Sunday, January 30, 2011

陳士齊 vs 蕭若元


蕭若元怒插陳士齊 (風也蕭蕭 2010-12-01)

陳士齊再批評蕭若元 (廢人勿語 2010-12-04)

蕭若元再講陳士齊 (風也蕭蕭12-06-2010 13:10-24:02)


英國港移民商人林建邦競投退役航空母艦「無敵號」失敗,輸給土耳其一間出價較低的拆船廠。林建邦出價高達 4,000萬人民幣,比原估價高出一倍,但英國軍方卻指他的標書「資料不全」,外界歸咎事件可能與政治因素有關。

The origin of Spacewar

This article is reprinted from the August, 1981 issue of Creative Computing magazine. Creative's policy at the time allowed reprinting of articles in newsletters and nonprofit publications provided this notice was reproduced:

Copyright © 1981 by Creative Computing, 39 E. Hanover Ave., Morris Plains, NJ 07950. Sample issue $2.50, 12-issue subscription $20.

(but they went out of business in 1985, so there's not much point in writing off for your sample issue).

The Lensman, The Skylark, and the Hingham Institute
It's Kimball Kinnison's fault. And Dick Seaton's. Without the Gray Lensman and the Skylark of Space there would be nothing to write about. So most of the blame falls on E. E. Smith, but the Toho Film Studios and the American Research and Development Corp. have something to answer for as well. If Doc Smith had been content designing doughnuts, if American-International Pictures had stuck to beach blanket flicks, if (most of all) General Doriot hadn't waved money in front of Ken Olsen in 1957, the world might yet be free of Spacewar!

It all came together in 1961 at the Hingham Institute, a barely-habitable tenement on Hingham Street in Cambridge, MA. Three Institute Fellows were involved: Wayne Witanen, mathematician, early music buff, and mountain climber; J. Martin Graetz (which is me), man of no fixed talent who tended to act superior because he was already a Published Author; and Stephen R. (Slug) Russell, specialist in steam trains, trivia, and artificial intelligence. We were all about 25 (the more or less to be the same).

At the time, we were crashing and banging our way through the "Skylark" and "Lensman" novels of Edward E. Smith, PhD., a cereal chemist who wrote with the grace and refinement of a pneumatic drill. These stories are pretty much all of a piece: after some preliminary foofaraw to get everyone's name right, a bunch of overdeveloped Hardy Boys go trekking off through the universe to punch out the latest gang of galactic goons, blow up a few planets, kill all sorts of nasty life forms, and just have a heck of a good time.

In a pinch, which is where they usually were, our heroes could be counted on to come up with a complete scientific theory, invent the technology to implement it, build the tools to implement the technology, and produce the (usually) weapons to blow away the baddies, all while being chased in their spaceship hither and thither through the trackless wastes of the galaxy (he wrote like that) by assorted Fenachrone, Boskonians, and the World Steel Corporation.

Is that enough to turn the mind to margarine? It is not. In breaks between books, we would be off to one of Boston's seedier cinemas to view the latest trash from Toho. In the days before Mazdas and Minoltas, the Japanese (and occasionally the British and Californians) churned out a steady diet of cinematic junk food of which Rodan and Godzilla are only the best known examples. These movies depended for their effects on high quality modelwork, oceans of rays, beams, and explosions, and the determined avoidance of plot, character, or significance. They were the movie equivalent of The Skylark of Space.

If that's the case, we asked ourselves, why doesn't anyone make Skylark movies? Hearing no reply (our innocence of current film technology, economics, and copyright laws was enormous), we often passed the time in the Hingham Street common room in deep wishful thought, inventing special effects and sequences for a grand series of space epics that would never see a sound stage. Nonetheless, these books, movies, and bull-sessions established the mind-set that eventually led to Spacewar!

When Computers Were Gods
In early 1961 Wayne, Slug, and I, by no coincidence, were all working at Harvard University's Littauer Statistical laboratory. A large part of our jobs was to run statistics computations for various Harvard persons. The agent of choice for this work was an IBM 704.

To a generation whose concept of a computer is founded on the Z80 chip, it may be hard to visualize a 704 or to comprehend the place it held in the public imagination (along with UNIVAC) as the type specimen of what a computer was: a collection of mysterious hulking gray cabinets approachable only through the intercession of The Operator. In the specially built computer room, The Operator set switches, pushed buttons, and examined panels of flashing lights, while his Assistants attended various whirring, clanking, and chattering devices, rushing to and fro with stacks of cryptically-printed paper, decks of weirdly-punched cards, and reels of recondite brown ribbon, all to the background hum of The Machine. Add a little incense and a few candles, and you could be forgiven for thinking these were the rites of some oracular shrine.

Everything about the 704, from the inscrutable main frame to the glowing tubes (yes, tubes!) in the glass-walled core memory case, proclaimed that this was a Very Complicated System operated only by Specially Trained Personnel, among whom programmers and other ordinary mortals were not numbered. In short, a computer was something that you simply did not sit down and fool around with.

A Stone's Throw from Olympus
In the summer if 1961 I went to work for Professor Jack B. Dennis, who was then the proprietor of the TX-0, a machine that to me was only slightly less legendary than its ancestor, Whirlwind. The TX-0 was transistorized, and while solid-state computers were beginning to appear on the market, the "Tixo" was the original. Even in 1961 it was acknowledged to be a historically important research facility; many of the programs developed on the TX-0, such as Jack Dennis's MACRO assembler and Thomas Stockham's FLIT debugging program, were the first of their kind. So the chance to work on this computer was in many ways a rite of passage; it mean that I had joined the ranks of the Real Programmers.

While hardly your average populist Apple, the TX-0 was definitely a step away from the Computer-as-Apollo. Instead of being sealed into its own special chapel, it sat at one end of a typical large, messy MIT research space. With its racks of exposed circuitry, power supplies and meters, and its long, low L-shaped console, the TX-0 looked for all the world like the control room of a suburban pumping station. And the thing of it was, you were expected to run it yourself.

So here was the former 704 Operator's Assistant pushing buttons, flipping switches, and pressing keys to make his own programs work. In some ways it was simpler than the 704; for one thing, there wasn't a battery of clanking mechanical monsters. The TX-0's input and output medium was something called a Flexowriter: an all-in-one keyboard, printer, paper-tape reader and punch, that worked like a mule and had a personality to match. There was also a "high-speed" paper tape reader, a Grand Prix whiz that could read programs into memory almost as fast as the cassette-tape reader on a TRS-80.

And the TX-0 had a Scope. Now console-mounted, programmable CRTs were not unheard of at that time but they were generally slow, inflexible, and awkward to program. The TX-0 scope, on the other hand, was easy to use; you could generate a useful display with fewer than a dozen instructions. And if that weren't enough, there was a magic wand: the light pen. (The importance of these two devices can't be overemphasized; Ivan Sutherland used the scope and the pen to develop his original "Sketchpad.")

That was the TX-0, the world's first on-line computer, and the training ground for the designers and programmers of later generations of hands-on machines. The first computer bums -- hackers -- were the products of this training; without it, and them, there would have been no Spacewar!

Tixo's people
The users of the TX-0 were a melange of students, staff researchers and professors with not much in common other than their need for large amounts of largely unstructured computer time. The feel of the place, however, was established by the hackers -- mostly students, but including a professor or two -- whose lives seemed to be organized in 18-bit strings. Many of them worked for Professors John McCarthy and Marvin Minsky in the Artificial Intelligence Group, an odd bunch (even by MIT standards) who seemed convinced that given enough random-access memory and a really fast cycle time you could model the cognitive parts of the brain and hey presto! a real thinking machine. Others worked for Professor Dennis, who presided over the use and development of the TX-0 and more or less benignly kept a semblance of order. The man who kept it all running was a soft-spoken, white-haired gentleman, John McKenzie, the chief engineer.

