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Learn to Speak: Toss a Spear

first_imgHuman language evolved after our ancestors learned to throw a spear, according to William H. Calvin, in his new book A Brief History of the Mind: From Apes to Intellect and Beyond (Oxford, 2003).  Robin Dunbar is not too sure about this, in a book review in the Feb. 26 issue of Nature.1  Although he respects Calvin, he is not convinced of his thesis for the origin of human language:I found the themes of the book, broadly speaking, congenial, and the account well informed and authoritative, as one might expect from a neuroscientist and science popularist of Calvin’s stature.  However, there are aspects of this particular book that I found less satisfying.  Calvin’s insistence on the importance of a gesturally based phase to language evolution does not, I think, make sense.  Language is a parsing skill, and, even though parsing is a hierarchical process, it seems to me to be a very different kind of skill from that used in coordinated throwing.  Manipulating concepts is not the same kind of activity as manipulating muscle masses.  Nor does the timing really work.  The evidence, as Calvin himself notes, points to a period about 500,000 years ago as the likely timing for the origin of speech, if not full-blown language.  But the archaeological record is very clear that real projectile-based hunting did not become widespread until the Upper Palaeolithic revolution, which kicked in around 50,000 years ago (perhaps a little earlier in Africa).  The evolution of speech, then, pre-dates the fine muscle control of aimed throwing by a very wide margin.He also found Calvin’s look into the future “unconvincing.”  Nevertheless, Dunbar is glad that “After a century of neglect, the mind has suddenly become an issue of evolutionary interest once again.”1Robin Dunbar, “Could throwing spears have laid the foundations for language acquisition?”, Nature 427, 783 (26 February 2004); doi:10.1038/427783a.Dunbar is way too polite with his criticism.  Why?  Darwin Party members are loathe to call each other stupid.  It might provide fodder for those darned creationists.    In support of evolution, all Calvin provides is a just-so story that spear throwing evolved our brains into speech machines.  How can that be?  It violates the principle learned by every child: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  One would think that words, the later weapon, would be more effective in the struggle for survival.    What Calvin lacks in evidence for evolution he makes up for in evidence against it.  Dunbar states:Notwithstanding the enthusiasm in the 1970s and 1980s for the similarities between humans and our primate cousins, both in popular culture and among academics, the fact is that humans are very different from even our ape sister species.  William Calvin’s latest book looks at how different we really are.    The essence of Calvin’s argument is that the difference between humans and other animals comes down to what he calls “structured stuff” (that is, coordinated, structured task processing).  One of the most obvious examples is the way we deconstruct sentences to expose their meaning.Apes, of course, have no such abilities, nor are there any transitional forms between us (see 01/20/2004 entry).  From this clear statement declaring the gulf between apes and man, he launches into the JSS (just-so story):We can do this, he argues, because we evolved the capacity to coordinate fine-tuned movements in the context of throwing.  The great revolution in human evolutionary history stems from the shift from the older forms of heavy-duty hunting, mostly by dint of thrusting spears, to projectile hunting (throwing spears or using bows), which required careful aiming and much finer coordination.    Practice at these activities fine-tuned the neural machinery that allowed the delicate motor control required for speech and language.  Much is made, in this respect, of the growing evidence for the brain’s ability to coopt neural circuits.  For example, the neural substrates for reading have different location in the brain in different individuals, as one might expect of a skill that does not have a long evolutionary history.  This ’softwiring’, as Calvin calls it, is clearly of major importance in human cognition.Convinced?  This is so lame.  So Lamarckian.  Even if practice stretched a hunter’s brain, it would not help his kids any more than a giraffe stretching its neck would promote the inheritance of that acquired characteristic.  The trait has to get into the gametes.    No problem, we’ll just modify the JSS a little.  Presumably, a chance mutation gave a hunter a more complex brain, granting him better aim at spear-throwing.  He brought more meat back to the cave, which made him more attractive to the females.  So he had more kids bearing the same mutation, who survived to reproductive age while all the others starved.  Isn’t evolutionary storytelling fun?  You never have to prove your JSS.  As long as it keeps the Darwin Party in power, it is such a dreamy, endless pastime.(Visited 13 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

