Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It's Just Bits or Why TV is Dead

TV is Dead tells why the Net rules, something I have discovered first hand when doing video and uploading same to Vimeo,  an excellent resource for people like me who know enough about video to be dangerous but not enough to be a pro. As designer and web developer, I know quite a bit about systems and standards and also know the key to anything digital is to know how bits can be manipulated and to what device said bits can be processed and, in the case of video, displayed. What D. Eric Franks says is correct, hardware, outside of cameras, is becoming less important, something I have been waiting to happen for years as TV displays and computer displays historically don't play well together because of the curse of non-square pixels, the bain of anyone having to do any kind of video or design work intended to work on both platforms. Another interesting part of the article centers on resolution and software capability as 4K will be the standard for video and stills and video software will be an almagam of moving CG and real time manipulation of video.  This is indeed good news for designers like yours truly.

Ironically, one primary driving engine for all of this was Carousel, the predecessor to Adobe Acrobat, a collaboration between Apple and Adobe to enable accurate & transparent distribution of documents using Display Postscript as imaging model, a resolution independent technology not dependent on hardware display capabilities, something akin to what is happening today in the land of digital video and the net.

The Medial Merge is the new graphic reality, never to be turned off again. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Sound of Silence

The NY Times posted an article close to my heart titled Meditations on Noise.

The reason why I quoted this excellent piece at length is the fact I am not only basically deaf (jazz/rock musician + family has a predisposition toward hearing loss as my two brothers are deaf as rocks like me) but also have tinnitus, two conditions that impact my life in ways only the deaf can relate to. 
For instance, loud noises physically hurt as the attenuation of hearing causes sound (sirens are the best) to hone in on the frequencies I can still pick up. 
Listening: Listening (via hearing aids of course) requires intense attention as a minimum 10-20% of conversation is inevitably lost and people's voices, like my wife's, are absolutely impossible to comprehend unless she shouts, a situation frustrating and annoying to the max for both of us. At the end of the day, I am mentally fried, both from concentration and from tinnitus. I keep telling myself, I must learn how to lip read.
Isolation: You definitely zone out. When I take out the hearing aids, silence comes to the fore, something restful as it requires no attention to deal with it. 
Music/Telephone Equation: Hearing music is tough. I miss that big time while talking on the telephone is becoming a real hassle. Email me because telling me anything of consequence, especially URLs, is a total dead ender.
No doubt, this nation is a big time noise machine. Boom boxes, base in cars, trucks, jack hammers,  iPods equipped with ear buds, the list goes on and on as tech becomes ever more pervasive, thus drowning out the natural world and the beneficial sounds that go with it.  Whenever I go to NYC, the first thing I do is take out the hearing aids as the city's noise assaults my senses. When thinking about this, I realize Dwight Garner's correct about the helplessness one feels when faced with sonic blasts seemingly able to knock you off your feet.

Terrific article to say the least. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Business as Usual

Won't they ever learn? Extreme tech is risky but no problem, let's go for 9100 feet and see what happens. Mr. Change "we can make believe in" strikes again.

"Shown the data indicating that waivers and permits were still being granted, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, said he was “deeply troubled.”

“We were given the clear impression that these waivers and permits were not being granted,” said Mr. Cardin, who is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where Mr. Salazar testified last week. “I think the presumption should be that there should be stronger environmental reviews, not weaker.”

None of the projects that have recently been granted environmental waivers have started drilling.

However, these waivers have been especially troublesome to environmentalists because they were granted through a special legal provision that is supposed to be limited to projects that present minimal or no risk to the environment.

At least six of the drilling projects that have been given waivers in the past four weeks are for waters that are deeper — and therefore more difficult and dangerous — than where Deepwater Horizon was operating. While that rig, which was drilling at a depth just shy of 5,000 feet, was classified as a deep-water operation, many of the wells in the six projects are classified as “ultra” deep water, including four new wells at over 9,100 feet."

The question to ask now is: How much of a difference will this extreme deep water drilling make regarding the US and peak oil and is it worth the risk? Well, is it Mr. President?

Addendum. Click here for a live video of the spill courtesy BP

Friday, May 21, 2010

Being Realistic

The well written post in the NY Times titled Doomsayers Beware, a Bright Future Beckons states that in the end, all will be well regarding tech and the future of man. This may be so according to John Tierney, but to me, the most interesting part of the piece centers on how trading became the catalyst for tech,  something worth considering even though war also advances tech just as much as seen by the arms race all conflicting parties wage in attempting to win on the battlefield.

