- Old Japanese Maps on Google Earth Unveil Secrets — Google criticised for putting up map layers showing the towns where a discriminated-against class came from, because that class is still discriminated against and Google didn’t put any “cultural context” around it. Google and their maps didn’t make the underclass, Japanese society did. Because they’re sensitive about having the problem, they redirect their embarrassment into anger at Google. You could make a long and profitable career in IT consulting simply by charging to say “it’s not a technical problem” and you’d be right more times than wrong.
- See Africa Differently — using the Internet to reframe a continent. Videos, essays, and more, all designed to get you seeing the majority of Africa, which isn’t defined by conflict and famine. (via NY Times book review)
- Fold.it – Solve Puzzles for Science — science harnesses our “cognitive surplus” by inviting us to help solve the problem of protein folding, one of the hardest in biology. (via auckland_museum on Twitter)
- Arduino Telemetry Payload in Class C Rocket (Jon Oxer) — Because class-C rockets are so small and light they can’t lift much of a payload and I had to keep the mass of the electronics as small as possible. You can get a sense of scale from this photo which shows a small white bundle in the bottom of the nosecone. Inside that bundle is an Arduino Pro Mini 5V/16Mhz, a 433Mhz transmitter module, and a Lilypad 3-axis accelerometer. PCBs … in … Spaaaaace!
ENTRIES TAGGED "biology"
Maps, Africa, Protein, and Rockets
Multitouch, visualizations, body hacks, and ubicomp:
- Dell Demos Multitouch on the Studio One 19 (Engadget) — the multitouch software on this baby is Fingertapps from the New Zealand company Unlimited Realities, whose founder was at Kiwi Foo Camp this year. Multitouch hits consumer PCs in a very mainstream way.
- Circos — open source Perl library to produce beautiful circular data displays. (via flowing data)
- Brain Gain: The Underground World of “Neuroenhancing” Drugs (New Yorker) — more on the body hacks theme of radical and literal self-improvement, as originally documented by Quinn Norton. What I found interesting was that when BoingBoing linked to it, they quoted the “Provigil might make us smarter” bit, and when MInd Hacks linked to it, they quoted the negative effects of amphetamine-based drugs.
- Towards the Web of Things: Web Mashups for Embedded Devices — slides and notes for a presentation given at MEM 2009. Basically saying that the Internet of Things should be built on JSON and REST, with demo. (via Freaklabs)
Bias, RFCs, virus batteries, and a glimpse at life beyond record labels (the last item features profanity, beware):
- Bias We Can Believe In (Mind Hacks) — Vaughn asks the tricky question about the current enthusiasm for Behavioural Economics in government: where are the sceptical voices? As he points out, It’s perhaps no accident that almost all the articles cite a 2001 study that found that simply making the US’s 401(k) retirement savings scheme opt-out instead of opt-in vastly increased participation simply because it’s a hassle to change and employees perceive the ‘default’ as investment advice.
But it’s probably true to say that this example has been so widely repeated but it’s one of the minority of behavioural economics studies that have looked at the relation between the existence of a cognitive bias and real-world economic data from the population.
And it’s notable that behavioural economists who specialise in making this link, a field they call behavioural macroeconomics, seem absent from the Obama inner circle.
- How The Internet Got Its Rules (NYTimes) — about the first RFCs, which became IETF. The early R.F.C.’s ranged from grand visions to mundane details, although the latter quickly became the most common. Less important than the content of those first documents was that they were available free of charge and anyone could write one. Instead of authority-based decision-making, we relied on a process we called “rough consensus and running code.” Everyone was welcome to propose ideas, and if enough people liked it and used it, the design became a standard. (via Glynn Moody)
- Viruses Could Power Devices (Science News) — Ions and electrons can move through smaller particles more quickly. But fabricating nano-sized particles of iron phosphate is a difficult and expensive process, the researchers say. So Belcher’s team let the virus do the work. By manipulating a gene of the M13 virus to make the viruses coat themselves in iron phosphate, the researchers created very small iron phosphate particles. (via BoingBoing)
- Amanda Palmer’s Label-Dropping Game — interesting email from Amanda Palmer to her fans about trying to get dropped from her label. i had to EXPLAIN to the so-called “head of digital media” of roadrunner australia WHAT TWITTER WAS. and his brush-off that “it hasn’t caught on here yet” was ABSURD because the next day i twittered that i was doing an impromptu gathering in a public park and 12 hours later, 150 underage fans – who couldn’t attend the show – showed up to get their records signed. no manager knew! i didn’t even warn or tell her! no agents! no security! no venue! we were in a fucking public park!