Out of this cloud of computer bums emerged the group that brought Spacewar! to the silver (well, light gray) screen: Dan Edwards (AI Group), Lisp specialist; Alan Kotok (TX-0 staff), who wrote MIDAS, the successor to MACRO; Peter Sampson (AI Group), who made the Tixo and PDP-1 play Bach; and Steve Russell and I.

"You Mean That's All It Does?"
When computers were still marvels, people would flock to watch them still at work whenever the opportunity arose. They were usually disappointed. Whirring tapes and clattering card readers can hold one's interest for only so long. They just did the same dull thing over and over; besides, they were obviously mechanical -- at best, overgrown record changers -- and thus not mysterious. The main frame, which did all the marvelous work, just sat there. There was nothing to see.

On the other hand, something is always happening on a TV screen, which is why people stare at them for hours. On MIT's annual Open House day, for example, people came to stare for hours at Whirlwind's CRT screen. What did they stare at? Bouncing Ball.

Bouncing Ball may be the very first computer-CRT demonstration program. It didn't do much: a dot appeared at the top of the screen, fell to the bottom and bounced (with a "thok" from the console speaker). It bounced off the sides and floor of the displayed box, gradually losing momentum until it hit the floor and rolled off the screen through a hole in the bottom line. And that's all. Pong was not even an idea in 1960. (Note: Well, maybe not Pong, but something very much like it. Watch these pages. --DHA)

The TX-0's counterpart to Bouncing Ball was the Mouse in the Maze, written by Douglas T. Ross and John E. Ward. Essentially, it was a short cartoon: a stylized mouse searched through a rectangular maze until it found a piece of cheese which it then ate, leaving a few crumbs. You constructed the maze and placed the cheese (or cheeses -- you could have more than one) with the light pen. A variation replaced the cheese with a martini; after drinking the first one the mouse would stagger to the next.

Besides the Mouse, the TX-0 also had HAX, which displayed changing patterns according to the settings of two console switch registers. Well-chosen settings could produce interesting shapes or arrangements of dots, sometimes accompanied by amusing sounds from the console speaker. The console speaker is a phenomenon whose day seems to have passed. More than just a plaything, for the experienced operator the speaker was a valuable guide to the condition of a running program.

Finally, there was the inevitable Tic-Tac-Toe, with the user playing the computer. The TX-0 version used the Flexowriter rather than the scope. (The game is so simple to analyze that there was even a version for the off-line Flexo.)

These four programs pointed the way. Bouncing Ball was a pure demonstration: you pushed the button, and it did all the rest. The mouse was more fun, because you could make it different every time. HAX was a real toy; you could play with it while it was running and make it change on the fly. And Tic-Tac-Toe was an actual game, however simpleminded. The ingredients were there; we just needed an idea.

The World's First Toy Computer
For all its homeliness, the TX-0 was still very much a god. It took up lots of space, it had to be carefully tended, it took special procedures to start it up and shut it down, and it cost a lot of money to build.

All this changed in the fall of 1961, when the first production-model PDP-1 was installed in the "Kluge Room" next door to the TX-0. It had been anticipated for months; an early brochure announcing the machine (as well as a couple of no-shows called the PDP-2 and PDP-3, in case you had been wondering about that) had been circulating in the area for a while. It was clear that the PDP-1 had TX-0 genes; the hackers would be right at home.

The -1 would be faster than the Tixo, more compact, and available. It was the first computer that did not require one to have an E.E. degree and the patience of Buddha to start it up in the morning; you could turn it on any time by flipping one switch, and when you were finished you could turn it off. We had never seen anything like that before.

The Hingham Institute Study Group On Space Warfare
Long before the PDP-1 [original says PDP-11, an obvious typo] was up and running Wayne, Slug, and I had formed a sort of ad-hoc committee on what to do with it -- it being the Type 30 Precision CRT display which was scheduled to be installed a couple of months after the computer itself. It was clear from the start that while the Ball and Mouse and HAX were clever and amusing, they really weren't very good as demonstration programs. Why not? Zooming across the galaxy with our Bergenholm Inertialess Drive, the Hingham Institute Study Group on Space Warfare devised its Theory of Computer Toys. A good demonstration program ought to satisfy three criteria:

1. It should demonstrate as many of the computer's resources as possible, and tax those resources to the limit;
2. Within a consistent framework, it should be interesting, which means every run should be different;
3. It should involve the onlooker in a pleasurable and active way -- in short, it should be a game.
With the Fenachrone hot on our ion track, Wayne said, "Look, you need action and you need some kind of skill level. It should be a game where you have to control things moving around on the scope, like, oh, spaceships. Something like an explorer game, or a race or contest... a fight, maybe?"

"SPACEWAR!" shouted Slug and I, as the last force screen flared into the violet and went down.

The basic rules developed quickly. There would be at least two spaceships, each controlled by a set of console switches ("Gee, it would be nice to have a joystick or something like that..."). The ships would have a supply of rocket fuel and some sort of a weapon: a ray or beam, possibly a missile. For really hopeless situations, a panic button would be nice... hmmm... aha! Hyperspace! (What else, after all, is there?) And that, pretty much, was that.

The Hackers Meet SPACEWAR!
By the end of the summer of 1961, Steve Russell had returned to the Artificial Intelligence Group (he'd worked there before Littauer); consequently, whatever ideas the Study Group came up with were soon circulating among the hackers. Spacewar! was an appealing, simple concept, and the hackers were the appealingly simple people to bring it to life. First, however, there was the small matter of software.

The PDP-1 was a no-frills machine at the beginning; except for a few diagnostic and utility routines, there was no program library. In a way this suited the hackers just fine; here was a chance to improve on TX-0 software and to write new stiff that couldn't have been done before. MACRO and FLIT were translated from TXish to PDPese, FLIT becoming the first in a continuing line of DDT on-line debugging programs. Steve Piner wrote a text display and editing program called Expensive Typewriter (For a while, "expensive" was a favorite adjective for naming various PDP-1 routines that imitated the functions of more mundane devices. Among them was Peter Samson's E. Planetarium, as we shall see.), another original whose lineage you can trace, if you like, right down to the latest word processors.

With the software taken care of we could write real programs, which is to say toys. Bouncing Ball was successfully converted to PDP-1 use, but HAX, for some reason, was not. But no one really missed it, because we had a brand-new toy invented by Professor Marvin Minsky. The program displayed three dots which proceeded to "interact," weaving various patterns on the scope face. As with HAX, the initializing constants were set in the console switches. Among the patterns were geometric displays, Lissajous-like figures, and "fireworks." Minsky's program title was something like "Tri-Pos: Three-Position Display," but from the beginning we never called it anything but The Minskytron ("tron" was the In suffix of the early 1960s.)

The classic needle and wedge space ship outlines and the opposite-quadrant starting positions were established at this stage, as shown in Figure 1. Acceleration was realistic; it took time to get off the mark, and to slow down you had to reverse the ship and blast in the other direction; the rocket exhaust was a flickering "fiery tail." Rotation, on the other hand, was by something we called "gyros" -- a sort of flywheel effect invented to avoid consideration of messy things like moments of inertia. I guess they were really rotational Bergenholms.


