Saturday, February 09, 2008


AUTHOR'S NOTE:This is a repost of an earlier post. The Programmer has requested its remergence.


Occasionally, the Author’s reading, and sometimes, writing, veer into weirdness. Were Christopher Columbus’ ships invisible to the Native Caribbean islanders of Guanahani? Could Edgar Cayce predict stock price movements? Did they have cable television on the continent of Atlantis?

There was a fascinating article in the August 14th edition of the New York Times, “Our Lives, Controlled from Some Guy’s Couch”, written by John Tierney. The article discusses a paper written by Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University. The premise is fairly straightforward and fully described in in the paper “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?”

The NYT article describes the premise as follows:

Dr. Bostrom assumes that technological advances could produce a computer with more processing power than all the brains in the world, and that advanced humans, or “posthumans,” could run “ancestor simulations” of their evolutionary history by creating virtual worlds inhabited by virtual people with fully developed virtual nervous systems.

There would be no way for any of these ancestors to know for sure whether they were virtual or real, because the sights and feelings they’d experience would be indistinguishable. But since there would be so many more virtual ancestors, any individual could figure that the odds made it nearly certain that he or she was living in a virtual world.


Such computer simulations would be consistent with “The Matrix” film trilogy. And would not require the huge vats of people.

The world in the Matrix is a Simulacrum, a computer–generated illusion. It only “looks” like the late 20th century. Instead, human beings are enslaved in tanks of fluid, wired to the Matrix. Human brain activity powers the machines that control the Matrix. If you haven’t seen The Matrix, the first of the Matrix Trilogy, rent it. Sequels two and three are okay, but the first is the best. It is a monumental and profound film.

A supercomputer with the processing power and memory of the human brain will probably exist by 2010. By 2020, PCs will have similar processing power. And according to Ray Kurzweil, such computing power will cost only $1 in 2030. Whew!

But a computer capable of running such simulations will take a lot longer. Such a computer would require processing speed of 10 to the 33rd or 36th cycles, or processes, per second. A long way from a few gigs.

The NYT article states:

Some computer experts have projected, based on trends in processing power, that we will have such a computer by the middle of this century, but it doesn’t matter for Dr. Bostrom’s argument whether it takes 50 years or 5 million years. If civilization survived long enough to reach that stage, and if the posthumans were to run lots of simulations for research purposes or entertainment, then the number of virtual ancestors they created would be vastly greater than the number of real ancestors.


Bostrom’s paper proceeds from three hypotheses.

1. DOOM-Most civilizations self-destruct before they obtain the computer processing power to run a post-human simulation.
2. NOT INTERESTED-Civilizations that do acquire the processing power decide not to run simulations, for whatever reasons.
3. YOU’RE BINARY-Civilizations run simulations and we just might be living in such a simulation.

Bostrom puts the probabilities of one and two at very low. But get past these points and simulations are very likely. In the NYT article Bostrom states:

Dr. Bostrom doesn’t pretend to know which of these hypotheses is more likely, but he thinks none of them can be ruled out. “My gut feeling, and it’s nothing more than that,” he says, “is that there’s a 20 percent chance we’re living in a computer simulation.”

In another post, or perhaps two, the Author will discuss “life” within a simulation.


Ducati Riding Experience 2008

The Ducati driving courses to improve safety, control, technique and fun on motorcycles are starting up again

The latest edition of the Ducati Riding Experience, Ducati’s renowned driving courses for enthusiasts that wish to improve their driving technique or simply get on a bike for the first time in a professional and secure setting, is ready to go.

The 2007 season saw the introduction of the new 1098, the most powerful twin-cylinder production bike in the world, which provided much excitement and incredible driving performance to many participants.

This high standard set from the previous year will be maintained in 2008 with additional, interesting surprises, first of which is the chance to get on the track with the new Ducati 848, a bike that is both agile and light but at the same time, it performs at an extremely high level and completes the Ducati Superbike family with a smaller engine capacity with respect to the 1098. The Hypermotard, an extreme and thrilling bike that has met indisputable success on the market, is yet another exciting surprise that will be available for participants. To top it all off, the highly anticipated Monster 696, which, although not yet available, will become the motorcycle for the Basic Course.

In addition to the news regarding the most recent bikes added to DRE, there is also exciting news about dates and circuits. In fact, DRE 2008 will debut on 18-19 March at the famous Mugello circuit and then cross the Italian border, landing at the prestigious “Le Castellet” circuit in France.

Driving a motorcycle is an exciting experience and Ducati wants to make sure that every fan can experience the two-wheeled thrills that a motorcycle can provide - within the limits of the rider and the bike. DRE makes this possible with a team of professional instructors, including famous riders like Dario Marchetti, Marco Luchinelli, and Niccolò Canepa, the young 2007 Superstock 1000 Champion, who will participate in some DRE sessions for the first time.

The driving courses organised by Ducati are aimed at those who want to learn to drive a motorcycle or improve their driving technique to face the street and track in complete safety. There are many types of scheduled courses, starting with the Basic Course, offering the first driving information, to the Master Racing Course for those riders that wish to perfect their track riding techniques. As in the past, the courses are structured to cover an entire day, alternating between on-bike sessions and lessons on theory.


This course has been designed for people with no driving experience who would like to give it a try or who would like to move from being a passive passenger to an active rider. The classes include theory and individual riding sessions that will take place in the paddock with a reduced-power Monster 695 and the new Monster 696 (based on availability). You must be over 18 to participate in this course.

