Have you been watching Venus and Jupiter lately? They’ve been just stunning. Here’s the lovely pair with the space station, from a few days ago.
This article is a fantastic overview of how data mining is used by web companies. (When I worked for a dot-com, we had a PhD quantum physicist whose job was just to do the data mining, but we were not yet anywhere this sophisticated.)
The New York Times, as they are wont to do, sort of buried the lede on this one. The Forbes Tech article really caught the best part of the story: “How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did”.
I think I’ll start using incognito mode more often, just on principle.
From this CNN article on finding a replacement nuclear waste repository, now that Yucca Mountain is off the table:
…a presidential commission said Thursday that the nation needs to adopt a “consent-based approach” to position [nuclear waste] disposal facilities, gaining the approval of any community before moving forward with future sites.Um, yes. Did it not occur to anyone before this that we should simply try to ram such a project down the throats of the communities who would host it? Ideally, this would be done before we spend 32 years and $90 billion dollars developing a facility which will eventually be cancelled before it can open. This is very much the same realization that public health scientists had vis-a-vis the communities they work in, twenty years ago. (Well, not all public health scientists have had that realization yet, but at least it’s out there now.) It’s a long time in coming, but why shocks me is that it wasn’t obvious to everyone at the beginning. So, here we go again, looking for a site to store nuclear waste for 10,000 years. Let’s hope that finding such a site doesn’t take quite that long.
This article is one of the most amazing things I have ever read. By exerting deliberate selection pressure, these researchers convinced single-cell yeast to start clumping up and behave like multicellular organisms. It took only 60 generations to arrive at multicellular groupings which required the death of some individuals to divide and create new grouping; thus, not only their appearance is multicellular, but the selection occurred at the group, not individual, level. (One caveat: yeast apparently evolved from multicellular organisms, so they may have more mechanisms built in to manage this process. Repeating the experiment with other unicellular critters would address this question.)
This is nothing like evolving primitive single-celled organisms from scratch, which is a much more difficult challenge. But it’s amazing that we can replicate this key element in our own evolution.
PNAS article here.
Another great reason not to get cable tv.
I’ve been fascinated by the transition in North Korea. There’s an awful lot riding on it, given the desperate state of the people starving to death as the economy has ground to a halt. This fact is strikingly illustrated by this satellite image, which shows hardly a light in NK. (Seoul is at left, China at right.) Absolutely tragic.
Even among bourgeois economists, there is hardly a serious thinker who will deny that it is possible, by means of currently existing material and intellectual forces of production, to put an end to hunger and poverty, and that the present state of things is due to the socio-political organization of the world.
— Herbert Marcuse, “The End of Utopia”
This line, the epigraph to this NY op-ed — the actual content of which I thought was rather more jargony than useful — more or less blew my mind. We could do it, couldn’t we? But we don’t. We won’t.
My new favorite quote reminds me of one of my other favorite quotes, from the brilliant epidemiologist Geoffrey Rose (as quoted by Michael Marmot):
The primary determinants of disease are mainly economic and social, and therefore its remedies must also be economic and social.
We can do better. We just don’t want to.
Olympus XZ-1 “dramatic mode”, again.
Cassiopeia, 40s at ISO 320, June 2011. Andromeda Galaxy is the fuzzy object just below/left of center.