Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Open letter to all gun rights activists.

1) There are basically two functions to gun ownership, self-defense against criminal violence and organized defense against government tyranny. If the 2nd amendment was written to ensure people's ability to defend against tyranny, shouldn't ordinary people be able to own grenades, automatic heavy weapons, artillery, tanks, fighter jets, and gun ships? It's hard to stand up to a US military junta with just semiautomatic M16s.

2) I think the phrase "criminals will ALWAYS get guns" is false. Strict weapon control on "military grade" weapons makes it very hard to criminals to get any heavy firearm, bazooka, or grenades. If we declare all firearms to be in the category of "military grade" weapon and make REAL concerted effort to control them, then we can pretty much make sure that criminals don't get guns.

3) Under the assumption that gun control can keep most guns out of criminal's hands, then the only validity to owning firearms is self-defense against government tyranny. It's true that superseding your right to own firearms makes it easier for government to abuse its power. Shouldn't we weigh this against the risk of big criminals (terrorists & school shooters) getting ahold of dangerous weapons?

The crux of the argument is whether people are willing to reign in some of their personal freedom and transfer that to state control. But isn't that what organized society is about? We relinquish our natural freedoms (like the free ability to kill someone) to establish a set of rules that can maximize everyone's utility.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Philosophy of Science, Google, and Machine Learning in Information Age


This is a blog article that argues for the end of deductive science. With the amount of information available on the internet, the author Chris Anderson argues that simple model built upon mountains of information can generalize much better than complex causal relationships. He calls this the Petabyte Age and uses example from TextRunner project, Google AdSense, and Google Translation.
Is this the end of deductive science?
On a related note, check out this notion of "transductive science" pioneered by Vladimir Vapnik.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Google Tech Talks

It's an awesome channel on YouTube.

machine learning + computer vision at the Royal Institution Christmas Lecture

Bunch of kids can play a racing game by leaning left and right. Very cool.

Part of the 2008 Royal Institution Christmas Lecture "Hi-Tech Trek"

Friday, 17 April 2009

Infinity QX4 audio repair

Been meaning to post these photos.
A while back, the cd changer on my parents' 2001 Infinity QX4 jammed and we decided to get a new GPS audio navigation system. The unit I settled on was Pioneer AVIC-F700BT along with a bunch of accessories from Crutchfield.com.
The process wasn't that hard. The most critical component was this Scosche audio connector adapter (also called a harness). It allows you to connect Nissan audio cables to your Pioneer unit. I guess the overall process is:
1. Get rid of your old unit.
2. Hook up the harness. The Nissan cables all have tiny letters written on the plastic to indicate their functionality. Make sure you connect the AMP wire correctly according to the instruction manual.
3. Hook up the microphone to some place convenient.
4. Put the GPS antenna on the dash board.
5. You can leave the parking break and reverse signal wires from your Pioneer unit unconnected. Only connect the reverse signal if you're using a back-up cam.
By the way, I also bought an Audiovox back-up camera but couldn't get it to work :(
Here are some photos.

Art vs. entertainment

If you look at every form of human expression, writing, music, film, drawing/painting, it is always divided into an "art/independent" stream and a "blockbuster/commercial" stream. You get movies like 007, Air Force One, American Pie against the more "thinking" films such as John Adams, documentaries, Britney Spears vs. Aaron Copland, John Grisham vs. Toni Morrison, and Japanese comic vs. Yoko Ono. Provided there is a small area of intersection.
I think this division comes from the purpose behind expression. Some pieces are created with entertainment as its ultimate objective while others are motivated by inquisition and enlightenment of the human condition.
Good "overlaps" in my humble opinion are films like Munich, Traffic, and Platoon.

Why not invade another country to rob their money?

Interesting topic came up at a random conversation in school today. Country A will invade country B to rob their art gallery, industry, precious metal, but never their domestic currency? Ever wondered why?
That's because country B's currency would be utterly devalued on the international market during the invasion that the domestic currency would be equivalent to piles of paper.