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Links March 2010

Blaise Aguera y Arcas gave an exciting demonstration of new augmented reality mapping software from Microsoft that combines video (including live video) with static mapping data and pictures [1]. This is a significant advance over current mapping systems such as Google Earth – but it’s not released yet either. It will be interesting to see whether Google or Microsoft gets this released first.

The New York Review of Books has an insightful atricle by Garry Kasparov about human/computer chess [2]. It’s surprising the degree to which a combination of human and computer chess playing can give a good result. Amateur human chess players plus regular PCs can beat grandmasters with computers or high-end computers with human help. It’s apparently the quality of human-computer interaction that determines the quality of play. But the article contains a lot more, I recommend reading it.

Daniel Kahneman gave an interesting TED talk about the difference between experiential and memory happyness [3]. As the concept of the moment is so short (about 3 seconds) apparently most people try to optimise their actions for the best memories of being happy. But to do so requires some different strategies. For example a two week vacation gives a memory that’s not much different from a one week vacation. Therefore it seems that you would be better off staying in a five star hotel for a week than a four star hotel for two weeks, and eat dinner at a Michelin Star restaurant at least once per holiday even if it means eating at McDonalds on other occasions due to lack of funds.

Temple Grandin gave an interesting TED talk “The World Needs all Kinds of Minds” [4] which mostly focussed on teaching children who are on the Autism spectrum. She is concerned that autistic children won’t end up where they belong “in Silicon Valley”.

Anupam Mishra gave an interesting TED talk about how the people of India’s Golden desert built structures to harvest and store water [5]. Some of their ideas should be copied in Australia, due to mismanagement and stupidity Australians are failing to survive in much more hospitable places.

Michael Tieman wrote an insightful and well researched article about the OSI’s rejection of the IIPA’s attacks on Open Source [6]. This is worth reading by anyone who wants to make a business or social case for free software.

Mark Shuttleworth wrote an interesting post about the new visual style for Ubuntu and Canonical [7]. Apparently this includes the creation of a new font set which will be available for free use.

Divorced Before Puberty – an informative New York Times article by Nicholas Kristof about the links between treatment of women and terrorism [8].

The New York Times has an interesting article on “Human Flesh Searches” on the Internet in China [9]. It’s basically crowds targetting people to find private information and harass them (similar to what some griefers are known for doing on the English-language part of the Internet). But they seem more interested in vigilante justice than lulz.

The New York Times has an informative article about the Cult of Scientology (Co$) [10]. Among other interesting news it suggests that the number of cult victims in the US has dropped from 55,000 to 25,000 in the 2001-2008 time period. Senator Xenophon has called for an inquiry into the crimes committed by the cult and a review of it’s tax-exempt status [11]. As always Xenu.net is the authoritative source for information on the Cult of Scientology AKA the Church of Scientology.

The New York Times has an interesting article about formally studying the skills related to school teaching [12]. It largely focuses on Doug Lemov’s Taxonomy of Effective Teaching describes 49 techniques that improve school results and some other related research. The article also mentions that increasing teacher salaries is not going to help much due to the large number of teachers, it’s only professions that employ small numbers of people that can potentially have their overall skills improved by increasing salaries.

Andy Wingo wrote an interesting article about Julius Caesar [13] based on the book The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome by Michael Parenti. It seems that Caesar was more of a populist than a despot.

Interesting article in The Register about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) [14]. Apparently one 3.5TeV proton beam has as much energy as a British aircraft carrier running at 8 knots.

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