Inquiry Project – Proposal: Cancer, the silent killer: Awareness, prevention and advances in treatment

Cancer, the silent killer: Awareness, prevention and advances in treatment

I this inquiry blog am going to focus on types of cancer that are specific for women (such as breast, cervical and ovarian cancer) but I will also try to cover other types of cancer (pancreatic, colon, prostate, blood, bone , skin, etc). Cancer is the second largest cause of death in both men (24.4%) and women (22.1%)in the US, trailing closely behind deaths caused by heart diseases and is number one killer in some subcategories (for instance, cancer in a leading killer in Asian men). While heart diseases are mostly a consequence of unhealthy lifestyles (they are almost absent in poorer countries), cancer is a worldwide killer. Everyone I know, including myself, has a relative or a friend that lost a battle with cancer. I decided to call cancer the silent killer, because symptoms of cancer usually do not appear until it’s too late. In this blog, I hope to bring to the attention of the readers the most common types of cancer. I would especially like to focus on early detection and the latest breakthroughs in treating cancer. There are two recent inspirational videos that I would like to share with you. One is that of Angelina Jolie speaking about her double mastectomy (you are probably familiar with this one already) and the second one is about a high school student who discovered a cheap way to test for early stages of pancreatic, lung and ovarian cancers. (I really hope you will watch this one as it is one of the most empowering videos I have ever watched.) These are my two tesserae with which I am kicking off my research project.

Here are three articles that are relevant to my research that I will incorporate later in the project.

1) Ovarian Cyst. Ovarian cyst is a cyst that has a chance to develop into malignant tumor. Even though that does not happen often. The article discusses early detection, symptoms, tests and treatment of ovarian cancer.

2) U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics. Here we learn some statistics about breast cancer in the USA. About 1 in 8 U.S. women (just under 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. In 2013, an estimated 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 64,640 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer.

3) Genetics and breast cancer. In this article we learn about genetic deviations that cause breast cancer and about choices that one can make to reduce the risk of developing the disease.

Call for response

1) Do you have a friend or family member that has cancer, died of cancer or has been cured from cancer?

2) Is cancer research underfunded?

5,529 people with an AIDS diagnosis died in 2010 in the USA. During 2014, the USA government will spend over $23.2billion for AIDS/HIV research and domestic treatment and additional $6.2 billion for global treatment. 580,350 people with cancer diagnosis died in 2013 in the USA. In 2013, USA government budget for cancer research and treatment (government provided funding for National Cancer Institute) was $4.9 billion. Thus, about 100 times more people died from cancer than from AIDS/HIV but AIDS/HIV research/treatment received 5 times more money than cancer research/treatment. That means 500 times more money was spend on AIDS/HIV than on cancer per death.

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Note: AIDS is not even on the list of 15 most common causes of death in the USA.

3) How amazing was this inquiry project?

Concept Experience #3: Diigo as a “dynamic knowledge repository”

I am brand new to Diigo. I never used it until today. So it is difficult to make any in-depth comments. My first impression is that Diigo has certain nice features which make it more efficient to work with information available on the internet. I think, it is a useful assistant of a search engine. I appreciate the highlighter and sticky-note feature. It is certainly a step (maybe a small one, but still a step) in the direction of Engelbart’s vision that he described in his 1962 paper “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework.”

My metaphor for bits of knowledge is a “tessera“(plural is tesserae). I think about my research as creating a mosaic. Tesserae are individual tiles from which mosaics are formed – so that explains where my metaphor is coming from. I collect tesserae as artists collect small pieces of glass and stone . Some pieces are flashy and exciting and some may seem boring and dull at the first glance, but I hope that they will all fit perfectly into the final composition I am going to create.

Pallas Athena
athena

After listening to Bonnie’s advice and also because our family went recently through few sleepless nights worrying about the health of our daughter, I decided to change my inquiry topic to one that I am interested in learning more about: “Cancer, the silent killer: Awareness, prevention and advances in treatment.” I am going to focus on types of cancer that are specific for women (such as breast, cervical and ovarian cancer) but also try cover other types of cancer.

Below are first few links to some webpages that are relevant to my new topic from which I intend to harvest my tesserae to build up my inquiry project.


