Algorithmic Random

Mac Keyboard
Mac Keyboard

If you are out on the Internet or around academics long enough, then you will run across the rant about random designed by humans not being really random. It might be the iTunes shuffle. It might be random sampling of an experiment. It might be a complaint of you using the word for how you spend your time online.

OK. I took that last one a bit too personal.

If a human is performing the random, then there probably is a pattern. But then in nature, things we call random typically have a pattern too. DNA mutations involve changed molecules at a position and chance that it has no bearing, disables the bearer, or gives the bearer an advantage. The lack of true randomness is a sign of intelligent design to some. And a sign that it is natural to others. Quantum mechanics. Encryption. Stock trading. Prediction. Truly random is unnatural. Well… It just means we have not yet figured out the pattern. Give us time.

Since random is the wrong word, how about algorithmic random or a-random for short. It just means a pattern-based approximation of random that is good enough for the purpose of acting random.

The Ares Imperative

The Ares ImperativeA friend of mine, Steve Ekstrom, is the writer of this comic which I enjoyed for the this first 8 pages. I’m looking forward to the next installments. Check out The Ares Imperative! (And vote for it if you like it. The winner gets published by DC Comics.)


It’s the early 21st Century and corporations continue to manipulate world governments as emerging quasi-religious science cults and techno-centric international terrorists are beginning to develop their own biological weapons mapped out in human genomes. Special Agent Adam Geist operates covertly within the framework of the ultra-classified PROJECT ARES division of the C.I.A. under the supervision of Deputy Director Ted Gerard and his assistant Maxwell Clearwater.

Geist does not fully comprehend the processes, which he has undergone as a part of PROJECT ARES but numerous studies have revealed that alien mitochondria have asserted control of his DNA—altering his higher intelligence functions and his nervous system receptor processing speed. He has become sensitive to electromagnetic fields and has developed heightened senses, which include something akin to Wi-Fi reception. His skin is capable of rapid, localized cellular density adaptation—making him virtually bulletproof.

Due to the secret nature of his existence and the fear that a “super-man” would create in light of the unstable relations between the U.S. and other world powers, Geist is under strict orders: he must eliminate anyone—friend or foe—who learns of his uncanny abilities. Sadly, as he grows in power, his own humanity diminishes from the actualization of his computer-like brain—and now, evidence is beginning to surface that his own strange biology may, in fact, be malevolent in nature…

Merry Christmas

MERRY CHRISTMAS Back when I was Catholic, the two masses I enjoyed the most were Christmas and Easter. I listen to Christmas music throughout the year.

Birth and death are a fascinating duality of life. A material death is simple… The Second Law of Thermodynamics represents the scattering of the particles of which we are composed. Life at one time represented an enigma to the law. Creationists sometimes use the lack of a oppositional scientific law to describe the attraction and building complexity in the Universe as the evidence for a Creator. Evidence of absence is a tricky thing. 😀

Birth is a important milestone for amazing biological processes to compose an all new living creature. Two sets of DNA combine in a single cell. This cell divides until with a solid foundation, where they start building organs. Over time, coordinating with the mother’s body, this individual reaches a state of readiness to leave the mother’s body: birth. Countless opportunities for something to go wrong, and yet, most go right. Such a spectacularly subtle display of the power found in the Universe. We take it for granted.

Christmas is the best birth. The Nativity Story is a major part of what makes Christmas so fantastic. You have the Immaculate Conception, the Star of Bethleham, fulfillment of prophecy, fear of monarchs, and one of the most revered people known to us born in the most humble of places. Though can someone explain to me the lobsters?

Power of Assumptions

Being single, people offer up lots of places to find love offline and more frequently of late online. Almost everyone knows of the common profile browsing or question testing dating web sites. This site scares the hell out of me….

Welcome to a new era of human relationships. We’re the only introduction service that creates matches with actual physical chemistry. Our patent-pending technology uses your DNA to find others with a natural body fragrance you’ll love, with whom you’d have healthier children, a more satisfying sex life, and more*. Our personal-values-analysis provides a deep spiritual bond, to complete your path to truly amazing relationships.

I wonder if a nerd was confused about what “chemistry” meant?

DNA For Everyone

So, 60 Minutes has broadcast a report on the tracing of DNA. Leslie made a statement, “The are just two bits of DNA which remain pure. The Y chromosome which passes directly from father to son. And something called mitochondrial DNA which passes unchanged from mother to child.” Logically speaking, if the mDNA really passes unchanged with every generation, then everyone has the exact same mDNA. However, that is not the case. A limited number of aberrations have occurred in the mDNA over time. Those changes are called markers and passed from mother to child. Identification of these markers and estimating when and which groups they occurred is the process behind identifying to whom an individual is related.

Leslie did make a really good point. As you trace back through the Y chromosome and mDNA, the further back one goes, the smaller the ratio of these markers can provide. So going back one generation, you can see info on both individuals. Going back to the second generation, you can only see 2 of 4 individuals, three see 2 of 8, eight see 2 of 256, etc.

