Archive: December 28, 2008
Sorry I was gone; on impulse my friend Peter and I spent the last couple of days skiing in Mammoth. We had a fantastic time; it dumped up there Christmas Day, we drove up early on Friday and skied in fresh snow with the sun shining, then had an even better day yesterday as it warmed up and drove back last night.
what could be better than skiing
on such a winter's day?
the view from the lift back down into the valley
decisions, decisions :)
fresh powder - yay
your blogger is happy
the top of Mammoth at sundown
Anyway it was a great trip and reminded me how fun it is to be spontaneous. Life is too long to plan it all out. We saw Yes Man the other day, and the message was/is cool. Want to go skiing? Yes!
[ It's been quiet in the blogosphere but there is stuff of note; I'll catch up, please stay tuned... ]
Apres skiing, the Ole filter makes a pass...
[ A bit of navel-gazing: I've now published over 500 posts this year. Yay me. (And yay you, thanks for reading :) ]
Nick Wingfield thinks its Time to Leave the Laptop Behind, arguing that with smartphones they aren't always necessary. But Gerry Purdy disagrees, and says don't leave home without it. Clearly this isn't either/or; for some situations you can leave the laptop behind - I just went skiing for a couple of days, and left it, knowing I could pick up email on my Palm - but for business travel where you're likely to want to type a lot a laptop is way better than a phone. I can't imagine blogging from my Palm, for example...
...from Adam on the Conejo Valley Cyclists mailing list; "always have options" :)
The Economist published their annual summary of the year, 2008. A great brief overview of "everything that happened". Not our best effort, let's hope 2009 is better!
The same issue of the Economist asks a great question: Why Music? A pretty thorough analysis of why we humans make, like, and respond to music. They are on the right track with two things, first, the idea that liking music evolved, and second, that it has something to do with sex, but in the end the question remains unanswered. I must tell you I like it myself, although I don't know why.
Wired: Before the levees break: A plan to save the Netherlands. "New projections of sea-level rise and other potential consequences of climate change, coupled with the aftershock from Hurricane Katrina, have prompted Dutch officials to ask a very big question: What would it take to climate-proof our country for the next 200 years? In 2007, the parliament assigned a team of experts, dubbed the Delta Committee, to come up with an answer. The group's final report, published in September, proposes a combination of aggressive new steps - extending the coastline and building surge barriers - and time-tested strategies like fortifying levees. The cost: about $1.5 billion a year for the next 100 years." Excellent. And in so doing they will create a template for everyone else.
Amazon says their 2008 Holiday season was their best ever. So be it. Just like Wal-Mart, they take share from higher-priced merchants when times are tough.
This is cool: Lost World discovered, thanks to Google Earth. "A team of conservationists from Kew Garden has just returned from an expedition to an uncharted and unexplored Eden in the heart of Mozambique after discovering it on Google Earth. The mountainous area of southern Africa - crammed with colourful birds, unusual insects and rare plants - had been overlooked by wildlife experts and map makers because of its difficult landscape and decades of war." Just when you think you've seen everything, you realize "everything" is so much more than you thought...
Sailing Anarchy notes a Strange Cat. "We told you about this VPLP Swiss foiler catamaran and now it finally sails. We didn't know that perhaps the greatest F-1 driver of all time, Alain Prost, is involved with the project. Now that's cool." Yes it is.
Cosmos: Big friendly giant: the Magellan Telescope. "A world consortium of astronomy organisations plans to build the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) on a mountaintop near the village of Residencia in Chile's Atacama Desert. It will cost US$600 million and should be ready by 2016. With a resolving power ten times sharper than Hubble and five times sharper than its replacement, the James Webb Space Telescope, the GMT is a big step up in terms of power. Composed of an array of seven mirrors, each 8.4 m in diameter (some of the largest ground-based telescopes currently have a diameter of 10 m), it will have the capacity of a telescope with a diameter of 24.5 m – far larger than any telescope built so far." Interesting that they're doing this on the ground instead of in space; shows how effective computer corrections for atmosphere effects have become...
From the Boston Globe's Big Picture: The Hubble Telescope's Advent calendar. Twenty-five amazing pictures of space, taken with the Hubble... beautiful. The picture at right is the Cat's Eye Nebula.
In preparation for starting a new year I've changed the navbar at right to have six years' worth of "on this date" links; I began blogging on January 1, 2003. And doing so reminds me of six years ago, December 2002, when I had decided to write a book called Unnatural Selection, and as a sort of corollary, to start this blog.
At that time I was on fire to communicate and discuss the problems caused by the Earth's human population becoming less intelligent, because birth rates are higher among less intelligent people. I still believe this is a problem - more so than ever - and still think educating people about this problem and talking about what can be done is important. That is, I still want to write the book. I don't know why I haven't [yet]; lack of time is my excuse, but I'm not sure that's the entire reason. At times in the intervening six years I've thought about how best to approach communicating the problem; my original idea was a nonfiction book that would simply discuss the problem and talk about possible solutions, following the general outline I devised in early 2003. But I've also thought perhaps it might work better as a novel, illustrating the ideas in a more entertaining fashion. Not sure.
Interestingly, to some extent my blog has become my book; the book's outline has been the top hit on Google for "Unnatural Selection" for nearly six years. And of course the blog has taken on a life of its own, far removed from the book :)
I think one of the obstacles to working on the book was that I understood the problem better than the solutions. Although knowledge of the problem is useful in and of itself, and communicating the problem would hopefully stimulate discussion that might yield solutions, I really wanted to have a more constructive approach. Fortunately in the intervening six years I've had a potentially useful insight that could lead to some solutions.
In the book outline I identified three factors that affect relative birth rates: 1) choice, 2) generation length, and 3) death rates. I went on to note that "All solutions must affect choice, the first part of the equation which yields the overall reproductive rate. It is not feasible to affect generation length nor death rates." But on further reflection this isn't really true; there are solutions which affect generation length. In particular, it might be possible to delay child bearing among less intelligent people, which would have the same effect as reducing the number of children they have overall. And this might be a lot more politically feasible. For example, governments could offer some kind of financial incentive. Granted, in many situations people have children without prior planning, but an incentive could foster some change in the generation length, as well as potentially influencing the "family values" affecting choice, which can be institutionalized from government incentives.
Anyway I am entering 2009 with a firm resolve to spend some time working on the book. I don't know how much time I'll actually have free, nor how much time writing the book is going to require, but making steady progress is my goal. Stay tuned!
© 2003-2017 Ole Eichhorn
Return to the archive.
Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Aperio's Mission = Automating Pathology
Try, or Try Not
Books and Wine
God and Beauty
Moving Mount Fuji
Rock 'n Roll
IQ and Populations
Are You a Bright?
The Joy of Craftsmanship
The Emperor's New Code
The Return of the King
Religion vs IQ
In the Wet
the big day
solving bongard problems
the nuclear option
estimating in meatspace
On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
New Yorker covers
Death Rider! (da da dum)
how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
the Law of Significance
Daniel Jacoby's photographs
the first bird
Gödel Escher Bach: Birthday Cantatatata
Father's Day (in pictures)
your cat for my car
Jobsnotes of note
world population map
no joy in Baker
where are the desktop apps?