Links for 20th April 2009

Fresh from the clogged tubes of teh intarwubs…

  1. An Introduction to Using Patterns in Web Design

    "There is a better way to manage this vast complexity than by making big decisions up front and hoping for the best. To make better sites — sites that are functional, beautiful, and "usable" — we have to break our design problems up into small independent chunks based on the real issues within our requirements. Christopher Alexander, who came up with this stuff, calls these chunks patterns."

    Tagged with: webdevdesigndevelopmenttipslayoutpatternsusabilityprocesswireframes

  2. Carbon trading won’t stop climate change

    "The paradox is this. All these methods of pricing carbon permit the creation of a carbon market that will allow us to pollute beyond a catastrophic tipping point. In other words, they require us to put a price on the final "killing" tonne of CO2 which, once emitted, tips the balance and triggers runaway global warming. How can we set such a price? It's like saying, how much is civilisation worth? Or, if you needed a camel to cross a desert alive, what is a fair value for the straw that breaks its back?"

    Tagged with: carbontradingenvironmentclimatechange

  3. Particles have free will

    "Everything in the universe has some degree of free will. Even quantum particles. An elemental particle "decides" which way to spin. A cosmic ray decides when to decay. Not consciously, but choose they do. A new paper co-authored by mathematician John Conway, inventor of a cellular automata demonstration known as the Game of Life, argues that you can't explain the spin or decay of particles by randomness, nor are they determined, so free will is the only option left. " This is a totally unqualified opinion, of course, but that sounds to me like somewhat of a logical canyon-leap.

    Tagged with: sciencephysicsphilosophyquantumcomplexitydeterminismfree-willchaos

  4. Nano Tattoos

    "Among the uses envisioned for the "nano skins" are facial or hand displays. These displays would be synched to a WPAN, or Wireless Personal Area Network. (Yes, you would become wireless.) There would be a display driver implanted to receive signals and allow you and others to communicate wirelessly. This would allow you to send information about remembering things instantly or communicate to someone else discretely, receiving a friend’s text to your hand instead of your phone."

    Tagged with: sciencetechnologytranshumanismnanotechnologysubdermaltattoodisplay

  5. Innovation: Harnessing spammers to advance AI

    "The demise of reCAPTCHA could, however, be beneficial. It has users decode distorted text taken from historic books and newspapers that is beyond the ability of optical character recognition (OCR) software to digitise. Humans who fill in a reCAPTCHA are helping translate those books, and spam software could do the same.

    "If [the spammers] are really able to write a programme to read distorted text, great – they have solved an AI problem," says von Ahn. The criminal underworld has created a kind of X prize for OCR.

    That bonus for artificial intelligence will come at no more than a short-term cost for security groups. They can simply switch for an alternative CAPTCHA system – based on images, for example – presenting the eager spamming community with a new AI problem to crack."

    Tagged with: technologyspamaiartificial-intelligencelearningCAPTCHA

  6. A ‘Copper Standard’ for the world’s currency system?

    "The beauty of recycling China's surplus into metals instead of US bonds is that it kills so many birds with one stone: it stops the yuan rising, without provoking complaints of currency manipulation by Washington; metals are easily stored in warehouses, unlike oil; the holdings are likely to rise in value over time since the earth's crust is gradually depleting its accessible ores. Above all, such a policy safeguards China's industrial revolution, while the West may one day face a supply crisis. " It's like they're… I dunno, *learning from our mistakes* or something?

    Tagged with: economicsChinacommoditiescoppergoldfinanceresourcesstockpilinginvestmentscurrency

  7. Sand/Stone

    "The piles would be pushed through the dune surface and a first layer of bacteria spread out, solidifying an initial surface within the dune. They would then be pulled up, creating almost any conceivable (structurally sound) surface along their way, with the loose sand acting as a jig before being excavated to create the necessary voids. If we allow ourselves to dream, we could even fantasise about ways in which the wind could do a lot of this work for us: solidifying parts of the surface to force the grains of sand to align in certain patterns, certain shapes, having the wind blow out our voids, creating a structure that would change and change again over the course of a decade, a century, a millenium." Another epic nugget of architectural headfuckery from BLDGBLOG. Go look at this. Now.

    Tagged with: ecologyarchitecturesustainabilityterraformingdesertsandlandscapingconcept

  8. Attention-seeking objects will be hard to part with

    "… he has designed a table with an embedded digital counter that displays the number of heavy objects that have been placed on it during its lifetime. The counter becomes blurry or erratic if someone drops a heavy object on the table, only later returning to the correct count.

    Another approach is cheeky misbehaviour, such as a lamp that dims if you leave it on for too long; shaking the lamp "wakes" it again. Or a clock that occasionally shows the wrong time, only to correct itself and display a message that it was just joking.

    Such attention-seeking objects will "discourage thoughtless consumption of things", Pierce claims."

    Tagged with: interiordesignfurnitureartcultureattachmentpersonalityblogjectsinternet-of-things

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