Review: Q is for Quantum by Terry Rudolph

Cover of Q is for QuantumOne 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

Review: What If? Serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions

What if? From the creator of xkcd

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

Review: Microsoft Sculpt Ergonmic Keyboard

Microsoft Sculpt keyboard
The Microsoft Sculpt keyboard

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

How to build a human – review

Gemma Chan, a real human and also now a real synth
Gemma Chan, a real human and also now a real synth

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

ReWork Deep Learning London 2016 Day 1 Morning

Entering the conference (c) ReWork
Entering the conference (c) ReWork

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.

Continue reading ReWork Deep Learning London 2016 Day 1 Morning

Amazon Echo Dot (second generation): Review

Echo Dot (c) Amazon
Echo Dot (c) Amazon

When I attended the ReWork Deep Learning conference in Boston in May 2016, one of the most interesting talks was about the Echo and the Alexa personal assistant from Amazon.  As someone whose day job is AI, it seemed only right that I surround myself by as much as possible from other companies.  This week, after it being on back order for a while, it finally arrived.  At £50, the Echo Dot is a reasonable price, with the only negative I was aware of before ordering being that the sound quality “wasn’t great” from a reviewer. Continue reading Amazon Echo Dot (second generation): Review

Rework DL Boston 2016 – Day 2

Me, networking at breakfast
Me, networking at breakfast

This is a summary of day 2 of ReWork Deep Learning summit 2016 that took place in Boston, May 12-13th.  If you want to read the summary of day 1 then you can read my notes here. Continue reading Rework DL Boston 2016 – Day 2

ReWork DL Boston 2016 – Day 1

brainLast year, I blogged about the rework Deep Learning conference in Boston and, being here for the second year in a row, I thought I’d do the same.  Here’s the summary of day 1.

The day started with a great intro from Jana Eggers with a positive message about nurturing this AI baby that is being created rather than the doomsday scenario that is regularly spouted.  We are a collaborative discipline of academia and industry and we can focus on how we use this for good. Continue reading ReWork DL Boston 2016 – Day 1

Surface Pro: how I use it – a review

Surface Pro 3I first used the Surface Pro 3 on my trip to Boston to take notes at ReWorkDL rather than scribbling on bits of paper or taking a full laptop and found it to be a great replacement for an A4 notebook, but didn’t really use it to its full potential.  At the start of November, I joined a new company and I’ve been using the Surface exclusively for all my note taking, as well as for studying for my OU Maths modules.

With the recent release of the Surface 4, there may be people wondering if they’re worth it, and what use they’d get out of it.  There are plenty of technical reviews around so I’d suggest using those as a starting point, and if you’re headed out to the sales, you might find my experiences helpful.   Continue reading Surface Pro: how I use it – a review

Girls Can Code – episode 2 thoughts

Alice Levine showing that Girls Can Code
Alice Levine showing that Girls Can Code

After somewhat mixed reviews of last week’s episode I was interested to see whether episode 2 of Girls Can Code had any more emphasis on the coding side.

It started with a comment that the girls were building a tech business rather than actually learning to code themselves.  This justified one of the major criticisms of the show – that it was nothing about coding.  While I’m sure that this was all fixed months ago, I did wonder if the voice over for the start of the show had been rerecorded after the response to the first episode. Continue reading Girls Can Code – episode 2 thoughts