Making The World Safe For Science - One Supermodel At A Time
Bond. Cash Bond
People who have known me for a long time know that when I am not dazzling the world with scientific brilliance, I am a Formula One race car driver who also solves mysteries on TV. What the rest of you may not know is that I was also the star of a major motion picture.
It was a different take on the James Bond story - I played an American spy who pretends to be a scientist and the movie was about what would happen if all those spurned women from my adventures got together for revenge. They kept the title simple and to-the-point: Cash Must Die. Sadly, this movie lost its financing during production ( Chopper Chicks In Zombie Town III went over budget and they diverted the money, those bastards ) and the script is tied up in legal so this movie poster is all that remains.
But I am here to say, my friends, that sometimes I can be wrong. I should have known that bringing back Martin Campbell, the guy who directed one of the greatest Bond movies of all time would outweigh anything else. And they took Bond back to the basics. I never said Craig wasn't a good actor and he certainly did a terrific job here. By the end of the movie he could well be the best Bond of all time.
Also, if for no other reason, you should pay money to go see the guy who does the free running stunt in the post-title sequence. He is something spectacular to behold. They should give that guy his own movie just so we can watch him do that.
So my apologies to you, Daniel Craig. I was wrong. But I wasn't wrong about everything. The movie is not without its flaws. I said the girl they picked to be Vesper was basically about as attractive as a French bag lady, and my suspicion was confirmed:
The SkyNet article states that when the last Ice Age ended 11,000 years ago blonde hair and blue eyes were developed as a competitive advantage in getting a caveman. That's right, with men in short supply some girls had to use manipulation in order to get one of us - and even then blondes were known to be more fun. The Germans say the problem is racial mixing - yes, Germans speaking out against racial mixing. Whoda thunk it?
Anyway, I like the WHO version. You have to admire the chutzpah and fun-loving nature of any girl willing to change her genetic makeup to please you.
I happen to be a caveman if, by caveman, you mean someone who grabs his woman by the hair and throws her over furniture on occasion, so I can verify that the WHO study makes sense. Following that same reasoning, men are a lot more plentiful now than 11,000 years ago so fewer blondes are being born.
Women just don't need the advantage these days because we aren't going off on dangerous hunting trips like cavemen did and the only combat I have witnessed consists of staring at photos of women lovingly cradling automatic weapons big enough to shoot down the moon.
As you can imagine, this article sent me into a frenzy. I am on the prowl for junk science under the best of circumstances; if you suddenly start claiming delicious blondes will be extinct we are going to throw down. Or I am writing a letter to Congress. Something.
So I did some research and this turned out to be ... a hoax. Yes, a fake. But the BBC, Sunday Times, Canadian Press and the entire World Wide Web was duped - mostly because a lot of fat-ankled editors at those news services wanted it to be true. I am not pointing fingers at any popular junk science of today but ... well, remain skeptical. If politicians tell you only their election can avert a worldwide scientific crisis, remain doubly skeptical.
Anyway, that isn't to say the article didn't show there was a lot of concern about this topic. Do not panic. As always, science has the answer. By 2202 we'll have figured out ways to make all women at least 5'8" tall with long blonde hair, unquestioned fidelity and the dangerous undercurrent of a deviant streak. And girls, if you are lucky, all men will be like me.
Let's face it, sometimes we get tired of dating models. Sure, they clean up well but it gets annoying having to tell her she's beautiful a hundred times a day and the cocaine bill gets expensive.
You might think you have no hope of getting an attractive low-maintenance geek girl and I am inclined to agree ( that you can't anyway ) but I would rather light a candle than curse your darkness, so here are my tips to try and help. I present to you Version 1.0 of The Mens Guide To Dating A Geek Girl.
Getting Your First Geek Girl
So you've seen a geek girl. She's got the Tina Fey glasses on and the hair is thrown up in a mess, she's wearing clothes just frumpy enough you can't tell what kind of body she has. Trust me, my friends, if she's like any geek girl I have ever known, she has a better body than Eva Longoria. She just doesn't need to flaunt it because Pete Yorn would never date Eva Longoria anyway. Now you just have to talk to her.
1. Be direct.
No matter what she looks like, geek girls are no different than geek guys. She will likely seem a little aloof, maybe even defensive. She is just baffled that you can't see inside her to the geek she is and wonders if this is a prank.
2. Open with something memorable.
"No way a hot girl like you has such mad skillz," is worth a shot.
Alternate: "If I ever get to redesign keyboards I will put U and I together." She will likely respond that they actually are already together on keyboards, which means you let her be smarter than you and she will find your clumsy pick-up attempt charming. Nicely done.