Figure 1. The Starting Position. The ships are in the centers of diagonally opposite quadrants. The vee of stars at top center is the horns of Taurus. You should be able to pick out the stars of Orion at the left (the bright star just above the wedge-ship is Rigel).

It was apparent almost immediately that the featureless background was a liability. It was hard to gauge relative motion; you couldn't tell if the ships were drifting apart or together when they were moving slowly. What we needed, obviously, were some stars. Russell wrote in a random display of dots, and the quality of play improved. The only thing left, we thought, was hyperspace, and that was on the way. In fact, we'd just begun.

Please keep in mind that what follows did not happen in a neat first-one-thing-and-then-the next progression, but rather all at once in a period of about six weeks. When hackers are aroused, anything that can happen will.

The Control Boxes
Spacewar! worked perfectly well from the test word switches on the console, except that the CRT was off to one side, so one player had a visual advantage. More to the point, with two excitable space warriors jammed into a space meant for one reasonably calm operator, damage to the equipment was a constant threat. At the very least, a jittery player could miss the torpedo switch and hit the start lever, obliterating the universe in one big anti-bang. A separate control device was obviously necessary, but joysticks (our original idea) were not readily available in 1962. So Alan Kotok and Robert A. Saunders, who just happened to be members of the Tech Model Railroad Club, trundled off to the TMRC room, scrabbled around the layout for a while to find odd bits of wood, wire, bakelite, and switch-board hardware, and when the hammering and sawing and soldering had ceased, there on the CRT table were the first Spacewar! control boxes (Figure 2. These boxes have long since disappeared, but the sketch is a reasonably accurate reconstruction).


Figure 2. The original control boxes looked something like this. The controls are a) right-left rotation, b) acceleration (pulled back) and hyperspace (pulled forward), and c) torpedo button.

The box is wood with a Bakelite top. The two switches are double-throw; the button is a silent momentary switch. Their functions are as follows:

a. Rotation control.
It is pushed to the left to rotate the ship counterclockwise, to the right to rotate clockwise.
b. A two-function control.
Pulled back it is the rocket accelerator; the rocket continues to blast as long as the switch is thrown. Pushed forward, the switch is the hyperspace control, as described below.
c. The torpedo button.
It had to be silent so that your opponent could not tell when you were trying to fire. (There was a fixed delay between shots "to allow the torp tubes to cool" and fire was not automatic; you had to keep pushing the button to get off a missile.)
With the control boxes, players could sit comfortably apart, each with a clear view of the screen. That, plus the carefully designed layout of the controls, improved ones playing skills considerably, making the game even more fun.

First Steps
By the end of 1961, all the elements were in place: a brand new, available computer, a cloud of hackers, tolerant when not actively implicated employers, and an exciting idea. Slug Russell was getting the head from everyone to "do something" about Spacewar! (I was in a different department at MIT by this time, and Wayne, alas, was one of those unlucky Army Reservists called to active duty during the Berlin Wall panic in October. He never got to participate in developing his own idea.)

Russell, never one to "do something" when there was an alternative, begged off for one reason or another. One of the excuses for not doing it, Slug remembers, was "Oh, we don't have a sine-cosine routine and gee, I don't know how to write a sine-cosine routine..." Then Alan Kotok came back from a trip all the way to Maynard (DEC headquarters) with paper tapes saying "All right, Russell, here's a sine-cosine routine; now what's your excuse?" "Well," says Slug, "I looked around and I didn't find an excuse, so I had to settle down and do some figuring."

With the heavy mathematics in hand, Slug produced the first object-in-motion program in January 1962. This was nothing more than a dot which could accelerate and change direction under switch control. Even without a hardware multiply-divide capability (on the early PDP-1s, anything stiffer than integer addition and subtraction had to be done by subroutine) the computer was clearly not being pushed.

From dot to rocket ship was a surprisingly easy step: "I realized," Slug says, "that I didn't have to worry about the speed of the sine-cosine routine, because there were only two angles involved in each frame -- one for each ship. Then the idea of rotating the grid came out." The ship outlines were represented as a series of direction codes starting from the nose of the ship; when the ship was vertical and tail-down, each code pointed to one of the five possible adjacent dots could be displayed next. To display the ship at an angle, Russell calculated the appropriate sine and cosine and added them to the original direction code constants, in effect rotating the entire grid. With this method, the ship's angle had to be calculated only once in each display frame. The outline codes were kept in a table so that different shapes could be tried out at will, but this meant the table had to be searched every frame to generate the outline. As the game developed, this arrangement proved to be a sticking point which we shall see was neatly solved by Dan Edwards.
By February, the first game was operating. It was a barebones model: just the two ships, a supply of fuel, and a store of "torpedoes" -- points of light fired from the nose of the ship. Once launched, a torpedo was a ballistic missile, zooming along until it either hit something (more precisely, until it got within a minimum distance of a ship or another torpedo) or its "time fuse" caused it to self-destruct.

The Stars of the Heavens
One of the forces driving the dedicated hacker is the quest for elegance. It is not sufficient to write programs that work. They must also be "elegant," either in code or in function -- both, if possible. An elegant program does its job as fast as possible, or is as compact as possible, or is as clever as possible in taking advantage of the particular features of the machine in which it runs, and (finally) produces its results in an aesthetically pleasing form without compromising either the results or operation of other programs associated with it.

"Peter Samson," recalls Russell, "was offended by my random stars." In other words, while a background of miscellaneous points of light might be all very well for some run-down jerkwater space fleet, it just wouldn't do for the Galactic Patrol. So Peter Samson sat down and wrote "Expensive Planetarium."

Using data from the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac, Samson encoded the entire night sky (down to just above fifth magnitude) between 22 1/2 ° N and 22 1/2 ° S, thus including most of the familiar constellations. The display can remain fixed or move gradually from right to left, ultimately displaying the entire culinder [cylinder?] of stars. The elegance does not stop there. By firing each display point the appropriate number of times, Samson was able to produce a display that showed the stars at something close to their actual relative brightness. An attractive demonstration program in its own right, E.P. was "duly admired and inhaled into Spacewar!"

The Heavy Star
Up to this point, Spacewar! was heavily biased towards motor skills and fast reflexes, with strategy counting for very little. Games tended to become nothing more than wild shootouts, which was exciting but ultimately unrewarding. Some sort of equalizer was called for.

Russell: "Dan Edwards was offended by the plain spaceships, and felt that gravity should be introduced. I pleaded innocence of numerical analysis and other things" -- in other words, here's the whitewash brush and there's a section of fence -- "so Dan put in the gravity calculations."

The star blazed forth from the center of the screen, its flashing rays a clear warning that it was not to be trifled with. Its gravity well encompassed all space; no matter where you were, if you did not move you would be drawn into the sun and destroyed. (As a gesture of good will towards less skillful or beginning players, a switch option turned annihilation into a sort of hyperstatial translation to the "anti-point," i.e., the four corners of the screen.)

The star did two things. It introduced a player-independent element that the game needed; when speeds were high and space was filled with missiles, it was often sheer luck that kept one from crashing into the star. It also brought the other elements of the game into focus by demanding strategy. In the presence of gravity both ships were affected by something beyond their control, but which a skillful player could use to advantage.

The first result of this new attention to strategy was the opening move in Figure 3, which was quickly dubbed the "CBS opening" because of its eye-like shape. It took a while to learn this maneuver but it soon became the standard opening among experienced players, as it generally produced the most exciting games.


