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Unnatural Selection, six years on... >>>

Sunday,  12/28/08  10:24 AM

Apres skiing, the Ole filter makes a pass...

[ A bit of navel-gazing: I've now published over 500 posts this year.  Yay me.  (And yay you, thanks for reading :) ]

Nick Wingfield thinks its Time to Leave the Laptop Behind, arguing that with smartphones they aren't always necessary.  But Gerry Purdy disagrees, and says don't leave home without it.  Clearly this isn't either/or; for some situations you can leave the laptop behind - I just went skiing for a couple of days, and left it, knowing I could pick up email on my Palm - but for business travel where you're likely to want to type a lot a laptop is way better than a phone.  I can't imagine blogging from my Palm, for example... 

...from Adam on the Conejo Valley Cyclists mailing list; "always have options" :) 

The Economist published their annual summary of the year, 2008.  A great brief overview of "everything that happened".  Not our best effort, let's hope 2009 is better! 

The same issue of the Economist asks a great question: Why Music?  A pretty thorough analysis of why we humans make, like, and respond to music.  They are on the right track with two things, first, the idea that liking music evolved, and second, that it has something to do with sex, but in the end the question remains unanswered.  I must tell you I like it myself, although I don't know why. 

Wired: Before the levees break: A plan to save the Netherlands.  "New projections of sea-level rise and other potential consequences of climate change, coupled with the aftershock from Hurricane Katrina, have prompted Dutch officials to ask a very big question: What would it take to climate-proof our country for the next 200 years?  In 2007, the parliament assigned a team of experts, dubbed the Delta Committee, to come up with an answer.  The group's final report, published in September, proposes a combination of aggressive new steps - extending the coastline and building surge barriers - and time-tested strategies like fortifying levees. The cost: about $1.5 billion a year for the next 100 years."  Excellent.  And in so doing they will create a template for everyone else. 

Amazon says their 2008 Holiday season was their best ever.  So be it.  Just like Wal-Mart, they take share from higher-priced merchants when times are tough. 

This is cool: Lost World discovered, thanks to Google Earth.  "A team of conservationists from Kew Garden has just returned from an expedition to an uncharted and unexplored Eden in the heart of Mozambique after discovering it on Google Earth. The mountainous area of southern Africa - crammed with colourful birds, unusual insects and rare plants - had been overlooked by wildlife experts and map makers because of its difficult landscape and decades of war."  Just when you think you've seen everything, you realize "everything" is so much more than you thought... 

Sailing Anarchy notes a Strange Cat.  "We told you about this VPLP Swiss foiler catamaran and now it finally sails.  We didn't know that perhaps the greatest F-1 driver of all time, Alain Prost, is involved with the project.  Now that's cool."  Yes it is. 

Cosmos: Big friendly giant: the Magellan Telescope.  "A world consortium of astronomy organisations plans to build the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) on a mountaintop near the village of Residencia in Chile's Atacama Desert.  It will cost US$600 million and should be ready by 2016.  With a resolving power ten times sharper than Hubble and five times sharper than its replacement, the James Webb Space Telescope, the GMT is a big step up in terms of power.  Composed of an array of seven mirrors, each 8.4 m in diameter (some of the largest ground-based telescopes currently have a diameter of 10 m), it will have the capacity of a telescope with a diameter of 24.5 m – far larger than any telescope built so far."  Interesting that they're doing this on the ground instead of in space; shows how effective computer corrections for atmosphere effects have become... 

From the Boston Globe's Big Picture: The Hubble Telescope's Advent calendar.  Twenty-five amazing pictures of space, taken with the Hubble...  beautiful.  The picture at right is the Cat's Eye Nebula.