Recently, I was sent links to a couple of short on-line general science and religion knowledge quizzes by Pew Research. What is particularly interesting is the detailed stats from the original study showing how well people did on specific questions, overall and so forth. You’ll see that with your results.
The Science Quiz (13 questions)
The World’s Religions Quiz (15 questions)
This article at Slate talks about it. For example, that 42% don’t know the most basic fact about global warming….
If you’ve ever looked at Kiva (microloans) but were uncertain about investing, here is a chance to try it out for free. You can make a free $25 loan contribution and see the process in action.
Bob is the author of a book about Kiva. During a journalists tour of outrageously expensive hotels around the world, he saw the poverty of the people nearby, some of whom helped build the palaces. He took his pay and invested it in Kiva. Then he went on another world tour to see the loans in action. The resulting book, The International Bank of Bob, is a funny and moving story of the ensuing adventure. And a profound look at real life in some of the more challenging spots on earth.
In its day, the Weather Channel was a big change. A TV channel devoted just to weather, before we had many dedicated stations. Then weather sites began to show up on the web, including the Weather Channel’s own. They give live, anywhere weather.
A few years ago, I began using the AniWeather browser plug-in. It displays a very customizable temperature and weather readout with optional links to various graphical maps. Click the temperature and you get a pop-up with a 5 day forecast + links to other cities and towns you choose. It’s America-centric but was especially useful when I was in the US Midwest – it’s weather is far more variable and changeable than here in the Pacific Northwest.
Today I was checking out a new site, Forecast.io.* It shows local current conditions with an animated map of global, regional or local conditions. The animation runs a time-scale as well. Below this is a weekly forecast with relative temperatures. I quite like this feature as you can tell at a glance where the temperature range is going.
Click Add in the dark bar near the top to add your location to the menu list. I tried adding 2 small towns, 1 in Europe and 1 in the US and both were found in moments. Interestingly, the URL in the address bar shows the digital longitude and latitude, if you’re looking for that.
It also has a “Time Machine.” I tried a date from 1976 in a European town and it showed me the correct days weather. (I was there)
Who knew weather could be fun?
*.IO is a new country domain for Indian Ocean. But they’re available for anyone, rendering that relatively meaningless. But not cheap.
An interesting debate has arisen around the way TED determines what talks they consider acceptable. While they will happily host a talk on life purpose or on a writer’s muse, they have characterized some neuroscience research as “a bunch of goofballs.” Given that this was in response to pulling 2 talks, it suggests their attitude about same. Also on their no-no list, the medicinal value of food.
Notably, Rupert Sheldrake’s pulled talk was on the Delusions of Science. As one contributor (3rd letter below) observed, “The materialist worldview is a belief system based on ten core beliefs. Many people call this worldview science. The method of science and the worldview of materialism are actually two different things.” This is where it becomes troublesome – when a scientist fails to differentiate between their beliefs and science, they introduce non-objective bias.
It was also noted by several that paradigm-busting is how science progresses. New research must meet with skepticism and be tested but some have made skepticism a trademark, another fundamentalism. Richard Dawkins has famously called himself a “militant atheist”.
The sequence to date:
After a few complaints, Sheldrake and Hancock’s TEDx talks are pulled from the main channel. Vocal objections caused them to repost the clips on the TED blog as a discussion point. However, the talks were misrepresented and TED was obliged to retract some statements.
They then pulled the TEDx branding from a West Hollywood event, who decided to go ahead anyway.
I’m also aware of another event in IA that similarly lost it’s TEDx designation for being subtitled “Consciousness and Transformation.” They also went ahead. Some of the talks sounded excellent and only one mentioned consciousness, by a Kilby award-winning physicist.
1 – On April 18, Deepak Chopra and 5 other scientists responded in an open letter. Not real well written but it made some valid points.
2 – The next day, TED responded. They fairly indicate they have to draw a line somewhere. And it’s not always clear. But their attitude and name-calling is not serving anyone.
3 – Later that day a letter from Chopra and some 15 other scientists, each contributing a segment. Some of these comments are excellent. “Censorship almost always arises from some political agenda.” “A robust science of consciousness threatens no one but dogmatists.” And so forth.
