Critical Section


Monday,  04/05/04  11:34 PM

Man, there's a lot going on, it's all happening...

The situation in Iraq is dicey at the moment, U.S. Marines have shut down Fallujah, Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has been declared an outlaw, and polls indicate Bush's support for his handling of the situation in Iraq are at an all time low.  But Stephen Den Beste thinks the situation in Fallujah is an enemy mistake; "Our enemies are making a tremendous blunder, and have given CENTCOM a priceless gift."  Interesting, read it for yourself and see if you agree.

I still believe - firmly - that the war on terror is the right issue for Bush.  Edward Kennedy obviously disagrees, but then he would.  Comparing the number of casualties in Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq to the relative success of each operation, they just don't compare.

Congratulations to Connecticut for winning the NCAA Men's Basketball championship.  Tonight's game was much better than the semifinals; fewer fouls, more flow, better basketball.  To me the outcome was never in doubt, Connecticut controlled the game almost from the outset.  I actually think Duke could have beaten Georgia Tech as well.  As could have Stanford, but that's another story >:(

Fortune magazine recently ran an interesting cover story: "Why we're losing the war on cancer" (PDF).  The point of view in the article is that little progress has been made in preventing or curing cancer, despite a huge amount of resource, attention, and effort being focused on the problem.  The article argues that researchers, drug developers, and physicians are primarily concerned with treating patients who already have cancer to prolong their lives or improve their quality of life.  Additionally, there is a suggestion that much cancer research is unfocused or uncoordinated, and that a centralized effort led by the National Cancer Institute would be a more efficient approach.  Personally I think we've made huge progress in the war, and I wouldn't describe this progress as "losing".  It is frustrating that more progress hasn't been made, but then "curing" cancer is a tough proposition, and really amounts to solving many problems in parallel, since there are so many kinds of cancer...

Sedna discoveryThe Economist wonders, ten planets, or eight?  The discovery of Sedna, a planet-like object 3/4 the size of Pluto which is sometimes ten times as far away from the Sun, has reopened the debate into what constitutes a planet.  Are Sedna, Quaoar, and Pluto planets?  Or "merely" Kuiper belts objects?  I like the definition that a plant is any object with enough mass to form a spherical shape.  By that definition, all three are planets, and there are very likely many others.

Lake VidaNASA's astronomy picture of the day last Sunday was Lake Vida, a frozen lake in Antarctica.  In addition to being beautiful, this lake is fascinating because it isn't completely frozen!  Sixty-two feet under the ice there is a salt-water lake, which scientists estimate has seven times the salinity of ocean water, and which has been isolated from the Earth's atmosphere for at least 2,800 years.  And amazingly, microbes have been discovered sealed in the ice.  Not only is this interesting in itself, but "NASA is interested in the research because the Lake Vida ecosystem serves as a classroom of sorts, providing lessons for launching Martian ice probes that may yield frozen microbes."  Wouldn't that be amazing, it the little green men turned out to be frozen brine shrimp thousands or even millions of years old?

This is really cool: AlwaysOn reports First reactor in three decades to test designs.  "A consortium of energy companies is seeking a permit to build the first U.S. nuclear power plant in more than 30 years."  Wow, it's about time.  I'm a big fan of nuclear energy, despite what "greens" may say, it is the cleanest way for us to generate energy [entropy].

Business 2.0 ran a fascinating article about Tivo: When the Network Meets the Net.  The article includes an interview with Tivo CEO Mike Ramsey, including this exchange:

B20: Right now TiVo gets its content from cable or satellite. What's next?
Ramsey: What if your TiVo were connected not only into broadcast but also to the broadband Internet?

Yeah, what if it was!

Meanwhile, Netflix to offer movie downloads.  Online video-on-demand is going to heat up here pretty soon.  With so many households now connected by broadband, it's bound to be the next big thing.

Segway soccer robotWhen the segway first came out, people said "yeah, it's cool, but what is it good for?"  Well, here's one answer; a group at Carnegie Mellon have used it as a platform for a robotic soccer player!  (They have a lot of pictures...)  Very cool.  [ via John Robb

And in a similar vein, Stanford has built the Segbot.

DARPA has standardized on it as the Common Robotic Mobility Platform.

Wired: Dodgy Patents Rile Tech Industry.  "Over the past few months, the number of questionable patents distributed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has reached a crescendo."  No kidding.  And no solution in sight...

riding square wheelsScience News discusses Riding on Square Wheels.  No, it isn't a joke; square wheels make sense, if you have the right shape road.  As long as the road consists of inverted caternary curves, your square wheels will roll smoothly along.

Ottmar Liebert is getting ready to release his next album, La Semana.  A limited edition package will be available direct from his website before he goes on tour.  Excellent!

Well, you knew this would happen: Playfair is an application which strips Apple's DRM from music downloaded from the iTunes music store.  It uses a key obtained from your iPod.  Essentially this allows you to bypass the three computer limit for iTunes music.

Worthwhile!Hey, a new online 'zine!  Worthwhile launched today.  "Work with purpose, passion, profit."  Interestingly, they built a website and comment system before they have a print magazine.  The site feels like a group blog, with an active comment system.  Cool!

The NYT reports the next issue of Reason Magazine will have an odd twist, each of the 40,000 subscribers will receive a personalized issue, with a satellite picture of their house on the cover!  Makes me want to subscribe.

Jack BennyDave Winer noted he gave a talk to a class at Harvard, and the students didn't know who Jack Benny was...  wow.  Jack was the funniest person ever.  I saw him once on the Tonight Show, with Johnny Carson.  They did a thing where an audience member was supposed to give Jack a sentence to say, and he'd say it in a way which made it funny.  A man in the audience gave him the sentence: “I went to the store today to buy a loaf of bread”.  Jack stood up in front of the audience, paused, looked around, and delivered that line.  And I swear everyone in the audience was doubled over, crying with laughter.  I'm snickering just thinking about it, thirty years later :)

The other day I noted the great comedic book, Molvania, a land untouched by modern dentistry.  Justin Knol emailed to say he saw it in a book store's travel section.  Wow.  Like Hugh Grant's character says in Notting Hill, "when you write a travel book, it helps if you've been there" :)

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