The Trolley and the Psychopath — Not only does a “utilitarian” response (“just kill the fat guy”) not actually reflect a utilitarian outlook, it may actually be driven by broad antisocial tendencies, such as lowered empathy and a reduced aversion to causing someone harm. Questionably expanding scope of claims in the behavioural philosophy research. (via Ed Yong)
Exploit Exercises — a variety of virtual machines, documentation, and challenges that can be used to learn about a variety of computer security issues, such as privilege escalation, vulnerability analysis, exploit development, debugging, reverse engineering, and general cyber security issues.
Sensors and Citizens: Finding Balance in the New Urban Reality (Frog Design) — as the sensor systems themselves become capable of autonomous data collection and information creation, we will begin to encounter closed-loop spatial sensing networks capable not only of taking instructions, but also of taking action. When that happens, nearly every industry and government imaginable—and your daily life—will be deeply affected. This is exciting, scary, and inevitable.
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)
Lines (Mark Jason Dominus) — If you wanted to hear more about phylogeny, Java programming, or tree algorithms, you are about to be disappointed. The subject of my article today is those fat black lines. Anatomy of a clever piece of everyday programming. There is no part of this program of which I am proud. Rather, I am proud of the thing as a whole. It did the job I needed, and it did it by 5 PM. Larry Wall once said that “a Perl script is correct if it’s halfway readable and gets the job done before your boss fires you.” Thank you, Larry.
The Management Myth (The Atlantic) — a philosophy PhD gets an MBA, works as management consultant, then calls bullshit on the whole thing. Taylorism, like much of management theory to come, is at its core a collection of quasi-religious dicta on the virtue of being good at what you do, ensconced in a protective bubble of parables (otherwise known as case studies). (via BoingBoing)
Obsolete Technology — or, as I like to think of it, post-Zombie-apocalypse technology. Bone up on your kilns if you want your earthen cookware once our undead overlords are running (or, at least, lurching) the country. (via Bruce Sterling)
Curveship — a new interactive fiction system that can tell the same story in many different ways. Check out the examples on the home page. Important because interactive fiction and the command-lines of our lives are inextricably intertwined.
Egypt’s Revolution: Coming to an Economy Near You (Umair Haque) — more dystopic prediction, but this phrase rings true: The lesson: You can’t steal the future forever — and, in a hyperconnected world, you probably can’t steal as much of it for as long.
Why Startups Fail — failure is a more instructive teacher than success, so simply studying successful startups isn’t enough. (via Hacker News)
Computer Science and Philosophy — Oxford is offering a program studying CS and Philosophy together. the two disciplines share a broad focus on the representation of information and rational inference, embracing common interests in algorithms, cognition, intelligence, language, models, proof, and verification. Computer Scientists need to be able to reflect critically and philosophically about these, as they push forward into novel domains. Philosophers need to understand them within a world increasingly shaped by computer technology, in which a whole new range of enquiry has opened up, from the philosophy of AI, artificial life and computation, to the ethics of privacy and intellectual property, to the epistemology of computer models (e.g. of global warming). I wish every CS student had taken a course in ethics.
Instrumentation and Observability (Theo Schlossnagle) — thoughtful talk (text and video available at that link) from a devops master. Many systems have critical metrics, which are diverse and specific to the business in question. For the purposes of this discussion, consider a system where advertisements are shown. We, of course, track every advertisement displayed in the system and that information is available for query. Herein the problem lies. Most systems put that information in a data store that is designed to answer marketing-oriented information: who clicked on what, what was shown where, etc. Answering the question, “How many were shown?” is possible but is not particularly efficient.
Peak MHz (Mike Kuniavsky) — we hit the era of what I’m calling Peak MHz in about 2004. That’s the point when processor speed effectively peaked as chip manufacturers began competing along other dimensions. Which is why all the effort is going into horizontally-scalable systems like the NoSQL gadgets. (via Matt Jones)
Transparency — the great British satires Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister continue as one of the writers blogs in the persona of the elder civil servant Sir Humphrey Appleby. His take on transparency is funny because it’s true: I understand your anxiety about the new government’s fixation on what they are pleased to call ‘transparency’, but you are distressing yourself unnecessarily. It afflicts all incoming administrations. It used to be called ‘open government’, and reflects the frustrations they felt when they were in opposition and could not find out what was going on, combined with an eagerness to discover and publicise the deception, distortions and disasters of their predecessors.
The Government Doesn’t Look Good Naked — a fine counter to the squawks of “the government’s open efforts suck!” that are building. this is exactly how to prevent innovation in government. If you want change, you have to tolerate imperfection and risk. If every program manager thinks they’ll end up on the front page of the Washington Post or get dressed down onstage at Gov 2.0, nothing will change. (via Tim McNamara)
Lending Merry-Go-Round — these guys have been Australia’s sharpest satire for years, filling the role of the Daily Show. Here they ask some strong questions about the state of Europe’s economies … (via jdub on Twitter)
What I Learned About Engineering from the Panama Canal (Pete Warden) — I consider myself a cheerful pessimist. I’ve been through enough that I know how steep the odds of success are, but I’ve made a choice that even a hopeless fight in a good cause is worthwhile. What a lovely attitude!
Mapping the Evolution of Scientific Fields (PLoSone) — clever use of data. We build an idea network consisting of American Physical Society Physics and Astronomy Classification Scheme (PACS) numbers as nodes representing scientific concepts. Two PACS numbers are linked if there exist publications that reference them simultaneously. We locate scientific fields using a community finding algorithm, and describe the time evolution of these fields over the course of 1985-2006. The communities we identify map to known scientific fields, and their age depends on their size and activity. We expect our approach to quantifying the evolution of ideas to be relevant for making predictions about the future of science and thus help to guide its development.