Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Street Smarts et al

Finally, the US is beginning to realize that biking and walking can coexist with cars in cities without too much of a problem as seen in the US Today article titled "'Complete streets' program gives more room for pedestrians, cyclists". When reading this, you get the sense people no longer acquiesce to car-dominated roads with no provision for bikers and pedestrians to go about their business without having to use their road rocket to get the job done.

This move to take back cities for the people who live in them is also involving the idea of free mass transit as this makes eminently good sense economically and environmentally as seen by studies like Fare Free Mass Transit and a blurb in the NY Sun titled Idea of Making Subways Free Advanced by Theodore Kheel. In CT, where traffic is a nightmare, people are advocating this radical idea as well because it would encourage people to leave their cars to take buses and trains to get to work if cost was taken out of the equation. Mike Bloomberg is in favor of both concepts for NYC but Albany politicos are leery that revenues would be lost but progress is actually being made.

A city that has an integrated city transportation environment is Portland Oregon where people can get where they are going with minimal impact on the environment.

Another city getting involved in integrated transportation is Austin Texas where biking is an art form thanks to Lance Armstrong.

Last but not least is the PBIC, Check it out by clicking on the PBIC logo seen below. "Keep on Truckin'" - R. Crumb

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Birds

Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds terrorized movie goers over 40 years ago. Today, the terror maybe long gone but a robo bird will be checking us out in similar fashion to the crows in the old movie classic. Enter RoboSwift, a bot designed to spy on humanity as needs warrant was based on "the design on recent findings on the common swift’s flight features, as detailed in an April issue of the journal Nature."

Question, why can't this be used to check the health of crops in a farmer's field or check out the health of various rare bird populations in the Amazon? Sounds like a better use of this very elegant tech than to spy on people if you ask me.

"The tool maker never knows how his tools will be used." - Anonymous
Postscript: I saw swifts in action flying at close quarters over a large field at a folk festival. Small, darting and absolutely amazing comes to mind with one nagging question, how do they lock on to their insect prey while pushing their flight envelop to the limit?

Parallel Earth

A sentient world is nearer than you think with the US Department of Defense (DOD) intentions of creating a "a copy of you in an alternate reality to see how long you can go without food or water, or how you will respond to televised propaganda."

If this isn't enough, other details like world economics, mob behavior and water availability will be put into the mix creating a SIMS world of unprecedented scale and interactivity. Purdue University and Simulex (the commercial developer of the Purdue code) are the organizations who built the software and Simulex successfully pitched this endeavor to DARPA and, you guessed it, The Department of Homeland Security. Presently, they are already using the program to visualize various terrorist scenarios that could happen in the US along with simulations of operations happening in Iraq and Afghanistan.The parallel world concept is very cool but having the military and Homeland Security be the primary users of this app is not when one considers the HS and the Bush Administration's track record regarding privacy, due process and the ability to do anything with any degree of competency.

Hopefully, Purdue will release the Synthetic Environment for Analysis and Simulations, or SEAS program to the public as this is an incredibly powerful tool that, in the right hands, could change how civilization does business as we move further into the 21st century.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Interface/You Gottal Love It!

Ubuntu Linux is coming on strong as seen by the video above. Apple and Microsoft are definitely going to start sweating it now that Linux is finally coming through with a hip interface.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The World Without Us

The World Without Us, written by Alan Weisman, shows just how transient humanity is save for the fact certain persistent man-made chemicals would still remain viable 200,000 years after our disappearance along with a 2 million year life span for Nuclear. In reading this excellent book, one is struck by the tremendous impact man has had on the environment and, additionally, just how much effort is needed to keep civilization functioning at acceptable levels, something most people take for granted until a component breaks down like the steam pipe burst in Midtown Manhattan. (Interruption of the pumping of water would render parts of NYC uninhabitable in 48 hours)

Another thought one takes from this book is recognizing the extent of the mass extinction of life that's happening all over the world because of the encroachment of civilization and the efforts being made to try to halt this "Big Killing" that indirectly threatens the existence of man.The Rewilding Institute, for example, proposes to repopulate the Great Plains with large predator/prey populations similar to what existed 20,000 years ago with the intent that this area would become a “self-willed land” or self-regulating ecosystem."
In the west, efforts to save the wild salmon is gathering steam whereby (4) dams would be blown up to enable salmon to make their annual trek to their spawning grounds, thus ensuring their continued existence on planet earth. Ironically, the Revenue Stream argument is the main reason why this radical idea of dam busting is beginning to take off.

All over the globe, people are finally becoming aware of climate change and the increasing impact it's having on society. At the same time, tech, in one way a culprit, in another, a possible white knight, is being used to show how climate change works and what can be done to deal with this serious situation.Seed, the nonprofit educational program from Schumberger, enables kids to learn about the environment through interactive science experiments like these while MIT and other institutions are spending millions to better understand the mechanics of climate change and what can be done about it before it's too late.When is it too late? As articulated by Foreign Policy, 450 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is the tipping point before Earth starts to become Venus. Go here to see FP's 21 Solutions to Save the World. It's a good read.