"What made Homo sapiens so special? Dr. Ridley argues that it wasn’t our big brain, because Neanderthals had a big brain, too. Nor was it our willingness to help one another, because apes and other social animals also had an instinct for reciprocity.

“At some point,” Dr. Ridley writes, “after millions of years of indulging in reciprocal back-scratching of gradually increasing intensity, one species, and one alone, stumbled upon an entirely different trick. Adam gave Oz an object in exchange for a different object.”

The evidence for this trick is in perforated seashells from more than 80,000 years ago that ended up far from the nearest coast, an indication that inlanders were bartering to get ornamental seashells from coastal dwellers. Unlike the contemporary Neanderthals, who apparently relied just on local resources, those modern humans could shop for imports.

“The extraordinary promise of this event was that Adam potentially now had access to objects he did not know how to make or find; and so did Oz,” Dr. Ridley writes. People traded goods, services and, most important, knowledge, creating a collective intelligence: “Ten individuals could know between them ten things, while each understanding one.”

While I agree trade (and war) were instrumental in enabling man to develop technology, there seems to be too great a belief tech will continue apace without too much difficulty, something I find somewhat specious given the current situation society finds itself in. i.e.

Oil - To replace this energy source is difficult to say the least. Oil is incredibly efficient. Portable, energy dense and easily processed and distributed, oil has all the prerequisites needed to sustain man as long as one doesn't care about pollution. As it becomes scarce, (Peak Oil), the stress on civilization will grow. When it's gone, the impact on civilization. if there is no substitute, goes beyond words.

Other factors:

  1. The Environment - Global warming is real no matter what the ultra right says. The magnitude of same is the 900 pound gorilla man has no answer for save that fossil fuels use must be radically curbed if we are to avoid the coming catastrophe which, if we continue on the path we are currently on, could push us to the edge of extinction.
  2. Racism, Religion & Nationalism - The troika of prejudice,  ignorance & hubris hinders progress in ways that boggle the mind. 
  3. Population - There are too many of us yet we continue to procreate at excessive levels. See China and India as prime examples along with poor countries like Bangladesh. Thomas Malthus, unfortunately, lives when peak oil, pollution and climate change are factored into the equation.
  4. The Lab vs. The Real World - What looks great in the lab can be blown away by the vagaries of the real world, something researchers know all too well when trying to create something of real value.
  5. Power - It's easy to make tech work when low power is the watchword. (smart phones, net books, etc.) but it's another thing all together to build cheap, environmentally safe and reliable power sources able to  drive a car for at least 100 miles or power an average home in the US for 20-30 years. At this point in time, systems able to do the job are years away from having any significant impact on how society conducts business.
  6. Money - The financial system is corrupt and broken. Just look at the US and Europe to see why. Fiat money backed by nothing and controlled by interests separate from tax payers no longer works. It took almost 100 years for central banking to achieve the noble goal of rendering the world and the US financially destitute but it's now here, something not factored into the tech equation in the Doomsayers article. Without money, there is no tech. (Save for war, a happenstance that trumps everything.)
  7. Lack of natural resources - Only Russia & Brazil have most if not all the materials needed to remain viable. Most other players are in a world of hurt, especially China and India, facts conveniently ignored by most when talking about finance and its relationship to essentials like oil. 
  8. Solar will eventually rule. The idea of cracking water sounds terrific in theory for powering cars but dealing with Hydrogen and Oxygen at the quantities needed to drive society is a stretch but solar could pull it off regarding H20 spitting now that the entire process of photosynthesis has been mapped out. Fusion is another option for powering civilization but it will take decades for it to make any difference. (If indeed fusion can ever be made to work.) More exotic forms of energy creation (dark energy/antimatter) are too far off to even consider at this point in time though keeping an open mind as to what is possible is vital to make breakthrough tech happen.
  9. Double Exponential - In the lab, tech is accelerating at double exponential rates but scaling it up and building an infrastructure to support it in order to meet the needs of the world is a far more difficult task. (see power as example)
  10. Black Swans - The impact of quantum computing, robotics, AI, nanotech and biotech on society cannot be predicted as the future cannot be foretold. (quantum & chaos theories rule).
  11. War & Empire - The US is becoming Oceania, something economically not sustainable in this era of no money & peak oil. (Afghanistan, Iraq + 1000 military bases all over the world) 
  12. Pollution and over harvesting the oceans - The sea is slowing dying as we continue to pollute and over fish. If something is not done, we're done. (BP disaster, the Georges Banks & the Great Pacific Garbage Patch)
  13. Governance or the lack thereof - Governments lack the vision and courage to do what's right. For example, the US needs light rail, not high speed rail. Ask CA how much it will cost to build a high speed system from San Diego to Sacramento ($33 Billion) and then ask if CA has the money to pay for it. (They might if they pass the pot bill in Nov.) This lack of vision extends into every aspect of life as government, like finance, is broken. We the people in the US have no say, only the banks and significant others have the say and we know the end result on that number.
  14. Endgame - I don't believe civilization will collapse but changes, in the short term, will be unforgiving as we move toward a different way of making a living. (The web holds the key to making this happen.) I really hope Doomsayer is spot on in every way but I harbor no illusions about just how hard it will be to make the changes needed if we are to survive as a viable species on planet earth. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Perfect Quarter

