Frustratingly, I lost several hours this weekend on a new computer problem, when of course I’d planned to work on several things before turning my attention back to teaching and other matters of the week. I needed to install a new piece of software and strangely my computer’s optical drive could not read the CD-R that it was on. The computer kept reporting a blank disc had meen inserted. I checked on another computer and the disc was fine so the problem had to be with my computer. I tried to get it to recognize an audio CD but that was rejected outright. But what was the problem exactly? Investigation involved taking care to restart, attempt to reset firmware, PRAM, etc., trying to figure out how to run the hardware test (on a late 2008 unibody model macbook pro), etc. The latter involved me discovering that the hardware test software was no longer on the machine (since upgrading to Mountain Continue reading ‘Just Jiggle It’
Archive for the 'technology' Category
Well, yesterday evening turned out to be very interesting. I went to two things, my main mission being to get the chance to stand up in front of the groups of students and tell them about the USC Science Film Competition. The first was at the Academy for Polymathic Study (what better set of students to interest in this than the ones signed up to do things in the spirit of polymathy?), during the late afternoon “Polymathic Pizza” series. (I’ve presented in that very series myself, talking about the idea of “Play” in science and how important it is for creativity and discovery.) Happily, my friend and colleague Tara McPherson from the School of Cinematic Arts was presenting, and so after I told the students about the competition, I sat and listened to her presentation, since I had some time before the next thing. It was marvellous, and the students were very engaged. Tara took them through the arc of her academic interests over the years of her career, showing how she morphed from (mostly) traditional humanist to someone who researches and explores the role of all kinds of media in popular culture, helping to explore and create new forms of journal, new ways of presenting data, and studying the impact of media. I recommend looking at the journal Vectors for an example of a journal that is designed to present works that would not work as well in traditional print (e.g., being able to have a scholarly discussion of a piece of video media is helped a lot by being able to show it alongside your argument – not so easy in a print journal), and then head over to Scalar, created by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture (which Tara directs) which is collaborating with a number of University presses on various approaches to new platforms for new media in academia. She also mentioned various examples in the scientific side of things with regards using distributed media for things like crowdsourcing important data.
I had to leave before she finished, so did not get to ask her the question on many of your minds: what is the origin of the (playful?) choice of names Vectors and Scalar?
Then I went over the School of Cinematic Arts to meet another friend and colleague, Continue reading ‘While Appearing’
This film is simply delightful, although in the context of the article I read about it* in (in the May 14th 2012 New Yorker, “Here’s Looking at You” by Nick Paumgarten – about domestic use of unmanned drones and all that is in store of us there), also a Continue reading ‘Flying Robot Band’
Did you hear yesterday’s Fresh Air? It was very interesting indeed, being, as it was, about a subject that you probably know interests me a lot – electric cars. The guest was Seth Fletcher, and he was talking about electric cars, hybrids, and so forth. Not focusing on far futuristic matters so much as what is possible now (with all the exciting things going on in the market), and where we might go next in terms of the development of the science and technology needed to continue to change our world by moving away from gasoline as our primary energy source for transport. A lot of his focus in on the development of batteries, and he does a good job of explaining Continue reading ‘Lightning in a Bottle’
So at the end of last week, it was that time. I’d been doing temporary countermeasures over the past month or two to put it off, but it was inevitable. I tried to run Illustrator, the program with which I do my painting for The Project, and while opening, it stopped and complained – I’d run out of hard drive space. Somehow, since what feels like only yesterday, I have filled (well, with 4GB spare) 320 GB of had drive space with…. Well… Who knows what? Lots of little bits of everything, I expect. So after a bit of research, I decided to go wild and get a 750GB 7200 rpm drive from Seagate – new on the market this year, apparently. Usually I wait for new things like this to have their creases ironed out, but it seems that they’re really just gluing two smaller drives together, and their 500GB version of the same thing seems to be thought of as reliable, so I decided what the hey. And this whole series of drives is called the Momentus, so surely that’ll be a good thing too.
