Cancer deaths have been falling since 1990

May 9, 2013

Via Suzanne — on the meme of cancer, if such a thing exists. Boing boing has a short blurb about cancer.

A new study suggests that cancer deaths for people under age 75 have been on the decline since 1990 and are now at levels lower than when the War on Cancer began in 1971. But rather than amazing new treatments, the big key seems to be prevention—both through an increase in screening, and a decrease in risky behaviors, especially smoking.

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Sonnet: Against Entropy

August 30, 2012

Seen on Tor.com during Poetry Month: Sonnet: Against Entropy, by John Ford.

Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
The names of lovers, light of other days
Perhaps you will not miss them. That’s the joke.

Be sure to read the comments on the post too — the origin of the sonnet is pretty cool all by itself.

This is my favorite of the poems posted during Poetry Month, but there are a few other good ones too:

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Superstruct

August 30, 2010

Saw this image while reading about Punk Rock Mathematics:

http://travelogue.betacantrips.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/wpid-superstruct_threats.png

Apparently this was part of a project called Superstruct, which is apparently now quite defunct, but at the time was some kind of experimental game, aiming to (as far as I can tell) brainstorm solutions to the world’s problems in some form of social networking/alternate reality schema.

Q: How do I play Superstruct?

A: Superstruct is played on forums, blogs, videos, wikis, and other familiar online spaces. We show you the world as it might look in 2019. You show us what it’s like to live there. Bring what you know and who you know, and we’ll all figure out how to make 2019 a world we want to live in.

It’s really interesting to look at some of the entrails of this particular beast. They put up a wikia, with a page called Superstruct Powers, which begins:

Note: By necessity this page will start out with crackpot theories, wrong ideas, and untested hypotheses. The goal is to identify the difference between theories that should be tested, and case studies of actual superstructing that can be evaluated. It’s fine to theorize, but try to protovate your theories as much as possible. Remember your scientific method: 1) Observe, 2) Make a hypothesis, 3) Make a prediction, 4) Test, and back to 1) Observe.

I personally love this kind of future-dialect that assumes you know more than you can know. Also interesting are the Plot Updates, which reflect the above image:

Under pressure from its largest client, Google, the leaders of the energy haven of SeaStar, which offers a combination of abundant clean energy (from wave, wind, and solar power), year-round aquaculture, and high-bandwidth connections to the global Internet, voted today to end efforts to declare SeaStar an autonomous national entity, accepting instead a status of protectorate of the United Kingdom.

The wiki has another page called Screaming 3D Bootstrappers, apparently an in-game clan.

All of this makes for utterly wonderful flavor text — but it isn’t clear what the game mechanics, if any, are. Sure, we can brainstorm solutions. But to see which solutions are the easiest to implement, or the most effective, or the most cost-effective? There’s a video, but right now my bandwidth is not sufficient to watch it. Anyone want to clue me in?

Also, be aware that there’s a "sequel", called Evoke, which is a little easier to grok.

The goal of the social network game is to help empower young people all over the world, and especially young people in Africa, to come up with creative solutions to our most urgent social problems….Players who successfully complete ten game challenges in ten weeks will be able to claim their honors: Certified World Bank Institute Social Innovator – Class of 2010.

The missions (here’s one) tend to encourage exploration of problems and a focus on "innovation".

Your objective: Describe the biggest challenge to food security in your own local community or country — and an innovative solution that is already underway.
Document your local insight with a blog post, video, or photo.
Your objective: Take action to increase someone’s food security near you.
Document your effort with a blog post, video, or photo.

But it’s hard for me to feel like this would be 1. fun (since it feels like a junior-high-school homework assignment) or 2. impactful (since solutions and ingenuity do not seem to be in short supply in the world). Nevertheless, it’s better than underage drinking.

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Imagine Not

March 2, 2010

Seen on Tor.com: an interesting article about a Tim Burton exhibit.

When I went to the Tim Burton exhibit at the MoMA in NYC a couple of weeks ago, it was understandably mobbed. We visitors rotated along the walls in a tightly-packed horde, gaping and pointing. For the most part, we were reverently quiet enough so that it was startling when the fubsy guard next to the Edward Scissorhands mannequin yelled out to somebody to put a camera away. It was unbelievably cool to be that close to the nuts and bolts of someone’s imagination, especially one so wild and playful and sinister.

I was happy to plant myself with my nose a few inches from a drawing and let the people bump past me in slow-mo. I liked to take in the gist, then see how Burton used the color to fill in the lines, and most of all, I liked to see the eraser marks from where he’d changed his mind. I felt like a genius myself because I could spot, right there: that’s where Tim Burton revised. I wanted to show my niece, so I looked up to find her and saw instead these dozens of packed people.

That’s when something strange hit me. We were all there, en masse, to appreciate a mind remarkable for its singular imagination. Furthermore, we could never have as much fun looking at Burton’s stuff as he must have had making it in the first place. Something was wrong.

