Thursday, April 30, 2009


Gapminder looks like a great tool for the visual oriented to understanding the world:

Unveiling the beauty of statistics for a fact based world view

Gapminder is a non-profit venture promoting sustainable global development and achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by increased use and understanding of statistics and other information about social, economic and environmental development at local, national and global levels.

We are a modern “museum” that helps making the world understandable, using the Internet.

For example:

Shanghai, New York, Mumbai
Posted April 2, 2009

About this Video

See the development of three centers of trade, Shanghai, New York and Mumbai.
Also, a comparison of the capitals: Beijing, Washington, D.C. and New Delhi.
And finally, a note from Professor Rosling on how one can measure the progress of President Obama’s intentions to improve the health system of the US.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Brain Experience: Speaking of the Brain

This event last night was my first visit to the MIT Brain and Cognitive Sciences. As you can see from the slideshow below, it is a beautiful building.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn this morning that one of the architects is the Goody, Clancy & Associates, a firm I had the pleasure of working with years ago.

The four lectures was informative and interesting. Perhaps due to this being their first participation in the Cambridge Science Festival, the presenter weren't used to addressing a general audience. Nevertheless, the event went off well.

Browsing through the Brain and Cognitive Sciences site. It looks like the department has lots of interesting courses offered at the MITOPENCOURSEWARE that are worthwhile pursuing.

The Brain Experience: Speaking of the Brain
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
6pm - 8pm

MIT Brain and Cognitive Sciences
43 Vassar St, MIT building 46, room 3002 (Singleton auditorium)

Four Brain and Cognitive Sciences professors share their research. First, "The Magic of Vision" with Professor Aude Oliva. More than 40% of the human brain is dedicated to vision. How does the brain see the world? How much information for the world can you remember? Based on demonstrations and illusions, the lecture will illustrate the feats and failures of the visual brain. Professor Laura Schulz will present "Curiouser and Curiouser: Exploratory Play and Children's Causal Reasoning"; Professor Yingxi Lin will present "The Importance of Being Inhibited" about the development of inhibitory synapses and neurological disorders; and Professor Ki Goosens will present "The Science of Fear."

MIT Brain and Cognitive Sciences
McGovern Institute for Brain Research


I wasn't successful in getting connecting to the live webcast yesterday. At least not after the first few minutes. But as you can see, the presentation has been uploaded to YouTube.

Furthermore, you can also follow Wolfram|Alpha's development via its blog or on Twitter.

Stephen Wolfram discusses
Wolfram|Alpha: Computational Knowledge Engine

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Should have done nothing and tighten the belts

House OK's hike in Mass. sales tax
Tally enough to override Patrick's threatened veto
By Matt Viser
Globe Staff / April 28, 2009

House lawmakers approved a sales tax hike last night by a veto-proof margin, capping a dramatic showdown with Governor Deval Patrick after he threatened to veto the broad-based tax increase.
Patrick said he did not believe that the public will support the House plan without bigger changes on Beacon Hill, including curbing pension abuses and tightening ethics codes.

"I don't believe that we can go to the public and ask for any broad-based tax increase unless we get meaningful outcomes on the reform measures that are pending," Patrick told reporters yesterday afternoon.
The sales tax debate

Lots of us agree that the state should have done nothing and tighten the belts:

Survey: Tax hike or no?


Monday, April 27, 2009

Into the Wild (2007)

This is a relatively long movie. It took a while for me to get over the question of why should I care about his story. The narration by his sister explaining their early family life offered a compelling motivation for his actions.

Dramatically presented, the movie shows how dependent we are as individuals to others and the infrastructures built by civilization for our survival.