Another fuzziness the report failed to explain is the testing really only matches individuals to currently living individuals who share similar markers. So, you don’t really see who your ancestors are. An African-American woman showcased, got back several matches to individuals belonging to tribes in Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, and Senegal. I have first and second cousins all over the place. Is it right to assume only individuals taken from Africa and brought to the Americas are the ones who have left the tribe? It seems hard to believe family members left in Africa occupy the same huts as when we left.

A good book to read on Y chromosome and mDNA tracing to determine the origins of all the world’s population to common ancestors in Africa is The Journey of Man by Spencer Wells. That is a little further back.

Fake + Kidnapping = Bad Idea

Woman fakes kidnapping to avoid work – Yahoo! News:

A 21-year-old German woman who did not feel like going to work at a fast food restaurant sent her parents a text message saying she had been kidnapped.

Police in the Bavarian town of Straubing said Wednesday they had launched a massive search throughout the region for the woman who disappeared on December 23 but turned up unscathed the following morning, saying the kidnapper had set her free.

A spokesman said the woman was questioned over the Christmas holiday and admitted she made up the story because she owed a colleague 25 euros ($32.9) and did not have the money to pay her debt. She now faces a fine of up to 1,000 euros.

She did this to avoid paying 25 euros. So what is she going to do for the fine of 1,000 euros, fake her own death? I mean, I feel like I would like to skip work at times. If I owed a coworker 3 times my hourly wage and didn’t have it, then I probably would be thinking about how to get out of it. However, faking a kidnapping seems like a really bad idea.

What About Mixed People?

These companies use mitochondrial DNA to trace one’s genetic lineage. So, they take a sample from my mitochondria (which I got from my mom) and compare it to samples that have been taken from mitochondria samples found in their database to match it.

Well, my mom’s mom has lots of English and Scottish ancestry. So this doesn’t really do me a whole lot of good (even if it were a viable program).


DNA Tests May Flunk African History
Topic: Genes

Remember a while back when Oprah Winfrey took a DNA test and found out she was descended from Zulus?

Other African-Americans have gotten their DNA tested too, as have curious people inspired by theories about ancestors known as the “Seven Daughters of Eve.” There are even “home” DNA tests, as I wrote last year.

But a new study published in an open-source journal suggests that DNA tests don’t have much to tell most African-Americans.

Researchers found that fewer than 14 percent of mitochondrial DNA samples tested could be linked to a single ethnic region, and 40 percent turned up no links at all due to incomplete data from Africa.

According to the study, the research “suggests that few African Americans might be able to trace their mtDNA lineages to a particular region of Africa, and even fewer will be able to trace their mtDNA to a single ethnic group.”


Michael Covington’s Daily Notebook:

Enough of this “electronic frontier.” I want civilization!

I agree. The Internet has become a dangerous place. Every node has its own rules, some are more developed than others, and none are completely safe.

I’m in favor of a tax on the Internet if it’s used to pay for law enforcement. Fifteen years ago, before the Internet, it was common for an ordinary American to go for months if not years without anyone attempting a crime against him. Now would-be criminals are hitting on me 200 times a day. Some of them must be easy to catch.

A tax to catch criminal behavior on the Internet? I am not so sure. Already there are tons of police working on the Internet. Mostly they are seeking to shut down child pornography and bad people getting their hands on kids. They work at the federal, state, and local levels. They are so ineffective, vigilantes have started groups to catch these people.

We keep adding from what activity we want these police to protect us. However, catching a Internet crook in some ways is trickier than catching a face-to-face crook. Jurisdictions get in the way; evidence chains are a nightmare; judges and juries have no idea what 1/10th of the technical terms mean much less how its distinct from close relatives. Lawyers will get better at this last part similar to how DNA used to confuse juries but now helps get convictions. Protecting a bank online is in ways more difficult than protecting it from someone robbing it in person.

Ultimately it comes down to acceptable risk. People are clueless to the danger, so they make bad judgments.

Frying Astronauts One Chromosone At a Time

A few conspiracy theorists who claim we never actually went to the Moon mention the inability of the space suits and craft of the time to hold out the cosmic radiation. Do they have enough time to gauge whether a human could survive a trip to Mars and back? Considering Mars no longer has a magnetic field (why it lost its atmosphere – I watch too much NOVA), getting to Mars will not provide a safe haven.

Maybe I am glad I didn’t become an astronaut?

Was Einstein Wrong about Space Travel? | Science Blog

While the astronaut twin is hurtling through space, Cucinotta explains, his chromosomes are exposed to penetrating cosmic rays. This can damage his telomeres—little molecular “caps” on the ends of his DNA. Here on Earth, the loss of telomeres has been linked to aging.

So far, the risk hasn’t been a major concern: The effect on shuttle and space station astronauts, if any, would be very small. These astronauts orbit inside of Earth’s protective magnetic field, which deflects most cosmic rays.

But by 2018, NASA plans to send humans outside of that protective bubble to return to the moon and eventually travel to Mars. Astronauts on those missions could be exposed to cosmic rays for weeks or months at a time. Naturally, NASA is keen to find out whether or not the danger of “radiation aging” really exists, and if so, how to handle it.