...now two Enigma machines — that'd be another thing altogether!
Stanisław Lem, in memoriam (1921 – 2006)
Klapaucius thought, and thought some more. Finally he nodded and said:
"Very well. Let's have a love poem, lyrical, pastoral, and expressed in the language of pure mathematics. Tensor algebra mainly, with a little topology and higher calculus, if need be. But with feeling, you understand, and in the cybernetic spirit."
"Love and tensor algebra? Have you taken leave of your senses?" Trurl began, but stopped, for his electronic bard was already declaiming:
Come, let us hasten to a higher plane,
Where dyads tread the fairy fields of Venn,
Their indices bedecked from one to n,
Commingled in an endless Markov chain!
Come, every frustum longs to be a cone,
And every vector dreams of matrices.
Hark to the gentle gradient of the breeze:
It whispers of a more ergodic zone.
In Riemann, Hilbert, or in Banach space
Let superscripts and subscripts go their ways.
Our asymptotes no longer out of phase,
We shall encounter, counting, face to face.
I'll grant thee random access to my heart,
Thou'lt tell me all the constants of thy love;
And so we two shall all love's lemmas prove,
And in our bound partition never part.
For what did Cauchy know, or Christoffel,
Or Fourier, or any Boole or Euler,
Wielding their compasses, their pens and rulers,
Of thy supernal sinusoidal spell?
Cancel me not -- for what then shall remain?
Abscissas, some mantissas, modules, modes,
A root or two, a torus and a node:
The inverse of my verse, a null domain.
Ellipse of bliss, converge, O lips divine!
The product of our scalars is defined!
Cyberiad draws nigh, and the skew mind
Cuts capers like a happy haversine.
I see the eigenvalue in thine eye,
I hear the tender tensor in thy sigh.
Bernoulli would have been content to die,
Had he but known such a2 cos 2 phi
— from The Cyberiad, 1967
"If he was captured by my army on a battlefield, that is where he belongs. I had a son on that battlefield and they were shooting at my son and I'm not about to give this man who was captured in a war a full jury trial. I mean it's crazy."
Senator Mathias: "...if a reasonable litigant actually believed that your judgment would be distorted because of some strong personal bias or belief, would that dissuade you from sitting on a case?"
Judge Scalia: I think the statute reads that way, Senator. I have the statute somewhere. I am quite sure that the way you put it is about the way the statute reads, requiring disqualification. If I may, title 28, United States Code, section 455: "Any justice, judge or magistrate of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned."
The story that this is an abandoned mine that was won by Steve Jobs in a poker game sounds too good to be true, but the image got me thinking: I wonder how good the results would be for a "find the closest match to this image in Google Earth" app — something that picks the best location and zoom level for a given query image from all the locations on Earth. The feature's no doubt already in place in some GIS systems (for things like "here's an unannotated fly-by image of a missile silo; find the likely origin") but I'm really just thinking for arty things like "create a font of letters made up entirely of satellite and fly-by images."
Long before flash mobs became the phonebooth-stuffing of the naughts, science fiction author Larry Niven speculated how the invention of teleportation would cause sudden flash crowds of gawkers to appear wherever a newsworthy event is taking place. Over at Searchblog, John Battelle suggests we're bound to see something similar happen in couch-potato-land once channel surfers can automatically see what show or media event everyone else is watching...
I don't know enough physics to really grok how important or not this is, but man this sounds interesting:
Scientists funded by the European Space Agency have measured the gravitational equivalent of a magnetic field for the first time in a laboratory. Under certain special conditions the effect is much larger than expected from general relativity and could help physicists to make a significant step towards the long-sought-after quantum theory of gravity.
Small acceleration sensors placed at different locations close to the spinning superconductor, which has to be accelerated for the effect to be noticeable, recorded an acceleration field outside the superconductor that appears to be produced by gravitomagnetism. "This experiment is the gravitational analogue of Faraday's electromagnetic induction experiment in 1831.
It demonstrates that a superconductive gyroscope is capable of generating a powerful gravitomagnetic field, and is therefore the gravitational counterpart of the magnetic coil. Depending on further confirmation, this effect could form the basis for a new technological domain, which would have numerous applications in space and other high-tech sectors" says de Matos. Although just 100 millionths of the acceleration due to the Earth’s gravitational field, the measured field is a surprising one hundred million trillion times larger than Einstein’s General Relativity predicts. Initially, the researchers were reluctant to believe their own results.
