Today's Subject might reasonably be Everything you know is Wrong
, because I've got a lot of articles to share talking about things we know that just ain't so.
Iran continues to have a revolution in very slow motion. (Aside: in historical terms, I don't believe that this is especially slow motion. Our generation has watched the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the rise of the Internet, and we expect to see things happen in real-time, and that's not how things actually happen; each of those events, which seemed to happen very, very quickly, was the culmination of decades of underlying internal shifts in the countries involved. The Fall of the Berlin Wall didn't cause the collapse of the GDR, the Fall of the Wall was the final evidence that the GDR had collapsed) A recent article in the NYTimes looks at the current state of play, and strongly suggests that the Green Movement missed a chance to simply overthrow the regime back in June
. Josh Shahryar, who writes The Green Brief
and has been doing excellent work gathering together ongoing reports of what's going on in the country as the Western Press has been thrown out and the domestic opposition press has been shut down, has written a response to the NYTimes article, and it's very, very good.
The notion that US Manufacturing has collapsed as production has been outsourced to China, India, Eastern Europe, and the Third World generally
seems to have been thoroughly absorbed into the national zeitgeist, whether you're on the right, the left, or a small furry green creature from Alpha Centauri. The thing of it is, it isn't true.
The US manufactures four times what China does, and the US' share of global manufacturing exceeds the total of China, India, Brazil, and Russia combined
. And while the US lost 2.6 million manufacturing jobs between 1996 and 2004, China lost 25 million
. I suppose in some sense that means that they've endured less pain, because they've got twenty times as many people, but they've only lost ten times as many jobs. But that's a very strange way to look at it.There are new studies showing that, in at least some sorts of cases, primates learn better from success than from failure.
So much for that old adage.
Some of you know that I am fond of rotating restaurants. I had been under the impression that these are a modern innovation. Apparently I'm wrong. It seems that Nero had one, part of his Golden Palace, overlooking Rome from the Palatine Hill.
The main banquet room had a diameter of more than 16 meters, and rested on a water-powered mechanism that rotated it continuously.
Transit is always greener than private vehicles. Well, actually, if you're in the US, not necessarily, because we're really, really bad at it
. Also, an awful lot of our cities, like San Francisco, are in a nasty sour spot where we try to make up for not having the urban density to reasonably pay for transit by cutting the schedules and speed of the transit system enough that it's only sometimes useful. San Jose is worse. Although Portland is pretty cool.
Some people are just born lucky. Well, actually, not exactly. A lot of the things we call Luck
are the result of how people look at and interact with the world. But that's not the cool thing, some of us have claimed that all of our adult lives.The cool thing is that there's now research showing that it's a trainable skill.
Microsoft has one of the larger research organizations in the Computing industry, and employs a substantial fraction of all programmers in the industry. This means that, should they choose to do so, they have the ability to collect more hard research data on the actual process of creating software than, well, most other players. Among other interesting things, they now have hard data showing how effective broadly distributed teams perform compared against teams working closely together in the same building.
As you've probably guessed by now, the real predictor of success is not is the team geographically distributed or do they all see each other every day.
This will not be a surprise to some software developers.
While we're on the subject of software, another standing question is How much does it cost to make software more secure? Well, it all depends on what your required standard of software quality is.
Essentially, the fewer defects you're willing to release with, the lower the cost to improve the security of you're software. It's not quite fair to include this one, I've been telling people for close to a decade that most of the things you do to make software secure
are the things that you do to make software reliable
, it's nice to see corroboration from the outside world.
And now for something completely different. In 1943, Jack Warner (y'know, the guy who imprisoned Yakko, Wakko, and Dot)
was asked by the US Government to make a Pro-Stalin propaganda film to be shown to the American public. The result was a strange thing called Mission to Moscow, which got a lot of people involved into a lot of trouble when HUAC rolled around, even though the film was not a commercial success and was not that widely viewed. Hat tip to shoutingboy
for the link to the NY Post article on the film
, where I learned about it. Very wacky.
While we're on the subject of film, Philippe Petit
, the man who did a 45-minute tightrope walk between the Twin Towers in 1974, when they were still under construction and only partially open, is currently on a screening tour, showing the 2008 film Man on Wire
, an amazing documentary about the feat. The film itself was constructed using footage taken by his friends in the early seventies, while they were planning and performing the stunt, and combining it with modern interviews and reconstructions. I particularly want ariyanakylstram
to see it - it's stunning. The walk was not remotely sanctioned by the Port Authority or the City &emdash; after his walk, the NYPD thrashed for a bit, trying to decide what to do with him. Ultimately, they sent him for psychiatric testing, and eventually dropped the charges and gave him permanent visitor access to the observation deck. Although they did choose to deport some other members of his team. But it was an amazing feat, and an amazing film. Sadly, I didn't find out about the screening tour until too late to get to yesterday's showing in Napa.
I've posted before about how appallingly bad eyewitness accounts are, and that we're beginning to learn how to fake DNA evidence. Science marches on, however, and now we're learning how to implant falsified memories in fruitflies
. For Science!
The Pew Research folks have been looking into the impact of Internet use on the American public, particularly things like social isolation and the effects of social networking. As may not be entirely surprising to this audience, being involved online leads people to have more diverse social networks, with more connections across class, race, and political divides
Nate Silver, the statistician who runs FiveThirtyEight.com
, has a nice article up on 15 questions to ask to gut-check predictions of close elections
. Tasty stuff for helping you figure out what those conflicting poll numbers mean.The Office
is not one of the most pleasant pieces of Anglo-American television, but a lot of people find it riotously funny. Here is an interesting article about the underlying arguments the show makes about Corporate heirarchy.
Carville's Democracy Corps
has been running focus groups of Conservatives, asking them what they think about the government and the state of the union. Conservative Republicans feel very, very alone.
I won't comment further, beyond observing that it's extremely interesting reading.
Finally, I'd like to give this year's Mechanical Turk award to the folks over at Galaxy Zoo
, who have an online site where visitors categorize astronomical images to identify what sort of astronomical features are shown in the image. They're trying to categorize the more than a quarter million galaxy images that have been collected by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
, and humans are a lot better at doing this than computers are. Go check it out, and consider spending a few minutes of your time helping classify a galaxy or five.