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Comments

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The Higgs Boson Should Have Crushed the Universe

nightcats Sounds like a Patrick Stewart speech (188 comments)

Hills and valleys, poetic images and wistful metaphors delivered with Shakespeareian bemusement over a cup of Earl Gray in the ready room, near the end of another episode's close shave with some Cosmic Anomaly or other. Perhaps Q is there as well, whispering: "the trial never ends, Jean Luc..."

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Should Every Programmer Read?

nightcats Buck-Full (352 comments)

See my sig line below: Buckminster's the man to read, you geeks.

about 3 months ago
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Gaining On the US: Most Europeans To Be Overweight By 2030

nightcats Re:BMI is a lie! (329 comments)

Agreed - I've written at some length on this topic (see the footnote); and the BMI is not helping at all. Geeks here may find my approach to this question excessively new-agey and such, but the point is merely that weight loss is not a superficial undertaking, even if you consider it from a purely mechanical positivist perspective.

about 3 months ago
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Algorithm Composes Music By Text Analyzing the World's Best Novels

nightcats Chopin need not fear anything from this (31 comments)

I'm fairly sure Commander Data would have come up with some more engaging compositions; this stuff could be placed in an online dictionary beside the word "dull." I suspect that in the next few generations the algorithm will be as abused in applied practice as email, texting, and video have been in our time. Still, if it goes well and the corporations stay away from it long enough for it to develop naturally, the algorithm could become a faltering forward step in human evolution. I am admittedly not confident about that, but it is a good target for hope.

about 4 months ago
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Star Trek Economics

nightcats Re:Wow (888 comments)

I was just writing about this last week. One of my points is that there simply isn't enough information given in the series (most notably TNG and Voyager) to draw any inferences, let alone conclusions, That's what I mean by my desire to see "the real drama" of those ST stories -- what's really going on in the Terran system that makes that Wall St. goon awoken from his cryogenic sleep such a stranger there. It's such a fascinating notion, this amaterialistic global economy, that a completely new series could be made about it, but as presented it's all too vague.

about 6 months ago
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Pending Apple Patent For 'Inferring User Mood'

nightcats Oh, don't worry it's just... (79 comments)

a ring. Next big thing you know: throw away your watch, the e-moodring is here, coming to a finger near you.

about 6 months ago
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Price of Amazon Prime May Jump To $119 a Year

nightcats Re:how many products? (298 comments)

oh c'mon give Jeff a break, it's hard to sell newspapers.

about 6 months ago
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If I Had a Hammer

nightcats 6 mo months (732 comments)

I apply the Friedman Postulate: If we can just stay the course six more months ad infinitum then the problem will go away.

about 7 months ago
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If UNIX Were a Religion

nightcats Re:Sgh. (392 comments)

Agreed, one of those metaphors that reveals rather than corrects ignorance (Judaism a "rules-deficient stripped down heresy"???). Stick to your own turf, analogy-maker: the Jedi, the mystic cult led by the captain of Deep Space 9 (didn't watch that show much, memory is vague), the quasi-platonic Tantrism of the X Files, etc., etc. --- there is religion enough in geek culture to work with. The I Ching (Taoism) is written in binary code, ain't it?

about 7 months ago
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Polynesians May Have Invented Binary Math

nightcats The Chinese (of course) (170 comments)

Perhaps an apocryphal story, but it goes that Leibniz was introduced to the I Ching (Yijing) oracle by a Catholic missionary friend who had gotten it translated into Latin (must have been strange). Anyway, the story goes that Leibniz instantly recognized the binary system in the 64 hexagrams and 8 trigrams. The I Ching is somewhere between 2,500 and 4,000 yrs. old in the format and ordering it still has today.

about 7 months ago
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The Desktop Is Dead, Long Live the Desktop!

nightcats methinks yout worry too much (453 comments)

Youtube (along with large HD displays) will always keep the desktop viable. TV/video in general will -- small may be cool and convenient, but big still has panache. And don't forget the demographics: those retiring baby boomers will continue to demand ease of use and visibility.