This meant a fast trip to the always-fun Fry’s Electronics, in Burbank, about which you’ve maybe read a post from me before. Fast because it closes at 9:00pm and I was leaving the house at 8:30pm, but wanted to get it so I could begin the cloning process (see later) overnight, so as to get back to work on the computer the next day.
The trip was great, as I expected, made even better by the fact that the things I wanted were actually on the shelves – said hard drive (a steal at $99), an enclosure for it to make it USB accessible ($9.99) while I clone my existing drive to it, and some tools ($13.99), since Apple, fresh in their new role as Evil Empire, keep changing the screws on the inside of their electronics to odd sizes and shapes to discourage DIY work, trying to force you to take it into their amusingly called Genius Bar… Happily, people have been making screwdrivers to undo the five round pointed head screws on such models and selling them in kits. I found one. Hurrah! (Turns out that I did not need the one for the pentascrew… it was introduced on a different model than mine. The smaller Phillips head driver was good to have though, and as Continue reading ‘Momentus Mingus’
Not long ago, I noticed that the cleaning robot was ill. It would start its cleaning cycle, run very fast for some seconds, and then make one of its warning noises and stop. This was a few days before my guests were due to arrive for the holidays, and I’d planned a big session of extra attentive house preparation, involving me putting up curtain rails for some new drapes in the living room, installing various shiny fittings in a spare bathroom, and a few other things like that, while the plucky little robot would run around all the floors and give them a good clean. So I had a dilemma – spend time trying to get it well, or use that time to do the floors myself? A bit of googling revealed that the warning noise was signalling something about a sensor possibly going bad. Did I want to spend the time heading to Fry’s electronics to see they had the sensors? Then digging around inside replacing them, with all the soldering, etc., that would entail? Fun, but time-consuming. After a day or two, I decided to do an investigative poke around the interior of the patient, just in case it might just be a matter of clearing or re-seating the sensor array…You never know.
The innards are delightfully put together! The iRobot people deserve some congratulations for good design. It took little time to take the thing apart, and it is very modular inside, with various components popping out quite nicely. It had a lot of dust in several places, notably. I got out my can of compressed air to blow dust out from various tight corners, and put it all back together after a short while. I got it started again and it seemed to run normally, until I noticed that it was missing a key Continue reading ‘Robot Realities’
Ack! It is September already. Somehow the last few days got away from me and I prepped a number of posts, but then they did not make it to the blog. One of them was another followup to the Friday iPad post (see also here). I wanted to show you one of the things I did in class on Wednesday. Recall that I am experimenting with using the iPad with Note Taker HD in class to simply sit with the students and work through solving problems with them on “paper”… a sort of fireside chat, if you will. The first experiment was on Wednesday, and I did it a little slowly at first, but I think it’ll be just great. Bear in mind I’m just scribbling with my finger here… I think I’ll try using the stylus I got the other day for variety. Click for larger versions.
Well, there was a lot of interest in the iPad discussion I started on Friday, with hundreds of people viewing the post, and several interesting comments either put after the post or sent to me in email. Note taking to the device via handwriting seemed to be a major thing that people are keen on, and I admit that it is also something that, as I said in the Friday post, made me see the device firmly as a primary work tool here on out. But some are unsure, perhaps unconvinced. So, I decided to reply to many of the comments by writing a letter, including a diagram of sorts. I did it on screen, while riding the bus home, using the excellent program Note Taker HD that I told you about in the post, mostly in “edit 2″ mode, allowing for compact and relatively neat writing with just my finger. Here it is (just click on an image of a page for a larger view, and be warned that a few full stops (periods) at the end of sentences did not show up so well in the images):
One of the things I’ve been meaning to tell you about is my recent explorations of the capabilities of the iPad. I’m extremely impressed with it, and want to tell you a bit about how I use it in case it might work for you. There is a lot that is being said out there, and lots of yelling and whining about what it is not, and so a lot of people are a bit confused, it seems. I’ve a nice chunk of time here on the bus, heading home from my first day back on campus, just after the end of my first class of semester, where in fact I used the device a lot, and so this is a good time to begin to tell you a bit about it.
