Links January 2010

Magnus Larsson gave an interesting TED talk about using bacteria to transform dunes into architecture [1]. The concept of making a wall across Africa to stop sand dunes from overtaking farm land is obviously a good one, the idea of using bacteria to convert sand into sandstone to do so cheaply is also good. But making that into houses seems a little risky. I wouldn’t want to live under shifting sand with only bacteria generated sandstone to protect me.

Cory Doctorow gave an interesting speech titled “How to Destroy the Book”, here is the transcript [2]. He talks about how much he loves books and described his opposition to the DRM people who want to destroy the book culture.

Sendmail has a DKIM Wizard for generating ADSP (Domain Signing Policy) records [3]. If I knew that ADSP records were so easy to implement then I would have used them a year ago!

Loretta Napoleoni gave an insightful TED talk about the economics of terrorism [4]. Apparently the US dollar used to be THE currency for international crime, when the PATRIOT act was passed it’s anti-money-laundering provisions encouraged many shady people to invest in Euros instead and thus led to the devaluation of the US currency. It’s also interesting to note that terrorist organisations are driven by economics, if only we could prevent them from making money…

Ryan Lobo gave an interesting TED talk about his photographic work [5]. The effectiveness of the all-women peace-keeping force is noteworthy. The part about the Liberian war criminal who has become an evangelical Christian and who now tours Liberia begging forgiveness from his victims (and their relatives in the case of the people he murdered). Should someone like that be permitted to remain free if his victims forgive him?

Charles Stross has an appealing vision for how Apple and Google can destroy the current mobile telephony market [6]. I can’t wait for the mobile phone market to be entirely replaced by mobile VOIP devices!

James Geary gave an interesting TED talk about metaphors [7]. The benefits of metaphors in poetry are well known (particularly in lyrics), but the impact of metaphors in influencing stock market predictions surprised me.

Shaffi Mather gave an interesting TED talk about his company that makes money from fighting corruption [8]. Instead of paying a bribe you can pay his company to force the official(s) in question to do the right thing. Apparently the cost of doing so tends to be less than 10% the cost of the bribe if you know what you are doing. His previous company was an ambulance service that charges what the patient can afford is also interesting.

John Robb wrote an interesting article about lottery winners and griefers [9]. He suggests that publishing the names, addresses, etc of rich people will be a new trend in Griefing. One thing I’ve been wondering about is the value of the HR database at a typical corporation. A single database typically contains the home addresses, phone numbers, and salaries of all the employees. It would be very easy to do an SQL dump and store it on a USB flash device to carry out of the office. Then it could be sold to the highest bidder. They could probably make a market in the private data about rich people in the same way that there is currently a market for credit card data – maybe they have already done this but it’s kept quiet to stop others from implementing the same idea.

Michael Smith wrote an interesting article for the Washington Times about home schooling and socialisation [10]. It seems that people who were home schooled as children tend to be more academically successful and involved in civic life as well as being happier and having career success.

Richard Seager wrote an interesting article for American Scientist about ocean currents and heat transfer from the tropics [11]. It seems that when the ocean currents shut down the UK and other parts of northern Europe won’t be getting a mini ice-age.

Ian Lance Taylor (most known for the “gold” linker) has written a good summary of the situation in regard to climate change and what must be done about it [12].

The Wrath of the Killdozer – article about how one angry man converted a bulldozer into a tank [13]. This wasn’t a big bulldozer (every mining company has bigger ones) and he didn’t have any serious weapons (only rifles). Imagine what terrorists could do if they started with a mining vehicle and serious weapons…

Simon Singh has written about being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association [14]. The BCA didn’t like his article criticising chiropractors for claiming to be able to treat many conditions unrelated to the spine. Remember, chiropractors are not doctors – all they can do is alleviate some back problems. See a GP if you have any medical condition that doesn’t involve a sore back or neck. Avoid uppity chiropracters who claim to be able to cure all ills.

Nicholas D. Kristof wrote an interesting article for the New York times about how happy the people in Costa Rica are [15]. He claims that the Costa Rican government’s decision in 1949 to dissolve it’s armed forces and invest the money in education is the root cause of the happy population. Maybe if the US government would scale back military spending the US population could be as happy as the Costa Ricans. While there are good arguments for having some sort of military, there are no good arguments for spending more money on the military than the rest of the world combined (as the US does).

2 thoughts on “Links January 2010”

  1. “Ian Lance Taylor (most known for the “gold” linker)”

    Not to those of us who use UUCP. Ian is “Taylor” of “Taylor UUCP”.

  2. John: Fair point, but the number of people who use GCC is vastly greater than the number of people who use UUCP. It’s already a requirement that Debian packages be linked with gold for Squeeze.

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