Critical Section

Monday,  11/08/04  10:04 PM

You may have heard U.S. forces are on the attack in Fallujah.  If you want the details, check out blogs like Belmont Club, which consistently has more and better military information than the networks.

Smart-1 ion-rocket probeThe Guardian reports Probe will discover secrets of the Moon.  "The Smart-1 robot probe, launched by the European Space Agency, will spend 2005 using an X-ray detector to map the composition of the Moon's surface. Results will then be used to solve one of astronomy's greatest mysteries: the origin of the Moon."  So that's cool, but that's not the real story; Smart-1 is powered by an ion rocket, the first satellite to prove out this promising technology.  "Smart was originally designed to test the feasibility of 'ion engines' which operate by shooting out streams of electrically-charged xenon.  This generates a tiny thrust equivalent to a postcard resting on a person's hand.  But unlike standard chemical rockets, which can fire only in bursts before exhausting their fuel, an ion engine can burn continuously for years."  Excellent.

And this is awesome - a time-lapse photograph of the recent lunar eclipse:

time-lapse lunar eclipse

Even more space news: The rules have been set for Robert Biglow's $50M 'America's Space Prize'.  This is quite a bit tougher than the X-prize: "Anyone who wants to follow in the shoes of Burt Rutan and win the next big space prize will have to build a spacecraft capable of taking a crew of no fewer than five people to an altitude of 400 kilometers and complete two orbits of the Earth at that altitude.  Then they have to repeat that accomplishment within 60 days."  As previously noted here, reaching orbit requires about 25X more energy than "reaching space".  My personal bet would be on SpaceX to capture this prize, and they're not even trying to do so.

Hough waveWow, these are beautiful: Hough waves.  "Hough waves or so called Hough transformations are named after Paul Hough who introduced the algorithm in 1962.  The algorithm is used to find certain characteristics in pictures, for example, lines, circles or ellipses." [ via Ottmar Liebert ]

Mark Cuban wonders When will the Music Industry do it Right?  "This is the only industry in the world that can see thousands of its retailers close, reduce the number of products it sells via cutbacks in artist rosters and albums released, cut back marketing and promotional dollars and then blame a reduction in sales on someone or something other than themselves."  I love it that people like Mark blog.  As the founder of, he knows a little about this, too...

A related question might be "will the Movie Industry learn from the Music Industry's mistakes"?

And meanwhile Wired reports File-sharing Thrives under Radar.  "A file-sharing program called Bittorrent has become a behemoth, devouring more than a third of the internet's bandwidth, and Hollywood's copyright cops are taking notice."  Bittorrent and its brethren are really taking over, in the vacuum caused by the lack of legitimate businesses.  Look at the success of the Apple music store - just about every track sold could be found on the net free.  By the way I don't believe the one-third-of-all-bandwidth number, that's not real world.

I can't figure out if this is important: Real has done a deal with Starz.  Apparently it is a high-quality video on demand service, drawing on Starz' library of content and Real's technology.  Interestingly, it is an "all you can eat" business model; a fixed monthly fee for any amount of consumed content.  We'll have to keep an eye on this...

chess-playing "thinking machine 4"This is so cool.  A chess-playing applet which shows visually the moves it is considering.  Awesome!

I'm just wondering - are there any commercials on television which don't use special effects?  I didn't think so.


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Correlation vs. Causality
The Tyranny of Email
Unnatural Selection
On Blame
Try, or Try Not
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solving bongard problems
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estimating in meatspace
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On the Persistence of Bad Design...
Texas chili cookoff
almost famous design and stochastic debugging
may I take your order?
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how did I get here (Mt.Whitney)?
the Law of Significance
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your cat for my car
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world population map
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introducing eyesFinder
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where are the desktop apps?
still the first bird
electoral fail
progress ratches
2020 explained