Figure 3. The "CBS Opening." The ships turn slightly away from the star and fire a short rocket blast (note the needle-ship's exhaust) to get into a comet-type orbit, then rotate the other way to try shooting torpedoes at the opponent.

The addition of gravity pushed Spacewar! over the edge of flicker-free display. To get back under the limit, Dan Edwards devised an elegant fiddle to speed up the outline display routine.

In Russell's original program, the outline tables were examined and interpreted in every display frame, an essentially redundant operation. Edwards replaced this procedure with an outline "compiler," which examined the tables at the start of a game and compiled a short program to generate the outline for each ship. This dramatically reduced calculation time, restoring the steady display and making room for the last of the original bells and whistles.

While all this was going on, I was in my secret hideaway (then known as the Electronic Systems Lab) working on the ultimate panic button: hyperspace. The idea was that when everything else failed you could jump into the fourth dimension and disappear. As this would introduce an element of something very like magic into an otherwise rational universe, the use of hyperspace had to be hedged in some way. Our ultimate goal was a feature that, while useful, was not entirely reliable. The machinery, we said, would be the "Mark One Hyperfield Generators... hadn't done a thorough job of testing... rushed them to the fleet" and so on. They'd be good for one or two shots, but would deteriorate rapidly after that. They might not work at all ("It's not my fault, Chewie!") or if they did, your chances of coming back out intact were rather less than even. Slug: "It was something you could use, but not something you wanted to use."

The original hyperspace was not that elegant. "MK I unreliability" boiled down to this: you had exactly three jumps. In each jump your ship's co-ordinates were scrambled so that you never knew where you would reappear -- it could be in the middle of the sun. You were gone for a discernible period of time, which gave your opponent a bit of a breather, but you came back with your original velocity and direction intact. To jump you pushed the blast lever forward.

Hyperspace had one cute feature (well, I thought it was cute). Do you remember the Minskytron? One of its displays looked very much like a classical Bohr atom, which in those days was an overworked metaphor for anything to do with space and science-fiction. Reasoning that a ship entering hyperspace would cause a local distortion of space-time resulting in a warp-induced photonicstress emission (see how easy this is?), I made the disappearing ship leave behind a short Minskytron signature (Figure 4).


Figure 4. "Warp-induced photonic stress emission." The Hyperspace Minskytron signature.

Crocks and Loose Ends
In retrospect, it is remarkable that the original Spacewar! managed to include so many features, given the limitations of our PDP-1: 4K words (about 9K bytes) of memory, an instruction cycle time of five microseconds, and a subroutine multiply-divide. It's hardly surprising, then, that we had to let a few unsatisfactory (all right, inelegant) bits go by.

The most irritating of these (and the first to be improved in later versions) was the appropriately-named Crock Explosion. Something dramatic obviously had to happen when a ship was destroyed, but were were dealing with a plain dot-matrix screen. The original control program produced a random-dot burst confined within a small square whose outlines were all too discernible (Figure 5).


Figure 5. The Crock Explosion. Nobody's perfect.

This explosion was intended merely as a place-holder until something more plausible could be worked out, but after all the other features had been "inhaled," there wasn't room or time for a fancier calculation.

Similarly, the torpedoes were not quite consistent with the Spacewar! universe after the heavy star was in place. The gravity calculations for two ships was as much as the program could handle; there was no time to include half a dozen missiles as well. So the torpedoes were unaffected by the star, with the odd result that you could shoot right through it and hit something on the other side (if you weren't careful getting round the Star, it could be you). We made the usual excuses... mumblemumble photon bombs mumblemumble... but no one really cared.

The heavy star itself was not entirely Newtonian. The common tactic of plunging down the gravity well to gain momentum by whipping around the sun (Figure 6) gave you somewhat more energy than you were really entitled to. As this just made the game more interesting, nothing was immediately done to correct it.


Figure 6. A common mid-game flourish -- and don't talk about G-forces!

The game was essentially complete by the end of April, 1962. The only further immediate work was to make Spacewar! presentable for MIT's annual Science Open House in May. A scoring facility was added so that finite matches could be played, making it easier to limit the time any one person spent at the controls. To provide for the crowds that we (accurately) anticipated, a large screen laboratory CRT was attached to the computer to function as a slave display. Perched on top of a high cabinet, it allowed a roomful of people to watch in relative comfort.

Also in May, the first meeting of DECUS (Digital Equipment Computer Users' Society) was held in Bedford, MA. At that meeting, I delivered the first paper on the subject, pretentiously titled "SPACEWAR! Real-Time Capability of the PDP-1."

Over the summer of 1962, the original Spacewar hackers began to drift away. Alan Kotok and I went to work for Digital. Steve Russell followed John McCarthy to Stanford University. Peter Samson and Bob Saunders stayed in Cambridge for a while, but eventually they too went west. Dan Edwards remained with the AI group for a few years, then moved to Project MAC. Jack Dennis and the PDP-1 also wound up at Project MAC, which evolved into MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science. Others took up the maintenance and development of Spacewar! Program tapes were already showing up all over the country, not only on PDP-1s but on just about any research computer that had a programmable CRT.

A Mystery, Just For Good Measure
Slug tells me that there is a Lost Version of Spacewar! There would be, of course. He says the game is pretty much like the original, but the scoring is much more impressive. After each game of a match, cumulative scores are displayed as rows of ships, like a World War II fighter pilot's tally. Slug says he saw this version for a short time on the PDP-1, but never found out who produced it or what became of it.

Twenty Years Later
The original Spacewar PDP-1 was retired in 1975 and put in storage at DEC's Northboro warehouse, where it serves as a parts source for the similar machine now on display at Digital's Computer Museum in Marlboro, MA. At this writing, DEC engineer Stan Schultz and I are trying to put the original Spacewar! back into operating condition. So far, all attempts at finding the original control boxes have been futile; we will probably build replicas (the plastic Atari joysticks we have no got no class).

Dan Edwards still works for the U.S. Government, developing computer security systems. Alan Kotok is still a consulting engineer with DEC. Peter Samson is now director of marketing for Systems Concepts, Inc., in San Francisco. Bob Saunders had gone to Silicon Valley, where [he] is an engineer-programmer for Hewlett-Packard.

Jack Dennis is a Professor of Science in the Electrical Engineering Department at MIT.

John McKenzie, the chief engineer, is retired, but over the past year or so has been helping to restore the TX-0 and PDP-1 to life at the Computer Museum.

And what of the Hingham Institute? Wayne Wiitanen has recently become a Senior Research Scientist at the General Motors Research Laboratory, where he is happily designing eyes for robots. Slug, after various adventures, is now a programmer-analyst for Interactive Data Corp. in Waltham, MA. I am reduced to writing for a living, but tend to act somewhat less superior therefore.

Spacewar! itself has bred a race of noisy, garishly-colored monsters that lurk in dark caverns and infest pizza parlors, eating quarters and offering degenerate pleasures. I think I know a few former hackers who aren't the slightest bit surprised.

I was able to reach all of the original Spacewar! perpetrators, hackers and Hingham Institute Fellows alike. Not to mention Professors Dennis and Minsky, and John McKenzie. In addition, I am grateful to Marcia Baker, Professor F.J. Corbato, and Professor R.M. Fano, all of MIT, for help with dates and places, and other facts. The help was theirs; any mistakes are mine.

Spacewar! : The first computer game invented by Steve Russell

Steve Russell creates "SpaceWar!" and releases it in February 1962. This game is considered the first game intended for computers.

