Ireland day 0106. Wednesday 12 January 2022- Science
Last night I decided, after a couple of beers, that I would avoid paperwork as much as possible today, in attempt to improve my humour. I am pleased to say it worked because I felt a lot less grumpy when I got up and I successfully resisted the temptation to go online and explore the quirks and frustrations of any more novel Government websites.
We had a very leisurely breakfast then when the dishes were done and the lunches were packed, we decided to take advantage of the excellent weather and our proximity to the capital to do a bit more exploring of Dublin. By the way you might have spotted various references to “making lunches”. Basically, we have learned that it’s far too expensive to eat out, especially if you do it every day – so we take a packed lunch with us now. I know it’s a bit pensioner-like to sit on park benches and drink coffee from a thermos, but hey, it’s the zeitgeist.
When we were in Dublin on Monday, visiting the National Gallery, a building in a block that was part of Trinity College caught our attention as we walked past. It was called the Science Gallery Dublin, and as we are both super-nerdy scientists (as you can probably tell from the repeated references to lithostrotion), we felt we simply had to pay a return visit. So that was our principal destination today.
But I haven’t quite given up on finding Seville oranges in Ireland yet, so on our way from the station to the Science Gallery, we decided to have a look at some of the specialist fruit and veg shops in the Chinatown-ey area near Capel St. I had no problems in locating persimmons, jackfruit, quinces and durians as well as a whole load of weird stuff that I had never heard of before, but no sign of the obscure oranges. I’ll keep on trying but given that the only ones I could find so far you had to buy in bulk and pay for home delivery, I am beginning to wonder if it might actually be cheaper just to get a €10 flight to Gatwick and buy some in the UK!
Despite the lack citrus of success, it was an enjoyable and interesting wander through the city and we even bumped into dear old Molly Malone again. But when we eventually got there, we discovered the Science Gallery itself was a curious affair.
Unlike most of the other museums, historic sights and galleries we have visited, it has almost zero visual impact. But in terms of thought-provoking content, it’s up at about 100%. It takes a bit of mental effort to work to figure out exactly what it is about, but its central theme is exploring how bias – both conscious and unconscious – can influence how electronic media and interactive tools are built. The thesis is that machines are built by humans so artificial intelligence is, almost by definition, subliminally programmed with all the same biases and prejudices as its creators.
There are a number of interactive displays which require a bit of brainpower to use, but which are actually quite revealing. Fortunately, there are some excellent staff members on hand to explain what everything is supposed to do, and since we were the only visitors this afternoon, we got a full dose of hands-on help. One of the exhibits, for example, takes a photo of your face then shows you a series of pictures of pairs of faces and you have to decide which of each pair looks most “normal”. From this limited interaction, the machine can tell how old you are and rather scarily, it got mine right to within a year, and Val’s absolutely spot on. I have no idea how it did it and probably the creators don’t either, as it was a neural network programmed by machine learning.
We left this Orwellian world just after 5 pm and when we stepped out we were surprised and delighted to discover that it was still a bit light outside. I suppose it’s three weeks since the shortest day now, and it was a clear evening, but it was nice to think that the darkest days of winter are beginning to pass, and the days are starting to get noticeably lighter as every week passes.
So I’d say today was one of the odder ones we’ve had since coming to Ireland, but extremely enjoyable nevertheless. Tomorrow we will probably try something a bit more conventional, like learning to mind-read perhaps.
Today’s photos (click to enlarge)