David Noble's Blog

Monday, February 27, 2006

This is one of the coolest things I've seen for ages. It has such potential for advertising it's almost untrue! But what else could you do with it? Teaching springs to mind, though i would imagine that the price, initially at least, would be prohibitive.

3D plasma shapes created in thin air

A Japanese laser display that conjures glowing images in the air could be used create gigantic 3D adverts in the night sky

Friday, February 24, 2006

This is a very interesting article with more things i can put in my 'i don't like iTunes/iPods/Apple' folder.

The iTunes U agenda

I've had mixed feelings about itunes.stanford.edu from the moment I first saw it. When I raised concerns about Apple's approach -- which makes freely-available podcasts and their associated RSS feeds less accessible than they ought to be -- I took a lot of flak for saying so. A number of folks pointed out that Stanford is free to publish its own podcasts, and of course that's true. Just yesterday Dave Winer pointed out that Berkeley is offering a gaggle of them. It's not rocket science, after all. Just about anybody can figure out how to record an MP3 file, upload it somewhere, and maybe even provide an RSS feed with enclosure tags. ...

Seems to me this is an eminantley sensible way of approaching the issue of teaching fractals. I don't ever remember being taught them at school, and we didn't have computers good enough to run those nifty fractal programs either as I recall. Ahh well, i've missed out!

Using corn-rows to teach fractals

Cory Doctorow: Teachers in predominantly black schools in the US have developed a program to teach fractals by using corn-row hair-styles as examples of the form:

Each braid is represented as multiple copies of a “Y” shaped plait. In each iteration, the plait is copied, and a transformation is applied. The series of transformed copies creates the braid. In the above example, we can see the original style at top right, and a series of braid simulations, each composed of plait copies that are successively scaled down, rotated, and translated (reflection is only applied to whole braids, as in the case where one side of the head is a mirror image of the other). One of the interesting research outcomes was that our students discovered which parameters need to remain the same and which would be changed in order to produce the entire series of braids (that is, how to iterate the iterations).
Link (via Collision Detection)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I love New Scientist, just for the unnecessary double entendre potential of theis story's headline. Nevertheless, it's an interesting story, and the fossil found features the oldest fur ever found.

'Jurassic Beaver' find stuns experts 

A new, remarkably preserved fossil of a beaver-like mammal from 164 million years ago ignites palaeontologists' appreciation of early-mammal diversity



Monday, February 20, 2006

There was a very interesting piece in the Guardian today which attempted to take out the religious element out of the Israel/Palestine situation. The article, written by Paul Oestreicher, a member of the General Synod with a German Jewish heritage, argues that if you take the religion out of the situation, Israel are effectively an occupying force. Nothing particularly exciting about that point, you might say.

The real weight of the piece in my view is in it's eloquent argument about how criticising Israel is not anti-semitic. I've always thought that 'anti-semitic' is an over-used charge levelled at those who question Israel's position.

As far as I'm concerned, it is not anti-semitic to criticise Israel, unless you're arguing that a certain decision has only been made on religious grounds and that Jews are to blame because of their faith, rather than incidently to.

This argument doesn't just concern Judaism and Israel, but any 'group' of people. It is not racist to accuse a black person of stealing unless you are accusing them simply because they are black, rather than, say, because you've just watched them steal something from you. It is not homophobic to call a gay man a tart if he's just tried to steal your boyfriend off you. It is not sexist to not employ a woman in a particular job if she isn't actually capable of doing it because of a lack of relevant skills rather than because of her sex.

Israel's policies are feeding the cancer of anti-semitism

Bitter Boris?

Graduates 'not fit for workplace', claims Johnson

Some university graduates "cannot even have a sustained conversation", according to the shadow minister for higher education, Boris Johnson. [via Education Guardian]

Green MSP elected new Edinburgh rector

Mark Ballard, a Green party member of the Scottish parliament, beats Conservative higher education spokesman, Boris Johnson, in the race to become next Edinburgh University rector. [via Education Guardian]

Saturday, February 18, 2006

He Gets 'Em Going In, He Get 'Em Coming Out

Yeah, yeah, we saw this too:


But hey, Cheney's in it for the long haul. When he sets out to shoot a lawyer, he doesn't cut and run. Etc. etc. etc. (it's Friday!)

Man Shot By Cheney Leaving Hospital [AP via Forbes]

Related: 'Slate' Gives Up
Related: Headlines We Would Prefer Not to See Next Week, Please
[via Wonkette]

This is rather sad news in some respects, and yet uplifting as well. Through personal courage and determination, Laurel Hester managed to dramatically improve the future lives of numerous lesbians and gay men who work for Orange County. Of course in the UK, we now have the Civil Partnership Act, which would have had the same effect, though it was also a significant effort to get the pension succession rights changed for a number of pensions here.

