Google buys satellite imaging company Skybox for $500 million

in space on (#3NJ)
story imageReally cool news about a recent acquisition by Google . Skybox provides high-resolution photography from space and its imagery -- if made widely accessible -- could facilitate many new spatial-analytic studies going forward as daily time steps appear feasible with the Skybox satellite network.

From the company website is this advertisement for their startup origins: "2009, Founders wrote the first Skybox business plan as part of a Stanford graduate entrepreneurship course, Spent 6 months working out of John's living room, Secured Series A financing of $3M from Khosla Ventures, Moved into a windowless 3,000 sqft office in Palo Alto, Began to attract, court, and hire the smartest people they knew to join the vision..."

Goal-line technology new at the 2014 World Cup

in sports on (#3NH)
story imageThe 2014 World Cup kicks off in Brazil on Thursday. For the first time ever, goal-line technology has been installed across all twelve stadiums that will host the different world cup games. Three months before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, FIFA head, Sepp Blatter, dismissed the role for goal line technology in international competition, only to change his mind after several errors were made by the human referees . It will be interesting to see how this works out now that it has been introduced. Apparently, seven cameras are trained on each goal to determine when the ball crosses the line, each system had to correctly determine 2400 test cases to be considered ready to go, and the algorithm has the required capacity to notify the head referee within one second after a given incident via wireless communication to their wrist watch. Cool technology really.

And, whatever you think about FIFA and the World Cup, check out this recent commentary from Jon Oliver to deepen your appreciation and have a laugh/cry while you're at it.

Forgive Me, Scientists, for I Have Sinned

in science on (#3MZ)
story imageI stumbled across Science Magazine's Experimental Error column written by Adam Ruben this week. What caught my eye? Adam's latest entry entitled "Forgive Me, Scientists, for I Have Sinned" , where Adam describes numerous ways he has felt and acted in an entirely imperfect and human way, but not as he might imagine a "good scientist" is supposed to feel or behave. Highlights from the article include: (1) "I remember about 1% of the organic chemistry I learned in college. Multivariable calculus? Even less.", (2) "I have gone home at 5 p.m.", and (3) "I have felt like a fraud, not once, but with such regularity that I genuinely question whether anyone has noticed I don’t belong here.... I have delusions that people will read this confession and applaud my bravery for identifying a universal fear." Adam Ruben is a molecular biologist-come-comedian who teaches a standup comedy class at Johns Hopkins University, providing a fresh take on the non-meritocracy of science careers, if nothing else.

Saving Nintendo the Ars way

in games on (#3KC)
story imageIn 2014, the gaming industry presents a new landscape once again . All three of Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo have new consoles ( XBox One , Playstation 4 , and Wii U ), PC Gaming is back in a big way, and Valve is on the horizon with their new Steam Box platform . This says nothing about the emergence of mobile, casual, and free-to-play gaming paradigms as well.

With all the changes, ArsTechnica has suggested that the present business case(s) for Nintendo, in particular, are under severe threat and have offered up their suggestions for bringing Nintendo back to the fore . Ars' suggestions include: (1) target quantity over quality for their main franchises (a la Activision), (2) find the next game design visionary, and (3) go mobile and to the internet.

LGBT in sports; will Michael Sam be drafted to the NFL?

in ask on (#3KA)
Forbes has an interesting article today reminding us about Michael Sam and his prospects for being drafted to the NFL . Michael Sam achieved considerable notoriety several months ago when he came out as a gay football player who happened to be the SEC defensive player of the year and who would become the first openly gay man to star in the NFL if drafted by a team this weekend.

My question for Pipedot: regardless of teams' decisions to draft Sam or not, will the decisions be accepted as based on his skills or football ability alone or will they be judged in terms of their support for or avoidance of support for homosexuality in American football? And, what are the central obstacles to people being judged on skills alone when competing for opportunities (I'm thinking about ageing programmers and so on as similar-type challenges)?

Fortran Forever

in code on (#3K5)
story imageArsTechnica has an interesting article featured today about scientific computing and the enduring role played by the Fortran programming language . The article explores three potential challengers to the dominance of Fortran in scientific computing including Haskell , Clojure , and Julia . One of the main points made by the article is that support for existing Fortran and C libraries is essential as is support for concurrent (parallel) algorithms. Will Fortran rule scientific computing forever or will a challenger usurp the throne?

[edited 2014-05-09 13:32 for spelling]

How materialism makes us sad

in books on (#3K3)
story imageThe Guardian has an interesting review about materialism and happiness in relation to the book by Graham Music entitled: The Good Life: Wellbeing and the New Science of Altruism, Selfishness and Immorality . The thesis of the book appears to be that materialism and consumerism create unhappiness that can be exploited to perpetuate the cycle of getting ever more things. And, that this relationship may explain why inequalities get exacerbated by the wealthy with power.

Two quotes of note from the article and its sources:
  1. A study at Berkeley University, quoted by Music ... "The higher up the social-class ranking people are, the less pro-social, charitable and empathetically they behaved … consistently those who were less rich showed more empathy and more of a wish to help others.", and
  2. "Those with more materialistic values consistently have worse relationships, with more conflict," Music writes. "This is significant if the perceived shift towards more materialistic values in the west is accurate."

Bicycle-powered water treatment

in environment on (#3K2)
story imageHow do you ensure a decent supply of potable drinking water at low cost?

In Butte, Montana , Montana Tech students have come up with an interesting solution: They rigged up a water treatment process that can be attached to and operated on the back of a bicycle . The device currently costs $1000 and weighs 50 lbs, which puts their system within striking distance of being a cost-effective mobile solution. That's good news for drought stricken areas like parts of Texas, which are so hard-up for potable water they are even turning to recycling water from toilets to ensure they have enough to drink.

The Solitude of the Internet

in ask on (#3JH)
The Globe and Mail (among many others) reports that Parks Canada will be adding wireless internet access to many of its wilderness Parks in the near future. The argument is that people still want to be able to connect when they are oot and ab- oot in remote nature.

It's a great dilemma. I know many families where TVs were banned from summer cottages because the point of going back yonder was to get away from all that. These bans are great because boredom leads to other activities when the default or habitual options are taken away. I also remember the first time I ordered off Ebay sitting next to a remote lake with only forests around for miles (okay, kilometers) -- it was exhilarating to think (with enough luck/wealth/etc.) that one could have the best of both worlds. What do Pipedot contributors think about mixing nature with the internet -- something to be embraced or guarded against?

Science Toys For Girls

in science on (#3HM)
story imageWired has an interesting article about a new company, Goldiebox , who is making science and engineering toys targeted to young girls . Apparently, this new direction in play-education was not supported by the conventional toy industry, but through crowd-funding Goldiebox was able to break into the mass market and is going like gang-busters. Interesting quote from the CEO: "A lot of the men in the toy industry have daughters, and many of them are tired of what they have to offer their daughters, too."