Bottom line? The small bag I carry that you can see in the picture to the left contains everything I need for a huge number of day to day work tasks, for the research, teaching, and administrative tasks that are part of the standard Professor gig, and a whole lot more. It is all I carry, even on a longer business/work trip.
The main complaint that a lot of people had was based on dashed expectations. Lots of us, and I include myself in this camp, wanted Apple to produce something like a tablet computer. A “real” computer. One that you can program and so forth like you might do your laptop or desktop, or at least run a lot of applications that are considered the business of serious computers these days, even if not writing machine code or C++ or FORTRAN…(You know, the stuff of Real Programmers.)
So typically, when the iPad is discussed, people give a list of queries about what they want it to do, and if it does not do those things, it is dismissed as a toy, essentially. End of discussion. You can find lots of shouty discussions about the iPad on the web, with lots of accusations about how Apple let people down, and the phrase “dealbreaker” being tossed around as though its some discussion about dating criteria. Ok, so the iPad might not work for you, but make sure it is really for the right reasons.
The bottom line, I realized after having my own list of disappointments, is that the more useful approach might be to figure out what sort of things it does well, and to not think of it as a failed laptop or tablet, but an opportunity to learn a new workflow Continue reading ‘My Office in My Handbag: The iPad as a Serious Work Tool’
So I mentioned recently that we’d been filming for the fifth season of The History Channel’s The Universe, earlier this month and during some of the previous two. Well, I learned the other day to my surprise that the new season starts airing next week!
On Thursday 29th July at 9:00pm (8:00pm central, but check local listings) the first episode will air. It’s a survey of some of the wonderful things in our solar system. You can find a synopsis here.
I went off into an extra dimension yesterday. Well, in a manner of speaking. No, this was not anything to do with my string theory work!
I was being filmed in 3D.
There’s a bit of a 3D revolution going on. There have been a lot of 3D movies out lately. Some are better than others, and a great deal more are to come very soon, as you probably know. Many major filmmakers that you probably regard as “serious” filmmakers have 3D films in the works. There’ll be 3D TV channels appearing soon in the UK and probably elsewhere, and they’ve been selling the TVs already, both there and in the USA (and I imagine, in other places).
There are lots of questions you’ve no doubt asked yourself: Is the technology here to stay? Is it just a gimmick? Is it just a ploy to combat piracy? Is it a new aspect of the visual form that creative filmmakers can genuinely use to enhance the story-telling? Has that happened yet? And so on and so forth…
I’ve been asking myself those questions too. I did not expect, however, to be part of the revolution (if that is what it is) and be filmed in 3D, so soon, for a TV show. My Continue reading ‘Tales From The Industry XXXI – An Extra Dimension’
The next in the Categorically Not! series the series of events is tomorrow, Sunday 18th April. It is, as usual, held at the Santa Monica Art Studios. It’s a series – started and run by science writer K. C. Cole – of fun and informative conversations deliberately ignoring the traditional boundaries between art, science, humanities, and other subjects. I strongly encourage you to come to them if you’re in the area. Here is the website that describes past ones, and upcoming ones. See also the links at the end of the post for some announcements and descriptions (and even video) of previous events. (At the right is an image of a beautiful sculpture by artist Yossi Govrin, who is on this week’s program.)
The theme this month is Imagine. Here’s the description from K. C. Cole:
Sometimes extreme geekery is charming. (As you may know, I do not use the word “geek” lightly.) I spotted this on Phil’s Bad Astronomy Blog. You know what shape it is trying to evoke, I presume. Know also that this structure is 8.8 micro meters across, and that the subject was magnified some 5000 times normal size to make the image. I’ve no idea how they Continue reading ‘Best in Show’
Well, while it is not Spring time quite yet, I thought I’d share this with you. I’ve quite Continue reading ‘Spring Time (Sort Of)’
Did you watch Meteorite Men last week? If not, you can probably catch a repeat. It is a new series, airing 9pm ET/PT Wednesday nights, on the Science Channel about two guys who search for meteorites. Check your local listings for times. (Photo cheekily snapped from their site. Copyright aerolite meteorites.)
