knowledge is power Last updated - July 2002

 A Weblog exploring the repository of all human knowledge

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Random links
Cleaning out some bookmarks
  • Weirdo Leonardo "This web site is about the stranger artworks and writings of Leonardo da Vinci" Some are fairly graphic (for the Renaissance).
  • Panoramic map collection From the Library of Congress. "The panoramic map was a popular cartographic form used to depict U.S. and Canadian cities and towns during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries."
  • Graphic Design in the Mechanical Age "These diverse materials offer a rare view into the process of design as well as its finished results. Drawing on this unparalleled resource, the exhibition explores the unique fusion of art and mass media that gave rise to modern design. "
  • MC Hawking's Crib "Yo! This site is your ultimate resource for information about Stephen Hawking the gangsta rapper." Sample lyrics:
    "That's entropy or E-N-T-R-O to the P to the Y,
    the reason why the sun will one day all burn out and die.
    Order from disorder is a scientific rarity,
    allow me to explain it with a little bit more clarity.
    Did I say rarity? I meant impossibility,
    at least in a closed system there will always be more entropy.
    "


A new kind of science
There's a buzz going around about Stephen Wolfram's book A New Kind of Science. The author claims to have discovered underlying principles that affect just about everything in the universe. The concept seems to be based on simple systems being able to accomplish very complex things. I won't pretend to understand this yet, especially without reading the book, but what I find interesting is his take on book vs. website:

"But what's still important about a physical book is that it delimits its contents in a much more definite way than one can in a more fluid medium like the web. In A New Kind of Science I've written down in a complete and coherent way what I think people need to read to understand my ideas and discoveries. The web can give more details, and more interactivity. But it's hard to know if you've read everything on a big website. And a website can change every day. In A New Kind of Science I want to present what I've been thinking about for the past twenty years in a single definite package that it's possible for people to study in detail, and refer to unchanged for years to come."

In other words, such a complex concept can't be learned interactively or in a non-linear way. He also touts the book's special hi-res printing and explains that the system of the Web can't handle his illustrations. Are these self-imposed limits set by Wolfram? Probably not for a mind this innovative, but the challenges of getting his ideas out to the general public, both by side-steppng peer-review and basically self-publishing are probably enough to deal with.

The NYT article has a better summary explanation and some images from the book. And this Wired article on Wolfram explains the man behind the work.


Stephen Jay Gould
We don't have too many popular scientists in America, but now we have one less. To become popular, a scientist must be able to explain to the rest of us what they know of the world and the theories on what they're trying to figure out. Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and Stephen Jay Gould are familar to everyone for their ability to explain science with the technical knowledge of a scholar and the enthuasiasm of a child. Gould said himself in his eulogy for Sagan: "Why then do we downgrade the professional reputation of colleagues who can convey the power and beauty of science to the hearts and minds of a fascinated, if generally uninformed, public?" Besides his contributions to paleontology, evolutionary theory and zoology, Gould was a master of the essay. His writings, whether they be studies of a land snail from the Bahamas, an explanation of critical scientific thought, or the personal observations on baseball and growing up in Queens, his essays were carefully thought out laticeworks of persuasion.
  • The Median is not the Message, his thoughts on statistics and his earlier battle with cancer. "From years of experience with the small-scale evolution of Bahamian land snails treated quantitatively, I have developed this technical knowledge - and I am convinced that it played a major role in saving my life. Knowledge is indeed power, in Bacon's proverb."
  • His final essay for his series in Natural History magazine. "As one major reason for evolution's enduring popularity among scientific subjects, our minds combine the subject's sheer intellectual fascination with an even stronger emotional affinity rooted in a legitimate comparison between the sense of belonging gained from contemplating family genealogies and the feeling of understanding achieved by locating our tiny little twig on the great tree of life. Evolution, in this sense, is "roots" writ large."
  • A good resource of interviews, quotations and essays.


Tech News


Chicago Stuff


Verisign and trust
Have you seen the new Verisign commercial? Where you see people walking around with their salaries on their caps or their credit card numbers on their T-shirts? We're supposed to trust this inept monopoly with personal information when they don't do anything about domain hijacking? Never mind the company's history of selling WHOIS data. This Salon article on the Hijacking of Excite's domain in 1997 proves it's not a new thing. Let's hope the angry mob can do something about this.

Here's an eSecurity Online editorial commenting on how Verisign's print ads are bringing information security into the mainstream.


Formula One
The Ferrari team orders Rubens Barrichello to slow down on the last lap and let his teammate Michael Schumacher win. Do they really need to let him win? He's won 5 of 6 races this year and his unchallenged dominance borders on boredom. There's no doubt he's a master, and Ferrari pays him enough (rumoured to be twice as much as the next highest paid driver) that they deserve to have him win, but today's Austrian Grand Prix give-away lessens what he's trying to do - equal the great Juan Fangio with 5 Championships.

