Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Dream about Real Virtuality

This night I had an interesting dream. I visited a friend and he showed me a website with some kind of virtual world. Basically it was like a computer game where you could walk around in a 3D world.
It all started in a room where some people were walking around. I could move around with the mouse in my hand. I zoomed out and suddenly flew through the roof of the building. Then I saw something interesting: the building was a temple, but it was small, some kind of model. It was about 20cm in height in terms of "outer-world" measures. The outer world was a whole city. You could fly around in it, watching people, cars and of course buildings.
So I navigated a little through that world and zoomed into another house. There was a little girl looking at some kind of fish tank. On the water surface there was a little boat. I zoomed into that boat because I was curious how many details there were. And to my surprise, I could zoom into that boat and there were people in it. They were alive. I saw a mother with her little baby. I could click on them and they would talk. I left the boat and was out in the "big world" again. So I tried clicking on the little girl watching the boat and she talked, too.
I kept flying around in that world for hours (in dream time). The details were amazing. Thousands of buildings and even more people and cars. It was a mega city. I kept asking myself, since this was a computer program: who created all this. Maybe it was some kind of second life 10.0 . I never played that game in real life, yet that dream was so amazing that I would love to see such a game - or simulation in real life.
After waking up I imagined how it would be possible to create such a simulation in real life. It would be an amazing project, a whole civilization simulated on a computer. And most of all: I do not doubt that this will be reality one day.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Drugs and Coincidences

It's amazing how many coincidences happen in daily life. I was just sitting in the park reading in my new book about neurons. A guy cycled by with his bike slowly quietly saying something I interpreted as Graz. As a matter of fact, I was sitting in the town Graz, but why did he tell me this. So I repeated in a questioning voice: Graz? He turned around and said: "grass, weeds..."

Now it got clear to me, he was selling drugs there. I just shook my head and he went off. I thought that I should have given him a stupid answer like "I'm satisfied with how the neurotransmitters in my brain work" because that is what I was just reading about - neurotransmitters.

I read on in my book. And the second next sentence I was reading was:

Many drugs work by affecting the rate and quantity of particular neurotransmitters released and the speed at which they are broken down and reabsorbed.
I was thinking: what kind of coincidence was that? Why did this guy have to cycle by at exactly this moment. It really gave me a big smile. So you could say, my mood was elevated by drugs - but as you see you don't have to smoke weed to make yourself happy :)

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Swim Across The Atlantic Ocean

That's what you would have to do when you ask Google Maps for directions considering the starting point is in the USA and you want to go to an European city, for example.

  • Go to the website
  • select Get directions
  • enter NYC into the Start address
  • enter London into the End address
  • press the Get directions button
That will tell you to "Swim across the Atlantic Ocean, 3462mi". I'm going to London, who is coming with me ;-)

[2007/08/06] Unfortunately this "feature" does not work anymore :-(

Intercultural Social Competence

I'm currently attending a seminar at my university called Intercultural Social Competence. This course is quite interesting by itself. But for me it's just the thing I have been looking for - or better, it has found me.

It's like all my thoughts and experiences of the past half year coming together. I can relate to many intercultural differences because I have seen them in India myself this winter.

I started to love this seminar right from the beginning. It started with a quote from Sound Of Music. That shows how people from all over the world might perceive Austria, while most don't know how old that movie is or that not all Austria is that way.

Also, today we started the course with the first 15 minutes of Lost In Translation, a great movie about people traveling to Tokyo by themselves. I saw the whole movie about a month ago and it I loved it due to my Indian memories. But even more than that, today I learned to realize all the small details the movie offers. In the first 15 minutes Bill Murray arrives in a totally strange country. He has no idea what the local behaviors are.

This course teaches us all these little differences. For example, it's amazing how cultures differ in simple things such as greeting. While in southern countries you are almost hugged an kissed by everyone, in Asian countries a handshake is all that is accepted. If you are not aware of these things, you might screw up right at the beginning of a visit to another country.

I probably will post more impressions about this course during the week or next weekend, when the second half will take place.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Get Me Out Of Here

I finished reading my latest book: Get Me Out Of Here by Rachel Reiland. A wonderful account of borderline personality disorder (BPD), how she suffered through it and most of all how she recovered. I especially liked the role of her therapist, who - while keeping himself totally distanced emotionally - was more of a father for her than her own.

Reading this kind of book gives you a lot of understanding in psychological illnesses. I do not know anyone with BPD personally, but it's pretty certain that many people you encounter in daily life show similarities but don't even notice.

One thing I have read about in this book is a very important one: many people do not want to be helped in the first place, but then are more than thankful that someone really cares for their problems. Most people only show understanding on a surface level - the real causes remain hidden even for the person dealing with them. Opening yourself up requires a lot of trust and time. And this is something that can hardly be found today.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Brain Scan

I had my brain scanned again. For all of you who don't know yet, I like to take part in psychological experiments. They do take some time and don't get me money, but you can learn a lot from them and sometimes you get pictures like this fMRI one - for free!

This experiment actually consisted of two parts. First I had to do three tasks (visually, cognitive and motion) in the fMRI scanner, two weeks later I had to do the same set of tests in a NIRS scanner. While the fMRI is the big magnet tube you have to lie in, NIRS is just like EEG but without sticky pastes and hours of setup time. It's only light beams going in your head and going out again.

As far as I know, the results of both tests will be compared later. I don't really care what they do with my thoughts now, as long as I have this wonderful pic.
Actually this is only one picture of many others. I have a 3D view of my head on my computer now that allows me to slice and dice it in whatever way I want to.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Dogs find their way home

Yesterday I went for a walk with my two dogs. The older one doesn't really like long walks anymore. She constantly keeps sitting down and turning in the other direction clearly saying: "I want to go home"

After I had reached my destination yesterday, my dog again pulled in the direction of our house. So I decided to let her find the way. But instead of going the same way back, she took different roads and I dare say she has never taken this way home before. But in retrospect, she decided for the shortest way - without any hesitation.

I think this is an amazing behavior. You may say that maybe I would have given the dog subtle directions where I wanted to go, but as I would have liked to walk another way, I don't think that this is true. Have you ever let your dog decide where to go?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Globalization vs Localization

Recently I made two purchases on the internet. The first thing that I bought were two books. A typical globalized transaction:

  1. I found these books while commenting an article from an Austrian guy
  2. I did a search which brought me to an American website: Mind Hacks
  3. So I logged in on the Austrian portal of Amazon
  4. As you know, this site is only a modified version of the German Amazon
  5. I found out that these books were cheaper by an alternative seller in the UK
  6. A week later the books arrived and on the envelope it said:
  7. from the UK
  8. But the address was from Illinois USA
  9. Interestingly the stamp said: sent from Niederaula in Germany (written in French)
  10. and then i was sent all the way to Austria
On the other hand, last Sunday I bought two packs of chili seeds on eBay. As I found out after the purchase, the seller lives about 10 walking minutes from my home. So today I just walked over there to buy them and save the shipping money.

So one transaction involved 4 countries from half around the globe and 3 languages, while the other was done within less than 2 kilometers from my home. Now that is globalization vs. localization