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Links November 2010

Guy Deutscher wrote an interesting article for the New York Times about how language shapes how we think [1]. The example of people who have no language construct for self-sentered directions and how they describe things is particularly interesting.

TED published an interesting interview with Shaffi Mather – the founder of India’s first organised ambulance service (with differential pricing based on ability to pay) [2]. He also talks about founding schools in small towns and his BribeBusters.com company.

World Changing has an interesting article about a legislative change in California that allows car-sharing of personal vehicles [3]. The concept is that if you own a car that you don’t use most of the time (as is usually the case) then you can contract with a car-share company to share it to others when you don’t need it. This saves the car share company from the capital expense of owning cars and thus allows them to place cars in remote locations that wouldn’t otherwise be financially viable (IE the street in front of random people who sign up). The person who owns the car may get about $2 per hour for the time when it’s rented. The car owner gets to specify when the car may be available.

Charles Stross wrote an entertaining and informative rant about Steam-Punk [4]. He cites Michael Moorcock’s informative essay about Starship Troopers and other right-wing apologist themes in sci-fi [5] as well as China Mieville’s essay about politics and The Lord of the Rings [6].

Glenn Greenwald wrote an informative article about the New York Times defending torture by the US military [7]. I have unsubscrubed from the @Times mailout and will avoid citing NYT articles wherever possible. I sent the URL for Glenn’s article to the NYT feedback address but I don’t expect them to take any notice.

Fate Of the World is a new computer game that’s in beta where you have a simulation of the next 200 years of climate change [8]. It’s currently in beta for Windows only, they hope to have a Mac version in March and have no stated plans for Linux support.

Cory Doctorow wrote an interesting article for Locus about Sci-Fi fans and cosmopolitanism – taking the best option after consideration rather than doing what’s locally fashionable [9]. He uses the term “Martian” to refer to some of the viewpoints, but it seems to me that “Vulcan” would be more appropriate.

The Wall St Journal has an interesting article about people who manufacture drugs that aren’t yet illegal, every time one drug gets banned they market a new one [10]. This is yet another example of the “War on Drugs” doing more harm than good, instead of taking drugs which have well known effects (that can be treated by hospitals) people are taking weird new drugs and no-one knows what will happen to them.

Mieke Meijer in the Netherlands has invented a new product known as “newspaper wood” [11], it involves gluing paper together to create a form of chip-board that keeps the layers of paper distinct to give a result like wood grain. The World Changing commentary suggests that this could give a “heirloom quality” to objects made with it, while I’m dubious about that I think that the surface would be pleasing to look at in a kitchen or office environment.

Ze Frank gave an interesting TED talk about unusual social projects that he’s run on the Internet [12]. This includes an attempt to reconcile Red and Blue voters after the 2008 US presidential election, the creation of inspirational songs, and remixing the “Whip Somebody’s Ass” song. This is really worth watching!

The Chronicle Review has an interesting article by someone who is paid to complete academic assignments for other people [13]. The scope of cheating that is claimed is profound. Naturally we have to take claims by someone who admits acting unethically with a grain of salt, but if there is any truth to this then it’s a serious matter. I’m surprised that no-one has made a serious attempt to catch the customers of such people.

David Brin (the famous sci-fi author) gave an interesting short lecture about the future of humanity [14]. He promotes the Lifeboat Foundation (of which he is a director) and describes his concern about the Fermi Paradox.

Shimon Schocken gave an inspiring TED talk about his work rehabilitating juvenile prisoners through taking them mountain-bike riding [15]. This shows that anyone can do great things to help other people, he got this idea when riding past a prison, convinced the prison governor that it was a good idea and then started doing it.

Conrad Wolfram gave an insightful TED talk about math education [16]. His claim is that the entire mathematical education system is wrong in it’s focus on hand calculation, instead the aim should be to teach children how to use computers to solve problems – which is what is mostly done in the real world.

3 comments to Links November 2010

  • I’m surprised it took you until now to stop reading the NYT. I stopped a while before the 2003 invasion, when it became crystal clear that the Times’ mission was to trick the public into supporting it no matter what deceptions were required. Columnists like Friedman only extend their neocon agenda.

  • etbe

    Toby: They have columnists with a variety of views. They also have some fact based articles which are accurate.

    I also didn’t read the NYT much in 2003.

    Anyway, I’ll now work towards promoting more ethical alternatives. NYT people, if you end up on the dole queue then thank people like me! ;)

  • The Pirahã speaking tribes in the Amazon don’t have words for left and right, they use “river side” and “land side” (or similar).