3. Ask which Yahoo chat room is her favorite.
If the answer is anything other than "I don't go into Yahoo chat rooms" find a different geek girl. Geek girls don't hang out in Yahoo chat rooms so kick this twink to the curb. IRC is okay.
4. Learn to play Half-Life.
I know it's old. Chicks still play it. Science has no answer for that.
5. Stevie "Killcreek" Case comparisons can never be wrong.
Geek girls know their gaming history.
6. Do not ask her if she prefers Python because it's a more "feminine" language.
She probably does. But it's a bad idea to say it.
The Geek Girl Relationship
Some men want to be teachers. They like feeling worldly and prefer a companion who sits childlike and listens to their stories while wanting their women to have a history that would make the Virgin Mary feel promiscuous. If so, a geek girl is not for you. Geek girls, like geek guys, take a while to open up but, when they do, they are total hellcats. This is mostly because they are well-read and your geek girl trusts you and she thinks relationships should be fun but you, my friend, are not her first relationship. This does not make her a whore but it probably does mean you can call her one during sex without suffering physical harm. That said, to keep a geek girl truly happy you should also note the following:
1. Figure out which Star Wars character you are.
Let's face it, she wants either Han or Luke. If she wants one, and you are the other, exit the airlock quickly. You're not Don Quixote.
Alternate: However, a well-timed "You truly belong here with us among the clouds" Lando Calrissian impression will enhance any geek relationship. If you happen to surprise her with that in front of her geek friends and they laugh, you are totally going to hit that.
2. She had a life before she met you.
Because she is a geek girl, she is on the internet. Trust me, if she is funny and smart, she has been propositioned online more than Marilyn Monroe at a Kennedy luncheon. She may keep a few dorks around who say nice things and pump up her ego, but it's okay to trust her. She's with the person she wants to be with.
3. There is a significant chance she is smarter than you.
She's not going to flaunt it but if you try to patronize her and her eyes narrow to slits that look like something Cylons fire laser beams out of, believe me, they will become slits firing Cylon laser beams if you don't stop your sentence and run quickly from the room, waving your arms and yelling "Danger, Wil Robinson! Danger!" or something else to make her laugh. Do it quickly. The downside to having a geek girl smarter than you is she has figured out your weaknesses and can make you cry.
Keeping Your Geek Girl
1. You still have to dress the part.
A. Keep it simple. Just because she's a geek girl doesn't mean she will tolerate you wearing a Pokemon shirt with barbecue sauce on it from dinner three nights ago. Jeans that fit and a shirt are all you need for hanging out. You want to look like you haven't put any thought into it but make sure you have.
B. Do not wear a sports jersey. Unless you are a player on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
2. She wants you to respect her smarts but she has been told how intelligent she is all her life.
A. She's still a woman. If you don't think she's sexy, why are you hanging out with her? Switching this on and off is key. Getting all neanderthal when she's up to her eyeballs in Python is a bad idea. But occasionally grabbing her by a belt loop as she walks by and pulling her into your lap for a quick kiss on the neck is going to pay geek dividends later.
B. Do not tell her she's cute. 7 out of 10 geek girls are cute - and they are sick of hearing it. Sometimes they want to be beautiful, exotic or drop-dead gorgeous. She owns a little black dress for a reason, my friend, and that reason is because it does not radiate 'cute.'
3. Sometimes you should treat her like she's a guy.
Jumping up to take a box away from her is likely to get you a snippy comment such as "Thanks, but I've been genetically engineered to lift things that weigh five pounds." If she is carrying a refrigerator, use your judgment. Opening doors is always okay.
I hope this small effort on the part of science to add to your geek seduction repertoire finds you in a happy place with a geek girl in 1/nth time it took me to learn this sage wisdom the hard way. This list is by no means comprehensive. Should you feel I have omitted any key strategies. let me know for Version 2.0. And geek girls, if you have any advice, try and help the fellas out.
posted by Buckaroo at 10:33 PM
Face Recognition, Emotions And Why I Will Be The Next Jackie Chan
Dynamic face recognition may be one of the last frontiers for quantifying why some of our simplest brain functions have difficulty being matched by computers.
As a kid, when computers were more basic, it was easy to see the differences between my brain and the power of a computer. When I played baseball I knew the instant the ball was hit whether I had to run back or forward. This was a spectacular amount of mathematics done in an instant with the only programming being my amount of practice. A computer has to be able to define a parabola before it can tell me which way to run - by the time it could tell me where to run, the ball will have landed. The only reason I bothered to show up for trigonometry was to figure out a methodology that could help me write a computer program to catch a baseball without having the computer know where the ball was going to be hit in advance.
