Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category
The Web is a teeming commercial city. It’s haphazardly planned. Its public spaces are mobbed, and signs of urban decay abound in broken links and abandoned projects. Malware and spam have turned living conditions in many quarters unsafe and unsanitary. Bullies and hucksters roam the streets. An entrenched population of rowdy, polyglot rabble seems to dominate major sites.
People who find the Web distasteful — ugly, uncivilized — have nonetheless been forced to live there: it’s the place to go for jobs, resources, services, social life, the future. But now, with the purchase of an iPhone or an iPad, there’s a way out, an orderly suburb that lets you sample the Web’s opportunities without having to mix with the riffraff. This suburb is defined by apps from the glittering App Store: neat, cute homes far from the Web city center, out in pristine Applecrest Estates. In the migration of dissenters from the “open” Web to pricey and secluded apps, we’re witnessing urban decentralization, suburbanization and the online equivalent of white flight.
An image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Google Mars is also a fun place to visit.
Since Einstein discovered that light exhibits properties of both waves and particles, the possibilities for the use of light has made dreamers out of many physicists. A crew funded by Carl Sagan’s widow has upped the ante with space travel. A NY Times articles details the possibilities of solar sailing. “The solar sail receives its driving force from the simple fact that light carries not just energy but also momentum — a story told by every comet tail, which consists of dust blown by sunlight from a comet’s core. The force on a solar sail is gentle, if not feeble, but unlike a rocket, which fires for a few minutes at most, it is constant.”
Mike Libby’s hybrid insects that are upgraded with antique technology are pure elegance. You can purchase a specimen from his website.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research has confirmed that they will give the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, another whirl this Fall.
The Large Hadron Collider is capable of smashing subatomic particles together and, ideally, reproducing the energy that existed immediately after the Big Bang. Essentially, it is an attempt to realize the confluence between science and spirituality. A possible drawback is the creation of a black hole that can warp the space-time continuum.
NPR has a nice piece on the Large Hadron Collider, although it is a bit dated now.
I empathize with nostalgia for vinyl records, print photography and projection film, each invented in the late nineteenth century, but it is important to note that books date back to the dawn of civilization. From the aesthetic of a well crafted novel to the arrangement of a fine library, humanity has revered books and their predecessors since the manufacture of papyrus.
I am neither a purist nor a Luddite. I am an advocate for the digitization of all media. DVDs, CDs, digital film, MP3s and any device that does away with tangible media is a step closer toward progress and efficiency. However, a book is sacrosanct. The takeover by Kindle and other electronic readers is inevitable. I have never used a Kindle, but I am sure it has a number of deficiencies. My point is that any technical problems will be resolved over time and the demise of the paperback is all but certain.
Jonathan Franzen has a strong opinion on the subject: “People who care about literature care about substance and permanence… The essence of electronics is mutability and transience. I can see travel guides and Michael Crichton novels translating into pixels easily enough. But the person who cares about Kafka wants Kafka unerasable… Am I fetishizing ink and paper? Sure, and I’m fetishizing truth and integrity too.”
I still can’t believe MechaGodzilla lost this one.
Upon visiting the main branch of the New York City Public Library, I was pleased to discover that they still use pneumatic tubes to deliver call slips to the stacks. The NY Times has a small piece on the use of pneumatic tubes in New York. The postal service in New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and much of Eurpoe used to deliver mail via pneumatic transport. “At its greatest expansion, there were more than 56 miles of mail tubes on the East Coast delivering as many as 200,000 letters per tube every hour.”