Mind Matters Reporting on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

Jonathan Bartlett

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many new resistors stay together in close-ups

Circuit Patterns, Part 3: Pull-Up and Pull-Down Resistors

If a part of a circuit is disconnected, the voltage of that circuit isn’t necessarily zero; it can pick up static electricity
In this series, we have been talking about the importance of circuit patterns for both understanding circuit schematics that you might find on the web and building your own circuits. This series introduces some of the commonly used circuit patterns that are essential to electronics. Part 1 covered the importance of patterns and the most basic resistor pattern, the current limiting resistor. Part 2 covered voltage dividers, which—once you recognize them — you see in circuits everywhere. Part 3 covers two other important resistor patterns: pull-up and pull-down resistors. To understand the importance of pull-up and pull-down resistors, you must first realize that, if a part of a circuit is disconnected, the voltage of that circuit isn’t necessarily zero. In fact, it is unknown. This is especially true of inputs to microcontrollers such as an Arduino or a single-board computer such as Raspberry Pi. These inputs use so little current that, if they are disconnected from any voltage, they can react to voltage fluctuations in the air as if they were changes to their inputs. For instance, let’s say that you wanted a microcontroller to sense whether or not a button is pushed. It is tempting for new electronics hobbyists to simply connect a voltage source to an on/off button which goes to a pin on the microcontroller. This works fine while the button is pressed. What happens when the hobbyist lets go of the button? Letting go disconnects the microcontroller pin from the circuit. This does not mean that the voltage is zero, it means that the voltage is floating! Static electricity in the air will influence the voltage. All sorts of things that you can’t control will influence the voltage on that pin. Therefore, we must make sure that the pin is always attached to a fixed voltage. We want the high, positive voltage when the button is pressed and a zero voltage when the button is released. It might be tempting to simply connect the pin to ground (zero voltage) directly, thinking that, when the button is pushed, you will get the voltage from the button and when it is not pushed, it will then drop to zero. The problem is that electricity always finds the easiest path to ground. So, when the button is pushed, it will skip the microcontroller pin entirely and just short out directly to ground. To fix this situation, what is needed is a pull-down resistor. A pull-down resistor will keep the voltage high when the button is pushed but then pull the voltage low when the button is released. The size of the resistor will affect the operation as well. A larger resistor will waste less current when the button is pushed but it takes longer to stabilize the circuit when the button is let go. A smaller resistor will stabilize the circuit more quickly but waste more electricity while the button is pushed. In practice, for beginners, pretty much any resistor of 1,000 ohms or higher will work fine. In fact, just using the largest resistor you have is probably the best choice: A pull-up resistor is just like a pull-down resistor but with a different “default” value. Pull-down resistors essentially say, “if this circuit gets disconnected, set the voltage to zero.” Pull-up resistors essentially say, “if this circuit gets disconnected, set the voltage to be the battery (or source) voltage.” Pull-down resistors get connected to ground and pull-up resistors get connected to a voltage source. Pull-up resistors would be used if, for instance, the button itself was connected to ground instead of to the positive voltage source. In practice, some parts of circuits may look like they are connected when, in reality, they aren’t. Some input/output pins from transistors, microcontrollers, or integrated circuits may feature situations where the pin acts as if it were completely disconnected. In those cases, you need a pull-up or pull-down resistor to tell the circuit what its voltage is. For more information on pull-up and pull-down resistors and other basic circuit patterns, have a look at my new book, Electronics for Beginners: A Practical Introduction to Schematics, Circuits, and Microcontrollers, published by technology publisher Apress (a Springer Nature company). Here are Parts 1 and 2: Circuit Patterns, Part I: Understanding circuit schematics You will get on much better in electronics if you learn to see the schematic line drawings as a series of patterns. When you begin to see the drawings in books on electronics as a connected series of familiar patterns, the world of electronics opens up. Circuit Patterns, Part 2: Voltage Dividers When you see two resistors connected in series with a wire coming out from between them, the wire is likely a voltage divider. Knowing about voltage dividers will not only help you with projects, it will help you recognize this pattern on schematics you might find on the internet. You may also want to have a look at: New electronics book honors citizen scientist Forrest Mims IIIJonathan Bartlett’s dedication reflects Mims’ immense influence on electronics enthusiasts—including himself, as a boy. Electronics for Beginners follows in Mims’ footsteps as it shows the budding electronics enthusiast the many new components now available and how to use them. Read More ›
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Bright colored light LED smd screen

Circuit Patterns, Part 2: Voltage Dividers

Pretty much any time you see two resistors connected in series with a wire coming out from between them, you are witnessing a voltage divider in action.