Facial recognition today faces similar obstacles. If you look at your favorite scientist's irritated face while his supermodel storms out because he did not tell her she was beautiful for the requisite hundredth time that day, it looks a certain way. If he then looks happy because he finally got some peace and quiet, it looks another way. To you, it is easily the same person but a computer has a very difficult time with that operation.
A three-year old child can look at a real chicken and then a cartoon chicken and say, "That's a chicken." A computer has a very difficult time with that also. Snd good luck getting a computer to tell you who is more attractive, that girl from "Veronica Mars" or the live action model of Lara Craft, Tomb Raider:
In the late 1970s research began to kick into gear, mostly because of vision research. Scientists wanted to determine how much information was essential for visual recognition. Similar to hearing, we can determine frequencies of interest for vision. In this case, the frequencies are spatial and the research was done by AP Ginsburg.* He used bandpass filters to determine which spatial frequencies carried the most information and therefore could be isolated to make recognition easier. He narrowed down the important range of frequencies but, also important, he discovered that different spatial-frequency sets supplied the information for different perceptual and cognitive functions - like emotions.
It's only now that home computers will contain the horsepower to do this kind of number crunching. The field of identity recognition is easily covered today but emotional recognition - the kind of thing that allows a computer to recognize me regardless of my supermodel irritation level - still has some way to go.
I've tried to find some legitimate modern research that makes this big improvement but so far it just involves brute-force techniques and more computing power to identify and match grid-by-grid; hardly an elegant solution.
Yet while emotional variance recognition is still lacking ordinary face recognition has grown tremendously. I went to a site called My Heritage and tried their tool. The demo version allows you to input your picture and tells you what celebrities you look like. Naturally, I had to give that a try. So I threw in my picture and it comes back with the four people in the graphic.
MyHeritage.com said I am a combination of Trent Rezner, Scott Bakula and Jackie Chan. I wasn't sure how that Colin Firth guy fit in there but I remembered he nailed Keira Knightley in some movie or another, so it makes sense now.
They think I am a rock star, a quantum physicist and the greatest martial arts action hero of all time? This software is so accurate it is almost spooky.
*Ginsburg A.P. "Spatial filtering and vision: implications for normal and abnormal vision." In Clinical Applications of Visual Psychophysics. LM Proenz, JM Enoch, A Jampolsky (ed) Cambridge University Press, 1981, pp 70-106. I can't find an online link.
posted by Buckaroo at 8:42 AM
How Math Can Save Your Marriage - An Interview With The Author Of Geek Logik
Ever have someone tell you a certain pesky question can't be answered scientifically? Garth Sundem is here to help. He's the author of Geek Logik and it's his business to help you mathematically solve life's most pressing problems.
Garth has created plug-in numerical solutions that help you make decisions while completely abdicating accountability for your actions - because you can always claim the numbers said it was the right thing to do. It's like the Taguchi Method, only with real algebra and a lot funnier. Here are the kinds of life-altering decisions Garth can help you make:
"How many beers should I have at the company picnic?" "Should I go to the gym?" "Do I have a snowball's chance in hell with him/her?" "What IS a snowball's chance in hell?"
I first stumbled upon Garth when I read Esquire this past summer and saw he was able to answer the question "Should I apologize to to my girlfriend?" with the following equation:
Each of these variables has a 1 to 10 scale. D is the severity of the issue (1 being "I forgot to take out the trash before work" and 10 being "I left the kids with matches and forgot to turn off the gas before leaving on vacation"), Ra is your actual responsibility for your crime, Rp is your perceived responsibility for your crime, and P is how pissed off she is. A is, of course, apologizing.
If A > 1, you basically apologize and numbers higher than 1 mean you have to buy her better presents. Anything below 1, you tell her to kick rocks and wait for her to come crawling back and bake you pies.
At first I saw it and thought, "How quaint. I want that 15 seconds of my life back" but I had a pencil nearby so I put on my best Six Sigma game face and decided to tackle a "should I apologize about this?" issue of my own. I don't remember exactly what the issue was now but I think I slept with her sister or something equally minor and she was making a big deal about it and telling me I should apologize. I was firmly thinking she should apologize to me for all of the yelling she did about it.
So I filled in the numbers and the equation told me I should apologize, because A was actually greater than 10,000. I thought maybe his formula was broken so I contacted him and he assured me that, while he had never seen a number that large before, he was confident that her rage had peaked well before 10,000 and I couldn't make things any worse so I should just go ahead and apologize. That decision, combined with a lot of jewelry, turned out to be the right thing to do. So I knew he was on to something.
