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The Media Education

MIT Professor Michael Hawley 179

cyranoVR writes "Today's CBS This Morning ran an interesting profile on MIT Professor Michael Hawley. Aside from recently publishing a super-jumbo-sized book about the Kingdom of Bhutan, he has invented (among other things) an interactive kitchen counter, designed a heart monitor embedded in jewelry, contributed to the MIT Toys of Tomorrow project and has written several classical compositions for piano. What really struck me was Hawley's observation that 'today's computers aren't musical enough.' For him, there is 'no difference between an ivory keyboard and a QWERTY keyboard.' I think it's a good thing that the mainstream media is starting to show how 'computer nerds' (as the correspondent identified Hawley) can be rich individuals with much more to their lives than hardware upgrades, programming languages and pocket protectors."
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MIT Professor Michael Hawley

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  • nerds? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chrisopherpace ( 756918 ) <cpace.hnsg@net> on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:41PM (#8423553) Homepage
    "I think it's a good thing that the mainstream media is starting to show how 'computer nerds' (as the correspondent identified Hawley) can be rich individuals with much more to their lives than hardware upgrades, programming languages and pocket protectors." There is? Since when?
  • Lies!!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Piethon ( 748147 ) <zelse&adelphia,net> on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:43PM (#8423561)
    "with much more to their lives than hardware upgrades, programming languages and pocket protectors" Lies! There cannot be anything more to life!
  • Why care? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bryan Ischo ( 893 ) * on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:44PM (#8423565) Homepage
    For what it's worth, I'm a computer nerd and I could not care less how the mass media portrays me. Why should I? Why do you?
    • Re:Why care? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by eraser.cpp ( 711313 ) *
      It isn't so much the rediculous ways that computer nerds are portrayed as it is the public reaction. Although I firmly believe in the notion that anybody who would think like that I am better off not associating with it is an unnecessary handicap to my already socially introverted self.
    • Re:Why care? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by peeping_Thomist ( 66678 ) * on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:54PM (#8423620)
      Why should I? Why do you?

      Pretty girls get their ideas about computer nerds from the mass media.
      • Re:Why care? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by KDan ( 90353 )
        Indeed. And if you don't care about that you've got more serious issues than how the mass media portray you :-P

        Daniel
        • Re:Why care? (Score:2, Insightful)

          Smart girls are aware about the distortions of mass media. This at least filters out the ones that are pretty but dumb.

          The prettiest part of a girl should be her brain.

      • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:26PM (#8423791)
        Again why should I care about a *ANY* girl (pretty or not) which get her idea from the media, and is completly close-minded to recognize that *I* am different than how the media portray me ? Why should I care about about any girl which judge on the outside apparence and media portraying and do not bother revisionning it when she meets me ? Is such girl even worth bothering, if she can't make her own opinion different than what the media sprout ?
        • by minusthink ( 218231 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:28PM (#8423798)
          Because if pretty girls like you, then pretty girls may touch you. And that's what it's all about.
        • by DaneelGiskard ( 222145 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:45PM (#8423890) Homepage
          Again why should I care about a *ANY* girl (pretty or not) which get her idea from the media, and is completly close-minded to recognize that *I* am different than how the media portray me ? Why should I care about about any girl which judge on the outside apparence and media portraying and do not bother revisionning it when she meets me ?

          Boobs.
        • Nobody will recognise that you are different until you get to talk to them for quite a bit. Nobody will spend time talking to you unless you have some attractive attributes. If you're an ugly nerd (sorry to all ugly nerds out there), the girls won't talk to you and so will never discover your wonderful sensitive soul hidden inside!

          And media-driven stereotypes influence all of us. "Nerd" is generally considered an unattractive attribute. You'll have to balance it with a lot of positive stuff in order to ev
        • "Again why should I care about a *ANY* girl (pretty or not) which get her idea from the media, and is completly close-minded to recognize that *I* am different than how the media portray me ?"

          Pretty girls are often objectified by men. The appearance of computer hardware as a status symbol is akin to jocks and their ridiculous attention to cars. As a result, they can be cautious.

          Why should you care? You really want to be misunderstood? This isn't willful ignorance on the part of women. They don't wan
      • Some computer nerds are pretty girls.

        Those don't care.

        (I want one!!)
      • Has it occured to you that the mass media has formed your ideas about nerds and pretty girls?

        As it turns out, some computer nerds are also pretty girls. You can keep the bubbleheaded ditzes that read Tiger Beat and Cosmo, thank you very much.

        Once upon a time my boss, after meeting my wife for the first time, called me up front, presented me to the UPS man delivering to our shop, and said "Look at this guy, you see how ugly he is? You should see his wife, she looks like she just stepped out of a Penthouse.
    • Re:Why care? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bkaster ( 180966 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:11PM (#8423717) Journal

      For what it's worth, I'm a computer nerd and I could not care less how the mass media portrays me. Why should I? Why do you?


