The Large Hadron Collider went on line despite the complaints and even reported death threats, and the world is still here. The hoopla concerned the very small but non-zero chance that something in the gadget would cause the formation of a black hole which would then destroy the earth or gobble it up or something. But, the LHC went through one of its shake down manuevers and we are still around. Now, of course, that doesn’t mean that when the LHC starts up tomorrow or whenever ( it’s not like flipping on your coffee maker), a black hole won’t form, with catastrophic consequences. So keep on worrying. Remember absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
It kind of reminds of World Jump Day… a hoax in which some German guy convinced a lot of people that earth’s orbit was wacky a little and that if everybody on the planet all jumped and landed (presumably) at the same time, the shock would push ole Terra back into the right orbit. They had a website and everything.
Here’s a link to the AP story:
Computer games are everyplace. (Disclosure: I view computer games dimly, but I’m from a different generation, and I’m at the age in which I don’t have time to waste). Often, the games simulate something like air combat, or hunting fierce aliens or mimicing some sport. A number of social critics think combat games dull young people’s sensitivity to inflicting mayhem or death. But, all agree, games are big business. Once you get past the Pow! Pow! RATTA-TAT-TAT! side, you can find a couple of, well, brainy games. One of these is SIM, in which the players get to simulate various persons and their social roles. SIM CITY lets the players manage a metropolis, and guide it through various challenges. The players get a quick introduction in practical terms to the principle that “acts have consequences”, since the actions they pick (raise taxes, lower taxes, build the bridge, don’t build it) are logically worked out and can’t be ducked, as they so often are in real life by fast-talking pols. A new game has entered the digital arena, and it’s called SPORE. It’s kind of a super-geeky thing, since what’s being simulated is the course of evolution. Players start with a “hand” of basic elements, and then, put these together in increasingly complex ways, watching the “life forms” which emerge from the combination. OK, I don’t think Toys-R-Us will have trouble keeping it on the shelf. And some evolutionary biologists are not entirely happy with it, since SPORE is “rule-based” to a considerable degree, and that doesn’t adequately reflect the biological reality. But if people want to think about biological science, and get a first approximation to how evolution works, who am I to complain? Grumpy old guys are two-a-penny, but the next great biologist might get a start from playing SPORE.
From Seed magazine:
From the NYTimes:
Yesterday, Sept, 8, was the anniversay of the Great Galveston Storm of 1900, the biggest natural disaster in US history. We’re watching another hurricane right now, so there isn’t much mental room for events from the distant past. I noticed a couple of commemorative bouquets here and there, at various places on the Island. We really don’t like to think how fragile our little installations are and how tenuous is our hold on what we have. One good puff, and were gone.
Newpapers are taking a beating, or some of them are. Many local sheets are doing just fine by covering local news. But the big city dailies are getting a dose of red ink, due to declining readership and plunging ad revenues. One possible way out for the big rags has been seen in the “digital newspaper”. In fact, the outlines for such a thing have been in place for at least a decade, and by outlines, I mean specifications for the various software suites and hardware platforms that would have to be in place in order for it to work. Some SciFi writers have been including it in their descriptions of U-or Dystopia. E-newspapers make a cameo in Minority Opinion, that Tom Cruise vehicle about crime prevention by prediction or something. In the movie, people on a bus are shown reading e-newspapers in a couple of scenes. Well, a company called Plastic Logic has launched a device that seems to have most of the specs, and is large enough to accept something like the traditional newspaper format to boot. Today’s New York Times has a good article on the new gadget, along with some useful comparisons to other e-format readers, such as Amazon’s Kindle and SONY’s Book Reader. If people are not reading newspapers because they’re getting dumber (the people, not the papers), no gimmick will help them. But,we have been groping towards this as at least an experiment for newspapers to try. We shall see.
I can’t share my link but this is worth reading, so try to get hold of it some way.
Thomas Wolfe, please forgive me. Humans find animals interesting; no surprise there. It’s part of the general pushing and probing we do, trying to figure out what’s going on here, and wondering how all this stuff fits together, if it does. Apart from “mere” curiosity, studying critter behavior may tell us something interesting and useful. Cows, for example, seem to line up in a north-south pattern. Research appearing in an article published in PNAS, and reviewed in The Economist supports this. A team at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany studied Google Earth photos of cows, lots of cows, at many different times of day in lots of different places to see if there is some preferred way in which they stand, and there is. They like to stand in a North/South alignment, other things being equal. The further north, the greater the spread between the magnetic pole and the geographic pole and the bovines favor the magnetic pole. The article points out that resolution in the photos was not good enough to determine if the bossies liked to stand head to the north, or the reverse, but the researchers have some data on deer in the Czech Republic, who apparently also align in this pattern and who definitely like to look north. There is good support for the position that some birds navigate in their migrations via magnetic cues, and earth’s magnetism may serve many other species in useful ways. Some people have an almost uncanny sense of direction and some get lost going around the block. Maybe the answer is a magnetic one. Maybe the earth’s magnetism affects us in ways we don’t yet realize, and which we might be able to foster or cultivate, to our benefit.
The Big G has decided to enter the field of web browsers, and launched a Beta version of a product it is calling Chrome. Right now, the field is split among Microsoft’s Internet Explorer,Firefox, Opera from Norway and Apple’s Safari. Google has been accused of doing the ‘perpetual Beta’ thing, a move that deliberately sets expectations low at the beginning. Flaws or design failures can be shrugged off with…”well, what can you expect, it’s in Beta”. But, beyond that, the world of the digit-heads is all atwitter, since the move is seen as a challenge to Microsoft, and yet another stage in the Battle of the Giants, a kind of T-rex versus King Kong bout, a modern replay of the Punic Wars, a remake of all those cowboy movies in which ‘this town ain’t big enuf for both of us’ is the theme, Hatfields and McCoys, Montagues and Capulets. I think I’d better calm down. I don’t know if the release of Chrome can be called a surprise. Google has been launching competing services to MS products for a while now, and has also been playing around with Knol, a kind of alternative to Wikipedia. It’s like that Irving Berlin song…”Anything you can do, I can do better..” Personally, it’s hard to pick between Soul-less behemoths, and maybe these guys should find somethiing else to do with their time and money.
This is link to an article on Chrome, from the Google website: caveat lector
Footnote: Today’s New York Times has a long article on the new Google browser, with an analysis and some comments. It’s in the business section, but supplying a link is iffy, so I’ll leave it at that.
Another Footnote This link goes to an article in Wired magazine, which is sort of the New Yorker of the digithead “community”. It’s about Chrome and some of the strategy behind the project, etc, etc. And that’s enough about Chrome.