I learned about it from Bob Melisso, my producer/filmmaker friend (and occasional collaborator: see here, here and here) who made the pilot and is the supervising producer for the series. From the website:
Continue reading ‘Meteorite Men!’
I’m sitting here recovering from last night’s event (more later), which, when you clear away the details (and the large amount of left over food, huge number of dirty dishes, glasses, pots, pans, etc.), was all about science, film making and the media. There’s something else that is being discussed a lot recently that is about that too.
It seems to be all over the blogosphere (e.g., here), since apparently Lost is a very popular show, and so I’ll mention it here. You can now enroll in Lost University as part of the DVD/Blueray release of Lost’s Season 5. What you’ll be able to do (it says on their website), is enroll and take courses in Psychology, Foreign Language, Jungle Survival, Philosophy, History, and Physics. The Physics part is all about time travel. Classes are being “taught” by real professors. I mean actual people, not characters. I know this since I’m one of these professors.
Who knew I’d end up being faculty at another university teaching such a popular Continue reading ‘Lost Lessons’
Fascinating. I am testing out a new method of posting to the blog. I replaced my ancient and frustrating ipod (I think enough time has been spent tinkering around in its innards (see e.g. here) and now I realize the hard drive itself is now damaged) and my old Palm Tungsten by one new device, an iPod Touch. It seems to work well, and is my compromise to the iPhone mania – I find the fact that you are forced by AT&T into an expensive data contract for the iPhone a bit objectionable, and I certainly don’t want to pay that much to be connected all the time, and moreover have no wish to be connected all the time, and my current phone is a really good phone that does more of what I want than the iPhone does (my phone has a radio for example – it is free and works whether you have a connection to the web or not – good old-fashioned FM) and I am not really one for getting new devices just for newness’ sake. (I’ve realized to my delight that this solution also means that I get to continue saying that I’m the last person in LA without an iPhone. )
Since I needed to replace the other things and since the Touch does have Bluetooth and wireless, this seemed like a good move. I can reliably listen to music again, and It will help with productivity too, I can do some communication on the move Continue reading ‘Testing, Testing’
Well, it can’t have escaped your attention. I imagine that whatever news sources you use are full of stories about today being the 40th anniversary of the first landing on the moon. (Well, the first by human beings, anyway. )
I won’t be writing a long thoughtful piece reflecting on the matter. Right now, I can’t really think of much to say that has not been said. Perhaps it is just because it is too hot here. I’m not sure.
However, I will encourage you to find a quiet moment sometime today, stop, look Continue reading ’40 Years Ago…’
Given all the gardening I’ve been doing over the last week or so (there’s some seed-sowing action going on to the right – more later), it may be fitting to go and sit and participate in the event coming up today. It is another of the College Commons events I’ve been mentioning here.
It’ll be a round table discussion and workshop to kick off a series, and here’s the summary:
“The Spiritual Life of Plants” series, arranged by Natania Meeker and Antónia Szabari of French and comparative literature, aims to reunite urgent contemporary conversations around ecology and the built environment with an early modern past — a past in which plants existed both at the limits of being and at the frontier of new forms of knowledge. What might these animated plants have to tell us about the ways in which humans experience, regulate, and are transformed by the non-human beings that surround them? How can we carry these conversations forward into the present and the future?
Today’s round table: Continue reading ‘The Spiritual Life of Plants’
Bill Stone is quite an engaging speaker, it has to be said. I heard him on the BBC World Service, being interviewed about his hopes and plans to change the way we do things in space. It is a spirited case that he makes, where he deliberately invokes the spirit and the words of Sir Ernest Shackleton and other great explorers going off into the unknown. The audio is here. (If you come to this late, search their archive here.)
Then I checked and sure enough there was a TED talk from him last year. See here. You can see him in action as well, although the BBC interview is complementary Continue reading ‘From the Earth to the Moon?’
Last night, for one reason or another, I decided on the spur of the moment to head to the beach, in order to wander there with the darkness clinging to me while I faced the bracing wind and cleared my head of many things. Although not quite like walking, for example, the Northumbrian coastline, even this part of the Pacific can be wonderfully restless, rugged, and alive when there are strong storms in the air, as is the case right now in the area.