My condolences to Stacie.

Officer who won survivor's benefits for her domestic partner dies at 49

Laurel Hester, a long-serving New Jersey police officer whose tearful videotaped pleas to have her death benefit transferred to her long-time partner galvanized activists and led the Ocean County Board of Freeholders to reverse its policies, died this morning. She was 49. Hester died in her Toms River, New Jersey home with her partner, Stacie Andree at her bedside. Hester had been battling cancer

No, i certainly don't like the sound of that either. I have no idea how it's done, but it seems a bit insidious to me. You also wonder why the comopany goes to that much effort

Miller hunts down people who use throwaway emails on their contests

Cory Doctorow: Regina sez, "I filled out a web form for a contest from Miller using a throwaway junk email address and then, months after I dumped the throwaway account, I got this to my main account! Not sure I like the idea of companies tracking me down like this."

Thank you for being a loyal consumer of Miller Brewing Company. As one of our VIP consumers, you have likely received email communications from us in the past. Recently, however, we have not been able to deliver email messages to the address you originally supplied. We have performed an electronic change of address to update our records so that we can continue to send you special offers, promotions, and announcements via email.

I think the best line in this story is "He said multiple visits were necessary so detectives could build trust with the operators."

Like fuck they do. If they charge you, they're breaking the law, so you arrest them, that's why you went. Mind you, if your employer is paying you to be there, it's hardly surprising if that point of view gets rather lost...

Oh, and the town is called Spotsylvania, presumably home to quite vampire dogs.

Sheriff takes the sex out of stings

Read full story for latest details. [via CNN.com - Law]

What the fuck is all that about? The man gets shot in the face, and apologises? That is so lick-spittle toadyish it's unbeliveable! If Cheney hadn't shot you in the face, he wouldn't have faced all the trouble. It's his fault, not yours, stop being so bloody nice. What are you, English?

Cheney Victim Says He's a 'Lucky Person'

Harry Whittington makes first public statement, tells reporters he's sorry for all the trouble the vice president faced over the past week.

A few weeks back i blogged about how Tom Baker was now available as a BT text service thing.
Well, now some genius has assembeld a range of movie quotes(including Full Metal Jacket), jokes, and most wonderfully, Tom Baker singing Video Killed the Radio Star. Wonderful, wonderful stuff!
Tom Baker says!

For any Sci-Fi fans out there, Baens Universe looks like it might be a very good bet for the future of sci-fi ezines. I'm not a big enough fan i don't think, to pay that sort $30 for 6 issues, but there will be plenty of content.
SF&F magazine to 'resuscitate' short fiction

Multiple Hugo and Nebula award-winning David Brin (the Uplift series and others) has thrown his reputation behind a new SciFi magazine, Baen's Universe. He's been unimpressed by other SF&F e-zines, but "this time things are very different". The editor of this commercial venture is none other than Eric Flint (1632 and others) . Universe has already signed on dozens of top-shelf authors (listed in the email and linked) and garnered new books in some extremely popular series (also listed) which fans have sighed "if only" over for years (in one case, 28 years!). Now they're looking for some indication from you that this is all worthwhile. Read on!

Gah! The New Scientist should know better! Colour vision did not develop to pick up on emotional cues. it did not evolve to do anything. It just evolved. Benefits such as being able to see emotional responses are an added bonus that gave them an advantage, and so it stayed.

A blushing start to colour vision

Colour vision in primates may have evolved to pick up on emotional cues, new research suggests. [via New Scientist - Evolution]

Wonderful little rant from Boris Johnson (who's always good fun, if slightly off the wall) about how the health and Safety culture in this country is stifling our economy. he also manages to throw in Takeshi's Castle into the mix for good measure.
I'm always slightly alarmed when i find myself agreeing with a Tory. Whilst i would generally say that Health and Safety is clearly a sensible thing for its own sake, I've long felt that it can become a shield to hide behind for those that can't be bothered - the example he cites proves it. I've worked for companies where the IT bods are quite prepared to lug printers, computers, monitors and anything else around, his IT people are just lazy. He's certainly right about politicians making laws for the sake of it: the 'glorification' act is a case in point.
The elf and safety racket has knocked the stuffing out of us

If you have four young children and you sometimes find it difficult to keep order, let me recommend a television programme that seems to have an almost incredible narcotic effect. As soon as it comes on, they go into a semi-religious trance.

The programme seems to be far more thrilling, to the younger generation, than Men and Motors, or the Playboy Channel. It is called Takeshi's Castle. It comes from Japan, and there is nothing like it, believe me, on British TV.

