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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

Wolfram Physics Project

Stephen Wolfram continues to make me feel lazy:

Today we’re officially launching our Physics Project. From here on, we’ll be livestreaming what we’re doing—sharing whatever we discover in real time with the world. (We’ll also soon be releasing more than 400 hours of video that we’ve already accumulated.) I’m posting all my working materials going back to the 1990s, and we’re releasing all our software tools. We’ll be putting out bulletins about progress, and there’ll be educational programs around the project.

They are attempting to find the fundamental theory of physics, is all. See also.

Wolfram and the World Cup

Speaking of Wolfram Alpha (I mentioned them yesterday). Wolfram Alpha was used to try to predict the outcome of the World Cup.

Again, Brazil is the favorite, but with a 32% chance to win now. After its impressive victory against Spain, the Netherlands’ odds jumped to 23.5%: it is now the second favorite. Germany (21.6%) and Argentina (8.6%) are following. There is thus, according to our model, an 86% chance that one of these four teams will be champion.

It has Brazil vs. Netherlands in the final with Brazil coming out on top. Looks like I have to disagree with Alpha on this. Go Netherlands!

Testing WolframAlpha

It seems that since the launch of WolframAlpha people are generally testing it rather than using it. Although, I’m willing to bet, there are people out there that are using this amazing service for doing actual research and are finding it altogether indispensable already.

Dave Winer tested it on a Friday night. He ran some pretty interesting tests ranging from a vanity search to queries about movies. His queries were interesting but I don’t think they are inline with what WolframAlpha was built for. His searches were just that, searches. They weren’t comparisons, questions, or equations of any kind. While WolframAlpha is perfectly capable of letting you know what 2001: A Space Odyssey is – it does a much better job at telling you how much money the movie made at the box office, or the weather the night the movie was released.

Amber Simmons decided to try to make WolframAlpha fail by asking it some questions that she’s wondered about since childhood. Her results surprised her.

When I initially tested WolframAlpha it was immediately after I had watched the screencast explaining what WolframAlpha was built to do. I did a comparison search on Viddler and Brightcove, a search to figure out my ideal body weight, and one to figure out how many calories I’ll burn running that 5K every other day.

The jury is still out on how I will use WolframAlpha but I do not underestimate its abilities nor it’s teams abilities to adapt the tool for nearly anything you need. I’m very much looking forward to the future of this product.

So many App version update notes are canned junk lately. Not Wolfram’s.

What I saw this week #57 – February 29, 2019

Don’t have time to get to all of these links today? No problem. Try Unmark (I’ll send you an invite if you’d like.)

Also, there are tons more.

  • Apollo-related stuff: With it being the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo program there is a slew of content surfacing this year. Here are a few things I’ve enjoyed and a few things I’m looking forward to.
  • WWW – the original proposal for what is now the internet.
  • Financial Windfalls – Topic interviewed 15 people about what they did with sudden influxes of cash ranging from a few thousand dollars to huge piles of dough. Interesting read.
  • Why do Zebras have stripes? – I don’t think I would have guessed the reason.
  • Stephen Wolfram’s computer set up – I thought I was bad by being picky. While not nearly as outrageous, this reminds me of Richard Stallman’s rider.
  • 50,000 images of the moon – Composite image of the moon created from 50,000 images. Very cool.
  • The Lion Whisperer – I remember a few GoPro promo videos with Kevin Richardson but I recently came across his channel on YouTube randomly. Fascinating YouTube channel and unbelievably incredible animals.

Reminder: These lists are never exhaustive. And I don’t keep impeccable records. I use Unmark to save most of these but by-and-large I allow some randomness into this process to create these lists.

I’m always looking for interesting things so please feel free to send a few my way if you find something you think I might be interested in.

Google I/O Keynote 2014

I do not think it is fair to compare Apple’s WWDC keynote with Google’s I/O keynote. It should be fair. But the two simply do not compare.

It should be fair because WWDC and I/O are both developer conferences. WWDC and I/O both begin by largely attended, well rehearsed, staged keynotes by top executives at each company. It should be fair because Apple and Google both have incredibly talented employees, great products, deep pockets and the incentive to do great presentations for both developers and the tech media.

So why isn’t it fair to compare the two? Because they don’t seem to be in the same league. Imagine comparing a professional basketball player and someone who simply plays pick up games from time-to-time. It would be an unfair comparison. What’s more, you may even feel bad for the underdog and try your best to cull together a compliment so they don’t feel so bad about themselves.

The Grubes, over on Daring Fireball:

Now imagine if Apple held a WWDC keynote like this, and the shit storm that would ensue. The reactions would be apoplectic. There’d be pundits calling for Tim Cook to be fired.

You see? Even the tech media feel bad calling Google out for its lack-luster presentations. They do their best not too shame them too badly. They wouldn’t want to huwt wittle Google feewings. 🙁

It should, however, be more like comparing Kobe Bryant with LeBron James when they were both at the top of their games. But it isn’t. In fact, Google isn’t the only large technology company that is subpar at these types of events. Microsoft and Samsung are equally as bad. Even Amazon is better!

Everyone knows this. This isn’t a secret. And no one expects Google to come out and wow everyone with their abilities on stage. And, to be fair, presentations aren’t everything. If Apple were able to put on amazing product demonstrations yet never ship anything — they’d be Microsoft!

I suppose it comes down to one thing; substance. Set aside Google’s faux-pas during their keynote (it happened to Steve Jobs from time-to-time too) — if their keynotes were full of some real, meaningful stuff then it wouldn’t matter that their presentations were less than great. But Google I/O this year was a lot of fluff around relatively few, albeit pretty great things.

I think a good example of substantiative, yet less than stellar, presentations is the Wolfram suite of products. Most presentations of Wolfram Alpha aren’t too terribly interesting unless you’re a computer scientist. In fact, most of them go way over my head. But even a neophyte like me can understand the incredible utility of Wolfram Alpha. It is absolutely incredible stuff.

My take aways from Google I/O are the following:

  • Android L looks like a major step forward for the platform
  • android gear, android tv, android auto all have great potential. We’ll see.
  • The Gmail API release should have received more attention
  • Google seems to be shifting from betting on glasses to betting on watches
  • The demo gods were not with them, developers won’t care, media does

I love when the largest companies are tackling the hardest problems because they have the resources, people, and scale to be able to do it. Google is a company that is fighting battles on many, many fronts. I have the highest hopes that they’ll continue to throw their weight at these problems and solve some of them for the betterment of all of us.

But they need some help with their presentations.