If I hadn't done it, someone would've done something equally exciting if not better in the next six months. I just happened to get there first." - Steve Russell nickname "Slug"

It was in 1962 when a young computer programmer from MIT, Steve Russell fueled with inspiration from the writings of E. E. "Doc" Smith*, led the team that created the first computer game. It took the team about 200 man-hours to write the first version of Spacewar!. Steve Russell wrote Spacewar! on a PDP-1, an early DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) interactive mini computer which used a cathode-ray tube type display and keyboard input. The computer was a donation to MIT from DEC, who hoped MIT's think tank would be able to do something remarkable with their product. A computer game called Spacewar! was the last thing DEC expected who later provided the game as a diagnostic program for their customers. Russell never profited from Spacewar!.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Video Clip: Motorcycle Travelling at 140Km/h on Highway (China)

Video is captured on a highway in China. Note the post of the motorcyclist when travelling at maximum speed in order to reduce wind drag.

Video Clip: Squirrel In Hong Kong Park, Admiralty, Hong Kong

Squirrels are uncommon in urban area of Hong Kong. Following video clip is captured in Hong Kong Park which is located in Admiralty, the commercial and financial district of Hong Kong.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Space Adventures Concludes Agreement to Offer Commercial Spaceflight Opportunities to the International Space Station

Three seats available beginning in 2013.

January 12 2011

Space Adventures, the only company that has provided human space mission opportunities to the world marketplace, announced today the conclusion of an agreement with the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation (FSA) and Rocket Space Corporation Energia (RSC Energia) to commercially offer three seats on the Soyuz spacecraft bound for the International Space Station (ISS), beginning in 2013.

These seats will be made available through the increase of Soyuz production, from four to five spacecraft per year. Each flight will be short duration, approximately 10 days, and will contribute to the increase of launch capacity to the ISS.

"We are extremely excited to announce this agreement and would like to thank our Russian partners in increasing Soyuz production and providing Space Adventures these well sought-after transportation services on the only commercially available manned spacecraft currently in operation," said Eric Anderson, Chairman of Space Adventures. "Since Guy Laliberte's mission, there has been an increase of interest by private individuals, organizations and commercial entities seeking ways to access the space station. We have been speaking with these parties about science, education and multi-media programs and hope to make some major announcements in the coming year."

Space Adventures became world-renowned 10 years ago with the launch of Dennis Tito, the world's first privately-funded space explorer. Since then, the company has arranged seven additional missions to the ISS. Cumulatively, our clients have spent almost three months in space, traveling over 36 million miles, and have been true ambassadors in sharing their experience and explaining to millions of people around the world why it's important to explore space," continued Mr. Anderson.

"We are very pleased to continue space tourism with Space Adventures. Also, the addition of a fifth Soyuz spacecraft to the current manifest will add flexibility and redundancy to our ISS transportation capabilities. We welcome the opportunity to increase our efforts to meet the public demand for access to space," said Alexei Krasnov, Director of Human Spaceflight of FSA.

In support of the continued partnership between FSA, Energia and Space Adventures, Vitaly Lopota, President of RSC Energia, commented, "We were first in the space tourism marketplace and we are glad to expand our capabilities by adding a fifth Soyuz and to use these three additional opportunities for commercial flight participants, starting in 2013."

Space Adventures, the company that organized the flights for the world's first private space explorers, is headquartered in Vienna, Va. with an office in Moscow. It offers a variety of programs such as the availability today for spaceflight missions to the International Space Station and around the moon, Zero-Gravity flights, cosmonaut training, spaceflight qualification programs and reservations on future suborbital spacecraft. The company's advisory board includes Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, Shuttle astronauts Sam Durrance, Tom Jones, Byron Lichtenberg, Norm Thagard, Kathy Thornton, Pierre Thuot, Charles Walker, and Skylab/Shuttle astronaut Owen Garriott.

Space Adventures, Ltd
8000 Towers Crescent Drive
Suite 1000
Vienna, VA 22182

According to the Russian News Network on January 25 reported that the U.S. private space travel, Virginia, Eric Anderson, president recently announced in Munich, Germany in 2015 aboard a Russian "alliance" of the first spacecraft to the moon tour tickets have been sold, tickets price is 1.5 million.

United States, "Space Adventures" Anderson, 23, president of Tourism in Munich, Germany "digital life" speech at the seminar said the first time in human history, from the moon's commercial manned space flight is expected to take place in 2015, visitors will take the Russian private "Union" flying lunar spacecraft now in one of two seats have been sold. He refused to disclose the names of the lunar tourists, but one can guess that he was a famous figure. Company and the second lunar tourists coming to an end of negotiations.

According to the plan, visitors will be accompanied by a Russian astronaut, aboard the Russian "alliance" spacecraft into space. Landing on the lunar surface as the technical requirements are too high, they will only be 100 km away from the lunar surface, the height of lunar flight. "Union" spacecraft capable of carrying a pilot and two passengers into space. Plan "the Moon Tour" from time-consuming and 9 days, of which 3 days are in Earth orbit, up to 5 half days flying around the moon. Anderson said: "We will upgrade communications systems Soyuz, and will increase the window for tourists taking pictures."

Apart from wealth, the moon travelers will need time to train for the mission, and must meet certain health requirements.

U.S. "space adventure" travel company founded in 1998, mainly for the rich to provide the opportunity to fly in space. As has already successfully organized the 8th to the International Space Station, space tourist trip.

"Union" spaceship Owner, Moscow, "Energy" Rocket Space Corporation commercial flight made two lunar program. The first is the "alliance" with the spacecraft and launch vehicle from the booster module, the access to low Earth orbit, the use of boost the engine to the moon, and then the module from the spacecraft and booster, the spacecraft began to fly around the Moon, and then return to Earth Landing is expected to last for the whole trip 8-9 days; second option is the "Union" the first spacecraft to reach the International Space Station, and then docking module with the boost, fly to the moon, is expected to last for the whole trip 9-21 days.

Wealth Inflation: Investors Chasing High Return Assets With Extreme Caution

After setting 52-week high, equity stock market turns back on the last day of week with a loss. Although investors are very cautious, selling appears to be executed orderly. Trading volume does not surge significantly on fear. Wealth effect has benefited investors and increases the confidence to hold hard assets such as equity stocks. Market participants have diversified attitude on trading strategy. Day trading activities increase as some investors increase speculative holding which are flipped for quick profit. Some investors are afraid of a possible correction and temporarily stay on the sideline. A small portion of investors start to turn to real estate for long term investment.

Equity stock remains the favorite investment among household investors because of dividend yield. Treasuries and bonds are less attractive. Real estate has maintenance cost and other expenses. But the intrinsic value is much higher than market value and hence much room for appreciation. Federal Reserve has successfully avoided a collapse in the financial market. The wealth effect will continually boost economic activities despite the fact that it creates a wider wealth gap between the haves and have-nots.

Market may need time for consolidation before advancing further. Investors confidence remains fragile until a recovery on grassroots economy which would benefit a larger portion of household.

Shutting Out the New Traders
High-frequency traders were blamed for speeding last year's flash crash. High-frequency trading firms love to buy from and sell to "dumb" individual and institutional investors. Individuals tend to place market orders rather than using limit orders at or below the bid price. Thus, they pay the maximum. As for mutual funds and other institutional investors, they are easily front-run by the new trading operations, which have faster access to market data as well as faster trading computers. If the funds are buying a particular stock, the traders' computers can detect this activity, buy up shares ahead of the fund and sell it back to the fund for a profit of a cent or two. This runs up the costs for mutual fund investors.

