Critical Section


Friday,  10/22/04  10:42 PM

bird flyingThe biggest thing that happened this summer was my daughter Jordan moved out!  Yep, she's off to college...  flew the roost.  And turned 18.  Wow, they do grow up so fast.  She's doing great, we're very proud of her.  And this means for the first time since I started blogging, I've changed my "about me" page.  I no longer live with three of my four daughters, now just two.

For the first time since going public, GOOG announced earnings, and their stock price jumped from $140 to $160.  Which prompted Bambi Francisco at CBS Marketwatch to predict $400.  Bubble?  What bubble?

Did you see this?  Global Warming Bombshell.  "Canadian scientists Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick have uncovered a fundamental mathematical flaw in the computer program that was used to produce the hockey stick...  Suddenly the hockey stick, the poster-child of the global warming community, turns out to be an artifact of poor mathematics."  Wow.

The Scientist examines California's proposition 71, the "stem cell initiative".  The primary opposition to this is coming from ardent Christians, who somehow equate "stem cell research" with "abortion".  The tenuous link is that embryonic stem cells are often harvested from miscarried or aborted fetuses.  I think stem cell research is very promising.  However I have a different objection; this proposition would create a $3B publicly funded institute.  California is flat broke.  How the heck are we going to afford this?  Not to mention, is this really an efficient way to "do science"?  No.  The best thing the state can do is stay out of the way of academia and private industry.  Arnold is supporting 71, but I can't figure out why; it just doesn't make economic sense.

Proposition 72 is a clear loser; it mandates health care coverage for employees.  This is the type of government intervention in private industry that makes California such an expensive place to do business.  Arnold doesn't like this either.

Stem cell research brings to mind this great observation by Issac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny ...'."  [ via Adam Curry ]

GNXP took a close look at AIDS affecting evolution in Africa.  "Three biologists from the University of California, Berkeley, show in Nature that over a period of several generations, AIDS could alter the frequency of specific genetic mutations in African populations, delaying the average time between HIV infection and onset of disease."  This is natural selection in action!  (Not to be confused with unnatural selection, which is swamping these effects...)

Matt Webb considers skeuomorphs.  "A skeuomorph is a design feature that is no longer functional in itself but that refers back to a feature that was functional at an earlier time.

There is a long tradition in architecture of carrying along features which once had structural utility, but which now, due to advances in building materials, have merely an aesthetic function.  These are often called "spandrels", and this term was exapted by Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin for their famous paper, "The Spandrels of San Macro".  A discussion of evolutionary skeuomorphs, if you will.

Of course evolution cannot afford to mess around, so such apparent skeuomorphs generally have actual function, if you look closely, even if the new function is unrelated to the original one.  Daniel Dennett has a great discussion of this in his classic Darwin's Dangerous Idea.

The other day I noted The Long Tail.  Joi Ito wonders Will the Tail Wag?  "In case you haven't noticed, it's clearly now a discovery problem, not a delivery problem."  I noticed :)

For another take, please see Kevin Laws' The Internet and the Death of 80/20.  "For the entrepreneurs among you, now is the time to start thinking about other businesses where the Internet could help aggregate the long tail.  The next Ebay or Overture will be found there."  Hmmm...  That's funny...

And I think this is related, too; John Battelle considers TV and Search Merge.  "Clearly, there is room for both kinds of advertising – intent-based (search), and content-based (TV).  But what if the two were to merge?"  As John writes, not only plausible but inevitable.

This is interesting.  If you're a Tivo aficionado, you know that the old Series/1 Tivos were eminently hackable, whereas the newer Series/2 Tivos are not.  Which makes the Series/1s more desirable for a certain class of user (yes, I am running a webserver on my Tivo, aren't you?)  Anyway apparently it is now possible to hack Tivo Series/2s!  Those Dutch programmers...

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