Smart Dust

Smart Dust is a new technology. Researchers are developing a network that consists of very small sensors that would float in the air like specs of dust. (Currently they are 5mm on a side and cost $5. They are working on getting them to 1 mm and $1.) These “motes” or smart dust would be able to notice things about their environment and communicate it back to a central location. They might sense things like traffic problems, weather (temperature and humidty), the movement of people, etc.

Michael Crichton’s science fiction book Prey is built on the idea of smart dust that gains sentience.

You can read more about Smart Dust here:

Smart Dust
Dust Inc.

We Should Abolish the CIA

John Kerry said “We should abolish the CIA. Because the CIA completely and totally missed the Soviet revolution.” in this New York Times interview. I’m sure he has more reasons than that – since it’s been a long time since the Soviet revolution and the CIA has done a lot (or not) since then. I wish he’d share them. If you have links to other information, please comment.

Blog Epidemic Analyzer

Researchers at HP Labs created the Blog Epidemic Analyzer to track how ideas spread through blogs. They’ve found that the most popular blogs just pick up on ideas from lesser known blogs, often without giving credit. This is another perfect example of Malcolm Galdwell’s idea of social epidemics from The Tipping Point. (See my original
of the The Tipping Point.) Ideas spread through society, or through the web, from experts (who find the info) to networkers (who distribute them widely).

Speaking of giving credit, I
read about this on Wired. I was orginally pointed to Wired from Slashdot, another blog. Working Poor Face Higher Obesity Rates

Working poor face higher obesity rates

The working poor are those that can least afford healthy food. Often they work long hours, have little free time, little access to stores with fresh fruit and little knowledge of how to prepare healthy food. After a long day of work, it’s easier to buy some hamburgers or pop in a frozen dinner.

Good grocery stores with good produce selections are also hard to find in inner cities and neighborhoods that the working poor tend to live in.

Sitting is Bad for Your Health

… at least for long periods of time, like the amount of time I spend on the computer. The Harvard Alumni magazine has an interesting article on health and exercise, The Deadliest Sin. The article covers all of the regular recommendations: exercise more, eat less, etc, but it really stresses how sedentary our lives have become in very recent history. The authors claim that even if you get the recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day, it’s still not good to sit for the rest of the day. That’s bad news for those of us who have computer jobs!

Another interesting tidbit from the article is that based on our anatomy they think that humans (in all except recent history) actually ran a lot. Not walked a lot, ran a lot.

Which reminds me of the Amish health study I read. Researchers, surprised by the low levels of obesity in Amish populations in spite of diets rich in eggs and bacon, strapped pedometers on several of them and found they walked between 10-20 miles a day!

Snow Crash

I finished listening to Snow Crash this morning. It turned out to be a really good, funny book. The whole premise of the book is that brains are like computers, programmable and capable of getting viruses too. It was interesting because at the same time I was listening to it, I read an article in the Economist, Signs of Success, that studied language in deaf children. They found that groups of deaf children spontaneously create sign languages – sign languages that resemble existing spoken languages. They argue that there must be a grammatical template wired into the brains of infants. Neal Stephenson’s book is based on that idea – on the premise that some knowledge in your brain is hardwired from birth and other parts are learned. He equates the knowledge, or the way your brain works, to software. Once again science fiction is predicting the future – or at least future findings – and playing with them.

On top of the somewhat serious premise of the software/brain analogy, Neal introduces many quirky characters and details that make the book humerous. A pizza chain run by the mafia, a motorcycle riding giant who can’t be killed because he has a nuclear bomb implant, corporate franchises as neighborhoods … all of these characteristics add humor. They take some of society’s already quirky characteristics, apply a little technology, and show us how strange they really could become!

The Latest in Social Networking:

I laughed when I read this article, Internet goes to the dogs. Dogster is a social networking site, like Friendster, but for dogs. Before you laugh … the site has been extremely successful! You can create a web page for your dog with his/her nickname, likes, traits, interests, pictures of course and to complete the picture you can have links to all of your dog’s doggie friends’ pages! Since January more than 8,000 dogs have signed up. Holy Cow. That’s 8,000 people that maintain a web site for their dog … I guess I’d better get with the picture!

Note that the site is really slow today … they were featured on Slashdot and they are getting even more traffic than normal.

So that brings up one of my favorite topics … what different web applications can you think of? I know there’s money in dogs, and I’ve though of specialty dog foods, toys, services, etc, but I never dreamed of a dog networking site!

Dogs can too understand people

Anyone who has ever had a dog knows that they can understand you. An article in last week’s Economist, 2/21/04 "Sensitive souls", describes an experiment that proves it. Brian Hare from Harvard University did an experiment where he put food under one of two inverted cups. A human then sat behind the cups and indicated the cup with the food, either by pointing, looking, or tapping. Dogs always got the food. Chimpanzees and wolves didn’t do any better than chance. He even tried it with dogs with little human contact. Dogs could read the human experimenter’s facial expression and figure out which cup the food was under.

So dogs can read your facial expression, and within reason, figure out what you’re trying to tell them. But then anybody with a dog knew that.

Although my experience has been that they can understand lots of words. They just get left behind in the grammar arena. Telling a dog that someone is not coming after you’ve told them they are coming, is impossible.

Other popular dog posts:


There’s an interesting article in the New York Times magazine about blogging. The article focuses on teenagers with blogs but I’ve found one of the subtopics, how public or private weblogs should be, is a common question among weblog creating or reading people of all ages.

I found both the link to the article and a list of online weblog hosting sites, Weblogs Compendium, on the Ramblintronics blog.