Sunday, July 3, 2011

Peters Canyon Regional Park

Peters Canyon Regional Park
Upper Peters Canyon Reservoir

This park is located in Orange, CA and borders Tustin, CA.  We started the hike at the reservoir parking lot and began on the East Ridge View Trail.  The East Ridge Trail is a 5.7 mile loop that runs along the border of the park.  The park is narrow except at the northern section were the reservoir/lake is located.  There is no swimming, fishing, or touching the lake allowed.  But views of lake are very nice.  All along the East Ridge Trail there are cut offs to make the loop as short as you would like.  Walking clock-wise along East Ridge Trail you will find a junction of Lake View Trail.  Just after this junction there is a large hill that has a pretty steep grade.  This is the most difficult section of the trail and I was glad that is was in the beginning.  Continue moving south on East Ridge and you will pass several cut offs until you get to the southernmost point.  There are nice house all along the edge of the park so you will of course have to see the sprawl.  The terrain and elevation change significantly at junction of Eucalyptus Trail.  You will go downhill until meeting Lower Peters Canyon Trail.  This section of the trail runs along a creek in the low lands.  Continue North until you come back to the junction of Lake View and East Ridge.  Start heading West on Lake View and you will find some more difficult elevation changes and small switch backs but the view of the lake on top is well worth the extra effort.  During this last leg of the trip you have the option to go closer to the lake using Cactus Point Loop and Skylark Loop.  Just a little further and you will have completed the full trail.  This is a popular location in highly populated area.  Overall it’s good for a day hike and an excuse to get outside.

Thank You,
Chris Clark

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park

Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park

East Ridge Trail Caspers Wilderness Park

Caspers Wilderness Park is an 8,000 acre protected wilderness preserve nestled among the river terraces and sandstone canyons of the western coastal Santa Ana Mountains. The park's many fertile valleys are overtly complemented by specimen groves of native Coastal Live Oak and magnificent stands of California Sycamore. These areas are further accentuated by seasonal wildflower displays and running streams. Wildlife is abundant and can be readily viewed from any of the parks numerous trails.

I did a quick 4+/- mile loop at Caspers.  Started on Bell Canyon Trail and hiked to Sunrise Trail to East Ridge Trail to Quail Run Trail to finish the loop at Bell Canyon Trail.  This was a nice hike with some steep elevation changes.  I saw a rattle snake on East Ridge trail.  There are many beautiful cactus blooms.  Beautiful scenery and not far to drive.

Caspers Wilderness Park
33401 Ortega Hwy.( P. O. Box 395)
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
(949)923-2210 or (949)923-2207



Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Ozark Trail in Missouri

The Ozark Trail in Missouri
Ozark Trail Trail Marker

This has been a difficult review and a long time in the making.  I have been going to sections of the Ozark Trail for years.  The Ozark Trail (OT) is the preeminent destination for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and primitive camping in Missouri.  It is intended to reach from St. Louis to Arkansas. Over 350 miles (563 km) of the trail have been completed as of 2008, and the estimated length when finished will be at least 500 miles (805 km). When joined to the Ozark Highlands Trail in Arkansas, the full hiking distance from end to end will be at least 700 miles (1,127 km), not including a large loop through the St. Francois Mountains in Missouri.
I haven’t hiked the entire Ozark Trail but I have been to a lot of it.  The OT bypasses many of Missouri’s finest outdoors locations along its meandering path South/Northward.  The Northern most point of the OT begins at Onondaga Cave State Park in Leasburg, MO.  The Onondaga Cave is right next to the confluence of the Meramec, Courtois, and Huzzah rivers.  I’ve done a lot of canoeing on these rivers and they are perfect for a hike/camp/canoe trip!  The cave is also a must see.