      Well, media portrayal has a direct influence on your standing in society. Your standing in society has a direct influence on your life (ever notice the difference in the way people treat you depending on the way you dress?). More important than the way people treat you, look at mathematics in Europe. There the funding of departments is often very linked to the number of students they have (in one way or another). Mathematics being uncool certainly means fewer students, which in turn gives problems with the funding. I think for computer science there are currently no such issues (there is enough coolness, and there are other factors at work), but on the long run influence of the picture society has of a group of people is certainly important.

      What I am saying is that it is reasonable to care about the image in society, certainly not that one should take a current picture personally.

      Best,
      Bart
    • For what it's worth, I'm a computer nerd and I could not care less how the mass media portrays me. Why should I? Why do you?

      Because a sizeable chunk of humanity gets their information from the mass media. And I'd like the geek ideals to be disseminated into mainstream society because I think it will improve humanity. Imagine a world where almost everyone is scientifically literate, open-minded, and artistic. Don't you want to help everyone else get there?
      • Imagine a world where almost everyone is scientifically literate, open-minded, and artistic. Don't you want to help everyone else get there?

        Sure. But the way to do that isn't to change the way mass media portrays certain groups, but to get people to pay the mass media less mind. It's better for us that the mass media continue to portray the scientifically able as one-dimensional geeks, so that we can become living examples of why the mass media is not to be trusted.

        Because, you see, the mass media d

    • Re:Why care? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by 22mcdaniel ( 713698 ) *

      Media portrayal is extremely important for the development of new talent. I think a lot of young people, especially young women, are turned off from the sciences and other technical fields because of misconstrued ideas of what the respective work enviornment is like.

      Personally, if I didn't fall into the sciences by chance, and had to choose a discipline by wading through the different offerings, I might have been discouraged from physics. Who wants to spend their days around reclusive wierdos who are so

    • Re:Why care? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wolf- ( 54587 )
      Bryan,

      I tend to agree with you on that. I am definitely NOT wrapped up in what the media thinks I am, or what society is told by the media I OUGHT to be.

      I'm a 31 year old 'computer nerd'. When not at a PC working or gaming, I'm playing the banjo (yeah, a real hip instrument) or knee-boarding (yeah, that old 80s summer time sport) on the lake with my wife (pretty, smart wonderful girls CAN love a geek) and my kids, or in the off lake season, playing soccer.

      I'm not making hundreds of dot.com dollars a ye
    • Re:Why care? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JGski ( 537049 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @04:53PM (#8424598) Journal
      :-) I'm always amused by techie's comments like this, in part because I used to say exactly the same thing when I was in my early 20s.

      The reality is that value of your smarts to society as a whole is entirely fungible [reference.com] (your word-of-the-day) and largely determined by that image, for better or for worse. You may have your own internal compass of self-worth; bravo! it's a wonderful thing and I don't begrudge you it. But it won't buy you a cup of coffee.

      The mass media is simply a reflection of a greater collective value assertion on your community and indirectly on you personally. You (like every other human being) have limits to your brilliance, power and control. One of those limits is on how you are valued in terms of economic and social resource allocation. Your allocation of those resources (aka Jobs, Mates, Favors, Respect, etc.) are solely dependent on your value to others as that value is perceived by others. Your only means of control is to be aware of and exert influence on that perception (sometimes called "marketing yourself" - yes, I know, despicable).

      Is it unfair that people may judge your value as a person based on a stereotype of "the nerd"? Yes and no. They have a right to decide how to allocate the resources they possess; with that includes the right to decide the means for testing and assessing the value of what will be exchanged (you, your personality and your skills) for those resources. A lot of people might think justifications for case-modding and overclocking are unfair and foolish ways of valuing resources. But it's your money, your case and your CPU, and thus your right to decide how you chose to make your value decisions.

      People use stereotypes and perceptions to avoid thinking too much. This is anathema to nerds since we do a lot thinking, enjoy thinking and respect thinking. Nonetheless, thinking takes time and energy. An entirely rational strategy followed by most humans is to "play the numbers" and use heuristic substitutes for detailed analytic thinking. If the heuristic is right 80% of the time but you spent only 20% of the effort that thinking would require, aren't you ahead of the game? Absolutely. But we nerds do it also.

      Ask yourself this: do I rationally analyze every purchase I make or do I mostly just buy a brand I know? I mean, absolutely every purchase; like every time I buy toothpaste do I send it out for analysis to assure quality control? Of course not. You buy <insert your familiar brand> rather than intensely investigate what you're buying each time you make a purchase. This is what "branding" is: sidestepping the cost of rational economic analysis by relying on a symbolic representation and promise of a product that meets a need. You choose (explicitly or implicitly) to hold a belief that the product does what you expect, for example, due to the presumption that manufacturing is performed according to familiar, rational practices and processes so that the next time you buy a Coca Cola or an Athlon, it will probably be just as good as the last one. This is reasonable, but not a strictly rational belief or axiom. You are playing the odds on it, using your own stereotype (aka a brand perception) to convince yourself that you don't need to think about it. Go to some developing nation some time and you'll see product quality variance that may force you to question that assumption.

