Interesting things I've bookmarked (old posts, page 40)

Why Can't We See Evidence Of Alien Life

Given the vast number of planets in the universe, many much older than Earth, why haven't we yet seen obvious signs of alien life, or singularity fields? The potential answers to this question are numerous and intriguing, alarming and hopeful. This brilliant TEDEducation animated exploration of the famous Fermi Paradox is narrated by Chris Anderson. This animation is part of TED's new series, "Questions no one knows the answer to".

A High Frequency Trader Apology

I'm a former high frequency trader. And following the tradition of G.H. Hardy, I feel the need to make an apology for my former profession. Not an apology in the sense of a request for forgiveness of wrongs performed, but merely an intellectual justification of a field which is often misunderstood.In this blog post, I'll attempt to explain the basics of how high frequency trading works and why traders attempt to improve their latency. In future blog posts, I'll attempt to justify the social value of HFT (under some circumstances), and describe other circumstances under which it is not very useful. Eventually I'll even put forward a policy prescription which I believe could cause HFT to focus primarily on socially valuable activities.

1982 Atari Futurists View Of Mobile Computing

These drawings date from 1982 (thirty years ago). Alan Kay had just become the Chief Scientist at Atari and he asked me to work with him to continue the work I started at Encyclopedia Britannica on the idea of an Intelligent Encyclopedia. We came up with these scenarios of how the (future) encyclopedia might be used and commissioned Glenn Keane, a well-known Disney animator to render them. The captions also date from 1982.

Michael Abrash Talks About Working At Valve

The closest anyone came to giving me direction was when most of the Source engine team was working on Portal 2 optimization; I've done a lot of optimization, so I suggested to Jay Stelly that maybe I should work on Portal 2 as well. Jay said, "Yeah, you could do that, but we'll get it shipped anyway." After a couple of discussions like that, I realized that he was saying was that I should think about whether that was really the most valuable thing I could be doing - there were plenty of people who were skilled at optimizing the Source engine already working on Portal 2, so it would be more useful to think about what high-impact things I could do that no one else was doing. That, and conversations with various people around the company, kicked me into a different mode of thought, which eventually led me to a surprising place: wearable computing.

Bob Brown delivers the 3rd annual Green Oration

Surely some people-like animals have evolved elsewhere. Surely we are not, in this crowded reality of countless other similar planets, the only thinking beings to have turned up. Most unlikely! So why isn't life out there contacting us? Why aren't the intergalactic phones ringing?Here is one sobering possibility for our isolation: maybe life has often evolved to intelligence on other planets with biospheres and every time that intelligence, when it became able to alter its environment, did so with catastrophic consequences. Maybe we have had many predecessors in the Cosmos but all have brought about their own downfall.That's why they are not communicating with Earth. They have extincted themselves. They have come and gone. And now it's our turn.

Milky Way image reveals detail of a billion stars

More than one billion stars in the Milky Way can be seen together in detail for the first time in an image captured by an international team of astronomers. Scientists created the colour picture by combining infra-red light images from telescopes in the northern and southern hemispheres. Large structures of the Milky Way galaxy, such as gas and dust clouds where stars have formed and died, can be seen in the image.

Milky Way image reveals detail of a billion stars

Earth of 2050 a scary place

A new report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development paints a grim picture of the world in 2050 based on current global trends. It predicts a world population of 9.2 billion people, generating a global GDP four times the size of today's, requiring 80 percent more energy. And with a worldwide energy mix still 85 percent reliant on fossil fuels by that time, it will be coal, oil, and gas that make up most of the difference, the OECD predicts.

Earth of 2050 a scary place

Geologic map of Jupiters moon Io

The highly detailed, colorful map reveals a number of volcanic features, including: paterae (caldera-like depressions), lava flow fields, tholi (volcanic domes), and plume deposits, in various shapes, sizes and colors, as well as high mountains and large expanses of sulfur- and sulfur dioxide-rich plains. The mapping identified 425 paterae, or individual volcanic centers. One feature you will not see on the geologic map is impact craters. "Io has no impact craters; it is the only object in the Solar System where we have not seen any impact craters, testifying to Io's very active volcanic resurfacing," says Williams.

Geologic map of Jupiters moon Io

NASA Unveils Solar System Atlas

NASA has released a new atlas of more than 560 million stars, galaxies and asteroids, many never seen before.The more than 18,000 images were taken by the Wide-field Survey Explorer (WISE), NASA's infrared space telescope.With WISE, scientists discovered Y Dwarf stars, the dimmest stars of the brown dwarf family. By solar standards, they're exceptionally cold: One discovered in 2011 had a temperature of only 80 degrees Fahrenheit. By comparison, our sun has a scalding surface temperature of about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.