Onondaga Trail Head:
Traveling south from Onondaga cave you will pass the Huzzah conservation area, we saw a lot of Turkey’s in this area.  Continue on and you will be walking on a moderately difficult trail that follows old fire roads and ridgeline trails and will continue to hike up and down the hills intersecting the rivers at several points and even having to cross a shallow section to continue.  This beautiful area has campgrounds, floaters, caves, and a plethora of flora and fauna to enjoy.  I stopped at Bass resort and picked up my canoe that was left there the day before and canoed Huzzah, Courtois, and Meramec rivers back to my car at Onondaga Park. 
Skipping a section of trail from Bass resort to Berryman loop that I haven’t done we will continue at the Berryman Loop section of the OT.  This section is, I’m sure very lovely, and I regret not having seen it yet. It looks like this section could be done in a day. 

Berryman Loop:
The Berryman hiking trail in central Missouri traverses 24 miles through a variety of scenic Ozark countryside. It winds through timbered stands of oak, pine and bottomland hardwoods - climbing switchback fashion, from low bottoms to high cherty ridges. Interesting flora and fauna abound in the old fields, glade-like rock outcroppings and deep forest. Trail users are insured a measure of solitude and quiet, as motor vehicles are prohibited on the trail. Mountain bikes are permitted on the trail. The trail starts at Berryman Campground, the site of a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp of the same name from 1937 till the onset of World War II. The camp was jointly operated by the U.S. Army and the Forest Service and had a resident force of 300 men. Several old barracks foundations and an old well are the only remnants of the camp itself but many roads and pine plantations in the area are enduring reminders of the good works done by these men. 

Skipping a large southward section of the OT, which I haven’t yet been to, from Berryman Loop to the North side of Council Bluff Lake.

Council Bluff Lake:
This beautiful man-made lake is on the site of a town that used to exist before the dam was built.  A trail runs the perimeter of the lake and adds some miles to the OT.  There is a sand beach and campground on one side of the lake.  Good fishing and beautiful scenery this area is a jewel of central Missouri surrounded by Mark Twain National Forest and near Viburnum, MO.  The largest lake in the Mark Twain National Forest serves anglers, campers, picnickers, hikers, bicyclists and swimmers.  Fish year round in this 440 acre lake stocked with large mouth bass, redear sunfish, bluegill, crappie and catfish.  Picnic or swim at the 54,000 sq. foot sand beach.  At Chapel Hill Beach there is a concession stand, changing rooms, flush toilet, water fountains and showers.  There is also a small play area near the beach.  Additionally, there are canoes and paddle boats available for rent when the beach is open.  Council Bluff Trail is a 12-mile loop along the lake shore providing hiking and mountain biking opportunities.  The Trace Creek section of the Ozark Trail is located just west of the recreation area.  Waterfowl hunting is permitted on the lake and there are upland game opportunities as well.  24.5 miles From Hwy 21 and 221 - Go west on Hwy 32, turn left at MO-C, turn left at MO-JJ, then slight right at Council Bluff Rd/CR-635.  If beginning on Highway 49 in Reynolds County, turn right on Hwy 32, then left at MO-DD, take right on MO-C, then right at MO-JJ to Council Bluff Rd.

Just south of Council Bluff Lake the OT splits and one side runs southwest and the other southeast.  The Southeastern side (St. Francis Mountain range) is my favorite section of the OT, there you will find Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, Mina Sauk Falls, Devils Toll Gate, Johnson Shut ins, Goggins Mountain, Bell Mountain, and many other wonderful sites.