Personally, I don’t have a high regard for using drugs to induce altered states of reality. This may bring brief but typically distorted expanded perception. But it doesn’t help real development and won’t give reliable insight. And it can cause serious after-effects. From people I’ve talked to that have done it, it pollutes the finer nervous system. As such I’m not a fan of Hancock. But does the talk deserve “semi-censorship?” Debate certainly.
On the other hand, I’ve read some of Sheldrake’s work and heard a talk he gave on how laws of nature evolve. As the contributors comment, some of his work is excellent research. Some of his books are used as university textbooks. But his talk did directly but gently confront science vs worldview.
Another question I’ve not noticed raised. TED suggested they can’t vet all the videos from TEDx events but I have to wonder how they determine what they do post. Their YouTube channel currently has 1,375 videos. Given there has been thousands of TEDx events, that is but a fraction. Chopra notes that Dawkins talk is posted but his rebuttal is not.
When I was getting my grad degree, we spent a little time exploring the difference between science, pseudo-science, and proto-science. The last uses the scientific method to explore new paradigms but is not yet established as a science. Pseudo, on the other hand, talks science but does not use proper methodology. Thus calling another scientists work pseudo-science is high insult. I would suggest proto-science is where Sheldrake and other contributors are working, especially around subjects like consciousness. Some people seem to be forgetting that.
There’s a new botnet that is infecting WordPress-based blogs and web sites and then using them to infect others. The botnet can then be used to attack other web sites in denial of service attacks, etc. Because web servers are always up, it’s superior to virus-infected home PC’s.
Think it’s minor? Over 90,000 IP’s are already involved. Evidently, symptoms of an infection include slow performance and the inability to log into the WordPress account. They may also go off-line for a short time.
WordPress itself is not to blame. As with webmail accounts being hijacked, the issue is poor passwords. Apparently its still common to use “admin” or other simple passwords. Brute force password-trial attacks can discover easy passwords in seconds. You need a strong site admin password for your web site – even if it’s not WP based. Do you want to be infecting visiting customers? Or have their AV block them from your site? Friends have had these problems.
Hopefully, server-based anti-virus will be developed to reduce the issue. Some web hosts don’t provide web site anti-virus though. That’s how the virus problem spread in the first place.
Even if you don’t care about your own site, please do others the courtesy of not becoming a vector to attack them.
I talked about good password techniques here
One of the interesting trends in software is web applications – especially with the advent of HTML5. Rather than finding and installing software on your computer for this or that occasional task, you simply bookmark a web application and it’s there when you need it without anything to install or update. Many of these are free, at least for basics.
Here’s a new, free on-line drawing tool with the shapes for doing flowcharts, plans, etc.
Just go to the home page (draw.io) to use it. No signing up or cost. It supports multiple platforms, so you can use it anywhere and save to on-line storage for retrieving it anywhere. It also supports real-time collaboration. I notice that it has automatic alignment tools, making a tidy layout easy.
If you Save, you’ll get an XML file. If you Export, you can save to standard image formats like PNG and JPG. (PNG is better for graphics, JPG for photos) XML is for works in progress and later editing. A graphics bitmap format like PNG is for final output, sharing, etc. Caution suggests you save both in case you wish to edit later.
Perhaps you’d like a simple way to explore the planets and Solar system?
Check out planets, review star names and distances, and explore view Settings.
Try perspectives: Heliocentric, Geocentric, or Panoramic. In Helio, you can click and drag to change the angle, both in wider and planetary view.
They have a download version, if you have Adobe Air installed.
If you’d prefer a map of the stars from where and when you are on earth, try the
Unlock the time to explore the past or future.
Keeping your computer up-to-date helps keep it reliable, more secure, and bug-free. Windows Update will keep Windows and some related tools like IE current. Even if you don’t use IE, you should keep it current due to its close ties with Windows. Tools like Secunia PSI help review your other software, including links to the makers updates. You especially need web tools like Java, Flash and Acrobat to be current.
But what about drivers? Drivers are pieces of software that communicate between computer devices and software. They translate what the software needs into hardware commands and vice versa. A printer driver, for example, allows a Word document to be converted into a paper document. (printed) Every component inside your computer and every item you attach to it needs drivers to work. A typical computer has many, many drivers.
There is some debate about updating drivers. Some feel that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If your computer is working fine, don’t mess it up. Others note that driver updates can include bug fixes, security patches, and added features. An ideal tool would allow us to easily update drivers but roll them back if there’s a problem.
