Penguins Counted From Space (Reuters) — I love the unintended flow-on effects of technological progress. Nobody funded satellites because they’d help us get an accurate picture of wildlife in the Antarctic, but yet here we are. The street finds a use …
What Makes a Super-Spreader? — A super-spreader is a person who transmits an infection to a significantly greater number of other people than the average infected person. The occurrence of a super spreader early in an outbreak can be the difference between a local outbreak that fizzles out and a regional epidemic. Cory, Waxy, Gruber, Ms BrainPickings Popova: I’m looking at you. (via BoingBoing)
Examining His Own Body (Science Now) — Stanford prof. has sequenced his DNA and is now getting massively Quantified Self on his metabolism, infections, etc. This caught my eye: George Church, who has pioneered DNA sequencing technology and runs the Personal Genome Project* at Harvard Medical School in Boston that enrolls people willing to share genomic and medical information similar to what’s presented in the Cell report, says some might critique Snyder’s self-exam as merely anecdotal. “But one response is that it is the perfect counterpoint to correlative studies which lump together thousands of cases versus controls with relatively much less attention to individual idiosyncrasies,” Church says. “I think that N=1 causal analyses will be increasingly important.”
Bus Arrival Monitor (John Graham-Cumming) — hacked a toy doubledecker bus with LED display feeding bus arrival info from the Transport for London API via a modded Linksys WRT router.
Arduino Tool That Connects Each Board to Its Own Source (Ideo) — If you create something with Arduino and put it out into the world, there is no well-established link to the source. If you personally made the device, the source can get lost over time. If you didn’t create it, you could have a tough time tracking the source down. You have the physical device, why can’t it tell you where it’s code lives? I made a tool for Arduino called “Upload-And-Retrieve-Source” that for the most part solves this problem. (via Chris Spurgeon)
Raspberry Pi Launches — $35 USB+CPU+video+audio ships. Interesting that both of these have come to fruition at the same time. Something is in the air. How will the world change when every memory stick is a computer, not just every phone?
Hashbangs (Dan Webb) — why those terrible #! URLs are a bad idea. Looks like they’re going away with pushState coming to browsers. As Dan says, “URLs are forever”. Let’s get them right. I’m fascinated by how URLs are changing meaning and use over time.
DNA Sequencing on a USB Stick — this has been going the rounds, but I think there’s a time coming when scientific data generation can be crowdsourced. I care about a particular type of fish, but it hasn’t been sequenced. Can I catch one, sequence it, upload the sequence, and get insight into the animal by automated detection of similar genes from other animals? Let those who care do the boring work, let scientists work on the analysis.
The US Recording Industry is Stealing From Me (Bruce Simpson) — automated content detection at YouTube has created an industry of parasites who claim copyright infringement and then receive royalties from the ads shown on the allegedly infringing videos.
Why Kids Can’t Search (Clive Thompson) — kids need to be taught critical thinking skills about what they find on the web. Librarians are our national leaders in this fight; they’re the main ones trying to teach search skills to kids today.
Competitive Advantage Through Data — the applications and business models for erecting barriers around proprietary data assets. Sees data businesses in these four categories: contributory data sourcing, offering cleaner data, data generated from service you offer, and viz/ux. The author does not yet appear to be considering when open or communal data is better than proprietary data, and how to make those projects work. (via Michael Driscoll)
Solar Cutter, Solar 3D Printer — prototypes of solar powered maker devices. The cutter is a non-laser cutter that focuses the sun’s rays to a super-hot point. The printer makes glass from sand (!!!!). Not only is this cool, but sand is widespread and cheap.
