Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Saturday, November 30, 2002day link 

 Metalogue
What's a metalogue? I don't think it is in the dictionary. But a prologue is something one says in the beginning, to introduce something. An epilogue is something one says after the main action, as a sort of conclusion. A monologue is a prolonged presentation of some kind, spoken by one person. A dialogue is an exchange of ideas between two or more people. I suppose a metalogue would be talking ABOUT things that are happening, from a somewhat elevated perspective. Actually I think most weblogs I read are metalogues. They try to connect up some dots, try to discover clues in information and events, and try to connect that up with something bigger or deeper. Where are we going? What does it mean?
[ | 2002-11-30 01:01 | 20 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Brain does quantum computing
picture Most scientists who have studied brains and tried to figure out what consciousness is have started with the assumption that a brain is some kind of computer and that consciousness is is a new property that emerges from complex computation. I personally think that's a very silly assumption to make. But there is traditionally a huge split between the people who think that consciousness is some peculiar by-product of a fundamentally material universe, versus the people who think that consciousness exists eternally and the material universe is a temporary structure that it is manifested in. Oh and maybe a third category of people who think that some external deity made the whole thing, and it is none of our business to mess with it. Anyway, some of these camps might come closer together if it can become more clear what brains are really doing and what they have to do with consciousness.

Stuart Hameroff at the University of Arizona Center for Consciousness Studies has a theory of quantum consciousness. Together with Sir Roger Penrose he has developed a model of quantum computation in brain microtubules.
"Neurons may be far more complicated than mere switches. If we look inside neurons and other cells, we see highly ordered networks (the 'cytoskeleton') comprised of microtubules and other filamentous structures which organize cellular activities.. Microtubules are cylindrical polymers of the protein tubulin arranged in hexagonal lattices comprising the cylinder wall. Cooperative interactions among tubulin subunits within microtubules have been suggested to process information, as in molecular scale 'cellular automata'. As the states of tubulin are controlled by quantum mechanical internal forces (van der Waals London forces), they may exist in quantum superposition of multiple states ('quantum bits', or 'qubits'), and microtubules may be seen as quantum computers involved in cellular organization."
As he says, the theory has met intense criticism from scientific, computational and philosophical establishments. No big wonder. And whether it works exactly like that, I have no way of judging. But intuitively it makes a lot of sense if a brain is a quantum computer that potentially might function as a lens that can be tuned into many different realities. Makes a lot more sense to me than that it would be some kind of big ROM chip. Memory chips don't forget things and then remember them again later.
[ | 2002-11-30 01:42 | 10 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 People Tour
Seb Paquet is providing a tour of some of the people listed in the sidebar of his weblog. That's a good idea, and I was thinking about doing that too. Otherwise it is just a list of names, many of which are unknown to many of the readers. Knowing what and how and why breathes life into the network of people.
[ | 2002-11-30 23:59 | 13 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Power-law distributions on the web
picture Jon Udell is talking about 'power law distributions', in part in reference to the book 'Linked' by Albert-László Barabási. 'Power-law distribution' is a condition that means essentially that small occurrences are extremely common, whereas large instances are extremely rare. Or, if we're talking about the Internet - there are a lot of sparsely connected sites and a very small number of highly connected sites.

The way that websites or in particular weblogs are inter-connected and referring to each other is working like the 6-degrees of separation model between people. Except for that on the web in general, studies have shown that webpages are an average of 19 clicks away from each other. And weblogs are an average of 4 clicks from each other.

So, you can get from one person or one weblog to any other in very few jumps, but you'll probably go through certain core nodes or core people that 'everybody' is linking to. That is useful, but there is also something unequal and possibly unfair about that. There's a 'rich-get-richer' pattern of clustering going on, in that people tend to go and link up with the people who are already most linked-up with everybody. The networking isn't entirely free-flowing.

I've certainly noticed that in any setting where you provide a list of people, sites or whatever, in order of popularity by some measure. Most people will concentrate on what they see at the top, and those people or sites get much more attention than they necessarily would deserve if the playing field were completely even.

Personally I would intuitively find it quite natural that a smaller number of sites are more connected than any other. But it bothers me if the system would be weighted in favor of reinforcing the sites that already are getting the most attention, rather than the ones that are of the highest quality.

Other good links on this:
Internet navigators think small,
Self-organized networks, Notre Dame University,
Clay Shirky
[ | 2002-11-30 23:59 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

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