Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Peek into my mind

Foreword: I’m often thinking about so many things, little ones and large ones, even big complex questions yet surprisingly simple and abstract, my thoughts are racing way faster than you could even read the following words, where I tried to capture some of my thought processes into a written form and share them with you, so you get a small preview of what’s going on in my head, although it might be a bit difficult to follow, as text is very linear form, meaning I have to talk about things one after another, while in head, I can think about multiple things at once.

I’ve got a question: Do you sometimes get detached from yourself?

Do you realize how ridiculous everyday behavior might seem, how ridiculous it is even to think of a concept of ridiculous in the conceptual realm where these feelings and emotions and concepts have no sense, where they’re just a specific responses of our brains to certain data. Or how meaningless... That everything is essentially meaningless, there's no concept of good or bad, that's all that we, locked inside of our minds, think of, because of the particular arrangement of certain amount of mass, we are able to think about things and conceptualize them, but that's just one particular way of representing information, which seems to make sense to us for some reason, which makes us feel in a certain way, but it's just a response of the neural network that forms our brain to particular stimuli, even the one accumulated over time in form of memories and various learned behavior and associations…

Doesn't it just feel weird?

And how funny it is, that our brains, which basically represent and house our minds, which are used to read and understand and write these words, which themselves are representations of some internal mental models of various things and concepts and basically just a not very effective transfer medium to describe the internal concept and evoke similar mental concept in others, that our brains are capable of understanding the concept of the way they work themselves on various levels of abstraction, basically a network so complex that it's capable of understanding its own function, but the understanding is nothing more than a particular order of electric signals within the network itself, which might seem just a gibberish to others, everything we do, think, say and perceive could be potentially gibberish, yet it just makes sense to us and we feel it's natural, normal, the only way, but it's not.

And when you think about it, why can't some other models exist some other ways of representing the information and if they did, would they perceive it "internally" the same way we do, although it would be represented in an entirely different way, but the system would be made in a way that it can process and "understand" the information in the given form.

Meaning, could the computer for example have consciousness? And perceive something? How does it perceive it? If you make a picture, which is nothing more than particular data, how will it perceive that? A computer program that processes the image data doesn't have to know or have any understanding of what it actually means, it's just doing some discrete transformations on the data, from one form to another, just a series of impulses and numbers, while our brains contain neural paths that process the visual signals from the eyes, detect movement and objects and make this information available to the other parts of our brain. Are these visual processing parts "dead"? Not part of your consciousness but only a mere filters that transform one form of information into another that for some reason makes sense to the rest of the network? Which parts of the neural network are even responsible for our consciousness? Why do we even have qualia? Doesn't it bother you?

It bothers me often, I can't stop thinking about it, thinking about things that are and that are happening and the processes that are taking place and thinking of them detached from myself, abstracting them and then diving into details of them, of the whole universe or at least our own models of it, the way we perceive it or at least that I perceive it and realize that things are happening in parallel, everything is happening at once, even there where you're not.

Even your own brain is an insanely parallel system with a lot of various parts that are working independently, just sharing information, they're working separately, yet we perceive it as one, because of the information sharing, but where does actually lie the center of our conscious minds? What if you split it? What if you replaced it?

I think I got a little bit carried away with my thoughts (then again that happens quite often with me, as I have extremely difficult time to cease thinking, analyzing, examining, associating and of course observing, all at once, all the time) so I’m sorry for that.

Then again, I don't have to be sorry, do I? That's just one of our specific concepts we use in communication, it seems so silly sometimes. I have no idea why, but everything we do just seems so weird... Even the concept of weird and the words we use to describe it seems just... kinda alien.

I can't stop thinking about all things that are taking place and how they work and realizing what we are and what everything is and knowing how much I'm still missing from this virtual representation model of the universe in my head.

I guess I just gave you a small peek into my mind and what's happening in it. If you wish to see more, don’t hesitate to talk to me.