I've just put the book on my reading list.
Into the Wild (2007)
Editorial Reviews
A superb cast and an even-handed treatment of a true story buoy Into the Wild, Sean Penn's screen adaptation of Jon Krakauer's bestselling book. Emile Hirsch stars as Christopher McCandless, scion of a prosperous but troubled family who, after graduating from Atlanta's Emory University in the early 1990s, decides to chuck it all and become a self-styled "aesthetic voyager" in search of "ultimate freedom." He certainly doesn't do it halfway: after donating his substantial savings account to charity and literally torching the rest of his cash, McCandless changes his name (to "Alexander Supertramp"), abandons his family (William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden as his bickering, clueless parents and Jena Malone as his baffled but loving sister, who relates much of the backstory in voice-over), and hits the road, bound for the Alaskan bush and determined not to be found. For the next two years he lives the life of a vagabond, working a few odd jobs, kayaking through the Grand Canyon into Mexico, landing on L.A.'s Skid Row, and turning his back on everyone who tried to befriends him (including Catherine Keener and Brian Dierker as two kindly, middle-aged hippies and Hal Holbrook in a deeply affecting performance as an old widower who tries to take "Alex" under his wing). Penn, who directed and wrote the screenplay, alternates these interludes with scenes depicting McCandless' Alaskan idyll--which soon turns out be not so idyllic after all. Settling into an abandoned school bus, he manages to sustain himself for a while, shooting small game (and one very large moose), reading, and recording his existential musings on paper. But when the harsh realities of life in the wilderness set in, our boy finds himself well out of his depth, not just ill-prepared for the rigors of day to day survival but realizing the importance of the very thing he wanted to escape--namely, human relationships. It'd be easy to either idealize McCandless as a genuinely free spirit, unencumbered by the societal strictures that tie the rest of us down, or else dismiss him as a hopelessly callow naïf, a fool whose disdain for practical realities ultimately doomed him. Into the Wild does neither, for the most part telling the tale with an admirable lack of cheap sentiment and leaving us to decide for ourselves. --Sam Graham

A discussion about the film "Into The Wild"
with Eddie Vedder and Sean Penn
on Friday, September 21, 2007

A conversation with Emile Hirsch
on Wednesday, October 10, 2007

An interview with Jon Krakauer
on Tuesday, January 30, 1996

Sunday, April 26, 2009

All Faiths Festival

I'm not into this at all. But how could I refuse Jennifer's invitation. But there was no way I can visit all 21 venues. So, I just visited her Church. She's the one playing the recorder:

Here are more photos:

184 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA
(near Malden City Hall)

All Faiths Festival
You are invited to participate in the All Faiths Festival. This is a tour of the Malden Houses of Worship to be held on Sunday, April 26th, 2009, from 1 to 4 PM. The goal of the Festival is to provide to the families and individuals of all ages in Malden and surrounding communities, an opportunity to become acquainted with the Houses of Worship in the City of Malden. It is hoped that this will create an expanded sense of inclusion and community for everyone.

The All Faiths Festival is a not-for-profit organization with no direct sponsorship by any one faith. Representatives of each participating House of Worship in Malden have joined in the planning of this event. Representatives have equal say in program decisions and meet monthly to plan and coordinate activities.

The community is welcome to walk, drive or take free bus transportation to visit as many Houses of Worship as they wish. A map and directory will be provided to identify participating Houses of Worship. The tour will officially begin at Anthony's Restaurant at 105 Canal Street, Malden, where light refreshments will be served. Visitors, however, may begin their tour at any location.
Each House of Worship will present a unique program to greet guests. Programs will be repeated at 15 minute intervals and may consist of:

- A music program
- A tour of their facility (sanctuary, reception rooms and nursery)
- Their religious education program
- A discussion of architecture and historic background
- An opportunity to meet the Person in Charge and members of their congregation
- Material will be available that may be of interest to visitors
- There will be no direct solicitation of visitors.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Opening Day Science Carnival!

A beautiful summer-like day to start the 2009 Cambridge Science Festival. I spent about an hour at the Opening Day Science Carnival:
Opening Day Science Carnival!

Want to launch a rocket, design a website for Bart Simpson or learn to dance the Solar System Shuffle? See live stage performances, 50 science experiments & demos, live animals and much more! Bring the family and come to the FREE Science Carnival to help us officially kick-off the third annual Cambridge Science Festival! Saturday, April 25 from noon until 4:00 PM. New location - Kresge Auditorium at MIT, 48 Mass. Ave. Free parking!
Here are some photos: