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December 2003
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February 2004

Theatre of the Absurd

via DRS's Radley weblog

Thom Yorke, writing in the Guardian, on The Hutton Report

This is a theatre of the absurd. It has left everybody I know shaking their heads in disbelief and anger.

Anger is never a terribly useful emotion but, yes, I too find myself angry and astonished in equal measure.

The real sorrow is that Tony Blair had so many of the right ideas when he came into office (equality of opportunity, reform of the House of Lords, freedom of information, etc)

But he has slowly shifted to a position that really isn't so very far removed from the communist states of the 1980s: equality for all (except for special cases), a defensive and secretive Establishment, a cowed media - and occasional reminders that the State know best.


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A new Rosetta stone

European Space Agency

Rosetta is scheduled to be launched on board an Ariane-5 rocket on 26 February from Kourou, French Guiana.

This will be the first mission to orbit and land on a comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, one of the icy bodies that travel throughout the Solar System and develop a characteristic tail when they approach the Sun.

Comets are very interesting objects for scientists, since their composition reflects how the Solar System was when it was very young and still 'unfinished', more than 4600 million years ago. Comets have not changed much since then. So Rosetta will collect information essential to an understanding of the origin and evolution of our Solar System. It will also help discover whether comets contributed to the beginnings of life on Earth. Comets are carriers of complex organic molecules that, delivered to Earth through impacts, perhaps played a role in the origin of living forms. Furthermore, volatile light elements carried by comets might also have played an important role in forming the Earth's oceans and atmosphere.

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Nanotech: inside cells

New Scientist

Biochemists are deploying viruses as "nano-cameras" to get a unique picture of what goes on inside living cells and a greater understanding of how viruses themselves work.

A team led by Bogdan Dragnea at Indiana University in Bloomington is exploiting the ability of viruses laden with gold to break into cells, along with the viral shell's own telltale response to laser light. Together these give an unprecedented picture of the chemical and physical activity in cells.

Researchers currently study living cells using a technique called Raman spectroscopy. When laser light bounces off some materials, most of the scattered light has the same wavelength as the incident light. But a fraction called the Raman spectrum has an altered wavelength due to the characteristic vibration of some molecules in the material.

This allows researchers to map the coarser features of a cell, such as its nucleus. But Raman spectra are very weak. Introducing gold nanoparticles into cells enhances the Raman signal more than fivefold, because electrons on the surface of the nanoparticle interact with and reinforce the scattered light.

Unfortunately, the cell treats gold nanoparticles as foreign bodies and quickly clears them out. But viruses are already able to avoid ejection. So Dragnea and his team decided to use them as Trojan horses to smuggle the particles into living cells.

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Deez Steeles

I'm digging the new Atom API interface to TypePad. I have just completed a prototype of an iPhoto2Typepad interface. That means that its now possible to select photos in iPhoto and directly export into a Typepad Photo Album. This is basically my Holy Grail of digital photo convenience. Now the same program we use to import and organise our pictures can send them right to Typepad.

Holy Grail indeed. This would make my iLife even easier.

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New York Times Digital

New York Times Company: Investors: Presentations

I believe we are now on the cusp of some fundamental changes in our business that will take us to a new level of growth. I don't want to bury my lead so I'll say straight off that the "Pong of Electronic Publishing" means that we are entering a phase where electronic publishers like will evolve from sorting, distributing and making accessible content created principally for other formats, to creating content that is native to the computing world from which we evolved.

Pong was one of those magical moments in computing when an entirely new way of creating was popularized. It was the spark that lead to a multi-billion dollar industry that today earns more revenues than filmed entertainment. It happened because the elements of technology came together in a way that enabled the creative community ? in this case computer programmers (there were no videogame specialists in those days) to make an experience that was just good enough to engage millions of people.

read on...

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The Education Arcade

The Future of Videogames in Education

The Education Arcade represents a consortium of international game designers, publishers, scholars, educators, and policy makers who are exploring the new frontiers of educational media that have been opened by computer and video games.

Our mission is to demonstrate the social, cultural, and educational potentials of games by initiating new game development projects, coordinating interdisciplinary research efforts, and informing public conversations about the broader and sometimes unexpected uses of this emerging art form in education.

In short, we want to lead change in the way the world learns through computer and video games.

image from "Revolution", a role-playing history of the American Revolution

Our activities this year will culminate in an educational games conference in Los Angeles on 9-11 May 2004 as part of the Electronic Entertainment Exposition.

Our aim is to spotlight key issues and emerging trends in the development, the use, and the marketing potential of games in education, while bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders across academic disciplines and industries.

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Russia chides BBCs repentance

BBC News

Russia's minister for the media has said "serious political pressure" triggered the resignations of BBC bosses Gavyn Davies and Greg Dyke.

Mikhail Lesin compared the apology issued by the BBC with those of Soviet writers criticised by the Communist Party during the years of "stagnation".

He warned the BBC against "sterile coverage, not only of Iraq but also of other government-related activities".

An enlightened perspective!

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Ctrl-Alt-Del: exit

David Bradley, one of the 'dirty dozen' engineers who created the original IBM PC at Boca Raton, Florida, is to retire this week after 29 years with the company.

Bradley's accomplishments are numerous - he wrote the BIOS code for the original PC and rose to become architecture manager at the PC group. But David's claim to fame is that he devised the most famous - and probably most used - three key combination in computer history: Ctrl-Alt-Del.

"I may have invented control-alt-delete, but Bill Gates made it really famous," he told a gathering at the twentieth anniversary of the PC.

This comment brought boundless laughter from the PC loving crowd. Bill Gates did not even crack a smile.

The Register

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