Bell Mountain to Taum Sauk Mountain:
There are several sections of this trail that are difficult.  Elevation changes and feral hogs await you.  I spent months exploring this region of Missouri and still haven’t seen as much as I would like.  Bell Mountain Wilderness Trail, is concurrent with a section of the Ozark Trail for about one mile, then splits and turns northward to the summit of Bell Mountain peak.  Joe’s creek cuts deeply into the west slope of Bell Mountain; clefts and boulders form the basic landscape. The area is rugged and suitable for experienced hikers only.  Be prepared with adequate supplies and water.  A separate two-mile trail begins on the east and leads to the top of Lindsey Mountain.
The 33-mile Taum Sauk section of the Ozark Trail is considered by the Ozark Trail Association to be one of the finest trails in Missouri.
Polished granite plaque at Missouri high point Taum Sauk reading "HIGHEST ELEVATION 1772.68 MSL VERIFIED MARCH 23, 1991 MISSOURI: MISSOURI ASSOCIATION OF REGISTERED LAND SURVEYORS"  Check out the lookout tower while on Taum Sauk.
Mina Sauk Falls, the highest waterfall in Missouri, is on Taum Sauk and can be visited by hiking a rugged trail that makes a 3-mile (4.8 km) loop from the highpoint parking area. These falls normally have water cascading over them only during times of wet weather. At other times they are reduced to a trickle or less.
Johnson Shut ins, what can I say to describe this beautiful wonder?  Johnson Shut ins has it’s unique features due to black river running into a hard rock called rhyolite.  The river washed away other rocks and transformed the area into a natural water park.  Slides, deep pools, and rhyolite outcrops make this a popular tourist destination.  This one you really must see to understand.  I would spend every day of summer here if possible.
Tower Taum Sauk Mountain

Bell Mountain

Mina Sauk Falls
Johnson Shut ins
Johnson Shut ins
Johnson Shut ins

Bell Mountain:
The wilderness area now has a total of 9,027 acres (36.53 km2). Bell Mountain is located within the Potosi-Fredericktown Ranger District of the Mark Twain National Forest, south of Potosi, Missouri in the United States. The wilderness lies in the Saint Francois Mountains and it was named after its highest point, Bell Mountain (elevation: 1,702). The Bell Mountain Wilderness is one of eight wilderness areas protected and preserved in Missouri. The area is popular for hiking as there are 12 miles (19 km) of trail, including a section of the Ozark Trail.
Bell Mountain Wilderness is part of a large parks-and-wilderness area which includes Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park, Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, and several conservation areas.
Skipping a very large section of the OT.

Bell Mountain

Powder Mill Trailhead:
I checked out a small section of the OT while canoeing the current river.  The OT intersects Current River near this trailhead and is worth a look.

Peck Ranch:
The refuge (fenced portion) of the Area is temporarily closed due to the elk reintroduction project
This area is predominantly forest with nearly 1,500 acres in glades, along with old fields, savanna, cropland and some wetlands. Facilities/features: primitive camping, picnic areas, firearms range, viewing deck, two deer/turkey blinds, one intermittent stream and four Natural Areas (Grassy Pond, Goldenseal, Stegall Mountain and Mule Hollow).

Wappapello Lake:
Recent damage to T hwy may limit access to some sections of the OT as it goes through Wappapello region.
Lake Wappapello is a reservoir on the St. Francis River, formed by Wappapello Dam Created in 1941, this 45,000-acre lake is located 120 miles south of St. Louis, Missouri. Its primary purpose is flood control though it has evolved into a recreational area with ample opportunities to boat, fish, swim or camp. The fish population of the lake include white and largemouth bass, crappie, and bluegill. The reservoir lies overwhelmingly in Wayne County, but its southernmost reaches (near the dam) extend into northern Butler County. Lake Wappapello State Park lies on the southwestern side of the lake. -Section before and after Berryman Loop

Thank you,
Chris Clark

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon in Utah

Bryce canyon is located in Southwestern Utah.  It has some very unique geological formations.  Bryce is distinctive due to geological structures called hoodoos, formed by wind, water, and ice erosion of the river and lake bed sedimentary rocks.  The rim at Bryce varies from 8,000 to 9,000 ft.  Bryce Canyon was not formed from erosion initiated from a central stream, meaning it technically is not a canyon. Instead headward erosion has excavated large amphitheater-shaped features.  This erosion exposed delicate and colorful pinnacles called hoodoos that are up to 200 feet high.

I hiked down into the canyon and back out using a combination of the following trails.  Also, the views from sunrise and sunset point are amazing at sunrise.  Take a look at some of the pics to get an idea. 
Rim Trail (0-11 mi/0-17.7 km round trip) Outstanding views of hoodoos from above. Trail is paved and fairly level between Sunset and Sunrise Points.

