Friday, September 30, 2011

Stanford Offers Free Online Course on Artificial Intelligence

Up for a challenge? Stanford University is offering a free online course, "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence," starting on October 10.

It will be taught by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig and will include online lectures. Most of the course content will be video based. Students will be graded on a curve and will receive a certificate of completion with their grade.

So far over 57,000 people have signed up.
Here's the syllabus for the course.

You can enroll here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Scientists trying to create inorganic life

Scientists at the University of Glasgow say they have taken their first tentative steps towards creating 'life' from inorganic chemicals potentially defining the new area of 'inorganic biology'.

Professor Lee Cronin, Gardiner Chair of Chemistry in the College of Science and Engineering, and his team have demonstrated a new way of making inorganic-chemical-cells or iCHELLs.

Prof Cronin said: "All life on earth is based on organic biology (i.e. carbon in the form of amino acids, nucleotides, and sugars, etc.) but the inorganic world is considered to be inanimate.

"What we are trying do is create self-replicating, evolving inorganic cells that would essentially be alive. You could call it inorganic biology."

The cells can be compartmentalized by creating internal membranes that control the passage of materials and energy through them, meaning several chemical processes can be isolated within the same cell -- just like biological cells.

The researchers say the cells, which can also store electricity, could potentially be used in all sorts of applications in medicine, as sensors or to confine chemical reactions.

The research is part of a project by Prof Cronin to demonstrate that inorganic chemical compounds are capable of self-replicating and evolving -- just as organic, biological carbon-based cells do.

The research into creating 'inorganic life' is in its earliest stages, but Prof Cronin believes it is entirely feasible.

Prof Cronin said: "The grand aim is to construct complex chemical cells with life-like properties that could help us understand how life emerged and also to use this approach to define a new technology based upon evolution in the material world -- a kind of inorganic living technology.

"Bacteria are essentially single-cell micro-organisms made from organic chemicals, so why can't we make micro-organisms from inorganic chemicals and allow them to evolve?

"If successful this would give us some incredible insights into evolution and show that it's not just a biological process. It would also mean that we would have proven that non carbon-based life could exist and totally redefine our ideas of design."

[Source: Science Daily]

