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Don’t yawn about the Jenga-playing robot

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We hear every week about new innovations in robotics technology that make some people excited while making others fearful of a world not unlike the Skynet-controlled Terminator universe. That’s why it’s interesting to see news about robots doing the most mundane of tasks such as playing Jenga.

It isn’t newsworthy that a robot can play this game of precision and skilled decision-making. It’s newsworthy that this is in the news at all. Don’t get me wrong. It’s pretty cool. But it seems like a step back from some of the amazing robot technologies we’ve seen in recent years.

On the contrary, this isn’t a step back. It’s a step forward because of the way this robot operates. It makes decision based on complex scans and algorithmic decisions that allow it to remain precise in a game that requires precision. The implications of such movements and decisions can be eventually applied to the medical field where sensitivity is just as important as pure accuracy.

The notion may make you yawn compared to killer robots with .50-caliber machine guns mounted to their torsos, but don’t underestimate the importance of such tests. The technology required to play Jenga may be used in life-or-death situations in the near future.

We may not ever hear about Jenga-playing robots again, but it’s interesting that we’re hearing about them now from such a prestigious technical university like MIT.

 


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To end confusion, President Trump calls on Iceland, Greenland to swap names

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To end confusion President Trump calls on Iceland Greenland to swap names

Yes, this is satire, and you should be ashamed of yourself for thinking otherwise, even for a moment.

As rumors spread that President Trump has asked his staff to explore the possibility of buying Greenland, he took to Twitter this morning to request the largest island in the world switch names with its nearby island neighbor.

“It’s way to confusing, like parking in a driveway and driving on a parkway,” he said in a Twitter thread. “Greenland and Iceland should swap names to put an end to the madness they’re causing. I’ve been to Iceland. There’s no ice!”

Greenland carries a sparse population for an island so large due to the thick ice that covers most of the land. Meanwhile, Iceland is a lush landscape with more plant life than it’s inappropriately named neighbor across the sea.

Democrats invoked “fluid identity” to rebuke the President’s request.

“Just as a man can be a woman and a woman can be a man, so too can Greenland be covered by ice and Iceland be covered by green,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “How dare the President try to force his opinions about identity on other nations.”

Members of “The Squad” attacked the President for trying to misname the islands. “Just because we believe Israel should be called Palestine doesn’t give the President the right to ask countries to change their names.”

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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Hubris and how to save a vacation

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Hubris and how to save a vacation

Several years ago my oldest suggested we should hike the Appalachians. I thought it would be fun of course but remained undecided for a few months until we were helping family clean out some old junk. Among said junk were a couple of old external frame backpacks loaded with maps for the Appalachians. Taking it as a sign, I declared that we would go. Not for the whole thing of course and not right away. I had never been backpacking so I knew that we would have some serious work to do. We spent the intervening years doing smaller backpacking trips close to home, getting ourselves used to how we would need to eat and what sort of gear we should bring.

Finally, this past summer me and my two oldest went to Smoky Mountain National Park, intending to hike the Appalachian Trail straight through it. Within minutes, I worried that we might be in trouble as one of the kids was struggling before we even got into the woods. A few hours in and I was seriously thinking about turning back because I didn’t think we would make it to the shelter before dark. Not a good sign on day one. To be honest, about that time I was struggling as well, wondering if I would be able to complete the trip we had planned.

A couple more hours and it was clear, the trip was doomed. Yet, it was too late to turn back for the day. We pressed on to the shelter (arriving after dark) and turned around in the morning.

Despite years of training and experimentation, how did this happen? Hubris is a big part of it. I knew from recent training walks that my second would struggle. I refused to accept that the kid just wasn’t ready. I had too much of my own ego wrapped up in everyone’s participation. However, this was my fault. There was plenty of time, time that I didn’t take advantage of.

Also, I relied far too much on my own strength. I’m not the biggest or strongest guy you’ll ever meet but I’m not the smallest either, and I can generally get done what needs getting done without any help. That led me to pack significantly more than I should have, and insisting that the kids carry more than necessary as well. I assumed I could carry anything I could fit into my pack any distance necessary. As it turns out, I have limits. Add in the fact that I didn’t react well (at all) to our slow pace and the fact that we were going to fail in our attempt, the hiking trip was a complete bust.