Worse, updating drivers can be a fiddly job.
First you have to exactly identify the device you need drivers for. This means the make and model of the original component. Free tools like SIW can help a great deal. I can remember having to open up the PC and look around with a flashlight for the part’s model number.
Next, you have to go digging in the manufacturer’s web site to look for updates. (Support, Downloads section typically) By manufacturer, I mean the original maker of the component, not the assembler of the PC, like Dell or Sony. While the assembler often has component updates, they don’t usually keep them updated for more than a few years.
And you have to do this for each device, not knowing if it needs updating or not. Complicating the issue is web sites and software that purportedly offer to help but are actually scams to feed you ads or infect your computer. You can see why many don’t bother.
Recently, a friend’s computer was randomly blue-screening with little consistency. After checking the hard drive (chkdsk), system files (sfc) and memory (diagnostic), I looked at driver update utilities.
Several forums recommended the free SlimDrivers. It not only found out-of-date drivers but it offered links to manufacturers updates. (not its own or second-hand sites) Click the link and it will ask you to set a restore point (recommended) and will back up the old driver. Then it downloads and starts the install which you take over to completion.
I noticed a few people complained it wanted you to reboot the computer after. This is normal. For Windows to enable a new driver, you have to restart the computer. It’s also a good idea to reboot as you go along rather than in one big go after a lot of updates. Then, if there’s any issue, it’s easy to roll back the problem. While update problems are not common, they’re much easier to fix this way.
A few notes on installing Slimdriver:
- When installing, it preselects installing AVG toolbar. Just deselect that. (all too common)
- When you finish installing, deselect Run Now. It won’t work well without Admin privileges. Run it after from the Start menu so you can approve them.
- It sets itself to start with the computer. You really don’t need driver updates except occasionally. After starting the program, select Options (the toolbar gear) and deselect ‘Run at Windows Startup’. Then click Save.
As this Major Geeks intro indicates, start at the top and work down. Some drivers will update in groups. And note that the Uninstall menu is for uninstalling driver updates, not the program.
I would recommend getting Windows updates from Windows rather than using other tools.
UPDATE: ran into a little gotcha on one system that it’s good to be aware of. System started bluescreening some weeks after driver updates. Analysis pointed to a driver issue and the IRQ pointed to the video chip. Video driver was current. However, an ATI driver for an ATI chip may not actually be the right one. If it’s an onboard multimedia chip, most common in laptops, the scenario might be specific to the maker where a generic chip-manufacturers driver is unsuitable. Make sure your video driver is coming from the system maker rather than the chip maker in that case. When I installed the seemingly older Sony video driver for that system, the problem was resolved.
Earlier this year, I wrote about some of the long-term changes taking place in the job market due to technological change. Since I wrote that, some of that technology has begun to show up.
I recently read another article on structural changes already underway. They mention for example how services like Craigslist have gutted newspaper classified offices. Manufacturing jobs are not expected to be revived due to robotics. And Lean Accounting is reducing jobs along with its efficiencies. Of particular note is the graph showing a dramatic acceleration of the changes since the mid-2000′s, even before the markets dumped.
The article is a little US-centric and a little vague on the “missing element” of non-socialist Community. It seems one must buy his book for the answer. But it’s useful to be aware of the trends.
This is not to say we’re doomed or that technology is evil. This is simply to recognize the changes that are upon us so that we can more readily adapt. Technology also brings us astonishing access to information and thus power. “a Masai warrior on … a smart phone using Google… has access to more information than the U.S. president did just 15 years ago.” – Peter Diamandis
We easily forget how powerful it is to have search engines at our call. One example that highlights the potential: the 15-year-old kid who developed an early cancer detection system that’s markedly faster and cheaper. His research library? Google.
Peter talks about the increase in our abundance in recent years: as a whole, we’re richer, healthier, and have access to goods once considered luxury items. And that smart phone? He mentions the “free mobile apps that this same Masai warrior can access: a GPS locator, video teleconferencing hardware and software, an HD video camera, a regular camera, a stereo system, a vast library of books, films, games and music.” What is standard on a smartphone was worth a million dollars 20 years ago. The article links to several TED talks, including Peters on Abundance.
The future looks to be exciting indeed.
Another excellent TED talk on how the rise of automated content filtering in Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and so forth is also narrowing our view of the world. (9:05 min)