life is becoming awesome. and then the times they are a-changing fucking dramatically, when pong-twittering with trent reznor means way more to your fan-base/business than whether or not the record is in fucking stores (and in my case, it ain’t in fucking stores).
If you've gotten tired of hacking firewalls or cloud computing, maybe it's time to try your hand with DNA. That's what Reshma Shetty is doing with her Doctorate in Biological Engineering from MIT. Apart from her crowning achievement of getting bacteria to smell like mint and bananas, she's also active in the developing field of synthetic biology and has recently helped found a company called Gingko BioWorks which is developing enabling technologies to allow for rapid prototyping of biological systems. She will be giving a talk entitled, "Real Hackers Program DNA" at O'Reilly's Emerging Technologies Conference in March.
Four questions, one per link: what next, can it solve a big problem, what’s the final boss for Python programming, and why on earth would anyone want yogurt that glows in the dark?
- End Times – gloomy piece on the future of journalism, to be added to the large pile of other gloomy pieces on the future of journalism (e.g., Bad News, Good News). The critical problem is still how to pay for journalism if the new media revenues are significant lower than old, and if the new media economics decree that journalism is dead then who fills the social good role that journalism’s death will leave?
- Ward Cunningham’s Visible Workings – an intriguing glimpse, from March last year, into the way Ward lays out web interactions. Nice system for laying out these interactions, but it’s also fascinating for how it makes transparent what will happen as a result of the data you submit. How scalable is this? Could it tackle privacy?
- Project Euler – fun programming exercises that require more than math to finish. We learn by doing, not by reading, so interesting exercises are part and parcel of training. It’s interesting to see educators are moving from being authors to being game designers, providing a series of staged challenges that make us stronger by defeating them. I’m presently dieing in as many ways as I can while learning iterators and generators in Python, as a way of ensuring I have Python’s “game physics” sussed.
- Rise of the Garage Genome Hackers – more on hobbyist molecular biology. It mentions DIYBio, the Cambridge biohacker collective that I first heard about at BioBarCamp. (via Glynn Moody)
I enjoyed this interview with Richard Jefferson (caution: PDF) from Com Ciência No. 102, October 05, 2008. Richard runs CAMBIA, a group that fights for open innovation in biological sciences. He's particularly cautionary about the potential for patents to greatly restrict the development of Synthetic Biology (SB): But don't doubt there will be some very interesting biological understanding that emerges…
I am an industry advisor to the Auckland University Bioengineering Institute and got a tour on Tuesday. It was inspirational! They sprawl over several floors of a tall concrete building in Auckland, expanding from their cramped one-floor presence. Everywhere you look there are people with soldering irons, laptops, and batteries working on devices that sit between hardware and biology. I've…
As I read this fascinating NYTimes piece on a Florida teacher covering evolution, I was reminded of an interesting email exchange I had recently with Kevin Padian, a UC Berkeley professor in the Dept of Integrative Biology, and curator of the UC Museum of Paleontology. He was at Science Foo Camp, and afterward wrote in email: My area is evolution,…
[This is part of a series of posts that briefly describe the trends were currently tracking here at O'Reilly: 1, 2] Genetic analysis software and hardware used to be very expensive, only for professionals—now it’s trickling down to ProAms, and soon (under 5 years) will be widespread for consumer applications. This changes how drugs are developed and applied (don’t test…
[This is part of a series of posts that briefly describe the trends that we're currently tracking here at O'Reilly] Humans are consistently irrational, and every lottery ticket sold proves the point again. Psychologists, economists, neurobiologists are all studying what makes us behave the way we do. The promise is that we'll be able to be better: compensate for our…