As I deliver courses for Penfield Rec’s DEAR program, I post stuff here that might be of interest to students of those courses.


The Lewis Chessmen – Discovered in 1831 on the Isle of Lewis off the Scottish coast and carved in the 12th century from walrus tusks by Norse craft people, these chess pieces have charmed millions in the British and Royal Scottish Museums and have become part of popular culture (Harry Potter, Dr. Who, Walking Dead, Agatha Christie). This presentation examines the Lewis Chessmen and their place in the history of chess, and it explores their competing origin stories, which include Margret the Adroit, the greatest ivory carver in Iceland.

Music from the Garden: Butt Music from Hell – Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights has fascinated viewers for centuries. The Hell panel of this triptych features music notation inscribed on the backside of an unfortunate soul being crushed by a giant lute. What did this tune sound like and what could it possibly mean? Al will explore Bosch’s use of musical memes and focus on how he transcribed and rendered the Butt Music from Hell as an asset in a video game inspired by the Garden’s Hell panel.

Artificial Intelligence – Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere in your everyday life, from driving your car to using your credit card, not to mention doing anything on Google, Amazon or Facebook. AI is also a loaded term whose meaning and impact are highly controversial. This 6-part course will explore what AI is and, maybe more importantly, what AI isn’t. We’ll chronicle AI’s history from the origin of the term in 1956 by focusing on four application areas where AI has achieved some notable successes: game playing, vision, human languages, and creativity. Each application area will introduce us to AI techniques that try to mimic what people do, and we’ll shed light on how those techniques actually work. The primary goal of the course is to disentangle what AI actually is and can do from the dense jungle of popular culture, which often overhypes, demonizes, and otherwise distorts AI’s accomplishments and potential. No mathematical, computing, or other technical skill or experience is expected.

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