P is the celebrity couples combined number of previous marriages Ab is his age in years Ag is her age in years Gb how many millions of hits when his name is Googled Gg how many millions of hits when her name is Googled S is the number of pictures in her first 5 hits that make you think of sex D is the number of months they knew each other before marriage ( fractions are allowed ) T is years of marriage you want to see - so if you want to see the the likelihood of them lasting 1 year, use 1 and for 5, use 5, etc. Bliss is the percentage chance for the number of years you chose.
What did the Geek Logik method say about their marriage?
For Reese and Ryan at 1 year: statistically certain the marriage will be intact
For Reese and Ryan at 5 years: 88% likely to still be married.
For Reese and Ryan at 15 years: 25% likely to still be married.
Actual marriage length: 7 years. The equation gives them a 69% chance of making it seven years and a 61% chance of making it eight. That's not just amazing, it is bordering on the supernatural.
I contacted Garth to discuss this and he wrote, "These are actually some of the strongest numbers I found for any couple outside Johnny Cash and June Carter, due mostly to relatively small combined fame (Reese certainly isn't a nobody, but she's not a media darling like Angelina Jolie), low skin in Reese's first five Google hits, no previous marriages, and similarity in ages."
So it's not just that the formula is accurate, it's that his method for creating the formula is astounding. I feel a lot better consulting his equations about how many cups of coffee I should have now (11, it turns out.)
While I had his attention I figured I would take the opportunity to have him answer a few questions about Geek Logik and quantifying life:
Cash: You came from a mathematical family, but what inspired you to go into this kind of work?
Garth:Geek Logikstarted on a plaid couch at Cornell. My geeky friends and I spent way too much time on this couch, much to the detriment of our GPA's, and needed something concrete to tell us when it was time to get off the couch and actually go to the library.
Being geeks, we made an equation—based on how long 'till the test, how much studying we'd already done, how hard the test was going to be and, of course, how many beers we had already consumed. Much to our geeky delight, the equation worked! Since then, I've made equations whenever the need arose, most successfully in the area of dating and romance.
Empirical testing has centered on allowing geeks to lessen the occurrence of girlfriend-genic flying dishware by performing at or near societal norms in a variety of social settings such as when to apologize, should they go to Vegas against their girlfriend's wishes, and should they bring their new girlfriend home to meet their embarrassing parents.
Cash: Which of the equations in Geek Logik is your favorite?
Garth:Strangely, my favorites include some of the more mundane equations, because these tend to be the most useful on a daily basis. For example, "should you stop to put gas in the car," or "should you eat something scary from the back of the 'fridge or just order Chinese again?"
These, really, are the central questions of our time. Or at least they allow geeks to make it through the day with a relatively small disaster coefficient.
Cash: Given what you know about my site, the overall audience and me, how many people does your problem solving prowess predict will read this interview?
Garth:Ha! We'd have to take into account your average blog-reading demographic, which I think is safe to say leans a little toward the geek (no offense; I include myself), and the news with which this is competing.
Luckily, I think the average American is 102.34% sick of midterm election news and looking for something a little on the light side. Also, this is an easy topic to spam to friends (a way of saying, "yes, you are whipped and now the numbers prove it").
So, we bump up your average a bit with demographics, a bit with timeliness, and a bit with "S" the spam-a-rific factor, and end up with about 107.72% of your average readership. The numbers here, I have to admit, aren't quite as hard as they were with celebrity marriage, which we all know is governed by definite rules of math and physics...
See? He made sure to endorse physics. I told you he was a smart guy.
As time went on, I thought they lost their focus by branching out from protesting nuclear weapons to whaling and trees and basically hanging out a shingle that said, "If you send us money, we will protest for you."
I watched them change from instilling their people with scientific literacy to educating their people on political activism. Then I watched them turn on me because I was a scientist who didn't much like exaggerated evidence in the name of fundraising and because I was a sportsman and because I was a businessman.
I've always believed that sportsmen - hunters, hikers, mountain climbers - are natural allies of the environmental movement.
I watched them turn on hunters because of the gun issue. I watched them turn on businesspeople because of the logging issue. I watched them devolve into silliness ... hijacking ships, funnelling money to political groups, ramming a French sailboat competing in the 2003 America’s Cup and finally, in the absolute depths of their Klondike Kop level incompetence, running aground on Tubbataha Reef Marine Park off the coast of Manila last year, which they were supposedly visiting because they were worried about global warming. They paid a $7,000 fine and said it was an accident and the millions of dollars in damage done are still not fixed. I imagine the environmental movement wouldn't have been so lenient if, after the Exxon Valdez accident, Exxon paid a token fine and left the damage.