There are a lot of interesting memes present here that I think bear mentioning:

  • The idea that we’ve seceded our entertainment, and, by extension, our imagination, to Big Media: "During our seduction, we’ve conversely learned to imagine not. Most ironic of all, we pay Disney to tell us and our children to dream — as if we couldn’t dream on our own. That’s just dangerous." In the large, this meme is what drives the transformation from a society of consumers to a society of bloggers, youtubers, etc. The idea that we could entertain ourselves, or that creation could be fun, even if done badly, is having a significant impact on entertainment, and it will continue to be interesting to see how this impacts creators and creative industries.

    A friend of mine points out that there’s a related, perhaps opposite meme, that everyone in our generation feels they have a right to earn a living as an artist, doing whatever they want to do. Maybe we can’t all spend our time sitting around and imagining — but then, why should we pay other people to do it for us?

  • The idea that we, the mob, tend to pay homage to the "wild" and "singular": like Randall Monroe says about Monty Python, "Does anyone else find it funny that decades later, people are still quoting — word for word — a group loved for their mastery of shock, the unexpected, and defiance of convention?" Nobody quotes Tim Burton, as far as I know, but I can’t help but feel it’s a little similar.

  • The idea that we are "so accustomed to having expert versions of everything, from the perfect music on our ipods to the precision landings of our Olympic figure skaters, that we’ve lost the entire middle tier of amateur" — no matter your field, there seems to always be someone better than you at it. Indeed, I’ve also seen a similar complaint about the Olympics: that it becomes impossible to appreciate the gradations between one version of "perfect" from another. There are so many talented people — so why bother becoming good at anything at all?

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Searching for Truth in a Wild Blue Yonder

January 14, 2010

I heartily recommend the short story Searching for Truth in a Wild Blue Yonder, published the other day on Tor.com. Four pages. Ten minutes of reading, fifteen max. You won’t regret it.

Ten years after my parents died, my therabot, Bob, informed me that I should seek help elsewhere. I blinked at his suggestion.

"I’ve already tried chemical intervention," I told his plastic grin. "It didn’t work." I scowled, but that did nothing to de-brighten his soothing, chipper voice.

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The Gentle Seduction, by Marc Stiegler

January 5, 2010

Seen on JWZ: a short story described as "The Rapture of the Nerds from the perspective of a non-nerd", The Gentle Seduction.

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I’m still waiting for the superballs.

November 9, 2009

Seen on JWZ: a planet where it rains rocks.

Much like the Earth’s atmosphere causes water cloud to form resulting in water droplets, COROT-7b’s atmosphere is believed to form rock clouds that then rain little pebbles and other forms of rock.

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Web Round Up, September 15, 2009

October 23, 2009

Yeah, OK, this is from a month ago. Oh well. Some fascinating stuff on Tor.com. Of special note are:

  • Rare Star Wars photos. Some of these are really funny considering the formal, whitewashed, asexual Star Wars canon.

    http://travelogue.betacantrips.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/wpid-25_extremely_rare_star_wars_photos_23_20090727_1808218226.jpg

  • Longmire does Romance Novels. Tor.com: "Ah, how fondly I remember For the Love of Scottie McMullet…"

  • 20 Neil Gaiman Facts which (it goes without saying) are all totally true.

  • I also read the four posted chapters of Queen of the Iron Sands. It seems to have stopped being updated, which is kind of a shame — the narrator’s voice is very compelling.

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Lichtblick and Volkswagen To Build ‘Swarm’ Power Plants

September 10, 2009

From Slashdot:

Dr. Hok writes “As more and more renewable energy enters the grid, it gets increasingly difficult to match supply and demand 24/7. The answer of German power company Lichtblick and Volkswagen is a swarm of 100,000 flexible base load generators. These fridge-sized CHP (Combined Heat and Power) generators that will be installed in people’s basements in Hamburg starting early next year feed electricity into the grid and the waste heat into their home’s water/heating. The “ZuhauseKraftwerk” (HomePowerPlant) features a vanilla VW Golf natural-gas engine that generates 20kW electrical and 34 kW heat with an efficiency of 92%. The units are remotely controlled via a mobile network or DSL, they can ramp up in a minute if needed. A water tank ensures that heat is continuously available, while electricity is produced on demand. The swarm will replace two nuclear plants, they say. And your old oil heating that needed replacement anyway.”

Computing moves into the cloud. Power generation moves oppositely?

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Internet-Enabled Doorbell

August 14, 2009

Seen on Cory McWilliams’s blog. <3!!!

I wanted to play with electronics and home automation. This is what I came up with.

The following sequence of events is not just a dramatization. It happened yesterday.

  • The UPS delivery guy delivers a package and pushes my doorbell button.
  • The button rings my doorbell and switches a relay.
  • The relay drives a pin high on the GBA port on the Nintendo DS.
  • A homebrew app runs on the DS which reads from EEPROM every frame, effectively polling the relay state.
  • The DS connects to my wireless access point, sends an HTTP request to my server, and then goes offline again.
  • The HTTP request executes a CGI script which connects to a chat server I’ve been working on, sends a message, and then disconnects.
  • The chat server stores the message and sends it to any connected clients.
  • One of the clients, which was the result of an AJAX request, returns the new message to a web browser.
  • Cory, in his web browser, is notified that a package has arrived.
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