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Links May 2011

John W. Dean wrote in insightful series of three articles for Findlaw about Authoritarian Conservatives [1]. In summary there are Authoritarian Followers who follow their leader blindly and Authoritarian Leaders who do whatever it takes to gain and maintain power. The Authoritarian mindset lends itself towards right-wing politics.

Mick Ebeling gave an inspiring TED talk about his work developing a system to produce art that is controlled by eye movements [2]. The development work was started to support the quadriplegic graffiti artist TEMPT1. Mick’s most noteworthy point is that all the hardware design and software are free so anyone can implement it without asking an insurance company or hospital (this is one of the few occasions when a TED speaker has received a standing ovation during a talk). The Eyewriter.org site has the designs and source which is licensed under the GPL [3].

Morgan Spurlock (who is famous for “Supersize Me”) gave an amusing TED talk titled “The Greatest TED Talk Ever Sold” [4]. He provides some interesting information about the brand sponsorship process and his new movie “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”.

Ralph Langner gave an interesting TED talk about reverse-engineering the Stuxnet worm and discovering that it was targetted at the Iranian nuclear program [5]. The fact that the Stuxnet environment could be turned to other uses such as disrupting power plants is a great concern, particularly as it has special code to prevent automatic safety systems from activating.

Angela Belcher gave an interesting TED talk about using nature to grow batteries [6]. She is evolving and engineering viruses to manufacture parts of batteries and assemble them, the aim is to scale up the process to manufacture batteries for the Prius and other large devices at room temperature with no toxic materials. She is also working on biological methods of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen which has the obvious potential for fuel-cell power and also solar PV cells. As an aside she mentions giving a copy of the Periodic Table to Barack Obama and he told her that he will “look at it periodically”.

Bruce Schnier gave a good overview of the issues related to human perceptions of security in his TED talk about The Security Mirage [7]. There isn’t much new in that for people who have been doing computer work but it’s good to have an overview of lots of issues.

TED has an interesting interview with Gerry Douglas about his work developing touch-screen computer systems for processing medical data in Malawi [8]. This is worth reading by everyone who is involved in software design, many of the things that he has done go against traditional design methods.

Mike Matas gave an interesting demo at TED of the first proper digital book [9]. The book is by Al Gore and is run on the iPad/iPhone platform (hopefully they will have an Android version soon). His company is in the business of licensing software for creating digital books. The demonstration featured a mixture of pictures, video, audio, and maps with the pinch interface to move them around.

Dr Sommers of Tufts University wrote an interesting post for Psychology Today titled “Why it’s Never About Race [10]. It seems that there are lots of patterns of people being treated differently on the basis of race but for every specific case no-one wants to believe that racial bias was involved.

The Register has an amusing article about what might have happened if Kate had left Prince William at the altar [11].

Fiorenzo Omenetto gave an interesting TED talk about synthetic silk [12]. He is working on developing artificial fibers and solids based on the same proteins as silk which can be used for storing information (DVDs and holograms), medical implants (which can be re-absorbed into the body and which don’t trigger an immune response), and cups among other things. Maybe my next tie will have a “no pupae were harmed in the production” notice. ;)

The CDC has released a guide to preparing for a Zombie apocalypse [13], while it’s unlikely that Zombies will attack, the same suggestions will help people prepare for the other medical emergencies that involve the CDC.

Salon has an interesting article by Glenn Greenwald who interviewed Benjamin Ferencz about aggressive warfare [14]. Benjamin was a prosecutor for war crimes at Nuremberg after WW2 and compares the US actions since 9-11 with what was deemed to be illegal by the standards of WW2.

Eli Pariser gave an interesting TED talk about Online Filter Bubbles [15]. He claims that services such as Facebook and Google should give more of a mixture of results rather than targetting for what people want. The problem with this idea is that presenting links that someone doesn’t want to click doesn’t do any good. It’s not as if the filter bubble effect relies on modern media or can be easily solved.

Terry Moore gave a TED talk about how to tie shoelaces [16]. Basically he advocates using a doubly-slipped Reef Knot instead of a doubly-slipped Granny Knot. Now I just need to figure out how to tie a doubly-slipped Reef Knot quickly and reliably. Terry uses this as a mathaphor for other ways in which one might habitually do something in a non-optimal way.

3 comments to Links May 2011

  • “Now I just need to figure out how to tie a doubly-slipped Reef Knot quickly and reliably.”

    If you use the standard `bunny hole’ (not `bunny ears’) method, making one loop and then circling the other lace around it…, try making/holding the loop with the other hand/lace–but continuing to do everything else the same.

    If you do `bunny ears’ (or `bow-tying’), you just have to change which `ear’ crosses over which in the second step.

    Thanks for posting this–now I understand why my shoelaces come untied about 50% of the time: I never really internalised any method, so I’ve apparently been doing granny knots about half the time and reef knots the other half!

  • etbe

    I think that the way I do it matches your description, although it’s difficult to describe knot tying.

    What I’m doing now is I do the first stage of the knot the other way around. The first stage is really easy and thus easy to change, the second stage requires at a minimum re-learning stuff that’s moderately complex and done sub-consciously. If I changed the way I did the second stage it would take me a long time before I could tie my laces in the dark.

    Of course even with a double-slipped Reef Knot it can still come undone (it’s already happened to me), but it should be less frequent and should almost never happen with laces that aren’t slippery. One weakness of a Reef Knot is that it can come undone if it’s not held tight so you need to do it reasonably tightly too.

  • Oh, yes–I suppose you *can* just reverse the initial overhand knot and leave the rest the same.

    Reading through Wikipedia’s article on shoelace-tying…:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoelace_knot

    I found a reference to Iain Fieggen’s shoelace site:

    http://www.fieggen.com/shoelace/

    … which has nice guides to tying shoe-laces with all sorts of different applicable knots,
    including a faster-tying reef knot.