about 8 months ago
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Leak: Almost a Third of Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatches Are Being Returned

nightcats Re:Maybe (365 comments)

It's the advertising screwed them -- I know when I saw the ads for the thing and the Maxwell Smart scene, I thought, "f*&$k the watch, I want the shoe!" So you might say Samsung shot themselves in the foot with their own ad.

about 9 months ago
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German Data Protection Expert Warns Against Using iPhone5S Fingerprint Function

nightcats Re:just FUD IMHO (303 comments)

agreed insofar as this is a horse that's already out of the barn. It's very often required to be printed to be employed -- I remember having to be printed when starting a gig for American Express in NYC; to get into the building we had to put a finger over a scanner. This was post-9/11 at the WFC (a block west of the WTC site); but I hear it's become fairly widespread over a decade.

about a year ago
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Can Even Apple Make a Watch Insanely Smart?

nightcats The Watch is so 20th c. (196 comments)

Leave the wrist alone -- Let's focus on a different body part. How about a Smart-Truss? Who wouldn't want a 1.5 Ghz processor warming their junk? Cupertino, I expect a slice of the action for this idea....

about a year ago
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New Musopen Campaign Wants To "Set Chopin Free"

nightcats Re:Aaron (founder of Musopen) any ? I can answer? (142 comments)

Having written extensively on this perennially misunderstood yet profoundly influential genius, I can only add a vote of support along with a recommendation that the public also be given some teaching on the enduring meaning and influence of this man's music. For this is a composer who can be located in history but also rediscovered in contemporary culture. Beethoven and Chopin are the first modernists of the keyboard: as a young man I constantly heard Chopin's voice and his revolutionary technical inventions in the pop/rock of my era -- in Emerson, Wakeman, Simon, Joel, Manzarek, Wright -- and in the jazz of Zawinul, Tyner, and Evans. The phrasing, fingerings, use of dissonance and legato, the focus on loose, small-scale forms and structures...an entire year of coursework could be devoted to such a study.

about a year ago
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Samsung Ups Ante In Smartphone Size Wars: 6.3 Inches

nightcats Re:Bad analogies (221 comments)

Settle down kids, this product is almost certainly designed primarily for a demographic that is the elephant in the room of western culture. Here in America we call them Baby Boomers; you may look down your nose and merely say, "ugh, the OLD." They will go away, children, but not as fast as you or our youth-obsessed culture may like. Be that as it may, aging eyes and fingers need devices that accommodate them and their compromised functionality. And thanks to 401k's and Social Security, their little plastic cards are just as or more valuable and profitable than those held by Gen-x, y, or z. Currently, Madison Ave. continues to treat us as Gen-ZZZ -- they sell us sleeping pills and Depends. Perhaps Samsung will bow to that culture and call these the "GetOffMyLawn Phones".

1 year,16 days

Submissions

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Another State Legislature Targets Tesla

nightcats nightcats writes  |  about 4 months ago

nightcats (1114677) writes "New York joins the growing list of state legislatures aiming to shut down or at least restrict Tesla's business model:

The bill, which would restrict Tesla's ability to sell cars directly to consumers, moved out of the Assembly Codes Committee on Wednesday, one of several necessary steps on its way to a full vote.

Most of this legislation is driven by lobbying from traditional auto dealers working aggressively to protect their business model against an innovative but threatening incursion. Those dealers claim to have the full support of the Cuomo administration. For those keeping score, NY joins Texas and New Jersey in its efforts to keep product that is good for the environment as far away from consumers as possible."

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Statue of Apollo Discovered in Palestine

nightcats nightcats writes  |  about 6 months ago

nightcats (1114677) writes "A 2,500 year old statue of the Greek god Apollo has been discovered by Palestinian fishermen.While Trekkies may object that this is all merely a trick, an energy projection of the being from Pollux IV (see season 2, Who Mourns for Adonais), it does appear an actual creation of those Greeks who worshiped that alien life form."
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The 140 Character Wisecrack

nightcats nightcats writes  |  about a year ago

nightcats (1114677) writes "While I was writing this little reflection on aphoristic humor and the web app made just for it (Twitter, what else) — something interesting happened that's recorded in a footnote to the piece.