Fortunately, once we calmed down, an idea began to form. As it turns out, the South is full of great American history. In fact, we started our hike at Fontana Dam which was built to power the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, TN to the north, as well as factories that provided the metal to build fighter planes. After my wife encouraged us to take our time getting back and explore the area, we formed a plan. We would do a small American history tour.

We spent the rest of the week filling in holes left by our less than adequate public education system. Our first step was to head north to Oak Ridge and tour one of the museums. From there, it was back south to Huntsville, AL and the US Space and Rocket Center. There, my oldest revealed to me that their school made no mention at all of the Apollo program. Considering that just a couple weeks after our visit, the nation would celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, this seemed to be a huge problem (which will likely be explored further in a later column).

After learning of the dawn of the modern technological age and some of the most important events of the Cold War, we turned back the clock and explored the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln and the home of Andrew Jackson. Along the way I couldn’t help but notice all the other signs pointing out places of historical significance. I hope to return in a couple years with the rest of my clan, maybe making a whole road trip out of learning about the Civil War.

All in all things turned out well. Despite my own arrogance and pride nearly ruining the trip, my children’s patience and my wife’s graciousness helped turn it into possibly the best trip I’ve taken. We learned a lot and had a lot of fun along the way. Instead of causing a major tear in our relationship, it drew me and the kids closer than ever.

But what about the Smokies? We’ll be back. Almost immediately we began planning our second attempt and have already begun training. Instead of giving up, we are applying the things we learned and making sure we do it the right way. Next time, we’ll be ready.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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Democrats

10 reasons Tom Cruise should run for president

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10 reasons Tom Cruise should run for president

The satirical video above is not only extremely well produced and quite humorous, but it also brings up a notion that maybe the people should consider. Should Tom Cruise run for President as a Democrat? Absolutely. I don’t care whether he’s a Democrat or not; he seems more like a progressive Libertarian than anything else. But that’s semantics. Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump were Democrats earlier in life. Political party isn’t really about anything other than assigning majorities in Congress.

There are actually compelling reasons for the Democrats to draft Cruise to be their candidate. I know what you’re thinking. With a couple hundred candidates already, why do they need another one? Just because they have candidates already doesn’t mean they have any GOOD candidates.

Would Tom Cruise be a good candidate? There’s only one way to find out for sure, but in the meantime we can look at different aspects of his life and compare them to the declared Democratic candidates. Here’s a list of 10 reasons Cruise should run:

  1. Many of the current candidates had to fight for enough attention to get people interested in them running at all. Cruise has never expressed the desire, yet there’s a video and now at least one article telling him to do it.
  2. He does his own stunts. Most Democratic candidates can’t even write their own speeches.
  3. At 57 he looks healthier than Bernie Sanders looked at 37.
  4. Democratic candidates have a problem understanding how the law works. After playing a lawyer, twice, Cruise’s understanding of the law has already surpassed their collective understanding.
  5. Had he been born a few hours later, his birthday would be July 4th. But even if the real world deprived him of his glory, he still starred in the movie Born on the 4th of July.
  6. He was in the military multiple times on tours through Hollywood productions. He has also been a spy, an inspirational speaker, a sports agent, and a smuggler. But if there’s one thing he does regularly, it’s fight to save the world. He’s fought aliens, mummies, terrorists, and even fought vampires… as a vampire.
  7. There has never been a Scientologist president… as far as we know.
  8. He says others are “glib.” Name one candidate who ever says other people are glib.
  9. Unlike Democratic candidates, he has never espoused the desire to institute a variation of socialism in America.
  10. Tom Cruise panders to nobody, ever. Every Democratic candidate panders at any moment an opening presents itself.

Tom Cruise has been needed to save the world on dozens of occasions. Now, the Democrats may need him to come in and save their party from the socialists who are taking it over. If anyone can do it, it’s Tom Cruise. Or Keanu Reeves.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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