      So why do I (you) need to worry about what the mass media thinks about me? Well, I won't say "worry" is the right word. Specifically, your value to society is on the line with how you and your profession is perceived. Economic, social and romantic decisions are being made right this minute based on it! You should be aware of the implications of what a negative image means in terms of your career and personal satisfaction. How important those are to you is your privilege to decide how important you decide they are

    • For what it's worth, I'm a computer nerd and I could not care less how the mass media portrays me. Why should I? Why do you?

      A couple reasons come to mind:

      1) I am a small man with a weak ego that needs validation from others. You seem to be a strong individual that doesn't need outside validation - good for you!

      2) The media often portrays Computer nerds as social misfits with narrow interests. At worst, they are criminal virus writers out to destroy your computer. Unfortunately, most people in this cou
  • by Space cowboy ( 13680 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:44PM (#8423566) Journal
    I've always considered coding to be an artistic pursuit - the perfect form, in coding's case, is the elegant form IMHO - the creation of the simplest tool to do the job well (and fulfill the requirements spec, of course :-). In music, the art is the whole expression: the rise and fall in volume, the tempo changes, the different instruments, the silences, the mood-creation. Music is the pursuit of immersion. Coding is the pursuit of elegance. At least for me.

    On the other hand, I can't really see "Spreadsheet in D minor" becoming too popular... entering incrementing data by performing a crescendo on the keyboard will take a while to catch on :-)

    So whereas there are similarities, I think there are differences too, and I think the two input mechanisms reflect that. There is the other point that not all of us are maestro's with a musical instrument... the user-interface of the ivories might be slightly less user-friendly than the traditional QWERTY (or AZERTY, or whatever is your poison :-)

    Simon

    • by nodwick ( 716348 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:01PM (#8423664)
      So whereas there are similarities, I think there are differences too, and I think the two input mechanisms reflect that. There is the other point that not all of us are maestro's with a musical instrument... the user-interface of the ivories might be slightly less user-friendly than the traditional QWERTY
      The primary difference is that keys on a keyboard are binary input while piano keys are analog. How hard you strike them, your angle of approach, and other factors all combine to let you vary the sound you get. People have tried to model pianos (most notably via "digital pianos", which have been around for a long time now), but among musicians they're still considered to be tonally inferior.

      I disagreed with the article quote that "For [Hawley], there is 'no difference between an ivory keyboard and a QWERTY keyboard'."I think the key will be to recognize that electronic music and the more classical type both have their own qualities and complement, rather than replace, each other. Sort of like how electric, acoustic, and classical guitars are all similar instruments but each have their own sound -- none is meant to replicate any other one.

      • by Ed Avis ( 5917 )

        The primary difference is that keys on a keyboard are binary input while piano keys are analog.

        So a computer keyboard is more like an organ or a harpsichord. ISTR that one of the BBC Micro's Welcome programs was called 'organ', and straightforwardly turned the top two rows of keys into white and black notes. And I wrote similar things myself at various points, recording input music and playing it back or trying to generate a similar-sounding tune using simple probabilities of which notes follow each o

      • In my experience, being a pianist and knowing several professional concert pianists, the sound quality of the latest Yamaha digital pianos (MIDI pianos) - especially the Yamaha Clavinova CLP-170 (Flash website) [yamaha.com] - is as good as many acoustic grand pianos. In practice, the sound quality is usually better because acoustic pianos need but, often do not get, regular tuning.
    • Can you type your code? If typing made music instead of printing letters you would perhaps be a maestro already. Music would be written in the letters of the alphabet plus some accent marks.

      The QWERTY keyboard is actually far less a friendly user interface, with it's bizarre folded layout, compared to the geometric regularity of the piano keybord, with its mere twelve notes repeated over and over linearly.

      Of course not all of us are "maestros with a musical instrument." Not all of us have practiced with a
      • by fcw ( 17221 ) *
        As someone who has been typing for about thirty years, and playing the piano (for some loose definition of 'playing') for about two years, I have to say that I think my typing habits interfere with my playing.

        Specifically, I don't type in tempo, but I have to play in tempo, and I find this extremely hard -- I always want to play ahead on the easy passages, and slow down on the harder ones. Plus, I'd kill for a backspace on the piano.

        Ultimately, my playing's only ever much use in short bursts, and I basic
        • Plus, I'd kill for a backspace on the piano.

          Yeah, that would be sweet, wouldn't it? :)

          As for keeping tempo I hate to say it, but the much maligned metronome is the cure for that. I know professional musicians who have been playing for 50 years who still spend an hour or two a week with a metronome. Don't let it rule your playing in the mechanical sense, but it is a valuable tool to learn the bounds of musical expression.

          I happen to agree with you about the violin. I find all instruments where the player
      • Of course not all of us are "maestros with a musical instrument." Not all of us have practiced with a musical instrument. If you practice, you get good at something.

        Reminds me of something my 7th-grade music teacher told us. He said "perfect pitch" is not as rare as we've been led to believe. There are thousands of people walking around with perfect or near-perfect pitch, but it's not really relevant if you don't know the names of the notes. More important than being able to ID notes be ear is the ability

    • Actually I recall that at some point people did do debugging by 'listening', to the code (I may mistake this, and I could be thinking about hardware) - the idea being that good code sounds distinctly different to bad code.

