<<< the Knack


"The Big City" - New Yorker magazine cover gallery >>>

Sunday,  04/11/04  10:54 PM

Happy Easter to everyone!  Hope you had a great day with your family, as I did...

The latest issue of The Scientist features First Person: Leroy Hood.  This amazing pioneer of genetic research has started 11 companies and hold 14 patents, and is generally credited with being "the father of DNA sequencing".  The interviewer asked him about ethical issues in genetic research, and he replied:

"My own view is that progress is inevitable.  Those trying to block it will be utterly irrelevant.  I think it's one of the natural inevitable steps, a consequence of gaining rationality, and the ability to manipulate the most fundamental of all living things, our DNA.  I will say, it can be put to good use, or bad use, like any technology.  We have to give our citizenry the information, and the inquiry-based tools, to make rational judgments.  Our citizenry clearly do not have those tools."

Among his least significant accomplishments, he was my premed advisor at CalTech.

This is good news: NASA gives rovers five more months.  "Initially the missions were slated to last 90 days each, but with two healthy rovers returning regular information, the Mars rover project has been approved for a total of 250 days.  Mars manager Firouz Naderi said if NASA has one or two healthy rovers come September, they may ask for another extension."  Excellent!

In other space news, Astrobiology reports on the Messenger project, "a scientific investigation of the planet Mercury, and the first NASA mission designed to orbit the planet closest to the Sun."  Another unmanned robot from Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which has a pretty decent track record going...

Roland Piquepaille describes the heavyweight Sea Snail, a Scottish device which generates power from tidal action.  This is essentially a giant anchor which uses six "wings" to fly in the tides, generating electricity in the process.  Very cool.

Here's more than you ever wanted to know about camel spiders.  You probably didn't even want to know such things existed, huh?  Apparently there have been some amazing rumors about these huge arachnids, but they're really not that bad.  You have to admit, they do look pretty bad;  six inch spiders are never a good thing.

Obo Cocteau is a story based on the flamenco guitarist Ottmar Liebert's recording of "Cocteau" [from the CD La Semana, 2004], a pure fictional evocation of the composition's moody Moorish atmosphere... and associations made from OL's title.  "OL's Cocteau has a deep, mysterious tone, like an opium den in perpetual night... or a hidden Moorish fortress where an imprisoned musician sends his melody across Time."  I suggest you listen to the recording as you read the story :)

Speaking of stories, in The Sword of Empiricism lukelea attempts to show "Adam and Eve is not only a true story, allegorically speaking, but that it is also empirically connected to the events to which it refers, in time as well as space, in fact as well as metaphorically".  A great effort, but I remain, as ever, unconvinced.  Actually it isn't so much that I feel the story of Adam and Eve is wrong as that I feel it is unnecessary.

Here's a real sign of the times: the playmobil airport security check-in.  I am not making this up.  [ via Cory Doctorow ]

Another great referral from Cory, London's ghost tube-stations.  A great pictorial investigation of the history of the tube, and the stations and tracks which have been abandoned.  The feeling I get from reading the pages is a tremendous sense of nostalgia and age - and I want to go there.

Well, you just knew this was going to happen: Vonage over Cell Phone.  "I called a friend of mine in New York.  20 minute conversation over a data connection.  Fat chance the cellphone company got to see any part of the revenues from that call.  It was a few pennies for Vonage, and a quarter or so for the data connection for 20 minutes."  This is the future.

BusinessWeek reports How Microsoft is Clipping Longhorn.  "To get the already-delayed follow-up to Windows XP out the door by 2006, it has decided to omit some of the most ambitious features."  Among the features being dropped, WinFS, the new database-like filesystem proposed for Longhorn.  Scoble says it isn't so.  But from what I've read, on Channel 9 and elsewhere, it is so.  Or at least, the ambitious version of WinFS originally envisioned will not be present.  Personally I think performance is a part of it; you'll recall I predicted after the PDC last fall that WinFS would be too slow.