- Bioweathermap — crowdsourcing the gathering of environmental samples for DNA sequencing to study the changing distribution of microbial life. Another George Church project. (via timoreilly at Twitter)
- We Are All African Now — a great article about our genetic history and the computational genomics that makes it possible. (via Tim Bray)
- Standing Out In The Crowd — OSCON keynote by Kirrily Robert on women in open source. Excellent.
- Energy Harvesting Powers Printed LED — an interesting combination of two emerging technologies. Like an RFID, the circuit has a current induced by the presence of a changing RF field. The EL display and the RFID circuit are printed in organic compounds, whereas the power control is built with traditional circuit fabrication techniques. (via Freaklabs)
Cute Math, Fast Slo-Mo, Open Source HVAC, xkcd Hack
- Inside-Out Multiplication Table — very cool way to view the patterns of factors. Math is beauty with subscripts.
- High-Speed Camera — capture 100 frames at up to 1M frames/second. The sample videos, of a bullet liquefying on impact and a shotgun string boiling past, are stunning. The Makezine high-speed photography kit is the cheap amateur version.
- Open Source Energy Management for Commercial Buildings — open source project to enable interoperable applications for integrated Building Automation Systems (BAS). From NovusEdge. I wonder how they’re planning to spread their open source and use it to disrupt. (via earth2tech and timoreilly on Twitter)
- xkcd Knapsack Solution — for those of you who like literal Python geeking with your comics. Have a great weekend!
Word Mining, Open Ideas, Power Meter BotNet, and Realtime Web Traffic Tracking
- NY Times Mines Its Data To Identify Words That Readers Find Abstruse — the feature that lets you highlight a word on a NY Times web page and get more information about it is something that irritates me. I’m fascinated by the analysis of their data: boggling that sumptuary is less perplexing than solipsistic. Louche (#3 on the list) has been my favourite word for two years, by the way, since I heard Dylan Moran toss it out in that uniquely facile way the Irish have with words. I think Irish citizens get this incredible competence with the English language for free, along with staggering house prices and beer you can walk on.
- Open Ideas — Alex Payne’s blog of Concepts in the public domain, awaiting collaboration and appropriation.
- Buggy ‘smart meters’ open door to power-grid botnet (The Register) — Paul Graham said that we’ve found what we get when we cross a television with a computer: a computer. Similarly, intelligent power meters are computers, computers that apparently haven’t been well-secured. To prove his point, Davis and his IOActive colleagues designed a worm that self-propagates across a large number of one manufacturer’s smart meter. Once infected, the device is under the control of the malware developers in much the way infected PCs are under the spell of bot herders. Attackers can then send instructions that cause its software to turn power on or off and reveal power usage or sensitive system configuration settings.
- Chartbeat — the sexiest web analytics ever. It gives realtime count of users, whether they’re reading or writing (based on whether focus is in a form element), where they’re from, mentions on Twitter, and more and more and more. This is a different form of analytics than Google Analytics, which tells you trends and historical access. Love this for the pure sex appeal of a heads-up dashboard that can tell you exactly how many people are on your site and exactly what they’re doing. (via Artur)
- Dealing with Election Results Data — taking the raw UK European election data into Google’s Fusion Tables to try and make sense of it. More cloud-based tools for the data scientist within. (via Simon Willison)
- Time for an Open 311 API — “311” is the US number to call for non-emergency municipal services. There have been a lot of individual projects to hack together web sites that provide the single coherent view of government services that the government itself is unable to offer, but the individual projects have all built their own APIs. SeeClickFix suggest these be unified so tools can be written (e.g., iPhone apps) that run across multiple municipalities. (via timoreilly on Twitter)
- Shoppers Cars Soon Able to Power Supermarkets (Daily Mail) — At the Sainsbury’s store in Gloucester, kinetic plates, which were embedded in the road yesterday, are pushed down every time a vehicle passes over them. A pumping action is then initiated through a series of hydraulic pipes that drive a generator. The plates are able to produce 30kw of green energy an hour – more than enough to power the store’s checkouts. (via Freaklabs)
- Humans Prefer Cockiness to Expertise (New Scientist) — the blogosphere explained in one paper. (via Mind Hacks)
Smart Grids, Open Source, Stuff That Matters, and Global Culture
- A Little Give and Take On Electricity (NY Times) — Dennis L. Arfmann, a lawyer at the Boulder office of Hogan & Hartson who specializes in environmental law, said he had no idea how much electricity he and his wife, Dr. Julie Brown, had used before he filled his roof with solar panels producing 4.5 kilowatts of power. During the day he sells power to Xcel and at night he buys it back; his goal is to cut his use so his net sales rise. All hardware networked, everywhere!
