Aly and Sean win the UCSC Hackathon 2016

My kids, Aly and Sean, together as programming team Reveal, winning the People's Choice Award at the UC Santa Cruz Hackathon in 2016. Call me a proud dad!

Reveal is a Google browser extension. As you shop (eg on Amazon), it reveals to you, product-by-product, the labor practices of the manufacturer. Got school-age laborers toiling away in sweatshops? Team Reveal's gonna bust you!

School-age laborers? Here's a possible exception — if they're programming for you. My kids are my in-house consultants. Back to work!

Bob Blum and Ray Kurzweil at SETI holding the Drake Equation

With Ray Kurzweil at the SETI Institute. The plaque displays the Drake equation — estimating the number of intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way. The day-glo shirt is just one of my bike shirts — not a Starship Enterprise uniform. Ray was a classmate of mine at the 'Tute (MIT).

Frank Drake and Ray Kurzweil at SETI

And, here is Frank Drake himself (of Drake equation fame) with Ray at SETI. Note that Cro Magnons died at age 18, Renaissance humans in their thirties, and modern folk at age 78.

Jill Tarter (whom Jodie Foster portrayed in Contact) was seated next to me. Ray was discussing the Fermi Paradox. "If there are so many ET's, where are they?" Jill's answer to Ray spun heads. "Perhaps their technology is hidden in the dark matter of the Universe!"

Bob Blum introducing Mike Gazzaniga at Keplers Bookstore

In January 2012 Professor Michael Gazzaniga gave a presentation at Kepler's in Menlo Park, which I introduced. He was presenting his new book Who's in Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain.

Our sense of free will seems plausible because 1) the brain is incredibly complex and 2) like an iceberg, most of its structure is hidden from view.

Professor Gazzaniga is editor in chief of the magnificent volume The Cognitive Neurosciences. In addition to being an essential reference (1312 pages) — at seven pounds, it's also useful for weight training!

In this wonderful clip Prof. Gazzaniga explains left vs right-brain to Alan Alda (of MASH fame). Prof. G. did the original research.

Steve Pinker and Bob in the Amazon

With Steve Pinker on CFI's trip to the Amazon.

A professor in Harvard's Psych Dept., Steve is a "rockstar" cognitive psychologist and linguistics expert, whose books regularly top the New York Times best sellers lists.

Here is Steve explaining free will and, here, in a deeply pensive mood.

Bob Blum and Kevin Kelly with The Inevitable at Keplers, 2016

With Kevin Kelly in June, 2016. This was a standing-room-only event at Keplers Books. Kevin was touring his new book, The Inevitable. I introduced Kevin and New York Times tech reporter John Markoff, who interviewed him.

The Inevitable presents a fascinatingly detailed portrait of the HOLOS, a combination of the internet and its interaction with seven billion human beings.

Kevin is a superstar in China where he does speaking tours to huge crowds three times a year. He interacts with the magnates of the burgeoning Chinese tech industry (Jack Ma, CEO of Alibaba and Pony Ma, Founder of Tencent.)

Bob Blum, Ed Feigenbaum, Reese Jones, and John Markoff at Keplers Books in 2016

With Edward Feigenbaum, Reese Jones, and John Markoff at Kepler's Books in 2016.

Professor Feigenbaum is one of the storied figures in the development of AI (and was on my PhD thesis committee in the seventies.) Reese is a founder and trustee of Singularity University. John is a widely-read, tech reporter for the New York Times. John frequently reports on cutting edge AI, computing, and robotics.

Robert Burton at Keplers

Here, in 2013 again at Kepler's, I introduced touring author/neurologist Robert Burton.

Bob was presenting his new book A Skeptic's Guide to the Mind. He sounded a cautionary note concerning the hype surrounding popular neuroscience.

His writing initially caught my attention with his brilliant and courageous essay for Salon
BRAIN SCAM, which focused on pop-psych guru Daniel Amen's extensive (and lucrative) clinical use of SPECT scans.

Bob with iguanas

2015 at the Iguanario Archundia in Manzanillo, Mexico.

The Iguanario is an iguana refuge operated solely on donations by ecology-minded Ramon and Olivia Medina. A must-see, if you're in Manzanillo.

Preserving non-human animals and the biosphere is a crucial priority.

My ex in VR gear at Sense8

In the late 80s my ex worked for Sense8, one of the first VR companies.


Top-roping in Tuolumne Meadows in the Sierras.

Bob Blum with  Team Rootberry

In 2012 with Team Rootberry on the Crown Princess while cruising the Caribbean.

Jonathan Root and Bill Berry are world champion jugglers. See them in action in this Team Rootberry demo.

The guys'll do 7 balls during a performance. "We only do what we can nail on no sleep and with the ship rocking." But they can hit 10, maybe 11 balls, in private.