On my walk, heading Northwest, I saw the Santa Monica Pier in the distance, with its new (as of last Summer) Ferris Wheel sporting some 160000 LEDs (I read this – did not count them) and putting on a light show. It is interesting to look at for a number of reasons. They’ve programmed in a lot of patterns that it cycles through, some of which are nice, but the most interesting thing to me (and not depicted in my Continue reading ‘Light Thoughts’
I’m back home in Los Angeles now, after four days in Cambridge (UK) trying to pay attention to several interesting talks and meetings while being eight hours out of sync with my sleep. It has been interesting, but it is good to be back and getting on with the business of starting the new semester. I gave my first class of the season yesterday (upper division electromagnetism), and it looks to be a good group of students. I expect we’ll have fun! Additionally, two research meetings with graduate students meant for a nicely balanced first day back.
It’s (of course) 5:18am, and so while I sit here, wide awake, I’ll tell you about something I saw earlier in the week. While wandering around for a bit in Cambridge on Monday, I stumbled across the Corpus Clock and the Chronophage. It’d been mentioned to me about half an hour before by a friend, and I made a mental note to ask about it, but did not realize I’d stumble upon it so easily. Did you hear about it last year? I must confess that all the fuss about it totally passed me by. There’s been a lot of silly stuff said about it, including the usual sensational things about time and so forth, but at the core, the whole thing is quite marvellous. I’ve an old-fashioned streak to me, as you know by now, and so that it is essentially a traditional mechanical clock (despite the presence of LEDs to show the time – they are not controlled electronically, but are on all the time and the mechanical works moves slits to make them appear to go on and off) appeals to me immensely. The whole effect of using modern technology to Continue reading ‘The Chronophage’
View of the day from the garden. (Winter. Number x in a limited series of y.) (Click for larger view.) The rains have gone for a while. The sun is back, with clear blue skies to close out the year.
I’m trying to rest. Well, I’m working on various projects at home, mostly. Colours are on my mind a bit in one of these projects, actually. Later today I’m going to be down in the (only slightly mad-scientist) workshop making a portable screen on which to project films.
Projecting onto the wall is good, but I want to make a silver-grey screen with a dark border that will really pop the colours out. Some of this is about not projecting onto Continue reading ‘Red, Yellow, Blue, Green…’
Well, I probably am not worthy of the press credentials I was carrying around with me on Wednesday, as several days later I had still not done my “report” on the event. Well, here it is.
I went to a press conference and a symposium that relates directly to the issues I was talking about in my Tuesday post and its comment stream. All the things I was talking about with regards better contact between the science community and the filmmaking community so as to make films (and shows) that better represent science and scientists more accurately through something closer to a collaborative mode were brought up in these meetings and discussions. It was great to see this issue being taken seriously, and a well-meant effort being made. The core of the idea is to set up an office that will coordinate things – acting as a sort of clearing house that will put filmmakers (of all aspects of the process whether screenwriter, producer, director, etc) in touch with willing scientists who can be helpful in various topics. This is the Science and Entertainment Exchange.
A key thing that I have mentioned here many times before is the issue of it being about more than just fact-checking near-completed work. If scientists are involved at Continue reading ‘Tales From The Industry XXVI – Science and Entertainment Exchange’
Last week the Guardian did a special podcast about Barack Obama’s science policies, and the challenges that lie ahead for the new administration. It’s actually rather good (at least the parts I’ve heard so far – I’m listening to it in pieces while travelling) and I recommend it. They have lots of guests, many of whom you’ve maybe heard of (Lesley Stone, Martin Rees, Diana Liverman, Chris Mason, P Z Myers, Lawrence Krauss, Martin Barstow), and the issue is explored from several angles, from climate change, through stem cells, to the space program.
Over on Correlations, we’re in the process of saying goodbye. The PBS experiment with a genuinely new (for them) and fun science format, WIRED Science, along with its really fantastic online component (with resources for schools, the general public, the blog Correlations, and so forth), is officially over.
