Critical Section


Sunday,  05/04/03  11:44 PM

If you're at all interested in Cultural Evolution by Group Selection, please read this terrific post by David Burbridge on GNXP.  He draws an important distinction between culture as an extended phenotype vs. culture as a self-replicating meme, and concludes that the former is far less likely to cause cultural evolution via natural selection than the latter.  The central argument against all group selection is that groups don't replicate, only the individuals within them do (and actually, only the genes within the individuals within the groups do)...

Time - What Will it Take to Win?L.T.Smash notes an interesting "Time Capsule": the April 7 issue of Time Magazine (cover pic at right).  Re-reading the articles in this issue leads to definite fehlervorhersagefreude:  "Now that the first week's fighting has failed to match expectations, experts are asserting that the U.S. was not prepared for the possible difficulties."  L.T. answers the question posed on the cover, What Will It Take To Win:

Two more days.

Charles Murtaugh discusses an important paper published in Science, that mouse embryonic stem cells can be coaxed into making eggs in a petri dish.  Among a large number of potential applications, this allows eggs to be made from males; you could actually clone an animal by mating it with itself.  Mind boggling.

Pogo! announces a new product: Radio Your Way.  Looks like essentially a handheld Tivo for radio.  [ Thanks Nick ]  This looks interesting, but it has two big drawbacks relative to my dream: 1) only four hour capacity (i.e. no hard drive), and 2) doesn't interface cleanly to a home stereo system.  Well, it is only a matter of time before someone gets this right.

Rumors that Sun will be acquired are circulating, fueled by a 92% drop in share price over the past three years.  Dell, IBM, or HP are the logical suitors.  I don't know, seems like Sun might be a bad deal at any price, hard to see where their long term value will come from.

Jon Rentzch posted an interesting article about an aspect of Apple's new iTunes Music Store which has gone under-reported; the way they handle micropayments.  He suggests they "batch" credit card transactions so they amortize the overhead across several purchases.

Jon hits it exactly; I've been buying tracks from the iTunes store using my PayPal account, so I can see exactly what they're sending through…  They authorize each time, but they only post aggregated debits after 48 hours.  Since many people like me buy more than one track at a time, or especially more than one track within 48 hours, this will work for them.  Interestingly, issuers are not going to be happy about this.  Many of them have to pay per-authorization charges, even for transactions which are not captured.

More iTunes Music Store user experience; last night I downloaded Sting's latest: The Very Best of Sting.  This album has eighteen tracks from the Police and Sting's solo career, and cost $9.  That is - YEP - $.50/track.  So for albums there is a volume discount over the store's $1/track price.  I'm listening to Sting right now - Brand New Day...

Anders Jacobsen shows an amusing example of a low-tech virus.

Peter Provost shows a not-so-amusing example of an easy way to crash Internet Explorer.  For a free crash, click here.  Worryingly, an email with the same HTML causes Outlook to crash!

The CSS vs. HTML debate continues; Simon Willison throws his hat in the CSS ring.  I don't think this is black and white, but CSS definitely has its problems; check out Objective, Chris Hollander's great blog, which looks crummy in Mozilla or a narrow window.  Yeah, tables definitely have their advantages...

Amish Tech Support comments on blogroll dilution.  This may be navel gazing, but I find it interesting; everyone wants to be popular, and managing blogrolls is a big part of directing traffic.

Finally, the latest computer room accessory (a kitten).

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