Brace Yourself: Peter Schiff Predicts U.S. "Inflationary Nightmare", Made in China
From the weather, to speculators, to greedy corporations, inflation’s "got nothing to do with those factors” and everything to do with the money supply, says Schiff.

Inflation "is the consequence of what the government has done to try to stimulate the economy,” he says, referring to quantitative easing and stimulus spending. Basically, the Fed has had to print money in order to pay for this country’s huge deficits, which in turn has pushed up the price of just about everything priced in dollars, which remains the world's reserve currency.

"As the Chinese currency increases in strength, the dollar must decrease," he explains. "And, so Americans [would] experience higher prices, falling purchasing power and a lower standard of living.”

Stocks Priced for 'Perfection'? No, But "Pretty Close," Author Says
As we've already seen in Ireland and Greece, and now potentially in the U.K., austerity measures tend to bring about some short-term pain; what's unknown is whether the long-term gains are worth it, assuming they do emerge.

"Never Buy Another Stock Again": An Investing Guide for the Rest of Us
With the Dow nearing 12,000, many would like you to believe it’s a stock-pickers market. But, if you ask Reuters market editor David Gaffen, he’d disagree.

His point, not only is it too time consuming for individual investors to research individual stocks, investing fees are also costly and eat into returns. On top of that, if you don’t carefully monitor each and every stock in your portfolio, you could end up stuck in a stock that tanks.

Even for the best and brightest investors – includlng those whose manage money for a living – it’s not that easy, says Gaffen. He points to the most recent bear market where even some of the best fund managers lost a lot of money.

Dow Jones average falls after hitting 12,000
The last time the Dow closed above 12,000 was June 19, 2008, just as the financial crisis was worsening.

Davos: Soros Speaks
The World Economic Forum in Davos attracts a particular kind of financier and corporate honcho. The folks who flock to this out-of-the-way ski town in the Alps in January are plenty worried about the bottom line and their personal portfolios.

But the reporters were primarily interested in hearing what the oracular investor had to say. As he usually does, Soros spoke about his philosophy of history and the markets. "Markets, left to their own devices, don't tend towards equilibrium. They are prone to create bubbles. So, actually, bubbles are just as characteristic of financial markets as equilibrium."

U.S. manufacturing profits suggest stronger economy
U.S. manufacturing companies posted higher-than-expected results, as sharply improved margins boosted profits amid strong industrial demand and growth in emerging markets.

Citi's Buckland Says Global Stocks Will "Grind Higher" in 2011, Led by #Surprise!# Japan
“We expect earnings and share prices to reengage in 2011,” he tells Aaron in the accompanying video. Last year earnings finally caught up to share prices. This year, Buckland believes earnings will rise 11-12% and share prices will follow.

Buffett's Options for His Mountain of Cash
According to a Sept. 30, 2010 filing, Berkshire Hathaway has $34.46 billion in cash. While it is possible, the chance that Buffett would be satisfied simply standing by and watching his money pile continue grow in size is slim. In the past, he has clearly expressed his negative feelings towards the idea of holding cash as a long term investment.

Paulson's $5 billion payout shocks, raises questions
Billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson, whose bet against the overheated housing market made him one of the world's wealthiest people, became a lot richer last year.

By earning an estimated $5 billion in 2010 thanks mainly to bets the economy would recover, Paulson likely set a record for the $1.9 trillion hedge fund industry's biggest-ever year's earnings. He beat his own record, which he set in 2007 with a $4 billion haul made off the subprime bet.

More generally, Paulson's eye-popping payday confirms that hedge funds are still Wall Street's gold mine, where hefty fees make hundreds of managers extremely rich. But it also underscores concerns among investors that they may not always be getting their money's worth, especially when hedge fund returns lag behind the broader markets.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Confused Investors: Greed vs Risk

Market rally finally came to a halt with the announcement of Goldman Sachs quarterly result. Many investors are expecting a correction to re-enter the market. As mentioned in previous week's post, individual investors stopped buying in the previous week but still holding with existing stocks. But investors' mentality change very quickly. Goldman's disappointing result causes panic selling despite Apple's and IBM's strong result. Individual investors recalled memory of last year's flash crash and sold stocks to protect profit gained in the rally. The shadow of financial crisis loomed in the mind.

On the other hand, institutional investors and hedge funds remained relatively calm. As a consequence, the trading volume is only moderately higher. Sell-off is most dominant in the financial and technology sectors. Decline in the former sector is due to unsatisfactory result in some banks and the latter is due to overbought during the rally. Some investors are rotating sectors and slowly accumulating positions in the portfolio.

In the coming week, individual investors may continue to liquidate the portfolio to protect profit. However, due to wealth effect the core holdings will be kept for long term appreciation. Therefore although individual investors are no longer driving the market up, there is little chance of a market crash either. Some individual investors have already taken profit before the rally ends and are waiting on the sideline with cash to re-enter market again. Hedge funds currently do not have heavy holding in equity stocks. Seeing a potential strong support at lower level, hedge funds would not risk to sell down the market. Instead hedge funds are using available cash to accumulate positions.

Although it was mentioned in last week's post that there is risk for holding positions overnight, greed resulted in such a mistake. A heavy position in leveraged financial ETF was initiated on Tuesday. Since the holding was bought at exactly day low, it already made a decent profit if the position was closed at the end of day. However, it is speculated that Apple will announce a strong result and market will be boosted. After-hour market went up further on Apple result. Therefore it was decided to keep the position overnight for more profit. However, market was manipulated and Goldman's result was used as an excuse to drive down stocks. Fortunately, only individual investors were in panic while institutional investors remained calm and hedge funds did not speculate a significant market decline. Some frightened individual investors were selling to protect profit. Day traders are also active in a turbulent market. Wealth effect encourage investors to hold on with core positions in the portfolio. As a result there is only minor market correction in this week.

Equity stock market have not dropped significantly. Those investors waiting on the sideline with cash will keep on waiting for a lower entry point. Unlike last year's flash crash, individual investors now has a larger role in market participation. After the flash crash, market continued to decline due to lack of buying desire. Investors were seeking safety in treasuries and bonds. Currently, investors are liquidating treasuries and bonds and enhancing the positions in equity stocks and commodities. Therefore even if market retreats, there is buying support along the decline. On the other hand, investors do not have strong confidence to chase if the market rallies.
Although there is confidence that the new leveraged ETF position in the speculative trading portfolio may finally break even, there is an opportunity cost for extended duration of holding. Firstly, there is the interest cost due to leveraged borrowing. Secondly, the holding locks up resources for speculative trading in a turbulent market. Thirdly, leveraged ETF exhibits value decay over time due to leveraging and unfavorable market movement. Therefore portion of the holding was liquidated with a loss to free up some of the limited resources and reduce risk exposure on leveraged ETF. This is a precious experience for future trading practice.

Why Green Energy Can't Power a Job Engine
America has had many high-tech breakthroughs over the past half-century, but those innovations have rarely provided abundant employment for the less educated workers who need jobs most. The Devens closing reminds us that even when ideas are "made in America," production is almost always cheaper in China.

Brain Drain: Most College Students Learn Next to Nothing, New Study Says
Even (and especially) in today's tough labor market, Corporate America agrees that, "yes" college is worth every penny as most employers consider a college degree a prerequisite for employment.