- Open Source World Map (Red Hat) — very nice map showing the intensity of open source use in countries around the world. (via Flowing Data)
- Imagine Cup — Microsoft’s contest to get students working on stuff that matters. The winners of the New Zealand leg, Team Think, tackled literacy: they devised a program for tablets that provides both handwriting recognition and audio output, eliminating the need for basic literacy to understand lessons or instructions. They hope to take this prototype to developing countries that have underutilised computers due to literacy issues. (via Idealog newsletter and Scoop)
- UGT — It is always morning when person comes into a channel, and it is always late night when person leaves. […] The idea behind establishing this convention was to eliminate noise generated almost every time someone comes in and greets using some form of day-time based greeting, and then channel members on the other side of the globe start pointing out that it’s different time of the day for them. Now, instead of spending time figuring out what time of day is it for every member of the channel, we spend time explaining newcomers benefits of UGT. (via migurski on delicious).
Data centers, open research, Jeopardy!, and tombstones
- Google Server and Data Center Details — Greg Linden reports on a Efficient Data Center Summit. Google uses single volt power and on-board uninterruptible power supply to raise efficiency at the motherboard from the norm of 65-85% to 99.99%. There is a picture of the board on slide 17. (and this is a 2005 board). Greg has left Microsoft as Live Labs is dissolved.
- The Economics of Open Access Publishing — set of papers on the free distribution of research. Pointed to by the RePEc blog. RePEc is Research Papers in Economics, a collaborative effort of hundreds of volunteers in 67 countries to enhance the dissemination of research in economics. The heart of the project is a decentralized database of working papers, journal articles and software components. All RePEc material is freely available. (via Paul Reynolds)
- Computer Program to Take On Jeopardy! (NY Times) — move over Turing Test, IBM’s working on the Trebek Test: a computer program to compete against human “Jeopardy!” contestants. If the program beats the humans, the field of artificial intelligence will have made a leap forward. Really? The system must be able to deal with analogies, puns, double entendres and relationships like size and location, all at lightning speed. Oh, ok. So it’s more complex than inverting the hash table of questions and answers. (via ericries on Twitter)
- The Value of Minimal Data (Powerhouse Museum) — if you have the ability for passionate users to contribute their knowledge, they can turn “minimal” data into a delicious four course data feast with a vintage port to sip during the dessert course. (via sebchan on Twitter)
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).
Accessibility, trails, Pacman, and power today. Have a fun weekend!
- Social Accessibility Project — clever IBM approach to solving web accessibility problems: a sidebar for Firefox that lets people with assistive devices like screenreaders say “hey, I had this problem with this page”, and a crowd will help fix it. (via Derek Featherstone‘s Webstock talk, notes here)
- Why I Want a Million Quid (mySociety) — Tom’s onto something. I am hooked by this vision of “systems where each person who is helped to solve a problem leaves a trail of advice, contacts, insider information and new user-friendly web services behind them”. We’re used to the data people leave behind being discrete and implicit (another purchase for the recommendation engine) rather than longitudinal and explicit (people who looked at this item eventually went on to find their answer here).
- The PacMan Dossier — everything there is to know about Pacman, from designer Toru Iwatani’s inspiration and design process, through to the logic errors behind bugs and why it’s better to move the joystick before you reach the turn. (via Grand Text Auto)
- Two Stanford Students Rethink the Light Switch — a power switch with a network connection and tactile feedback: teh awesome.