      Actually thinking about it, it would be a rather good method of debugging - if one could find a way to transform code into something melodic, and making the giant assumption that 'bad code', would produce a dischord or something similar...

      And elegance is an excellent way to think about
      • by kid-noodle ( 669957 ) <`jono' `at' `nanosheep.net'> on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:06PM (#8423689) Homepage
        And I was right, sorry to reply to my own comment, but here [newscientist.com] is a link to the new scientist article on debugging by ear.
      • I agree. There's definitely a pattern to a compilers error streams. As you start removing bugs it changes from chaotic to ordered.

        I think this is related to the feedback/feedforward nature of most parsers as they encounter syntax errors, try to re-align, fail to do so (in relation to the bugginess of the code), and then cascade into a flurry on actually nonexistent "errors". As you correct the errors, parser realignment begins to happen correctly more often and more regularity appears.

        In a sense th

      • I haven't debugged a program like that, but I was able to tell (on the BBC Micro - of course - what other machine would it be) whether the CPU was busy or not by listening to hum from the speaker, and to tell what kind of memory access it was doing (a simple infinite loop sounded different from accessing many different memory locations).

        But for high-level debugging I don't think you could get anything useful. Very very few people code close enough to the metal that listening to where the CPU is branching
    • by cybin ( 141668 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:04PM (#8423678) Homepage
      I have to disagree with you on this -- as both a composer and programmer in several languages - coding is not the same as creating artworks. In order for computer code to be useful, it has to make sense and operate logically. Art is in direct opposition to this -- it exists on the border (and sometimes across the border) of interpretation and the abstract. Computer code is not open to interpretation - it runs the way it was written to run. It doesn't match the same way a performer can offer a different interpretation of a work.

      What you are talking about is "Craft" -- and yes, art involves craft too, that's why we study the technical aspects of piano, how the overtone series works, etc. And coding can be done "artfully" -- but the final product is not "Art".

      A side note, I really don't want to get into a flame war over this, I'm just respectfully disagreeing, because I know we can argue about this for the next century :)
      • Well said. I've often found well-written code (my own or that written by others) to be beautiful, but it cannot be called art. I've appreciated a spare user interface that leads the user to natural patterns of work, aiding the user through thoughtful metaphor and tasteful selection of color. But this was not art. As you say, it was the craft of someone artistic.

        I've often thought that craftsmanship was an expression of loving care toward those who will use the thing being built; whether conscious or no

      • Ahh, yes but one programmers representation of an orderly set of bytes to accomplish a task can be quite different from another programmers set of bytes that accomplish the same task. What if the end result is not the art? What if the art is in the creation and representation of what creates the end result?

        So, even though in the end you ARE bound by a structure of some sort I think that creative thought processes lead to better representations of said orderly structure (code). It most definitely is NOT a t
        • by cybin ( 141668 )
          You definetly make a lot of excellent points here -- and it is a matter of personal perspective.

          I guess a big part of this for me is that people who have the innovative instincts required to write the elegant code we're talking about sometimes confuse that with creativity in its most narrow definition -- fostering the creation of something new. Solving problems on the computer can lead to creative ends through innovation.

          The code that I write on my signal processing software is ultimately used as a tool
          • Isn't the process of creation, rightly named, a performance? I wonder if that doesn't make pair programming performance art. Granted, at some point, common sense intrudes (not a troll) and the answer comes out "no," even when beauty is experienced in the process.

            So what about an actor or actress portraying programming? Never mind...

      • by Ed Avis ( 5917 )
        Writing a program that a computer can interpret is the easy part. The skill is in making it understandable to a human too, and that is where programming becomes an art. If writing a factual article in a newspaper is art then so is writing a program which clearly shows the programmer's intention and guides the reader to understanding how it works.

        I think craft is probably a better term though, because of the functional aspect and the fact that the end product has to 'work'. Art doesn't have to work or _d
      • Computer code is not open to interpretation - it runs the way it was written to run. It doesn't match the same way a performer can offer a different interpretation of a work.

        It is quite obvious that you have never taken part in GUI design and the ensuing hilariousness as people interpret the computer program as not just a bit off, but completely differently from what was intended, in the usability studies. :-)
      • I have to disagree with you on this -- as both a composer and programmer in several languages - coding is not the same as creating artworks. In order for computer code to be useful, it has to make sense and operate logically. Art is in direct opposition to this -- it exists on the border (and sometimes across the border) of interpretation and the abstract. Computer code is not open to interpretation - it runs the way it was written to run.

        I don't agree with this. Software is open to interpretation. N

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:23PM (#8423774)
      I made a post while back on the subject of 'musical' passwords. As a pianist and drummer I have developed an interesting technique to use very long complicated passwords and enter them very quickly. They have the property that they are deformable shapes, in space and sequence/time, very like melodic phrases. I enter these on a normal ascii keyboard, thus:

      ijihijhijihijhi
      popipoipopipoip
      uyutuytuyutuyt u

      All these are the same passwd transposed,
      thats 3 in less than a second (not checked them for accuracy) You can get VERY quick at it and use secure passwords with great accuracy. The security comes from the sequence length not the diversity, I use 3 fingers, a better pianist/typist would use more.