Investors' return to US stocks could be too late
While millions sought refuge in traditionally stable bonds over the past two years, they missed a more than 90 percent rally in stocks. Suddenly bonds don't look so safe, and some of the $11 trillion that Americans have parked in mutual funds is shifting back to stocks.

Sooner or later, investors will put their money where it's gaining the most, predicts Bob Doll, chief stock strategist at BlackRock, the world's biggest money management company. Investors tend to chase rather than anticipate returns. He expects investors will embrace stock funds over bonds, ending what he calls an era of fear.

"The numbers suggest a slow rebound for investor confidence in stocks," says Strategic Insight's Avi Nachmany. "But they'll continue to buy bonds for the same reasons they bought them before: There's an insatiable interest in income, and people are still scared."

Here Comes the Dumb Money!
But investors are clearly starting to get more comfortable with stocks after pulling money out of stock funds constantly between early May and early October last year. Since then, they have put a total of $9 billion into stock funds, compared with $3 billion in bond funds.

Hedge fund industry assets swell to $1.92 trillion
Hedge fund assets grew a record $149 billion during the last three months of 2010, according to new data released on Wednesday.

According to Hedge Fund Research (HFR), which tracks industry performance and asset flows, hedge funds around the world now invest $1.917 trillion.

The increased flows came even as the industry delivered only lackluster returns of 10 percent, lagging behind mutual funds and the industry's own more impressive 19 percent gain in 2009.

Financial stocks pull market lower
Stocks suffered their largest one-day decline since November after banks reported steep drops in profits Wednesday.

Dow, S&P dip as F5 view hits Nasdaq, Google up late
Stocks fell on Thursday as lackluster tech and materials earnings failed to live up to heightened expectations, threatening to short-circuit a seven-week run.

"It's Time to Take a Pause": Stocks Slip Again as Momentum Favorites Tumble
Rolfe, who describes himself as a bull, says any near-term correction is likely to coincide with a period of rotation to new leadership.

2011 Revenues May Surprise Investors: Analysts
This may turn out to be a much better year for corporate revenues than expected, although weak consumer demand and a depressed jobs market will continue to pose a challenge, some analysts say.

GE profits send Dow up for 8th straight week
Strong profits at General Electric sent industrial stocks higher Friday and helped the Dow Jones industrial average notch its eighth straight week of gains.

Despite the "Wounds", Now's The Time to Invest in "Best in Class Franchises" Like Goldman, Says Rolfe
It’s been a tough week for financial stocks with disappointing results from Goldman Sachs and Cititgroup, but there's no need to sweat the disappointing news says David Rolfe, chief investment officer of Wedgewood Partners.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Update: YouTube Video: About Physics Topic

Statistical Analysis of Atomic and Electron Mass & Interpretation

The presenter has wild imagination but the conclusion is not practical.

Part 1 of 4

Part 2 of 4

Part 3 of 4

Part 4 of 4

free counters
Free counters!
web site traffic analysis

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Full Throttle On Wealth Recovery; Grassroots Economy Lagging Behind

Equity stock market is setting 52-week high continuously. Market participants are in a mood for rising market trend. As mentioned in the last several posts, investors do not have much intention to sell in this market.

Individual investors who give strong support for the market in the last three months are now beginning to stop further buying but still hold on to the positions for market appreciation. Some individual investors have realized part or all of the profit in the recent rally and are waiting on the sideline for market correction to reenter. Institutional investors finish restructuring of the portfolio and will wait and see the result. Hedge funds replace the role of individual investors to drive the market up. However unlike institutional and individual investors who mostly make profit on a rising market, hedge funds speculate on both market direction. Therefore there is certain risk in the continuation of the rally without significant buying from institutional and individual investors.

Market may exhibit volatility in the coming days. The speculative trading portfolio will minimize overnight holding with adequate hedging while a violent market provides opportunities.

Booming Commodities and an Anemic Economic Recovery: What It Means for Investors At a recent institutional investor conference one of the speakers was the economist and chief investment officer of a major institutional investment consulting firm. He recounted that in late 2008 his firm recommended that institutions overweight commodities. This was based on all of the liquidity provided to the financial system around the world by governments seeking to combat the deflationary affects of the deep recession.

He went on to say that his firm was staying with that over-weighted position as of December of 2010 despite how successful the strategy has been. From there he described how anemic this economic recovery in the US is compared to past recovery periods following deep recessions. Slow GDP growth, persistently high unemployment rates and virtually no contribution from home building led him to believe the economic recovery would remain anemic.

Brace Yourself: Our Society Is Going To The Dogs Fortunately, says Celente, civilization itself will not collapse. But it's going to get really bad for a while.

Fed survey: US economy ends 2010 on strong note Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke says he is optimistic that the economy will strengthen this year. But he warned last week that it will take up to five years for unemployment to drop to a historically normal level of around 6 percent.

If You Can't Join 'Em, Beat 'Em Of course, many people opt not to invest on their own and, instead, turn to mutual funds for professional money management. The average equity fund, according to Lipper Inc., has 88% turnover, meaning it doesn't quite swap out everything it holds once every year; that means the fund managers aren't playing with a 22-second clock.

But when funds don't do well, they test investor patience. When the market tanked in 2008 and many funds went with it, many investors bailed out, missing out on the subsequent recovery. It's hard to stay focused on the long-term when the short-term numbers are bad, and when you know that someone is out there trading three times a minute trying to best both you and your fund manager.

That's not to say that investors should recklessly move to buy-and-forget-about it,"but rather that the more short-term thinking pervades the market, the easier it might be to get past the idea that the big institutions have it in for you. Rather than follow their trend to shorter and shorter time frames — where they have the advantage — keep the longer view; instead of playing their game, play your own.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

美國版 "犀利哥" 傳奇

京港台時間︰2011/1/7 消息來源︰中國新聞網










Friday, January 14, 2011

IBM's Watson Computer Wallops 'Jeopardy!' Champs in Trial Run

Published January 13, 2011

Our robot overlord isn’t named HAL or SkyNET -- it’s Watson.

After four years of development, IBM on Thursday publicly unveiled a computing system that specializes in analyzing natural human language and answering complex questions. In other words, it’s really good at Jeopardy!.

To test its acumen, the machine was pitted in an exhibition match against the most celebrated human contestants, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, to stunning effect. Watson quickly cleared out the entire first category without the humans getting even a buzz in.

Named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, the project is a defining breakthrough in artificial intelligence technology, said John E. Kelly III, senior vice president and director of IBM Research.

“We’ve created a system that can interact in a very special way,” he said at the demonstration. “People spend their lifetime trying to advance [the field of artificial intelligence] by inches. What Watson does has demonstrated the ability to advance the field of artificial intelligence by miles.”

Today’s practice run was just a glimpse of what's to come, in other words. IBM announced the contest in December. The official first-ever man vs. machine Jeopardy competition will take place Friday, and will air on February 14, 15, and 16.

It’s not the first time IBM has used its technological know-how to pit people against computers. The announcement of Watson brings back memories of Deep Blue, the supercomputer that, after a few initial setbacks, went on to defeat world chess champ Gary Kasparov. The similarities end there.

Chess is a game tailor-made for the logical ones and zeros of artificial intelligence, with its perfect parameters and finite though tremendously large number of possible outcomes. Jeopardy! is a wholly different beast because of the human factor -- and as such, there is inherent uncertainty.

