Sherlock (2014)

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I’m not sure why television shows in the UK are organized by series rather than by season. This post refers to the third series or season of the show that was released early in 2014. In any case, this is a highly unusual show since each season consists of only three episodes and the length of each episode is closer to what is expected of a movie than a television program. Also, each season seems to take two years to make since the first one appeared in 2010 and the previous one appeared in 2012.

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Introduction à la programmation orientée objet (en C++)

This one is the follow-up to the previous C++ course that I took. As such it is taught by the same team from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and is again conducted entirely in French. This course focuses on the object-oriented portion of C++ which was ignored in its predecessor.

Once again, this is a very high quality course taught by instructors who obviously have had a great deal experience in teaching this material and have given a lot of thought to the examples and exercises that are included. The course schedule covers seven weeks of lectures and the obligatory course work has five programming assignments, of which only the last four count for the purposes of earning the certificate.

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Capote (2005)

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Philip Seymour Hoffman impressed me greatly in Synecdoche, New York, so when he passed away earlier this year and various people commented that his best role was in Capote, I knew I had to watch this film. Unlike my wife however, I don’t really read mainstream fiction so I only have the vaguest of ideas of who Truman Capote was. Furthermore, I tend not to like biography films, so I went in with reduced expectations.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

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The Winter Soldier (I’m not going to use the unwieldy full title) marks the ninth instalment of the ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s hard to believe that Marvel’s streak of hits has continued for so long but it has, and with this film, it continues to do so. I’m not a big fan of The First Avenger. I liked how it subverted the point of having a superhero but felt that its action scenes were underwhelming and its story too simplistic.

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Recent Interesting Science Articles (March 2014)

Despite my recent focus on films, I haven’t exactly forgotten this ongoing series and there are quite a few of these articles for the previous month:

  • The obvious starting point is the biggest scientific news of the month and perhaps the biggest cosmological finding of the decade. There are countless articles about it but here’s one from National Geographic for emphasizing what the results imply for the existence of a multiverse. This follows observations made at the BICEP2 facility in Antartica of curling patterns in the distribution of temperature and matter, which stands in for gravitational waves. These findings not only support the rapid inflation theory of how the currently observable universe was formed but suggests that ours is only one of many universes that may exist.
  • This next article from the Los Angeles Times reads like something right out of a bad sci-fi thriller. It’s about how a 30,000-year-old virus was found and revived from the Siberian tundra. This sample represents a particularly large virus that infects only amoeba but the obvious horror movie scenario is that some commercial drilling operation might unearth an ancient virus that would be dangerous to humans.
  • In another piece of cool cosmological news, Crain’s Detroit Business has an article about how scientists have managed to measure the spin of a distant, supermassive black hole. The object in question is at the centre of a quasar about 6 billion light years away from Earth. The scientists were able to take advantage of gravitational lensing effects to accurately measure the distant light and found the black hole to be rotating at about half the speed of light.
  • This next bit has also appeared in various places but this version is from the Utah People’s Post. It talks about how elephants have been found to be able to recognize different languages spoken by humans, as well as the age and gender of the speaker. The research was performed in Kenya and used different tribal peoples, some of whom actively hunted and killed elephants and some of whom ignored them. They found that the elephants were able to recognize the languages spoken by the Masai tribe which usually kills elephants and react accordingly by fleeing or bunching together to protect each other. They were also able to moderate their responses if the speaker was a child or a female, indicating a low threat.
  • Male-female inequality isn’t anything new but I’ve been paying more attention to this recently since it’s become a hot issue within the gaming community. This article from ThinkProgress show how investors respond better to sales pitches made by men compared to those made by women, even when the content of the pitches is exactly the same. Oddly, they even found that investors responded better to good looking men, but attractiveness in women didn’t seem to make a difference.
  • The next one is a news release rather than a real alert and it’s from EurekAlert! It’s about how computers are better able to tell when someone is faking being in pain than people. Humans fake being in pain for many reasons of course, including when it comes to demanding insurance compensation. The computer system works by looking at the faces of the people involved and trying to work out whether or not the grimaces are generated by voluntary or involuntary facial movements. Apparently the system was able to achieve accuracy rates of 85 percent while even trained humans were only to achieve rates of 55 percent, that is only slightly better than chance.
  • And finally for another right out of sci-fi story, this article from NewScientist covers an experimental treatment for victims of severe physical trauma. It’s only meant as a last resort specifically for people who are immediately in danger of dying from gunshot or knife wounds and the doctors believe that they will die before the wounds can be treated. The idea is to drain out all of the victim’s blood and replace it with a cold saline solution. This very rapidly cools down the body and stops almost all cellular activity. This also means that the victims become clinically dead. This gives the doctors about two hours during which they try to fix as much of the physical damage as possible before replacing the saline solution with blood again and restarting the heart. Naturally, if this works, it will lead to questions about just how long we can keep a person in suspended animation in this way.

The unexamined life is a life not worth living