close this bookVolume 10: No. 38
View the document1) NSF news
View the document2) Other opportunities
View the document3) Politics and policy
View the document4) Industry news
View the document5) Internet news
View the document6) Engineering
View the document7) Metaphysics

NSF has a new statistical report on "Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: Fall 1999," at . [CNS, 08Nov00.]

Upcoming NSF deadlines include: Interdisciplinary Grants in the Mathematical Sciences, 08Dec00; Alan T. Waterman Award nomination, 31Dec00; Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR), 04Jan00; Biological Databases and Informatics, (10Jan01); Computational Neuroscience, (10Jan01); International Digital Libraries Collaborative Research, (15Jan01); Mathematical Sciences Research Institutes, 15Jan01; Decision, Risk, and Management Science, (15Jan01); Human Cognition and Perception, (15Jan01); Linguistics, (15Jan01); Methodology, Measurement, and Statistics, (15Jan01); Scientific Computing Research Environments for the Mathematical Sciences (SCREMS), 18Jan01; Information Technology Research small projects, 22Jan01; Federal Cyber Service Scholarship for Service (SFS), 24Jan01; Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT), 26Jan01; Nanoscale Science and Engineering, 30Jan01; Societal Dimensions of Engineering, Science and Technology: Ethics and Values Studies Research on Science and Technology, (01Feb01); Major Research Instrumentation (MRI), 07Feb01; Communications, 01Mar01; Advanced Computational Research Program Visualization and Graphics, 01Mar01; CISE Educational Innovation, 13Mar01. . See also for International Program deadlines. [NSF E-Bulletin, 01Dec00.]

----- "We regret to announce that we have had to temporarily suspend writing proposals. We were playing tiddlywinks and sustained career-threatening injuries. Lynn sprained his wink finger, and Jeremy broke his tiddly." -- , Grantseeker Tips, 04Nov00. -----

The American Physical Society sponsors physics graduate students and related scientists for 10-week summer fellowships to work full-time as reporters, researchers, or production assistants in a mass-media organization; 15Jan01, . They also have a year-long APS Congressional Science Fellowship; 15Jan01, . [Robert L. Park, WHAT'S NEW, 17Nov00.]

The CRA Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research has a new "CRA-W Graduate School Information Guide" about pursuing a graduate degree (including sources of financial support for women), plus a report culled from nearly a decade of CRA-W Career Mentoring Workshops on getting jobs, building research careers, getting funding, managing time and family issues, networking, tenure, and life at smaller schools. The Adobe PDF documents are and . [CRA Bulletin, 24Oct00.]

----- "A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her." -- David Brinkley. -----

India plans to produce 120K academically trained IT professionals/year by 2007, up from 90K at present. Private-sector educational groups hope to raise that to 500K/year by 2006. Some of these will migrate to the US, which has raised its skilled professional quote from 115K to 195K over the next three years. [Reuters. SJM, 29Nov00. NewsScan.]

The US Government will be raising salaries as much as 33% for such workers in high-tech areas such as San Francisco, partly to compete for top CS graduates. [AP. SJM, 04Nov00. NewsScan.]

If you're interested in the future, see the economic and demographic projections in "California's Fiscal Outlook 2000-01 Through 2005-06 Part 2," , from the California Legislative Analyst's Office. "Our forecast calls for continued healthy -- though somewhat moderating -- national- and state-level economic growth." [Bob Smith , 16Nov00.]

----- "Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half." -- Gore Vidal. [NewsScan, 14Nov00.] -----

Dot-com layoffs have set a record for the sixth month in row. 75 companies have shut down completely since Dec00. The new Internet domain naming system will make it even harder for dot-com companies to build brand recognition. [E-Commerce Times, 28Nov00. NewsScan.]

