Announcing 1st Annual Spider Dog Trials

Perhaps you've heard of sheep dog trials. You may have seen them on television. You might have watched in rapt wonder as border collies raced about the glorious countryside, herding sheep into little pens. You might then have turned an eye on your own tiny terrier/chihuahua/shih-tzpoo, lounging on the end of the sofa and chewing … Continue reading Announcing 1st Annual Spider Dog Trials

My Post-Industrial Paradise

The dog, checking if I have any treats before running off to explore the quarry. With the easing of lock-down restrictions, I am once again able to take the dog for a walk in a nearby nature reserve, a place called Wingate Quarry. The quarry itself is a rare ecosystem--a magnesian limestone grassland--and is home … Continue reading My Post-Industrial Paradise

Cocaine Hippos and Tigers in Kilts

You may have read stories in National Geographic or the Guardian about the "cocaine hippos" imported into Columbia in the 1980s by the drug lord-cum-psycopath Pablo Escobar. Perhaps you've heard how several of the hippos escaped from Escobar's private zoo into the local rivers, where they quickly made a happy home. And though this might … Continue reading Cocaine Hippos and Tigers in Kilts

Max Tegmark’s Life 3.0

This book is billed as a look at how artificial intelligence will affect "crime, war, justice, jobs, society and our very sense of being human". The author, Max Tegmark, is a physicist and M.I.T. professor, so you can be sure he's got the brains and experience to give a good survey of current AI research … Continue reading Max Tegmark’s Life 3.0

A New Christmas Song for the Age of Social Media

Last week, as a fun task for some of my music students, I decided to have the kids compose their own Christmas song. "Brilliant!" I thought, "They'll love it and they'll get practice writing and harmonizing melodies. I'm a genius!" Then I realized I'd have to come up with lyrics. After all, if I gave … Continue reading A New Christmas Song for the Age of Social Media

Fry vs. Gaiman vs. Erik the Red

This is a triple review--a Mexican standoff, if you will--between Stephen Fry, Neil Gaiman and a Viking horde (backed up by nearly a dozen translators). I'll give you one guess who wins. In the first corner, we've got Hollywood heavyweight (he played Sherlock Holmes' older brother, Mycroft, in recent films) Stephen Fry with Mythos, a … Continue reading Fry vs. Gaiman vs. Erik the Red

From Artificial Intelligence to Artificial Curiosity: an Interview with Prof. Millicent Robinson

Thomas Friedman's "Curiosity Quotient" inequality, courtesy Noles1984 CC BY-SA 3.0 This past week, I had the rare opportunity to interview Millicent Robinson, Professor of Aritificial Curiosity at the County Durham College of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fine Art and one of the designers of GEBx project. What follows is an excerpt from that interview: CTR: … Continue reading From Artificial Intelligence to Artificial Curiosity: an Interview with Prof. Millicent Robinson

Hell is Other People’s Pets

Today I've got a short story written by a very special guest author. This particular author requires a bit of an introduction, which I will leave to Prof. Karlton Friedarx, Head of Aesthetonomics at the County Durham College of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fine Arts. Prof. Friedarx is also director of the GEBen project at … Continue reading Hell is Other People’s Pets

Chopwell Wood, or Irony is in the Axe of the (be)Holder

A book that changed how I perceive forests. A couple of weeks ago I visited a nearby area of ancient woodland. Ancient woodland is a rare habitat in the UK, covering only about 2% of the land area (according to the Woodland Trust), so I considered myself lucky to have a decent-sized patch closeby. I … Continue reading Chopwell Wood, or Irony is in the Axe of the (be)Holder