Ovarian cancer Tests and diagnosis – Diseases and Conditions – Mayo Clinic

Dr. Lu on how blood tests can fight ovarian cancer – Video on NBCNews.com

Ovarian Cysts Causes, Symptoms, Treatment – Ovarian Cysts Causes

Facing hereditary breast cancer and its agonizing choices

Angelina Jolie’s Preventive Mastectomy

A promising test for pancreatic cancer – Jack Andraka


Symptoms Warn of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cyst

Updated 6/29/2014

Justin thinks of Englebert’s “kernels” as “pools.” I believe this is a very unique metaphor for pieces of knowledge or information.

Courtesy of Justin
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He explains that “thoughts and ideas have the potential to flow from one pool to another. And at the same time, perhaps there is an underwater system connecting these pools. But on the surface, each is unique. These pools represent any repository of information such as research or even each other. We each possess our individual knowledge and we share it when it is convenient but otherwise stay within our pools.”

The knowledge from several pools can be mixed together or one can dip into one pool and extract some useful piece of information. These all are very nice nice metaphors for doing research.

Progress report / research reflection post -week 2

First of all I have to apologize that I did not do progress report on my inquiry project in week 1 and I am late with the second progress report as well. I totally missed it due to my extremely busy schedule and I will try to make up for it in this blog. I can’t wait to have a break from my work! (I will address this topic later in my blog 🙂 .)

It took me a long time to chose my inquiry project. I have set forth the following criteria:

1) THE PROJECT HAS TO BE MANAGEABLE.
That means I am probably not going to write about something that I don’t know anything or know very little of (even though that would be the most interesting for me since I can learn new stuff). It has to be something that is simple enough to fit into ,say, maximum 30 pages. (What is the expected length of the project anyway?)

2) THE PROJECT HAS TO BE MEANINGFUL.
By that I mean that someone else has to be interested in reading it apart for my classmates that will be likely forced to read at least some parts of it and my teacher who will have to read it to determine my grade.

3) I HAVE TO BE EXCITED ABOUT THE TOPIC.
I don’t want the writing and research to turn into an endurance race.

Now it’s time to announce my research inquiry topic: From Pythagorean Theorem to Einstein’s special theory of relativity.

Now before you start laughing, let me explain why I chose this project.

a) It uses simple math. Special theory of relativity is “special” because it deals only with objects moving along straight lines without presence of any external forces. (There is a big difference between special and general theory of relativity – general theory of relativity is, of course, out of question for his project). The mathematics needed in special theory of relativity is at most high-school algebra. In particular, you don’t need calculus! The whole theory is based on a distance formula in the plane (AKA Pythagorean theorem) and the fact that the speed of light is finite and is the same with respect to any object in the universe.

b) I understood it long time ago. I am comfortable with the topic. I was about 15 or 16 years old when I read a fascinating short book about the special theory of relativity and was amazed how much one can achieve with elementary mathematics.

c) My kids can read it. My children are 13 and 11 and are smarter than me when I was their age. I am going to write this project in a way that any thirteen year old will be able to understand it and have fun while doing it (this will be the challenging part, but I will do my best).

d) I have already a plan of the project. My project will have 3 parts:

1) The proof of Pythagorean Theorem and a nice piece of Greek history. Here I can mention and embed links to such classical problems as trisecting an angle or doubling the cube.

Pythagoras
lizpythagoras

2) Speed of light is finite. This idea is much older than the “proof” which was supplied by Ole Rømer in 1676. The fact that the speed of light is the same with respect to any object in the universe was populated by Einstein 1905 based on experiments by Albert A. Michelson and Edward W. Morley in 1887. Here I can also supply some fun historical facts about Albert Einstein. I will also explain how the speed of light was measured.

Albert Einstein
640px-Einstein_1921_by_F_Schmutzer

3) The special theory of relativity. In this section I will derive the equations for time and space dilatation and other interesting and fun consequences derived by the means of very simple mathematics.

d) From July 4 to July 17 I will be in Greece (mostly Athens and Crete). I am so excited! I will be writing about Old Greece from there! And here is an answer to Bonnie’s question: ” Why does summer school exist anyway???” Answer: “So that we can take courses while sitting on a pink sand beach in Crete and listening to the waves splashing against the pink rocks nearby … .” 🙂 🙂 🙂

Elafonisi Beach, Crete
crete

My classmates decided to write mostly on more contemporary and less science oriented topics. Katie is interested in the topics of gender and sexual orientation. Braxtondn decided to research self-image through the lens of new media. Others, like almahmouda, are still a little blurry on their inquiry-based project. And please, do not wake up khoorivcu. He is working, not sleeping.