      They have another interesting property.
      I can 'not know' the password and be able to enter it, if you ask me what it is I cant tell you. I have to sit at the keyboard and retreive the motor sequence to type it, then I can read it back and tell you.
  • The book... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:52PM (#8423601)
    "For him, there is 'no difference between an ivory keyboard and a QWERTY keyboard.'"

    I don't know if I want to read his book.
    I imagine something like...

    akldsfjasjgl;aghjaklgfajgsafjklaa;fsadh
    • I've written an embedded firmware program for the Atmel AVR microcontroller to use the PS2 keyboard as a MIDI music keyboard. It's on Avrfreaks.com in the projects directory (search under MIDI).

      Interfacing the PC keyboard is really tricky. It was necessary to use all the Warnier-Orr diagramming techniques learned in school to map out what was happening in order to get totally lost in the coding. But it does work. Press several keys down and get a chord on the synthesizer; release the keys and the no
  • Media attention (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kuhneng ( 241514 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:52PM (#8423602) Homepage
    I knew and interacted with Michael Hawley lightly for a year (temporary advisor at MIT).

    From my experience, he was constantly chasing whatever research line was most likely to get him in the media while neglecting projects that seemed to have more research merit but less potential for media attention.
    • by snarkh ( 118018 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:12PM (#8423725)

      After all, why bother with research merit when you can have your interactive kitchen counter
      featured on Slashdot.
    • Re:Media attention (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Isn't that the way the MIT media lab works? Get press or die.
    • Re:Media attention (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kindofblue ( 308225 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:29PM (#8423803)
      The entire Media Lab seems to follow that same pattern of pursuing fluffy PR-friendly pseudo-science. Wired had this to say about it: The Lab that Fell to Earth [wired.com]. (It's an ironic criticique given that Wired is very fluffy tech news.)

      Contrast that to the MIT AI and CS Lab, which does and has done outstanding work, in hard AI, theory, robotics, vision, and so on.

      Still, the Media Lab just seems like the most fun place to work.

      • Re:Media attention (Score:5, Interesting)

        by raisin ( 30710 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @03:23PM (#8424121)
        I work at the Media Lab and have often felt that there's a sort of inverse relationship between the amount of (popular) press that some of the projects receive, and the actual value of the project itself. Things like an interactive kitchen counter are a good example of this, so the really interesting work can easily get lost in that.

        For what it's worth, the Wired article, however, is way off, including some parts that are just completely made up and has all sorts of wild speculation from the article's author, much to the amusement of many of the people here. The author came in and was looking for dirt so that Wired could sell magazines (this was extremely successful, as that issue did really well on the newstand). This is not to say there's plenty of critique you could make about the lab, there was a Technology Review article, google cached here [216.239.37.104], written by a talented writer that made many more valid points by simply hanging a few professors with their own words. It's no longer particularly relevant anymore, but the author could teach the Wired guy a thing or two or seven.
        • Thanks for the link. I trust Technology Review a lot more than Wired for deeper research news. (Although it is run by MIT so I wonder about the journalistic impartiality.) Anyway, I wasn't necessarily picking on the Media Lab. For those who are interested, their research page [mit.edu] lists their highly diverse set of projects.

    • Re:Media attention (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cvdwl ( 642180 )
      As a postdoc on a trail of post-docs, I think it's safe to say that almost any professor or scientist seen in the national media will be faced with such accusations from his academic peers.

      Not to say the detractors are right or wrong, but the problem, IMHO, really comes from a basic process:

      1. the media is rarely willing or able to portray scientific problems in their true complexity, leading to:
      2. any scientist who does speak to the media is often misquoted or portrayed as a hero, in order to "simplify" or
      • Your "research merit" is driven at least as much by Congress as by your personal belief in the quality of the work.

        Research merit is a social concept and is not decided on the basis of your own beliefs. Otherwise any crackpot working on perpetuum mobile would have plenty of research merit. However it is sad to observe, when scientists get their credibility from Slashdot and Wired. On the other hand, one might argue that getting it from Science is only slightly better. Your call.

      • Re:Media attention (Score:5, Informative)

        by kuhneng ( 241514 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:42PM (#8423872) Homepage
        Except that in the case of what I observed, Prof. Hawley would literally drop an in-progress project the moment the media buzz died down.

        This is different from popular researchers such as Carl Sagan and Steven Hawking, who routinely give/gave simplified glimpses of their research to the public, but certainly haven't driven their research based on how much media exposure it's likely to generate.
    • Agreed. I knew him when he was an undergrad, and even then he seemed more focused on the flashy and shallow than actual CS. My musician friends did say he played quite well, however.
    • Re:MIT Media Lab (Score:2, Interesting)

      by MacBorg ( 740087 )
      I've worked there (3 summer internships) and yes, they're flashy (very much so in 2001, far less so today) but the science and theory is exceedingly interesting met this fellow once... seemed nice enough... if a little obssessed
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:53PM (#8423608)
    This has to be one of the few that has the opposite problem.
  • Most nerds are men, and men change their priorities and attitudes over time. My rule of thumb is that the jocks mature early, the nerds mature late.