In yesterday’s installment, we talked about the importance of circuit patterns, both for understanding the circuit schematics that you might find on the web and for building your own circuits. This series introduces some of the commonly used circuit patterns that are essential to electronics. The first installment covered the most basic resistor pattern, the current limiting resistor. In this article, we are going to look at another basic resistor pattern the voltage divider. Voltage dividers work because resistors, while they limit current, also eat up excess voltage. An LED, for instance, will tend to only eat up a few volts. The excess voltage left over will quickly lead to an overabundance of current. That is why, to work properly,…

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Concentrated elementary student examining circuit board

Circuit Patterns, Part I: Understanding Circuit Schematics

You will get on much better in electronics if you learn to see the schematic line drawings as a series of patterns

When I was young, I wanted to learn how to build electronics. I bought a large number of books from Radio Shack and read them all, cover to cover. Unfortunately, the books that I read helped me to understand a little bit about the periphery of electronics but not the core subject. I learned what each type of part did in general resistors, capacitors, transistors, inductors, etc., but I never really understood how all of the pieces fit together. How do you go from understanding the parts to understand how they fit together into a circuit? Throughout my life, I have returned to electronics now and again, sometimes personally, sometimes professionally. I eventually learned that most electronics follows basic patterns…

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robotic arms in a car plant

Elon Musk Tweet Shows Why Many Doubt Origin of Life Studies

Musk was talking about the origin of machines, not life, but the principle is, perhaps surprisingly, the same
Creating a machine that manufactures or a cell that reproduces is much harder than creating a prototype of either. It’s a search for a search. Read More ›
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containers

Part 4: Docker—An Introduction to Container Orchestration

This tutorial will focus on Docker’s swarm because it comes installed with Docker and uses the same standard Docker files

In this installment we are going to look at “container orchestration” for Docker. In the previous installment, we just looked at how to run an individual container. However, most applications are a combination of services which are orchestrated together to make an application. While in theory all the pieces of an application could be built into a single container, it is better to split an application into its relevant services and run a separate container for each service. There are several reasons for this, but the biggest one is scalability. Remember, the containers don’t care if they all run on the same physical machine or different machines. By splitting the services into different containers, we can tell them all to…

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containers

Part 3: Working with Docker: An Interactive Tutorial

Docker gives development teams more reliable, repeatable, and testable systems, deployed at massive scale with the click of a button

As businesses move more and more infrastructure online due to the effects of competition (not to mention COVID-19), finding the best way to manage that infrastructure becomes more and more important. Docker gives development teams more reliable, repeatable, and testable systems that can be deployed at massive scale with the click of a button. In this series (Parts 1 and 2 are linked below), we are looking under the hood at Docker, an infrastructure management tool that has grown rapidly in popularity over the last decade. In this installment, I will walk you through the process of using the Docker command line tools to download, install, and run containers, as well as build your own container. If you’re not a…

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Interior of warehouse storage, Stack of shipment boxes on pallets and hand pallet truck, Warehouse industry delivery shipment goods, logistics and transportation.

Part 2: A Peek Under the Covers at the New Docker Technology

Many advances enable Docker to significantly reduce a system’s overhead

As businesses move more and more of their infrastructure online due to the effects of competition (not to mention COVID-19), finding the best way to manage that infrastructure becomes more and more important. As we saw in Part 1, Docker enables development teams to have more reliable, repeatable, and testable systems that can be deployed at massive scale with the click of a button. In this installment, we are going to take a look at the technology behind Docker and how it originated. From Emulators to Virtual Machines Docker allows you to run numerous “containers” at the same time on a single computer. Each of these containers acts as if it were a separate computer. It knows nothing about what…

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Aerial view of New York downtown building roofs. Bird's eye view from helicopter of cityscape metropolis infrastructure, traffic cars, yellow cabs moving on city streets and crossing district avenues

