Skip to main content

The binary beer

What do you think of when you see your empty beer-glass in front of you? Right: it could be full. This is ok with me, you seem to be no techie. Would you have taken up the essence of the binary world through your umbilical cord, your first response would be: Beer=1, noBeer=0 - hey, what a great way to exchange messages in a bar! Rows of full and empty beer-glasses representing zeroes and ones, a wonderfull virtual world!
No, I am not drunk - yet.
While building a computer out of lined-up beverages might be a bit off mainstream, expensive and a never acceptable misappropriation of digestible goods, some tech-kids made the youtube-charts with a presentation of their computer built from stone and dust in the virtual world of minecraft.
As Wired Magazine reports, some geek called Ben Craddock (or theinternetftw in his world) built a computer entirely out of the virtual matter redstone. When redstone is destroyed it forms redstone dust, which itself can be used to build wires with two possible states: powered and not powered - voila! The binary code.
While Craddock and others are building very basic prototypes of 'derivative-computers', it will get exciting, when more advanced material is entered into the game. It is not necessary, to rely on binary code alone - the analog computer is shadowed by the success of binary, but nature takes advantage of it's special properties - and built that still not replicated supermachine: the brain.
If the nerds in virtuality pick up on this and use analog signals (sound, wind, force,...) to build an operating machine ... and if the building blocks they design can be packaged, miniaturized and reused by others for even more complex meta-machines ... who knows, maybe one day something starts thinking or even feeling - on either side of the screen.


Popular posts from this blog

Academics should be blogging? No.

"blogging is quite simply, one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now" The London School of Economics and Political Science states in one of their, yes, Blogs . It is wrong. The arguments just seem so right: "faster communication of scientific results", "rapid interaction with colleagues" "responsibility to give back results to the public". All nice, all cuddly and warm, all good. But wrong. It might be true for scientoid babble. But this is not how science works.  Scientists usually follow scientific methods to obtain results. They devise, for example, experiments to measure a quantity while keeping the boundary-conditions in a defined range. They do discuss their aims, problems, techniques, preliminary results with colleagues - they talk about deviations and errors, successes and failures. But they don't do that wikipedia-style by asking anybody for an opinion . Scientific discussion needs a set

My guinea pig wants beer!

Rather involuntary train rides (especially long ones, going to boring places for a boring event) are good for updates on some thoughts lingering in the lower levels of the brain-at-ease. My latest trip (from Berlin to Bonn) unearthed the never-ending squabble about the elusive 'free will'. Neuroscientists make headlines proving with alacrity the absence of free will by experimenting with brain-signals that precede the apparent willful act - by as much as seven seconds! Measuring brain-activity way before the human guinea pig actually presses a button with whatever hand or finger he desires, they predict with breathtaking reproducibility the choice to be made. So what? Is that the end of free will? I am afraid that those neuroscientists would accept only non-predictability as a definite sign of free will. But non-predictability results from two possible scenarios: a) a random event (without a cause) b) an event triggered by something outside of the system (but caused).

No theory - no money!

A neuroscientist I was talking to recently complained that the Higgs-research,even the Neutrino-fluke at CERN is getting humungous funding while neuroscience is struggling for support at a much more modest level. This, despite the undisputed fact that understanding our brain, and ultimately ourselves, is the most exciting challenge around. Henry Markram of EPFL in Switzerland   is one of the guys aiming for big, big funding to simulate the complete brain. After founding the brain institute and developing methods to analyze and then reconstruct elements of the brain in a supercomputer he now applies for 1.5 Billion Euro in EU-funding for the 'flagship-projects' of Blue Brain -and many believe his project is simply too big to fail. Some call the project daring, others audacious. It is one of the so very few really expensive life-science endeavours. Why aren't there more like that around? Why do we seem to accept the bills for monstrous physics experiments more easily? Is