The course is designed for a maximum of 28 participants, divided into groups of four students. The course includes on-bike sessions aimed at teaching the basics of bike riding (starting, cornering and braking) and elementary theory lessons. Each participant is entitled to four individual practice sessions with an instructor.


This course is aimed at men and women who already have some riding experience but want to improve their skills. In particular, the course covers common road situations and focuses on how to tackle them using specific riding techniques with the goal to increase safety and to correct any risky or incorrect riding behaviour. The exercises are designed to help riders maintain better control of their bikes and avoid potentially dangerous everyday situations while obtaining a more correct driving technique. To participate in this course it is necessary to have a driving licence without limitations of engine displacement.

The course is designed for a maximum of 42 participants divided into groups of six students. The bikes available for the course are the Hypermotard and the Multistrada 1100. Each group will have four bikes available to ride in each session. After a series of riding exercises in the paddock, students will have the opportunity in the afternoon to test their skills on the track (one session), in complete safety, with their instructors


An important change for 2008 is the subdivision of the Racing Course into two levels. Based on the experience of the participants, it is possible to enrol in either the 1° or 2° level of the course:

1° Level Racing Course

This course has been designed for beginning track riders or those with little track experience (having been on a track from zero to four times). This is a sport riding course that takes riders to the track for the first time or helps them improve their technique according to the needs of each participant. It is necessary to have a motorcycle licence without limitations of engine displacement to take part in this course.

The course is designed for a maximum of 10 participants, divided into groups of 5-6 students with the brand new Superbike 848. Students will be organised into groups based on the level of experience they indicate when registering for the course and which is demonstrated to instructors on the track. If necessary, DRE staff will adjust the groups after the first on-track session.

2° Level Racing Course

This course is aimed at skilled street riders (men and women) who have never been on a track, or have limited track riding experience (having been on a track at least four times). This sport riding course is designed to help experienced riders improve their track riding techniques, depending on the needs of each participant. It is necessary to have a motorcycle licence without limitations of engine displacement to take part in this course.

The course uses the Superbike 1098 and is designed for a maximum of 30 participants, divided into groups of 5-6 students. Students will be organised into groups based on the level of experience they indicate when registering for the course and which is demonstrated to instructors on the track. If necessary, DRE staff will adjust the groups after the first on-track session.


The Master Racing Course is designed for very expert riders who would like to get ready for competitive track racing, like the prestigious Ducati Desmo Challenge. The training is aimed at building on existing track skills to reach a more advanced level regarding all aspects of performance. To participate in this course, it is necessary to have a driving licence without limitations of engine displacement.

In order to participate in the Master Course, it is very strongly recommended to have already participated in one track course, and participation is not recommended for riders that have ridden on the track less than 10 times.

The course uses the Superbike 1098 S and is designed for a maximum of 18 participants. Each group will be made up of a maximum of just 3 riders so that participants will have personal attention from their instructors. If necessary, DRE staff will adjust the groups after the first on-track session.

SPECIAL ON-BOARD TESTS: During the course, each rider will have the opportunity to ride a 1098 S equipped with a data acquisition system which will record information from the bike regarding the rider's performance. Each participant of the Master Racing Course will have the opportunity to use this bike to carry out the test. Recorded data will include: throttle opening, RPM, vehicle speed, lap times, suspension travel, brake pressure, tyre temperatures and lateral and longitudinal G-forces. At the end of the course, each student will receive a copy of their own data.



Dario, head instructor, has raced practically all over the world and in very category, from the 500GP to Superbike, winning four national titles. In 2001, he won the Italian Endurance title with the Ducati 996R. In 2004, he won the Battle of the Twins in Daytona in the seat of a 748, and in the same year, he competed in the European Endurance Cup with Marc Garcia with the 998 and 999R models. Once again for this year, he is a Master Racing Course instructor.


It is difficult to find an instructor more qualified that the Grand Prix 500 World Champion of the 500. Marco, one of the great Italian riders of his time, won the prestigious world title in the 500 class in 1981 and has six GP victories and a total of 19 podiums under his belt. He raced with Ducati in TTF1 and TTF2 and won two “Battle of the Twins” races in Daytona. Today, he is offering all of his experience to DRE – to have him as an instructor for the Master Racing Course would make the “Ducati Riding Experience” most memorable.


Registration for these courses, which opens in the end of February, is only available on-line through Payment can be made by credit card or bank transfer following the instructions on the site. Special rates are available for Official Ducati Club members. The cost of the courses includes bike use, lunch, open café, welcome kit, on-site photographer, and special arrangements with hotel facilities.


Every participant must provide all necessary equipment: leathers (one or joint two-piece), full-face helmet, gloves and boots. There will be the possibility to hire all necessary items when registering on-line for the course (items available while stock lasts).

Course Calendar
Tuesday 18 March Mugello
Wednesday 19 March Mugello
Wednesday 23 April Adria
Thursday 24 April Adria
Wednesday 21 May Adria
Thursday 22 May Adria
Wednesday 4 June Monza
Monday 14 July Castellet (France)
Tuesday 15 July Castellet (France)
Tuesday 2 September Misano
Wednesday 3 September Misano

More information can be found on or by contacting customer service at or +39 051 6413584.