Takeshi's Castle is a dystopic world in which the competitors are subjected to a series of tests involving medieval cruelty. They are endlessly bopped on the head, dunked in slurry, or attacked by horrible Japanese djinns and hurled into hot geysers.

In one of the competitions, they are forced - men and women - to curl themselves up into a human bagatelle ball, and amid tremendous banzais and shouts of excitement from the commentators they are rolled down a gigantic board, bonking and bashing themselves fearfully as they go.

At the bottom of the bagatelle course they are so shook up that they are offered a million yen if they can walk for 60 paces in a straight line.

Or they are made to dress up as human skittles, and then they stand cowering as a one-and-a-half ton rock ball is rolled down the hill towards them and - nyeee-hah! - they are knocked silly by the impact, and the commentators scream with pleasure.

Or they are made to leap from rock to rock as they try to cross some foul-looking mire, almost always falling headlong and clonking themselves in the face.

My children watch it with complete rapture, because it is so alien to our culture. There are real teeth being knocked out here, surely; there are ligaments being torn, ankles sprained, ribs bruised, and still the sons and daughters of Nippon queue up for more.

I do not think my children are being more than normally sadistic; it is just that Takeshi's Castle responds to a deep and unmet need in modern British life.

It is the need to see real risk, real danger, real humiliation, and of course real failure: all the things that are so expensively and so ingeniously airbrushed out of our mollycoddled and over-regulated lives.

Only this very day my office has been engaged in a surreal debate with the elf and safety about whether or not we could have a new printer installed. Such is the volume of correspondence that the old printer packed up the other day, and some of my letters have been piling up (for which apologies to anyone out there expecting an answer).

So we got on to the works department, located a new Hewlett Packard, but were amazed to be told that the device could not be transported 200 yards by anyone in the IT department.

Nah, they said; we can't do that. You need someone specially trained to do that, they said. It's the elf and safety innit. You'll have to wait two days, they said. So in the end we had to carry it ourselves and now it is of course chuntering out great quires of correspondence.

But what kind of madness is it, I ask, that prevents a couple of grown men from transporting a Hewlett Packard gizmo not much bigger than a milkmaid's footstool?

How is it that the Japanese are willing to be kicked around like human footballs, on prime time TV, and yet we are so terrified of injury that we forbid adults from lifting a piffling little printer? How has it come to this, my friends?

I will tell you.

Our modern pathetic airbagged society is the product of the lust of politicians to regulate and above all to be seen to be regulating, even when the law they are proposing is wholly unnecessary.

Why is there a law against picking up a computer without proper training? Because at some time in the past someone was so foolish as to do this without making sure his lumbar vertebrae were all in a neat column, and the miserable swine then sued his company; and some idiotic judge made an award; and the company claimed it out of insurance; and the insurance people decided to insist that companies would have to follow elf and safety guidelines if they were to provide cover; and the companies decided they needed a "level playing field" in which everyone faced the same elf and safety regulations; and so some industry lobby group got hold of some dopy politicians and the result is that strapping British IT men may not pick up a printer, while in Japan you can be turned into virtual spagbol or hurled in a trebuchet before an audience of millions.

The elf and safety racket is a great conspiracy against the taxpayer, and the public, and at every stage you will find collaborators. There are the media, who love to whip up a good scare (see MMR, BSE, avian flu, cellulite, you name it). There are the lawyers, who are always hungry for new grounds on which to litigate.

But the most cowardly and reprehensible are the politicians, who never stop to think whether a piece of legislation is necessary, or whether the problem cited is already covered by statute.

All they think about is whether they will appear to be "doing something", whether they look strong, whether they look in control; and of course it is always easiest to look strong and in control if you are passing some coercive piece of legislation.

Look at Patricia Hewitt, and her magnificently invertebrate performance in the smoking ban debate. She began the day wanting to preserve the right of clubs to have smoking sections; she ended on the side of a total ban - not, as she later claimed, because she had "listened to the arguments", but because she had succumbed to the politician's overwhelming lust to be seen to "act".

And it is this endless "action" that means we are slipping down the competitiveness tables, and it is the profusion of new laws, and the legions of elf and safety monitors and clipboard toters that go with those laws, that have pushed our taxes above German levels, and if you want to understand why Japanese productivity growth, after years in the doldrums, is now surpassing ours again, it is because elf and safety has so completely suppressed our spirit that we don't even dare pick up a printer without training.


Banzai indeed!

Welcome to my new blog. This will currently co-run with my Live Journbal account, where i have been posting for couple of years. However, as I move towards more of a blog than a journal, this seems a better place for it. Should you wish to have a look at the LJ, then yuo can at Ged74's Livejournal

I hope you enjoy this new blog, and find something to comment on.

Take care!