    A nerd invests hugely in a technical subject and should, with time, be able to leverage that into a high value career. So it's quite normal that many men who were totally nerdy in their teens and twenties become relaxed, charming, social, and wealthy as they get older and more succesful.
    • "My rule of thumb is that the jocks mature early, the nerds mature late."

      Define mature! Physically mature, ethically mature, socially mature, financially mature, etc? Sure, there is a general definition we have for mature, which even then varies on who you ask. I'm sorry, but this statement means nothing to me. Simply put, there are people out there that are more interested in tinkering with things than others. These people are commonly less social, but that only makes sense since they spend less time
    • My rule of thumb is that the jocks mature early, the nerds mature late.

      Maybe it's just me, but I haven't met a jock that has "matured early", in fact I know a few that are 30 and haven't matured.

      I guess the issue here is defining maturity. I consider maturity to be directly proportional to creativity, The ability to create somthing novel. Human minds are more matured than our ape predescessors because we have the ability to create, have novel thoughts, etc. I think that people use the term "maturity" t
    • Webster's defines this as "having completed natural growth and development". I think that is precisely what I meant.

      If jocks and nerds are competing, it is for access to sex, through one strategy or another. Jocks mature early because they adopt a strategy that works young: bigger, faster, more successful at physical sports. Nerds compete with a strategy that works older: collect technical skills and build into business accumen over time.

      The statement that jocks are still "immature at 30" is easily cou
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:54PM (#8423621)
    See Prodikeys [prodikeys.com].
  • keyboards (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:55PM (#8423632)
    I always thought it would be interesting for someone to devise an "instrument" out of the QWERTY keyboard. So many people are proficient with the standard keyboard they'd be instant musicians.

    It would be a cool addition to MMORPG games where you can have real bards that actually play music via keyboard.
  • Bhutan (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ModernGeek ( 601932 )
    I used to host IRC Chat for Bhutan before we got DDoSed to death. Really nice people, some egg heads too. Aside from the "Wanna chat?" guys asking for 16 year old girls, it's a nice place with alot of smart people.
  • WRONG (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GNUALMAFUERTE ( 697061 ) <almafuerte&gmail,com> on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:04PM (#8423676)
    More rich individuals?, being a rich individual is measured in terms of how well you addapt to the social roles that are impossed nowdays?.
    Slashdot is a social activity.
    Please think about this: Name 1 comunity of non-geek persons that are more than 10 and that get together every day to discuss their ideas. There are NONE.
    Now, look at Slashdot, are we unsocial terminal geeks?.
    I Think the hole think is upside down. We are social people, actually more sociable than other social groups because we still belevie in some things like netiquete, we can maintain social contract. Actual society CAN'T. Slashdot is not a website, it's a social contract. EVERYONE can post here, and he will be listened, we have our methods to protect ourselves from those that don't know how to live in society, but we won't censor them or ask them to go away.

    We are unsocial with many people because they comunicate in a different language, which is by definition aggresive and antisocial.
    • Please think about this: Name 1 comunity of non-geek persons that are more than 10 and that get together every day to discuss their ideas. There are NONE.
      Bullshit. There are a ton of message boards full of non technical people. Check out Fark.com for example. Heck I can think of a lot more but I doubt they could cope with a slashdotting :)
      • Yep, there are _lots_ about any subject, but the fact is that:

        a) There is no many people in there ...
        b) They don't last more than a year.
        c) They only has ocational readers.
        d) And the more important thing: those forums are a big disaster, many people slashdotters complain lately about slash, let me tell you that in those forums you name, noone hear what the others has to say, everyone flames everyone, and they are full of spam.

        It's easy to maintain a good comunity of 30 readers, it's NOT to maintain a good
    • Re:WRONG (Score:2, Funny)

      by rtv ( 567862 )
      Name 1 comunity of non-geek persons that are more than 10 and that get together every day to discuss their ideas. There are NONE.
      • The House of Commons
      • US Congress, Senate
      • etc.
  • by Digital Dharma ( 673185 ) <`max' `at' `zenplatypus.com'> on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:09PM (#8423704)
    I have a platinum-plated pocket protector of +5 charisma!
  • Both people have some extra money to do something to impress their friends. Hawley has more money.

    BTW, why did the guy who mentioned big book/small country get modded troll?

    OK, OK, so the giant book is an exercise in making some kind of maximum display technology like a middle ages style plasma TV. The big story here is enlarging the images to an appropriate resolution.
  • Did they retire Weizenmbaum or what ? I always assumed they'd only have room for one of these certified kook types.

    Have youy looked at that gentleman's publication list on his web site ?

    - travels to Bhutan ???
    - photo mosaics ??
    - essays in "technology review" ??

