Monthly Archives: December 2011

Not Quite Life Imitating Art

…but you can imagine an MA-gone-bad doing something like this:

If a report from The Sun is to be believed, a demo unit for the iPhone 4S caught fire for telling 12-year-old Charlie Le Quesne to “Shut the f— up, you ugly t—.”

Charlie reportedly asked Siri “How many people are there in the world?” and that was the answer he got back. Together with his mother and the manager, they asked the demo iPhone 4S the same question and got the same answer back yet again. Needless to say, the demo unit was unplugged and sent back to Apple for “diagnostic tests.”

The errors seems to have stemmed from Siri thinking that the questioner’s name was “Shut the f— up, you ugly t—.”

Which tells me that another, mischievous customer had been messing around with the unit prior to this incident.

Which just proves that, however slick and smart the Siri interface might seem, it’s still a long way from being a “simulacrum intelligence”-based mobile agent.

Life Imitates Art: Solar Power Paint

Looks like researchers at Notre Dame are well on their way to developing the solar-power paint we mention in In the Shadow of Ares‘Sunbelievable’ Solar Paint Could Power Home Appliances, Scientists Say:

The paint, dubbed “Sunbelievable” by developers at the University of Notre Dame, looks no different from any other paint used to coat home exteriors and other surfaces. But when hit by light, the semiconducting particles within Sunbelievable produce small amounts of electricity that researchers hope they can magnify in great enough amounts to power home appliances, Science Daily reported.

“We want to do something transformative, to move beyond current silicon-based solar technology,” research leader and Notre Dame professor Prashant Kamat said. “By incorporating power-producing nanoparticles, called quantum dots, into a spreadable compound, we’ve made a one-coat solar paint that can be applied to any conductive surface without special equipment.”

Unfortunately the paint is far from ready to be sold commercially, Kamat explained.

“The best light-to-energy conversion efficiency we’ve reached so far is 1 percent, which is well behind the usual 10 to 15 percent efficiency of commercial silicon solar cells,” Kamat said. “But this paint can be made cheaply and in large quantities. If we can improve the efficiency somewhat, we may be able to make a real difference in meeting energy needs in the future.”

The article helpfully points out that a typical household requires 285 square feet of silicon solar panels to supply its power needs at 10-15% efficiency, which means that same house would need around 3000 square feet of Sunbelievable at its current conversion efficiency. Ignoring incidence angles on painted surfaces, etc., that really isn’t an excessively large area for many American houses – especially if roof surfaces can be included.

Giving “In the Shadow of Ares” As A Gift

A friend asked me today how she could send In the Shadow of Ares as a gift.

Through Amazon, it’s very simple (as, with Amazon, you might expect it to be). Navigate to the product page using the link above or on the AresProject.com sidebar. In the upper right corner of the product page, among the other links you normally use to order merchandise through Amazon.com, there will be a button labeled “Give as a Gift” (circled here in red):

Click on "Give a Gift" on the book's product page

Clicking the button brings up a Kindle ordering page with a few extra options. Here, you can enter the email address of the person to whom you wish to send the book (even if they don’t own a Kindle or have the software installed…yet…) in the spot indicated with the red circle, and if you wish to make it a surprise for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc., you can enter the appropriate delivery date in the spot indicated with the green circle:

Enter the email of the gift recipient, and the date you want it delivered (say, December 25)

Easy. And remember that the recipient doesn’t have to have an Amazon account (and you don’t need to know what their account name is if they do), and if the recipient doesn’t already have a Kindle they can simply download the Kindle e-reader software for whatever platform they prefer (laptop, iPad, smartphone, etc.).

The process is pretty similar for Nook users, but there is no up-front way to specify delivery date. Click on the link on the Barnes & Noble product page (which page you can also get to from the link on the sidebar here), indicated with the red circle:

Click the circled link to send a Nook gift

Clicking the link brings up a floating page where you can enter the gift recipient’s info and a gift card message:

Pretty self-explanatory, but no delivery date option here

I didn’t go further with the Nook version, since I would have had to buy it (which obviously makes no sense for me to do), but in screens beyond this one a delivery date option may be available.

So, that’s all there is to it — perfectly simple, and much easier than buying a dead-tree book and wrapping it.