MTN, Intel to push broadband in Africa

first_imgSAinfo reporterWould you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo material Importance of industry leaders Emerging technology investment “These initiatives will contribute to the development of young people in Africa by equipping them with up to date maths and science skills as well as life skills such as critical thinking in the current knowledge economy,” MTN said in a statement this week. According to the statement, such innovations have the potential to create new industries and offer employment to Africa’s growing young population. South Africa’s MTN Group has signed a memorandum of understanding with the USA’s Intel Corporation which will see the two companies collaborating to accelerate the deployment of broadband access in Africa and the Middle East. Other areas of collaboration include joint efforts by the MTN Foundation and Intel Education’s corporate social responsibility initiatives to equip students and teachers with technology skills. “MTN recognises the strategic value of partnering with an industry player of Intel’s calibre and stature,” De Faria said. 2 August 2010 According to the statement, the memorandum also underpins the importance of industry leaders such as Intel and MTN to collaborate in order to bring sustainable ICT development to the Africa and Middle East region. Intel’s venture capital division, Intel Capital, and the MTN Group will also invest in emerging technology companies that are innovative and demonstrate a potential for advancing the ICT sector by developing products that contribute to solving typically African business and social problems. “In this way we can accelerate Africa’s entry into the 21st century knowledge and digital economy which will give its citizens economic opportunities similar to those in developed countries,” said Graylish. MTN senior vice-president for innovation Christian de Faria said the company believed the memorandum of understanding would facilitate the establishment of joint initiatives to support both their broadband strategy as well as corporate social responsibility projects. “Both companies have expertise in different aspects of ICT deployment and together we can accelerate bridging the digital divide on the continent.” The collaboration covers a wide spectrum of initiatives, including areas such as broadband access through pushing WiMax deployment, offering affordable PC bundles for ordinary African consumers and entrepreneurs, and introducing cost-effective internet browsing devices. “Strategies developed by MTN and Intel to connect the next generation of broadband users in Africa and the Middle East were a perfect fit, which is why we went into discussions to collaborate,” said Intel sales and marketing vice president Gordon Graylish. Skills developmentlast_img read more

Magakwe the first South African to break 10-second barrier

first_img14 April Simon Magakwe became the first South African to break the 10-second barrier for the 100 metres at the South African Athletics Championships in Pretoria on the weekend. Magakwe had the crowd on its feet when he stopped the clock in 9.99 seconds to claim his sixth national title. The time was subsequently rounded down to 9.98 seconds.‘I wanted it so badly’ “From the start I was aggressive, I just wanted it so badly. The last 30 metres I pushed so hard,” Magakwe told the South African Press Association (Sapa) afterwards. “What is exciting is my coach [Eugene Thipe] is from South Africa, and not from Jamaica. Everything we do, we do in South Africa.” Magakwe had narrowly missed the national record he shared with Johan Rossouw of 10.06 seconds in the semi-final by one-hundredth-of-a-second. With his record-setting run, he raced past the time he had shared with Rossouw, who set the national record in 1988. Second-placed Akani Simbine also bettered the previous mark, in a time of 10.02 seconds, while Emile Erasmus was third in 10.23 seconds. “The sad thing is I can’t remember a part of it [the race],” Simbine told Sapa “I am just happy that I did my best and ran my PB [personal best]. “I didn’t expect to go even that close (to breaking through 10 seconds), so I am pretty happy.”The start of big things? Olympic 200 metres finalist Anaso Jobodwana watched the race from the stands and afterwards went down to the track to congratulate Magakwe. He said he hoped Magakwe’s barrier-breaking run would lead to South African athletes repeating that effort. “I am really glad for [Magakwe] and Akani, and I am happy for the way it has turned out,” Jobodwana said. “It shows us that we have the potential and we can take it not just from the 100m, but to the 200m, and the 400m, like we’ve already been dominating the 800m.” Jobodwana, who owns a best time of 10.10 seconds for the 100m, added: “In no time we could have something like Jamaica, because we have the talent, but it is just that athletics doesn’t have the appeal right now.”National record With athletes boasting far less impressive personal best times, South Africa won the 4 by 100 metres title at the 2001 IAAF World Championships in Edmonton, Canada, in a national record of 38.47 seconds. That record still stands, but could be under threat if the country’s top national sprinters get together for a record attempt. Apart from Magakwe (9.98), Simbine (10.02) and Jobodwana (10.10), national universities champion Henricho Bruintjies ran a time of 10.17 seconds in the semi-finals, giving South Africa a foursome that could be among the world’s leading quartets.last_img read more

