Intranet type walled gardens would prevail in a webless world

Monday, 27 June, 2011

I wrote a somewhat fanciful piece about life in a world without the internet a while ago, but an article at Armed and Dangerous looks at the prospect from another angle.

Rather than there being no ability to communicate or do anything at all online, “walled gardens” would prevail. Think smaller versions of Facebook, that wouldn’t be interconnected, or able to talk to each other, or a series of intranets, with very limited functionality, and you get the idea.

Welcome to a world of walled gardens. Your digital universe is a collection of competing fiefdoms run by CompuServe, AOL, Genie, and later entrants that came into the fray as demand rose, many of them run by big media companies. Each network has its own protocols, its own addressing conventions, and its own rigidly proprietary access software. You get the services they choose to offer and that’s it – there’s no end-to-end, no access to the bitstream.

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Can’t knock it down, the Gomboc is a shape that keeps getting up

Monday, 27 June, 2011

Created by mathematicians in Hungary, the Gömböc is a mono-monostatic shaped object that can balance itself after being knocked over, despite the fact it has no weighing… righting itself entirely by way of its unique shape.

The Gömböc doesn’t have any power, and is a consistent weight all the way through. It has a wide curve on the bottom, surrounded by flat-ish sides and a ridged curve of a top. No matter how it’s placed on a flat surface, it will right itself. It’s what’s called a mono-monostatic shape, and was born of mathematical theory.

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Tips for spotting, and avoiding, intellectual black holes

Monday, 27 June, 2011

British philosopher Stephen Law pulls apart bizarre belief systems… the sort of ideas, or intellectual black holes, that give rise to conspiracy theories and all manner of other false and unfounded notions.

Intellectual black holes are belief systems that draw people in and hold them captive so they become willing slaves of claptrap. Belief in homeopathy, psychic powers, alien abductions – these are examples of intellectual black holes. As you approach them, you need to be on your guard because if you get sucked in, it can be extremely difficult to think your way clear again.

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The Tree of Life

Friday, 24 June, 2011

4 stars

The premise

The Tree of Life (trailer), a drama blended with elements of science fiction, is the latest feature of US director Terrence Malick, and is his fifth in a forty year career. With a screenplay also written by Malick, the story explores faith, family, death, grief, disenchantment, and the meaning of life, both on a personal and cosmic scale.

“The Tree of Life”, which unfolds in non-linear format, traces the creation of the universe, the forming of the solar system and Earth, and the birth of life, as Jack (Sean Penn), a middle-aged architect, recalls his childhood growing up in Texas in the 1950s, while exploring the source of his adult despondency and emptiness.

The play

As a teenager Jack, who is portrayed by Hunter McCracken at this age, has an uneasy relationship with his father Mr O’Brien (Brad Pitt), who is a god fearing, domineering man. O’Brien harbours several disappointments. One is a failed career in music when younger, while his current inability to succeed as an inventor further frustrates him.

O’Brien is determined his children, especially Jack, have the courage to pursue their dreams though, and he tries to impress upon Jack, sometimes forcefully, the importance of being his own man. In later years the family is struck by a tragedy, one his much gentler mother Mrs O’Brien (Jessica Chastain), especially has difficulty coming to terms with.

As an adult Jack, while a successful architect, lives a life that is devoid of meaning. A death in the family more than twenty years earlier still haunts him, and he realises that this, plus the unresolved relationship with his father, is at the source of his discontent, which he (possibly) seeks to reconcile against the ultimate scheme of things, the cosmos.

The wrap

“The Tree of Life”, portrays Jack’s search for meaning and consolation through a combination of rich cinematography, visual metaphors, and an ethereal soundtrack. While it is quite a spectacle to behold, it is also often confounding, with abrupt, and sometimes disorientating, changes in the time line only adding to the overall perplexity.

I probably don’t need to tell you that this is no ordinary film, which follows no standard storytelling format. I liken it to 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is also made up of baffling sequences that ultimately have a point. While not something that will appeal to everyone, “The Tree of Life” is nonetheless high art on the film screen.

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Now we’re discovering who the real Mercury is

Friday, 24 June, 2011

Photos of the closest planet to the Sun taken by NASA’s Messenger space probe. A number of pre-held ideas regarding Mercury have, needless to say, changed since Messenger began an in-depth study of the planet earlier this year.

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What happens when you combine Metallica with Lou Reed?

Friday, 24 June, 2011

Rock musician Lou Reed has been recording with heavy metal band Metallica in recent months… this promises to be a compelling collaboration.

Some of you astute Bay Area residents may have picked up news of recent Lou Reed sightings in the greater San Francisco area and we have indeed been working at our home studio at HQ on and off over the last few months. In what would be lightning speed for a Metallica related project, we recorded ten songs during this time and while at this moment we’re not exactly sure when you’ll hear it, we’re beyond excited to share with you that the recording sessions wrapped up last week.

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Animating the many phases of the Moon

Thursday, 23 June, 2011

Phases and other orbital movements of the Moon, recorded over the course of the year, and condensed into a two and half minute animation.

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Opening lines adapted especially for the Facebook generation

Thursday, 23 June, 2011

Opening lines from a number of classic novels re-imagined for contemporary readers.

Alice was beginning to tire of sitting by her sister on the bank. She took out her iPhone and played Angry Birds for the next three hours.

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These are the best, the Top 100 non-fiction books

Thursday, 23 June, 2011

A list of the Top 100 non-fiction books ever published, as compiled by literally critics and writers at the Guardian.

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Pole dancing may be entertainment but it is not, apparently, art

Thursday, 23 June, 2011

A New York nightclub, in an effort to reduce its tax bill, tried to argue that pole dancing was an art form (link is probably safe enough for work), an assertion however that a US court rejected:

In fact, the whole matter comes down to the age-old question of “what is art?” To distinguish erotic dancing from, say, ballet, the court finds that real art requires you to go to school. “The record reflects that the club’s dancers are not required to have any formal dance training and, in lieu thereof, often rely upon videos or suggestions from other dancers to learn their craft,” reads the decision.

The school training part of the court’s ruling is interesting though. I once worked with a woman who pole danced as a hobby (an actual, bona fide hobby, there’s no euphemisms here). She was a member of a Sydney pole dancing club, and would often go along to training classes to hone her technique. Formal dance training, no?

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