…All’s right with the world.

You know how it is when you spend so long waiting for something that eventually you stop checking?

A couple of years ago Hideaki Anno, Gainax and Studio Khara announced the Rebuild of Evangelion project. It’s aim to retell Neon Genesis Evangelion across four theatrical movies. The first three focusing on updating the original series with the addition of several new elements including new characters and at least two new EVA’s. The fourth film is intended to give the franchise an alternative ending(at least its fourth variation across all Media).

Grand plans indeed. The first of the four movies was released in September of 2007 and was pretty much a straight remake of the first six episodes of the series, none of Anno’s plans became apparent in the actual movie, its not until the teaser trailer for part two at thee end of the movie that there is anything for the fan to get greasey-excited about. Here we are treated to glimpses of a new Eva model. our first look at the redesign of Eva 02 and our first glimpse of a young girl with brown hair and spectacles who may or may not be a new pilot. Pretty exciting stuff.

Then things went quiet though. The originally planned release date of January 2008 came and went, anime magazine Newtype anounced that the film would now be released in December 2008, almost a whole year after the original date. October 2008 the official website published enigmaticly that the second film wouldn’t be released until “Early summer 2009”, it was starting to look like the rebuild project was going the same way as the ill-fated western Movie.

That’s what I thought any way, an as time went on I stopped checking, until today I tapped it into Google looking for a UK release date for Book 12 of the manga, what I found instead was a new trailer for the second movie, and a confirmed release date of June 27 2009.

While I realise that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, since I first saw the series I’ve loved it, it features a complexity to it’s characters that I find fascinating and while many of it’s themes are cod philosophy, psychology and theology at best it’s still probably more thought provoking than your average Dan Brown adaptation.  And it has giant robots (sort of), take that Hanks!

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Why Marie Curie Could Kick your Ass

Marie Curie once famously uttered the following quote…

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

Although I don’t know when Curie gave this wonderful quote to us it was some time before her untimely death in 1934. I don’t think this quote has ever been more relevant than it is now. Maybe it’s just me getting older, but old fearmongering and block headed obstinateness seem to be reasserting themselves in the public consciousness. Unfounded fear of autism is leaving children unvaccinated against MMR, based on hearsay still repeated now.

Marie Curie was awarded two Nobel prizes (one of them shared with her husband and Heni Becquerel) for her research into the phenomena of radioactivity, and she and Pierre Curie discovered two new elements; polonium and radium. Curie also began work on using radiation to prevent the growth of cancerous cells.

In many ways Marie Curie seems to reflect the attitude of geeks today. Her and her husband were responsible for overturning existing scientific conventions, she was unafraid of working with the unknown and even refused to patent radium to allow fellow scientist to work with the element.

Marie Curie was independent, intelligent, grounded and courageous. She is worthy of your respect.

This post is part of Ada Lovelace Day, a day of blogging celebrating the role of women in technology. I have chosen Marie Curie as she effectively gave her life for science and I admire her a great deal. Whilst I have chosen a historical subject for my post, there are lots of women working today worthy of accolade. Take a look at other posts celebrating these women.

Machine Intelligence

Most folks laugh at this phrase, everybody has had fun with their backwards printer and rebellious cellphone. Working daily with the facepalm worthy exploits of folks I’ve come to laugh at the notion of human intelligence as well, but that’s another story.

Even now work is going on to create synthetic brains, devising simple heuristic rules which can guide the creation of artificial neural networks. New hardware and software is being created right now to facilitate the growth of true intelligence from a machine, and that makes me excited.

It’s worth noting the differences here between artificial intelligence and machine intelligence, there’s a big gap. Artificial intelligence can only respond to stimuli that it has specificially been created to work with, an example is bots in videogames. A bot can act like a player, and even though you can tell them apart from humans they still react in what would be considered a lifelike way within the simulated situation in which they exist, but without special markers built into those game worlds the bots cease functioning correctly and begin to act erratically. Machine intelligence works by creating models from available data and building scenarios within it’s neural network, allowing it to come to decisions that the original designers of it’s heuristic software may not have anticipated; taking my example above, the intelligence would learn the rules of the game through observation not through intentional prompts. There are different methods to achieve this but their goal is the same, to create a thinking model.

Isaac Asimov famously wrote about devices built with such an intelligence in I, Robot (and later Cory Doctorow took his ideas and ran with them in his I, Robot and more playful I, Row Boat) defining three rules which should govern the behaviour of a machine intelligence. The question is though, should we artificially restrain what thoughts a synthetic mind can entertain? Does the simple act of rationalising and coming to decisions based on available input constitute sentience?

It’s more a question for the philosophy students out there, me; I’m looking forward to the Turing Test being beaten and robot equality movements. It’s all a long way off, but we’re a clever bunch, eh? In the mean time watch this video and be enlightened:

http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-6464697696665901632&hl=en&fs=true

Thanks to Andrew C. Hoyer for the aweome photo and having the ‘nads to Creative Commons licence it!

Die MechaHitler, Die!

Being the self respecting geeks that we are, we all play a role playing games and I have the dubious honor of acting as the GM for most of these.  One of the games I’ve always wanted to run is called wushu.

