September 17, 2012

Originally posted on Hill Farm House:

If one goal of a triathlon is to provide a balanced test of prowess over its three disciplines many of them don’t succeed. Last weekend, for example, Paula and her sister Adrienne participated in the Taunton Deane Sprint triathlon in Wellington, while Zoe did the Novice event. In both events the results were dominated by performance in the cycling alone – places in the Novice were 95% correlated with how competitors placed in the bike segment, and in the Sprint the correlation was 96%. From a competitive point of view, the events were essentially wet bike races.

There’s no mystery about why this is the case. Look at this chart of each competitor’s times for each of the three legs of the Sprint:

The fastest swimmer gained under 10 minutes from the slowest (see the blue dots), while the fastest cyclist made over 41 minutes over the most recreational bike performance (red dots)…

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September 3, 2012

isomorphismes:

So the argument is that technological advances will eventually reduce poverty. But it seems clear that social structures (tribalism, feudalism, capitalism, socialism) determine the economics of the poor more than technology does. For instance many cheap medical technologies do not get to the poor, much like food doesn’t, because they don’t have enough money.

The fact that he resorts to “The bureaucracy says we can’t” and “I would if I could” is a non-argument against why money should be given to the poor rather than to space research.

The use of satellites / GIS is a strong one, but half a century later, still a billion hungry people. So it would seem the satellite technology didn’t solve the problem. Maybe I’m wrong and yields have increased in the poor areas but only not enough to eliminate human hunger.

Dr Stuhlinger points out that international cooperation increases in response to space travel, but again it’s been insufficient to solve the problem of human hunger.

The bit about “We need more young people to choose science as a career” seems wrong as well. You learn organic chemistry, not how to farm, at university, and the scientists who do get “good jobs” (could be at Lockheed) are making money for themselves, not money that creates remunerative job opportunities for the world’s poorest.

The final point about nations competing with civilian achievemnt rather than military destruction is obvious, but besides the world wars, the greatest destruction of human life and property was in civil wars, police actions, or in some way involved governments or rebels killing intranationally rather than international competition. (Not that internationals were never involved.)

Originally posted on Roger Launius's Blog:

Ernst Stuhlinger (1913-2008)

Ernst Stuhlinger wrote this letter on May 6, 1970, to Sister Mary Jucunda, a nun who worked among the starving children of Kabwe, Zambia, in Africa, who questioned the value of space exploration. At the time Dr. Stuhlinger was Associate Director for Science at the Marshall Space Flight Center, in Huntsville, Alabama. Touched by Sister Mary’s concern and sincerity, his beliefs about the value of space exploration were expressed in his reply to Sister Mary. It remains, more than four decades later, an eloquent statement of the value of the space exploration endeavor. Born in Germany in 1913, Dr. Stuhlinger received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Tuebingen in 1936. He was a member of the German rocket development team at Peenemünde, and came to the United States in 1946 to work for the U.S. Army at Fort Bliss, Texas. He moved to Huntsville in…

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July 31, 2012

July 24, 2012

Originally posted on Things I tend to forget:

Condensed from this post (and comments) on David Chudzicki’s blog, tweaked, and updated for R-2.13.1.

Assumes you’re starting with a virgin “Amazon Linux” AMI. I picked “Basic 64-bit Amazon Linux AMI 2011.02.1 Beta” (AMI Id: ami-8e1fece7) because it was marked as free tier eligible on the “Quick Start” tab of AWS’s “Launch Instance” dialog box:

1
$ sudo yum -y install make libX11-devel.* libICE-devel.* libSM-devel.* libdmx-devel.* libx* xorg-x11* libFS* libX* readline-devel gcc-gfortran gcc-c++ texinfo tetex

$ wget http://cran.r-project.org/src/base/R-2/R-2.13.1.tar.gz

$ tar zxf R-2.13.1.tar.gz && cd R-2.13.1
$ ./configure && make

$ # make coffee... or finish your PhD thesis... (yes, it takes that long)
[...]
$ # finally, if all is well:

$ sudo make install

$ cd
$ R --version
R version 2.13.1 (2011-07-08)
Copyright (C) 2011 The R Foundation for Statistical Computing
ISBN 3-900051-07-0
Platform: x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu (64-bit)

R is free software and comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY.
You are…

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July 20, 2012

Originally posted on TechCrunch:

VidCaster was founded in 2010 to make creating video sites easier than ever, and has signed up a number of customers who use it to deliver free, or ad-supported videos online. Now it’s adding the ability for its clients to charge for access to their library of content, with the launch of VidCaster Paywall.

Other online video platforms like Brightcove or Ooyala only provide a video player to their clients, which requires them to build out their own sites, which videos can then be published into. VidCaster, by contrast, provides a full-service solution, enabling users to quickly create a fully customizable site for their content, without having to go through the work of hiring an outside design firm or whatever.