But I have noticed a change - in the environmental movement in general and in Greenpeace in particular - that may be telling me they are welcoming their natural allies back home. This crazy business of teaming up with Trotzkyites who are somehow with Stalinists who are all selling Che Guevara shirts and complaining about Israel certainly wasn't helping the environment.
I care about the environment. I recycle, I flip paper over and re-use it in the fax machine, I kill and cut and eat a lot of my own meat, I waste a lot less fuel than Al Gore does. I just think government needs to waste less money and stay out of things that aren't in the Constitution. I found out a few years ago I was a "granola Conservative." Hell, I didn't even know people like me had a name before then. And I don't think Greenpeace looks at me as the enemy any more.
What really made me turn the corner in my thinking on them is that Greenpeace has now decided to work with business rather than against it. They're not doing it with press releases, protests or threats. They're doing it by bringing in their natural allies and discussing issues and working out a plan.
A few years ago, the guitar industry was the enemy. Guitar makers were both in business and they used wood - and therefore they were evil. To me, and maybe to you, people who make guitars are not evil. No one goes into the guitar business to get rich, they go into the guitar business because they love music and they love wood and they love beauty.
Bob is not in the guitar business, in that sense. Bob is in the wood business. You can't make a good guitar out of bad wood, no matter how skilled you are. Bob Taylor is not the enemy of the environment any more than I am and Greenpeace finally figured it out.
They brought him and people from Martin and Gibson and Fender to southeast Alaska to talk about the Sitka Spruce and figure out a way to make sure wood is used responsibly.
You can't plant a tree and get a guitar 40 years later. You can't plant a tree and get a guitar out of it 100 years later. It takes between 300-500 years to get the wood you need for a guitar. These guys aren't worrying about their a 500 year plan for their companies but they care about the environment just as much as any political group.
The environmental movement has historically waged the kind of public relations campaign I don't much like. They make it sound like some evil American conglomerate is doing the logging. Sitka, in southeast Alaska, is Native American land. It's primarily owned by Sealaska, a Native American corporation. All the protesting in the world can't stop a sovereign nation from doing whatever they want but they will listen to their customers. And that's what Greenpeace is trying to accomplish. It's a good idea.
The American guitar industry in total uses about 150 spruce logs per year. That's what a sawmill cuts in one day. I don't know how many sawmills there are but I know there are a lot so you can see that the guitar makers are not the enemy. They're also not a huge customer in a raw materials sense but guitarists, and guitar companies, are vocal about wood and the environment.
I'm glad that Greenpeace has finally figured that out and has begun working with business on a responsible managed use plan. There may be hope for those guys yet ... as long as they learn to steer their boats properly.
Sure, you will automatically dismiss that kind of talk as an aging guy romancing the days of his youth. I usually think that also. I know we had suggestive TV when I was a kid. And R-rated movies. We didn't have the Halloween costumes some of these girls wear but I can't say that is going to tank our culture. We had Porky's and civilization didn't end.
So I sit down next to Lady Scientist to discuss it with her. You know, get the female perspective. She's watching Veronica Mars on the handy Replay DVR. It's a rerun but I haven't seen any of them since the first season so it's new to me even if it's from last spring. We are chatting along and suddenly I hear them make reference to a Clint Eastwood movie and then a Mexican comic book character. I guess because the guy she is talking to is a latino cop.
I grab my laptop.
"Are you blogging again?" she asks. "These people can't possibly find you that interesting."
"Noooo, I am googling Dirty Sanchez. He was a comic book character. Mexican or something. I can't remember."
"I don't think that's what they're talking about."
"That's why I am Googling it. If you don't know, and I don't know ... Google."
"I didn't say I didn't know. I said that's not what they're talking about."
"Of course," she says, "I'm an aerospace engineer."
But I let that go and she tells me what it is and why it is on TV during prime time and explains that TV networks aren't reflecting the mores of society these days, they are creating them. In order to be edgier and more relevant to the target youth market they have to go out of their way to be a little more flagrant each year. It doesn't help that cable is exempt from censors either.
"Okay, at least explain to me why they think teenagers want to do this Sanchez thing."
"No one actually does it," she says. "They just talk about it. So if 2% of kids talk about it, desperate TV writers will stick it in their show in order to appeal to the insecure kids who want to feel cool. Didn't you just do a whole rant on why NY should ban KFC? You should go after TV."
"Actually, I was against the KFC ban. But yeah, if New York people care about kids enough to ban optional food they should certainly frown on TV references to comic book characters doing stuff that I can't even see on stage in Tijuana."
But just to be sure it wasn't old age I decided to check some of my old comic books and see if they were as bad when I was a kid and I scanned in the one you see below.