Queens Garden (1.8 mi/2.9 km round trip) This is the least difficult trail into the canyon. Using your imagination you may even see Queen Victoria at the end of a short spur trail
Navajo Trail (1.3 mi/2.2 km round trip) Navajo Trail is open only on the Wall Street side (Thors Hammer/Two Bridges side is closed due to rockfall and trail damage). The trail begins at Sunset Point and goes down into Bryce Amphitheater through a "slot" canyon where large Douglas-fir trees are stretching to reach sunlight high above.
I also did a trip to Arches National park which is not too far from Bryce canyon.  Both can be seen in 2-3 days but more time would be needed for a complete survey.

Thank you,
Chris Clark

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park

Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park
I have compiled a list of the best information available for the trails that I took on my most recent hike at Aliso and Wood Canyon Park.  I started at Top of the World and hiked along west ridge trail to rock it trail to coyote run trail to nature loop to wood canyon trail to dripping cave to Mathis trail and return to top of the world on west ridge trail.  This was a 7-7.5 mile loop.  Perhaps the best feature this park has to offer is the ability to customize your hike.  There are so many connecting trails that you make a loop any distance you want with a minimum of ground covered twice.  The cons of this park are rattlesnakes and heavy mountain bike use.  Dogs are only allowed on some parts of the hike.  West ridge trail allows dogs on a leash.  Beautiful scenery abounds; rolling hills, ocean views, interesting geological formations, flora, and fauna included.  This is the closest to nature I have found in over populated Southern California.  Check out the links at the bottom for detailed information and maps.  All of the trails that I went on are moderate to difficult.  Happy hiking!
Wood Canyon Trail: Wood Canyon Trail serves as the backbone to the 30-mile trail
system, providing access points and opportunities for loop trail excursions. The
varied vegetation along its length on the canyon floor, easy access to multiple
geological and biological interpretive sites, and fairly level grade allow for enjoyment
by a diverse group of recreationists. The Cave Rock and Dripping Cave Trails stem
from the trail in lower Wood Canyon with the historic Old Corral site past the
connection with Mathis Canyon Trail.
Dripping Cave Trail: A distance from the Wood Canyon Trail, Dripping Cave is a
popular natural interest point in the park. From the Dripping Cave, the trail leads
northwest, crossing the western ridge of Wood Canyon before dropping down to the
grassland at the floor of Mathis Canyon. Dripping Cave Trail connects with Mathis
Canyon Trail at its base.