I don’t know exactly what went on behind the scenes at the PBS mother ship, but frankly, it seems that they just did not have the guts to try something new at this time, and are returning to their standard stuff. I thought that the show had a lot of good work in it, including several shining portions, and deserved a bit more time to find its feet. It may well have got there, building followers that would have tuned in regularly for years, becoming a sort of US (and science-oriented) version of the UK’s Tomorrow’s World (a BBC show that ran for 38 years and -despite its flaws- is fondly remembered by many generations). Oh well.
The mood at KCET (the local Los Angeles PBS affiliate that was making the show) was Continue reading ‘Goodbye to Correlations and WIRED Science’
The next Categorically Not! is on Sunday April 27th (upcoming). The Categorically Not! series of events that are held at the Santa Monica Art Studios, (with occasional exceptions). It’s a series – started and run by science writer K. C. Cole – of fun and informative conversations deliberately ignoring the traditional boundaries between art, science, humanities, and other subjects. I strongly encourage you to come to them if you’re in the area. Here is the website that describes past ones, and upcoming ones. See also the links at the end of the post for some announcements and descriptions (and even video) of previous events.
The theme this month is Loops Here’s the description from K C Cole:
When you come right down to it, just about everything is loopy: planets, proteins or life stories, things have a way of coming around again, always with a slightly different spin. This month’s Categorically Not! was conceived as a tribute to Douglas Hofstadter’s new book, I am a Strange Loop, which uses Continue reading ‘Categorically Not! – Loops’
Yes, it is here…
The Macbook Air. I’ve dreamed about an ultralight Mac for years, and they’ve gone Continue reading ‘Oh My…’
Today’s the 50th anniversary of an event that might be thought of as an extreme way of nationally getting really serious about Science education. Sputnik was launched by the USSR. The little pioneering satellite passed overhead several times a day, sending a powerful beeping signal over a radio channel. America immediately became scared, worried and paranoid and essentially declared it a national emergency to respond by a focus on better education in some science and technical subjects. Songs were written. The entire culture was changed.
Fear and paranoia are certainly not the ways I’d like to see us come back to recognizing the value and urgency of improved science education (not the least Continue reading ‘A Kick From Sputnik’
I promised some interesting television news earlier, and here it is. Well, it is actually blogging news too. First let me step back a touch. Recall that some time back I mentioned that there were a number of new science shows vying for the nod from PBS to be their new primetime science show? Viewers could go in and vote on which show they preferred. Well, the show that won this was WIRED Science, the show I also told you more about here. I’m pleased about this since I thought it was actually the best of the bunch.
So they’ve made some cast changes, and made new episodes (and are in the process of making more). The format is sort of like a magazine, so there are two people based in the studio (Chris Hardwick and Kamala Lopez) who introduce segments that are then played. These segments are essentially field reports from various reporters and agents in the field (Ziya Tong and Adam Rogers are two other principals in the studio at the start, but they are mostly doing field reports). There will also be some studio interviews (Ziya interviews Paul Kedrosky in the first show), and some other studio segments, like “What’s Inside” by Chris Hardwick, where he goes through a description of what’s inside an everyday household object or material. (I hope they do more of those – he’s really good at that.) For those of you from the UK, you’ll recognize the format – it is essentially like Tomorrow’s World used to be, but with more science1 (although since this is a WIRED project too, there’s going to be the fun/cool toys aspect).
Ok. So I want to make this post timely, but it means that it will begin to let a cat out of the bag. We’ll see how much I can save for a later post as I write1.
So, as I walked to the subway this morning (yes, they have one in LA), I went through my little checklist of things I take on self-assigned assignments of this sort.
