Biweekly links for 08/31/2009

  • Facebook’s Religion Question Prompts Soul-Searching
    • Facebook gives people a free-form text box to describe their religion. Asking such a personal question gives some surprising answers. My favourite was probably the woman who summed up both her Catholicism and her difficulties with Catholicism by describing her religion as “Matthew 25”. “Jedi” comes in at number 10.
  • Markets marketed better « Meteuphoric
    • “What do you call a system where costs and benefits return to those who cause them? Working markets or karma, depending on whether the accounting uses money or magic.

      In popular culture karma generally has good connotations, and markets generally have bad. Reasons for unease about markets should mostly apply just as well to karma, but nobody complains…that inherent tendencies to be nice are an unfair basis for wellbeing distribution. Nor that people who have had a lot of good fortune recently might have cheated the system somehow. Nor that the divine internalizing of externalities encourages selfishness. Nor that people who are good out of desperation for fair fortune are being exploited. So why the difference?

      Perhaps mysterious forces are just more trustworthy than social institutions? Or perhaps karma seems nice because its promotion is read as ‘everyone will get what they deserve’, while markets seem nasty because their promotion is read as ‘everyone deserves what they’ve got’”

  • Astonishing video of a chimp at a magic show
  • News organisations and start-ups
    • “What would a content site look like if you started from how to make money – as print media once did – instead of taking a particular form of journalism as a given and treating how to make money from it as an afterthought?”
  • Mike Brown’s Planets: Fog! Titan! Titan Fog! (and a peer review experiment)
    • Cool for two reasons. First, Titan has fog! Second, Mike Brown seriously invites reviews of the paper, and promises to treat them as he would referee comments.
  • 25 Years Later, First Registered Domain Name Changes Hands
    • The first .com was apparently registered in 1985; it just changed hands for the first time ever.
  • Mathematics and the internet (pdf)
    • Terry Tao’s talk about how online tools are changing mathematics.

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