Wushu is a little different to other RPGs in that players describe what their characters do, not what they hope they’ll do if the dice go their way. It’s then up to the GM to interpret the level of success based on a simple dice mechanic. Wushu is also free, the core rules simply describe how to play, and don’t give you any fluff to mess around with; leaving you to create your own setting.

To that end, Ado and I came up with a pulp setting with WW2, time travel a-la Back to the Future, robots and lasers. Mulling this over today I brain dumped this short story. (Also this is about as far as i ever got with NaNoWriMo) I know the prose is horrible and it changes a bit from first to third person, but I don’t care, it’s setting fluff. Think the old Commando Comics:

Danny Williams was huddled in the ruins of what he took to be an old Cafe Bar, inexpertly cramming another clip into his Browning in the dark. A shot pinged off the runed stonework his squad were holed up in, Dan flinched and looked around the faces of his mates, the 2nd Derbyshire infantry. Crouched in the rain he could barely make out the forms of his squaddies.

They’d been sent to France just two days earlier, much to the surprise of the commanding officers. The 2nd had been ordered to support an armoured unit’s advance directly into Paris, an odd move considering France was on the verge of surrender and unwilling to commit any military resources to defend it’s capital. The Brits had been holed up at one end of the muddy cratered mess that was once the Champ de Mars, losing and gaining ground on an hourly basis. Their orders were to take the Eiffel Tower at all costs, a job hampered by Hun snipers stationed along the tower’s many platforms and the mechanised support at it’s base.

Intellegence reports suggested a large installation was being built between the tower’s latticed legs, although up until now Danny hadn’t been able to see anything, between the cannon smoke and omnipresent threat of snipers all anyone could do was focus on the task at hand and move forward building by building. Sergeant Warwick, a stocky man with a bristly mustache nodded to Danny who immediately brought the thick barrel of the Browning up and over his head and began blind firing at the old shoe shop opposite. As the bark of the Browning began, the rest of the squad lept up and rushed the building. As Danny stood, better not to shoot his own squaddies, he saw his schoolmate Mick Lownes put one Hun to the knife as another of the filthy buggers drew a bead on him.

“Mick!” Danny shouted as he sprayed a mass of bullets at the Nazi bastard. A fine red mist let him know he’d hit his mark, but not before a shot had struck just wide of his friend.
“Fuckin’ hell!” exclaimed Mick, turning to Danny with an accusing look. Danny shrugged, he’d got him, hadn’t he?

A minute or so later the squad was regrouping in the once German occupied shop; Warwick sported a bloody nose slowly congealing in the Sergeant’s mustache, the result of a rifle butt to the face. Arthur from Sutton-in-Ash wasn’t so lucky, a bullet had hit him in the chest and his breathing was ragged, little flecks of blood showed on his lips.

“Poor bugger,” remarked Mick, “you reckon he’ll be alright?”
“Aye, we’ve had worse ‘n that stood up and fighting within’t hour!” said Danny, not sure at all.

Their field surgeon “Lanky” Langton was administering adrenaline and doing what he could to staunch the flow of blood from Arthur’s chest. Turning away, Danny crouched up beside the Sergeant.
“What do you think Sarge?”

Warwick had his field binoculars resting on the remains of a wall, surveying the 50 metre run to the next building. “Dunno lad,” he said gruffly, “leaves us in’t open for a stretch, still, no sign of ’em over there.”

A second later the Sergeant lowered the binoculars and turned to the squad, his back still to the solid brickwork of the shop. “Alright lads, on to the next one” he intoned, his voice calm and measured, as if signalling the start of a new shift back home. At his word the men stacked up against whatever cover they could, hunkered down but ready to move.

“Alright Dan, let ’em have it” said the Sarge, and on command Danny brought the Browning up to fire as he’d done a hundred times previously, but this time something caused him to stop before pulling the trigger.

A loud screeching had begun to echo across the no man’s land of the Champs and mere seconds later a a crack like thunder rang out, shattering whatever windows were left along the boulevards. A fork of lighning had hit the Eiffel Tower, it’s afterimage burned into Danny’s eyes. This wasn’t what had caused him to pause though, suddenly the image of the Tower was obscured by the form of a giant man.

As he blinked, furiously trying to clear the spots from his eyes Danny began to resolve that it was no man blocking his view, but a gigantic machine, easily three quartes of the Tower’s height. It was unlike anything he’d ever seen, and he could do nothing but stare as the towering mechanical man took it’s first pondering step forwards onto the Champs de Mars.

“What the bloody hell…” muttered Mick staring at the giant beast. The rain streaked his face with the filth from days of fighting.

“Take it easy boys, we’ve still got a job to do” Warwick shouted over the cloying whine of the machine. Danny refocussed and and began spraying the opposite building with automatic fire. Seconds later the rest of his mates were out from cover and running across the expanse. The first couple of of squaddies to reach the building vaulted inside and began clearing the rooms, as more of his mates streamed across the open gound. It was only as the last few were leaving cover to make the run, and Danny was standing to follow that he saw with horror that the monstrous figure was staring at him, a single slit of glowing red rather than eyes. It raised it’s arm, the end made from a latticework of metal, began to glow.

“Down!” Screamed Danny, but before the word had left his lips the projectile had hit the building opposite him. The there was no time to think, seconds later Danny Williams and the rest of his squad were torn to pieces by the force of the impact and flying rubble.