Notebook for scribbling: Check
Pen for scribbling: Check
Phone (now with decent back-up camera): Check
Spare battery for camera: Check
Decent excuse/reason for being spectacularly late: Check
Good footwear for endless walking back and forth: Check
By now you get it. I’m either doing one of my parade reports, or perhaps a street fair/party, museum exhibit, or some random science fair, object or installation or other. Yes, but which? Well, apparently I was going to the future:
Well, I’m reporting on this as part of a longer blog post (update: it is here) about an event I attended today at the Los Angeles Convention Center, but since it’ll take me a while to finish, and it will be buried in all the other stuff (including pictures and so forth), I’ll snip out a bit of what I’m saying there to inform you of this interesting development:
So what were some of the big ticket items, at least in terms of where all the regular press were? Well, the biggest was of course the X prize. There was a long movie with lots of stuff about space, and dreams about our future in space, and animations and things of roving robots on planetary surfaces, and all that good stuff…. very nice, I thought, and began to wander off…. and then there was a round of applause from everyone and I came back as a voice announced “The Google Lunar X Prize”, and various other people showed up on the stage (like one of the founders of Google – forgot his name, and later, good ol’ Buzz Aldrin, who seems to be required at these sorts of events). The Google co-founder guy began his speech by acknowledging all the Google engineers… and announcing that they’d just launched a new version of the moon. Applause. (I’m pretty sure that they mean Google Moon, by the way.)
Well, the time came last week. After several years of service, and a valiant attempt to stay in service even with illness and infirmity, there was nothing to do but go for retirement, and let a replacement take over.
Wait – No, not me! I’m talking about my trusty Sony Ericsson T616, of course. A bit of gadget babble follows. You’ve been warned: It is a wonderful phone, and of course, being the conservative (read: boring old) person that I am, I pretty much wanted the same phone again. Of course, progress (as they ironically call it) meant that it can no longer be found in any store, so I tried to find whatever phone Sony Ericsson had made to replace it. (Side note: I’m waiting a few years for the iphone to get to a sensible price and go through an update or two before I go in that direction.) They’ve made some good-looking ones with excellent specs – proper grown-up looking phones with grown up capabilities. Not hip toys for the (post post) MTV generation, you understand. They’re fine (and often full of great features too, I know), but just not me.
Does my phone company (AT&T) do them? Strangely, not any more, and hardly any others, as far as I could see. Meanwhile, you can get them in Europe all over the place (what with their being so far ahead on these things, as usual), which is really no use to me here. So this put me into a bit of a haze for a few days since I really don’t want to go the way of the cutesy flip phone – like one of those RAZR, KRZR, etc., models that everybody -and I mean everybody- seems to be getting. I’m not a huge fan of flip phones in general (I went through that phase a while ago) and furthermore a lot of Continue reading ‘Reluctant Retirement’
Working by remote control, engineers at the Kennedy Space Center began pumping a half-million gallons of super-cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen rocket fuel into the shuttle Endeavour’s external tank early Wednesday, setting the stage for launch on a space station assembly mission at 6:36:42 p.m., ….
(That’s Eastern time.)
…if all continues to go well, Endeavour’s crew â€” commander Scott Kelly, pilot Charles Hobaugh, Tracy Caldwell, Rick Mastracchio, Dave Williams, educator-astronaut Barbara Morgan and Al Drew â€” will begin strapping in around 3:15 p.m.
I always get a bit uneasy when one of these things is about to launch or land. This mission has added significance (re: Challenger), as you may know. There’s more in the story by CBS’ Bill Harwood, from which I quoted above. (See also an AP/Yahoo story by Rasha Madkour…and there’s a slide show.)
As a means of distracting myself (and maybe you) from the whole thing, here’s a bit Continue reading ‘A Bit Jittery’
Yesterday was (depending upon who’s counting) the 16th anniversary of that thing we call the World Wide Web becoming a public entity. The Web is not to be confused with the Internet, which is much older, of course1. I’m talking about Tim Berners-Lee’s idea and implementation thereof. (I should not neglect to mention that this was done at CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Europe.) His original posting (on the newsgroup alt.hypertext) proposing the structure can be viewed here, and here’s an extract:
The project started with the philosophy that much academic information should be freely available to anyone. It aims to allow information sharing within internationally dispersed teams, and the dissemination of information by support groups.
The WWW world consists of documents, and links. Indexes are special documents which, rather than being read, may be searched. The result of such a search is another (“virtual”) document containing links to the documents found. A simple protocol (“HTTP”) is used to allow a browser program to request a keyword search by a remote information server.
