Author Archive | Breshvic

FBI attempts to explain UFO memo

FBI.gov

I can’t decide which part of this story is more interesting, that the most popular file in the FBI’s Vault is a short memo referencing flying saucers, or that the FBI thinks that some sixty years later they can assuage the frenzy of ufologists and paranormal investigators with hand-waving explanations.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the government has disavowed as opposed to disclosed. But let’s face it, if this one-page memo from 1950 is the lynchpin in the case for government knowledge of extraterrestrials, it’s not a particularly overwhelming indictment. Though addressed to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover from Guy Hottel (then head of the FBI’s Washington, D.C., field office), it purports second-hand allegations from a redacted informant, and starts with the incredulous tone of ‘so-called flying saucers’ and concludes ‘no further evaluation was attempted.’

Via Yahoo News:

The file, published by the vault in April 2011 under the Freedom of Information Act, has been viewed nearly a million times, the FBI said, in part because media outlets “erroneously reported that the FBI had posted proof of a UFO crash at Roswell, New Mexico [in 1947] and the recovery of wreckage and alien corpses.”

“A bizarre memo that appears to prove that aliens did land in New Mexico prior to 1950 has been published by the FBI,” the Daily Mail declared in 2011.

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An AI that “solves” Super Mario Bros.

Picture: Nintendo, Flickr user labnol (CC)

Super Mario Bros. has been around for 28 years, and is an important part of not only gaming history but international popular culture, and has spawned untold bundles of merchandise, fan films, street art, and even ghost stories. The ways that people are engaging with the iconic sprites from our childhood are seemingly unending; they engineer numerous mods, remixes, and even path-finding algorithms that allow bots to play for our amusement (appropriately called ‘Infinite Mario‘).

Moving this last concept towards its ultimate end, computer scientist Tom Murphy has now designed a program that can “solve” NES games like other mathematical problems.

via  Nobel Intent (WIRED UK):

At SigBovik 2013, [Tom Murphy] presented a program that “solves” how to play Super Mario Bros., or any other NES game, like it’s just another kind of mathematical problem. And for those who know that SigBovik is an annual computer science conference dedicated to spoof research, hosted on April 1 every year, Murphy stresses that this is “100 percent real.”

He outlines his method in a paper, “The First Level of Super Mario Bros.

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‘Motorville’, Animated Short About U.S. Addiction to Oil

Motorville is an animated short film by Patrick Jean about a hungry city map in America that travels to a foreign nation in hopes of feeding it’s oil deprived body made up of “streets, highways and freeways.” via Vimeo Staff Picks: http://vimeo.com/62468031 The short film features sounds design by David Kamp and additional animations by both One More Production and Stephen Vuillemin.
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Man Arrested for Shooting Robot

Flickr users: ewen and donabel (CC)

Ohio man Michael Blevins, 62, has been arrested and charged for harming a robot. Is this the next logical news item we should expect to see in a world with cybernetic hate crime?

Via Noel Brinkerhoff of AllGov:

[Blevins] was holed up in his home in Waverly, intoxicated and armed with multiple firearms, when police responded to reports of shots being fired inside the residence.

Wanting to avoid a confrontation, local police sent two surveillance robots inside the home to find Blevins. Upon seeing the larger of the two robots, Blevins opened fire and damaged the roving technology.

Police later stormed the house and used an electronic stun gun to subdue and then apprehend Blevins without any human getting hurt.

He now faces two felony counts of unlawful possession of a dangerous ordnance and vandalism of government property, among other charges.

Go to AllGov for more, or the original coverage from the Chillicothe Gazette and the Singularity Hub.… Read the rest

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5 Questions John Brennan Dodged in His CIA Confirmation Hearing

Picture: White House (PD)

Between Dianne Feinstein’s adulation of the drone program (and her lies that civilian deaths were in the single digits) and the Republican filibuster of Chuck Hagel (based on his non-existent relationship with the non-existent “Friends of Hamas”), there actually was a confirmation hearing this past week from our lazy, incompetent Congress. John Brennan, who some may remember was blocked in 2008 due to the objections of civil libertarians, is on schedule to become President Barack Obama’s newest right-wing torture-happy appointee to the head of the CIA. He will continue to perpetuate myths of national security and intelligence work, the merits of extreme rendition and shady intervention in foreign affairs.

