Tuesday, March 06, 2007


I watched I, Robot last night for about the third time. I've said it before, but I will say it again. I am intrigued by Sonny. I love the expression in his eyes, the vulnerability in his voice, and the way he makes us sympathise with him.
I also liked Teddy, the bear-bot in A.I.. But...they were not real...

Sony has discontinued its trainable robo-dog AIBO as well as the mini humanoid Qrio (cost: approx. $2500), and the Sega i-Dog (£12.99) is lame. Then there is the somewhat intelligent RoboSapiens (£200ish) by Wowee. But Asimo is pretty cool. You may have seen him in the last Honda ad. He's so adorable and seems so eager to please, you just want to bless his little rubber socks. And he looks like a wee little spaceman!

As long as they don't humanise them too much, I think robot helpers will be fine.

Check out the videos of what the lil' fellow can do, on the Honda Asimo website. He - I mean, it - can climb stairs, run fast and slow, run in a curve, sidestep, kick a ball, dance, recognise faces and simple gestures, walk backwards, respond to pressure by adjusting its stance, wait for someone to cross its path before continuing, hold a human hand and walk, carry a tray, push a cart...and it does have to learn these things on its own by making calculations and adapting.


That wasn't what I really meant to blog about. Last week I had a joyful reunion with the writings of Michael Crichton. I read Timeline. It's sort of about quantum physics and time travel to the 14th century, only the developers in the book don't call it that because they say time travel, per se, is not possible. Instead, they talk about multiverses. More than one universe - I suppose what we know as parallel universes. So here is the question I scribbled on a scrap of paper in the Tube one morning:

If it is not time travel but MULTIVERSES, then how can the Professor travel to the 14th century AND leave a note that will be excavated in the 20th century to be found by his OWN team and not some other team in another multiverse - or not be found at all, if in one universe the site has not been discovered or is inactive?

Because the rep from the company that developed the quantum travel described it thus:

"...the universe we see...was just one of an infinite number of universes, existing side by side.
Each of these universes was constantly splitting, so there was a universe where Hitler lost the war, and another where he won; a universe where Kennedy died, and another where he lived."

Most of us have had that sort of conversation before - what if he did, what if he didn't - but it's the crossover here that confuses me. The Professor visiting in 1357 loses his glasses in the scriptorium and his colleague Kate in 1999 excavates them the day after he travelled there. The manuscript specialist finds a parchment note in his handwriting asking them for help, including the date and the solution to a code.

Fine, if it were mere time travel...but how can he be in another universe?

Another thing that was mentioned but not resolved was the fact that the time travellers are split at the home end, and they disappear, but it is not they but their counterparts from another universe that are reassembled at the destination - because in our universe they figured out how to transport them but not how to reassemble them, so our scientists are relying on those from another universe that have reassembly capability...body swap? So, where do our travellers go meantime, into the ether? And how come their counterparts know the same things as they do?

And if they compress not a person but the information equivalent of a person, as in a fax, then how does that person go and fight battles and draw blood on the other side?

This is making the idea of the Matrix sound simple. So, enough quantum mechanics for now because even the physicist Richard Feynman said in 1967: "Nobody understands quantum theory."


Check out my new flipped hairstyle:

When I first cut it short 7 years ago, it was drastic. I never thought I could keep it at this moderate length and that it would still be (somewhat) controllable. But I did miss my curls and really needed to feel softer and more feminine, and wanted to see how far I could push it. I've been growing it since last autumn with only a couple of reshape trims since then.

At the salon on Friday night, the stylist only chipped the weight off the back so she could work it. She styled it carefully with her fingers - no tools - and a hairdryer, working out the top, straightening the strands, pulling out the sides (which is where she utilised the natural fannish tendency of the left side, of which the right was easy to imitate). Still, that frontal wave refuses to go. It now insists on returning to a distinct curl. Ah well. C'est ma vie.


The Moody Minstrel said...

Have you ever read Heinlein's "The Number of the Beast", m'lady? It seems to be based on a similar premise to "Timeline", i.e. there are many parallel universes which are actually the result of alternate probability. The only difference is that in TNotB they find there is a finite number of such universes: 666. And one of them has spawned humanity's ultimate nemesis...

Like the new look, m'lady!

Selba said...

My hair isn't straight.. oh my.. how I wish to have straight hair..

I like your hair though :)

MattJ said...

First of all, that movie is a travesty. If they called it something else I wouldn't object but it is so far removed from Asimov's vision as to be nothing short of heresy. The book is awesome, as is Caves of Steel.

There is no communication of the nature of the cities in which people live (whose populatiojns numebr in the billions) nor of the cramped conditions they are supposed to live in in the film. The fact that all foodstuff is made out of processed yeast and the idea of 'fresh' food disgusts people.

Basically it's not supposed to be a book about pinnochio. [/Rant]

I'm really sorry Liv! that movie is one of my major bugbears lol! I would quite like it if it ddn't have that title adn claim to be abse don something it barely resembles.

