Categories
quickie

The New Devil’s Dictionary

A guide to the terms of modern living:

tab (n.): Something opened, then closed, then opened again, then closed again, for eternity.

social (n.): An app or website that simulates what it might be like to interact with other people.

Instagram (n.): A persistent reminder that people you know can afford more expensive restaurants and better vacations than you.

So much to cringe and nod at.

Categories
asides

Map of Network attacks

Interesting – or possibly scary – real-time map of attacks over the internet, with source and destination where known. May be state or non-state actors, only shows the ones these guys can see, so there’s likely more out there.. The world’s going to hell in a hand basket, we just don’t realise this stuff is happening.

Categories
asides

Photos from the Cosmodrome

A collection of photos from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, including the Buran shuttle from the Russian space program that never flew.

Only mildly disappointed that the outside doesn’t look like Destiny.

Categories
tech

Can you hear the difference?

Blind test: can you hear the difference between uncompressed WAV, 320kbps MP3 and 128kbps MP3?

I got an awful 2 of 6 for picking the WAV, though thankfully I never picked the 128kbps MP3… but it’s a close run thing.

Categories
the daily column

Elon Musk, The World’s Raddest Man

Part 1 of a multi-part series, profiling Elon Musk:

In college, he thought about what he wanted to do with his life, using as his starting point the question, “What will most affect the future of humanity?” The answer he came up with was a list of five things: “the internet; sustainable energy; space exploration, in particular the permanent extension of life beyond Earth; artificial intelligence; and reprogramming the human genetic code.”

He was iffy about how positive the impact of the latter two would be, and though he was optimistic about each of the first three, he never considered at the time that he’d ever be involved in space exploration. That left the internet and sustainable energy as his options.

Pretty sure the heftiest question on my mind in college was “How can I get away with doing the least amount of work for the most amount of reward?” and went shallower from there. Definitely keen to find out more.

Categories
the daily column

The Ripple Effects of the price of Oil

An analysis of the ripple effects of cheap oil

The [1974] oil shock altered power relations between the world’s main geopolitical players and created new ones. Higher oil prices had many unexpected consequences—from breeding oil wars to fueling the international spread of Islamic fundamentalism thanks to funding from newly super-rich countries like Saudi Arabia. Today’s drop in crude-oil prices, which began in the summer of 2014, may be as disruptive as the quadrupling of oil prices that created the oil shock of 1974.

It’s amazing how much of an impact the price of oil has on the geopolitical and financial landscape – and it would be fascinating to see the development of oil alternatives shake out into an entirely new landscape. Underlying all that is a fundamental factor that plays into the climate change discussion as well – it’s all about energy, and humans need it increasingly so to maintain the modern living standards we’ve become so used to in the developed world.

This goes without examining the more micro-level changes – with low oil prices, will airfares drop? Will people suddenly take more holidays in further off destinations? Will people resume buying high fuel consumption cars, too late for car companies like Ford & Holden to reverse their courses? How does that change cultural consciousness around energy use? All those things changed because the nominal price for something so fundamental to our lifestyle changes one way or another; is the price oil a proxy for all manner of things?

Categories
tech

A.I. is coming

Google (where else) develops computer program capable of learning tasks independently, is training it on computer games from the 80s (so far). I’m… really not sure that’s a great idea to start A.I. learning the most efficient methods to get high scores on games that will often involve killing… (nobody say Skynet!)

Categories
asides

Space Probes

How far are the space probes we’ve sent out? Here’s a gorgeous quick reference: Spaceprob.es

Categories
asides

Extrapolated Art

Extrapolated Art: taking artworks and using algorithms to extend without human input. Some of these work far better than others, but all offer something interesting in the perspective of the art.

Categories
the daily column

The Detective Ladies of India

The Guardian has a fascinating article on the increasing number of detective agencies in India, particularly staffed with ladies investigating possible affairs:

The boy and the girl met each other, Paliwal says, and became very close in no time. “But just before the wedding, the boy began to feel a little doubt: ‘Why is this person marrying me? I am shorter than her and earn nothing in comparison.’ He called me.” It took Paliwal a month of work, which included tracing the girl’s history and having her followed. “What do I find – the business actually belongs to the girl’s boyfriend, a married man. He can’t leave his wife because her family has stakes in his business, so he has taken a house for the girlfriend and put her up there. Now the girl’s family in her village had come to know of all this and were very upset, therefore she needed to get married in order to keep her arrangement going.”

This is amazing stuff, and these detectives point the finger at social media for the rise of their business, too. Tangentially related, but I’m going to go hunt down that No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency book to read now.