Stars of diski: South Africa’s football greats

first_imgBafana Bafana are on the up, once again wearing the badge with pride. One day we’re likely to talk about this group of players with the same reverence as our legendary heroes – Steve “Kalamazoo” Mokone, Pule “Ace” Ntsoelengoe, Jomo Sono and Kaizer Motaung. Steve “Kalamazoo” Mokone (front row, far right) in the 1957 to 1958 squad for Dutch football club Heracles Almelo. Mokone is so beloved in the Netherlands that there is a street named after him in Amsterdam. (Image: Salmon Palangana)Football-mad South Africa has had its share of greats, men who have not only wowed their countrymen, but have gone on to fly the flag in other countries as well. Among these legends are men who were stars long before the game was just about money. They were men whose reputations were built on their skill, and not the size of their wallet.Early starsAmong South Africa’s early football exports were Steve “Kalamazoo” Mokone, Pule “Ace” Ntsoelengoe, Jomo Sono and Kaizer Motaung.Once signed for Barcelona (he never played a single game at the Palau Blaugrana arena) Mokone was the first black South African to play professional football in Europe. After signing up for English club Coventry City in 1955, Mokone went on to achieve superstar status playing for the Dutch side Heracles and later for Torino in Italy.At the time he was one of a handful of players to earn £10 000 a year. By 1959 he was rated as one of the best soccer players in Europe, and was being compared to the all-time greats of the game.Ntsoelengoe was a legend with Kaizer Chiefs Football Club in the 1970s before moving to the United States for 11 seasons. He was in the North American Soccer League (NASL) all-star team in 1979 and 1982 and was inducted into the US Soccer Hall of Fame in 2003. Ace Ntsoelengoe in the 1976 Minnesota Kicks squad. (Image: Stimulated Faculties)Sono, owner of Jomo Cosmos FC, had a tough childhood. His father, Orlando Pirates midfielder Eric “Scara” Bhamuza Sono, died in a car crash and his mother abandoned him. Being from Orlando East in Soweto, Orlando Pirates was his home club before he moved on to play for the New York Cosmos, where one of his team-mates was the legendary player Pelé.Jomo Sono in action against Angelo DiBernado in 1982. (Image: NASL Jerseys) Motaung – “Chincha-Guluva” as he was affectionately known because of his dribbling skills – played for Orlando Pirates. After a successful stint with US club Atlanta Chiefs he came back and formed the club Kaizer Chiefs, one of the most revered teams in South African football and the biggest rival to Orlando Pirates.A 22-year-old Kaizer Motaung with Brazilian football legend Pele in 1968. (Image: NASL Jerseys) Class of ’96Fast-forward a few decades and a new crop of players sprang up who would go on to be known as the Class of ’96 after winning the Africa Cup of Nations, or Afcon, two years into South Africa’s new democracy.From that crop Lucas “Rhoo” Radebe, Doctor “16V” Khumalo and Phil “Chippa” Masinga stand out for also appealing internationally and having great careers.Watch highlights of Bafana Bafana’s victory against Tunisia in the final of the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations:Radebe plied his trade with Kaizer Chiefs before leaving them in 1994 and going to Leeds United in the UK. Leeds player of the year in 1998 he became club captain and remains a hero to the fans at Elland Road, the clubs home. The English band Kaiser Chiefs, all Leeds fans, named the band in honour of Kaizer Chiefs, Radebe’s first club.Khumalo, nicknamed after the Volkswagen GTI, a popular car in the township of Soweto at the time was a dribbling wizard that could read the game well. He was the guy that passed to Masinga to score the winning goal for the Afcon title. Khumalo played for the Moroka Swallows reserves before going to Kaizer Chiefs and then on to play for LA Galaxy in the US.Masinga scored the winning goal in the Afcon final of 1996 and brought South Africa to a standstill. A lanky striker with a thunderous shot, Masinga made use of his height advantage very well to score many goals during his illustrious career. He played for Jomo Cosmos and Mamelodi Sundowns in South Africa before going to Leeds United and Italy’s Bari.The millennium revelationsBenni McCarthy is the only South African player to have ever won the European Cup Champions League. He is probably the most decorated South African players having won the Eredivisie with Ajax Amsterdam; Portuguese League with Porto under Jose Mourinho; and, a championship treble with Orlando Pirates where he retired in 2013.Watch Benni McCarthy’s top 10 goals for AFC Ajax:Aaron Mokoena is the first and only South African player with a century caps (107). He represented South Africa in four African Cup of Nations (1998, 2002, 2004, 2008), two World Cups (2002 and 2010) and the 2000 Summer Olympics. He was the captain of the South African team in the FIFA 2010 World Cup and was also Portsmouth FC captain in 2009 in the UK’s Premier League.Still playing regularly in the top flight league in South Africa, Siyabonga Nomvete can still put many a younger striker to shame. Having played in several European leagues, and now Moroka Swallows in the Premier Soccer League, Nomvete has represented Bafana Bafana since 6 May 1999, and he played in the 2002 and 2010 World Cups.These are not all of the greatest players to come from South Africa but their accomplishments continue to inspire the players that came after.last_img read more