I used to read some Crichton books until I read Prey. I had a similar problem with another author who I forget, but basically it comes down to what I find believable and its hard to suspend belief when you know something of what the author is trying to talk about. When I can see the mirrors it kills the mystique for me, which is a shame because I think he writes really enjoyable books! (See how I booby trap myself? lol!)

Hair looks The Don 'liv! hubbah hubbah! :p

AmitL said...

Hi,Olivia..tks for the info on robots.:)I agree,as long as they don't humanise them too much,robot helpers will be fine.:)I quite liked the Asimo home page.Whew to the quantum physics topic.It quite simplifies that complicated movie,Matrix, I guess.:)

jia hearts o said...

ooh I like the new hairstyle

MattJ said...

Incidentally, along the same lines of moody - A series of books called 'Necroscope' by brian lumley does a fair amount with multiple universes (pretty sure he uses the term multiverse too). Mostly based on the Mobius Strip. Only worth reading the first 2 of the 5 though, it all get a bit silly after that ;)

Olivia said...

Minstrel - I have never read Heinlein. Now, that sounds like an exciting story.
If only you had watched the Doctor Who episode where the Doc and Rosie travelled, either into the future or into a parallel universe where a human research team was stranded on a base on a planet that was being sucked into a black hole, and in the centre of the planet...the Beast was imprisoned but communicating telepathically with the alien slave population to rise up for him.


Selba - the stylist wanted to iron my hair out with ceramic straighteners, but we decided against it because it was raining and I had no umbrella!

Try straightening it that way for a while to see if you like it. You will look totally different.


Matt - LOL @ Pinocchio!

As you know, I take the original book and spin-off movies on their own merit.

Since reading Timeline, I feel it is time to get back into sci-fi ... Jules Verne, been there done that - roll on Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and some of the newer ones would be a good idea too.

I started with Crichton in 10th grade when we read Jurassic Park - then the next year the movie came out, and I guess that is what made him a global name.

As I wrote that blog, I thought I should stop thinking about it and just suspend belief. Anyway, he really is a masterful writer. So much better than Dan Brown, because when I read Crichton I very nearly do suspend belief, whereas I found myself making sarcastic comments throughout Brown's books.


Amit - did you like Matrix? What Michael Crichton movies have you seen? What do you think?


Jia Li - I was thinking about you yesterday. You must be terribly busy. Miss you!


Ricercar said...

this picture was really cute!

beenzzz said...

I like your hair! I've watched I Robot a few times too. It's not a bad flick.

jia said...

I am...sigh and sick. and busy with new boyfriend, must send u a photo...he is making me super today...

Olivia said...

Jia - ooh, new bf! I hope he keeps you happy for longer than usual, missie.

I'm feeling a bit off today too, with a headache and indigestion from last night's vindaloo.

MattJ said...

If you guys like the Matrix, you should take in the Manga 'Ghost in the Shell' which it took a lot of inspiration from.

the main differences between Dan Brown and Michael crichton is that MC can formulate a character and is also capable of original thought ;) (All DB books have the same plot and absence of characters)

amillionpieces said...

Your hair looks good :)

I am not so keen on robotics, not because of the concept itself, but because people are never satisfied, and someone would use the technology for not good. This paralleled with advances in AI is worrying, because it creates the very real possibility that a robot could either be programmed to kill indiscriminately or could learn to do so. I'd not be worried if I trusted people, but I think given any piece of technology human's have a track record of making it work for evil.

ML said...

I really dig your new hair! :)

Olivia said...

Matt - yes, I have heard of Ghost in the Shell being an inspiration for matrix...in fact it may have been you who said it.

Yes, MC's plots and characters are very well-rounded. He's great. I think I might try to own all his books. Even Sphere, which was the first movie I nearly walked out of, but as we agreed, he's a great writer. He get the grey cells going much more than does DB.


Pete - you are right. As I wrote that post I had my reservations, but my opinion of Asimo's cuteness overrode all realistic thoughts.

Like any technology, they're just going to keep striving for the ultimate development, which would be the most humanoid model. Ah well.
Like Data in Star Trek, I guess...


ML - thankyouthankyou :P

Chris in MB said...

you're a cutie!
...so why bother straightening the hair???

Seems everyone with straight hair wants wavy, the wavy want straight....

Sounds like a simple case of "the grass is greener...." to me!

pete said...

You're right too though, because they do have huge potential, thats the most sad part, for everything mankind advances in, there is someone will create more problems. Imagine how many of the worlds problems could be eradicated if good technology could be developed and not exploited.

We use to debate robotics and AI on our degree and unfortunately I was always the only one with reservations!

Olivia said...

Chris - ah but you knew that already :P

No, I don't want to straighten my hair very much. I just want it to be controllable.


Pete - so what we actually need to do is engineer humans to be less evil!

Anonymous said...

your hair looks good.
you know, I always wanted straight hair and then I met you.....I think you made me appreciate my curls.