Microsoft Flight Simulator: Promise and Problems of Big Open Data

For some software, bad data doesn’t matter; for other software, working off of month-old data could be life-threatening

Last week, Microsoft released its critically acclaimed Microsoft Flight Simulator, to much cheering and applause. The game creates a photorealistic journey across the planet. Artificial intelligence combines multiple data sets to create a magnificent virtual experience of flying through the world. The data comes from satellite maps for terrain and texture information and OpenStreetMap to add three dimensional information to city data, such as building heights and other information. Combining all these data sources generates a 3D world using a variety of AI photogrammetry techniques. The program then streams this world to you as you fly through it. Additionally, the system streams in real-world weather data, so that the weather experienced in any part of the world is transmitted to…

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Conceptual image of international logistics, featuring a docker, looking at the unloading of a container ship by huge cranes in the

How the Docker Revolution Will Change Your Programming, Part 1

Since 2013, Docker (an operating system inside your current operating system) has grown rapidly in popularity

As businesses move more and more infrastructure online due to the effects of competition (not to mention COVID-19), finding the best way to manage that infrastructure becomes more and more important. Docker enables development teams to have more reliable, repeatable, and testable systems that can be deployed at massive scale with the click of a button. In this series, we are looking under the hood at Docker, an infrastructure management tool that has rapidly grown in popularity over the last decade. A new infrastructure element has been quietly taking over for managing server-side code deployments. Docker was first released in 2013, and has seen an exponential rise in usage for developer deployments. Over the last seven years, Docker has quietly…

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Rear view of Asian woman working and online meeting via video conference with colleague

How to Teach and Hold Meetings in “Mixed Mode” in the COVID Era

Teachers and facilitators face a challenge when some students are online in quarantine and some are in front of them in person
In the current COVID-19 environment, the economy may be opening up but some people are still sick or in quarantine. This means that more and more meetings are run in a mixed mode — a combination of in-person and online participants. Read More ›
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Twitter handle with care

What’s the Main Thing We Should Learn from the Big Twitter Hack?

Yes, Twitter got control of its platform back but not before its credibility in security matters was significantly weakened

As we reported at the time, on July 15, hackers gained control of a number of Twitter “Blue Checkmark” accounts. Twitter hands out Blue Checkmarks to accounts that exert heavy influence and have verified identities. That status permits many parody accounts to operate without generating confusion over who is really tweeting, the account or the parody. In any case, on Twitter, the Blue Checkmarks have quite a bit of power. They get access to analytics on their posts so they can measure (and manipulate) their engagement with their followers. Many influencers look for “Blue Checkmark” status to see if an account is worth engaging with. Twitter even allows the “Blue Checkmarks” to filter their conversations so as to limit them…

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hand of god

Built to Save Us from Evil AI, OpenAI Now Dupes Us

When combined with several metric tons of data, its new GPT-3 sometimes it looks like it is “thinking.” No, not really

OpenAI started life in 2015 as a non-profit organization whose mission was to safeguard humanity from malevolent artificial intelligence (AI). The founders’ goal was to ensure that when superhuman AI arrived, its inborn purpose was to serve humanity rather than subjugate it. In 2019, OpenAI transitioned to a for-profit company based in San Francisco and secured a one billion dollar investment from Microsoft. Things seem to have moved on from there. There’s a good question whether superhuman AI is even possible, as we have pointed out repeatedly here at Mind Matters News. While some of the AI tasks seem impressive, oftentimes when you look under the hood, what you find is a very expensive party trick or a staged demo.…

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Check mark on shield, Security, safe, privacy or other Security concept background, Data Protection Concept, Technology Background

Hackers Seize Popular Twitter Accounts for Giant Bitcoin Scam

Scammers have gained access to a number of high-profile Twitter accounts, including those of Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Kanye West, and Elon Musk

Today, hackers gained control of a number of Twitter accounts, and used them to scam people out of their Bitcoin money. As we have reported before, the security within Bitcoin actually seems to facilitate scams. In the current ripoff, scammers have gained access to a number of high-profile Twitter accounts, including those of Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Kanye West, and Elon Musk. Their usual line is that they are seeking matching donations to a good cause. So if the user sends Bitcoin to a certain wallet address, the high-profile Twitter account will send a matching donation. However, the wallet address (and the promised match) are both frauds, and the money goes straight into the scammers’ pockets. It is unclear how…

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Man In A Tesla Car. Behind The Wheel Concept.