Courtesy of khoorivcu 🙂
khoor

Nugget #3: “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework”

In the introduction to his paper “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework” Dr Engelbart writes;

“By “augmenting human intellect” we mean increasing the capability of a man to approach a complex problem situation, to gain comprehension to suit his particular needs, and to derive solutions to problems. Increased capability in this respect is taken to mean a mixture of the following: more-rapid comprehension, better comprehension, the possibility of gaining a useful degree of comprehension in a situation that previously was too complex, speedier solutions, better solutions, and the possibility of finding solutions to problems that before seemed insoluble. And by “complex situations” we include the professional problems of diplomats, executives, social scientists, life scientists, physical scientists, attorneys, designers–whether the problem situation exists for twenty minutes or twenty years. We do not speak of isolated clever tricks that help in particular situations. We refer to a way of life in an integrated domain where hunches, cut-and-try, intangibles, and the human “feel for a situation” usefully co-exist with powerful concepts, streamlined terminology and notation, sophisticated methods, and high-powered electronic aids.”

AI

I am going to focus on the following nugget from Chapter VI, “Conclusions” of the above mentioned article:

“This is an open plea to researchers and to those who ultimately motivate, finance, or direct them, to turn serious attention toward the possibility of evolving a dynamic discipline that can-treat the problem of improving intellectual effectiveness in a total sense. This discipline should aim at producing a continuous cycle of improvements–increased understanding of the problem, improved means for developing new augmentation systems, and improved augmentation systems that can serve the world’s problem solvers in general and this discipline’s workers in particular. After all, we spend great sums for disciplines aimed at understanding and harnessing nuclear power. Why not consider developing a discipline aimed at understanding and harnessing “neural power?” In the long run, the power of the human intellect is really much the more important of the two.”

In this paragraph, Dr Eilenberg is pleading to “motivate, finance, or direct them, to turn serious attention toward the possibility of evolving a dynamic discipline that can-treat the problem of improving intellectual effectiveness in a total sense.” I believe that he is talking about developing computer science and, in particular, artificial intelligence as evidenced from this exert: “Why not consider developing a discipline aimed at understanding and harnessing neural power?”

It seems that Dr Eilenberg’s pleas where answered. During the 1980’s computer science decisively broke away from mathematics establishing itself as an important new discipline. It created millions of new jobs and advanced tremendously during the past two decades. A computer on a scientist’s or teacher’s desk become a must during 1990’s. Computer science is also a field that created most of the recent billionaires. In fact, the field is so popular today that there are thousands of investors standing by, ready to invest money to start-up companies they thing have a potential to become the next Microsoft, Google, Facebook or Instagram. Hence, the situation in computer science today is very different from that in 1962.

I believe, we can safely say, that now-a-days it is almost impossible to effectively conduct research without the help of a computer. This is in particular true for sciences. Mathematicians, physicists, biologists, chemists, engineers and many other, rely heavily of computer simulations in their research and designs. For instance, one can hardly imagine a medicine without computer tomography. In architecture, traditional drafting has been completely replaced by AutoCAD. Visual artists and fashion designers use computer created images in their artworks; see for instance T-shirts with fractal inspired designs or fractal inspired dresses. Fractals are mathematical objects that have a self-similarity property in the sense that by magnifying these objects one sees the same, and this process never ends, like a valley inside a valley inside a valley ….

A fractal image
fractal1

We encounter fractals everywhere in nature: leaves, trees, plants, landscapes, insect designs, shells, river banks, mountain ranges, …

