Archive for April, 2011

Supergods, Grant Morrison’s Book on Super Heroes, Gets a Cover

Supergods, Grant Morrison’s Book on Super Heroes, Gets a Cover

SUPERGODS by Grant Morrison

Grant Morrison’s Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human, which is now available for pre-order from Amazon.com, now has a cover. Its release date is July 19, 2011.

(via Nerdreactor)

April 30, 2011 0 comments
My Interview with Bruce Sterling and Vernor Vinge on Augmented Reality in the Workplace

My Interview with Bruce Sterling and Vernor Vinge on Augmented Reality in the Workplace

Here’s my interview with Bruce Sterling and Vernor Vinge on augmented reality in the workplace. Bruce, Vernor and several others will be speaking at are2011 May 17-18.

I told Sterling and Vinge that I thought that apart from gaming, AR would be most useful to professionals. Yet the only widespread use of AR that I could think of outside of gaming and marketing is in the military. I asked Sterling and Vinge whether they thought AR would be more useful in the civilian workplace than in consumer technology. “The consumer coverage hasn’t covered the most important applications in that domain either,” Vinge said. “AR will be enormously useful in both domains, with the consumer end providing social acceptance and product pricing to further encourage workplace changes.”

Sterling pointed out that “Every medium in a capitalist society has ‘marketing gimmicks.’ TV, cinema, Internet, newspapers, recorded music, even sci-fi novels have gimmicks. Even if AR gets terrifically good at doing something more serious, those marketing gimmicks are not going away.”

Sterling also emphasized that AR needn’t be a stand-alone industry. There’s room for many technologies that apply the general idea of AR.

ReadWriteWeb: Bruce Sterling and Vernor Vinge on Augmented Reality in the Workplace

April 29, 2011 0 comments
Teens Who Spend More Time Online Also More Likely to Take Drugs, Have Unprotected Sex

Teens Who Spend More Time Online Also More Likely to Take Drugs, Have Unprotected Sex

News today which upsets the stereotype of teenagers who spend a lot of time online or otherwise fooling with computers: rather than being lonely dorks with poor social skills who seldom leave their bedrooms, such kids are in fact more likely to get squiffy, have sex and even to take drugs than their less tech-savvy peers.

The revelations come in research conducted lately in Canada among 10 to 16-year-olds by epidemiology PhD candidate Valerie Carson.

The Register: Teens who spend time online not dorks after all

See also:

Smart kids more likely to be heavy drinkers

Smart kids wait for sex?

Why Smart People Do More Drugs

April 28, 2011 0 comments
Documentary on Russian Criminal Tattoos Now Available Free Online

Documentary on Russian Criminal Tattoos Now Available Free Online

Mark of Cain, a documentary by Alix Lambert about the culture of Russian criminal tattoos, is now available for free online under a creative commons license. This documentary served as a reference for the David Cronenberg film Eastern Promises.

You can also buy it on DVD from Amazon.com. You might also be interested in Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia.

(via Brain Pickings)

April 27, 2011 0 comments
Evidence of a Higher Education Bubble

Evidence of a Higher Education Bubble

Education bubble - graph

The Louisiana libertarian think-tank The Pelican Institute rounds-up the evidence that we’re experiencing a higher education bubble:

Concurrently, students are defaulting at an alarming rate: 25 percent of all government loans default, 30 percent of community college loans default, 40 percent of two-year college loans default, and for-profit schools have a 43 percent default rate.
Although student loans are defaulting faster than home loans at the height of the housing crisis, a 2005 decree from the Bush Administration stated that student loan debt could not be dissolved through bankruptcy proceedings. The only other scenario where this “no-escape” clause exists is debt from criminal acts and debt from fraud.

The Pelican Post: Higher Education: The Next Asset Bubble?

Via Andrew McAfee, who also points out an important question: what would a higher education bubble bust actually look like?

A bit more on the decline of value of a university degree here and Pete Thiel’s case is here.

April 26, 2011 0 comments
SETI Temporarily Shuts Down One of Its Telescope Arrays

SETI Temporarily Shuts Down One of Its Telescope Arrays

Allen Telescope Array

Due to a loss of both state and federal budget cuts at the University of California Berkley, the university had to withdraw some of its support of the The Allen Telescope Array used by SETI scientists to monitor signals from outer space SETI principal investigator Franck Marchis revealed on his blog. According to CNN, the array will go back up in 2013, and it’s not the only array that SETI uses to collect transmissions.

(via Anthropunk)

April 26, 2011 0 comments
Will Flipboard, RSS, etc. Kill Online Advertising?

Will Flipboard, RSS, etc. Kill Online Advertising?

Frédéric Filloux writes at Monday Note:

The social web’s economics are paradoxical: The more it blossoms, the more it destroys value. In recent months, we’ve seen a flurry of innovative tools for reading and sharing contents. Or, even better, for basing one’s readings on other people’s shared contents. In Web 2.5 parlance, this is called Social Reading. For this, the obvious vector of choice is the iPad: it possesses a (so far) unparalleled ability to transform online reading into a cozy lean-back experience.

Filloux goes on to talk about applications ranging from Flipboard to Instapaper that provide users with ad-free, highly curated experiences. (For the fellow non-iPad crowd, I recommend TweetedTimes with Read It Later.)