German Court Rules: Tesla Autopilot Is False Advertising

In America, for reasons many people can’t quite comprehend, the regulatory agencies haven’t said much about the inflated claims

Here at Mind Matters News, we have long been critics of Elon Musk’s claims about his “self-driving” Teslas. Autopilot is a cool feature but marketing it as “full self-driving” is simply a lie, and a dangerous one at that. Musk (right) has been making false claims about Autopilot for almost half a decade now. He claimed in 2016 that all Teslas that left the factory were equipped with the hardware for Level 5 full self-driving. If you’re not aware of the levels of self-driving defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Level 5 means that the car will take you wherever you want to go and you can sleep in the back. Level 4 means that, in some situations…

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person holding baseball ball in black leather baseball mitt

Collectors’ Items Are Now on the Blockchain

When I was growing up, trading cards were all the rage. They mostly centered on baseball but trading cards for every major sport emerged. The Topps Company has long had the lead in baseball cards, with Fleer and Upper Deck trailing far behind. Recently, Topps made a radical move into the digital sector by making some of its trading cards available via the WAX blockchain. WAX stands for Worldwide Asset eXchange. WAX is a blockchain (i.e., cryptocurrency) system that is geared around the buying, selling, and trading of virtual items. Previously, WAX was primarily used to trade goods within gaming platforms. For instance, the massively multiplayer economic strategy game Prospectors utilized WAX to allow users to trade items. However, in…

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rfid tags

What You Need to Know About The Tactile Web

It’s a user-directed integration of technology into life

Many people have heard the term RFID, “radio frequency identifier,” a technology pioneered in the 1980s for creating tracking chips that needn’t be powered to work. This technology has improved quite a bit over the years. The technology area in which RFID originated is called NFC, for “Near-Field Communication.” In themselves, NFC chips are small and unpowered, but they can receive power from nearby devices, thus enabling them to communicate. The amount of work that modern NFC chips can do is amazing. The NXP firm, for instance, manufactures chips that can do full-blown data encryption and signing. These chips are not only powerful, they are also very inexpensive. NFC tags are available as label stickers at prices as low as…

The concept of planet Earth similar to the COVID-19 virus
The concept of planet Earth similar to the COVID-19 virus

Twenty Years on, Aliens Still Cause Global Warming

Over the years, the Jurassic Park creator observed, science has drifted from its foundation as an objective search for truth toward political power games

In 2003, author and filmmaker Michael Crichton (1942–2008), best known for Jurassic Park, made a now-famous speech at Caltech, titled “Aliens Cause Global Warming.” The title was humorous but the content was serious. He was not addressing some strange theory of global warming; he was warning about the politicization of science. Crichton (left, in 2002, courtesy Jon Chase, Harvard CC 3.0), noted that, over the years, science has drifted away from its foundation as an objective search for truth and given itself over to political power games. The first time that he witnessed that was with the famous Drake Equation, used to turn SETI speculations about space aliens into a science. The Drake equation was a series of probabilities multiplied…

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Software engineers working on project and programming in company

Automated Code Generation Tools Can Solve Problems

We may be seeing the rebirth of an old approach to productivity that finds a middle ground between too constrained and too risky

A programming language creates a middle space between the way humans think and the way computers think. What's the best compromise point?

Read More ›
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Neurons cells concept

Elon Musk’s Myths About the Mind

According to Musk, everything in the brain is an electrical signal. That’s pretty naive

Neuroscientists used to think that each neuron was as complex as a switch. But newer research shows that each neuron is more similar to a microprocessor. Musk’s 3,000 Neuralink electrodes controlled by a single processor does not remotely match your brain’s 80 billion processors, all linked together.

Read More ›
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gold-colored Bitcoin coin on ground

And Now… Crypto-COVID!

How the COVID-19 pandemic is creating “social distance” for crypto-currencies

While the equity markets have garnered a lot of attention in the COVID-19 pandemic, cryptocurrencies have been largely ignored by the media. This is partly because interest in cryptocurrency in general has waned over the last two years. But the pandemic has shed some light on their market mechanics.

Read More ›