Thursday, July 19, 2012


Just recently, I started reading Michio Kaku's Physics of the Impossible.

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This book is an absolute joy to read. Personally, though, I would recommend this to teens and the about-to-choose-my-college-course crowd because it basically crams in all the important issues that scientists and academicians are trying to solve in the realm of science and technology. The writing style is very friendly and most importantly, it summarizes how future generations of scientists and academicians can contribute to the growing knowledge database of humanity. I suppose older people treading a career path now have little capability to contribute or laterally maneuver and change professions in order to add something to science at this point. It takes a lot of schooling after all!

Anyway...I was going through the Artificial Intelligence section of the book and Dr. Kaku was talking about how challenging it was to create machines at par with the "thinking" capabilities of humans and how predictions in the 1980's of how far we could go in this field as time went by had become a disappointment. Progress isn't as glorious as most scientists hoped it could have been.

One discussion was on how people who suffered from some form of brain damage, which shut down their emotions center or a link between what scientists believe as the emotions center called the "limbic system" and the neocortex (rational thinking) gave these people a hard time to make decisions. This relationship between rational thinking and emotions shows how unique human choices are. While from a logical standpoint 1+1=2, emotions vary and the treatment of people when exercising choice will have gradients, depending on how they feel, perceive things, were trained to react, had experienced a situation before, and could even be based on people's body biochemisty and how they are "wired". 

Here are some great excerpts from Dr. Kaku's book on AI:

"For people with this type of brain injury, shopping can be a nightmare because everything seems to have the same value."

"As robots become more intelligent and are able to make choices of their own, they could likewise become paralyzed with indecision."

"In other words, robots of the future may need emotions to set goals and to give meaning and structure to their 'lives,' or else they will find themselves paralyzed with infinite possibilities."

The human body when viewed as a machine is a pretty impressive one considering how advanced it is in representing an amalgamation of biological processes and functions thanks to evolution.


Indeed, it might take centuries before true AI could be developed by humanity. It's pretty obvious we won't live to see that day, which is kind of sad. I'm still waiting for hoverboard technology, and the closest suggestion by Dr. Kaku was electromagentic structures designed with a planned urban or city area in mind.

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After reading this section, I had this urge to Google search something with "cognition and emotion" in mind. I was obviously thinking that a Wikipedia article would be popping out first, but to my surprise appeared on my screen.

Being the curious dude that I am, I felt it necessary to figure out how this site worked when compared to Wikipedia's crowd-sourcing method. It should be noted that I have always been a firm believer of shared knowledge and Wiki's belief in crowd-sourcing. I have even mentioned in one of my previous blog posts that I had this belief that as long as we had academic sentries and people who believed in the "correctness" of "facts" that consensus reality would be safe with us policing ourselves.

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Interestingly, though, I have come to realize that like a naive man who believes in the innate goodness of all mankind, outliers will always exist to corrupt the sample. Facts and truths will find themselves distorted in one way or another. So here comes Scholarpedia, which puts faith in the academic correctness asserted by experts and academicians who are consensually recognized as credible guardians of scientific facts.

So here's how Scholarpedia's process works and it's still crowd-sourcing, but they are policed by the people who possess the academic legitimacy to do so. Hey if you really want to be one then stay in school or put many many many more hours in class or in the lab.

Scholarpedia is a peer-reviewed open-access encyclopedia written by scholars from all around the world.
Scholarpedia feels and looks like Wikipedia - the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Indeed, both are powered by the same program -- MediaWiki. Both allow visitors to read and modify articles simply by clicking on the edit this article link.
However, Scholarpedia differs from Wikipedia in some very important ways:
  • Each article is authored by the top expert who is sponsored by two existing curators.
  • Each article is peer-reviewed and validated by two independent curators.
  • Upon validation, the author of the article becomes its curator.
  • Any registered user can modify and improve the article. However, the modification needs to be approved by a team of article contributors before it appears in the final approved version. Upon approval, the user joins the team of article contributors.
  • Article Contributors are assigned a Curator Index that reflects their contribution to the article and allows them to evaluate revisions to the article. The sum of Curator Indices across articles forms the Scholarpedia Index and endows users with certain privileges.
  • When an article curator resigns or is no longer available, a team of contributors elects the world’s best expert to become the curator. Their votes are weighted by their Curator Ranks (to be implemented in 2012).
Herein also lies the greatest difference between Scholarpedia and traditional print media: although the initial authorship and review are similar to a print journal so that Scholarpedia articles could be cited, articles are not frozen and outdated, but dynamic, subject to an ongoing process of improvement moderated by their curators. This allows Scholarpedia to be up-to-date, yet maintain the highest quality of content.

