Good piece about the technical goings-on behind Google. Internet Week > Infrastructure > Google Defies Dotcom Downturn > April 27, 2001 (via BoingBoing)
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.
WikiWiki site about Artificial Life. Have a wander.
This really is pretty magical: Zoom into the Earth from space with NASA. Take the time to download it. It’s basically the old Charles and Ray Eames “Powers of Ten” concept, only with real no-fooling-around pictures. Eye-popping.
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 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.
You’ve heard all about the human genome. Here it is. The National Center for Biotechnology Information has made a good web-based interface for zooming down to wherever you want on the chromosome. You can search for something like Huntington’s disease, and it will highlight the part of the genome you care about, in this case the short arm of chromosome 4.
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.
From the Coffee Czar: Why Mathematicians Now Care About Their Hat Color