Science PR - good luck getting the Manhattan Project going today

September 23rd, 2011

Yesterday two ’science stories’ ‘broke’: “Neutrinos traveling faster than light” and “Computers can read images out of the brain”. I am borderline clueless on matters of physics, so I leave that one alone. The fMRI mashup by Nishimoto et al is borderline in my view. The presentation of their findings makes it way to easy to drum up headlines like “Brain Imaging Reveals What You’re Watching” or “Scientists Reconstruct Brains’ Visions Into Digital Video ”

Only spending little time with the setup it seems that the experiement pretty much reveals that 5,000 hours of youtube video are so stereotypical that even a fMRI of the v1 can match some patterns back. For a given individual, after hours of learning. To suggest that the video shown on the right as ‘coming out’ of the brain is extremely misleading.

Having two of those studies in one day means nothing of course. But one can go off on a tangent and wonder why - I am sure wonderful - people and scientists drop science in exchange for head lines and eyeball. Maybe it is time to decide over the 2012 budget? And I am sure that given realities of today it is much to get money for “we can go back in time” or “we can film your dreams”.

I have doubts that the Manhattan Project would have a chance today. Rewind to 1940: Some professors had drawn some numbers on chalk board. Up this day only very few
people understood what they were talking about. I certainly have no clue. They had no computer simulated films. They had no precedence. The bomb they were talking about
was by multiple magnitudes bigger than anything that had done before. There was nothing in reality to show for. Just scribblings on a chalkboard. And some common consensus among a few people. One could see this happening if they would have asked to disappear into the desert to do a bit of thinking. But they needed a bit more: Factories bigger than anything else that had been built. And 10% of all electricity in the entire US to run them. To make a handful of matter that -according to science- might make one big boom.
All based on science. And politicians and military people did go with it. And they built different models that both worked after five years.

apple: don’t bother

September 18th, 2011

iTunes just rejected to play a song that I purchased 3 years ago, since it told me I need to authenticate my current computer.
Instead of trying to figure out what is broken with the Apple authentication for that song I just went ahead and bought it again on Amazon. Without CRM.

Apple is notorious for having one of the worst user management systems for their online services. The documentation of my Apple ID changes and resets
spans many pages. There are none for other systems and services that I used equally long.

Funny how one company can be so great in a couple of areas and fail so consistently in others.