Aims and policy

Scholarpedia does not publish "research" or "position" papers, but rather "living reviews" that will be maintained by the future generation of experts via the process of curatorship. The (ambitious) goal of Scholarpedia is that of being an understandable and useful encyclopedic reference for scholars of different levels.
To ensure these requirements, the ideal article of Scholarpedia
  • is written in "Scientific American" or slightly more advanced style, as appropriate at least for advanced undergraduate students of that area or of graduate students in adjacent areas;
  • satisfies Einstein's criterion to "make it as simple as possible, but no simpler".
Scholarpedia is a fully open access publication:
  • no fee or subscription is required to access its content; that is, articles are free for everyone;
  • no publication charges are imposed on authors.
Each article in Scholarpedia has its own copyright policy, freely selected by the authors from the choices:
  1. Author owns the copyright and licenses the content to Scholarpedia,
  2. Creative Commons,
  3. GNU FDL.

Article sponsorship and validation

To contribute an article to Scholarpedia, you need to be the top expert in your field, well known to existing curators of Scholarpedia, as you will need sponsorship from two curators of Scholarpedia (until 2012, only one sponsorship is needed). Their names appear at the bottom of the article, validating your expertise.
Alternatively, you can co-author an article with the top expert, so that the entire author team gets sponsorship of two existing curators.
The sponsorship gives you an exclusive right to the title of your article for two months, so you can finish writing it and get it peer-reviewed and accepted by two independent reviewers. At least one of the reviewers should be the original sponsor. Names of reviewers who accept your article are explicitly acknowledged, so their reputation validates the article content.
If the article is not accepted within the two-month period, or if it is rejected by any of the sponsors or reviewers (rejection is anonymous), you will lose your exclusivity to the article title, so others can write it.
Your name will appear at the top of the article as its author, so your reputation validates the article content.

Article maintenance

Upon acceptance, you will become the article’s curator and you can sponsor and review other articles. The sponsors and reviewers of your article become the article's contributors.
As a curator, you have total control over the article content. Any registered user can modify your article, however, the modification is not shown to the public until it is approved by you or by at least two of the article's contributors and not rejected by any other contributors. In the case of disagreement among contributors, your decision prevails.
Users whose modifications are approved join the team of contributors, so that they can maintain the article for you. The contributions of such users are ranked according to how often their judgements coincided with your judgements. Should you decide to resign, the highest-ranked contributor will be offered the curatorship of your article, or the article's contributors elect the world’s top expert to become the article’s curator. Their votes will be weighted by their Ranks.
The process of curatorship makes Scholarpedia a unique project. Sigmund Freud wrote "Psychoanalysis" and Albert Einstein wrote "Space-Time" for the 13th edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica almost 100 years ago. If Britannica had the feature of curatorship, the best experts of today would be competing with each other for the honor to be curators of Freud’s and Einstein’s articles. The goal of Scholarpedia is to recruit today’s Einsteins and Freuds to write encyclopedic articles on their fundamental discoveries, so that 100 years from now the best experts will be willing to maintain and update the articles through the process of curatorship.

How to cite Scholarpedia articles

Upon approval, articles in Scholarpedia are archived in a journal (ISSN 1941-6016) so that they could be cited as any other peer-reviewed article. For example,
Izhikevich E. M. (2006) Bursting. Scholarpedia, 1(3):1300
This citation, found below the article's title, always refers to the latest approved version of the article that is shown to visitors by default. Any particular approved revision of the article can also be cited. For example,
Izhikevich E. M. (2006) Bursting. Scholarpedia, 1(3):1300, revision 1401
Each article forever maintains a history of all of its revisions, accessible via the 'revisions' tab. We expect the history of revisions to be of interest in its own right, providing a window into the living process of peer review and progress of ideas that is hidden behind the scenes in traditional publications. Some revisions may well become classics much like a fine vintage of wine.


Scholarpedia was conceived by Dr. Eugene M. Izhikevich at the end of 2005, while he was contributing to Wikipedia.
Up until October 20, 2011, Scholarpedia relied on its editors to identify and convince the top leading experts to contribute encyclopedic articles, and on its assistant editors to help the top experts with their articles. This resulted in nearly a thousand peer-reviewed articles in the field of dynamical systems, computational neuroscience, and physics. However, the growth of Scholarpedia was linear, limited by the editorial bottleneck.

Anyway, DKR is about to be shown today, let's lighten up the mood a bit, cheers!

All compositions, statements and opinions of the author are copyright © Earl T. Malvar 2009-2012. All rights reserved. There is no honor, respect, admiration, intellectual and academic dignity garnered through plagiarism.


  1. Scholarpedia is, in many issues, the future of scholarship publications. It is a great endeavor, with Nobel laureaters as contributors. They are looking for editors.

    In some aspects it has some similitudes with the Encyclopedia of Law and the Encyclopedia of Life.

  2. Hello Francis, I appreciate you dropping by to share your insights on Scholarpedia. I'm extremely amazed at how far we've come in chronicling the developments in the academe (how quick credible studies and findings are made available and how the nature of research has become so collaborative among students and researchers). Especially with the expansive reach of the Internet, it really is a wonder to be curious at this day and age. Academic research used to mean going through voluminous pages of multivolume encyclopedia sets and this tedious method seems like it was done so many ages ago, but it's been merely 20 or so years! Thank you for letting me know about these two sites (the Encyclopedia of Law and the Encyclopedia of Life), definitely worth bookmarking as reliable sites in a noise-filled cyberspace!