Mathis Canyon Trail: At its start at Wood Canyon Trail, Mathis Canyon Trail begins
a gentle grade into Mathis Canyon through grassland with scattered elderberry
shrubs, sycamores and oak trees. At its junction with Oak Grove Trail the trail begins
a challenging ascent up Mathis Canyon. Ascending the trail offers panoramic views
of Wood Canyon, Moulton Peak, and the Rock-it Trail snaking down the ridge to the
north. Mathis Canyon Trail terminates at West Ridge Trail at an elevation of
approximately 700 feet.
Coyote Run Trail: Coyote Run Trail parallels Wood Creek on the west side and
connects the Wood Creek hiking trail and the popular Wood Canyon multi-use trail.
This trail provides a more scenic and varied alternative to the Wood Canyon Trail
because it skirts the lower portion of Wood Canyon’s west ridge rather than following
the canyon floor. At its northern end, just past the Old Sycamore Grove, the trail
crosses Wood Creek and connects with Wood Canyon Trail.
Rock-It Trail: The Rock-It Trail is a highly technical trail that is popular with mountain
cyclists. Named for its passage over sandstone rock outcroppings that begin about a
third of the way down, the trail originates from the top of Wood Canyon at the West
Ridge Trail. A popular loop opportunity commonly utilized by cyclists entering at the
main entrance includes a ride north up the Wood Canyon and Cholla Trails, a short
ride along the West Ridge Trail, and the steep downhill thrill provided by Rock-It.
Rock-It allows for access from the City of Laguna Beach via the Alta Laguna
Community Park and the Top of the World trailhead from West Ridge Trail. Rock-It
joins with Coyote Run Trail near the base of Wood Canyon.
West Ridge Trail: The West Ridge Trail is a graded fire road that provides access
from the Alta Laguna Community Park (City of Laguna Beach) and the Top of the
World area. Beginning at an elevation of approximately 1000 feet, the trail traverses
the ridge between Wood Canyon and Laguna Canyon. The trail continues north and
connects first with Mathis Canyon Trail, then Rock-it Trail at the water tank on El
Toro Ridge, followed by Stairstep Trail, and finally Lynx and Cholla Trails. Numerous unauthorized trails drop down to Laguna Canyon Road from the West Ridge Trail.
West Ridge Trail terminates at the Cholla Trail in upper Wood Canyon.
Nature Loop Trail: The Nature Loop Trail connects Wood Canyon and Coyote Run
Trail to provide a 0.5 mile “hikers only” loop around the west ridge of Wood Canyon
and the east ridge of Mathis Canyon. At its juncture with Coyote Run Trail, the
habitat transitions from coastal sage scrub to lush oak woodland and riparian
vegetation. Coyote Run Trail parallels Wood Creek and returns the hiker back to the
beginning of the Nature Loop just off of Wood Canyon Trail.
Dripping Cave. Dripping Cave is a popular natural interest point in the park. The sandstone
overhang tucked into the narrow canyon was once used by 19th Century stagecoach and
livestock thieves as a hide-out. Visitors can climb into the 15 x 40 foot cave for a closer
inspection, viewing the holes in the wall that were once fitted with pegs to hold supplies or
the blackened ceiling that is mistakenly thought to have been created by campfires.
Moisture dripping from the ledges sustains the ferns and other plants that frame the opening
of the cave.
Top of the World (TOW). The TOW vista point, at an elevation of approximately 1,050 feet,
places the park within a regional context with its breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and
Catalina Island, AWCWP sprawling to the east, and the San Gabriel and San Bernardino
Mountains beyond. TOW is accessed by the West Ridge Trail at Alta Laguna Park.

Thank you,
Chris Clark

Monday, May 30, 2011


For those who have been hiding under a rock the exoplanet, Gliese 581, was discovered by the Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey.  Humanity has discovered 371 stars with one known planet and 53 stars with multiple planets.  The interesting thing about the Gliese system is that it has 6 planets orbiting its star and 2 of them could be in the habitable zone.  The habitable zone is the distance from a star in which a planet could have liquid water, and therefore life.  The planet that is most centered in this habitable zone is Gliese 581, also known as Zarmina, in honor of the researchers wife who first discover the planet.  Gliese 581 appears to be tidal locked which means that it doesn’t rotate like Earth does.  One side of the planet is always night and the other is always day, much like the moon.  See the bullets below for more info about the planet.  More information can also be found at, NASA, and wikipedia.
  • 20.5 Light years away (120 million miles)
  • Orbits a low energy Red Dwarf called Gliese 581, which outputs about 1/3 of our sun’s power
  • Gliese 581g, if it rotates at all, turns only minimally. This means one side of the planet is always night, and cold (-25 degrees F) and the other side always hot (160 degrees F) , while the terminator, where the two sides meet, may be ideal for life forms of our type.
  • Gliese 581g is about 14 million miles from its star (Earth is 93 million miles from our sun)
  • Terrain is considered rocky
  • Gliese 581g orbits its sun every 37 days (Earth orbits its sun every 365 days)
  • Gliese 581g is 3-4x the mass of Earth, which could mean slightly higher gravity
  • Gliese 581g has a radius of 1.3 to 2x that of Earth’s

The Path Toward Artificial Intelligence

How will AI come into being? 