Broccoli-like fractal
fractal2

Broccoli
brocolli

Fractal landscape
fractal landscape

Real Landscape
mountains

Dr. Engelbart article is about improving problem solving ability of humans. Many problems today are first attacked by the means of computer simulation. This technique allows humans to perform billions of steps in one second and see results of computations that the researchers would never be able to complete in there lifetime if computers were not invented. This is already a tremendous help.
Moreover, several powerful languages for symbolic manipulation have been created, notably Mathematica, Maple and MatLab. These languages are suited for creating programs for verifying mathematical hypotheses, rapid numerical simulations, visualizing three dimensional mathematical object. These languages have build in solvers for functional differential and integral equations and unlike a hand held calculators, can work with unlimited precision (it is easy, say, to compute pi to 1 million decimal digits – this task takes about one second on an average laptop). A very exciting development in programming languages that may have fundamental implications on future design of programming languages is the research program called “Univalent Foundations of Mathematics“. The paper of Dr Engelbart is on many levels linked to the two older publication that we discussed previously in this course: “As We May Think” by Vannevar Bush and “Man-Computer Symbiosis” by J. C. R. Licklider. Many of my fellow students and I have already discussed the dangers of misuse of technology in our two previous nugget assignments about papers of Dr Bush and Dr Licklider and so there is no need to repeat these ideas here again. Webpages such a Wikipedia, arxiv.org, JSTOR are valuable free sources of information for scientists and they materialize (at least virtually :)) many of the ideas the Dr’s Bush, Licklider and Engelbart dreamed about. I should also not forget to mention the Google company which may be possibly the biggest contributor to collective happiness of internet users, by providing the best search engine to date and a plethora of free applications, some of which we are using in this course.

In the last two sentences of the nugget, Dr Engelbert makes a comparison between understanding and harnessing nuclear power and developing human intellect. He writes: “In the long run, the power of the human intellect is really much the more important of the two.” I cannot agree more with his statement. Since 1940 we have made tremendous advances in understanding and utilizing nuclear power. But these advances would not be possible without high speed supercomputers equipped with sophisticated algorithms and modelling software that were introduced by computer science. Without advanced artificial intelligence, man-made spacecrafts would not be able to land on Venus or Mars, because a radio signal from earth takes several minutes to reach these planets. Enhancing human intellect is the basis for progress of our civilization. It can be done in one of the two ways. We either manipulate our genes the right way to get smarter or we create artificial intelligence systems with which we can efficiently communicate and these will serve as an extension of our brains. Currently, gene therapy is a field which is still in diapers, and not much is understood. So, at least for some time, we will have to stick with enhancing our capabilities by creating smarter computers and developing more effective ways of communication between them and humans.

Collaborative Interest Inventory process –updated 6/20/2014

In the past few days our group collaborated on a list of umbrella topics by each member supplying at least two concepts and by brainstorming on these topics. We came up with many interesting topics. There are many topics that I would probably not thought about, but they all fit the categories under which they are listed.

The two umbrella topics that I have contributed are “Dumbing of America” and “Individualism”. I believe that dumbing of America is a natural process that we need to fight. The point here is that everyone wants to be the smartest guy in the room. That can be achieved in one of the two ways. One can either study, and this is hard, or one can try to make all the others stupider, and this ,I believe, is happening right now in the US. I believe that a business owner (think of a car salesman) is happy to have a dumb customer come to his store since such a lad is easier to fool. Also a politician is not interested in seeing smart voter, since a smart voter may realize that the politician is a crook (which is true, in my opinion, in 99% of the cases). The fastest way to make population dumb is to make them lazy. “Lazy to work, lazy to think.” It all starts in schools when a teacher hands a child a computer and tells him/her: “No need to memorize multiplication table, just press this button and that’s it.”

Individualism has been an important part of American history. Captain America, Superman, Batman, Ironman, are all American invented heroes that work alone. These characters are great raw models for kids and great examples of morality. I the spirit of the strength and independence, American children are encouraged to leave home at the age of 18 and take care of themselves. Old people are encouraged to enter retirement homes so as not to be a burden to their kids. A traditional family values dictate that parents take care of their children until they are ready to efficiently support themselves (That is until they graduate from university) and their children take care of them when they are old. The traditional model is lot more economical, but requires that people are not egoistic. But this model is not good for businesses. If students live at home, money will not be made on rents and fast food. If aging parents are taken care of by their kids, there will be no income for retirement homes, hospitals, etc. And there will be less taxes for government to collect. So which of the two models do you think the government will enforce? Immigrants from many countries have these family values and save the premiums that an average American family pays for their individualism. They can use the saved money to grow their businesses. (One can argue that by not taking care of your old father, you can save time and make some extra money. Face it, that is pure theory. In reality, most people will just spend more hours watching TV, drinking, etc.)

