Critical Section


Monday,  05/09/05  09:41 PM

Astronomers have found twelve new moons orbiting Saturn.  Quite the archipelago, that makes 46, I think.  Most of the newly found moons are tiny, and many are retrograde (orbit the "wrong" way around), suggesting they are captured Kuiper belt objects.

Titan seen by CassiniBTW, here's a wonderful picture of Titan taken by Cassini; click to enlarge.  "This false-color composite was created with images taken during the Cassini spacecraft's closest flyby of Titan on April 16, 2005.  Green represents areas where Cassini is able to see down to the surface.  Red represents areas high in Titan's stratosphere where atmospheric methane is absorbing sunlight.  Blue along the moon's outer edge represents visible violet wavelengths at which the upper atmosphere and detached hazes are better seen."  I love it.  [ via The Horse's Mouth ]

Did you hear about the conference for time travelers at MIT?  "The convention, which drew more than 400 people from our present time period, was held at MIT's storied East Campus dormitory.  It featured an MIT rock band, called the Hong Kong Regulars, and hilarious lectures by MIT physics professors."  Unfortunately no visitors from the future attended - that we know of - but that could change.  I'm going to go, too, but not yet; I'll wait for another ten years or so, then go back :)

Here's a report from a 2005 attendee, who lists possible reasons why time travelers from the future might not have attended.  I like this one: "Time travelers keep changing things at will until by chance they do something that prevents time travel from being invented every time it might have been."  Has a Heisenbergian feel to it, doesn't it?

Paul Graham is one of those bloggers writers who seem to hit the nail on the head every time.  In his latest essay, The Submarine, he considers corporate PR.  "One of the most surprising things I discovered during my brief business career was the existence of the PR industry, lurking like a huge, quiet submarine beneath the news.  Of the stories you read in traditional media that aren't about politics, crimes, or disasters, more than half probably come from PR firms."  This is one of the reasons why, whenever you read about something you know a lot about, it is wrong.  Anyway read Paul's essay, it's great!

Toshiba Tecra M4I've been trying to see Tablet PCs with high-resolution screens.  There are some out there with 1400x1050 now, like Toshiba's new Tecra M4.  No dealers seem to carry them, however, and who's going to buy such a thing sight unseen?  Tablets would be perfect for Aperio's Pathologist customers, since it would make annotating so natural (for many people annotating on screen with a mouse is pretty unnatural).  But we do need a lot of pixels; 1024x768 won't cut it.  If you know where I could physically see a high-resolution tablet in Southern California, please let me know!  Thanks.

Written WorldsThe other day I gave attribution for Rob Gonsalves terrific The Sun Sail Sets, but neglected to link Discovery Galleries, which is selling prints.  Sorry about that.  They have a wonderful selection of his work; I think Written Worlds is my favorite (pictured at right), for the idea as well as the execution.

Rafe Needleman considers the Escape Route.  "If there were a system that could tell drivers which of their few known routes to work or home was the least congested at a given moment, they'd likely pay for that information."  I know I would; I think traffic information is the killer product for in-car navigation systems, particularly since it leads directly to a recurring revenue model.  Furthermore I think the information should come from the cars themselves, not "smart roads".  Here in L.A. we've spent a fortune building traffic sensors into the freeways, which is stupid; we should have subsidized development of a car network instead.  Strike that, we should have saved our public money and let private enterprises do it.  They will anyway.

iTunes logoSo, that sound you heard was the other shoe dropping, quietly.  Apple has released iTunes 4.8, and it includes videos.  Right now they only have a few music videos, but general support for any videos is clearly built in.  I tried adding a feature-length movie to my Library, and it just worked.  It played in a separate window, and full screen worked, too.  (Had to be a Quicktime movie, though; AVIs did not work.)  Uh huh.

Star Wars Revelations - battle sceneOnline video distribution is fostering a whole industry of "fan films".  The most ambitious I've seen is the wonderful Star Wars Revelations, a 40 minute long epic.  Pretty darn professional, right down to the Flashified website!  The battle scenes are awesome, with all the right sounds (we're going to be disappointed in the future when we discover spaceships don't really make noise!) and the classic "huge ship coming from above" effect.  We're going to see a lot more of this sort of thing, and we're going to love it.

Utility of the day: Desktop Save and Restore.  Saves and restores your desktop icon layout for each screen resolution, including multiple monitor configurations.  Right click, Save Desktop.  Later, right click, Restore Desktop.  Just works.  I love it!

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