get to see their exact placement around the nucleus. It’s very difficult stuff to explain all this without resorting to equations. When he gets to topics that don’t require math for instance the solar nebula disk model and the hayashi henyey is wonderfully exact and clear and from this chapter to the end of the book Baggott gains his stride.

It is just a horrible awesome task to explain the entire universe without using any math, a very difficult thing to do, so I am going to give Baggott full marks. Well worth reading especially you can’t read the differential quantum equations or einstein equations directly.

What is more he explains nearly everything, plate tectonics, DNA, origin of life, the great extictions, the evolution of man the foxp2 language gene and the rise of consciousness. I was almost expecting to see the “War of the Roses” in there somewhere but that’s where he stopped. This is a ridiculous achievement and as far as I can tell not a single scientific error in the entire book.