BTW when I do my 3 ball cascade occasionally at sunset, my neocortex (beginner land) is hard at work — occipital, parietal, and frontal lobes playing ping-pong. When Rootberry juggles 7 balls, it's automatic (like sleep-walking). 11 balls for them is like 3 for me.

The neocortex mainly lights up big-time when you're struggling or learning something new.

Bob watches Bill

That's a real dagger with a foot long blade. Bill is one of only a few score entertainers on the planet who actually swallows a sword. (It's painful to watch!)

Bob pulling a sword out from Bill

This was more anxiety-provoking for me than it was for Bill.

Flaming chainsaw

Being set afire while juggling a chainsaw is just part of the daily routine for Bill (Root) Berry.

Here are other stunning pix of Bill:

With Natasha Vita-More at Convergence.

Natasha is the former President of the Extropy Institute and who, with her husband, philospher Max Moore, is also an advocate of transhumanism.

Max is also the CEO of Alcor. Don't freeze me, baby (unless it's forever)!

(That open chest look (on me not on Natasha) reflects my large collection of bike shirts. I almost always travel by bike: 3,000+ miles a year.)

Pim Dave Bob

With Pim Van Lommel and Dave Chalmers at Towards a Science of Consciousness.

Pim is a renowned cardiologist whose research on Near Death Experiences makes worldwide headlines.

Dave, a professor of philosophy at the Australian National University, is famous for defining the "easy vs the hard" problem of consciousness.

The "easy" problem is "simply" discovering the neural correlates of consciousness.

The "hard" problem is understanding precisely how and why brain stuff gives rise to a subjective universe in each of us.

Stanley Realizes He's a Brain in a Vat

An illustration from the always delightful collection at (Thanks, Snaggy!)

An audience member at one of my lectures pointed out, "And, she's reading Scientific American!" Yeah, she's got it all! (And me — just a hapless geek.)

(Each of us is a brain in a vat — floating inside a skull connected to a bunch of peripherals (eyes, ears, body) via high speed cable.)

With Cynthia Breazeal and Thad Starner at the Singularity Summit.

Cynthia is a professor at the MIT Media Lab where she directs the Personal Robotics Group.

The highly expressive robot Kismet is one of her famous mind-children.

2016 update: Cynthia's not sitting still. See her newest robot, JIBO .

Thad is a professor and director of Georgia Tech’s Contextual Computing Group. He is best known as one of the original cyborgs.

As co-founder of MIT’s Wearable Computing Group, Thad has used wearable computers daily for fifteen years.

Here, you see a heads-up display (a la Google Glass) mounted on his left lens and a twiddler keyboard below.

Robo Like Human

Robo like human — in 2012 at Stanford's Robot Block Party — PR2 with friend.

The PR2 was Willow Garage's flagship, open-source robot.

(In 2014 Willow Garage partly disappeared and partly morphed.)

R2D2 and small terran 2015

R2D2, fascinated by small Terran (and vice versa), at the 2015 Robot Block Party.

Anybot and child 2015

Anybot (telepresence bot 2015) looks a bit anxious here.

Don't leave me with the little humanoid!

Knightscope robot

I discussed the form factor of the Knightscope surveillance bot with CEO Bill Li in 2015.

His team worked hard to get it right: not a Terminator but not a cuddly teddy bear either.

I'd like it better if it wielded a giant laser cannon that could hack out giant smoking holes in the ground right next to the perp (unless it's me!)

Decapitation Adolescent

In the year 2045 (The Singularity) decapitation by robot will be contravened —

but still permitted in the case of miscreant adolescents.

Tom Low Driving Omega 7

Tom Low is Director of Telerobotics at SRI. He is remotely operating two grippers

using Omega7 force feedback devices. These will be used for bomb inspection/ defusion.

Tom's group did the teleoperation research leading to Intuitive Surgical's widely used da Vinci Robots (video).

If you're my age, chances are fair that you or a friend will have an organ removed by a da Vinci robot, as in this video.

Scott Hassan riding in on a Beam remote

Scott Hassan, CEO of Suitable Technologies, rides in on a Beam Remote at Robo Madness 2014. (Photo credit: Toru Hatanaka, The Asahi Shimbun)

Bill Softky DMV

As we all know from Men in Black, highly advanced aliens, seeking to infiltrate Earth unnoticed, would naturally choose the DMV in order to blend in.

But no! This is just my highly advanced friend Bill Softky, neuroscience theorist, with his new license plate.

Bill presented a fascinating new paper Elastic Nanocomputation in an Ideal Brain at a neurophysics seminar I hosted recently.

Bill's thesis is that mechanical dynamics are involved in brain function, clearly seen in this video of dancing dendritic spines.

And here is a recent review on The Mechanobiology of Brain Function to quell skeptics.

The brain is loaded with actin and other movement generating molecules.

Go back a billion+ years (before the advent of multi-cellularity), and those neurons had to fend for themselves — before they linked up with their pals.

