I’m hooked on the APOD

I’m hooked on the APOD site now. It’s a real wonder. First I went to gawk at the pictures, then I discovered that the prose and links at the bottom are also very good. For instance, I found this cool Soviet propaganda booklet about Yuri Gagarin. Ever wonder why stars in astronomical photographs look like they have four spikes sticking out of them? Find out why: APOD: 2001 April 15 – Diffraction Spikes: When Stars Look Like Crosses. The spikes article led me to the Nobel Prize site, which has some tasty articles about physics: Nobel e-Museum.

Google is doing newsgroups now,

Google is doing newsgroups now, and with Deja.com’s database behind them, they’re going to do a damn good job of it. For instance, here’s comp.soft-sys.matlab, the newsgroup devoted to the product I work on, MATLAB. As they say in their FAQ page, “Our goal is to offer improvements both in the quantity of postings available and in the ease and speed of searching. It’s exactly the kind of mind-numbing, brain-sapping, brute force mud-wrestling with gigabytes of unruly data challenge that we enjoy.” Amen.

I was reading something (can’t

I was reading something (can’t remember where) about why people write open-source code. It used the word “reputationism” (as opposed to capitalism) as the motivating force. I think there’s something to that. The author mentioned Advogato’s trust metric as an example of how trust and reputation can be automatically tracked in large communities. If this kind of thing works, it really does make new social structures and kinds of work possible. This is related to Francis Fukuyama’s concept of social capital.

Begging the question

From my friend JMike and his poker-playing friends comes this discussion of the phrase “to beg the question.”

To beg the question is to use an argument that assumes what was to
be proved. It derives from a secondary meaning of “beg,” to evade
or dodge. This time-honored and useful meaning is fast disappearing under the
prow of ignorance; currently “beg the question” is often used to
mean elicit or raise the question.

Since learning the correct meaning, I can’t hear the phrase without thinking of the time I was escorted by
security out of the Flamingo Hilton:

Me: What’s going on?
Floorman: You’re out of here.
Me: Yeah, but why?
Floorman: Why? Because get the fuck out of here, that’s why.