It will come as no surprise to anyone who has read any of my other posts that I loved puzzle books as child. I started with the Usbourne puzzle adventure series – cartoon books with clues on each page either in the pictures or what was said. I think my favourite was “Escape from Blood Castle“, which I got as a Christmas present in 1985. It was a perfect mix of slightly creepy and logical deduction that really appealed to me and I loved having new books from this series as they were published.
I quickly moved on to more text based mysteries – particularly the Hawkeye Collins and Amy Adams sleuth series. These were typical kids solve the mystery books. Unlike the Usbourne puzzle solvers, each mystery was stand alone and the answers were in the back of the book in mirror writing. At that age I didn’t have a small pocket mirror so taught myself how to read backwards to check my answers1. After that, it was whatever puzzles I could get may hands on.
While it’s no secret I love Lego and tech in general, I also love the educational STEM toys that are released. Sometimes, the ages on the toys don’t always make sense for their complexity, leaving a child who is either frustrated at something too tricky or too simplistic. Both can leave a young person slightly disengaged with STEM, the exact opposite of the idea of these toys!
Christmas 2019 I was given this Hydraulic Robot Arm kit, suitable for ages 10+1. With work, OU study and general life I’ve only just got around to building it2. So, let’s take a look – is it suitable for ages 10 and up for both build and principles it teaches?
For the past two weeks I have, like most people, been working from home. Doing fun stuff just for yourself during this time can be incredibly important, and with this in mind I’ve started going through some of the Lego and other building kits I’ve got and just not had time to open. The first of these that I’ve tackled is this years Ideas (fan-designed) Lego set the international space station.
One of the things I love about Kindle unlimited is that I’m regularly finding new authors that I wouldn’t necessarily know about otherwise. At my reading rate I often find that I’m trying to pick a new book at odd hours of the day (or night) and will go with something new recommended by Amazon and this is how I came across Bandwidth by Eliot Peper.
Kindle had this prominently as a Sci-Fi choice for me while I was in the middle of several different dragon-related fantasy series and I was very much motivated for something a little more thought provoking.
It’s not often I get chance to play computer games anymore. The precious few hours I get to myself most days are usually filled with trying to catch up on my OU study1. So when I do choose a game, it has to be something immersive, where I make a difference. I loved Fable when it first came out and having finished Fable 3 recently (well behind the rest of the community I know!) I was looking for something new. A game I could play for ten minutes or an hour, something that I could be absorbed into and something where it didn’t matter if I didn’t play it for a couple of weeks. My wonderful husband bought Oxenfree for me on the XBox (also available on Steam) and I was hooked from the beginning. Continue reading Review: Oxenfree
One of the modules I’m considering for level 3 of my OU maths degree is the quantum world. I recall my A-Level chemistry teacher trying to explain that electrons weren’t solid balls orbiting an atom but rather a probability cloud of where the electron could be. I read a lot of popular science books at the time but found that there was a huge gap between the very high level “here’s a thing, it’s really cool” and “here’s a thing and after 3 pages we’ll dive into complex theory that you’ve never encountered”. Hence when I heard that a new introductory book on the principles of quantum theory had been written specifically for inquisitive young people to help them decide if they wanted to learn the maths needed to take it further, I thought “this sounds like a book 16 year old me would have wanted to read” and I bought a copy for the kindle. Continue reading Review: Q is for Quantum by Terry Rudolph
It’s been a while since I read a physical book. Most of my reading these days is done on the kindle and, while I still have physical text books for my maths degree, I have a lot of books just waiting to be read. What If? by xkcd creator Randall Munroe is one of these. I was given this as a present a few years ago and, despite my initial excitement (having been a reader of xkcd since about comic 17212) the book had sat on my bedside table under the kindle but just above the half-read “Sagas of the Icelanders” that I’d bought on my honeymoon. Last week I picked it up and started reading. I read just under half in that first sitting and then two days later finished it. I wish I’d read it the day it was given to me. Continue reading Review: What If? Serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions
Anyone who has to sit near me in an open office for any length of time usually comments on the punishment that I tend to give keyboards. I type (both general text and code) very quickly. When my fingernails are in good condition (i.e. I haven’t spent the weekend with power tools) this fast typing can make a sound like heavy hail on a conservatory roof. I’ve worn out keyboards before with one work laptop having to use ascii codes every time I needed to type s, n, j or i1 until a replacement arrived. It’s not that I’m a heavy typer, just that I do a lot of it, especially as a hands on manager over the years, I’ve had to write reports, documentation and code, so I’ve learned to be very, very fast at it. Continue reading Review: Microsoft Sculpt Ergonmic Keyboard
Ahead of season 2 of Channel 4’s Humans, they screened a special showing how a synthetic human could be produced. If you missed the show and are in the UK, you can watch again on 4OD.
Presented by Humans actress Gemma Chan, the show combined realistic prosthetic generation with AI to create a synth, but also dug a little deeper into the technology, showing how pervasive AI is in the western world.
There was a great scene with Prof Noel Sharkey and the self driving car where they attempted a bend, but human instinct took over: “It nearly took us off the road!” “Shit, yes!”. This reinforced the delegation of what could be life or death decisions – how can a car have moralistic decisions, or should they even be allowed to? Continue reading How to build a human – review
In September 2016, the ReWork team organised another deep learning conference in London. This is the third of their conferences I have attended and each time they continue to be a fantastic cross section of academia, enterprise research and start-ups. As usual, I took a large amount of notes on both days and I’ll be putting these up as separate posts, this one covers the morning of day 1. For reference, the notes from previous events can be found here: Boston 2015, Boston 2016.
Day one began with a brief introduction from Neil Lawrence, who has just moved from the University of Sheffield to Amazon research in Cambridge. Rather strangely, his introduction finished with him introducing himself, which we all found funny. His talk was titled the “Data Delusion” and started with a brief history of how digital data has exploded. By 2002, SVM papers dominated NIPs, but there wasn’t the level of data to make these systems work. There was a great analogy with the steam engine, originally invented by Thomas Newcomen in 1712 for pumping out tin mines, but it was hugely inefficient due to the amount of coal required. James Watt took the design and improved on it by adding the condenser, which (in combination with efficient coal distribution) led to the industrial revolution1. Machine learning now needs its “condenser” moment.
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