Biweekly links for 01/15/2010

  • Smart phones blessed in Canon David Parrott’s 3G church service
    • “Yesterday, in the church of the City of London Corporation, he presented an updated version of Plow Monday, an observance that dates from medieval times. On this day, the first Monday after Twelfth Night, farm labourers would bring a plough to the door of the church to be blessed… Men and women coming to [the modern] church no longer used ploughs; their tools were their laptops, their iPhones and their BlackBerries. So he wrote a blessing and [delivered] it before a congregation of 80, the white heat of technology shining from his every pronouncement. “I invite you to have your mobile phone out … though I would like you to put it on silent,” he said. This was Church 2.0. Behind him, the altar resembled a counter at PC World. Upon it, laid out like holy relics, were four smart phones, one Apple laptop and one Dell. When he [delivered] his sermon, the melody of a million ringtones played on the organ. One almost expected Canon Parrott to bellow: “Hello! I’m just giving a service!””
  • Software Carpentry
    • For the past few years, Greg Wilson at the University of Toronto has run an interesting project called Software Carpentry. It’s a boot camp for scientists to learn the skills they need to do scientific computing, introducing powerful techniques that programmers (but not scientists) often learn, like source control, automated testing, and so on. Greg’s hoping to scale the course up in a big way, and this post has some details of what he’s planning, and what he needs to get this done.
  • Engelbartbookdialogues’s Blog
    • “In the spirit of Creative Commons non commercial license we are posting the ENTIRE text of the book “The Engelbart Hypothesis: Dialogs with Douglas Engelbart” in this blog.”
  • Chemistry Seminar – Science 2.0
    • Dan Gezelter’s course on Science 2.0. Looks like fun, and has lots of great links on the subject, many of them new to me.
  • Science in the Open: What can be done? What should be done?
    • Excellent talk from Cameron Neylon.
  • The Total Growth of Open Source
    • Fascinating paper from Amit Desphande and Dirk Riehle studying the growth of open source software. Suggests that the total volume of code is now well over 1 billion lines, and growing at a rate of several hundred million lines per year.
  • Modern Physics: A Complete Introduction | Open Culture
    • Very interesting: 120 hours of lectures from Lenny Susskind, covering the basics of modern physics.
  • Stefanie Bowles on Dan Ariely on people’s choices
    • “We don’t know our preferences very well as humans. We like to think that we decide everything, but we function within choice architectures which impact what we chose. He then asked the audience if they could think of 3 or 10 reasons why they love their significant other. Turns out people can usually only think of 3, and that most people run out of reasons! People are very influenced in the moment and get confused with too much data—he likes to use this on his students to ask them 15 ways the class can be improved. People’s preferences are not fully formed.”

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Biweekly links for 01/11/2010

  • Carl Zimmer: Science Writing Workshop Later This Month
    • Carl Zimmer is teaching a one-week science writing workshop for science grad students.
  • Martin Rees: A Level Playing Field
    • “In 2002, three Indian mathematicians (Manindra Agrewal, and his two students Neeraj Kayal and Nitin Saxena) invented a faster algorithm for factoring large numbers — an advance that could be crucial for code-breaking. They posted their results on the Web. Such was the interest that within just a day, 20000 people had downloaded the work, which became the topic of hastily-convened discussions in many centres of mathematical research around the world.

      This episode — offering instant global recognition to two young Indian students — offers a stark contrast with the struggles of a young Indian genius a hundred years ago. Srinivasa Ramanujan, a clerk in Bombay, mailed long screeds of of mathematical formulae to G H Hardy, a professor at Trinity College, Cambridge.”

  • Brian Eno: The ‘Authentic’ Has Replaced The Reproducible
    • “I notice that, as the Net provides free or cheap versions of things, ‘the authentic experience’ — the singular experience enjoyed without mediation — becomes more valuable. I notice that more attention is given by creators to the aspects of their work that can’t be duplicated. The ‘authentic’ has replaced the reproducible.

      I notice that almost all of us haven’t thought about the chaos that would ensue if the Net collapsed.

      I notice that my daily life has been changed more by my mobile phone than by the Internet.”

  • Clay Shirky on how the internet is changing the way we think
    • “It is our misfortune to live through the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race, a misfortune because surplus always breaks more things than scarcity. Scarcity means valuable things become more valuable, a conceptually easy change to integrate. Surplus, on the other hand, means previously valuable things stop being valuable, which freaks people out…. Given what we have today, the Internet could easily become Invisible High School, with a modicum of educational material in an ocean of narcissism and social obsessions. We could, however, also use it as an Invisible College, the communicative backbone of real intellectual and civic change, but to do this will require more than technology. It will require that we adopt norms of open sharing and participation, fit to a world where publishing has become the new literacy.”
  • Danny Hillis on how the net is changing how we think
    • “More and more decisions are made by the emergent interaction of multiple communicating systems, and these component systems themselves are constantly adapting, changing the way they work. This is the real impact of the Internet: by allowing adaptive complex systems to interoperate, the Internet has changed the way we make decisions. More and more, it is not individual humans who decide, but an entangled, adaptive network of humans and machines.

