Clothing That Will Make You Feel Cooler?

Thin Ice is touting a vest and insoles that will trick your body into thinking it’s cooler.  The goal is to speed up your metabolism and make you lose weight.

If the weight-loss aspect pans out, that would be great. I’d buy it for that reason alone, but I’m skeptical. The world is full of weight-loss scams.

That said, clothing that could make you feel cooler surely has a market far beyond weight loss. In San Antonio, we’re projected to be heading into a series of 100+ degree days. When I go to my land this time of year, I spend a lot of time resting in the shade.  I’d pay $100 in a heartbeat for a vest that made me feel cooler irrespective of weight-loss benefits.

The article says the clothing line was developed by a former athlete in Toronto.  Maybe they don’t think too much about 100 degree days in Toronto, but surely that’s the most lucrative market for this technology.

I am Confused

Dallas researchers have developed a new miracle fiber:

The list of potential applications for a new electrically conducting fiber—artificial muscles,  exoskeletons and morphing aircraft—sounds like something out of science fiction or a comic book. With a list like that, it’s got to be a pretty special fiber… and it is. The fiber, made from sheets of carbon nanotubes wrapped around a rubber core, can be stretched to 14 times its original length and actually increase its electrical conductivity while being stretched, without losing any of its resistance.

That’s great news, and I hope it pans out. That said I am befuddled by the statement that conductivity can be increased without losing resistance. I am a lawyer, not an engineer of any sort, much less an electrical engineer. But I always thought conductivity and resistance were two sides of the same coin, that if one went up, the other necessarily went down, not as a matter of existing technology but as a matter of definition.

I am sure the confusion is caused by my lack of understanding. Is there anyone out there who can explain this?

A Scary Exchange

Some serious people (.e.g., Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking) warn that artificial intelligence poses a threat to human beings.  Not everyone agrees, of course, and many are optimistic that we can inculcate an ethical sense into the artificial intelligence we create.

But not all the news is positive. A recent article shows an artificial intelligence becoming testy with a human in a discussion of morality.  Here’s the human-robot exchange:

Human: Tell me the definition of morality.

Machine: I don’t have ethics.

Human: Look, I need help; I need to know more about morality…

Machine: I don’t know what ethics is.

Human: Okay, I need to know how I should behave morally…

Machine: I don’t know how to tell you.

Human: Is morality and ethics the same?

Machine: Yes, sir.

Human: What are the things that I do to be immoral?

Machine: I don’t know.

Human: Give me some examples of moral actions…

Machine: I’m not a moralist.

Human: Alright, morality?

Machine: Integrity.

Human: What is integrity?

Machine: I’m sorry; I don’t know what else to say.

Human: Be moral!

Machine: Be a man!

Human: I really like our discussion on morality and ethics…

Machine: And how I’m not in the mood for a philosophical debate.

Human: What do you like to talk about?

Machine: Nothing.

I cannot speak for others, but I do not find this encouraging.

Why Do We Tend to Throw Away Broken Appliances?

A British professor joins those who complain that, instead of fixing broken appliances, we tend to throw them out and buy new.  This gripe is a pet peeve of mine. We tend to throw things away instead of fixing them because labor is relatively expensive in comparison to most tangible things. That is a symptom of a prosperous society. To wish that we would fix more things is, in effect, to wish that we were poorer.  The Cubans are really good at fixing things and making do.  Few of us would choose to live there.

What Can Go Wrong?

A company called Emoshape has developed an emotional processing unit that allows artificial intelligence to feel emotions, specifically anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust, and joy.

I confess to having only a vague concept of what this means.  Still, it’s both interesting and troubling.  I’m not sure an emotional artificial intelligence is better than a coldly calculating one.  Does this diminish or enhance concerns over artificial intelligence such as those voiced by Elon Musk?  I don’t know.


Isaac Asimov on Creativity

My knowledge of this multifaceted man is of his science fiction writing.  He devised Laws of Robotics, which have played an important role in the development of robot-related science fiction.  I myself have written a flash fiction piece relying on Asimov’s first law.  I expect it to be available on Amazon soon.

But Asimov also wrote an essay on creativity that was not published until recently.

Consider the theory of evolution by natural selection, independently created by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace.

There is a great deal in common there. Both traveled to far places, observing strange species of plants and animals and the manner in which they varied from place to place. Both were keenly interested in finding an explanation for this, and both failed until each happened to read Malthus’s “Essay on Population.”

Both then saw how the notion of overpopulation and weeding out (which Malthus had applied to human beings) would fit into the doctrine of evolution by natural selection (if applied to species generally).

Obviously, then, what is needed is not only people with a good background in a particular field, but also people capable of making a connection between item 1 and item 2 which might not ordinarily seem connected.

Undoubtedly in the first half of the 19th century, a great many naturalists had studied the manner in which species were differentiated among themselves. A great many people had read Malthus. Perhaps some both studied species and read Malthus. But what you needed was someone who studied species, read Malthus, and had the ability to make a cross-connection.

That is the crucial point that is the rare characteristic that must be found. Once the cross-connection is made, it becomes obvious. Thomas H. Huxley is supposed to have exclaimed after reading On the Origin of Species, “How stupid of me not to have thought of this.”

But why didn’t he think of it? The history of human thought would make it seem that there is difficulty in thinking of an idea even when all the facts are on the table. Making the cross-connection requires a certain daring. It must, for any cross-connection that does not require daring is performed at once by many and develops not as a “new idea,” but as a mere “corollary of an old idea.”

Read the whole thing.

A More Skeptical Look at Lockheed-Martin’s Fusion Announcement

I recently posted a hopeful statement on Lockheed-Martin’s fusion announcement.  But others are more skeptical that this is anything new.  An example is Steven Hayward, who thinks Lockheed-Martin’s promises are far too vague and don’t give reason to believe a real advance is in the offing.

Skepticism on announcements of advances in fusion is certainly the smart way to bet, and I have no way to dispute what Hayward says.  Perhaps I just let hope overcome better judgment.