    Apparently the good professor never had scientific research published of which he is proud enough to mention it on his home page.

    Oh well. MIT.
    • The purpose of people at the Media lab is basically to act cool and make MIT look good and therefore get donations from companies and rich people -- they don't do research like proving P != NP or stuff like that there.
  • by serutan ( 259622 ) <snoopdoug&geekazon,com> on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:12PM (#8423724) Homepage
    Sorry, I was upgrading the embedded Forth interpreter in my pocket protector. What was it you wanted?
  • by almound ( 552970 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:20PM (#8423759) Homepage
    People who want to do music ... and I'm IT staff, who is getting a statistics degree, yet writes classical music as a hobby for fun ... find that they are stymied by antiquated and just plain dumb music software.

    The Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) is twenty+plus years old. Imagine if you were trying to do your networking using Banyan ... oh, never heard of Banyan? Think on it.

    Yet MIDI is what someone who WRITES music must use to export notes over into a program that will PLAY the music they write (i.e. a sequencer) with any degree of real sound. By itself, MIDI just does not support the nuances and articulations of music desk-top publishing, the environments known as notation programs. And also, notation programs can't adequately play back the notes (the sound is cheesey at best).

    So people, myself included, resort to composing in one or the other, or perhaps in both a sequencer and a notation program simultaneously, each program running on a separate machine! Is that stone-age or what!!! Imagine if that was what was required to do word processing!

    With the current state of MIDI, the computer isn't even able to write what you play into it from a keyboard (without hours and hours of tweaking and guesstimation). We haven't even come that far, people!

    Oh, did I mention that the special cables and splitters required to network MIDI devices together are about 2000% more expensive than any other cable connections you are likely to buy! $600.00 all told to hook up three PCs with a MIDI keyboard!!! This is true of Macs as well as PCs.

    No, computers AREN'T music friendly and it is a needless shame. Something must be done about it.
    • So what do we do about it? Sounds like a great opportunity to get rich revolutionizing the music tech industry!!
    • Hey, don't pick on MIDI. It may be 'an expensive networking protocol', but when was the last time you saw multiple-hundreds of -different computer^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hmusical instrument- designs able to communicate, effectively, with each other?

      On my desk, I have 3 devices, from competing mfr's, which are perfectly able to communicate with each other effectively and efficiently, in order to build a track (QY700, Indigo2, Machinedrum, in case you're wondering)... in my 19" rack, I have 4 other devices (A5000, F
      • ... I agree with the assertion that computers are not musical enough! The nice way to do that is make musical instruments which use computer technology, but make the musical instrument Goal the Primary Objective ... so that the computer part becomes transparent. Some very nice mfr's have done work in this regard ... (I consider my QY700 to be one freakin' nice musical computer, but then its a computer designed for music and nothing else, so ...)
    • No, computers AREN'T music friendly and it is a needless shame. Something must be done about it.

      I totally agree. MIDI is a totally obsolete technology. I have an MPU-401 card that I can no longer use because it is just won't work on any PC made in the past five years. I try nowdays only to buy tone modules with toHost cable interfaces (standard RS-232 serial ports).

      There needs to be a way to connect keyboards and sequencer programs using standard ethernet. Plus a new way to record all the subtl
    • MIDI is also almost entirely useless for anything other than western classical influenced music.

      Try doing Chinese, Indian or African music in MIDI.

      It just isn't going to work; the qualities of sound, the rhythms and scale systems just arn't part of the MIDI standard.

      If you want to do pop, rock or classical music, MIDI is great. And after all, even death metal is essentially a development of western classical music.

    • The Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) is twenty+plus years old. Imagine if you were trying to do your networking using Banyan ... oh, never heard of Banyan? Think on it.

      I agree that anything so new has got to be crap. That's why my network is based on 30 year old Ethernet.

      On a serious note (no pun indended), I do think MIDI has to go, at least as the main interfacing standard (there's just too many cool, older synthesizers around for it to be gotten rid of completely, and of course some people

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:23PM (#8423775) Homepage
    The previous champion in Really Oversized Coffee-Table Books was Helmut Newton's SUMO [amazon.com], at 65 pounds. It costs $3000 and comes with its own metal stand. It's a collection of mildly erotic prints. Modernbook in Palo Alto had one on display for months.

    So this guy comes out with a book that is seven feet tall, weighs 133 pounds, and costs $10,000. This is an achievement of sorts, but as Molly Ivins once pointed out, once you've seen a one-ton cheese, a two-ton cheese isn't that impressive.

  • I love these profiles of 'geeks' who turn out to be renaissance men capable of excellence in nearly any endeavor.
  • What I'd like is a musical keyboard with C/C++ keywords on each key. Just think of the productivity increase from not having to type so many letters.
    • Well, maybe not musical, but back in the "old days" of the early eighties, many home computers allowed you to type BASIC keywords with one key -- of course that was in part because of the wretched nature of keyboards on cheap home computers then would make extensive typing painful,
  • by HEbGb ( 6544 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @03:10PM (#8424050)
    Check his background, CBS and Slashdot. Hawley didn't get tenure because he didn't do much solid research (instead relying on hype and PR). He's no longer a professor at MIT of any sort.
    • So the headline should have read "Former MIT Professor." Or maybe "World's Largest Book." For the record, it's 99% likely that CBS reported him as a "former MIT professor," but I mis-heard (and mis-transcribed) it. Oh well - I'm not sure how this affects the story.

