July 29, 2009

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway (or, the Privatization of the English Language)

I find it unbelievable that a common phrase (that was used way before it was the title of any book) can be trademarked. We’re not talking about the names of products … we’re talking about the English language. You know, the words many of us use for such things as … talking, and writing, and general communication? Perhaps I’m a little behind the times, but is it really possible to claim whole chunks of the language, and force people to get permission to use the language, just in everyday speech?

What if this were taken to an extreme? What if some billionaire (say, Bill Gates) decided to start trademarking thousands and thousands of phrases, so that he could charge us for each use, or so that we’d have to link back to the Microsoft homepage with each reference? The language, in this scenario, could be entirely privatized if we allow this sort of thing.

Read more.

Astronomers Discover Rare 'Green Pea' Galaxies

The galaxies, which are between 1.5 billion and 5 billion light years away, are 10 times smaller than our own Milky Way galaxy and 100 times less massive. But surprisingly, given their small size, they are forming stars 10 times faster than the Milky Way.

Read more.

Five Hours

After calculating that I wasted 6500 hours in church the first 25 years of my life, I vowed to spend 6500 hours doing volunteer work that would actually make a difference in the world.

It was just too good not to post.

July 28, 2009

Oldest Animal Fossils Found in Lakes, Not Oceans

Conventional wisdom has it that the first animals evolved in the ocean.

Now researchers studying ancient rock samples in South China have found that the first animal fossils are preserved in ancient lake deposits, not in marine sediments as commonly assumed.

Read more and realize we don't really know all that much.

A Modular Robot That Puts Itself Back Together Again

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have developed a walking robot constructed from modules that are designed to separate on impact, find each other and reassemble into a working robot.

Read more.

July 25, 2009

Scientists Worry Machines May Outsmart Man

Impressed and alarmed by advances in artificial intelligence, a group of computer scientists is debating whether there should be limits on research that might lead to loss of human control over computer-based systems that carry a growing share of society’s workload, from waging war to chatting with customers on the phone.

Their concern is that further advances could create profound social disruptions and even have dangerous consequences.

Read more.

July 8, 2009

Copyright laws threaten our online freedom

Copyright was meant to encourage culture, not restrict it. This is reason enough for reform. But the current regime has even more damaging effects. In order to uphold copyright laws, governments are beginning to restrict our right to communicate with each other in private, without being monitored.

File-sharing occurs whenever one individual sends a file to another. The only way to even try to limit this process is to monitor all communication between ordinary people. Despite the crackdown on Napster, Kazaa and other peer-to-peer services over the past decade, the volume of file-sharing has grown exponentially. Even if the authorities closed down all other possibilities, people could still send copyrighted files as attachments to e-mails or through private networks. If people start doing that, should we give the government the right to monitor all mail and all encrypted networks? Whenever there are ways of communicating in private, they will be used to share copyrighted material. If you want to stop people doing this, you must remove the right to communicate in private. There is no other option. Society has to make a choice.

Read the rest.

July 5, 2009

New Class of Black Holes Discovered

Only two sizes of black holes have ever been spotted: small and super-massive. Scientists have long speculated that an intermediate version must exist, but they’ve never been able to find one until now.

Get sucked in here.

Video: Pentagon’s Robo-Hummingbird Flies Like the Real Thing

So far, the mock bird, built for Pentagon mad-science division Darpa, has only stayed aloft for 20 seconds at a time. But that short flight was enough to show the potential of a whole new class of miniature spies, inspired by nature.

Check out the video.

US manned space flight in doubt 40 years after moon walk

The commission chairman, respected former Lockheed Martin chief executive Norman Augustine, said it comes down to money.

"With a few exceptions, we have the technology or the knowledge that we could go to Mars if we wanted with humans. We could put a telescope on the moon if we wanted," he said.

"The technology is by and large there. It boils down to what can we afford?"

Which really means it boils down to priorities.

Read more.

July 2, 2009

When your phone rings, the copyright police may come calling

A digital rights group is contesting a U.S. music industry association's assertion that royalties are due each time a mobile phone ringtone is played in public.

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) filed suit against AT&T asserting that ringtones qualify as a public performance under the Copyright Act.

Fucking leeches.

I read more.

ASCAP’s suit highlights efforts by the music industry to aggressively assert its influence in dealing with new digital media. ASCAP wants mobile operators to pay royalties or be held liable for the so-called public performances of the ringtones. The organization has indicated that it would not pursue claims against individual consumers but rather the operators.

I guess that's supposed to keep the wrath of the individual consumers off their asses. Well, quite frankly, it's not fair to the "operators".

A public performance?

A Fucking. Public. Performance.?

These bastards sure know how to alienate the consumers that made them rich.

Read more.

‘Toy universe’ may solve mystery of life’s origins

Enter the Evogrid, a computer creation concept that would be a digital version of the primordial soup.

Read more.