20 March 2015

Philip Metzger: “Planet Pluto!”

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft passes Pluto and Charon
Artist’s concept of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft as it passes Pluto and Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, in July 2015.

Image Credit: NASA/JHU APL/SwRI/Steve Gribben

The truth is, we felt the need for a small number of dominant planets because it’s what humans always knew a solar system to be, ever since we looked up to see lights moving in the nighttime sky. We now know better than this, but we haven’t examined ourselves well enough to see this is the origin of our “intuition” about planets. We still think the intuition is somehow natural and therefore right. This response to our intuition is different than what scientists did at the time of Galileo. Back then, we gave up our intuition and radically embraced the new view. It took time and lots of fighting, but that was the outcome. We redefined the central word of planetary science in a way that communicated a scientific revolution. This time, we redefined our central word in a way that communicates business as usual. Faced with the specter of hundreds of new planets cluttering up the crystalline celestial spheres, hundreds of worlds too scattered and under the influence of their larger neighbors, we opted to purge the pantheon instead.

This is disappointing. We rejected the ancient world’s geocentrism. Couldn’t we reject its belief in orderly, reigning planets as well? In my opinion, this is why the public is not more engaged in the central questions of planetary science. We have hidden it from them. We created a vocabulary that focuses attention on the old familiar planets that seem least changeable. We pushed Pluto and the other paradigm-shattering worlds into a lower tier of importance. As a result, we made our branch of science more “intuitive” and a lot less revolutionary.

Philip Metzger

One of the best arguments I’ve seen for keeping Pluto as a planet – and adding the dozens, potentially hundreds, of planetary bodies in the Kuiper Belt to the list. All the major breakthroughs in science came from people abandoning ‘the old ways’, changing the traditional view of the world with new data and thinking. This recent definition of ‘planets’ puts up artificial barriers instead of enabling us to look at the solar system as a whole that evolved together.

17 March 2015

Archagon Was Here: “Who cares about the Apple Watch Edition?”

Apple Watch Edition

My question is: why in the least bit should us techies care? Sure — catering to the unfathomably well-off will make an impact on Apple’s fortunes in the long run, and spinning out into a fashion brand might make the company grow at an even more breakneck pace. But I was under the impression that we were Apple fans in the first place because they made best-in-breed products for everyone, not just the elite.


An Apple that sells “bling” to billionaires is not a company that many of us could muster any passion about. Maybe Woz had the right idea all along.

Alexei Baboulevitch

There has always been a fair amount of idealism in tech, the idea that it will ultimately make the world a better place, and people’s feelings often get hurt when ideals are confronted with harsh reality. The same thing happened as people started to realize ’s ‘Don’t be evil’ motto got abandoned along the way, pushed aside by corporate interests.

16 March 2015

TechCrunch: “The Fifth Horseman: Samsung”

But trying to suggest that Samsung is not one of the most important companies in technology is increasingly folly. In fact, there’s a decent chance that it will end up being the most important tech company of 2013.

This week, Bloomberg reported that Samsung would start selling Tizen-based phones in 2013. According to Jungah Lee’s sources, this is at least in part due to Google’s purchase of Motorola last year. This is important because Samsung is by far the most important Android partner. Not only does it dominate from a market share perspective, it’s really the only Android OEM that is actually making any money. (Motorola, by comparison, is a total dog that is actually losing money.) And it’s making a ton of it.

MG Siegler

While searching for the original reference to ‘the four horsemen’ for a recent video I posted, I stumbled upon this article from the early days of 2013. Funny how the tech business can change in just a couple of years:

15 March 2015

R. Scott Bakker – The Darkness that Comes Before

in Bucharest, Romania
R. Scott Bakker - The Darkness that Comes Before
To grasp what came before was to know what would come after. And to know what would come after was the beauty that stilled, the hallowed communion of intellect and circumstance—the gift of the Logos.

