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Biweekly links for 08/07/2009

by Michael Nielsen on August 7, 2009
  • The Tragedy of the Coffee Shop
    • Nice article about the history of coffee shops as “third places”, inbetween home and work.
  • List of cities by time of continuous habitation – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    • A remarkable list. Why do some cities die, and others live on? Jericho and Damscus have existed for roughly 10,000 years. As a child I lived briefly in a former goldmining town, whose 1880 population was more than 10,000, but which had dropped to about 200. Many cities initially thrive because they have access to some scarcity (a mine, a beautiful beach, a river); later they thrive because of network effects (you go to the mining town because all the mining companies are already there); presumably what happens is that some exogeneous event (collapse of some market, or depletion of a resource) destroys the value of the networks there.
  • Cory Doctorow: Metacrap
    • Cory Doctorow on the semantic web: “If everyone would subscribe to such a system and create good metadata for the purposes of describing their goods, services and information, it would be a trivial matter to search the Internet for highly qualified, context-sensitive results: a fan could find all the downloadable music in a given genre, a manufacturer could efficiently discover suppliers, travelers could easily choose a hotel room for an upcoming trip.

      A world of exhaustive, reliable metadata would be a utopia. It’s also a pipe-dream, founded on self-delusion, nerd hubris and hysterically inflated market opportunities. “

  • Edifying Editing (pdf)
    • Stimulating and very well written article about editing an academic journal, by Preston McAfee.
  • Wandering Gaia
    • Excellent blog from a science writer who quit her job to go “travelling the world meeting the people, plants and animals that make up our unique living planet.”
  • IREvalEtAl: William Webber’s research blog
    • Blog of information retrieval researcher William Webber.
  • TotallySynthetic.com » Blog Archive » NaH as an Oxidant – Liveblogging!
    • Liveblogging a chemistry experiment to refute a paper: “an intriguing paper has been published in JACS by Xinbo Wang, Bo Zhang and David Zhigang Wang. In this, they suggest it is possible to oxidise benzylic alcohols to the corresponding ketones using sodium hydride (amongst other chemistry). Given that sodium hydride is, well, a hydride – this is quite something. Does it work? Hard to say without giving it a go, so I am.”

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