3D Modeling The World Around You

For a long time now I’ve wanted to write a computer program which can take a film of me roaming around town and automatically produce a 3D model of the area based on the film footage alone.   I found a video on Youtube where researchers did just that.

Isn’t that awesome?  I can write code which can do this same thing, but what I’m now wanting to know is how to separate objects one from another.  For example, your mind would automatically separate the statue, sidewalk, and buildings all as separate things.  To this computer algorithm, it’s all connected and it’s just one stream of points located in space.  It doesn’t “know” what those points represent.  It doesn’t say, “This block of points over here represents the civil engineering building, these other ones a statue, whereas these over here are the sidewalk extending toward the central park.”

The more I’ve looked into this problem, the more difficult it becomes.   For example, how would an algorithm know that the ramp in front of a building is a part of the building, or just a structure nearby?  How would it know to group them together?  It’d have to know the purpose of ramps, and know that humans with disabilities need those in order to get inside the building.  Knowing how to separate the world out into objects will be really complicated, requiring a deep understanding of humans, their desires, and how the world works.  It would require learning about objects and what role they play in life.  That takes the problem to a whole new level.  I still have a lot to learn about how our mind works, but I’m making progress!

America’s A Police State

Let’s all admit it.  Let’s stop the denial and look at what’s really going on.  Unless you’ve had your head in the sand, you’ve probably realized that ever since this “War On Terror” began, our civil liberties and freedoms have been rather rapidly eroding away.  Probably the single most important provision to a system of justice is due process.  Your charges are openly brought against you, you’re innocent until proven guilty, you’re brought before a jury of your peers to defend yourself, you have a right to an attorney, and so on.   Well take a look at this:

The Senate voted Tuesday to keep a controversial provision to let the military detain terrorism suspects on U.S. soil and hold them indefinitely without trial — prompting White House officials to reissue a veto threat.

The measure, part of the massive National Defense Authorization Act, was also opposed by civil libertarians on the left and right. But 16 Democrats and an independent joined with Republicans to defeat an amendment by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) that would have killed the provision, voting it down with 61 against, and 37 for it.

“I’m very, very, concerned about having U.S. citizens sent to Guantanamo Bay for indefinite detention,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the Senate’s most conservative members.

Paul’s top complaint is that a terrorism suspect would get just one hearing where the military could assert that the person is a suspected terrorist — and then they could be locked up for life, without ever formally being charged. The only safety valve is a waiver from the secretary of defense.

“It’s not enough just to be alleged to be a terrorist,” Paul said, echoing the views of the American Civil Liberties Union. “That’s part of what due process is — deciding, are you a terrorist? I think it’s important that we not allow U.S. citizens to be taken.”

Democrats who were also concerned about liberties compared the military policing of Americans to the detention of Americans in internment camps during World War II.

“Congress is essentially authorizing the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens, without charge,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who offered another amendment — which has not yet gotten a vote — that she said would correct the problem. “We are not a nation that locks up its citizens without charge.”

Backers of military detention of Americans — a measure crafted by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) — came out swinging against Udall’s amendment on the Senate floor earlier Tuesday.

“The enemy is all over the world. Here at home. And when people take up arms against the United States and [are] captured within the United States, why should we not be able to use our military and intelligence community to question that person as to what they know about enemy activity?” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said.

“They should not be read their Miranda Rights. They should not be given a lawyer,” Graham said. “They should be held humanely in military custody and interrogated about why they joined al Qaeda and what they were going to do to all of us.”

Source:  Huffington Post

Of course, none of this is really new.  We’ve had the Patriot Act for a while, but now they’re just wanting to push all of this police state legislation even further.  We already have a system of dealing with wrong-doers.  We already have laws in place for crimes.  There’s never a need to create a special set of laws for “terrorists”.

You know, maybe I just see this stuff so clearly because I’ve spent years of my life studying history.   I think about the old Soviet Union, North Korea, Nazi Germany, and the list goes on.  There’s a pattern to what they do.  They always use the same tactics, over and over and over.  You have to manufacture an idea of either internal or external terror.  In our case, it’s Al Qaeda and the Taliban.   Next you create secret prisons because you need to develop a separate legal system to bypass the courts and the normal rule of law.  This is the true intention behind Guantanamo Bay.  You tell the people that these special “terrorists” don’t have any rights, and after extensive propaganda campaigns you have to hammer into people’s minds fear, fear, and more fear.  That way they give up their freedoms voluntarily.  Next you need your own personal thug paramilitary caste to enforce your arbitrary rule of law.  This is what Blackwater is.  As this police state develops, huge government programs grow up to spy and police the citizens all under the guise of protecting you from “terrorists”.  I’ve already written written several blog posts about developments in this area.  You can find one I wrote about two years ago here.  They start reading your mail, they’re listening into your phone calls, they’re gaining access to your bank accounts, and so on.  They start monitoring more and more people.  Once they’ve gained a huge foothold over the system, they start arbitrarily throwing dissidents in jail, removing political enemies, and controlling the press.  In the end the entire free society as you knew it is gone and you’re left with a totalitarian dictator running the show.

Currently we’re at the step where they keep broadening  the concept as to what constitutes a “terrorist”, and continue to expand their facilities which carefully monitor the people.

Maybe I’m over-exaggerating here. Maybe there’s no need for alarm. But I can’t say that to all of you and be honest about how I feel. I’m worried.  Luckily this sort of thing isn’t being ignored.  Even guys like Jon Stewart are covering this.  Sad thing is, people just laugh about it.  It’s not funny.  When I watched this skit, I didn’t laugh at all.  I sat in terror.

