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Understanding Engineers, Take 5 >>>

Sunday,  03/28/04  07:23 PM

The Australian reports: Syria seeks our help to woo US.  "Syria has appealed to Australia to use its close ties with Washington to help the Arab nation shake off its reputation as a terrorist haven and repair its relations with the US."  Looks like Libya all over again.

And in similar news, "Egypt has stepped in to host an Arab summit after Tunisia stunned the Arab world with a unilateral decision to scrap the meeting it was hosting, citing the reluctance of some countries to embrace democratic reform."  So be it.  [ via LGF ]

It sure doesn't look like our foreign policy is a failure to me.

Methane find on Mars may be sign of life.  Not conclusive evidence, but really interesting, nonetheless.  This is getting really interesting.

And you probably saw this already, NASA jet breaks speed record.  "The unpiloted vehicle's supersonic combustion ramjet, or scramjet, ignited as planned and operated for the duration of its hydrogen fuel supply, which lasted about 10 seconds.  The X-43A reached its test speed of Mach 7."  That's 5,000 mph.  Wow.

I can't see where I linked this before, but its worth linking again anyway: Andrew Gumet's RSSTV.  Essentially he is using RSS to make "suggestions" to his Tivo.  So now anyone can publish their own channel, essentially their own schedule of what to record when.  Of course the next step is sharing the content as well as the schedule, which is why Andrew is messing around with Bittorrent...

Hey, check this out.  Home Media Centre, an Australian company, is selling PVRs based on the open source MythTV!  Very cool.  Of course this box would be infinitely hackable - not only Linux-based, like Tivo, but open source.  No word yet on whether the UI sucks.

This is some strange stuff - "aerogel" - used in the Stardust mission to capture dust from a comet's tail.  It is supposedly the least dense solid ever made.  It looks like a hologram, but it feels like hard styrofoam.  It is 99.8% air, 1,000 times less dense than glass.

Tim Oren eulogizes HyperCard, which was retired by Apple after 16 years.  A very cool product which defied description; a combination of GUI builder, scripting language, multimedia authoring environment, and database.  I think a Windows-based product with similar capabilities would be a huge hit.

Interested in Lawrence Lessig's latest book, Free Culture?  Well, it's free.  Easily downloadable via Bittorrent under the Creative Commons license.  And it is also available in audio; various bloggers have recorded chapters.  Interesting meta-illustrations of the book's ideas :)

This is really cool, a historical archive of Los Angeles in the 1900s.  Check out especially If you were living in L.A. a hundred years ago.  The clip at right is from an L.A.Times article in 1905 about "Young Hollywood's green fields".  I love it!  [ via Robert ]

The Beak of the FinchTimothy Sandefur writes about The Beak of the Finch, a terrific book by Jonathon Weiner.  I was given Beak at the same time as I was re-reading Daniel Dennett's classic Darwin's Dangerous Idea, and the two books complemented each other perfectly, theory and practice.  Highly recommended.

This is really cool: The Importance of Fudgability, from kasei.  [ via Mark Pilgrim ]  Required reading for all application developers, especially those building systems to automate a human process.

Joi Ito: Isn't it funny/interesting that Wallop, Microsoft's social networking project is built using Flash, XML and SQL while Orkut, Google's social network project is built using .Net and C#?

The OpenOffice meme picks up speed; Tim Bray talks about meeting the developers in Hamburg.  "The way that these guys store the data is massively, fiendishly, outrageously clever.  You know what this is?  This is exactly what the people who invented XML thought they (er, we) were doing it for."  I'm going to have to try OO, *soon*...

I have an important erratum for the table of engineering conversions, courtesy of Russell Day.  In the original table, I reported:

  • 1 million microphones: megaphone

This is unit confusion, the correct equivalencies are:

  • 1 million microphones: 1 phone
  • 1 million phones: 1 megaphone
  • 1 million megaphones: 1 bedlam :)