Shatner’s live, extemporaneous post-touchdown monologue on mortality was better than Kirk’s death scene

After returning to Earth in Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin private spacecraft, Shatner is delivering an extemporaneous monologue about viewing Mother Earth and reflecting on death. “I hope I never recover from this,” he says, of the emotions he experienced. Much better than Kirk’s death scene in Star Trek: Generations. Someone (I was listening, not watching… I think it was Bezos) says “Beautiful,” and Shatner thinks he’s commenting about the view…

Students who grew up with search engines might change STEM education forever

The headline is oddly STEM-specific, but yes, it used to be that if you worked with computers at all, you had to understand your computer’s file directory structure, so all college instructors could expect that their STEM majors had probably learned this concept as part of their earliest computer training. But the “search” function on individual computers (and also the list of recently saved files that almost every software tool…

Hear That? It’s Your Voice Being Taken for Profit.

Why do tech companies give us these cool free digital voice assistants? (Hint: If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product being sold.) Because of recent major advances in natural language processing and machine learning, individuals will soon be able to speak conversationally not just to their phone assistant or smart speaker but to their dedicated bank assistant, kitchen equipment, restaurant menu, hotel room console, homework assignment, or car.…

Delightful interview with a former Setonian editor-in-chief who’s now doing SEO

As a student journalist, Jessie totally revamped the print publications and the website, unifying them with design elements from the Sisters of Charity (the religious order that founded our school) and rounded rectangles that echoed the interface of the iPads (which were at the time a brand new part of SHU’s student technology plan). The way she blended tradition and high-tech is a product of the flexibility of a liberal…

“Link In Bio” is a slow knife

We don’t even notice it anymore — “link in bio”. It’s a pithy phrase, usually found on Instagram, which directs an audience to be aware that a pertinent web link can be found on that user’s profile. […] For a closed system, those kinds of open connections are deeply dangerous. If anyone on Instagram can just link to any old store on the web, how can Instagram — meaning Facebook,…

I studied philosophy and engineering at university: Here’s my verdict on ‘job relevant’ education

She double-majored in engineering and philosophy. Fifteen years later, which degree is more relevant to her success? She says that even with an engineering degree, she was criticized for not knowing specific skills that she never actually used (such as drafting by hand) or that she learned quickly on the job (such as the specific CAD software her company used). And after 15 years, most of those specific job-ready skills…

Sights, Sounds, and Smells of Elizabethan Theater

Somewhere during my education I picked upon the meme that “Shakespeare’s contemporaries referred to ‘hearing’ a play, not ‘seeing’ a play,” and I regularly trot it out to emphasize how growing up in an auditory culture meant that the average Elizabethan probably got a lot more out of casually attending a Shakespeare play than the average student gets from studying an annotated script. Practically speaking, I encourage students to listen…

He couldn’t get over his fiancee’s death. So he brought her back as an A.I. chatbot

The death of the woman he loved was too much to bear. Could a mysterious artificial intelligence website allow him to speak with her once more? […] There was nothing strange, he thought, about wanting to reconnect with the dead: People do it all the time, in prayers and in dreams. In the last year and a half, more than 600,000 people in the U.S. and Canada have died of COVID-19,…

In major step, UCSF scientists translate unspoken words of paralyzed man into writing

The “neuroprosthetic” technology involved installing a credit-card-sized electrode panel on the surface of a volunteer’s brain, then collecting electrical signals as the person — a man completely paralyzed by a brain-stem stroke 15 years ago — tried to form words. Over a period of several months, scientists worked with the man to develop a catalog of 50 words that could be translated from his thoughts into hundreds of phrases and…

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The Game (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 6) Cadet Crusher vs Fun Risian Gadget

Rewatching ST:TNG Cadet Crusher visits the Enterprise on a break from Starfleet Academy. He’s happy and doing well in school, and quickly befriends the happy and hyper-focused Ensign Leffler (Ashley Judd). The opening scene with Riker cavorting on Risa is just odd. Of course what he does when he’s off duty is his own business, but it’s certainly a clue to us when the bumpy-headed babe he’s chasing around a…

That Class Where Stanford Profs Projected Hundreds of Zoom Students on a Video Wall

Of course, not all institutions happen to have a video wall that’s 32-feet wide and 8-feet tall. But Stanford already did, in its Wallenberg Hall. So the three professors reached out to the university’s director of classroom innovation, Bob Smith, to see what they could rig up. No matter how big your screen, Zoom can only display up to 49 people in each session. So the class was divided into…

The Internet Is Rotting

I do what I can. It’s disheartening how, in the past three or so years, several of my free instructional web pages that used to be high in the Google search results have been pushed out by predatory services that provide custom term papers (for a fee, of course). Users of social media are trained to use a flashy, well-designed app, but they don’t learn how to curate and maintain…

A WWII Propaganda Campaign Popularized the Myth That Carrots Help You See in the Dark

Yet another widely held cultural myth falls to the cold hard power of actual research. During the 1940 Blitzkrieg, the Luftwaffe often struck under the cover of darkness. In order to make it more difficult for the German planes to hit targets, the British government issued citywide blackouts. The Royal Air Force were able to repel the German fighters in part because of the development of a new, secret radar technology. The on-board…

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A Successful Failure: The TI-99/4A Turns 40

My family had one of these when I was 12 or 13. The games I remember include a Pac-Man clone called “Munchman,” but I think I remember learning BASIC, blocky computer graphics, word-processing, and using a speech-synthesizer. The TI-99/4A was a great computer to learn on. I remember making a Star Trek combat simulator (based on the text-only battle games that were popular at the time), and I remember being…

1993: Curses (Aaron A. Reed’s “50 Years of Text Games”)

The latest in Aaron A. Reed’s monumental project” 50 Years of Text Games” focuses on Graham Nelson’s programming language Inform, and in particular his game “Curses.” “You have to get a coin from the temple of zeus to buy the ekmek,” explained one responder. “To do that you need to use the rod of luck. To use the rod of luck you have to change the nature of the universe.”…

The Current War (Quantum Theatre Musical)

Waiting for The Current War to start. I haven’t seen live professional theater in a long time. I saw lots of good video theater, but it’s just not the same. [Addendum] I really enjoyed the show. I knew a bit about Edison and Westinghouse, but I was surprised (and delighted) at how skillfully the writer, director, and cast embedded the story of William Kemmler, the first man to be executed…