More Luddite FUD about kids and computers

Paul Raven @ 24-05-2011

I was thinking it had been a while since we had one of these. Via FuturePundit, O NOEZ TEH TECHNOLOGIES BE MAKIN KIDS SUCK AT TEH REEDIN:

“Our study shows that the entry of computers into the home has contributed to changing children’s habits in such a manner that their reading does not develop to the same extent as previously. By comparing countries over time we can see a negative correlation between change in reading achievement and change in spare time computer habits which indicates that reading ability falls as leisure use of computers increases”, says Monica Rosén.

OK, I’ll see your study and raise you with this one:

The e-Learning Foundation says that children without access to a computer in the evening are being increasingly disadvantaged in the classroom. Research suggests that 1.2 million teenagers log on to revision pages every week and those using online resources were on average likely to attain a grade higher in exams.

The charity cites BBC research in which more than 100 students used the BBC Bitesize revision materials before their GCSE examination. The children were found to have achieved a grade lift compared to those who did not use the online revision guides. The BBC study says: “This is compared to factors such as teacher influence, which was found to produce no significant difference.”

Which is right? I have no idea. The point is that if you send social scientists looking for evidence to support a pretty nebulous and hard-to-quantify phenomenon, they’ll probably rustle some up. Seek and you shall find… or, I dunno, spend that research money on looking into ways that we can use technology more effectively? How’s about it, huh?

Computers and the internet are here to stay. The way kids learn and interact with the world has changed hugely in last 100 years, and will keep changing, as it always has since the day some smart hunter/gatherer created the first baby sling. If all you’re gonna do is sit on your porch and kvetch about the good old days, you might as well let the kids get some enjoyment out of running around on the lawn.


Video games as journalism

Paul Raven @ 19-11-2010

Just a quick mention for another of those New Scientist CultureLab “Storytelling2.0” pieces; how about video games as a future venue for journalism?

Take, for example, Burger Tycoon. It’s what we call an editorial game: short-form, quickly produced and easily accessed online. These games critique current events and issues – in this case global fast food. In Burger Tycoon, players take charge of every aspect of a fast food giant: they raise soy and cattle in South America, curtail contamination in a meat-packing plant, scold frustrated fry cooks in a restaurant and devise ad campaigns at corporate headquarters.

Despite its cutesy graphics and simple mouse-click play, Burger Tycoon paints a striking portrait of how the business models of multinational food conglomerates can compel corruption. As costs begin to outstrip revenues, players look for new ways to make a profit: tearing down rainforests, stuffing cattle with antibiotics, bribing health officials. Like a political cartoon, the game is highly opinionated, but it presents its opinion through the rules of the game rather than through images and words.

[…]

Video games do not offer a panacea for news organisations. But they offer a truly new way for journalism to contribute to civic life by amplifying the how instead of the who. Video games offer models of how the world works and how it might be improved, rather than skin-deep stories about what ails it. That’s why the best journalism of the future might not be read, but played.

Interesting idea… Jonathan, I think we have a theme for your next column!


Bacterial computers to solve complex mathematics problems

Tom James @ 24-07-2009

bacteriaWe’ve seen viruses used to help treat cancer, and help building electrical components, now bacteria are being used to solve hitherto intractable mathematics problems:

Imagine you want to tour the 10 biggest cities in the UK, starting in London (number 1) and finishing in Bristol (number 10). The solution to the Hamiltonian Path Problem is the the shortest possible route you can take.

This simple problem is surprisingly difficult to solve. There are over 3.5 million possible routes to choose from, and a regular computer must try them out one at a time to find the shortest. Alternatively, a computer made from millions of bacteria can look at every route simultaneously. The biological world also has other advantages. As time goes by, a bacterial computer will actually increase in power as the bacteria reproduce.

These developments in synthetic biology are really amazing: it is just another example of how researchers are looking at pre-existing biological structures to solve problems (albeit somewhat abstract problems in this case) instead of building technologies from scratch.

[from the Guardian][image from kaibara87 on flickr]


Quantum superposition breakthrough

Tom James @ 29-05-2009

theory_actualA rich seam of technological and science-fictional ideas seem ready to be mined with the development of the first light trap that can simultaneously store different numbers of photons:

“These superposition states are a fundamental concept in quantum mechanics, but this is the first time they have been controllably created with light,” Cleland said. Martinis added, “This experiment can be thought of as a quantum digital-to-analog converter.” As digital-to-analog converters are key components in classical communication devices (for example, producing the sound waveforms in cell phones), this experiment might enable more advanced communication protocols for the transmission of quantum information.

The research is funded by IARPA. Intelligence services are understandably keen to learn more about the potential for quantum computers to break conventionally encrypted communications.

[image and story from Physorg]


Internet to be an "unreliable toy" by 2012?

Edward Willett @ 01-05-2009

800px-Network_switches That’s the prediction of Nemertes Research, which will be publishing a report later this year warning that the Web has reached a critical point that could lead first to computers being disrupted and going offline for several minutes in a time, and eventually regular brownouts that will slow and even freeze their computers. (Times Online via KurzweilAI.net.)

The primary culprit is burgeoning demand for high-bandwidth video: the report notes that the amount of traffic generated each month by YouTube is now equivalent to the amount of traffic generated across the entire Internet in all of 2000, and new video applications such as BBC iPlayer, which allows viewers to watch high-def TV on their computers. (And I guess by providing links to those sites I’m contributing to the problem!)

Monthly traffic across the Internet is currently running at about eight exabytes (an exabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes), and a recent study at the University of Minnesota estimates its growing by at least 60 percent a year–and that study didn’t take into account growing demand in China and India.

Engineers are struggling to stay ahead of demand, and find other ways to deal with impending deadlock (such as the LHC Computing Grid, a parallel network designed to handle the massive amounts of data the Large Hadron Collider will produce), but it may be impossible.

In other words, we may be living in the Golden Age of the Internet. But if it all crumbles around us, at least we’ll have something to tell the grandchildren.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons.)

[tags]computers,Internet,bandwidth,communications,Web[/tags]


Next Page »