Several analysts are suggesting that tech stocks will take a long time to recover from their current decline. IBM and other tech stocks took four years to recover from a slump in the early 1960s, and Polaroid, Xerox, and others in the "Nifty Fifty" took 13 years to rebound after a fall in 1973. [USA Today , 24Nov00. NewsScan.] ("It is not the first manic-depressive period I have ever seen, but it is the biggest." -- Andy Grove, Chairman, Intel. [SNS, 30Nov00.] There's always an analyst taking any side of any proposition. The cynical view is that they'll say anything to move stock prices in either direction, to generate trading volume for their brokerages. I'll stick with the Motley Fool recommendations, or with those of Mark R. Anderson or Michael Murphy -- all pretty much upbeat about our healthy US and global economies and the increasing importance of technology, from what I last read. Wall Street will soon realize that its self-sustaining pessimism is unwarranted, if Congress isn't totally gridlocked by partisan politics. In my opinion, tech stocks are a terrific opportunity right now.)

Compaq plans to invest $100M in start-up biotech companies. IBM is putting a similar amount into its "Blue Gene" supercomputer to simulate protein folding, a thousand times more powerful than the Deep Blue that beat world chess champion Gary Kasparov in 1997. Compaq's high-performance computing manager predicts that "biology is going to become the dominant application in all of computational science." The world's dozen largest life science companies already spend 10% of their R&D budgets on information technology. [SJM , 26Nov00. NewsScan.]

Intel's new Pentium 4 architecture operates at 1.5GHz, and is designed to reach at least 10GHz eventually. The internal bus operates at 400MHz (up from 133MHz in the P3) with 3.2GHz transfer speed. The chip has 22M transistors (up 50%), in four times the area of P3 chips. It also has a math engine that runs at twice the clock speed, and an overview engine that sees three times as many potential operations. There are 144 new instructions -- rich in multimedia operations -- and specialized SIMD extension 2 arithmetic and floating point capabilities. One common application will be real-time compression and decompression to compensate for slow communication channels. As the data pipes get faster, more PC processing will be devoted to real-time image and data displays. Multiprocessor multitasking will also become common, with PCs able to do many computationally intensive jobs at once. Voice recognition, for instance, or grid computing. And of course there is real-time Internet gaming, to be followed soon by interactive movies. [Mark R. Anderson , SNS, 22Nov00.] (Anderson notes that most advanced gamers are now 25-35 years old (and male). An interesting market segment. "Get ready for new PC sales to ramp.")

----- "Need is considered the cause why something came to be; but in truth it is often merely an effect of what has come to be." -- Friedrich Nietzsche. -----

"Grid computing" or "grid supercomputing" uses spare cycles from some of the 100M computers hooked to the Internet. Participants may be given token payments or chances to win prizes. Leading companies include Parabon Corp., Applied MetaComputing, Entropia, and KnowledgePort. Some 80% of supercomputing problems may be amenable to this approach, if the software can be developed. [NY Times , 20Nov00. NewsScan.]

In CW 10.35, I mentioned Ray Ozzie's new Groove Transceiver product, a secure peer-to-peer system for workgroup collaboration. I continue to hear good things about this project. Computist Kim Tracy dug up more info at . Ozzie says there will always be a free version (now in beta), though a professional version will offer more features. [, 08Nov00.] (Mark R. Anderson says "Ray Ozzie is one of the smartest developers in the world." [SNS, 22Nov00.])

Groups make much better decisions when they meet face-to-face rather than by teleconferencing or online chat, according to UDayton psychology professor Ken Graetz. Pertinent individual knowledge (vs. common knowledge) tends to surface only in person. [CIO, 01May99. Innovation Weekly.]

Many employers are now saying that telecommuting causes resentment among office-bound colleagues, weakens corporate loyalty, reduces personal interaction, and impairs meeting attendance. [WSJ, 31Oct00. NewsScan.] (However, the trend toward telecommuting continues in the US and especially in Latin America and in Western Europe.)

Long ago, I bought into the idea -- later championed by Howard Rheingold -- that the success of the Internet centered on building communities: Internet discussion lists, Usenet newsgroups, The Well, chat rooms, etc. Mark R. Anderson now says that was a little off-target -- based on recent studies -- and I'm inclined to agree. People have interests that they want to pursue or share, and online communities were a way to do that. People weren't reaching out in a desperate need for community; they were simply pursuing their interests. As net surfing, shopping, sex chat, personal medical research, online education, collaborative work, gambling, and other opportunities opened up, people interested in those things began to use them. Online communities still exist, but are no longer the driving force of the Internet. Transactions and services drive the Web, in support of both shared interests and individual interests. Some of these use collected personal data in an anonymous way, providing some of the benefits of community without our giving up privacy. "By building out the Net along these lines, we are remaking the world in our own images." [Mark R. Anderson , 30Nov00.]

