Biweekly links for 10/30/2009

  • Deep Data Dives Discover Natural Laws | Communications of the ACM
    • “[researchers Lipson and Schmidt] recently mined a large quantity of metabolic data provided by Gurol Suel, assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. The algorithm came up with two “very simple, very elegant” invariants—so far unpublished—that are able to accurately predict new data. But neither they nor Suel has any idea what the invariants mean, Lipson says. “So what we are doing now is trying to automate the interpretation stage, by saying, ‘Here’s what we know about the system, here’s the textbook biology; can you explain the new equations in terms of the old equations?'”

      Lipson says the ultimate challenge may lie in dealing with laws so complicated they defy human understanding. Then, automation of the interpretation phase would be extremely difficult. “What if it’s like trying to explain Shakespeare to a dog?” he asks.”

  • The Data Explosion and the Scientific Method
    • Eric Drexler reminds us that the shift from hypothesis-driven to data-driven science in fact _is_ a shift, and likely one with surprising effects.
  • Seb’s Open Research: The Fate of the Incompetent Teacher in the YouTube Era
    • “Good teachers have always had some measure of fame at the local level. Let’s not kid ourselves: within a school, the students know who is a good teacher and who is no more illuminating than a wet pack of matches.

      The net takes that to a whole different level. Eventually everyone will know who the good teachers are, and will be able to tune into them. They will be rock stars.”

  • Research on Twitter and Microblogging
    • danah boyd’s bibliography of research on twitter and microblogging.
  • Smart Mobs » Blog Archive » Just one degree of separation
    • “An Australian intel analyst blogger, Leah Farrall, and an insurgent strategist blogger, Abu Walid, are now holding a debate in public across the blogs…. [Abu Walid is ] one of the leading figures in the interwoven tales of Al Q and the Taliban, a veteran muj from the Afghan fight against the Soviets with “a reputation as a skilled and pragmatic strategist and battlefield tactician”. He was an early member of Mullah Omar’s circle, has served as a correspondent for Al-Jazeera, and has penned a dozen books.”

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Biweekly links for 10/26/2009

  • …My heart’s in Accra » Jonah Lehrer: Outsider Intelligence
    • “An experiment at Indiana University brought in a group students and gave them insight puzzles, which measure divergent thinking and creativity. One was the compound remote associate test. If I give you the words “mile”, “sand”, “age” – what word can be added to all of them to make a valid word or a phrase?

      One group was told that the problem came from researchers down the hall. Another was told that it came from a team in Greece. The people told that the problem came from Greece solved 40% more of the puzzles. “

  • Linus Says, Linux Not Designed; It Never Was | KernelTrap
    • Fascinating discussion by Linus Torvalds about the pitfalls of design: “And I know better than most that what I envisioned 10 years ago has _nothing_ in common with what Linux is today. There was certainly no premeditated design there. And I will claim that nobody else “designed” Linux any more than I did, and I doubt I’ll have many people disagreeing. It grew. It grew with a lot of mutations – and because the mutations were less than random, they were faster and more directed than alpha-particles in DNA. “
  • Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI)
    • A network of undersea sensors connected by 1200 kilometers of multi-gigabit cable. The data is, I believe, going to be open. Estimated cost is $600 million, and it’s supposed to come online in 2014.
  • The (Skilled) Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
    • Timothy Burke on teaching students about the presentation of self.

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Biweekly links for 10/23/2009

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Biweekly links for 10/16/2009

  • Galaxy Zoo Blog » Down the pub with Alaskans*
    • Galaxy Zoo is, of course, a nice way of solving this problem: “The way we run a traditional science class is as if we were trying to teach students how to play soccer (football) by showing them videotapes of matches, without ever letting them play the game.

      But it’s even worse than that! We tell them about the results of science as knowledge, which is like teaching about football by showing them highlight reels of spectacular goals, without showing them the careful match strategy – not to mention years of practice – that goes into creating those goals.”

  • Marginal Revolution: Refuting this post helps confirm it
    • Super peer review: “Chess players who train with computers are much stronger for it. They test their intuitions and receive rapid feedback as to what works, simply by running their program. People who learn economics through the blogosphere also receive feedback, especially if they sample dialogue across a number of blogs of differing perspectives. The feedback comes from which arguments other people found convincing. Do the points you wanted to hold firm on, or cede, correspond to the evolution of the dialogue? This feedback is not as accurate as Rybka but it’s an ongoing test of your fluid intelligence and your ability to revise your opinion.

