Blog - politics

The newsworthiness of current events

Sun Dec 10 18:56:56 EST 2006

Possibly interesting data mining project: Lexis search of column inches vs number of deaths vs distance from newspaper source geographically. Three dimensional data problem, but I hypothesise that there will be a power law relationship between column inches and some geometric combination (eg distance*body count) of the other parameters. How does this vary with year of publication? An event is newsworthy if it affects you. An event affects you directly if someone you know is affected. Telecommunications and long-distance travel have increased exponentially over the last few decades, has this changed the scaling law? What about further classification by type of event eg accident versus intentional action (eg warfare, terrorism)? Another hypothesis: outside a certain geographical radius accidental and intentional events will be fairly similar in terms of total coverage unless a fair proportion of the readership have ties to the location.

[ideas] [politics]


Outside Context Problem

Sun Dec 10 18:23:42 EST 2006

Rereading "Excession" by Ian M. Banks at the moment:

An Outside Context Problem was the sort of thing most civilisations encountered just once, and which they tended to encounter rather in the same way a sentence encountered a full stop. The usual example given to illustrate an Outside Context Problem was imagining you were a tribe on a largish, fertile island; you'd tamed the land, invented the wheel or writing or whatever, the neighbours were cooperative or enslaved but at any rate peaceful and you were busy raising temples to yourself with all the excess productive capacity you had, you were in a position of near-absolute power and control which your hallowed ancestors could hardly have dreamed of and the whole situation was just running along nicely like a canoe on wet grass ... (...)

[notes] [politics]


Heathrow bomb plot

Thu Aug 10 09:26:15 BST 2006

Things that you don't want to see in the news a couple of weeks before embarking on a 22 hour flight to Australia: ['Plot to blow up planes' foiled]. Currently you're not allowed any carry-on luggage apart from identity documents and wallets in clear plastic bags - hopefully this will not be the case when I fly out, since I don't think laptops like flying cargo (the screens don't like low pressure).

Hmm... my response to a bomb threat from the airport that I am due to fly out of in a couple of weeks is not "Oh noes!!!1! We're all going to die!!!1!", it is "Crap. Check-in is going to take hours, and my laptop might get killed in the cargo bay, plus I'll have nothing to read". Realistic response to the threat?

The news article says the plot was for 3 devices on planes going from UK to USA. Number of flights from Heathrow per day is about 1500 ([source

[me] [politics]


Being Poor

Wed Aug 9 13:43:27 BST 2006

[Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.] A fairly depressing and thought-provoking blog thread. The original post really touched a nerve with the blog community, as evidenced by the 300+ comments.



95 Theses of Geek Activism

Wed Aug 9 13:40:15 BST 2006

[95 Theses of Geek Activism what it means to be a "hacker".



Communication defeats competition

Thu Aug 3 18:52:56 BST 2006

Communication defeats competition. One man may be stronger than you, he won't be stronger than you and your thousand friends (unless his friends have given him powerful weapons).

If you can only talk to your local tribe you are working for the good of your genes, only by spreading your social circle outside your physical environment are you able to work for the good of society as a whole. The internet is the enabler of this.

(The locality statement above is based on the assumption that for low levels of immigration people sharing a common geographical area will share more genes in common than two people chosen at random from the entire population. This may give rise to hive-mind behaviour where the (sterile) worker bees sacrifice themselves to protect the queen bee that gives the genome immortality.)

[ideas] [politics]


Utopia or Oblivion

Thu Aug 3 18:31:39 BST 2006

I'm rereading R. Buckminster Fuller's book "Utopia or Oblivion" at the moment (one advantage of packing all of my books into boxes is that I discover some that I haven't read in a while). The book is a series of transcripts for public lectures given by Fuller, to a variety of audiences. The common theme of the lectures is technological progress solving all of humankind's problems, either by giving us a utopia or wiping humanity from the face of the planet.

Key points:

  • Emphemeralization. Doing more with less. As technology improves it (by definition?) becomes more efficient. One solution to the global warming problem would be to operate engines at a higher temperature, so that the Carnot efficiency is improved and less energy is lost as heat. This is a materials engineering problem that can be solved by development of cheap and strong high temperature materials for turbine blades.
  • Language acts as in intrinsic limiter to thought. (...)

[ideas] [politics]


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