      Anyway, you comment that he's "no longer a professor of any sort." While it's true that he's no longer part of the faculty, this press release [mit.edu] from December still refers to him as being "of the MIT Media lab" and his homepage is still on their s
  • Musical Computing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rMortyH ( 40227 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @03:14PM (#8424075)
    Musical computing is what I do now, at this [stanford.edu] place, and it's definitely true that computers are not musical enough.

    First, the computer is theoretically a completely general tool, but the ones we use come packaged as an office tool. Using them for other purposes generally requires alot of work against this, even in our favorite operating systems. (though FAR less so)

    The next problem is computer hardware. It's quite a daunting task in most cases to connect a keyboard or other controller to a computer. It has to be easy for non-geeks. (USB makes this much better than it has been.) In addition, the vast majority of low-end keyboards are awful. They usually have undersize keys, and almost never have velocity, which both become a problem once you move beyond 'mary had a little lamb'.

    Creative makes a keyboard that is integrated into the qwerty keyboard. I think this is a fantastic idea. However, the same problems apply, undersize keys (they can be shorter, but they must be wide enough) proprietary, or at least nonstandard drivers, and very cheap construction. It is basically unusable, if they're wondering why it's not selling. Great idea though.

    It is a travesty that all 'toy' musical instruments for children are really unplayable. What are we doing to our kids! Even the adult ones under $300 all lack velocity, and often have cheap keys that 'bounce.'

    Using the qwerty keyboard as an instrument is not a bad idea. It is fundamentally different from typing. As an adult student of piano I thought my keyboard use as a geek would help. Maybe a little, but one key difference is that key hits when typing are INTERLEAVED, hence we get letters in order. Musical key hits are SYNCRONIZED, you often hit several keys at once. Learning the difference can be tough at first.

    It does allow monoponic (one sound at a time) playing, and for that it's pretty neat. Many synth packages already do this, but the feature's not intended to be useful outside of testing. The PC keyboard sends key down and key up messages, so it may be possible to have polyphony (multiple sounds at once and chords) on keyboards whose internal multiplexing doesn't prevent it. Libraries intended for text keyboard use won't work for this.

    Learning the piano I also realize that all those hours mastering Bruce Lee on the c64 when I was 13 were exactly the time when my brain could have been mastering music. The idea that you can't learn later is a myth. You learn differently. But the willingness, and the ability, to sit there for 6 to 8 hours a day trying to master something happens when you're young. (Luckily I did this with electronics and computers, so I'm now employed!)

    Computers make GREAT musical instruments, and allow music to be made in most of the old ways and many completely new ways. Of course it's up to the musician to use them to make GOOD music.

    The computer and toy industries have to start making products that are really useful to normally skilled people in normal situations, which are neither too technical or so stripped down as to be useless. Also, there need to be more musical games, which teach fundamentals, and are also fun. The only reason why the techological revolution isn't also a musical one is that we just haven't bothered. There's an instrument in every home and classroom now, and if we aren't cheap and lazy about it, they would be useful.
  • For him, there is 'no difference between an ivory keyboard and a QWERTY keyboard.'

    Then I don't want to hear his music, because it must all be played at the same volume, straight through.
  • Why is this "new"? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ivern76 ( 665227 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @04:00PM (#8424316)

    God himself [stanford.edu] is well known for playing the pipe organ. RMS has (unfortunately) been known to sing (I can't find a link to this gem, it used to be somewhere on Jamie Zawinski's website.) Eric Raymond advises hacker wannabes to master a musical instrument to enrich their personality.

    It's old news...hackers like music. Why? Music is a cleverly woven chain of simple notes and chords, and if you do it right it sounds amazing and gives much of the same gratification as programming.

    That said, this guy's pretty damn cool.

  • From amazon [amazon.com]:
    According to Guinness World Records, at over five by seven feet (and 133 pounds), this staggeringly beautiful photographic book is the largest published book in the world--about one of the world's smallest countries.

    [snip] ...
    Charitable Donation and Shipping Estimate
    A limited edition of 500 copies will be produced. The $10,000 "price" (less than $100 per page) is a donation to Friendly Planet (a publicly supported charitable organization exempt from federal income tax pursuant to IRC 501(c)(3)
  • Greetings. (Score:2, Informative)

    by MJHawley ( 757704 )
    Greetings.

    I had never seen "slashdot" (and also haven't seen the CBS piece that spawned the rapidly devolving commentary.) Incidentally, I agreed somewhat sheepishly to allow the CBS piece as well as a profile in DISCOVER magazine because I was happy to share some of my views on teaching, and learning, and exploration to get out. These things are rather apart from many of the cracks made, which leads me to think that I'm not the only one who didn't see the CBS piece. Or maybe that's just the ordinary k

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