A perfect quarter, in this case, doesn't pertain to a well played basketball or football quarter but rather to the unprecedented success of the big banks doing business on Wall Street...

This does not happen in the real world save for government greasing of the wheels to enable this miracle to occur. To get in depth analysis of this swindle of swindles perpetrated on the world, check out Washington's Blog's excellent take on on how greed, combined with government collusion, has destroyed the financial base of this once great nation. 
Note: The four banks have over $100 + trillion dollars in toxic assets (derivatives ET AL) , an amount of "money"  almost twice the size of the world's economy ($56 trillion).
Note II: They don't have to declare these "assets" as losses. See A Telling Statement or type in Finance to learn why.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Tech, when used with creativity and perception, can save the world. As an example, researchers have learned Jaguars need to be able to commute or they will not survive as a viable species...

"But in the past decade or so, scientists have realized that connecting corridors are needed because many species rely for survival on the migration of a few animals from one region to another, to intermix gene pools and to repopulate areas devastated by natural disasters or disease. Placing animals in isolated preserves, studies have found, decreases diversity and risks dulling down a species — like preventing New Yorkers and Californians from getting together to procreate.

“It was kind of an epiphany,” said Alan Rabinowitz, a zoologist who is president of Panthera, an organization that studies and promotes conservation of large cats. “We were giving them nice land to live on when what they were doing — and what they needed — was an underground railway.”

This kind of approach also applies to medicine where scientists have discovered cancer cell circadian rhythms differ from healthy cells, thus providing an opportunity to use digitally controlled releases of anti cancer drugs timed to kill the diseased cells while leaving healthy tissue intact.

Biologists have observed that cell division in normal cells in species ranging from unicellular organisms to humans peaks at specific times of the day and consider this as indirect evidence that the process is regulated by their internal biological clocks. Cells in the human mouth, for example, tend to divide in the evening, just before nightfall.

"There is a general evolutionary explanation for this," says research associate Julie Pendergast who participated in the study. "Ultraviolet light is one of the primary causes of mutations. Cells are particularly vulnerable to mutations during cell division. So organisms with cells that divide at night have a selective advantage."

In addition, there has been a considerable amount of indirect evidence that mitosis (division) in cancer cells is not under 24-hour control. For example, "experiments have found that cells turn cancerous when certain circadian clock genes have been knocked out," says Yamazaki. The results of other experiments that have periodically sampled cancer cell division rates also support this possibility."

Every sentence I utter must be understood not as an affirmation, but as a question.  - Niels Bohr 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Natural Selection 2 Step

In essence, this explains how photosynthesis is able to work as well as it does. 

What makes this finding even more astounding is the fact the quantum, the underlying construct on which the multiverse resides, creates reality via natural selection.
 "Physicists have found new evidence that supports the theory of quantum Darwinism, the idea that the transition from the quantum to the classical world occurs due to a quantum form of natural selection. By explaining how the classical world emerges from the quantum world, quantum Darwinism could shed light on one of the most challenging questions in physics of the past century."