... it sure does help to follow some actual hackers. I follow Anonymous @YourAnonNews — these folks suspected the hack of the AP twitter feed within seconds, before it was even confirmed as a hack by AP. So while the stock market was going into its temporary panic-collapse, I already knew the true story. How many brokers and hedgies do you imagine follow Anonymous?

"
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Bill James (1984) on the Meaning of Data

nightcats nightcats writes  |  about a year ago

nightcats (1114677) writes "At msnbc.com, Craig Calcaterra quotes a nearly 30-year old piece by the original baseball sabermetrician Bill James, on the meaning and use of computer-generated data. Worth pondering by geeks and non-geeks alike:

There is, you see, no such thing as “computer knowledge” or “computer information” or “computer data.” Within a few years, everyone will understand that. The essential characteristics of information are that it is true or it is false, it is significant or it is trivial, it is relevant or it is irrelevant...Computers are going to have an impact on my life that is similar to the impact that the coming of the automobile age must have had on the professional traveler or adventurer. The car made it easier to get from place to place; the computer will make it easier to deal with information. But knowing how to drive an automobile does not make you an adventurer, and knowing how to run a computer does not make you an analytical student of the game.

"
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"Brute Force" Aimed at WordPress

nightcats nightcats writes  |  about a year ago

nightcats (1114677) writes "This morning I attempted to login into the WordPress admin area and received the message, "Wordpress administrator area access disabled temporarily due to widespread brute force attacks." An inquiry with my webhost providers revealed that "There is a an active brute force attack against WordPress sites across the internet and this is creating issues with the network and servers." I was advised to login via FTP with the following changes to the .htaccess file, replacing "xxx" with the IP address:
Order deny,allow Deny from all Allow from x.x.x.x"

Link to Original Source
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From Spirituality to Quantumality

nightcats nightcats writes  |  about a year ago

nightcats writes "I'm on a campaign to introduce geeks to a non-ideological and non-spiritual form of inner life that makes sense and can be personalized. One recent effort in this vein is "The Trouble with Tardigrades" (titled after the famous Star Trek episode); another is a piece in which I offer a meditation on a river seen from within the Earth's mantle. The following is from the tardigrade piece:

DNA is one of those phenomena of Nature that can be experienced (and therefore conceived) both materially and ideationally. That is, we can see it as “stuff” — physical molecules composed of nucleotides — or as information, data, cosmic thought. In fact, it appears essential to equally maintain both perspectives on DNA; just as physicists need to work with the phenomenon of light as both photon particles and wave-forms. Even casual observers like myself are aware that the DNA of all life-forms that we know about is defined as much by its peculiar shape as by its chemical composition. That is, a relative abstraction such as shape (the famous double-helix) is as definitive to the DNA of an organism as a planet’s orbit — its relation to other spatial bodies in its movement through the space-time continuum — is to its existence within a galaxy. Nature abhors entropy.

"

Link to Original Source
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A Proposal to Mental Health Professionals After the Death of Aaron Swartz

nightcats nightcats writes  |  about a year and a half ago

nightcats (1114677) writes "Hours after learning of Aaron Swartz's suicide, I wrote this piece calling on mental health professionals to create a network accessible to hackers, activists, and social visionaries like Swartz. Comparing his suicide to that of Turing more than 5 decades ago, I conclude that we just can't wait for society to change; we must create a lifeline for those who would change it:

My personal feeling is that people like the late Aaron Swartz are those who push civilization out of its potholes of stagnation and complacency and inner death. They press us forward, outward; they can usually see a horizon of change even amid a society’s deepest night. We who work or have worked in the fields of compassion and psychological support owe them our presence and our commitment. I am ready to sign up.