Is a totally programmed A.I. a prerequisite to the Singularity? I for one don’t think so. I believe that in the future we will have the ability to map the brain so thoroughly that the result will be artificial intelligence. This is different from actually programming from the ground up. The digitized version of a human brain would initially, at least, have limitations and advantages that purely programmed artificial intelligence would not possess. These limitations may include biases, prejudices, and fears based in the material plane that would no longer have any practical application. The advantages may include a moral code that is based on a life lived in our society. These limitations may be quickly overcome by access to all of the worlds amassed knowledge in the blink of an eye. It’s amazing to think of how quickly it, and others like it, could change the world.

Thank you,
Christopher W. Clark

Computer Evolved Antenna

The Evolution of an Antenna

With a little help from NASA Engineers (Evolvable Systems Group), a computer program designed an antenna for nano-satellite communication.  The goal of ST-5’s mission is to develop small tv sized satellites that can replace large conventional sized satellites.  One problem they faced was the development of a small antenna capable of doing everything the larger antennas can do. 
A novel approach was used to find the best antenna design, evolution.  The evolution of the antenna was done inside a computer. Many random designs were tested in a computer simulation.  The computer judged their performance against certain goals for the design: efficiency, a narrow or wide broadcast angle, frequency range, and so on.
As in nature, only the best performers were kept, and these served as parents of a new generation. To make the new generation, the traits of the best designs were randomly mixed by the computer to produce fresh, new designs-just as a father and mother's genes are mixed to make unique children. This new generation was again tested in the computer simulation, and the best designs became the parents of yet another generation.

This process was repeated thousands, millions of times, until it settled onto an optimal, shark-like design that wouldn't improve any further. With today's fast computers, millions of generations can be simulated in only a day or so.

The result: an excellent antenna with an odd shape no human would, or could, design.

What is the Singularity?


 I was writing a couple of articles and referenced the "Singularity" in them.  I received an email question about what is the Singularity.  So here you go, straight from the horses mouth.  The Singularity described by the Singularity Institute.

What is the Singularity?