Helping Science Grow

Recently I had the privilege to spend three days (18 - 20 October 2012) at the event called 2nd Intensive School organized as part of the program called 100 Scientists into (secondary-high) Schools, by the Institute of Information Technology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (whoah, that's a lot of "of", isn't it? :3 ). The purpose of this event is to bring young people (high-school age) closer to the science, by showing them that it's not something they should be afraid of and that it's something that they can do themselves.

Many students and well as teachers from nearby (the whole Moravskoslezk√Ĺ region) high schools went to this event to learn something new and meet with some Czech scientists, who presented their research and inventions to inspire them, I myself had two presentations there and it was my pleasure to (hopefully) help to inspire other young people as myself.

The whole event took place at the faculty of Philosophy of the Ostrava University, quite a nice, but old building decorated with sculptures of ancient philosophers and similarly themed carvings on the walls. The whole complex was rather like a maze, so it took me a little while to get my bearings and evoked the memories of the Minotaur from the Greek mythology, which is actually quite fitting if you consider the focus of the faculty.

I already had a presentation at the 1st intensive school in different region before, but that was just half-day event for me. This time, I was there for the whole event, whole three days. First, because I had two presentations this time, the first and the last day and second, because I was making a documentary of the whole thing, so they can use it on their website and also because it's fun.

The whole event started with registration, followed by a lunch. What a nice way to start something - by filling your tummy! Of course, it was followed by the initial presentation, where students were welcomed and introduced to this unconventional educational program and motivated to think out of the box. I had a chance to listen to the whole presentation, although I was sneaking around the room with the camera, trying to get as many shots as possible from various angles, so the documentary video looks good, it was followed by nice presentation about evolutionary algorithms, which actually mentioned a lot of stuff from biology and bunch of other areas as well.

What I found a bit problematic though was the floor, because it creaked terribly when I moved around to change the filming location and I wanted to disturb the presentation as little as possible, but hopefully the sound got lost in the rest of background audience sounds. The breaks between the presentations were also enjoyable, because nice food tables were prepared for everyone, serving fresh fruits and pastry and also students started debating with the presenting scientists. Of course, what was the beauty of the whole event was that the debates weren't only in the breaks between presentations, but also during the presentations themselves. It wasn't one way presentation, the students weren't just passive listeners, they were active and asked questions and talked about the topic with others.

In the evening, there was one last, relatively short presentation about raut etiquette and dinner followed by social event, where students, teachers and organizers introduced themselves shortly and their interests. As the introductions were nearing the end, I started bubbling with slight nervosity but also an excitement, because my introduction was coming up. My introduction was actually a presentation about Self-education, because I recently decided to leave college and continue educating myself, because I've been doing so for a long time already and college was slowing me down, as you could read in my other posts.

But the moment I started talking, I forgot about everything else and just focused on my presentation, which went quite smoothly and was followed by a plethora of questions even an addition from the director of the Institute of Information Technology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (phew that's a long name again) who was visiting the event personally. The event ended quite early though, some time around 20:30, although it was already dark, which was quite peculiar, as some of the halls of the faculty we had to walk through to get out were immersed in darkness.

Accommodation was already arranged for everyone and paid from the project's fund (meaning it was free for all participants, as well as everything else) in quite luxurious Imperial Ostrava hotel nearby. What surprised me was how similar was actually the room arrangement to the Marriot hotel in Pittsburgh where I was during the Intel ISEF 2012. After getting things ready for tomorrow (moving the recorded data from the camera to an external harddrive and charging both batteries) I went to sleep.

The feeling of luxury was only exacerbated by the breakfast at the hotel in the morning, with classy personnel and tables full of various food, including my favorite mini-corn. The director of the Institute of IT of the Academy of Sciences actually choose to sit to me at the breakfast and talk a bit more about the self-education topic I started the day before at the even. I felt a little bit awkward as I'm not very good with super-etiquette stuff and I didn't want to come out as some kind of brute, but hopefully it was all fine and not so serious.

During friday, there were four presentations in total, by various Czech scientists. What I liked about the whole thing was that they were picked based on what they did, on something they created and invented, some even brought the inventions with them, which was quite attractive to the students, because they could try it on their own. Because there were always two presentations running at once, in parallel, I had to run back and forth between them to record enough material from both, so I didn't get to hear them whole.