----- "I use my car when I need it. I watch television when I need it. I navigate on the Internet when I need it. When I don't, I drink Scotch. Which is far, far better." -- Umberto Eco. -----

UWashington now offers a PhD in nanotechnology, blending computer science and engineering. They expect 20-40 students/year. [RCFoC, 13Nov00.]

NetWise is a carefully screened database of science and engineering links, collected by . [ScienceWise, 16Aug00.]

Computers and Electrical Engineering publishes topical research into the integration of computation with electrical and electronic systems. . [M. Jamshidi , newjour, 26Jul00.]

Computers and Electronics in Agriculture (COMPAG) is an international journal of computers, instrumentation, and control systems in agriculture and forestry. . [S.W.R. Cox and D.L. Schmoldt , newjour, 26Jul00.]

Computers and Fluids is a journal about computation in all fields of hydrodynamic and aerodynamic science and engineering. . [Stanley G. Rubin , newjour, 26Jul00.]

Computers and Geotechnics publishes papers about analysis and design of geotechnical structures (made of soils, rocks, concrete, masonry, ceramics, etc.). . [, newjour, 26Jul00.]

Computers and Industrial Engineering publishes research papers about computer applications and methodology in industrial engineering. . [M.I. Dessouky , newjour, 26Jul00.]

Computers and Structures is an engineering journal about hydrospace, aerospace, and terrestrial structures. . [K.J. Bathe and B.H.V. Topping , newjour, 26Jul00.]

Computers in Industry reports on new computer applications in fields such as design, engineering, manufacturing, purchasing, physical distribution, production management, and supply chain management. . [, newjour, 26Jul00.]

----- "We were reminded that software engineering was not about right and wrong but only better and worse, solutions that solved some problems while ignoring or exacerbating others. That the machine that all the world seems to want to see as possessing some supreme power and intelligence was indeed intelligent, but only as we humans are: full of hedge and error, brilliance and backtrack and compromise." -- Ellen Ullman, . -----

I've been reading some of the 1970s work of Lawrence LeShan. (Yes, I'm at least that far behind the cutting edge of modern philosophy. In fact, I haven't studied Jung or William James yet.) LeShan writes for a general audience, and does so well enough.

I enjoyed his "How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery" . It's a cross-cultural look at various meditation styles, boiled down to their non-religious essence (where that is not a contradiction) and presented in how-to form. He says that different approaches work for different people -- intellectual, emotional, movement-based, etc. -- and suggests sequences of meditations by which a novice might begin mental training. Some can be done alone; others are best done under the direction of a good teacher. Many beginners start with counting exhalations, modulo 4 (or 10, in traditional Japanese styles), for 15 minutes per day. After two weeks of that, slightly more advanced training can be introduced. Mental discipline is a chief goal, so LeShan insists that you not change techniques midway during a session. His book extols other benefits of this training, from his perspective as a practicing psychotherapist. Meditation strengthens the personality structure, helping one feel at home in the world. It's like lifting weights to develop muscle strength.

Next I checked out LeShan's "Alternate Realities: The Search for the Full Human Being" (out of print). It's a thought-provoking book, though at times the analogies and arguments seem flawed.

The first third of the book tries to establish that differing views of "reality" can be equally valid. Each viewpoint is a single-purpose map of what's out there, and different maps are useful for answering different questions. These arguments are from LeShan's "The Medium, the Mystic, and the Physicist" , a study of equivalence between the world views of quantum physicists and Zen monks. (I haven't read it yet. Something to look forward to, if time really exists.)

The core of "Alternate Realities" is that there are many approaches to life: political, legal, economic, religious, military, sports, art, etc. LeShan claims that we have discovered (or invented) at least four complete, consistent categories of "reality," all mutually exclusive and each equally valid for its intended purposes. Each of these thought systems insists that it is the only true reality and that the others are illusions or errors.

