Saturday, October 06, 2007

A Trifecta!

Sorry I haven't blogged for almost a week now. School is now taking up a large chunk of my time (it's true, things DO get harder). So, to make up for it, I'm gonna talk about three different articles I found particularly interesting. Enjoy!

Have you ever been annoyed with the Completely Automated Turing To Tell Humans and Computers Apart or CAPTCHAs (yes, I know it's a horrible acronym). If you don't know what a CAPTCHA is, it's basically the distorted text most web sites ask you in order to ensure that you're human. Well, this technology is being used by the folks at Carnegie Mellon to digitize old books. Here's the problem: old books are typically not in the best shape. Traditional text-recognition methods do not work on words of especially bad quality. So, the words that can't be deciphered are sent to participating web sites so that people can help decipher these books. Sounds pretty good, sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and StumbleUpon have adopted this technique (known as reCAPTCHAs). And as an added bonus, these are words that are guaranteed to be unreadable because they haven't passed the test.
Now, if you're like me, you're probably wondering what the words are compared against, since the word is only defined by what the user says it is. Well, apparently you're given two CAPTCHAs, a known CAPTCHA and a reCAPTCHA. You fill in both, and if your CAPTCHA is correct, the web site will believe your reCAPTCHA. It then compares your answer to another person's answer, and if they agree, it accepts them. If they don't, it sends it to others and that's how books are digitized. So, what is the total benefit of these reCAPTCHAs?

Given that it takes about 10 seconds to decipher a reCAPTCHA and type in the answer, this represents the equivalent of almost three thousand man hours a day spent deciphering words that CMU's computers find illegible.

(Thanks to Wired Science)

Ok, next is a continuation on the JPL/NASA lawsuit (Apparently I didn't cover it. Read about its start at Bad Astronomy). Anyways, a federal judge denied their request to block the security checks imposed by the government. What were the judge's conclusions?
The argument that plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm by signing an authorization form is without merit,'' U.S. District Judge Otis Wright wrote in a 17-page order
and also
"I don't want to see these employees hurt ... but I want the security of this nation preserved,'' Wright said Monday. "I don't want any sleepers infiltrating NASA or JPL.''
Eh, I don't know how much of a threat someone in JPL could be. I mean, what are they going to do, hijack the mars rovers? And at the rate NASA is moving forward, it would be much smarter for someone to monitor China. They're making far more progress than we are.

And lastly, Greg Laden elaborates on the spirit of Linux. And there's nothing I can do but wholeheartedly agree. I went through a similar process about a year-and-a-half ago. I put Ubuntu on my hard drive along with Windows, and basically got hooked onto it. It used to much, that my Windows partition corrupted from disuse (which was only like, a couple of months). And as I think every day, thank goodness I'm out of that loop. And I'm glad I've been able to be blessed with Linux.

1 comment:

Joe Smith said...

I was JUST talking to my father about reCAPTCHAs, except I totally forgot what they were called. Thanks :)