Idea #17: Too Many Storms

What’s in a Hurricane Name? | Wired Science | Wired.com.

There are so many hurricanes that they get past Omega. One character counts the hurricanes and notes that ‘The end came before Omega. Perhaps the Greek Alphabet was only ever supposed to have 13 letters.’

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Story Idea #15: Unnaturally Gay

What if homosexuality was a ‘disease?’ What if a cause was isolated, and a ‘cure’ found?

This was the common way of thinking for some time, and many were sent to (or chose to go to) halfway houses where they would be ‘cured’ of their homosexuality. Whether homosexuality is caused by genetic, psychological, environmental or other factors has yet to be determined. Perhaps it never will be. Considering that it has become a social, rather than a scientific, issue of significance with many making it a part of their intrinsic identity, I rather doubt too much work will go into discovering the cause of homosexuality for some time. Not until things calm down on the social front, anyhow.

If homosexuality was discovered, scientifically, to be curable, what would happen to Gay Pride parades?

I’m not entirely sure what conclusions a story based around this might lead to, but here’s how I’d start. The story takes place in the present day, focusing on the scientist- the doctor?- who discovers the cause and figures out the cure. He does not immediately reveal his findings, and instead leaves the office/lab early in order to contemplate the significance of his findings. He’s heterosexual. I’m not sure I could write this from any other perspective. I’m not up to the challenge of writing this from the perspective of a homosexual man (or woman) making this discovery. I get confused just thinking about it.Gay Pride Flag

The doctor has one- at least one- close friend who is homosexual. Also, let’s set this in San Fransisco. He goes to confide in his friend- potentially his friend was part of the group of test subjects he got the results from. The friend compares being gay, in light of this discovery, to having a non-critical medical condition. A hammertoe (my own affliction), acne, or anything along those lines. Anything that might cause someone to want plastic surgery as well. The medical technology exists to ‘fix’ these conditions, but to what end? To make the person more ‘normal,’ to work the way we believe the human body was designed to work? When asked, the friend decides that he would not seek treatment if such a thing was made available.

Now, let’s also have the doctor’s teenage son- or daughter- be homosexual. My first notion was to have it be a son, but at this rate the entire cast of characters will be male. Either way, they will make the opposite position. For them being gay has been anything but. They have found it to be a hardship. After the father informs his child of the possibility of a ‘cure,’ the child will ask whether the father would want them to seek treatment. The doctor considers telling the child that they should- he wants grandchildren. Instead, he tells them that the choice is entirely up to them. They decide that, if it were to be made available, they would seek treatment.

The doctor goes to bed, but cannot sleep. He feels guilty that he might have pressured his child into the decision, and is still unresolved as to whether or not to publish his result. Late into the night he calls his homosexual friend on the phone and asks if he can come over to talk. The friend says yes (of course) but chooses to meet him at a 7-11 or some similar all night location, likely within sight of a ‘gay bar.’ He doesn’t want to reveal the results to his partner, who for a long time was uncomfortable with his homosexuality.

The discussion now revolves around the potential aftermath of revealing the doctor’s findings. The doctor is a researcher at heart, and few things matter to him more than the truth. At the same time he realizes that such findings would make the movement for gay rights nearly impossible, which he believes would be unfair. He asks his friend whether he might not wait until gay rights at been achieved, and then publishing the results. The friend says that might not be a bad idea, but that like as not it might cause a reversal (Any law which can be passed can also be revoked.) The friend okays the publication of the results saying that “If it’s the truth, people might as well know. I believe that the cause is in the right. This will change the minds of some other people, but I wouldn’t have you hide the truth. Perhaps I’m hopelessly naive, but I’d like to believe that the right side should be able to win by being fully honest. Otherwise they shouldn’t win. Now, maybe I’m not right… I’m as capable of doubt as the next person. But I’m invested. This is who I am… etc.” In short, while the research will make progress more difficult, he won’t stand in its way.

Walking around the city until the sun rises, the doctor contemplates each side of the argument and, as the first rays of light illuminate the city, reaches a decision.

I don’t choose to reveal what that decision might be. That will be left to the reader.

Progress through Processors

Yesterday, TechWorthy posted about a fantastic opportunity for you to get involved with scientific research taking place around the globe- and all you need is a Facebook account and a minute to download a new application. You can choose from among several scientific endeavors to lend your computing power to, and there appears to be no downside. The program only uses processing capabilities that you aren’t accessing, and your own needs will always come first. The moment you need all of your computer’s power, you’ll have it- the processor sharing application will run quietly in the background, and you’ll never know that it’s there.

I would have downloaded it right away except for one concern: security. While I’m no IA expert, it seems to me that if another computer is being allowed to access my processing power, someone could easily conduct a man-in-the-middle type attack to take over my computer, and the post I’d read did little to address my worries.

This morning, however, I found an article on Wired.com which claims that Progress through Processors creates a folder on your computer which is incapable of accessing the rest of your hard drive, so all of your files are safe. Furthermore, there is a one way interaction: “No third party site contacts your computer. It’s only your computer that reaches out.”

I’m not entirely sure how that’s possible, but I’m willing to trust that until I learn anything to the contrary. I’ll begin donating my processing power tonight.

AI Object Recognition

Over the holidays I found myself reading great amounts of non-fiction. Among the books I read was ‘Physics of the Impossible’ by Michio Kaku. From that book I discovered that scientists are having trouble designing a robot which can manouver around a room due to difficulties in recognizing complex shapes. This is because the computer looks at the room as a series of straight lines and has great trouble with curves, or anything complex. An example the book gave of how slow progress is would be to compare the number of neurons required for a fly to do incredible loop-the-loops around a room to the huge amount of processing it takes for a robot move around on the floor of a furnished room. Clearly, although the fly processes far fewer bits of information, it is better suited for movement.

Why is this? Here’s my reasoning: the fly recognizes far less than scientists are assuming. Let’s move up the food chain a bit for an example. Birds will avoid eating moths with eyespots on their wings.

Consider that. You or I will look at a moth and will know that it is a moth, regardless of what spots it might have on its wings. If it is camouflaged into a tree or something else, we may not see it, but that is a seperate issue. Yet a bird will see the spots and fly away, avoiding the moth entirely. Why is this? The bird sees the spots and believes that the ‘eyes’ belong to a predator. Thus they avoid the moth. This is caused by a very simple object identification system.

Back to the fly. A fly will land on almost anything, even people, unless it is moving fast. It avoids anything which is moving fast- e.i. that could squash it. They’ve even been known to land on waiting frogs. They also don’t fly straight into any object, they slow and land on them, or go around.

This should be applicable to robot AI. It would be simple enough to scan the area to determine where obstacles are. There is no need to determine what they are, or even their exact shape. From there, as needed, the AI could be programmed to recognize certain things, such as chairs or coffee mugs, and be given instructions other than ‘avoid.’

Thoughts? Hopefully this is an example of where cross-disciplinary thinking can get you, but there may be a flaw in my reasoning.