Like most people, I don’t want to deal with any of this. I think, “Why is this happening to me?  Why now?  Why during my generation?”  There’s always someone wanting steal our freedom, take our money, silence our free speech, and confine us to a miserable life of poverty and toil. Like every generation, we have to stand up and stop these people from ruining everything.

The Music Of Biological Xerox Machines

When I was a teenager, I used to watch a lot of MTV and listen to the radio.  I’d go play basketball in the recreation center and inside, the radio would be playing music from Matchbox Twenty, Goo Goo Dolls, and Third Eye Blind.   Good memories and good times!  I’d spend hours in the gym shooting around, listening away while I practiced my jumpshot.  But even then, I couldn’t help but wonder why nearly every song dealt with the same set of topics.  They’re always about love, relationships, attracting a lover, mating rituals (hand holding, grooming, fitness displays, etc), reputations, showing off resources, status, dealing with rejection, dealing with infidelity, sex appeal, and so on.   At the time I never could understood why, but after studying evolutionary psychology many years later, it was almost obvious why this is the case.  But as a young man, love never played a large role in my life, so it was always hard to understand.  I was primarily interested in computers, business, and later, science.  It just baffled my teenage mind that the only thing people could think about was sex and relationships.  Not that I’m against either.  It just seemed to me that there should be more running through someone’s mind than just those things.

I’ve always wanted to do a study on this, sifting through a long list of popular music in hopes to prove I’m not crazy.  Turns out researchers at the University of Albany did this very study and they found just what I expected:  90% of all popular music covers themes related to love and reproduction.

… Of the songs that made it into the Top Ten on 2009 Billboard charts, over 90% featured embedded, evolutionarily relevant reproductive messages. These included references to sexual intercourse, body parts, promiscuity, infidelity, sex appeal, and rejection.

Country songs contained an average of 5.9 different reproductive messages per song, with the most frequent being about parenting, commitment, rejection, and fidelity assurance. Pop songs contained 8.7 reproductive references per song, where sex appeal, reputation, short-term mating strategies, and fidelity assurance were the most common. For R&B there were 16.7 reproductive messages per song, with sex appeal, resources, sex acts, and status being the most prevalent.

A further analysis showed that across all three charts, popular songs that made it into the Top Ten contained significantly more reproductive messages than those that failed to rise to the top of the charts.

Source:  Journal of Evolutionary Psychology

Fascinating.  So what were the messages they were looking for?  I found the criteria they used instructive, so I’ll list them all out for you now.  These categories are what you’ll find in nearly all popular music.

1.  Genitalia

Any explicit, implicit, implied or slang reference to genitalia.

2.  Other Body Parts

References to any other body part other than genitalia, including waist to hip ratios and shoulder to hip ratios.

3. Courtship/Long Term Mating Strategies

References to dating, handholding, and other sincere courtship displays and overtures.

4. Hook Up/Short Term Mating Strategies

References to short-term mating strategies such as “hooking up” and overt solicitations for short term relationships.

5.  Foreplay/Arousal/Sex Act Precursors

Any reference to kissing, fondling or undressing, as well as physiological precursors to intercourse.

6. Sex Act

Any explicit, implicit, implied or slang reference to sexual intercourse.

7.  Sexual Prowess

References to stamina, sex drive or other sexually related skills and/or bragging of such.

8.  Promiscuity/Reputation/Derogation

Includes references to promiscuity, as well as negative reputational references, attempts to defame another person’s reputation or make negative social comparisons.

9.  Sequestering/Mate Guarding

Keeping tabs on a mate, watching, guarding, tracking and/or isolating a mate.  Also includes references to privacy, secrecy, and isolation for the purpose of intercourse.

10.  Fidelity Assurance/Abandonment Prevention

Questions or statements to assess the fidelity of a mate.  Seeking information to ascertain the commitment of a mate and prevent abandonment/cuckoldry.

11.  Commitment and Fidelity

References to dedication, sincerity and long term commitments to a relationship such as marriage, boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, and husband or committed other.  Also includes honest courtship signals such as diamond rings which indicate a committed relationship.

12.  Resources

Any reference to luxury items, cars, money, or things that denote resources.

13. Status

References to a person’s high standing in society; VIP status, being referred to as the “boss” or a “rockstar” or other high ranking person.

14. Mate Provisioning

Use of status or resources specifically to protect/retain a mate.

15. Appearance Enhancement/Sex Appeal

Grooming, physical appearance, general attractiveness, fitness displays and/or signals, or references to any visual /physical aspect of a potential mate.

16. Rejection

References to divorce, breakups, broken hearts, or discord within the context of a pairbond relationship.

17.  Infidelity/Cheater Detection/Mate Poaching

References to cheating, extrapair copulations, suspicions of infidelity, stealing another person’s mate, or paternal uncertainty.

18.  Parenting

Includes any reference to parenting, child-rearing, or desire for children.  Also includes references to grandparents and grandchildren.

If you want to read the research paper itself, you can find it here.

I often see news articles poking fun at us men, saying we’re obsessed with sex, thinking about it once every hour.  I don’t think it’s fair to say that it’s just us men though.  This type of thinking is ubiquitous among both sexes.  We’ve evolved here on planet Earth as DNA replication machines.  Our bodies want to replicate and make copies of themselves, so finding a mate is imperative.  Most of what our brains think about is securing a mate, creating successful copies of ourselves, and making sure those copies survive and flourish.  Then we all carefully watch as the copies try to make even more copies before we pass on, and such is life.