Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Head-mounted display shows virtual 16-inch screen

A new head-mounted display. Recently shown off in Japan, Brother's  AirScouter projects the equivalent of a 16-inch display directly onto  your retina. This allows interesting applications for augmented reality.

UK National Ask a Stupid Question Day

Today is 'Ask a Stupid Question DayAccording to a Telegraph report, the tradition dates back to the 1980s in the US.

A few questions asked by British schoolchildren in honor of the event, as answered by a question-answering texting service:
Q: How long would it take to roast a fully grown Indian elephant?
A: An Indian elephant, average weight 5000kg, would take 2916 hours and 40 minutes to roast to perfection (based on 35 minutes a kilogram). You would need an extremely large serving dish.
Q: How long would it take a snail to slide around the world? 
A: 34,519 days at 0.7 miles a day or 0.03 miles per hour, the average speed for a garden snail.
My favorite:
Q: I want to write a film script which makes me millions: what should it be about?
A: Based on the top-grossing films, your script should be about a young wizard and a robot looking for a ring on a pirate ship which sinks. Good luck.
Remember, there are no stupid questions!

PEW study finds that many religious US Americans lack knowledge about religion.

The United States is one of the most religious developed countries in the world, however, a recent PEW study found that a majority of the 3400 surveyed people lack fundamental knowledge of religion. 

Surprisingly, atheists and agnostics scored the highest, while Bible-belt Southerners came out at the bottom.

See more findings here:
Don't know much about religion? You're not alone, study finds – CNN Belief Blog - Blogs

Amazingly complex processes that go on while we make a phone call (and we are not aware of)

Interesting visualization of the complex processes (both neuro-biological and technical) that enable us to perform a conversation over cell phones (by Abstruse Goose)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Template for how journalists write about scientific publications

Here is a generic template how web-journalists write about scientific publications. Funny, but also holds some truth (as all good humor).

This is a news website article about a scientific finding | Martin Robbins | Science |

Information Visualization vs Knowledge Visualization

To turn information into proto-knowledge and then into knowledge, various forms of visualizations can be helpful.

I distinguish between information visualizations and knowledge visualizations.
  • Information visualization: Information visualizations are visual representations of patterns (concepts, perceived regularities), e.g. bar graph, line graph, pie chart, or word clouds. These isolated patterns do not make sense without contextual knowledge.
This pie chart shows a pattern without context.
  • Knowledge visualization: Knowledge visualizations are visual representations of the connections (or context) between concepts. Knowledge visualizations show concepts in context, while information visualizations show isolated concepts.
    • Knowledge visualizations can show meaningfully grouped concepts, for example in Venn diagrams, grouped lists, tables, matrixes. 
    • Knowledge visualizations can make the connections between concepts explicit, for example concept maps, or semantic maps.
This concept map shown connections between concepts.
Concepts can be understood by seeing them in context to other concepts.

Is proto-knowledge stable?

The amount of proto-knowledge grows both absolutely and relatively.

Absolute growth of proto-knowledge: As the total amount of information grows over time, so does the proto-knowledge available.

Relative growth of proto-knowledge: As my expertise in a field increases, so does the amount of proto-knowledge for me. The mental framework of an expert consists of more concepts and more connections between concepts. This allows an expert to understand more available proto-knowledge. Also, an expert might have access to more proto-knowledge than a laymen, for example access to certain databases and libraries.

What is the difference between information and proto-knowledge?

Information is unconnected elements (concepts, ideas) that are perceived regularities of data. Information can be words or numbers.

The word "dog" is a piece of information. The letters d, o, and g are arranged in a certain way to describe a certain animal. "Dog" does not describe a particular dog but rather the regularity common to all dogs. Plato called concepts "idea or ideal", Aristotle called it "essence".

"2 13 11 5 8 6" are randomly arranged data. The numbers can be arranged "2 5 8 11 13" to reveal a regular pattern (increase by +3). Mean or median could also be determined.

However, a single word or a single number (information) is not meaningful to me in isolation. I need to see them in context - their relationships to concepts I already have in my mental framework.

Knowledge is information in context, therefore in connection to other concepts. However, knowledge that is not part of my mental framework is proto-knowledge.

Information becomes proto-knowledge if it fulfills four conditions:

-The proto-knowledge must be useful to me. Therefore, I can make connections to existing concepts in my mental framework.
-The proto-knowledge must be understandable to me. The concept must be connected in a meaningful way. I need to have existing concepts in my mental framework to connect the new concepts to. For example, I must already know the language or symbols the concept is represented in.
-The proto-knowledge must be accessible to me. If the proto-knowledge is in a database that is forever closed to me, for example a federal agency confidential database, then this information might be useful and understandable, but not available.
-Proto-knowledge consists of novel connected concepts that are not yet part of my existing mental framework.

What is Proto-Knowledge?

The world of ideas can be divided into different levels of organization.

-On the first level is data: I define data as unsorted numbers or letters. Data on its own carries no meaning. In order to become information, data must be arranged meaningfully.

-The second level is information: Information consists of isolated concepts that represent patterns (perceived regularities) found in data. For example a trend in statistical data, or words (concepts).

-The third level is Knowledge: For information to take on meaning, it must be interpreted by putting it into context with other concepts. Knowledge is a network of inter-connected concepts. This definition of knowledge is different from the classical philosophical understanding as"justified true belief". I understand connectedness as the central criterion for knowledge (without judging its truthfulness). People can hold concepts of varying truthfulness in their mental network.

-A fourth (and epistemologically different) level is meta-knowledge: Meta-knowledge (also called strategic knowledge or even wisdom) means knowing when to use knowledge.

So what is PROTO-KNOWLEDGE? Proto-knowledge is in-between information and knowledge. I describe proto-knowledge as potential knowledge. For example, a book that I have not read yet contains proto-knowledge. Once I have read the book and integrated the concepts of the book into my existing mental network it becomes actual knowledge that I can actively use for problem-solving and decision-making. Information in the internet is proto-knowledge. It is information, presented in context and connected to other ideas, for example through links, but I have not seen and integrated this information yet - thereby turning it into knowledge. Knowledge other people have but I do not is also proto-knowledge to me. After a person shares it with me, it becomes knowledge to me too.