Government Orders More Efficient Furnace Fans

first_imgSavings and payback periods varySome 3 million furnace fans were shipped in the U.S. last year. The department said that a furnace rated at 70,000 Btu/hour uses 1,000 kWh of electricity a year (presumably an average), so a consumer paying 14 cents per kWh for electricity now spends $140 a year to move conditioned air around the house. A 46% savings would drop that bill by $67 a year.Average life-cycle cost savings will vary by the type of furnace, as does the median payback period, according to government estimates. Lifetime savings were estimated at $506 for a non-weatherized, non-condensing gas furnace, and less for other types.The standards are performance-based, meaning the government doesn’t tell manufacturers how to meet the new rule. The conversion to more efficient fans will be expensive for the industry, although it’s not clear exactly how much the move will cost and how the new fans would affect consumer prices.The Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, a trade group representing furnace manufacturers, commented in a letter to the department in January that it “considers the adverse impacts of the proposed fan energy rating levels to be significant to the manufacturing industry.” The group also said it didn’t think the new standards would be cost-effective to consumers.Contacted June 26, AHRI said it was still developing a position on the final rule. New efficiency standards for fans installed on forced-air furnaces will reduce power consumption by as much as 46% and save U.S. consumers more than $9 billion on power bills through 2030, the Department of Energy says.The department announced the new rules on June 25, saying they were part of the federal Climate Action Plan and were the latest of eight final and nine proposed standards issued since last year.More efficient fans, which will be required beginning in 2019, will reduce carbon emissions by as much as 34 million metric tons through 2030, the DOE said.The specifics of the rule are spelled out in a lengthy document that lists requirements for different types of furnaces. Each type must meet a certain Fan Energy Rating, which is the amount of electricity needed to move a cubic foot of air per minute (watts/cfm).Savings in electricity ranged from 46% for several types of gas furnace to as little as 12% for non-condensing oil furnaces and certain furnaces for mobile homes.last_img read more

