Publication List Update

In the course of getting a job done, we all end up doing a bit of research. Here are some of the projects I’ve contributed to, from artificial intelligence to aircraft design, tissue simulation, human-machine interfaces and Lego Mindstorms! Feel free to check it out. Wherever possible, I’ve added the presentation versions, which are a bit more visual and a lot less text!

How to effectively study

Alan Turing Statue

Alan Turning : “We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.”

You never stop learning, which means you never stop studying. Sometimes the hardest things to learn are those that don’t have a concrete test or exam at the end. How do you know how well you did in a race if there are no hurdles, laps, timer or finish line? That’s part of being an adult, and actually a part of a Human Factors model where your “comfort zone” must be stretched into an area where you are uncomfortable, but, as it turns out, competent.

A good way to stretch yourself in the direction of learning something new is not just to read the manual. Humans are designed to learn through doing, so doing examples and writing example exams is generally more effective than just linear reading.



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UX Science – measurement gets the answer

The simplification of user interfaces has been proceeding quickly now that the last vestiges of skewmorphism are gone. Like any new technology, the first iterations of the interface must be familiar to the users. Early cars looked like carriages, early lightbulbs behaved like gaslight, early televisions looked like radios, and the first home computers worked like typerwriters (and still do!).

But any design trend ultimately overshoots the mark, in this case iconography has possibly become oversimlified, and buttons without outlines or contrast fill are being used because retina-class displays support the fine line widths.

Curt Arledge addresses one basic question in this user interface direction: does an outline or contrast button have more usability. Check out his results here

In summary, what seems to matter are two things. First, the users’ familiarity with the icon type: i.e. the common language all interfaces share to a great degree in the iconography alphabet. Second, that user testing is still required, since differences appear in counter-intuitive places, and some design decisions affect usability less than expected.

The Ultimate Outreach Question: What If

What If, Randall Monroe

What If, Randall Monroe

If you have not come across XKCD yet, I envy and pity you. Pity, because you have been missing out, and envy, because you will get to see it all for the very first time. XKCD is in the Spirit of the Pulitzer prize winning book Godel, Escher, Bach, but more of a stick man version thereof. The author of XKCD, Randall Monroe, is releasing a book, “What If” that takes his format into the realm of stupid questions – the best kind – to find some surprising answers. Curiosity is not smart, curiosity is curiosity. It kills cats, it causes nuclear cold-wars and internets, and helps you pop bubble wrap with rolly chairs in the office. What If doesn’t even exist yet, but what if it did? (i.e. it’s on preorder) I hope they can print enough DRM’s e-book editions.

Outreach #2: I F*ing Love Science is going the TV route

Science in mainstream culture is benefiting from the fragmentation of broadcast and upstarts looking for new content. The low production overhead of blogging will be moving up-budget, though the format has not been announced.

The unabashed enthusiasm for curiosity and the love shown for the curious people behind it are what makes IFLS stand out. I hope they can have some associated interactive content to go along with the production budget.

details here

Outreach: The Radiolab experiment, a preview

NPR’s Radiolab is much CBC’s DNTO in that it addresses topics connected by a theme. The themes are seemingly broad and at first, and the stories in each cast are connected are connected laterally. Is it science, society, psychology? It’s all these things and most of all it starts with a question – the more simple, the more innocent, the sharper and deeper they seem to cut into the subject. Having multiple hosts and heavily edited interviews makes for a stream of consciousness production style, quick to turn, tricky to predict or take for granted; it is an ear perking experience.

What makes it realtable is not just the subject, but that it is a result of curiosity followed-through, something we too often ignore for lack of time.

"Black Box" – what goes on in the places where you can’t look

"What’s Left When You’re Right" – Is being right the wrong thing?

"Inheritance" – What part of you is predetermined?