Thursday Sep 11, 2008

whispering stars: "Henry Story, splashdown successful"

newspaper article from a german speaking newspaper

My Viennese cousins pointed me to this article from Die Krone the largest selling Austrian news paper.
Translation:

Minnie Driver, 38, just became a mother. The child is healthy boy of 5kg, named Henry Story. The Actress is still quiet about the name of the Father. "He will look after the child, even though I will not marry him, but everyone is happy", said Driver.
Did those physicist already do that experiment in Switzerland that could bring about a black hole?

Thursday Aug 28, 2008

picture of my blog

picture from wordle.net

Wordle is a fun little Java applet that analyses your blog and builds any number of beautiful word clouds from the content. It has started a movement I think.

Just a pity that one cannot embed the applet in one's own web page. That would make it dynamic and a lot more interesting. Perhaps that will come. At present it seems the author is not sure what the IBM lawyers have decided.

This is somewhat similar to the graphic app I mentioned previously though with somewhat more content, clearly. Long term readers of my blog may find the picture of my blog to not be such a good reflection of my interests though. Statistic analysis of words does not get you that far.

Wednesday Aug 27, 2008

my blog is worth $49,114.98

According to Dan Carlson's program my blog is worth 49thousand dollars. That's nothing next to Tim Bray's who's coming up for 700thousand dollars. Of course Dan Carlson is a big winner in all this, because everybody is linking to his site, so his just keeps growing. He is now at 2 million by his own estimate which has something to do with with some AOL deal a few years ago.


My blog is worth $49,114.98.
How much is your blog worth?

Now would I sell my blog for a new car?

As with a new car you'd have to be a bit careful how you sell your site. Tim Brays http://tbray.org/ongoing is worth $693,819.66 . But http://tbray.org/ongoing/ [notice the trailing slash] is worth $375,983.64 . So is Tim's site worth the sum of both, 1 million?

Thursday Aug 14, 2008

the semantic web is somebody else's problem

It is odd how few people notice the Semantic Web, even though it is being developed in the most open manner possible by the W3C and being deployed around the world. That is because it is Somebody Else's problem. Here is a section from the Book 3 of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy on this very strange phenomena. Arthur and Ford are watching a very well attended cricket match at Lord's cricket Ground in England, when Arthur notices something about Ford Perfect, who has a lot of experience traveling in the galaxy.

"Something's on your mind, isn't it?" said Arthur.

"I think," said Ford in a tone of voice which Arthur by now recognized as one which presaged something utterly unintelligible, "that there's an SEP over there."

He pointed. Curiously enough, the direction he pointed in was not the one in which he was looking. Arthur looked in the one direction, which was towards the sight-screens, and in the other which was at the field of play. He nodded, he shrugged. He shrugged again.

"A what?" he said.

"An SEP."

"An S ...?"

"... EP."

"And what's that?"

"Somebody Else's Problem."

"Ah, good," said Arthur and relaxed. He had no idea what all that was about, but at least it seemed to be over. It wasn't.

"Over there," said Ford, again pointing at the sight-screens and looking at the pitch.

"Where?" said Arthur.

"There!" said Ford.

"I see," said Arthur, who didn't.

"You do?" said Ford.

"What?" said Arthur.

"Can you see," said Ford patiently, "the SEP?"

"I thought you said that was somebody else's problem."

"That's right."

Arthur nodded slowly, carefully and with an air of immense stupidity.

"And I want to know," said Ford, "if you can see it."

"You do?"

"Yes."

"What," said Arthur, "does it look like?"

"Well, how should I know, you fool?" shouted Ford. "If you can see it, you tell me."

Arthur experienced that dull throbbing sensation just behind the temples which was a hallmark of so many of his conversations with Ford. His brain lurked like a frightened puppy in its kennel. Ford took him by the arm.

"An SEP," he said, "is something that we can't see, or don't see, or our brain doesn't let us see, because we think that it's somebody else's problem. That's what SEP means. Somebody Else's Problem. The brain just edits it out, it's like a blind spot. If you look at it directly you won't see it unless you know precisely what it is. Your only hope is to catch it by surprise out of the corner of your eye."

"Ah," said Arthur, "then that's why ..."

"Yes," said Ford, who knew what Arthur was going to say.

"... you've been jumping up and ..."

"Yes."

"... down, and blinking ..."

"Yes."

"... and ..."

"I think you've got the message."

"I can see it," said Arthur, "it's a spaceship."

A little further it is revealed that the spaceship uses some very clever technology to make this work:

The second strangest thing about the ship was watching the Somebody Else's Problem field at work. They could now clearly see the ship for what it was simply because they knew it was there. It was quite apparent, however, that nobody else could. This wasn't because it was actually invisible or anything hyper-impossible like that. The technology involved in making anything invisible is so infinitely complex that nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand million, nine hundred and ninety-nine million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine times out of a billion it is much simpler and more effective just to take the thing away and do without it.

[snip]

The Somebody Else's Problem field is much simpler and more effective, and what's more can be run for over a hundred years on a single torch battery. This is because it relies on people's natural disposition not to see anything they don't want to, weren't expecting, or can't explain. If Effrafax had painted the mountain pink and erected a cheap and simple Somebody Else's Problem field on it, then people would have walked past the mountain, round it, even over it, and simply never have noticed that the thing was there.

And this is precisely what was happening with Slartibartfast's ship. It wasn't pink, but if it had been, that would have been the least of its visual problems and people were simply ignoring it like anything.

The most extraordinary thing about it was that it looked only partly like a spaceship with guidance fins, rocket engines and escape hatches and so on, and a great deal like a small upended Italian bistro.

So there.

You have to believe it to see it. And of course when it does become visible, it will seem so very like other things that have existed before.

Sunday Sep 09, 2007

authentic paranoid fantasies

On 1 July 1936 Salvador Dali gave a fantastic presentation at the New Burlington Galleries in London. He arrived carrying a billiard queue in one hand , accompanied by 2 large dogs and determined to present his talk "Authentic Paranoid Fantasies" in a diving suite.

I read this story a year ago in Berlin whilst browsing the philosophy section of a large bookstore. On page 156 of "Spheres III: Foam", Peter Sloterdijk - a famous contemporary German philosopher, who now teaches in Vienna - quotes the following passage from Dali's Memoirs "Comment on Devient Dali", which in turn I have translated for your enjoyment below:

I had determined to give a talk during the exhibition in a diving suite as a representation of the subconscious. I was placed in the armor and even fitted with heavy lead shoes, making it completely impossible for me to move my legs. I had to be carried onto the stage. Then they placed the helmet on my head and screwed it tightly shut. I started my talk behind the thick glass in front of a microphone that clearly could not record anything. Nevertheless my mimicry fascinated the public. Soon though I ran out of air, my face turned red, then blue, and my eyes turned upwards. Clearly they had forgotten to provide me with access to air, and I was close to asphyxiation. I signaled to my friends through desperate gestures that my situation was becoming critical. One of them ran for some scissors and tried without success to puncture the costume; another one tried to unscrew the helmet, and as that did not succeed he started banging on the screws with a hammer... Two men tried to tear off the helmet and a third one continued whacking the metal so hard that I nearly lost consciousness.
On the stage one could only see a mass of wildly moving hands, from which I emerged now and again like a dismembered puppet, and my helmet sounded like a gong. The public applauded heavily to this successful Daliesque melodrama, which in their eyes clearly represented how consciousness was trying to communicate with the unconscious. I though nearly died during this triumph. As they finally ripped off my helmet I was as white as Jesus as he returned after his forty days of fasting from the desert.
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