(Via /. via Kurt.)
After three years of bloody war in Iraq, President Bush has finally announced his hitherto super-secret plan for victory. Step 1: elect a more competent U.S. president...
President Bush said yesterday that future administrations will have to grapple with how and when to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, indicating that he doesn't see an end to U.S. commitments until at least 2009.
"That'll be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq," Mr. Bush said at his second press conference of the year, during which he also said Iraq is not in the middle of a civil war and defended his continued commitment of U.S. troops.
On March 29, 2006 there will be a total solar eclipse, which is when the moon moves directly between the sun and the Earth. It won't be visible here in the U.S., but even if you don't live in Brazil, North Africa, Turkey or East Asia you can join in the fun! The San Francisco Exploratorium is hosting a big eclipse party starting at 9pm Pacific time, and they'll be hosting a webcast of the eclipse live from a Roman amphitheater in Turkey.
The most important thing to remember when viewing an eclipse is never view an eclipse with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope! That's because the sun will fry your eyeballs like a grape in the microwave. So to enjoy next week's eclipse webcast safely, just follow these simple instructions to build a pinhole eclipse webcast viewer.
Sony BMG recently settled the class-action lawsuit brought by EFF over their DRM-rootkit fiasco. If you purchased one of the 113 CDs that were affected, you're probably eligible for some combination of cash payment, replacement CD and/or free music download. Just click here or on the image to the right for details.
MP3.com has the skinny on battery life for portable music players, with this little gem on how much decoding the DRM on purchased music costs you:
Take, for instance, the critically acclaimed Creative Zen Vision:M, with a rated battery life of up to 14 hours for audio and 4 hours for video. CNET tested it at nearly 16 hours, with MP3s--impressive indeed. Upon playing back only WMA subscription tracks, the Vision:M scored at just more than 12 hours. That's a loss of almost 4 hours, and you haven't even turned the backlight on yet.
We found similar discrepancies with other PlaysForSure players. The Archos Gmini 402 Camcorder maxed out at 11 hours, but with DRM tracks, it played for less than 9 hours. The iRiver U10, with an astounding life of about 32 hours, came in at about 27 hours playing subscription tracks. Even the iPod, playing back only FairPlay AAC tracks, underperformed MP3s by about 8 percent.
In other words, you pay between 8 and 25% of your battery life for the privilege of not being able to listen to your music where ever you want... now that's customer service!
(Thanks to Nerfduck for the link!)
Update 3/23/06: Some folks are pointing out that comparing WMA or AAC format with DRM to MP3 isn't a fair test since it conflates the effect of DRM with the effect of the format itself (a fair test would be to compare WMA with DRM to the same files without DRM). And Ed Felten at Freedom to Tinker comments that regardless of whether the test compares apples to oranges, wouldn't it be nice if we could choose which fruit we wanted to eat?
Check out Bound By Law: Tales from the public domain, a comic about fair use and copyright in documentary filmmaking written by a cartoonist, a columnist and a filmmaker, all of whom also happen to be law professors specializing in intellectual property. Available for free download or paper-book purchase, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.
(Link via Dr. Wex at Copyfight.)
So if you were designing the label for a night-time cold medicine, where would you put the instructions and proper dosage amounts?
If you answered "put it underneath the label, so the customer needs to peel it back to read it" then you might have a bright future in product-packaging!
I don't know what kind of FDA-regulation constraints these designers are up against, but really — couldn't they do better than this?
I saw this sign on the MBTA a few days ago, a part of their whole post-9-11-world Transit Watch Program.
Is it just me, or did this whole "Traitors Are Everywhere"
We all know that talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving is dangerous (OK, except for that guy in the SUV that cut you off this morning). Cognitive Daily has nice summaries of a couple recent studies suggesting that talking on hands-free cellphones while driving is also dangerous due to the higher cognitive load, and furthermore that talking to a passenger sitting in the car may be no better.
