29 November 2003

Map of the cyber-world

Among subjects that challenge the imagination for how to display it graphically, the Internet would certainly be a top contender for one of the most difficult.

I was intrigued by this story in New Scientist about a project to map the Internet. You can see a recent map here (a perfectly 700 x 700 pixel graphic). A much larger (as in, don't you even think of clicking without a very fast connection) map is here (this is a 4096 x 4096 pixel image). The homepage for this project is http://www.opte.org.

I'm not sure quite yet of how this adds to my knowledge of the Internet. It does change my view of the Internet, however, by making it beautiful visually, not just conceptually.

I do look forward to the project developing the ability to pinpoint your own website, so I can say, "Hey! I can see my webpage from here!"

25 November 2003

Where’d it go?!

So here it is, a day with very little teaching, one phone interview (done), so I went into my lab and started to set up to do an experiment. I went down the hall to get some ice...

And the flipping ice machine is gone! Blast it! Apparently, it was taken away this time because it was leaking.

I am persevering and trying to continue with the experiment.

16 November 2003

Approaching 40...

Not me... Well, me too, I suppose, but this entry’s title is in reference one of my favourite shows. Doctor Who debuted 23 November 1963. Doctor Who's 40th anniversary story is, perhaps appropriately, only on the internet. It’s called “Scream of the Shalka,” and you can watch it here. They’ve done animated stories on the ‘Net before for Doctor Who, but they’ve picked up the animation quality for this one. This time, the mouths actually move! And characters blink! Definitely worth a look.


Was planning on spending today in the lab trying to get equipment running, but the number I did on my lower back means that I’m largely reduced to sitting in one place quietly. Not conducive to lab work, which requires movement.

15 November 2003

Hopping mad

Still mad. You know how when you get really angry, you get a little more energetic than you should, because you really want to punch something but can’t? Well, yesterday, I was starting a lecture, and jumped down the stairs – and landed bad. I messed up my back, which is still sore and spasming a little today.

And the moral of the story is: Don’t get mad. (Unfortunately, I can’t get even, as I'm mad about something that’s happening to colleagues, rather than me.)

Despite that, I think I gave kick-butt lectures that morning. I was pretty energetic despite the bad back. I think the bad back was about the only thing keeping me from going ballistic yesterday.

13 November 2003

Very bad day

Bad day here. Very angry about something being done to a colleague. Ready to pick up chair and fling it at university administrators. Seriously considering looking for new gig.

And had a zit on my lip.

09 November 2003

Good night, Dr. Griffin, where ever you are...

One of researcher I never had a chance to meet, but wish I had, died Friday: Don Griffin. His primary claim to fame was that he discovered how bats are able to navigate in the dark: namely, through echolocation. Prior to that, I’ve heard that people seriously suggested that bats were clairvoyant, because they couldn't figure out how they did this.

Now, let me play James Burke and show the connections between that discovery and my own career. Don Griffin, working with Robert Galambos, discovers bat echolocation. Following this discovery, Ken Roeder observed that moths behaved differently when echolocating bats were around. Later, one of his students, one Dorothy Paul, published two papers in Journal of Insect Physiology on the nervous system of noctuid moths. Dorothy Paul was my supervisor for my doctoral work.

But there's a second connection. Having found that moths were specifically listening for echolocating bats, other insects were found to be able to hear those ultrasonic cries. Crickets were one of those species, and a large part of my first post-doctoral position (with Gerald Pollack) was researching some of the auditory interneurons in crickets that respond to bat-like ultrasound.

So, the late Don Griffin is sort of an intellectual great-grandfather.

Another reason Griffin was someone I wanted to meet was that he was a thoughtful writer. In the last couple of decades, he wrote many articles and books on the prospect that we could scientifically study the minds of other species. He was one of the founders of the field now called “cognitive ethology.” And I should note that he was doing this at a time when many scientists have retired.

If an afterlife existed, I would hope that Dr. Griffin would finally have a chance to enjoy retirement.

07 November 2003

The new catalogue in the post

My parents used to make a living selling as a distributor for Eaton’s, a Canadian retailer famous for their catalogues. The Christmas catalogue was particular fun to look forward to, as a kid, because there were all the cool toys. What was a little different from how many catalogues are done now is that you took a form to a local distributor who placed the order, which was then shipped back to the distributor. Very personal sort of interaction. Eaton’s had stores in big cities, but even in the big cities, people knew about Eaton’s catalogue.

Eaton’s had been in business for decades, and it was a real shock when they closed up shop. This precipitated one of many career changes for my parents, who were pioneers in life-long learning. Let me tell you, the idea of “you’ll have several careers in your lifetime” isn’t a new idea in my household.

Now, of course, the Internet has filled the niche that catalogues used to. But in case you needed living proof of just how far removed mailouts are from human involvement, read this short article here.

02 November 2003

Work in progress

Snapped this quick picture as I was walking into work the other morning of the big, big crane being used to build together the Regional Academic Health Center.

T’will be a lovely building. The question remains, though, as to who will work in it.