One reality is the sensory reality of biological existence, in which we function as separate individuals in a universe of time, space, and objects. This is the rational, "common sense" world of Newtonian physics, and certainly feels like a valid framework. We can imagine other dimensions and modes of existence (as for Star Trek's various non-physical life forms), but it would be difficult to live in them.

Mystical (or "clairvoyant") realities are another consistent approach, in which we are just patterns in the whole wave function, general mish-mash, or Unity. Space and time are illusions, or at least very strange. Objects and surfaces are illusions, and there is no distinction between "inside" and "outside" the mind or the self. These are the realities of "all is One" philosophies such as Zen, experienced through meditation and a cultivated awareness of total connectedness. They are also the realities of quantum theory and modern cosmology. In quantum reality it may be impossible to define which of two events happened first, or whether matter exists as a wave or a particle. Events can contradict common sense and yet be demonstrably true.

A third category includes transpsychic modes of being, common to many religions. We are partially separate but connected (like waves in the ocean, coastal bays, or branches on a tree), and may be in communion with a God or gods. Space is real, but does not isolate. Single-minded prayer can be effective through its strengthening of harmony between yourself, the universe (or deity), and the one prayed for. Karma is inherent in your relationship with all else that exists. Good and evil can be defined, free will is active at least locally, and morality is a necessary concern.

LeShan's fourth category of reality includes mythic modes of being, common to primitive societies and shamanic cultures. It is the reality of magic spells and curses, of power over symbols and names being equivalent to power over the entities they represent. Any part is equivalent to the whole, and a bone or nail clipping contains the full essence of a saint or enemy. Every action has effects on multiple levels. Objects or events can be connected by an act of will, and remain connected across time and space until the link is broken by an equal act of will. This is a universe in which every object is special because of its history, and no event is accidental. Mana (or other "energy" or "power" principle) measures the ability of an entity to affect events.

LeShan claims that we need each of these modes of belief, and that our minds are designed to shift between them. The mythic mode, for instance, is common to the play of children and the work of curious, creative adults. It is necessary to keep us "alive to the excitement and wonder of our being in the world," interested in our lives. Sensory mode is necessary for biological survival. The mystical mode gives us a sense of connection and purpose. (Besides, mystics tend to be very pleasant people who don't attack their neighbors.) The transpsychic mode gives us awe, reverence, humility, and morality. The more modes you can use, the more freedom you have and the more you are fully human.

The last part of this book seems the least satisfactory. LeShan explores the question of immortality in terms of these alternate realities. In the sensory reality, death is the end of life -- unless there do exist nearly invisible spirits, whose evidence we have ignored or misinterpreted. In the mystical reality, time and space have no meaning and so every pattern is in a sense immortal. (I remain unconvinced that time and space are not dimensions within the wave equation.) In the transpsychic and mythic modes, it is not clear that survival after death is either necessary or forbidden; certainly belief in it is common. So, after erecting all this infrastructure, LeShan comes to no definite or satisfying conclusion.

Fortunately, the infrastructure itself is of interest. I'm sure it will be on my mind as I enter my philosophical years. One obvious question is whether we need to write alternative realities into our AI software, as cooperating models and reasoning systems.

If LeShan's full thesis is correct, AIs built around the mystic reality modes might even tap into extrasensory knowledge. LeShan studied ESP for years -- through literature, interviews, self-experience, and under laboratory conditions -- and insists that clairvoyance (but not channeling) is real and easily demonstrated. His book on meditation techniques claims that any serious practice of meditation is likely to lead to ESP experiences. (The occurrences are best ignored. Although real, they lead one away from the mental discipline and personal growth that produce them.) I haven't examined his data or sought critical commentary from skeptics, so for now I'll have to reserve judgment. He's right, though, that nearly all religions and non-rational traditions have recorded mystical experiences. Some can be induced easily through psychoactive drugs, or through seminars that teach out-of-body experiences to novices. Are the experiences entirely illusory? Once we understand what brains do, maybe we can build wetware AIs that do the same.

-- Ken