Sunday, August 26, 2007

Science Keeps Going

The space program isn't in vogue anymore. That's a shame because sometimes they do some really impressive stuff. Like having a 30 year old probe still sending data from beyond the solar system.

And what science post here would be complete without pointing out the discovery of yet another way to potentially boost the efficiency of solar cells.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Today in Irony

Anti-video game lawyer Jack Thompson has registered a complaint about the marketing of a violent video game (the upcoming, highly anticipated Bioshock) to an inappropriate demographic. That isn't ironic, it's typical. What is ironic is that the violence complaint came for ads which aired during... wait for it... a pro wrestling show.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

This Week's Battery Post

I've pointed out my belief that efficient solar cells and smaller, longer lasting batteries are the way to the energy revolution many times here. So it won't be a surprise that I found the creation of biodegradable, flexible batteries interesting. The biodegradable bit is more cool to me than the flexible part. Even the rechargeable batteries I use most of the time now will eventually have to be tossed. And even with a fairly accessible local hazardous waste facility, just being able to toss batteries in the trash would be easier. I'm still hoping for batteries/capacitors with nigh-infinite lifetimes eventually, but biodegradable is a good partial step.

Watching the Reporters

Ars Technica posts some interesting stats from a recent Pew Research Center study. Apparently us Internet denizens aren't happy with the mainstream media.

Continuing the delicious irony that is The Daily Show, one of their "reporters" will actually be reporting from Iraq. For reals. I already believe The Daily Show is a superior way to get news, because it contains as much or more news content as most news programs but treats it as the farce that so much of our news is today. (Note that I don't recommend The Daily Show as your sole news source, the jokes are funnier if you've read/heard/seen the people who are being serious about stuff.)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Quote of the Moment

"The odds of finding truly beautiful code in most production systems seem to be on par with the odds of finding a well-read copy of IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering in Paris Hilton’s apartment." Alberto Savoia in this 'blog post.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Caught Trying to Watch Those Who Watch the Watchers

Dateline has the tag line "News stories about crime, celebrity and health" on their web site. They are currently most well know for a series of dramatic confrontations with online predators. A noble cause handled in a perhaps not-terribly-noble fashion. But they recently tried to send a reporter undercover in the "hackers' conference" DEFCON. The reporter intended to violate the press rules for the convention and apparently had some hope of catching illegal, or at least nefarious goings-on on tape. For better or worse, the reporter didn't do a very good job of staying under cover. The story is both interesting and strange. The lesson? Apparently when you are trying to infiltrate a group for whom secrecy is name of the game, you better step your game up a notch.

For Your Viewing Pleasure

I've got two links for the visually minded today. First is "Sky and Telescope" magazine's "This Week's Sky at a Glance." They keep you up to date on the interesting visual happenings of the heavens.

If you prefer the glow of you LCD or CRT to venturing out where the mosquitoes live, Interfacelift is a source of widescreen (and other resolution) desktop wallpapers.

A Media Example

When I read this story about the negotiations going on between the UAW union and the major U.S. auto makers, I was struck by what a good job the reporter did in presenting both sides of the story and some of the intricacies involved in the issues. Indeed I consider this article to be a stellar example of good reporting. However, that's not where my observations ended. At first I didn't see the actual journalism, but it appears that the writer actually did go an consult a third party expert for an analysis of the financial issue. For all the tearing down of the media that people, myself included, it's nice to see there are still journalists out there working too.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Software Patents, Again

I'm not a big fan of software patents, or the U.S. patent system in general at the moment. Things have gotten much harder on the patent office as high technology leads greedy corporations to patent things like DNA and computer algorithms in hopes of preventing any competition. That is after all what patents are for. But the people that review the increasingly technical patents may or may not have enough qualification to understand them, let alone do a thorough check for prior art. As the number of patents being applied for continues to increase, it's only going to get harder for the patent office to do an acceptable job.

All that rambling is to introduce an article about software patents over on Coding Horror. If you are a programmer, or a technophile, you should be interested in what is going on with software patents.

On one hand, people have been warning of the danger of software patents for years with no real movement on the issue. On the other, we get stories about patent infringement all the time, such as this one. These are the sorts issues that programmers and hardware designers have to be aware of these days.

Let the Sun Shine In

Speaking of updates to old topics, slashdot has a story about a new solar cell efficiency record. Come on guys, you are almost there! I want my energy independent house!

Watching the Watchers

This is an update to the old wiretapping story. A secret court actually struck down part of the Bush Administration's much criticized program, concluding that they exceeded their authority. The story is a bit deeper because the Senate has already taken up the issue. There was some rumbling on the radio late last week that revealing the information about the secret court's ruling might have itself been an illegal breach of secrecy. I can't seem to find anything about that now though. The politicians are slippery buggers and they just keep getting slipperier.