Ed Felton has just posted a new policy statement on DRM from the U.S. public policy committee of the ACM, the main professional society for computer science. (The ACM has also posted the policy in PDF form.) Looks like a good set of recommendations — the highlights are that no specific DRM should be legally mandated and that DRM should be used to enforce existing copyrights, to assert new legal rights or to interfere with consumer behavior that's unrelated to the copyrighted items being managed. Though not named specifically, those two points sound like a pretty clear condemnation of the Broadcast Flag and the anti-circumvention clauses of the DMCA.
Wow. Glenn Greenwald has the skinny on how Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is so determined to make sure the Intelligence Committee doesn't look into Bush's secret domestic wiretapping program (the vote was already delayed once by the Committee Chair after it became apparent that three Republican committee members were going to vote to hold hearings) that he's threatening to end the special bipartisan power-sharing arrangement the intelligence committee has had since it was created 30 years ago. Sounds like a smaller version of the so-called Nuclear Option the Republicans were threatening over filibuster.
"If I can't have my way, I'm just going to take my Democracy and go home..."
(Thanks to Judith for the link.)
There's a fascinating article in this month's Seed Magazine called The Reinvention of the Self, describing the latest studies showing that we aren't actually born with all the brain cells we'll ever have, how stress and depression seem to keep new neurons from growing, and how antidepressants seem to encourage the growth of new neurons.
While not the main thrust of the article, it highlights what I think is a pretty basic philosophical issue for our age:
Gould’s research inevitably conjures up comparisons to societal problems. And while Gould, like all rigorous bench scientists, prefers to focus on the strictly scientific aspects of her data—she is wary of having it twisted for political purposes—she is also acutely aware of the potential implications of her research.
“Poverty is stress,” she says, with more than a little passion in her voice. “One thing that always strikes me is that when you ask Americans why the poor are poor, they always say it’s because they don’t work hard enough, or don’t want to do better. They act like poverty is a character issue.”
Gould’s work implies that the symptoms of poverty are not simply states of mind; they actually warp the mind. Because neurons are designed to reflect their circumstances, not to rise above them, the monotonous stress of living in a slum literally limits the brain.
The more we peel back the curtains that hide how the mind works, the more we're forced to face age-old questions about what free will and responsibility mean when you can see the clockworks ticking towards their inevitable action.
(Thanks to XThread for the link!)
For folks local to the Bay Area, Prof. Matt Blaze is speaking next week at Stanford on vulnerabilities in the systems currently being used by law enforcement for wiretapping. The talk is at 4:15PM next Wednesday, 3/8/06 at Stanford University's HP Auditorium, Gates Computer Science Building B01.
Signaling Vulnerabilities in Law-Enforcement Wiretap Systems
Matt Blaze, University of Pennsylvania
Telephone wiretap and dialed number recording systems are used by law enforcement and national security agencies to collect investigative intelligence and legal evidence. This talk will show how many of these systems are vulnerable to simple, unilateral countermeasures that allow wiretap targets to prevent their call audio from being recorded and/or cause false or inaccurate dialed digits and call activity to be logged. The countermeasures exploit the unprotected in-band signals passed between the telephone network and the collection system and are effective against many of the wiretapping technologies currently used by US law enforcement, including at least some ``CALEA'' systems. Possible remedies and workarounds will be proposed, and the broader implications of the security properties of these systems will be discussed.
A recent paper, as well as audio examples of several wiretapping countermeasures, can be found at http://www.crypto.com/papers/wiretapping/.
This is joint work with Micah Sherr, Eric Cronin, and Sandy Clark.
(Thanks to Mort for the link!)
DocBug exclusive: Anheuser-Busch, the owner of the popular American beer brands Budweiser and Bud Light, is suing the Disney-owned ABC television network for copyright violation after ABC's broadcast of ads for the two beers during this year's Superbowl. In a statement, Anheuser-Busch lawyers said the fact that the disputed segments were ads for their own products did not excuse ABC's behavior, nor did fact that Anheuser-Busch had paid $26 million to have them aired. "We have to protect our content," explained one executive.
ABC executives said they could not comment on ongoing litigation, but that they were considering filing a similar suit against themselves for the broadcasts of ads for Desperate Housewives and Lost during the game.
(Thanks to Wendy Seltzer for something resembling the link.)