The umbrella topic “Fears” resonated with me. I worry about things such as pollution, nuclear wars, deforestation of our planet, rapid climate changes, religious fanaticism, nationalism, racism, etc. “Education” umbrella topic is also close to my heart. In my opinion, the education in the US is going from 10 to 5 and the dumbing of America is in progress. Misusing technology in classrooms, not enough math, science and common sense in classrooms. Math is taught by memorizing childish poems about formulas instead of understanding. Science and math teachers have generally good pedagogical skills but many, especially on elementary, middle school and high school level, do not comprehend the subject they are teaching. Even some Ivy League Universities use there name build on the quality of their graduate school to attract undergraduates. Undergraduate students are attended by instructors who try to retain them to serve as cash cows for administrators, sacrificing standards in the process. Plunging educational standards in the US are also in the direct correlation with the diminishing of family values, a process fueled by extreme individualism and pursuit of short term happiness at the expense of balanced and happy life in the future. Lowering of educational standards is also an indirect consequence of big businesses such as weapons industrial complexes and the conglomerate of medical-pharmaceutical-insurance cartels manipulating masses by using marketing and persuasion strategies based on psychological science and utilizing loopholes and flaws in democratic governing system to pursue their own happiness by maximizing profits of their stock holders and their CEO’s on the layperson’s expense. But I already covered this topic elsewhere in the blog with the basic idea that no business wants a smart customer whether it is an insurance cartel and your local grocery provider. So I will stop right here.

Update – 6/20/2014

Reading Sarah’s blog “Collaborative Interest Inventory process: My thoughts“, I noticed that our interests intersect in three topics. Sarah listed as her interests both of the umbrella topics that I suggested (thank you Sarah :)). We both are also passionate about education. I liked Blurpity’s blog how she exposed the process of her selection of topics. By elimination she arrives to “music tastes” and “horror movies” as her favorite umbrella topics. I completely agree with her. These two are great topics to write about. Gerell likes controversies as it is apparent from his blog on Collaborative Interest Inventory process. In her blog Symone concluded that the topics “Trends”, “Controversies” and “Fears” are of most interest to her. She will definitely not be writing on horror movies and gender. She also listed few topics she would never consider writing about without this process. Two of these topics were my contributions, namely “The cost and benefits of individualism in America” under the umbrella category “Individualism” and “Internet and sexual explicitness and use of foul language in mainstream pop” under the umbrella category “Music Tastes”.

In conclusion, I think that all students in our group worked very hard and put in a lot of hours this week to make this project a success. They all deserve a nice and relaxing weekend free of any assignments :):):).

Concept Experience #2: Thinking “with” the Computer

The two articles that we read so far in this class are about interaction between man and machines and about development of computers. Therefore, I decided to explore about computer science. Typing “Computer Science” into Google search engine brought me to the Wikipedia web page

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_science

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 12.14.35 AM

I have learned that computer science is the scientific and practical approach to computation and its applications. I wanted to learn more about on “computation” and so I clicked it and I arrived at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computation

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 12.29.19 AM

I learned that there are special type of computers are called “DNA computers“. This definitely got my attention, and so I clicked away, which brought me to:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA_computer

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Since I am shaky on what DNA means, I clicked it away. What appeared was:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA

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“DNA or Deoxyribonucleic acid is a molecule that encodes the genetic instructions.” To refresh my knowledge about social life of atoms, I clicked on the word “molecule” and I landed on:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molecule

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 12.45.51 AM

A molecule is an electrically neutral group of two or more atoms held together by chemical bonds. Now that I have learned how atoms team up, I wanted to understand what these creatures really looked like. So I clicked on the word “atoms“:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atom

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“The atom is a basic unit of matter that consists of a dense central nucleus surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged electrons.” Since dense objects usually attract more of both matter and attention, I focused my attention on “nucleus.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_nucleus

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 12.57.23 AM

Of course,a nucleus is a bunch of protons and neutrons in a very crowded room. Since proton is the electric man among those two I had him lead the way. So now we will click on “proton“, and we arrive to:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proton

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 1.05.14 AM

“The proton is a subatomic particle with the symbol p or p+ and a positive electric charge of 1 elementary charge.” OK, so this p+-man has obviously a positive attitude and I like that. But, few sentences back I was a bit bluffing. I do not really understand much about electric charge. So I clicked on it and, here we go:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_charge

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“Electric charge is the physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when placed in an electromagnetic field.” “May the force be with you” says master Yoda, but what is force?

master_yoda_by_eryxfrt-d4zro01

(Now, force better be with me because 1:30 AM is not a good time to work on this.) I clicked on “force” and got to:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Force