Synthetic Biology Open Language — a language for the description and the exchange of synthetic biological parts, devices, and systems. Another piece of the synthetic biology puzzle comes together. The parallel development of DIY manufacturing in the worlds of bits and basepairs is mindboggling. We live in exciting times. (via krs)
OpenPCR Shipping — A PCR machine is basically a copy machine for DNA. It is essential for most work with DNA, things like exposing fraud at a sushi restaurant, diagnosing diseases including HIV and H1N1, or exploring your own genome. The guy who discovered the PCR process earned a Nobel Prize in 1993, and OpenPCR is now the first open source PCR machine. The price of a traditional PCR machine is around $3,000. This one is $512 and would go well with Ben Krasnow’s Scanning Electron Microscope. Biological tools get closer to hobbyist/hacker prices. (via Gabriella Coleman)
Apple App Store Figures (Fast Company) — 1 billion apps in a month, 200M iOS users, $2.5B revshare to developers so far (implying a further $5.8B revenue kept by Apple). Another reminder of the astonishing money to be made by riding the mainstreaming of tech: as we move from dumb phones to smart phones, the market for Apple’s products and App Store sales will continue to rise. We’re not at the fighting-for-market-share stage yet, it’s still in the boom. (via Stephen Walli)
Wingu — SaaS startup to help scientists manage, analyze, and share data. Recently invested by Google, it’s one of several startups for scientists, such as Macmillan’s Digital Science which is run by Timo Hannay who is one of the convenors of Science Foo Camp. (via Alex Butler)
A Ban on Brain-Boosting Drugs (Chronicle of Higher Education) — Simply calling the use of study drugs “unfair” tells us nothing about why colleges should ban them. If such drugs really do improve academic performance among healthy students (and the evidence is scant), shouldn’t colleges put them in the drinking water instead? After all, it would be unfair to permit wealthy students to use them if less privileged students can’t afford them. As we start to hack our bodies and minds, we’ll face more questions about legitimacy and ethics of those actions. Not, of course, about using coffee and Coca-Cola, ubiquitous performance-enhancing stimulants that are mysteriously absent from bans and prohibitions.
Copywrongs — Matt Blaze spits the dummy on IEEE and ACM copyright policies. In particular, the IEEE is explicitly preventing authors from distributing copies of the final paper. We write scientific papers first and last because we want them read. When papers were disseminated solely in print form it might have been reasonable to expect authors to donate the copyright in exchange for production and distribution. Today, of course, this model seems, at best, quaintly out of touch with the needs of researchers and academics who no longer desire or tolerate the delay and expense of seeking out printed copies of far-flung documents. We expect to find on it on the open web, and not hidden behind a paywall, either.
On the Engineering of SaaS — An upgrade process, for example, is an entirely different beast. Making it robust and repeatable is far less important than making it quick and reversible. This is because the upgrade only every happens once: on your install. Also, it only ever has to work right in one, exact variant of the environment: yours. And while typical customers of software can schedule an outage to perform an upgrade, scheduling downtime in SaaS is nearly impossible. So, you must be able to deploy new releases quickly, if not entirely seamlessly — and in the event of failure, rollback just as rapidly.
How Facebook Ships Code — all engineers go through 4 to 6 week “Boot Camp” training where they learn the Facebook system by fixing bugs and listening to lectures given by more senior/tenured engineers. estimate 10% of each boot camp’s trainee class don’t make it and are counseled out of the organization. Reminded me of Zappos paying people to leave. (via Hacker News)
EU Funds Scala — it’s a research project at a university, and just got a big pile of funding from the EU.
Asleep and Awake (BERG London) — It’s glowing rectangles all the way down: those backlit screens that suck your attention. Matt J described it nicely a few years ago: the iPhone is a beautiful, seductive but jealous mistress that craves your attention, and enslaves you to its jaw-dropping gorgeousness at the expense of the world around you. Reminded me of Jesse Robbins’s great line, “mobile is the opposite of mindful”.
Is Wikileaks Growing Up? — I linked earlier to FAS commentator Steven Aftergood, who had ripped Wikileaks as irresponsible and dangerous. The latest leaks, however, get grudging respect. “the latest dump deals with a perfectly newsworthy topic and — judging from my initial glances at the news coverage — Wikileaks itself has acknowledged the necessity of withholding certain portions of the documents that might endanger individuals who are named in them. If so, that is commendable.” (via jayrosen_nyu on Twitter)
Open Connectivity and Open Data — is access to the Internet a human right? Video of a presentation by Jon Penney, the InternetNZ CyberLaw Fellow at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.