Today is the birthday of Alan Turing, the father of Information Science, whose “Turing Test” is one of the seminal artificial intelligence tests.
It is fitting, then to be attending Geek Pride Day at Dick Morley’s Barn. Morley runs a daylong ideafest on the week of the longest day of the year every year (last year’s event was unfortunately cancelled due to Dick’s second knee surgery). He’s been trying to get me to come for about ten years, so it is really nice to finally come and participate.
In the morning, Dick gave a talk about…well, lots of things. He showed some of his creations over the years, including ABS brakes. “80% of what I do,” Morley deadpanned, “is both bullshit and doesn’t work.”
Dick showed an interesting slide that graphed the BTU/passenger mile of various means of transportation. First and second best were things that he didn’t know about, third best was vanpooling, fourth best was motorcycle (eliciting a “hoowah!” from Dick) and personal car was right in the middle. Bus and train and Amtrak were among the worst in terms of fuel efficiency.
Dick also talked about what he called “Penguin Strategy.” He said, “Have you ever noticed how penguins decide if it is safe to dive into a hole in the ice? They bumble into each other until they get a juvenile penguin to fall in. If he comes back, it is safe: there are no seals or killer whales. If he doesn’t come back, they know it isn’t a good hole to fish in.” So, Dick defined “Penguin Strategy.”
- Don’t be the first penguin in.Don’t be the only penguin in.For advice, ask a wet penguin.
He talked about an interesting innovation in MEMS that you’ll see in a few years from BMW. YOu’ll see a new kind of headlight that uses 44,000 MEMS mirrors to make sure that the headlights don’t blind oncoming drivers, by projecting dark at the focal point of the beam. So, the driver can see where he’s going, but the oncoming cars aren’t blinded by the headlights.
Lunch and networking ensued. Talked to Rick Caldwell, the “custodian” of the Industrial Computing Society. Shari Worthington, of Telesian Technology, Nels Tyring of TVC Services, Caldwell and I discussed how or even why to resurrect the ICS.
I had interesting discussions with Dick Caro and Dave Hardin, who is a senior technologist for Invensys Intelligent Automation (that’s Foxboro for you old farts) about OPC UA, Wireless, EDDL and FTD-DTM.
I also had a fascinating discussion with Steve Casperson, vice president of operations for SimpleComTools who produces some incredibly inexpensive but extremely powerful tools that use cellular modems to propagate. He showed me multiple I/O units and tiny relay controllers that run on as little as 20 microamps!!! Yep, microamps.
We were talking about the lack of young geeks coming up, and Casperson told me that his company gives a huge discount to, and lots of special online and on-phone help to anybody who identifies him or herself as a student.
After lunch, we listed to two students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Eric Twark, and Christopher Thien (who told us they do business as Solstice Technologies. Chris and Eric, as freshmen, talked their way into the DARPA race (eventually won by Stanford) and they are still working on autonomous automobiles. They need to raise $50,000 in the next few months, so they can complete the next phase of the project. It is NOT a tax deductible, but it would sure be a worthy cause for an automation vendor to support these guys. While it is isn’t a deduction, you can get them to put a sticker on the outside of their car for you. So, Rockwell, National Instruments, ABB, AutomationDirect, and others, maybe you could kick in a few bucks for these kids. If you want to support young people who love technology, you ought to do it. If you do it, let me know, and I’ll put your name on the “good list.” (grin)