Diabolical Davies

I’ve just been catching up with my Facebook lurking, and therefore have only just come across this:

I started listening and didn’t stop until it did. And I learned a lot.

I really like how Davies writes, and am particularly looking forward to reading his book about the history of the horse, which I trust is still happening.

Monkey plays pong just by thinking about it

Earlier today I talked with my friend Bruno, who told me about an unusual monkey. Unusual to me, anyway.

This monkey had electrodes inserted into his brain, and then they got him to play a favourite game of his: pong. As he played pong, he was rewarded with banana juice, which made him enjoy it even more.

He played pong with a lever. While he was doing this, they analysed his brainwaves and learned to decypher these brainwaves in real time, and used the result to control the movement of the pong thingy on the screen.

Then, they unplugged the lever. The monkey carried on using the lever because he still assumed that this was how he was controlling the pong thingy, but actually he was controlling what happened on the screen only with his brain. The same signals he was sending to his hand were being interpreted by the computer, with the result that what the monkey saw on the screen was unchanged.

The final step was to remove the lever, and get the monkey to carry on playing pong, which he was now able to do merely by thinking of how he would have controlled the lever. That worked. And there you have it, technology controlled by pure brain activity.

Video here. The application they talk about is to help people get around being paraplegic. But think about it, and you’ll soon realise that there are many, many more amazing ways that this sort of brain-only techno-control could be made to work and to change the world.

If you’ve heard about this before, fine. I too have heard about such stuff before. The difference, for me, was how clearly Bruno explained the successive stages of how they made all this work.

The man writing out the cheques for all this – or whatever you do these days to pay for things – is Elon Musk. Who, I understand, is also becoming quite successful with his rockets. So, it’s only a bit of a stretch to say that Musk is now big both in brain surgery and rocket science.

Masked beast outside St Ermin’s Hotel

There must be a million statues with masks on them these days, given what these days are still like, but here’s the first one I have actually encountered on my recent photo-travels:

Yet another photo-souvenir of the times we have all lived through (apart from those of us who didn’t).

That particular beast (what exact sort of beast it is I can only guess – Dragon? Bear?) is the one holding a sign, saying nothing at all, outside St Ermin’s Hotel, which is near to St James’s Park tube, which is one of my local tube stations.

One of the arguments I am looking forward to learning more about, as time goes by and as the Covid books start appearing, concerns just how little good and how much harm these muzzles have done, and, crucially, how soon they knew, or should have known, such stuff.

Deer with reflections photo on Twitter

I just encountered this photo by Austin O’Connor on Twitter:

This was the sort of thing I had in mind when I did this earlier little posting. For me, this photo is, if anything, too picturesque, like a very sugary pudding. But, I can definitely see why he’s proud of it. I would be if I’d photoed this, sugar or no sugar.

Strange pavement marks

A while back I started noticing occasional strange pavement patterns, which put me in mind of an old toy I once had, way back in the middle of the previous century:

Photoed by me earlier this week. I just did some Photoshop(clone)ping (contrast, sharpening) to make everything clearer, although it was pretty clear to start with.

I’m guessing these marks are made by a machine doing cleaning of some sort. I further guess that something has to be a bit wrong for this to happen. I particularly note how the pattern is in no way impeded by the joins of the pavement slabs, which suggests that quite a lot of power is being applied, by a quite heavy machine which cannot be easily deflected from the path it has been set on.

Another excellent mixed metaphor

Yesterday, in conversation with a friend, I was introduced by that friend to a delightful mixed metaphor, which I am pretty sure she just came out with in the moment. She was saying that she, or I, or the two of us, I forget which, ought to try to make the best of a bad job, with respect to something or other that I have forgotten about. But instead of that, she said that she or I or we should “milk the silver lining”. Excellent.

One for the collection. (I did those two links like that to make it clear that there are two links there, to two more mixed metaphors. You’re welcome.)

Take a few deep breaths when Tweeting …

The Niggle Magazine:

Reminder: Before you type something offensive on Twitter, sit back, count to 10, and take a few deep breaths. The brief pause may give you a chance to think of something even more offensive.

Twitter is surely what you make it. If you follow lots of political mouthers-off, as I do, then the ones who get excited are the ones who Tweet the most, and who pause and consider and take deep breaths the least, and that’s a lot of what I see. But I also follow lots of people who, although often also political, are more interested in fun, truth, beauty, or (in the case of the above quote) humour, and suchlike. I tend to scroll past all the shouting and pick on the nicer and subtler stuff to savour. It can be done.

Crane and shadow outside Victoria Station

I love a good crane, especially in these almost craneless times. And I also love a good shadow. So, you can imagine how much I appreciated what I saw, outside Victoria Station, this afternoon:

Today there was rain around mid day, followed by the brightest of bright sunshine. This is the best sort of sunshine there is, because the rain washes the air before the sun shines through it.

Also present in this photo is Pavlova, the ballerina on top of the Victoria Palace Theatre. This is a very good photo, of the crane and its shadow, but not of Pavlova. For Pavlova, Try one of these.

Aerial traffic jam in 2014

Yesterday’s posting got nearly all the way to the finishing line, but I failed to push the “publish” button. Which I expect threw your whole morning out of kilter. I mean, if you can’t rely on another inconsequential posting from BrianMicklethwaitDotCom, what can you rely on? Anyway, it’s up now, and here is another posting on the same theme. Yesterday’s was about a crowd of people now, and here’s another photo of other crowds:

Only this time they are crowds of people in the air, in airplanes, one of the airplanes being the one I was in.

But alas, I did not photo this photo at all recently. Judging by the sky over London nowadays, such an aerial traffic jam still could not now be happening anywhere.

The particular one in the above photo was seen over the Channel, just after these photos were photoed.

Air traffic control must be a pretty easy job just now. Let’s hope it starts getting a lot harder, very soon.

People gathering normally

Last Thursday, late afternoon, this comforting scene was to be observed (and photoed) by me, on the other side of Victoria Street from me and a short walk from Buckingham Palace. Human beings, without muzzles on, enjoying each other’s company and drinking drinks:

Will normality ever fully return? I’ll believe what I see. But seeing that was definitely something.