Google Calculator

Now, “everybody”:http://www.technorati.com/cosmos/links.html?rank=&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Fhelp%2Ffeatures.html%23calculator&sub=Get+Link+Cosmos has already gone on and on about the new Google “built in calculator”:http://www.google.com/help/features.html#calculator, and “the fun one can have with it”:http://www.kottke.org/03/08/030814fun_with_the.html. The most awe inspiring thing about it is that it’s the easiest calculator I’ve ever used. You can ask it questions in english and get back answers!

It can answer questions that not only have stumped philosophers over the ages, but includes details which many have never even thought of to ask (the three teaspoons):

bq. What’s the answer to life, the universe and everything multiplied by the speed of light divided by three teaspoons? Answer: 8.51523871 × 1014 m-2 s-1

Via: “Waxy.org: Fun with Google’s Calculator”:http://www.waxy.org/archive/2003/08/14/fun_with.shtml

Artificial Diamonds

The end of the diamond industry as we know it, and good riddance too.

bq.. Wired: “The New Diamond Age”:http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.09/diamond.html. Two companies in the US have perfected techniques for creating cheap artificial diamonds, virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. The story of how they got there is riveting – retired army generals purchasing cold war soviet technology, veiled death threats to scientists at conferences and best of all, a very real threat to the De Beers diamond cartel / monopoly.

Interestingly, the most important application for the tecnology looks likely to be semi conductors. Diamonds can handle far higher temperatures than silicon, meaning chips so fast that silicon would just melt under the strain.

Personally though, I hope this development strikes a killing blow to the whole diamond industry. See “Anil Dash”:http://www.dashes.com/anil/index.php?archives/004817.php for a good summary of why the world would be better off without it.

>> “Simon Willison’s Weblog”:http://simon.incutio.com/archive/2003/08/13/artificialDiamonds

p. “Slashdot”:http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/08/12/2112237&mode=thread&tid=126: The new diamond age is here and will revolutionize the computer industry. Diamonds show amazing potential as a superior semiconductor.

“Slashdot: Diamond Age Coming Soon”:http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/02/14/2040207&mode=thread&tid=134 :: Artificial diamonds are finally here. The /. entry has a ton of links about articial diamons.

Introduction to the Theory of Relativity

A series of elementary, informal, and almost equation-free articles descibing the Theory of Relativity in physics.

  1. Part I: History

    This described the history of ideas in the development of relativity.

  2. Part II: Special Relativity

    This described Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity.

  3. Part III: General Relativity

    This gives at least a taste of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, which extends the Special Theory to cases involving acceleration and gravity.

  4. Part IV: Implications, Controversies, and Miscellany

    This will address implications of the Theory of Relativity, controversies both old and modern, experimental evidence, and anything else that isn’t covered in the first three installments.

Will Humanoid Robots Take All the Jobs by 2050?

bq. “Marshall Brain (the guy who started “HowStuffWorks”:http://www.howstuffworks.com/) has published “an article”:http://marshallbrain.com/robotic-nation.htm claiming that robots will take half the jobs in the U.S. by 2050. Some of his predictions: real computer vision systems by 2020, computers with the CPU power and memory of the human brain by 2040, completely robotic fast food restaurants in 2030 (which then unemploy 3.5 million people), etc. It’s a pretty astounding article. My question: How many people on /. think he is right (or even close – let’s say he’s off by 10 or 20 years)? Or is he full of it?”

>> “Slashdot”:http://ask.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/07/24/1227209&mode=thread&tid=126

Disk Drives Explained

bq. Magnetic disk drives are one of those things I usually take for granted without thinking about, but I recently realized how little I understood about how they really work. ACM Queue has an article from their ‘Storage’ issue titled, “‘You Don’t Know Jack About Disks'”:http://www.acmqueue.org/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=46, which does a very good job of explaining exactly how magnetic disks have evolved since the 70s and how they work today.

>> “Slashdot”:http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/07/13/0349206&mode=thread&tid=137&tid=198

HowStuffWorks has a basic tutorial on “How Hard Disks Work”:http://computer.howstuffworks.com/hard-disk.htm.

Closing the Barn Door

bq.. Tinkering on a laptop, wearing a rumpled T-shirt and a soul patch goatee, this George Mason University graduate student has mapped every business and industrial sector in the American economy, layering on top the fiber-optic network that connects them.

He can click on a bank in Manhattan and see who has communication lines running into it and where. …….. he probes for critical links, trying to answer the question: “If I were Osama bin Laden, where would I want to attack?”

>> “WP: Dissertation Could Be Security Threat”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A23689-2003Jul7.html?nav=hptop_tb , “Daily Kos”:http://www.dailykos.com/archives/003301.html#003301 , “Slashdot”:http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/07/08/146228&mode=thread&tid=126&tid=158&tid=172&tid=99

The internet is shit.

bq. I’ve been hearing the same sentiments by a lot of people over the last few months in different types of language. Some say “The Internet is Shit”:http://www.internetisshit.org/. Some others say that “Virtual Community has died”:http://theworkfoundation.co.uk/pdf/William_Davies.pdf. Without wanting to doubt the good intentions and aspiration of all the people who want to make more of the world in which they live, I can tell you right now why the internet matters and why it is not shit. While it’s true that people around the world are lamenting that there’s not enough of ‘precisely the right kind of information’ to finish their term-papers, the internet is more important than that.

>> “Plasticbag.org”:http://www.plasticbag.org/archives/2003/07/the_internet_is_not_shit.shtml

Harry Potter and the Entertainment Industry

bq. In a surprisingly insightful article entitled “Harry Crushes the Hulk”:http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/29/arts/29RICH.html?ex=1057464000&en=628bb9a64032eda2&ei=5062&partner=GOOGLE, Frank Rich discusses how “Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/043935806X/qid=1056912452/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_1/104-6636007-4090329?v=glance&s=books beat out “The Hulk” and goes on to offer some insightfull and interesting comments on demographics, digital media piracy, file sharing and p2p networks, the iTunes store, and more… His conclusion? “[Consumers] may well be willing to pay for their entertainment – if the quality is guaranteed and the price is fair.”

>> “Slashdot discussion”:http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/06/28/2110201&mode=thread&tid=186

Copy Protection | Commons

An article over at Wired looks into the relation between copy protection and the reality of a rational amount of ‘wiggle room’ that is typically provided by the legal system.

In reality, our legal system usually leaves us wiggle room. What’s fair in one case won’t be in another – and only human judgment can discern the difference. As we write the rules of use into software and hardware, we are also rewriting the rules we live by as a society, without anyone first bothering to ask if that’s OK.

Slashdot has an interesting discussion on it.

The Boston Review it its New Democracy Forum has a section on copyrights over here.

The purpose of Boston Review’s New Democracy Forum is to foster politically engaged, intellectually honest, and morally serious debate about fundamental issues of the day–both on and off the agenda of conventional politics–and to say something about how we might better address them.

Read Reclaiming the Commons by David Bollier.

Continue reading Copy Protection | Commons