Cu milenii în urmă, Eärwa a fost zguduită de Apocalipsă. Hoardele de creaturi ale Non-Zeului Mog-Pharau sub conducerea Consultului au fost învinse cu mari pierderi de armatele reunite ale oamenilor și non-oamenilor, dar civilizația glorioasă a Nordului a fost redusă la ruine. În prezent însă puțini oameni mai cred legendele despre încleștările de atunci. Civilizația a înflorit din nou în sud, în regatele Celor Trei Mări, unde o nouă confruntare se prefigurează la orizont. Noul Shriah din Sumna, Maithanet, a declarat Război Sfânt împotriva păgânilor Kian, pentru a elibera Shimeh, orașul sfânt al Inrithismului și locul de naștere al Profetului de pe Urmă. Astfel, armatele regatelor din jurul Mărilor încep să se strângă în jurul zidurilor orașului Momemn, așteptând semnalul final de luptă.

Dar alte interese conspiră pe ascuns, încercând să întoarcă această forță aparent de neoprit în folosul lor. Împăratul Ikurei Xerius al III‑lea, care și‑a văzut domeniul redus de la un an la altul de incursiunile Kian, plănuiește să‑și redobândească astfel teritoriul pierdut și gloria Imperiului Nansur. Școala de Magie a Turlelor Stacojii acceptă invitația lui Maithanet de a însoți Războiul Sfânt, sperând în secret să‑l folosească pentru a‑și anihila rivalii din Shimeh, magii Cishaurim. Sosind din Nordul pierdut, un prinț misterios, Anasûrimbor Kellhus, și o fostă căpetenie Scylvendi se alătură și ei războiului, deoarece e singura cale de a ajunge la Shimeh și la tatăl lui Kellhus. Nebănuit și nevăzut, Consultul de mult uitat își întinde propriile rețele de spioni, lucrând cu răbdarea nemuritorilor pentru scopul lor suprem, renașterea Non-Zeului și A Doua Apocalipsă. Singurii care păstrează vie amintirea Primei Apocalipse, Școala Mandatului, își trimit propriul spion, pe Drusas Achamian, în inima evenimentelor, dar influența lor e diminuată la fiecare pas de neîncrederea cu care sunt întâmpinați, un sobor de Casandre care văd moarte și distrugere peste tot.

11 March 2015

Ars Technica: “Review: New Chromebook Pixel is still lovely hardware with limited appeal”

Google is using all of these in the Pixel. The laptop charges via USB Type C rather than a standard power adapter, and it uses Type C plus various dongles (yes, yet more dongles) to drive HDMI and DisplayPort displays. Unlike the recently announced Retina MacBook, Google has included one Type C port on either side of the laptop, which is kind of ingenious: you can plug in the power adapter or the display from either side. Normally, you need to twist your charger cable around to accommodate the location of the power connector. In the Pixel, you just plug it in on whatever side is the most convenient.

It’s a small change, but when I first saw it I had one of those forehead-slapping “of course” moments. The ability to plug either your power adapter or your monitor in from either side is a big help if your desk at home has a different layout from your desk at work, or if the surge protector on your side of the couch/bed is opposite the power plug on whatever laptop you’re currently using.

Andrew Cunningham

A pretty ingenious decision indeed. I am looking to replace my aging laptop sometime this year and, on every model, I also check where the power connector is located. Most of the time it’s on the wrong side for my home desk…

08 March 2015

Cinci povestiri la început de 2015

in Bucharest, Romania

Între romanele citite de curând s‑au strecurat și câteva povestiri, strânse de‑a lungul săptămânilor pe Kindle; în continuare câteva impresii despre ele:

Jay Lake – An Exile of the Heart

În spațiul dintre Pământ și Lună, stațiile spațiale se găsesc într‑o competiție acerbă pentru tehnologie și resurse care seamănă mai mult cu un război rece. În acest context tensionat, Trieste Maria Kaolung Delgado-Richter de Cleone, moștenitoarea stației Cleone, este exilată de mama ei după ce dejoacă o tentativă de asasinat din partea propriului tată-vitreg. Deși antrenantă și plină de întorsături, povestirea recurge prea des la clișee și întreaga intrigă pare desprinsă dintr‑o poveste medievală, în care moștenitorii regatelor sunt păstrați ca ostateci sau căsătoriți pentru consolidarea alianțelor. Singura noutate e că povestea de dragoste inevitabilă are ca protagoniste două prințese – deși și aici se strecoară clișeul la fel de flagrant al dragostei la prima vedere. Final e ceva mai bun, ceea ce mă face să cred că povestirea ar fi beneficiat de o rescriere în care să se pună accentul pe alte evenimente, poate chiar extinsă cu câteva capitole.