"

Link to Original Source
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3 Good Models of Online Development

nightcats nightcats writes  |  about a year and a half ago

nightcats writes "I've written a post about modern web development, which arose from an adverse employment experience with a big-time corporate IT company who shall remain unnamed. The 3 models I identify as exemplary sources of inspiration and innovation for modern web development are: (1) gaming; (2) porn; and (3) open source. Consider, for example, porn:

Believe it or not, a lot of the innovation in stuff like Flash video, javascript, moving GIF images, general image quality and multimedia page design has been driven by porn. The best porn sites — the ones that succeed with their audiences and with their, um, bottom lines — usually reside at the leading edges of online tech.

"

Link to Original Source
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Opening Pandora's Nano-Box`

nightcats nightcats writes  |  about a year and a half ago

nightcats (1114677) writes "Inventors strive to discover what technology can do for humans; corporations seek the profit potential in it; the scientists portrayed here ask what it's doing to us. Nanotechnology — specifically nanoparticles — are with us, among us, inside us already — in toothpaste, chewing gum, food, clothing, medicines. Their ability to pass through blood-brain barriers and immune defenses presents both possibility and peril. From the article: "As a society, we’ve been here before—releasing a “miracle technology” before its potential health and environmental ramifications are understood, let alone investigated.""
Link to Original Source
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Ask SD: Project Scope and Length for MLB Robot Ump

nightcats nightcats writes  |  more than 2 years ago

nightcats writes "The League Championship Series (LCS) of baseball are upon us, and numerous sports media pundits, armies of fans at comment boards, and TV people are openly debating the possibility of robot umpires coming to the MLB, to either replace or enhance the human umps' work on the field. Question: what kind of project are we reasonably talking about here; what would the scope and length be from planning/design to user testing/implementation (presumably in a spring training/minor league setting)? What kinds of hardware (video scanners, touch-sensitive bases/foul lines, etc.) and software would be required?"
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Next Spam Craze: Finger Lengthening Products

nightcats nightcats writes  |  more than 3 years ago

nightcats writes "It turns out that all those penile lengthening schemes and products that have filled our spam bins for so long are completely misplaced: what we men really need are finger-lengtheners:

The longer a man's fourth or ring finger is compared to his index finger, the more likely he is to be judged attractive by women, according to a new study.

"

Link to Original Source
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Kaku's Dark Prediction for the End of Moore's Law

nightcats nightcats writes  |  more than 3 years ago

nightcats writes "An excerpt from Michio Kaku's new book appears at salon.com, in which he sees a dark economic future within the next 20 yrs. as Moore's law is brought to an end when single-atom transistors give way to quantum states. Kaku predicts: "Since chips are placed in a wide variety of products, this could have disastrous effects on the entire economy. As entire industries grind to a halt, millions could lose their jobs, and the economy could be thrown into turmoil.""
Link to Original Source
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Never Trust Your Spell Checker, Lesson DCXVII

nightcats nightcats writes  |  more than 4 years ago

nightcats (1114677) writes "In a bad economy, publishers often bring the axe down on editors and proofreaders first. And every so often, it costs them big time. But at least the rest of us get to laugh. The opening paragraph of this BBC story says it all:

An Australian publisher has had to pulp and reprint a cook-book after one recipe listed "salt and freshly ground black people" instead of black pepper.

"

Link to Original Source

Journals

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Ask Slashdot: Can Quality Writing Live Beside SEO?

nightcats nightcats writes  |  about 6 months ago

As a writer, I have a crucial question which needs input from geeks, and I hear a few of them hang out here. It's about SEO, which usually stands for Search Engine Optimization; but I call it Strange Eerie Orwellian. I use the Yoast plugin on WordPress and find that it's always sniping at me about omissions and flaws. The gold keyword must be in the title, in the first paragraph, and a dozen other places amid the content. The Flesch score is always yapping at me to make shorter sentences, as if the children out there reading their cell phones can't follow dependent clauses. Bottom line is that all this can turn a 1,200 word essay into a barrel of tripe. Search Engine Obsession appears to be making a mockery of quality; content is not king, it isn't even the prince's lapdog. Therefore, geeks, my questions: does SEO really matter for anyone but the owners of content farms? What rational options exist that may put prosody ahead of these draconian search rules? Or is it time for us writers to buckle down and accept the new reality, that we are no longer slaves to publishers and editors but to algorithms?

