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Existentialists will have a field day with this one: According to ScienceDaily, an EU research initiative called FuturIcT (a “knowledge accelerator” funded by, among others, billionaire investor George Soros) aims to create a really accurate version of Simearth. By mining many sources of data and simulating them in a supercomputer, the project hopes to understand financial, social, and economic forces in the real world. They call it a “knowledge collider.”

One use for such data is to anticipate and mitigate economic melt-downs, something that’s increasingly likely with real-time trading engines that amplify mistakes and market fluctuations. But why stop at economies? A simulator like this could predict political outcomes, something that’s long been speculated in science fiction, from the Delphis in Shockwave Rider to the real-time polling in Neal Stephenson’s frighteningly prescient Interface.


Did Google kill the phone book?

A stack of Yellow Pages, unopened because nobody needs them

A few months ago I noticed a stack of Yellow Pages directories delivered to my apartment block had laid unopened for months on end in our porch, and I realized, people don’t need phonebooks any more. We all use Google to find business contact information now.

According to the Globe and Mail, the Yellow Pages Group have announced that they will no longer deliver their directory in Canada’s seven largest cities unless it is requested. This seems to confirm that the phone book’s days are numbered, it is now a relic from a time when we didn’t have the world’s information at our fingertips, on our phones and on our desktops. No longer do we need to cut down forests just to stay informed. Besides, if you’re missing the Yellow Pages, you can always download the iPhone app!

There’s more discussion of the story on Slashdot.


John Gilmore once said, “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” And when people are connected via the Internet, it’s hard to put obstacles in their path, too. Take this case of a Latvian photographer prevented by security guards from taking pictures of a building.

A few tweets and one 40-person Flashmob later, we have more photographs — and probably many more people aware of the situation — than we ever did before.

(BTW, the server is slow at best, so you may have to be patient.)


When I was very young, a TV series called Connections changed my life. It was an ADHD-filled ride through history and science, showing us how everything we took for granted stood on the shoulders of giants.

I just found this interview with the author and narrator of that series, James Burke, conducted by Gartner. It’s a great read; if anything, Burke has underestimated the pace of change.

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An Atari 130XE, one of the more obscure 80s home computers

For a while, in the 1990s and early 2000s, the computing landscape was simple: Everyone used Windows. The Windows PC had become the dominant computer, supplanting the myriad platforms of the 80s: Acorn, Amiga, Atari, Commodore, Sinclair and others, which caused everyone no end of headaches with incompatibilities. Developers had to choose which platforms to support, as there were too many to support them all, and consumers were left with a difficult choice about which to buy, and often ended up regretting their decisions.

This article by Ben Werdmuller reminds us that we may now be entering a similar age of chaos. We have Windows, OSX and Linux on the desktop, HTML5, Flash and Silverlight in the browser, and Android, Blackberry, iPhone OS, Symbian (Nokia’s platform), Windows Mobile, and many others on the smartphone, not to mention new devices like the iPad or Microsoft Surface and new operating systems like Google’s Chrome Web OS.  Ben argues that the most likely outcome is to standardize on the Web, regardless of device, as we did on Windows in the 80s.

Myself, I’m not so sure, at least not until we have web standards for features like multi-touch, location awareness and 3D navigation. But it’s certainly true that we now face those same difficult choices as consumers or developers that we did in the ’80s.

Read the full article


Techcrunch has a writeup on Windows Live Essentials’ new Photofuse technology, which lets you pick from several similar pictures and create a new, optimal one. When revisionist editing gets this simple, poidh doesn’t apply any more.

Complete writeup on Techcrunch.


Got a problem with the way someone thinks? Then you’ll love social networks like Facebook, because they give you easy ways to harass your ideological opposites.

Search makes it easy to find someone you disagree with. Once you’ve found your ideological target, get your friends to report them, and let the automated antispam systems do their work. ReadWriteWeb has an example of groups reporting someone in order to wrongfully shut down their online accounts already.

How did we get here?

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Highest definition picture ever taken of Cape Town; 9 gigapixels, 25Gb storageNext week the FIFA World Cup kicks off in South Africa. We’ve written previously about virtual tourism, the idea that you can explore a place before you go ever physically go there.

Unfortunately Google Street View hasn’t been to Cape Town yet, but map layer specialists Virtual Africa have produced a series of “hyper-definition” images which allow you to zoom from a vista of the whole city right down to the level where you can see construction workers building the Green Point Stadium (this first image was taken last year).

This image pushes the limits of current photographic and processing technology, clocking in at 9 gigapixels and 25 Gigabytes of storage. The source image apparently takes an hour to load! Click the image to zoom and explore Cape Town from the comfort of your own home. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a hidden Wally/Waldo.


For six years, I’ve shared my life with Facebook, dutifully posting my status and responding to constant pleas to read or comment. We were happy at first, Facebook helped me rekindle old friendships and spark new ones. But now, with the passage of time, I can see her for what she really is, a heartless bitch with no respect for me, my privacy or my feelings.

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Look out Snow Crash and Strange Days: a British researcher says he’s the first person to become infected with a computer virus.

It’s just a proof of concept, but Dr. Marc Gasson of the University of Reading showed that he could infect an implanted chip (used to open doors and activate his phone) and have that virus passed on to other devices.

While the example seems trivial, it does offer some tantalizingly threatening possibilities: what if I infect your pacemaker, then use that to extort money from you in order to keep it working?

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