      To understand how the Internet encourages this interweaving of complex systems, you need to appreciate how it has changed the nature of computer programming. Back in the twentieth century, a programmer had the opportunity to exercise absolute control within a bounded world with precisely defined rules. They were able to tell their computers exactly what to do. Today, programming usually involves linking together complex systems developed by others, without understanding exactly how they work.”

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Biweekly links for 01/08/2010

  • 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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Biweekly links for 01/04/2010

  • How We Miscalculated | Print Article |
    • Andy Grove on the Intel floating-point bug. Interesting throughout, including this comment on how insulated most CEOs are: “But most CEOs are in the center of a for-titled palace, and news from the outside has to percolate through layers of people from the periphery where the action is. For example, I was one of the last to understand the implications of the Pentium crisis. It took a barrage of relentless criticism to make me realize that something had changed and that we needed to adapt to the new environment. We could change our ways and embrace the fact that we had become a household name and a consumer giant, or we could keep our old ways and not only miss an opportunity to nurture new customer relationships but also suffer damage to our reputation and well-being.”
  • Dive Into HTML5
    • From Mark Pilgrim, of the superb “Dive Into Python”.
  • Industry of Change: Linux Storms Hollywood
    • How Linux won in Hollywood.
  • Linux at the movies
    • In Hollywood, Linux has apparently almost completely won: “In this upside-down world where Windows and Mac are minority operating systems, Linux evangelists would be hard-pressed to find anyone left to convert. The free operating system built by the people for the people has been embraced foremost by film studios.”
  • Magnus Carlsen’s Blog
    • Arguably the strongest chess player in the world, Magnus Carlsen has a blog.
  • How I Work: Bill Gates
    • I was surprised by how email-centric his life sounds.

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Biweekly links for 01/01/2010

  • Marginal Revolution: Asteroid Deflection as a Public Good
    • “In Modern Principles we use asteroid deflection as our example of a public good. Aside from memorability, the example has two virtues as a teaching tool. First, asteroid deflection is a true public good for all of humanity which raises free riding issues on a worldwide scale. Second, asteroid deflection is an example of a public good that is currently provided neither by the market nor by government. Thus the example underlines the fact that public goods are defined by their characteristics–nonexcludability and nonrivalry–and not by whether they are publicly provided, a point of confusion for many students.”
  • Confessions of a Converted Lecturer: Eric Mazur
    • Eric Mazur: “I thought I was a good teacher until I discovered my students were just memorizing information rather than learning to understand the material. Who was to blame? The students? The material? I will explain how I came to the agonizing conclusion that the culprit was neither of these. It was my teaching that caused students to fail! I will show how I have adjusted my approach to teaching and how it has improved my students’ performance significantly.”
  • Carbon theater « Jon Udell
    • A great phrase from Jon Udell: doing things that merely appear to reduce CO_2 emissions.
  • “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom”
    • An appreciation of Feynman’s famous talk from nanotechnology pioneer Eric Drexler
  • Quantum Computers LLC
    • Who knew?: “Quantum Computers LLC has been producing Custom Built Computers since 1997. We originally started building High End Desktop models for customers who wanted Top of the Line Systems. In 2002 we began producing computers for Medical Offices, Chiropractors and Biofeedback Specialists. Today we design & build both Desktop and Notebook computers for almost every application. In just a short period of time, our reputation has travelled the globe, and we have become one of the best Specialty Computer suppliers in the USA.

      Quantum Computers are currently being used in 28 countries that we know of”

  • Should Copyright of Academic Works Be Abolished? by Steven Shavell
    • “The conventional rationale for copyright of written works, that copyright is needed to foster their creation, is seemingly of limited applicability to the academic domain. For in a world without copyright of academic writing, academics would still benefit from publishing in the major way that they do now, namely, from gaining scholarly esteem… suggesting that ending academic copyright would be socially desirable in view of the broad benefits of a copyright-free world. If so, the demise of academic copyright should probably be achieved by a change in law, for the “open access” movement that effectively seeks this objective without modification of the law faces fundamental difficulties. “
  • The REAL story of Avatar is in the ecology
    • Spoilers (of a sort) for Avatar ahead: “Pandora is a post-Singularity world. Some time ago the Na’vi achieved sentience, built incredibly advanced computers, and created the technology necessary to upload their consciousnesses into these computers. Those who embraced technology saw huge advantages to living in the simulated world and departed their physical planet. However, some Na’vi chose to shun technology because they valued a deep connection with nature and the life of the noble savage. “

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