May 27, 2013

Finally, for some real Hagiography

(St. Josaphat, by a pupil of Hans Schilling of Hagenau, Getty Center) 

Allow me to introduce you to Josaphat, (Greek: Ioasaph, Georgian: Iodasaph, Arabic: Yudasaf, Persian: Bodisav, Sanskrit: Bodhisattva), formerly known as St. Josaphat (day of feast Nov 29th, but kicked out of the Martyrologium Romanum in 2004), also more commonly known as (The) Buddha. 

The story of his life and deeds seems to have entered the Christian sphere around the 10th century, and apparently became quite popular in the middle ages, inspiring many descendant works. Shakespeare borrowed a scene involving three caskets for his Merchant of Venice.

Naturally the legend of Barlaam and Josaphat bears only vague resemblance to the canonical sutras: Josaphat converts to Christianism, becomes a king, then lives in the desert etc. etc. Nevertheless it is suprising that until a few years ago, a devout Catholic could light a candle to Buddha. Marco Polo already commented on the parallel Buddha/Josaphat in his travelogue, as did seafarer Diego do Conto when he was visiting Japan in the 17th century.   

Buddha may be the oddest Christian Saint, but he's in good company, with saints such as St. TronSt. Adrian, the patron saint of arms dealers, or St Bibiana, the patron saint of hangovers

Apr 30, 2013

The World's Oldest Web Page (And Space Jam)

For the web's 20th birthday (you guessed - today) CERN has restored the world's oldest website at Take a look at it, and see what the web was like in those days (all of it, actually.)

Only three years younger is Warner Bothers' promo website for the 1996 movie Space Jam at (hat tip to Telepolis magazine) Amazingly, this is not restored or anything, the site simply never went away in the first place. Take a look at this one, and get eye cancer.

Mar 30, 2013

Happy Easter

My hometown decided to have some Easter decoration this year, sponsored by the city council. Gets you into the spirit, doesn't it ?

Here's some more:

Mar 27, 2013

Updated Draft of Paper on Newcomblike Problems


This article discusses the family of Newcomblike problems in the context of reinforcement learning. This reframes the problem of rational decision making as one of obtaining maximal rewards in a wide range of environments. Newcomblike problems are characterized by correlations between agent and environment policies. Such correlations are likely if the environment contains other agents with similar architectures, which is a realistic assumption in practice. An optimal policy, taking into account these correlations, is given for known environments. 


Jan 1, 2013

Back Again

Happy new year!

Dec 31, 2011

Big Bad Uzbek Solar Laser

I'm ending this year with an uplifting example of engineering, Uzbekistan's 1MW solar-powered Nd:YAG laser research facility. I'm not exactly sure what the intended research objective is, but if I had to wager a guess, I'd say it has something to do with energy transmission from orbit. What (relatively) poor, resource-rich, Uzbekistan, with its large deserts, is to gain from orbital solar power is somewhat unclear, so I may be wrong here. Still, while I'm posting this for the obvious Dr. Scaramanga connotation, this project is an example of rationally justifiable, cost-efficient science with a clear objective, at least if compared to madman's schemes such as magnetic confinement fusion, the Space Launch System, or the occasional FP7 project (link in German), or most of what I've seen at AGI-11 this year. Cheers to 2012 !

Sep 16, 2011

A Change to the Link List was Overdue

I'm no longer linking to the Singularity institute blog, as I do no longer wish to be associated with this organization in any way. Dresden Codak gets the boot for displaying Megatokyo Syndrome (glacial pacing, asking for donations for broken computers, etc.) and Pink Tentacle seems, sadly, to be defunct since April (I dearly hope this guy is OK).

Replacing them are Gene Expression, a blog on "human evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices"; something like a 21st century Rassenlehre without any of the associated wickedness; Hark! A Vagrant, a webcomic, by the wonderful Kate Beaton, on topics like Sherlock Holmes, Canadians, Tesla, Chopin and Liszt, book covers, and much more; and Monsieur LaMoe (moderately NSFW), who lends a unique voice to the world's hikikomori, and whose status as a real person vs. a consortium of writers is still under debate. (I'm leaning somewhat towards "real person".)