More random links
All right, I'm through ranting. Read some links.
  • The Zen TV Experiment "TV trains us to orient toward and tune in to the entertainment quality of any experience, event, person. We look for that which is entertaining about any phenomenon rather than qualities of depth, social significance, spiritual resonance, beauty, etc. In this sense TV doesn't imitate life, but social life now aspires to imitate TV. " via glossosuarus
  • Everthing Isn't Under Control a very good Chicago blog that I keep forgetting to put on my list.
  • Will Watson Make Web Browsers Obsolete? "A play on the Sherlock search program that comes with all Macs, Watson is a downloadable $39 application that sits on your desktop and pulls data from a multitude of websites. It strips out the ads and graphics to present only the information you want, in a clean, intuitive, consistent interface." Unlike many touted Web services, I doesn't rely on XML. I guess I would have to try to put this to work to see if this would have a real impact on browsing habits.


Art Chicago
For those of you in Chicago, the best art show in the country is at Navy Pier this weekend - Art Chicago. Far from stuffy gallery art and even farther from what you normally find at an art fair, your bound to see a few things that make you stand with you mouth open. If the crowds at the Pier over the weekend scare you, you could sneak out of work and head over during the day on Monday 12-6, but be warned, they'll be packing up.

Random links


A few hoaxes
The Florida Times Union tells a story of big companies like Blockbuster and smart men like Ted Turner falling for a magic box investment scam. The scammer shows the investors a demonstration of full quality video running over a phone line and modem, when its really just a VCR in a computer case. Doesn't the magic box scam go back to the middle ages? This Wired article Monster in a Box details the story of an 18th century mannequin seated in a cabinet that could play chess. It beat Napoleon, Ben Frankiln and Charles Babbage. As seen on Lake Effect.

Another hoax that's going around isn't new either. I've gotten 5 emails about the jdbgmgr.exe virus, even one from a computer network consultant. It's the basic 'look for this infected file on your machine and delete it' virus. It's a standard file, a Java debugger manager. Come on people, we went through this with SULFNBK.EXE. If you get a virus warning via email telling you to tell all your friends about it, look it up, before doing anything. And what should you do? The opposite of what the email tells you to.



Food and blogging
The last thing I need to be doing at the moment is another blog, but I've gone ahead and started work on a food blog. It will be a semi-weekly record of things I cook, eat and drink, with plenty of photography. It's my first foray into using Movable Type, and I'm pretty pleased so far, although I've got a lot to learn before I can get all the features to work. I also know there's some issues with the templates, but everything seems to work for the moment, except the comment form doesn't appear in NN4.x but as everybody is fond of saying about Netscape 4 issues: if your using it, it's your problem, not mine.

The project is in its earliest stages, and I know the worst thing to do is to publish something like this before I have even settled on the name, but its just a hobby. Soon they'll be links galore, recipe categories and I'll figure out how to link to the photographs from the archive pages

I must say that I'm very impressed with Movable Type. I've been doing KIPlog by hand for 2 years and 8 months and it's a bit of a pain to not be able to work as fast as I can by hand (with the help of BBEdit), and I'll have to learn how to work all the features, but its very neat.




He's back
Lake Effect is back after three months.



Photography
Dues Ex Machina, The Digital Photography Exhibit sponsored by Bradley U has opened. Very interesting work. This sort of photography deserves to be larger however, at least 500 pixels wide.



Photographymmm... Domaine DuPage
That there on the right is Domaine Dupage, a French country ale from Two Brothers, a near-Chicago micro-brewery. Great stuff. Find it at Binny's, or on tap in such great places as the Clark Street Ale House, or the Map Room. I'm secretly starting work on a food blog to bring you such valuable knowledge, and am doing some photography to illustrate it.

For this cause, I just bought the MC-EU1 remote control for my Nikon 885. It's an expensive shutter release cord. While essential for tripod work, (I got tired of using the self timer) it also advertised some time-release functions. However the minimum interval time between shots is two minutes. Of course, after I bought it, I find out about the DigiSnap remotes, which allow more programming, any interval time, and longer cords. Also they have a model that allows fancier set-ups like IR and external triggering. While its a bit more then I need, it's worth considering if you're looking for a remote shutter release for a digital camera. I'd really be sold if they had one with a flash sync jack on it.

Here's some photography links while I'm on the subject.
  • Still waiting for Dues Ex Machina, The Digital Photography Exhibit sponsored by Bradley U. my alma mater. Boy, to think what Howard Goldbaum, Exhibit Curator and my old photojournalism professor would do if I was four days late on an assignment...
  • I found this scrapbook of a helicopter crew chief's photos from Vietnam. Quite expressive and important historical snapshots.
  • Rephotographing the West
  • Waterlogged Camera Turns Magic A guy drops his Nikon 990 into a pond and now its takes really cool pictures. (By the way that Wired article links to Nat. Geo. photographer Bruce Dale's site which is worth a look)
  • Worldsurface Excellent travel site, full of advice and photography. With the emphasis on "sustainable tourism for independent travellers and backpackers". Sadly they have nothing on Tenerife, my next trip in September.



Peak Season
It's Everest climbing season. Here's some news and expeditions to watch.
  • Mountainzone.com's 2002 Everest coverage They'll be cybercasting an American expedition which includes Chicago Climber Al Hanna
  • Everestnews.com Headlines
  • Everestnews.com also has a list of the teams this year including a 50th anniversary (it's a year early to allow the release of the film about it on the actual anniversary) attempt by Peter Hillary, son of Sir Edmund. The son and grandson of Tenzing Norgay will also be on the mountain.
  • CNN story on an expedition team planning to clear garbage and bodies from Everest.



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