The Singularity is the technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligence. There are several technologies that are often mentioned as heading in this direction. The most commonly mentioned is probably Artificial Intelligence, but there are others: direct brain-computer interfaces, biological augmentation of the brain, genetic engineering, ultra-high-resolution scans of the brain followed by computer emulation. Some of these technologies seem likely to arrive much earlier than the others, but there are nonetheless several independent technologies all heading in the direction of the Singularity – several different technologies which, if they reached a threshold level of sophistication, would enable the creation of smarter-than-human intelligence.
A future that contains smarter-than-human minds is genuinely different in a way that goes beyond the usual visions of a future filled with bigger and better gadgets. Vernor Vinge originally coined the term "Singularity" in observing that, just as our model of physics breaks down when it tries to model the singularity at the center of a black hole, our model of the world breaks down when it tries to model a future that contains entities smarter than human.
Human intelligence is the foundation of human technology; all technology is ultimately the product of intelligence. If technology can turn around and enhance intelligence, this closes the loop, creating a positive feedback effect. Smarter minds will be more effective at building still smarter minds. This loop appears most clearly in the example of an Artificial Intelligence improving its own source code, but it would also arise, albeit initially on a slower timescale, from humans with direct brain-computer interfaces creating the next generation of brain-computer interfaces, or biologically augmented humans working on an Artificial Intelligence project.
Some of the stronger Singularity technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence and brain-computer interfaces, offer the possibility of faster intelligence as well as smarter intelligence. Ultimately, speeding up intelligence is probably comparatively unimportant next to creating better intelligence; nonetheless the potential differences in speed are worth mentioning because they are so huge. Human neurons operate by sending electrochemical signals that propagate at a top speed of 150 meters per second along the fastest neurons. By comparison, the speed of light is 300,000,000 meters per second, two million times greater. Similarly, most human neurons can spike a maximum of 200 times per second; even this may overstate the information-processing capability of neurons, since most modern theories of neural information-processing call for information to be carried by the frequency of the spike train rather than individual signals. By comparison, speeds in modern computer chips are currently at around 2GHz – a ten millionfold difference – and still increasing exponentially. At the very least it should be physically possible to achieve a million-to-one speedup in thinking, at which rate a subjective year would pass in 31 physical seconds. At this rate the entire subjective timespan from Socrates in ancient Greece to modern-day humanity would pass in under twenty-two hours.
Humans also face an upper limit on the size of their brains. The current estimate is that the typical human brain contains something like a hundred billion neurons and a hundred trillion synapses. That's an enormous amount of sheer brute computational force by comparison with today's computers – although if we had to write programs that ran on 200Hz CPUs we'd also need massive parallelism to do anything in realtime. However, in the computing industry, benchmarks increase exponentially, typically with a doubling time of one to two years. The original Moore's Law says that the number of transistors in a given area of silicon doubles every eighteen months; today there is Moore's Law for chip speeds, Moore's Law for computer memory, Moore's Law for disk storage per dollar, Moore's Law for Internet connectivity, and a dozen other variants.
By contrast, the entire five-million-year evolution of modern humans from primates involved a threefold increase in brain capacity and a sixfold increase in prefrontal cortex. We currently cannot increase our brainpower beyond this; in fact, we gradually lose neurons as we age. (You may have heard that humans only use 10% of their brains. Unfortunately, this is a complete urban legend; not just unsupported, but flatly contradicted by neuroscience.) An Artificial Intelligence would be different. Some discussions of the Singularity suppose that the critical moment in history is not when human-equivalent AI first comes into existence but a few years later when the continued grinding of Moore's Law produces AI minds twice or four times as fast as human. This ignores the possibility that the first invention of Artificial Intelligence will be followed by the purchase, rental, or less formal absorption of a substantial proportion of all the computing power on the then-current Internet – perhaps hundreds or thousands of times as much computing power as went into the original Artificial Intelligence.
But the real heart of the Singularity is the idea of better intelligence or smarter minds. Humans are not just bigger chimps; we are better chimps. This is the hardest part of the Singularity to discuss – it's easy to look at a neuron and a transistor and say that one is slow and one is fast, but the mind is harder to understand. Sometimes discussion of the Singularity tends to focus on faster brains or bigger brains because brains are relatively easy to argue about compared to minds; easier to visualize and easier to describe. This doesn't mean the subject is impossible to discuss; section III of our "Levels of Organization in General Intelligence" does take a stab at discussing some specific design improvements on human intelligence, but that involves a specific theory of intelligence, which we don't have room to go into here.
However, that smarter minds are harder to discuss than faster brains or bigger brains does not show that smarter minds are harder to build – deeper to ponder, certainly, but not necessarily more intractable as a problem. It may even be that genuine increases in smartness could be achieved just by adding more computing power to the existing human brain – although this is not currently known. What is known is that going from primates to humans did not require exponential increases in brain size or thousandfold improvements in processing speeds. Relative to chimps, humans have threefold larger brains, sixfold larger prefrontal areas, and 98. 4% similar DNA; given that the human genome has 3 billion base pairs, this implies that at most twelve million bytes of extra "software" transforms chimps into humans. And there is no suggestion in our evolutionary history that evolution found it more and more difficult to construct smarter and smarter brains; if anything, hominid evolution has appeared to speed up over time, with shorter intervals between larger developments.
But leave aside for the moment the question of how to build smarter minds, and ask what "smarter-than-human" really means. And as the basic definition of the Singularity points out, this is exactly the point at which our ability to extrapolate breaks down. We don't know because we're not that smart. We're trying to guess what it is to be a better-than-human guesser. Could a gathering of apes have predicted the rise of human intelligence, or understood it if it were explained? For that matter, could the 15th century have predicted the 20th century, let alone the 21st? Nothing has changed in the human brain since the 15th century; if the people of the 15th century could not predict five centuries ahead across constant minds, what makes us think we can outguess genuinely smarter-than-human intelligence?
Because we have a past history of people making failed predictions one century ahead, we've learned, culturally, to distrust such predictions – we know that ordinary human progress, given a century in which to work, creates a gap which human predictions cannot cross. We haven't learned this lesson with respect to genuine improvements in intelligence because the last genuine improvement to intelligence was a hundred thousand years ago. But the rise of modern humanity created a gap enormously larger than the gap between the 15th and 20th century. That improvement in intelligence created the entire milieu of human progress, including all the progress between the 15th and 20th century. It is a gap so large that on the other side we find, not failed predictions, but no predictions at all.
Smarter-than-human intelligence, faster-than-human intelligence, and self-improving intelligence are all interrelated. If you're smarter that makes it easier to figure out how to build fast brains or improve your own mind. In turn, being able to reshape your own mind isn't just a way of starting up a slope of recursive self-improvement; having full access to your own source code is, in itself, a kind of smartness that humans don't have. Self-improvement is far harder than optimizing code; nonetheless, a mind with the ability to rewrite its own source code can potentially make itself faster as well. And faster brains also relate to smarter minds; speeding up a whole mind doesn't make it smarter, but adding more processing power to the cognitive processes underlying intelligence is a different matter.
But despite the interrelation, the key moment is the rise of smarter-than-human intelligence, rather than recursively self-improving or faster-than-human intelligence, because it's this that makes the future genuinely unlike the past. That doesn't take minds a million times faster than human, or improvement after improvement piled up along a steep curve of recursive self-enhancement. One mind significantly beyond the humanly possible level would represent a Singularity. That we are not likely to be dealing with "only one" improvement does not make the impact of one improvement any less.
Combine faster intelligence, smarter intelligence, and recursively self-improving intelligence, and the result is an event so huge that there are no metaphors left. There's nothing remaining to compare it to.
The Singularity is beyond huge, but it can begin with something small. If one smarter-than-human intelligence exists, that mind will find it easier to create still smarter minds. In this respect the dynamic of the Singularity resembles other cases where small causes can have large effects; toppling the first domino in a chain, starting an avalanche with a pebble, perturbing an upright object balanced on its tip. (Human technological civilization occupies a metastable state in which the Singularity is an attractor; once the system starts to flip over to the new state, the flip accelerates.) All it takes is one technology – Artificial Intelligence, brain-computer interfaces, or perhaps something unforeseen – that advances to the point of creating smarter-than-human minds. That one technological advance is the equivalent of the first self-replicating chemical that gave rise to life on Earth.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Google announces Android@Home -Home automation