The web contains documents in many formats. Those documents which are hypertext, (real or virtual) contain links to other documents, or places within documents. All documents, whether real, virtual or indexes, look similar to the reader and are contained within the same addressing scheme.
To follow a link, a reader clicks with a mouse (or types in a number if he or she has no mouse). To search and index, a reader gives keywords (or other search criteria). These are the only operations necessary to access the entire world of data.
What am I going to do to celebrate?
Since everyday I celebrate the WWW by using it a lot, to commemorate the event I think I’m going to pay a visit to the (real, physical) library, then read a good old-fashioned book for a while, and then hand-write a letter. I used to write so many letters, long ago, and from time to time I try to stop everything and pick up a pen and write one. I got in the mood the other day while in Aspen, and went and found some letter-writing paper and envelopes, curled up on a sofa, and wrote for a Continue reading ‘Reading, Writing, and ’Rithmetic’
Just now I noticed to my horror that it was on the 1st of September of last year that I intended to get around to repairing Mingus, my G4 powerbook , at the time the main workhorse of my away-from-campus computer arsenal. There was an unexpected failure which I could not figure out the source of, and I managed to get it partly alive -alive enough to drag about 12 GB of data from the hard drive via booting it as a target disc of an iMac, Ella. Well, I never sent it off as I was (1) thrown by the fact that I had no warranty or repair contract coverage on it, and so any repair would have to be paid for, and (2) in the middle of the semester – a really busy one – and so I did not really have that much time to devote to the issue.
Well, it all got put on a back burner because I decided to use my teaching laptop (a little iBook) as my main laptop -just for a week or two, I told myself. Eventually, last Continue reading ‘Memorising Mingus’
As you might have guessed, I could not resist having a look at the line for the iphone at the Grove shopping mall/village/whatever. Here’s an overhead shot of a cluster near the Apple Store’s entrance just after the launch at 6:00pm:
(Click for larger.)
What you can’t hear is people cheering as people either enter or emerge (with their new acquisition) from the store (I’m not sure which). It’s not everyday you see this many people (in a very long line indeed – see one of four segments at right) waiting to shell out so much money for something that they all know will be very obsolete a year from now. They just want to be part of what is (seriously for a moment Continue reading ‘iPhone Madness’
Thereâ€™s now a site where people can link to, review and rate scientific videos online. This is a great step as there are so many wonderful lectures online but currently theyâ€™re spread all over the web and itâ€™s always hard to tell the quality and level that a lecture is going to be.
Jonathan has also done posts about online resources in theoretical high energy physics, including a recent one where he discussed SciTalks a bit more.
This got me thinking a bit about where we are going with all these resources, how useful they are, and -very importantly- how easy it all is to find, and then to search through. (Imagine there are 10 hour long talks broadly on your favourite topic. Assuming there are no accompanying files, how can you search them to find a specific fact that they might mention, without sitting through ten hours worth of material?) Well, ironically, one of the first things that caught my eye on SciTalks was a rather nice talk by Jennifer Golbeck (given at FermiLab last year) entitled “Social Networks, the Semantic Web, and the Future of Online Scientific Collaboration”. She’s quite interesting about this very topic… She describes online collaboration, data sharing, social networks, etc, all in the context of helping us do science (not just physics by the way!). She also illustrates her subject matter -still staying on topic- using examples of data sets from Facebook, Myspace, Friendster, Continue reading ‘SciTalks’
I learned today that there was a problem with RIM’s Blackberry network for about ten hours yesterday, and the wireless devices were cut off from the mother ship, or each other, or the hive mind, or whatever. (see e.g. a Reuters story here.) My thoughts went out to some of my friends at the PeRIMeter Institute in Canada, such as Bee. I hope the withdrawal pangs were not too severe!
I find it particularly sychronicitous (if it’s not a word, it should be one) therefore that probably during some of that outage I went for a bit of a walk to clear my head last night and found myself at Pinkberry (see earlier post). I had a small “original” flavour with…. blackberries:
It was only looking through some pictures just now that I connected this with the news today of last night’s outage.