Caltech's Professor John Allman delightfully tells us the way it was in Evolving Brains — one of my favorite books.

The dance gang on a ride to Tiburon.

Dance Gang in Formal Attire

At Peers (vintage dancing) in formal attire.

"You rrrroook maahvelous, my dahlings — and you know who you are."

Paul Davies and Bob

Prof. Paul Davies, renowned physicist and cosmologist, on a recent book tour promoting The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

The Eerie Silence refers to the Fermi Paradox. Paul's speculations about possible origins of the Universe figured prominently in my essay on the Fine-Tuned Universe.

Support Earth Day — which is when this event occurred — and support local bookstores!

We really don't want Amazon to drive them all out of business.

Longevity of civilizations (ours and theirs) is one of the keys to finding ET.

With Michael Merzenich at the Bay Area Future Salon.

Mike is a professor emeritus of neuroscience at UCSF — my alma mater.

His presentations on neural plasticity are frequently televised nationally on pledge drives for PBS. His message is "use it or lose it!" You can teach an old dog new tricks!

Masked Woman

Dancing with a mystery woman at Halloween.

Pantea and Bob

With my salsa teacher, Pantea. See her lovely dancing at Alberto's, Mountain View, Calif.

Aly in Bali 2010

Number one daughter, Aly, in Bali in 2010.

Sean Bouldering in Tuolumne

Number one son, Sean, bouldering in Tuolumne Meadows.

Sean during solar eclipse of 2012

Sean, during the 2012 solar eclipse, imaged to his left.

The photo link here proves that eclipses attract alien female robots.

Sean on the Ediza-Iceberg Loop outside Mammoth

Sean on the Ediza-Iceberg Lakes trail — Clyde Minaret is in the background.


Up the hill from Minaret Lake, before the 4th class section leading to Iceberg Lake.

Sean at Merced Lake

Above Merced Lake

Hannah and Sean at the Alpine Rose

Hannah owns the Alpenrose Inn at South Lake Tahoe.

Sean and I stay there when we ski at Heavenly.

Sean and pals

A newly minted molecular biologist with his fellow grads

Sean and his roommates

Answers the question, "what's better for your academics than one Asian roommate?"

(Three is even better than two.)

Bob with Beard

After my two week Sierra backpacking trip in 2009. Personally, I like the rugged look.

Most of my dance partners voted "No!" — so, I got rid of it (til hiking season in 2010).

Bob and Linda at XMAS 2010

At Christmas with Linda

Dickens Fair 2015 Steampunk

The Victorian era reigns supreme at the Dickens Fair in 2015.

In this gravure, Linda and I are captured with some radical, steampunk suffragettes.

While a priori preposterous, the notion of women's "right to vote," appears to be gathering adherents.

Three Tenors

The Three Tenors: XMAS 2014 with Samy and Rich.

Santa Samy is our salsa rueda teacher when he's not doing design-for-test for Apple — making sure your iPhones work. Routing electrons is similar to leading the ladies.

Doctors Emily and Bob at Vogelsang Pass 2016

Summer, 2016: Dr. Emily and Dr. Bob at Vogelsang Pass (about 11,000 feet)

Emily with Lydia in backpack

When Emily and husband Mike passed me on the seven mile trail to Vogelsang, I didn't even notice their sleeping, nine month old. This adventuresome couple was all set to climb the eponymously named Fletcher Peak (pointed at by Dr. Emily,) baby in tow.

Mike with wide-eyed Lydia

Nine month old Lydia captured my attention. Every aspect of nature was a new delight. Adoring dad, Mike, carried 65 pounds of toys, wet diapers, and family provisions. A "leave no trace" kind of guy, Mike is also an entrepreneurial force of nature. He is the founder of GrowPlastics, which seeks to replace fast-food containers with bio-sourced, recyclable materials. Here, Mike presents his crucial, materials science innovations.

with David Edelman 2016, Vogelsang

With David Edelman at Vogelsang Pass (about 11,000 feet) in 2016.

Encountering neuroscience professor David Edelman at Vogelsang was a great "Dr. Livingstone, I presume" moment. David and I are neuroscience board members, have corresponded, but had never met. He is a research star in the world of non-primate consciousness. What do octopi experience? His lab finds out by treating them to "dinner and a movie (of a tasty crab.)"

Bob on Zion 2011

In 2011 at Zion National Park on Angels Landing

Zion Landscape

Zion Canyon (a geologist's paradise) — carved over millennia by the Virgin River.

Bob in Bryce Canyon 2011

In Bryce Canyon in 2011

August 2012 with beard

In 2012 after returning from the Sierras. I like the "messyanic" look (as seen here.) Most of my dance partners prefer the clean-shaven look. So, usually before school starts in October, I get rid of it.

2016, after a shave and a haircut

Summer, 2016: another selfie, following two weeks in the Sierras, after shedding the messianic look.