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The Device is Not Your God

nightcats nightcats writes  |  more than 2 years ago

I walk nearly every day, and I see them everywhere I go: the young, strong, potentially vibrant bodies, shuffling along the street like broken old men in a nursing home, staring blankly into the Device.

I want to call out to them, to warn them: do not become slaves to Connectivity so that you forget how to communicate. Learn to connect with yourself, and the Device will find its small and proper place in your life. Remember the words of Krishnamurti:

Technical knowledge, however necessary, will in no way resolve our inner, psychological pressures and conflicts; and it is because we have acquired technical knowledge without understanding the total process of life that technical knowledge has become a means of destroying ourselves. The man who knows how to split the atom but has no love in his heart becomes a monster...

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LHC or Mars?

nightcats nightcats writes  |  more than 4 years ago I wrote a piece today that asks the question: what is more valuable to real advancement in scientific knowledge and social progress -- the LHC or travel to Mars? (the President has voiced his support for the latter as America's next great scientific adventure). My answer is that Americans really need to get over their lust for drama if they are to discover the genuine beauty of scientific progress:

The Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, is, frankly, rather ugly. It doesnâ(TM)t fly, takes no glorious pictures of space, has no âoeone small step for manâ quote-book, and doesnâ(TM)t send us cool rocks. You canâ(TM)t drive a space car on the LHC, and youâ(TM)d better not go anywhere near it with a golf club. The LHC lacks all the beautiful theater and heavy-breathing drama of American space travel. But the fact is that manned interplanetary travel, with the technology available now, would be fairly banal in its practical revelations; just as landing on the Moon was really more an assertion of Americaâ(TM)s scientific alpha-dog status than a genuine exercise in an even mildly revolutionary scientific understanding.

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IE6: Still Crazy, After All These Years

nightcats nightcats writes  |  more than 4 years ago

So I had to spend a little time yesterday re-familiarizing myself with Microsoft's Sharepoint product, as I was preparing for a phone interview with a company that uses it. I was watching a video demo from a MS geek when I noticed a funny looking icon on his screen: that's Firefox (bottom of image, beside the IE icon), the open-source web browser that is MS Internet Explorer's chief competition in the web browser market. And it appears to be that geek's default browser on his machine (see the icon for the web page link on his desktop at the upper left).

Geeks don't really care about their corporate affiliations. They behave essentially the way the rest of us do, or should, or once did, in America -- they choose what works best (when you work in the IT sector of a big company, you can sometimes get away with receiving local installations of alt-software for the purposes of "testing"). Corporations are slowly, but inexorably catching on: Google has decided to stop supporting IE6 on its Youtube site, beginning in about ten days. Many geeks blame IE6 for the Chinese cyber-attack on Google's and some 30 other corporate web servers that we covered earlier this year, details of which are still emerging.

For years, I messed around with the HTML of this site to keep it displaying properly in IE6, and finally gave it up as a bad job this year. Every single web browser out there, from Safari to Firefox to Opera to the lowly KDE Linux Konqueror, effortlessly and correctly displays our content, images, videos, and sidebar material. Only IE, especially IE6, has trouble with it. It is an insecure, outdated, abysmal application that consistently fails where others succeed. Yet, when I was pushed off the sinking ship of AIG last year, their corporate standard web browser was still...IE6. Stupidity and stubbornness are usually very happily, or at least inseparably, married.