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 1.17.57 AM

“In physics, a force is any external effort that causes an object to undergo a certain change, either concerning its movement, direction, or geometrical construction.” And few lines down I recognized a familiar high school physics formula: F=ma – the famous Newton’s second law. If you forgot who Sir Isaac Newton was, you can click his name on this page and go to

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Isaac_Newton

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 1.26.39 AM

In short, he was the guy who lived between 1642 and 1727 and sometime between these two dates an apple fell on his head and as a consequence of that he discovered the law above and few others. (We can prove, without further investigations, that he discovered at least two laws, because the one above is the second one.:))

220px-GodfreyKneller-IsaacNewton-1689

My computer just told me, that due to the above, it just proved that Newton, apart from calculus, also invented computer science?
I am not sure if I can fully agree with my computer’s conclusion, but I will think about it!

Nugget #2: Man-Computer Symbiosis – edited 6/17/2014

robot

There are many interesting ideas in the paper “Man-Computer Symbiosis” by C. R. Licklider. It is a visionary paper give it was written in 1960. I have chose to focus on the ideas that apper at the ed of section 3 of the paper:

“It may be appropriate to acknowledge, at this point, that we are using the term “computer” to cover a wide class of calculating, data-processing, and information-storage-and-retrieval machines. The capabilities of machines in this class are increasing almost daily. It is therefore hazardous to make general statements about capabilities of the class. Perhaps it is equally hazardous to make general statements about the capabilities of men. Nevertheless, certain genotypic differences in capability between men and computers do stand out, and they have a bearing on the nature of possible man-computer symbiosis and the potential value of achieving it.

As has been said in various ways, men are noisy, narrow-band devices, but their nervous systems have very many parallel and simultaneously active channels. Relative to men, computing machines are very fast and very accurate, but they are constrained to perform only one or a few elementary operations at a time. Men are flexible, capable of “programming themselves contingently” on the basis of newly received information. Computing machines are single-minded, constrained by their ” pre-programming.” Men naturally speak redundant languages organized around unitary objects and coherent actions and employing 20 to 60 elementary symbols. Computers “naturally” speak nonredundant languages, usually with only two elementary symbols and no inherent appreciation either of unitary objects or of coherent actions.

To be rigorously correct, those characterizations would have to include many qualifiers. Nevertheless, the picture of dissimilarity (and therefore p0tential supplementation) that they present is essentially valid. Computing machines can do readily, well, and rapidly many things that are difficult or impossible for man, and men can do readily and well, though not rapidly, many things that are difficult or impossible for computers. That suggests that a symbiotic cooperation, if successful in integrating the positive characteristics of men and computers, would be of great value. The differences in speed and in language, of course, pose difficulties that must be overcome.”

C. R. Licklider acknowledges the apparent differences between man and a machine (computer). He essentially says that man is a slow, unreliable, imprecise creature with limited memory, but has the ability to come up with ideas by associating images that were digested through his senses and are now stored in his brain ain a dynamical type of memory and accessed through thousands of channels at the same time. Machines, on the other hand, are precise and fast with almost unlimited memory, but can only do what the program tells them and therefore are limited in therms of generating ideas. Around 1960, this was very precise description of the state of affairs. I believe this still holds true in today even with all the recent advances in artificial intelligence. The main problem Dr Licklider is trying to address here (and also in the whole article) is how to take these two very different systems (man and a machine) and unite them into a system that will become much more than just a sum of the two. The ideal of this would be the concept of a bionic man, part man part machine, whose capabilities would be far superior to an ordinary man both intellectually and physically, and these two part would be interlinked in such a way that one cannot exist without the other. Even today, this is still a pure fantasy. The main obstruction is the effective communication between the two. The author points out that the communication between two men, and a man and a machine are very different. The machine only understands a very precise but limited language suited for mathematical computations but not at all for communicating and solving real life problems. Yet many important steps have been achieved in between 1960 and 2014. New higher level programming languages have been developed (such as Java, C++), touch screen technology is a hype. We are being annoyed by speech reconnection software every time we try to call our bank or insurance company. But these are only very small steps toward the goal. One way to overcome communication problem is to connect devices directly to the brain. Now-a-days there exist artificial limbs that connect directly to the nervous system of a person. One can use eye movement to play a video game (or fire a missile). All these developments are also closely monitored by the military due to their interest to construct an ideal soldier. Recently a robotic exoskeleton that enhances physical capabilities of its wearer (but not mental capabilities – of course, increasing those may not be priority for military :)) has been successfully tested.

terminator

Ideally, these technological advances would be used for peace purposes and given the mature of man, it is more likely that the first application of a bionic man will be military warfare. (We did, after all, created atomic bomb before an atomic power station.)

