27 November 2007

A Phylogeny of Complete Genomes that humbles

Witness the The Fall and Decline of the Animal Kingdom. It's not what you think -- it's what you don't usually think about: that in terms of sheer numbers animals are a minority in the vast ocean of life that inhabits the oceans and lands of this world.

Doesn't this suggest that it takes so, so, so many permutations of Genetic Arrangements to create even the simplest eukaryote? That's the advantage of a 3plus billion years time frame.

By the way, check out the Interactive Tree of Life and mouse over Homo Sapiens. Lovely picture. No wonder the neighbouring Pan troglodytes look so shocked.

15 November 2007

Moonrise from SELENE

Courtesy of JAXA/NHK, one of the most enduring images of spaceflight recorded. Two actually: moonrise and moonset. (Above is an image from the Earth-set series.)

I particularly like their disclaimer about how the earth will never been seen to rise or set from an astronaut's perspective on the lunar surface: this is a unique view from orbiting satellites.

21 October 2007

Good Teachers Wanted.

Read this Economist article and think.

I particularly like the revelation that South Korea's primary school teachers are placed on a higher pedestal than secondary school teachers. First mover, or in this case, influencer, advantage!

06 October 2007

Scientific Humour is such a wonderful thing

This is a classic that should endure for quite some time yet: chicken chicken chicken. Its iconic status is confirmed, with its author, Doug Zongker, giving the keynote address of this year's Ig Nobel Prize ceremony.

What I will give to attend the 18th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony!

04 September 2007

A deadly assumption to make

kudos to whoever came up with the original joke

ex and a constant were walking down the street. Suddenly, the constant notices a differential operator walking along the other side of the street. "Oh, no!" exclaims the constant. "I've got to run away! You've got to hide me! There's a differential operator... he could reduce me to nothing!" "Hmmmph," came the haughty reply. "I'm ex. He can't do anything to me." So ex walked across the street and introduced himself. "Hi. How are you doing? I am ex," he bragged. "Pleased to meet you," replied the differential operator. "I'm d/dy."

16 July 2007

Random Observations

Upon hot air, eagles soar.

(author's right to the metaphor is hereby exerted)

08 July 2007

All I want for this Christmas*

is an army of thinkgeek's exclusive, USB powered, Snowbots!

Checkout the Snowbot in Action video!

*Christmas Wishlist as of 8th July 07

29 June 2007

Where does your iPod come from? (The economic perspective)

A study from UC Irvine on capturing and attributing (economic) value of a 30G iPod across its creators and manufacturers. In this reckoning, even though each 30G iPod contributes $150 of trade deficit between US and China, the actual value added to the product via the assembly etc is only about a few dollars, meaning that the trade deficit actually winds up in other places. Here's a nice summary from economist Hal Varian.

A torchlight into global assembly and logistics lines as well as a commentary on the true value of innovation.

20 June 2007

Powerpoint turns 20

Originally developed for the Mac in 1987 as a result of identifying the need for graphic presentations in a world made possible by Mac's GUI , Powerpoint was subsequently bought over by Microsoft. The window's version came out in 1990 and the world never looked back. If there is a competition for software that can be considered 'omnipresent', Powerpoint would surely come up among the top few contenders. A nice article from WSJ on an interview with the programme's creators.

Surely a blog on Powerpoint cannot be complete without a discussion on its users merits and flaws, but since I'm feeling rather lazy today, I'll refer you to the worst powerpoint slide ever? and the effects of powerpoint on pedagogy.

I do like Powerpoint as a canvass upon which art can be created. I also like the use of Powerpoint as a (with apologies to the WSJ article) as a printing press to write detailed business plans: data-rich landscape documents that are meant to be read, not presented. Presentation slides in my view are best kept sparse!

For historians of Powerpoint, the website of one of the creators Robert Gaskins is full of interesting stuff (including Dilbert) for you to mull over.

09 June 2007

Look, I read the Economist too!

From the Onion, the commentary to the main article. The Commentary is quite funny... so does reading the Economist make you something of a intellectual snob? Heh.

Not to say that the main article doesn't make some point too, but it's the inspiration that NASA's science and exploration that makes it, still, even today, as something of a symbol and inspiration for apolitical science and exploration.

28 May 2007

What a Word!

What a word!

27 May 2007

Postcards from the Future

Oh why oh why did I forget all about the ISDC? According to Wired, the Indie film Postcards from the Future will premiere at the Conference.

More pictures from the movie site.

I still want to be an astronaut!

At the same time, take a look at this interactive on the past and future timeline of the universe. Simple enough to navigate (just point and click) yet profound enough to make you think. The 'Big Bang till Now' portion conforms to established scientific orthodoxy well enough (meaning I didn't cringe at any Bad Facts), thankfully. The future projections depend on your respective field of study, I believe.

Yet I can't help remembering Stalin's words, when paraphased, alas, 10^0 is a tragedy, 10^6 is a statistic, 10^100 is incomprehensible.

Go to Mars. Go. Go Now. Before the systematic despoilment of the Earth makes humanity culprit and victim on the 10^0 list.