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

100 Items to Disappear First During a SHTF scenario

1. Generators (Good ones cost dearly. Gas storage, risky. of thieves; maintenance etc.)
2. Water Filters/Purifiers
3. Portable Toilets
4. Seasoned Firewood. Wood takes about 6 - 12 months to become dried, for home uses.
5. Lamp Oil, Wicks, Lamps (First Choice: Buy CLEAR oil. If scarce, stockpile ANY!)
6. Coleman Fuel. Impossible to stockpile too much.
7. Guns, Ammunition, Pepper Spray, Knives, Clubs, Bats & Slingshots.
8. Hand-can openers, & hand egg beaters, whisks.
9. Honey/Syrups/white, brown sugar
10. Rice - Beans - Wheat
11. Vegetable Oil (for cooking) Without it food burns/must be boiled etc.,)
12. Charcoal, Lighter Fluid (Will become scarce suddenly)
13. Water Containers (Urgent Item to obtain.) Any size. Small: HARD CLEAR PLASTIC ONLY - note - food grade if for drinking.
14. Mini Heater head (Propane) (Without this item, propane won't heat a room.)
15. Grain Grinder (Non-electric)
16. Propane Cylinders (Urgent: Definite shortages will occur.
17. Survival Guide Book.
18. Mantles: Aladdin, Coleman, etc. (Without this item, longer-term lighting is difficult.)
19. Baby Supplies: Diapers/formula. ointments/aspirin, etc.
20. Washboards, Mop Bucket w/wringer (for Laundry)
21. Cookstoves (Propane, Coleman & Kerosene)
22. Vitamins
23. Propane Cylinder Handle-Holder (Urgent: Small canister use is dangerous without this item)
24. Feminine Hygiene/Haircare/Skin products.
25. Thermal underwear (Tops & Bottoms)
26. Bow saws, axes and hatchets, Wedges (also, honing oil)
27. Aluminum Foil Reg. & Heavy Duty (Great Cooking and Barter Item)
28. Gasoline Containers (Plastic & Metal)
29. Garbage Bags (Impossible To Have Too Many).
30. Toilet Paper, Kleenex, Paper Towels
31. Milk - Powdered & Condensed (Shake Liquid every 3 to 4 months)
32. Garden Seeds (Non-Hybrid) (A MUST)
33. Clothes pins/line/hangers (A MUST)
34. Coleman's Pump Repair Kit
35. Tuna Fish (in oil)
36. Fire Extinguishers (or..large box of Baking Soda in every room)
37. First aid kits
38. Batteries (all furthest-out for Expiration Dates)
39. Garlic, spices & vinegar, baking supplies
40. Big Dogs (and plenty of dog food)
41. Flour, yeast & salt
42. Matches. {"Strike Anywhere" preferred.) Boxed, wooden matches will go first
43. Writing paper/pads/pencils, solar calculators
44. Insulated ice chests (good for keeping items from freezing in Wintertime.)
45. Workboots, belts, Levis & durable shirts
46. Flashlights/LIGHTSTICKS & torches, "No. 76 Dietz" Lanterns
47. Journals, Diaries & Scrapbooks (jot down ideas, feelings, experience; Historic Times)
48. Garbage cans Plastic (great for storage, water, transporting - if with wheels)
49. Men's Hygiene: Shampoo, Toothbrush/paste, Mouthwash/floss, nail clippers, etc
50. Cast iron cookware (sturdy, efficient)
51. Fishing supplies/tools
52. Mosquito coils/repellent, sprays/creams
53. Duct Tape
54. Tarps/stakes/twine/nails/rope/spikes
55. Candles
56. Laundry Detergent (liquid)
57. Backpacks, Duffel Bags
58. Garden tools & supplies
59. Scissors, fabrics & sewing supplies
60. Canned Fruits, Veggies, Soups, stews, etc.
61. Bleach (plain, NOT scented: 4 to 6% sodium hypochlorite)
62. Canning supplies, (Jars/lids/wax)
63. Knives & Sharpening tools: files, stones, steel
64. Bicycles...Tires/tubes/pumps/chains, etc
65. Sleeping Bags & blankets/pillows/mats
66. Carbon Monoxide Alarm (battery powered)
67. Board Games, Cards, Dice
68. d-con Rat poison, MOUSE PRUFE II, Roach Killer
69. Mousetraps, Ant traps & cockroach magnets
70. Paper plates/cups/utensils (stock up, folks)
71. Baby wipes, oils, waterless & Antibacterial soap (saves a lot of water)
72. Rain gear, rubberized boots, etc.
73. Shaving supplies (razors & creams, talc, after shave)
74. Hand pumps & siphons (for water and for fuels)
75. Soysauce, vinegar, bullions/gravy/soupbase
76. Reading glasses
77. Chocolate/Cocoa/Tang/Punch (water enhancers)
78. "Survival-in-a-Can"
79. Woolen clothing, scarves/ear-muffs/mittens
80. Boy Scout Handbook, / also Leaders Catalog
81. Roll-on Window Insulation Kit (MANCO)
82. Graham crackers, saltines, pretzels, Trail mix/Jerky
83. Popcorn, Peanut Butter, Nuts
84. Socks, Underwear, T-shirts, etc. (extras)
85. Lumber (all types)
86. Wagons & carts (for transport to and from)
87. Cots & Inflatable mattress's
88. Gloves: Work/warming/gardening, etc.
89. Lantern Hangers
90. Screen Patches, glue, nails, screws,, nuts & bolts
91. Teas
92. Coffee
93. Cigarettes
94. Wine/Liquors (for bribes, medicinal, etc,)
95. Paraffin wax
96. Glue, nails, nuts, bolts, screws, etc.
97. Chewing gum/candies
98. Atomizers (for cooling/bathing)
99. Hats & cotton neckerchiefs
100. Goats/chickens

Editor's note: This is in no order of importance as far as I know. What I like about this list is that it gives new preppers a starting point. Almost everything on the list cost very little money to purchase.

[Source: Before it's news

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pre-cog software - stopping crime before it happens

Dr. George Mohler & team came up w/ pre-cog type software
The police officers arrived at the parking garage in downtown Santa Cruz and spotted two women behaving suspiciously. No crime had been committed, but peering through the windows of the parked cars was sketchy enough. The officers questioned the women: one had outstanding warrants; the other was in possession of illegal drugs.

What’s strange about this scenario is that no one had called the cops. In fact, the cops didn’t even know that the women would be there, just that the probability of a crime being committed at that location, at that time of day, was especially high. In one of the first cases of ‘predictive policing,’ law enforcement were able to calculate where the criminals would be and arrest them before the crime could be committed.