A photo from the World’s First Underwater Nuclear explosion.
underwater nuclear explosion

And in the country that survived two nuclear explosion, projects are underway to create an ideal wife.

female robot

Since most people in robotics are men, women will have to still wait for a while for the counterpart of the Geminoid F. Meanwhile, they can take comfort hugging the adorable Paro :):):).

Paro

Paro

Some of my classmates are worried about more serious problems. almahmouda worries that he may become a cyborg :).
Blurpity, who analyses the same nugget as almahmouda, is also not happy and is concerned that sharing equally may not necessarily result in sharing fairly. Since already two people were not happy with the same nugget, here it is for you to judge:

“It seems reasonable to envision, for a time 10 or 15 years hence, a “thinking center” that will incorporate the functions of present-day libraries together with anticipated advances in information storage and retrieval and the symbiotic functions suggested earlier in this paper. The picture readily enlarges itself into a network of such centers, connected to one another by wide-band communication lines and to individual users by leased-wire services. In such a system, the speed of the computers would be balanced, and the cost of the gigantic memories and the sophisticated programs would be divided by the number of users.”

Jala, on the other hand, is not worried about becoming a cyborg or a slave to the Google glass. She welcomes it as an extension of her body and hopes that in the future she can also have an extension of her brain. But, she is a bit confused of how it will feel :). Well, I am in a real need of a brain extension right now and I would get it no matter how it feels! Paria is “slightly terified” by technological progress due to viewing too many futuristic movies, but welcomes the power of Google in her life, especially as a useful tool for conducting a medical diagnosis :). Justin, in his blog asks a rhetorical question if a human brain is the world’s most efficient computer? He also mentions my favorite cartoon character whose picture is reveled at the end of this blog. He hopes that “fifty years later we would be more morally developed and have moved past using advancements in science and technology to harm others.” Given that dark ages were after the Old Greece, I am not so optimistic and, in my opinion, we may be nearing to a dark age that has no parallel in the known history of man. Sarah thinks that in the future “computer will dominate man.” Well, I think that this is a lot better scenario than the one have in mind. I fear that in the future (some) man will dominate (other) man.

I end this blog with an image of a person that C. R. Licklider may have in mind when he wrote his paper because we all love him, don’t we?

iron-man-jan-23

The Inquiry Project: My Instagram -edited

I am a make-up artist. I started posting on Instagram, a year and a half ago to showcase my work to potential clients. At first, I was not very active because I was preoccupied with both my studies and my work (I study fashion design and I work full time). It was very hard for me to manage 16 credits, taking care of my two children and work full-time as a make up artist. After the end of this spring semester I decided that to reach a goal of having at least 1000 followers by the end of the summer. I started being more active on Instagram. Right now I have 885 followers, almost double of what I had in May.
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Instagram is a medium by which I can reach my clients. I upload photos of my recent work so that my clients can see them. From their reactions I can see which styles my clients prefer. Instagram, except for the word of mouth, is my only type of advertising.

Ninety-nine percent of my work is done for Qatari weddings which take place mostly during Wednesday, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. In Qatar, women don’t want to have their photos taken. In this culture, it is forbidden for a woman to have a picture taken, especially if she is not closely related to the person taking it. It is also socially unacceptable for a woman to have pictures of herself displayed in a public domain. Therefore, even though I have done countless number of make-ups for Qatari women, I don’t have any pictures. About one percent of my work is being a make-up artist for models in photo-shoots for companies and local designers. Pictures from these photo-shoots are the ones that you see on my Instagram pages.

Many of my potential clients first ask for my Instagram account to see my work. Most of them become my followers and many become my clients. Sometimes they ask me to create a look for them that they saw on my Instagram page.

I have also posted some of my schoolwork, such as documenting my progress in doing my final collection in fashion design studies. I also share photos of new cosmetic items that I encounter while traveling abroad.