One scientists created a device to measure the speed of brain response to visual stimuli, which the students could try out, another studied the growth of children and showed students how easy they can use data from the parents to determine if the height of the child is deviating from what it should be genetically and if it needs to be treated somehow. Another presentation was about the nanoworld and how very small structures could be mapped and visualized and even showed how students can make their own, large replica of the microscope that uses the same principle from everyday items - piece of lego, magnet, a piece of clay, CD disc and laser pointer, while team of two other scientists talked about a method they developed that could predict a cardiac arrest even years before it actually happens.

The whole day was packed and in the evening, students got time to make their own projects. They were given cartons of paper, colorful markers and other tools and they could start creating. The projects were fictional, quickly made in a few hours, but everyone was very enthusiastic and the atmosphere was great, as students spread around and worked actively on their ideas, although it was already dark outside and it was friday. Once they were done, each team (or a single person) had 3 minutes to present his project before the fictional Grant Agency, which was composed from actual scientists who were presenting their own inventions earlier. Some were good at presenting, some not that good and quite nervous (but they'll learn! That was the whole purpose of it), but most importantly, it was quite a fun and a lot of laugh. It was also quite long, so I got to the hotel around midnight and went to sleep around 2 am, since I needed to prepare my presentation for tomorrow as well as the camera.

Friday started nicely with the 8 projects that the committee picked, interleaved with some jokes, followed by a presentation of one psychologist about conflicts. The last part of the program was the Expo Science, where three people - students, presented their own projects and inventions that already went through the national or  two international science fairs and one of these three projects was of course mine - Weird Processing Unit - changing the way processors and computers work from the ground up.

What slightly surprised me after I finished my presentation was the lack of questions (just one), although that might be caused by the fact that I actually incorporated questions people asked before into the presentation itself, so I probably already answered the most obvious questions that people might've thought of. Once the last presentation ended, every participant got their certificate and went home.

Of course, I stayed a bit longer, to wrap all things up and talk with the organizers a bit more. The sight of the the place being empty again, after crawling with students for a few days was quite interesting, somewhat reminding me of a calmness after a storm. A storm of creativity and science that is. I waited for the rest of the organizers to come back from lunch, packed my stuff and because a lot of food was actually left from the event, I could take some of it (meaning, how much I could fit in my bag) home for others.

Looking back at it, it was very fun event and in the short three days (well two and half) a lot of things happened and I think everyone learned a lot of things there and I'm myself happy that I could contribute to this and share some of my knowledge and passion with other people, in order to help science grow and spread to more young minds.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A birthday present from my country?

As you might know (if you lurked on my profile, website or blog), I've already received some prestigious awards for my science efforts and my inventions, both at national and international level (Intel ISEF 2012 in the Pittsburgh), where I represented my country (Czech Republic), which made me pop in the newspapers, radio and TV.

And now I've got another great news! I received an invitation from the government office of the region where I live (it's called Moravskoslezko), inviting me to their office where they want to personally thank me for my achievements and the award I won for my country, by using my brain and imagination to create something new and improve how things work :-)

The interesting part about this is the date of the invitation, which is October 30, which is my birthday. I wonder if it's just a funny coincidence or if that was actually an intentional choice, although it's probably the former, as they're thanking also other young people for their awards and achievements.

So now I have one more thing to look forward to ^^ On the other hand, I find this somewhat weird, like winning an award for a country, or representing a country. It feels like some sort of isolation. I create things for everyone, from anywhere, basically for the whole humanity to enjoy, I didn't make it for my country or any other subset of all the people. It's just that I happened to be born in this country and that I also live here (for now), that's something that I can't choose, that nobody can choose and what should be only considered for awarding are these, that people can achieve intentionally, by putting a lot of work into them.

But that's a topic I want to talk on another day, for now, I just wanted to share the news with you, I'll say how it went after October 30 and for now, I'm just looking forward to this interesting (and probably unintentional) birthday present from my country :-)