"Party on dude!" - Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Dangerous Thing

Reading the Discover article, How Much Does the Internet Weigh? is a dangerous thing as it leads one to asking, How much does the yearly output of digital data weigh? Using the article as reference, a guesstimate as to how much the world's digital data weighs becomes possible.

In 2007, the estimated volume of data produced will be 161 Exabityes Note:The IDC figure comes from Baseline's ProForma - April 2007

In 2010, the estimated volume of data produced will be 988 Exabityes Note:The IDC figure comes from Baseline's ProForma - April 2007

For 2007, the dataset weight will be equivalent to a midsized pebble.
For 2010, the dataset weight will be equivalent to a large pebble.

When looking at these results, one sees that the web routinely passes through almost 10% of the world's digital output (Web-14.6 Exabytes/Data-161 Exabytes=9.06%) on a yearly basis.

"God I love this country!" - R. Moran

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Auguries of Innocence

"To see a world in a grain of sand"
starts off William Blake's inspired poem Auguries of Innocence, a view of reality that, in an unintended way, describes how infinities reside within infinites throughout all of nature if one takes the time to look hard enough. This first line also shows how unknowingly prescient Blake was in regards to the Internet and how information is stored on millions of systems all over the world as described by a fascinating Discover article titled, - How Much Does the Internet Weigh?.Read the article but the second to the last sentence says it all.

The web's daily traffic flow of "40 petabytes, or 40 x 10 to the 15th bytes: a 4 followed by 16 zeros...weigh(s) roughly the same as the smallest possible sand grain , one measuring just two -thousandths of an inch across."

A.A. The yearly traffic flow of the web comes to 14,600 Petabytes (40x365) or 14.6 Exabytes, something equivalent to a large sand grain.

Any Questions?

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Transformers is MUCH better than expected even though the premise of the film is somewhat ridiculous to say the least. The CG is flawless, the story develops at an appropriate pace and the idea of the menacing power of autonomous, intelligent robots comes frighteningly clear with Frenzy, the small Decepticon that hacks into the Pentagon on Air Force One using DNA equipped adaptive genetic code to do the deed. The part that sends chills to people versed in tech is the way the insect-like Frenzy moves and acts at hyper speed and purpose. Compared to this, the Terminator/Predator and Alien characters look almost benign in their slow mammalian way of moving and dealing with the situation at hand, something that pales when seeing how Frenzy goes about doing destructo things for Megatron, the baddest of the bad Transformers.

The interesting thing regarding all of this is that Rodney Brooks of MIT and Hans Moravec of Carnegie Melon and others at Case Western University in Ohio are developing insect inspired bots that learn from the bottom up and are able to navigate in the environment without a problem. Also see Robotic Butterfly for another take on bots.

The part that's missing from this equation beside intelligence and transformation is power as the Transformers move, fly and move/destroy things with consummate ease, something that goes far beyond the tech of today's bots.

No question these hurtles will be overcome in due time. The question to ask is, Can we handle what is coming?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Quantum Politics

Seems Dick Cheney has achieved the impossible; being in two political states at the same time whereby he is not part of the executive branch yet claims executive privilege regarding secret documents that are his and his alone even though he is already refusing to comply with a national security directive issued by President Bush. Are we missing something here?

In Quantum Physics, this phenomenon is called Superposition, an arcane concept that explains how sub atomic particles like electrons and photons can be in two or more states at the same time. (Spin-Left/Right/Up/Down etc., etc.) Note: Superposition exists for all atoms in our universe but decoherence prevents this "weird" differing state effect from happening in the "real" world in which we live.

To verify Cheney's astounding feat of political duality, an experiment along the lines of Schrodinger's Cat may be necessary in order to determine if Dick is, in fact, alive and dead at the same time because he, as author of political duality, should have the same superposition capability as his notion of executive status and how it applies to ownership of secret government documents.

"God must be a boogy man" - Joni Mitchell

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Recycling 101

Al Gore should definitely like this tech as it takes plastic and turns it back into oil, something who's time has come but was impossible to do until now. Seems that the Global Resource Corporation has discovered the magic recipe of designing "a machine that uses 1200 different frequencies within the microwave range, which act on specific hydrocarbon materials." by melting them "at the appropriate wavelength" thus breaking down the material in question into diesel oil and combustible gas. Without question, if GRC's Hawk 10 runs at reasonable cost and with little pollution, these babies will be anywhere where recycling is done whether it be scrapyards, landfills or plastic recovery sites located at every supermarket in America.

Very cool idea, very innovative tech.
"Party on dude!" - Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure