Links October 2009

Garik Israelian gave an interesting TED talk about spectrography of stars and SETI [1]. He assumes that tectonic activity is a pre-requisite for the evolution of life (when discussing the search for elements that are needed for life) and that life which is based on solar energy will have a similar spectrographic signature to the chlorophyl based plants that we are familiar with. I doubt both those assumptions, but I still found the talk very interesting and I learned a lot.

Julian Dibbell wrote an interesting Wired article about an ongoing battle between the Cult of Scientology and 4chan [2]. I don’t often barrack for 4chan, but they seem to be doing some good things here – but of course they do it in their own unique manner. The article also links to a hilarious video of Tom Cruise being insane, among other things he claims that Scientologists are “only ones who can help” at an accident site. Has Tom Cruise ever provided assistance at a car crash?

The Independent has an article by Robert Fisk about the impending shift away from the US dollar for the oil trade [3]. This is expected to cause a significant loss in the value of the US dollar.

Robin Marantz Henig wrote an interesting article for the NY Times about the causes of anxiety [4]. It focusses on Jerome Kagan’s longitudal studies of babies and young people. One thing that I found particularly interesting were the research issues of recognising the difference between brain states, internal emotional state, and the symptoms of emotions that people display (including their own description of their emotions which may be misleading or false). The tests on teenage social interactions that involved fake myspace pages and an MRI were also interesting.

Juan Cole wrote an insightful Salon article titled “The top ten things you didn’t know about Iran” [5]. The Iranian government doesn’t seem to be a threat to anyone outside their country.

Clay Shirky wrote an insightful post about TV being a heat-sink for excess spare time and considers the number of projects of the scale of Wikipedia could be created with a small portion of that time [6]. It seems that the trend in society is to spend less time watching TV and more time doing creative things. In a related note Dan Meyer has an interesting blog post about trolls who say “You Have No Life” [7].

The Making Light blog post about Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize has some insightful comments [8]. I doubted that he had achieved enough to deserve it, but the commentators provide evidence that he has achieved a lot. I wonder if he will receive a second Peace Prize sometime in the next 10 years.

The Making Light blog post about bullies and online disputes predictably got diverted to discussion school bullying [9]. The comments are interesting.

Making Light has a mind-boggling post about homosexuality and porn [10]. US Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) chief of staff Michael Schwartz made the case against pornography. “All pornography is homosexual pornography”, said Schwartz, quoting an ex-gay friend of his. Among other things there are many good puns in the comments.

Cubicle Jungle is an amusing satire of the computer industry [11]. It’s shocking how long it goes before it gets to the part that’s obviously fiction.

The WikiReader is an interesting new device [12]. It costs $99US and has a copy of Wikipedia on an SD card, they have a subscription service that involves posting you a new SD card every 6 months, or you can download an image from their server. They state that they have a filtered version of Wikipedia for children, I wonder how they manage that, I also wonder whether they have an unfiltered version for adults. The device runs on two AAA batteries and is designed to be cheap and easy. Naturally it doesn’t support editing, but most of the time that you need Wikipedia you don’t need edit access – or access to content that is less than 6 months old.

Exetel are scum, customers who complain are cut off [13].

Making Light has an interesting post about a New Age scumbag who killed at least two of the victims who paid $10,000 for a sweat-lodge workshop (others are in hospital and may die in the near future) [14].

The NY Times has an interesting article about Jamie Oliver and his latest project [15]. He is trying to reform the eating habits of the unhealthiest area in the US. The 15 pound burger sounds interesting though, I wouldn’t mind sharing one of those with 14 friends…

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