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Biweekly links for 01/08/2010

by Michael Nielsen on January 8, 2010
  • Remnants of the Biosphere
    • Extraordinary images from Biosphere 2.
  • …My heart’s in Accra » Yemen and the problems of ADD journalism
    • “In a print age, media pack behavior made slightly more sense. Most readers read only a daily newspaper or watched a specific newscast. If that news outlet didn’t report on Michael Jackson’s death, their viewers wouldn’t have this critical bit of cultural information – it made sense for all the outlets to flock to the key stories. But it’s a maladaptive behavior in an internet age. If the Times is all over Yemen like white on rice, I don’t need the Post to be as well – in fact, I’d probably benefit if they were able to turn their attention to another part of the world, one not at the top of the news agenda today, but likely to be important in the future. Or if they used the shoebomber story to explore other related issues – Muslim/Christian tensions in Nigeria, the fact that the alleged bomber was the child of great privlege in Nigeria (characteristic of many terrorists, countering the narrative that terrorist cells prey on the weak, disadvantaged and ignorant)…”
  • Christmas Tree Rocketry
    • Launch your tree.
  • Kurt Vonnegut on Writing
    • Interesting tidbits from Vonnegut
  • Tim Bray: Doing It Wrong
    • “What I’m writing here is the single most important take-away from my Sun years, and it fits in a sentence: The community of developers whose work you see on the Web, who probably don’t know what ADO or UML or JPA even stand for, deploy better systems at less cost in less time at lower risk then we see in the Enterprise. This is true even when you factor in the greater flexibility and velocity of startups.

      This is unacceptable. The Fortune 1,000 are bleeding money and missing huge opportunities to excel and compete. I’m not going to say that these are low-hanging fruit, because if it were easy to bridge this gap, it’d have been bridged. But the gap is so big, the rewards are so huge, that it’s worth buckling down and grinding away at. I don’t know what my future is right now, but it seems by far the most important thing for my profession to be working on.”

  • Peter Diamandis: Energetic Fundraising
    • Interesting short video from the founder of the X-prize on raising money.
  • Marginal Revolution: The economics of advice
    • “1. You don’t know what a person really thinks until you hear his or her advice. Along these lines, if you really want to know what a person thinks, ask for advice and he or she will open up.

      2. In philanthropy there is a saying: “Ask for money and you will get advice. Ask for advice and you will get money.”

      3. There are many exacting scholars who should be locked in a room, asked for advice of various kinds, and forced to speak into a tape recorder with no edits allowed. The advice-giving mode mobilizes insights which otherwise remain dormant, perhaps for fear of falsification or ridicule or of actually influencing people. All of the transcripts should be put on The Advice Website, with an open comments section, to limit the actual influence of the advice. Some famous people would be revealed as foolish in critical regards. The contents would be most interesting as non-advice and the site would carry a government warning that the advice is not to be taken seriously.”

  • A Map of the Universe
    • A fun 2003 paper about producing maps of the Universe: “We have produced a new conformal map of the universe illustrating recent discoveries, ranging from Kuiper belt objects in the Solar system, to the galaxies and quasars from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. This map projection, based on the logarithm map of the complex plane, preserves shapes locally, and yet is able to display the entire range of astronomical scales from the Earth’s neighborhood to the cosmic microwave background. The conformal nature of the projection, preserving shapes locally, may be of particular use for analyzing large scale structure. Prominent in the map is a Sloan Great Wall of galaxies 1.37 billion light years long, 80% longer than the Great Wall discovered by Geller and Huchra and therefore the largest observed structure in the universe. “
  • Why I’d Rather Be Enthusiastic Than Confident.
    • “There’s a dark tendency in human nature to mock or attack other people’s enthusiasms. It’s easy to make fun of ping-pong or Barry Manilow or Star Trek or wine-tasting — but why do it? I remind myself to Shield my joyous ones. I draw energy and cheer from the joyous ones, from the enthusiastic ones, and I need to encourage and join them, not drag them down. “

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