But you're running XP, Vista, or some other version of Windows and have had IE6 for a long time and don't feel like leaving the devil you know -- what to do? Well, the simple answer is exactly what MS wants you to do: upgrade to IE7 or IE8. It's not the worst answer -- IE8 performs considerably more reliably and smoothly than 6. But it's still IE, with the same old antiquated Trident engine running it. My recommendation would be Google Chrome, because it's fast, safe, and user-friendly on its interface. Firefox is also an excellent option, and I think you'd be pleasantly surprised by the performance of Opera as well. And if you're working for a company that still is in the IE6 swamp, I'd ask why. By this time, given the seriousness of the Chinese attacks, it's a very good question to ask the government, via your local Congressman or Senator. How is it that the world's most advanced and wealthiest nation can only deliver barely half of the broadband Internet access to its citizens of, say, Denmark or Canada or Switzerland, and is still technologically and politically in the pocket of a corporation that perpetually churns out unsafe and dysfunctional product (MS)? If America is so great, how come it is so damned slow and stupid on the uptake of the simplest, clearest issues of fact and experience?

When even a geek paid by MS goes public with his implicit disdain for his boss's own product, that should send a message to the rest of us.

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Ballmer and the Window 7 Teen Test

nightcats nightcats writes  |  more than 4 years ago

About 14 years ago, an editor at Bloomsbury took home a manuscript for a children's novel that had come in that day. She gave the thing to her daughter to read. The kid really liked it, and the rest is history. That novel was from an unknown and unpublished welfare mom named J.K. Rowling, and it was called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

Today, we learn that Steve Ballmer is personally supervising user previews of Windows 7; and he's including his own teenage son in the test group. It's probably the smartest thing he's done in all his years at MS, maybe the only smart thing he's done. This is not to say that Win 7 will be anything approaching Harry Potter for impact and success, but you have to give the man credit for going to the right sources for some honest feedback. Kids, unlike tech bloggers and columnists, don't care about shilling for a new piece of software because it might come with a brand new PC or some other gift or perk. If your product ain't fun and easy to use, they'll get bored and complain. And if Dad thinks it's really cool, the suspicion factor is magnified. If Win 7 passes the teen test, Ballmer might be safe in hoping for a better outcome than he had with Vista.

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Hawking to Get Medal of Freedom

nightcats nightcats writes  |  about 5 years ago Stephen Hawking has been selected by the Obama administration to join Ted Kennedy, Harvey Milk, and Desmond Tutu in receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The citation for Hawking reads:

Stephen Hawking is an internationally-recognized theoretical physicist, having overcome a severe physical disability due to motor neuron disease. He is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a post previously held by Isaac Newton in 1669. In addition to his pioneering academic research in mathematics and physics, Hawking has penned three popular science books, including the bestselling A Brief History of Time. Hawking, a British citizen, believes that non-academics should be able to access his work just as physicists are, and has also published a children's science book with his daughter. His persistence and dedication has unlocked new pathways of discovery and inspired everyday citizens.

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The Search for Dark Matter

nightcats nightcats writes  |  about 5 years ago The Economist, curiously, offers this article on the next stage in the search for dark matter, the cosmic stuff that is to the universe as gluons are to the brain.

Claims to have spotted dark matter have so far rested mostly on evidence gathered by looking at collisions between clusters of galaxies. Some of these appear to have separated dark matter from its visible counterpart. Three months ago, however, a team of physicists reported subatomic evidence. They think they have seen an abundance of high-energy positrons, the antimatter versions of electrons, coming from space, and they speculate that this, too, is a sign of dark matter.

Now, if the Economist could only find the dark matter of the global economy...

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Happy Birthday Nik Tesla

nightcats nightcats writes  |  about 5 years ago Time to take a moment to honor the 153rd birthday of that guy who won the techno-battle against Edison but lost the marketing war, Nikola Tesla. Charles Arthur of The Guardian has a feature piece on Tesla:

...it's thanks to Tesla, not Edison, that we have electricity coming out of plugs, and that we even have power stations able to generate serious amounts of energy. He won "the war of the currents" with Edison, who was convinced that direct current (DC) - the sort that comes out of an ordinary battery - was the way forward for power generation and distribution.

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Search Term Poetry

nightcats nightcats writes  |  more than 5 years ago Hey geeks, see if you can find the techno-phrases in my latest "Search Term Verse" poetry. I'd do lots more of these if I had the traffic , but I've barely squeezed out a dozen of them in two years at my Poetry page.

esoteric america: how to install wine;
wizard of oz, socialist, warren court --
escapism god, renaissance imp;
puppy on macbook.


i ching demon becoming unemployed:
how the marijuana laws oppressed black
man with imp of the perverse.
freshman high school diary.


siddhartha mango tree, maroon bell deaths.
demon sphere: assertion failed.
anyone out there need help with
robber barons 8th grade history?