24 May 2007

Psychoanalysing Anakin Skywalker

Whatever the motivation, here are serious people putting Anakin Skywalker on the psychiatrist's couch.

From the article:
Why do we care about the psychoanalysis of a Star Wars villain? Because the diagnosis helps explain why teenagers -- no strangers to borderline personalities -- find Skywalker so appealing, said study co-author Rachel Rodgers, a psychologist in Toulouse. They may like him, she said, "because he's very similar to them."

Hmm. What does that say about people who dress up as storm troopers? Or Jedi? Or even the Dark Lord (Vader, not the generic term Dark Lord (tm)...) himself? Tribal formation indeed! This need to form groups with similarly-minded people can have amusing consequences: imagine the sight of a fistful of Vader-clones.

Still, say what you will about The Great Lucas's vision, the community (fan-base) expression Star Wars is has been, and will continue to be, a force for good. ;p


14 May 2007

Gazing into the crystal ball...

Information convergence, larger wireless bandwidth, flying cars increased urbanisation, polarisation, agricultural revolution (again), mass cloning, world wars, world peace, revolutions, famines, ecological meltdown, glacial meltdown, runaway climates, global extinction, banners.

And, no, this is not an attempt at forecasting the History of the Universe in 200 words or less (now linked into the collective intelligence of Wikipedia). Personally I adore the Latin version. creatio Aranei Quam Lati Quam Terrae. ???

But come what may, it's worth noting that 'engineers and programmers are the often-anonymous architects of society' (please RTFA, it's a good article) and to that may I add dreamers.

24 April 2007

Quantum physics says goodbye to reality

So.... if "reality does not exist when we are not observing it (Nature 446 871)", does it mean that if I ignore a problem long enough it'd go away by itself?

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of quantum mechanics.

04 April 2007

Court to Rule if Chimp has Human Rights

This is not an April Fool's joke.

While I am all for good and humane treatment of Animals, to apply Human Rights (see the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) on them might be just a tad too far. Examples being Articles 24 and 26. And also, with rights comes responsibilities: see Article 29.

What we need is a comprehensive set of Animal Rights that govern our relationship with them. In some cases, there should be protection at a level above what we grant to our fellow human beings... or five year old human beings. Maybe a modified version of the Rights of the Child for our closer hominid siblings?

And dolphins. Must not forget dolphins.

24 March 2007

New Words to add to your vocabulary

I found three new words to add to the "Little Vocabulary Book" in one article of the venerable and authoritative Economist.

They are

  • febrile

  • assiduous

  • dirigiste

  • Call me daft, but what an adventure of discovery when I can do a "Google>define: *" search on the trusty mobile phone and get a near instantaneous definition while sitting in a cafe enjoying the good read.

    12 March 2007

    Negative Management Thought Part (whatever)

    If things are moving too fast for you.... you're not moving fast enough.

    The World is Flat! Tipping Point! Red Ocean! Argh!

    01 March 2007

    A very brief journey into Chinese Language and History

    (Alas, the wonders of the World Wide Web! Google and Wikipedia are your friends!)

    This is a great account of the history of the Qing Dynasty's flag and anthem The Cup of Solid Gold, and the The Tune of Li Zhongtang. More about the various Chinese Anthems here.

    The famous Song Dynasty general and patriot 岳飞 (Yue Fei) who wrote the poem 满江红 (Mǎn Jīang Hóng). This is written in relatively comprehensible Classical Chinese, a beautiful language which isn't exactly the most friendly. You can read about the good general in 文言文 on 文言維基大典...

    Yet there are always exceptions, and the 施氏食狮史 (The story of the poet Shi eating lions). Seriously, the poem itself (written by the poet 赵元任 to make a point) is eminently comprehensible on sight, but try reciting the poem out loud!


    切記: 丙戌年十二月十五 (公曆二千零六年二月二日),萬國氣候變更會(IPCC:「吾人所見氣候變更,當屬人為也。」

    10 February 2007

    Doomsday vault for your greens and carbo

    A bit of a sensationalised name, perhaps, but the Svalbard International Seed Vault intends to serve as a cryogenic storage for the world's agricultural crop diversity: seeds! I love the idea of this seed vault built to last against anything we humans can throw at the environment - very practical AND beautiful.

    What about proteins though? Meat sources are going to much, much harder to preserve. Cloning runs the risk of destroyed labs, perpetually reproducing 'stock' animals are no better than your normal farm.... under an ice mountain. Tough question. Perhaps we might all become vegetarians, since all essential amino acids can be found from plant sources.

    26 January 2007

    'Altruistic' brain region.

    Too good not to be shared: the altruistic brain region. I'm sharing this with you altruistically, of course. Add this to the oxytocin spray (supposed to help increase trust level in/for strangers) and we will have a very trustworthy society indeed.

    Hmm. Does this mean we should all start to lactate?

    17 January 2007

    Recycle your old 3 1/4" floppies

    ... by doing the geekiest thing possible!

    Live Long and Prosper!