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Biweekly links for 09/18/2009

by Michael Nielsen on September 18, 2009
  • Bin Laden’s Reading List for Americans – The Lede Blog –
    • “While Oprah’s seal of approval on a book cover is sought after in America, Osama Bin Laden’s is, to put it mildly, not. On Monday, the authors of three books apparently recommended to American readers by the leader of Al Qaeda in his latest communique might be wondering how one goes about returning an unsolicited endorsement to a shadowy militant who has been in hiding for eight years. “
  • Giles Bowkett: There’s No Such Thing As A Good Client
    • “You don’t want to be in the position of having an idiot boss, quitting your job, working for yourself, and discovering that your new boss is an even bigger idiot.”
  • New paper on “Goal Oriented Communication” « Algorithmic Game Theory
    • “An intriguing paper titled “A Theory of Goal-Oriented Communication” by Oded Goldreich, Brendan Juba, and Madhu Sudan has recently been uploaded to the ECCC, expanding a line of work started by the last two authors here and here. The basic issue studied is how is it possible to effectively communicate without agreeing on a language in advance. The basic result obtained is that, as long as the parties can “sense” whether some progress is made toward their goals, prior agreement about a language is not necessary and a “universal” protocol exists. My nerdier side cannot help but thinking about the application to communicating with an alien species (which I bet the authors did not mention on purpose.)”
  • Post-Medium Publishing
    • Excellent essay on the future of publishing, by Paul Graham.
  • Possible future Polymath projects « Gowers’s Weblog
  • Douglas Adams: How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet
    • “people complain that there’s a lot of rubbish online…or that you can’t necessarily trust what you read on the web. Imagine [applying] any of those criticisms to what you hear on the telephone. Of course you can’t ‘trust’ what people tell you on the web anymore than you can ‘trust’ what people tell you on megaphones, postcards or in restaurants… For some batty reason we turn off this natural scepticism when we see things in any medium which require a lot of work or resources to work in, or in which we can’t easily answer back – like newspapers, television or granite. Hence ‘carved in stone.’ What should concern us is not that we can’t take what we read on the internet on trust – of course you can’t, it’s just people talking – but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in the newspapers or saw on the TV… One of the most important things you learn from the internet is that there is no ‘them’ out there. It’s just an awful lot of ‘us’.”
  • [0909.2925] Galaxy Zoo: Exploring the Motivations of Citizen Science Volunteers
    • “The Galaxy Zoo citizen science website invites anyone with an Internet connection to participate in research by classifying galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. As of April 2009, more than 200,000 volunteers had made more than 100 million galaxy classifications. In this paper, we present results of a pilot study into the motivations and demographics of Galaxy Zoo volunteers, and define a technique to determine motivations from free responses that can be used in larger multiple-choice surveys with similar populations. Our categories form the basis for a future survey, with the goal of determining the prevalence of each motivation. “
  • Are Your Friends Making You Fat? –
    • Fascinating discussion of correlations in social networks.
  • Dean Karnazes – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    • “After [running 50 marathons in 50 days], Karnazes decided to run home to San Francisco from New York City.”
  • The Billion Dollar Gram | Information Is Beautiful
    • Nice visualization of the amounts of money required to do different things.
  • Theory Has Bet On P=NP « Gödel’s Lost Letter and P=NP
    • Thoughtful post questioning the conventional wisdom that P is not equal to NP, and the wisdom of completely ignoring the possibility that P = NP.
  • Galaxy Zoo Blog » She’s an Astronomer: Kate Land
    • Lovely quote from one of the Zoo-builders, Kate Land: “The popularity of the site was absolutely heart-warming. I used to get quite emotional reading emails and posts on the forum from zooites who loved the project and were wild about astronomy. So much of an academic’s work can be remote, abstract, and cut off from the ‘real-world’. And it was just brilliant to work on something that touched so many people.”
  • PLoS Biology: Real Lives and White Lies in the Funding of Scientific Research
    • “The peculiar demands of our granting system have favoured an upper class of skilled scientists who know how to raise money for a big group… They have mastered a glass bead game that rewards not only quality and honesty, but also salesmanship and networking.” I agree with much in this article. Some years back I constructed a list of papers I especially admired, and was surprised to discover that with only a few exceptions they were produced from unfunded research. This was sobering, since it suggest that receiving research grants was (at least according to my judgement of scientific quality) anticorrelated with doing work of the highest quality. Grants seem to be good at sustaining an established area, but not very good at all at producing the conceptual innovations that start new subfields.
  • RSS never blocks you or goes down: why social networks need to be decentralized – O’Reilly Radar
    • Broad survey of peer-to-peer services.
  • Fotopedia: Images for Humanity
    • Collaborative photographic encylopedia, with generous licensing.

Click here for all of my bookmarks.

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  1. About that Douglas Adams quote: The problem is that on the Internet people copy what they find elsewhere (saves a lot of time) and spread it to a lot of people without much effort and almost immediately. You can’t do that on the telephone to this extend. The amplification is vastly larger which makes a big difference.

    PS: New template? I don’t like the orange headers, it’s too light.

  2. Bee: Sure, and interesting. But none of that is inconsistent with Adams’ point.

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