While the press release was short on details any time Google throws it's hat in the ring it's worth noting.  The Android@home network is similar to that used by ZigBee, a low-power wireless network used for short-range home automation. I look forward to hearing more about this product and will continue to research anything that comes out about it.  There are many concerns being expressed about the "object tracking" capabilities referred to in the articles (Is your refrigerator running?  Google knows).  In the mean time here are a couple of links to see what's been released so far.,2817,2385158,00.asp

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Emotiv Epic Headset used to control home appliances

There are several new EEG Headsets that allow humans to control a computer with only the power of their minds!  The Emotiv Epic headset released over a year ago have been used in several applications that Emotiv didn't initially market them for.  Originally Emotiv sold the headsets as a gamer input device but it has received attention for it's more practical applications.  I've seen several DIY posts on where the headsets are used for controlling wheel chairs, lawn mowers, phones, and computers.  These applications are just the tip of the iceburg.  The company "Thought Wired" is using the headset in combination with NOUS automation software to do a really cool home automation presentation.  Check out the link below for information from Thought wired.  This technology will surely improve the lives of the disabled and everyone else in the years to come.

Here are a couple of links to DIY projects, with step by step instructions, that have been done using EEG headsets.  Brain controlled wheelchair and rc helicopter.

Free Bosch training

Free online Bosch training available at  They have several classes including online training.  Several of these offer CEU's after successful completion of certification tests.