“When we deal with language, things are very different,” said David Ferrucci, principal investigator of Watson's DeepQA technology at IBM Research. “Language is ambiguous, it’s contextual, its implicit. Words are grounded really only in human cognition -- and there’s seemingly an infinite number of ways the same meaning can be expressed in language. It’s an incredibly difficult problem for computers.”

Coding that “human-ness” has been the primary work of 25 of IBM’s top research scientists and they’ve accomplished it with a mish-mash of algorithms and raw computing technology. Watson is powered by 10 racks of IBM Power 750 servers with 2,880 processor cores and 15 terabytes of RAM; it's capable of operating at a galloping 80 teraflops.

With that sort of computing power, Watson is able to quickly analyze natural human language, scour its roughly 200 million pages of stored content -- about 1 million books worth -- and find an answer with confidence in as little as 3 seconds.

“What Jeopardy! does for us is it gave us this compelling and notable way to drive and measure that technology along the key dimensions,” Ferrucci said.

It is that human factor that makes Watson so innovative yet in a way also somewhat unsettling, perfectly echoed by the vignette of an empty space between the two contestants on stage. At one point, upon finishing the last question in the category “Girls Dig Me,” Watson even made a joke -- causing the audience to erupt in laughter and applause.

It seems IBM's machine was not only smart, it was funny.

With this milestone passed, fears of a machine-led takeover seem premature, but the topic was certainly on the minds of contestants. Jennings put it best, saying he was probably less John Henry and more John Connor.

“[HAL 9000] is science fiction,” Ferucci admitted. “I don’t think we’re anywhere near that or going in that direction. One inspiration for this kind of technology from science fiction, at least for me, is the computer on Star Trek. They built a system that helps you with your information needs, understands your question, organizes it, and presents it in a way that you can digest it quickly.”

Though Watson ended the exhibition in the lead with $4,400 compared to Jenning’s $3,400 and Rutter’s $1,200, a continuation of that battle shown on internal televisions during lunch revealed that Jenning had pulled ahead after scoring a Daily Double. Watson still isn’t perfect, it seems.

While she wouldn’t reveal specific numbers, one IBMer revealed that Watson has lost during recent practice runs to lesser opponents. Ken Jennings, of course, is on a completely different level. The computer programmer shot to public prominence when he won a record 74 consecutive games, netting him more than $2.5 million in winnings.

And while Watson operates operates on calculated confidence, buzzing in if it knows to a certain degree the right answer, people -- Jennings in particular -- use intuition, often buzzing in before they even know the answer simply because they feel like they know it, giving him a concrete speed advantage.

Watson is constantly improving, of course. Kelly estimates an increase of 50% every 20 months it spends learning. Ferrucci was quick to remind the audience who was in charge.

After all, it was humans who built Watson in the first place.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

YouTube Video: About Physics Topic

Statistical Analysis of Atomic and Electron Mass & Interpretation

The presenter has wild imagination but the conclusion is not practical.

Part 1 of 3

Part 2 of 3

Part 3 of 3

Friday, January 7, 2011

Segmented Economic Recovery, Asset Value Inflation; Sluggish Job Growth

Equity stock market begins with a good start for the year. Market is consolidating at current level for the sizable gain in the last quarter. Trading volume increases as investors return from holiday.

It is officially announced that the recession has ended in last year. Those investors waiting for the double dip has already returned to the market in October last year providing strong support for the market. Commodities also see a significant gain since investors are chasing after various kind of assets with the exception of real estate. The latter was once very popular among household investors who switched to the money and bond market after the financial crisis but recently turned to the equity stock market.

Economy is back to normal as people are back to normal life after the shock. However the job market does not recover because corporations use the opportunity for downsizing to improve efficiency as well as profitability. Although consumer demand for goods and services rises back to previous level, the demand for labour force does not rise accordingly due to various factors such as office and factory automation, off-shore outsourcing, etc. This creates a structural loophole in the job market. The financial crisis serves as a trigger to hasten the change and it is a path of no return.

It is the objective of Federal Reserve to implement "Quantitative Easing" to hold up asset value so that the wealth effect will encourage consumers to spend to support the economy. It works as planned except that job growth is disproportional to economic activity growth. This problem may not be adequately solved by fiscal measures but rather government policy.

"It's a Terrible Recovery": Dan Greenhaus Explains Why The Economy Feels So Bad One more factoid from Greenhaus' report that helps explain why most Americans don't "feel" like we're in a recovery (much less an expansion): The top 20% of U.S. earners account for about 40% of all consumer spending and own about 85% of the U.S. equity market.

Investing Dying as Computer Trading, ETFs & Dark Pools Proliferate "The capital raising stock market of the past hundred years has morphed in just the last 10 years into a casino," said Sal Arnuk of Themis Trading and a market infrastructure expert who advised the SEC after last year's so-called Flash Crash. "Who is doing the fundamental work analyzing stocks? In the end, we've greatly increased systemic risk."

How to beat the market? Only stay a day at a time It's one of the truisms of financial planning: trying to perfectly time the market is a fool's errand. For long-term gains, the advice goes, you should buy index funds and hold them indefinitely. It helped that the stock market hasn't been kind to most investors over the past 11 years.

Factory outlook bright after 17 months of growth Manufacturing activity has expanded in every month since the recession ended a year and a half ago. The big difference now is that the growth is being driven by higher sales and more confident consumers-- not just businesses rebuilding the stockpiles that they slashed during the recession. "You're in a situation where a virtuous cycle is beginning to materialize," said Eric Green, chief economist at TD Securities.

The Rally Isn't Over But Most of the Money Has Been Made, Says Greenhaus History suggests most of the gains made after a bear market bottom come quickly, he says, meaning those who missed the big rally from the March 2009 lows have missed the bulk of the move. "There's a pretty clear relationship between getting in early and achieving most of the gains," Greenhaus tells Aaron in this interview. "You can still achieve gains... but the rate at which those gains accumulate and compound pales in comparison to the initial spike."

As market is consolidating, buy and hold strategy may not be most effective. Short term market outlook is optimistic because market participants have rising risk appetite as a result of flooding capital liquidity and greed from wealth effect. However investors do not have strong confidence in the market rally and impatient for profit taking. Therefore there is sometimes wild oscillation in market movement. Hedge funds are finding opportunities by exploiting the herding behaviour of individual investors who finally returned to the equity stock market after the financial crisis.

There are opportunities in the equity stock market as participants are returning will optimisim. The speculative trading portfolio will follow closely the market cycle and trades will be executed on speculation of market participants activities.

BBC Documentary: Can We Make a Star on Earth?

The documentary filmed several experimental fusion ignition systems using explosion compression and plasma confinement technology proposed on paper many decades ago.

Can We Make a Star on Earth? Part 1 of 6

Can We Make a Star on Earth? Part 2 of 6

Can We Make a Star on Earth? Part 3 of 6

Can We Make a Star on Earth? Part 4 of 6

Can We Make a Star on Earth? Part 5 of 6

Can We Make a Star on Earth? Part 6 of 6

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cold Nuclear Fusion?

In 1989 scientists believed they had discovered how to create cold fusion, but they were wrong...did they get it right this time?

An attempt to explain gas plasma electrolysis or cold fusion..

Cold Nuclear Fusion

Bob Myspace Video

Cold Nuclear Fusion Part2

Bob Myspace Video

BBC Horizon: An Experiment to Save the World (2005)
An Experiment to Save the World Part 1 of 5

An Experiment to Save the World Part 2 of 5

An Experiment to Save the World Part 3 of 5

An Experiment to Save the World Part 4 of 5

An Experiment to Save the World Part 5 of 5