Say Hello To Beam, The Robot That’s Almost As Good As A Hologram

first_imgRelated Posts My body is sitting in my office in Arlington, Virginia. But at the same time, I am also standing in a conference room in Palo Alto, California. I’m test-driving Beam, a remote-control robot avatar that gives me a physical presence in two places at once. Thanks to a 17-inch screen and a six-microphone array, I can be seen and heard face-to-face. I can even use my keypad to “walk” around the room to interact with other people—without undergoing a cross-country plane ride. Beam was originally developed by San Francisco Bay Area robotics studio Willow Garage. Impressed by its growing potential, founder Scott Hassan spun off an entire new company, Suitable Technologies, exclusively to focus on Beam. A year later, as Willow Garage’s other projects seem to be foundering, Hassan has retained a significant number of Willow Garage employees to work on Beam.My view while using Beam. “Reasoning With A Moron”Scott Hassan describes himself as a very optimistic person who is constantly viewing problems as far easier to solve than they are. It’s this attitude that brought him success as a programmer who helped Google in its earliest stages as a research project at Stanford University. But as the founder of Willow Garage, it only brought him disappointment as he quickly learned the limitations of modern robotics. Everything that was easy for a human to accomplish, it seemed, was near-impossible for its personal robotics model, the PR2. “The amount of effort it takes for the PR2 to just pick up a cup requires an unbelievable amount of complication,” says Hassan. “It’s hard to comprehend how something so easy a two-year-old can do it can require the whole team’s effort and then barely make it work. It’s not like reasoning with a two-year-old, it’s like reasoning with a moron.”It’s no wonder that Hassan began to focus on Beam, a Willow Garage project that he spun off into its own company, Suitable Technologies, two years ago. Beam faces very few of the same problems thanks to human intelligence. Where PR2 sees windows as entryways and mirrors as terrifying enigmas—“If you ever face a robot invasion, all you need to do is get some mirrors,” Hassan jokes—the human-controlled Beam knows better.Hassan still believes in personal robotics, and said he expects robots to be in our homes within the next five to ten years. But for now, Beam holds the most promise, and Hassan wants to give it every opportunity to succeed. “I think Beam is a very viable product that needs more resources and team members to make it into something widespread,” he said.Bye, RobotBut when he moved the majority of Willow Garage employees over to Suitable Technologies this month, something had to give. And that turned out to be the PR2. Read more: Why We’ll Have Robots In The Workplace Before Robots At HomeWhile most Willow Garage employees transition over (Hassan could not yet give me an exact number), a team will stay behind to support the 50 PR2s that exist in research labs around the world, continue to build the rest that are in progress, and sell the rest of Willow’s stock. If you’ve got $450,000 lying around, perhaps you can snag one.“The PR2 was never designed to be mass marketed,” said Hassan. “We knew we were going to stop making them at a certain point. But the ideas we came up with along the way were the follow-up market product would be. My vision is that Beam is that.”Hassan hopes that Willow Garage employees’ experience working on the PR2 will lead to dramatic technical advances to Beam. His next goal is to have Beam users be able to interact with their remote environments through remote-control hands and arms. The sun may be setting on Willow Garage and its most impressive personal robot, but Hassan’s vision of personal robotics is alive and well. “Beam is the gateway to personal robotics,” he said. “It’s a very simple application allowing you to be somewhere else. Now Willow Garage is bringing us all the expertise and manpower we need to make that happen.”The Future Of BeamAt $16,000, Beam is the most expensive remote-presence system that currently exists. But it’s also arguably the most sophisticated, with an extensive speaker and video array. Hassan said that this iteration of Beam is not designed to be affordable for users because it’s not intended for the consumer market.“For the consumer market it seems expensive,” Hassan said. “But it’s not an expensive enterprise product. Our enterprise customers aren’t worried about the price. Instead, they’re impressed by what it can do.”However, Hassan said interacting with his kids while away on business has opened up new use cases for Beam: Eating dinner with them via Beam. Getting them ready in the morning through nothing but Beam’s voice commands. Giving them rides around the house on Beam’s sturdy, 100-pound base. “My seven-year-old daughter always gives Beam a hug when she sees my face appear on the screen,” he said. “I don’t know if she realizes this isn’t the norm.”While most parents couldn’t afford the current Beam, Hassan said he’s now planning on making more affordable Beams for the home. The long term strategy is to have low-end, mid-range, and high-end Beams for sale to different markets. Substituting For The “Meat Body”Wheeling my way through Suitable Technologies’ production floor, I can certainly see the appeal that convinced companies like IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and Google to purchase their own Beams. As I walk and talk with Greg Hamilton, Suitable’s enterprise accounts manager, there are very few cues that remind me I’m not there in person. At 5’3” and 100 lbs., Beam is just a bit taller and lighter than my actual body. And thanks to arrow key navigation, it only takes a bit more concentration than normal to walk around. “I bet if you later came here with your meat body, as we call it, you’d remember how to get around,” he said. Hassan predicts Beam will change the way we work, live, and travel in less than a decade. Hundreds of customers have taken Hassan’s optimistic pitch at face value. And after trying Beam out myself, this optimism is infectious. 7 Types of Video that will Make a Massive Impac… lauren orsini Tags:#Beam#Remote Presence#robotics#Suitable Technologies#Willow Garage center_img Growing Phone Scams: 5 Tips To Avoid Why You Love Online Quizzes How to Write a Welcome Email to New Employees?last_img read more