In other words, between RSS feeds aggregated by mobile apps, “Read Later” features, and ad-free web curators, you can enjoy the web without bumping into ads. Great for users, not-so-great for the publishing business.

This ad-free threat explains the bold move a few publishers just made. If readers (humans) loathe advertising and favor bare-bones reading interfaces, let’s see if we can make them pay for such. That was the idea behind Ongo. This official paid-for aggregator, backed by several news organizations, hasn’t shown a great deal of progress since I reviewed it in a previous Monday Note (see Ongo…Where?). Its nice look aside, it persists in putting on the same page a story on US troops withdrawing from Iraq next to an article featuring a murderer identified thanks to its tattoos. Some editing is badly needed here…

Monday Note: Read, Share and Destroy

At the moment, three things still hold true:

1) Very few readers use browser plugins that block ads.
2) The number of readers using apps like Flipboard and Instapaper is relatively small
3) Far from leaching traffic, social media like Facebook and Twitter (and not-so-social sites like Google News and The Huffington Post) still drive a lot of traffic to sites.

But this could change, especially as tablets become more common. I’m not yet sure what that’s going to mean for publishers. Filloux worries about reduced ad revenue, which is very possible. I think blogs and other online publications have overdone it with ads and sidebars in recent years, leading to cluttered distracted messes (I’m in the process of slowly redesigning my own sites to be less cluttered). But new devices and social sharing are important driving forces for change in how we consume digital media s well.

Some things I suspect we’ll see:

1) More ads embedded into the text of articles so that they’re harder to excise (In my interview with him, Richard Metzger also suggested we’ll see more online video that makes it harder to remove ads as well)
2) More ways of tracking reader behavior off-site to feed the data hoarders
3) More attempts at pay walls

Update: In an interesting twist of events, Flipboard competitor Zite (which received cease and desist orders from publishers) says it will stop stripping ads from content and work with publishers on monetization.

April 26, 2011 3 comments
Many Former Cyberpunk Authors Now Write Fantasy

Many Former Cyberpunk Authors Now Write Fantasy

fantasy

Cyberpunk has fallen from its peak in the 1980s and early 1990s, but the great cyberpunk authors are still writing. And many of them have turned to fantasy. Why is this?

What is it about fantasy that appeals to many of the greatest cyberpunk authors? We asked the authors themselves and also cooked up some theories of our own.

Consider:

Rudy Rucker, author of the Ware tetralogy and Postsingular, among many others, has described his new novel Jim and the Flims as being akin to fantasy. Also, Black Glass author John Shirley published the mystical Bleak History in 2009.

Metrophage author Richard Kadrey has gained a huge following for his Sandman Slim novels — the third one, Aloha from Hell, is coming October 18. Richard K. Morgan, author of the cyberpunk Takeshi Kovacs novels, has written a bloody fantasy, The Steel Remains, with the sequel, The Cold Commands (or The Dark Commands), coming October 11. Meanwhile, some of Synners author Pat Cadigan’s recent stories have seemed much more fantasy-oriented.

What’s going on here?

io9: Why do so many former cyberpunk authors now write dark fantasy?

I’m partial to the “Cyberpunk has come true” explanation.

I hadn’t even realized this was going on, but it makes sense. Fantasy hasn’t held my interest since adolescence (I’m sure there’s good stuff out there, I just haven’t seen enough of it). But I’ve been thinking about the idea of fantasy a lot lately. It sounds like an interesting genre to explore, but starting with Gilgamesh, it’s the oldest genre out there. Seems like it would be hard to get new ideas out of it.

(via Theoretick)

April 26, 2011 0 comments
CERN May Have Found the Higgs Boson Particle, but Don’t Get Too Excited Yet

CERN May Have Found the Higgs Boson Particle, but Don’t Get Too Excited Yet

Jon Butterworth, a member of the High Energy Physics group on the ATLAS experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider confirms that the group thinks it may have found the higgs boson particle. He writes on his blog at The Guardian:

So, it is not a hoax. But the rumours are based on an analysis which has to pass many levels of scientific scrutiny before I get very excited by it. It could fail at any stage. If it passes, it will be released by ATLAS, and will then be submitted to a journal. For comparison, journal submission acceptance is the stage the CDF bump has got to, and that is far from established yet as a real new physics effect.

The thing is, CERN is an exciting place right now. New data are coming in as I write. There are lots of levels of collaboration and competition. Retaining a detached scientific approach is sometimes difficult. And if we can’t always keep clear heads ourselves, it’s not surprising people outside get excited too. This is why we have internal scrutiny, separate teams working on the same analysis, external peer review, repeat experiments, and so on…

So don’t go tearing up your particle physics text books just yet. But please stay tuned for when we really do have something to say! These are indeed interesting times.

The Guardian: Rumours of the Higgs at ATLAS

April 26, 2011 0 comments
Hipster Animals

Hipster Animals

Not my usual beat, but I like these:

Full Time Etsy Crafter

Freelance party photographer

Hipster Animals

(Via my wife, who recently wrote this great rant on “Why Regretsy Matters”)

April 20, 2011 2 comments