It’s also cheap, relative to other solutions out there: VidCaster operates on a freemium business model, with very basic capabilities available for anyone who wants to test it out for…

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July 17, 2012

Yes! Video games are the best way to explain basic topology

    • You know those special levels in Super Mario Bros. where the screen doesn’t move with you — you’re just in a “room” and if you go off to the right you arrive back on the left?
    • That was just a convenience for the game programmers.
    • But think about this: what’s the difference between a straight line that meets back to its other end and you loop over and over and over the same spot while running forward — and a circle?
    • (Answer: there is no difference. If we wanted to imagine Mario being a 3-D person, we could — he’d be running around a cylinder (this room he’s jumping to get the coins in would just be maybe 2-3 shoulders wide and dug in a circle underneath the ground. Or the brick platform he’s running on equally wide and it’s built in a cylinder above off the ground. We just don’t see that he’s constantly adjusting to bear a few degrees left as he’s running.
    • How about Star Fox battle mode?
    • If you drive off the north of the screen you end up at the south, and if you fly off the east you end up on the west.
    • cover of le petit prince
      At first I thought this just meant we were flying around an entire planet Like The Little Prince’s moon or so. (The non-map visuals—the main flying visuals—could go along with this story, since there’s suelo below and cielo above.)
    • But on further consideration this can’t be the case.

      Think about a globe of the Earth: east and west are connected contiguously — but the North Pole is as far away from the South Pole as you can get.
      on the sphere the A=North and C=South are far apart but B=B=East_touching_West 
    • Think about running away from your enemy to the northeast corner and disappearing very quickly off the north to the south, then disappearing just as quickly from east to west. What allows you to do this quick of a dodge?
    • Think about if the North Pole and the South Pole WERE equivalent. Picture the Earth and start “sucking the two towards each other”.
      keep squeezing... 
    • You would end up with….
      two circles times each other, which makes sense since you can go off the north or go off the east 

Top pic via deifying.

July 17, 2012

Early in his academic career, [Paul] Schervish was a committed Democratic Socialist. But around 1990, he began interviewing wealthy people and decided that his Marxist instinct to criticize the rich was misguided.

“I realized good and evil are equally distributed across the economic spectrum and not particular to the wealthy or the poor,” he says. “A lot of wealth holders were very sincerely concerned about others and were doing something about it.”

Graeme Wood

In place of wooden and corrugated metal shacks with trash fires out back, there are stuccoed buildings, nicely painted houses with landscaping, and public garbage collection. Where lots of folks in countries to the north do their shopping in poorly stocked stores run out of people’s houses, Costa Rica has American style grocery stores in every town where you can buy anything your heart desires: artesanal cheese, capers, fresh meat to name a few. Instead of the rolling hills full of cows, horses, and cowboys … in Nicaragua, we rolled by enormous plantations of pineapple, sugarcane, and papaya worked by big, industrial tractors, and headed directly for export. The country smells of prosperity and piña. … From La Fortuna, we made our way through resort land and around Lake Arenal to the little town of Nuevo Arenal … where there are no bars on the windows. It’s quite a striking thing to notice. After months of seeing ironwork in front of ever pane of glass, to be looking out of the hotel through a huge clear window is an interesting luxury. … Rather than wandering unmarked trails in a National Park, you have to pay someone $10 to go look at a waterfall. … The rainy season has arrived, so we are [adjusting to] wet weather. Sometimes we stop for shelter, and sometimes we ride on through. One day, after we thought we’d waited out the rain and headed on down the road, it started pouring, and looked like it would continue all night. As there were no hotels that we could see reachable that afternoon, we asked a logging/trucking company if we could sleep in their shed. The dude started to send us on our way to an hasped he knew, but then changed his mind, realizing we were much happier stopping right then for something dry and dusty than riding some more in the pouring rain in search of a pricey hotel room. He asked us all about our trip, brought us a tarp to lay on the floor, and explained that he used to drive trucks all over the province without knowing where he’d sleep, and he’d spent many a night sleeping in corrals with the animals. 

July 16, 2012

What does it mean to be the wealthiest country in Central America?

July 15, 2012

Above Zero by Olaf Otto Becker.

Second only to Antarctica, Greenland has the largest inland ice surfaces in the world. Becker’s spectacular portraits of this region are taken during physically strenuous, sometimes life-threatening treks among glacial crevasses and melting ice floes, with a cumbersome large-format camera. His photo studies draw out the overwhelming beauty of this icy landscape, while documenting their present fragility: dust and rust in the air form black, crusty deposits, which, in conjunction with global warming, accelerate the melting of the ice sheets—with what will probably be inevitable, catastrophic results. Becker warns that even in these uninhabited regions, human actions can have fatal consequences. — Amador Gallery.

via ruineshumaines

July 15, 2012

Composition by Theo van Doesburg

via phassa, wowgreat


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