      Not many outsiders understand what a powerful learning mechanism the blogosphere has set in place.”

  • Stitching science together : Nature
    • Cameron Neylon on Google Wave.
  • Massively collaborative mathematics
    • Nature opinion piece about the Polymath Project, open source mathematics, and open science.

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Biweekly links for 10/12/2009

  • Math Overflow
    • Question and answer site for mathematics, with quite a bit of serious activity at a high level.
  • Nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize
    • How nominations are actually solicited.
  • Building Web Reputation Systems: The Dollhouse Mafia, or “Don’t Display Negative Karma”
    • “The Sims Online allowed users to declare other users un trustworthy too. The face of an untrustworthy user appeared circled in bright red among all the trustworthy faces in a user’s hub.

      It didn’t take long for a group calling itself the Sims Mafia to figure out how to use this mechanic to shake down new users when they arrived in the game. The dialog would go something like this:

      “Hi! I see from your hub that you’re new to the area. Give me all your Simoleans or my friends and I will make it impossible to rent a house.”

      “What are you talking about?”

      “I’m a member of the Sims Mafia, and we will all mark you as untrustworthy, turning your hub solid red (with no more room for green), and no one will play with you. You have five minutes to comply. If you think I’m kidding, look at your hub-three of us have already marked you red. Don’t worry, we’ll turn it green when you pay…”

      … Playing dollhouse doesn’t usually involve gangsters.”

  • Sergey Brin: A tale of 10,000,000 books
    • Brin on the Google Book settlement.
  • Charlie’s Diary: Scottish Independence
    • Charlie Stross outlines a plausible path by which Scotland might become completely independent over the next few years.

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Biweekly links for 10/09/2009

  • Remix of Out of Control
    • Wonderful: someone has taken Kevin Kelly’s book “Out of Control” and done a substantive remix. I think the original book is an extraordinary work of prophecy, but also agree with the person doing the remix: the original is long-winded and lacks focus. This remix looks to solve those problems.
  • The Oldest Living Things in the World
    • Rachel Sussman’s excellent blog describing her travels around the world to find the oldest living things in the world.
  • What Do Mathematicians Need to Know About Blogging? II | The n-Category Café
    • Nice short piece by John Baez on mathematics and blogging.
  • The best Halloween trick ever
    • “I grew up in a college town, and one Halloween our doorbell rang and we opened the door expecting to see trickortreaters– but what was in front of our open door–was another door! Like, a full-on wooden door, that had a sign that said “Please knock.” So we did, and the door swung open to reveal a bunch of college dudes dressed as really old grandmothers, curlers in their hair, etc, who proceeded to coo over our “costumes” and tell us we were “such cute trick or treaters!” One even pinched my cheek. Then THEY gave US candy, closed their door, picked it up and walked to the next house.”
  • Twitter Data Analysis: An Investor’s Perspective
    • “# Twitter’s user growth is no longer accelerating. The rate of new user acquisition has plateaued at around 8 million per month.
      # Over 14% of users don’t have a single follower, and over 75% of users have 10 or fewer followers.
      # 38% of users have never sent a single tweet, and over 75% of users have sent fewer than 10 tweets.
      # 1 in 4 registered users tweets in any given month.
      # Once a user has tweeted once, there is a 65% chance that they will tweet again. After that second tweet, however, the chance of a third tweet goes up to 81%.
      # If someone is still tweeting in their second week as a user, it is extremely likely that they will remain on Twitter as a long-term user.
      # Users who joined in more recent months are less likely to stop using the service and more likely to tweet more often than users from the past.”
  • Homicidal somnambulism: a case report
    • Fascinating: “A case of a homicide and an attempted homicide during presumed sleepwalking is reported in which somnambulism was the legal defense and led to an acquittal. Other possible explanations including complex partial seizures, dissociative state, rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder and volitional waking behavior are discussed. The evidence supporting the probability that this act occurred during an episode of somnambulism and sleep-related confusional arousal is reviewed and weighed.”
  • Social engineering-Knowledge Database
    • “apt-get for hardware… SKDB is a method for sharing hardware over the internet. By “hardware” we mean not just designs for circuit boards, but also biological constructs, scientific instruments, machine tools, nuts and bolts, raw materials, and how to make them. “

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Biweekly links for 10/05/2009

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