Archive for June, 2010

This is meant as an art piece

30 Jun

Sf_drugs_500Indeed, this set of maps produced by Doug Mccune (more here) using publicly available data released by the San Francisco government on its DataSF website is breathtakingly beautiful. Thanks to Rudy R for bringing this to our attention.


Hate to spoil the fun but it has to be said that if we apply the Trifecta checkup, these maps fail at the first question: what is the practical issue being addressed?

As Doug noticed, there is a ridge along Mission Street that appears on pretty much every map regardless of the type of crime. The features on various maps are rather consistent as well -- and I can assure you that those features are consistent with population density.

Alas, if you live in San Francisco and care about crime there, Mission Street is not news. We don't need a sophisticated map to tell us that insight. Same with where prostitution is.

What if you are interested in crime in your local neighborhood? Not these maps either because in creating the relief, Doug must make approximations; the higher the peak, the more collateral activity is created around the peak to avoid discontinuities in the surface. This destroys the local details.


Still, they are gorgeous to look at, and as Doug alluded to in his disclaimer, we just need to remove our junkcharts glasses to appreciate them.


An Awesomely Bad Sentence

30 Jun

The Bulwer-Lytton award is given annually for the worst first sentence of a novel. Contestants craft deliberately bad opening lines. Molly Ringle took the 2010 prize with this gem:

For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity’s affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss — a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity’s mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world’s thirstiest gerbil.

Email this Article Add to digg Add to Reddit Add to Twitter Add to Add to StumbleUpon Add to Facebook

Edward Bulwer-Lytton 1st Baron Lytton - Ricardo and Felicity - Seattle - San Jose State University - Paul Clifford

“First” Picture of Planet Orbiting Sunlike Star Confirmed

30 Jun
A team of astronomers says it holds bragging rights to releasing the first ever direct picture of an alien planet around a sunlike star.

Email this Article Add to Add to digg Add to Facebook Add to StumbleUpon Add to Google Add to Reddit

Extrasolar planet - Astronomy - Solar System - Planet - Gemini Observatory

A Toothy Predator of the Prehistoric Seas: Meet the Leviathan Whale | 80beats

30 Jun

Twelve million years ago, one sperm whale was king. Between 40 and 60 feet in length the beast scientists named Leviathan melvillei wasn’t any bigger than today’s sperm whales, but look at those teeth!


As described in a paper published in Nature today, Olivier Lambert discovered the whale’s fossils in a Peruvian desert. The creature’s name says it all:

[It] combines the Hebrew word ‘Livyatan’, which refers to large mythological sea monsters, with the name of American novelist Herman Melville, who penned Moby-Dick — “one of my favourite sea books”, says lead author Olivier Lambert of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. [Nature News]

The prehistoric sperm whale may have eaten baleen whales, and its largest chompers are a foot long and some four inches wide. For all the details, check out Ed Yong’s post on Not Exactly Rocket Science.

Related content:
80beats: Lady Humpback Whales Make Friends & Meet up for Summer Reunions
80beats: Whales vs. Navy: NOAA May Limit Sonar Tests, but Another Case Heads to Court
80beats: Primitive Proto-Whales May Have Clambered Ashore to Give Birth
80beats: Update: International Whaling Deal Falls Apart
80beats: Is the Whaling Ban Really the Best Way to Save the Whales?

Image: Nature


Google Editions Is Your Local Book Store’s Best Friend [Ebooks]

30 Jun
Lost in the midst of the Ebook wars between Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and Sony are the independent bookstores who don't have the clout to bang with the big boys. Not for long, they're looking for help—from Google. More »

Google - Google Editions - Barnes & Noble - Searching - Search Engines

New Old Spice Ad

30 Jun

(YouTube link)

I think you’ll like this new ad starring Isaiah Mustafa as as much as the original that aired during the Super Bowl. -via reddit


The coming shortage of helium

30 Jun

LINDAU, Germany--Quick: What do MRI machines, rockets, fiber optics, LCDs, food production and welding have in common?

They all require the inert, or noble, gas helium for their use or at some stage of their production. And that helium essentially could be gone in less than three decades, Robert C. Richardson, winner, along with Douglas Osheroff and David Lee, of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics, said at the 60th annual Nobel Laureate Lectures at Lindau today. “Once it is released into the atmosphere, say, in the form of party balloons, it is lost to the Earth forever--it is lost to the Earth forever ,” he added.


Tom the Dancing Bug: The Futuristic World of 2010

30 Jun



Slashing the federal IT budget: can someone (please) help the FBI?

30 Jun

What is it with the FBI and overspending? Back in January 2008, the Office of the Inspector General released a damning report on the Bureau's gross mismanagement of its finances, noting that in many cases phone companies had shut down wiretaps because the FBI wasn't paying its bills. 

In our coverage of the OIG report, we noted, "The FBI's $170 million Virtual Case File system upgrade was so dysfunctional that it had to be completely scrapped. The agency's latest upgrade attempt, a project called Sentinel, is expected to cost $425 million and will supposedly be operational in 2009." 

Well, it's 2010 and not only is Sentinel not operational and over budget, but Politico reports that the program could get caught up in outgoing Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag's IT cost-cutting crusade.

In a blog post on the White House site, Orszag announced a series of actions aimed at updating and downsizing federal IT spending. The first order of business is a freeze on all financial system modernization projects, which Orszag describes as "an area of persistent problems."

"For instance," he writes, "the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has invested over $300 million in two financial system projects over the past 10 years. The first project ended in failure and no operational capability has been realized with the second."

Again, we're reminded of the FBI's Trilogy project, which was launched in 2000 to update the agency's IT infrastructure but which failed in 2005. Sentinel is Trilogy's successor, and so far it's not looking good.

All told, Orszag plans to cut $20 billion from the federal IT budget. When combined with the $30 billion he plans to trim via datacenter consolidation, he'll save just enough to pay a little over two months of interest on the national debt. Hey, every little bit helps.

Read the comments on this post


Sagrada Familia: The Unfulfilled Vision of a Unique Architect

30 Jun

Today the architectural world remains divided. Should the cathedral be completed in a less ambitious contemporary style? Or should it be left, unfinished, as an original creation?

One exhibit in the Paris Exhibition of 1910 stole the show. It was a plaster model of a church designed by the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi – a design so daring and outrageous that it was difficult to believe anyone seriously consider building it.

An extraordinary fusion of Gothic and Art Nouveau in style, the model was painted in vibrant colors that further enhanced the exuberant design. The plans called for spotlights to direct shafts of light into parts of the interior. Three sets of bell towers, housing both manually operated and electronically controlled tubular bells, were to be topped by stone statues of cherubim with wings that would move in the wind.

One hundred years later, the project is still unfinished. Link

(Image credit: Flickr user Wolfgang Staudt)

From the Upcoming ueue, submitted by MrGhaz.