Oh yeah, totally “Minority Report,” absolutely “Numb3rs.”
Except it’s not Hollywood, it’s real. In July the Santa Cruz Police Department began experimenting with an interesting bit of software developed by scientists at Santa Clara University. The researchers behind the software are like an intellectual “Oceans Eleven” team of specialists: two mathematicians, an anthropologist and a criminologist. They’ve combined their cerebral forces to come up with a mathematical model that takes crime data from the past to forecast crimes in the future. The basic math is similar to that used by seismologists to predict aftershocks following an earthquake (also a handy bit of software in southern California).

Large earthquakes are unpredictable, but the aftershocks that follow are not and their occurrence can be predicted with mathematical models. It occurred to Dr. George Mohler, one of the Santa Clara mathematicians, that criminal activity might not be random and that, similar to aftershocks, some crimes might be predicted by other crimes that precede them. The reasoning is based on the assumption that crimes are clustered – it’s what police call ‘hotspots.’ Burglaries will occur in the same area and at the same houses because the vulnerabilities of that area will be known to the burglars. Gang violence is also clustered. A gang shooting will often trigger retaliatory shootings.

Using the aftershocks-inspired algorithms Dr. Mohler and his team came up with a model, then sought to test it. In collaboration with the LAPD they plugged in data on 2,803 residential burglaries occurring within a block of the San Fernando valley 11 miles by 11 miles throughout 2004. For a given day the software calculated the top 5 percent of city blocks most likely to be burglarized. The results convinced the LAPD that, had they been using the program, they could have prevented a quarter of burglaries across the entire test region for that day.

The current, real world test of the software involves generating a map of the city areas most likely to be burglarized, the time of day they are most likely to get hit, and deploying personnel accordingly. The software is recalibrated every day when burglaries from the previous day are added to the dataset. They don’t actually expect to catch people in the act, but to deter more crimes with more effective patrolling. The test that is underway will be evaluated at six months, but already the data is encouraging. Zach Friend, crime analyst for Santa Cruz police, confirmed to the New York Times that the program led to five arrests in July. Even more impressive, compared to July 2010 burglaries, the number of July 2011 burglaries are down 27 percent. Whether or not that trend holds remains to be seen, but so far it appears that being in the wrong place at the right time works.

Mathematical models are only as good as their predictive power, and the ability to predict requires algorithms which are based on accurate data. Given the fact that the data supplied by the Santa Cruz Police Department wasn’t collected with mathematical algorithms in mind, I asked Dr. Mohler if there were another kind of data that he wished he was getting that simply isn’t available. His answer suggests there is, but it doesn’t come from the police. “Part of this falls on the public. Crimes…need to be reported if predictive policing is going to be as effective as possible. Once reported, it would be good to have high spatial accuracy and realistic estimates of time windows in which crime happened.”

The Santa Clara software isn’t the first of its kind. Other police departments have been experimenting with their own predictive software. But according to Dr. Mohler, comparisons show that their software outpredicts the others. And they plan to develop software that predicts crimes other than burglaries. Because gang violence begets more gang violence it is amenable to the same type of chain reaction-dependent analysis. Dr. Mohler and his colleagues have already begun working on a gang violence model using the activities of three gang rivalries in Los Angeles. Evidently retaliations commonly occur within days of and at nearly the same location as the initial attack. Dr. Mohler hopes software might be developed for still other types of crimes in the future.

One impetus for adopting predictive policing is the downturn in the US economy. As police departments are pressured to downsize it becomes that much more important to patrol intelligently and efficiently. With only 26 officers for every 10,000 residents Los Angeles is particularly short-handed (Chicago has 46). “We’re facing a situation where we have 30 percent more calls for service but 20 percent less staff than in the year 2000, and that is going to continue to be our reality,” Mr. Friend told the New York Times. “So we have to deploy our resources in a more effective way, and we thought this model would help.”

Given that the crime-fighting software is the real world version “Numb3rs,” the television show in which a genius helps police solve crimes through math, one might expect Dr. Mohler was an avid viewer. Turns out he’s only seen the show twice, but what he saw was pretty accurate. “The pilot episode concern[ed] geographic profiling and matched reasonably well with what is done in practice. I’m sure this doesn’t hold throughout the course of the series, but getting people excited about math isn’t a bad thing in my opinion.” If the six month evaluation of the software shows it to be effective in decreasing crime its use will undoubtedly spread to other cities in the US and the rest of the world. If life imitates art and our streets are made safer, I imagine math might get more exciting for a lot of people.

[Source: Singularity Hub ]
More on crime modeling and prediction

Saturday, September 17, 2011

New Prepper Series: The Bug Out Bag

The Bug Out Bag

What it is:
It's esentially a kit that  has all the essential supplies you need to get by for at least 72 hours. I've also heard of it referred to as a GoBag, a Get out of dodge (GOOD), You're on your own (YOYO) bag.