Nota mea: 2.0

disponibilă online pe site‑ul Clarkesworld Magazine

07 March 2015

Aeon Video: “The mystery of flying kicks”

The Mystery of Flying Kicks

A peculiar meme with global reach, you can find shoes hanging from telephone lines in New York City, Sydney and Madrid. Like being able to find a McDonald’s or a Starbucks in almost any major city, the spread of the strange phenomenon is a testament to how quickly ideas and culture travel in the global age even when the significance remains opaque. Depending on where you are and who you ask, you’re likely to receive varying interpretations – some sinister, some strange, some hopeful – as to what exactly the ‘flying kicks’ mean.

Described by the Australian director Matthew Bate as a ‘digital collaboration between the filmmakers and the international public’, The Mystery of the Flying Kicks is a crowd-sourced collage that combines animation, donated video, photographs and phone messages to shed light on the trend. But as theories, second-hand stories and anecdotes pile up, so does the complexity of the mystery.

Matthew Bate

I saw some flying kicks in Paris, on the narrow streets of the Latin Quarter, and always wondered what they meant. Apparently, nobody knows for sure, but there are many fascinating theories.

DLD15: “The Four Horsemen: Amazon, Apple, Facebook & Google”

DLD15 - The Four Horsemen: Amazon/Apple/Facebook & Google--Who Wins/Loses (Scott Galloway)

Many factors come into play when you want to win a horserace. Next to the fastest horse, there’s a need for the best team, perfect daily condition, an extraordinary rider and sometimes also a big bunch of luck. Passionate trademark analyst Scott Galloway calling out for us the rates of Amazon, Apple, Facebook & Google.

Video published on January 20th; news headline two weeks later: “Amazon in Talks to Buy Some of RadioShack’s Stores”. This man definitely knows what he’s talking about.

06 March 2015

Aeon Magazine: “Life without sleep”

Work, friendships, exercise, parenting, eating, reading — there just aren’t enough hours in the day. To live fully, many of us carve those extra hours out of our sleep time. Then we pay for it the next day. A thirst for life leads many to pine for a drastic reduction, if not elimination, of the human need for sleep. Little wonder: if there were a widespread disease that similarly deprived people of a third of their conscious lives, the search for a cure would be lavishly funded. It’s the Holy Grail of sleep researchers, and they might be closing in.


Should technologies such as tDCS prove safe and become widely available, they would represent an alternate route to human longevity, extending our conscious lifespan by as much as 50 per cent. Many of us cherish the time we spend in bed, but we don’t consciously experience most of our sleeping hours — if they were reduced without extra fatigue, we might scarcely notice a difference except for all those open, new hours in our night time existence. Lifespan statistics often adjust for time spent disabled by illness, but they rarely account for the ultimate debilitation: lack of consciousness. Now a life lived at 150 per cent might be within our grasp. Are we brave enough to choose it?

Jessa Gamble
Sleep stages

Interesting way of thinking about this: eliminating sleep would instantly and drastically increase our (perceived) lifespan! It would also cause massive changes in society, for example enabling people to sync their schedules across time-zones – maybe eliminating these altogether, along with Daylight Savings Time. I’m not sure scientists understand the mechanisms of the brain and mind enough to achieve this, but experimenting with sleep patterns might reveal some unexpected insight into human consciousness. The bigger question to ask, I think, is not ‘why do we sleep?’, but rather ‘how does our sense-of-self return after seemingly disappearing every night?