Wednesday 16 August, 2023

Breakfast for one

The terrace of a very upmarket German schloss where I happened to be staying. (Someone else was paying: I was giving a talk.)

Quote of the Day

“Machine learning is money laundering for bias.”

  • Maciej Cegłowski Link

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Robert Schumann | The Merry Peasant | Guitar | Harald Stampa


I’m temperamentally suspicious of anything that suggests that peasants and serfs were actually jolly chaps and chapesses, contented with their miserable lot. But the devil, as usual, has a good tune. Normally, it’s a popular piano piece, so this guitar version makes a nice change.

Long Read of the Day

What happens when AI reads a book

Fascinating essay by Ethan Mollick. Granted, he’s been an enthusiast for LLMs from the outset, but he’s smart, resourceful and with a lively curiosity. He’s a believer that these generative AI tools are good at augmenting human capabilities and he’s consistently written about how he uses then in his teaching at Wharton.

This essay is about experiments he did with Claude, one of the biggest (token-wise) LLMs around. Basically he fed it the text of one of his books and then started to question it about what it had found.

Phil Mickelson’s habit

Phil Mickelson is a formidable golfer, and golf is the only sport in which I have the slightest interest. So I follow it a bit. I knew he was a keen gambler, but naively assumed it was like having side-bets on horses as my late father-in-law used to do.

How wrong can you be? An astonishing memoir by a guy who used to be his gambling partner tells a very different story. Here’s a snapshot of Phil’s gambling habit between 2010 and 2014:

• He bet $110,000 to win $100,000 a total of 1,115 times.
• On 858 occasions, he bet $220,000 to win $200,000. (The sum of those 1,973 gross wagers came to more than $311 million.)
• In 2011 alone, he made 3,154 bets — an average of nearly nine per day.
• On one day in 2011 (June 22), he made forty-three bets on major-league baseball games, resulting in $143,500 in losses.

And, summing up:

He made a staggering 7,065 wagers on football, basketball, and baseball. Based on our relationship and what I’ve since learned from others, Phil’s gambling losses approached not $40 million as has been previously reported, but much closer to $100 million. In all, he wagered a total of more than $1 billion during the past three decades.

Makes you wonder how he managed to play any golf, let alone play it as well as he does.


Something I noticed, while trying to drink from the Internet firehose.

Voyager 2 signal found by Deep Space Network.  Link

A signal from Voyager 2 has been detected by NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) over a week after communications with the distant probe were lost, the US agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on Tuesday.

The disco-era spacecraft was detected by Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex’s 70-metre dish, Deep Space Station 43 (DSS43), after a long-shot search.

The five-storey tall dish is the sole facility capable of reaching Voyager 2. It takes over 18 hours for a signal to travel from the probe to the dish, covering a distance of over 19 billion kilometres.

”The Deep Space Network has picked up a carrier signal from [Voyager 2] during its regular scan of the sky. A bit like hearing the spacecraft’s ‘heartbeat,’ it confirms the spacecraft is still broadcasting, which engineers expected,” explained JPL.

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