Not sure if I can even call myself a prepper at this point, maybe a prepper apprentice.

I don't have a huge stockpile of stuff. I'm not too familiar with a lot of the essential tools for survival. I don't have a military background.

But there's always a starting point.

I love watching vids, shows, and reading about preparedness and survivalism. So consider me a prepper neophyte. There are tons of info to be sifted through and it becomes overwhelming to process it all but I'm doing my best.

What I learned so far is that there are basics or essentials to consider such as water, water purification, food, shelter (tent/tarp/sleeping bag), first aid kit, toiletries, cooking supplies, fire starters, maps, cash, IDs, important docs, some extra clothes.

Then you can personalize it to your needs. Consider your environment for example. Do you live in a rural area or do you live in a city? Do you have medical conditions that need to be addressed? Do you have a vehicle? Pets? How many family members?

Regardless of the scenario you're preparing for there's always some kind of debate what needs to be in your pack.

My question is, not all scenarios are created equal - what you'd need in case of a hurricane evac is different from when you have a more extreme end of the world type situation, so how do you decide what goes in your kit?

I know some people pack two different kits based on seasons/weather condition or multiple kits for different scenarios.

For now, since I'm addressing the noob prepper (myself included) here's my take on it.
You don't have to spend a lot of money to get started, look around your house, what you need is more than likely readily available to you already.

Customize your own pack accordingly. Have one for each member of the family. And just have it stashed in a closet in your home.

So below is my personal bug out bag contents (last updated contents for Hurricane Irene). In this case we have family right outside the city that we can crash with so this isn't your rural/camping kit. Keep in mind this is just MY bag, we all have one each, including emergency supplies for the pets.

LED flashlight
water (I had more stashed in my truck)food (granola bars, beef jerky)
first aid kit (gauze, band aids, hyrdocortisone ointment, triple antibiotic cream, glucometer w/ strips, alcohol pads, liquid skin, tweezer, ibuprofen)
A small sewing kit
extra clothes - rain coat that can be multifunction - it's waterproof
cash, ids, imprant docs in ziplock back as well as flash drive w/ the same info.
extra pair of glasses.
extra sets of batteries.
portable multipleband radio (it's battery operated) will upgrade to a handcrank/solar-powered one)
2-way radio
a small blanket
playing cards
Phone and charger
laptop and charger
Tablet and charger

I'm currently looking into getting a few supplies to add on to my primary bug out bag, such as a portable stove, some sort of water purification system, and a survival knife.

I'm pretty sure I'm leaving stuff out, but you kind of get the idea here. Putting together your first bug out bag is a great jumping off point to get into the prepper mindset because it' a self-contained, personalized way of focusing on the essentials.

I'd love to hear from all of you new preppers out there, do share your experiences.

Next post in the new prepper series is about bugging in. Until then, be safe.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September is National Preparedness Month

Earthquake in the east coast, Hurricane Irene, and Wildfires of Central Texas - all happened in less than a month's time. The truth is you just never know when something like that will happen again. It's not just about the larger scale events that we all need to prepare for - it's the daily emergencies as well.

We saw people buying useless things like ice cream, seafood, and flatscreen TVs a day before hurricane Irene was supposed to hit. Obviously, not a wise choice. Did they not think the power might be out? How would they keep up with news? They were better off getting non-perishables (canned food), and a battery/solar-powered/crank-powered multiple band radio.

Hey, I'm new at this too. The amount of info available online is immense. Just take it one step at a time and get your family involved. More than likely, everything you need to pack a Go Bag / Bug out bag is already available to you in your own home.

Some basics that I've learned (I'll develop a post for each one, keep an eye out for it)

1) Have a go bag ready also known as a bug out bag. - the contents will vary and keep it relevant to what you really need, please keep any special medical needs in mind)

2) Stockpile supplies at home. - flashlights, batteries, water (both for drinking and hygienic purposes), food that has a long shelf life, first aid kit, etc.

3) Prep your ride - have a car/motorcycle/RV? Keep it well-equipped with a bag or box of supplies as well.

4) Plan for your pets too!

5) Keep a centralized location for your important documents and IDs.

Additional sites to get more info:

Your state/area usually has a good website to inform and assist you with preparedness stuff - Google is your friend. =)

For example, here's the NYC page for my neck of the woods.
NYC preparedness page

That's it for now. Next post - more about bug out bags.