For the first time, this actually shows a logical way of how the quantum foam may connect to reality and how time, along with everything else we know, makes it's presence known. (The 1st law of Thermodynamics rules. :)

In every way, I'll bet Darwin would have appreciated this amazing research as much as I have.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Fat Finger?

On May 6th, tech, combined with a possible Fat Finger, caused Wall Street to drop, for a short time, nearly 1000 points. The interesting part of this story lies with the fact the powers at be don't know how it happened.

When complexity reaches a certain level vis a vis digital systems, predicting what the system will do in certain instances becomes mysterious. When applied to weapons, lack of predictability can become deadly. 
Deus ex Machina doesn't live here anymore... 


The Web is the grand connection of information, finance and communication. With that in mind, consider the impact of same on finance and the issue of sovereign debt caused by the greed and duplicity of politicians, Wall Street and the Central Banks.

It took almost 100 years to create this disaster and now it's finally here - RM.
And...we haven't even discussed Spain & Portugal yet...

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Now it gets Interesting

Now it gets interesting...

What BP is not telling us is whether the hydrate in question is merely a  Gas Hydrate, or it's volatle variant, Burning Ice (both can cause  the coffer dam to levitate), as Methane Hydrates are not stable when pressure is released or if the temperature goes above freezing, conditions which will not hold when hot oil fills up the cofferdam, thus releasing the methane from the water lattice of the hydrate. As seen in the map below, MH appears to be the answer. If so, as the saying goes, now it gets interesting.

 Click here to get a take on BP.  Interesting to say the least. Last but not least, methane hydrate caused the blast in the firs place. To quote

"The deadly blowout of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was triggered by a bubble of methane gas that escaped from the well and shot up the drill column, expanding quickly as it burst through several seals and barriers before exploding, according to interviews with rig workers conducted during BP's internal investigation."

The Spill may be much worse then reported. :(

It is. According to scientists, the spill is more like 70,000 barrels a day, which means, in less then 4 days, more oil is going into the gulf then the 250,000 barrels dumped from the Exxon-Valdez

Last but not least, the bastards at BP have no shame...

"If the experts' estimates are closer to the mark, that would be raised that to nearly three million gallons a day.

It goes beyond words the anger and helplessness one feels in a disaster which, if unchecked, could be an extinction level event even though, it's a very big ocean...

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The 7th Fold

Just discovered a valuable new resource, The Seventh Fold, a blog dealing with energy and the vain attempt of man trying to sustain exponential growth in the real world. Their take on the fubar created by BP is most telling.

"As of today (May 3), under the ‘best case’ scenario we will not see the flow of oil capped for at least another week. Already, more than 6,800 square miles of federal fishing areas have been closed, and the fishing ban will likely expand.  But the giant and growing oil slick is not just a short term threat to fishermen.  The slick threatens the Gulf’s ‘fertile crescent’ – the rich marine estuaries fed by a constant flow of nutrients from the Mississippi and Mobile Rivers.  It has been estimated that 90 percent of the Gulf’s seafood is sustained by these estuaries, and unfortunately Dr. George Crozier, director of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, explains that the “productive system is at risk and no one really knows how it will respond to the oil. We could be about to watch something happen, that’s completely man-made, that the natural system hasn’t ever seen before.” (source)"

After reading this, I come away with the notion of tech being extended beyond logical limits. For instance, putting an oil rig in 5000 feet of water is an audacious experiment. Drilling for oil by adding 18,000 feet to the equation to get the oil (4 miles) gets a little crazy (serious water/oil pressure anyone?). Not having serious backup (booms et al) in case of disaster extends to folly (Chaos or sh*t happens) while the implications of this catastrophe goes beyond words if the spill is not contained. 

IMHO, no intelligent civilization would want to introduce themselves to us given just how bad a steward we have been to this planet. As stated often times in BRT, earth doesn't need us, we need the earth, a fact we have ignored without serious penalty until now.

Tech, when properly applied, can do wonders but tech in and of itself has no morality. How it's used determines the impact it has on society. It's time we take this incredibly powerful tool and use it for good or we are done, a seemingly intelligent species brought down by hubris and stupidity, an Ozymandias to be looked at by others as a curiosity, forever consigned to the dustbin of history. To read another thoughtful post on the spill from Cluborlov, click here

"From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it's different. Consider again that dot. That's here, that's home, that's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known." - Carl Sagen