Nathan Hall

Canbera, Australia

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Comments & conversations

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Nathan Hall
Posted almost 2 years ago
Jack Andraka: A promising test for pancreatic cancer ... from a teenager
Mr Ali, I think we can all be thankful for the intelligence you provide. Great ideas need great critics to fast-track the failures that are necessary to get to the successes. Seems highly unlikely that he is lying but even here, paramount is to keep an open mind, as you do. This is one case where it's clear you are, as you say to begin, not trying to rain on his parade; you are trying to help him. Because you know your stuff. If he's accomplished what you say he has, that in itself is no small thing. I reckon you should give this patently brilliant young man a job! Or at least enter into consultation with him. Good stuff. Thumbs up from me.
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Nathan Hall
Posted almost 2 years ago
Michael Green: Why we should build wooden skyscrapers
John, that is what wooden structures USED to do. And modern steel buildings, particularly in developing countries, are not safe from it. We do not have to use a dangerous fire retardant, and nor should we dispense with this idea purely in the unlikely event that there is not, or could not be invented, one that is effective and safe. Yes, I do remember. Remembering the horrors you advert to in your Point 2 is obviously going to be essential to the idea's viability. John, basically the problem with what you say, as I see it, is that it looks to the past without so much as an upward glance at the future. We cannot strike down new technologies in their infancy solely on the basis of atrocious mistakes made with old technologies in the past.
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Nathan Hall
Posted almost 2 years ago
The interspecies internet? An idea in progress
To Ms Elsa Lambert, I think because you posted the link many times the system treated it as 'spam'. This was likely an automatic thing and not personal. I think your idea is wonderful, especially as I now understand properly its aim and context. I also think you write with genuine skill and originality and no small provenance. If Noam Chomsky, no lesser, likes your work you're doing better than me LOL. I am an editor, apart from anything else. Looking at this I had the very rare sensation of not knowing at all what, if anything, I could add or take away. You don't get that every day. I suggest your 'market' can be broader; certainly the work has a certain 'universal' quality and in my view is suited to younger children and errm older adults too. I begin to imagine how it could be illustrated, oh my. To others who received Ms Lambert's link and did not check it out I urge you to do so, in the light of the elucidation Ms Lambert provides below in response to my query. Ms Lambert, I suggest you fix your profile so that people can speak to you; I was unable to write to you directly and presently am not able to 'reply' here on this page, so up here will just have to do. I myself am not too good with this sort of thing, profiles and whatnot, so I hope TED does write back to you with an explanation. Either way I feel confident this matter can be resolved and that your work will see the light of day. In the meantime I am glad to have had the privilege and I have kept the link you gave me. Hope you get this. Respectfully yours, Nathan Hall :)
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Nathan Hall
Posted almost 2 years ago
The interspecies internet? An idea in progress
But you speak for them, and cryptically at that. Here, we ask of ourselves that we help them to speak for themselves, and in plainest terms. That they might help us and we might help them, and all of us learn something, and even possibly be saved from impending ecological and industrial doom. It's clever, this tract of yours, and there is beauty in it. I have read now quite a bit of it and suspect its message should be clear to me; I think I can from this 'anthropomorphology' take away at least the strong message of the wisdom in nature and the lack of it in us. But still I want it explained, as I am a simple man. Could you do that? Will you? Here's as good a place as any.
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Nathan Hall
Posted almost 2 years ago
Cesar Harada: A novel idea for cleaning up oil spills
How wonderfully clever. It was the snake-like prototype that interested me - after seeing the amazing bendy boat! I thought, what if something that can do what a sea-snake does, similar to a side-winder-type snake, had those sails and rudders, such that the whole 'boat' was also the absorbing component of the system: the two components made into one rather than being discrete. And so it could, I theorise, be scaled up to quite a size. But I'm pretty sure you're way past that already. Just amazing. One of the loveliest ideas I've ever seen.
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Nathan Hall
Posted almost 2 years ago
Jinha Lee: Reach into the computer and grab a pixel
Oh no, not at all; I myself feel humbled. TED will do that for one LOL. I'm not humouring you at all; I take what you say seriously. I'm really quite behind, actually, with the CAD I can use. I'm hopeless really but I somehow get it to do what I need; I am DEFINITELY not up to speed, as they say, and no authority at all. Thank God I have a few friends to help me, is all. I am 45 so I saw the first digital watch, first computer games, and I am not over the internet; it still astounds me, whereas of course my daughter (11) cannot imagine a world without it. I feel very lucky to have been born precisely when I was, that I could see these marvels appear and unfold. But they can harm us (addiction) and they can isolate us from the 'real' world. I have this problem and I worry about my own child's attachment to screens of various sorts. And now you mention it - despite my making what I think are truly beautiful (beauty arising from fitness to purpose - see Dennis Dutton's talk on this site; it's just wonderful) things I fear they are not the useful contributions to humanity I wish they were, that they are meant to be. I too often have cause to question as you do: WHY? Most of the time actually. I console myself with the knowledge that art is indispensable to civilisation. But perhaps I would be more indispensable if I were digging irrigation ditches in Africa or something. Which is why, if I do get that patent, I'll be giving the game away and trying something new, like law - or volunteering overseas. Get me a life, maybe, and help others get theirs. Get off my bum. I hear you, I really do.
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Nathan Hall
Posted almost 2 years ago
Eric X. Li: A tale of two political systems
I note that you indulge yourself in some rather personal deprecations of my 'random' contributions. I see a lot of sarcasm and other nastiness besides. I am at fault apparently for not having written an 'essay' on this topic. I have made what contribution I feel myself capable of, and I think despite its brevity it qualifies as at least an outline of an essay. But really, what I did write was more in the spirit of questioning, not essaying - I have not claimed to have any qualification at all in international politics and so am ineligible to be criticised on that ground. My not having 'a face' somehow invalidates me? It's not like I'm hiding anything special in that regard, I promise you. You are suggesting, I think, that I am 'cowardly'. I do not think that is a fair point or, if it was, perhaps you should have the guts to say it outright. It seems you are not capable of hearing a bad word said about you, and it's not as though what I said was so very bad anyway. I told you only how I, whoever I am, responded to your contribution. I have said precisely what irked me about it. Only information, data, and what you do with it is up to you. But perhaps you might reflect on the fact that what you have done is lash out, aggressively, at a stranger. No one, least of all me, is denying you 'the freedom'. In fact, I was rather suggesting you avail yourself more fulsomely of that privilege. You patronise the living hell out of me, or at least you do try. Finally you invoke a whole bunch of 'other people' to whom I should listen. One might think you feel your own authority insufficient to put down the insurrection that is me. No, not 'it' but you, say a 'lot about me' - whom you have never met and do not know. On these grounds I feel there is cause for you to review both your contribution and your privileged position. In short, my view is that this, your response, is unprofessional and no credit to you.
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Nathan Hall
Posted almost 2 years ago
Jinha Lee: Reach into the computer and grab a pixel
I usually don't have 'lots of different ideas', you see. I am always searching for what we may as well call 'singularities' - which is why I am positively unemployable LOL. Single-minded is, ironically, precisely what I am. And when I finally get that thing I'm after I don't have a second to waste. I need to get the parameters roughed out in a flexible form - paper drawings are rigid - and start building. One of my current preoccupations is plywood and in that I make lots of paper models actually. But I am a bit of a veteran and a while back attained a state where I can be sure of what I have somehow got ahold of - I do not have to try out other options just for (sorry, bad pun coming up) 'form's sake' because I know what it is I am looking at and that it needs me urgently to bring it into the world. I'm not really a conventional practising designer, who does indeed have to show the client at least three good hairdryers, or whatever. I don't give options when I myself have been given only one. Now to attempt the second part. I'm not for digital or conventional - they are both just tools and my view is you use whatever you can get your paws on. My high-minded-seeming remark that you quote was meant to delineate and delimit the work of an (unreconstructed neo-modernist LOL) industrial designer - who must provide to the eventual maker specifications in some form - and also to distinguish it from all sorts of other creative projects that would be a real shame if they did not involve the conventional pen and paper or fully engage the senses. Great design, in my experience, needs some basis in craft - is what I've been thinking these days, with a recentish diploma in woodwork and early beginnings (five years old) in model-making. This technology here, I don't really feel I need it but I think others could find it very useful. I think the general idea is simply brilliant; it seems like the next logical step but I can't guess at how it will be adapted and used.
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Nathan Hall
Posted almost 2 years ago
The interspecies internet? An idea in progress
For so long we were sure that (apes) could not learn to talk - because we'd tried to teach them our language. It was only when we tried teaching them signing that we found they were capable of quickly mastering a very big vocabulary indeed. Silly, really silly, of us to expect them to talk in the literal sense when they do not have our sophisticated larynx and associated apparatus, cannot make all the sounds we can. An embarrassing revelation. Seeing this - seeing that a bonobo can make music (she was doing exactly what I do when I try on my daughter's keyboard, far as I can see, only a little better LOL) - and that other animals can interface with us if given the proper means, my thought is: I would love to see what they can do if they can interface with a simple graphics program, like MS Paint just as an example, or perhaps a custom program which is graduated such that it starts off as very simple with perhaps only the capacity to make lines (like an Etch-A-Sketch) but which, as the animal explores and masters, expands to provide more options, within or without a reward-based framework. This might be easier than if the animal must figure in, as it were, the variables of conventional paintbrushes and pencils and pens and such; we have tried that but not in what I consider a serious fashion. I do not think, seeing this, that it is so far-fetched to imagine animals making genuine artistic contributions alongside the musical miracle shown here. With computer modelling maybe they could make sculptures and suchlike; I do not presume to know the limits of their capacity. But is it possible that, say, a Chimpanzee, given a virtual model of its own habitat with certain virtual materials lying around, say a virtual log, could devise, say, a virtual bridge to get to a virtual banana? And then be given those materials in reality!? So, other species making verifiable design, not just contentious art?
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Nathan Hall
Posted almost 2 years ago
Michael Green: Why we should build wooden skyscrapers
Please accept my sincere apologies for a rather strident, cavalier in fact, way of speaking to you. In retrospect I feel now my 'don't be so negative' was flippant and my words a little disingenuous even. Because here in Australia, so much of what we import under the label 'plantation' - a great deal of it - is not plantation timber at all; it is government-sanctioned environmental despoilment that corruption allows to pass our borders, despite our best efforts. We can't trust a lot of the rainforest and other timbers we would so dearly like to work with (although my work uses only beech, birch and maple, lucky me). The best I can do is rely on domestic sources and with that, not a great deal of choice - but I know other countries have more choice than I do here. I think perhaps my only good idea was that - if a tree can do this, why can't we? Much as we make earthquake-proof buildings and as we now know that bridges etc have to flex or they will fall! Despite the wonders in this talk there are real problems standing in the way of bringing them into the mainstream and I can't, shouldn't, so easily place myself above or beyond them. I have to consider myself chastened and a little humbled, and I thank you for a most gracious response.