Assorted links

by on December 16, 2012 at 12:21 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Adam Smith on medical education.

2. Why Japan is obsessed with Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas.

3. Must Montreal dogs be fluent in two languages?

4. The year in volcanic activity.

5. Why is it hard to make robots?

prior_approval December 16, 2012 at 1:20 pm

‘Must Montreal dogs be fluent in two languages?’

And here I was, thinking dogs weren’t fluent in any language.

‘Thirty years later, computers have gotten a lot faster, but robots still seem kind of primitive. If you walk into a Brookstone or Best Buy, the only robots you are likely to find are children’s toys and glorified self-propelled vacuum cleaners, not all-purpose helpers that are versatile enough to change diapers, hold conversations, and cook dinner.’

Yet seemingly another American autthor with zero experience of a modern production facility, though admittedly, those industrial machines aren’t generally what one considers versatile, except in terms of replacing human labor, which can now return to changing diapers, holding conversations, and cooking dinner.

DocMerlin December 16, 2012 at 2:42 pm

“Yet seemingly another American autthor with zero experience of a modern production facility”

This!

Andrew' December 16, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Those are barely robots.

Andrew' December 16, 2012 at 1:35 pm

5. Roomba ‘works’ because it is specialized and has all day to do a job you’d rather not be around for anyway. Many appliances qualify as ‘robots’ in this sense. If my coffee maker had a bean hopper and grinder and was tapped into the water line and filled from a cup dispenser I’d happily walk over to it all by myself.

dearieme December 16, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Re Smith: you may care to know that “Buccleugh” – more often spelled Buccleuch nowadays – is pronounced B’kloo, stress on the loo.

Edward Burke December 16, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Jeremy Norman maintains a curious site, devoted by parts to antiquarianism and the history of science. Without searching his site but viewing only the pagelink provided, one startling omission from his sidebar list of luminaries: Pierre Duhem, who must’ve acquired some of the skills of an antiquarian to produce his studies of medieval science.

Brandon Berg December 16, 2012 at 9:08 pm

“Why is it hard to make robots?”

They won’t breed in captivity.

maguro December 16, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Or in the wild, for that matter.

So Much For Subtlety December 16, 2012 at 11:03 pm

Which is a relief because if they did, the nerd genes would be bred out of the human population in two generations. Max.

MD December 17, 2012 at 11:59 am

So robots are like electronic pandas. Sad!

Also, Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas is a total thing. At least I now know that my friend’s family was just eating a traditional Japanese Christmas dinner.

Brian Donohue December 16, 2012 at 11:13 pm

re# 1.

From Pearl’s 1925 Introduction: “But any one who reads it now will be forcibly struck once more with another instance of that common observation that few of the problems of human life have, even in details, any particular novelty.”

Amen.

Ronald Brak December 16, 2012 at 11:47 pm

5. Looks like we need a definition of robot to avoid confusion. I’m partial to “mechanical apparatus that is programable to perform a variety of different tasks”. That leaves out my laptop which isn’t very mechanical in what it does and leaves in roombas as people have programmed them to do some weird things. And I would of course count self programing under programable. Anyone got a better definition? Because I think I just said uncle Bob’s bionic arm is a robot.

Andrew' December 17, 2012 at 5:43 am

It should take in information from the environment to make decisions. That’s why I say industrial robots are barely robots. If you can do the same thing with limit switches the you may or may not be a robot. They aren’t really making a decision as much as being triggered to an action.

Ronald Brak December 17, 2012 at 7:48 pm

So could we call a bomb disposal robot that’s remote controlled a robot if all information processing is done in a human brain?

JWatts December 18, 2012 at 11:35 am

I’m an industrial automation engineer.

As far as US factories go, the common definition of robot is an automated articulated arm.

“I’m partial to “mechanical apparatus that is programable to perform a variety of different tasks”.”

That describes all of factory automation. Almost all automation in a plant uses motors, sensors and factory computers, commonly referred to as PLCs (programmable logic computers). A standard, modern ‘biscuit line’ has 2 humans on the line downstream of the mixers and cranks out a 10,000 cases a day. Generally, the humans are there for cleaning, feeding bulk material to the machines and troubleshooting. Beyond, the tow truck driver dumping vats of dough at the start and another tow truck driver picking up stack pallets of cases at the end a human doesn’t ‘make’ the biscuit, nor ever touch the product. You could rationally consider the product line as a ‘robot’, but that’s not the normal usage.

Ronald Brak December 18, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Thanks, JWatts. I presume that a biscuit line only makes biscuits. That’s more limited that what I was thinking, but the definition I gave doesn’t explain what is meant by a variety of different tasks. Defining a robot as having an articulated arm sounds good. This leaves out the roomba, but includes Uncle Bob.

Michael December 17, 2012 at 9:41 am

In re: the granting of the M.D., the Flexner report which changed the direction of the practice in the U.S. might be added. Halstead and his antiseptic surgery practice and training at Johns Hopkins may have greatly increased the value of the M.D. Somewhere, in similar reflections there is the assertion that ‘it wasn’t until 1911 that that the average patient consulting the average physician came out the better for the experience.’

Mike M December 17, 2012 at 10:17 am

I believe Smith was concerned little with the average physician as his point was that it should be the consumers (patients) that ultimately determine the worthiness of the physician to practice rather than institutions, i.e. that the results the physician produces will determine whether or not patients wish to use his services regardless of the credential given to him by the university. As such, it is each individual physician that matters rather than the average as the average more closely reflects they typical path towards the title, i.e. medical school.

Richard December 17, 2012 at 2:01 pm

The problem is that (although patronizing) patients don’t know what constitutes good medical advice. There’s a reason they’re consulting a physician, after all. Thus you have the situations of patients rating very highly nurse practitioners who spend increased time with them as well as clinic mills in Florida where appointments are 5 minutes and the most benign headache is sent for a battery of tests when simple reassurance could have sufficed.

After medical school, I’ve learned that patients care about two things: the physician appearing to care, and appearing to do something about the complaint. Nowhere do they demand that the advice be sound.

JasonL December 17, 2012 at 10:27 am

I got to see the KFC thing first hand when I lived in Osaka for a year. It’s just fantastic. There was a Family Christmas Seto (combo) they were selling for $65 at the time. I had students who, upon hearing I was from Kentucky had this kind of mad vision of us running around in a fried chicken santa suited wonderland. It’s perspective granting. Of course, sometimes they miss. There was that thing with the 15′ tall Santa on a crucifix in the Takashimaya holiday display that one year. It … didn’t convey what they intended, but you can totally see how they got there – fat guy, red suit, cross – there you go!

Michael December 17, 2012 at 10:40 pm

That is so outre’ I am going to have to avoid elaborating.

Floccina December 17, 2012 at 2:33 pm
Urso December 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Alternate title: Adam Smith criticizes early precursor to MRU.

anonymous December 19, 2012 at 6:03 pm

3. The idea of dogs understanding spoken language is merely ridiculously implausible. What instantly gives away the hoax as outright impossible, on the other hand, is the notion that any law or regulation at the provincial or municipal level in Quebec could ever require bilingualism (i.e., actually require the use of English). The official language in Quebec is French and such a law would be stillborn (similar to a blatantly unconstitutional law in the US). Bilingualism is only mandated in areas and institutions under federal jurisdiction, for instance post offices.

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