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Nano-Boats Target Cancer Cells

nightcats nightcats writes  |  more than 5 years ago Another Kurzweil prediction is coming to pass: nano-tech "ships" protected by a lipid sealant against assault from immuno-supportive killer cells are carrying cancer-destroying chemicals to tumors within mice. The system uses fluorescent imaging to allow tracking and remote guidance of the cancer-killing nano-bots.

"This study provides the first example of a single nanomaterial used for simultaneous drug delivery and multimode imaging of diseased tissue in a live animal," said Ji-Ho Park, a graduate student in Sailor's laboratory who was part of the team.

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Obama Promises a National CTO

nightcats nightcats writes  |  more than 5 years ago Barack Obama has supplied written responses to Science Debate's 14 questions (no response yet from McCain). In his answers, Obama proposes a national CTO:

Establish the nation's first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century. The CTO will lead an interagency effort on best-in-class technologies, sharing of best practices, and safeguarding of our networks;

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A Booklover's Review of Kindle

nightcats nightcats writes  |  more than 5 years ago Norm Jenson's got an average-guy's review of Amazon's Kindle up at his blog. If you're simply a booklover who wants to know more about this product before plunking down your $400, you'll benefit from Jenson's perspective, which is overall positive but also contains some practical insight on the Kindle's place in your reading life.

The Kindle is not a substitute for traditional books, when I was reading War and Peace a big book, it was heavy and substantial and in some way that added something in addition to the page numbers that were missing on the Kindle. I think of the Kindle not as a replacement of traditional books but as a supplement. I've got jury duty next week and I can tell you that it will be nice to take the Kindle and have additional choices of what to read while I'm waiting rather than deciding in advance what specific books I'll be in the mood to read.

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Ballmer, Open Source, and the Wind in the Forest

nightcats nightcats writes  |  about 6 years ago I have a detailed response to a story that has generated some "hell-freezes-over" astonishment at Slashdot. I view the MS LGPL/Apache move in light of Ballmer's recent annual message to the troops, in which he targets Apple and Google:

They [Apple and Google] are entities that can be seen and understood as competitors in the capitalist forest.

Open source, however, is like the wind blowing through that forest -- it cannot be fought or conquered; only channeled (as Swift Boat financier T. Boone Pickens has discovered on a more literal plane, with his $10B investment in Texas wind farms). So Ballmer has made tactical decisions, based on a belated recognition, to turn the forces of his militant marketing and wealth-based product development toward the only things they can reach -- the other big animals in the corporate forest. So should the leaders of the open source movement fear a rearguard action from MS, following upon this seemingly inexplicable peace offering? Or should they wonder if MS is on the point of a great awakening that will bring us open source versions of Vista and MS Office? I think the answer to those questions is clear: MS has made a strategic choice to let the wind blow as it may for now, while it targets the relatively fixed and identifiable adversaries on the only level it can understand -- opposition and conquest.

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The Open Source Society: Beyond Team

nightcats nightcats writes  |  about 6 years ago I have a new piece up at the blog about how the open source community labor model is surpassing the team-based paradigm of corporate culture. Here's an excerpt:

Let's suppose that most corporate-based, proprietary business units are indeed active, vibrant teams in their structure and resource pools. What open source is revealing today is that the team-oriented approach to business is being bypassed by another model, the community approach.

This is more than a question of numbers; it is a matter of dynamics. A team is a group-we, a closed, insular society that necessarily excludes other groups beyond its scope and expertise. A team must work within sharply defined boundaries that are fairly rigid and impassable. Thus we see that, for all Microsoft's wealth and both the numbers and expertise of its personnel and resources, it cannot begin to match the quality, reliability, and the pure cool factor of a product like Firefox or Opera. As I write here, Internet Explorer is continuing to drag its feet to the standards-compliance finish line, as testing of beta versions of IE8 continues. The open source browsers have been there for years.

