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.
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 toys that’s been advertised heavily in the UK this year for Christmas has been Cozmo with it’s “Big Brain, Bigger Personality” strapline. I got one last year and it was a great present. Let’s get this out there. Cozmo is relatively expensive. For about £1501 there are a lot of other things you might prefer to buy for a child (or an adult) for what is, on the surface “just a toy”. If you treat it as such then maybe it’s not the right thing for you, but viewing Cozmo as a simple toy is far less than he deserves. He is a lot of fun to play with, and the more you play with him, the more he begins to do. Continue reading Cozmo – a good present?
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
Throughout my academic career one thing that was repeatedly enforced was that if you were claiming something to be true in a paper, you needed to show results to prove it or cite a credible source that had those results. It took a lot of effort in those pre-Google Scholar and pre-Arxiv days1. Reading the journals, being aware of retractions and clarifications and building the evidence to support your own work took time2. Writing up my thesis was painful solely because of finding the right references for things that were “known”. I had several excellent reviewers who sent me back copies of my thesis with “citation needed” where I’d stated things as facts without a reference. My tutor at Oxford was very clear on this: without a citation, it’s your opinion not a fact. Continue reading Citation Needed – without it you have opinion not facts
If you’re starting out in deep learning and would prefer a laptop over a desktop, basic research will lead you to a whole host of blogs, Q&A sites and opinions that basically amount to “don’t do it” and to get a desktop or remote into a server instead. However, if you want a laptop, whether this is for college, conferences or even because you have a job where you can work from anywhere, then there are plenty of options available to you. Here I’ll lay out what I chose and why, along with how it’s performing. Continue reading Choosing a Laptop for Deep Learning Development
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
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
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