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Two of my peers also use primarily Instagram, see Delicious Magazine and Symone . For them, Instagram is a way to express themselves, relieve stress, send (visual) messages to people that are important to them, maybe even a tool of self-realization or a tool to create a fake identity. I use Instagram primarily to expose my work as a make-up artist. Therefore, my use of Instgram is not so frequent. I am more of a private person and I do not expose my life on the internet, except the part that has to do something with my profession. Here are some webpages that are of interest to me:

Eyelashesworld

service2

Glamorogist

Intolerance

“Associative trails” concept experience

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My internet exploration started by 10:10 PM local (Doha) time which is EST+7 hours, by searching for the paper that I have to read, “As We May Think” by Vannevar Bush and started reading the article. In my next internet search I looked up the current time in NYC to double check that I have enough time to finish the assignment. At 11:04 I got distracted and read a about the estimated age of Earth. I spend few minutes browsing the text and went back to continue reading Dr Bush’s paper. I read a paragraph comparing differences in how computers and humans retain information. Computer memory is static – every time a computer accesses the same memory cell, it will find exactly the same information. But human memory is dynamical in a sense that every time our conscience accesses stored information in our brain the stored information changes. I once read an article that the way a witness remembers an event can be altered by the way investigators ask questions. By 11:27 I was trying to find this article so that I can refer to it in my blog but I was not successful. At 11:36 I looked up the definition of a “thought” and subsequently the definition of thinking, which I ave used in my blog.Few minutes after midnight I searched for pics of headache and Chihuahua (with some typos at first) and I have used these pics in my blog. MY last entry is at 2:06 AM where I have searched information on 3D printing that I have used in my “nugget” blog.

The trail of my webpages is consistent with how I was thinking about the article. The browser history helped me to remember that I was still working at 2 AM yesterday morning and I am still working at 2:22 AM today (Doha time):(.

Nugget #1: “As We May Think”

I start with the following paragraph from Dr Bush’s paper:

Assume a linear ratio of 100 for future use. Consider film of the same thickness as paper, although thinner film will certainly be usable. Even under these conditions there would be a total factor of 10,000 between the bulk of the ordinary record on books, and its microfilm replica. The Encyclopoedia Britannica could be reduced to the volume of a matchbox. A library of a million volumes could be compressed into one end of a desk. If the human race has produced since the invention of movable type a total record, in the form of magazines, newspapers, books, tracts, advertising correspondence, having a volume corresponding to a billion books, the whole affair, assembled and compressed, could be lugged off in a moving van. Mere compression, of course, is not enough; one needs not only to make and store a record but also be able to consult it, and this aspect of the matter comes later. Even the modern great library is not generally consulted; it is nibbled at by a few.

This paragraph elaborates about the possibility of having the possibility of storing tremendous amount of information in a very small object. I believe that today’s technology surpassed the ideas in the exert above. Flash memory cards are tools superior to those described by Dr Bush. Moreover the interconnected World Wide Web serves at the biggest media storage the we know up to date.

In part 8 of his visionary paper, Dr Bush extends his previous idea of having practically infinite memory storage to the idea of retrieving useful information in the shortest time possible:

“Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified. The lawyer has at his touch the associated opinions and decisions of his whole experience, and of the experience of friends and authorities. The patent attorney has on call the millions of issued patents, with familiar trails to every point of his client’s interest. The physician, puzzled by a patient’s reactions, strikes the trail established in studying an earlier similar case, and runs rapidly through analogous case histories, with side references to the classics for the pertinent anatomy and histology. The chemist, struggling with the synthesis of an organic compound, has all the chemical literature before him in his laboratory, with trails following the analogies of compounds, and side trails to their physical and chemical behavior.”

It seems to me that the closest to his idea comes the concept of the World Wide Web and its search engines. Instead of memex we now have hard discs and memory cards. Even though finding information on the Web is not as complete and fast as envisioned in the article of Dr Bush, the process has significantly improved over the last few years and hopefully in time due his vision will become a reality.

But at least in one aspect, the reality may have surpassed his vision. Due to 3D printing technology, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_printing, in the near future, a chemist struggling with the synthesis of an organic compound, will not only all the chemical literature before him in his laboratory, but will be able to print all the necessary tools and chemical components needed for his research, or possibly create and control the whole chemical process using the keys on his computer keyboard.

3D printer

A picture of a 3D printer and a head it printed. If only I could print my head but with a smarter brain so that it could do all the thinking for me :)!

#thoughtvectors