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Seed of Decline: The Gospel of Consumption

nightcats nightcats writes  |  about 6 years ago Orion Magazine features a piece on the rise of consumer society in the context of a distortion of the meaning and use of labor-saving devices. It explains a great deal of what we're dealing with today in both our workplaces and our communities:

Today "work and more work" is the accepted way of doing things. If anything, improvements to the labor-saving machinery since the 1920s have intensified the trend. Machines can save labor, but only if they go idle when we possess enough of what they can produce. In other words, the machinery offers us an opportunity to work less, an opportunity that as a society we have chosen not to take. Instead, we have allowed the owners of those machines to define their purpose: not reduction of labor, but "higher productivity"--and with it the imperative to consume virtually everything that the machinery can possibly produce.

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Apple Proprietary Paranoia: Potty Pals Compulsory

nightcats nightcats writes  |  more than 6 years ago When it's an Apple event and everything must be just-so (especially where those odious creatures known as journalists are present), even a trip to the dvd-jon becomes a doubletwisted experience in infantilism. Apple Insider tells the whole sorry tale. These geek writers covering Apple must feel like they've stepped into a parallel reality with every new display of Apple paranoia:

Paranoia on the part of Apple reached a new high this week when the company refused to allow journalists covering its annual developers conference to use the restroom facilities on site without a personal escort..."I started off for the wash room, but was told by Apple officials that I couldn't go alone," he wrote, claiming that the seemingly absurd measure was the result of both Apple chief executive Steve Jobs and a just-announced iPhone 3G being somewhere within a 50 yard radius."

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Mr. Jobs, Tear Down This (Proprietary) Wall

nightcats nightcats writes  |  more than 6 years ago I have a post up at Geekology today, in which (in the context of a frustrating rollback from Leopard to Tiger) I follow the footsteps of Ron Reagan and ask Steve Jobs to tear down his wall:

Don't fight open source, because it's a battle you are sure to lose. Again, Redmond sets the example here: they have fought FOSS and come out bloodied. Apple can observe the lesson and set to work after the same fashion as Google: making open source fit into its business model. Get to work on Linux versions of Safari, iTunes and Quicktime, and watch the open source community respond with their wallets and their downloads. Apple has long led the way in marketing and entrepreneurial innovation as well as techno-innovation: supporting and celebrating open source software is the next natural step on this path.

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Krugman on the Kindle

nightcats nightcats writes  |  more than 6 years ago Paul Krugman, the political and economic op-ed columnist for the New York Times, offers up a mini-review of Amazon's Kindle today, with a focus on the future of digital reading and digital entertainment at large:

Bit by bit, everything that can be digitized will be digitized, making intellectual property ever easier to copy and ever harder to sell for more than a nominal price. And we'll have to find business and economic models that take this reality into account.

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OSC Head Hires Geeks on Call to Wipe Official Data

nightcats nightcats writes  |  more than 6 years ago Scott Bloch, head of the Office of Special Counsel, is under investigation for wiping official data from computer files in 2006, and according to this report by the Center for American Progress, used...um...alternative means of covering his data tracks:

In 2006, Bloch also "erased all the files on his office personal computer," potentially as part of a cover-up. To do so, he bypassed the Office of Special Counsel's technicians and phoned Geeks on Call, the mobile PC-help service.

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Apple: So Advanced, and Yet So Retro

nightcats nightcats writes  |  more than 6 years ago Despite Apple's great advances in design and technology these past four years, there are still areas in which they are persistently retro. One of the more notable of these is the company's rigid insistence on charging $99 a year for services that are widely free elsewhere (see Google, Inc.).

Dan Frommer of Silicon Alley obviously agrees. I would only add that Apple puts its customers into a double-bind with this bad habit: they sell software that takes advantage of a networking service that itself must be paid for. If Apple really wishes to ramp up its market share on the software side, they will have to cease with this dual-charging.

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