Mother Jones‘ Adam Serwer has compiled a great list of the unanswered questions of accountability and transparency in this hearing, what has now become a hallmark of the Bush/Obama era and will certainly be the norm during Brennan’s tenure.… Read the rest

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Mutiny Radio: Year Two

This week, Eddie Winters will be undertaking an attempt at the world’s longest podcast recording in San Francisco. This rounds out several weeks of events celebrating Mutiny Radio’s second year of existence.

Via Mutiny Radio:

Tune in to Mutiny Radio or stop on in at the corner of 21st and Florida (deep within the Mission of SF, California) for some history in the making! Legendary Disc Jockey Eddie Winters along with
Co-Host Alex Q. Huffman will be attempting to make the longest podcast ever recorded.
This will be the event of a lifetime which may be the very event that ends Eddie’s life! There will be food and drinks, Live Stand up performances by the Bay Area’s most …talented comics, Celebrity phone-in Interviews, Live Quija Board sessions, Eddie Winters #1 fan competition, Pietro Laugh-Off, prizes and give-aways too! This is an open, global event where we will give away a prize for the longest distance caller to phone in.
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Supercomputers and Slang

We’re still waiting for machines to pass the Turing test. Recent film work with the chatbot Cleverbot shows the futility of passing the bar for natural conversation. But there are certainly things that bots do better than us, and even those humans who are trying to stifle their progress.

Via Fortune:

Eric Brown, a research scientist with IBM (IBM), is the brains behind Watson, the supercomputer that pummeled human opponents on Jeopardy! in 2011. The biggest difficulty for Brown, as tutor to a machine, hasn’t been making Watson know more but making it understand subtlety, especially slang. “As humans, we don’t realize just how ambiguous our communication is,” he says.

Case in point: Two years ago, Brown attempted to teach Watson the Urban Dictionary. The popular website contains definitions for terms ranging from Internet abbreviations like OMG, short for “Oh, my God,” to slang such as “hot mess.”

But Watson couldn’t distinguish between polite language and profanity — which the Urban Dictionary is full of.

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NYPD’s Staggering Stop-and-Frisk Stats

FestnahmeNYPDAfter much concern from nonprofit groups like the NY Civil Liberties Union (and public outcry), the NYPD has finally released the numbers of their precinct and racial demographics of all the 2011 stop-and-frisks. Emerging accounts and audio have indicated a high order of racial profiling, and the results of NYPD’s own internal reporting confirms that this bias exists in practice.

via  at Animal New York:

Ninety percent of stops in all of the city were of black and Latino people, and many of the neighborhoods with the most stops are majority black or Hispanic.

Brooklyn’s 75th precinct, covering East New York and Cypress Hills, ranked first, with 31,000 stops. Ninety-seven percent where of blacks and Latinos. In second came BK’s 73rd precinct, covering Brownsville, which logged 25,167 stops, 98 percent of which were against people of color. Queens’s 115th precinct, covering East Elmhurst Corona and Jackson Heights, came in third with 18,156, 93 percent were of blacks and Latinos.

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Corporate Profits Have Grown By 171 Percent Under Obama

Picture: Flickr user borman818 (CC)

Pat Garafalo at Think Progress makes an interesting point. While those poor, downtrodden elites like to brand the Obama administration as the “most anti-business” in history, the data tells a far different story.

According to a Bloomberg News analysis, corporate profits have grown by 171% during the Obama era:

U.S. corporations’ after-tax profits have grown by 171 percent under Obama, more than under any president since World War II, and are now at their highest level relative to the size of the economy since the government began keeping records in 1947, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Profits are more than twice as high as their peak during President Ronald Reagan’s administration and more than 50 percent greater than during the late-1990s Internet boom, measured by the size of the economy.

This profit growth is the highest since 1900, while wages have stagnated and the same powerful people have fought to keep the minimum wage down in some states.… Read the rest

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