Quick Tips: Improving Your Product Shots and Commercials

first_imgThe key to an efficient product shoot is knowing which lights and what camera movement will deliver on your client’s expectations.The number one rule in product photography (video or photo) is making whatever you’re shooting aesthetically appealing — no matter what it is. That’s a lot of pressure. But let’s be real — it’s important to make clients happy and to keep getting gigs. So, how should you approach shooting something as mundane as a bottle, a box, a tool, etc.? Don’t Shoot Shallow FocusIn the video above, Kozu explains how shooting with a shallow depth of field can make the shoot seem lower-budget. Because you usually open up your aperture when you need more light, this “effect” makes it seem like you don’t have enough lighting for the product. It’s a simple aspect of the shoot that you might not consider. However, you must think about how your client will view the end result.Keep the Motion SimpleMake the shot about the product. Don’t try to outdo every other commercial you’ve seen. The focus should be on what you’re shooting, not how you’re shooting it. So keep it simple.Obviously, you’re not going to go out there and buy a KIRA or a MIA (or in this video’s case, a Bolt). That’s okay because those crazy, awesome, robotic camera movements aren’t necessarily something you need just yet. You can pull off all of the classic moves you need with an inexpensive slider or a jib.Double the MotionSo, in addition to some nice, simple moves, add a Lazy Susan turntable to the shot. Not only does this add more energy, it’s a cheap, totally viable way to increase production value. These simple, sleek turns will create the movement and presentation you need to really showcase a product, no matter what you’re shooting. You can pull this type of shot off using a jib or gimbal to push in or pull out from the product.If you’re interested in learning more about jibs and cranes, check out our video tutorial.Study the MaterialHere is, perhaps, the single greatest piece of advice: prepare. Preparing for the shoot can single-handedly save your entire video. With product shots, specifically, you want to know how light will react ahead of time. You want to know what lights to bring and how to use them. Knowing the product will also help you determine what types of motion and camera movements you’re going to need — one step guides the next. Recently, we covered how lighting a scene the night before can save you a lot of time and effort — the same is true here.If you’re interested in the specifics of how to light your product shoot, check out our tutorial below: Cover image via Indy Mogul.Looking for more filmmaking tips and tricks? Check out these articles.Production Tips: The Four Secrets of a Successful DocumentaryVideo Tutorial: Determining The Best Lens for Your ProjectThe Best Quotes from Directors, Editors, and Everything in BetweenTutorial: Removing Audio Pops and Recording Audio DifferentlyDirecting Challenges: How to Communicate Effectively with Actorslast_img read more